What: Salaspils Memorial Ensemble
Where: Salaspils, near Riga, Latvia
Just 18km south of the Latvian capital of Riga lies the ancient town of Salaspils. After the Nazi invasion of the country in 1941, the town gained notoriety as the location of Stalag-350-s, a camp housing Soviet prisoners of war, and the largest civilian German concentration camp in the Baltic states.
On 31 October 1967 a memorial complex was opened at the site of Stalag-350-s. The physical and psychological turmoil of the prisoners is expressed in four huge statues: The Humiliated, The Mother, The Unbroken and Solidarity. Hewn from rough concrete, the sculptures pushed the boundaries of Socialist Realism to produce a pitiful monument to the many that lost their lives during the Nazi occupation between 1941 and 1944.
The architects initially sought to commission the Russian sculptor Ernst Neizvestny to work on the project. But following the infamous ‘Manege Affair’ in 1962, Neizvestny was replaced by a trio of sculptors approved by the Soviet authorities: Lev Bukovsky, Oleg Skarainis and Jānis Zariņš. In 1970 the artists were awarded the Lenin Prize, the highest award in the USSR, in recognition of their poignant memorial to the Soviet victims of Nazism.
Images: Top – Lev Bukovsky, Oleg Skarainis and Jānis Zariņš, Mother, 1961–1967. Bottom – Lev Bukovsky, Oleg Skarainis and Jānis Zariņš, The Humiliated, 1961–1967. Courtesy Marathon Pundit.