The Latvian Holocaust
1940 - 1945
When the Soviet Army entered Latvia in June 1940, the local Jewish or Hebrew community treated it as a positive sign. It was because of the increase of German military aggression in Europe. The Jews and other covenant keeping Christians often labelled as Jews were afraid, that after victory over France, Hitler could quickly turn to conquering the East. They were sure that German victory would mean extermination of Jews. This would and did include other covenant keeping Christians often labelled as Jews there. Therefore, in their opinion, the Red Army at this time was the only force, which could successfully fight the Nazi Army. Most of the Jews and or Sabbatarians did not understand, that the Soviet Army entered Latvia not to fill terms any of agreement of mutual help, which was concluded in 1939, but to occupy Latvia and incorporate it into the Soviet Union.
Leftist Jewish groups supported the incorporation of Latvia into the USSR, because they thought it would be a guarantee against attack from Germany. Some of the youth also hoped that, if they become citizens of the USSR, they would have a better chance of getting a good education and implement their knowledge and abilities. They had false illusions about living in the USSR.
As the publications of I. Gore (Kreituse) and A. Stranga (Latvijas neatkaribas mijkreslis. Okupacija. 1939. Gada septembris - 1940. Gada junijs. (The Gloaming in independence of Latvia. Occupation. September 1939. - June 1940 (In Latvian)) shows that , in the power organs of the communist party and Russian KGB, there were not many Jews or other covenant keeping Christians and if there were, they did not work in leading posts. Of the 35 members of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Latvia, which had been elected in December 1940, there was only one Jew (H. Rapoport), but among the public commissaries of the Latvian Soviet Republic there were none. There was one Jew, the right hand man of A. Noviks - KGB hangman Simon Shustin, but he was actually sent from Moscow and he was not a Latvian Hebrew. However, this person has a really fearsome role in the history of the Holocaust there. However, he was only the executor of the will of Cremle.
Outrageous nationalization of private property influenced 1000's of Jews and other covenant keeping Christians often labelled as Jews. Hebrew non-government organizations, clubs, newspapers and sports clubs were closed. In June 14th 1941 together with many thousands of Latvian citizens, to the East and North areas of USSR about 5 thousand Jews and others were deported, which is more than 5% from the total amount of Jews in Latvia. Among them there were famous Hebrew Scientists, teachers, journalists, activists of parties, entrepreneurs, and financiers. They suffered the most of the Jewish intelligentsia in Latvia. About a half of them died in the deportation camps. Among these people was also Paul Mintz, who was the member of government of K. Ulmanis in 1919-1921, "Aguat Israel" leader M. Dubin, "Bunda" Leader N. Maizel and others. (Almost all members of organization "Bunda" were deported to Siberia.) Only after the personal petition of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943 the leader of organization "Mizrahi," M. Nurok, was freed froma Gulag camp. He then immigrated to Palestine and took part in the founding of Israel.
In June 22. 1941, the Vermacht of Nazi Germany, according to order of Hitler, invaded the territory of the USSR. Then the worst tragedy in the history of Latvian Jews and other covenant keeping Christians or Bibelforschers Bible Researchers began - their extermination.
The German attack was so quick and powerful, that by July the 3rd, all the territory of Latvia was occupied. Only about 15,000 from 90,000 Jews and or Sabbath-keepers had a chance to evacuate to the East. This was the end of the illusion that USSR would shield Jews and other covenant keeping Christians from Nazi genocide.
Already in March - April 1941, according to the order of Hitler and under leadership of H. Himler and R. Heidrich, responsible officers of SS and Security Office (SD) worked out plans for extermination of Jews (and Bibelforshers or "Bible Researchers") in the conquered territories. The implementation of these terror actions was assigned to special extermination groups, which were divided into several teams (Einsatz and Sondercommando), each of which contained 70-150 killers prepared for mass executions. To the Baltic went group A (600 - 700 men), which was lead by SS Brigaden fierer (General major) V. Schtalecker.
In May 1941 these groups received orders to prepare for the shooting of Hebrew men, communist functionaries, "Asiatic half men" and Gipsies. In June also a direction from Heidrich was received, which ordered to involve local (Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian) anti-Semites and work in a way to give the impression that Baltic nations themselves reckon with Jews and other "Judaisers." On June 22, Schtalecker directed that not only Hebrew men must be exterminated, but also women and children. Following on after the first lines of the Vermacht, there followed extermination teams, which did their work.
In the teams of Schtalecker, Latvian anti-Semites were involved also, who had immigrated to Germany, especially members of "Thunder Cross", who founded local killer groups which carried out exterminations even without direct attendance of Germans. Also many Latvians, who had closer connection with the Soviet government, were killed. As H.Biezais (Latvia kaskrusta vara. Svesu kungi, pasu laudis. 1992-199., 200p) until June 27th in the area of Liepaja alone 41 extermination actions took place. On June 28th actions in Jelgava began. These were all lead by SS and SD services, which also took an active part in killing by themselves. In Daugaupils city the first action of the shooting of "Jews" was made by a German Special Unit alone. In Liepaja such action went under the name "extermination of hostages" and this was undertaken by the German Marine Corps. Local murders were also widespread. On July 2nd and 3rd in Riga, with the acknowledgment of the Germans, there was founded a team under leadership of V. Arajs, which in July 4th burned or shot about 400 Jews in the Synagogue in Gogola street 25. Shootings in Riga were lead by SS Sturmbandfuhrer Bart. In Riga and its area about 4300 Jews and others were exterminated in a few days.
Historian M. Vesterman in his publication "Holocaust in Latvia" says that in total about 30,000 Jews were killed in the Summer of 1941. Historian Andrew Ezergailis points out that there were 35,000 Jews killed between June 23rd 1941 and October 15th 1941. During these killings there were also rapes, robberies, and the destruction of synagogues that took place there.
Although it was mainly organized by Germans, some Latvians also participated. The official German version, which was supported by Hitler in July 16th was that this is Requital of Latvians for these actions, which were done by Jews during the occupation of the USSR.
After these killings in the Summer of 1941, there was no big participation of Latvians observed. Participation was confined to some armed groups, members of which were collaborationists and those, who were certain of German victory and in such a way tried to gain German acknowledgement. Of course, among these people were also some fanatic anti-Semites, who tried to establish some kind of new Aryan order. After these killings in the July of 1941, there quickly followed German restrictions against Jews and "Judaisers", which made them castaway. Jews and those labelled as Jews could not be in public places, take buses or trains, they could not walk down by the pavement and they had to sew on their dress a Solomon's Seal, which was called the Star of David. After that followed directions ordering Jews and others to leave their apartments and move to special areas of the City (ghetto). They were allowed to leave the Ghetto only to go to their special places of work. The private property of Jews was confiscated.
Any kind of education of Hebrew children was terminated. The Jews in a Ghetto (and others interned in ghettos) had rights to form their own municipality, but it was subjected to a strict control of policy. There were 29,602 Jews in the ghetto of Riga in October of 1941. Half of them were sent to special workplaces. However, such a situation soon changed. In the Fall of 1941 Berlin decided, that only those Jews and other covenant keeping or Judaising Christians must be left alive, who were specialists of some kind and who had great work capabilities. In the November 10, the new General of Policy and SS of Ostland (Baltic) F. Jekeln received an order from Himler to destroy the Ghetto of Riga, Liepaja and others. This General worked out a detailed plan and method of killing, which was implemented by the special unit of German shooters. The Latvian volunteer police was involved in convoying Jews and others to the place of execution. There was an order regarding those, who tried to run away or hide in the territory of the Ghetto - they had to be shot in the same place. The "evacuation" of the Ghetto of Riga was implemented by policemen from Germany. In the morning of November 23rd in Ludzas Street in Riga alone there were 300 Jews killed. The main place of killing was Rumbula, where in November and December 27 800 Jews and others were killed; 942 foreign citizens among them. The bodies were burned. At the same time most of the Jews in the Ghetto of Daugauvpils and Liepaja were killed.
After recurrent shootings in Riga, Liepaja and Daugavpils, a so-called small ghetto were established. Just 4904 Jews lived there, mainly young and work capable men. In 1943 all the tenants of the ghetto were transported to the concentration camp of Mezaparks, but from there - to camps of Shtuthoff and others in Germany. In 1943, 2300 women and children were sent to the death camp of Treblinka to be exterminated in gas chambers.
When the war ended, there were only about 1000 Jews alive in the concentration camps. Most of them immigrated to Palestine and Western countries.
Of those in Latvia, there were only about 300 Jews. (The number of "Bibelforschers" is unknown). These were saved by their neighbors who were Latvians, Russians, Polish and others. At that time there are about 200 families known, which supported and treated those Jews saved. More than 50 people saved workers of the port of Riga - Jan Lipke.
In 1941 during the mass killings there was a special Institute of Anti-Semitism in Riga, which produced books and booklets against Jews and Judaisers. It was lead by J. Martinson.
In Latvia there were several concentration camps. These were in Riga, Daugavpils, Liepaja, Jelgava, Valmiera. The biggest one was Salaspils concentration camp. It was located in the area of Riga, at Salaspils village. It existed from 10. 1941 - 10. 1944. There were 45 barracks for prisoners. There were, at one time, 14,000 - 25,000 prisoners from various European countries. In Salaspils Concentration camp there were more than 53 000 people killed, among which were more than 7000 children. The mass graves occupied about 2600 square meters. The killed were placed in the pits in several layers. The biggest branches of Salaspils death camp were Sauriesu and Bema stone quarries. The prisoners were used also as workers in Salaspils peat bog, lime factory and others.
Jewish communities in Latvia in 1935
Population in Latvia as of 1935
Fields, where Jews worked in (statistics of 1935)
Killing of Jews and other covenantt keeping Christians often labeled as Jews of Latvia 1941. The first killing of Jews and "Judaisers" took place in June 23rd, in the area of Grobina. On the night of June 23rd in the Church cemetery 6 Jews were killed. Possibly, it was members of EK 1a, who, according to W Stahlecher, on June 23rd crossed the border of Soviet Union, so they might reach Grobina by the evening.
On July 2nd, because of Stahlecker's order to arrest Jews so called "night actions" began in Riga (Capital). These arrests accompanied robberies of Hebrew property.
On July 4th, Friday, beginning Sabbath, at least three Synagogues were burned in Riga. It is assumed that at least 400 people burned.
In July there were 4 killing centres in Latvia - Riga, Daugavpils, Liepaja and Jelgava. Riga was the headquarters.
From July 7th (assumed date) till October in Bikernieki, near Riga 6378 Jews.
In Jelgava from July till August 1550 Jews. In Vidzeme district during this period about 1230 Jews were killed
The numbers of "Judaisers" and "Bibelforshers" or Bible Researchers killed are unknown.
Killed by October 15th 1941
Mass killings in Rumbula (12 km from Riga)
Mass killings in Rumbula took place on November 30th and December 8th 1941. On these two days about 25 000 Jews and other covenant keepers were killed. Before Poland, these were the biggest two-day mass killings.
Extermination in other cities
Daugavpils - it is assumed that about 13 000 Jews and
other covenant keepers were killed during this period. Rezekne
- about 1700 of 2300 were killed.
Extermination actions in areas of Liepaja and Aizpute
July 4th - in Raina park - 200 - 300 Jews and others
July 7th - killing of 30 hostages
Ghetto and Concentration camps
Ghetto of Riga
It was founded at the end of July and there were about 29,602 people until the end of November when mass killings took place.
Chart of Ghetto residents:
Concentration Camp of Mezaparks (Kaiserwald)
On June 21st Himler ordered all ghettos to be eliminated. Up until the end of July about 5000 Jews and others were transported to Mezaparks (Kaiserwald). This camp of Mezaparks (Kaiserwald) was built by a team of criminals, who were sent back to Germany in December 1943). The last transportation took place in November 2nd. Mezaparks (Kaiserwald) could take in about 2000 Jews, but it served as a kind of registration centre, from where people were transported to other concentration or work camps. At the end of 1943 people from Vilna (Lithuania) and Chechoslovakia also arrived in Mezaparks (Kaiserwald). In April 1944 more than 500 Hebrew women from Hungary were sent to Mezaparks (Kaiserwald), which possibly was the biggest foreign transportation there since February 1942. People, who were registered in Mezaparks (Kaiserwald) were sent also to camps in other countries such as Estonia, Lithuania, Aushwitz. The classification of Sabbatarians as Jews is examined in more detail in the case of the Sabbatarians in Transylvania who were classed as Jews and transported for Rumania and Hungary to the camps for extermination (see the section on Rumania and Hungary).
People were housed in barracks; men and women were separated.
In August 1994 people from satellite camps and work places were transported back to Mezaparks (Kaiserwald), from where the biggest portion were sent to Germany. Some were transported from Riga, some - from Liepaja. In 1944 in Latvia there were at least 12, 000 Jews still alive. In 1944 people from Vilna, Chechoslovakia and Germany were also transported to Latvia.
Hebrew transportation to Germany took place in August 6th and September 25th and 29th. The last transports were at the beginning of October. On October the 13th Soviet Army took Riga.
Today Mezaparks (Kaiserwald) is a housing estate, and there are no signs or memorials, that might recall that it had once been a concentration camp.
Salaspils concentration camp.
The building of Salaspils concentration camp finished in September 1942. In the beginning it was used for imprisonment of mainly Latvians and Slavic people. In March 1943 there were 1990 prisoners in Salaspils concentration camp. Partly it served as a transit camp for people who waited for judgement or for imprisonment in the Central Prison of Riga. Usually, there were also people from Belorussia imprisoned who were going to Germany. In Salaspils concentration camp about 7000 people of various nationalities were killed and martyred.
Jumpravmuita (Jungfernhof) was a disused manor near the railstation of Skirotava and near the river of Daugava. When Latvia was occupied by the Soviet army in 1940 - 1941, there were plans to build an aerodrome in Jumpravmuita (Jungfernhof). People, who were imprisoned there, worked in agriculture. Although this place could house only about 400 people, there were 4000 Jews and others placed there. It is assumed that there were about 2000 people killed. In 1943 there were only 450 prisoners still alive.
Manor of Strazdu
Lika Jungfernhof also Manor of Strazdu was a disused manor. There were about 2000 prisoners. According to reports, life in Manor of Strazdu was better than other camps. However, before closing, 1300 of 1800 people had been killed.
In the middle of 1943 Dundaga became the main place of employment of Jews. The SS decided to establish Sea camp (Seelager Dondogen) and for this reason they ordered Latvians to free three villages - Dundaga, Arlava and Lubezere. According to A. Vestermann, in the Summer of 1943 about 5000 Jews were transported from Riga to Dundaga I. In November 1943 in the village of Lubezere another camp was established - Dundaga II, where at the beginning there were 155 Jews, in February of 1944 - 450 and in June - 1000 people. If Vestermann is correct, in both camps were about 6000 people. According to A. Shpugin there was also a third camp established in May 1944, where there were 5000 Hungarian women from Auschwitz.
Hebrew transportation to Latvia