The Holocaust II WW2

The Holocaust (Greek holos - all, no remnants; burned in caustics) - the mass extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany and its occupied territories during World War II. The process of mass extermination of the Jews began with the Polish occupation. With the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the active phase of the Holocaust began. The Nazi secret so-called "final solution to the Jewish question" (Endlösung der Judenfrage) was intended to kill all Jews living in the USSR. In the second half of the 1930s, 93,479 Jews lived in Latvia (1935). The majority of German, Austrian, Hungarian and Czechoslovak Jews deported here during the war were also killed in Latvia. Genocide was also directed against the Roma and the mentally ill in Latvia. The Holocaust is the largest mass crime committed against the civilian population in the history of Latvia - approximately 73,000 Latvian Jews and 16,000 foreign Jews perished during the Nazi occupation.

The implementation of the Holocaust in German-occupied Latvia was initially carried out by the German security police and the SD special unit Einsatzgruppe A, the largest of the four such einzac groups. It was led by SS Brigadier General and Police Major General Walter Stahlecker. At first, various restrictions and prohibitions were introduced, followed by the registration of Jews, who were required to wear the symbol of Judaism, the six-pointed Star of David. The Jews were confiscated from their property, followed by their isolation and eventual murder. The first murders took place on June 23, 1941 in Grobiņa. The German military and civilian authorities needed to establish their power and involve the local population in the killings. They took place in all settlements with a small Jewish population. The main perpetrators of the killings were specially formed SD units under the leadership of Viktors Arājs and Mārtiņš Vagulāns.

Judas cult buildings - synagogues - were burned down. the second half of the choral synagogue on Gogoļa Street. On August 23, a ghetto was established in the suburbs of Moscow, healing 29,602 people. 14,000 ghettos were placed in the Daugavpils ghetto, and several thousand in the Liepaja ghetto. On November 30 and December 8, 1941, about 25,000 Jews brought from Latvia and 1,000 from Germany were killed under his leadership in Rumbula. Some 6,000 Jews were forced to live after the Rumbula massacre. In 1944, the survivors were deported to camps in Germany. The German Nazi occupation authorities also carried out genocide against members of the Latvian Roma (Roma) and the mentally ill. Approximately 2,000 Roma were killed in several Latvian cities, in psychiatric hospitals in Riga, Daugavpils, Liepaja, Strenči, etc. - approximately 2,327 people.

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Related objects

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.

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.

Varaklani Jewish Cemetery - a memorial to the victims of German-fascist terror

Varakļāni Jewish Cemetery, at the end of Kapsētas Street.

There are two monuments erected in the Varakļāni Jewish cemetery after the war by surviving relatives and relatives.

One of them is located near the cemetery fence, where the mass extermination of Jews took place. The inscription on it in Russian and Yiddish reads: "We will mourn forever with our parents, brothers and sisters who died at the hands of the fascists in 1941." The second monument is inside the cemetery; In the place where the killed Jews were later reburied, there is also an inscription in Yiddish and Russian: "Eternal memory of the victims of the German-fascist terror - the Jews of Varakļāni, brutally killed on August 4, 1941".

Nazi German troops entered Varaklani in 1941. In early July, and from the very first days, the siege and isolated killings of Jews began. A conditional ghetto was established near the Jewish cemetery, to which all Jews had to move. On August 4, a German SD unit (the "Arāja team") shot virtually all Jews in Varakļāni (about 540 people) with the help of local self-defense forces on the territory of the Jewish cemetery.

Every year on the first Sunday of August, a memorial event dedicated to the Jews killed in Varakļāni takes place in the Varakļāni Jewish Cemetery.

Jewish Memorial at Rumbula

Located in Rumbula, near Moskava Street.

Rumbula is one of the largest sites of mass extermination of Jews in Europe. During two actions - 1941. On November 30 and December 8, which were realized based on the Nazi leadership's decision to completely exterminate the Jews imprisoned in the Riga ghetto, more than 25,000 people were shot in the Rumbula forest, including approximately 1,000 Jews deported from Germany. 1944 Several hundred Jewish men from the Kaiserwald concentration camp were also killed in Rumbula.

The first attempts to perpetuate the memory of the Jews killed in Rumbula date back to the end of the 60s. Despite the restrictions of the Soviet government, as a result of the initiative of some Jews in 1963. a wooden commemorative plaque with an inscription in Yiddish was attached to one of Rumbula's pine trees, while a large poster of the artist Josif Kuzkovskis "The Jew" was installed near the Rumbula railway (near the Riga-Moscow line). The poster showed the image of a man rising from the grave with a clenched fist, symbolizing a protest against what had been done. Both the commemorative plaque and the poster already in 1964. were harvested, but the Jews managed to obtain permission to erect a memorial stone in Rumbula with the inscription "Victims of Fascism" not only in Latvian and Russian, but also in Yiddish.

in 2002 On November 29, the memorial ensemble was opened in Rumbula according to the project of architect Sergejs Riž. Its establishment was financially supported by the institutions of Latvia, Israel, the USA and Germany, as well as private individuals.

On the side of the highway, by the road that leads to the memorial, a metal structure symbolizing the forces of Nazism has been installed as a sign. Nearby is a stone with the explanation that thousands of Jews were chased to death along this road. At the entrance to the memorial itself, several stone plaques with inscriptions in Latvian, English, German and Hebrew introduce the events of the Rumbula tragedy and the history of the establishment of the memorial. In the central part of the memorial, above the square, which is made in the shape of the Star of David, rises a seven-branched candlestick - a menorah, surrounded by stones with engraved names of the Jews killed in Rumbula. The names of the streets of the former Riga ghetto are engraved in individual stones with which the square is paved. There are several mass graves on the territory of the memorial, the places of which are marked with rectangular concrete borders.

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.

Preiļi Museum of History and Applied Art exhibition "Museum stories for Latvia"

It is located in the premises of the Preiļi Cultural Center.

Preiļi Museum of History and Applied Art (PVLMM) exhibition "Museum stories for Latvia" about the First World War, the War of Independence and the Second World War can be viewed.

The "Story of Drywys" section of the exhibition "Museum Stories for Latvia" (opened in 2018) of the Museum of Preiļi History and Applied Arts is dedicated to the First World War, the War of Independence and the liberation of Latgale, as well as to the knights of the Lāčplešana War Order. The exhibition section "The story of the flag" tells about the difficult events of the Second World War period, during which the people of Preila were affected by deportations, the Holocaust, involvement in the military units of the warring parties, and after the war - in the ranks of national partisans. The "Righteous Among the Nations" medal awarded to Vladislav Vuškānas, the savior of the Jews from Preiliat, can also be viewed.

Upon prior application, a tour is available in Russian and English.

Klooga concentration camp and Holocaust memorial

This memorial to the victims of the Holocaust is situated not far from the small borough of Klooga.

The first monument was erected here in 1951, but it essentially praised the Soviet ideology and did little to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. In 1994, the plaques on the monument were replaced with new ones at the request of the Jewish community in Estonia so as to do justice to the victims' ethnic roots. On the 50th anniversary of the mass murder perpetrated in Klooga, a monument to the Jews killed in Estonia from 1941-1944 was unveiled 100 metres from the first monument. In 2005, a third monument was unveiled commemorating the Jews who died or were killed in the concentration camp in Klooga.

The memorial was renovated in 2013 to tie the three monuments together, with the Estonian History Museum opening an outdoor exhibition here entitled ‘Klooga camp and the Holocaust’.

Klooga concentration camp was established by the German regime in September 1943. It was a forced-labour sub-camp of the Vaivara concentration camp complex in Estonia. On 19 September 1944, one of the largest mass murders in German-occupied Estonia was committed: all of the Jews at the camp (around 2000 in total) were killed as the Red Army approached.


Preilius Holocaust Memorial

It is located in the Preiļu Jewish cemetery on Cēsu street.

The architect of the memorial is Sergejs Rizh. Opened on August 8, 2004. The memorial was built on the initiative and personal funds of Dāvid Zilbermanis (USA), a former resident of Preiļi, engineer and public worker. In 2015, another monument was added to the memorial - an arch installed at the entrance to the cemetery in the form of a symbolic gate.

The memorial is located on the edge of the Preiļi Jewish cemetery, next to the place where around 800 Jews from Preiļi and the surrounding area were killed in the summer of 1941 after the entry of Nazi German troops with the involvement of local collaborators. The diary of Sheina Gram (1926-1941), a Jewish girl from Preiļi, which she started writing on June 22 - the day the war between the USSR and Germany started - until August 8, is a testimony of the events of this time. Sheina, together with her family and other surviving Jews of Preila, was killed next to the Jewish cemetery on August 9. Thanks to the help of Vladislav Vuškānas (1887-1953) from Preili, 6 Jews from Preili managed to survive the German occupation in hiding. On the stones of the monument are engraved entries from Sheina Gram's diary, as well as words of gratitude to the savior of the Jews, Vladislav Vushkan. An urn with the names of the 750 Jews killed here is buried at the foot of the monument.

SS troops training area "Seelager" and memorial to the prisoners of the concentration camp

At the end of 1943, the Nazi German occupation authorities, planning to expand the SS motorised weapons units, started to build a training ground called "Seelager" (Sea Camp) in the vicinity of Dundaga. The inhabitants of the parishes of Dundaga and Arlava were evacuated to set up the training ground. 

In order to build the infrastructure for the camp, several branches of the concentration camp "Kaiserwald" were located in the vicinity of Dundaga, where around 6000 Jews from various European countries (including Latvia) and around 1000 prisoners of war and partisans were imprisoned. Many prisoners died as a result of executions and poor living conditions. Some of the dead were buried in the "Čiekuri" branch camp, which according to some accounts was also the murder site of a group of Jews who were building a narrow-gauge railway towards Mazirbe.

At the beginning of August 1944, after the Soviet invasion of Zemgale, the training ground was liquidated, several thousand untrained SS recruits were sent back to Germany, and the SS motorised brigade Gross was formed from the command, instructors and trained soldiers, named after the commander of the training ground, SS Standard-Sergeant Martin Gross. The Brigade took part in the Battle of Tukums in August 1944, and in the Battles of Iecava and Baldone in September 1944.

After the departure of the SS units, the infrastructure of the training ground was used to accommodate Jews evacuated from Riga and other regions of Latvia, who continued to be used as slave labour.

Misiņkalns Military Heritage Trail

Misiņkalns nature park is located in the town of Aizpute. Misiņkalns is the highest place in the city of Aizpute. Its height reaches 95.4 m. The top offers a scenic view of the city. Misiņkalns nature park was started to be built in the 20th century. at first. The area of the park is currently about 28 ha.

In the territory of the park there are several places and memorials related to the events of the 20th century - the memorial stele of the soldiers who died in the Latvian Freedom Wars - the cavaliers of the Lāčpleš Order, the place of the Holocaust memorial, the place of remembrance of the repressed and the memorial plaque of the fallen red partisans.

In the park, you can get to know the plants and plantations of various rare species, as well as enjoy the untouched nature. Currently, the park is criss-crossed by renovated walking and cycling paths, and there is a motorcycle track on the territory of the park, where Latvian motocross competitions take place.

In order to get to know the cultural and historical heritage of Misiņkalns manor park more fully, we recommend using the services of a guide.

Holocaust reburial site

Nazi troops entered Aizpute in 1941. on June 28. Already at the beginning of July, some Jews were shot in the Dzirkali forest and the city park, while the rest of the Jews of the city and the immediate surroundings were arrested and placed in two city synagogues.

After that, the mass killing of Jews took place during two actions.

Today, a monument with an inscription in Hebrew and Latvian has been installed at the reburial site: "The Jews of Aizpute and other innocent victims of the German Nazis, brutally killed in 1941, are buried here. We will remember forever."

Related stories

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.

Star of David at the Dundagh Concentration Camp Memorial

After regaining independence, the residents of Dundaga installed a large wooden star of David at the place of the murder and reburial of the Jews near the Mazirbe - Dundaga highway, and later the Council of Jewish Congregations and Communities of Latvia opened a memorial stone next to it.