Baruch Liber, a Chazaan (cantor) and Sofer (religious scribe who can write and repair Torah scrolls, Mezuzah scrolls, etc.) was born in 1874.

He was the oldest son of Chana Beilah and Rabbi Labe Meir Lieber. He taught his brother, David, to also be a Chazaan and Sofer. David was seventeen years younger than Baruch, and Mitchell Lieber's grandfather.

In the film, viewers learn what Mitchell Lieber learns about Baruch Liber and his life, and the lives of other Jews from Latvia.


Chana (neé Klubinov) Liber, wife of Baruch Liber, was born in 1878. Chana is the daughter of the Vitebsk (a city in Belarus) Sofer (a religious scribe who can write and repair Torah and Mezzuzah scrolls and other sacred parchments), Baruch's teacher. [She should not be confused with Chana Beila Liber, her mother-in-law.]

In the film, viewers learn what Mitchell Lieber learns about Chana (neé Klubinov) Liber and her life, and the lives of many other Jews from Latvia.


Moshe Liber is the son of Baruch and Chana Liber and was born in 1909 . This means he is a first cousin of Mitchell Lieber's father. After this photo was taken Moshe matured, started a clothing business, married and had a daughter.

In the film, viewers learn what Mitchell Lieber learns about Moshe Liber and his family and their life, and the lives of many other Jewish families from Latvia.


The Riga Ghetto which was in existence from 1941-1943. The sign warns, in both Latvian and German, that those who attempt to enter the Ghetto or contact its inhabitants will be shot.

Created in August 1941, the Riga Ghetto initially held only Latvian Jews. Beginning in December 1941 it also housed Jews from Germany and other European countries and had outposts such as Kaiserwald and Lenta.

In the documentary, viewers learn - in detail - about the fates of Lieber family members and of other Latvian Jews taken to the Riga Ghetto.


Rumbula Forest, outside of Riga Latvia, is 8 kilometers from the Riga Ghetto. This forest played a pivotal role in the Nazi liquidation of the Riga Ghetto's Latvian prisoners.

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Rumbula Forest became a gathering place for young Jews who cleaned up the site and marked the mass graves. A series of memorials were erected at Rumbula over the years, some of which only stood for one day. The history of Rumbula and its memorials illuminate the environment in Latvia for Jews under the Nazis, Soviets and after Latvian independence. The Soviet era memorial stone at Rumbula Forest is believed to be the first official Holocaust memorial in the USSR.

In the documentary, viewers learn about Rumbula Forest's history and contemporary role. After seeing the film, viewers will have more than one answer to the question, "What is Rumbula Forest?" More importantly, viewers may ponder the question "Why Rumbula Forest?"


The generations in this 1951 wedding photograph link Mitchell Lieber to Chana Beila Liber. The wedding couple is Mitchell's parents, Herbert & Suzanne. To the left of the groom is his father, David Lieber, son of Chana Beila. Immediately in front of David is his wife Rose, who is Herbert's mother.

Mitchell Lieber knew David and Rose well, and David was his link to Chana Beila, although grandfather David and his wife Rose never spoke of their family in Russia (Latvia).

An older offspring of Chana Beila and Rabbi Labe Meir Liber is also in this photograph. The groom's Uncle Reuben Lieber is just to the right of the young boy seen in the left portion of the photo.

In the documentary, viewers learn how Reuben, then young David and eventually Rose leave Latvia for the U.S. amidst intense life challenges.


Mitchell Lieber holds his newborn daughter in 1998. Naming her for great grandmother Chana Beila Liber, a rebbitzen (rabbi's wife) from Latvia, led to his search for information about her as well as her place, time and family. This genealogy story is the narrative device that brings viewers to the film's main story of Jews in Latvia.

In 2001-2002, the fruits of this genealogy research moved Lieber to create the web site www.Rumbula.org. The history that he continued to learn led to this documentary. Those who see the film will understand why. Some may investigate their own family connection to history.

Documentary

A Contribution to History

Rumbula's Echo is the first film focused on documenting two of the largest single day mass murders of the Holocaust prior to the operation of the death camps. These are the meticulously organized and savage shootings of 25,000 people on two separate days in late 1941, in the forest near the Rumbula train stop in Riga, Latvia.

The film also documents the murder of thousands at Skede beach near Liepaja and other events of the Holocaust in Latvia that murdered 98% of the Latvian Jews living in the country. These must be documented in film while the handful of remaining survivors can tell the story, creating a unique contribution to Holocaust history.

The True Story

Rumbula's Echo traces the steps of new father Mitchell Lieber who, as he names his baby girl for his great grandmother, begins using the Internet to conduct research about his great grandparents' family. The detective work of genealogical research becomes the storytelling vehicle for the film's striking and sobering story-within-a-story. That is the saga of Jews in his great grandparents' small country of Latvia beginning in the late 19th century.

Nina Makhinson’s and Dora Basner's 5th grade class picture from Torah V’Derech Eretz in Riga, 1940. Their beloved teacher, Mrs. Karlin, is at center (photo courtesy of Dora Basner).

Jews in Latvia at that time have three of the most revered rabbis of the last 200 years to consult. They have synagogues within blocks and perhaps a business of their own. Community members include the Rothko family of Dvinsk and their young boy Marc Rothko. Life flourishes with Latvia's independence in 1918, and in the 1930s the country of just under two million is about five percent Jewish. Children attend one of 71 Jewish schools and there are great authors, doctors and charitable organizations. In June 1940, the mood darkens as the Soviets occupy the country. One year later in June 1941, 2,000 Jews are among those deported to the Soviet Gulag. Then days later, a lethal plague descends on Latvia's Jews when the Nazis drive out the Soviets.

Inmates of the Riga Ghetto photographed through its fence (photo courtesy of Staatsarchiv).

On July 4, 1941, five synagogues throughout Riga are burned to rubble including the Gogol Street Choral Synagogue, which is incinerated with hundreds of Jews locked inside. Survivors narrate as viewers see the creation of the Riga ghetto, the segregation of able-bodied young men into the small ghetto and the mass shootings of 25,000 on two separate days in the Rumbula aktions of late 1941. Lieber's relatives are among the 25,000. A similar mass shooting of thousands follows about one week later at Skede beach near Liepaja and is documented in a series of photos. A photo on screen shows a young girl, two teenagers, mother and grandmother forced to pose in their winter underwear together moments before their execution. Survivor Edward Anders tells viewers their names, for they are the wife and daughters of his father's business partner.

Perhaps 5,000 Jews are alive in Latvia as 1941 ends. Most of these are murdered during the next four years. Dock worker Janis Lipke saves 55 souls, smuggling them out of the Riga Ghetto and into hiding. Beginning in 1943, Robert and Johanna Sedul hide and support 11 in Liepaja, in a secret room in their basement. At least 266 others rescue Jews. Some Jews survive in hiding, and others somehow live through the progression from ghetto to work camp to death camp.

Following the war and especially after Latvia's independence in 1991, survivors and their children rebuild a small but very vibrant Jewish community with two operating synagogues. Other Jewish community institutions include a hospital, Jewish Community building, social services, Jewish Museum and Judaic Studies Centre at the University of Latvia. The Jewish community dedicates memorials and markers at most of the country's more than 200 Holocaust killing sites, including Rumbula.

Three years after Lieber begins to research his great grandparents and deceased relatives, he receives an unexpected e-mail from Michael Roth who saw Lieber's registration at the Jewish genealogy web site. Roth, his sister, their families and their mother are a branch of the Lieber family thought exterminated in the Holocaust 60 years earlier. The families joyously reunite re-forging bonds that Mitchell's and Michael's grandfathers developed as brothers 100 years earlier.

Of the 70,000 Jews trapped in Latvia during the Holocaust, less than 1,500 survived. One survivor founds Latvia's Jewish Museum. Another discovers a key contributing cause of the dinosaurs' extinction and the stardust in meteorites. A third is pivotal in negotiating the peace in Northern Ireland. What of the other 98% - the 68,500 murdered? When they died, what future improvements to our world died?

The Film's Significance Today

Rumbula's Echo shows how family history ties us all to historical events, including the Holocaust, inspiring viewers to explore and document their own family stories. By including the words of victims, rescuers, the rescued, resisters, bystanders, collaborators, and perpetrators the film illuminates how a complex dynamic of relationships underlies mass murder. As it concludes, Rumbula's Echo suggests we contemplate the overlooked price the world pays for genocide, the absence of the murdered's contributions to society.

 

Web site creative consultant, logo design and photo assistance: Marc Ziner

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