Saturday, January 06, 2007

Occupation Museum

Saturday I asked Steve to take me to the Occupation Museum. I didn’t get a chance to go there in 2004 the last time we came to Latvia. It is a museum that shows what happened to Latvia, its land, and its people under Soviet and German occupation between 1940-1991. It is a reminder to the world of the crimes and horrors committed by foreign powers against the state and people of Latvia. Latvia lost a third of its population, or 550,000 people, during this terrible time. We were moved by the various displays of history that we saw. I felt so much emotion as I walked through the displays and felt like I was in a very sacred place. Wow. Steve and I only spent about 1 ½ hours in there and that was about all I could handle. It is probably one of the most difficult museums I've ever been in. Can you imagine seeing a display of the barracks where the soldiers slept one top of one another? If one soldier needed to turn over, they all had to turn over in unison. If one got up to go to the restroom, they lost their sleeping spot. So, they would just 'go' wherever they were. I would not have wanted to sleep on the bottom bunk. The Latvians were proud people and had much of their dignity stripped away during this time. One needs to spend more than one visit just to absorb all the information. Steve saw it in 2002 and it made such an impact on him. This place is filled with historical documents, artifacts, pictures, and personal keepsakes that the Latvian people managed to save and hide from the Soviets and the Germans. As you walk in, there are notebooks in several different languages that one can carry around and match with the different exhibits. The Latvians were not treated like human beings at all. We all know about the Holocaust and persecution of the Jews during Hitler’s reign but little is known about the Latvian holocaust. You can visit the museum here. It is located in the historic center of Riga, also known as Old Riga.

(Note: I'm standing under the sign with the white hat.)

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