"Latvia"
50 Years of Terror Tyranny and Oppression 1940–1991
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Riga SS SD Former Jewish Ghetto –
Summer and Autumn of 1941 and Riga Jewish Ghetto
 
Summer and Autumn of 1941
 
Through the summer and autumn of 1941, the Jewish people suffered inhuman treatment at the hands of the Nazi SS, SD “Security Service” and it’s Nazi Occupation Authority with their relegations and decrees. On the 21st of July, the Riga occupation command decided to concentrate the Jewish workers in a ghetto. On the 23rd of October 1941, the Nazi occupation authorities issued an order that by the 25th of October 1941, all Jewish people were to relocate to the Maskavas Forštate “Moscow Forstate” suburb of Riga. 
 
Riga Jewish Ghetto 
 
      
        “Red Line” Shows the outlining border area of the 16 blocks of the 1941 Riga Latvia Jewish Ghetto
 
The Riga Ghetto was a small area in Maskavas Forštate, a Jewish Russian and Gypsies suburb located south of Riga centre city. Designated by the Nazis the ghetto area was bound by the streets of Jēkabpils iela, Katolu iela, Lazdonas Kalna iela, Lauvas iela, Ebreju iela, Jersikas iela, Maskavas iela and Lāčplēša iela, where Jews from Latvia, and later from Germany, were forced to live during World War II. On the 25th of October 1941, the Nazis relocated all Jewish people from Riga and the vicinity to the ghetto while the 15,000 non-Jewish inhabitants were evicted. 
 
       
                                                                                                                                Buildings in the Riga Latvia Jewish Ghetto Area in October 1941
 
Over 30,000 Jewish men women children families and undesirables were concentrated in the small “16 block” area which is not larger then a large shoe box were living quarters were assigned not by rooms but by mere square meters, "a mere 4 Square Meters per person of roughly 43.056 Square Feet or an area roughly “6 foot by 7 foot” or an average bathroom". Where living conditions became inhuman and food became scarce. 
 
There was also great poverty, as food rations were given only to those who worked, i.e. to about a half of the ghetto inmates. They had to maintain their 5652 children and 8300 elderly and disabled people. The ghetto only had 16 groceries, a pharmacy and a laundry, and a hospital was arranged. Where some people had barely enough to eat maybe a piece of bread if they were that lucky to even have that! 
 
While the Riga Ghetto is commonly referred to as a single entity, in fact there were several “Ghettos”. The first was the large "Latvian Ghetto". After the "Rumbula Forest" massacres on the 30th of November and again on the 8th of December 1941, the surviving Latvian Jewish people were concentrated in a smaller area within the original ghetto, which became known as the “Small Ghetto”. The small ghetto was divided into men’s and women’s sections. The area of the ghetto not allocated to the small ghetto was then reallocated to the Jewish people being deported from Germany, and became known as the "German Ghetto".
 
Restrictions Imposed on the Riga Jewish people 
 
      
 
At the beginning of July, the Nazi occupation regime had organized the burning of the synagogues in Riga, and attempted, with varying degrees of success, to incite Nazi sympathizers and collaborators population into taking murderous action against the Latvian Jewish population. At the end of July, the city administration switched from the German military to German Civil Administration. There were many other Germans and Nazi sympathizers and collaborators involved with the civil administration.
 
      
 
The Germans issued new decrees at this time to govern the Jewish people. Under “Regulation One”, Jewish people were banned from public places, including city facilities, parks, street cars and swimming pools. A second regulation required Jews to wear a yellow six-pointed star on their clothing, with violation punishable by death. A Jewish person was also to be allotted only one-half the food ration of a non-Jewish.
 
The Nazis then registered all the Jewish people of Riga. Further decrees mandated that all Jewish people wear a second yellow star, this one in the middle of their backs, and not use the sidewalks. The reason for the second star was so Jewish people could be readily distinguished in a crowd. Later, when Lithuanian Jewish people were transported to the ghetto, they were subject to the same two-star rule. Jewish people could be randomly assaulted with impunity by any non-Jewish person. 
 
      
                                                                                Riga Central Prison located in Maskavas Forštate at Rēznas iela 9, Rīga
 
Officially the Nazi Gestapo took over the prisons in Riga on the 11th of July 1941, however by this time the Latvian gangs had killed a number of the Jewish inmates. The Nazi Gestapo initially set up its headquarters in the building of the former Latvian Ministry of Agriculture on Raina bulvāris. The Gestapo torture and interrogations were carried out in the basement of this building. After this treatment the arrested were sent to prison, where the inmates were starved to death. Later the Gestapo relocated to the former museum at the corner of Kalpaka and Alexander bulvāris. The Nazis also set up a Latvia puppet government, under a Latvian General, who was a half-German. A “Bureau of Jewish Affairs” was set up at the Latvian police prefecture. Nuremberg-style laws were introduced, which tried to force people in marriages between a Jewish person and a non-Jewish person to divorce. If the couple refused to divorce, the woman, if a Jewish person, would be forced to undergo sterilization. Jewish physicians were forbidden to treat non-Jewish people, and non-Jewish physicians were forbidden to treat Jewish people.
 
Construction of the Riga Jewish Ghetto 
 
      
                                                                                                                    Fence around the Riga Latvia 1941 Jewish Ghetto Area
 
On the 21st of July, the Riga occupation command decided to concentrate the Jewish workers in a ghetto. All Jewish people were registered and a Jewish Council “Judenrat” was set up. Prominent Riga Jewish people were chosen for the council. All of them had been involved with the Jewish Latvian Freedom Fighters Association and hopes were this would give them leverage in dealing with the occupation authorities. Council members were given large white armbands with a blue “Star of David” on them, which gave them the right to use the sidewalks and the street cars. On the 23rd of October 1941, the Nazi occupation authorities issued an order that by the 25th of October 1941, all Jewish people were to relocate to the Maskavas Forštate “Moscow Forstate” suburb of Riga. As a result, about 30,000 Jewish people were concentrated in the small 16-block area. The Nazis fenced them in with barbed wire. Anyone who went too close to the barbed wire was shot by the Latvian guards stationed around the ghetto perimeter. German police “Wachmeister” from Danzig commanded the guards. The guards engaged in random firing during the night. 
 
      
                                                                                                    Fence around the Riga Latvia 1941 Jewish Ghetto Area
 
      
                       Main entrance to the Riga Latvia 1941 Jewish Ghetto Area
 
While the Jewish people were relocating to the ghetto, the Nazis stole their property. The Jewish people were allowed to take very little into the ghetto, and what was left was handled by an occupation authority known as the Trusteeship Office “Treuhandverwaltung”. Entire trainloads of goods were sent back to Germany. The Germans overlooked the theft of large amounts of other, generally less valuable, property by Latvian police, regarding it as a form of compensation for engaging in the killings. Individual appropriations and self-interested appropriations by Germans were also common.
 
Buildings in the former Riga Latvia Jewish Ghetto Area 
 
       
 
       
 
Setting up the Small Ghetto 
 
      
       “Blue Line” Shows the outlining border area of the 4 blocks of the Riga Latvia "Small Jewish Ghetto"
 
After the mass killings at Rumbula, the survivors were relocated in what was called the small ghetto bordered by Lazdonas Kalnu iela, Lauvas iela, Ludzas iela and Liksnas iela. Large posters were placed around Riga, stating “Anyone reporting to the authorities a suspicious person or a hidden Jewish person will receive a large sum of money and many other gratuities and privileges”. Jewish people could sometimes be identified by whether they would eat pork. Internal passports were used to control the population, being necessary, for example, to obtain a medical prescription. The Nazi commandant of the small ghetto was named Stanke, who had also participated in the liquidation of the large ghetto. He was assisted by a Latvian named Dralle, who earned a reputation for brutality among the Jewish people. As with the large ghetto, the perimeter was also guarded by Latvians. Within the ghetto, on Ludzas iela, the Nazis maintained a special company of guards, consisting of policemen from Danzig, whose commander was Hesfer.
 
A work detail of Jewish people from the small ghetto was formed to gather up the property in the large ghetto of the Jewish people killed in the Rumbula Forest. The detail was headed by Aismann, a Jewish person from Daugavpils, who stood in favor with the Nazis and was distrusted by the other Jewish people. Many Jewish people tried to get back into the large ghetto to claim their property, including the valuables they had hidden. The guards were quick to execute any Jewish person from the small ghetto whom they found in the large one without authorization. Some of the effects from the large ghetto were redistributed to the Latvians by the occupation authorities. In other cases the German military authorities sent in trucks to load up furniture and other items. One general, Dr. Bamberg, picked out some items for himself and had them shipped back to Germany. [Appendix XXII – Important Jewish Ghetto Buildings]