Following the occupation of
* 1 Nomenclature
* 9 July and August killings
* 9.1 Ruse employed * 9.2 Murder in the forest * 9.3 Number of victims
* 10 Life in the ghetto
* 10.1 Jewish administration * 10.2 Treatment by the Germans * 10.3 Individual executions * 10.4 Sealing of the ghetto
* 11 November shootings * 12 Associated German and Latvian units * 13 May 1 liquidation * 14 Transfer to Kaiserwald * 15 Number of victims * 16 Notes
* 17 References
* 17.1 Historiographical * 17.2 Personal narratives * 17.3 War crime trials and evidence
* 18 External links
The city of
THE HOLOCAUST BEGINS IN DAUGAVPILS
At that time, about 12,000 Jews lived in Daugavpils. In front of the
German army, a huge column of refugees, including not only Jews from
Following several days of aerial bombardment, the German army
During the following two days , the larger part of the city burned down. Only a small part of the city was damaged by battle activity. During the following days fires were caused by arson. Before leaving, the Russians had issued a proclamation announcing the burning of the city. The Jews decisively participated in setting the city on fire.
On June 29, 1941, at the order of Robert Blūzmanis, who had been
appointed by the Germans as the police chief of the Latvian police in
Daugavpils, large signs were posted around the city announcing in
German, Russian and Latvian that all Jewish males below the age of 60
were to report that morning to the main marketplace, failure to do so
would be met with "the maximum penalty." Some of them were put to
work burying the bodies of civilians and
Mass killings of Jews in
On June 28, 1941, two days after the fall of
– They were seizing Jews in the streets of Dvinsk and taking them to the prison where they were severely tormented. They were forced to lie down on the ground and jump up again; those who could not do it fast enough were shot. (Sema Shpungin) – One of the murderers went up to my father and shouted to his face: 'How many houses did you burn?' and gave him a blow with his pistol. * * * two Germans entered and started to shout that we are communists and that's why we're hiding – and they wanted to arrest us. (Paula Frankel-Zaltzman)
The Germans accused them of setting fire to Daugavpils. According to Stahlecker's official report:
Jews in general and Lithuanian refugees in particular were accused of
being communists. On July 8, 1941, a newspaper in Daugavpils
The time has come to end all service to the Jews, to end every
selling of oneself to the Jews! ... One must remember that it was the
Jews who greeted the
As time went on, increased numbers of Latvian auxiliary police guarded the prison where the Jewish men were held. By July 8, the work had become so hard that the Jews were literally being worked to death. One assignment included rolling huge blocks of stone to the top of a hill, another including carrying heavy timbers several kilometers. German guards struck prisoners with whips at will. Later, the expression arose among the widows of the men who were rounded up and killed on June 29 about their husbands that, "'he was taken way to prison that First Sunday.'"
RAILROAD PARK MASSACRE
By July 7, 1941, the
Iwens, a survivor of the Railroad Park massacre, gives one of the few descriptions of it. On July 8, 1941, the Germans forced a detail of Jews to dig ditches in the Railroad Park, The next day, July 9, the Germans began shooting Jews and pushing the bodies into the ditches. The sound of gunshots, occurring at regular intervals, could be heard in the city. Among the murdered was one man who tried to explain to a guard that he was a decorated veteran of the German army from the First World War . While the guards in this operation were Latvian, the supervisors were entirely German. One German officer hummed the Beer Barrel Polka in between shooting people in the back of the head. The Germans filled-in all the trenches dug on July 8 with the bodies of the persons murdered on July 9, but there were still a lot of people left alive whom they had intended to kill. At the end of the killings on July 8, the survivors were put to work digging new graves and tamping down the earth over the bodies in the previous trenches. The next day, July 10, the killings resumed. The survivor Iwens reported after the war what he had learned from another survivor, Haim Kuritzky, about what occurred at the pits:
At a long ditch ahead of them were four Latvian auxiliaries loading their rifles. A German officer yelled at the prisoners, "Four of you, march ahead." When the men reached the ditch, the German yelled "fire!" Each of the Latvians fired at one man – one bullet in the head at close range – and the four fell in the ditch. "The next four." They were also shot. (All this was being filmed by German soldiers).
Kuritsky was saved when the Germans turned out to have miscalculated the number of bodies they could place in the pits:
But then, the remaining prisoners were given spades and ordered to cover the ditches with dirt – there was no more room. The ditches were full of dying people and blood. They struggled spasmodically like fish out of water ... heads hanging back ... a wet, slippery, moving mass ...
Anyone not working fast enough to cover the bodies was ordered to lie
down on them and was shot by the German officer, who screamed at them
"faster, faster", and raved hysterically against the Jews. The number
killed is unclear. Iwens, who while present, was trying to survive,
said "thousands" were killed. The Germans reported killing 1,150 Jews
by July 11. The Germans later separated from those who identified
themselves as craftsmen, such as carpenters, from the professionals.
Some of the craftsmen were kept alive for a while, but the
professionals were killed immediately. After the Railroad Park
massacre, few Germans were seen in the area of the prison, which was
run for the most part by the Latvian auxiliary police. This
image, captured in
MEASURES AGAINST JEWS
Blūzmanis, the Latvian police chief in Daugavpils, carried out the
SD's wishes for certain Jewish restrictions. It was Blūzmanis, acting
for the SD, who ordered that all Jews in
Marking of the Jews by a yellow star, to be worn on the breast and the back which was ordered in the first instance by provisional orders of the Security Police, was carried out within a short time on the basis of regulations issued by the Commander of the Rear area and later by the Civil Administration.
Later, the Nazis forbade Jews to use the sidewalks, to speak to non-Jews and to read newspapers. Frankel-Zaltzman reported being shouted at as she and her parents were driven out of their home: "Nobody dare step on the sidewalk! Yudn must run in the middle of the road like dogs!"
CONSTRUCTION OF THE GHETTO
Construction of the ghetto began on July 18, 1941, as confirmed by
Stahlecker himself: "Apart from organizing and carrying out measures
of execution, the creation of Ghettos was begun in the larger towns at
once during the first days of operations.". Jewish forced labor was
used to build the ghetto, which was not an actual housing district,
but rather a decrepit fortress on the west side of the Daugava river ,
a short distance just to the northwest of the suburb of Griva, across
from the main city of Daugavpils.: "In July, as the initial wave of
shootings subsided, the local Germans and their Latvian counterparts
rounded up some 14,000 Jews from
FORCED RELOCATION TO THE GHETTO
On July 25, 1941, the Germans issued an order that all Jews were to relocate to the ghetto by the next day. In addition to all the Jews of Daugavpils, those assembled on July 26, were to be marched into the fortress, including Jews from Lithuania and from the area surrounding Daugavpils. Frankel-Zaltzman described the scene:
On Tuesday evening we heard cries from the distance. The cries came nearer and nearer until we realized that these were the cries of tortured Jews. The next day we discovered that into the ghetto the remaining Jews had been gathered from all the surrounding villages. From Dvinsk alone, then from Dondo, Vishkes, Krislovke, Indra, Livengoff, Nitzkol and from all the way to Riga. The Latvian population had been told that they will no longer see a Jew, not even in the museum, even if one were to pay two lot for a Jew there would not be one to be had.
Some had been forced to walk up to 50 kilometers. The Latvian guards enforced their commands by beating the workers with clubs that were four or five feet long. Among other things, Jews were beaten if they smiled upon recognizing another Jewish prisoner. Iwens, an eyewitness, reported that "many women had to cope with their children and aged parents all by themselves, for their men had been killed in the prison massacre."
Einsatzgruppe A was assigned by
The chief of the local auxiliary police, Robert Blūzmanis, was in
charge of the local Latvian auxiliary police. His role in the killings
was to confine the Jews to the Grīva fortress ghetto and move them
out to the killing places. Latvian self-defence men and Arājs
murderers were also involved. It appears that Latvian police from the
Zaube, the German commandant of the
Participation by local Latvians in the
JULY AND AUGUST KILLINGS
In the parlance of the perpetrators and the victims, the German word
"aktion" (literally, action) came to mean "mass shooting." 'Actions'
went on continuously in the
If, up to now, the crowding was bad, it got even worse , unbearable. But the commandants of the ghetto said that it would soon become "roomier." A new camp/lager would be established for the newcomers and whoever will want to will be able to go along. In three days time an order was issued that all newcomers must go to a new camp."
Other sources state that it was the old and sick who were called upon to report in the first action; the date was July 27, 1941. Thousands of people were crammed into the small old fortress, with only two water taps, almost no sanitary facilities, and no food. Many people were naturally anxious to leave. A column of 2,000 people was quickly formed up, and marched out under the guard of Latvian auxiliary police. A few days later, possibly on August 6, a similar offer was extended to all parents with small children, with similar results.
MURDER IN THE FOREST
Instead of going to a new camp, these columns were marched to a set of prepared graves at a former Latvian army training ground in the Pogulianka woods, near the resort of Mežciems, where Germans and Latvian auxiliaries shot the people and pushed their bodies into previously excavated pits. It was reported however that babies were not shot, but simply thrown into a pit and buried alive. By July 28, 1941, old and sick people had also been taken out of the ghetto in a separate incident. They were also murdered. The earthen cover heaped on the graves was quite thin, and two boys only slightly wounded and on the top of the heaped bodies dug themselves out and escaped. Use of the forested area to conceal the murders was typical of mass shootings in Latvia; the murders in the Railroad Park were an exception. The executioners were often quite drunk. During the first two weeks in August, 1941, the SD, carried out additional "selections" at the ghetto, choosing who would live and who would die. There were also major actions on August 18 and 19. Mothers, children, the aged and the sick were generally picked to die. In particular there was a massacre of 400 children from an orphanage. The only security appeared to be being selected for work by the Germans, which required a document known as a Schein to prove that a person was working for a German military unit. While a Schein was not a guarantee against execution, lack of one was almost certain to lead to death. As units moved to the front, it became more difficult to procure a Schein.
NUMBER OF VICTIMS
As a result of various Aktions in August, the ghetto population had
been reduced to about 6,000 to 7,000 people. According to Nazi Karl
Jäger , a component of
LIFE IN THE GHETTO
The ghetto was not a ghetto in the sense of a city district mandated
or set aside by custom for Jews. It was an improvised prison, to hold
the Jews until they could be done away with. The Jews formed their
own "committee" (komitet, sometimes translated "council" ) of about 12
inmates, mostly professional and well-known people, to run the
internal affairs of the ghetto, which at first had more than 14,000
people. Misha Movshenzon (also spelled Mowshenson), an engineer, was
the leader of the committee. (Another source says Movshenzon was on
the committee but gives Mosche Galpern as the chairman. ) Movshenzon's
father had been in charge of the city of
TREATMENT BY THE GERMANS
Skilled workmen were housed separately and received better treatment, including better rations. Survivors record that cruelty was not universal. Iwens reported a number of instances of kind treatment from, among others, a German airman, who was shocked by the suffering of the children in the ghetto. His brother (later among the murdered), similarly was well-treated by a German unit where he worked in the kitchen. On another occasion, two German soldiers, aware that the SD was selecting for execution Jews who had no work, pretended they were needed for work with their unit, thus saving, at least for a while, a group of about 30 people. Iwens described the situation from his point of view as a Jew who had been allowed to live as a skilled worker:
The Germans protected us because our work was of use to them; it was also true that some felt sorry for us – especially for "their" Jews,' those they had gotten to know personally. Whenever Jews worked for any length of time, with ordinary German soldiers, their relationship often became quite friendly. At 322, Yasha Magid, the 'Oberjude', and Dr. Itzikowitz were much respected by their chief and so was Margaram at our place. The fact that Jews understood the German language, whereas most gentiles did not, was also helpful. But we had no illusions. Sooner or later there would be a direct order and we'd be done away with.
Another survivor, Frankel-Zaltzman, described how the last survivors of the ghetto learned from a German soldier that they would not be massacred, as they had feared, on June 26, 1942, which was the one-year anniversary of the fall of Daugavpils:
* * * there was suddenly a knock at the window. A soldier came to tell us that we can sleep in peace. * * * "You can believe me and I want you not to give me away when the chief himself will come to tell you this, because I wasn't supposed to come and tell you the good news, but I am not an enemy of the Jews and I see how you are suffering." The soldier went away and we didn't know if we should rejoice because maybe this is a trick of the chief's so that we shouldn't run away before daybreak. Finally we decided to believe the soldier because he was always very friendly to us, helped us carry food to our brothers at the fortress and even used to bring a long piece of white bread for the sick.
No matter what, the relationship between Jews and Germans remained strange at best: "Regardless of how friendly a German became with a Jew, awareness that one had absolute power over the other made such an association seem unnatural."
The German authorities enforced discipline in the
One Sunday, when no one was going to work, an order was issued. Panic broke out once more. What now? We were all out in the yard when an announcement was made. We were terrified. The announcement was: 'You are about to witness what happens to a woman who wants to hide her Jewishness.' A beautiful blonde woman was brought in with a noose attached to her neck and publicly hanged. Her crime? She was found walking in the street with her shawl covering her yellow star.
A Jewish Ghetto police force enforced these rules. On at least one occasion, the police chief, one Pasternak, in early 1942, carried out a hanging, although it was perceived that he was reluctant to do so. In that case, the body of the executed woman, Mina Gittelson, whose crime was walking on the sidewalk and not in the street, and not wearing the Jewish badge, was left hanging for three days. Another source says that she had resisted the advances of the manager at the hotel where she worked, and he pressed the charges of illegal trading against her in retaliation. Also executed was 48-year-old Chaya Mayerova (other sources give her name as Meyorvich and Mejerow ), who was shot before the assembled ghetto inhabitants for exchanging a piece of cloth for two kilograms of flour.
SEALING OF THE GHETTO
A few days after the November massacre, the ghetto was closed, or in the bureaucratic term, "quarantined". This meant that the few people who were authorized to leave the ghetto to work in the city could no longer do so. This cut off their ability to smuggle in food. People died of hunger. Typhus epidemics broke out in December 1941 and in February 1942, killing additional occupants.
By the end of September 1941, the Nazis had killed about 30,000 Jews
in Latvia, mostly in small towns. Three large population centers of
Jews still remained, at
Outside, meanwhile, a devil's dance was taking place. There was shooting from all directions and nobody knew whose hour would strike in a minute or two. Suddenly, a nurse ran in out of breath and told everyone in the hospital that the commandant of the ghetto was coming here with some bandits to search for people who were hiding * * * His shouts could be heard from a few rooms away. He threw the sick ones off their beds and looked for victims and told his gang to take them down into the yard. Those who can't walk are immediately shot in the yard. He was able to do this. His hand didn't even tremble.
A few people were able to survive by hiding in locations, including
latrine wells, within the old fortress. Others were hidden in the
hospital by the nurses, at mortal risk to themselves. In the four
months from July to November 1941, the Nazis killed at least 15,000
Jews in Daugavpils. Of the several thousand people in the ghetto,
only about 900 remained alive after the November shootings. Following
the November massacre, a number of Jews with work permits were
stationed (kasierniert or "barracked") outside the ghetto at the
larger older fortress, sometimes called the citadel, on the north side
ASSOCIATED GERMAN AND LATVIAN UNITS
The following units of the German army were associated with the
* Army Barracks Administration (Heeresunterkunft Verwaltung) No. 322. This organization was responsible for supervising Jews working in warehouses and workshops unloading, cleaning, sorting and repairing the uniforms of wounded German soldiers. * Army Barracks Administration (Heeresunterkunft Verwaltung) No. 200. Forty Jewish women worked for this organization, whose duties included cleaning the rooms of German officers. * Army Construction Service Department (Heeresbaudienststelle) No. 100.
MAY 1 LIQUIDATION
Modern aerial view of the
On May 1, 1942, there were about 1,500 survivors in the Griva fortress/ghetto. Rudolf Lange , commander of the SD in Latvia, gave an order to Tabbert to liquidate the ghetto. Tabbert's men, and the Arājs commando, entered the ghetto in the morning after the working Jews had been marched out to the job sites. The Nazis conducted another "selection" that day, killing the great majority of Jews in the ghetto. One source states there were 375 survivors of the May 1 selection. Others state that of the Jews in the old fortress on the west side of the river, only one or two survived May 1. The May 1 selection followed the pattern of assembling the people to be executed, then marching them out to the Pogulianka Forest, where they were all shot and shoved into pre-dug mass graves. According to Iwens, who was at the citadel, and heard the story a few days later:
The Latvian auxiliaries went wild ... They threw old and sick people through second floor windows, shot those who refused to leave their rooms, and killed some of the very small children by cracking their heads against the concrete walls of the buildings. Even when the columns were assembled for departure, shots were fired into the mass of people.
Extraordinary brutality accompanied the May 1 killings. Among other things, the Nazis executed the older children in the ghetto itself by lining them up against a wall and shooting them. Eyewitness Maja Zarch, quoted in Gilbert, stated the following:
Walking through the gates we saw puddles of blood, broken bottles, and chairs strewn all over the place ... We walked on, only to see sights that defy any description. Children's bodies lay around, torn in half with the heads smashed in.
Following the May 1 shootings, of the 16,000 Jews in
TRANSFER TO KAISERWALD
In late October 1943, there were still a few Jews housed in the
Citadel who were working for the German army. On October 28, the Nazis
and Latvian auxiliaries rounded up these people and transferred them
Kaiserwald concentration camp . By this time, some of the Jews
had managed to find or buy arms, and there was resistance to this
action. Others killed their family members and then themselves to
prevent being taken. A few escaped or hid, some with the help of at
least two German soldiers, one named Liederman, the other Bruendl. A
very small number (said to be 26 total), were permitted to stay on in
the Citadel to work for the German army. On December 4, 1943, the
NUMBER OF VICTIMS
The precise number of victims is not clear. Iwens estimated there
were 16,000 Jews living in
* ^ A B Ezergailis,
* Dribins, Leo, Gūtmanis, Armands, and Vestermanis, Marģers,
Latvia's Jewish Community: History, Tragedy, Revival (2001), available
the website of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
* Ehrenburg, Ilya, Grossman, Patterson, David, Louis, Irving, The
Complete Black Book of Russian Jewry, Transaction, New Brunswick, NJ
2002 ISBN 0-7658-0069-1
* Gilbert, Martin, The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe
during the Second World War, Holt, New York, NY, 1987 ISBN
* Kaufmann, Max, Die Vernichtung des Judens Lettlands (The
Destruction of the Jews of Latvia), Munich, 1947, English translation
by Laimdota Mazzarins available on-line as Churbn Lettland – The
Destruction of the Jews of Latvia
* Lumans, Valdis O.,
* Abramowitch, Maja, To Forgive... but Not Forget: Maja's Story, Vallentine Mitchell, London 2002 ISBN 0-85303-432-X * Frankel-Zaltzman, Paula, Haftling No. 94771 originally published Montreal 1949, republished in electronic version in five parts by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies. * Iwens, Sidney, How Dark the Heavens: 1400 Days in the Grip of Nazi Terror, Shengold, New York, NY 1990 ISBN 0-88400-147-4
WAR CRIME TRIALS AND EVIDENCE
* Jaeger Report, "Complete tabulation of executions carried out in
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