The largest place of mass extermination and burial of the victims of Nazi terror in Latvia is located in the Bikernieki forest. Around 35,000 people have been killed there from 1941 to 1944 – the Jews from Latvia and Western Europe, Soviet war prisoners, and political opponents of the Nazis and many more.
About 20,000 Jews are buried in the ditches of the Bikernieki forest. The first Jewish victims were several thousands of men, who, after being arrested in the first weeks of July of 1941, were placed in the Central Prison and then brought to the Bikernieki forest, where they were shot dead. Approximately 12,000 Jews from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were murdered in 1942 in the Bikernieki forest. Prisoners of the Riga ghetto, who were deemed unfit to be sent to the “Kaiserwald” concentration camp, were killed here in 1943, and disabled prisoners of the “Kaiserwald”- in the fall of 1944. In total, 55 mass graves have been discovered in the Bikernieki forest.
On the 30th of November 2001, with the support of the German National Union for the Care of War Graves, the National Fund of the Republic of Austria, the German Government and municipalities of several German cities, a memorial complex designed by an architect Sergei Ryzha was opened in the Bikernieki forest.
A black granite cube – a symbolic altar, on which the words from the book of Job: “Earth, do not cover my blood; may my cry never be laid to rest!” 16:18) are engraved, is located in the centre of the memorial ensemble. Thousands of granite stones placed around the cube resemble traditional Jewish cemetery. Stone plaques with the names of European cities – native places of those killed in the Bikernieki forest, are set on both sides of the path. Understandable symbolic images that represent different groups of victims resting here: the Star of David, the crown of thorns and the cross, are depicted on concrete posts throughout the territory of the memorial.