Rumbula massacre is a collective term for incidents on two
non-consecutive days (November 30 and December 8, 1941) in which about
Jews were killed in or on the way to Rumbula forest near Riga,
Latvia, during the Holocaust. Except for the
Babi Yar massacre in
Ukraine, this was the biggest two-day Holocaust atrocity until the
operation of the death camps. About 24,000 of the victims were
Latvian Jews from the
Ghetto and approximately 1,000 were German
Jews transported to the forest by train. The
Rumbula massacre was
carried out by the Nazi
Einsatzgruppe A with the help of local
collaborators of the Arajs Kommando, with support from other such
Latvian auxiliaries. In charge of the operation was Höherer SS und
Polizeiführer Friedrich Jeckeln, who had previously overseen similar
massacres in Ukraine. Rudolf Lange, who later participated in the
Wannsee Conference, also took part in organising the massacre. Some of
the accusations against Latvian
Herberts Cukurs are related to the
clearing of the
Ghetto by the Arajs Kommando. The Rumbula
killings, together with many others, formed the basis of the
World War II
World War II
Einsatzgruppen trial where a number of
Einsatzgruppen commanders were found guilty of crimes against
The Holocaust in Latvia
3.1 Involvement of local population
3.2 Creation of the
4 Entry of Friedrich Jeckeln
4.2 Planning the massacre
4.3 Deciding on the site
4.4 The Jeckeln system
4.5 Arranging transport for infirm victims
4.6 Final planning and instructions
5 Advance knowledge by Wehrmacht
6 Preparation for the massacre
6.1 Able-bodied men separated from the others
6.2 First transport of German
Jews arrives in Riga
6.3 Women, children and elderly forced out of ghetto
6.4 Ten kilometer march to the killing pits
7 Arrival at Rumbula and murder
7.1 Official witnesses
7.2 Later murders and body disposal in the ghetto
7.3 Aftermath at the pits on the first day
8 Reaction among the survivors
9 The December 8 murders
10 December 9 massacre
11 Effect of Rumbula on plans for the Holocaust
Jews replace Latvians in
11.2 The Wannsee Conference
12 Later actions at the site
14 See also
16.2 War crimes trials and evidence
17 Further reading
18 External links
This massacre is known by different names, including "The Big Action",
and the "Rumbula Action", but in
Latvia it is just called "Rumbula" or
"Rumbuli". It is sometimes called the Jeckeln Action after its
commander Friedrich Jeckeln The word "Aktion", which translates
literally to action or operation in English, was used by the Nazis as
a euphemism for murder. For Rumbula, the official euphemism was
"shooting action" (Erschiessungsaktion). In the Einsatzgruppen
trial before the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, the event was not given
a name but simply described as "the murder of 10,600 Jews" on 30
Rumbula was a small railroad station 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) south
of Riga, the capital and major city of Latvia, which was connected
with Daugavpils, the second largest city in Latvia, by the rail line
along the north side of the Daugava river. Located on a hill about
250 meters (820 ft) from the station, the massacre site was a
"rather open and accessible place". The view was blocked by
vegetation, but the sound of gunfire would have been audible from the
station grounds. The area lay between the rail line and the
Daugavpils highway, with the rail line to the north of the
highway. Rumbula was part of a forest and swamp area known in
Latvian as Vārnu mežs, which means Crow Forest in English. The
sounds of gun fire could be and were heard from the highway. The
Nazi occupation authorities carried out a number of other massacres on
the north bank of the Daugava in the Rumbula vicinity. The soil was
sandy and it was easy to dig graves. While the surrounding pine
woods were sparse, there was a heavily forested area in the center
which became the execution site. The rail line and highway made it
easy to move the victims in from
Riga (it had to be within walking
distance of the
Ghetto on the southeast side of the city), as
well as transport the murderers and their arms.
The Holocaust in Latvia
See also: Einsatzgruppen
Hinrich Lohse His policy of concentrating the
Riga ghetto made it easier for
Friedrich Jeckeln and his unit to
kill approximately 24,000 in two days at Rumbula near Riga.
The Holocaust in
Latvia began on June 22, 1941, when the German army
invaded the Soviet Union, including the
Baltic States of Lithuania,
Estonia that had been recently occupied by Soviet forces
following a period of independence after World War I. Murders of Jews,
Communists, and others began almost immediately, perpetrated by German
killer squads known as
Einsatzgruppen (which can be translated as
Special Task Groups" or "
Special Assignment Groups"), and also other
organizations, including the German Security Police
Sicherheitspolizei or Sipo) and the Security Service of the SS
Sicherheitsdienst or SD). The first murders were on the night of June
23, 1941, in the town of Grobina, near Liepāja, where Sonderkommando
1a members murdered six
Jews in the church cemetery. The Nazi
occupiers were also aided by a unit of native Latvians known as the
Arājs Commando, and at least to some extent by Latvian auxiliary
Involvement of local population
The Nazis wished to make it appear as if the local populations of
Latvians were responsible for the murders of the Jews. They attempted,
without much success, to stir up local deadly riots, known as
"pogroms", against the Jews. They spread rumors that
responsible for widespread arson and other crimes, and even reported
the same to their superiors. This policy of incitement to what the
Nazis called "self-cleansing actions" was acknowledged to be a failure
by Franz Walter Stahlecker, who, as chief of Einsatzgruppe A, was the
Nazis' main killing expert in the Baltic states.
Creation of the
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Directions concerning treatment of Jewish property 13 October 1941
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Comprehensive report of
Einsatzgruppe A up to 15 October 1941
The SD's goal was to make
Latvia judenrein, a Nazi neologism which can
be translated as "
Jew free." By October 15, 1941, the Nazis had
murdered up to 30,000 of the approximately 66,000
Jews that had
not been able to flee the country before the Nazi occupation was
completed. Hinrich Lohse, who reported to
Alfred Rosenberg rather than
the SD's boss, Heinrich Himmler, wanted not so much to exterminate the
Jews but rather to steal all their property, confine them to
ghettos, and work them as slave laborers for Germany's war effort.
This bureaucratic conflict slowed down the pace of killing in
September and October 1941. Lohse, as part of the "civil
administration" was perceived by the SD as resisting their plans.
On November 15, 1941, Lohse asked for directions from Rosenberg as to
Jews were to be murdered "regardless of economic
considerations." By the end of October, Lohse had confined
Jews of Riga, as well some of the surrounding area, into a
ghetto within the city, the gates of which were about 10 kilometers
from Rumbula. The
Ghetto was a creation of the Nazis
themselves, and had not existed before the war.
Entry of Friedrich Jeckeln
Friedrich Jeckeln and Babi Yar
Friedrich Jeckeln in Soviet custody after World War II. On January
27, 1942, he was awarded the
War Merit Cross
War Merit Cross First Class with Swords
(Kriegsverdienstkreuz or KVK) for his ruthless efficiency.
Himmler's motive was to eliminate the
Latvian Jews in
Riga so that
Jews from Germany and Austria could be deported to the
Riga ghetto and
housed in their place. Similarly motivated mass murders of eastern
Jews confined to ghettos were carried out at Kovno on October 28, 1941
(10,000 dead), and at Minsk, where 13,000 were shot on November 7 and
an additional 7,000 on November 20. To carry out this plan,
Friedrich Jeckeln into
Latvia from the Ukraine, where
he had organized a number of mass murders, including
Babi Yar (30,000
dead). Jeckeln's crew of about 50 killers and supporting personnel
Riga on November 5, 1941. Jeckeln did not arrive with them,
but went instead to
Berlin where sometime between November 10 and
November 12, 1941, he met with Himmler. Himmler told Jeckeln to
kill the entire
Riga ghetto and to instruct Lohse, should he object
that this was an order of Himmler's and also of Adolf Hitler's: "Tell
Lohse it is my order, which is also the Führer's wish".
Jeckeln then went to
Riga and explained the situation to Lohse, who
raised no further objection. By mid-November 1941, Jeckeln had set
himself up in a building in the old section of
Riga known as the
Ritterhaus. Back in Berlin, Rosenberg, Lohse's superior in the
Nazi hierarchy, was able to get one concession out of Himmler, that
slave labor extracted from male
Jews aged 16–60 would be considered
too important to Germany's war effort. Consequently, these people
would be spared, while women, children, old and disabled people would
be shot. Jeckeln's plan for carrying out this segregation of the
victims came to be known as the "Little Ghetto".
Planning the massacre
Nazi Franz Walter Stahlecker, another perpetrator of the Latvian
Holocaust, prepared this map. Illustrated with coffins, it shows there
were still 35,000
Jews remaining in
Latvia before the Rumbula
massacres. Estonia, the report states, is "Jew-free" (judenfrei).
To fulfill Himmler's order to clear out the Ghetto, Jeckeln would need
to kill 12,000 people per day. At that time of year, there were only
about eight hours of day and twilight, so, the last column of victims
would have to leave the
Riga ghetto no later than 12:00 noon. Guards
would be posted on both sides along the entire 10 kilometer column
route. The whole process required about 1,700 personnel to carry it
Jeckeln's construction specialist, Ernst Hennicker, who later claimed
he was shocked when he learned in advance of the number of people to
be murdered, nevertheless made no objection at the time and proceeded
to supervise the digging of six murder pits, sufficient to bury 25,000
people. The actual excavation of the pits was done by 200 or
300 Russian prisoners of war. The pits themselves were
purpose-designed: they were excavated in levels, like an inverted
pyramid, with the broader levels towards the top, and a ramp down to
the different levels to allow the victims to be literally marched into
their own graves. It took about three days to finish the pits which
were complete by November 23, 1941.
The actual shooting was done by 10 or 12 men of Jeckeln's bodyguard,
including Endl, Lueschen, and Wedekind, all experienced murderers.
Much later, Jeckeln's driver, Johannes Zingler, claimed in testimony
that Jeckeln had forced him to join in as a killer by making threats
to harm Zingler's family. In similar massacres in Russia and the
Ukraine, there were many accounts contrary to Zingler's to the effect
that participation was voluntary, and even sometimes sought after, and
that those who refused to take part in shootings suffered no adverse
consequences. In particular, Erwin Schulz, head of Einsatzkommando
5, refused to participate in Babi Yar, another Jeckeln atrocity, and
at his own request was transferred back to his pre-war position in
Berlin with no loss of professional standing.
Jeckeln had no Latvians carrying out shootings. Jeckeln considered the
shooting of the victims in the pits to be a deed of marksmanship, and
he wanted to prove Germans were inherently more accurate shooters than
Latvians. Jeckeln also didn't trust other agencies, even Nazi ones, to
carry out his wishes. Although the SD and the Order Police were
involved, Jeckeln assigned his own squad to supervise every aspect of
Deciding on the site
Ghetto in 1942, after the Rumbula massacre
Jeckeln and his aide Paul Degenhart searched the
Riga vicinity to find
Riga was located in a swampy area where the water table was
close to ground level. This would interfere with the proper disposal
of thousands of corpses. Jeckeln needed elevated ground. The site also
had to be on the north side of the
Daugava River within walking
distance of the ghetto, also on the north side. On or about November
18 or 19 Jeckeln came upon Rumbula as he was driving south to the
Salaspils concentration camp (then under construction), and it fit
what he was looking for. The site was close to Riga, it was on
elevated ground, and it had sandy soil, with the only drawback being
the proximity to the highway (about 100 meters).
The Jeckeln system
Jeckeln developed his "Jeckeln system" during the many murders he had
organized in the Ukraine, which included among others
Babi Yar and the
Kamianets-Podilskyi Massacre. He called it "sardine packing"
(Sardinenpackung). The Jeckeln method was noted, although not by
name, in the judgment of the
Einsatzgruppen commanders at Nuremberg
Military Tribunal, as a means of avoiding the extra work associated
with having to push the bodies into the grave. It was reported
that even some of the experienced
Einsatzgruppen killers claimed to
have been horrified by its cruelty. Extermination by shooting ran
into a problem when it came to women and children. Otto Ohlendorf,
himself a prolific killer, objected to Jeckeln's techniques according
to his testimony at his post-war trial for crimes against
humanity. Jeckeln had staff which specialized in each separate
part of the process, including Genickschußspezialisten -- "neck shot
specialists". There were nine components to this assembly-line
method as applied to the
The Security Police roused the people out of their houses in the
Jews were organized into columns of 1000 people and marched to the
The German Order Police (
Ordnungspolizei or Orpo) led the columns to
Three pits had already been dug where the killing would be done
The victims were stripped of their clothing and valuables;
The victims were run through a double cordon of guards on the way to
the killing pits;
To save the trouble of tossing dead bodies into the pits, the killers
forced the living victims into the trench on top of other people who
had already been shot;
Russian submachine guns (another source says semi-automatic
pistols) were used rather than German arms, because the magazine
held 50 rounds, but the weapon could be set to fire one round at a
The killers forced the victims to lie face down on the trench floor,
or more often, on the bodies of the people had just been shot. The
people were not sprayed with bullets. Rather, to save ammunition, each
person was shot just once, in the back of the head. Anyone not
murdered outright was simply buried alive when the pit was covered
Arranging transport for infirm victims
Jeckeln had at his direct disposal 10 to 12 automobiles and 6 to 8
motorcycles. This was enough to transport the killers themselves and
certain official witnesses. Jeckeln needed more and heavier transport
for the sick, disabled or other of his intended victims who could not
make the 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) march. Jeckeln also anticipated
there would be a significant number of people murdered along the march
route, and he would need about 25 trucks to pick up the bodies.
Consequently, he ordered his men to scrounge through
Riga to locate
Final planning and instructions
On or about Thursday, November 27, 1941, Jeckeln held a meeting of the
leaders of the participating units at the
Riga office of the
Protective Police (Schutzpolizei), a branch of the German Order
Police, (Ordnungspolizei) to coordinate their actions in the
forthcoming massacre. This appears consistent with the substantial
role that the Order Police played in the Holocaust, as stated by
It is no longer seriously in question that members of the German Order
Police, both career professionals and reservists, in both battalion
formations and precinct service or Einzeldienst, were at the center of
the Holocaust, providing a major manpower source for carrying out
numerous deportations, ghetto-clearing operations, and massacres.
— Christopher Browning
Jeckeln convened a second planning session of senior commanders on the
afternoon of Saturday, November 29, 1941, this time at the Ritterhaus.
According to later versions given by those in attendance, Jeckeln gave
a speech to these officers to the effect that it was their patriotic
duty to exterminate the
Jews of the
Riga ghetto, just as much as if
they were on the front lines of the battles then currently raging far
to the east. Officers also later claimed that Jeckeln told them that
failure to participate in the murders would be considered the
equivalent of desertion, and that all HSSPF personnel who would not be
participating in the action were required to attend the extermination
site as official witnesses. No Latvian officials were present at the
November 29 Ritterhaus meeting.
At about 7:00 p.m. on November 29, a brief (about 15 minutes)
third meeting was held, this time at the Protective Police
headquarters. This was presided over by Karl Heise, the head of the
protective police. He told his men they would have to report the next
morning at 4:00 a.m. to carry out a "resettlement" of the people
Riga ghetto. Although "resettlement" was a Nazi euphemism for
mass murder, Heisse and a majority of men of the participating
Protective Police knew the true nature of the action. Final
instructions were also passed to the Latvian militia and police who
would be rounding up people in the ghetto and acting as guards along
the way. The Latvian police were told they would be moving the
the Rumbula station for transport to a resettlement camp.
In the Jahnke trial in the early 1970s, the West German court in
Hamburg found that a purpose of the Jeckeln system was to conceal the
murderous purpose until the very last. The court further found:
That by the evening meeting on November 29, 1941, the intermediate
commanders knew the full extent of the intended murders;
That the intermediate commanders also knew that the 20 kilogram
luggage rule was a ruse to deceive the victims into a belief that they
were truly being resettled;
That the men in the lower ranks did not know what was planned until
they saw the shootings in the forest.
Professor Ezergailis questioned whether the Latvian police might have
had a better idea of what was actually going to happen, this being
their native country, but he also noted contrary evidence including
misleading instructions given to the Latvian police by the Germans,
and the giving of instructions, at least to some Germans, to shoot any
guard who might fail to execute a "disobedient"
Jew during the course
of the march.
Advance knowledge by Wehrmacht
According to his later testimony before the Nuremberg Military
Tribunal at the High Command Trial, Walter Bruns, a Major General of
Engineers, learned on November 28 that planned mass executions would
soon take place in Riga. Bruns sent a report to his superiors,
then urged a certain "administrative officer", named Walter Altemeyer
to postpone the action until Bruns could receive a response. Altemeyer
told Bruns that the operation was being carried out pursuant to a
"Führer-order". Bruns then sent out two officers to observe and
report. Advance word of the planned murders reached the
Wehrmacht intelligence office ("Abwehr") in Riga. This office,
which was not connected with the massacre, had received a cable
shortly before the executions began, from Admiral Wilhelm Canaris,
which in summary instructed the
Abwehr that "it is unworthy of an
intelligence officer to be party to, or even present at interrogations
or maltreatments". By "interrogations and maltreatments", Canaris
was referring to the planned massacre.
Preparation for the massacre
Able-bodied men separated from the others
On about November 27, 1941 a four-block area of the
Riga ghetto was
cordoned off with barbed wire, and this area became known as the
"small ghetto". On November 28, the Nazis issued an order
requiring the able-bodied men to move to the small ghetto and the rest
of the population was to report at 6:00 a.m. on November 30 to a
different area for "light work" with no more than a 20-kilogram
(44 lb) bag. The reaction among the
Jews was one of horror.
In July and August, it was the men of
Latvia who were shot first,
while the women and children were allowed to live, at least for a
time. The order for the men to separate themselves from their families
was thus perceived as a predicate for the murder of the men, the
arrangements between Rosenberg and Himmler having been made without
their knowledge. By the morning of Saturday, November 29, the Nazis
had finished segregating the able-bodied men into the small
Ghetto survivor Max Kaufmann described the scene somewhat differently,
writing that on Thursday morning, November 27, a large poster was put
up on Sadornika Street in the ghetto, which said, among other things,
that on Saturday, November 29, 1941, all inmates of the ghetto were to
form up in columns of 1,000 people each near the ghetto gate for
evacuation from the ghetto. The people living closest to the gate
would be the first to depart. Kaufmann doesn't describe a specific
order separating the able-bodied men from the rest of the people.
Instead he states that "the larger work crews were told they had the
possibility of staying in the newly formed small camp and rejoining
their families later. According to Kaufmann, while the columns of
1,000 were formed on the morning of the 29th, they were later
dispersed, causing relief among the inhabitants, who believed that the
entire evacuation had been cancelled. 300 women seamstresses were also
selected and moved to the Central Prison from the ghetto.
Professor Ezergailis states that while the men were at work, the Nazis
culled the able-bodied men from those left in the ghetto, and once the
work crews returned, the same process was employed again on the
returning workers. The total, about 4,000 able-bodied men, were sent
to the newly created small ghetto. Kaufmann states that after
returning from work on the 29th, he and his son, then aged 16, would
not return to the large ghetto, but were housed instead in a ruined
building on Vilanu Street in the small ghetto.
First transport of German
Jews arrives in Riga
The first transport of German
Thursday, November 27, 1941 and arrived in
Riga on Saturday,
November 29, 1941. Whether the
Jews were to be worked and starved to
death over time, or simply murdered outright had not yet been decided
upon. Apparently at the last minute, Himmler decided he did not
want these German
Jews murdered immediately; his plan instead was to
house them in the
Ghetto in the dwellings to be made available
from the murder of the Latvian Jews.
For this reason, on Sunday, November 30, 1941, Himmler placed a
telephone call to Reinhard Heydrich, who, as head of the SD was
also Jeckeln's boss. According to Himmler's telephone log, his order
to Heydrich was that the
Jews on the transport from
Berlin were not to
be murdered, or in the Nazi terminology, "liquidated" (Judentransport
aus Berlin. Keine Liquidierung). Himmler however only made this
call at 1:30 in the afternoon that Sunday, and by that time, the
people on the train were dead. What had happened was that there
was no housing for the deported German
Jews when they arrived in Riga,
so the Nazis left them on the train. The next morning, the Nazis ran
the trainload of people down to the Rumbula station. They took the
people off the train, marched them the short distance to the crime
scene and shot them all between 8:15 and 9:00 a.m. They were
the first group to die that day. The Nazi euphemism for this crime
was that the 1,000
Jews had been "disposed of." Thereafter,
on December 1, and, in a personal conference on December 4, 1941,
Himmler issued strict instructions to Jeckeln that no mass murders of
Jews were to occur without his express orders:
Jews deported into the territory of the
Ostland are to be dealt
with only according to the guideline given by me and the Reich
Security Main Office acting on my behalf. I will punish unilateral
acts and violations."
Jeckeln claimed at his post-war trial that he'd received orders from
Himmler on November 10 or 11, that "all the
Jews in the
to the last man must be exterminated." Jeckeln might well have
believed that killing the German
Jews on the
Riga transport was what
Himmler wished, for just before the Rumbula massacre, mass murders of
Jews upon or shortly after arrival in the East had been carried
out in Kaunas, Lithuania, on November 25 and 29, 1941, when the Sipo
murdered 5,000 German and Austrian
Jews who had arrived on transports
on November 11, including some 1,000
Jews from Berlin.
Professor Fleming suggests several reasons for Himmler's "no
liquidation" order. On board the train were 40 to 45 people who were
considered "cases of unjustified evacuation", meaning they were either
elderly or had been awarded the
Iron Cross for heroic service to
Germany during the Great War. Another reason may have been that
Himmler hesitated to carry out the execution of German
Jews for fear
of the effect that it might have on the attitude the United States,
which as of November 30, 1941, was not yet at war with Germany.
Professor Browning attributes the order and the fact that, with two
significant exceptions, in general further transports of
Jews to Riga
from Germany did not result in immediate mass execution, to Himmler's
concern over some of the issues raised by the shooting of German (as
opposed to native)
Jews and the desire to postpone the same until it
could be in greater secrecy and at a time when less controversy might
arise among the Nazis themselves.
Women, children and elderly forced out of ghetto
When the columns were dispersed on Saturday, November 29, the ghetto
inhabitants believed, to their relief, that there would be no
evacuation. This proved wrong. The first action in the ghetto
began at 4:00 a.m., well before dawn, on Sunday, November 30,
1941. Working from west to east (that is, towards Rumbula), squads of
the SD, the Protective Police, the Araji commando, and about 80 Jewish
ghetto police rousted people from their sleep and told them to report
for assembly in half an hour. Max Kaufmann describes the raid as
beginning in the middle of the night on the 29th. He describes
"thousands" of "absolutely drunk" Germans and Latvians invading the
ghettos, bursting into apartments, and hunting down the occupants
while shouting wildly. He states that children were thrown from third
floor windows. Detachments cut special openings in the fence to
allow more rapid access to the highway south to the forest site.
(Detailed maps of the ghetto are provided by Ezergailis and
Even though the able-bodied men were gone, people still resisted being
forced out of their dwellings and tried to desert from the columns as
they moved through the eastern part of the ghetto. The Nazis murdered
600 to 1,000 people in the process of forcing out the people.
Eventually columns of about 1,000 people were formed and marched out.
The first column was led by the lawyer, Dr. Eljaschow. "The expression
on his face showed no disquiet whatsoever; on the contrary, because
everyone was looking at him, he made an effort to smile
hopefully." Next to Dr. Eljaschow was Rabbi Zack. Other well-known
Riga were in the columns. Among the guards were
Altmeyer, Jäger, and Herberts Cukurs. Cukurs, a world-famous pilot,
was the most recognizable Latvian SD man at the scene, whom
Kaufmann described as follows:
The Latvian murderer Cukurs got out of a car wearing a pistol (Nagant)
in a leather holster at his side. He went to the Latvian guards to
give them various instructions. He had certainly been informed in
detail about the great catastrophe that awaited us.
— Churbn Lettland - The Destruction of the
Jews of Latvia
Andrew Ezergailis states that "although Arajs' men
were not the only ones on the ghetto end of the operation, to the
degree they participated in the atrocities there the chief
responsibility rests on Herberts Cukurs' shoulders."
Jews were allowed to carry some luggage as a sham, to create the
impression among the victims that they were simply being resettled.
Frida Michelson, one of the few survivors of the massacre at the pits,
later described what she saw that day:
It was already beginning to get light. An unending column of people,
guarded by armed policemen, was passing by. Young women, women with
infants in their arms, old women, handicapped, helped by their
neighbors, young boys and girls -- all marching, marching. Suddenly,
in front of our window, a German SS man started firing with an
automatic gun point blank into the crowd. People were mowed down by
the shots, and fell on the cobblestones. There was confusion in the
column. People were trampling over those who had fallen, they were
pushing forward, away from the wildly shooting SS man. Some were
throwing away their packs so they could run faster. The Latvian
policemen were shouting 'Faster, faster' and lashing whips over the
heads of the crowd.
... The columns of people were moving on and on, sometimes at a half
run, marching, trotting, without end. There one, there another, would
fall and they would walk right over them, constantly being urged on by
the policemen, 'Faster, faster', with their whips and rifle butts.
... I stood by the window and watched until about midday when the
horror of the march ended ... . Now the street was quiet, nothing
moved. Corpses were scattered all over, rivulets of blood still oozing
from the lifeless bodies. They were mostly old people, pregnant women,
children, handicapped -- all those who could not keep up with the
inhuman tempo of the march.
— Frida Michelson, I Survived Rumbuli, pp. 77-8
Ten kilometer march to the killing pits
The first column of people, accompanied by about 50 guards, left the
ghetto at 06:00 hours. On November 30, 1941, the air temperatures
Riga were −7.5 °C (18.5 °F) at 07:00 hours,
−1.1 °C (30.0 °F) at 09:00, and 1.9 °C
(35.4 °F) at 21:00. The previous evening there had been a
snowfall of 7 cm (2.8 in), but no snow fell on November 30
from 07:00 to 21:00. The people could not keep up the pace demanded
by the guards and the column kept stretching out. The guards murdered
anyone who fell out of the column or stopped to rest along the
10-kilometer (6.2 mi) march route. German guards, when later
tried for war crimes, claimed it was the Latvians who did most of the
killing. In Latvia, however, there were stories about Latvian
policemen refusing orders to shoot people.
Arrival at Rumbula and murder
The first column of people arrived at Rumbula at about 9:00 am on
November 30. The people were ordered to disrobe and deposit their
clothing and valuables in designated locations and collection boxes,
shoes in one, overcoats in another, and so forth. Luggage was
deposited before the
Jews entered the wood. They were then marched
towards the murder pits. If there were too many people arriving to be
readily murdered immediately, they were held in the nearby forest
until their turn came. As the piles of clothing became huge, members
of the Arajs Commando loaded the articles on trucks to be transported
back to Riga. The disrobing point was watched carefully by the
killers, because it was here that there was a pause in the
conveyor-like system, where resistance or rebellion might arise.
The people were then marched down the ramps into the pits, in single
file ten at time, on top of previously shot victims, many of whom were
still alive. Some people wept, others prayed and recited the
Torah. Handicapped and elderly people were helped into the pit by
other sturdier victims.
The victims were made to lie face down on top of those who had already
been shot and were still writhing and heaving, oozing blood, sing of
brains and excrement. With their Russian automatic weapons set on
single shots, the marksmen murdered the
Jews from a distance of about
two meters with a shot in the backs of their heads. One bullet per
person was allotted in the Jeckeln system.
— Andrew Ezergailis,
The Holocaust in Latvia, 1941-1944: The
Missing Center, pp. 253–4
The shooting continued past sundown into the twilight, probably ending
at about 5:00 p.m., when darkness fell. (The evidence is in
conflict about when the shooting ended. One source says the
shooting went on well into the evening.) Their aim may have been
worsened by the twilight, as Nazi police Major Karl Heise, who had
gone back and forth between
Riga and the killing site that day,
suffered the misfortune of having been hit in the eye by a ricochet
bullet. Jeckeln himself described Rumbula at his trial in early
Q: Who did the shooting?
A: Ten or twelve German SD soldiers.
Q: What was the procedure?
A: All of the
Jews went by foot from the ghetto in
Riga to the
liquidation site. Near the pits, they had to deposit their
overclothes, which were washed, sorted, and shipped back to Germany.
Jews - men, women, and children - passed through police cordons on
their way to the pits, where they were shot by German soldiers.
— Jeckeln interrogation excerpts
The shooters fired from the brink of the smaller pits. For the larger
pits, they walked down in the graves among the dead and dying to shoot
additional victims. Captain Otto Schulz-Du Bois, of the Engineer
Reserves of the German Army, was in the area on bridge and road
inspection duties, when he heard "intermittent but persistent reports
of gunfire". Schulz-Du Bois stopped to investigate, and because
security was weak, was able to observe the murders. A few months later
he described what he saw to friends in Germany, who in 1980 reported
what Schulz-Du Bois had told them:
The first thing he came upon was a huge heap of clothes, then men,
women, children and elderly people standing in a line and dressed in
their underclothing. The head of the line ended in a small wood by a
mass gravesite. Those first in line had to leap into the pit and then
were murdered with a pistol bullet in the head. Six SS men were busy
with this grisly chore. The victims maintained a perfect composure.
There were no outcries, only light sobbing and crying, and saying
soothing words to the children.
— Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution
Jeckeln required high-ranking Nazis to witness the Rumbula murders.
Jeckeln himself stood at the top of the pits personally directing the
shooters. National Commissioner (Reichskommissar) for the Ostland
Hinrich Lohse was there, at least for a while. Dr. Otto Heinrich
Drechsler, the Territorial Commissioner (Gebietskommissar) of Latvia
may have been present. Roberts Osis, the chief of the Latvian
collaborationist militia (Schutzmannschaft) was present for much of
the time. Viktors Arajs, who was drunk, worked very close to the pits
supervising the Latvian men of his commando, who were guarding and
funnelling the victims into the pits.
Later murders and body disposal in the ghetto
Karl Heise returned from Rumbula to the
Riga ghetto by about
1:00 p.m. There he discovered that about 20
Jews too sick to be
moved had been taken not to the murder site but rather to the
hospital. Heise ordered they be taken out of the hospital, placed on
the street on straw mattresses and shot in the head. Killers of the
patients in the street included members of the Schutzpolizei, Hesfer,
Otto Tuchel, and Neuman, among others. There were still the
hundreds of bodies left from the morning's forced evacuation. A squad
Jews was delegated to pick them up and take them to the
Jewish cemetery using sleds, wheelbarrows and horse carts. Not
every one who had been shot down in the streets was dead; those still
alive were finished off by the Arajs commando. Individual graves were
not dug at the cemetery. Instead. using dynamite, the Nazi blew out a
large crater in the ground, into which the dead were dumped without
Aftermath at the pits on the first day
By the end of the first day about 13,000 people had been shot but not
all were dead. Kaufman reported that "the earth still heaved for a
long time because of the many half-dead people." Wounded naked
people were wandering about as late as 11:00 am the next day, seeking
help but getting none. In the words of Professor Ezergailis:
The pit itself was still alive; bleeding and writhing bodies were
regaining consciousness. ... Moans and whimpers could be heard well
into the night. There were people who had been only slightly wounded,
or not hit at all; they crawled out of the pit. Hundreds must have
smothered under the weight of human flesh. Sentries were posted at the
pits and a unit of Latvian Schutzmannschaften was sent out to guard
the area. The orders were to liquidate all survivors on the spot.
— Andrew Ezergailis,
The Holocaust in Latvia, 1941-1944: The
Missing Center, p. 255
According to historian Bernard Press, himself a survivor of the
Holocaust in Latvia:
Four young women initially escaped the bullets. Naked and trembling,
they stood before their murderers' gun barrels and screamed in extreme
mortal agony that they were Latvians, not Jews. They were believed and
taken back to the city. The next morning Jeckeln himself decided their
fate. One was indeed Latvian and had been adopted as a child by Jews.
The others were Jewish. One of them hoped for support from her first
husband, Army Lieutenant Skuja. Asked on the telephone about her
nationality, he answered that she was a
Jew and he was not interested
in her fate. She was murdered. The second woman received no mercy from
Jeckeln, because she was the Latvian wife of a
Jew engaged in Judaic
studies. With this answer she signed her death warrant, for Jeckeln
decided she was "tainted by Judaism." Only the third girl, Ella
Medalje, was clever enough to give Jeckeln plausible answers and thus
escaped with her life.
— The Murder of the
Jews in Latvia, pp. 106-7
Reaction among the survivors
The ghetto itself was a scene of mass murder after the departure of
the columns on November 30, as Kaufmann described:
Ludzas street in the center of the ghetto was full of murdered people.
Their blood flowed in the gutters. In the houses there were also
countless people who had been shot. Slowly people began to pick them
up. The lawyer Wittenberg had taken this holy task upon himself, and
he mobilized the remaining young people for this task.
— Churbn Lettland - The Destruction of the
Jews of Latvia
The blood literally ran in the gutters. Frida Michelson, an
eyewitness, recorded that the next day, December 1, there were still
puddles of blood in the street, frozen by then.
The men in the newly created small ghetto were sent out to their work
stations that Sunday, as they had been the day before. On the way,
they saw the columns formed up for the march to Rumbula, and they
heard weeping, screaming, and shooting, but they could learn no
details. The men asked some of the German soldiers with whom they were
acquainted to go to the ghetto to see what happened. These soldiers
did go, but could not gain admission to the ghetto itself. From a
distance, they could still see "many horrible things". They
reported these facts to the
Jews of the work detachments, who asked
them to be released early from work to see to their families. At 14:00
hours this request was granted, at least for a few of the men, and
they returned to the ghetto. They found the streets scattered with
things, which they were directed to collect and carry to the
guardhouse. They also found a small bundle which turned out to be a
living child, a baby aged about four weeks. A Latvian guard took the
child away. Kaufmann believed the child's murder was a certainty.
The December 8 murders
Simon Dubnow 1860-1941, Jewish writer, historian and activist, of whom
a legend arose that on December 8, 1941, he counseled the
Riga ghetto:"Yidn, shreibt un fershreibt" (Yiddish: "Jews,
write and record")
Jeckeln seems to have wanted to continue the murders on December 1,
but did not. Professor Ezergailis proposed that Jeckeln may have been
bothered by problems such the resistance of the
Jews in Riga. In any
case, the killing did not resume until Monday, December 8, 1941.
According to Professor Ezergailis, this time 300
Jews were murdered in
forcing people out of the ghetto. (Another source reports that the
brutality in the
Ghetto was worse on December 8 than on November
30.). It was snowing that Monday, and the people may have believed
that the worst had past. Even so, the columns were formed up and
marched out of the city just as on Sunday, November 30, but with some
differences. The 20 kilogram packs were not carried to the site, as
they had been on November 30, but were left in the ghetto. Their
owners were told that their luggage would be carried on by truck to
the fictitious point of departure for resettlement. Mothers with small
children and older people were told they could ride by sleigh, and
sleighs were in fact available. At least two policemen who had
played some role in the November 30 massacre refused to participate
again on December 8. These were the German Zimmermann and the Latvian
Vilnis. The march itself was fast-paced and brutal. Many people
were trampled to death.
Max Kaufmann, one of the men among the work crews in the small ghetto,
was anxious to know what was happening to the people marched out on
December 8. He organized, through bribery, an expedition by truck
ostensibly to gather wood, but actually to follow the columns and
learn their destination. Kaufmann later described what he saw from
the truck as it moved south along the highway from
... we encountered the first evacuees. We slowed down. They were
walking quite calmly, and hardly a sound was heard. The first person
in the procession we met was Mrs. Pola Schmulian * * * Her head was
deeply bowed and she seemed to be in despair. I also saw other
acquaintances of mine among the people marching; the Latvians would
occasionally beat one or another of them with truncheons. * * * On the
way, I counted six murdered people who were lying with their faces in
— Churbn Lettland - The Destruction of the
Jews of Latvia
Kaufmann noticed machine guns set closely together in the snow near
the woods, and sixty to eighty soldiers, whom he identified as being
from the German army. The soldier who was driving the truck stated the
machine guns were posted just to prevent escapes. (In his book,
Kaufmann stated he was certain the German army had played a role in
the Rumbula massacre.) They drove on that day down the highway
past Rumbula to the
Salaspils concentration camp, to investigate a
rumor that the
Jews had been evacuated to that point. At the camp they
encountered Russian prisoners of war, but no
Jews from Riga. The
prisoners told them that they knew nothing about the Jews. Frida
Michelson had been marched out with the column, and she described the
forest as being surrounded by a ring of SS men. Michelson further
described the scene when they arrived at Rumbula that morning:
As we came to the forest we heard shooting again. This was the
horrible portent of our future. If I had any doubts about the
intentions of our tormenters, they were all gone now. ... We were all
numb with terror and followed orders mechanically. We were incapable
of thinking and were submitting to everything like a docile herd of
— Frida Michelson, I Survived Rumbuli, pp. 85-8
Of the 12,000 people forced out of the ghetto to Rumbula that day,
three known survivors later gave accounts: Frida Michelson, Elle
Madale, and Matiss Lutrins. Michelson survived by pretending to be
dead as victims discarded heaps of shoes on her. Elle Madale
claimed to be a Latvian. Matiss Lutrins, a mechanic, persuaded
some Latvian truck drivers to allow him and his wife (whom the Nazis
later found and murdered) to hide under a truckload of clothing from
the victims that was being hauled back into Riga.
Among those slain on December 8 was Simon Dubnow, a well known Jewish
writer, historian and activist. Dubnow had fled
Berlin in 1933 when
the Nazis took power, seeking safety in Riga. On December 8, 1941,
too ill to be marched to the forest, he was murdered in the
ghetto. and was buried in a mass grave. Kaufmann states that after
November 30, Professor Dubnow was brought to live with the families of
the Jewish policemen at 56 Ludzas Street. On December 8, the brutal
Latvian guard overseer Alberts Danskop came to the house and asked
Dubnow if he was a member of the policemen's families. Dubnow said he
was not and Danskop forced him out of the house to join one of the
columns that was marching past at the time. Uproar broke out in the
house and one of the Jewish policemen, whom Kaufmann reports to have
been a German who had won the Iron Cross, rushed out to try and save
Dubnow, but it was too late.
According to another account, Dubnow's killer was a German who had
been a former student. A rumor, which later grew into a
legend, started that Dubnow said to the
Jews present at the last
moments of his life: "If you survive, never forget what is happening
here, give evidence, write and rewrite, keep alive each word and each
gesture, each cry and each tear!" What is certain is that the
SS stole the historian's library and papers and transported them back
to the Reich.
December 9 massacre
Jews who were not able-bodied working men were able to escape
from the mass actions on November 30 and December 8 and hide in the
new "small ghetto". On December 9, 1941, the Nazis began a third
massacre, this time in the small ghetto. They searched through the
ghetto while the men were out at work. Whoever they found in hiding
was taken out to the Biķernieki forest, on the northeast side of
Riga, in blue buses borrowed from the
Riga municipal authorities,
where they were murdered and buried in mass graves. About 500 people
were murdered in this operation. As with the Rumbula murders,
evacuations from the ghetto ceased at 12 noon.
Effect of Rumbula on plans for the Holocaust
Jews replace Latvians in
In December 1941, the Nazis continued issuing directions to
Germany that they were to report to be deported to the East. For most
of these people, because of Himmler's change of plan (as shown in his
"keine Liquiderung" telephone call) they would get a year or two of
life in a ghetto before their turn came to be murdered.
One of the first trains to arrive in
Riga was called the "Bielefeld
Transport." Once the German
Jews arrived on the
Riga transports in
December, 1941, they were sent to the ghetto, where they found that
the houses had obviously been left in a hurry. The furnishings in the
residences were in great disarray and some were stained with blood.
Frozen but cooked food was on the tables, and baby carriages with
bottles of frozen milk were outside in the snow. On one
wall a German family found the words written "Mama, farewell."
Years later, a German survivor, then a child, remembers being told
"Latvians lived here", with no mention they were Jews. Another
German survivor, Ruth Foster, recounted what she had heard about the
We found out later that three days before we arrived, they murdered
Latvian Jews who came into the
Riga and the
surrounding towns. They herded them into a nearby forest where
previously the Russian prisoners of war had dug graves for them, they
had to undress completely, leave their clothes in neat order, and then
they had to go to the edge of the pits where they were mown down with
machine guns. So when we came to the
Riga Ghetto, we lived in the
houses where those poor people had been driven out and murdered.
— Lyn Smith, Remembering: Voices of the Holocaust, pp. 100, 114,
Two months later, German
Jews arriving in the ghetto were still
finding bodies of murdered
Latvian Jews in basements and attics.
The Wannsee Conference
This document from the
Wannsee Conference in February 1942 shows the
Latvia (Lettland) down to 3,500.
Main article: Wannsee Conference
Rudolf Lange, commander of
Einsatzkommando 2 in Latvia, was invited to
Wannsee Conference to give his perspective on the
Final Solution to the so-called Jewish question. The Nazis
did not find shootings to be a feasible method of murdering millions
of people, in particular because it was observed that even SS troops
were uncomfortable about shooting assimilated German
Jews as opposed
to Ostjuden ("Eastern Jews"). The head of the German civil
administration in the Baltic area, Wilhelm Kube, who had no objection
Jews in general objected to German Jews, "who come from
our own cultural circle", being casually murdered by German
Later actions at the site
Further information: Sonderaktion 1005
In 1943, apparently concerned about leaving evidence behind, Himmler
ordered that the bodies at Rumbula be dug up and burned. (Similar
actions were taken at
Belzec extermination camp
Belzec extermination camp in German occupied
Poland.) This work was done by a detachment of Jewish slave laborers.
Persons travelling on the railway could readily smell the burning
corpses. In 2001, the President of the Republic of Latvia, Vaira
Vike-Freiberga, who was a child during World War II, spoke at a
60-year anniversary memorial service about the destruction of the
bodies: "We could smell the smoke coming from Rumbula, where corpses
were being dug up and burnt to erase the evidence."
Friedrich Jeckeln, standing at left, at his war crimes trial in Riga
in early 1946
Some of the Rumbula murderers were brought to justice. Hinrich Lohse
and Friedrich Jahnke were prosecuted in West German courts and
sentenced to terms of imprisonment.
Victors Arajs evaded
capture for a long time in West Germany, but was finally sentenced to
life imprisonment in 1979.
Herberts Cukurs escaped to South
America, where he was assassinated, it is said by agents of
Eduard Strauch was convicted in the
and sentenced to death, but he died in prison before the sentence
could be carried out.
Friedrich Jeckeln was publicly hanged in
Riga on February 3, 1946 following a trial before the Soviet
List of massacres in Latvia
^ a b Ezergailis 1996b, p. 239.
^ a b
Einsatzgruppen trial, p. 16, Indictment, at 6.F: "(F) On 30
November 1941 in Riga, 20 men of
Einsatzkommando 2 participated in the
murder of 10,600 Jews."
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 4-7, 239-70.
^ Edelheit, History of the Holocaust. p. 163: "Aktion Jeckeln, named
after its commander, Hoeherer SS- und Polizeiführer Friedrich
Jeckeln. Undertaken in the
Riga ghetto, the Aktion took place between
November 30 and December 7, 1941. During the Aktion some 25,000 Jews
were transported to the Rumbula Forest and murdered."
^ a b Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 211–2.
Einsatzgruppen judgment, p. 418.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p
Riga trial verdict excerpts, as
reprinted in Fleming 1994, pp. 78–9.
^ Ezergailis 1996b, p. 33n81.
^ Fleming 1994, p. 88.
^ As Lohse appeared in 1941 in an announcement in
following the German occupation.
^ Stahlecker report, at 985: "
Special detachments reinforced by
selected units -- in
Lithuania partisan detachments, in
of the Latvian auxiliary police -- therefore performed extensive
executions both in the towns and in rural areas."
^ A serious and deadly (approximately 400
Jews murdered) riot in Riga
in early July 1941 was one exception.
^ a b Stahlecker, report, at 986: "In
Latvia as well the Jews
participated in acts of sabotage and arson after the invasion of the
German Armed Forces. In Duensburg so many fires were lighted by the
Jews that a large part of the town was lost. The electric power
station burnt down to a mere shell. The streets which were mainly
Jews remained unscathed."
^ Friedländer, The Years of Extermination, at page 223, refers to the
Stahlecker report as evidence that Nazi efforts to induce local
pogroms were in general failures in the Baltic states.
^ Stahlecker report, at 984-85: "It proved much more difficult to set
in motion similar cleansing actions in Latvia. Essentially the reason
was that the whole of the national stratum of leaders had been
assassinated or destroyed by the Soviets, especially in Riga. It was
possible though through similar influences on the Latvian auxiliary to
set in motion a pogrom against
Jews also in Riga. During this pogrom
all synagogues were destroyed and about 400
Jews were murdered. As the
Riga quieted down quickly, further pogroms were not
convenient. So far as possible, both in Kowno and in
Riga evidence by
film and photo was established that the first spontaneous executions
Jews and Communists were carried out by Lithuanians and Latvians.
^ a b c d e f g Winter, "Rumbula viewed from the
Riga Ghetto, at
^ Stahlecker report, at 987: "In this connection it may be mentioned
that some authorities at the Civil Administration offered resistance,
at times even a strong one, against the carrying out of larger
executions. This resistance was answered by calling attention to the
fact that it was a matter of carrying out basic orders."
^ Reitlinger, Alibi. p. 186n1.
^ a b c Browning, Matthäus. Origins of the Final Solution,
pp. 305–7, 406.
^ The reply, coming from Brätigam, of Rosenburg's bureau on December
18, 1941, after the murders, was essentially that Lohse should follow
instructions from the SS: "Clarification of the Jewish question has
most likely been achieved by now through verbal discussions. Economic
considerations should fundamentally remain unconsidered in the
settlement of the problem. Moreover, it is requested, that questions
arising be settled directly with the Senior SS and Police Leaders.
^ Stahlecker report, at 987: "In
Riga the so-called "Moskau suburb"
was designated as a Ghetto. This is the worst dwelling district of
Riga, already now mostly inhabited by Jews. The transfer of the Jews
into the Ghetto-district proved rather difficult because the Latvians
dwelling in that district had to be evacuated and residential space in
Riga is very crowded, 24,000 of the 28,000
Jews living in
been transferred into the
Ghetto so far. In creating the Ghetto, the
Security Police restricted themselves to mere policing duties, while
the establishment and administration of the
Ghetto as well as the
regulation of the food supply for the inmates of the
Ghetto were left
to Civil Administration; the Labor Offices were left in charge of
^ Fleming 1994, plate 3.
^ Fleming 1994, pp. 99–100: "There can be no doubt that the
Higher SS and Police Leader
Higher SS and Police Leader
Friedrich Jeckeln received the KVK First
Class with swords in recognition of his faithful performance: his
organization of the mass shootings in Riga, 'on orders from the
highest level' (auf höchsten Befehl).
^ Friedländer, The Years of Extermination, at page 267: "The mass
slaughters of October and November 1941 were intended to make space
for the new arrivals from the Reich."
^ Friedländer, The Years of Extermination, at page 267
^ Ezergailis 1996b, p. 241: "On November 12, Jeckeln received his
order from Himmler to kill the
Jews of the
Riga ghetto." Other sources
give the date of Himmler's order as November 10 or November 11.
Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution, at 75
^ a b Fleming 1994, pp. 75–7.
^ a b Eksteins, Walking Since Daybreak, page 150
^ a b c d e f Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 241–2.
^ a b Jeckeln interrogation excerpts, reprinted in Fleming 1994,
^ a b Klee and others, eds., The Good Old Days. pp. 76-86.
^ a b Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 240–1.
^ Rubenstein and Roth describe Jeckeln's system (p. 179): "In the
western Ukraine, SS General
Friedrich Jeckeln notices that the
haphazard arrangement of the corpses meant an inefficient use of
burial space. More graves would have to be dug than absolutely
necessary. Jeckeln solved the problem. He told a colleague at one of
the Ukrainian killing sites, 'Today we'll stack them like sardines.'
Jeckeln called his solution Sardinenpackung (sardine packing). When
this method was employed, the victims climbed into the grave and lay
down on the bottom. Cross fire from above dispatched them. Then
another batch of victims was ordered into the grave, positioning
themselves on top of the corpses in a head-to-foot configuration. They
too were murdered by cross-fire from above. The procedure continued
until the grave was full."
^ The Tribunal's judgment states (p. 444): "In some instances, the
slain persons did not fall into the graves, and the executioners were
then compelled to exert themselves to complete the job of interment. A
method, however, was found to avoid this additional exertion by simply
having the victims enter the ditch or grave while still alive. An SS
eyewitness explained this procedure.
'The people were executed by a shot in the neck. The corpses were
buried in a large tank ditch. The candidates for execution were
already standing or kneeling in the ditch. One group had scarcely been
shot before the next came and laid themselves on the corpses there.'"
^ a b According to the judgment of the Tribunal in the Einsatzgruppen
case (p. 448): "It was stated in the early part of this opinion that
women and children were to be executed with the men so that Jews,
gypsies, and so-called asocials would be exterminated for all time. In
this respect, the
Einsatzgruppen leaders encountered a difficulty they
had not anticipated. Many of the enlisted men were husbands and
fathers, and they winced as they pulled their triggers on these
helpless creatures who reminded them of their own wives and offspring
at home. In this emotional disturbance they often aimed badly and it
was necessary for the Kommando leaders to go about with a revolver or
carbine, firing into the moaning and writhing forms." This situation
was reported to the RSHA in Berlin, and to relieve the emotional
sensitivity of the executioners, gas vans were sent as an additional
killing system. Angrick & Klein 2012, p. 152.
^ From the transcript of the
Ohlendorf: Some of the unit leaders did not carry out the liquidation
in the military manner, but murdered the victims singly by shooting
them in the back of the neck.
Col. Amen: And you objected to that procedure?
Ohlendorf: I was against that procedure, yes.
Col. Amen: For what reason?
Ohlendorf: Because both for the victims and for those who carried out
the executions, it was, psychologically, an immense burden to bear.
^ Green series, Volume IV, p. 443, quoting Einsatzgruppe commander
^ This also allowed some deniability because should the bodies be
discovered, the claim could be made that since the victims had been
shot with Russian bullets, the
NKVD or some other Communist
organization was responsible.
^ The Tribunal's judgment in the
Einsatzgruppen case states (p. 444):
"In fact, one defendant did not exclude the possibility that an
executee could only seem to be dead because of shock or temporary
unconsciousness. In such cases it was inevitable he would be buried
^ Ezergailis 1996b, p. 242.
^ Browning. Nazi Policy, p. 143.
^ a b Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 243–5.
^ a b c Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 248–9.
^ a b c Fleming 1994, pp. 83–7.
^ Max Kaufmann, a ghetto survivor, reported one "Altmeyer" as one of
the guards forming up the columns of
Jews in the ghetto on the morning
of November 30, but whether this is the same person with whom Bruns
spoke is not clear from the sources. Kaufmann 2010, pp. 60–1.
^ a b c Fleming 1994, pp. 80–2
^ Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rumbuli, pp. 74-7.
^ a b Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 247–8.
^ a b c d e Kaufmann 2010, pp. 59-61.
^ a b c d e Browning, Matthäus. Origins of the Final Solution,
^ a b c d Hilberg, Destruction of European Jews. p. 365.
Einsatzgruppen judgment stated (p. 418): "In time the authors of
the reports apparently tired of the word 'shot' so, within the narrow
compass of expression allowed in a military report, some variety was
added. A report originating in
Latvia read --
'The Higher SS and Police leader in Riga, SS Obergruppenfuehrer
Jeckeln, has meanwhile embarked on a shooting action
[Erschiessungsaktion] and on Sunday, the 30 November 1941, about 4,000
Jews from the
Riga ghetto and an evacuation transport from the Reich
were disposed of." (NO-3257)
And so that no one could be in doubt as to what was meant by 'Disposed
of', the word 'killed' was added in parentheses."
^ Roseman, The Wannsee Conference. pp. 75-7.
^ Fleming 1994, p. 89.
^ Browning. Nazi Policy, pp. 52-4.
^ a b c Kaufmann 2010, pp. 61-2.
^ Ezergailis 1996b, p. 252.
^ a b Kaufmann 2010, pp. 60-1.
^ Ezergailis 1996b, p. 267n55.
^ Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 192, 267.
^ The 10 kilometer distance is supplied in Ezergailis 1996b,
^ Ezergailis 1996b, p. 251.
^ Kaufmann 2010, p. 63.
^ Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 253–4.
^ Reprinted in Fleming 1994, pp. 95–100.
^ a b Fleming 1994, p. 88.
Ostland was the German name for the Baltic states
and nearby areas which they had conquered.
^ Ezergailis 1996b, p. 254.
^ Ezergailis 1996b, p. 259.
^ a b Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rumbuli. pp. 77-8.
^ a b Kaufmann 2010, pp. 63-4.
^ a b c Kaufmann 2010, pp. 64–5.
^ a b c Friedlander, The Years of Extermination. pp. 261-3.
^ a b c Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rumbuli. pp. 85-8.
^ Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 256-7.
^ a b c d Kaufmann 2010, pp. 68-9.
^ Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rubuli. pp. 89-93.
^ a b Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 257–61.
^ Kaufmann 2010, p. 150.
^ Eksteins, Walking Since Daybreak. p. 150, citing Press, Bernard,
Judenmort in Lettland, 1941-1945, Berlin: Metropol 1992. p. 12.
^ Dribins, Leo; Gūtmanis, Armands; Vestermanis, Marģers (2001).
Latvia's Jewish Community: History, Tragedy, Revival. Riga: Latvijas
Vēsturnieku komisija (Commission of the Historians of Latvia).
^ Friedländer, The Years of Extermination. p. 262: "A few months
later, on June 26, 1942, SS Obersturmführer Heinz Ballensiefen, head
of the Jewish section of Amt VII (research) in the RSHA, informed his
colleagues that in
Riga his men had secured (sichergestellt') about 45
boxes containing the archive and library of the Jewish historian
^ a b Kaufmann 2010, p. 70.
^ a b Smith, Remembering. pp. 100, 114, 128, reporting statement of
^ Reitlinger, Alibi. p. 282: "As early as October 1941
Jews had been
Berlin and other Reich cites to the already hopelessly
overcrowed Lodz ghetto. Before the end of the year deportations had
followed to ghettos in the Baltic states and White Russia."
^ a b c Smith, Remembering. p. 113, reporting statement of Ezra
Jurmann: "We arrived in the ghetto and were taken to a group of houses
which had obviously been left in a hurry: there was complete turmoil,
they were completely deserted and they had not been heated. In a
pantry there was a pot of potatoes frozen solid. ... Complete chaos.
Ominous. On the walls, a message said, 'Mama, farewell.'"
^ Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 254-6.
^ Breitman, Architect of Genocide. p. 220, discusses Himmler's
concerns about the effect on his men's morale of the mass killings of
Riga and elsewhere.
^ Friedländer, The Years of Extermination. pp. 362-3.
^ David Cesarani, Eichmann: His Life and Crimes (Vintage 2005). p.
^ "Styopina, Anastasia, "
Latvia remembers Holocaust killings 60 years
ago" Reuters World Report, November 30, 2001". Archived from the
original on March 10, 2005. Retrieved 2009-03-10. CS1 maint: BOT:
original-url status unknown (link) .
Genocide on Trial. p. 198.
^ Ezergailis 1996b, pp. 16, 245-8.
Genocide on Trial. pp. 197-9.
^ Kuenzle, Anton and Shimron, Gad, The Execution of the Hangman of
Riga: The Only Execution of a Nazi War Criminal by the Mossad,
Valentine Mitchell, London 2004 ISBN 0-85303-525-3.
Eduard Strauch (German).
^ Edelheit, History of the Holocaust. p. 340: Jeckeln was " ...
responsible for the murder of
Communist Party officials ...
convicted and hanged in the former ghetto of
Riga on February 3, 1946.
Anders, Edward, and Dubrovskis, Juris, "Who Died in the Holocaust?
Recovering Names from Official Records", Holocaust and Genocide
Studies 17.1 (2003) 114-138
Angrick, Andrej; Klein, Peter (2012). The 'Final Solution' in Riga:
Exploitation and Annihilation, 1941-1944. Translation from German by
Ray Brandon. Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-0857456014.
Genocide on Trial; war crimes trials and the
formation of Holocaust History and Memory, Oxford University Press,
New York NY 2001 ISBN 0-19-820872-3
Browning, Christopher (1999). Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German
Killers. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-77490-X.
Browning, Christopher; Matthäus, Jürgen (2004). The Origins of the
Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939
– March 1942. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Dribins, Leo, Gūtmanis, Armands, and Vestermanis, Marģers, "Latvia's
Jewish Community: History, Trajedy, Revival", Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Republic of Latvia
Edelheit, Abraham J. and Edelheit, Hershel, History of the
Holocaust : A Handbook and Dictionary, Westview Press, Boulder,
CO 1994 ISBN 0-8133-1411-9
Eksteins, Modris, Walking Since Daybreak: A story of Eastern Europe,
World War II, and the Heart of our Century, Houghton Mifflin, Boston
1999 ISBN 0-395-93747-7.
Ezergailis, Andrew (1996a). "Latvia". In Wyman, David S.; Rosenzveig,
Charles H. The World Reacts to the Holocaust. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press. pp. 354–88. ISBN 0-8018-4969-1.
Ezergailis, Andrew (1996b).
The Holocaust in Latvia, 1941-1944: The
Riga / Washington DC: Historical Institute of Latvia
and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Fleming, Gerald (1994). Hitler and the Final Solution. Berkeley:
University of California Press. ISBN 0520060229.
Friedländer, Saul, The years of extermination : Nazi Germany and the
Jews, 1939-1945, New York, NY 2007 ISBN 978-0-06-019043-9
Hilberg, Raul, The Destruction of the European
Jews (3d Ed.) Yale
University Press, New Haven, CT 2003. ISBN 0-300-09557-0
Hobrecht,Jürgen "We did survive it"- The
Riga Ghetto. Documentary
Berlin 2013, 98 Min. Outtakes:
Kaufmann, Max (2010). Churbn Lettland - The Destruction of the
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Hartung-Gorre Verlag. ISBN 978-3-86628-315-2.
Klee, Ernst, Dressen, Willi, and Riess, Volker, eds., The Good Old
The Holocaust as seen by its Perpetrators and Bystanders,
(English translation) MacMillan Free Press, NY 1991
The Holocaust in German-Occupied Latvia
Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rumbuli, Holocaust Library, New York, NY
1979 ISBN 0-89604-029-1
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, Holocaust
Remembrance - Rumbula Memorial Site Unveiled, December 2002
Press, Bernard, The Murder of the
Jews in Latvia, Northwestern
University Press, 2000 ISBN 0-8101-1729-0
Reitlinger, Gerald, The SS—Alibi of a Nation, at 186, 282, Viking
Press, New York, 1957 (Da Capo reprint 1989) ISBN 0-306-80351-8
Roseman, Mark, The
Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution—A
Reassessment, Holt, New York, 2002 ISBN 0-8050-6810-4
Rubenstein, Richard L., and Roth, John K., Approaches to Auschwitz,
page 179, Louisville, Ky. : Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.
(in German) Scheffler, Wolfgang, "Zur Geschichte der Deportation
jüdischer Bürger nach
Riga 1941/1942", Volksbund Deutsche
Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V. – 23.05.2000
Schneider, Gertrude, Journey into terror: story of the
(2d Ed.) Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2001 ISBN 0-275-97050-7
Schneider, Gertrude, ed., The Unfinished Road: Jewish Survivors of
Latvia Look Back, Praeger Publishers (1991)
Smith, Lyn, Remembering: Voices of the Holocaust, Carroll & Graf,
New York 2005 ISBN 0-7867-1640-1
Winter, Alfred, "Rumbula Viewed From The
Riga Ghetto" from The Ghetto
Riga and Continuance - A Survivor's Memoir 1998
War crimes trials and evidence
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the United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis
Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Exhibit 3666-PS, Volume
VII, pages 978-995, USGPO, Washington DC 1946 ("Red Series")
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pages 8–13, from the Historical State Archives, as reprinted in
Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution, at pages 95–100 (Portions of
the Jeckeln interrogation are also available online at the Nizkor
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Operations up to 15 October 1941", Exhibit L-180, translated in part
and reprinted in Office of the United States Chief of Counsel For
Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression,
Volume VII, pages 978-995, USGPO, Washington DC 1946 ("Red Series")
"The International Military Tribunal for Germany". Yale Law School /
Lillian Goldman Law Library / The Avalon Project.
Trials of War Criminals before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals under
Control Council Law No. 10, Nuernberg, October 1946 - April 1949,
Volume IV, ("Green Series) (the "
Einsatzgruppen case") also available
at Mazel library (well indexed HTML version)
Katz, Josef, One Who Came Back, University of Wisconsin Press, (2nd
Ed. 2006) ISBN 978-1-928755-07-4
Iwens, Sidney, How Dark the Heavens—1400 Days in the Grip of Nazi
Terror, Shengold Publishing (2d ed. 1990) ISBN 978-0-88400-147-8
Michelson, Max, City of Life, City of Death: Memories of Riga,
University Press of Colorado (2001) ISBN 978-0-87081-642-0
Media related to
The Holocaust in
Latvia at Wikimedia Commons
The Holocaust in
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Jews Yesterday and Today
Killed in Rumbala forest
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, Holocaust
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(in German) Berliner Zeitung, Das Lange Warten des Abram Kit, 29
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