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VIKTORS ARāJS (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 Arajs Kommando . The Arajs Kommando murdered about half of Latvia\'s Jews .

CONTENTS

* 1 Life * 2 Activities during World War II * 3 Post-war * 4 Notes * 5 References * 6 External links

LIFE

Viktors Bernhard Arājs was born on 13 January 1910 in the town of Baldone , then part of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
His father was a Latvian blacksmith and his mother came from a wealthy family of Baltic Germans . Arājs attended Jelgava Gymnasium , which he left in 1930 for mandatory national defense service in the Latvian Army. In 1932, Arājs studied law at the University of Latvia
University of Latvia
in Riga
Riga
, but completed his degree only in 1941 after the Soviet occupation . He was a member of the elite student fraternity "Lettonia", which may have helped him get a job with the Latvian police after he left the university. Arājs remained with the Latvian police until he left the service in 1938. During the Ulmanis dictatorship in Latvia 1934–1940 , Arājs was a "low ranking provincial police officer" who, as a loyal administrator, dutifully "distanced himself officially from the Pērkonkrusts
Pērkonkrusts
", the Fascist party in Latvia.

ACTIVITIES DURING WORLD WAR II

See also: Burning of the Riga
Riga
synagogues , Riga
Riga
ghetto , Rumbula massacre , Liepāja massacres , and Daugavpils ghetto
Daugavpils ghetto

The war between Germany and the Soviet Union began on 22 June 1941. Shortly afterwards, the Red Army abandoned Riga
Riga
to the advancing Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
. Arājs then took over an abandoned police precinct house at 19 Valdemāra Street. Arājs's future commanders, Franz Stahlecker and Robert Stieglitz, had with them a Latvian translator, Hans Dressler , whom Arājs had known in high school and in the Latvian army. Because of this friendship, Arājs was introduced to Stahlecker, got on their best side, and gained their trust. Arājs recruited the core of his troops from his student fraternity and Pērkoņkrusts.

On 2 July Arājs learned from Stahlecker during a conference that his unit had to unleash a pogrom that was supposed to appear spontaneous. On 4 July 1941, the German leadership turned loose "Security Group Arājs", generally referred to as the Arājs Kommando or Special Commando ( Sonderkommando
Sonderkommando
) Arājs. On the same day, the Germans ran a recruiting advertisement in the occupation-controlled Latvian language newspaper Tēvija (Latvian: Fatherland): "To all patriotic Latvians, Pērkoņkrusts 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 Valdemara Street. On 4 July Arājs and his henchmen trapped about 20 Jews, who had not been able to take flight before the advancing Germans, in the Riga
Riga
Synagogue on Gogoļa Street. There they were burnt alive while hand grenades were thrown through the windows. The Arājs commando consisted of 500–1500 volunteers. The unit murdered approximately 26,000 people, first in Latvia and then in Belarus. Arājs was promoted to police major in 1942, and in 1943 to SS- Sturmbannführer
Sturmbannführer
. Herberts Cukurs , the former Latvian pilot, was the adjutant to Arājs. Arajs Kommando were notorious for their ill treatment of women. Viktors Arājs raped a Jewish woman, Zelma Shepshelovitz, during the war. Her testimony served a crucial part in the trials of war criminals .

POST-WAR

Until 1949, Arājs 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
Delmenhorst
, then in the British Zone of Occupation . With assistance from the Latvian government-in-exile in London, Arājs took on the cover name of Victor (Viktors) Zeibots. He worked in Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt am Main
as an assistant at a printing company.

On 21 December 1979, Arājs was found guilty in the State Court of Hamburg (Landgericht Hamburg) of having on 8 December 1941 conduc