Salaspils concentration camp was established at the end of 1941. The Nazi bureaucracy drew distinctions between different types of camps. Officially, Salaspils was a Police Prison and Work Education Camp. It was also known as camp Kurtenhof after the German name for the city of Salaspils. Planning for the development of the camp and its prisoner structure changed several times. In 1943, Heinrich Himmler briefly considered converting the camp into an official concentration camp, which would have formally subordinated the camp to the National Security Main Office, but nothing came of this.
The camp site was prepared in October 1941 by Soviet prisoners of war from the Salaspils branch camp Stalag 350/Z of the Riga of base camp 350 and by deported Czech Jews as well as few German Jews from KZ Jungfernhof. In the middle of January 1942 at least 1,000 Jews from the Riga Ghetto were forced to work building the camp. Insufficient accommodation and sanitary conditions, lack of nutrition and severe cold weather caused an extraordinarily high number of deaths.
The Nazis had planned to deport the last remaining Jews from Germany by the end of the summer of 1942. To support this, the plans for the Salaspils camp were revised in an effort to allow the camp to accommodate 15,000 Jews deported from Germany. The camp by then played three roles, general police prison, later the security police prisoner camp, and then a forced labor camp. However the last expansion plan was not carried out.
In the autumn of 1942 the camp comprised 15 barracks of the 45 that were planned, housing 1,800 prisoners. Although a police prison and work education camp, Salaspils became comparable to a German concentration camp in the way the work was organized, the types of prisoners, as well as their treatment, as they recounted later.
By the end of 1942 the Salaspils camp held mainly political prisoners (who had originally been incarcerated at the Riga central prison without due process under 'protective custody orders') and interned foreigners such as Latvian returnees from Russia, whom the Nazis considered politically suspect. Furthermore work education prisoners and recruits to local Latvian collaboration units who had committed routine crimes. There were in the camp only twelve Jews; many had died or been returned to Riga in weak condition.
Typhoid fever, measles and other diseases killed about half of the children at the camp. In one of the burial places by the camp, 632 corpses of children of ages 5 to 9 were revealed.
About 12,000 prisoners went through the camp during its existence. In addition to the German Jews who perished during the construction phase about 2,000 to 3,000 people died here due to illness, heavy labour, inhuman treatment, epidemy, etc.
Starting in 1949 legal proceedings were brought against some of the persons responsible for the Nazi crimes in Latvia, including the Riga Ghetto, and the Jungfernhof and Salaspils concentration camps. Some accused were condemned to life imprisonment. Gerhard Kurt Maywald is one such nazi, convicted of crimes committed in the camp.
In 1967 a memorial was established in Salaspils, which included an exhibit room, several sculptures and a large marble block. During the time of the Soviet Union, the Russian group “Singing Guitars” had dedicated a song “Salaspils” to the children's camp.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.