Places of Memory: Holocaust Memorials in Vidzeme and Their Symbolic Language

  • Solveiga Krūmiņa–Koņkova A leading researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, University of Latvia
Keywords: Holocaust memorial, Pierre Nora, lieux de mémoire, Harold Marcuse, Holocaust iconography


In analysing the symbolic language of Holocaust memorials, the author uses the concept of lieux de mémoire, elaborated by the French historian Pierre Nora. Nora highlights the essential differences, even rupture, between history and memory and the growing importance of lieux de mémoire, places of memory that lie between memory and history. The task of these places is to return the event to the present, reviving it in both the individual memory and the memory of society. Therefore, a memorial can also be considered a lieu de memoire. Moreover, the memorial is a more complicated case with material, symbolic and functional significance, a lieu de mémoire and a historical text with changing relations between them.
The paper will briefly describe the basic principles of Holocaust iconography and the history of the development of Holocaust memorials as a new genre of commemorative art. The author will look at the development of this genre in Latvia using the example of memorials dedicated to victims of Nazism in Vidzeme. The monument’s symbolic language and whether it has been influenced by the specific place and events or whether artists have followed a specific iconographic canon will be explained. The examples will also be considered from the point of view of the dialectics between a place of memory and a historical text, mentioned above.