18 September 18
Posted at 4:14
Whilst documenting Riga in Latvia for Project 28 one of my most memorable experiences was a visit to the Salaspils Memorial.
Whilst in Riga I read about the Salaspils Concentration Camp which is located just beyond the boundary of Riga. The concentration camp was run by the Nazis during WW2. The camp housed thousands of German Jews, Soviet POWs and left wing Latvians. The Salaspils Memorial on the site of the concentration camp can be reached by train to Darzini and then a walk of two or three kilometres. I took the train to Darzini and disembarked on to a lonely platform with a brick shelter and nothing else in sight apart from trees. Paths led in all directions through the woods. It took me a while to spot a tiny sign on a tree identifying the correct path to take. After a walk through the dense woods with just a couple of small signs confirming I was on the correct route I came a cross Salaspils and it was quite a shock.
At the entrance there is a concrete block housing a walkway it is a 100 metre long ramp signifying a stairway to heaven. On the front of it are inscribed the words in Latvian “AIZ SIEM VARTIEM VAID ZEME” English translation “Beyond this Gate, the Earth Moans”. As you proceed past the ramp to the left is a large black marble block which houses a metronome, the block is called the "Reminding Heart", the constant heart beat from the metronome breaks the eery silence, echoing throughout the vast area of the memorial. Ahead is a clearing in the forest, around the edges stone memorials and concreted slabs. In the centre there are massive stone sculptures built and left by the Soviets as a memorial. They stand in groups, square-jawed and arms outstretched, holding each other up in support, kneeling or stretching out in exhaustion across the grass.
Mother - Salaspils Memorial Ensemble
This image of one of the stone sculptures, Mother, has been selected for Shutter Hub's OPEN 2018 Exibition.
I have visited many war memorials around the world but have seen nothing on this scale. Being there alone with the heartbeat constantly booming is quite daunting. It creates an atmosphere provoking thoughts of what this camp meant to those imprisoned and in many cases dying there.