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From: Eugene Holman 
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Subject: Re: Why Zyklon and not Bullets (was Re: Attn Eugene: Zyklon vs. Bullets)
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In article <3ad3f06f$0$>, Waldo

> Gassing makes sense - for lice. Not for killing people.

Gassing makes sense when the number of beings you have to kill exceeds 

> Note: here you're saying that the bullet to the back of the head is too time
> consuming and labor intensive.

It is when you are working with numbers in excess of 20,000. The
Germans learned that during the fall of 1941 at Kiev, Odessa, and Riga,
among other places:

Originally posted to alt.revisionism, 2000-11-30 01:51:02 PST

Reposted with minor corrections and changes, and an additional section
on the methodological significance of Rumbula at the end, 2001-04-11. 

Search Result 1From: Eugene Holman (
Subject: Rumbula: a case study of a Holocaust atrocity 
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Date: 2000-11-30 01:51:02 PST 

The Rumbula massacre: a case study of a Holocaust atrocity.
By Eugene Holman (

I. Preface
Killing one person is easy and is easily concealed. So is killing ten
people. Killing a hundred or a thousand people during the course of a
single day takes planning and coordination, for which reason it will
necessarily have a public dimension. The degree to which it becomes
public to the degree of crossing the threshold of being international
news reported in real time only increases if a killing action involves
tens of thousands of people. Such was the Rumbula massacre, the first
implementational phase of which took place on November 30, 1941.

The massacre in the Rumbula forest outside of Riga in German-occupied
Latvia, resulted in the shooting outdoors and in full public view of
approximately 25,000 people on two days: November 30th and December
8th, 1941. Although the actual killing was restricted to two days, the
prerequisites for this action began to be put into place in August,
1941 when measures were taken to construct a ghetto in Riga and
ghettoize the city's Jews, while the clean-up afterwards, the first
phase of which, sorting and converting the property confiscated from
the killed Jews into money, took more than a week, and the second phase
of which, exhuming the buried bodies and burning them, took place
only during the summer of 1943. In this essay I am going to focus on the
different phases of the massacre, the type of evidence they generated,
and the signifigance of the Rumbula within the wider context of
changing Nazi policy towards the Jews of Eastern Europe in the light of
changing circumstances and opportunities. Readers of this essay who are
seriously interested in the manner in which the Holocaust unfolded in
the Nazi-occupied parts of the USSR in general, and in Latvia in
particular, as well as in the various methodological problems involved
in making a serious historical study of the Holocaust in Eastern
Europe, are advised to read the introduction to Andrew Ezergailis's
book _The Holocaust in Latvia: 1941-1944_, available on the
internet at

II. Evidence for the massacre
There are three primary sources of evidence concerning the Rumbula
1. The trial records of the various war crimes trials in Germany, the
United States, and the USSR.
2. Captured German documents, including the Stahlecker reports of
October 15, 1941 and January 31, 1942, and the Ereignismeldungen.
3. Records in Latvian archives. These records include:
  a. German documents captured by the Soviets
  b. the Reports of the Soviet extraordinary Commission
  c. the archives of the Riga Municipal and District Police
Reference will be made here to all three of these types of evidence.
Additionally I have included a surreptitiously recorded statement from a
German POW who was at Rumbula as a perpetrator, as well as an account
by a woman who miraculously survived the massacre.

III. The structure of the massacre
A series of events such as the Rumbula massacre has a complex
structure. This structure is not fortuitous, but rather the product of
planning and intention. This structure exists in space as the
administrative premises in which the planning and necessary
arrangements are made according to orders, as the place
where the people to be killed are gathered, at the killing site, as
well as to the various gathering points where the property taken from
the people killed was deposited, stored, classified, and disposed of.
It exists in time as the time-frame which begins with the setting up of
the office for managing the killing and ends when the perpetrators are
satisfied that all that was to be done has been completed. As this
structure interacts with its various environments, it generates various
kinds of evidence: orders for ammunition, orders to the local police to
supply manpower, piles of clothing, human remains in mass graves, and
the eyewitness accounts of perpetrators, witnesses, and survivors. Each
of these in its own way functions as evidence that enables us to
reconstruct the historical event.

A. The orders
When the German's invaded Latvia in June, 1941, they hoped that the
local population, after having lived the past year under communism,
which German propaganda equated with Jewishness, would rise against the
local Jews in "spontaneous" pogroms. Reinhard Heydrich, who at this
time was the Nazi official in charge of the killing of European Jews,
had issued orders on June 29, 1941 to Brigadeführer Walther Stahlecker,
head of Einsatzgruppe A, to provoke the Latvians to kill Jews [Arâjs
Trial Records, Landgericht Hamburg, 1975, pg. 57]. During the first few
weeks of the German occupation there were some seemingly spontaneous
pogroms and other violence against Latvian Jews. These included
shootings in the Bikemieku forest, at the head Riga police
station courtyard and basement, and in synagogues. The most notorious
incident of this kind was the burning of the Great Choral Synagogue,
the main one in Riga, on Gogol along with all the Jews, both Latvian
and refugees from Lithuania, that had sought refuge there. These
outbreaks of violence were uncoordinated, being carried out by local
criminal gangs and individuals seeking revenge against the Jews
collectively for recent injustices suffered by Latvians under a year of
communist rule, propagandized by the Nazis as being a modality of
Jewish ideology. These actions by Latvians were limited to
a timeframe of a few weeks, took place in a few random locations, and
resulted in the death of no more a few thousand Jews
[]. The organized, coordinated,
and systematic liquidation of the Jews in Latvia was a job that was to
be done by the Germans themselves:

"From the very beginning it was to be expected that pogroms alone would
not solve the Jewish problem in the Ostland...the goal of the cleansing
operation of the Sicherheitspolizei, in accordance with the fundamental
orders, was the most comprehensive elimination of the Jews as
- Walther Stahlecker, Report 15 October 1941. Nuremberg Document L-180

Hinrich Lohse, Reichskommissar for Ostland, issued a declaration of
policy on the Jewish question in the Baltics on July 27, 1941. These
guidelines contained specific instructions concerning who was to be
defined as a Jew. Overall, they followed the racially-based Nuremberg
Laws, but they contained a local addition according to which anyone
married to a Jew was also to be considered as a Jew. These guidelines
stipulated that Jews were to be registered, that they were to wear a
six-pointed yellow Jewish star in public, and that they were to be
subject to numerous restrictions such as not being allowed to use the
sidewalk, public transport, or motorized vehicles. Being Jewish was
made a criminal offense. All Jewish property except household
necessities was to be confiscated by the state. All Jews were to be
removed from their homes, which were also to be confiscated by the
state, and they were to be interned in ghettos or concentration camps
where they were to be exploited as slave labor [see S. Myllyniemi, _Die
Neuordnung der baltischen Länder, 1941-1944. Helsinki. 1973, pg. 78]. 

Preparations for the establishment of the Riga ghetto began in
mid-August, 1941. The ghetto had been fenced in by October 10, and the
deadline by which the approximately 25,000 Jews of Riga were to have
been transferred to it was October 25 [A. Ezergailis, _The Holocaust in
Latvia: 1941-1944_, pg. 343]. According to Reichskommisar Lohse, the
purpose of ghettoization was to remove the Jews from the mainstream of
life, to expropriate their property, and to exploit their labor. During
September and October this was the overt German policy towards Jews
living in the largest Baltic cities.

Covertly, German policy was more sinister. In retrospect, the events
that took place in Latvia provide evidence that what was going on there
- stripping Jews of their civil rights and property, killing them in
the countryside and ghettoizing them and exploiting their labor before
eventually killing them in mass-shooting operations in the cities,
disposing of their immovable property by auctioning it off, and of
their movable property by shipping it to Germany as war booty - was not
being decided solely on the local level, but rather was part of a
master plan, one that was not fully set, but rather which was
adapted to changing circumstances. 

The Sicherheitsdienst followed procedures for dealing with Jews which
had parallels in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Byelorussia, and the
Ukraine. SS Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, the Nazi mass-killing
specialist who had coordinated many of the massacres of Jews in the
Ukraine, and who went on to coordinate many more in Lithuania, was
assigned by Heinrich Himmler to organize and oversee the killing of
Riga's Jews on October 31, 1941. Himmler's appointment of Jeckeln to
deal with Riga's Jews, then, serves as evidence to show that policy
towards Jews in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe was not simply a
matter being decided on the local level, but rather was one being
comprehensibly coordinated from Berlin in accordance with orders being
issued at the highest level. According to Andrew Ezergailis: "The
deliberate manner and the similarities of the killing procedures that
were followed in Latvia and other territories indicate that a common
plan existed: not only a simple "wish," but a blueprint. Despite the
secrecy concerning the Führerbefehl, the accumulated references, no
matter how indirectly stated, in themselves testified that the EG [=
Einsatzgruppen, EH] acted in accordance with a Hitler order." [A.
Ezergailis, op. cit., pg. 204].

Critical consideration of what was going on in Latvia during the latter
half of 1941 indicates that the events there reflect a radical change
in German policy towards Jews in occupied territories on the
implementational level. This is most clearly evidenced in
administrative reactions towards Hinrich Lohse's policy on the Jewish
question in the Baltics referred to above. Lohse wrote his guidelines
when he was preparing to assume the function of highest civilian
administrator in the Baltics from the military. Accordingly, the
powers of Einsatzgruppe A were to pass over to the SD, from Stahlecker
to SS-Gruppenführer Hans-Adolf Prützmann. Stahlecker objected to
relatively benign policy towards the Jews in the Baltics, pointing out
that it ­ loss of civil rights, public humiliation, confiscation of
property, ghettoization, and exploitation ­ was in conflict with the
more robust policy the SD had been pursuing towards Jews since the
German attack on the USSR on June 22. Lohse's guidelines mentioned
nothing about _killing_ Jews, even though this had been reality in the
Baltic countryside and smaller cities since the invasion of the USSR.
In Stahlecker's Memorandum of August 6, 1941, he criticizes Lohse's

"The projected measures concerning the settling of the Jewish problem
are not in harmony with those orders concerning Jews in the Ostland
given by Einsatzgruppe A of the Security Police and the SD. Nor does
the project take into consideration the new possibilities of cleaning
up the Jewish question in the eastern regions [Ostraum]." [Source:
Stahlecker's Answer to Lohse's Guidelines on Treatment of Jews in
Ostland, Latvian State Historical Archives, LVVA, P-1026-1-3. pp.

Stahlecker continues, criticizing Lohse for reintroducing outdated
principles, those used in Poland, to the new situation in the East. The
implication is that although the Jewish problem in Poland _could_ be
settled by separating the Jews from the Gentiles, the East represented
a fundamentally new situation in which more radical measures were
necessary. Stahlecker continues:

"The Reichskommissar appears to strive for a temporary settlement of the
Jewish question, one that applies to the situation in the
Generalgouvernement (Occupied Poland). On the other hand, he fails to
consider the altered situation that the war in the East introduced, and
on the other hand, he fails to examine the unique possibility of a
radical treatment of the Jewish question in the Ostraum...In the
Generalgouvernment there was no serious political danger in leaving the
Jews in their living quarters and work places. But in the Ostland, the
resident Jews or those brought in by the Red powers became the leading
supporters of the Bolshevik idea...Sabotage and acts of terror can be
expected not only from communists not caught in previous actions, but
precisely from Jews who will use every possibility to create disorder.
The pressing need to pacify the Ost area quickly makes it necessary
to eliminate all likely sources of disorder...Consider it desirable,
before issuing any basic statement, once more to discuss these
questions by word of mouth, especially since it is safer that way, and
since it concerns fundamental orders from higher authority to the
Security Police, ones that should not be discussed in writing."

This difference of opinion between the conservative Reichskommissar
Lohse and the more radical Stahlecker and his SD eventually became
known to Berlin, and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt office.
Brigadeführer Müller of the RSHA did his best to resolve the conflict
between them. Müller demoted Lohse to the status of Gebietskommissar
and ordered his men not to obey the orders he, Lohse, had given to stop
the mass murders of Jews and communists. On August 25, Müller wrote in
a letter to Einsatzgruppen A and B:

"As it has been reported to me, the newly appointed Gebietskommissar in
Ostland had approached some Einsatzkommandos to stop the carrying out of
communist and Jewish actions. Upon the order of the Security Police and
the SD commander, these approaches must be denied and immediately
reported to us."
[Latvian State Historical Archives, LVVA, P-1026-1-3. pg. 302]

The killing of the Jews in the Latvian countryside and in smaller
cities by the Einsatzkommandos continued without interruption. Lohse's
policy of ghettoizing Jews in large cities, although in conflict with
that policy, saved, in the short term, the lives of several thousand
Jews that would have been annihilated by the Einsatzkommandos, while,
in the longer term, providing a concentrated group of more than 20,000
Jews, a prerequisite without which the Rumbula massacre would not have
been possible or necessary.

>From the standpoint of the authorities in Berlin, Lohse's guidelines had
contributed to the tempo of killing of Jews in Latvia falling behind
that in Ukraine and Byelorussia.  By the end of September the
Einsatzkommandos had succeeded in killing approximately 30,000 Latvian
Jews in small towns, but the majority of Latvia's approximately 87,500
Jews lived in three large cities: Riga, Daugavpils, and Liepaja. The
failure to keep up with the robust pace of Jewish annihilation in the
South was blamed on SS-Gruppenführer Hans-Adolf Prützmann, the resident
HSSPF commander [Höhere SS und Polizeifürer, see] in the

"In the South, Jeckeln, Rasch, Ohlendorf, and subordinates like Blobel
had made great strides towards resolving the Jewish question...[in
Ukraine] Jeckeln had managed to get the military to cooperate, civil
authorities were not yet a problem, and the execution totals far
higher. So...Himmler decided to have Jeckeln replace Prützmann in the
Ostland." [R. Breitman, _The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the
Final Solution, New York, 1991,_, pg. 214.]

B. SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln

SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, the Nazis' specialist in mass
killing operations, is the key figure in the Rumbula massacre. During
the summer and autumn of 1941 Jeckeln had commanded mobile killing
units which were responsible for some of the greatest mass-killing
operations in the Ukraine, including the reprisal killing of 300 Jewish
men and 139 Jewish women in Starokonstatinov, the shooting of 33,771
Jews at Babi Yar outside of Kiev, of 23,600 Jews in Kamenets-Podolsky,
of 1,303 Jews in Berdichev, of 15,000 Jews in Dnepropetrovsk, and of
another 15,000 Jews in Rovno [R. Hilberg, _The Destruction of the
European Jews_, New York and London, 1985, pg. 110 ff., see
also]. During the course
of his work, Jeckeln had designed a highly efficient methodology for
mass execution called the 'Jeckeln method' or 'Sardinenpackung' -
sardine-packing. This involved marching the people to be killed to the
killing site where pre-dug grave pits awaited them. They were forced to
undress and lie face-down in the graves in layers, whereupon they were
shot in the back of the head. Then a new layer of victims was forced to
lie on top of the just killed lower layer and shot, with the process
being continued until the grave was full.

On October 31 Jeckeln was assigned to Riga by Himmler. On November 5th
his staff of about fifty men arrived in the city. Jeckeln himself had
been called to Berlin where, on November 12th, he was given the command
by Himmler to kill the inhabitants of the Riga ghetto [Landgericht
Hamburg: Urteil gegen Jahnke u. a. 1973, pg. 54, see also G. Fleming,
_Hitler and the Final Solution_, Berkeley, 1982, chapters 7 and 8]. As
a possible means for countermanding Lohse's more benign policy towards
the Jews under his control, Jeckeln was told by Himmler: "Tell Lohse
that it is my order, and that it is also the express wish of the
Führer.[H. Krausnick & H-H. Wilhelm, _ Die Truppe des
Weltanschauungskrieges: Die Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei und
des SD, 1938-1942_, Stuttgart, 1981. pg. 567]. According to Ezergailis,
Jeckeln, who regarded exterminating Jews as a top security issue, was
eager to carry out the assignment. He strenuously objected to the
practice of employing Jews as slave labor by the military, the
Sicherheitsdienst, and German civilians because he considered every
contact between Jews and non-Jews to offer increased opportunities for
sabotage [Ezergailis op. cit. pg. 240].
The Jeckeln plan for killing the more than 20,000 Jews of the Riga
ghetto is dissected in detail and supported by the relevant documents
presented at the 1973 Hamburg Landgericht trial of Lt. Friedrich

Jeckeln's primary tasks included finding a suitable killing site,
timing the transfer of the ghetto inhabitants to the killing site so
that the operation could be done by daylight, a scarce commodity at
these latitudes in late November, ordering and making facilities for
storing the requisite amount of ammunition, and drawing up timetables
and defining the duties for the approximately 1,700 German and Latvian
soldiers, police officers, and civil guards that were needed to secure
order along the ten kilometer road from the ghetto to the killing site
and carry out the actual killings. Arrangements also had to be made for
collecting, classifying, storing, and disposing of the property and
valuables left behind by the Jews. Instructions and other information
had to be translated into and out of German, Latvian, Russian, and

C. Organizing the mass-killing

€ November 12. Jeckeln receives order from Himmler to kill the Jews in
the Riga ghetto.

€ November 14. Jeckeln arrives in Riga. He tells Lohse of the order from
Himmler, mentioning that this is Hitler's desire, thus making it
impossible to countermand.

€ November 18 or 19. Jeckeln has selected a suitable killing site in
the woods near the Rumbula train station.
After this date he begins detailed planning and the assignment of men
to their specific functions:
- SS-Unterstormenführer Ernst Hemicker is assigned to organize the
digging of pits for 25,000 bodies [Hemicker's testimony: Landgericht
Hamburg: indictment of Oberwinder et at., pgs. 133-136]. 

€ November 20 or 21. 300 Russian POWs, supervised by Germans or
Latvians, dig six pits, each ten meters by ten meters and 2 1/2 to 3
meters deep. The job was finished within three days. Jeckeln assigned
men from his bodyguard who had previously participated in such actions
to do the killing. These included soldiers  that are known only
by their surnames: Endl, Lüschen, and Wedekind. The leader of his
driver's commando, Oberführer Johannes Zingler, was also asked to
participate [See Landgericht Hamburg: indictment of Oberwinder et at.,
pg. 61]. No Latvians were entrusted with a shooting assignment.

Jeckeln also had to arrange for transportation. He himself had only a
dozen passenger cars and half a dozen motorcycles available. He ordered
Sturmbannführer Zimmermann and Riga Polizeihauptmneister Müller to find
the trucks and buses that would be needed to transport the more than
1,000 guards that were needed along the way to keep order and prevent
any escapes to their stations, and to pick up the bodies of anyone shot
during the march to the killing site.

Within his first three days in Riga, Jeckeln had consultations with the
Sicherheitsdienst (= SD) and the Ordnungspolizei commanders, including
Rudolf Lange, the highest Gestapo and SD officer in German-occupied
Latvia and Arnold Kirste, Lange's link to the Arâjs commando, a local
fascist grouping. Lange was able to make the entire 300-man Arâjs
commando available to Jeckeln, as well as half of the fifty-man Latvian
guard unit of the Reiersa St. SD headquarters, as well as about fifty
German SD men, the remnants of Einsatzkommando 2, in Riga. Lange was
able to provide Jeckeln with about 400 men who had SD backgrounds and
thus had prior experience in killing civilians. These men were assigned
to key positions inside and around the Riga ghetto and near the killing
pits at locations where the use of a weapon against Jews who refused to
allow themselves to be slaughtered was more likely to be needed. 

The Ordnungspolizei (= OP) was organizationally autonomous, but
functionally within the SD network. Before the Arâjs commando had been
trained, the 9th battalion of the OP had performed most of the killings
of civilians for Stahlecker. Several hundred members of the OP were
posted to assure order, that is to say, "obtain and maintain a German
character". The OP had two basic functions: 
1. to oversee Latvian precinct police
2. to oversee the ghettoization of Riga's Jews and, after October 25,
1941, to guard the ghetto. This means that members of the OP were going
to be involved in the liquidation of the ghetto.

The 2nd Company of the 22nd reserve Battalion of the OP, from Riga,
supplied Jeckeln with approx. 70 men, and the 3rd company of the same
battalion, from Jelgava, supplied another 70. The men of the 2nd
company were assigned the tasks of overseeing the clearing of Jewish
apartments, organizing the Jews into marching columns, and accompanying
the columns to the killing site. The men of the 3rd company were
assigned the task of guarding the periphery at Rumbula. The chief OP
activist was Major Karl Heise, and he was also evidently the liaison
person with the Latvian Schutzmannschaften [Landgericht Hamburg:
Urteil gegen Jahnke u. a. 1973, pg. 124]. According to Ezergailis,
Jeckeln also had another five regiments of the OP at his disposal, but
it is not known which, if any, he actually used [Ezergailis, op. cit.,
pg. 244]

€ November 27. Jeckeln called a meeting of the high Ordnungspolizei and
SD commanders at the headquarters of the Schutzpolizei. The purpose of
this meeting was to coordinate the activities of all of the
participating units:
1. Jeckeln's staff
2. the SDS
3. the OP
4. the Latvian Schutzmannschaften

Altogether, between 20 and 25 people were present [Landgericht Hamburg:
Urteil gegen Jahnke u. a. 1973, pg. 61]. Among the Latvians present
were Viktors Arâjs, Roberts Osis, and R. S^tiglics. The purpose of the
meeting was to finalize the schedule for the operation, to ensure the
timely and precise organization of the columns of Jews leaving the
ghetto, and to assign the tasks to the men in the gauntlet at the
killing site. 

€ November 28. A train carrying approximately 1,000 Berlin Jews left
Berlin for Latvia. It was parked at on a siding at the Skirotava
station, a few hundred meters from the Rumbula killing site, when it
arrived late in the night of November 29th.

€ November 29. Jeckeln convened a meeting at the Ritterhaus where he
delivered a talk about the upcoming liquidation of the Riga ghetto. In
the talk, he stressed that the operation was a patriotic obligation,
and that refusal to participate was equal to refusal to participate in
a war, desertion. He ordered that the HSSPF staff members who did not
have a specific assignment were to be present at the pits as observers
so that everybody would know and witness the event ("machte er zur
Pflicht, den Exekutionen als Zuschauer beizuwohnen, um niemanden
Mitwisserschaft und Mitzeugenschaft zu ersparen"; Landgericht Hamburg:
Urteil gegen Jahnke u. a. 1973, pg. 67-68).)

 On that evening at 7 PM a coordinating session took place at the Riga
headquarters of the Schutzpolizei. Major Karl Heise gave orders to his
men to be ready at 4.00 AM the next morning in the ghetto for the
resettlement of the Jews. He told them that the Jews were to be taken
over by others at the Rumbula train station. The  members of the
Schutzpolizei who were in charge of Latvian police precincts were told
to supervise the Latvians and ensure that the Jews were out of their
houses and organized in columns of 1,000. The action would take two
days and would begin in the westernmost part of the ghetto. Lieutenant
Hesfer and 12 Schutzpolizei. Members assigned the task of
organizing and supervising the clearing of Jews from their homes. The
Latvian and Jewish ghetto police were ordered to assist Hesfer and
assure that no panic arose. The Riga precinct police as well as the
Riga district police under the command of Jânis Veide were also ordered
to participate in the "resettlement" of the Jews in the ghetto to
another camp [Osvalds Elîte, _Ênas purvâ_, Riga 1989, pg. 27].

D. Implementing the massacre

Day 1: November 30th
€ 4:00 A.M. Precinct lieutenant Hesfer, a 12-man German Schutzpolizei
team, an unknown number of Arâjs men, and the 80-man internal Jewish
guard started awakening Jews beginning at the westernmost houses and
along Lacplesa and Jekabpils St. The Jews were told to be ready in half
an hour on Sadovnikova St. A crew of workers began cutting exit holes
in the fence to shorten the way out of the ghetto to Maskavas St. and
on to the road leading to Rumbula.
€ 4:30 A.M. The wake-up gang went back to the first houses to make sure
that no Jews remained. Jews who refused or were unable to go were shot
in their homes, in the stairwells, and on the streets. Other Jews tried
to run away or hide, many of them being shot. Organizing them into
columns was also difficult. According to contemporary sources, between
600 and 1,000 people lay dead in the ghetto by noon [I. Saburowa, Yad
Vashem Archive: "Bericht über Rigaer ghetto," deposition of Saburowa,
October 1954, o2/371].
€ 6:00 A.M. in the Riga ghetto. The first column, 1,000 people marching
five abreast, accompanied by 50 Latvian police officers and headed and
tailed by two Germans, started the ten kilometer march to the killing
site at Rumbula.

 "The control of the columns did not proceed as anticipated. With all
the shouting and shooting the pace could not be kept up. The columns
stretched out. The Germans at the head and the tail of the columns, not
seeing what was happening, lost control of the situation. The body
count along the road multiplied.
   In the stretch of road just past the Skirotava station lived the
Garkalns family. Their daughter, seven years old, remembered a column
of Jews driven past her house, which was about one hundred feet off the
road. Pandemonium had broken out. Some Jews had refused to continue,
there had been shouting, shoving, and beatings. The column had started
up again. A few paces down the road a disturbance had broken out anew.
There was shooting, and people were killed and left on the roadside.
The people panicked, wailing began. The girl's mother hung blankets
before the window, and the youngster was taken to the back room and
forbidden to look out again. 
   As the march progressed, many women with children and old people
could not keep up. Possessions were thrown away, littering the road and
the ditches. The strong and the healthy attempted to support their
exhausted relatives, who were falling by the wayside. They were picked
up and thrown onto the horse-drawn wagons following the columns. Many
were shot and corpses fell on the road. The order was to kill not only
those who attempted to flee, but also those who left the column to rest
at the roadside. No doubt many of the people were killed by the column
guards." [A. Ezergailis: _The Holocaust in Latvia:
1941 - 1944_, 1996, pg. 251.]
€ 6:00 A.M. at Rumbula. The trainload of Berlin Jews that had arrived
the previous night were marched to the killing site at Rumbula and shot
before the first column of ghetto Jews arrived.

€ 9:00 A.M. The first column of Jews reached the killing site. The
column was led in groups of fifty into a funnel-like gauntlet formed by
a gang of SD men, Ordnungspolizei, and Arâjs men. As the Jews, whipped,
kicked, and beaten progressed into the gauntlet, they were forced to
leave valuables in boxes, and then to remove their outer garments, then
to strip, some to the skin, others to their underwear. Coats, clothing,
and shoes went into separate piles, which were loaded into trucks and
taken to the city by Arâjs men. The Jews were led down a ramp into the
pit and made to lie face down on top of those who had already been
shot. They were killed with a single shot to the back of the head fired
from a Russian automatic weapon set to fire single shots by a marksman
standing about two meters away.

Jeckeln oversaw the action along with many high SS, SD, and police
officials, including Reichskommissar of Ostland Lohse, from the top of
the embankment.

According to Ezergailis:

"Jeckeln ordered his own people to be at the shooting, to witness it,
and to share in the crime. He also called in police commanders from
Pskov and other cities in the region to witness the killings.
Stahlecker was called in from the Leningrad front to be present,
perhaps to point out that he had not finished the job and to show how
it must be done. [op. cit. pg- 254.]

€ 12:00 noon. The last column of Jews is sent out of the ghetto. 

€ 1: 00 P.M. A final check is made of the western part of the ghetto.
About twenty bedridden Jews are taken to the ghetto hospital, from
which they are removed and shot in the head in front of the building
later that day [Hamburg Landgericht: Urteil gegen Jahnke u.a., pp.

€ 2:00 P.M. Corpses along the street and in the ghetto are cleared and
taken to the Jewish cemetery by work Jews, where they are dumped into a
common grave without rites or prayer. Any Jews lying on the street who
show signs of life are shot dead by members of the Arâjs commando.
5:00 P.M. The systematic shooting stops, although sentries were posted
at the pits. Not everyone had been killed and the sentries were ordered
to shoot anyone in the pits that showed signs of life. A unit of the
Latvian Schutzmannschaft was assigned to guard the general area.

Excursus: An eyewitness account of the events of November 30, 1941
Of interest here is the degree to which the ideas represented by the
exploiters (Lohse and his faction) and the exterminationists
(Stahlecker and his faction) dominate the text. Note also that Bruns
talks of an order subsequent to the Riga massacre to carry out mass
killings in a more discrete fashion in the future.

>From David Irving's archive: 
A genuine eye-witness account of shootings of Jews on the Eastern Front 
GERMAN ARMY engineer-colonel Walter Bruns was stationed near Riga in
November 1941, when he witnessed a mass shooting of Jews, including a
thousand just arrived from Berlin.

In British captivity in April 1945, Bruns, by then a Major-General, was
overheard by hidden microphones [the verbatim transcripts are
accessible from our Index at right] whispering to fellow prisoners what
he had seen.


C. S. D. I. C. (U.K.)


  S.R.G.G. 1158(C)
The following conversation took place between:

CS/1952 -- Generalmajor BRUNS (Heeres-Waffenmeisterschule I, BERLIN)
Captd GÖTTINGEN 8 Apr 45 and other Senior Officer PW whose voices could
not be identified. 

Information received: 25 Apr 45


BRUNS: As soon as I heard those Jews were to be shot on Friday I went
to a 21-year old boy and said that they had made themselves very useful
in the area under my command, besides which the Army MT park had
employed 1500 and the 'Heeresgruppe' 800 women to make underclothes of
the stores we captured in RIGA; besides which about 1200 women in the
neighbourhood of RIGA were turning millions of captured sheepskins into
articles we urgently required: ear-protectors, fur caps, fur
waistcoats, etc. Nothing had been provided, as of course the Russian
campaign was known to have come to a victorious end in October 1941! In
short, all those women were employed in a useful capacity. I tried to
save them. I told that fellow ALTENMEYER(?) whose name I shall always
remember and who will be added to the list of war criminals: "Listen to
me, they represent valuable man-power!" 'Do you call Jews valuable
human beings, sir?" I said: "Listen to me properly, I said valuable
man-power'. I didn't mention their value as human beings." He said:
"Well, they're to be shot in accordance with the FÜHRER's orders! I
said: "FÜHRER's orders?" "Yes", whereupon he showed me his orders. This
happened at SKIOTAWA(?), 8 km. from RIGA, between SIAULAI and JELGAVA,
where 5000 BERLIN Jews were suddenly taken off the train and shot. I
didn't see that myself, but what happened at SKIOTAWA(?) - to cut a
long story short, I argued with the fellow and telephoned to the
General at HQ, to JAKOBS and ABERGER(?), and to a Dr. SCHULTZ who was
attached to the Engineer General, on behalf of these people; I
told him: "Granting that the Jews have committed a crime against the
other peoples of the world, at least let them do the drudgery; send
them to throw earth on the roads to prevent our heavy lorries
skidding," "Then I'd have to feed them!" I said: "The little amount of
food they receive, let's assume 2 million Jews - they got 125 gr. of
bread a day - if we can't even manage that, the sooner we end the war
the better." Then I telephoned, thinking it would take some time. At
any rate on Sunday morning I heard that they had already started  on
it. The Ghetto was cleared and they were told: "You're being
transferred: take along your  essential things." Incidentally it was a
happy release for those people, as their life in the Ghetto was a
martyrdom. I wouldn't believe it and drove there, to have a look.   
?: Everyone abroad knew about it; only we Germans were kept in

BRUNS:I'll tell you something: some of the details may have been
correct, but it was remarkable that the firing squad detailed that
morning - six men with tommy-guns were posted at each pit; the pits
were 24 m in length and 3 m in breadth - they had to lie down like
sardines in a tin, with their heads in the centre. Above there were six
men with tommy-guns who gave them the coup de grâce. When I arrived
those pits were so full that the living had to lie down on top of the
dead; then they were shot and, in order to save room, they had
to lie down neatly in layers. Before this, however, they were stripped
of everything at one of the stations - here at the edge of the wood
were the three pits they used that Sunday and here they stood in a
queue 1 1/2 km long which approached step by step - a queueing up for
death. As they drew nearer they saw what was going on. About here they
had to hand over their jewellery and suitcases. All good stuff was put
into the suit-cases and the remainder thrown on a heap. This was to
serve as clothing for our suffering population - and then a little
further on they had to undress and, 500 m in front of the wood, strip
completely; they were only permitted to keep on a chemise or
knickers. They were all women and small two year-old children. Then all
those cynical remarks! If only I had seen those tommy-gunners, who were
relieved every hour - because of over-exertion, carry out their task
with distaste, but no, nasty remarks like: "Here comes a Jewish
beauty!" I can still see it all in my memory: a pretty woman in a
flame-coloured chemise. Talk about keeping the race pure: at RIGA they
first slept with them and then shot them to prevent them from talking.
Then I sent two officers out there, one of whom is still alive, because
I wanted eye-witnesses. " I didn't tell them what was going on, but
said: "Go out to the forest of SKIOTAWA(?), see what's up there
and send me a report." I added a memorandum to their report and took it
to JAKOBS myself. He said: "I have already two complaints sent me by
Engineer 'Bataillone' from the UKRAINE." There they shot them on the
brink of large crevices and let them fall down into them; they nearly
had an epidemic of plague, at any rate a pestilential smell. They
thought they could break off the edges with picks, thus burying them.
That loess there was so hard that two Engineer 'Bataillone' were
required to dynamite the edges; those 'Battaillone' complained. JAKOBS
had received that complaint. He said: "We didn't quite know
how to tell the FÜHRER. We'd better do it through CANARIS." CANARIS had
the unsavoury task of waiting for the favourable moment to give the
FÜHRER certain gentle hints. A fortnight later I visited the
Oberbürgermeister or whatever he was called then, concerning some other
business. ALTENMEYER(?) triumphantly showed me: "Here is an order, just
issued, prohibiting mass-shootings on that scale from taking place in
future. They are to be carried out more discreetly." From warnings
given me recently I knew that I was receiving still more attentions
from spies.   
?: A wonder you're still alive.   
BRUNS: At GÖTTINGEN, I expected to be arrested every day.   

Note: "Skiotawa" is Skirotava, the sorting station for Riga livestock
and the disembarking point for European Jews shipped to Latvia.
Additional eyewitness testimony of the events surrounding this
operation indicates that the ghetto Jews did not march willingly to the
killing site at Rumbula. 

December 8, 1941
The events of December 8 do not differ much from those of November 30.
Some deficiencies in the system were tightened, otherwise, the same
units that had participated in the first action participated in his one
as well. There was less disorder and only some 300 Jews were killed
within the ghetto. The marching was made easier by a deception: the
Jews were told to leave the 20 kilograms of possessions they would be
allowed to take with them at the ghetto, they would be sent later by
truck to their destination.

At least three people survived the second day. This is part of the
account of one of them, Frida Michelson, a dressmaker. She had been
driven out of the ghetto and was marching along Maskavas Road towards
the killing site:

"Our column started pouring into the forest. At the entrance stood a
large wooden box. An SS man armed with a club stood next to it and
shouted over and over: "Drop all your valuables and money in this
box....We were driven on. A bit further a Latvian policeman ordered:
"Take off your coat and throw it on top of the rest." There was already
a mountain of overcoats. My brain was working feverishly. the instinct
for survival took hold of me. No matter how small, how precarious the
chance, I was prepared to take it. I left my line and ran up to a
policeman, "Look, I am a  specialist dressmaker." I showed him
my document and various diplomas. "I can bring lots of benefits to
people. Look at my papers." "Go show your diplomas to Stalin!" the
policeman shouted, and hit my hand with his fist. My papers flew in all
directions­my treasured documents­the passport, diplomas, Ausweise. I
removed my overcoat and threw it on top of the rest. The policemen were
driving still harder. The shooting, the uninterrupted shooting, was
becoming louder. We were nearing the end. An indescribable fear took
hold of me, a fear that bordered on loss of mind. I started screaming
hysterically, tearing my hair, to drown out the sound of the
shooting. "Atrak! Atrak!" "Take off your clothes! Just leave on the
underclothes." Another mountain of clothes. I had on a white nightshirt
and three layers of underclothes. I fell down on the heap of clothes
and tried to hide in it. Right away I felt a sharp pain of the whip on
my back., "Get up immediately and take your clothes off." "I am already
undressed," I answered crying. "I have only a nightshirt on." "Then go
and no games!" I went. Still screaming and tearing my hair. A policeman
stopped me and shouted obscenities­why was I not undressed yet? In the
same moment another woman run up to the policeman: "My husband is
Latvian, see up there, that policeman knows my husband well. I should
not die with the rest of them." Using this moment while the attention
of the policeman was distracted by the woman, I threw myself on the
ground with my face in the snow feigning death. People were passing me,
some stepped on me­I did not move. A little later I heard
voices over me in Latvian: "Look, there is somebody here on the
ground." ..I lay there still as a rock. Then I heard the voices of the
policemen: "Atrak! Atrak!"...I was not fully conscious. A woman passing
by me was lamenting, "Ai, ai, ai..." Some object hit me on the back,
then another. More objects were falling on me, Finally I realized that
these were shoes, because they fell in pairs. I was being covered with
shoes galoshes, felt boots. This load was heavy, but I did not move a
muscle...More and more shoes were falling on me. I could hear people
crying bitterly, parting with each other­and run, run,,run... Finally
the cries and moaning ceased, the shooting stopped, I could
hear the shovels working not far away, probably to cover the bodies. I
heard Russian spoken. 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. I
was lying in a puddle of water, -cold water...Quiet for a while. Then,
from the direction of the trench a child's cry: "Mama! Mama! Mamaaa!" A
few shots. Quiet. Killed. [F. Michelson, _I Survived Rumbuli_. New
York, 1979, pp. 88-93]

E. How public was the Rumbula massacre?
The Rumbula massacre took place in Riga, a major port city, in full
public view over the course of two days. The killings at the ghetto and
its immediate surroundings, as well as the killing of stragglers and
would-be escapees along Maskavas Road were done in full view of any
passers by. The killing site at Rumbula was partially concealed by
trees, but the noise and pandemonium were audible from a considerable
distance. The stationmaster at the Rumbula station testified that he
could hear the whole operation from his house [Alberts Baranovskis
testimony of November 18, 1944, in H. Krausnick & H-H. Wilhelm, _
Die Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges: Die Einsatzgruppen der
Sicherheitspolizei und der SD, 1938-1942_, Stuttgart, 1981. pg. 565].

The whole city of Riga knew of the massacre by the evening of November
30, and everyone was talking about it. Radio broadcasts, one a
German-language one from Moscow, the other a BBC broadcast from London,
announced the killings at Rumbula to the world at large.

The city of Riga was reminded of the Rumbula massacre in a most
unpleasant manner during the summer of 1943. Himmler issued a general
order that the bodies of massacre victims buried in mass graves were to
be exhumed and burned. Even though the burning was done in secrecy,
with the participants killed after the job was completed, both the
smoke and the stench and the fact that the Rumbula pits are less than
100 meters from a major train line, made it impossible to hide what was
going on from the inhabitants of Riga or from travelers to or from that
city. At the Arâjs Trial, Leopold Schlesigner, leader of the SD
Department III N, discusses this operation in his deposition,
pp. 1392-1407. He recalls that during the summer of 1943 a westerly
wind blew and "a horrible stench settled on the city." He asked his
Latvian co-workers the cause of the smell and they answered that he
should know that it came from the burning of Jewish corpses. Despite
this attempt to destroy the evidence, burned bones and other remains of
the massacre are still to be found at the site [cf. Mordecai Lapid,
"The Memorial at Rumbuli: A First Hand Account," _Jewish Frontier_,
June 1971, pgs. 10-19].

F. The numbers at Rumbula
The factuality of the Rumbula massacre is beyond dispute, there are,
however, differences of opinions concerning the number of people killed
in the operation. After the killings SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich
Jeckeln told his assistant, Paul Degenhart, that 22,000 rounds of
ammunition had been used at Rumbula itself. At his trial in Riga in
1946 Friedrich Jeckeln said that the number of victims was at least
20,000. On each of the two days more than 1,000 people were killed
either in the ghetto or along the road to Rumbula. To this
figure must be added the 1,000 Berlin Jews who were the first to be
shot at the Rumbula pits on the morning of November 30, 1941. The
entire operation can be estimated to have killed a total of
approximately 25,000 people.

IV. The significance of the Rumbula massacre

A. General significance

The Rumbula massacre was one of the largest, most public, and best
document massacres carried out by the Germans in Eastern Europe. For
this reason alone it serves as an excellent case study demonstrating
the degree to which German policy towards the Jews in Latvia and, by
analogy, elsewhere in Eastern Europe, was the product of a combination
of a master plan and local improvisation. It is certainly worthy of
note that the operation was directed from Berlin, that Reichsführer
Heinrich Himmler himself assigned the task to SS-Obergruppenführer
Friedrich Jeckeln, his mass-killing specialist, after becoming aware of
policy differences concerning the fate of Jews in the Soviet-occupied
Baltics. Equally important is the fact that Jeckeln and his
subordinates were convinced that they were acting on an orally given
command from Hitler himself, a command that originated in an
understanding of the radically changed relationship of Germany's policy
towards Jews resulting from the attack on the USSR, a country with a
Jewish population of more than 5,000,000 and led by an ideology which
Nazi propaganda identified with Judaism: destroying communism and
destroying Judaism were, in the vew of the Nazis, the same thing. 

As far as Latvia's Jews were concerned, the Rumbula massacre was a major
tragedy, but not the beginning or end of their tragic ordeal. Several
thousand Jews had been killed in Latvia by the Einsatzkommandos and
local operatives during the five months that preceded the Rumbula
massacre, and major massacres of Jews were carried out in other Latvian
cities as well as in the several dozen concentration camps operated by
the Nazis in Latvia afterwards. All in all, approximately 70,000 of the
approximately 86,500 Latvian Jews ­ four out of every five ­ were
killed in the Holocaust. To this number must be added hundreds of
Jewish refugees from neighboring Lithuania killed by the Germans
during the first weeks of the war, as well as the tens of thousands of
German, Hungarian, Czech and other Jews sent to Latvia as slave
laborers by the Nazis after most Latvian Jews had been killed who died
there as a consequence of abuse, starvation, disease, or were shot in
conjunction with the liquidation of the concentration camps when the
Germans withdrew from Latvia.

B. Methodological significance

As far as the evolution of killing methods is concerned, the second day
of the Rumbula massacre, December 8, 1941, coincides with the opening
of the first extermination camp at Chelmno near Lodz in Poland. The
Chelmno camp used the techniques of deception that had been developed
within the T4 euthanasia program. It is interesting to consider the
similarities and differences between Riga, one of the last mass
shootings, and Chelmno, the first site of mass gassings. 

At Chelmno the first victims were mainly Jews from the Lodz ghetto who
were told, like the Jews of Riga, that they were to be resettled. They
were transported to the camp, mostly in railway freight cars, taken to
a cellar changing room by guards posing as medical staff, told to
deposit their clothes for disinfection and their money and valuables
for safekeeping, and sent on in groups of fifty or sixty up an inclined
ramp following signs "To the bath". At the end was a large truck with
steel sides and roof. As Adolf Eichmann related in his own papers
concerning his trip to Chelmno, they were packed inside, the doors were
closed and locked, after which they were driven off into the woods.
There a group of work-Jews was waiting for them beside a trench grave
they had dug. The driver stopped at the edge of the grave and pushed a
button which diverted the exhaust gas from the truck's motor into the
sealed body of the truck. When the people inside the truck were dead,
the doors were opened, the bodies removed, checked for gold teeth and
hidden vakuables, and then thrown into the awaiting graves.

At Chelmno we see a merger of the type of killing used in Riga -
ghettoization, a cover story that the ghetto inhabitants are going to
be resettled, and their orderly transportation to a killing site. But
there, unlike the situation in Riga, the killing site is enclosed and
thus not dependent on weather and daylight, in addition to being
closed, nor did what was going to happen become apparent until it was
too late to escape. The method, CO administered stealthily in an
enclosure that is functionally a gas chamber, is derived from the T4
euthanasia program and requires a far smaller manpower-input than the
individual shots in the head administered at Riga. As we follow the
Holocaust into 1942, we see a rapid decrease in Riga type mass murders,
and a corresponding increase and methodological evolution in the number
of facilities like Chelmno, where the killing can take place in a more
orderly and industrial fashion. The main improvements wer:
a. omitting the trip from the camp to the mass graves by constructing
statonary gas chambers which fed into mass graves or crematory
facilities in the immediate vicinity;
b. increasing the size of the functional gas chambers from facilities
that could accommodate a few dozen victims at a time to facilities that
could accommodate hundreds or even a thousand or more victims at a
c. improving the killing agent from CO to the cheaper and more lethal

The protocol to the Wannsee Conference refers explicitly to the
practical experience gained solving the Jewish problem during the time
between the attack on the USSR on June 22, 1941 and the convening of
the conference on January 20, 1942 as having a direct bearing on the
form the Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe would assume,
a question which, the protocol notes, at that time encompassed the
estimated more than 11,000,000 racial Jews still living in Europe. 

The logistical complexity of the Rumbula massacre, as well as the
merger of the method of using a cover story about resettlement with the
ruse of concealed functional gas chambers developed within the
framework of the T4 program, provided the justification and
methodological framework for gradually abandoning mass shootings for
extermination centers like Chelmno, which had been functioning for more
than a month when the conference was convened. Riga and Chemno both
serve as examples of the instructive practical experience dealing with
the Jewish Question which is referred to in the notorious protocol. 

Eugene Holman

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