July 2002  
  A Brief Summary of the History of the Holocaust in Latvia  

According to the 1934 census, approximately 94,000 Jews resided in Latvia, but that number was reduced considerably by the time the Nazis invaded the country in late June 1941. Some 4,000 Jews emigrated overseas, another 5,000 were deported in mid June 1941 by the Soviets who occupied Latvia in June 1940, and approximately 15,000 succeeded in escaping to the Soviet interior prior to the Nazi takeover. Thus about 70,000 Latvian Jews were trapped under Nazi occupation.

The annihilation of Latvian Jewry was carried out in four stages:

1. July – October 1941
2. November - December 1941
3. January – July 1942
4. August 1942 – July 1944

1. The first period: July – October 1941
During this stage most of the murder operations took place in the provincial towns and villages, where 30,000 Jews were murdered by the German Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), the Latvian Arajs Kommando (a Latvian Security Police unit composed of volunteers which functioned as an execution squad) and local Latvian police. In addition, approximately 4,000 Jews were murdered in Riga.

2. The second period: November – December 1941
During this period SS Brigadefuhrer Friedrich Jeckeln took over as Higher SS and Police Leader in Latvia and carried out the liquidation of most of the Jews living in the three largest ghettos: Riga, Daugavpils and Liepaja. The largest of these mass murders took place on November 30 and December 7, 1941 during which over 25,000 Latvian Jews from the Riga Ghetto were rounded up and murdered at Rumbula by the German SD, Arajs Kommando, and Latvian police units, including the Riga municipal police.

3. The third period: January - July 1942
During this period the majority (14,000) of the 20,000 Jews deported from the Reich (Germany, Austria and the Protektorat) to Latvia were murdered, with most of the killings taking place in Bikernieki Forest on the outskirts of Riga and in other locations in Latvia’s capital.

4. The fourth period: August 1942 – July 1944
By early 1943, only about 5,000 Jews remained alive in Latvia. They were concentrated in the ghettos of Riga, Daugavpils, and Liepaja, as well as in several forced labor camps, the largest of which was Kaiserwald. Sporadic murders continued during this period.

In 1944, thousands of Jewish women from Hungary were brought to Kaiserwald, as was a group of Jews from Lodz, Poland, bringing the camp population to almost 12,000 Jews. In July 1944, as the Soviet Army approached the Latvian border, the Nazis murdered thousands of Jewish prisoners who were deemed unfit for work, as well as all the youngsters in the camps, and evacuated the rest of the inmates by train and ship to Stutthof, and from there to German concentration camps, where the majority perished.


It is estimated that not more than 3,000 Latvian Jews who lived in Latvia under the Nazi occupation survived the war. This figure includes a maximum of 1,000 Jews who survived after being deported in 1944 to German concentration camps and about 150 who remained alive in Latvia thanks to the help of local Righteous Among the Nations.

Out of the approximately 20,000 Jews from the Reich who were deported to Latvia in 1941-1942, only 1,000 survived. Thousands of the Jews deported from Hungary and Poland to Latvia in 1943 were also murdered there