The Holocaust in Latvia

The Holocaust in Latvia refers to the war crimes committed by Nazi Germany and collaborators victimizing Jews during the occupation of Latvia.

The Holocaust in Latvia
Exhibit presented at the Wannsee (Holocaust planning) Conference on January 20, 1942, showing only 3,500 Jews left alive in Latvia of about 60,000 in the country at the time of the Nazi takeover.
Also known asChurbns Lettlands
Date22 June 1941 to late 1944
Incident typeImprisonment, mass shootings, concentration camps, ghettos, forced labor, starvation, mass kidnapping,
PerpetratorsRudolf Lange, Friedrich Jeckeln, Franz Walter Stahlecker, Viktors Arājs and others
OrganizationsEinsatzgruppen, Ordnungspolizei, Wehrmacht, Arajs Kommando, Latvian Auxiliary Police, Kriegsmarine, and others.
VictimsAbout 66,000 Latvian Jews, 19,000 German, Austrian and Czech Jews, unknown numbers of Lithuanian and Hungarian Jews; unknown but substantial number of Gypsies, Communists, and mentally disabled persons; unknown number of non-Jewish Latvians shot or imprisoned in reprisals and so-called "anti-partisan" activities
MemorialsAt various points in country, including multiple locations in the Riga area

German occupation

WW2-Holocaust-ROstland big legend
Holocaust in Reichskommissariat Ostland (which included Latvia): a map
Dünaburg Juli 1941
Fire damage in Daugavpils, July 1941

The German army crossed the Soviet frontier early morning on Sunday, 22 June 1941, on a broad front from the Baltic Sea to Hungary. The Germans advanced through Lithuania towards Daugavpils and other strategic points in Latvia. The Nazi police state included an organisation called the Security Service (German: Sicherheitsdienst), generally referred to as the SD, and its headquarters in Berlin was known as the National (or Reich) Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt), known by its initials RSHA.[1]

The SD in Latvia

In advance of the invasion, the SD had organised four "Special Assignment Units", which have become known by their German name of Einsatzgruppen. The name of these units was a euphemism, as their real purpose was to kill large numbers of people whom the Nazis regarded as "undesirable". These included Communists, Gypsies, the mentally ill, and especially, Jews. The Einsatzgruppen followed closely behind the German invasion forces, and established a presence in Latvia within days, and sometimes hours, of the occupation of a given area of the country by the German Wehrmacht.[1]

The SD in Latvia can be distinguished in photographs and descriptions by their uniforms. The full black of the Nazi SS was seldom worn; instead, the usual attire was the grey Wehrmacht uniform with black accents.[1] They wore the SD patch on the left sleeve, a yellowish shirt, and the Death's Head (Totenkopf) symbol on their caps. The SD ranks were identical to the SS. The SD did not wear the SS lightning rune symbol on their right collar tabs, but replaced it with either the Totenkopf or the letters "SD".[1]

The SD first established its power in Latvia through Einsatzgruppe A, which was subdivided into units called Einsatzkommandos 1a, 1b, 2 and 3.[1] As the front line moved further east, Einsatzgruppe A moved out of Latvia, remaining in the country only a few weeks, after which its functions were taken over by the "resident" SD, under the authority of the Kommandant der Sicherheitspolizei un SD, generally referred to by the German initials of KdS. The KdS took orders both from RSHA in Berlin and from another official called the Befehlshaber (commander) der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD, or BdS. Both the KdS and the BdS were subordinate to another official called the Ranking (or Higher) SS and Police Commander (Höherer SS-und Polizeiführer), or HPSSF.[1] The lines of authority were overlapping and ambiguous.[2] The eastern part of Latvia, including Daugavpils and the Latgale region, was assigned to Einsatzkommandos 1b (EK 1b) and 3 (EK 3).[1] EK 1b had about 50 to 60 men and was commanded by Erich Ehrlinger.[1]

Murders commence with Nazi invasion

Members of a Latvian self-defence unit assemble a group of Jewish women for execution on a beach near Liepāja, 15 December 1941.

In Latvia, the Holocaust started on the night of 23 to 24 June 1941, when in the Grobiņa cemetery an SD detachment killed six local Jews, including the town chemist.[3] On the following days 35 Jews were exterminated in Durbe, Priekule and Asīte. On June 29 the Nazi invaders started forming the first Latvian SD auxiliary unit in Jelgava. Mārtiņš Vagulāns, member of the Pērkonkrusts organisation, was chosen to head it. In the summer of 1941, 300 men in the unit took part in the extermination of about 2000 Jews in Jelgava and other places in Zemgale.[4] The killing was supervised by the officers of the German SD Rudolf Batz and Alfred Becu, who involved the SS people of the Einsatzgruppe in the action. The main Jelgava Synagogue was burnt down through their joint effort. After the invasion of Riga, Walter Stahlecker, assisted by the members of Pērkonkrusts and other local collaborationists, organised the pogrom of Jews in the capital of Latvia. Viktors Arājs, aged 31 at the time, possible former member of Pērkonkrusts and a member of a student fraternity, was appointed direct executor of the action. He was an idle eternal student who was supported by his wife, a rich shop owner, who was ten years older than he was. Arājs had worked in the Latvian Police for a certain period of time.[5] He stood out with his power-hungry and extreme thinking. The man was well fed, well dressed, and "with his student's hat proudly cocked on one ear".

Arājs commando formed

On 2 July Viktors Arājs started to form his armed unit of men who were responding to the appeal of Pērkonkrusts to take arms and to clear Latvia of Jews and communists. In the beginning the unit mainly included members of different student fraternities. In 1941 altogether about 300 men had applied. The closest assistants of Viktors Arājs included Konstantīns Kaķis, Alfrēds Dikmanis, Boris Kinsler and Herberts Cukurs.[6] On the night of July 3, Arājs Kommando started arresting, beating and robbing the Riga Jews. On 4 July, the choral synagogue at Gogoļa Street was burnt, and thereafter, the synagogues at Maskavas and Stabu Streets. Many Jews were killed during those days, including the refugees from Lithuania. In carts and blue buses the men of Arājs Commando went to different places in Courland, Zemgale and Vidzeme, killing thousands of Jews there.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-765-0596-24, Lettland, deutsche Propagandatafel
"Two Worlds": An anti-communist and anti-semitic propaganda board, Latvia, Summer, 1941.

These killings were supposed to serve as an example to other anti-Semitic supporters of the Nazi invaders. Individual Latvian Selbstschutz units were also involved in the extermination of Jews.[7] In the district of Ilūkste, for instance, Jews were killed by the Selbstschutz death unit of commander Oskars Baltmanis, which consisted of 20 cold-blooded murderers. All killings were supervised by the officers of the German SS and SD. In July 1941 the mass killing of Riga Jews took place in the Biķernieku Forest. About 4,000 people died there. The executions were headed by Sturmbannführers (majors) H. Barth, R. Batz, and the newly appointed chief of the Riga SD Rudolf Lange.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B11441, Libau, Zusammengetriebene Juden
Members of Latvian Auxiliary Police assemble a group of Jews, Liepāja, July, 1941.


As stated by the Latvian historian Andrievs Ezergailis, this was the beginning of "the greatest criminal act in the history of Latvia". From July 1941 the Jews of Latvia were also humiliated in different ways and deprived of the rights that were enjoyed by the other citizens of Latvia. Jews were strictly forbidden to leave their homes in the evening, at night and in the morning. They were allotted lower food rations, they could only shop in some special stores, and they had to wear the mark of recognition – the yellow Star of David on their clothes. It was forbidden for them to attend places where public events took place, including cinemas, athletic fields and parks.[8] They were not allowed to use trains and trams, to go to bath-houses, use pavements, attend libraries and museums or to go to schools, and they had to hand over bicycles and radios. Jewish doctors were only allowed to advise and treat Jews, and they were forbidden to run pharmacies.[9][10] Maximum norms for furniture, clothes and linen were also soon introduced for Jews. All articles above the norm were subject to confiscation for the needs of the Reich. All jewelry, securities, gold and silver coins had to be surrendered on demand. Anti-Semitism thus became the source of enrichment of Nazi officials and their local collaborators who confiscated Jewish property. The extermination of Jews suited the purposes of these Nazis, since nobody would remain alive to demand the return of stolen items.[11]


In Liepāja the first mass killing of Jews took place on July 3 and 4, when about 400 people were shot dead, and on July 8 when 300 Jews were killed. The German group of SD and policemen did the shooting, while the members of Latvian Selbstschutz convoyed victims to the killing site. On July 13 the destroying of the large choral synagogue of Liepāja began. The rolls of the Scripture were spread on the Ugunsdzēsēju Square, and the Jews were forced to march across their sacred things, with watchers merrily laughing at the amusing scene. The above operations took place under the direct leadership of Erhard Grauel, commander of the Einsatzgruppe's Sonderkommando.


Thereafter Grauel went to Ventspils. The killings were jointly carried out by German Ordnungspolizei and the men of the local Selbstschutz. On July 16-July 18, 300 people were shot dead in the Kaziņu Forest. In July–August the remaining 700 Jews of the town were shot dead, while the Jews of the region were killed in the autumn. The shooting was carried out by German, Latvian and Estonian SD men who had arrived by ship. Soon a poster appeared on the Kuldīga-Ventspils highway, which said that Ventspils was Judenfrei (free of Jews).


In Daugavpils the extermination of Jews was initially commanded by Erich Ehrlinger, chief of Einsatzkommando 1b.[12] By July 11 they had killed about 1150 people. Ehrlinger's work was continued by Joachim Hamann, who was liable for the killing of 9012 Jews in the city and in southern Latgale. The chief of the local auxiliary police Roberts Blūzmanis had rendered active assistance by ensuring the moving of the Jews to the Grīva ghetto and transporting them to the killing places.


In Rēzekne killings were carried out by a German SD group, which was helped by Selbstschutz men and Arājs murderers. About 2,500 people were exterminated. By October 1941, altogether about 35,000 Latvian Jews were killed.


Varakļāni, a relatively small town, had about 540 remaining Jews when the Germans gained control. They were shot into graves they were forced to dig on August 4, 1941. The fate of this small town is similar to many other towns, documented by JewishGen and others.[13]

Jungfernhof concentration camp

See Jungfernhof concentration camp


Riga Ghetto

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-N1212-319, Riga, Juden müssen aus dem Fahrdamm gehen.
The Jews with Yellow badges, Riga, 1942.
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-N1212-326, Riga, Judenghetto
Riga ghetto, 1942
Bundesarchiv Bild 101III-Duerr-056-04A, Lettland, KZ Salaspils, jüdische Häftlinge
Jewish prisoners in Salaspils concentration camp
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B23740, Lettland, Freijäger im Einsatz gegen Partisanen
An Anti-partisan operation, March 1943.

On July 27, 1941, State Commissar (Reichskommissar) Hinrich Lohse (earlier Gauleiter of Schleswig-Holstein), ruler of the Baltic lands and Belarus or Ostland as the territory was called by the invaders – made his guidelines on Jewish question public. Jews, in his opinion, had to be used as a cheap labour force by paying them minimum wages or by providing them with a minimum food ration – with whatever may be left over after supplying the indigenous Aryan population. In order to govern the Jews they had to be moved to special areas where ghettos would be arranged and they would be forbidden to leave the area. Walter Stahlecker protested against the idea of Hinrich Lohse and demanded that the extermination of the Jews be continued. Berlin, however, passed the power to the civil administration of occupation force and it did things its own way. The area of the Latgale suburbs in Riga was chosen for the Riga Ghetto.[14] It was mainly inhabited by poor people: Jews, Russians and Belarusians. The ghetto bordered on Maskavas, Vitebskas, Ebreju (Jewish), Līksnas, Lauvas, Lazdonas, Lielā Kalnu, Katoļu, Jēkabpils and Lāčplēša Streets. About 7000 non-Jews were moved from there to other flats in Riga. More than 23,000 Riga Jews were ordered to move to the territory of the ghetto. There now were more than 29,000 inmates in the ghetto, including those who had already previously resided there. The Jewish Council was formed within the ghetto, which was assigned the task of regulating social life. The Jewish police force for the maintenance of order formed there. It consisted of 80 men armed with sticks and rubber truncheons. The ghetto was enclosed by a barbed-wire fence. Wooden barriers (logs) were placed on the main streets at the entrance, and the Latvian police were stationed as guards there. Jews were allowed to leave the ghetto only in work columns and in the accompaniment of guards. Individual Jewish specialists could come and go by displaying a special yellow ID. Leaving independently was severely punished.[15]

In the ghetto the Jews were very crowded: 3-4 square metres were allotted per person. There was also great poverty, as food rations were given only to those who worked, i.e. to about a half of the ghetto inmates. They had to maintain their 5,652 children and 8,300 elderly and disabled people. The ghetto only had 16 groceries, a pharmacy and a laundry, and a hospital was arranged, which was headed by Professor Vladimir Mintz, a surgeon. The Council of the ghetto was situated in the former Jewish school building at 141 Lāčplēša Street. The historian Marģers Vestermanis writes: "The members of the Jewish Council, including the lawyers D. Elyashev, M. Mintz and Iliya Yevelson, and their volunteer assistants did all they could to somehow relieve general suffering." [16] Jewish policemen, too, tried to somehow protect their fellowmen. The inmates strived to preserve themselves, and there was even an illusion of survival. A resistance group was formed that bought weapons.[17]

Daugavpils ghetto

The Daugavpils Ghetto was set up in Grīva at the end of July, 1941, when all surviving Jews in the city were moved there. Jews from other towns and villages of Latgale and even Vidzeme were also brought there. Altogether the ghetto had about 15,000 prisoners. The engineer Misha Movshenson ran the Council of the ghetto. His father had headed the city of Daugavpils in 1918 during the previous period of German occupation.[12]

Gypsy Holocaust in Latvia

Less is known about the Holocaust of the Romani people (called "Gypsy" in English and Ziguener in German) than for other groups.[18] Most of the available information about the persecution of the Gypsies in Nazi-occupied eastern Europe comes from Latvia.[19] According to Latvia's 1935 census, 3,839 Gypsies lived in the country, the largest population of any of the Baltic States. Many of them did not travel about the country, but lived settled, or "sedentary" lives.[19]

On December 4, 1941, Hinrich Lohse issued a decree which stated:

Gypsies who wander about in the countryside represent a two-fold danger.

1. As carriers of contagious diseases, especially typhus; 2. As unreliable elements who neither obey the regulations issued by German authorities, nor are willing to do useful work.

There exists well-founded suspicion that they provide intelligence to the enemy and thus damage the German cause. I therefore order that they are to be treated as Jews.[19]

Although Lohse's name was on the order, it was actually issued at the behest of Bruno Jedicke,[20] the Ordnungspolizei chief in the Baltic States. Jedicke in turn was subordinate to Friedrich Jeckeln, the senior SS man in the Baltic States and Belarus.[21]

Gypsies were also forbidden to live along the coast. Historian Lewy believes this restriction may have occasioned the first large killing of Gypsies in Latvia. On December 5, 1941, the Latvian police in Liepāja arrested 103 Gypsies (24 men, 31 women, and 48 children). Of these people, the Latvian police turned over 100 to the custody of the German police chief Fritz Dietrich "for follow up" (zu weiteren Veranlassung), a Nazi euphemism for murder.[19] On December 5, 1941, all 100 were all killed near Frauenburg.[19]

On January 12, 1942, Jedicke distributed Lohse's order of December 4, 1941, ordering his subordinates that in all cases, they were to make sure to implement the necessary "follow up."[21] By May 18, 1942 the German police and SS commander in Liepāja indicated in a log that over a previous unspecified period, 174 Gypsies had been killed by shooting.[21] The German policy on Gypsies varied. In general, it seemed that wandering or "itinerate" Gypsies (vagabundierende Zigeuner) were targeted, as opposed to the non-wandering, or "sedentary" population. Thus, on May 21, 1942, the SS commander in Liepāja police and SS commander recorded the execution of 16 itinerate Gypsies from the Hasenputh district.[21] The documentation however does not always distinguish between different Gypsy groups, thus on April 24, 1942, EK A reported having killed 1,272 people, including 71 Gypsies, with no further description.[21] In addition, the Nazi policy shifted back and forth as to how the Gypsies were to be treated, and the treatment of any particular group of Gypsies did not necessarily reflect what might appear to have been the official policy of the moment.[22]

Like the Jews, the killing of the Gypsies proceeded through Latvia's smaller towns, and with the aid of Latvians. The Arājs Commando was reported to have killed many Gypsies between July and September 1941.[19] In April, 1942, 50 Gypsies, mostly women and small children, were assembled at the jail in Valmiera, then taken out and shot.[21] Other massacres were reported at Bauska and Tukums.[21]

It is not known how many of Latvia's Gypsies were killed by the Nazis and their Latvian collaborators.[23] Professor Ezergailis estimated that one-half of the Gypsy population was killed, but there will probably never be a more definite number.[24]


Some of the Rumbula murderers were captured after the fact.

  • Hinrich Lohse was a member of a Nazi class that "was to receive surprisingly light treatment" at the Nuremberg trials.[25] In Lohse's case, apparently because the British authorities believed him to have been innocent of the Nazi crimes in the Baltic states, he was handed over to a West German "denazification" court. Sentenced to the maximum of 10 years, Lohse was released early in 1951 "on the familiar grounds of ill health."[26][Died 1964]
  • Victors Arajs was charged in a British court with war crimes, but was released in 1948, and afterwards hid out in West Germany for many years; although he was still a wanted war criminal, he found work as a driver for a British military unit in the western occupation zone.[26] Eventually Arajs was caught, and, in 1979, tried and convicted of murder in a West German court.[26][27][28][Died 1988]]
  • Friedrich Jahnke, a Nazi policeman who had been instrumental in setting up the Riga Ghetto and organizing the march out to the pits, was likewise apprehended and tried in West Germany in the 1970s.[29]
  • Herberts Cukurs escaped to South America, where he was later murdered. It is said that he was assassinated by Mossad agents, who attracted him from Brazil to Uruguay under a fake intention of starting an aviation business,[30] after it was found out that he would not stand trial for his alleged participation in the Holocaust.[31]
  • Eduard Strauch, SS Lieutenant Colonel, commanded a subunit of the Rumbula killers called "Einsatzkommando 2.".[32] Despite an effort to sham mental illness, he was convicted by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal in the Einsatzgruppen trial for having a key role in the Rumbula and a number of other mass murders in Eastern Europe. On April 9, 1948, Presiding judge Michael Musmanno pronounced the tribunal's sentence on Strauch: "Defendant EDUARD STRAUCH, on the counts of the indictment on which you have been convicted, the Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging."[33] Unlike his co-defendants Otto Ohlendorf and Paul Blobel, Strauch did not hang. Instead, he was handed over to authorities in Belgium, where he had committed other crimes, for trial. He died in Belgian custody on September 11, 1955.[34][35]
  • Friedrich Jeckeln came into Soviet custody after the war. He was interrogated, tried, convicted and hanged in Riga on February 3, 1946. Against popular misconception, the execution did not happen in the territory of the former Riga ghetto, but in Victory Square (Uzvaras laukums).[36]
  • Fritz Dietrich (Nazi) was tried in the Dachau Trials and hanged in 1948 for killing POWS

Historiography and memorials

Soviet period

After the Second World War, the Soviet Union again occupied Latvia, this time from 1944 to 1991. It did not suit Soviet purposes to memorialize the Rumbula site or to acknowledge that the victims were Jewish. Until 1960 nothing was done to preserve or memorialize the killing grounds. In 1961 young Jews from Riga searched for the site and found charred bones and other evidence of the murders. In 1962 the Soviets staged an officially sanctioned memorial service at Bikernieki (another murder site) which made no mention of the Jews but spoke only of "Nazi victims". In 1963 groups of young Jews from Riga came out to Rumbula weekly and cleaned up and restored the site using shovels, wheelbarrows and other hand tools.[37] The site has been marked by a series of makeshift memorials over the years. Throughout the Soviet domination of Latvia the Soviets refused to allow any memorial which would specifically identify the victims as Jews.

The Soviet Union suppressed research into and memorials of the Holocaust in Latvia until 1991, when Soviet rule over Latvia ended.[38] In one case a memorial at Rumbula of which the authorities did not approve was simply hauled away in the middle of the night, with no explanation given. Occasional references were made to the Holocaust in literature during the Soviet era. A folkloric figure called "žīdu šāvējs" (Jew shooter) turned up in stories on occasion. The poet Ojārs Vācietis often referred to the Holocaust in his work, including in particular his well-regarded poem "Rumbula", written in the early 1960s.[39] One notable survivor of the Latvian Holocaust was Michael Genchik, who escaped from Latvia and joined the Red Army, where he served for 30 years. His family was killed at Rumbula. Many years later he recalled:

In later years the officials held memorial services every year in November or December. There were speeches reminding of the atrocities of the Nazis. But saying kaddish was forbidden. Once after the official part of the meeting, Jews tried to say Kaddish and tell a little about the ghetto, but the police didn't permit to do so. Until 1972, when I retired from the army, I did my best to keep the place neat.[37]

Independent Latvia

In Latvia, Holocaust scholarship could only be resumed once Soviet rule had ended.[40] Much of the post-1991 work was devoted to identification of the victims.[41] This was complicated by the passage of time and the loss of some records and the concealment of others by the NKVD and its successor agencies of the Soviet secret police.[41]

On November 29, 2002, sixty-one years after the murders, the highest officials of the Republic of Latvia, together with representatives of the Latvian Jewish community, foreign ambassadors, and others attended a memorial dedication at the Rumbula site. The President and the Prime Minister of the Republic walked to the forest from where the Riga ghetto had been. Once they arrived, President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga addressed the gathering:

The Holocaust, in its many forms, has painfully struck Latvia. Here in Rumbula where the earthly remains of Latvia's Jews rest, we have come to honour and remember them. I wish therefore to extend a special greeting to the representatives of Latvia's Jewish community for whom this is special day of mourning, all the more so since here lie their loved ones, relatives, and members of their faith. * * *

This is an atrocious act of violence, an atrocious massacre. And it is our duty, the duty of those of us who have survived, to pass on the commemoration of these innocent victims to future generations, to remember with compassion, sorrow and reverence. Our duty is to teach our children and children's children about it, our duty is to seek out the survivors and record their recollections, but, above all, our duty is to see that this will never happen again.[42]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, at page 245.
  2. ^ Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, at page 253
  3. ^ Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, at page 211
  4. ^ "Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its Consequences". Archived from the original on January 31, 2004. Retrieved 2013-08-17.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  5. ^ "Mark Aarons, Fingering the SS". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Latvia & Lithuania: Viktors Arajs and the guy Klimatis • Axis History Forum". Axis History Forum. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  7. ^ "What bloody Aizsargi?". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Timeline". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Lita (Lithuania) Pages 89-118". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  10. ^ "History of Jews in Bukowina [Volume II, pages 167-178]". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  11. ^ ALEXANDER DONAT (18 March 1963). "THE HOLOCAUST KINGDOM AMEMOIR". HOLT, RINEHART AND WINSTON. Retrieved 18 March 2018 – via Internet Archive.
  12. ^ a b Seligman, Jon. "The Holocaust in Kraslava". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Latvia SIG - Varaklani". Retrieved 2017-01-11.
  14. ^ "Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jews in Latvia". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  15. ^ "This Day ... In Jewish History". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  16. ^ Vestermanis M. Juden in Riga. Ein historischer Wegweiser. Bremen, 1996, S. 29.
  17. ^ Latvia's Jewish Community: History, Tragedy, Revival Archived 2009-05-11 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Niewyk, The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, at 47.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies, at page 123.
  20. ^ Some sources give the name Georg Jedicke.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies, at page 124.
  22. ^ Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies, at pages 125 to 126.
  23. ^ "Hancock, "Genocide of the Roma"". Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved 2010-12-08.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  24. ^ Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, at page 100, n.5
  25. ^ Bloxham, Genocide on Trial, at page 198
  26. ^ a b c Bloxham, Genocide on Trial, at pages 197-199
  27. ^ Schneider, Unfinished Road
  28. ^ Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution, at 93n: "After 199 days of court proceedings, on 21 December 1979, the Hamburg assize court condemned the former SS-Sturmbahnführer of the Latvian Legion and former Police Major Viktor Arajs to a life term in prison. Arajs had been living in an underground existence in Frankfurt for twenty-five years after the war under a false name and was arrested in 1975."
  29. ^ Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, at pages 16 and 245-248
  30. ^ Kuenzle, Anton and Shimron, Gad, The Execution of the Hangman of Riga: The Only Execution of a Nazi War Criminal by the Mossad, Valentine Mitchell, London 2004 ISBN 0-85303-525-3
  31. ^ "Home - Simon Wiesenthal Center". Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  32. ^ Einsatzgruppen judgment, at 563-567
  33. ^ Einsatzgruppen judgment, at 589
  34. ^ Eduard Strauch (German wikipedia)
  35. ^ ‹See Tfd›(in Italian)Eduard Strauch, biography and photo at
  36. ^ Edelheit, History of the Holocaust, at page 340: Jeckeln was " ... responsible for the murder of Jews and Communist Party officials ... convicted and hanged in the former ghetto of Riga on February 3, 1946.
  37. ^ a b Statement of Michael Genchik
  38. ^ Ezergailis, in World Reacts to the Holocaust, at 354-88, provides a comprehensive guide to the Soviet historiographical treatment of the Holocaust in Latvia.
  39. ^ Ezergailis, in World Reacts to the Holocaust, at 373-374
  40. ^ According to the Latvia Institute (an agency of the Republic of Latvia): "There was no Holocaust research during Soviet rule in Latvia (1944–91). The victims of the Holocaust were subsumed under the rubric 'Nazi murder of peaceful Soviet citizens,' usually with unsubstantiated and highly inflated numbers. Research in the West was mainly based on accounts of survivors and court cases against Nazi criminals. Only after regaining independence in 1991, could Latvian historians begin to assess the situation and make use of documentation available locally."
  41. ^ a b Anders and Dubrovskis
  42. ^ Republic of Latvia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rumbula memorial unveiled, December 2002



War crimes trials and evidence

Further reading

  • Hancock, Ian "Downplaying the Porrajmos: The Trend to Minimize the Romani Holocaust—A review of Guenther Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies on-line edition (criticizing Guenter Lewy's treatment of the Gypsy holocaust)
  • Margalit, Gilad, Germany and its gypsies—A Post-Auschwitz Ordeal Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press2002 ISBN 0-299-17670-3
  • Fings, Karola; Kenrick, Donald; Heuss, Herbert; and Sparing, Frank, The Gypsies during the Second World War, Hatfield, Hertfordshire : Gypsy Research Centre, University of Hertfordshire Press, 1997 ISBN 0-900458-78-X

External links

Andrew Ezergailis

Andrew (Andrievs) Ezergailis (born 10 December 1930 in Viesīte Municipality) is a retired Professor of History, Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, United States, known for his research into the 20th-century history of Latvia, particularly of the 1917 Revolution and the Holocaust in Latvia.In August 2007, Ezergailis was awarded the Cross of the Order of the Three Stars, one of the highest honors of Latvia, for his contributions to understanding the history of the country.

Andrew was married to Inta Ezergailis, a retired professor of German Literature at Cornell University.

Arajs Kommando

The Arajs Kommando (also: Sonderkommando Arajs), led by SS commander and Nazi collaborator Viktors Arājs, was a unit of Latvian Auxiliary Police (German: Lettische Hilfspolizei) subordinated to the German Sicherheitsdienst (SD). It was a notorious killing unit during the Holocaust.

Bikernieki Memorial

Bikernieki Memorial (Latvian: Biķernieku memoriāls) is a war memorial to The Holocaust victims of World War II in Bikernieki forest (Latvian: Biķernieku mežs), near Riga, Latvia. Bikernieki forest is the biggest mass murder site during The Holocaust in Latvia with two memorial territories spanning over 80,000 square metres (860,000 sq ft) with 55 marked burial sites with around 20,000 victims still buried in total.

The memorial was initially planned and construction started in 1986, but was delayed after Latvia declared independence in 1991. The construction was revived in 2000 by German War Graves Commission with the help of local Latvian organisations and several German cities. It was financed mostly by German government and organisations, Austrian State Fund, and involved city donations. It was designed by Sergey Rizh and opened on November 30, 2001.

Blue Police

The Blue Police (Polish: Granatowa policja, lit. Navy-blue police) was the police during the Second World War in German-occupied Poland (the General Government). The entity's official German name was Polnische Polizei im Generalgouvernement (Polish Police of the General Government; Polish: Policja Polska Generalnego Gubernatorstwa).

The Blue Police officially came into being on 30 October 1939 when Germany drafted Poland's prewar state police officers (Policja Państwowa), organizing local units with German leadership. It was an auxiliary institution tasked with protecting public safety and order in the General Government. The Blue Police, initially employed purely to deal with ordinary criminality, was later also used to counter smuggling, which was an essential element of German-occupied Poland's underground economy.The organization was officially dissolved and declared disbanded by the Polish Committee of National Liberation on August 27, 1944. After a review process, a number of its former members joined the new national policing structure, the Milicja Obywatelska (Citizens' Militia). Others were persecuted after 1949 under Stalinism.

Daugavpils Ghetto

Following the occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany in the summer of 1941, the Daugavpils Ghetto (German: Ghetto Dünaburg) was established in an old fortress near Daugavpils. Daugavpils is the second largest city in Latvia and the principal city of the Latgalia region. Daugavpils was located in southeastern Latvia on the Daugava River. The city was militarily important as a major road and railway junction. Before World War II, Daugavpils was the center of a thriving Jewish community in the Latgale region and one of the most important centers of Jewish culture in eastern Europe. Over the course of the German occupation of Latvia, the vast majority of the Jews of Latgale were killed as a result of the Nazi extermination policy.

Einsatzgruppen reports

The Einsatzgruppen Operational Situation Reports (OSRs), or ERM for the German: Die Ereignismeldung UdSSR (plural: Ereignismeldungen), were dispatches of the Nazi death squads (Einsatzgruppen), which documented the progress of the Holocaust behind the German-Soviet frontier in the course of Operation Barbarossa, during World War II. The extant reports were sent between June 1941 and April 1942 to the Chief of the Security Police and the SD (German: Chef des Sicherheitspolizei und SD) in Berlin, from the occupied eastern territories including modern-day Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, and the Baltic Countries. During the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials the originals were grouped according to year and month and catalogued using a consecutive numbering system, as listed in the below table. The original photostats are held at the National Archives in Washington D.C..


During World War II, the Nazi German Einsatzkommandos were a sub-group of five Einsatzgruppen mobile killing squads (term used by Holocaust historians) – up to 3,000 men total – usually composed of 500–1,000 functionaries of the SS and Gestapo, whose mission was to exterminate Jews, Polish intellectuals, Romani, homosexuals, communists and the NKVD collaborators in the captured territories often far behind the advancing German front. After the outbreak of war with the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa, the Red Army began to retreat so rapidly that the large Einsatzgruppen had to be split into dozens of smaller commandos (Einsatzkommandos), responsible for systematically killing Jews and, among others, alleged Soviet partisans behind the Wehrmacht lines. After the war several Einsatzkommando officers were tried, in the Einsatzgruppen trial, convicted of war crimes and hanged.

As a military term, the German Einsatzkommando (Operational Command) is roughly equivalent to the English task force and is still in use for German paramilitary organizations, such as SEK and Einsatzkommando Cobra.

Else Hirsch

Else Hirsch (29 July 1889 – 1942 or 1943) was a Jewish teacher in Bochum, Germany, and a member of the German Resistance against the Third Reich. She organized transports of Jewish children to the Netherlands and England, saving them from Nazi deportation to concentration camps and death. Hirsch perished in the Riga Ghetto, at the age of 53 or 54.

Extraordinary State Commission

The Extraordinary State Commission was a Soviet government agency formed by the Council of People's Commissars on 2 November 1942, by a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. It was tasked with investigating World War II crimes against the Soviet Union and collecting documentation which would confirm material losses caused by Nazi Germany. Some of the reports prepared by the Commission grossly exaggerated Nazi crimes for propaganda purposes, and are now considered erroneous, or outright fabrications.The Extraordinary State Commission was tasked with compensating the state for damages suffered by the Soviet Union because of the war. This specific aim of the agency is usually referred to by historians as the work of the Trophy Commission which led the trophy brigades behind the frontline. The plunder of artwork was directed by Igor Grabar of the Bureau of Experts. The commission became instrumental in the removal of industrial installations, materials, and valuables from all Soviet-occupied territories during the Vistula–Oder Offensive of the Red Army including Hungary, Romania, Finland and Poland (within its prewar borders), and later, from the Soviet Zone of Germany. The commission's Arts Committee headed by Andrei Konstantinov was in charge of the registration and Soviet distribution of trophy artworks beginning June 1945. The transports included valuables stolen by Nazi Germany from as far as Latvia and Italy, appropriated by the Soviets.

Frida Michelson

Frida Michelson (Latvian: Frīda Mihelsone, née Fride; 1906–1982) was a Latvian Jew and Holocaust survivor. She is known for her memoirs “I survived Rumbula” which records the Holocaust in Latvia, her life in the Riga Ghetto and how she managed to survive the massacre in Rumbula forest. She was one of only two survivors.

Generalplan Ost

The Generalplan Ost (German pronunciation: [ɡenəˈʁaːlˌplaːn ˈɔst]; English: Master Plan for the East), abbreviated as GPO, was the Nazi German government's plan for the genocide and ethnic cleansing on a vast scale, and colonization of Central and Eastern Europe. It was to be undertaken in territories occupied by Germany during World War II. The plan was partially realized during the war, resulting directly and indirectly in the deaths of around 9.4 to 11.4 million ethnic Slavs by starvation, disease, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, or extermination through labor, including about 4.5 million Soviet citizens, 2.8 to 3.3 million Soviet POWs,1.8 to 3 million Poles, 300 to 600 thousand Serbs and 20 to 25 thousand Slovenes. Its full implementation, however, was not considered practicable during the major military operations, and was prevented by Germany's defeat.The plan entailed the enslavement, forced displacement, and mass murder of most Slavic peoples (and substantial parts of the Baltic peoples, especially Lithuanians and Latgalians) in Europe along with planned destruction of their nations, whom the Nazis viewed as racially inferior in accordance to their racial theories. The program operational guidelines were based on the policy of Lebensraum designed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in fulfilment of the Drang nach Osten (drive to the East) ideology of German expansionism. As such, it was intended to be a part of the New Order in Europe.The master plan was a work in progress. There are four known versions of it, developed as time went on. After the invasion of Poland, the original blueprint for Generalplan Ost (GPO) was discussed by the RKFDV in mid-1940 during the Nazi–Soviet population transfers. The second known version of GPO was procured by the RSHA from Erhard Wetzel in April 1942. The third version was officially dated June 1942. The final settlement master plan for the East came in from the RKFDV on October 29, 1942. However, after the German defeat at Stalingrad planning of the colonization in the East was suspended, and the program was gradually abandoned.

Jelgava massacres

The Jelgava massacres were the killing of the Jewish population of the city of Jelgava, Latvia that occurred in the second half of July or in early August 1941. The murders were carried out by German police units under the command of Alfred Becu, with a significant contribution by Latvian auxiliary police organized by Mārtiņš Vagulāns.

Joseph Carlebach

Joseph Hirsch (Tzvi) Carlebach (January 30, 1883, Lübeck, German Empire – March 26, 1942, Biķerniecki forest, near Riga, Latvia) was an Orthodox rabbi and Jewish-German scholar and natural scientist (Naturwissenschaftler).

Jäger Report

The so-called Jäger Report, also Jaeger Report (full title: Complete tabulation of executions carried out in the Einsatzkommando 3 zone up to December 1, 1941) was written on 1 December 1941 by Karl Jäger, commander of Einsatzkommando 3 (EK 3), a killing unit of Einsatzgruppe A which was attached to Army Group North during the Operation Barbarossa. It is the most detailed and precise surviving chronicle of the activities of one individual Einsatzkommando, and a key record documenting the Holocaust in Lithuania as well as in Latvia and Belarus.

Latvian Auxiliary Police

Latvian Auxiliary Police was a paramilitary force created from Latvian volunteers by the Nazi German authorities who occupied the country in June 1941. It was part of the Schutzmannschaft (Shuma), native police forces organized by the Germans in occupied territories and subordinated to the Order Police (Ordnungspolizei; Orpo). Some units of the Latvian auxiliary police were involved in the Holocaust. One of its units, the Arajs Kommando, was notorious for killing 26,000 civilians during the war, mostly Jews, but also Communists and Romas.In addition to regular stationary police (patrolmen in cities and towns), 30 Police Battalions were formed. These mobile groups carried out guard duties of strategic objects or building fortifications, participated in anti-partisan operations and fought on the Eastern Front.

Police Regiment North

The Police Regiment North (Polizei-Regiment Nord) was a police formation under the command of the SS of Nazi Germany. During Operation Barbarossa, it was deployed in German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union, in the Army Group North Rear Area.The Police Regiment Centre was formed in June 1941 by combining three Order Police (Orpo) Battalions and associated units. The regiment was subordinated to Hans-Adolf Prützmann, the Higher SS and Police Leader (HSS-PF) for Army Group North.Alongside the Einsatzgruppen detachments, it perpetrated mass murder in the Holocaust. The information on the scope of the unit's activities remains limited as, in contrast to the Police Regiment Centre and South, the 1941 reports of the unit were not intercepted by the British intelligence. Prützmann's command experienced communications difficulties during the summer of 1941. Then starting on September 12, the HSS-PF were instructed to not transmit their reports over the radio. Thus, none of its reports were decrypted as part of the operation Ultra, the British signals intelligence program.

Rollkommando Hamann

Rollkommando Hamann (Lithuanian: skrajojantis būrys) was a small mobile unit that committed mass murders of Lithuanian Jews in the countryside in July–October 1941, with a death toll of at least 60,000 Jews. The unit was also responsible for a large number of murders in Latvia from July through August, 1941. At the end of 1941 the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry was effectively accomplished by the Rollkommando in the countryside, by the Ypatingasis būrys in the Ponary massacre, and by the Tautinio Darbo Apsaugos Batalionas in the Ninth Fort in Kaunas. In about six months an estimated 80% of all Lithuanian Jews were killed. The remaining few were spared for use as a labor force and concentrated in urban ghettos, mainly the Vilna and Kaunas Ghettos.

Sonderaktion 1005

The Sonderaktion 1005 (English: Special Action 1005), also called Aktion 1005, or Enterdungsaktion (English: Exhumation Action) began in May 1942 during World War II to hide any evidence that people had been murdered by Germany in Aktion Reinhard in German-occupied Poland. The operation, which was conducted in strict secrecy from 1942–1944, used prisoners to exhume mass graves and burn the bodies. These work groups were officially called Leichenkommandos ("corpse units") and were all part of Sonderkommando 1005; inmates were often put in chains in order to prevent escape.

In May 1943, the operation moved into occupied territories in Eastern and Central Europe to destroy evidence of the Final Solution. Sonderaktion 1005 was used to conceal the evidence of massacres committed by SS-Einsatzgruppen Nazi death squads that had massacred millions of people including 1.3 million Jews according to Historian Raul Hilberg, as well as Roma and local civilians. The Aktion was overseen by selected squads from the Sicherheitsdienst and Ordnungspolizei.

Wolfgang Kügler

Wolfgang Kügler was an SS-Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant) and a Teilkommandoführer (detachment leader) for Einsatzkommando 2, a subdivision of Einsatzgruppe A. Following World War II, he was tried and found guilty of war crimes before a court in West Germany. His sentence was reported to have been 8 months in prison and a fine. The most serious charge against him was that he had organized and been a commandter at the massacre of about 2,700 Jews, mostly women and children, on the beach at Liepāja, Latvia. Kügler claimed he was absent on leave in Germany when these murders occurred.

The Holocaust in Latvia
Nazi occupation and organizations
Ghettos and camps
War crimes investigations and trials
Righteous Among the Nations
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The Holocaust in Europe
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