December 5, 2003 Diena

25 thousands during two days
Do we know enough about events happened in Runbula?



Pauls Raudseps

We live our own life. We go to work, go shopping, if we can afford we go to Rumbula to look for a car… Maybe we have heard something what happened behind the car retail 62 years ago, maybe – haven’t. Something terrible that merges together with all the other danger events that happened during this world most bloody century. We do not think anything more about it.

On November 30 and December 8 of the year 1941, Rumbula’s “actions” were held, actions where the biggest part of Jews yarded in Ghetto were executed. The best informative source about the Rumbula’s tragedy, a fundamental research of the historian Andriev Ezergailis “Holocaust during the times of German’s occupied Latvia” estimates that during these days 25 000 were murdered, thus Rumbula became the place of the biggest mass assassination in Latvia’s history. Short news appears in Latvian press each year informing that remembrance moment is taking place in Rumbula. The numbers are announced – these abstract thousands of Latvian Republic’s residents. However it is very rear when society got wider review how it is possible during two short winter days’ time to kill as many people as live in Jekabpils or Valmiera nowadays.

The events of those days are brightly and painfully described by Frida Fride-Mihelson in the book “I survived Rumbula”. On September a part of Ghetto’s residents were high jacked to the Rumbula’s forest. Those who were not able to go were killed at the place and the streets of Getto (Ludza, Liksna, Maza Kalna streets) were covered by hundreds of people dead bodies. On December 8, in the morning turn of F. Fride-Mihelson had come.

The command of Arajs got people out from homes and linked up in colonies, thousand in each. 10-killometer long walk through snow wind to Rumbula’s forest began. “Our colony entered the forest. A big wood box stood at the entrance. Some SS soldier armed with cudgel was standing there and time to time cried: “Put all the valuables and money in the box!” (..) A bit further Latvian policeman ordered: “Take of coats and through them on the other things!” (..) Policemen started to chase us more consistently. Shooting, endless shooting became lauder. We were coming closer to the end. I was terribly frightened, fears that are close to the insanity. I began to cry hysterically, to tear hair, just to muffle the sound of shooting.”

F. Fride-Mihelson was one of those rare people who managed to survive. She fall down on the pile of clothes on the road edge and pretended she was dead. Almost all others the walk finished in the 10-meter long, 3-meter deep hole in the Rumbula’s forest not far from the railway. According to the planned and in Ukraine worked out murdering method, victims should got into the hole by themselves and they should lie down with their faces against just killed bodies. Grupenfurer Jekel and other German occupation power high officials were standing at the edge of the hole and were watching how twelve Jekeln’s bodyguards German SS soldiers were killing each victim with one shoot in the back of the head.

After December 8, only small part of Jewish residents stayed in Riga. After the assassination in Rumbula Jews from Germany were placed in Riga’s Getto. Lilija Pancis ws among them, she described what she saw: “We ran into Bilefeld (Vilanu) house Nr. 7. (..) The hall and stairs were in chaos and we could not see the flour and stairs because of the children toys and other personal staff covered everything. (..) One day I put up clothes from the baby bad and found there a little two-year old child with shot through head.”

Nazi hunter Zuroff once again visited Latvia last week. Unfortunately, despite his targets, at the moment Zuroff does not carry out the Latvia’s Jews execution understanding as poor quarrels about questionable witnesses give to people to distance psychologically from the main question – if we have done enough to study the facts of the Holocaust in Latvia?

Endless Soviet and now Russia’s propaganda’s attempts try to put a sign of equity between the words “Latvian” and “fascist” , makes a lot of people to take protection position and to turn away from these events without understanding that exactly quibble increases suspicions and causes an impression that Latvians secretly believe in collective fault that in words justly refuse. Our historians have done huge and careful job; however comparatively small group of researchers is interested in results.

Everyone has to know the truth about that time, because it happened here. We have to know about it due to respect towards those who died. We have to know about it as only honestly and openly looking at this evil, we have hopes to overcome indifference and to understand those tolerance and rights’ principles that are in the base of the modern Western civilizations (including NATO and EU). At least we should know it as exactly sympathy towards other person’s suffering differs us as human beings. The poet Ojars Vacieties understood it alreasy in the year 1966 when he wrote a poem “Rumbula”…