The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia Audiovisual Archive

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, 2012.

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia Audiovisual Archive, 1994–2014 consists of more than 2,200 digital copies of videotaped oral history interviews with Latvians and other nationalities who lived under or fled from the Soviet and/or German occupations in Latvia.

The interviews focus on the interwar period in Latvia and World War II events in the region, the interviewees' escape from the country during the war, and their life in German DP camps and Western countries (including the United States), the Soviet and Nazi deportations from Latvia, imprisonment in the GULAG, National resistance movement, etc.

The interviews were recorded by the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia from 1996 until the present. More interviews will be recorded and added to the collection in the future.

Subjects covered include Latvia, Latvian history, Baltic history, interwar Latvia, World War II (1939-1945), Soviet occupation, Nazi occupation, Soviet Army, crimes against humanity, Soviet deportations, refugees, DP camps, Latvian diaspora.

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (Latvijas Okupācijas muzejs) is a memory institution located in Riga, Latvia. It was established in 1993 to exhibit artifacts, archive documents, research and educate the public about the 51-year period in the 20th century when Latvia was successively occupied by the USSR in 1940, then by Nazi Germany in 1941, and then again by the USSR in 1944. The Museum is maintained and administered by the Occupation Museum Association of Latvia, registered in Latvia as a non-profit public benefit organisation. The interviews were recorded by the Museum's employees.

Lelde Neimane interviews Austra Ermansone, Latvia, 2011.
Andrejs Edvīns Feldmanis interviews Laima and Imants Kārše, Latvia, 2012.
Interviewer Lelde Neimane and cameraman Oļģerts Zālītis during the expedition in Kandava region, Latvia, 2002.
Taiga Kokneviča interviews Arnolds Spārns, Lithuania, 2011.

The interviews

Below is a sample of shorter, edited clips of the interviews in this collection. The full collection can be found by clicking here.

Only a small portion of the collection (10 interviews) is currently publicly accessible. The majority of the collection is only accessible for those visiting the Special Collections Reading Room of Cecil H. Green Library.

Oral history with Jānis Rožkalns, 2013

Jānis Rožkalns remembers his education and his youth in Ineši, Latvia, emphasizing the role of his Christian family. He describes his work places and duties in Rīga and joining the National resistance movement in the 1970s. He describes his arrest in 1983, imprisonment, interrogations and court proceeding. Jānis remembers life, work, health issues and people he met while incarcerated in PERM-35 and in PERM-37, Russian SSR. He continued to resist the Soviet regime during his years in the labour camps. Jānis remembers the day of amnesty on February 1987 and recalls life after the return and rejoining the resistance movement. He describes the group “Helsinki 86” organised commemoration of the Soviet mass deportations at the Monument of Freedom in Rīga on June 14, 1987. Jānis and his wife and children were forcefully expulsed from the USSR in October 1987. In Germany, he recalls his life, work and struggle for the freedom of Latvia and provides help for Latvia after 1991. Jānis returns to Latvia in 2000.

Oral history with Morris Halle, 2012

Morris Halle starts the interview in Latvian and remembers his childhood in Liepāja, Latvia. The rest of the interview is in English. His family moved to Rīga in 1929. Morris recalls attending German and Hebrew schools. He tells about relationships between Jews, Latvians and Germans in the 1930's. His family left Latvia in April 1940 and he remembers the trip to the United States of America. Morris describes his education in the USA and his life and work. His schoolmate was Moshe Arens.

Oral history with Olga Feldentāle, 2012

Olga Feldentāle recalls her childhood. She describes the first Soviet occupation starting from June 1940 and the Nazi German occupation from July 1941. She retells episodes about WW2 and describes the post war situation. Olga, together with her mother Anna, sisters Maiga and Zelma, aunt Lizete Buks and uncle Fricis Buks, was deported from Puze, Latvia, to the Omsk Oblast, Siberia, Russia, during the second mass deportation in March 1949. Her father Kārlis Barons was arrested twice – lastly in 1948, sentenced and sent to the GULAG. He joined the family in forced resettlement. Olga recalls everyday life and work in forced resettlement. She was released in 1957 and returned to the Latvian SSR. She describes life and work after the return.

Oral history with Valentīna Logina, 2009

Valentīna Logina remembers her school days during the independence period of Latvia. Valentīna recalls Latgales Latvian Song festival in Daugavpils in June 1940. She remembers the first Soviet occupation period starting from June 1940. She retells memories of her uncles Oskars and Leonards. Valentīna recounts the arrest of her father Osvalds Mosts in 1941 and his death. She retells memories of WW2, her brother Arturs, and her marriage. She left Latvia as refugee in 1944 and fled to Germany. She remembers life and work as a refugee in war devastated Germany. She emigrated to the United States of America in 1950. Life and work in the USA and obtaining further education are described. Valentīna recalls activities in the Latvian community and memories of her husband Staņislavs, also the death of her husband. She relates her experience in amateur theatre performances.

Oral history with Zalamans Kuršāns, 2008

Zalamans Kuršāns retells memories about the Jewish community in Smiltene, Latvia. During the Nazi German occupation period Zalamans was arrested together with other Jews. He remembers forced labour in Smiltene. He recalls memories about his parents who were executed during the Holocaust. He escaped to Rīga but had to perform forced labour. He describes life and work in the “Riga – Kaiserwald” concentration camp. Zalamans was transferred to Dundaga. He again describes forced labour work and also communication with locals in Dundaga. He escaped from the camp in Dundaga, and hid in a forest for a year until the end of the WW2.

Oral history with Roberts Pūriņš, 2002

Roberts Pūriņš remembers his school days during the independence period of Latvia. He retells memories of the first Soviet occupation starting from June 1940. Roberts participated in the anti-Soviet resistance movement Tēvijas Sargi. He was arrested on November 18, 1940. He tells about the Soviet court proceedings and his experiences in the GULAG forced labour camps until his release in 1943. Roberts recalls life in Ushtobe, Kazakhstan SSR and capitulation of Nazi Germany, May 8, 1945. He returned to the Latvian SSR in 1946. He describes life and work after the return. Roberts was arrested again in October 31, 1950. He relates the Soviet court proceedings and his experiences in the GULAG forced labour camps until his release in 1955. He recalls the announcement of the death of Stalin in March 1953 and tells about life after his second return to the Latvian SSR.

Oral history with Aina Lesiņa, 2000

Aina Lesiņa recalls memories of the first Soviet occupation starting from June 1940 and memories of WW2 in Ogre and Ērgļi, 1941-1944. Aina describes her sister Vilma who was killed by a land mine explosion that also injured Aina. She recalls the treatment of her wounds in the Toropec hospital in Russia, and her return to the Latvian SSR. She describes the period after WW2. Aina tells about the second mass deportation from Latvia in March 1949, when she was deported from Ogre, Latvia, to the Tomsk Oblast, Siberia, Russia. Aina retells memories of the conditions and life in a forced resettlement until her release in 1957. Aina describes her mother Milda and father Jānis Purviņš, and recalls some episodes from the history of Lejasciems.

Oral history with Anna Kauliņa, 2000

Anna remembers her father Jānis Kauliņš, Latvia’s Minister for Agriculture. Anna describes the first Soviet occupation starting from June 1940. Together with her mother Lilija and brother Jānis she was deported from Jelgava during the first mass deportation in June 1941 to the Krasnoyarsk Oblast, Siberia, Russia. Her father was separated from the rest of the family and deported to the Novosibirsk Oblast’s 1st Novosibirsk prison where he was shot in 1942. Anna describes the details of everyday life and fishing in a forced resettlement. She recalls the death of her mother in 1943. Anna was released in 1956 and returned to the Latvian SSR in 1957. She describes life and work after the return, and shows photos made by her brother during the forced resettlement.

Oral history with Dzidra Meldere, 1998

Dzidra Meldere recalls the first Soviet occupation starting from June 1940 and the following Nazi German occupation from July 1941. She describes her marriage to Laimonis Lapa and his evasion of mobilization in the Nazi military forces and subsequently in the Soviet Army in 1944. She recounts the announcement of the capitulation of Germany in May 1945. Dzidra and her husband joined the National partisan movement, and she describes it in detail. In 1949, she was arrested, sentenced and sent to the GULAG. Episode about her child birth in prison and his further fate. She recounts her imprisonment, life and work in Karaganda forced labour camps, Kazakhstan SSR. Dzidra recalls her fate and that of Laimonis’ relatives. She remembers the announcement of the death of Stalin in March 1953. She was released in 1956 and returned to the Latvian SSR. Dzidra tells about her life and work after the return.

Oral history with Skaidrīte Zavaļņeva, 1998

Skaidrīte recalls the first Soviet occupation period from June 1940 and the following Nazi German occupation from July 1941. She describes the Nazi instigated Holocaust in Latvia. Her family hid two Jews – Abraham Shpungin and Matis Frost – in the family home in Dundaga, 1944. The family supplied these two Jews and six more, who stayed in the forest, with food and clothing until the capitulation of Germany on May 8, 1945. After WW2, Abraham and Matis returned to Rīga and kept in touch with the Vanags’ family. They both emigrated to Israel in the 1970s. On June 2, 1993, Yad Vashem recognized Antons and Klāra Vanags, and their daughter, Skaidrīte, as Righteous Among the Nations. Skaidrīte describes her mother Klāra, who died in 1958.