The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/latvia/latvian-jews

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history
Subject: Holocaust Almanac - Actions against Latvian Jews
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Old Frog's Almanac, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Latvia,Riga,Arajs,Einsatzgruppe,Stahlecker
Lines: 117

Archive/File: holocaust/latvia latvia.001
Last-Modified: 1994/07/18

   "During July and August 1941, the principal German actors on the
   Latvian scene were the Security Police and the armed forces. The
   Chief of Security Police's Einsatzgruppe A, Walter Stahlecker,
   wanted to unleash some local violence against the Latvian Jews, who
   numbered seventy thousand when the Germans arrived. As early as
   July 1, the Einsatzgruppe was in contact with Latvian
   personalities, notably Viktors Arajs, a young man of humble
   background born in a small town in 1910 who had attended the
   University of Riga, where he had managed to join the 'aristocratic'
   Lettonia fraternity. He had received a law degree in March 1941,
   when Latvia was under Soviet rule, but he had also defended Latvian
   peasants threatened with expropriation by Soviet authorities, and
   he had gone into hiding before the German invasion. During the
   summer and fall of 1941, Arajis gathered a few hundred men. They
   served the Einsatzgruppe and did its work.<70>

   The German armed forces, which included a naval command in the port
   city of Liepaja and army Kommandanturen in the interior, had
   jurisdiction over a much larger, albeit more amorphous indigenous
   police force, which was called Hilfspolizei or Selbstschutz. The
   organizers of this force were two officers of the old Latvian army,
   Lieutenant Colonel Voldermars Veiss and his deputy, Lieutenant
   Colonel Roberts Osis. One of the territorial commanders of the
   Selbstschutz was pruned and transformed into a Schutzmannschaft
   with stationary components and battalions.

   The pogrom-like violence envisaged by Stahlecker was slow to start.
   In Riga, the toll was 400.<71> In Liepaja, Latvian 'civilians' with
   armbands and rifles drove Jews in trucks to an area near the beach,
   where the victims were shot.<72> In Daugavpils, in the southeast of
   the country, where Latvians were only about a third of the
   population among Russians, Poles, and Jews, the Latvian residents
   hesitated to organize themselves and 'confront' the Jewish
   inhabitants.<73> To be sure, this situation was soon remedied and
   the Latvian Selbstschutz there was engaged in massive shootings.
   <74> In Jelgava, south of the capital, the Security Police observed
   a similar lethargy but reported with satisfaction that finally the
   'population'  had killed all the 1,550 Jews in the city and its

   If, in the early days, Latvians appeared to be less spontaneous
   than their Estonian and Lithuanian neighbors, their efficiency
   increased over time. In Riga, the police prefecture and the central
   prison were used as holding pens for Jewish men whom the Arajs
   Kommando removed in batches to a shooting site in the woods. In a
   number of towns, Arajs men arrived in blue busses to shoot the Jews
   concentrated by local Latvian police. By mid-October, more than
   thirty thousand Latvian Jews had been killed by German and Latvian
   police forces.<76> Most of the remainder were shoved into a ghetto
   in Riga.

   The sojourn of the survivors in the Riga Ghetto was brief.
   Transports of German Jews were due in the city, and to make room
   for the deportees, Higher SS and Police Leader Friedrich Jeckeln
   struck at the ghetto at the end of November and the beginning of
   December, killing another 27,800 Jews.<77> All available forces
   were thrown into this action: German police, a Schutzmannshaft
   battalion, Arajs men, Riga precinct police, and Riga harbor
   police.<78> At the conclusion of the operation, Lietenant Alberts
   Danskorps of the Arajs Kommando was observed with a mandolin,
   playing Chopin's funeral march, as he led a group of 450 Jews
   dragged out of hiding to the old cemetary, where they were shot.
   <79>" (Hilberg, Perpetrators, 100-101)

   Viktors Arajs fought as a battalion commander, first in the 15th,
   then in the 19th Latvian SS divisions. Years later he was tried in
   a German court and sentenced to life imprisonment. (Ibid., 102)

   <70> On Arajs, see the judgement against him by a Hamburg court,
	December 21, 1979 (37) 5/76. See also the paper presented by
	Andrew Ezergailis, "Sonderkommando Arajs," at the Ninth
	International Conference of Baltic Studies in Scandinavia,
	Stockholm, June 3-4, 1982.
   <71> Reich Security Main Office IV-A-1, Operational Report No. 24,
	July 16, 1941, Nuremberg trials document NO-2938.
   <72> Testimony by Reinhard Wiener (in the German navy at the time),
	December 15, 1969, in the case against Erhard Grauel
	(Einsatzkommando 2) before a Hannover Court, 2 Js 261/60.
	Wiener, who made a short clandestine film of these shootings,
	saw about two hundred spectators at the site.
   <73> See <71> above
   <74> Security Division 281/VII (Military Government), signed in
	draft by Generalleutnant Friedrich Bayer, to Commander of Army
	Group North Rear Area, July 27, 1941, National Archives Record
	Group 242, T315, Roll 1871. The toll as of that date was three
	thousand to four thousand.
   <75> Reich Security Main Office IV-A-1, Operational Report No. 40,
	August 1, 1941, Nuremberg trials document NO-2950.
   <76> Stahlecker report, October 15, 1941. Nuremberg trials document
   <77> Undated draft report by Stahlecker (February 1942), Nuremberg
	trials document PS-2273.
   <78> Indictment of Arajs, May 10, 1976, 141 Js 534/60, and
	judgement, December 21, 1979 (37) 5/76. Petitions by Latvian
	Riga precinct and harbor policemen to receive Jewish Ghetto
	furniture, National Archives Record Group 242, T459, Roll 2.
	Several of the policemen indicate that they had participated
	in the 'Jewish action.'
   <79> Account by Benjamin Edelstein (undated) in the collection of
	evidence prepared for the Arajs indictment, 141 Js 534/60, pp.
                             Work Cited

   Hilberg, Raul.  Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish
      Catastrophe 1933-1945.  New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, Inc.

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