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Introduction

Fort VII, officially Konzentrationslager Posen (later renamed), was a Nazi concentration campset up in Pozna? in occupied Poland during World War II, located in one of the 19th-century fortswhich ringed the city. According to different estimates, between 4,500 and 20,000 people, mostly Poles from Pozna? and the surrounding region, died while imprisoned at the camp.

Site and establishment

Fort VII (also known as Fort Colomb from 1902–1918) was one of the ring of defensive forts built around the perimeter of Pozna? by the Prussian authorities in the late 19th century, in the second stage of the Festung Posen scheme. It was built in 1876–1880 (with improvements in 1887–1888). It stands in the western part of the city, on today's ul. Polska in the Ogrody neighbourhood, part of Je?yce district. In the interwar period it was used for storage purposes.

Experimental gas chamber

Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Fort VII was chosen as the site of the first concentration camp in occupied Poland, called Konzentrationslager Posen. It was probably created by decision of the Reichsstatthalter of the Pozna? region, Arthur Greiser. It began functioning at some time around October 1939. The prisoners were mostly Poles from theWielkopolska region.

Many were representatives of the region's intelligentsia, often people who had been engaged in social and political life, as well as known Polish patriots and veterans of the Wielkopolska Uprising (1918–1919) and Silesian Uprisings. In the early stages of the camp's existence prisoners were generally executed within a week of arrival. In October 1939 an early experiment in execution by gas chamber was carried out, where around 400 patients and staff frompsychiatric hospitals in Pozna? and Owi?ska were killed.

In mid November 1939 the camp was renamed as a Gestapo prison and a transit camp (Geheime Staatspolizei Staatspolizeileitstelle Posen. Übergangslager – Fort VII). In this period prisoners usually remained in the camp for about six months, before being sentenced to death, a long prison term or transfer to a larger concentration camp, such as Dachau and Auschwitz, or in rare cases being released. Prisoners in this period included political and military activitists in the Polish Underground State.

Following Himmler's decree of 28 May 1941 the camp was renamed as a police prison and corrective labour camp (Polizeigefängnis der Sicherheitspolizei und Arbeitserziehungslager). In this period some prisoners (called niedzielnicy in Polish, from the word niedziela, "Sunday") would be held in the camp temporarily between ending work on Saturday and beginning work on Monday.

Prisoner numbers and deaths View of the main entrance

About 2000 to 2,500 prisoners were held at the camp at a time, guarded by approximately 400 members of the SS. There were 27 cells for men and three for women.

According to conservative estimates, a total of 18,000 people passed through the camp, of whom 4,500 died. Other estimates put the total number of prisoners as high as 45,000, and the number of deaths at around 20,000. Deaths were due either to execution (shooting, hanging or gassing), mistreatment or torture, or disease.

The prison's documentation was destroyed near the end of the war. According to reports submitted by the prison to the registrar of deaths, the official number of prisoners who died at Fort VII was 479.

As well as Poles, prisoners included some citizens of other countries, including the United KingdomFrance, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, as well as some Germans.

Conditions The "stairway of death"

Fort VII was known among prisoners as a particularly harsh camp, partly because of the high ratio of guards to prisoners (about one to five). Prisoners lived in cramped, dark, damp and cold conditions. Sometimes 200–300 prisoners were held in a cell measuring 20 by 5 metres. The women's cells, located below ground level, sometimes remained flooded up to knee height.

Until mid 1942 prisoners slept on the floor or on rotting straw. There was little or no access to washing facilities, and parasites and disease spread easily. Prisoners were subjected to torture and humiliation by the guards.

On the "stairway of death" prisoners would be made to run up carrying a heavy stone, and possibly kicked down from the top by a guard. Food rations were minimal, as officially the prisoners were not working. However, some of them were made to work in unofficial workshops. Only one prisoner is known to have escaped – Marian Szlegel, thanks to his work, was able to identify a time when the camp was less well guarded, and took the opportunity to abscond.

Witness accounts speak of 7 to 9 executions by shooting a day, as well as mass hangings, and shootings of larger groups away from the fort itself. There were two typhus epidemics, each of which killed about 80% of the prisoners held at that time. Many prisoners also died after being taken to other concentration camps.

Closure of the camp

From March 1943 the process of gradually liquidating the camp began, so that the site could be used for industrial purposes. Prisoners were made to work on the construction of a new camp south of Pozna?, in ?abikowo (called Poggenburg by the Nazis), and were then transferred there, the last ones being moved on 25 April 1944. Fort VII became a Telefunken factory producing radio equipment for submarines and aircraft.

After the war the building was used as a storage facility by the Polish army. Plans were made in 1976 to turn the site into a museum in memory of the victims of the camp. The museum opened on 13 August 1979, and is called Muzeum Martyrologii Wielkopolan Fort VII ("Fort VII Museum of the Wielkopolska Martyrs").

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History

It is one of 18 forts of what is called a Stronghold-Pozna?, constructed in the years 1876-1880, and later modernized between 1887 and 1888. Initially, it was simply referred to as Fort VII, but in 1902 this 14-hectar fortification was named Fort Colomb. Until 1918 it served an important function in Prussian plans regarding the defence of both the city and the eastern border of the 2nd Reich. In the period between the World Wars, it was used as a warehouse.

The Nazi occupation was the turning point in the history of the fortification. The Nazi authorities decided that the building would become the first concentration camp in the territory of Poland. The factors that prevailed while choosing Fort VII as the site for such a camp included its location - far away from settlements, surrounded by dirt walls and camouflaging vegetation, quite typical of forts, it was also within easy reach from the centre of Pozna?. After the expulsion of Polish citizens from the surroundings of Fort VII and populating this area with families of camp officers and Gestapo staff, the site became strictly isolated from other parts of the city.

It is no longer possible to determine when the camp began to operate. On 10th October 1939, the Security Police officially assumed the control of the area, which had been previously used by the Wehrmacht. Fort VII came under the jurisdiction of SS-Oberführer Erich Neumann, head of the Einsatzgruppe VI. Its first commandant was SS-Sturmbannführer Herbert Lange.

By 25th April 1944, a total of ca. 18 thousand people had been imprisoned in Fort VII; usually between 2 and 2.5 thousand at a time, while the number of the SS guards reached 400.

Officially, Fort VII was a prison and a temporary camp for civilians, but in reality, it was predominantly an extermination camp.

After the 2nd World War ended, the fort belonged to the Polish People's Army and was mainly used as an army warehouse, and therefore access was denied to the whole area of the camp. In 1963, owing to the perseverance of the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (ZBOWiD) a National Remembrance Chamber was created in Fort VII, which was opened in November for All Saints' Day, and for a few days in April, which is the Month of National Remembrance in Poland.

In 1976, the decision was made to create a Museum for Wielkopolska Martyrs, which would operate under the auspices of Marcin Kasprzak Museum of Workers' Movement History (today - the Museum of Fight for Independence of Wielkopolska in Pozna?). The official opening took place on 31st August 1979 in a specially assigned part of Fort VII. Under the Act of 2001, former prisoners of Fort VII have the same status as prisoners of concentration camps.

Currently, this place houses the Museum for Wielkopolska Martyrs - Fort VII. The museum is in charge of documents describing the martyrdom of people living in Wielkopolska during the Nazi occupation. It collects all kinds of exhibits dating back to that period. This collection includes a rich volume of letters written in the camp, drawings, photos, prisoners' personal documents, documents issued by the German occupying authorities, and various objects that the prisoners used every day, e.g. medallions made of bread, wallets, dictionaries, and rosaries.

The museum also keeps archives of prisoners' accounts, and collects personal files describing the lives of people who found themselves in Fort VII. The records, now containing ca. 5000 files, mostly with photographs of prisoners, are a source of significant historical information. These can be utilised by researchers and the Institute of National Remembrance.

[Source: www.poznan.pl]

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Owinska Mental Home and Poznan Fort VII

Owinska is a town near Poznan (about 10 km north of Poznan). Its Mental Home was the oldest hospital for mental ill people in the Wielkopolska region. 
The German army occupied Owinska in mid-September 1939. The mental home was taken over by the Gau-Selbstverwaltung of Poznan. A Nazi commissioner was put in charge of the mental home. The new chief demanded a list of all Owinska patients and forbid discharging anyone from the hospital. The staff was told that Owinska mental home should be closed and all patients transferred to other hospitals. 
The SS Sonderkommando Lange was ordered to Owinska for exterminating all patients.

n the second half of October 1939, the first patients were picked up by military trucks, under surveillance of SS men. 1-3 trucks left Owinska Mental Home every day. The staff of the hospital didn't know where they went and why. 
At first all men were deported, followed by the women, finally 78 children were sent to death on 11 November 1939. Until 30 November 1939the Owinska Mental Home was empty, apart from a few persons for economic affairs. 

Entrance to Fort VII Gas Chamber

A lot of the patients were killed in a primitive gas chamber at Fort VII in Poznan. Later mobile gas chambers (gas vans) drove the people to Murowana Goslina. During the drive all victims were killed by exhaust fumes. 

Each incoming truck at Fort VII held around 25 persons. After their arrival they were brought into a gas chamber which was installed in a bunker in the court of Fort VII. The closed door was sealed with clay. The prisoners had to stay in the gaschamber when the SS installed gas cylinders with (probably) carbon monoxide besides the entrance. When all victims were dead, a special group of regular prisoners were forced to open the door and to remove the killed persons. The corpses were loaded onto trucks and driven away. 

The names of the victims are still unknown because all documents have been destroyed obviously. The names of the Fort VII staff you can read here. The commanders were: 

SS-Sturmbannführer Herbert Lange (10-16 October 1939), 

SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Weibrecht (16 October 1939 until June or July 1940), 

SS-Hauptsturmführer Kühndel (summer 1940 until 1941)

and SS-Obersturmführer Hans Walter (1943 until 1944). 

Between 1941 and 1943, the camp was led by these men (commanders or deputies):

 Langes, Mollendorf, Wagner and Werner

Main Corridor A Staff Member

During the war Owinska Mental Home was converted into barracks for SS men. In course of the German army's retreat the building was burned down partially in the summer of 1944. The hospital never has been reactivated. 


For many prisoners Fort VII was a temporary prison. Later they were brought to other concentration camps, mainly to Auschwitz, Dachau, Ravensbrück and Groß-Rosen. The last remaining prisoners were sent to the Zabikowo camp

Most probably the Nazis killed around 10,000–15,000 persons at Fort VII by torture, executions and gassing. Only 479 victims can be proved. Today Fort VII is a memorial of martyrdom. 

http://www.deathcamps.org/euthanasia/owinska.html

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Ground Plan

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Herbert Lange

Herbert Lange

(29 September 1909 – 20 April 1945 ?)

Was a SS-Sturmbannführer. Lange was born in Menzlin (Pomerania).

He studied law but failed to obtain a degree and he subsequently joined the NSDAP on 1 May 1932. Three months later he enlisted in the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the following year he joined the SS. He subsequently joined the police becoming a deputy commissioner in 1935. 
In 1938 he was promoted to the rank of SS-Untersturmführer, and in August 1939 he went to Frankfurt/Oder for gathering of Einsatzgruppe VI, commanded by SS-Oberführer Erich Naumann, prior to the invasion of Poland. There were about 150 members. This mobile killing unit followed after the Wehrmacht when Poland was invaded. 

On 12 September 1939 the Einsatzgruppe VI marched to Poznan in the Warthegau. Within the confines ofEinsatzgruppe VI a Sonderkommando was established, commanded by Lange. He received orders from Arthur Greiser(governor of the Warthegau) to create a concentration camp in Poznan. The KZ Posen (Poznan) was established atFort VII (Fort Colomb), one of the bastions belonging to huge Prussian fortifications that encircled Poznan. Lange was the first commander of the KZ Fort VII although only for a short time, from 10-16 October 1939. 
It seems that his only tasks were to find a suitable location and organize the camp, staffing and the admittance of the first prisoners. Once these were completed, his role as camp commandant was finished. 


Next (from mid-October) at the head of his Sonderkommando (so called Sonderkommando Lange) he carried out inspections of the mental homes in OwinskaKoscian and Gniezno. This action was probably at the personal request from Heinrich Himmler to carry out euthanasia actions in Polish mental homes in the Wielkopolska region. From this time he and his squad operated completely independently. The Sonderkommando Lange was subordinated directly to the RSHA in Berlin, apart from occasional local instances. 

Lange was responsible for the organization and execution of euthanasia actions in several mental homes in the Wielkopolska region. HisSonderkommando used for these actions a mobile gas chamber (gas van or gas trailer) inscribed with an advertisement for "Kaiser's Kaffee Geschäft". Euthanasia actions by the SS-Sonderkommando Lange was carried out at the 
Owinska Mental Home (near Poznan): 15 September - 20 December 1939. Victims: 1,100 
Koscian Mental Home: January - February 1940. Victims: 3,334 

Kochanowka Mental Home (near Lodz): 13-15 March 1940, 27-28 March 1940, June - August 1940. Victims: 629 

Warta Mental Home (near Sieradz): 2-4 April 1940. Victims: 499 

Srem Mental Home: June 1941. Victims: 58 

His accomplishments in euthanasia actions in Poland were highly valued in the SS and as a result on 20 April 1940 he was promoted to the rank of SS-Obersturmführer
Later Lange was responsible for mass killing actions in the Konin region, but officialy from the end of 1940 until December 1941 he was head of the Economic’s Crimes department of the Kriminalpolizei in Poznan

On 7 December 1941 Lange became the first commandant of the Chelmno Death Camp. He organized this camp by orders of Himmlerand Greiser. Some sources suggest that Lange selected Chelmno as the most suitable location for a death camp. On 21 February 1942 Lange was dismissed from the commandants position. Together with him two gas van drivers were also dismissed. 

In 1942 his services were needed at the Reich Main Security Office and he was transferred to Berlin. He served under Arthur Nebe as aKriminalrat (Criminal Investigator) and in 1944 he aided in catching the conspirators of the attempt on Hitler’s life, leading to his promotion to a SS-Sturmbannführer

The circumstances of his death are not clear. Most of sources announce that he was killed on 20 April 1945 in action, during the battle of Berlin

 

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Hans Weibrecht

Hans Weibrecht 

(* September 23 1911 in Fuerth , † April 15 1945 in Austria ) 

Was a German SS officer .

Weibrecht took effect on 1 March 1932 in the Nazi Party (Mitgliedsnr. 1003285) on 15 April 1933 the SS at (Mitgliedsnr. 55 080). Weibrecht was an SS-man and member of the auxiliary police guard team in Dachau concentration camp . There he was in the spring of 1934, Adjutantof Theodor Eicke , the Dachau camp commander . In this capacity Weibrecht Eicke accompanied in the following two years in the reorganization of the concentration camps . At the beginning of 1935 was also Weibrecht next Eicke and Ferdinand Zachmann a proven three employees of the so-called central department of the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps (IKL).  The relationship seems to Eicke it to have been extremely tight. Eick stated in writing at a planned transfer of his aides:

"My aide, SS squad leader Weibrecht by KLD, I beg leave, as Weibrecht is for me an indispensable support." 

On the occasion of the " Röhm-Putsch ", have political purge of 30 June 1934 Weibrecht promoted to second lieutenant. In the autumn of 1936 was released by Eicke Weibrecht of its functions and moved to the general SS Later he was active in student leadership of the empire.

On 16 Weibrecht in October 1939 was the successor of Herbert Lange commander of Fort VII (also known as KZ Posen) appointed, one of the first concentration camps, the SS in occupied Poland founded. Weibrecht led the camp, which at Poznan was, until 15 October 1941. In the Fort VII were killed under the supervision Weibrecht many Poles and Jews. In addition, there were already in October and November 1939, the first so-called mentally ill killed by gas.

After the start of the " war against the Soviet Union "was one of 10 Weibrecht August 1941 to 1st April 1942 as Captain of theEinsatzkommando 10a of Einsatzgruppe D in the field of the Soviet Union carried out mass executions of Jews and other ideological opponents and undesirables. 

On 30 Weibrecht January 1944, appointed Colonel. In the same year he was the Reich Security Main Office was added (RSHA).

From October 1944 the Chief of Security Police and Security Service (IDS) in Poznan and later used as "Chief of the battle groups". 

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SS-Obersturmführer Hans Walter

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Today Fort VII is a Memorial of Martyrdom.

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The Gas Chamber at Fort VII in Poznan

n October 1939 the SS Sonderkommando Lange arrived in Owinska (a town about 13 km north of Poznan). In thesecond half of October 1939, the SS started to kill the patients of the Owinska Mental Home



1-3 military trucks left the hospital nearly every day, carrying always 25 persons. The staff was told that the hospital should be closed and all patients transferred to other facilities. 
At first all men were deported, followed by the women, finally 78 children were sent to death on 11 November 1939. Until 30 November 1939 the mental home was empty, apart from a few persons for economic affairs. About 1,000 patients were killed in a primitive gas chamber at Fort VII in Poznan or later in gas vans which drove them to secluded forests in the vicinity of Poznan where their corpses were buried in mass graves. The nurse Pelagia Gumna testified that some vans drove into the direction of Poznan (13 km south of Owinska), others to the direction of Murowana Golina (10 km north of Owinska). 

Fort VII After a truck has arrived at Fort VII, the patients were brought into a gas chamber which was installed in a bunker in the court of the fort. After the iron door of the gas chamber was closed it was sealed with clay. The victims had to stay in the gas chamber while the SS installed gas cylinders with carbon monoxide gas besides the entrance. When all victims were gassed, a special group of regular prisoners were forced to open the door and to remove the corpses which were then loaded onto trucks and driven away. 

Most probably the Nazis killed around 10,000–15,000 persons at Fort VII by torture, executions and gassing. Only 479 victims can be proved. Today Fort VII is a memorial of martyrdom. 

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Commemorates 20 Poles Who Were Executed Here

This memorial commemorates 20 Poles who were executed here by SS officers in April 1940, after they were brought from Fort VII to the Rusa?k? lake.

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Burial-Ground of Victims of Genocide

In versatile and constantly changing culture and society of European civilization there are only some eternal material and immaterial things – the cultural heritage, written human wisdom stored in archives and libraries and graves of our ancestors’.

The custom of respecting and protecting ancestral burial grounds is one of the major Christian traditions. It’s like an axiom of the existence of European civilization – there is no objective evidence to why extinct a human body burial site must be protected and respected, but there is no doubt that  it could be different.

But who should worry about the massive burial ground of victims of genocide? Genocide – one of the terrible crimes in human history. The mass massacre of innocent people in Kaunas reached it’s apogee in World War II, when the Nazis and their collaborators took an effort to destroy the Jewish community in Lithuania. There are several massive burial places of civilian, mostly Jewish, people in Kaunas.

In Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum is a place where thousands of  Jewish people were buried in 1941. Unfortunately, this burial ground almost did not remain. In 1943 the Nazis ordered to dig up and burn the remains, but it’s location is known and all the information about it is stored in the Museum of the Republican and the burial place is highly honored  by the greatest memorial in Kaunas. Another several thousands of graves of people murdered in Kaunas were discovered only this year in Kaunas Fortress VII fort , in which a public organization called ‘‘Military Heritage Center’’  is located. As part of the EU co-financed project ‘‘Fort VII Memorial Route’’ was applied a historical research and there was  uniquely identified burial site of nearly five thousand people from Kaunas. A little less affected are burial places in Fort IV and in the park nearby Vilijampol?, but its’ location was not explored so far.

At first glance, it seems that taking care of burial grounds of Genocide victims of Jewish community in Kaunas should be a responsibility of the Lithuanian Jewish organization, as well as the graves of Lithuanian exiles in Siberia in Russia is responsibility of  Lithuanians and the graves of Soviet soldiers are cared by the Russian embassy. After all, every nation remains a full nation until people compliance its’ own traditions and customs. However, unlike other people of Lithuania, Lithuanian Jewish community in World War II was almost completely destroyed, and the current Jewish population in Lithuania is mostly consisted of Jewish people from Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics . They have no kinship relations with those people who once lived in Lithuania and the genocide victims sometimes are tempted to act egoistically. Probably for this or a similar reason, last year, when the Military Heritage Centre has initiated and carried out a voluntary based management and cleaning of burial places in fort VII, none no one from Lithuanian Jewish community have participated it.

Although, it does not really matter for us. Having certain beliefs and from all the world’s courts being mostly confident in justice of God, we know that to defeat Nazi it is not enough to raise another flag over the Reichstag building in Berlin and to release prisoners of Dachau concentration camp. Fascism must be defeated in every place where this inhuman ideology has been distinguished.This massive burial place in Fort VII was forgotten, covered with plantations and household waste, and tenured in uncertainty for seventy years, just like the Nazis wanted it to be. It reminiscend of an abandoned landfill instead of respectable public space.

People, imprisoned, tortured and killed in Fort VII is one of the parts of major all the times losses to Lithuania, therefore we can not be indifferent to the history of our country.

The rehabilitation of burial places of Genocide victims in Fort VII of Kaunas Fortress demands nothing much:

1st To reorganize a defensive ditch and drainage system in order to lower the water level in the grove – currently  part of remains are under the water.

2nd Waste removal; people, living in Gerv??i? str., are using a ditch as a dump pouring waste where remains are located.

3rd Clean up the environment – cut down shrubs and mow the spontaneous burial area, to build an information booth or a monument.

4th To clean up the former forsebijos way – this way was leading  to the shooting location in 1941, since October 2011 it is the way to the burial place.

5th To determine the excact territory of the burial ground, refer the investigation to the Cultural Heritage Department in order to protect remains and all the location from  any possible adverse effects.

Last three points of the Military Heritage Centre is ready to make by itself. Meanwhile the first two points calls from about five hundred thousand to a million Litas for one investment, of course, it as a technical project is ready. Moreover, it is approximately from 100 to 200 Litas per man – man, woman or a child murdered in Fort VII. Does it is a lot for the budget of city or the state?

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Fort VII Photo

Fort VII is built in the 80s of the 19th century as component of the Warsaw fortress. A group of German soldiers were stationed in this fort during the German occupation of Poland.

The fort today:
It is currently abandoned and for the most part impassable.

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Executions in Fort Vll and Fort lX


Fort III destroyed by German forces in WW1Kovno was surrounded by a series of forts built in Czarist times to protect the city from German invasion. Between the wars these forts were used as prisons for criminals serving long sentences. During the German occupation, 1941 – 1944, the forts were used as both prisons and execution sites, particularly of the Jews of Kovno. 

 


 

The Seventh and Ninth Forts were close to the Ghetto – in time they became widely known as symbols of mass murder, as did the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev, the Rumbuli forest near Riga and the ditches of Ponary near Vilna.

 

Report of a medical orderly:

 About 150 m from my quarters there was a fort. Looking at the map I think it must have been Fort Vll, although up to now I had always thought that there was only one fort in Kovno. From our quarters my mates and I heard shots during the night. The next day and the days after that we went to investigate the matter, climbed on to the ramparts of the fort and saw a crowd of people below us guarded by armed SS or SD men.

 

The guards were all German – there were no Lithuanians. During one of these visits the technical inspector, whose name I do not remember, took these pictures with his camera. At that time we didn’t see any shootings during the day. We heard that these shootings took place at night. During the day the people – men, women and children – were brought from Kovno to this fort. If I remember correctly they were all Jews, at least they were the only ones that were talked about.

Fort IX courtyard

The bodies were thrown into a large crater that had a diameter of 15m and was, I should think, about 3-4 meters deep. Each layer of bodies was covered with chloride of lime. People used to say that the next group of Jews always had to throw the last lot to be shot into the crater and cover them with sand. I only went up to this crater once but couldn’t see any bodies because everything was covered with sand.

On one of my wanderings through the fort I lost my way as I was not sure where the entrances were. On this occasion a Jewish woman of about thirty ran across my path. She had been shot through both cheeks and the wounds had swollen up considerably. Seeing the red - cross on my armband she begged me for a bandage, which I wanted to give her.

I was just busy getting the pack of dressings I’d brought with me out of my jacket when an SS or SD guard with a rifle came up to me and told me to make myself scarce, saying that the Jewess had no further need of a pack of dressings. The Jewish woman was then pushed back by the uniformed German.

I was very shaken by this experience and told my colleagues about it – they were shaken too. It would have been pointless and dangerous for me to have disobeyed the SS man – they were very ruthless. He threatened to shoot me down if I didn’t get on my way. During my visits to the fort I estimate I saw at least 2,000 people of different ages, both male and female, who were all destined to be shot and indeed certainly were.

Following a round-up of Kovno’s Jews on 28 October 1941 in Democracy Square and selection by SS man Rauca, Jews were separated into two columns, left and right. Right was death, left was life, recalled Leon Bauminger. Thos Kovno Jews who were sent by Rauca to the right could still not believe that they really been marked out for death. “That morning in Democracy Square,” a Lithuanian doctor, Helen Kutorgene, noted in her diary, “nobody suspected that a bitter fate awaited them. They thought that they were being moved to other apartments.”

Hundreds of Jews are gathered near the entrance to Fort VII

They were indeed taken not to the Ninth Fort but to the houses of the small ghetto. On the night of 29 October Dr Peretz has recalled, everyone sent to the small ghetto “was trying to find a better place, there was better order, because they thought they would stay there.”

Then, at four in the morning, all those in the small ghetto were ordered to assemble again. It was still dark. But with the dawn a rumour began, that prisoners had been digging “deep ditches” at the Ninth Fort, and by the time those who had been sent to the small ghetto were led away towards the fort, Helen Kutorgene noted in her diary, “it was already clear to everybody that this was death.”

Dr Kutorgene added that once the Jews whom Rauca had sent to the right realised where they were being sent:

"They broke out crying, wailing and screaming. Some tried to escape on the way there but they were shot dead. Many bodies remained in the fields. At the fort the condemned were stripped of their clothes and in groups of three hundred they were forced into ditches. First they threw in the children. The women were shot at the edge of the ditch, after that it was the turn of the men.

Many were covered while they were still alive. All the men doing the shooting were drunk. I was told all this by an acquaintance who heard it from a German soldier, an eye-witness, who wrote to his Catholic wife. “Yesterday I became convinced that there is no God. If there were, he would not allow such things to happen.”

The massacre had been carried out by German SS men and Lithuanian police. On return from the killing, one of the Lithuanians boasted – as a Jew Alter Galperin later recalled – “that he had dragged small Jewish children by the hair, stabbing them with the edge of his bayonet, and throwing them half alive into pits.” "The smallest children “he just threw into the pit alive, because to kill all of them first is too much work.”

One of the few survivors was a twelve year- old boy. It was only when he managed to return to the main ghetto on 30 October that those in the ghetto realised the full horror. Avraham Golub, an assistant in the Jewish Council later recalled how the boy, “covered in dirt and smeared with blood”, stumbled into the Council office.

Golub’s account continued:

Jews gathered for Execution at Fort VII

He reported how everyone was forced to strip and made to march in groups of one hundred to the edge of freshly dug pits. The guards fired on each group as they stepped forward. Some were only wounded but they too fell into the deep pits and were covered with a layer of earth. The boy was with his mother, was covered by her, and so was not hit by the bullets. The boy and his mother were destined to be the second layer of bodies from the top of the grave.

His mother had embraced him and covered him. She bent forward and fell into the pit with him, so that he was not suffocated by the layer of earth poured on top. When it was dark, the boy slowly moved to the edge of the pit. With great effort he pushed away the bodies around him and crawled out. There he was able to see that the earth which covered the pit was moving, meaning that many others were still alive in the pit but were unable to save themselves. Under darkness he escaped back to the ghetto and was later smuggled out. No one knows if he is alive today.

A few women also managed to survive the massacre. “Some tried to escape from the transport, Aharon Peretz later recalled. I was asked to go to a neighbouring house, where there were women with “dum-dum” bullets in their bodies. The number of those murdered was recorded, once again, in the precise statistics of the Einsatzkommando: 

  • 2007 – Jewish men

  • 2920 – Jewish women

  • 4237 – Jewish children

Jews from the Greater Reich were also sent to Kovno but only a small percentage were admitted to the ghetto. Most of them went direct to the Ninth Fort where they were kept some days prior to being shot in the execution pits. A Lithuanian guard testified before the Russian State Commission of 1945 that there were two executions of 3,000 – 4,000 Reich Jews on 10 December and 14 December 1941.

A  Kovno ghetto survivor testified that in January or February 1942, the Prague and Vienna Jews in the Ninth Fort rebelled before being shot. The Reich Jews, who began arriving in Kovno from Berlin, Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Prague at the end of November 1941, numbered 15,000 according to this witness, but the portion admitted to the ghetto was determined by the number of native Kovno Jews who had been shot – apparently 5,000.  

Jewish women with bodies of executed men outside the VII Fort

Dr Aahron Peretz was an eye-witness in Kovno, and he later recalled how, as the deportees were being led along the road which went past the ghetto to the Ninth Fort, they could be heard asking the guards, “Is the camp still far?” They had been told they were being sent to a work-camp. But Peretz added, “We know where the road led. It led to the Ninth Fort, to the prepared pits.”

 But first the Jews from Germany were kept for three days in underground cellars with ice- covered walls, and without food or drink. Only then frozen and starving were they ordered to undress, taken to the pits and shot.

The killing of these deportees was recorded with the usual SS efficiency:

On 25 November 1941 1,159 Jews, 1600 Jewesses and 175 Jewish children , settlers from Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt am Main – and four days later 693 Jewish men , 1,155 Jewesses and 152 Jewish children, settlers from Vienna and Breslau. Diary Entry of Avraham Tory following a meeting with Captain Vassilenko regarding the escape from the Ninth Fort in December 1943

The Ninth Fort

The Ninth Fort, a military fortress near Kovno, for a long term, served as part of the Kovno prison for dangerous criminals. During the Nazi occupation it became a place of torture and mass executions. In secret the Nazis called it Vernichtungsstelle Nr 2 – Extermination place number 2. Here were murdered some 25,000 of Kovno’s Jews, as well as 15,000 Jews deported from the Greater Reich, thousands of Jewish Prisoners – of – War who had served in the Red Army, and many other Jews.

Transport list of Jews from Vienna Sent to Kovno and murdered in Fort IX

Single and mass arrests, as well as “Aktions” in the Ghetto, almost always ended with a “death march” to the Ninth Fort, which in a way, completed the area of the Ghetto and became an integral part of it. A road three to four kilometres long led uphill from the Ghetto to the Fort, a special road called by the Ghetto inmates the Via Dolorosa. The murderers called it the Way to Heaven (Der Weg zum Himmel- Fahrt).

Before their execution, the detainees were incarcerated in underground cells known as “casements” in damp, darkness, and fear. There, people fought with one another for a brighter corner in the cells, for a piece of a straw mattress, for a scrap of food, or for a crumb of bread. There, Jews were shackled in iron chains, harnessed to ploughs in place of horses, forced to dig into peat-pits inside the fort, and often whipped to death. There, one soon lost one’s own – there, life turned into senseless pain, after which death came as redemption.

Keidan a father of four children was incarcerated at the Fort and tortured there for five months. With others he stood naked in the pit awaiting execution, miraculously escaped from the Fort. He was the first to bring an authentic report from the Hell on Earth. In fifteen mass pits, some 45,000 innocent victims found their awful burial, 3,000 in each pit. Thousands of Red Army Prisoners- of –War, all Jews were separated from the other Soviet Prisoners – of – War and were systematically massacred at the Ninth Fort.

As long as German troops went on with their “March to the East”, the digging of new mass graves at the Fort continued. When the German advance was blocked in July 1943, there was no more digging of mass graves. And when the Germans were forced to retreat, they hurried to erase all traces of their crimes.

In August 1943 the Kovno Gestapo received orders from Berlin to eradicate the mass graves – to exhume the corpses and to burn them. This was to be carried out by the end of January 1944, when the German retreat from the Baltic States was foreseen. The carrying out of this order was imposed upon seventy-five Jews who were already imprisoned at the Fort, among them Ghetto inmates who had been seized in the Ghetto and brought to the Fort, Red Army Prisoners –of – War, and youngsters from the Ghetto, who had been caught on their way to join partisans in the forest.

Eleven of the seventy-five declared at the outset they were ill, and not capable of doing the job. The Gestapo murdered them by injections of poison. The remaining sixty –four, sixty men and four women formed a labour squad. All of them, apart from one Polish woman, were Jews.

The work started in September 1943. Fiery beacons started to rise from the Fort, crowned by clouds of smoke. The labour squad had begun to carry out the German order. The sixty-four were divided into four groups, each of which carried out a part of the job. One group “the diggers” had to dig out the dead corpses – to scrape off the upper layer of the earth from the pits, and then, with spades, remove the first layers of the corpses. This group had to go down into the pit by ladder and, using pitchforks, toss the remaining bodies up to the surface.

Einsatz Action

The German supervisors used to make cynical remarks such as “stick the pitchfork in the belly of that disgusting Jew” or “toss up that Jewish woman – that Sarah – by digging your pitchfork into her hair,” or similar pearls. When the corpses were brought up, the gold teeth had to be extracted, all rings and bracelets removed, and searches made for gold and jewels in the rotting garments of the dead.

Then all valuables had to be cleaned and polished and handed over to the German supervisors. Most of the corpses were half or totally decayed, but some were well preserved. More than once, the diggers recognised their own acquaintances. On one occasion, a digger recognised his brother. Once the belly of a woman in her last month of pregnancy cracked in the terrible heat of the pyre, and from inside her burst a small baby’s body. The Jewish prisoners were stunned. Even the Nazi guards were astonished.  

The corpses of the Lithuanian Jews were naked, and lying on one another lengthways and crossways. Only rarely were bullet holes to be found. From the expressions on their faces and from the way they were lying, it could be seen that most of them had choked to death in the pits. The bodies of women with babies in their arms were also found.

The corpses of German, Austrian, Czechoslovakian, and other Jews were found in separate graves. These were clothed and bore all the marks of a bitter struggle. This confirmed rumours which had spread in the Ghetto during the “Great Actions” of 1941, that these Jews had fought against their murderers and had not undressed before being murdered. At the time some of the Gestapo men had returned from the Fort badly wounded and bleeding.

After the corpses had been brought out of the pits by the diggers, the members of the second group, “porters,” piled the bodies on special wooden pallets, counted them in the presence of a Nazi supervisor, and took them to the pyres.

There the third group, the “firemen” were at work, headed by an expert on burning – the “Brandmeister.” This group had to prepare the pyre once every twenty-four hours, as follows:

EK 3 1941 Report on Executions of Jews from Vienna  in Fort IX

In the courtyard of the Fort, not far from the pits, they would lay out a long row of logs, put a row of bodies on it, then lay another row of logs on top of the bodies and another row of bodies on the second pile of logs. The daily quota was fixed at three hundred bodies.

To make it easier to light the fire, kerosene was poured into holes dug in the ground, as well as over the corpses themselves. On either side were narrow trenches, into which ran the fat of the burning corpses. The firemen had to make sure the fire did not go out in the middle of burning the corpses. If as much as a hair was left unburned they were liable to pay for it with their own lives.

After each fire there remained heaps of ashes and bones, which were pounded in huge mortars. This “flour” was flung into the air, or dug into the soil. The fourth group was engaged on various tasks in the courtyard, the kitchen etc. One of this fourth group was Dr. Portnoy. He had previously worked with a German pastor by the name of Pollet, in editing a German – Lithuanian dictionary. 

One day Portnoy disappeared without a trace. The pastor had considerable influence with the Kovno Gestapo, but not enough to bring back his Jewish assistant. Portnoy was supposed to be dead, but finally he turned up among the sixty-four and served as their doctor.

The SS men at the Fort carefully watched every move made by the Jewish workers, to make sure that not a single corpse was left in any of the pits. It was absolutely forbidden to fill in with earth any pit from which the bodies had been removed. The workers could expect to be beaten murderously if an unconsumed limb was found in the ashes when one of the pyres was put out.

High Gestapo officers, and even Nazi generals, used to visit the Fort and watch the work. Some of them told the Jews that they were disposing of the victims of the Bolshevik terror; others claimed that the bodies were those of Communists, the blood –and- soul enemies of all humanity, and that it was a good deed to liberate the world from this peril.

All of them tried to convince the Jews that no harm would be done to them, that after they had completed this work they would be transferred elsewhere, as there was more than enough work for them. This consoled the Jews very little – on the contrary, it made them nervous. During one such visit, one of the Jews blurted out a bitter remark – when his pitchfork lifted up, from the pit, the corpse of a child, he cried out, “This is a dangerous Bolshevik, a great threat to mankind. Take him to the pyre. Burn his bones!”

The permanent SS supervisors at the Fort said more than once that the fate of the workers had already been decided, and that not one of them would ever leave the Fort. Witnesses of this kind cannot remain alive. The four work groups were ordered to speed up their work. The murderers had grown nervous al

Outside the walls of the Ninth Fort

l of a sudden. Their dead victims had began to bother them, and they were in a hurry to destroy all traces of their crimes.

In general, the life of the prisoners did not change – they were forced to work in chains and subjected to the whims and caprices of their torturers. However, to increase productivity, SS Captain Gratt, the Fort Commandant, ordered that the prisoners be allowed to eat their fill, and even supplied them with tobacco and alcohol occasionally, to help them withstand the dreadful stench from the pits.

They were provided with pillows and blankets from the Ghetto, and three Jewish women were brought from the Ghetto to satisfy their sexual needs. But the prisoners did not delude themselves, they knew with absolute certainty that as soon as they had finished their dreadful task they would also be burned in the final conflagration.

Every pit that was emptied, every pyre that was put out, brought them closer to their own extermination. Before starting to born the corpses, the Germans erected special walls of white sheeting, to prevent people from looking into the Fort from outside, and thus to conceal the digging up of the mass graves and the burning of corpses.

It was impossible. However, to conceal the flames and the thick smoke that came from the Fort every twenty-four hours, it was impossible to suppress the terrible stench from the re-opened pits, which was carried by the wind for many kilometres all around. “Hell is burning” – so the peasants of the surrounding villages whispered to themselves while watching the glow of the flaming pyres.

“Our brothers are burning, our own blood is burning” – so observed the Jews, helpless and imprisoned in the Ghetto, a few kilometres away, in the valley. The red strip in the sky, the new crown on the Fort, whispered quietly the word “revenge.” Not one of the sixty-four prisoners believed he would remain alive. Yet a spark of hope nevertheless flickered in their hearts. Only a few, however, dared to think of rescue. They were reminded morning and evening, day and night, that nobody had ever escaped from the Ninth Fort.

Messages scrawled by Jewish prisoners on a wall inside Fort IX, shortly before their execution

In October 1943 a new prisoner, Captain Kolia Vassilenko was brought to the Fort from the Soviet prisoner-of –war camp near Kalvaria. At the camp, Vassilenko had been regarded as a Russian until he was compelled to go to the bathhouse, and was discovered to be a Jew.

From the first day of his detention at the Fort he made up his mind to escape. While at work he studied the internal and external arrangements of the Fort, observing the methods of guarding the place and the housing conditions of the guards. With the utmost secrecy, he gathered round him initially a small group, which he imbued with his own idea of escape and flight.

The original plan was to dig a tunnel that would be a kilometre long, and to go out to freedom through it. For several weeks the prisoners dug this tunnel with unskilled hands and without tools, digging beneath subterranean structures of the Fort.

They carried the earth out in their pockets and threw it into the pits. They succeeded in hiding their excavations from the guards, and also from their fellow prisoners. It seemed as though their plan would be successful, until they reached a huge rock below the surface and had to give up, filling the tunnel once again with earth, after all the toil and effort with which they had dug it.

In spite of this setback, however, Vassilenko and his comrades did not despair and sought other methods of escape. A second plan was to use gold and valuables taken from the corpses to bribe the SS guards, and to escape with them. At that time, however, not one of the SS men thought of deserting or of bribes.

The plan could not be carried out because the guards had already stolen so many valuables that more bribes would not induce them to take such a risk, and the danger to the lives of the guards was not so near or so threatening as it was for the prisoners. Besides, according to this plan, only a few of the prisoners would be able to escape.

The third plan was to disarm the two supervisors who came every evening to confine the Jews for the night in the underground cells, kill them quietly, steal their uniforms, kill the other two guards in the courtyard, infiltrate the guardroom, kill the guards on duty there, take gold and valuables from the safe, arm themselves, and then take the truck that always stood in the courtyard, kill the guards at the main tower, and drive away.

...more scrawled messages

The main difficulty of this plan was to break into the guardroom, entrance to which required a password that no outsider knew. To break in by force was dangerous because there was a complicated signal system between the commander of the fort, the central prison, the Gestapo headquarters, the police, and the military. Before someone could get into the guardroom the whole Fort would be flooded with reinforcements and surrounded by an impenetrable cordon of Gestapo and SS men. This plan was therefore rejected.

The plan finally decided on was this:

The prisoners proposed to prepare a key to one of the storerooms above the underground cell in which the group was locked up at night. From this store, a door led to a tunnel in the courtyard of the Fort. From this tunnel it would be necessary to dig a second one to the outer wall of the citadel. Within the Fort there were small workshops which supplied the Forts internal needs. A few Jews worked in these workshops – it was they who prepared the key. The hardest thing was to open the thick steel door to the tunnel. For this they had no tools.

It was a daring plan, but their situation was so desperate that they resolved to try and carry it out. A key was prepared, and the unused storeroom facing their quarters was opened. Every day, two men of the group remained behind, claiming to be ill – according to the rules, only two of the group were allowed to be ill and absent at any one time. One of them equipped with a penknife which had been found in the rotting clothes of a corpse and with a small hand-drill removed from a workshop, drilled through the heavy steel door, while the other kept watch.

Gradually they made holes through the door and sawed through the steel between the holes. They also worked in the evenings and used to sing songs and joke at the top of their voices to cover the sound of drilling. They were not discovered in their dangerous work, and were not interfered with even when they sang Soviet songs. After each drilling, they would conceal the door behind a pile of rags.

After weeks of strenuous labour, the hole in the steel door was finally made. It was thirty to forty centimetres, which was just enough for a person to pass through. The day for the flight was finally fixed for 25 December 1943, Christmas day.

Jewish Police make one final assemble prior to their execution at IX Fort

All preparations were completed, and partial rehearsals were begun. The tunnels through which the escaping prisoners had to pass were still blocked, however, with wooden beams that had to be removed. They complained that the wood they received for the pyres was wet and would not burn, either in the kitchen or on the pyres. They therefore asked permission to take dry wood from the tunnels. The Fort commandant suspected nothing and gave permission, and so the last obstacle was eliminated.

As the agreed date approached, the prisoners rehearsed their escape plan again and again, and their tension increased. The mere scale of the plan was enough to terrify them. They feared that a single un-cautious step would destroy all their preparations and put them in the hands of the murderers.

They were also afraid that they would be replaced before 25 December by a different team of workers, and thus be killed before they could carry out their plan. Each of the four groups had its own commander – details were given to these leaders, who were provided with full and detailed instructions.

They were warned that any incautious step might cause a catastrophe. Not a word was to be said. Not a step was to be taken without orders. Not the slightest sign of excitement was to be shown. Finally the long-awaited 25 December arrived. Only half –a day’s work had to be done, in honour of Christmas day, SS Captain Gratt addressed the sixty-four prisoners, and expressed his satisfaction at the tempo of the work.

Since the Jews were labouring so diligently he said he would try to improve the conditions under which they lived. Each of them would receive schnapps and cigarettes in honour of the holiday. They would not work for the two days of Christmas. Gratt wanted them to rest properly, so they would return to work the following Monday refreshed and with renewed strength.

Once again, he promised that not a hair of their heads would fall to the ground, and that when this work was over they would be given more work somewhere else. One of the workers answered the captain on behalf of all of them, thanking him for his kind attitude and for the schnapps and tobacco. He wished the Fort commander “a quiet holiday.”

Fort IV after Liberation

The Jews gave the drink and tobacco to the guards to make them get even more drunk, so they would not notice the excitement and nervousness of the prisoners. Tension increased every moment. By 7pm the workers were all in the underground structures, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the guards who would lock them in for the night and then go out on guard again as usual in the courtyard in front of the building.

 

About half an hour after the door was locked, the lights would be put out, to be put on again only at 5 a.m. During those hours of darkness the prisoners hoped to carry out their plan. But the guards did not arrive at 7pm as usual. They did not lock the workers in or put the lights out. Nobody understood what had happened – all feared the worst.

A full hour passed in tense expectation – precisely at 8pm, the two warders appeared and locked the doors. It turned out that in honour of Christmas they had wanted to give the Jewish prisoners some pleasure, and so had allowed their doors to remain unlocked. Half an hour later the lights were put out as usual and the guards left the building. The prisoners waited a little longer, and then began carrying out their plans.

First they broke through the thin layer of iron over the steel door, which had been sawed through in advance. Then one of them climbed through the hole into the corridor and, using the keys that had been prepared, swiftly opened the doors of all the subterranean cells.

The corridor floor and the iron stairs of the abandoned storeroom were immediately covered with blankets to deaden any noise of their movements. All the prisoners emerged into the corridor in absolute silence and assembled in their groups, two by two. The final instructions were given – once more the leaders warned them that any hesitant or wrong step by a single one of them might cause the death of all.

Any breach of discipline would be settled on the spot by a knife-blade in the heart. And so they mounted the steps, group by group, one after the other. They opened the storeroom with a key and reached the entry through the steel door. Vassilenko and another of the first group stood on either side of the door, ensuring that everything was done properly.

Without a word they all passed as planned through the hole and entered the tunnel. There the groups formed up again and slowly moved forward to the moat in the courtyard. There they crossed the moat, entered the second tunnel, passed through that to another moat, and reached the outer wall of the Fort.

A Rabbi conducts a memorial service at Fort IX ten months after the liberation

Beside the wall they put up a screen of white sheets they had brought with them, thus concealing all movement around the ladders they were lowering over the wall, which was six meters high. Each group was accompanied all the way by the leader of the next group, who then returned and led his own men, and the leader of the following group.

After they had all climbed over the wall and reached freedom, they were followed by Captain Vassilenko. Vassilenko and a number of the escapees made their way to Kovno Ghetto where he gave details of the escape and how in1943 how the Germans carried out the murder of the family of Chief Rabbi Shapiro, which he had heard about.

Early in 1943 the rabbi’s son, Dr Chaim Nachman Shapiro – a university lecturer – had been taken to the fortress with his wife, their fifteen –year old son, and his old mother, the rabbi’s widow. They were all shot that same day and their bodies flung into the flames.

The fugitives also brought with them evidence and materials they had collected in and around the graves during the excavations. “Let them be given to relatives in the Ghetto, to let them know for whom there is no point in waiting any longer.”

Vassilenko told us – the group had also brought with them the gold teeth of some of the slain – the gold weighed a quarter of a kilogram. The other groups had also taken documents and valuables with them.

 

 

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Messages Scrawled by Jewish Prisoners

Added by bgill

EK 3 1941 Report on Executions of Jews from Vienna in Fort IX

Added by bgill

Mass Murder of Lithuanian Jewry - Karl Jäger Report

 

Karl Jäger

The Commander of the Security Police and the SD Einsatzkommando 3 
Kauen [Kaunas, Kovno]
1 December 1941


==================== 
Secret Reich Business 
====================

5 copies 
------------- 4th copy -------------

Complete list of executions carried out in the EK 3 area up to 1 December 1941.

Security police duties in Lithuania taken over by Einsatzkommando 3 on 2 July 1941. (The Wilna [Vilnius] area was taken over by EK 3 on 9 Aug. 1941, the Schaulen area on 2 Oct. 1941. Up until these dates EK 9 operated in Wilna and EK 2 in Schaulen.) On my instructions and orders the following executions were conducted by Lithuanian partisans:

Date* Location Totals 
4.7.41 Kauen-Fort VII 416 Jews, 47 Jewesses 463 
6.7.41 Kauen-Fort VII Jews 2,514 

Following the formation of a raiding squad under the command of SS-Obersturmfuhrer Hamman and 8-10 reliable men from the Einsatzkommando the following actions were conducted in cooperation with Lithuanian partisans: 

Jews are led to the site of their execution by Lithuanian militiamen

[ * Date is European format: Day.Month.Year] Date* Location Totals 
7.7.41 Mariampole 32 Jews 32 
8.7.41 Mariampole 14 Jews, 5 Comm. officials 19 
8.7.41 Girkalinei Comm. officials 6 
9.7.41 Wendziogala 32 Jews, 2 Jewesses, 1 Lithuanian, (f.), 2 Lithuanian Comm., 1 Russian Comm. 38 
9.7.41 Kauen-Fort VII 21 Jews, 3 Jewesses 24 
14.7.41 Mariampole 21 Jews, 1 Russ., 9 Lith. Comm. 31 
17.7.41 Babtei 8 Comm. officals (inc. 6 Jews) 8 
18.7.41 Mariampole 39 Jews, 14 Jewesses 53 
19.7.41 Kauen-Fort VII 17 Jews, 2 Jewesses, 4 Lith. Comm., 2 Comm. Lithuanians (f.), 1 German Comm. 26 
21.7.41 Panevezys 59 Jews, 11 Jewesses, 1 Lithuanian (f.), 1 Pole, 22 Lith. Comm., 9 Russ. Comm. 103 
22.7.41 Panevezys 1 Jew 1 
23.7.41 Kedainiai 83 Jews, 12 Jewesses, 14 Russ.Comm., 15 Lith. Comm., 1 Russ. O-Politruk 125 
25.7.41 Mariampole 90 Jews, 13 Jewesses 103 
28.7.41 Panevezys 234 Jews, 15 Jewesses, 19 Russ. Comm., 20 Lith. Comm. 288 
29.7.41 Rasainiai 254 Jews, 3 Lith. Comm. 257 
30.7.41 Agriogala 27 Jews, 11 Lith. Comm. 38 
31.7.41 Utena 235 Jews, 16 Jewesses, 4 Lith. Comm., 1 robber/murderer 256 
31.7.41 Wendziogala 13 Jews, 2 murderers 15 
1.8.41 Ukmerge 254 Jews, 42 Jewesses, 1 Pol.Comm., 2 Lith. NKVD agents, 1 mayor of Jonava who gave order to set fire to Jonava 300 
2.8.41 Kauen-Fort IV 170 Jews, 1 US Jewess, 33 Jewesses, 4 Lith. Comm. 209 
4.8.41 Panevezys 362 Jews, 41 Jewesses, 5 Russ. Comm., 14 Lith. Comm. 422 
5.8.41 Rasainiai 213 Jews, 66 Jewesses 279 
7.8.41 Uteba 483 Jews, 87 Jewesses, 1 Lithuanian (robber of corpses of German soldiers) 571 
8.8.41 Ukmerge 620 Jews, 82 Jewesses 702 
9.8.41 Kauen-Fort IV 484 Jews, 50 Jewesses 534 
11.8.41 Panevezys 450 Jews, 48 Jewesses, 1 Lith. 1 Russ. 500 
13.8.41 Alytus 617 Jews, 100 Jewesses, 1 criminal 719 
14.8.41 Jonava 497 Jews, 55 Jewesses 552 
15-16.8.41 Rokiskis 3,200 Jews, Jewesses, and Jewish Children, 5 Lith. Comm., 1 Pole, 1 partisan 3207 
9-16.8.41 Rassainiai 294 Jewesses, 4 Jewish children 298 
27.6-14.8.41 Rokiskis 493 Jews, 432 Russians, 56 Lithuanians (all active communists) 981 
18.8.41 Kauen-Fort IV 689 Jews, 402 Jewesses, 1 Pole (female), 711 Jewish intellectuals from Ghetto in reprisal for sabotage action 1,812 
19.8.41 Ukmerge 298 Jews, 255 Jewesses, 1 Politruk, 88 Jewish children, 1 Russ. Comm. 645 
22.8.41 Dunaburg 3 Russ. Comm., 5 Latvian, incl. 1 murderer, 1 Russ. Guardsman, 3 Poles, 3 gypsies (m.), 1 gypsy (f.), 1 gypsy child, 1 Jew, 1 Jewess, 1 Armenian (m.), 2 Politruks (prison inspection in Dunanburg 21 
22.8.41 Aglona Mentally sick: 269 men, 227 women, 48 children 544 
23.8.41 Panevezys 1312 Jews, 4602 Jewesses,1609 Jewish children 7,523 
18-22.8.41 Kreis Rasainiai 466 Jews,440 Jewesses, 1020 Jewish children 1,926 
25.8.41 Obeliai 112 Jews, 627 Jewesses, 421 Jewish children 1,160 
25-26.8.41 Seduva 230 Jews, 275 Jewesses, 159 Jewish children 664 
26.8.41 Zarasai 767 Jews, 1,113 Jewesses, 1 Lith. Comm., 687 Jewish children, 1 Russ.Comm. (f.) 2,569 
Comm., 687 Jewish children, 1 Russ.Comm. (f.) 
28.8.41 Pasvalys 402 Jews, 738 Jewesses, 209 Jewish children 1,349 
26.8.41 Kaisiadorys All Jews, Jewesses, and Jewish children 1,911 
27.8.41 Prienai All Jews, Jewesses, and Jewish Children 1,078 
27.8.41 Dagda and Kraslawa 212 Jews, 4 Russ. POW's 216 
27.8.41 Joniskia 47 Jews, 165 Jewesses, 143 Jewish children 355 
28.8.41 Wilkia 76 Jews, 192 Jewesses, 134 Jewish children 402 
28.8.41 Kedainiai 710 Jews, 767 Jewesses, 599 Jewish children 2,076 
29.8.41 Rumsiskis and Ziezmariai 20 Jews, 567 Jewesses, 197 Jewish children 784 
29.8.41 Utena and Moletai 582 Jews, 1,731 Jewesses, 1,469 Jewish children 3,782 
13-31.8.41 Alytus and environs 233 Jews 233 
1.9.41 Mariampole 1,763 Jews, 1,812 Jewesses, 1,404 Jewish children, 109 mentally sick, 1 German subject (f.), married to a Jew, 1 Russian (f.) 5090 
28.8-2.9.41 Darsuniskis 10 Jews, 69 Jewesses, 20 Jewish children 99

Lithuanian Jews and a German Wehrmacht soldier during the Holocaust in Lithuania. June 24, 1941


Carliava 73 Jews, 113 Jewesses, 61 Jewish children 247 
Jonava 112 Jews, 1,200 Jewesses, 244 Jewish children 1,556 
Petrasiunai 30 Jews, 72 Jewesses, 23 Jewish children 125 
Jesuas 26 Jews, 72 Jewesses, 46 Jewish children 144 
Ariogala 207 Jews, 260 Jewesses, 195 Jewish children 662 
Jasvainai 86 Jews, 110 Jewesses, 86 Jewish children 282 
Babtei 20 Jews, 41 Jewesses, 22 Jewish children 83 
Wenziogala 42 Jews, 113 Jewesses, 97 Jewish children 252 
Krakes 448 Jews, 476 Jewesses, 97 Jewish children 1,125 
4.9.41 Pravenischkis 247 Jews, 6 Jewesses 253 
Cekiske 22 Jews, 64 Jewesses, 60 Jewish children 146 
Seredsius 6 Jews, 61 Jewesses, 126 Jewish children 193 
Velinona 2 Jews, 71 Jewesses, 86 Jewish children 159 
Zapiskis 47 Jews, 118 Jewesses, 13 Jewish children 178 
5.9.41 Ukmerge 1,23 Jews, 1849 Jewesses, 1737 Jewish children 4,709 

25.8-6.9.41 Mopping up in: 
Rasainiai 16 Jews, 412 Jewesses, 415 Jewish children 843 
Georgenburg (Yurburg) All Jews, all Jewesses, all Jewish children 412 
9.9.41 Alytus 287 Jews, 640 Jewesses, 352 Jewish children 1,279 
9.9.41 Butrimonys 67 Jews, 370 Jewesses, 303 Jewish children 740 
10.9.41 Merkine 223 Jews, 640 Jewesses, 276 Jewish children 854 
10.9.41 Varena 541 Jews, 141 Jewesses, 149 Jewish children 831 
11.9.41 Leipalingis 60 Jews, 70 Jewesses, 25 Jewish children 155 
11.9.41 Seirijai 229 Jews, 384 Jewesses, 340 Jewish children 953 
12.9.41 Simnas 68 Jews, 197 Jewesses, 149 Jewish children 414 
11-12.9.41 Uzusalis Reprisal against inhabitants who fed Russ. partisans; some in possesion of weapons 43 
26.9.41 Kauen-F.IV 412 Jews, 615 Jewesses, 581 Jewish children (sick and suspected epidemic cases) 1,608 
2.10.41 Zagare 633 Jews, 1,107 Jewesses, 496 Jewish children (as these Jews were being led away a mutiny rose, which was however immediately put down; 150 Jews were shot immediately; 7 partisans wounded) 2,236 
4.10.41 Kauen-F.IX 315 Jews, 712 Jewesses, 818 Jewish children (reprisal after German police officer shot in ghetto) 1,845 
29.10.41 Kauen-F.IX 2,007 Jews, 2,920 Jewesses, 4,273 Jewish children (mopping up ghetto of superfluous Jews) 9,200 
3.11.41 Lazdijai 485 Jews, 511 Jewesses, 539 Jewish children 1,535 
15.11.41 Wilkowiski 36 Jews, 48 Jewesses, 31 Jewish children 115 
25.11.41 Kauen-F.IX 1,159 Jews, 1,600 Jewesses, 175 Jewish children (resettlers from Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt am main) 2,934 
29.11.41 Kauen-F.IX 693 Jews, 1,155 Jewesses, 152 Jewish children (resettlers from from Vienna and Breslau) 2,000 
29.11.41 Kauen-F.IX 17 Jews, 1 Jewess, for contravention of ghetto law, 1 Reichs German who converted to the Jewish faith and attended rabbinical school, then 15 terrorists from the Kalinin group 34 

EK 3 detachment in Dunanberg 
13.7-21.8.41: 9,012 Jews, Jewesses and Jewish children, 573 active Comm. 9,585 

EK 3 detachment in Wilna: 
12.8-1.9.41 City of Wilna 425 Jews, 19 Jewesses, 8 Comm. (m.), 9 Comm. (f.) 461 
2.9.41 City of Wilna 864 Jews, 2,019 Jewesses, 817 Jewish children (sonderaktion because German soldiers shot at by Jews) 3,700 
12.9.41 City of Wilna 993 Jews, 1,670 Jewesses, 771 Jewish children 3,334 
17.9.41 City of Wilna 337 Jews, 687 Jewesses, 247 Jewish children and 4 Lith. Comm. 1,271 
20.9.41 Nemencing 128 Jews, 176 Jewesses, 99 Jewish children 403 
22.9.41 Novo-Wilejka 468 Jews, 495 Jewesses, 196 Jewish children 1,159 
24.9.41 Riesa 512 Jews, 744 Jewesses, 511 Jewish children 1,767 
25.9.41 Jahiunai 215 Jews, 229 Jewesses, 131 Jewish children 575 
27.9.41 Eysisky 989 Jews, 1,636 Jewesses, 821 Jewish children 3,446 
30.9.41 Trakai 366 Jews, 483 Jewesses, 597 Jewish children 1,446 
4.10.41 City of Wilna 432 Jews, 1,115 Jewesses, 436 Jewish children 1,983 
6.10.41 Semiliski 213 Jews, 359 Jewesses, 390 Jewish children 962 
9.10.41 Svenciany 1169 Jews, 1840 Jewesses, 717 Jewish children 3,726 
16.10.41 City of Wilna 382 Jews, 507 Jewesses, 257 Jewish children 1,146 
21.10.41 City of Wilna 718 Jews, 1,063 Jewesses, 586 Jewish children 2,367 
25.10.41 City of Wilna 1,776 Jewesses, 812 Jewish children 2,578 
27.10.41 City of Wilna 946 Jews, 184 Jewesses, 73 Jewish children 1,203 
30.10.41 City of Wilna 382 Jews, 789 Jewesses, 36 Jewish children 1,553 
6.11.41 City of Wilna 340 Jews, 749 Jewesses, 252 Jewish children 1,341 
19.11.41 City of Wilna 76 Jews, 77 Jewesses, 18 Jewish children 171 
19.11.41 City of Wilna 6 POW's, 8 Poles 14 
20.11.41 City of Wilna 3 POW's 3 
25.11.41 City of Wilna 9 Jews, 46 Jewesses, 8 Jewish children, 1 Pole for possesion of arms and other military equipment 64 
EK 3 detachment in Minsk 
28.9-17.10.41: 
 

Mass murderer Karl Jäger

 

Pleschnitza 620 Jews, 1,285 Jewesses, 
Bischolin 1,126 Jewish children and 19 
Scak Comm. 
Bober 
Uzda 3,050 
-------- 

Prior to EK 3 taking over security police duties, Jews liquidated by pogroms and executions (including partisans) 4,000 
----------- 
Total 137,346 


------------------------------------------------------------------------ -------------------------- 

Today I can confirm that our objective, to solve the Jewish problem for Lithuania, has been achieved by EK 3. In Lithuania there are no more Jews, apart from Jewish workers and their families. The distance between from the assembly point to the graves was on average 4 to 5 Km. 

I consider the Jewish action more or less terminated as far as Einsatzkommando 3 is concerned. Those working Jews and Jewesses still available are needed urgently and I can envisage that after the winter this workforce will be required even more urgently. I am of the view that the strelization programme of the male worker Jews should be started immediately so that reproduction is prevented. If despite sterlization a Jewess becomes pregnant she will be liquidated. 


(signed)

Jager 
SS-Standartenfuhrer

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Mass Murder of Jews in Latvia

 

List of Jewish populations by country used at the Wannsee Conference showing Latvia with 3,500 left aliveJews have occupied the region of the Baltic countries since the fourteenth century. The primary concentration of the Jewish population was in the cities, Daugavpils, Vilnius and Riga in particular.

 

The Latvian census taken in 1935 identified 93,479 Jews living in throughout the country, of these, it is estimated that about 70,000 perished in the Holocaust, the vast majority at the hands of Einsatzgruppen death squads in December 1941. The totality and speed with which the mass murder of Jews in Latvia was achieved meant that most families were completely destroyed with no one left to mourn or even inquire about the dead.

On June 22, 1941 the Germans began Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. Because of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, the Baltic countries were considered a part of Russia. Immediately following the invasion, Himmler was appointed to take measures to strengthen German ethnicity in the occupied territories and to create lebensraum, or living space for German citizens. To this end, Himmler created special task forces within the SS, the Einsatzgruppen, and placed them under the command of Reinhard Heydrich.

On September, 21, 1939, Heydrich instructed those under his command to observe a distinction between afinal solution which would take some time and intermediary steps necessary for reaching this end, which can be applied more or less at once. 

 

(Heydrich Directive)

21.September.1939  
Berlin 

To Chiefs of all Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police Subject:

Jewish Question in Occupied Territory 

I refer to the conference held in Berlin today, and again point out that the planned total measures (i.e., the final aim) are to be kept
strictly secret. 

Distinction must be made between: 
1. the final aim (which will require extended periods of time)
and 
2. the stages leading to the fulfillment of this final aim (which will be carried out in short periods). 

It is obvious that the tasks ahead cannot be laid down from here in full detail. The instructions and directives below must serve also for
the purpose of urging chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen to give practical consideration to [the problems involved.] 

For the time being, the first prerequisite for the final aim is the  concentration of the Jews from the countryside into the larger cities.

Walter Stahlecker

In the Baltic region, the Holocaust was organized and supervised by a special Operational Unit of the Nazi Security Service Sicherheitsdienst commanded by Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker. This unit arrived with the advance troops of the occupying army. From November 1941 onward,  the command was assumed by SS and Police General Friedrich Jeckeln, the Supreme Commander of the SS and Police in Northern Russia and Ostland.

Jews in Latvia became Nazi victims within days of Nazi occupation. As in Lithuania, Latvian Jews fell into the hands of the German Einsatzgruppe A, aided by a group of Latvian citizens known as the Arajs Kommando who willingly assisted in the mass genocide of Latvian Jews.

The killing of the Jews occurred in two phases.

The first phase was between July and October 1941, where the rural population was liquidated. The second phase was the extermination of the Jews in the cities from November to December 1941. Of the approximately 66,000 Jews in Latvia at the time of the Nazi invasion, there were as many as 59,000 that were killed in 1941. The remaining Jews were sent to ghettos to be used as slave labor.

Photo of the Riga Ghetto take from outside the ghetto's fence, 1941-1943

Ultimately, these Jews were transported to Germany in 1944. Of those, most perished there. The largest action taken against Latvian Jews occurred on November 30 and December 8, 1941. 25,000 Jews from Riga were murdered in an action that came to known as Rumbula, named for the railway station nearby.

 

The Shootings begin:

 

The actions began on the night of June 23 to June 24, 1941, when in the Grobina cemetery SD murderers killed six local Jews, including the town chemist. In the days to follows 35 Jews were exterminated in Durbe, Priekule and Asite. On June 29 the Nazi invaders started forming the first Latvian SD auxiliary unit in Jelgava. Martinš Vagulans, member of the Perkonkrusts organization, was chosen to head it.

Rudolf Batz

Some 300 men in the unit took part in the extermination of about 2000 Jews in Jelgava and other places in Zemgale. The killing was supervised by the officers of the German SD Rudolf Batz and Alfred Becu, who involved the SS people of the Einsatzgruppe in the action. They looted and destroyed many of the Jewish homes and burned the Jelgava Synagogue to the ground.

After the invasion of Riga Walter Stahlecker, assisted by the members of Perkonkrusts and other local collaborationists, organized the pogrom of Jews in the capital of Latvia. Viktors Arajs, aged 31 at the time, former member of Perkonkrusts and a member of a student fraternity, was appointed direct executor of the action.

Daugavpils

On June 28, 1941, two days after the fall of Daugavpils, the Nazis rounded up Jews in a synagogue, and then took them out to a  large ditch and shot them. Other Jews were randomly murdered simply walking down the street. On Sunday, June 29, 1941, the German army began rounding up Jewish men in Daugavpils to subject them to terror, humiliation and imprisonment under brutal and overcrowded conditions. At gun point the Germans made them shout "Heil Hitler", and sing pro-Nazi songs.

Jewish women forced to strip naked prior to being shot in Latvia

One survivor Sema Shpungin said:

They were seizing Jews in the streets of Dvinsk and taking them to the prison where they were severely tormented. They were forced to lie down on the ground and jump up again; those who could not do it fast enough were shot.

 

Paula Frankel-Zaltzman described her experience:

One of the murderers went up to my father and shouted to his face: 'How many houses did you burn?' and gave him a blow with his pistol. the  two Germans entered and started to shout that we are communists and that's why we're hiding - and they wanted to arrest us.

The Germans accused them of setting fire to Daugavpils. According to Stahlecker's official report:

In Latvia as well the Jews participated in acts of sabotage and arson after the invasion of the German Armed Forces. In Duenaburg so many fires were lighted by the Jews that a large part of the town was lost. The electric power station burnt down to a mere shell. The streets which were mainly inhabited by Jews remained unscathed.

Jews in general and Lithuanian refugees in particular were accused of being communists. On July 8, 1941, a newspaper in Daugavspils (Daugavpils Latviešu Avize), published an editorial consistent with the German efforts to blame the Jews for communist atrocities.
 

The time has come to end all service to the Jews, to end every selling of oneself to the Jews! ... One must remember that it was the Jews who greeted the Red Army in July 1940 and enslaved, tortured, and killed Latvians during communist rule.

Anti-Jewish measures ordered by the German naval commander in Libau, July 5, 1941 (click text to enlarge)

As time went on, increased numbers of Latvian auxiliary police guarded the prison where the Jewish men were held. By July 8, 1941, the work had become so hard that the Jews were literally being worked to death. One assignment included rolling huge blocks of stone to the top of a hill, another including carrying heavy timbers several kilometers. German guards struck prisoners with whips at will.

Later, the expression arose among the widows of the men who were rounded up and killed on June 29 about their husbands was "'he was taken way to prison that First Sunday.'" By July 7, 1941, the Latvia police had arrested about 1,250 people, including 1,125 Jews, and were holding them in the main prison in Daugavpils.

Jews forced to undress prior to shooting in Libau, Latvia

The Railroad Park massacre

One survivor named Iwens, described the scene:

On July 8, 1941, the Germans forced a detail of Jews to dig ditches in the Railroad Park.  The next day, the Germans began shooting Jews and pushing the bodies into the ditches. The sound of gunshots, occurring at regular intervals, could be heard in the city. Among the murdered was one man who tried to explain to a guard that he was a decorated veteran of the German army from the First World War.

While the guards in this operation were Latvian, the supervisors were entirely German. One German officer hummed the Beer Barrel Polka in between shooting people in the back of the head. The Germans filled all the trenches dug on July 8 with the bodies of the persons murdered on July 9, but there were still a lot of people left alive whom they had intended to kill.

Jews detained in Liepaja, Latvia, before they were shot to death.

At the end of the killings on July 8, the survivors were put to work digging new graves and tamping down the earth over the bodies in the previous trenches. The next day, July 10, 1941, the killings resumed.

Another survivor Haim Kuritzky, about what occurred at the burial pits:

At a long ditch ahead of them were four Latvian auxiliaries loading their rifles. A German officer yelled at the prisoners, "Four of you, march ahead." When the men reached the ditch, the German yelled "fire!" Each of the Latvians fired at one man -- one bullet in the head at close range -- and the four fell in the ditch. "The next four." They were shot too. 

But then, the remaining prisoners were given spades and ordered to cover the ditches with dirt -- there was no more room. The ditches were full of dying people and blood. They struggled spasmodically like fish out of water ... heads hanging back ... a wet, slippery, moving mass ...

Jewish women being shot at the killing pits in Liepaja

All of the killing was being filmed by German soldiers. 

The Liep?ja Actions

The first mass killing of Jews in Liep?ja took place on July 3 and 4, when about 400 people were shot to death, followed by the shooting of another 300 Jews on July 8. The German group of SD and policemen did the shooting, while the members of Latvian Selbstschutz convoyed victims to the killing site.

 

Shortly after these killings occured the destroying of the large choral synagogue of Liep?ja began. On July 13, the rolls of the Scripture were spread on the Ugunsdz?s?ju Square, and the Jews were forced to march across their sacred reliquaries much to the amusement of the perpetrators and their Latvian accomplices.

A group of Jewish women and children waiting their turn to be shot at the dunes in Skede

The remaining Jews were taken to Skede, north of Liepaja, to the dunes overlooking the Baltic Sea, the site of a former military training grounds. A long ditch had been dug just before the dunes. The Jews were forced to strip off their clothes except for their underwear. Near the ditch they then were made to take off their remaining clothes and assemble in groups of ten.

They were executed by members of a Latvian SD guard platoon, units of the 21st Latvian police battalion, and members of the SD under the command of the local SS and Police Leader Fritz Dietrich. On the 15-17 of December, 2,700-2,800 Jews were massacred, most of them women and children.

Two SD men, one of them was identified as Oberscharführer Carl Strott are reported as using a whip to make the Jewish women pose for pictures. According to the SIPO report on the execution, the Germans filmed the execution to show that the executions were carried out by locals.

Jewish children marched to the execution pits at Liepaja

Mass shooting actions also tool place at Ventspils and R?zekne

On July 16-July 18, 300 people were shot dead in the Kazi?u Forest. In July-August the remaining 700 Jews of the town were shot dead, while the Jews of the region were killed in the autumn. The shooting was carried out by German, Latvian and Estonian SD men who had arrived by ship.  In R?zekne approximately 2500 people were exterminated.

 

Shortly after signs were posted on the Kuld?ga-Ventspils highway, which said that Ventspils and R?zekne were Judenfrei, or "Jew Free."

Riga and the Rumbula shootings

The 21st Latvian Police Battalion assemble a group of Jewish women for execution on a beach near Liepaja.

In mid- August a decree was enacted ordering all Jews into the ghetto, which had been set up in the Moscow quarter, a suburb north of Riga populated by Jews and poor Russians. By the time the ghetto was sealed off 29,602 Jews were concentrated there, made up of 15,738 women, 8,212 men and 5,652 children

On the 30 November 1941 the most elaborate measures were prepared in Riga. The ghetto’s were cordoned, the Jewish working commando’s were marched out under guard, while rows of modern, blue Riga motor-buses were drawn up outside the ghetto gates.

Miles outside the ghetto in the forest, not far from  the railway at Rumbula, execution pits had been dug by Russian prisoners of war. A daily report issued while the massacre was in progress, declared that Jeckeln was engaged in a “shooting action,” and that on 30 November 4,000 Jews from the Riga ghetto and an entire transport of Jews from the Reich had been dealt with.

This was the notorious “Bloody Sunday,” but the second Riga action on 8 December on 8 December was almost on the same scale. One witness while gathering firewood for the Wehrmacht saw the preparations in the forest, two lorry-loads of German police troops and a long row of machine guns.
 

Jewish women forced to pose for a photo prior to being shot at Liepaja

Mass shooting outside Riga

This action was curtailed. At 12 o’clock, when a column of the condemned Jews were marching out of the ghetto, the police NCO pulled out his watch and remarked: “You are in luck. It is one minute after time – the action is over.”

During this action the entire population of the “large ghetto” was killed, including most of the members of the Council of Elders, the historian Simon Dubnow and Rabbi Menahem Mendel Zak, the Chief Rabbi of Riga.
 

This image, taken in Liepaja, Latvia, in July 1941, shows native Latvians armed and guarding Jews prior to them being driven to the killing pits

The actions at Dünamünde

In March, 1942, the Nazi authorities in Riga decided the German ghetto was getting too crowded, and organized a massacre which has come to be called the "Dünamünde Action". The Nazis informed the Judenrat that the people, who were mostly unable to work, being either elderly, infirm, or mothers with young children, would go to a supposed town called Dünamünde to work at fish processing. This was a ruse put together by Obersturmbannführer Gerhard Maywald.

There was no longer a town called Dünamünde, and there had not been one for several decades. The ruse succeeded. Many people were anxious to go, and even though the Germans had only called for 1,500 to be selected, on Sunday, March 15, 1941, about 1,900 Jews assembled in the streets of the ghetto, including as with the Rumbula massacre, many parents with small children, to be "resettled".

Memorial at the mass graves in Bikernieki forest

There was of no resettlement of any kind. Instead the people were taken by motor transport to Bikernieki forest on the north side of Riga, where they were shot and buried in common unmarked graves.
 

Jungfernhof concentration camp action

On March 26, 1941, a similar ruse was perpetrated at  against older German Jews. The camp commander, Rudolf Seck, refused young people of working age permission to go with their parents. 1,840 people were "resettled" from Jungfernhof that day, again to Bikernieki forest where they were shot as had been the 1,900 German Jews from the ghetto 11 days earlier.

A method the Germans called "Sardine Packing" was used to bury the corpses of the murdered Jews. German efficiency would not allow for any haphazard arrangement of the corpses, as this was an inefficient use of burial space. The killers forced the victims to lie face down at the bottom of the trench or on  top of the bodies of the people who had been shot before them.

The Kaiserwald camp where many of the surviving Latvian Jews were sent in 1943

In order to conserve ammunition the victims were not sprayed with bullets, each person was shot just once, in the back of the head. Anyone not killed outright was simply buried alive when the pit was covered up.

The end of the actions

By the beginning of 1943 only about 5,000 Jews remained in Latvia. They were concentrated in the Riga, Dvinsk, and Liepaja ghettos and in a few labor camps. Mid way through the year the Riga Ghetto was closed and those Jews still alive and able to work were transferred to nearby smaller camps, located at Mežaparks/Kaiserwald and Dundaga.

In 1944 the Soviet army reentered Latvia, which again became a Soviet republic. Only a few hundred Jews remained in Latvia. About 1,000 Latvian Jews returned to Latvia from the Nazi concentration camps; several thousand others who had escaped to the Soviet Union during the war also survived. However, the horrendous losses sustained during the Nazi Holocaust utterly devastated Latvian Jewry.

 

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Franz Walter Stahlecker

Franz Walter Stahlecker 

(10 October 1900 – 23 March 1942)

Was Commander of theSicherheitspolizei and the Sicherheitsdienst (GermanBefehlshaber der Sipo und des SD; BdS) for the Reichskommissariat Ostland in 1941/42. Stahlecker commanded Einsatzgruppe A, the most murderous of the four Einsatzgruppen (death squads during the Holocaust) active inGerman-occupied Eastern Europe

Early career Map, included in a report Stahlecker sent to his superiors in October 1941, summarizes 220,250 murders committed by Einsatzgruppe A under his command

Born in Sternenfels in 1900, he was trained as an administrative jurist. From 1919–20 Stahlecker was a member of the Deutschvölkischer Schutz und Trutzbund and the Organisation Consul. He joined the Nazi Party in 1932. In 1934, he was appointed head of the Gestapo in the German state of Württemberg and soon assigned to the main office of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD).After the incorporation of Austria in 1938, Stahlecker became SD chief of theDanube district (Vienna), a post he retained even after being promoted to SS-Standartenführer.

Differences of opinion with Reinhard Heydrichmotivated him to move to the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office), after which he held posts in theProtectorate of Bohemia and Moravia underSS-Brigadeführer Karl Hermann Frank and, in 1940, in Norway, where he was promoted to SS-Oberführer.

Einsatzgruppe A

In June 1941 Stahlecker was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor der Polizei and took over as commanding officer of Einsatzgruppe A in the hope of furthering his career with the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA), Nazi Germany's security police and intelligence organization.

Einsatzgruppe A followed Army Group North and operated in the Baltic states and areas of Russia up to Leningrad. Its mission was to hunt down and annihilate the JewsGypsiesCommunists, and other "undesirables". By winter 1941, Stahlecker reported to Berlin that Einsatzgruppe A had murdered some 249,420 Jews. He was killed in action on 23 March 1942, in a clash with Soviet partisans near Krasnogvardeysk, Russia

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Karl Jäger

Karl Jäger 

(20 September 1888 – 22 June 1959)

Was a Swiss-born SS-Standartenführer (Colonel) and Einsatzkommando leader who perpetrated acts of genocide.

Jäger was born in SchaffhausenSwitzerland. In World War I he received the Iron Cross (1st Class). He joined the Nazi Party in 1923 (serial no. 359269) and the SS in 1932 (serial no. 62823). He was assigned to Ludwigsburg, then to Ravensburg, in 1935, and to Münster in 1938, where he was named head of the local office of theSicherheitsdienst (SD). During the invasion of the Netherlands on 10 May 1940, Jäger was named commander of Einsatzkommando 3, a unit of Einsatzgruppe A.

Mass murders in eastern Europe Einsatzgruppen killing people in 1942 in the Ukraine at Ivangorod. Jäger organized thousands of murders like these.

From July 1941 until September 1943 Jäger was assigned commander of the SD Einsatzkommando 3 in KaunasLithuania. During this time, reports detailing calculated acts ofmass murder were routinely submitted to his superiors. Some of these reports survived the war and are collectively referred to as the "Jäger Report". Reassigned back to Germany near the end of 1943, Jäger was appointed commander of the SD in Reichenberg in the Sudetenland.

Escape, capture, and suicide

Jäger escaped capture by the Allies when the war ended, assumed a false identity, and was able to assimilate back into society as a farm hand until his report was discovered in March 1959. Arrested and charged with his crimes, Jäger committed suicide in prison in Hohenasperg while he was awaiting trial in June 1959.

The Jäger Report

Among all Nazi documents detailing calculated acts of mass murder and other atrocities, the "Jäger Report" is one of the most horrifying. It provides a detailed account of the murderous rampage of this "special squad" in Nazi-occupied Lithuania. Jäger was instrumental in the brutal and systematic destruction of the Jewish community of Lithuania.

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Mauzoleum Fort VII, Poznan, Rusalka Lake.

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Poles Who Were Executed Here by SS Officers

This memmorial commemorates 40 unknown Poles who were executed here by SS officers in December 1940, after they were brought from Fort VII to the Rusa?k? lake. They are still buried here.

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Photo

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Memorial Route

Memorial route of Kaunas fortress Fort VII was designed to keep the historical memory of cruel massacre occurred in Fort VII in July 1941. And to honor the victims giving the adequate and respective status for the remains located here.

Despite the fact that the massacre of thousands, mostly Jewish people from Kaunas is not a secret for more than seventy years now, no actions were taken to determine the exact location of remains, in order to protect it from possible exposure and adapt it to the public attendance. Meanwhile, during the period when Fort VII was controlled by Soviet military, status of Fort VII as a cultural object has been changed: whole area, where remains were located was filled with garbage and soil layer and turned into a dump. 

Any research, which could make it possible to reveal the circumstances of the massacre and restore the events of June-July in 1941, also have not been done.  Also, the society practically have known nothing about the massacre, which took place in Fort VII. Understanding our role, as a manager of the Fort VII, we are taking the responsibility to take all our actions according to Christian morality and traditions.

We also take into account the fact that in 2011 the 70th anniversary of the 1941 July 1, when the first Jewish concentration camp in Kaunas was established, will be commemorated. We believe that annual anniversary should be the day to honor victims of Genocide duly and to change the status of this place enabling to use this area for educational tourist tours and commemorative events. It was the primal purpose why memorial path “Kaunas VIIth fort” was originated.

The main aims of this project are:
To save the remembrance of  Jewish people murdered in fort VII by creating a memorial tourist route;
To commemorate victims, tortured and killed in Fort VII by studying and collecting information about the exact number of victims and their identities; publish all the gathered documentary material openly;

Integrate Kaunas Fort VII Memorial tourist route into the international genocide-related sites map in order to disseminate the information about tragic events in Fort VII  and establish international contacts for cooperation in future activities;

Also, to achieve the objectives of the project many historical and archaeological research are  carried out. Memorial route in territory of Fort VII is also based on results of mentioned research. Various expert seminars and youth camps are also provided. Furthermore, different scientific studies and educational documentary film “Fort VII: Lithuanian tragedy” are prepared. Progress of the project, it’s interim and final results and achievements are presented in this website.
Upon completion of this project, when events of Fort VII will be scientifically investigated and presented to the public, gaining a status of  Memorial and will be protected from undue exposure in the future and also integrated into the cultural life. Making it possible to realize a partial funding from Project at the European Commission’s “Europe for Citizens” (“Active European Remembrance”) was provided . For more information about the project’s progress see “News” section, the project presented in the section “Activities”.

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