"Latvia"
50 Years of Terror Tyranny and Oppression 1940–1991
Home      Nazi Army Invasion Occupation of Liepaja
 
 
 
 
Nazi Army Invasion Occupation of the City of Liepāja 
 
In Latvia and the City of Liepāja, the Holocaust started on the night of the 23rd of June to the 24th of June 1941, when in Grobiņa, a town near Liepāja, Einsatzkommando 1a members killed six local Jewish people, including the town chemist, in the church graveyard. Once "Liepāja itself fell on 29 June 1941", "the hunt for the Jewish people began with the first hours of occupation." Professor Ezergailis estimates that about 5,700 Jewish people from Liepāja and the surrounding district fell into German hands. 
 
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                             Maps of Rainis Park                                                                       Map of the location of the Lighthouse                                                                       Map of the Šķēde Dunes along the Baltic Sea
 
The Liepāja massacres were a series of mass executions, many in public or semi-public, in and near the city of Liepāja “German: Libau”, on the west coast of Latvia in 1941 after the Nazi occupation of Latvia. The main perpetrators were detachments of the Einsatzgruppen, the Sicherheitsdienst or SD, the Ordnungspolizei, or ORPO, and Latvian auxiliary police and militia forces. Wehrmacht and German naval forces participated in the shootings. In addition to Jews, the Nazis and their Latvian collaborators also killed Gypsies, communists, the mentally ill and so-called "hostages". In contrast to most other Holocaust murders in Latvia, the killings at Liepāja were done in open places. About 5,000 of the 5,700 Jewish people trapped in Liepāja were shot, most of them in 1941. The killings occurred at a variety of places within and outside of the city, including Rainis Park in the city center, and areas near the harbor, the Olympic Stadium, and the lighthouse. The largest massacre, of 2731 Jewish, and 23 communists, happened from the 15th of December to the 17th of December 1941, in the dunes near Šķēde, on an old Latvian army training ground. “More is known about the killing of the Jewish people of Liepāja than in any other city in Latvia except for Riga”.
 
On the 29th of June and the 30th of June 1941, there were random shootings of Jewish people in Liepāja by German soldiers. About 99 Jewish people were killed in these shootings. Shootings began almost immediately. For example, at 5:00 p.m. on 29 June, arriving German soldiers seized 7 Jewish and 22 Latvians and shot them at a bomb crater in the middle of Ulicha iela. At 21:00hrs the same day German soldiers came to Hika iela, where they assembled all the residents and asked if any were refugees from Germany. One man, Walter or “Victor” Hahn, a conductor who had fled Vienna in 1938, stepped forward and was immediately shot. “Another source says that Hahn was killed by a mob of Latvians fomented by Nazis”. The next day, 30 June, soldiers went to the City Hospital, arrested several Jewish physicians and patients, disregarded the protests of the Latvians on the hospital staff, and shot them. Among the victims was 10 year old Masha Blumenau.
 
On the 29th of June 1941, a detachment of Einsatzkommando 1a, “EK 1a” under SS-Obersturmbannführer Reichert entered Liepāja. One of the first people EK 1a killed, on 30 June, was the musician Aron Fränkel, who, not knowing that Einsatzkommando had set up headquarters at his place of employment, the Hotel St. Petersburg, showed up for work. He was identified as a Jewish person and immediately shot.
 
Raiņa Park, Site of the 3rd and 4th of July 1941, Nazi Army first documented Mass Murders 
 
      
                              Map of Raiņa Park
 
During the fighting, the Soviet forces had dug defensive trenches in Rainis Park “Raiņa parks” in the center of Liepāja. On the 3rd and the 4th of July 1941, in their first documented massacre in Liepāja, Reichert's EK 1a men, all Germans of the SD, rounded up Jewish people and marched them to these trenches in the park. Once at the trench, they were shot and the bodies pushed in. How many were killed during these shootings is not known. Estimates range from several dozen to 300. After the war, the Soviet Union investigatory commission concluded that 1,430 people were killed in the park shootings, which Professor Ezergailis characterizes as an exaggeration. One participant, Harry Fredrichson, later testified that in one massacre he participated in, 150 people were killed. [Appendix XVII – Liepāja, Sites of Nazi Mass Murder
 
       
                                                                                                                Raiņa Park location of the 3rd and 4th of July 1941 Mass Murders
 
The first murder operation took place on the first day of occupation, on 3rd and the 4th of July 1941, when the Einsaztkommando shot a group of Jewish people along with other Latvian activists and Red Army POW’s in the anti-tank ditches in Raiņa Park. The killings were carried out by Einsatzkommando 1a, under the command of SS-Obersturmfuhrer Fritz Reichert. Groups of victims “according to different sources, between 33 and 150 men” that apparently comprised of Jews and suspected political activists and Red Army POW’s were ordered to march in line along Brīvības iela to the two ditches previously dug by the Red Army, 100 and 200 meters in length, where they were shot. A few days later, they were reburied in the Jewish Cemetery. This memorial located in the Jewish Cemetery has the names of those shot in Raiņa Park. Located at the north end of Raiņa Park at the site of the 3rd and 4th of July 1941 mass murders is a memorial stone in Raiņa Park dedicated to those who where murdered there.
 
As a naval base, Liepāja came under the command of the German navy, the Kriegsmarine. Lieutenant commander “Korvettenkapitan” Stein was appointed as town commandant. On the 1st of July 1941, Stein ordered that ten hostages be shot for every act of sabotage, and further put civilians in the zone of targeting by declaring that Red Army soldiers were hiding among them in civilian attire. This was the first announcement in Latvia of a threat to shoot hostages. On the 5th of July 1941 Korvettenkapitan Brückner, who had taken over for Stein issued a set of anti-Jewish regulations. These were published in a local newspaper, Kurzemes Vārds. Summarized these were as follows:
 
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                           Anti-Jewish measures ordered by                                                           Latvian language version of Anti-Jewish
                           the German naval commander in Liepāja,                                              measures ordered by the German naval
                           5 July 1941                                                                                              commander
  • All Jews must wear the yellow star on the front and back of their clothing;
  • Shopping hours for Jews were restricted to 10:00hrs to 12:00hrs. Jews were only allowed out of their residences for these hours and from 15:00hrs to 17:00hrs;
  • Jews were barred from public events and transportation and were not to walk on the beach;
  • Jews were required to leave the sidewalk if they encountered a German in uniform;
  • Jewish shops were required to display the sign "A Jewish-owned business" in the window;
  • Jews were to surrender all radios, typewriters, uniforms, arms and means of transportation. 
 
       
 
      
 
       
                                                                                                                        Courtyard where Jewish victims were held before being taken out and murdered!
 
On the 3rd or 4th of July, Erhard Grauel, commander of a detachment of Einsatzkommando 2, entered the city with about 30 men, most of them from Police Battalion 9 of the Ordnungspolizei. Reichert was then engaged in the Rainis Park shootings, which he described to Grauel as a "special assignment." Reichert left the day after Grauel arrived. Grauel took over a detention center courtyard and used it as a detention facility for the targets of the Nazi regime. Mostly they were Jews, but Communists and communist-sympathizers were also arrested. Rumors were spread that the Jewish people were responsible for the Communist atrocities during the Soviet regime in Liepāja. Latvian militia "self-defense men" carried out most if not all of the arrests. On 6 July 1941, Werner Hartman, a German war correspondent, saw the courtyard crammed so full of prisoners that there was no room for them to lie down. 
 
Author's Note:  
While spending sometime in Liepāja and talking to many Liepāja residents, to which none of them can remember or could verify that this location was ever a Women's Prison. During this time period  prier to 1941-1945 and currently to date, there has only been two Women's Prisons in Liepaja. The old one which is now closed and its current one which is located on the corner of Ganību iela and Dārza iela and neither one was ever located at this location. As to where anyone ever came up with the idea that is location was ever a Women's Prison, I have not been able to verify it with any of the people who lists it as a prison. Additional Information about the courtyard located at Tiesu iela 5, Liepāja, Latvia. According to Edward Anders, who was one of many held at this location on the morning of the 15th of December 1941, they had to stand with their faces toward the fence. When he returned to Liepāja for a revisit in 1998, it still had the original metal gates and remnants of the wooden fence that separated it from the next building. According to Edward Anders, it was also listed in the "1940 Latvijas telefona abonentu saraksts lists  in Column 969" 1940 Latvian telephone directory lists in Column 969, "Women's Prison, the Court's 5, telephone Nr.388". Mr. Anders also remember that this prison was also called Investigates messaging prison "Izmekles anas cietums", but the official name remained Sieviesu cietums. Unfortunate this is the only information I have found or received, listing this location as a Women Prison in 1940. This is the only information that listing it as a Women Prison. I have not found any other person or official documents that also shows this location was ever a Women Prison. Until other documents are found or presented that can confirm this information I have to go with what was found.  
The first shootings carried out by Grauel were of about 30 Jewish and Communists, arrested on the 5th of July through the 7th of July and then executed on the 7th of July 1941 as "hostages" pursuant to Korvettenkapitan Stein's decree of 1 July supposedly in retaliation for shots having been fired at German patrols in the Liepāja vicinity. Grauel had selected every fifth prisoner for execution, and Grauel's men shot them on the beach in the dunes near the lighthouse. The numbers killed in the hostage massacre were stated as 30 in Grauel's postwar trial, and estimated at 27 plus or minus 16 by Anders and Dubrovskis.
 
On or about the 7th of July 1941, Reichert returned to Liepāja, with a message from Stahlecker, commander of Einsatzgruppe A, which accused Grauel of not executing people fast enough. Grauel showed Reichert the list of people he had arrested. Reichert checked off a number of names on the list and demanded that they be shot immediately. Grauel ordered his assistant, one Neuman, to organize an execution. On the 8th, 9th, and 10th of July, Grauel's men shot 100 men, almost entirely Jewish, on each day. They were transported to the execution site from the courtyard and used as a detention facility in groups of 20.
 
According to Hartman's later testimony, on the 8th of July, he was present at the killing site from 11:00hrs to 17:00hrs and saw about 200 people killed. The procedure was for the Latvian "freedom fighters" as they were called by Hartman to drive the victims, ten at a time, into a long ditch that ended in a pit. There they would be aligned in a double row, and shot, generally by Germans, but possibly by Latvians. The area around the execution site was guarded by Germans and Latvians, who could be distinguished by their red-white-red armbands.
 
      
                                           Map of the location of the Lighthouse
 
The early executions, which happened at least every two weeks, if not more often, were on the beach to the south of the lighthouse. The initial execution squads were Germans, but were later replaced by a commando of Latvians.
 
Please note: The beach south of the lighthouse where Jewish and non-Jewish victims were murdered in 1941 is no longer accusable since it now sets within a fenced in area 
 
      
                                                                    The Lighthouse in present day
 
Grauel later testified at his post-war trial that he had requested to be relieved from command because of the stress of the massacres of the 8th of July to the 10th of July. His request was granted by the Einsatzkommando 2 commander, Rudolf Batz, and by the end of October, Grauel returned to Germany to study jurisprudence. Professor Ezergailis noted however, that before returning to Germany, and despite his claim to have been shocked by the 8th of July to the 10th of July massacres, Grauel went on from Liepāja to the nearby town of Ventspils, where he organized additional killings.
 
      
     Konrāds Kalējs, a company commander in the
     Arajs Kommando
 
Arajs Kommando
 
The Arājs Kommando “also: Sonderkommando Arajs”, led by SS-Sturmbannführer Viktors Arājs, was a unit of Latvian Auxiliary Police “German: Lettische Hilfspolizei” subordinated to the Nazi SD. It was one of the more well-known and notorious killing units during the Holocaust.
 
This group composed of Latvian men, made contact with the leader of Einsatzgruppe A, Walter Stahlecker, in early July 1941, immediately following the German capture of Riga. All of the Arājs Kommando members were volunteers, and free to leave at any time. Note: The only problem with this was those who did leave either ended up in a concentration camp or as a conscript in a Nazi Army line unit. 
 
The Arājs Kommando unit actively participated in a variety of Nazi atrocities, including the killing of Jewish, Roma, and mental patients, as well as punitive actions and massacres of civilians along Latvia's eastern border with the Soviet Union. The Kommando killed around 26,000 Jewish people in total. Most notably, the unit took part in the mass execution of Jewish people from the Riga Ghetto, and several thousand Jewish people deported from Germany, at Rumbula on the 30th of November and the 8th of December 1941.
 
Some of Arājs's men also served as guards at the Salaspils Concentration Camp.
 
As can be seen in contemporary Nazi newsreels, part of a documentation campaign to create the image that the Holocaust in the Baltic’s was a local, and not Nazi-directed activity, the Arājs Kommando figured prominently in the burning of Riga's Great “Choral” Synagogue on the 4th of July 1941.
 
The unit numbered about 300-500 men during the period that it participated in the killing of the Latvian Jewish population, and reached up to 1,500 members at its peak at the height of its involvement in anti-partisan operations in 1942.
 
In the final phases of the war, the unit was disbanded and its personnel transferred to the Latvian Legion.
 
Viktors Arājs
 
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 Arājs Kommando. The Arājs Kommando murdered about half of Latvia's Jewish people.
 
Viktors Bernhard Arājs was born in the town of Baldone, then part of the tsarist 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 in Riga, but never completed his degree. 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 was promoted to police lieutenant. 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".
 
Activities during World War II
 
The war between Germany and the Soviet Union began on the 22nd of June 1941. Shortly afterwards, the Red Army abandoned Riga to the advancing Wehrmacht.
 
      
     Former abandoned Riga Police Precinct house located at Valdemāra “Krišjāna Valdemāra” iela 19
     that was taken over by Viktors Arājs and his Security Group “Arājs Kommando” Unit in July 1941.
 
Arājs then took over an abandoned police precinct house at Valdemāra “Krišjāna Valdemāra” iela 19. 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 met the Germans, got on their best side, and gained their trust. Arājs recruited the core of his troops from his student fraternity and Pērkoņkrusts. On the 4th of July 1941, the German leadership turned loose "Security Group Arājs", generally referred to as the Arājs Kommando “arājs means plowman in Latvian” or Special Commando “Sonderkommando” Arājs. On the same day, in the German forces Latvian newspaper Tēvija “Latvian: Fatherland”, appeared a recruiting advertisement: "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 Valdemāra “Krišjāna Valdemāra” iela 19. On the 4th of July, Arājs and his henchmen trapped 500 Jews, who had not been able to take flight before the advancing Germans, in the Riga Synagogue on Gogoļa iela. 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-Sturmbannführer. Herberts Cukurs, the former Latvian pilot, was the adjutant to Arājs.
 
The First Arājs Action  
22 July 1941: "About 8,000 Jewish victims with the present of SS personnel would take about 1 year, which is untenable for pacification of Libau" “Liepaja”.

27 July 1941: "Jewish problem Libau “Liepāja” largely solved by execution of about 1,100 Jewish male by Riga SS commando on the 24th, 25th and 27th 1941".

Hans Kawelmacher, Libau “Liepaja” Naval Commandant.
Grauel was replaced with SS-Untersturmführer Second Lieutenant Wolfgang Kügler on the 10th or 11th of July. Under Kügler's supervision, massacres occurred at a rate of about twice a week. Shootings of small groups of Jewish people continued after the 10th of July, happening every evening. These were organized by Kügler. Often these were of less than 10 individuals, which was a pattern particular to Kügler's administration in Liepāja. The exact number of those killed in these actions is not known, but was estimated by Anders and Dubrovskis to be 81 individuals plus or minus 27. Anders and Dubrovskis estimate the total number of victims to be 387 individuals, plus or minus 130.
 
On the 16th of July 1941, Fregattenkapitän Dr. Hans Kawelmacher was appointed the German naval commandant in Liepāja. On the 22th of July, Kawelmacher sent a telegram to the German Navy's Baltic Command in Kiel, which stated that he wanted 100 SS and fifty Schutzpolizei "protective police" men sent to Liepāja for "quick implementation Jewish problem". By "quick implementation" Kawelmacher meant "accelerated killing." Mass arrests of Jewish men began immediately in Liepāja, and continued through the 25th of July 1941. The Arājs commando was brought in from Riga to carry out the shootings, which occurred on the 24th of July and 25th of July. About 910 Jewish men were executed, plus or minus 90. Statements in other sources that 3,000 “Vesterman” and 3,500 “Soviet Extraordinary Commission” were killed are incorrect.
 
This first Arājs action was later described by Georg Rosenstock, the commander of the second company of the 13th Police Reserve battalion. Rosenstock testified after the war that when he and his unit had arrived in Liepāja in July 1941, they had heard from some passing marines that Jews were being continuously executed in the town, and these marines were going out to watch the executions. A few days later, on Saturday, the 24th of July 1941, Rosenstock saw Jewish people “whom he identified by the yellow stars on their clothing” crouching down in the back of a truck, being guarded by armed Latvians. Rosenstock, who was himself in a vehicle, followed the truck to the north of the city to the beach near the naval base, where he saw Kügler, some SD men, and a number of Jewish people.
 
      
                                                                   Maps of the Šķēde Dunes along the Baltic Sea
 
The Jewish people were crouching down on the ground. They had to walk in groups of about ten to the edge of a pit. Here they were shot by Latvian civilians. The execution area was visited by scores of German spectators from the Navy and the Reichsbahn “national railway”. I turned to Kügler and said in no uncertain terms that it was intolerable that shootings were being carried out in front of spectators. 
 
The killings continued in August after the first Arājs action, but on a lessened scale. From the 30th of August to the 10th of December 1941, there were a large number of shootings, in which about 600 Jewish people, 100 Communists, and 100 Gypsies were killed. Anders and Dubrovskis estimate the total victims through the 15th of August 1941 as 153. Schulz, a boatswain's mate “Oberbootsmaat” from the harbor surveillance command, testified that on a day August, 1941, he had heard continuous rifle salvoes all day coming from across the harbor from his position.
 
Between 17:00hrs and 18:00hrs Schulz and another man rowed across the harbor to see what was happening. They followed the sounds of the shooting until they came to the old citadel. By standing on a bunker at the citadel they could see a long deep trench which was said to have been dug by the Jews the previous day. This was about one kilometer north of the lighthouse. They watched for about an hour or an hour and a half. During that time, three or four trucks arrived at the site, each carrying five Jewish people. They were forced to lie down in the truck. When the truck reached the site, the driver took the vehicle right up to the trench. Latvian guards, wielding clubs, forced the victims to enter directly into the trench. A squad of five men, possibly Latvians, but more probably German SD men, then shot them in the head. The supervising SS or SD officer then shot again any one not immediately killed.
 
The Romani people “called "Gypsy" in English and Zigeuner in German” were also targets of the Nazi occupation. On the 4th of December 1941, Hinrich Lohse issued a decree which stated:
 
Gypsies who wander about in the countryside represent a two-fold danger.
 
     1. As carriers of contagious diseases, especially typhus;
 
     2. As unreliable elements who neither obey the regulations issued by German authorities, nor are willing to do useful work.
 
There exists well-founded suspicion that they provide intelligence to the enemy and thus damage the German cause. I therefore order that they are to be treated as Jews.
 
Gypsies were also forbidden to live along the coast, which included Liepāja. On the 5th of December 1941, the Latvian police in Liepāja arrested 103 Gypsies “24 men, 31 women, and 48 children”. Of these people, the Latvian police turned over 100 to the custody of the German police chief Fritz Dietrich "for follow up" “zu weiteren Veranlassung”, a Nazi euphemism for murder. On the 5th of December 1941, all 100 were all killed near Frauenburg.
 
By the 18th of May 1942 the German police and SS commander in Liepāja indicated in a log that over a previous unspecified period, 174 Gypsies had been killed by shooting. The German policy on Gypsies varied. In general, it seemed that wandering or "itinerate" Gypsies “vagabundierende Zigeuner” were targeted, as opposed to the non-wandering, or "sedentary" population. Thus, on the 21st of May 1942, the SS commander in Liepāja police and SS commander recorded the execution of 16 itinerate Gypsies from the Hasenputh district. The documentation however does not always distinguish between different Gypsy groups, thus on the 24th of April 1942 EK A reported having killed 1,272 people, including 71 Gypsies, with no further description. 
 
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                                               Nazi warning in “German”                                                                                           Nazi warning in “Latvian”
 
Nazi police warning to the Jewish people of Liepāja to remain in their houses on the 15th and 16th of December 1941.
 
The largest of the Liepāja massacres took place on three days from Monday, 15 December to Wednesday, the 17th of December 1941. On the 13th of December, Kurzemes Vārds published an order by Emil Diedrich, the Nazi police in Liepāja, which required all Jews in the city to remain in their residences on Monday, the 15th of December and Tuesday the 16th of December 1941. The order came from SD headquarters in Riga; whether it was received by Kügler or his deputy, Reichle, was disputed, with both Kügler and Reichle later claiming Kügler was on leave in Germany. The Latvian police began arresting the Jewish people in the city on the night of the 13th and the 14th of December 1941 bringing them to the  courtyard used as a detention facility for the targets of the Nazi regime, where they were confined in the courtyard. There was not enough room for the people, so they were ordered to stand facing towards the wall, and not move, look for relatives, or look at the guards, who beat people and treated them with brutality. There was an old wooden building, a garage, barn, or horse barn, at the beach of Šķēde Dunes. Some of the Jewish people were taken to this building on the evening of Sunday, the 14th of December 1941. [Map of Area known as Liepaja Jewish Ghetto Area]
 
      
                            Map of the Šķēde Dunes along the Baltic Sea
 
Photographs of the Liepāja December 1941 Shootings
 
      
     Members of the 21st Latvian Police Battalion assembling a group of Jewish women
     for execution on beach near Liepāja the 15th of December 1941
 
      
          A group of Jewish women huddled together, waiting to be shot on the beach
 
      
                          Women and children forced to undress prior to shooting
 
      
     A Latvian guard leads Jewish women to the
     execution site
 
      
                                     Jewish women about to be shot by Nazis
 
      
                          Another image, of same group, about to be shot
 
      
     Immediately following the shooting the man on the right is the "kicker", responsibly
     for shoving the bodies into the pit.
 
      
                                 Women forced to disrobe and then forced to pose.
 
Pēteris Galiņš, where little is known other than that he was killed in Russia in the winter of 1943, was in charge of the Latvian guards, and he ordered a team of 20 to report for duty at 05:30hrs on the 15th of December.
 
The execution site was on the beach, north of the city, and north of the small barn or garage, which was used as a temporary holding point for the victims while their turn came to be executed. A trench had been dug in the dunes that ran parallel to the shore and was about "100 meters long and 3 meters wide". Columns of Jewish people were formed at the detention center courtyard and marched out under guard to the killing site. The guards were Latvians with Germans acting as supervisors.
 
Once at the site, the Jewish people were housed in the barn and then taken in groups of 20 at a time to a point 40 or 50 meters from the trench, where they were ordered to lie face down on the ground. Groups of ten were then ordered to stand up, and, except for children, remove their outer clothing. As they were moved closer to the pit, they were ordered to strip completely. A Latvian guard, Bulvāns, later testified that he saw two Germans, SS-Scharführer "squad leader" Karl-Emil Strott and Philip or “Filip” Krapp, using a whip on people who did not move on to the pit.
 
The actual shootings were done by three units, one of Germans, another of Latvian SD men, and another unit of the Latvia police, apparently the one commanded by Galiņš. The victims were positioned along the edge of the sea side of the trench. They were faced away from their killers, who fired across the trench, with two gunman allocated to each victim. After the initial volley, a German SD man would step down into trench, inspect the bodies, and fire finishing shots into anyone left alive. The goal was to have the bodies fall into the trench, but this did not always happen. Accordingly, the executioners had a "kicker" come along after each group of victims. "The kicker's job was to literally to kick, roll, or shove the bodies into the grave". Sergeant Jauģietis of the Latvia police worked as a kicker for at least part of the killings. Each execution team was relieved by another after killing 10 sets of victims.
 
It was the practice of the persons commanding the executioners in Latvia to encourage drinking among at least the Latvian killing squads. During the Liepāja killings, a milk can of rum was set up at the killing pits. High-ranking Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine officers visited the site during the course of the executions.
 
Lucan, an adjutant of the 707th Marine Antiaircraft Detachment, described seeing an execution of 300 to 500 Liepāja Jewish people in the winter. He saw a column of 300 to 500 Jewish people of all ages, men and women, being led under guard past his unit's headquarters’ north on the road to Ventspils. "The trench was 50 to 75 meters long, 2 to 3 meters wide and about 3 meters deep". Lucan did not see the actual shooting, but he and other members of his unit heard rifle fire coming from the direction of the pit for a long time. Lucan inspected the site the next day.
 
The following day I went with several members of our unit to the execution area on horseback. When we arrived at the said hills we could see the arms and legs of the executed Jewish victims sticking out of the inadequately filled-in grave. After seeing this, we officers sent a written communication to our headquarters in Liepāja. As a result of our communication the dead Jewish victims were covered properly with sand.
 
After the shootings, on the 3rd of January 1942, Kügler reported to Fritz Dietrich, then in command of the Riga Order Police German: “Ordnungspolizei” that the executions were well known to the local population and had not been well-received.
 
Regret about the fate of the Jewish people is constantly expressed; there are few voices to be heard which are in favor of the elimination of the Jewish people. Among other things, a rumor is abroad that the execution was filmed in order to have material to use against the Latvian Schutzmannschaft. This material is said to prove that Latvians and not Germans carried out the executions.
 
Many of the Liepāja executions were witnessed by persons other than the participants. Klee Dressen and Riess, in their study of the Holocaust perpetrators, concluded that in many ways the public executions were "in many ways a festival", that German soldiers traveled long distances to get the best places to witness the mass shootings, and that these public executions continued over a long period of time and became a form of "execution tourism". Nobody was forced to murder Jewish people, and there were people who refused to do so. Nothing bad happened to them and in particular no one who refused was ever sent to a concentration camp. At most, those who refused orders to kill were abused as "cowards" by their commanders. This pattern was followed in Liepāja. For example, a boatman who worked under the harbormaster, Navy personnel and at least one hundred Wehrmacht soldiers were present at an execution, apparently pursuant to orders.
 
Richard Wiener, who photographed the Einsatzgruppen killings, went to the July or August massacres to take photographs. He found German soldiers standing around the execution site, not as participants, but as spectators. Motion pictures were taken by Richard Wiener, on leave from his position as a German naval sergeant. The December shootings at Šķēde were photographed by SS-Scharführer Karl-Emil Strott. These became the best known images of the murders of Jews in Latvia, and they show only Latvians. The photographs were found by David Zivcon, who worked as an electrician at the SD office in Liepāja. He found four rolls of film when he was repairing wiring in a German's apartment. Zivcon stole the film, had prints made, and returned the originals before they were missed. He then placed the prints in a metal box and buried them. After the Germans were driven out of Latvia, Zivcon retrieved the prints, which were later used in war crimes trials and displayed in museums around the world. Professor Ezergailis also states that it was Kügler himself, who photographed the shootings.
 
Liepāja, Šķēde Dunes
 
Liepāja, Šķēde Dunes, site of the larges mass murder of Jewish non-Jewish people in 1941. 
 
       
 
      
 
      
 
Located in this area is the Site of the 1941–1942 Mass Murder Graves Trench Lines that are located in the Šķēde Dunes along the Baltic Sea Coast line, is located some fifteen kilometers north of the city and about a kilometer from the road towards the sea. These mass murders began as early as July 1941.
 
Located just north of the Jewish Memorial and starting at the south end of the woods and the beginning of the tree line between the Baltic Sea Coast line “Dunes” and the Soviet Union Monument and working our way north through the woods to the open area some 1250 meters north of the woods and from the start 1650 meters. We will try and give one a general idea and the area where these mass graves and their trench lines lay. Here again, since there are no markers showing the exact locations of these mass graves are, all one can do is showing their rough locations. As we move north through the woods and the open area of the dunes, we will pan the area where the GPR "Ground Penetrating Radar" Satellite Map shows where these mass grave trench lines are located. 
 
Authors Note:
Before one can start exploring the area of these Mass Murder Graves Trench Lines where these mass graves are located, I want to remind everyone that it has been 71 years since these mass murders took place and during this length of time the elements and the environmental changes to the dunes that have taken place since the mass murders took place, how the dunes looked then and how it looks today is very different. With the many years of Baltic Sea storms and high winds and every changing movement of the dunes sand, the outline of the mass graves are hard to define as to their exact locations are. If it had not been for a GPR “Ground Penetrating Radar” Satellite Map made by Prof. Valdis Seglin's' and Drs. A. Kukela and G. Sic'ovs from Latvia University at the request of Edward Anders and Vladimir Ban, of the Jews in Liepaja Latvia project, the exact location and outline of the mass graves would never be known of found. Thank you gentlemen for you hard work and dedication to this project. "May these grave locations never be lost nor forgotten again"
In contrast to most other Holocaust murders in Latvia, the killings at Liepaja were done in open places. About 5,000 of the 5,700 Jewish people trapped in Liepaja were shot, most of them in July 1941. The killings occurred at a variety of places within and outside of the city, including Raina Park in the city center, and areas near the harbor, the Olympic Stadium, and the lighthouse. The largest massacre, of 2731 Jewish people, and 23 communists, happened from 15th to the 17th of December 1941, in the Šķēde Dunes, near an old Latvian army training ground. "More is known about the killing of the Jews of Liepaja than in any other city in Latvia except for Riga".
 
      
                                       This small memorial plaque is dedicated to the some 3000 plus anti-Nazi and non-Jewish victims of the total people who where murdered here.
 
Skede Dunes is the largest of the mass murder sites located in Liepaja during the first year of the Nazi Army occupation of Liepāja, these mass murders which took place during July 1941 through December 1942. Located along the path leading to the Jewish Memorial and the entrance to the Šķēde Dunes Area, we will see a memorial to the 3000 anti–Nazi and non–Jewish of the 7500 that were murdered in the dunes. Located in the grassy area is the Jewish Memorial dedicated to the Liepāja Jewish victims that were murdered in the Skede Dunes and just north of this memorial there is also the Soviet Unions Memorial to those murdered along the dunes location. "Even though it does not name the Jewish victims by name, it is dedicated to all those who were murdered here during this period of time".
 
These murders in the Šķēde Dunes began as early as July 1941 where some 200 Jewish people were murdered there. During a three-day massacre on the 15 thru 17th of December 1941, German and Latvian units killed 2,749 Jewish people, more than half of Liepāja's Jewish population. Preparations for the operation began some days before. On the 13th of December 1941, Liepāja Police Chief Obersturmbannfuehrer Fritz Diedrich placed an announcement in the Latvian newspaper Kurzemes Vards stating that Jewish people were forbidden to leave their living quarters on Monday, the 15th of December and Tuesday, the 16th of December 1941. 
 
       
 
    
 
       
 
On the night of the 13th of December 1941, Latvian police forces began to arrest Liepāja's Jewish people not yet concentrated in the ghetto. These victims were then brought to this "Courtyard", [located at Lat: N56.50838, Lon: E021.00422, Tiesu iela 5, Liepāja, Latvia], where Jewish victims of all ages were crammed into the courtyard. The Jewish victims were ordered to stand with their faces towards the wall, and warned not to move or look around for relatives or at the watchmen. Some were transported to Skede on the evening of the following day and crowded into a barn “a wooden structure, described also as a garage”. Today these structures are no longer there. There is traces of something have been in the area, but due to the length of time, it is hard to say exactly what they were, but there is signs of some kind of structure(s) were in the area. Where it is from this time period or from something during the Soviet Union time.
 
In the early morning of the 15th of December 1941, a column of victims was driven from Liepāja by Latvian policemen, under the supervision of the German SD, to the same barn in Šķēde where Jewish people from the courtyard had been taken. They were taken in groups of twenty to a site forty to fifty meters to a deep ditch dug in the dunes nearby, parallel to the shore. The ditch was about three meters wide and 100 meters long. There they were forced to lie face down on the ground. Groups of ten were then ordered to stand up and, apart from the children, to undress, at first to their underwear and then, when taken near the ditch, undress completely. They were shot by a German unit, the Latvian SD Platoon headed by Lt. Peteris Galins, and a Latvian Schutzmannschaften team. 
 
       
                                                                                              The Baltic Sea was the last thing the Jewish and non Jewish victims seen before being shot in the back.
 
      
     The kicker walking along the top of edge of mass grave trench kicking
     bodies into trench that failed to fall into the mass grave after being shot.
 
During the murder operation, the Jewish victims were placed along the side of the ditch nearest the sea, facing the water. The killing squad was positioned across the ditch, with two marksmen shooting at the same victim. Children who could walk were treated as adults, but babies were held by their mothers and killed with them. A “kicker” rolled in those corpses that did not fall directly into the ditch. After each volley, a German SD man stepped into the ditch to inspect the bodies and if any signs of life were found, they delivered “insurance” shots.
 
Their clothes were piled in piles after being forced to undress completely nude and then their cloths or anything of value was then taken away by German military trucks, where the clothing was sorted and redistributed or sold to German people or where anything of value, the Nazi Commanders would keep it. The Nazi administers were great accounts, before anything was either given away or sold, each piece of article had a value placed on it. During the murder operation, Strott and another officer, Erich Handke, took pictures with a Minox, and senior Wehrmacht and navy officers visited the site.
 
The murder operations in Šķēde continued until December 1942. On 15 February 1942, the Germans planned to murder 500 Jewish people in Šķēde Dunes. However, on the way to the murder site a group of 22 Jewish males pounced on the drunken Latvian guards and managed to escape. 
 
"In order to try to hide these mass murders in 1943 the German SD poured chlorine over the corpse’s buried in the mass graves"