German/Nazi occupation II WW2

The period from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945 when the territory of Latvia was occupied by German forces. On 22 June 1941, Nazi German troops attacked the USSR without declaring war.

German occupation authorities initiated monetary reform and ordered the physical destruction of certain groups of the population. A German Civil Administration was established and, on 1 September 1941, it took the entire territory of Latvia under its control.

Two Reich Commissariats were established, Reichskommissariat Ukraine and Reichskommissariat Ostland. The latter was headquartered in Riga with four Commissariats-General under it, one for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus. The Head of the Commissariat-General for Latvia was Otto-Heinrich Drechsler.

Due to a lack of officials, the German Military Administration (Militärverwaltung) allowed the establishment of local government entities whose primary task was to provide German warring units with supplies and to establish order.

Related objects

Piemiņas vieta kritušajiem latviešu leģiona karavīriem un nacionālajiem partizāniem

Atrodas Indrānu pagastā Lubānas Jaunajos kapos.

Apskatāma piemiņas vieta kritušajiem latviešu leģiona karavīriem un nacionālajiem partizāniem

Piemiņas vieta tika atklāta 1992.gada 25.jūlijā. Piemiņas akmeni veidojis Andris Briezis.

Sākoties Atmodai, 1990. gada oktobrī cilvēktiesību aizstāvības grupas “Helsinki 86” biedrs Kārlis Doropoļskis saņēma varasiestāžu atļauju sākt 1944. gada vasarā Lubānas apkārtnē kritušo un izklaidus apglabāto latviešu leģionāru, kā arī vēlākās cīņās ar PSRS okupācijas karaspēku un drošības iestādēm kritušo nacionālo partizānu pārapbedīšanu kopīgos brāļu kapos, kas tika iekārtoti Lubānas jaunajos kapos. Kopumā brāļu kapos apbedīti 26 kritušie leģionāri un nacionālie partizāni.

Saldus German Soldiers' Cemetery

Saldus German Soldiers' Cemetery is located near the Saldus-Ezere highway. More than 27,000 German soldiers have been reburied here. From May 1 to October 1 an exhibit about the six grand battles of the Kurzeme Fortress will be available in the memorial room. Tours can be booked on Saturdays and Sundays. Registers of soldiers buried in the Saldus German Soldiers' Cemetery and German soldiers who have fallen throughout Latvia are also available. The exhibit has photographs, items and memorabilia donated to the museum by relatives of the fallen soldiers. Military burial site research and reburial of soldiers is being conducted since 1997. Work is still ongoing and all soldier burial sites have not yet been explored. The names of the reburied soldiers suggest that along with Germans and Austrians also Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Norwegians, Danes and soldiers of other nationalities had been drafted into the German Army.

Karosta Military Prison

The Karosta Prison in Liepāja is the only military prison in Europe open to tourists. Constructed around 1900 for the needs of a hospital, the building was never used for its original purpose. The structure was repurposed as a place for serving temporary disciplinary punishment and was used as such up until 1997.

Powers changed but the purpose of the institution remained the same, namely, to house prisoners, including revolutionaries, sailors and non-commissioned officers of the Russian tsarist army, German deserters, enemies of the people of the Stalin era, as well as soldiers of the Soviet and Latvian armies. The Karosta Prison is currently open to visitors and guided tours are available. The tours show the prison and visitors can learn about its history, have a look at the prison and punishment cells and hear interesting and even ghostly tales about life at the prison. Braver souls have the opportunity to play the ‘Behind the Bars’ reality game or try to get out of closed rooms. And those who know no fear can spend the night in a prison cell. The Karosta Prison has a Karosta Visitor Centre, a Soviet-era buffet and a souvenir shop. The services of a guide are available throughout the whole of Karosta.

Vaiņode air base

Vaiņode airfield still has 16 Soviet-era aircraft hangars and an 1800 m section of the once 2500 m long runway. The airfield can only be visited with a previous booking. Vaiņode airfield was established during the Latvian independence as one of the cradles of Latvian aviation and was later one of the largest military airfields in the Baltic States. In 1916, two hangars for German Army airships were built. Airships were used to gather intelligence and bomb the positions of the Russian Army. Later the city of Riga bought the airship hangars and used their roof structures to build the pavilions of the Riga Central Market. In May 1940, the 31st Fast Bomber Aviation Regiment of the Red Army moved to Vaiņode, and the construction of a standardized concrete slab runway began. At the end of the summer of 1944 the partially completed airfield was used by various German aviation units, however, at the end of World War II, the same airfield was used by the Red Army aviation units fighting the German Army group called ‘Kurzeme’. After World War II the Soviet Air Forces were stationed in Vaiņode until 1992.

Priekule Memorial Ensemble of Warrior’s Cemetery

The Priekule Memorial Ensemble of Warrior’s Cemetery is on the Liepāja-Priekule-Skoda road and is the largest burial site of Soviet soldiers of World War II in the Baltics. More than 23,000 Soviet soldiers are buried here. Operation Priekule was one of the fiercest battles in Kurzeme Fortress that took place from October 1944 to 21 February 1945. The Battle of Priekule in February 1945 lasted seven days and nights without interruption and had a lot of casualties on both sides. Until Priekule Warrior’s Cemetery was transformed into a memorial, the last monument of the outstanding Latvian sculptor K. Zāle (1888-1942) was located here to commemorate the independence battles in Aloja. Between 1974 and 1984, the 8 ha Priekule Warrior’s Cemetery was transformed into a memorial ensemble dedicated to those who fell in World War II. It was designed by the sculptor P. Zaļkalne, architects A. Zoldners and E. Salguss, and the dendrologist A. Lasis.

The centre of the memorial holds a 12 m tall statue called the ‘Motherland’, and names of the fallen are engraved on granite slabs. Until Latvia regained its independence, the Victory Day was widely celebrated every year on May 9.

Zlēku Tragedy Memorial Site

The memorial is located near the Zlēki Manor ensemble, in the western part of Karātavkalns.  Around twenty boulders with the names of the people killed form a circle, and in the centre is a black marble obelisk about three metres high.

Some of those killed have been reburied at the Zlēki memorial.

In December 1944, in the vicinity of Zlēki, the German Nazi army carried out a large-scale operation against the civilian population.In the combat action log of Army Group Nord, an entry was made at 17.30 on 9 December 1944 that 161 people belonging to the "Rubens Brigade and units of the Red Arrow" had been killed on the enemy side during the action. In Soviet times, this figure was apparently taken as the total number of victims of the Zlēki tragedy, referring to civilians killed.

The course of the action is partly documented in the report of the head of the counter-intelligence section of the German 16th Army of 31 December 1944. It explains that from 5 to 9 December, under the leadership of the highest SS and police leader in Ostland, SS Oberruppenführer and Police General Friedrich Jekeln, a large-scale operation took place at Eichensumpf ("Oak Swamp") against the "Red Arrows" and the remnants of General Kurel's group at Abava.

Mērsrags lighthouse and former border guard

Mērsrags Lighthouse is located in the Mērsrags village, about 1 km north of the village centre. The lighthouse was put into commission in 1875. It is an 18.5 m tall freestanding, cylindrical, riveted iron tower, the lower part of which has been fortified with reinforced concrete counterforts. The height of the signal light is 21.3 m. At the top all around the tower there is an iron balcony supported by consoles. The lighthouse tower was made by Sotera, Lemonier & Co in Paris, so this lighthouse is commonly known as the ‘Frenchie’. At the end of 1944, the 1003rd Artillery Division Battery of the German Army with 60 cm spotlights was located right next to the lighthouse. In May 1945, the Nazi Germany high command planned to move the 15th Latvian SS Grenadier Division to the area, but these plans failed, because Latvian soldiers surrendered to the Western Allies. Near the Mērsrags Lighthouse there are still remains of a building where during the USSR times Soviet border guards had a large, extendable spotlight for illuminating the sea. There is a bird-watching tower next to the lighthouse. Tours need to be booked beforehand by contacting the Mērsrags Tourism Information Centre.

The place where General Kurelis's staff officers were shot

At the end of July 1944, when the Red Army invaded the territory of Latvia, the German occupation authorities allowed Jānis Veide, the Riga District Police Chief and Commander of the 5th Riga Guards Regiment of the restored Latvian Guards Organisation, to establish the "General Kurelis Group of the Riga Guards Regiment". The head of the Military Commission of the Central Council of Latvia, General Jānis Kurelis of the Latvian Army, became its leader.

The Kurelis operated in Vidzeme until September 1944, when they moved to Kurzeme, where they were stationed in the houses of Stiklis in Puzes parish, Ilziķi in Usma parish, Iliņi in Ģibuli parish, and in Edole and other places in Northern Kurzeme. By the end of October 1944, the Kurelies had about 3,000 armed men, among them many former soldiers of the Latvian SS Volunteer Legion units, who joined the unit to realise their dream - the fight for Latvia's independence.

At the beginning of November 1944, the German occupation authorities' Supreme Police and SS leader in Ostland, SS Oberruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, began to restrict the group's activities and on 14 November arrested the Kurelian headquarters and more than 700 soldiers in Stikliai, Puse parish. The battalion commanded by Lieutenant Robert Rubens, with about 500 men in the Usma area, resisted and continued fighting until December 1944.

On the night of 19/20/1944, the Germans fought against the Germans. On November 19-19, 1944, a court-martial of the German occupation authorities was held in Liepāja Karaostas Prison, sentencing to death eight staff officers of General Kurelis' group - Colonel Pēteris Liepiņš, Captain Kristaps Upelnieks, Captain Jūlijs Mucenieks, Lieutenant Jānis Gregoras, Lieutenant Teodorma Prikulis, Lieutenant Jānis Rasas, Lieutenant Filipson and Adjutant Kārlis Valters. Three staff officers, Lieutenant Colonel Eduards Graudins, Lieutenant Arthurs Ankravs and Sergeant Vili Pavulāns, were pardoned for various reasons. On the afternoon of 20 November, the convicts were shot in the dunes near the Karosta prison, where a white cross can be seen today.

In 1994, a memorial to the officers who were shot was established in the dunes of the Liepaja Karosta. In 2012, after it was washed into the sea, the memorial was restored to its present location.
*** Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) ***

Memorial to the victims of holocaust in Liepāja

The largest memorial to Holocaust victims in Latvia is located in Liepāja, in the Šķēde dunes. The memorial is dedicated to the memory of more than 3,000 Liepāja Jews killed during World War II. It is in the form of the Israeli national symbol, a seven-branched candelabra known as the menorah. The contours of the memorial, which are clearly visible from a bird’s eye view, are made of split boulders and granite blocks. The ‘lights’ of the menorah are made of granite pillars with inscriptions of verses from the Lamentations of Jeremiah in Hebrew, English, Latvian and Russian.

Lithuanian soldiers' graves in Zaļkalns Forest

The memorial is located near the Pāvilosta beach lookout tower in the dunes. There are signs pointing to the memorial.

At the end of the Second World War, three Lithuanian police battalions, the 5th, 13th and 256th, were also deployed in Latvia, and after guard duty and fighting against Soviet partisans and the Red Army on the Eastern Front, from autumn 1944 they were involved in guarding the Baltic Sea coast in Kurzeme.

In October 1944, all three battalions, consisting of 32 officers and about 900 instructors and soldiers, were subordinated to the German 18th Army's 583rd Rear Guard Unit (Koruck 583). The unit was tasked with guarding the Kurzeme coast from Liepāja to Ventspils. All three Lithuanian battalions were deployed in the vicinity of Pavilosta. In December 1944, the 13th Battalion was transferred to the German 1st Army Corps at the Liepaja Lake.

One of the tasks of the Lithuanian coastguard, besides being ready to fight enemy landings and to report enemy ships, was to prevent Latvian refugee boats from sailing to the island of Gotland, 160 kilometres away, but the Lithuanian coastguard men did not prevent the refugee boats from leaving. However, news of the Lithuanian coastguard helping the Latvian refugees and the Lithuanians themselves preparing to cross the sea to Sweden also reached the Germans.

On 10 January 1945, the soldiers of the 1st Company of the 5th Lithuanian Police Battalion were rounded up. More than a week of interrogation and trial followed, which, as a warning to the others, decided to execute seven of the Lithuanian soldiers and to imprison 11 of their comrades in concentration camps in Germany. The execution of the seven Lithuanian soldiers (Sergeant Macijauski, the company commander; Juozas Sendrjuas, a soldier; Vladas Salickas, a soldier; Ionas Bašinskis, Krasauskas and two unknown others) took place on 21 January 1945 in the Zaļkalns Pines in Pavilosta.

In January 1945, the 5th Battalion was disbanded and the combat-ready soldiers were divided into the two remaining battalions, while the rest were formed into a separate sapper company. At the time of the surrender of Army Group Kurzeme in May 1945, two battalions (13th and 256th) were still in Kurzeme as a sapper company with a total of 900 soldiers who were taken prisoner by the Soviets.
 

Boat trip in Ciecere lake by the boat “Zezer”

During the ride with the recreational boat “Zezer” along Lake Ciecere near Brocēni you can listen to the audio guide and captain's stories about Lake Ciecere and the city of Brocēni on its shores, World War II events near Lake Ciecere, trenches on both sides of the lake and the Oak Island, as well as the tank route running along an observation tower and the tank that is said to be sunk in the lake. The audio guide is available in Latvian, Lithuanian, English, and Russian languages. The ride takes 1 hour 15 min.

Memorial sign for refugees "Sail of Hope" in Jūrkalne

The "Sail of Hope" commemorative sign for the World War II refugees who crossed the Baltic Sea by boat to the island of Gotland in Sweden in 1944 and 1945. The memorial is located in Osvalki on the dunes between the Jura and Ventspils-Liepaja highways, near the public transport stop "Kaujas". It was created by sculptor Ģirts Burvis, who realised it as a sail of hope symbolising the memory of Latvian refugees.

Between autumn 1944 and spring 1945, fearing the renewed Soviet occupation but unwilling to evacuate to a devastated and threatened Germany, some Latvian citizens tried to reach the nearest neutral country, Sweden, by sea. Some of the boats were organised by the Latvian Central Council with the help of the Western Allied countries, which resulted in one of the largest refugee concentration points in Jūrkalnes parish. Besides the boats organised by the Latvian Central Council, other boats were also taken across the sea. It is estimated that about 5000 persons managed to cross the sea. The number of deaths is unknown, as no records were kept of refugees leaving the Kurzeme coast. 

The voyages were dangerous because the refugees were threatened by German patrols on the coast and at sea, sea mines, Soviet aircraft and warships, as well as storms, as the crossings often took place in unsuitable and overloaded cutters and boats without sufficient fuel and food supplies, sea charts and navigational instruments. Departures from Latvia were carried out in secret. The destination of the boats was the island of Gotland, and the journeys most often started on the west coast of Courland (from Jūrkalne to Gotland is 90 nautical miles or about 170 kilometres as the crow flies).

2. Pasaules kara vācu armijas bunkurs

Atradās netālu no mājām "Brankšās" uz labību lauka.

2021.gada 2.septembrī Saulkrastu novada vēstures entuziasta Andra Grabčika vadībā, saskaņojot ar lauksaimniecības zemes nomnieci Inesi Karlovu, notika II pasaules kara Siguldas aizsardzības līnijas vācu armijas bunkura atrakšanas darbi.

"77 gadi pagājuši kopš bunkurs tika izbūvēts, piedzīvojis gan Padomju armijas uzbrukumu, gan lauksaimniecības tehnikas braukšanu tam pāri. Tikai 3 gadus atpakaļ daļēji padevās smagajai tehnikai. Lai grīda nebūtu ūdenī, bija izstrādāta meliorācijas sistēma ar ūdens krātuves rezervuāru pie ieejas, kuru vajadzības gadījumā izsmēla. Bunkura grīda ir no apaļbaļķiem 10 cm diametrā un tika noklāta ar salmiem. Šis bunkurs nav no lielajiem, bet pilnīgi pietiekams aptuveni 6 cilvēkiem. Šis bunkurs nav vienīgais šajā rajonā, bet viens no retajiem, kas labi saglabājies." - tā stāsta Andris Grabčiks par bunkuru.

Pēc informācijas publicēšanas internet, no vēsturnieka un Saulkrastu velosipēdu muzeja īpašnieka Jāņa Seregina tika saņemtas 2 ieskanētas vēsturiskas fotogrāfijas ar uzrakstu "29.08.44, Saulkrasti, Vidrižu pagasts" un komentāru: “Fotogrāfijas iegūtas no vienas saulkrastietes, kura tagad ir jau mirusi. Pēc viņas stāstītā, Saulkrastos bija apmetušies bēgļi no Pleskavas un Ļeņingradas apgabala, kurus vācieši bija atkāpjoties izdzinuši no mājām. Viņus nodarbināja ierakumu rakšanā aizsardzības līnijā pie Ķīšupes. Vienā no bildēm ir redzami cilvēki meža darbos. Tādā veidā tika iegūti baļķi, kurus mēs tagad varam redzēt bunkurā pie Brankšām. Otrā bildē ir redzams kā viņus baro pie mājām iekārtotā sadales punktā vai virtuvē. Domāju, ka tās ir Brankšu dzirnavas.” 

Bunkurs saglabājies no WWII uz Siguldas aizsardzības līnijas.
Pirmo rezi bunkura vieta tika apsekota 2021.gada aprīlī, bet augstā grundsūdens dēļ, atrakšanas darbi nevarēja notikt.

Bunkurs atrodās uz lauksaimniecības zemes un pēc atrakšanas un izpētes, tika aizbērts, lai netraucētu lauksaimniecības darbus.

Piemineklis 1941. gadā nogalinātajiem padomju aktīvistiem

Atrodas Raunas pilsdrupu teritorijā pretī estrādei.

Apskatāms piemineklis 1941. gadā nogalinātajiem padomju aktīvistiem un Raunas pilsdrupas.

Nacistiskās Vācijas karaspēkam okupējot Latvijas teritoriju un ienākot Raunā, 1941. gada 8. jūlijā Raunas pilsdrupās tika nošauti 14 padomju aktīvisti.

Viņu vidū bija arodbiedrības aktīvists Roberts Ogriņš un viņa dēls skolnieks Ādolfs Ogriņš, pionieru vadītājs Jānis Lakats, laukstrādnieki Kārlis Palsis, Jānis Zariņš un Antons Noviks, Raunas pagasta izpildkomitejas loceklis Jūlijs Gailītis, zemnieks Jānis Geižins, traktorists A.Alders, kalējs Jānis Kaštanis, milicijas palīgdienesta locekļi Jūlijs Ceriņš un Artūrs Milnis un strādnieks Ēvalds Plētiens. Oficiālajos rakstos šis notikums tiek aplūkots, kā izrēķināšanās ar padomju varas atbalstītājiem, tomēr vietējo iedzīvotāju atmiņās šis notikums vairāk tiek traktēts kā vienu raunēniešu personīga izrēķinās ar citiem raunēniešiem.

Pēc nogalināšanas upurus apraka turpat pilsdrupu pakājē, bet vēlāk tos pārapbedīja uz kapsētu. Pēc Otrā pasaules kara beigām, nošaušanas vietā uzstādīja pagaidu pieminekli, ko vēlāk nomainīja. Šobrīd pilsdrupās esošais piemineklis uzstādīts 1982. gadā.

Red Army prisoner filtration camp in Grieze and Grieze Church

Grieze is located at the Latvian-Lithuanian border, where the Vadakste River flows into the Venta River. The Grieze church was built in 1580, but the parish existed before 1567. The church was rebuilt several times - in 1769, in 1845 and in 1773 the first organ was installed. Both the altarpiece and the two bells have been lost for various reasons.

In the church garden there is a cemetery where people belonging to the church and noblemen are buried. One of them is Grieze organist Friedrich Baris and his wife Charlotte, who have a monument erected in front of the church sacristy. On the south side of the church, 32 Swedish soldiers who died in the Great Northern War are buried. The cemetery also contains the graves of 110 German soldiers who died in the First World War, for whom a monument was erected in 1930.

During the Second World War, the church suffered when the front line was stretched along the Venta River in late October 1944 and the German 225th Infantry Division was stationed in the vicinity of Grieze Church. When the Soviet 4th Shock Army launched attacks across the Venta River on 19 November 1944, several artillery shells hit the south wall of the church and the church tower was badly damaged.

After the surrender of Army Group Kurzeme, the Red Army's Leningrad Front accounted for 284 171 people taken prisoner. 7493 were Red Army soldiers released from German captivity. 48 German generals surrendered to captivity. According to the documents submitted at the time of the surrender of Army Group Kurzeme, the number of soldiers was about 185 000. The rest of the nearly 100 000 people subjected to filtration were Kurzeme civilians and Soviet refugees, as the Soviet Leningrad Front ordered on 10 May 1945 that all men between the ages of 16 and 60 be subjected to filtration.

In the Red Army, unlike the armed forces of other countries, the screening, guarding, maintenance and protection of prisoners of war was carried out not by army units, but by the internal affairs bodies - the People's Commissariat for State Security. The main task of the filtration was to detect citizens of the USSR and Soviet-occupied countries who had taken part in the hostilities on the German side. Captured German soldiers were examined in order to detect possible perpetrators of war crimes.

A prisoner-of-war filtration camp was located in the vicinity of the Grieze Church from 10 May to 17 June 1945. The camp was probably located here because the Grieze Church was close to the main roads. The pits in the ground where the prisoners hid from the cold on cold nights by covering themselves with whatever was available are still clearly visible in the surrounding area. During this period, the Red Army caused considerable damage to the interior of the church (all the pews were removed - "for the war effort", the pulpit was damaged, the organ was destroyed, etc.). A laundry was set up in the church building itself.

The last service in the church was in 1950 and the congregation ceased to exist. After the dissolution of the congregation, also later under the supervision of the Latvian Society for the Protection of Nature and Monuments, the church was not repaired. However, the building stood under roof until the 1960s-1970s. The church was damaged during the storm of 1961 and in 1968 the remaining interior elements were rescued by the Rundāle Palace staff.

Since 2003, a group of like-minded people from Riga parishes have been involved in the clean-up and restoration of the church. To date, the church walls have been conserved and the tower has been restored.
 

Horseback riding and horse riding tours around Paplaka and Priekule

The thematic horse-drawn carriage tours offered by the owner of the Stiebriņi farm, such as a horse-drawn carriage ride on a railway embankment, listening to a guide talk about the industrial heritage, are a great adventure. A horse-drawn carriage ride through the sites of the former military garrisons/towns around Paplaka will also be unforgettable. We particularly recommend the children's playground of the Soviet army housing estate, known locally as "Disneyland", the Finnish cottages (a Finnish wartime contribution to the Soviet Union), the water towers and the ruins of the former luxurious buildings of Barons fon Korfs. 

Liepaja Fortress Middle Fort and Monument to the Soldiers of the Red Army

The most dangerous direction of attack for the port of Emperor Alexander III was from the east between the lakes of Tosmare and Liepāja, where there was a 2.5 km wide strait of land. Three fortifications were built to defend the land strip. On the southern shore of Lake Tosmare there was a left redoubt, on the northern shore of Lake Liepāja a right redoubt, and between the redoubts there was a Middle Fort. The Middle Fort was the most serious fortification of the Liepaja Fortress, but it was not fully completed and artillery was not deployed until 1908.

It was at the Middle Fort that the most serious battles took place in April 1915, when German troops attacked, in November 1919 during the Latvian Army's battles against the West Russian Liberation Army, and in June 1941, when Liepāja was attacked by the 291st Infantry Division of the German Armored Forces.

In June 1941, when hostilities between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union broke out, the Liepaja garrison of the Soviet Army consisted of units of the Liepaja naval base of the Navy and the Red Army. The Liepaja naval base consisted of mine trawler, torpedo boat and submarine divisions, including former Latvian Navy ships and submarines. The coastal defence was carried out by the 23rd and 27th artillery batteries with 130 mm guns and the 18th railway artillery battery with 180 mm guns, covered by two Zenith artillery divisions. The base also included several sapper, repair, liaison and training units, totalling some 4 000 soldiers, commanded by Captain M. Klevenski, 1st rank. Of the Red Army units, the garrison was manned by the 67th Rifle Division (minus the 114th Rifle Regiment and one artillery division), commanded by Major-General N. Dedaev. The division had about 9000 soldiers before the outbreak of hostilities. The 143rd Fighter Aviation Regiment with 68 aircraft of various types was stationed at Liepāja airfield. In addition, the 12th Border Guard Unit operated in the Liepāja area.

The battle action at the Liepaja Fortress began in the early morning of 24 June 1941. Despite the Soviet losses, the German units were unable to break through the Liepaja Fortress rampart on 25 June. The fighting in Liepāja ended on 27 and 28 June, when Soviet units tried to break northwards.
 

Liepaja Museum exhibition "Liepaja under the occupation regimes"

The Liepāja Museum exhibition "Liepāja under the occupation regimes" is located in Liepāja, 7/9 Klāva Ukstiņa Street.

The exhibition covers the period from 1939 to 1991 during the double Soviet and German occupation. The inhabitants of Liepāja were among the first in Latvia to experience the outbreak of the Second World War and among the last for whom the war ended both literally and symbolically.

It was not until the collapse of the USSR in the late 1980s that the opportunity arose to restore Latvia's independence. The Latvian People's Front played a major role in this process, and its exhibition, opened on 21 January 2001, is housed in the former headquarters of the Liepāja City Branch. The Liepāja branch of the Popular Front was the second largest after the Riga branch, with 13 000 members. It was from here that buses of volunteers were organised during the barricades in January 1991 to go and defend the sites in Riga. On 23 August 1991, the day of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Lenin Monument, a symbol of Soviet power in the city, was dismantled. In later years, 500 bronze bells were made from it in Germany - souvenirs of a bygone era. One of these bells is also on display.

World War II and the Soviet occupation of Liepāja ended only in 1994, when the last troops of the USSR's heir, Russia, left the city.

The museum regularly organises thematic exhibitions of its collection and artworks, as well as lectures and meetings with historians and eyewitnesses of recent Latvian history. The museum building is currently being renovated and the exhibition is being renewed.

Fire correction tower of the Ventspils 46th Coastal Defence Battery

The restored fire control tower of the 46th Coast Guard Battery in Ventspils is located on Saulrieta street and is available to visitors in the form of an observation tower. There are four artillery gun positions near the tower and it is the only World War II coastal defence battery in Latvia in such a good condition. Visitors can take the tower stairs to an outdoor viewing platform overlooking the sea. An information stand with a QR code is available next to the tower. You can use the QR to watch an animation about historical events. There is a new street leading to the tower, a large parking lot and a wooden footbridge that crosses the protected nature area next to the tower.

This military complex was built in 1939, marking the start of construction of USSR military bases in Latvia. The 46th Coast Guard Battery had four positions for the gun type Б-13. This battery had its first military engagement on 24 June 1941, when Ventspils harbour was attacked by German torpedo boats that were driven away from the shores of the Baltic Sea by battery fire. On June 28 the Soviet Army blew up the guns and left.

World War II battle sites near Embute hillfort and church

The World War II battle sites near the Embute hillfort and the church are located in the Embute Nature Park, known as the Embute Valley. The nature park is significant because it was one of the first places in Latvia where the glacier began to retreat. The nature park is home to many natural, historical and geographically interesting sites.

World War II battles in the Embute valley

On 27 October 1944, the Red Army launched an offensive operation, now known as the 1st Kurland Battalion, with the aim of destroying Army Group North. The original plan envisaged an attack by the 61st Army from the Vaiņode district in a northerly direction to ensure the involvement of the 5th Guards Panzer Army to build on the success. The German 30th Grenadier Division and 563rd Volksgrenadier Division, supported by the 14th Panzer Division, were defending in this sector. One of the main Soviet axes of attack was on the Vaiņode - Embūte - Nīkrāce - Skrunda road, and it was here that Soviet tank units were planned to be used.

The main obstacle in the way of the tanks was the valley of the Lanka River, on the heights of which the Embute Church, Embute Castle and Embute Castle Mound are located. Between 28 and 31 October 1944, the Soviet offensive was halted here and allowed the German High Command to draw up the necessary reserves. On 31 October, the Soviet offensive was able to advance as far as the river Šķervele, bypassing the Lanka river valley to the north of the Embute hillfort, and continue in the direction of Nikrace.

Vācu armijas krasta apsardzības prožektora vieta Ušos un robežapsardzības postenis Kolkā

No military infrastructure was planned in Cape Kolka, except for several offshore lighthouses that were rebuilt over a long period of time, either before World War I, during World War I or during World War II. Coastal defence batteries were planned for the narrowest part of the Irbe Strait, between the Sirves Peninsula and the Michael Tower Lighthouse.

The only fortifications of a military nature appeared at the end of 1944, when the German Army Group North was preparing to repel possible landings by the Soviet Baltic Fleet. In the spring of 1945, after the ice retreated, two batteries of the 532nd Artillery Division defended the coast at Cape Kolka. Battery 7 with four 75 mm guns and three 20 mm zenith guns. Battery 8 with four 88 mm mortars, three 20 mm mortars and an 81 mm mortar. The anti-deserter infantry garrison consisted of one of the most famous coastal defence units of the German Navy, the 5th Company of the 531st Artillery Division. Although it was an artillery unit by name, it was an infantry unit by deployment, which started its war in June 1941 at Liepāja. The unit was then garrisoned on islands in the Gulf of Finland and later took part in the fighting on the island of Saaremaa. The remnants of the division were reformed into one company and, reinforced with seven anti-tank guns and three 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, deployed at Cape Kolka.

The Soviet naval landing operation never took place and the German units capitulated in May 1945.

The military infrastructure in Cape Kolka began to be built after the Second World War, when Soviet border guard posts were deployed here and Kolka, like the entire Kurzeme coast from Mērsrags to the Lithuanian border, became a closed zone

German Army concrete tower (by the beach)

Walking along the slope of Mount Odju for 200 m along the path, you can see several objects related to the First World War - old concrete foundations of cannons from. An unfinished concrete observation tower stands next to the beach, parallel to the forest path along the Rojas Trail. The exact use of this object is unknown. Below the base, niches have been built for ammunition. Deep pits, former dugouts, are also visible among the pines.

Some of the objects probably date back to the end of the Second World War, when German coastal defence batteries were stationed in the area. The 4th Battery, 532nd Artillery Division, Navy, was armed with four 88 mm guns, three 37 mm guns, one 20 mm four-barrelled gun and one 50 mm mortar for illumination at night. Two 45 mm anti-tank guns are deployed at the mouth of the Rojas. The town garrison consisted of units of the 64th and 109th Sapper Battalions.

Ruins of Ķērkliņu church

The ruins of the Ķerkliņu Church are located about 5 kilometres north-west of Kokmuiža, near the Ķerkliņu Lake. The church was built in 1641 by Heinrich von Dönhoff (Derkarth), the owner of the Ķerkliņi manor. The original wooden church was replaced by a stone building, under which tombs were built for the dead of the Dönhof and later Kleist families. The tombs were already destroyed during the 1905 riots, but in 1949 the coffins were moved from the tombs to the church. The church was an example of the Kurzeme Baroque style - its carvings were made by the Kuldīga - Liepāja woodcarvers. Although the owners of the manor and the church were at various times plagued by financial problems, the church underwent several reconstructions during its existence. It also suffered during the First World War, after which the parish rebuilt the stonework in 1929 and added an organ in 1934. Unfortunately, the church was damaged during the Second World War and much of it was lost, so it is to be commended that before the church was rebuilt in 1933, many unique pieces of Baroque sculpture were photographed, inventoried and even ended up in the archives of the Monuments Board. With the establishment of the landfill and the eviction of the inhabitants, the church was never restored. Today, the church walls and tower are visible.

World War II battle sites in Krote

The last fortification lines of the army group "Kurzeme", which were held by the German troops until their surrender on 8 May 1945, are located on the banks of the Vārtāja River in the vicinity of Krotė.

The front line reached the banks of the Vārtāja in February 1945, although cages had been prepared on the important road from Priekule to the Ilmāja railway station before that. During the last phase of the fighting, units of the 87th Infantry Division of the 2nd Army Corps of the German 18th Army took up defensive positions at this location. In order to protect the road to the Liepāja - Saldus railway line, the 18th Army Reserve 14th Panzer Division was deployed in the vicinity of Berzkrog, with the 1st Battalion of the 36th Panzer Regiment armed with 28 Pzkpfw. V (Panther) tanks. At the end of the war, it was the only unit in the whole of Courland to be equipped with this type of fighting vehicle.

Today, Krotė houses the private collection of Maris Ūtēna and offers the opportunity to see German trenches and bunker sites in the forests along the Vārtāja River. There are camping, a fireplace, a small cottage and carp fishing.

Explosive objects are still present in the forests of Kurzeme! 

Padomju partizānu vienības “Sarkanā Bulta” piemiņas akmens

The Soviet partisan unit was formed on 30 September 1944, when 19 soldiers of the German 283rd Police Battalion, under the leadership of Vladimir Semyonov, deserted with their weapons. The battalion was formed in 1943 from volunteers from the Latgale region and took part in the anti-partisan operations of the German occupation authorities in the territory of Latvia and Belarus.

The unit was called "Semyonov Unit" after its commander and only at the end of the war adopted the name of "Red Arrows", which was already spread by Soviet propaganda after the Second World War. By December 1944, the unit had 300-400 partisans. Most of them were escaped Red Army soldiers, former Legionnaires, including fighters left after the destruction of General Kurel's group. Although many Red Army reconnaissance groups were active in Kurzeme at this time, they avoided close cooperation because the activities of the commander of the partisan unit and its main core in the ranks of the German police were too suspicious. "The Red Arrows' activities were relatively poorly organised and more focused on waiting for the end of the war. During its activities it carried out extensive terrorising of the local population.

"Vladimir Semyonov, the first commander of the Red Arrows, drowned on the night of 10 December 1944 while kneeling across the swollen Abava River. His corpse was found only in the spring of 1945 and buried. He was reburied in Kuldīga in 1961.

The monument is located on the site of the "Red Arrows" and other guerrilla camps in the area (about 50-70 people), which on 7 March 1945 was surrounded and attempted to be destroyed by German troops.

Related stories

About found war items

In today's Latvia, the collections of various museums are supplemented by the personal collections of private individuals, which are often exhibited in public and are accessible to everyone. Many people's hobbies are ancient things, including items related to military history. Visitors often do not have an idea of the origin of these things. They suddenly appeared? In all cases, it's several years of work and an interesting, personal story about one person's interests in putting things together to make a museum out of them, for example. The narrator describes his personal experience, giving the reader an idea of the situation in Latvia after World War II. The legacy of various armies and the lack of raw materials on the farm are forcing people to find creative ways to use virtually anything to survive. Over time, the useless on the farm become valuable, historical exhibits that tell about the experience of Latvia and its people.

Stories of sunken machinery

Numerous stories of machinery sinking in swamps and lakes have survived in Latvia. Few of them are true.

The first refugee boat "Zeal" from Bambali

On 31 October 1944, the boat "Centība" left the Kurzeme coast. The departure of this boat was reconstructed by Valentīne Lasmane, the Convener of the Latvian Central Council, from the recollections of several fellow passengers

The story of 19-year-old Rice Ahmedeyev about the reconnaissance battle on February 14, 1945 near Priekule

Bashkir-born Red Army soldier Rais Ahmadeev's (19 years old) account of the Soviet army's preparations for the attack on Priekule and the reconnaissance battle in Piekule on 14 February 1945.

Efforts to prevent the blowing up of Ķegums HPP

During the Second World War, when the armies retreated, a large part of the militarily and logistically important objects in Latvia were blown up, so that these resources would not remain with the current opponents. Such objects were also in the vicinity of Ķegums, where one of the most important objects is the Ķegums HPP, which, however, was not completely destroyed due to the efforts and efforts of its employees.

Life on the Kegums side during World War II

Memories of a distant wartime flare up. For the older generation, it would remind them of their own experiences, perhaps bored of the young.

Memories from the diary left abroad - service at Ķegums HPP

Jānis Jaunozoliņš. "Memories from the Diary Left Abroad" (August 16, 1944-13.10.1946) Excerpts.

Actor Harry Liepins' memories of his service in the German army

Harijs Liepiņš, a later popular actor, was drafted into the German army and sent to Ķegums in the autumn of 1944.

Injury of Major General N. Dedajev at the Middle Fort of Liepāja Fortress

In June 1941, the successful attack of the German army had reached Liepaja, when Liepaja was attacked by the 291st Infantry Division of the German Armored Forces. When hostilities between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union began in June 1941, the Liepaja garrison of the Soviet Army consisted of troops from the Liepaja naval base of the Navy and the Red Army. During these battles Major General N.Dedaev was mortally wounded

Slītere fake lighthouse

During the wars, various methods were used to deceive the enemy. False navigational signs were created to deceive ships at sea, one of which may have been at the Slītere lighthouse

The place of the tragedy in the history of Latvia is still unclear

During the Second World War, when most of Latvia was already controlled by the Soviet Union and Kurzeme was ruled by Hitler's German viceroys, the so-called Kurelians in Kurzeme started the struggle for the restoration of Latvia's state independence.

The story of Ventspils 46th Coast Guard Battery Fire Correction Tower

The Ventspils Military Heritage Site is unique because it is one of the few coastal defence structures in Latvia and the Baltics that depict the history of World War II fortifications. It is also unique in that it is a military object built by the Soviet Union during the years of independence of the Republic of Latvia and in a way symbolises the inability of a small country to confront the superpowers on the eve of World War II. It is the only coastal defence battery that has survived so well, without historical layers and in its complete state of construction. The site shows the entire evolution of the Soviet military concept from 1939 until the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1994.

Liepāja - at the crossroads of various historical events

The inhabitants of Liepāja were among the first in Latvia to experience the outbreak of the Second World War and among the last for whom the war ended both literally and symbolically. The Second World War and the Soviet occupation of Liepāja ended only in 1994, when the last troops of the USSR's heir, Russia, left the city.

Soviet Army's unrealised plans on the Kurzeme coast in Melnsil and Gipka

At the end of World War II, the 6th Battery of the German Naval 532nd Artillery Division was stationed in Melnsil, but the Red Army had its own plans for the area, which were never realised until the surrender of the German army in May 1945.

The miraculous escape of Lieutenant-Colonel Eduards Graudins from being shot

In November 1944, a court-martial of the German occupation authorities sentenced 8 staff officers of General Kurel's group, three staff officers were pardoned for various reasons. The lieutenant colonel managed to escape from being shot, but Graudiņš was "trampled" by the German concentration camp system

"The war is not over until the last soldier is buried" (Saldus German Soldiers' Cemetery)

Kurzeme emerged as a separate and distinct battlefield on 10 October 1944. Some 500 000 German troops were counted as surrounded. According to reports from the 1st Baltic Front Headquarters, only a "small effort" was needed to completely liberate the entire Baltic coast. However, the fighting in Kurland continued for another seven months and Kurland became a symbol of the end of the Second World War. 

During the seven months of fighting until May 1945, German forces in Courland lost 154 108 soldiers killed, wounded and missing. Since 1997, a war cemetery survey and reburial of soldiers near Saldus has been carried out and currently 27,000 names of fallen soldiers can be found here

Discovery at the site of the Grieze filtration camp

Various objects belonging to former soldiers are often found at the site of the Grieze filtration camp and along the roads leading to it. Soldiers, arrested civilians, prisoners of war, etc. disposed of them for various reasons, both to avoid being identified and to avoid being subjected to "special attention".

Embute Church walls - witnesses of World War II

The Embute Church is one of the most vivid witnesses of the Second World War in Kurzeme. Traces of artillery and other shells can still be seen on the church walls and bell tower. The German army used the church (like many others in Kurzeme and elsewhere) for impregnable defensive purposes. As a result, the church was destroyed and has not been rebuilt since the Soviet

Compassionate Lithuanian Coastguard men

More than 70 years ago, Lithuanian coastguards were executed for helping their neighbours, Latvian boat refugees, to reach Sweden. When the German occupation authorities found out about this, they brutally

German army corporal Felker's account of the reconnaissance battle on 8 and 9 November 1944 at the Selješa home in Zvārde

Felker (German: Völcker) was a 20-year-old boy, serving in an intelligence division in the Nazi German army, who narrates the events of November 8 and 9, which vividly reflect the frontline events in Zvārde, where the frontline moved back and forth for 4 months, including in the vicinity of the Ķērkliņi church.

Ashtray with panther head from German fortification lines

The last fortification lines of the army group "Kurzeme" were located in the vicinity of Krotė and many objects related to the Second World War have been found there.

Pieta or "Māmuļa" Memorial Ensemble in Nīkrāce

Pieta, or Mammy, is a well-known motif in European culture and art, and was also used in Soviet times.

Description by Vilis Samsons of the Red Arrows battle with German police units on 7 March 1945

On 7 March 1945, the "Red Arrows" partisan camp was surrounded and attempted to be destroyed by German troops. Vilis Samsons, in his book published in 1974 by "Zinātne", Riga, describes the course of this battle

In the memories of Robert Ancāns at the Battle of Pilsbliden

Robert Ancans (11 November 1919 - 1 January 1982) was an officer of the Latvian Legion, Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, who took part in the battles of Pilsblidene on 16 and 17 March 1945. The Sixth Kurland Battle is now in its fourth day. Anzāns had served in the Pilsblidene area and therefore knew the area well. Anzans' division is again diverted by another break in the front - an 8km deep invasion by the Red Army. Anzán is wounded in these battles.