#undergroundriga is a project of urban topography developed by the Žanis Lipke Memorial to mark the urban spaces where Jews were rescued during the Second World War with a specially made memorial plaque.
The source of inspiration for the symbolism with which the memorial plaque is encoded is the woodshed in the yard of the Lipke house on Mazais Balasta dambis in Ķīpsala – the space under this shed was where the persecuted Jews found shelter. The double-pitch roof has also become a recognizable symbol for the Žanis Lipke Memorial.
Presently, 28 such plaques have been inlaid into the pavement in Riga; several others are awaiting their turn.
It would be impossible to draw up a map of Underground Riga without marking the places of forced concentration of Jews – the Riga Ghetto, the Mežaparks Concentration Camp and its Pārdaugava branch Lenta. Until the end of the war, brave Rigans tried to help their fellow citizens to escape from these places.
The message on the Holocaust in Latvia would be incomplete if we did not mention the people whose conscience prevented them from being simple observers of the Jewish tragedy.
Those who chose to actively resist the Holocaust were a minority everywhere, including Latvia. Because of their small number, the resistance failed to become a movement and was only expressed as a protest by some individuals against the inhumane treatment of Jews by the Nazis.
The above quote is by Marģers Vestermanis, founder of the museum Ebreji Latvijā (Jews in Latvia). The information on the rescuers of Jews in Riga and in the rest of Latvia that he took upon himself to gather and process over many years forms a greater part of the background on which the map and the stories that accompanies it here have been based.
These stories reveal the Underground Riga of the period of Nazi occupation and one of the little known pages in the city’s history.
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