Riga ghetto and the Holocaust

Three fragments of the stories of different people's memories have been deliberately chosen, which allows us to look more closely at the Holocaust crime from different points of view.

VALTER BRUNSS, Major General of the German Army, observed Rumbula's action: Top six with submachine guns, which were then shot in the head. When I arrived, it was already full, the living ones had to lie on top and then they were shot; to save space, they had to sleep tight. [...] When they came near, they saw what was going on. [...] They had to return their jewelry and suitcases. The good things ended up in suitcases and the rest - in one big pile, a little further, they had to undress and 500m before the forest they had to undress completely, they could only stay in a shirt or panties. They were all women and young children, about 2 years old. ”

JANIS LIPKE, the Savior of the Jews: There was real chaos: people rushed helplessly from one place to another, shouting, crying. Some stretched some bundles and suitcases, others carried or pushed children in handcarts. The drunken police shouted at people, pulled them out of the apartments and beat them brutally. Some squirrels shot in the crowd, looking at the crowd. [...] German soldiers and Latvian police beat and shot those who fell behind the column. The bodies of those killed remained on the street, which drove people to the shooting. I saw a lot of women and babies in the yard of a big house. The house was located on Lāčplēša Street next to the barbed wire fence, which was surrounded by a ghetto ”

BEIL HAMBURG, a prisoner of the Riga ghetto, survived the Rumbula campaign: "People were moving forward slowly, the police called 'faster, faster', but nothing helped. We became indifferent, the will to live disappeared. We walked along Maskavas Street, people were standing by the windows and looking at us. Some wiped their eyes, but I also saw those who laughed. One even showed a fist. We reached the rubber factory "Square", which is located on the outskirts of the city, and went on until we heard many shots. Now the children cried loudly. The police were already drunk and only urged "faster, faster".

Major General Walter Bruns (1891 - 1957) was an engineer-colonel in the German army, stationed near Riga at the end of 1941, who witnessed the massacre in Rumbula. He was arrested on April 8, 1945, and held in a British detention camp for German officers. These detention centers were equipped with interrogation devices, so prisoners' conversations were recorded and recorded. In one such conversation between Bruns and other officers, he spoke about the events in Rumbula, giving evidence of the Holocaust in Riga. In 1948, Bruns testified as a witness in court against the Wehrmacht High Command. In the same year he was released from prison.

Žanis Lipke (1900 - 1987) was a dock worker in the port of Riga. When the Nazis occupied Riga, he wanted to help the Jewish community. To do this, he got a job at Luftwaffe warehouses near the Central Market near the Riga ghetto. He was to lead the Jews to and from the warehouses. Lipke used this opportunity to hide some of the Jews and they would not have to return to the ghetto, but they could go to Lipke's house, where he had already prepared a bunker for them. Later, Žanis Lipke found other places to hide Jews from acquaintances in Riga and Dobele. In total, Žanis Lipke and his assistants rescued more than 50 people.

Baille was a prisoner of the Riga ghetto who survived the Rumbula campaign. Died in the Stutthof concentration camp

Used sources and references:

The memories are published on the website of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. Available: http://okupacijasmuzejs.lv/rumbula/

Related topics

Related objects

Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum

The Riga Ghetto and the Latvian Holocaust Museum is located in Riga close to the Riga Central Market and the Riga Central Station. The museum was opened in 2010 on the site where the city's warehouses once were. It is located in the historical part of the city, next to the border of the former Jewish ghetto. The territory of the ghetto is unique, because in terms of architecture it has not changed since World War II. It is a memorial dedicated to the tragedy suffered by the Jewish people. The German policy regarding the Jewish population in Latvia until the end of 1939 was for the German diplomats and politicians to try and pressure the Latvian government to take action against the Jews by restricting their freedom. After the emigration of the Baltic Germans in 1939, the German embassy no longer had as good an access to information on the mood of the population and the events happening in Latvia as before. When the Red Army occupied Latvia, they manipulated the society to gain some support of the Jewish population for the new occupying power. However, after the regime started a crackdown on the society as a whole, the support fell rapidly. As a result of all this, a deep divide had formed between the people. And later on, the next regime – Germany – tried to exploit it. They hoped that the local population would harass and attack the Jews, but that did not happen. So, Germany adjusted their approach and devised a new plan to initially establish a Jewish ghetto and later destroy its inhabitants.

Jewish Memorial at Rumbula

Atrodas Rumbulā, netālu no Maskavas ielas.

Rumbula ir viena no lielākajām ebreju masveida iznīcināšanas vietām Eiropā. Divu akciju laikā – 1941.g. 30.novembrī un 8.decembrī, kas tika realizētas, balstoties uz nacistiskās vadības lēmumu pilnīgi iznīcināt Rīgas geto ieslodzītos ebrejus, Rumbulas mežā tika nošauti vairāk nekā 25’000 cilvēku, to skaitā aptuveni 1’000 no Vācijas deportēto ebreju. 1944.g. Rumbulā tika nogalināti arī vairāki simti ebreju vīriešu no Kaizervaldes koncentrācijas nometnes.

Pirmie mēģinājumi iemūžināt Rumbulā nogalināto ebreju piemiņu saistāmi ar 60-to gadu beigām. Neskatoties uz padomju varas ierobežojumiem, atsevišķu ebreju iniciatīvas rezultātā 1963.g. pie kādas no Rumbulas priedēm tika piestiprināta koka piemiņas plāksne ar uzrakstu jidišā, savukārt pie Rumbulas dzelzceļa (līnijas Rīga-Maskava tuvumā) tika uzstādīts liels mākslinieka Josifa Kuzkovska plakāts “Ebrejs”. Plakātā bija redzams vīrieša tēls, kurš itin kā cēlās no kapa ar sažņaugtu dūri, simbolizējot protestu pret nodarīto. Gan piemiņas plāksne, gan plakāts jau 1964.g. tika novākti, taču ebrejiem izdevās panākt atļauju Rumbulā uzstādīt piemiņas akmeni ar uzrakstu “Fašisma upuriem” ne tikai latviešu un krievu, bet arī jidiša valodā.

2002. g. 29. novembrī pēc arhitekta Sergeja Riža projekta Rumbulā tika atklāts memoriālais ansamblis. Tā ierīkošanu finansiāli atbalstīja Latvijas, Izraēlas, ASV un Vācijas institūcijas, kā arī privātpersonas.

Šosejas malā, pie ceļa, kurš ved uz memoriālu, kā norāde uzstādīta metāla konstrukcija, kas simbolizē nacisma spēkus. Blakus atrodas akmens ar paskaidrojumu, ka pa šo ceļu nāvē dzina tūkstošiem ebreju. Pie ieejas pašā memoriālā vairākas akmens plāksnes ar uzrakstiem latviešu, angļu, vācu valodā un ivritā iepazīstina ar Rumbulas traģēdijas notikumiem un memoriāla ierīkošanas vēsturi. Memoriāla centrālajā daļā virs laukuma, kurš ir izpildīts Dāvida zvaigznes formā, paceļas septiņzaru svečturis – menora, kurai apkārt izvietoti akmeņi ar iekaltiem Rumbulā nogalināto ebreju vārdiem. Atsevišķos akmeņos, ar kuriem ir bruģēts laukums, ir iegravēti kādreizējā Rīgas geto ielu nosaukumi. Memoriāla teritorijā atrodas vairāki masu kapi, kuru vietas iezīmētas ar taisnstūra betona apmalēm.


Žanis Lipke Memorial

The Žanis Lipke memorial is located in Ķīpsala, Riga. The Žanis Lipke Museum is probably one of the most hidden museums in Riga. The obscure location of the memorial is not a coincidence and it has a symbolic meaning. It has been set up in the location of a former underground hideout that was created to save people during the German occupation of World War II. Here Žanis Lipke and his family rescued 55 Jews. Nowadays a memorial has been built next to the Žanis Lipke family house. The memorial ‘Black Shed’ is a symbolic building where shelter was provided and received. The design of the building has been taken from the historical tarred huts of Ķīpsala fishermen and sailors. These huts were built using materials from barges; hence they had a very distinct colour and tar smell. But not only the story of this historic place is unique. The way the museum communicates its message is also quite notable. The overall design has similarities with the Noah’s Ark described in the Bible, and it also resembles a boat that has been pulled ashore and overturned – a boat that has fulfilled its task. The concept of this memorial draws from the historic accuracy of this place and story and the testimonies associated with it. It is a story of a desire for freedom, unbelievable escape and trust. On your way to the museum, you’ll also be able to see the historic buildings of Pārdaugava.

Memorial to the victims of holocaust in Liepāja

The largest memorial to Holocaust victims in Latvia is located in Liepāja, in the Šķēde dunes. The memorial is dedicated to the memory of more than 3,000 Liepāja Jews killed during World War II. It is in the form of the Israeli national symbol, a seven-branched candelabra known as the menorah. The contours of the memorial, which are clearly visible from a bird’s eye view, are made of split boulders and granite blocks. The ‘lights’ of the menorah are made of granite pillars with inscriptions of verses from the Lamentations of Jeremiah in Hebrew, English, Latvian and Russian.