Human Rights in Baltics

During Spring Break 2010, students, faculty and staff are visiting World War II sites in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, including the Bikernieki Memorial, where 40,000 Jews were slain; the Jewish Museum in Riga; and the Jungfernhof concentration camp. Rick Halperin, director of the Human Rights Education Program in Dedman College, is leading the group.

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The frozen ocean and somber forest

069.JPG An update from Adele, a senior sociology major with minors in history and human rights:

Most of today involved driving from Estonia to Latvia, but we did stop in Parnu for lunch. This town, known as a resort town, offered us a delicious three-course lunch at the side of an old butcher shop. We walked out on the beach and saw how the ocean had frozen over. With the snow on top, you couldn’t even tell the difference between land and ocean. How often does one get to walk out onto the sea like we did? All we could see was white for miles and miles.

094.JPG After leaving Parnu, we drove further into Latvia to the Bikernieki Memorial. At this remote site in the Bikernieki forest, during November and December of 1941, around 40,000 Jews and other victims were shot into mass graves.

090.JPG Walking the same path that the victims took, seeing the mass graves and imagining the noises that must have been there at that time, was an extremely moving experience. Iga, our guide, told us most of the victims were brought to the forest under the impression that they were simply being relocated. However, when they got there, they were shot into mass graves.

The site is somber and heavy, even in the middle of such a beautiful and peaceful forest.

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