Riga Ghetto

The Riga ghetto covered a small area in Maskavas Forštate, a quarter of Riga , the capital of Latvia , designated by the Nazis to concentrate the Jewsof Latvia, and subsequently to other deportees from Germany , during World War II .

On October 25, 1941 , the Nazis moved all Jews from and around the ghetto to Riga while non-Jews were expelled from the area. The majority of Latvian Jews (about 24,000) were killed between 30 November and 8 December 1941 in the Rumbula massacre . The Nazis transported a large number of German Jews to the ghetto, most of whom died later in the massacres.

While the Riga ghetto is commonly referred to as a single entity, there were indeed several “ghettos.” The first was the large ghetto of Latvian Jews.After the Rumbula massacre, the surviving Jewish Latvians were concentrated in a smaller area within the original ghetto, which became known as the “small” ghetto. The little ghetto was divided into sections for men and women. The area of ​​the ghetto not assigned to the small ghetto, was reassigned to Jews who were deported from Germany, to such a sector was known as the German ghetto .

It was directed by the captain of the SS Eduard Roschmann , the Butcher of Riga , who also was also responsible for the concentration camp Kaiserwald , on the outskirts of the city.

Restrictions imposed on Jews

At the beginning of July 1941 the German army occupied Riga and the whole country, beginning to apply the first measures and attacks against the Jews, with the collaboration of part of the Latvian civil population. A few days after he occupied the city organized the burning of all synagogues in the city.

The Germans issued a series of decrees that directly affected the Jews, prohibiting them from transit through public places, including parks and swimming pools, and forcing them to always carry a yellow six-pointed star on their clothing, 1 risking death in case of not doing so , Imposing then the obligation to carry a second star to facilitate their identification among the crowd, since they were not allowed to use the sidewalks. The Jews also received only half the food ration of a non-Jewish citizen. 2

One was established “Office of Jewish Affairs” , which began to implement policies inspired by the Nuremberg Laws , which provided for the prohibition of marriages between Jews and non – Jews, and admonished the divorce to marriages already established and should not accept They were forced to sterilize. 3 In parallel, Jewish doctors were forbidden to treat non-Jews, and non-Jewish doctors treated Jews. 4

Establishment of the ghetto

On July 21, 1941, the occupation command of Riga decided to concentrate the Jewish workers in a ghetto. All Jews were registered and created Judenrat (Jewish Council), as done in other ghettos. Being elected to the council, some of the most prominent Jews of the city, among which was Eljaschow, Blumenthal and Minsker. 3Council members received large white bands with a Star of David blue in them, which gave them the right to use sidewalks and drive cars.

On October 23, 1941, the occupation authorities issued an order requiring all Jews to be transferred, on October 25, 1941, to Forštate Maskavas (in Castilian, suburb Moscow ) a district of Riga. 5 As a result, about 30,000 Jews were concentrated in a small area of ​​16 blocks, fenced with barbed wire. 6 Anyone who got too close to the fence was shot by the Latvians guards stationed around the perimeter of the ghetto. The Latvian guard, who was commanded by the German police in Danzig, was allowed to shoot at random during the night. 7

While the Jews were relocated to the ghetto, the Nazis confiscated their property and robbed them of property, for they were allowed to take very little for the ghetto, and what remained outside remained under the control of an authority of the known occupation Such as the Trusteeship Office (in German , Treuhandverwaltung ). Whole trains loaded with goods stolen from the Jews were sent to Germany. Whereas what was overlooked for the Germans, it was stolen by the Latvian police, considering it as a form of compensation for participating in the murders. Referring to Fig.

Mass killings

In September 1941, Adolf Hitler , at the behest of Reinhard Heydrich and Joseph Goebbels , had decreed the expulsion of the Jews from Germany to the east. Although the intended destination was initially Minsk , given its overpopulation, deportation trains were further diverted to Riga, which also surpassed its capacity.

Between 30 November and 9 December 1941, the Nazis executed some 27,500 Latvian Jews from the ghetto in pre-dug pits in the woods near Rumbula, in what is known as the Rumbula massacre . 9 The great ghetto had had an existence of only 37 days. 7 Only about 4,500 skilled workers in the male work units survived, being confined to the “small ghetto” , along with about 500 women, who had been classified as seamstresses. 10

The first transport with 1,053 Jews from Berlin arrived at the Skirotava railway station in Riga on November 30 , 1941. All the people were killed that same day in the forest of Rumbula. 11 On the next four trains, about 4,000 people arrived, who were housed in an empty courtyard, called Jungfernhof interim concentration camps , by order of the SS-Brigadeführer and commander of the Einsatzgruppen A, Walter Stahlecker .

Installation of the “small” ghetto

After the mass murders in Rumbula, the survivors were installed in the small ghetto. While posters were posted all over Riga, stating that “Anyone who reports to the authorities about a suspect or a hidden Jew will receive a large sum of money, and many other perks and privileges” 12 In addition, internal passports To identify the population, who were requested, for example, to request a medical prescription. 13 It was named as a Nazi commander of the small ghetto an officer surnamed Stanke, who had also participated in the liquidation of the great ghetto, being assisted by a Latvian called Dralleo, who gained a reputation for brutality among the Jews. As in the large ghetto, the perimeter was also guarded by Latvian guards. 14


  1. Back to top↑ Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rumbuli, p. 55
  2. Return to top↑ Kaufmann, The Destruction of the Jews of Latvia, pp. 16-18
  3. ↑ Jump to:a b Kaufmann, The Destruction of the Jews of Latvia, pp. 18-20
  4. Back to top↑ Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rumbuli, p. 64
  5. Back to top^ Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, p. 344
  6. Back to top^ Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, p. 348, gives the number of Jews initially confined to the ghetto at 29,602.
  7. ↑ Jump to:a b Kaufmann, The Destruction of the Jews of Latvia, pp. 23-29
  8. Back to top↑ Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, pp. 344-347
  9. Back to top↑ Angrick and Klein, Die “Endlösung” in Riga, pp. 142-159
  10. Back to top^ Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, p. 348
  11. Back to top↑ Gottwald and Schulle, Judendeportationen, p. 121
  12. Back to top↑ Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rumbuli, p. 117
  13. Back to top↑ Michelson, Frida, I Survived Rumbuli, p. 136
  14. Return to top↑ Kaufmann, The Destruction of the Jews of Latvia, pp. 39-46