Riga Ghetto

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Riga Ghetto


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The Riga Ghetto was a small area in Maskavas Forštate, neighborhood of RigaLatvia, designated by the Nazis where Jews from Latvia, and later from Germany, were forced to live during World War II.

On October 25, 1941, the Nazis relocated all Jews from Riga and the vicinity to the ghetto while the non-Jewish inhabitants were evicted. Most of the Latvian Jews (about 24,000) were killed on November 30 and December 8, 1941 in the Rumbula massacre. The Nazis transported a large number of German Jews to the ghetto; most of them were later killed in massacres.

While the Riga Ghetto is commonly referred to as a single entity, in fact there were several "ghettos". The first was the large Latvian ghetto. After the Rumbula massacre, the surviving Latvian Jews were concentrated in a smaller area within the original ghetto, which became known as the "small ghetto". The small ghetto was divided into men's and women's sections. The area of the ghetto not allocated to the small ghetto was then reallocated to the Jews being deported from Germany, and became known as the German ghetto.

At the beginning of July, the Nazi occupation regime had organized the burning of the synagogues in Riga, and attempted, with varying degrees of success, to incite the Latvian population into taking murderous action against the Latvian Jewish population. At the end of July, the city administration switched from the German military to German civil administration. Head of the civil administration was a German named Heinz Nachtigall. Other Germans involved with the civil administration included Hinrich Lohse and Otto Drechsler.

The Germans issued new decrees at this time to govern the Jews. Under "Regulation One", Jews were banned from public places, including city facilities, parks, and swimming pools. A second regulation required Jews to wear a yellow six-pointed star on their clothing, with violation punishable by death. A Jew was also to be allotted only one-half the food ration of a non-Jew. 

By August, a German named Altmayer was in charge of Riga. The Nazis then registered all the Jews of Riga. Further decrees mandated that all Jews wear a second yellow star, this one in the middle of their backs, and not use the sidewalks. The reason for the second star was so Jews could be readily distinguished in a crowd. Later, when Lithuanian Jews were transported to the ghetto, they were subject to the same two-star rule.Jews could be randomly assaulted with impunity by any non-Jew.

Officially the Gestapo took over the prisons in Riga on July 11, 1941, however by this time the Latvian gangs had killed a number of the Jewish inmates. The Gestapo initially set up its headquarters in the building of the former Latvian Ministry of Agriculture on Rai?a Boulevard. A special Jewish administration was set up. Gestapo torture and interrogation were carried out in the basement of this building. After this treatment the arrested were sent to prison, where the inmates were starved to death. Later the Gestapo relocated to the former museum at the corner of Kalpaka and Br?v?bas boulevards. 

The Nazis also set up a Latvia puppet government, under a Latvian General Oskars Dankers, who was himself half-German. A "Bureau of Jewish Affairs" was set up at the Latvian police prefecture. Nuremberg-style laws were introduced, which tried to force people in marriages between a Jew and an non-Jew to divorce. If the couple refused to divorce, the woman, if a Jew, would be forced to undergo sterilization. Jewish physicians were forbidden to treat non-Jews, and non-Jewish physicians were forbidden to treat Jews.

Construction of the ghetto

On July 21, the Riga occupation command decided to concentrate the Jewish workers in a ghetto. All Jews were registered and a Jewish Council (Judenrat) was set up. Prominent Riga Jews, including Eljaschow, Blumenthal, and Minsker, were chosen for the council. All of them had been involved with the Jewish Latvian Freedom Fighters Association and hopes were this would give them leverage in dealing with the occupation authorities.

Council members were given large white armbands with a blue Star of David on them, which gave them the right to use the sidewalks and the street cars. On October 23, 1941, the Nazi occupation authorities issued an order that by October 25, 1941, all Jews were to relocate to the Maskavas Forštate (Moscow Forshtat) suburb of Riga.

As a result, about 30,000 Jews were concentrated in the small 16-block area The Nazis fenced them in with barbed wire. Anyone who went too close to the barbed wire was shot by the Latvian guards stationed around the ghetto perimeter. German police (Wachmeister) from Danzig commanded the guards. The guards engaged in random firing during the night.

While the Jews were relocating to the ghetto, the Nazis stole their property. The Jews were allowed to take very little into the ghetto, and what was left was handled by an occupation authority known as the Trusteeship Office (Treuhandverwaltung). Entire trainloads of goods were sent back to Germany.

The Germans overlooked the theft of large amounts of other, generally less valuable, property by Latvian police, regarding it as a form of compensation for engaging in the killings. Individual appropriations and self-interested appropriations by Germans were also common. Author Ezergailis believes that the SD was more interested in murdering the Jews than in stealing their property, whereas the reverse was true among the men of Lohse's "civilian" administration.

  • October 25, 1941

Mass Killings

Mass killings Riga ghetto in 1942

In September 1941, Adolf Hitler, at the urging of Reinhard Heydrich and Joseph Goebbels, had decreed the deportation of German Jews to the east. Since the originally planned destinationMinsk was already overcrowded, further deportation trains were rerouted to Riga, which itself was overcrowded.

On November 30 and December 8 and 9, the Nazis shot about 27,500 Latvian Jews from the ghetto at pre-dug pits in the nearby forest of Rumbula. The large ghetto had been in existence for only 37 days.Only about 4,500 skilled male workers from the work commands, which were held in "the small ghetto", and about 500 women, who had been classified as seamstresses, survived the Rumbula massacres.

The first transport with 1,053 of Berlin Jews reached the Š?irotava Railway Station in Riga on November 30, 1941. All persons were murdered on the same day in the Rumbula Forest. The next four arriving transports with approximately 4,000 persons were accommodated on instruction of the SS-Brigadeführers and commander of Einsatzgruppen AWalter Stahlecker, on an empty yard, the so-called provisional concentration camp Jungfernhof.

There has been a historical dispute about whether the Latvian Jews were killed at Rumbula to make room for the Reich Jews, and it has long caused bitter feelings between Latvian and German survivors. The evidence is not clear on this, but certainly deportations of Reich Jews followed closely in time after the Rumbula shootings.

Rumbula Massacre:

The Rumbula massacre was the two-day (November 30, 1941 and December 8, 1941) killing of about 25,000 Jews in and on the way to Rumbula forest near RigaLatvia, duringthe Holocaust. Save only the Babi Yar massacre in Ukraine, this was the biggest two-day Holocaust atrocity until the operation of the death camps. About 24,000 of the victims were Latvian Jews from the Riga Ghetto and approximately 1,000 were German Jews transported to the forest by train.

The Rumbula massacre was carried out by the Nazi Einsatzgruppe A with the help of local collaborators of the Arajs Kommando, with support from other such Latvian auxiliaries. In charge of the operation was Higher SS and Police Leader Friedrich Jeckeln, who had previously overseen similar massacres in the Ukraine.Rudolf Lange, who later participated in the Wannsee Conference, also took part in organising the massacre.

Some of the accusations against Latvian Herberts Cukurs are related to the clearing of the Riga Ghetto by the Arajs Kommando. The Rumbula killings, together with many others, formed the basis of the post-World War II Einsatzgruppen trial where a number of Einsatzgruppen commanders were found guilty of crimes against humanity

This crime is known by different names, including "The Big Action", and the "Rumbula Action", but in Latvia it is just called "Rumbula" or "Rumbuli". It is sometimes called the Jeckeln Action after its commander Friedrich Jeckeln The word "Aktion", which translates literally to action or operation in English, was used by the Nazis as a euphemism for killings. 

For Rumbula, the official euphemism was "shooting action" (Erschiessungsaktion). In the Einsatzgruppen trial before the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, the event was not given a name but simply described as "the murder of 10,600 Jews" on 30 November 1941

Rumbula was a small railroad station 12 kilometers south of Riga, the capital and major city of Latvia, which was connected with Daugavpils, the second largest city in Latvia, by the rail line along the north side of the Daugava river. Located on a hill about 250 meters from the station, the massacre site was a "rather open and accessible place". The view was blocked by vegetation, but the sound of gun fire would have been audible from the station grounds. The area lay between the rail line and the Riga-Daugavpils highway, with the rail line to the north of the highway. 

Rumbula was part of a forest and swamp area known in Latvian as V?rnu mežs, which means Crow Forest in English.The sounds of gun fire could be and were heard from the highway. The Nazi occupation authorities carried out a number of other massacres on the north bank of the Daugava in the Rumbula vicinity.

The soil was sandy and it was easy to dig graves. While the surrounding pine woods were sparse, there was a heavily forested area in the center which became the execution site. The rail line and highway made it easy to move the victims in from Riga (it had to be within walking distance of the Riga Ghetto on the southeast side of the city), as well as transport the killers and their arms

The Holocaust in Latvia Hinrich Lohse His policy of concentrating the Jews of Latvia into the Riga ghetto made it easier for Friedrich Jeckeln and his unit to kill approximately 24,000 in two days at Rumbula near Riga.

The Holocaust in Latvia began on June 22, 1941, when the German army invaded the Soviet Union, including the Baltic States of LithuaniaLatvia, and Estonia which had been recently occupied by Soviet forces following a period of independence after World War I.

Murders of Jews, Communists, and others began almost immediately, perpetrated by German killer squads known as Einsatzgruppen (which can be translated as "Special Task Groups" or "Special Assignment Groups"), and also other organizations, including the German Security Police (Sicherheitspolizeior Sipo) and the Security Service of the SS (Sicherheitsdienst or SD). The first murders were on the night of June 23, 1941, in the town of Grobina, near Liep?ja, where Sonderkommando 1a members killed six Jews in the church cemetery. The Nazi occupiers were also aided by a unit of native Latvians known as the Ar?js Commando, and at least to some extent by Latvian auxiliary police.

Involvement of local population

The Nazis wished to make it appear as if the local populations of Latvians were responsible for the murders of the Jews. They attempted, without much success, to stir up local deadly riots, known as "pogroms", against the Jews. They spread rumors that Jews were responsible for widespread arson and other crimes, and even reported the same to their superiors. This policy of incitement to what the Nazis called " self-cleansing actions" was acknowledged to be a failure by Franz Walter Stahlecker, who, as chief of Einsatzgruppe A, was the Nazi's main killing expert in the Baltic states.


  • Latvia
  • 30 November 1941

Creation of the Riga Ghetto

The SD's goal was to make Latvia judenrein, a Nazi neologism which can be translated as "Jew purified." By October 15, 1941, the Nazis had killed up to 30,000 of the approximately 66,000 Jews that had not been able to flee the country before the Nazi occupation was completed. Hinrich Lohse, who reported to Alfred Rosenberg rather than the SD's boss, Heinrich Himmler, wanted not so much to exterminate the Jews but rather to steal all their property, confine them to ghettos, and work them as slave laborers for Germany's war effort. This bureaucratic conflict slowed down the pace of killing in September and October 1941. Lohse, as part of the "civil administration" was perceived by the SD as resisting their plans. On November 15, 1941, Lohse asked for directions from Rosenberg as to whether all Jews were to be killed "regardless of economic considerations." By the end of October, Lohse had confined all the Jews of Riga, as well some of the surrounding area, into a ghettowithin the city, the gates of which were about 10 kilometers from Rumbula. The Riga Ghetto was a creation of the Nazis themselves, and had not existed before the war.

Friedrich Jeckeln~Eliminate Jews

Friedrich Jeckeln in Soviet custody afterWorld War II. On January 27, 1942, he was awarded a Nazi medal, the "War Merit Cross (Kriegsverdienst or KVK) with Swords" for killing 25,000 at Rumbula Motive

Himmler's motive was to eliminate the Latvian Jews in Riga so that Jews from Germany and Austria could be deported to the Riga ghetto and housed in their place. Similarly-motivated mass killings of eastern Jews confined to ghettos were carried out at Kovno on October 28, 1941 (10,000 dead), and at Minsk, where 13,000 were shot on November 7 and an additional 7,000 on November 20. 

To carry out this plan, Himmler brought Friedrich Jeckeln into Latvia from the Ukraine, where he had organized a number of mass killings, including Babi Yar (30,000 dead). Jeckeln's crew of about 50 killers and supporting personnel arrived in Riga on November 5, 1941. Jeckeln did not arrive with them, but went instead to Berlin where sometime between November 10 and November 12, 1941, he met with Himmler. Himmler told Jeckeln to kill the entire Riga ghetto and to instruct Lohse, should he object that this was an order of Himmler's and also of Adolf Hitler's: "Tell Lohse it is my order, which is also the Führer's wish"

Jeckeln then went to Riga and explained to situation to Lohse, who raised no further objection. By mid-November 1941, Jeckeln had set himself up in a building in the old section of Riga known as the Ritterhaus. 

Back in Berlin, Rosenberg, Lohse's superior in the Nazi hierarchy, was able to get one concession out of Himmler, that slave labor extracted from male Jews aged 16–60 would be considered too important to Germany's war effort. Consequently, these people would be spared, while women, children, old and disabled people would be shot. Jeckeln's plan for carrying out this segregation of the victims came to be known as the "Little Ghetto".

Planning the crime Nazi Franz Walter Stahlecker, another perpetrator of the Latvian Holocaust, prepared this map. Illustrated with coffins, it shows there were still 35,000 Jews remaining in Latvia before the Rumbula massacres. Estonia, the report states, is "Jew-free" (judenfrei).

To fulfill Himmler's order to clear out the Ghetto, Jeckeln would need to kill 12,000 people per day. At that time of year, there were only about eight hours of day and twilight, so, the last column of victims would have to leave the Riga ghetto no later than 12:00 noon. Guards would be posted on both sides along the entire 10 kilometer column route. The whole process required about 1,700 personnel to carry it out.

Jeckeln's construction specialist, Ernst Hennicker, who later claimed he was shocked when he learned in advance of the number of people to be killed, nevertheless made no objection at the time and proceeded to supervise the digging of six murder pits, sufficient to bury 25,000 people. 

The actual excavation of the pits was done by 200 or 300 Russian prisoners of war. The pits themselves were purpose-designed: they were excavated in levels, like an inverted pyramid, with the broader levels towards the top, and a ramp down to the different levels to allow the victims to be literally marched into their own graves. It took about three days to finish the pits which were complete by November 23, 1941.

The actual shooting would be done by only 10 or 12 men of Jeckeln's bodyguard, including Endl, Lueschen, and Wedekind, all experienced murderers. Much later, Jeckeln's driver, Johannes Zingler, claimed in testimony that Jeckeln had forced him to join in as a killer by making threats to harm Zingler's family.

In similar massacres in Russia and the Ukraine, there were many accounts contrary to Zingler's to the effect that participation was voluntary, and even sometimes sought after, and that those who refused to take part in shootings suffered no adverse consequences. In particular, Erwin Schulz, head of Einsatzkommando 5 refused to participate in Babi Yar, another Jeckeln atrocity, and at his own request was transferred back to his pre-war position in Berlin with no loss of professional standing.

Jeckeln had no Latvians carrying out shootings. Jeckeln considered the shooting of the victims in the pits to be a deed of marksmanship, and he wanted to prove Germans were inherently more accurate shooters than Latvians. Jeckeln also didn't trust other agencies, even Nazi ones, to carry out his wishes. Although the SD and the Order Police were involved, Jeckeln assigned his own squad to supervise every aspect of the operation.

Deciding on the site The Riga Ghetto in 1942, after the Rumbula massacre

Jeckeln and his aide Paul Degenhart searched the Riga vicinity to find a site. Riga was located in a swampy area where the water table was close to ground level. This would interfere with the proper disposal of thousands of corpses. Jeckeln needed elevated ground.

The site also had to be on the north side of the Daugava River within walking distance of the ghetto, also on the north side. On or about November 18 or 19 Jeckeln came upon Rumbula as he was driving south to the Salaspils concentration camp (then under construction), and it fit what he was looking for. The site was close to Riga, it was on elevated ground, and it had sandy soil, with the only drawback being the proximity to the highway (about 100 meters).

The Jeckeln system

Jeckeln developed his "Jeckeln system" during the many killings he had organized in the Ukraine, which included among others Babi Yar and the Kamianets-Podilskyi Massacre] He called it "sardine packing" (Sardinenpackung).

The Jeckeln method was noted, although not by name, in the judgment of the Einsatzgruppen commanders at Nuremberg Military Tribunal, as a means of avoiding the extra work associated with having to push the bodies into the grave. It was reported that even some of the experienced Einsatzgruppen killers claimed to have been horrified by its cruelty. 

Extermination by shooting ran into a problem when it came to women and children. Otto Ohlendorf, himself a prolific killer, objected to Jeckeln's techniques according to his testimony at his post-war trial for crimes against humanity.Jeckeln had staff which specialized in each separate part of the process, including Genickschussspezialisten -- "neck shot specialists". There were nine components to this assembly-line method as applied to the Riga ghetto.

  • The Security Police roused the people out of their houses in the ghetto;
  • The Jews were organized into columns of 1000 people and driven to the killing grounds;
  • The German Order Police (Ordnungspolizei or Orpo) led the columns to Rumbula;
  • Three pits had already been dug where the killing would be done simultaneously;
  • The victims were stripped of their clothing and valuables;
  • The victims were run through a double cordon of guards on the way to the killing pits;
  • To save the trouble of tossing dead bodies into the pits, the killers forced the living victims into the trench on top of other people who had already been shot;
  • Russian submachine guns (another source says semi-automatic pistols )were used rather than German arms, because the magazine held 50 rounds, but the weapon could be set to fire one round at a time.
  • The killers forced the victims to lie face down on the trench floor, or more often, on the bodies of the people had just been shot. The people were not sprayed with bullets. Rather, to save ammunition, 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.
Arranging transport for infirm victims

Jeckeln had at his direct disposal only 10 to 12 automobiles and 6 to 8 motorcycles. This was enough to transport the killers themselves and certain official witnesses. However Jeckeln needed more and heavier transport for the sick, disabled or other of his intended victims who could not make the 10 kilometer march.

Jeckeln also anticipated there would be a significant number of people killed along the march route, and he would need about 25 trucks to pick up the bodies. Consequently he ordered his men to scrounge through Riga to locate suitable vehicles.

Final planning and instructions

On or about Thursday, November 27, 1941, Jeckeln held a meeting of the leaders of the participating units at the Riga office of the Protective Police (Schutzpolizei), a branch of the German Order Police, (Ordnungspolizei) to coordinate their actions in the forthcoming massacre. This appears consistent with the substantial role that the Order Police played in the Holocaust, as stated by Professor Browning:

It is no longer seriously in question that members of the German Order Police, both career professionals and reservists, in both battalion formations and precinct service or Einzeldienst, were at the center of the Holocaust, providing a major manpower source for carrying out numerous deportations, ghetto-clearing operations, and massacres.

Jeckeln convened a second planning session of senior commanders on the afternoon of Saturday, November 29, 1941, this time at the Ritterhaus. According to later versions given by those in attendance, Jeckeln gave a speech to these officers to the effect that it was their patriotic duty to exterminate the Jews of the Riga ghetto, just as much as if they were on the front lines of the battles then currently raging far to the east.

Officers also later claimed that Jeckeln told them that failure to participate in the murders would be considered the equivalent of desertion, and that all HSSPF personnel who would not be participating in the action were required to attend the extermination site as official witnesses. No Latvian officials were present at the November 29 Ritterhaus meeting.

At about 7:00 p.m. on November 29, a brief (about 15 minutes) third meeting was held, this time at the Protective Police headquarters. This was presided over by Karl Heise, the head of the protective police. He told his men they would have to report the next morning at 4:00 a.m. to carry out a "resettlement" of the people in the Riga ghetto.

Although "resettlement" was a Nazi euphemism for mass murder, Heisse and a majority men of the Protective Police knew the true nature of what they would be participating in. Final instructions were also passed to the Latvian militia and police who would be rounding up people in the ghetto and acting as guards along the way. The Latvian police were told they would be moving the Jews to the Rumbula station for transport to a resettlement camp.

In the Jahnke trial in the early 1970s, the West German court in Hamburg found that a purpose of the Jeckeln system was to conceal the murderous purpose until the very last. The court further found:

  • That by the evening meeting on November 29, 1941, the intermediate commanders knew the full extent of the intended killings;
  • That the intermediate commanders also knew that the 20 kilogram luggage rule was a ruse to deceive the victims into a belief that they were truly being resettled;
  • That the men in the lower ranks did not know what was planned until they saw the shootings in the forest.

Professor Ezergailis questioned whether the Latvian police might have had a better idea of what was actually going to happen, this being their native country, but he also noted contrary evidence including misleading instructions given to the Latvian police by the Germans, and the giving of instructions, at least to some Germans, to shoot any guard who might fail to execute a "disobedient" Jew during the course of the march.


Advance Knowledge by Wehrmacht

According to his later testimony before the Nuremberg Military Tribunal at the High Command Trial, Walter Bruns, a Major General of Engineers, learned on November 28 that planned mass executions would soon take place in Riga. Bruns sent a report to his superiors, then urged a certain "administrative officer", named Walter Altemeyer to postpone the action until Bruns could receive a response. Altemeyer told Bruns that the operation was being carried out pursuant to a "Führer-order".

Bruns then sent out two officers to observe and report. Advance word of the planned killings reached the Wehrmacht intelligence office ("Abwehr") in Riga. This office, which was not connected with the massacre, had received a cable shortly before the executions began, from Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, which in summary instructed the Riga Abwehr that "it is unworthy of an intelligence officer to be party to, or even present at interrogations or maltreatments". By "interrogations and maltreatments", Canaris was referring to the planned massacre.

Preparation for the crime Able-bodied men separated from the others

On about November 27, 1941 a four-block area of the Riga ghetto was cordoned off with barbed wire, and this area became known as the "small ghetto". On November 28, the Nazis issued an order requiring the able-bodied men to move to the small ghetto and the rest of the population was to report at 6:00 a.m. on November 30 to a different area for "light work" with no more than a 20 kilogram bag. The reaction among the Jews was one of horror.

 In July and August, it was the men of Latvia who had been shot first, while the women and children had been allowed to live, at least for a time. The order for the men to separate themselves from their families was thus perceived as a predicate for the murder of the men, the arrangements between Rosenberg and Himmler having been made without their knowledge. By the morning of Saturday, November 29, the Nazis had finished segregating the able-bodied men into the small ghetto.

Ghetto survivor Max Kaufmann described the scene somewhat differently, writing that on Thursday morning, November 27, a large poster was put up on Sadornika Street in the ghetto, which said, among other things, that on Saturday, November 29, 1941, all inmates of the ghetto were to form up in columns of 1,000 people each near the ghetto gate for evacuation from the ghetto.

The people living closest to the gate would be the first to depart. Kaufmann doesn't describe a specific order separating the able-bodied men from the rest of the people. Instead he states that "the larger work crews were told they had the possibility of staying in the newly-formed small camp and rejoining their families later. 

According to Kaufmann, while the columns of 1,000 were formed on the morning of the 29th, they were later dispersed, causing relief among the inhabitants, who believed that the entire evacuation had been cancelled. 300 women seamstresses were also selected and moved to the Central Prison from the ghetto.

Professor Ezergailis states that while the men were at work, the Nazis culled the able-bodied men from those left in the ghetto, and once the work crews returned, the same process was employed again on the returning workers. The total, about 4,000 able-bodied men, were sent to the newly-created small ghetto. Kaufmann states that after returning from work on the 29th, he and his son, then aged 16, were not allowed to return to the large ghetto, but were housed instead in a ruined building on Vilanu Street in the small ghetto.

First transport of German Jews arrives in Riga

The first transport of German Jews to Riga departed Berlin on Thursday, November 27, 1941 and arrived in Riga on Saturday, November 29, 1941. Whether the Jews were to be worked and starved to death over time, or simply murdered outright had not yet been decided upon. Apparently at the last minute, Himmler decided he did not want these German Jews killed immediately; his plan instead was to house them in the Riga Ghetto in the dwellings to be made available from the murder of the Latvian Jews.

For this reason, on Sunday, November 30, 1941, Himmler placed a telephone call to Reinhard Heydrich, who, as head of the SD was also Jeckeln's boss. According to Himmler's telephone log, his order to Heydrich was that the Jews on the transport from Berlin were not to be murdered, or in the Nazi terminology, "liquidated". (Judentransport aus Berlin. Keine Liquidierung). 

Himmler however only made this call at 1:30 in the afternoon that Sunday, and by that time, the people on the train were dead. What had happened was that there was no housing for the deported German Jews when they arrived in Riga, so the Nazis left them on the train. The next morning, the Nazis ran the trainload of people down to the Rumbula station. They took the people off the train, marched them the short distance to the crime scene and shot them all between 8:15 and 9:00 a.m 

They were the first group to die that day. The Nazi euphemism for this crime was that the 1,000 Berlin Jews had been "disposed of." Thereafter, on December 1, and, in a personal conference on December 4, 1941, Himmler issued strict instructions to Jeckeln that no mass killings of deported German Jews were to occur without his express orders.: "The Jews deported into the territory of the Ostland are to be dealt with only according to the guideline given by me and the Reich Security Main Office acting on my behalf. I will punish unilateral acts and violations." 

Jeckeln claimed at his post-war trial that he'd received orders from Himmler on November 10 or 11, that "all the Jews in the Ostland down to the last man must be exterminated." Jeckeln might well have believed that killing the German Jews on the Riga transport was what Himmler wished, for just before the Rumbula massacre, mass killings of German Jews upon or shortly after arrival in the East had been carried out in Kaunas, Lithuania, on November 25 and 29, 1941, when the Sipo killed 5,000 German and Austrian Jews who had arrived on transports on November 11, including some 1,000 Jews from Berlin.

Professor Fleming suggests several reasons for Himmler's "no liquidation" order. On board the train were 40 to 45 people who were considered "cases of unjustified evacuation", meaning they were either elderly or had been awarded the Iron Cross for heroic service to Germany during the Great War. Another reason may have been that Himmler hesitated to carry out the execution of German Jews for fear of the effect that it might have on the attitude the United States, which as of November 30, 1941, was not yet at war with Germany. 

Professor Browning attributes the order and the fact that, with two significant exceptions, in general further transports of Jews to Riga from Germany did not result in immediate mass execution, to Himmler's concern over some of the issues raised by the shooting of German (as opposed to native) Jews and the desire to postpone the same until it could be in greater secrecy and at a time when less controversy might arise among the Nazis themselves

Women, Children and Elderly Forced out of Ghetto

When the columns had been dispersed on Saturday, November 29, the ghetto inhabitants believed, to their relief, that there would be no evacuation This proved wrong. The first action in the ghetto began at 4:00 a.m., well before dawn, on Sunday, November 30, 1941. Working from west to east (that is, towards Rumbula), squads of the SD, the Protective Police, the Araji commando, and about 80 Jewish ghetto police rousted people from their sleep and told them to report for assembly in half an hour. 

Max Kaufmann describes the raid as beginning in the middle of the night on the 29th. He describes "thousands" of "absolutely drunk" Germans and Latvians invading the ghettos, bursting into apartments, and hunting down the occupants while shouting wildly. He states that children were thrown from third floor windows. Detachments cut special openings in the fence to allow more rapid access to the highway south to the forest site. (Detailed maps of the ghetto are provided by Ezergailis and Kaufmann.)

Even though the able-bodied men were gone, people still resisted being forced out of their dwellings and tried to desert from the columns as they moved through the eastern part of the ghetto. The Nazis killed 600 to 1,000 people in the process of forcing out the people. Eventually columns of about 1,000 people were formed and marched out.

The first column was led by the lawyer, Dr. Eljaschow. "The expression on his face showed no disquiet whatsoever; on the contrary, because everyone was looking at him, he made an effort to smile hopefully." Next to Dr. Eljaschow was Rabbi Zack. Other well-known citizens of Riga were in the columns. Among the guards were Altmeyer, Jäger, andHerberts Cukurs. Cukurs, a world-famous pilot, was the most recognizable Latvian SD man at the scene, whom Kaufmann described as follows:

The Latvian murderer Cukurs got out of a car wearing a leather pistol (Nagan) at his side. He went to the Latvian guards to give them various instructions. He had certainly been informed in detail about the great catastrophe that awaited us.

Latvian historian Andrew Ezergailis states that "although Arajs' men were not the only ones on the ghetto end of the operation, to the degree they participated in the atrocities there the chief responsibility rests on Herberts Cukurs' shoulders.".

The Jews were allowed to carry some luggage as a sham, to create the impression among the victims that they were simply being resettled. Frida Michelson, one of the few survivors of the massacre at the pits, later described what she saw that day:


It was already beginning to get light. An unending column of people, guarded by armed policemen, was passing by. Young women, women with infants in their arms, old women, handicapped, helped by their neighbors, young boys and girls -- all marching, marching. Suddenly, in front of our window, a German SS man started firing with an automatic gun point blank into the crowd.

People were mowed down by the shots, and fell on the cobblestones. There was confusion in the column. People were trampling over those who had fallen, they were pushing forward, away from the wildly shooting SS man. Some were throwing away their packs so they could run faster. The Latvian policemen were shouting 'Faster, faster' and lashing whips over the heads of the crowd.

... The columns of people were moving on and on, sometimes at a half run, marching, trotting, without end. There one, there another, would fall and they would walk right over them, constantly being urged on by the policemen, 'Faster, faster', with their whips and rifle butts.

... I stood by the window and watched until about midday when the horror of the march ended ... . Now the street was quiet, nothing moved. Corpses were scattered all over, rivulets of blood still oozing from the lifeless bodies. They were mostly old people, pregnant women, children, handicapped -- all those who could not keep up with the inhuman tempo of the march.


Ten kilometer march to the killing pits

The first column of people, accompanied by about 50 guards, left the ghetto at 06:00 hours. On November 30, 1941, the air temperatures recorded at Riga were -7.5°C at 07:00 hours, -1.1°C at 09:00, and 1.9°C at 21:00. The previous evening there had been a snowfall of 7 cm, but no snow fell on November 30 from 07:00 to 21:00.

The people could not keep up the pace demanded by the guards and the column kept stretching out. The guards murdered anyone who fell out of the column or stopped to rest along the 10 kilometer march route. German guards, when later tried for war crimes, claimed it was the Latvians who did most of the killing. In Latvia, however, there were stories about Latvian policemen refusing orders to shoot people.

Arrival at Rumbula and murder

The first column of people arrived at Rumbula at about 9:00 am on November 30. The people were ordered to disrobe and deposit their clothing and valuables in designated locations and collection boxes, shoes in one, overcoats in another, and so forth. Luggage was deposited before the Jews entered the wood. They were then marched towards the murder pits. If there were too many people arriving to be readily killed immediately, they were held in the nearby forest until their turn came.

As the piles of clothing became huge, members of the Arajs Commando loaded the articles on trucks to be transported back to Riga. The disrobing point was watched carefully by the killers, because it was here that there was a pause in the conveyor-like system, where resistance or rebellion might arise.

The people were then marched down the ramps into the pits, in single file ten at time, on top of previously shot victims, many of whom were still alive. Some people wept, others prayed and recited the Torah. Handicapped and elderly people were helped into the pit by other sturdier victims. Mothers hung tight to their children:

The victims were made to lie face down on top of those who had already been shot and were still writhing and heaving, oozing blood, sing of brains and excrement. With their Russian automatic weapons set on single shots, the marksmen killed the Jews from a distance of about two meters with a shot in the backs of their heads. One bullet per person was allotted in the Jeckeln system.

The shooting continued past sundown into the twilight, probably ending at about 5:00 p.m., when darkness fell. (The evidence is in conflict about when the shooting ended. One source says the shooting went on well into the evening.) Their aim may have been worsened by the twilight, as Nazi police Major Karl Heise, who had gone back and forth between Riga and the killing site that day, suffered the misfortune of having been hit in the eye by a ricochet bullet. Jeckeln himself described Rumbula at his trial in early 1946.

Q: Who did the shooting?
A: Ten or twelve German SD soldiers.
Q: What was the procedure?
A: All of the Jews went by foot from the ghetto in Riga to the liquidation site. Near the pits, they had to deposit their overclothes, which were washed, sorted, and shipped back to Germany. Jews - men, women, and children - passed through police cordons on their way to the pits, where they were shot by German soldiers.

The shooters fired from the brink of the smaller pits. For the larger pits, they walked down in the graves among the dead and dying to shoot additional victims. Captain Otto Schulz-Du Bois, of the Engineer Reserves of the German Army, was in the area on bridge and road inspection duties, when he heard "intermittent but persistent reports of gunfire". Schulz-Du Bois stopped to investigate, and because security was weak, was able to observe the murders. A few months later he described what he saw to friends in Germany, who in 1980 reported what Schulz-Du Bois had told them:

The first thing he came upon was a huge heap of clothes, then men, women, children and elderly people standing in a line and dressed in their underclothing. The head of the line ended in a small wood by a mass gravesite. Those first in line had to leap into the pit and then were killed with a pistol bullet in the head. Six SS men were busy with this grisly chore. The victims maintained a perfect composure. There were no outcries, only light sobbing and crying, and saying soothing words to the children.

Official witnesses

Jeckeln required high-ranking Nazis to witness the Rumbula murders. Jeckeln himself stood at the top of the pits personally directing the shooters. National Commissioner (Reichskommissar) for the Ostland Hinrich Lohse was there, at least for a while. Dr. Otto Heinrich Drechsler, the Territorial Commissioner (Gebietskommissar) of Latvia may have been present. Roberts Osis, the chief of the Latvian collaborationist militia (Schutzmannshaft) was present for much of the time. Viktors Arajs, who was drunk, worked very close to the pits supervising the Latvian men of his commando, who were guarding and funnelling the victims into the pits.

Later murders and body disposal in the ghetto

Karl Heise returned from Rumbula to the Riga ghetto by about 1:00 p.m. There he discovered that about 20 Jews too sick to be moved had been taken not to the murder site but rather to the hospital. Heise ordered they be taken out of the hospital, placed on the street on straw mattresses and shot in the head. Killers of the patients in the street included members of the Schutzpolizei, Hesfer, Otto Tuchel, and Neuman, among others. 

There were still the hundreds of bodies left from the morning's forced evacuation. A squad of able-bodied Jews was delegated to pick them up and take them to the Jewish cemetery using sleds, wheelbarrows and horse carts. Not every one who had been shot down in the streets was dead; those still alive were finished off by the Arajs commando. Individual graves were not dug at the cemetery. Instead. using dynamite, the Nazi blew out a large crater in the ground, into which the dead were dumped without ceremony.

Aftermath at the pits on the first day

By the end of the first day about 13,000 people had been shot but not all were dead. Kaufman reported that "the earth still heaved for a long time because of the many half-dead people." Wounded naked people were wandering about as late as 11:00 am the next day, seeking help but getting none. In the words of Professor Ezergailis:

The pit itself was still alive; bleeding and writhing bodies were regaining consciousness. ... Moans and whimpers could be heard well into the night. There were people who had been only slightly wounded, or not hit at all; they crawled out of the pit. Hundreds must have smothered under the weight of human flesh. Sentries were posted at the pits and a unit of Latvian Schutzmannschaften was sent out to guard the area. The orders were to liquidate all survivors on the spot.

According to historian Bernard Press, himself a survivor of the Holocaust in Latvia:

Four young women initially escaped the bullets. Naked and trembling, they stood before their murderers' gun barrels and screamed in extreme mortal agony that they were Latvians, not Jews. They were believed and taken back to the city. The next morning Jeckeln himself decided their fate.

One was indeed Latvian and had been adopted as a child by Jews. The others were Jewish. One of them hoped for support from her first husband, Army Lieutenant Skuja. Asked on the telephone about her nationality, he answered that she was a Jew and he was not interested in her fate. She was murdered.

The second woman received no mercy from Jeckeln, because she was the Latvian wife of a Jew engaged in Judaic studies. With this answer she signed her death warrant, for Jeckeln decided she was "tainted by Judaism." Only the third girl, Ella Medalje, was clever enough to give Jeckeln plausible answers and thus escaped with her life.

Reaction among the survivors

The ghetto itself was a scene of mass murder after the departure of the columns on November 30, as Kaufmann described:

Ludzas street in the center of the ghetto was full of murdered people. Their blood flowed in the gutters. In the houses there were also countless people who had been shot. Slowly people began to pick them up. The lawyer Wittenberg had taken this holy task upon himself, and he mobilized the remaining young people for this task.

The blood literally ran in the gutters. Frida Michelson, an eyewitness, recorded that the next day, December 1, there were still puddles of blood in the street, frozen by then.

The men in the newly created small ghetto had been sent out to their work stations that Sunday, as they had been the day before. On the way, they had seen the columns formed up for the march to Rumbula, and they heard weeping, screaming, and shooting, but they could learn no details. The men asked some of the German soldiers with whom they were acquainted to go to the ghetto to see what had happened.

These soldiers did go, but could not gain admission to the ghetto itself. From a distance, they could still see "many horrible things" They reported these facts to the Jews of the work detachments, who asked them to be released early from work to see to their families. At 14:00 hours this request was granted, at least for a few of the men, and they returned to the ghetto. 

They found the streets scattered with things, which they were directed to collect and carry to the guardhouse. They also found a small bundle which turned out to be a living child, a baby aged about four weeks. A Latvian guard took the child away. Kaufmann believed the child's murder was a certainty.


The December 8 Killings

Simon Dubnow 1860-1941, Jewish writer, historian and activist, of whom a legend arose  that on December 8, 1941, he counseled the Jews in the Riga ghetto:"Yidn, shreibt un fershreibt" (Yiddish: "Jews, write and record"

Jeckeln seems to have wanted to continue the murders on December 1, but did not. Professor Ezergailis proposed that Jeckeln may have been bothered by problems such the resistance of the Jews in Riga. In any case, the killing did not resume until Monday, December 8, 1941.

According to Professor Ezergailis, this time 300 Jews were killed in forcing people out of the ghetto. (Another source reports that the brutality in the Ghetto was worse on December 8 than on November 30.). It was snowing that Monday, and the people may have believed that the worst had past. Even so, the columns were formed up and marched out of the city just as on Sunday, November 30, but with some differences. The 20 kilogram packs were not carried to the site, as they had been on November 30, but were left in the ghetto.

Their owners were told that their luggage would be carried on by truck to the fictitious point of departure for resettlement. Mothers with small children and older people were told they could ride by sleigh, and sleighs were in fact available. At least two policemen who had played some role in the November 30 massacre refused to participate again on December 8. These were the German Zimmermann and the Latvian Vilnis. The march itself was fast-paced and brutal. Many people were trampled to death.

Max Kaufmann, one of the men among the work crews in the small ghetto, was anxious to know what was happening to the people marched out on December 8. He organized, through bribery, an expedition by truck ostensibly to gather wood, but actually to follow the columns and learn their destination. Kaufmann later described what he saw from the truck as it moved south along the highway from Riga towards Daugavpils:

... we encountered the first evacuees. We slowed down. They were walking quite calmly, and hardly a sound was heard. The first person in the procession we met was Mrs. Pola Schmulian * * * Her head was deeply bowed and she seemed to be in despair. I also saw other acquaintances of mine among the people marching; the Latvians would occasionally beat one or another of them with truncheons. * * * On the way, I counted six murdered people who were lying with their faces in the snow.

Kaufmann noticed machine guns set closely together in the snow near the woods, and sixty to eighty soldiers, whom he identified as being from the German army. The soldier who was driving the truck stated the machine guns were posted just to prevent escapes. (In his book, Kaufmann stated he was certain the German army had played a role in the Rumbula massacre.) 

They drove on that day down the highway past Rumbula to the Salaspils concentration camp, to investigate a rumor that the Jews had been evacuated to that point. At the camp they encountered Russian prisoners of war, but no Jews from Riga. The prisoners told them that they knew nothing about the Jews.Frida Michelson had been marched out with the column, and she described the forest as being surrounded by a ring of SS men. Michelson further described the scene when they arrived at Rumbula that morning:

As we came to the forest we heard shooting again. This was the horrible portent of our future. If I had any doubts about the intentions of our tormenters, they were all gone now. ... We were all numb with terror and followed orders mechanically. We were incapable of thinking and were submitting to everything like a docile herd of cattle.

Of the 12,000 people forced out of the ghetto to Rumbula that day, three known survivors later gave accounts: Frida Michelson, Elle Madale, and Matiss Lutrins. Michelson survived by pretending to be dead as victims discarded heaps of shoes on her. Elle Madale claimed to be a Latvian. Matiss Lutrins, a mechanic, persuaded some Latvian truck drivers to allow him and his wife (whom the Nazis later found and killed) to hide under a truckload of clothing from the victims that was being hauled back into Riga.

Among those slain on December 8 was Simon Dubnow, a well known Jewish writer, historian and activist. Dubnow had fled Berlin in 1933 when the Nazis took power, seeking safety in Riga. On December 8, 1941, too ill to be marched to the forest, he was executed in the ghetto. and was buried in a mass grave.

Kaufmann states that after November 30, Professor Dubnow was brought to live with the families of the Jewish policemen at 56 Ludzas Street. On December 8, the brutal Latvian guard overseer Alberts Danskop came to the house and asked Dubnow if he was a member of the policemen's families.

Dubnow said he was not and Danskop forced him out of the house to join one of the columns that was marching past at the time. Uproar broke out in the house and one of the Jewish policemen, whom Kaufmann reports to have been a German who had won the Iron Cross, rushed out to try and save Dubnow, but it was too late.

According to another account, Dubnow's killer was a German who had been a former student. A rumor, which later grew into a legend,started that Dubnow said to the Jews present at the last moments of his life: "If you survive, never forget what is happening here, give evidence, write and rewrite, keep alive each word and each gesture, each cry and each tear!  What is certain is that the SS stole the historian's library and papers and transported them back to the Reich.


December 9 Massacre

Some Jews who were not able-bodied working men were able to escape from the mass actions on November 30 and December 8 and hide in the new "small ghetto". On December 9, 1941, the Nazis began a third massacre, this time in the small ghetto.

They searched through the ghetto while the men were out at work. Whoever they found in hiding was taken out to the Bi?ernieki forest, on the northeast side of Riga, in blue buses borrowed from the Riga municipal authorities, where they were executed and buried in mass graves.

About 500 people were killed in this operation. As with the Rumbula murders, evacuations from the ghetto ceased at 12 noon.


German Jews Replace Latvians in Riga Ghetto

In December, 1941, the Nazis continued issuing directions to Jews in Germany that they were to report to be deported to the East. For most of these people, because of Himmler's change of plan (as shown in his "keine Liquiderung" telephone call) they would get a year or two of life in a ghetto before their turn came to be killed. 

One of the first trains to arrive in Riga was called the "Bielefeld Transport."  Once the German Jews arrived on the Riga transports in December, 1941, they were sent to the ghetto, where they found that the houses had obviously been left in a hurry. The furnishings in the residences were in great disarray and some were stained with blood. Frozen but cooked food was on the tables, and baby carriages with bottles of frozen milk were outside in the snow. 

On one wall a German family found the words written "Mama, farewell." Years later, a German survivor, then a child, remembers being told "Latvians lived here", with no mention they were Jews. Another German survivor, Ruth Foster, recounted what she had heard about the massacre:

We found out later that three days before we arrived, they killed 30,000 Latvian Jews who came into the Ghetto from Riga and the surrounding towns. They herded them into a nearby forest where previously the Russian prisoners of war had dug graves for them, they had to undress completely, leave their clothes in neat order, and then they had to go to the edge of the pits where they were mown down with machine guns. So when we came to the Riga Ghetto, we lived in the houses where those poor people had been driven out and murdered.

Two months later, German Jews arriving in the ghetto were still finding bodies of murdered Latvian Jews in basements and attics.

The Wannsee Conference This document from the Wannsee Conference in February 1942 shows the population of Jews in Latvia (Lettland) down to 3,500.

Rudolf Lange, commander of Einsatzkommando 2 in Latvia, was invited to the infamous Wannsee Conference to give his perspective on the proposed Final Solution to the so-called Jewish question.

The Nazis did not find shootings to be a feasible method of murdering millions of people, in particular because it was observed that even SS troops were uncomfortable about shooting assimilated German Jews as opposed to Ostjuden ("Eastern Jews"). The head of the German civil administration in the Baltic area, Wilhelm Kube, who had no objection to killing Jews in general objected to German Jews, "who come from our own cultural circle", being casually killed by German soldiers.

Later actions at the site For more details on this topic, see Sonderaktion 1005.

In 1943, apparently concerned about leaving evidence behind, Himmler ordered that the bodies at Rumbula be dug up and burned. (Similar actions were taken at Belzec extermination camp in Poland.)

This work was done by a detachment of Jewish slave laborers. Persons travelling on the railway could readily smell the burning corpses. In 2001, the President of the Republic of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who had been a child during World War II, spoke at a 60 year anniversary memorial service about the destruction of the bodies: "We could smell the smoke coming from Rumbula, where corpses were being dug up and burnt to erase the evidence."

Justice Friedrich Jeckeln, standing at left, at his war crimes trial in Riga in early 1946

Some of the Rumbula murderers were brought to justice. Hinrich Lohse and Friedrich Jahnke were prosecuted in West German courts and sentenced to terms of imprisonment. Victors Arajsevaded capture for a long time in West Germany, but was finally sentenced to life imprisonment in 1979. Herberts Cukurs escaped to South America, where he was murdered, it is said by agents of MossadEduard Strauch was convicted in the Einsatzgruppen case and sentenced to death, but he died in prison before the sentence could be carried out. Friedrich Jeckeln was publicly hanged in Riga on February 3, 1946 following a trial before the Soviet authorities.

Esther Shor

Esther Shor was born to Abraham Levin,born in Borisov (Bielarussia)to Matus and Esther Levina in 1888 and Khaya-Rivka Tziser,born to Yosef and Reizl Tziser in1891 in Vishki.

During the war Esther was in the Soviet Army,which saved her from the holocaust.

Her whole family perished in Rumbala forest near Riga on December 8,1941.

-Abraham Levin,her father (age 53)

- Khaya-Rivka Levina,her mother (age 50)

-Yossef Levin,her brother born in Vishkiv (age 26)

-Khaim Levin,her brother born in Vishki (age 20)

-Sika(Yehoshua)Levin,her brother born in Vishki (age 18)

-Liba Levina,her sister born in Vishki (age 10)

and Miriam Lantzberg,her cousin (age 18)

Esther Shor was married to a Kagan.

She was a doctor and worked in a clinic in Riga for 17 years.She then remarried to Ayzik Shor,born in 1916.They had one son, Gregory.

Esther emigrated to the USA in the 1970's.They lived in St Paul Minneapolis(Mn).

Hinrich Lohse

Hinrich Lohse 

(2 September 1896 in MühlenbarbekSchleswig-Holstein – 25 February 1964 in Mühlenbarbek) was a Nazi German politician, best known for his World War II rule of the Baltic states.

On July 17, 1941, after the German occupation of parts of the Soviet Union, Lohse was appointed the "Reichskommissar for the Ostland". Lohse retained his functions in Schleswig-Holstein and shuttled between his two seats of Riga and Kiel.

After taking office, Lohse filled many important posts with likeminded old friends from Schleswig-Holstein. He held this function until he left, or rather fled, theReichskommissariat Ostland in the autumn of 1944. In Schleswig-Holstein, during the time when Nazi Germany was losing power, he still exercised absolute rule as Reich Defence Commissar.

He shared with Adolf Prutzmann many of the responsibilities for the ghettoization of the Jews of Latvia.

Post-war trial and life

On 6 May 1945, owing to British demands, Lohse was unseated as High President of Schleswig-Holstein by Reich President Karl Dönitz. Shortly thereafter, he was seized by the British military.

Lohse was sentenced in 1948 to 10 years in prison, but was released in 1951 due to illness. Two inquiries were launched by prosecutors against him; the grant of a High-Presidential pension which Lohse was fighting for was withdrawn under pressure from the Schleswig-Holstein Landtag. Lohse spent his twilight years in Mühlenbarbek.

  • 2 September 1896~25 February 1964

Viktors Ar?js

Viktors Ar?js 

(13 January 1910 – 13 January 1988)

Was a Latvian collaborator and Nazi SS officer, who took part in the Holocaust during the German occupation of Latvia and Belarus (then called White Russia or White Ruthenia) as the leader of the Ar?js Kommando. The Arajs Kommando murdered about half of Latvia's Jews.

The war between Germany and the Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941. Shortly afterwards, the Red Army abandoned Riga to the advancing Wehrmacht. Ar?js then took over an abandoned police precinct house at 19 Valdem?ra Street. Ar?js's future commanders, Franz Stahlecker and Robert Stieglitz, had with them a Latvian translator, Hans Dressler, whom Ar?js had known in high school and in the Latvian army.

Because of this friendship, Ar?js met the Germans, got on their best side, and gained their trust. Ar?js recruited the core of his troops from his student fraternity and P?rko?krusts. On 4 July 1941, the German leadership turned loose "Security Group Ar?js", generally referred to as the Ar?js Kommando (ar?js means plowman in Latvian) or Special Commando (Sonderkommando) Ar?js.

On the same day, in the German forces Latvian newspaper T?vija (Latvian:Fatherland), appeared a recruiting advertisement: "To all patriotic Latvians, P?rko?krusts members, Students, Officers, Militiamen, and Citizens, who are ready to actively take part in the cleansing of our country of undesirable elements" should enroll themselves at the office of the Security Group at 19 Valdemera Street.

On July 4, Ar?js and his henchmen trapped 500 Jews, who had not been able to take flight before the advancing Germans, in the Riga Synagogue on Gogo?a Street. There they were burnt alive while hand grenades were thrown through the windows. The Ar?js commando consisted of 500–1500 volunteers. The unit murdered approximately 26,000 people, first in Latvia and then in Belarus. Ar?js was promoted to police major in 1942, and in 1943 to SS-SturmbannführerHerberts Cukurs, the former Latvian pilot, was the adjutant to Ar?js.


Until 1949, Ar?js was held in a British internment camp in Germany. After that he worked as a driver for the British armed forces under the British military government in Delmenhorst, then in the British Zone of Occupation. With assistance from the Latvian government-in-exile in London, Ar?js took on the cover name of Victor (Viktors) Zeibots. He worked in Frankfurt am Main as an assistant at a printing company.

On 21 December 1979, Ar?js was found guilty in the State Court of Hamburg (Landgericht Hamburg) of having on December 8, 1941 conducted the Jews of the greater Riga Ghetto to their deaths by the mass shootings in the Rumbula forest. For participation in the murder of 13,000 people, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1988, Ar?js died in solitary confinement in a prison in Kassel.


  • 13 January 1910 – 13 January 1988

Friedrich Jeckeln

Friedrich Jeckeln 

(2 February 1895, HornbergBaden  – 3 February 1946)

Was an SS-Obergruppenführer who served as an SS and Police Leader in the occupiedSoviet Union during World War II. Jeckeln was the commanding SS General over one of the largest collection of Einsatzgruppen and was personally responsible for ordering the deaths of over 100,000 JewsSlavsRoma, and other "undesirables" of the Third Reich.

After being discharged following Germany's defeat, Jeckeln worked as an engineerbefore joining the Nazi Party on October 1, 1929. In December 1930, Jeckeln applied to join the Schutzstaffel (SS) and was accepted as a member the following month. Jeckeln was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer (major) in March 1931 and put in charge of the 1st Sturmbann (Battalion) of the 12th SS-Standarte (Regiment) in the Allgemeine-SS. By the end of 1931, he had been promoted again and was the Standartenführer (colonel) in charge of the 17th SS-Standarte.

Promotions following Nazi rise to power Friedrich Jeckeln in Soviet custody afterWorld War II.

By July 1932, Jeckeln was serving as an SS-Abschnitt (Brigade) commander and had been promoted to the rank of SS-Oberführer. He was also elected as a member of the Reichstag that same year. In January 1933, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, Jeckeln was put in charge of SS Group South. The next month, he was promoted to SS-Gruppenführer (major general). Jeckeln spent the next three years as an SS Group Commander and Political Police Commissioner before being promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer (Lt general) in 1936. He was then made the SS and Police Leader of Western Germany and also served as commander of SS-Oberabschnitt (Division) West.

World War II mass murderer Main articles: Rumbula massacreBabi Yar, and Kamianets-Podilskyi Massacre

When World War II began, Jeckeln was called up to active duty in the Waffen-SS. As was the practice in the SS, Jeckeln took a lower rank from his Allgemeine position and served as an officer in Regiment 2 of the Totenkopf Division. In 1941, however, his front line service was terminated and he was transferred by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to serve as Higher SS and Police Leader (HSSPF) of Eastern Russia. In this role Jeckeln assumed direction and control of all SS-Einsatzgruppen mass executions and anti-partisan operations in his district.

Jeckeln developed his own methods to kill large numbers of people, which became known as the "Jeckeln System". Jeckeln had staff which specialized in each separate part of the process. As applied in the Rumbula massacre on November 30 and December 8, 1941, Jeckeln's system worked as follows:

  1. The Security Police (SD) rousted the people out of their houses in the Riga ghetto.
  2. The people to be murdered (typically Jews) were organized into columns of 500 to 1000 people and driven to the killing grounds about 10 kilometers to the south.
  3. The Order Police (Orpo) led the columns to the killing grounds.
  4. Three pits had already been dug where the killing would be done simultaneously.
  5. The victims were stripped of their clothing and valuables.
  6. The victims were run through a double cordon of guards on the way to the killing pits.
  7. The killers forced the victims to lie face down on the trench floor, or more often, on the bodies of the people who had just been shot.
  8. Each person was shot once in the back of the head with a Russian submachine gun. The shooters either walked among the dead in the trench, killing them from a range of two meters, or stood at the lip of the excavation and shot the prone victims below them. Anyone not killed outright was simply buried alive when the pit was covered up.

This system was called "sardine packing" (Sardinenpackung). It was reported that even some of the experienced Einsatzgruppen killers were horrified by its cruelty. At Rumbula, Jeckeln watched on both days of the massacre as 25,000 people were killed before him. Jeckeln proved to be an effective killer who cared nothing about murdering huge numbers of unarmed and even naked men, women, children, and elderly. One of the three survivors of the Rumbala massacre, Frida Michelson, escaped by pretending to be dead as the victims heaped shoes (later salvaged by Jeckeln's men) upon her:

A mountain of footwear was pressing down on me. My body was numb from cold and immobility. However, I was fully conscious now. The snow under me had melted from the heat of my body. ... Quiet for a while. Then from the direction of the trench a child's cry: 'Mama! Mama! Mamaa!'. A few shots. Quiet. Killed.

On January 27, 1942, Jeckeln was awarded the "War Merit Cross (Kriegsverdienst or KVK) with Swords" for killing 25,000 at Rumbula In February 1945, now a General der Waffen-SS und Polizei, Jeckeln was appointed to command the SS-Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Korps and also served as Commander of Replacement Troops and Higher SS and Police Leader in Southwest Germany.

Execution Friedrich Jeckeln (on left, standing), at his trial for war crimes in Riga, 1946

Upon the war's conclusion, Jeckeln, along with other Nazis who served in the Riga military district, was captured by the Red Army and tried before a Soviet military court in RigaLatvia from January 26, 1946, to February 3, 1946. Jeckeln and the other defendants were found guilty, sentenced to death and hanged at Riga on February 3, 1946.

German Reports

From the interrogation of Hermann K., former member of the staff of the Higher SS and Police Leader "South" Friedrich Jeckeln, September 22, 1964:
Already on the way to the execution site Jeckeln said to L., W., and me that we should get ready. We knew that we were going to an execution. When we arrived, the execution had not yet started. Several execution squads had been formed, each of 4 men.
One of the excution squads consisted of L., W., myself, and a policemen I did not know. We were armed with submachine guns, apparently Czech-made. The site of the execution was cordoned off by police units. The execution squads consisted of policemen and SS-men.

The Jews came in a long procession. I, L., W., and policemen I didn't know were ordered by Jeckeln to move up to one of the graves. Jews were constantly brought to it. Some of them had to lie down, others we killed by a shot in the back of the head while they were standing. There were men, women, and children, but I only shot men. There were no breaks.

I often moved away from the grave when my nerves could not stand it anymore and I tried to shirk this assignment. However, each time I was ordered to return to the grave. In toto I shot for one or two hours. Then we were replaced by a police squad. If you ask me how many Jews I shot there, I cannot tell exactly. Probably 50 or 100, I don't know.

Klaus-Michael Mallmann, Volker Riess, Wolfram Pyta, eds., Deutscher Osten 1939-1945. Die Weltanschauungskrieg in Photos und Texten, Darmstadt, 2003, pp. 86-87.
From the interrogation of Wilhelm W., former member of the 320 Order Police Battalion, January 4, 1961:
The Jews carried their possessions with them, wrapped in blankets. I spoke to some Jews. ... The Jews asked me about the destination of their journey. The Jews were convinced they were going to be resettled. At that time I myself did not know that the Jews were going to be shot.

From talking to the Jews I also thought that, indeed, this was going to be a resettlement. We took the Jews out of the city. We moved about one kilometer or a bit more out of the city. I cannot say today what direction it was. We were going through impassable territory. There we encountered our cordon.

We saw from far away many people standing in that area. From afar we also heard shooting from submachine guns. We took the Jews through the cordon formed by policemen. There were already several thousands Jews on the other side of the cordon. Thereafter, following orders, we reinforced the cordon. ... I still remember that about 6 Jews were kept back for the end of the shooting.

These 6 Jews were ordered by Jeckeln to stand between two bomb craters. Then J[eckeln] made a short speech to us. I remember, I believe, that during his speech he pointed specifically to one Jew, who was wearing a grey suit and who made an particularly respectable impression. In very dramatic manner he referred to this Jew by name and explained accordingly: "Look at this man. He is a typical Jew who must be annihilated so that we Germans can live."

From the Eisnatzgruppen reports
September 11, 1941 
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 80 
Einsatzgruppe C ...in the course of 3 days 23,600 Jews were shot in Kamenets-Podolsk by a Commando of the Higher SS and Police Leader ["South"]...
YVA TR.3/1468 From the report of the Higher SS and Police Leader "South", Friedrich Jeckeln
Wireless report of the High SS and Police Leader "South" Friedrich Jeckeln, August 30, 1941 ...The staff company once again shot 7,000 Jews. Thus, the total number of the Jews liquidated in the operations in Kamenets-Podolsk is around twenty thousand...

  • 2 February 1895~3 February 1946

Transport from the Reich


The transport of Jews scheduled for .12.191141 includes 1007 Jews from the towns of Duisburg, Krefeld, several smaller towns and rural communities of the Rhine- Westphalia industrial district. Dusseldorf was represented by only 19 Jews. The transport was composed of Jews of both sexes and various ages from babies up to the age of sixty- five.

Riga Transport of Jews

The departure of the transport was scheduled for 9.30 hours. The Jews were therefore assembled on the platform by 4.00 hours in readiness for loading. The railway, however, reportedly due to manpower shortage, could not assemble the special train so early, so the loading of the Jews could not be started before about 9.00 hours. Because the railway urged that the train should leave as nearly as possible according to schedule, the loading was undertaken with the greatest haste.

On the way from the slaughter-house to the platform, a male Jew had attempted to suicide by throwing himself under a tram. He was caught on the tray of the tram, however, and only slightly injured. At first he pretended to be dying, but became very lively during the journey once he realised that he could not avoid the fate of evacuation.

Similarly, an elderly Jewess had left the platform unnoticed – it was raining and very dark- taken refuge in a nearby house, taken off her clothes and sat down in a toilet. She was discovered by a woman cleaner, however, so that she could be brought back to the transport. The loading of the Jews was completed at about 10.15 hours. After shunting several times the train then left the goods station of Dusseldorf – Derendorf at about 10.30 in the direction of Wuppertal.

The journey then went according to plan and the train passed through the following towns: Wuppertal, Hagen, Schwerte, Hamm. At about 18.00 hours Hannover-Linden was reached.

At 3.30 hours the train stopped for half an hour at Berlin-Lichterfelde, the train was already 155 minutes behind schedule. The journey was continued via Kuestrin, Kreuz, Schneidemuehl, Firchau.

Just outside Konitz the train broke up because of overloading. A heating pipe was also broken. Improvised repairs were carried out and the train was able to continue its journey to Konitz.  At 12.10 hours the train left Konitz. The journey then continued via Dirschau, Marienburg, Elbing to Koenigsberg Pr. At 1.50 hours it went onto Tilsit.

At 5.15 hours the frontier –station of Laugszargen and 15 minutes later, the Lithuanian station of Tauroggen were reached. From there onwards the journey to Riga should normally have taken only another 14 hours. As a result of the single-line track and the train’s secondary importance in dispatch, there were often long delays at the stations before the train could continue its journey.

At Schaulen Station (1.12 hours), the escort personnel were catered for adequately and well by Red Cross nurses. Barley soup with beef was served. At 19.30 hours Mitau (Latvia) was reached. Here a considerable drop in the temperature was noticeable. It started to snow and frost followed.

Deportation of Jews to Riga

The arrival in Riga took place at 21.50 hours where the train was detained in the station for one and a half hours. Here I ascertained that the Jews were not destined for the Riga Ghetto but were to be accommodated in the Stirotawa Ghetto, 8km north east of Riga.


On 13.12 hours the train, after much shunting up and down the line, reached the military platform on Stirotawa Station. The train remained standing, without heating. The temperature outside was already 12 degrees below zero.


As to the police detachment who were to take command were not present, my men continued to guard the train. The handing- over of the train took place at 1.45 hours, when the guard was taken over by six Lithuanian policemen.

As it was already after midnight, it was dark, and the platform was heavily iced over, the unloading and conveying of the Jews to the assembly ghetto 2km away could not take place before early on Sunday when it got light. My escort party was taken to Riga in two police patrol cars made available by the police detachment, and given overnight accommodation at about 3.00 hours.

I myself received shelter in the guest house of the Higher SS and Police Chief, Petersburger Hof, Am Schlossplatz 4.

Signed: Salitter,  Captain of the Schutzpolizei


  • 12, 19, 1141

Remnants of the Jewish Cemetery in Riga


Gertrude Shneider, a Survivor of the Riga Ghetto.



"Below is a photo of my uncle, Rolf Mozeson, and his classmates at the Rauchvarger Gymnasium in Riga, taken about 1937 or '38. The smiling faces and playfulness of the children is in jarring contrast to the damage that the photograph itself has undergone. This is a symbolic reminder of how many of these children were torn from life a mere three or four years later. This photo was given to me  five years ago by Chaia Volpert, one of the few survivors from this class photo. She and my uncle Rolf were close friends." -- George Mason (Mozeson)


1.      Rosa Blankenfeld – Died in Riga Ghetto.

2.      Tziva Katchtova – Fled Riga as the Nazis approached, returned to Riga after the war.

3.      Tzila Shpringenfeld – Fled Riga as the Nazis approached, returned to Riga after the war.

4.      Reiza Steklova – Died in 1939 from scarlet fever.

5.      Sonya Rabuchina – Fled Riga as the Nazis approached, remained in Russia.

6.     Unidentified

7.      Fillip Glik – Died in Riga Ghetto.

8.      Shimon Kuhlman – His mother was Latvian but his father was Jewish. He and his father and brother were forced into the Ghetto, where they died.

9.      Liba Kocinya – Died in Riga Ghetto.

10.   Riva Munitz – Died in Riga Ghetto.

11.   Polya Shpringenfeld – Fled Riga as the Nazis approached, remained in Russia.

12.   Heinrich Jozefart – Died in Riga Ghetto.

13.   Michael Sominsky – Died in Riga Ghetto.

14.   Isaac Cal – Fled Riga, went to Russia, later shot trying to cross the Russian border in his attempt to get to Israel.

15.   Samuel Model – Died in Riga Ghetto.

16.   Jakob Ratut – Died in Riga Ghetto.

17.   Rolf Mozeson – Arrested by the Gestapo for being a member of the Riga Ghetto Resistance movement. Died in Riga Prison 1943/44?

18.   Paul Kramer – Arrested with his family by the Soviets on June 14, 1940 and sent to Siberia (because his mother was German). Now living in Hamburg, Germany.

19.   Chaia Volpert – Fled from Riga with her family as the Nazis advanced on Riga in 1941. Served as a communications officer in a Soviet Artillery Battery during World War II. Was a lawyer in Riga after the war. Now lives in Israel.

20.   Paul Bourchson – Died in Riga Ghetto.

The Survivors

For Samuel, the war began in 1939, when a bomb fell on his family’s home in Kozienice, Poland. The family was safe, if only momentarily, but they lost everything except for the clothes on their backs. Ultimately, after spending time in the town’s ghetto, Samuel was sent to work in the munitions factory at the labor camp where he first saw Regina.

In 1944, Samuel and Regina were transported to Auschwitz, where they were separated with shouts of “men to the right; women to the left!” As they exited the cattle cars, Regina remembers a man shouting, “‘They’re burning them alive there—don’t go!’ But we didn’t believe him,” she says. “We thought he was crazy. Germans were the most educated people in Europe in those days. How could they do such things?”

After a series of “resettlements,” away from Auschwitz, Samuel was put to work in one of the largest train factories in Germany, where the mechanically-inclined Young man learned to work with sheet metal.

On April 20, 1945—Hitler’s birthday—the Allies bombed the train tracks leading to Berlin. Regina and her fellow prisoners were on a train when several bombs fell on it, splitting open the rail cars and killing hundreds of women. Those who could “ran like little rabbits” into the woods, Regina says.

The women hid for three days with no food or water, until they saw some Russian soldiers who told them to go home—the war was over.

After returning to his hometown in Poland, Samuel learned that Regina was alive and had returned to her hometown of Radom, 35 kilometers away. He arranged for a man with a horse and buggy to bring her back to him. Not until the moment when they could actually reach out their arms and kiss did each finally believe the other was alive.

Poland, however, was still an inhospitable place for Jews, and they decided to leave their birthplace. Regina’s uncle in America was able to sponsor them, and in 1947 the couple eventually made their way to their new home, after first marrying in a displaced persons camp in Bavaria, Germany.

The metal-working skills Samuel learned in the train factory served him well in his new life in the Washington, D.C. region. He quickly found a job in a sheet metal factory and before long was able to start his own sheet metal business in Prince George’s County. He and Regina raised three daughters and have nine grandchildren.

Remarkably, Regina and Samuel Spiegel’s sense of themselves remained intact despite horrific circumstances. “You always lived life as if your mother was right behind you, watching you. We kept the same values—we didn’t turn into the animals they tried to make us,” Regina explains.

“At Auschwitz, it was so easy to kill yourself on the electric fences,” she says. “Instead, we decided, ‘We’ll show you. We’ll stay alive.’ It was so important—if they kill us, Hitler will get away with what he did. We decided to help out one another, to stay alive, like a pledge. Someone has to live to tell the story.”

Susan Strauss Taube, 82
Herman Taube, 90 Bethesda

For Polish-born Herman Taube of Bethesda, the years since World War II have been filled with his efforts to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust. A prominent writer and journalist for 60 years, he is the author of 23 books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He was White House correspondent for the Forward, a Yiddish-language newspaper founded in 1897. He also taught Yiddish and Yiddish literature at the University of Maryland and at American University. Today, at 90, he continues to write, as well as translate documents for the Holocaust Museum.

For Susan Strauss Taube, Herman’s wife of 61 years, the nightmare began on Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”) in November of 1938 in Vacha, Germany. Nazis vandalized the Strauss family’s general store and imprisoned her father in the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. (Her father, a German World War I veteran, was later permitted to leave the camp but was expelled from the country without his family.)

Photo credit: Brian V. Jones


During the war, Susan was conscripted for slave labor, and in 1942, along with her grandmother, mother and sister, was sent to the Riga ghetto in Latvia. Her grandmother and other elderly Jews were immediately taken to the nearby woods and killed. Her mother later perished in the Thorn labor camp in Poland; her sister died at the Stutthof concentration camp, also in Poland.

As voluble and eloquent as Herman is about his wrenching experiences as a medic in the Polish army, Susan is more circumspect and guarded about sharing her painful past. “It’s like pulling a Band-Aid off a wound for her,” Herman explains. As a volunteer at the Holocaust Museum, it is only in recent years that Susan has been able to speak to groups about her early life; after speaking, she often has nightmares.

Herman, who was not sent to labor or concentration camps, was orphaned as a young boy, and was raised in Poland by his grandparents. Looking to subsidize his education, he took a job at a Lodz hospital as an assistant medic. In 1939, he was drafted by the Polish Army and became a field medic. After the Russians invaded, he was sent to Siberia, where he worked in a first aid station with minimal supplies.

After his release from the Polish Army, he ended up in a border town in Uzbekistan close to the Afghanistan border, where he worked in a malaria station for two years, as starving refugees streamed through from all over Europe. When he complained about the lack of medical supplies, he was drafted into the New Polish Army and sent to a city in Russia where he was assigned to an ambulance service. Along the Russian front, his vehicle hit a land mine. The driver and a nurse were killed and Herman was badly wounded. After coming close to having both of his legs amputated, Herman began to recover. He finally was discharged in 1945.

Herman soon learned that of the 230,000 Jews in his Polish hometown of Lodz, only 800 had survived the war. Not knowing what else to do, he returned to his work as a medic, this time helping to open one of the first Red Cross stations for civilians in a part of Poland liberated by the Russians. His first task was to bury piles of bodies to prevent the spread of disease. Next, the living had to be helped, but there was a critical lack of medication.

Herman decided to raid the medical supplies stored in a nearby warehouse. A young German woman offered to come with him; her friend was near death with scarlet fever and needed medicine. With their mission concluded and the sick girl on her way to recovery, Herman said goodbye to the woman who had helped him.

Later, on his way out of the town, he saw the same young woman again, this time standing on the train platform. Unwilling to be sent to Russia, she said to Herman, “Get me out of here.”

He managed to secure an army jeep and, lacking the necessary permit to travel, told guards he was transporting a typhoid case while the young woman pretended to be sick. They later arrived at a displaced persons camp where they lived for a short time before marrying in 1946. Susan was 20, Herman, 28. The couple managed to locate Susan’s father, who had made his way to the United States and was able to sponsor them. They settled in Baltimore in 1947, remaining there for 20 years before moving to Montgomery County. They are the parents of five children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

In his poem titled “Commemoration,” Herman Taube writes, “I am the eyewitness and the victim…I am hunted by voices, calling, Remember Us.”

Rita Lifschitz Rubinstein, 69 Rockville

Rita Rubinstein of Rockville is like a hummingbird: busy, purposeful and nearly always in motion. Since the Holocaust, she has committed her considerable energies to raising a family, teaching, tutoring local Jewish students to read the Torah and participating in a variety of Jewish service organizations. Widowed in 1995, she has three daughters and eight grandchildren, all of whom live near her. Not one to sit still, she spent three weeks this past summer in Israel repairing helmets with other volunteers on a military base. It was her eighth trip to the Holy Land.

Born in 1938—the year of Kristallnacht—in a small town in Romania, she was just 31/2 years old when her world changed. Her father was drafted into the Russian army; he was never seen again. Rubinstein, her mother, several aunts, uncles and cousins were about to be transported by train to a concentration camp. An uncle heard about a nearby labor camp, and by bribing some Romanian soldiers, got the family on a river barge to the camp.

Photo credit: Susan Maldon Stregack


On the boat, soldiers started throwing young children—deemed worthless as laborers—into the water. “I was blond then, and a soldier had mercy on us when he saw the look on my mother’s face,” Rubinstein recalls. “He said to her, ‘I have a little girl just like this at home.’” Rubinstein’s life was spared.

At the Shargarot labor camp in Transnistria, Ukraine, nine family members lived for three years in a one-room mud hut with no running water or bathroom. “I’ll never forget the cold. There was not even an outhouse. We used pails,” Rubinstein remembers. Meals—if they could be called that—consisted of a piece of bread with oil and a potato.

In 1945, they were liberated by the Russians and returned to their hometown, where they were able to retrieve from the attic of their former home a hidden cache of money, photographs and the tallit (prayer shawl) that had belonged to Rubinstein’s father. (Years later, that same tallit was used during the bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs of Rubinstein’s grandchildren.)

It quickly became clear that there was no future for Jews in Romania, so after obtaining falsified papers Rubinstein and her mother traveled in secret for three months until they reached a displaced persons camp in Germany.

At the camp, doctors discovered that Rubinstein, then 9, had tuberculosis and placed her in quarantine for four months. She underwent emergency lung surgery and eventually received antibiotics, which had become available only recently.

After waiting three years in Germany, Rubinstein and her mother finally boarded A U.S. Army transport ship bound for New York. Seasick the entire voyage, the only time they left their bunks was when they went on deck to see the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Mother and daughter both cried at the sight.

They settled in Brooklyn, and Rubinstein eventually attended Brooklyn College at night, earning a degree in education. While working days in a real estate office, she met her future husband,Nathan Rubinstein, who worked as a driver for a local landlord. Nathan was a Polish immigrant who had survived the transports by escaping to Siberia. He was 20; she was 18. They married in 1959 and moved to Prince George’s County in 1960 so that Nathan could work as a teaching assistant at the University of Maryland and continue his studies. He later became a scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The couple settled in Silver Spring, where they remained for 30 years until Nathan’s death from lung cancer. He was 57.

“We had 35 wonderful years together,” Rita says, adding that for these two ‘greenhorns,’ America was truly the land of opportunity.

Writer Lisa Braun-Kenigsberg lives in Potomac.

Rachel Shenker Registration Certificate

Latvian Passport of Blume Krieger

Latvian Passport of Blume Krieger ( nee Jossel) Ite-Bluma (Blume, in
the census for 1897 Bertha), daughter of Jossel, née Jossel from Kelm
( now Lithuania) was born on January 14 of 1873 in Taurogen, Kovno
province (now Lithuania)
Her father: Jossel, son of Hillel Jossel from Kelm was born in ca 1850
in Kelm (aged 47 in 1897, aged 50 in 1900). His occupation –
Her mother: Johanna (Hanna), daughter of Zalel, née Schapir (Schapiro)
was born on July 23 of 1857 in Taurogen According to the 1st All
Russian census for 1897 the family of Jossel, son of Hillel Jossel
lived in Riga at Shkunnaya Street (Šoneru iela) 5, apt. 3

Zila (Tsila) Krieger

Zila (Tsila) Krieger, born on November 28 (Julian claendar,
11 December – Gregorian calendar) of 1899 in Riga. Her occupation –
modiste, she had a hat shop at Valnu Street 3/5.
In 1900 Oscher Krieger, his wife and daughter Zila lived in Riga at
B.Korolevskaya Street 12, apt. 4. In 1900 Ite-Bluma's father Jossel
lived at B.Korolevskaya Street 12, apt. 20.
Since 1913 the family of Oscher Krieger lived in Riga at Grecinieku
Street 28, apt. 3. The house register of Grecinieku Street 28 for the
time period up to 1917 contain
information that since March of 1916 a widow Sora Haimovna (daughter
of Haim) Krieger from Krakinov, aged 80 (born in ca 1836) lived
together with the family of Oscher Krieger (possibly she was mother of
Blume (Ite-Blume) Krieger died on February 15 of 1937 in Riga.
Oscher Krieger died on April 4 of 1939 in Riga.
On November 6 of 1936 in Riga Zila Krieger married to Lithuanian
Citizen Leib, son of Meyer Oschri, born on October 15 of 1893 in
Birzhai. They were deported by the Soviets on June 14 of 1941 from
Grecinieku Street 28, apt. 3.

Oscher Krieger

Latvian passport of Oscher, son of Jossel Krieger. He was born on July
14 of 1870 in Vaskai, Kovno province (now Lithuania). He belonged to
the Jewish community in Krakinov. His occupation – a teacher,
according to the census for 1935 he knew Hebrew language . His
marriage to Blume was registered on January 1 of 1899 (Julian
calendar) in Riga. They had at least three children:
Zila (Tsila) Krieger, born on November 28 of 1899 in Riga. Her
occupation – modiste, she had a hat shop at Valnu Street 3/5.
son Leib (Leo) Krieger, born on June 16 of 1903 in Dubbeln (now
Dubulti, Jurmala),
son Behr Krieger, born on April 30 of 1906 in Riga.

  • July 14 of 1870 ~

Memorial Plaque for the Rose family Sehnde-Bolzum Cemetery

Since 2007,  a memorial plaque for Jewish  citizens who died in the Riga Ghetto can be found in the Jewish cemetery in Sehnde-Bolzum (Pfingstanger). The memorial plaque was donated by the Sehnde Parish and citizens of Sehnde. The inscription reads: “Klara Rose /. 1857-1939 / In commemoration of Siegfried, Thea and Hans-Georg Rose, murdered in the Riga Ghetto”.

In December 1941 the persons mentioned above and many other Jewish citizens were brought to the Riga Ghetto for deportation by the Gestapo. Gerda Wassermann, granddaughter of Klara Rose and daughter of Thea and Siegfried Rose, is one of the few survivors of the Holocaust. Having been a little girl at that time, she was rescued from the Stutthof concentration camp in 1945. Among the victims was also her brother who was shot at 13 years of age.

  • 1857-1939

Lithuanian Authorities Initiate Prosecution Against Another Holocaust Survivor

The Lithuanian ambassador in Washington recently told a Jewish genealogical conference that the investigations against Holocaust Survivors who joined the resistance were “closed”. One questioner wanted to know why, in that case, is there no clear public announcement by a leading official to that effect, as these Holocaust survivors continue to be defamed by prestigious voices in Lithuanian society.

The saga took a bizarre twist this morning in Tel Aviv, when Israeli police, on demand of Lithuanian prosecutors and police, and referring to international police agreements to which both nations are signatories, felt obligated to hold a meeting with 86 year old Holocaust survivor Joseph Melamed, the long-time and widely beloved director of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel. It is the world’s last active Litvak organization.


Attorney Joseph Melamed, a Holocaust survivor, with his Hebrew book ‘Lita’ (Lithuania) in his office at the Association of Lithuanian Jews on King David Boulevard in Tel Aviv

Mr. Melamed is a survivor of the Kovno Ghetto, a veteran of the anti-Nazi partisans in the forests of Lithuania, and of the Israeli War of Independence. A retired Israeli diplomat, he is a prominent Tel Aviv attorney and the author of numerous works about Lithuanian Jewry.

The very friendly Israeli police explained to Mr. Melamed that the Lithuanian police were demanding his extradition on charges not related to (unexplained)  “war crimes” as inthe “investigations” of Dr. Yitzhak Arad of Tel Aviv (born 1926), Vilnius resident Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (1922), and Rechovot resident Dr. Rachel Margolis (1921). Those “investigations” have met with extensive international condemnation.

This time the accusation is of  “libelling national heroes” — nine named Lithuanian militia members who were cited (among many others) for 1941 Holocaust crimes in the January 1999 edition of Crime and Punishment, which Mr. Melamed edited. Back in January 2010, Vilnius prosecutors visited the Jewish Community of Lithuania with similar questions.

Contacted by DefendingHistory.com, Mr. Melamed said today:

“When the journal was published, in January of 1999, I sent all the names of the alleged local killers to the chief prosecutor’s office in Vilnius, asking them to investigate urgently, because time was running out. We were facing the disappearance of witnesses and survivors as well as the remaining perpetrators. They never got back to us about a single name. It is extraordinary that now, in August 2011, when the witnesses and others have died, they have chosen now to use Interpol to try to accuse me. I am not afraid and will fulfill my sacred obligation to our annihilated people, as the elected chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel.”

He added that one of the officers amicably advised him not to go to Lithuania because he would be “arrested immediately” by police.

Some consider it astonishing that the Lithuanian government would launch another campaign against a Holocaust survivor in the midst of its new “Jewish PR” offensive, entailing various schemes to enhance “Jewish Affairs” credentials while pursuing some blatantly antisemitic politics.

The most sensational “Jewish coup” is the recent announcement that the Lithuanian foreign minister would be the “guest of honor” at the Vilna-founded Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York City, at an evening to honor the victims of the Vilna Ghetto.  In Lithuania, public swastikas were legalized in 2010. This was followed in 2011 by the largest-ever neo-Nazi march on the capital’s main boulevard, with a legal permit, the participation of a member of parliament, and of an official of the state-sponsored  Genocide Center.


  • 30 August 2011

Hilde Sherman-Zander

Hilde Sherman-Zander, a German Jewess born in 1923, was deported from Cologne to Riga on 10 December 1941. In her memoirs she recalls an incident taking place at a not further specified date in the summer of 1942: 

“One morning on the way to work, as we crossed the railroad tracks, we found there standing a long train made up of cattle wagons. On the tracks lay small pieces of paper and cardboard, on which were written, ‘Help, we are thirsting to death’ and cries of ‘Water! Water!’ 

From the air apertures, which were barred with barbed wire, we saw hands and lower arms reaching out. Suddenly the unfortunates threw out rings, watches and money in the hope of receiving a mouthful of water in return. We were hastily marched on our way.

In the evening in the ghetto we learned that the clothing from this transport had already arrived in the Ghetto. Only the clothing. Also a couple of prams with baby bottles filled with milk. There was no trace of the people. They were Dutch Jews, deported from Westerboork [correct: Westerbork].

So it continued during the whole of the summer: Every second day large amounts of clothing arrived in the ghetto: bed sheets, shoes, toilet articles. Everything was unloaded in the enormous hall and then sorted. [...] Not once did a single human soul from all the thousands and yet thousands from these transports reach our ghetto. By now we knew where they went: to the Hochwald [i.e. the Bikernieki Forest]. All of them. Without exception. All were shot and buried in mass graves.”[152] 

Similar to Herman Kruk, Sherman-Zander claims that the Dutch deportees were all shot to death in forests in the vicinity of Riga, but this assertion is not based on observations of her own. As mentioned above, the deportation of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz began on 17 July 1942, a fact which fits well with Sherman-Zander’s testimony.


Memorial in Bikerkieku Forest

By Victor Bloomfield on August 7, 2009 10:51 PM

Stones at memorial in Bikerkieku Forest, outside of Riga. The lanes between the stones are named with the cities from which prisoners were transported to the camp.

Friom the web site of the Jewish Community of Latvia:

"The biggest site of mass killing and burial of victims of Nazi terror in Latvia is located in Bi?ernieku Forest. From 1941 till 1944, 35,000 people, including Latvian and Western European Jews, Soviet war prisoners, and the Nazis' political adversaries, were killed here.

To date, 55 mass graves have been found in Bi?ernieku Forest.?The total number of Jewish victims lying in the mass graves of Bi?ernieku Forest is about 20,000.

The first Jewish victims were several thousand men arrested in the first weeks of July, 1941 who were kept in the Central Prison and later brought to Bi?ernieku Forest to be shot.

In 1942 about 12,000 Jews from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia were shot here.

In 1943, Riga Ghetto prisoners who were not transferred to the "Kaizerwald" concentration camp were killed here, followed in the autumn of 1944 by those "Kaizerwald" prisoners no longer able to work."

Riga, During the Holocaust in Photos

The Riga Ghetto

The barbed wire fence of the Riga ghetto in Latvia.





Riga, Lativa… November 1941 – Carolina Taitz and her family survived the first aktion in the Riga ghetto in 1941.  Jews were taken from the ghetto and killed in the Rumbuli forest.  Soon the remaining families, including Carolina's, were ordered to report for transport to a nearby concentration camp.  TheTaitz family quickly realized that they were being taken to the Rumbuli forest, the site of the first massacre.  There was no way out. 

The Germans had just about reached the Taitz family when men on horseback arrived looking for seamstresses.  Several Jews, including Carolina, her mother, and sister stepped aside.  They were taken to the nearby prison and than back to the empty ghetto which was being filled with deported Jews from France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.  Carolina decided she had to escape.  She would try to find her old nursemaid and hide with her.  She had already lost her father and brother in the massacre. 

She dressed as a man and left the ghetto with the work detail one morning.  Once outside the ghetto, she removed the yellow star.  She looked around for a place to hide and found a house with logs piled up for firewood.  She hid between the logs and finally, got the courage to knock on the door.  A man opened it and Carolina told him she had run away from the Riga ghetto and was trying to find her nursemaid.

The man said, “Come in my child.  Last night I had a vision.  God came to me and said, ‘you will save someone who will come to you in need.”’  The man's name was Vladimir Micko and the woman, his sister Olga Kateneva.  The whole family, including Vladimir’s parents accepted Carolina. 

Vladimir dug a bunker beneath the floorboards.  The hole was about 3 feet deep, 6 feet long and 6 feet wide.  Since the Germans had built a garage on his property and were watching his activities, it was extremely difficult to dispose of the dirt he had dug out.  It had to be carried out in small amounts hidden in specially made inner pockets in his clothing. 

Vladimir volunteered to take food to Carolina’s mother and sister in the ghetto.  He went often into the ghetto, sewing on a yellow star in order to gain entry.  The Nazis raided Vladimir’s home several times looking for Jews.  They did not find Carolina.

Carolina remained hidden in the home of the Micko family for three years, until liberation in 1944.  

Vladimir passed away in 1996.  Olga passed away in 2001.

Death Certificate

  • 1943


According to the web site http://www.rumbula.org/remembering_rumbula.shtml ,

"Rumbula Forest, near Riga, Latvia, became the mass murder site and grave of 27,800 Jews from the Riga Ghetto on November 30 and December 8, 1941. ... Only 3 people who arrived at the Rumbula killing site escaped death. "

Bamberg, Germany

 Bamberg is a city in Bavaria.  Jews were present in the town prior to the First Crusade (1096).  The Jewish population reached its peak in 1880 at 1,270 persons (about 4.3% of the total population.  By 1933, the population had declined to about 862 persons and by 1939 had further declined to about 420 persons.  The remaining Jews were ultimately concentrated in a ghetto which was liquidated in 1942, and the remaining 300 Jews were deported to the Riga ghetto.  The synagogue depicted in the postcard below was dedicated in 1910 and burned to the ground during Kristallnacht.

Žanis Lipke.

Risking their own lives

    Propaganda machine of the Hitler’s Germany that came up with a slogan, - Perish Judah! -  achieved its goal. Latvians also were among those implicated in Holocaust crimes. However there were such individuals in Latvia, who risking their own lives, saved others from certain death. One of them was Žanis Lipke. While working in the warehouses     In order to avoid direct collaboration with the German authorities and not to become a weapon in their hands, Lipke entered for and graduated the air protection, fire-fighting and self-defence courses organized by them. Now that he could get about freely in the war-time situation, Lipke got a job in the warehouses of German air force „Luftwaffe”, so called „Red Warehouses”, close by the Riga’s ghetto, but in a year and a half – in a river shipping company as a coast boatswain. While working in the warehouses, Lipke succeeded in talking the German administration into directing there young, strong Jewish men from ghetto as auxiliary workers. 
    From this moment on, Lipke undertakes his mission of saving human lives.  Jewish men clearing away the ruins of buildings in Old Riga. Summer of 1941. Special mark on the clothing of the Riga ghetto inmates. A sign fixed on the barbed wire entanglement surrounding the ghetto, in both German and Latvian: “Those, who will try to climb across the fence or try to communicate with the ghetto internees, will be shot down without warning.” Žanis Lipke’s intention was not only to rescue and hide the Jews so that later on they are left on their own. He managed to psychologically prepare the saved people for life in the long-drawn extreme conditions. Lipke knew about the plans to clean out the ghetto. During two nights in 1941 – on the 30th of November and on the 8th of December, 25 thousand Jews were taken out to Rumbula for fusillade. When the Riga ghetto was liquidated, he organized the rescuing of Jews from „Kaizerwald”, Gan?bu dambis, ??psala concentration camps and from the factory „Lenta“.  Žanis Lipke and his eldest son Alfr?ds in Riga, presumably 1943. Concentration camp „Kaizerwald” located in suburb of Riga- Mežaparks.  Initially Lipke searched Riga for places to accommodate the saved people. When it became too dangerous, he decided to take the fugitives across Daugava to his house in ??psala and to hide them in a specially built underground bunker in a shed. 
    In the period of time from 1942 to 1944, it served as a haven for 8 – 12 people, who were supplied with food, clothing, warmth, light, even radio set and weapons. As soon as the place turned out to be too small to shelter all the saved ones, Lipke organized their transportation 80 km away to the Dobele rural municipality, where, with the help It is known that of his loyal men, he accommodated and hided 36 people. The groups of fugitives in the ??psala bunker gradually changed. Johanna Lipke The underground bunker where the saved Jews were hiding. Zigfr?ds Lipke God chose a man     When God wished to obliterate the conceited and impudent humankind from the face on earth by punishing waters, He chose Noah, who was a righteous man, faultless in his generation, and Noah walked with God (Moses I 6:9) and commanded him to built an immense ark to carry all the beasts, a pair of each kind. Then the floods broke out raging a hundred and fifty days untill waters covered entire land and undid the living beings…  
    God, then, entered with Noah into the first testament, giving rainbow as its sign: by its word, God took upon Himself never to drawn the humankind again in waters, if Noah and his descendants will follow one rule – not shedding the human blood (1st of Moses, 9) - 
Noah gained no immortality, but his mission was fulfilled – to stand for a link between the pre-flood doomed humanity and the true humankind after Noah’s Ark, between pre-history and history. 
    Of Lipke it can also be said that God chose the man, a just and kind one, and commanded him to create a large ark, in which to save the others from destruction. Johanna and Žanis Lipkes together with the saved Jews. Žanis Lipke Werner Holneck – Jew deported from Germany shows the special mark on the „Kaizerwald’s” clothing – a white cross. http://www.lipke.lv/index.php?m=zanis_lipke&s=start&l=en&p=107  “Memorial of Žanis Lipke” Association 2008    © Dd studio 2008

Lipke Family

J?nis (Žanis) Lipke 
    J?nis Lipke, called Žanis (1.02.1900. – 14.05.1987.), was born in Jelgava, died in Riga. Latvian, graduated three classes in the elementary school. Along with the native language, he speaks also Russian and German.     His father J?nis worked as a bookkeeper, fell in the World War I. Mother Paul?na was a housewife, passed away in 1920. From 1919 to 1920 Lipke does his military service in the 2nd artillery battalion of the Latvian riflemen’s 7th division. In 1920 Lipke gets married to his bride - seventeen years old virgin Johanna. She becomes mother of their three children and the most devoted companion in rescuing people during the World War II. In 1938 they rented a small house in Riga, ??psala, not far from the Daugava riverbank. Maz? Balasta street 8 will turn into the most significant hiding place for fugitives.       Lipke is a wharf labourer in the harbour of Riga until the year 1940. He is a physically strong, righteous and honest man. In the summer of 1941, right after the war broke out, Nazi forces occupied the major part of the territory of Latvia and the city of Riga. Propaganda machine of the Hitler’s Germany that came up with a slogan, - Perish Judah! -  achieved its goal. Latvians also were among those implicated in Holocaust crimes. However there were such individuals in Latvia, who risking their own lives, saved others from certain death. One of them was J?nis (Žanis) Lipke.      In order to avoid direct collaboration with the German authorities and not to become a weapon in their hands, Lipke entered for and graduated the air protection, fire-fighting and self-defence courses organized by them. Now that he could get about freely in the war-time situation, Lipke got a job in the warehouses of German air force „Luftwaffe”, so called „Red Warehouses”, close by the Riga’s ghetto, but in a year and a half – in a river shipping company as a coast boatswain. While working in the warehouses, Lipke succeeded in talking the German administration into directing there young, strong Jewish men from ghetto as auxiliary workers. 
    His plan was not only to rescue and hide the Jews so that later on they are left on their own. Lipke managed to psychologically prepare the saved people for life in the long-drawn extreme conditions. He knew about the plans to clean out the ghetto. During two nights in 1941 – on the 30th of November and on the 8th of December, 25 thousand Jews were taken out to Rumbula for fusillade. 
    When the Riga ghetto was liquidated, he organized the rescuing of Jews from „Kaizerwald”, Gan?bu dambis, ??psala concentration camps and from the factory „Lenta” as well. 
    Initially Lipke searched Riga for places to accommodate the saved people. When it became too dangerous, he decided to take the fugitives across Daugava to his house in ??psala and to hide them in a specially built underground bunker in a shed. In the period of time from 1942 to 1944, it served as a haven for 8 – 12 people. They were supplied with food, clothing, warmth, light, even radio set and weapons. As soon as the place turned out to be too small to shelter all the saved ones, Lipke organized their transportation 80 km away to the Dobele rural municipality. He rented a house from the head of the municipality Vilis B?nenfelds and came to terms with two more house owners. They helped to hide the saved Jews in the specially built bunkers and supplied them with food. That was an extremely hazardous operation as it was held out in a war struck area, far from Riga. It is known that with the help of his loyal men, Lipke accommodated and hided 36 people in the Dobele rural municipality. One Jewish woman with her little daughter, one Latvian and a Ukrainian prisoner of war from the Russian army were among them as well. 
    He involved up to 25 (!) assistants in this dangerous mission of saving human lives. There were labourers, drivers, landlords, teenagers, a head of a rural municipality, chief doctor of the Dobele hospital, people of different nationalities and confessions and the Lipke’s family, indeed – wife Johanna and sons Alfr?ds and Zigfr?ds. None of them ever betrayed Žanis Lipke. He was able to develop such a unique rescue mechanism that the major part of the saved ones and all of the other saviours survived. 
    By setting up the Memorial we would like to reveal the personality of a man who is no less important for Latvia than such world known people as the architect Gunar Birkerts, the conductor Mariss Jansons, the ballet-dancer Michail Barishnikov or the film director Sergey Eizenstein. They utter our spirituality and self-awareness; they are the embodiment of our soul and conscience. Žanis and Johanna Lipkes are genuinely among those worth of love, respect and admiration from our people. 

Viktors Jansons Lipke family Lipke family before the World War II. Each of them will have their specific role in the undertaken mission of saving lives of people later on. Behind the Central Market there were „Red Warehouses”, the work place of Žanis Lipke, and close by - Riga ghetto. Vicegerent of Baltic lands and Byelorussia (Ostland) – Himbah Loze announced the guidelines of the Jewish matter on July 27, 1941. In order to ensure superintendence over the Jews, they had to be assembled in some special areas where ghettos should have been established and leaving these territories - prohibited. 
    The place selected for Riga ghetto was the Latgale suburb district. The streets that marked the border of the ghetto were Maskavas, Vitebskas, Ž?du, L?ksnas, Lauvas, Lazdonas, Liel? Kalnu, Kato?u, J?kabpils and L?cpl?ša. Over 7 thousand inhabitants of other nationalities were shifted to the apartments in other parts of Riga. More than 23 thousand Jews living in Riga were ordered to move in the ghetto, so there were 29 thousand Jews altogether.  Entrance gate to the Riga ghetto. AP - guard posts. Entrance gate to the Riga ghetto. AP - guard posts. Statue of Death in the burned down St.Peter Church. Riga, July 1941. Riga’s Panorama. July 1941. Johanna Lipke

  • 1.02.1900. – 14.05.1987

Pine Forest Massacre

Nov 30, 1941 [Picture: Women being shot]

On two days, November 30, and December 8, 1941, 25,000 Jews were murdered in Rumbula Forest. Of them, 24,000 were Latvian Jews from the Riga Ghetto and 1,000 were German Jews transported to the forest by freight train. The systematic mass murder was carried out by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen with the help of the fascist collaborators of the Ar?js commando.

These tens of thousands of Jews were ordered to disrobe in freezing weather to be shot in the back of the head at close range in pits that were mass graves. Two women survived. One of them, Frida Michelson, took advantage of a distraction and fell into the pit, feigning death among the dead bodies. She survived the war to write the book I Survived Rumbula, later translated into English and published by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

  • Nov 30, 1941

Holocaust Survivor, Hid by Adventist Sisters, Has 51-Year Ministry

BY MARK KELLNER, assistant director for news and information of the General Conference Communication Department   

During the Nazi occupation of Riga, Latvia, in 1941, those Jews who had not been taken prisoner were kept in a ghetto. The eyes of the Gestapo¯the Nazi’s secret police¯were especially trained on those believed to be part of the underground resistance.  

A LIFE SAVED:  Issac Kleiman, who joined the Adventist Church after being hidden by two Adventist sisters during the Nazi occupation of Latvia, became a Bible worker in 1955 and is now retired after pastoring seven churches..  

[Photos: Guntis Bukalders/ANN]  Isaac Kleiman, then 17 years of age, was among those targeted.

He was a Jew, the Nazis had killed his family, and he was part of the underground¯an outgrowth of his membership in Betar, a Zionist youth group. His work unit of nine Latvian Jewish men, which helped tend a vegetable garden in Riga, was about to be disbanded, and its members’ fate was contemplated only in a whisper: the Nazis would kill them, too.  

Kleiman devised a plan: he would tell his supervisor that he had to go back to a garden plot and retrieve a coat. Getting permission, he walked to the garden¯and kept on going.   Kleiman, who currently lives in Dobele, 43 miles southwest of Riga, said he arrived at the one-room apartment of a family friend, a Mrs. Viksna, who welcomed him but was unable to help.  

Two neighbors, Seventh-day Adventists sisters Katrin and Eugenia Apog, agreed to let Kleiman and a friend, Benno Bermann, stay for one night only¯the Apogs were already caring for a 3-year-old boy, also Jewish, who’d been entrusted to them by his mother.

But after sending Kleiman and Bermann away, Eugenia prayed for guidance and found a Bible text in Proverbs 24:11, which reads, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.”   The Apog sisters kept Kleiman and the Jewish boy, Joseph Abrahamson, hidden for 14 months, stretching rations meant for two people to provide for three adults and a child.    

LEST WE FORGET: (From left) Valdis Zilgalvis, president of the Adventist Church in the Baltic region; Richard Elofer, president of the church in Israel; and Isaac Kleiman visit the Rumbula memorial in Riga.  

On two days about a week apart in 1941 there, Nazis killed about 26,000 Jews. “There was utter peace in that small place. Perhaps because they believed so strongly in God’s explicit command to them,” Kleiman told author Gertrude Schneider in her 1991 book, The Unfinished Road.  

During that time, Kleiman began reading the New Testament; he also attended, surreptitiously, Adventist worship services, where he felt welcomed. Though well-versed in the Hebrew Scriptures, Kleiman said that by age 15 he had lost his faith; the death of his father when Isaac was about to turn 13, and other crises had hit him hard. But reading of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and His followers made a difference.  

“Little by little I got an idea of a God of love, that He is not only almighty and just but a loving God, a self-sacrificing God, and I could believe in Him,” Kleiman recalled. “I saw these Christian women who were ready to sacrifice themselves for a stranger; they were a picture of the love of Christ.”  

Kleiman was baptized into the Adventist church in 1949. After serving briefly in the Soviet Merchant Marine, he married an Adventist woman in 1953, and in 1955 was invited to serve as a Bible worker and evangelist.   “We had no seminary,” Kleiman said of those days when educational opportunities were limited.

He read German- and Russian-language Adventist books, including the writings of Ellen G. White. He became a preacher, and even though he is officially “retired,” Kleiman presents a sermon to the Dobele congregation “once or twice a month,” when the local pastor is tending to the other congregation in his circuit.  

IN MEMORY:  Isaac kleiman, who escaped massacre by the Nazis, points to a memorial on which the names of his mother and three sisters--all killed during the occupation--are inscribed. Kleiman’s wife shares his retirement. He also has two adult children who are church members and who are parents themselves. He says the last 65 years of his life¯made possible by the sacrifice of two Adventists¯were an “unexpected gift.”  

He says, “I am very satisfied that the Lord has found me and the church has found me, and I am very happy that I could have a hope and a conception of how to live. I am very happy with it!”   Recently, Kleiman was in Riga when Adventist pastor Richard Elofer, president of the church in Israel, visited.

The two walked through Jewish sites in the Latvian capital and paused at the city’s synagogue, which is now a stark reminder of the Nazi occupation.   One stop for Kleiman and Elofer was the memorial at Rumbala, the pine forest in Riga where, on November 30 and on December 8, 1941, Nazi soldiers shot and killed about 25,000 Jews from the Riga ghetto, as well as about 1,000 Jews deported from Germany.

One woman, Frida Michelson, survived by “playing dead” under a pile of corpses, escaping after the Nazis left. Taken in by two Adventist families, the Klebais sisters and the Vilumson family, she was hidden for three years.

After the war, she married and had children, eventually moving to Israel and writing her memoir, in which she credits the Adventists who risked their lives to protect her.   Kleiman, now 82, says he would like to visit Israel, perhaps this year: “I would be very happy to see the Holy Land. I am more interested in the Jerusalem of above, but if it is possible, I [want to] see the Jerusalem of today.”  

  • 1941

Contributor: bgill
Created: December 2, 2011 · Modified: December 3, 2011

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