Distance from Riga 184 km. Population 44,085.
The first settlement on the site of Ventspils was founded back in the 10th century. It was officially designated a city in 1378. There is evidence that Y. Kaufman Lipshitz who arrived from Prague in the late 18th century, was the first Jew in Ventspils. Other Jewish settlers came to Ventspils from the surrounding villages, the neighbouring town of Piltene, from Prussia and Lithuania. However, they obtained the status of legal residents only in 1795, when Courland became a part of Russian Empire. 485 Jews lived in the city and its suburbs in 1835. Some 5,000 Jews who lived in Ventspils just before WWI, made up 19% of its population. A synagogue, several private minyans, and hospital Bikur Holim were opened in the city.
The Ventspils Jews, sharing the fate of the majority of their fellows in Courland, were deported into the midlands of Russia in 1915. After the WWI, the Jewish community of Ventspils was re-established and by 1920, it had 863 members, making up 11% of the whole population of the city. By 1935 among 15,671 residents of Ventspils 1,246 were Jewish. As well as religious educational institutions, a public school for the Jewish boys, taught in Russian, was opened prior to the WWI. The majority of Jewish children of Ventspils attended local secular schools. During the period of the independent Latvian Republic, the City council opened the Jewish primary school and the Jewish community opened the secondary school. The lessons in both schools were conducted in Russian and German. both schools were conducted in Russian and German. The majority of Ventspils Jews were involved in a variety of businesses. They played a meaningful role in the economy of the city, especially in the timber, grain and leather trading.
After Latvia became a part of a former Soviet Union in 1940, the businesses were nationalized, and their former owners were deported. Almost 1/5 of the Latvian citizens exiled from Ventspils were Jewish.
The Nazi troops occupied Ventspils n the 1st of July 1941, at which time about 1,000 Jews were present in town. In the mid-July all the Jews were ordered to gather in the synagogue and in several other buildings at Kuģinieku, Ostas and Tirgoņu streets near the river. During three days of the third week of the Nazi occupation several hundreds Jewish men were shot in the same place. The elderly women and the children were kept prisoner in the synagogue. On the 3rd and the 17th of October 1941, all 533 of them were shot dead in Kaziņu forest.
The Jewish community of Ventspils was revived in the late 1980s. At present the city Jewish community consists of 50 members.
Synagogue, Sinagogas, 9. The Summer Synagogue, build in 1856, was reconstructed in 1930s. Its building is currently not in use.
Jewish Community and School Building, Užavas, 8. It ventured public Yiddish primary school and secondary school, taught in German and, since 1934 – in Hebrew. The latter one was funded by the local Jewish community. The building currently ventures the offices of the regional Government organizations and the local newspaper.
Building, which during 1930s ventured the offices of the Jewish youth organization “Herzylia,” Pils, 40.
Cemetery, Saules St, in the forest. It was opened in 1831. In the same year, the Chevra Kadisha started functioning. The last few burials took place here shortly before the WWII.
Kaziņu Forest, end of Vasarnīcas St, on the left-hand side of the road. This is the spot of the mass execution of the Ventspils Jews in October 1941.