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 .
* 1 Life
* 2 Activities during World War II
* 3 Post-war
* 4 Notes
* 5 References
* 6 External links
Viktors Bernhard Arājs was born on 13 January 1910 in the town of
Baldone , then part of the
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 , 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 ", the
Fascist party in Latvia.
ACTIVITIES DURING WORLD WAR II
See also: Burning of the
Riga synagogues ,
Riga ghetto , Rumbula
Liepāja massacres , and
The war between Germany and the Soviet Union began on 22 June 1941.
Shortly afterwards, the
Red Army abandoned
Riga to the advancing
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
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 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-
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 .
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 , 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
On 21 December 1979, Arājs was found guilty in the State Court of
Hamburg (Landgericht Hamburg) of having on 8 December 1941 conduc