Churbn Lettland: The Destruction of the Jews of Latvia
by Max Kaufmann

Part III

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First-Hand Account

The Kaiserwald Concentration Camp in Riga


The name, Mezaparks, or Kaiserwald, is familiar to every inhabitant of Riga. At one time it was for us the embodiment of the best and most beautiful things, for all of us had spent wonderful times there. Today, Kaiserwald will remain in the memory of not just the Riga Jews, but also many other European Jews who were taken there. For us, Kaiserwald is a large cemetery, a cemetery without graves.

Directly next to the railway that separates Kaiserwald from Sarkandaugava, in a large sandy plain and surrounded by a double fence of barbed wire, stands a new small town. Its name is Kaiserwald Concentration Camp.

Two worlds stand face to face here. The first has magnificent villas, and everywhere happy voices are heard; but only screams and painful weeping are heard coming from the second. And when the new inhabitants of the Jewish villas, who inherited all our possessions, walked past us and saw our grey faces, they felt no sympathy whatsoever. They simply did not want to understand us.

Kaiserwald was the headquarters for all the large and small barracks camps in Riga and outside it. Because all the barracks camps had been transformed into concentration camps, all of them were dependant on Kaiserwald. Thus, representatives and guards from Kaiserwald could be found everywhere.

Views of the former Kaiserwald concentration camp
after 1945

photo credit: USHMM,
Staatsanwalt beim Landgericht Hamburg.

 All of the barracks camps could only be located outside of the city now, for in Riga itself people were supposed to know absolutely nothing even about the existence of the Jews.

For this reason, the large Gestapo barracks camp was also moved into the Lenta factory compound on the other side of the Daugava. The work crews of the Kaiserwald concentration camp worked in various factories and construction sites in the area.

The central labour-deployment office and the large card file that contained the names of tens of thousands of prisoners, were also located in Kaiserwald, and were managed by a German prisoner named Schlitter. For assistance, he had the German Jew, Bernhard, who felt genuine sympathy for the Jewish cause. He did good whenever possible. There was a special section of the card file for the names of those who were to be transferred from Kaiserwald to the SD. These people’s SD cards meant simply that they would be sent to the base. The work at this base consisted of covering the traces of all the murders; that is, digging up the corpses and cremating them. Afterwards, those who had done this work were themselves eliminated. They were chained together, and none of them managed to return alive.


Kaiserwald was built in 1943. To build it, 500 Aryan prisoners were brought in from Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The Jews from the Wolf & Döring barracks camp nearby were sent to assist them in the daytime. The Aryan prisoners had to work very hard under wretched conditions, so their numbers shrank rapidly. When the Jews came to Kaiserwald, only 300 Aryans were still alive. The Jewish prisoner numbers began with 501. The newly founded concentration camp was headed by the SS-trained Obersturmbannführer Sauer (a brother-in-law of Professor Max Albert of Berlin). It was said that in civilian life he had owned a construction business. To assist him, he appointed equally experienced murderers who had already been working for years with the “trade.” All of them had thousands of human lives on their consciences.

Their names are: SS man Sorge (“Iron Gustav”), a specialist in shots to the back of the neck, Oberscharführer Brüner (work deployment, Dr Wiesner and Dr Kreβbach (notorious for the “children’s action”), Huck, Hirsch (from Bavaria), Meisel, Blatterspiegel, Greschel, Triebe (of the Estonia action), Schiller (from Siebenbürgen, i.e.Transylvania), Hoffmann (a notorious murderer), Schibbel, Schimmel, Laris, Fischer and others.

Our guards consisted of nearly a whole regiment of the “most efficient” SS people; most of them were natives of Transylvania. The ones whose presence we felt most harshly were the SS men, Prater, Summer and Schwarz.

In the women’s camp there were subordinate SS-Mädels (SS girls): Kova (from Bavaria), a woman named Emma, and a Latvian woman called Maria. The German prisoner, Rosenmeyer, was the first to be appointed as the camp representative; later, he was replaced by the political prisoner, Hans Brunns.


After coming to the Kaiserwald concentration camp, we were no longer called Jews, but prisoners. We also lost our names and received only numbers on our chests and trousers, like criminals. We also wore the same number on the left trouser leg. Here the star, through which so many had lost their lives in the ghetto, was no longer used. Beside the numbers, we also wore coloured triangles on the left side of our chests. The Jews wore a yellow triangle, the Aryan political prisoners a red one, and the criminals a green one. There was also the BV sign which stood for Berufsverbrecher (professional criminal).

In my time there were only 70 Aryan prisoners left in Kaiserwald, mostly Poles and Ukrainians. The German Aryan prisoners had a special status: they were the block representatives or held other political positions. Moreover, they lived in a barracks that was separate from the others and received additional rations. The camp representative was responsible for the camp’s internal affairs. He was in charge. The first camp representative, Reinhold Rosenmeyer, showed his true colours from the very beginning. Later on, he changed and became a veritable friend of the Jews. By contrast, the second camp representative, the political prisoner, Hans Brunns, was sadistic in all his actions.

The second most important role in the camp was played by the notorious professional criminal, Mister X. He was a good-looking slim man, and everyone in the camp trembled in fear of him. When he went off as foreman of a work crew, he regularly brought back many dead or half-dead men with him. This elegant criminal had countless murders on his conscience. Consequently, he too came to a bad end; just before the liberation of Stutthof, where he was deploying work crews after the evacuation of Riga, he was murdered by the prisoners.

His co-workers, Vilsinger and Hannes, were no better. The latter also died in Stutthof, on the electrified barbed wire. Just like Vilsinger and Hannes, the Polish foremen also showed us what they were capable of: they killed hundreds of prisoners, and for this reason the names, Juzek and Bolek, will remain unforgettable for us.

Because the Aryan prisoners wore striped suits, we called them “zebras.” The prisoners who held an office in the camp (camp representative, Mister X etc) wore blue suits, round blue caps and high boots. They wore numbers and triangles like all the others.

They always made an effort to look especially elegant in order to appeal to the women in the women’s camp. But in most cases, they won the women’s favours by exploiting their hunger and giving them food. There were some Aryan women among the prisoners in the women’s camp, and they also wore striped suits and a headscarf.

The sole authorities in the Kaiserwald concentration camp were the truncheon and the fist: nobody was allowed to complain about it. The system of regulations was the same as those of the notorious Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.


The Kaiserwald concentration camp was divided into three parts: the first was the official part; then came the men’s camp and the women’s camp. At the entrance to the official part stood a barracks for the guards. There, the leaders of the work columns had to report their work crews. They were counted, and in response to the order “Caps off”, they marched through the gate, five abreast. The rules called for us to press our arms tightly against our bodies, so that we looked like marionettes, and were called “figures”. We were no longer regarded as human beings.

In the official part of Kaiserwald stood the headquarters of the commandant, Obersturmbannführer Sauer, and his entire staff. Across from it stood the SS kitchen and the guards’ barracks. Jewish women and men worked in the SS kitchen. There was a special barracks that served as a clothing depot; it was headed by an SS man, and a large staff of Jewish women and men worked there. Because they sometimes found valuables sewn into the clothes that had been taken from people, they were better off. The SS people took the good items from the clothing depot for themselves or sent them to relatives in Germany.

The SS men had their own barber; his name was Fonarow. Many women and men worked at the work stations (shoemakers’ and tailors’ workshops). There was even a mechanical workshop with a radio division (head by the Itrow brothers). How often these men risked their lives by using an opportunity to listen to the radio so that they could cheer our despairing hearts with positive news reports!

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The transfer of the first Jews from the small ghetto and the German ghetto to Kaiserwald began in the second half of the summer of 1943. The liquidation of these two ghettos was apparently due to revolts in the Warsaw and Bialystok ghettos and other ghettos. The decision-makers in the murderers’ headquarters had decided to phase out all the ghettos gradually, and house the Jews in concentration camps. There they came into the hands of the trained SS people who made sure they were exterminated according to a predetermined programme.

The closing of our ghetto in Riga was certainly accelerated by the weapons incident (see the chapter on the small Riga ghetto). People said that the SD, who were in fact the “hosts” of the German ghetto, and the area commissar, who had command over us Latvian Jews, had not wanted to give up these “tasty morsels” under any circumstances. They, of course, were entitled by law to the wages we earned, as well as all our belongings.

For this reason the struggle between the SD and the area commissar’s staff on the one side, and the SS on the other, lasted a long time. The SS won. But before the final decision in this struggle was made, Obersturmbannführer Sauer came one day to the small ghetto. He brought with him several hardened criminals (zebras), headed by Mister X. They “organised” (stole) the tools from the ghetto workshops and took them to Kaiserwald.

The Jews marched in long rows from the ghetto to Kaiserwald. In extremely hot weather, the women, men and the few remaining children were driven along the streets of Riga from the Moscow suburb to Kaiserwald. Although many people fell by the wayside, nobody helped them. Each person was allowed to carry only a small bundle. The large items were transported from the ghetto by our drivers in either trucks or wagons. In addition to the guards, Commandant Roschmann personally accompanied the first large transport of the Jews to Kaiserwald. When they arrived, the rows of Jews went into the concentration camp, but the luggage brought by the trucks and wagons was unloaded in a large barn in front of the gate. The Jews never saw it again. So they were left with only their small bundles, and that only temporarily.

The zebras came out to receive the “new guests.” They slapped the new arrivals’ faces for every small infraction of the rules.

Registration was done in the official part of Kaiserwald. Each person received his own card in the card file. After being ordered to hand over their valuables immediately – if they did not, the guards threatened to shoot them – the people were also thoroughly searched. Many were even forced to undress; whether they were men or women did not matter. The SS men, who were watching all this closely, jeered at the prisoners and beat them at will. Then the prisoners were led into the bathhouse for delousing.

The delousing procedure had certainly been precisely worked out by the “higher-ups,” for it was the same in all the concentration camps I was in. The bathhouse, which was located in the women’s camp, consisted of three rooms. The first was for undressing. All the clothes had to stay there and one could take along only one’s boots and a razor, but only during the initial period. In the second room there was a piece of soap. It was produced by the notorious RJF company, which stood for reines jüdisches Fett (pure Jewish fat).

We were allowed to wash ourselves with this soap, which was manufactured in the Danzig soap factory from the bones of our co-religionists. In the washroom there were only showers. These would not have been bad at all if we had been able to wash there, but we were driven through them and beaten with truncheons on our naked bodies. We were then driven, half-soaped, into the third room which was for getting dressed.

While the women were washing themselves, high-ranking SS men appeared in order to see them naked. Often these sadists selected victims to beat up. Once I witnessed how several women with a small child were brought in from Pleskau. The SS men beat the defenceless women terribly. Even the desperate weeping and screaming of the child didn’t stop them.

 In a word: “A bathhouse – a pleasure!”

There was no such thing as drying oneself; we had to dry in the air. Then came the distribution of “new clothes and underwear.” The “new” clothes and underwear consisted of tattered old rags. Foot-rags were not always provided, so one had no choice but to stick one’s bare feet into shoes or wooden clogs. Nothing was handed to us; everything was thrown at us. You had to put on whatever you got. It didn’t matter whether the trousers, skirt or underwear were short or long, tight or loose. In a word, one came out of there looking like a total caricature.

When we looked at our comrades the laughter stuck in our throats. Before we could return to the barracks, there was still the procedure of painting us with white or yellow oil paint. Each person received a large cross on the front and the back, and a stripe on the trouser legs and under the arms. In a word, suddenly you had the rank of a general!

Don’t think about your clothes any more, they’ll be taken immediately to the clothing depot to be deloused. If you had sewn something valuable into your clothes, don’t worry about it: others will certainly take care of it.


In Kaiserwald, the day began early. We were awakened at four in the morning. A whistle from the block representative meant “Wake up.” Totally exhausted, lacking the sleep we needed, bitten by lice that had tormented us all night, we had only a few minutes to get dressed. It was still half-dark in the barrack room, so you had to be an artist to find your own clothes. Quarrels broke out: one person was missing one thing, another something else.

The zebras came and roughly pulled out the prisoners who had to bring the coffee from the kitchen to the women’s and men’s camps. Those who refused were beaten with truncheons. Everything happened in minutes. Whether you had found all your clothes or were only half-dressed was disregarded. People ran to wash themselves in the small washroom, but not everybody did so. Many people whom one remembered as well-groomed and elegant men in the good old days had already deteriorate to such an extent that they no longer found it necessary to wash, and even slept in their dirty work clothes. Others avoided the washroom because they wanted to stay out of the way of the truncheons.

The coffee arrived! Each person received it in a bowl that was often none too clean. A few minutes later a bell rang., which meant “Assemble for the morning roll call!”

We ran through the narrow barracks door and lined up in front of our block, always in rows of five. Everyone had to come out, even the small children. Those who had fallen ill during the night and were unable to walk to the infirmary were carried out and laid on the ground. Sometimes a child slept through the bell and stayed wrapped in his blankets. So all the plank beds were closely inspected.

The block representative was already looking over his block before the SS people came. “Eyes right, eyes left and move! Caps off, caps on!” at this, we had to click our heels together. Everything had to be done flawlessly, and woe to him who did it wrong. The truncheon was then put to use and blood would flow.

My block representative, a German BV (berufsverbrecher) or professional criminal named Vilsinger, was a great “artist” when it came to ordering us around. He had many victims on his conscience, for he tormented us more than most. Finally came the announcements about work assignments due to various decisions made about the barracks etc. The prisoners no longer had names now, only numbers, so we were always called out by numbers.

To end the parade, the clerk made his report. We counted off; in the morning this roll call was done quickly so that people would be released as soon as possible to go to work.

The bell rang again; roll call was over. The sick people went to the infirmary and the others to work. In the women’s camp, there was the same procedure, the same blows, the same screaming.


The work crews lined up on the large sandy square; the women in front, the men behind, everyone in rows of five abreast so that they could march on.

Prisoners were chosen for the individual work crews not by the labour-deployment headquarters but by column leaders who had been specially appointed to these work crews. The column leader would make sure he received the necessary number of people. If he didn’t want a certain person, he selected another one to take his place. The German prisoners accompanied the larger work crews as their foremen. The murderers, Mister X, Hannes, Vilsinger and others, made sure they brought back victims.

Once, when a group of prisoners were working at a sawmill directly on the Daugava River, the elegant Mister X simply threw some Jews from the work crew into the water. As they were drowning, he beat them with a wooden beam.

The work crews left the concentration camp. “Caps off, caps on!” We had to count off; a new group of guards joined the old one, and the column would disappear behind the barbed wire, marching towards its work station. From the distance, one could hear only the singing of Vilsinger’s commando. That was the only crew which was forced by this murderer to sing German songs.

The inhabitants of Sarkandaugava, past which the column marched, already knew the ragged and “singing Jews” that no longer made any impression on them at all.

Only the sick and those who worked in the camp remained there during the day.


The work crews from Kaiserwald were initially deployed at the NSKK, the Luftwaffe stations I and II, the Ilguciems cement factory and various sawmills along the Daugava. There were also two privileged crews made up of specialists. The first one consisted of dentists and dental technicians. They worked at a dental clinic in the city. The other consisted of mechanics, all of them specialists, who worked in the Vairogs factory. The column leader for the dental clinic was Dr Noim, the column leader for Vairogs a German Jew. The dentists and dental technicians did not come into direct contact with the public because they worked exclusively on a great variety of technical tasks. They received their meals at the workstation. It was also possible for them to trade quite extensively. They came to Kaiserwald only to sleep, and they had a special sleeping area in the barracks. We Jews had only benefits from this commando, for their food would be distributed to hungry comrades.

Before Kaiserwald was liquidated, the column leader, Dr Noim, escaped directly from his work station, and thus escaped the hell that we still had to go through.

Besides these, there were various other large and small work crews. The prisoners who remained in the concentration camp worked on construction work, carpentry, in workshops and so on.

A work crew, consisting of former lawyers, could be seen in the painters’ workshop, painting prisoners’ numbers on to cloth. Yet another crew included a certain Izke, who had to remove all the garbage (and was therefore called the “garbage chief”). Jews that were not in any work crew hid in the barracks, latrines or washroom. They tried to avoid the SS people’s notice at any cost. Woe to him who was discovered; his life was immediately on the line!

When sick and weak people came to Kaiserwald from the Dundaga barracks camp and elsewhere and there was no room for them in the infirmary, they too would linger in the barracks. They looked like their own shadows. Later a recuperation block was opened for them where they were supposed to recover. Here, they were handed over to the Polish Aryan prisoner, Bolek, who made sure they “recovered.” He “cured” them very quickly by moving them from this world to the next.

Aryan prisoners worked on the trucks that brought sand from the hills nearby to the camp, but Jews also helped to do this work.

During the day, the smaller children – there were many of them in Kaiserwald until they were taken off to Auschwitz – also loitered in the blocks, or ran around in the kitchens in order to pilfer things. They were mostly interested in potatoes, but also in wood for fuelling the small block stoves.

These ‘little birds’ cooked not only for themselves but also for their fathers and mothers, who would come back hungry from a work crew. If they were seen cooking by an SS man who happened to enter the barracks, the SS man would throw away the food, unmoved by the wretched weeping of the four-and five-year-old boys. The SS man would shout at them. The boys would jump over the plank beds and search everywhere for a maline (hiding place).

Things would disappear, and so every prisoner made a large bag for himself to hold all his possessions, and he carried it with him always, even when he went to the latrine.

Before noon, Jews had to drag back to the camp the large field kettles that were used to bring dinner to the work crews outside the camp. In these kettles, the things pilfered and traded by the work crews would be smuggled into Kaiserwald. Lots of trading took place at the workstations. In the mornings, people would take along various items of clothing from the concentration camp to trade for bread or something else. The Aryan foremen, for example, Hannes or Mister X, had good connections with people at the clothing depot, and at the workstations they traded the items for brandy, and other good things to drink, not only for themselves but for the camp representatives as well.

The camp representative was a notorious drunkard and was finally destroyed by his vice.

Twelve o’ clock – a bell signalled noontime!

We ran out of all the workshops into the barracks where the food was distributed. Everyone raced in from the individual camp work crews, including the large Anode women’s crew, as though they expected something special. We lined up in long columns with our bowls in our hands to receive our “meal.” In my time, at the end of 1943, the rations were very bad. At noon, we received a ladleful of turnip or cabbage soup that was always full of sand. Finding a potato in it was a special treat. But we rushed to line up for seconds, without giving the slightest thought to the bad quality of the food. We were so starved that we even took in our stride the blows we received as we stood in line.

Even as we ate, the bell was already ringing one o’ clock: “Back to work!”

Because of the total inadequacy of the rations, we were almost hungrier than before. In this condition, and weak and tired as well, we would go back to work.

(page missing here)


After five o’ clock the work crews deployed outside the camp began to return. Those who had not had dinner at their workstations outside Kaiserwald now went directly to the kitchen to get it there. The kettles containing the now totally cold food were put out on the street. Everything was eaten standing up, and then everyone went to his block.

The workers were sometimes searched as they came in through the gate of the concentration camp. For this reason, the things they had pilfered or traded had to be well hidden. But we had already gained a great deal of experience in this skill through our time in the ghetto. Nonetheless, it did not always work. Those who were caught hiding anything were brutally beaten and thrown into the bunker of the women’s ghetto. The punishment was always a beating with truncheons on the lower part of the body. Whether the victim was a man or a woman didn’t matter.

A bell rang: Six o’ clock!  Asemble for the evening roll call. The same procedure as in the morning, except that now there was not so much hurry. Sometimes it lasted hours, and it didn’t matter to the guards whether we were standing in the rain or the cold of winter.

There was always something out of order, either in the men’s ranks or the women’s. We were constantly being counted. People died like flies, but even this bothered nobody. Every day it was the same. Those who died, died. The same fate for everyone!

Finally, things were “in order.” The bell rang again; the roll call was over.


Now everyone ran and rushed into the barracks to “eat” and “rest.” Everyone sat down in his assigned place at the narrow table. The table representative, who had received the rations from the block representative, distributed them according to a list. The ration for the whole day was 200 to 250 grams of bread, with a bit of margarine or soft cheese. Once a week, on Sundays and holidays, we received a spoonful of sugar or syrup. Everything was washed down with hot black coffee, which was sometimes sweetened. Of course on such rations we could barely stand upright, much less work.

Those who had pilfered or traded something during their work now started to trade with it. In most cases it was only a couple of potatoes, bread or other small items. Even bone marrow and similar waste products brought back by the slaughterhouse crew were very much in demand. Everything was spread on bread. Others bought items of clothing to trade at their workstations the next day.

But finally we had to go to sleep. The regulations called for us to take off our clothes, but not everyone did so. The clothes we had taken off were put on the dining table. Our shoes had to stand in a straight line, parallel to the plank beds. Woe to him who didn’t do this properly!

Sometimes there was a foot inspection. But it was very difficult to have clean feet. How could feet, covered with torn shoes or wooden clogs, that had to run around constantly in filth stay clean? In any case, when dirty feet were discovered there was only one punishment – beatings on the naked buttocks.

Now began the battle with the lice. We would sit on our plank beds, pick them off and throw them directly at our neighbours, who did the same to us. We scratched our skin bloody, so our bodies were not only bitten but also badly scratched. This torment went on until we fell asleep. Each of us would have been happy to fall asleep forever. The women were no better off.

That is what a day in Kaiserwald was like.


Again and again, the Kaiserwald concentration camp received fresh "material" in the form of new arrivals.

Two transports arrived from Vilna. The first one arrived in the fall of 1943 after the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto. It consisted of about 1,500 young women and about eighty men. The men were those who had hidden in malines (hiding places) during the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto and had subsequently been found. They were transported from the Rosse station, next to the old Jewish cemetery, under heavy guard by SS men carrying machine guns. Before they were sent away all of them had to watch the hanging of two men and a woman. One of the men was named Chwojnik; the other one, Lewin, was a member of the Jewish Social Democratic Bund party. The woman was 18 years old and was named Asja. They were killed for having shot a German group leader. Then the women were divided into two groups: one group was made to stand on the right side, the other on the left. The women between 18 and 30 years of age were sent to the right to be transported away. The ones on the left were sent to the Panar. which was notorious in Vilna.

As the train containing. the young women drove through the tunnel on the way to Riga. they assumed that they too would be taken to the nearby Panar. For this reason, some of them threw themselves under the wheels of the moving train.

The cattle cars that had brought the new arrivals were shunted directly onto the tracks leading to Kaiserwald. The Jews of Vilna still had a great number of valuables with them. But when they saw Kaiserwald and the misery in store for them there, they threw their possessions into the latrines or buried them in the sand. Thus the Kaiserwald "VIPs" got hold of an especially tasty morsel, and this rich transport was talked about for a long time afterward.

After the Kajlis factory in Vilna had been liquidated, the second transport came from there to Kaisewald. Two more transports from Daugavpils came in the fall of 1943 and at the end of that year.

About one hundred Polish Jews arrived from the small Lithuanian town of Olea. Their home town was the industrial city of Sgerz in the Lodz district. Because they had been prisoners since 1939, they had already been through countless camps, and so they were no longer impressed by Kaiserwald in any way. The head of their work crew was lgnatz. whom we got to know better in Magdeburg later on.

Individual women and children had been gathered together in Pskow and the occupied areas of the East and brought to Kaiserwald. All of the new arrivals were distributed among the various work crews.

A large group of Hungarian Jewish women were in Kaiserwald for only a short time. They were sent on to Spilve, and after that point all traces of them have been lost. This group turned up in the middle of 1944, in a very poor condition.

I found out later that these women had not been registered in the Kaiserwald card file.

Kaiserwald provided the human material for all the new barracks camps and for the establishment of small concentration camps. As early as the summer of 1943 the first work crews came from there to the Sloka paper factory, where they had to work under very bad conditions.

Jews were also sent to do a variety of turf-cutting work, harvest sugar beets, and work in the sugar-beet factory in Jelgava. A large transport. consisting mostly of Jews from Vilna, was sent to Estonia. They worked in the stone quarries there for the petroleum factories and came to a tragic end in the Klooga camp and other klogendigen (wretched) camps. This transport included Loewenstein, Glück, the Glücksmann brothers, Feldhuhn and many other Latvian Jews.

A women's barracks camp was set up in the VEF factory, and an extermination camp was set up in Dundaga (see the chapter on the barracks camps). Everyone who returned from there was already half-dead. A gravediggers' commando was also set up. This commando had to bury the concentration camp's dead, wrapped in paper sacks, in the Mateja Cemetery (see the chapter on the Central and Terminal prisons).

During the day, prisoners from all the barracks camps came to Kaiserwald to get their rations and clothing, from the central administration. They also took this opportunity to go to the infirmary and the dental clinic.

These people were a kind of liaison staff between the work crews and the camp inhabitants. They carried messages and "mail" (notes) in and out. If any of them was caught doing so, his end was certain, for according to the code of the concentration camp this crime was punished by death.


Vilna - Vilna! I don't know whether it is appropriate to mention the city of Vilna, which was holy to us, in the chapter of my book that deals with the Kaiserwald concentration camp. I do so because Vilna became a veritable part of Kaiserwald.

In Lithuania, Vilna was the embodiment of the city of Jerusalem. For us Jews, Vilna was like a mother who had raised us, it was a holy Mecca, and everyone who was concerned with specifically Jewish matters or with Jewish literature had spent a shorter or longer part of his life there.

Which of our significant writers had not once lived and worked in Vilna? The names of our "great ones", such as Professor Simon Dubnow, the Achad-Haam (leading wise man) Oscher Ginzburg. Lewande, Ruwim Breinin and many, many others are closely bound up with this city.

Vilna was the meeting-place of the greatest Jewish personalities of Russia and other foreign countries. There one could meet Rabbi Mazo, Usischkin. Baron Ginzburg and others. All the important consultations took place in this city, all decisions were made there, and the projects for the publication of various Jewish and Hebrew writings (Hamelitz. Hajom and others) also originated in Vilna.

How strongly Jewish religious life pulsated here! It was, after all, the city of the great Vilna gaon (leading rabbinical scholars)! The magnificent, unique synagogue rose out of the tangle of narrow streets of the Vilna ghetto of former and present times. In it the famous zadik (holy man) had learned and taught. How many unique and special things were contained in the synagogue courtyard alone! Just as every Catholic's duty was to visit the holy Ostra Brama when he came to Vilna, so was the great gaon synagogue a place of pilgrimage for us Jews.

Secular Jews founded in Vilna the greatest institute of Jewish studies, called the IVO. All the treasures of Jewish art and literature were collected there, and they were destroyed along with the rest of Jewish Vilna.

In these notes I must not fail to mention the names of Dr. Zemach Schabad and Dr. Wigodski. It may be that I too owe my life to these well-known Vilna personalities.

I would also like to remind the reader of the names of the great Jewish artist Antokolski and the tragi-comedian Motke-Chabad, and of the great Jewish library of Straschun.

Today Jewish Vilna exists no more. Today Vilna is synonymous with Panar (where many thousands of Jews were killed); this name belongs together with those of Kaiserwald, Klooga (Estonia), and later on the Stutthof, Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps. The Vilna Jews too owe their deaths for the most part to the local Lithuanian population.

The old city was badly damaged, but Jewish Vilna was totally destroyed.



On 25 November 1943 it was my turn: I had to go to Kaiserwald!

A large eight-ton open truck took me together with the rest of the Jews from the already liquidated small ghetto into this new world.

Besides the usual guards, our new "host" - the supreme commander of the Kaiserwald concentration camp. Obersturmbannführer Sauer - drove alongside us in a beautiful small private car.

We said farewell to our ghetto from afar.

Once more, the memory of all the bloodshed and suffering we had experienced there pierced us like a bolt of lightning.

In my thoughts I said farewell to the old Jewish cemetery.

I said farewell to my mother's grave and the unknown graves of my wife and my family.

We drove through the city of Riga, which was now in half-darkness. I didn't grant it a single look.

The city in which I had spent the best years of my life and which had drawn me back repeatedly, wherever I might be, no longer interested me.

All of us had only one thought in our heads: Kaiserwald, Kaiserwald, Kaiserwald!


We saw from afar the lights of the small town of Kaiserwald. and in a few minutes we had passed through the gate of the cruel concentration camp. Our truck drove up to the large "reception barrack", and we started to unload the things we had brought with us from the ghetto. When our chewre (young men) saw the new guests, they fell like wild beasts on our possessions. Of course the notorious Vilna boy Zorechke was among them, as always.

The zebras also showed up immediately with the registrar, and our registration began. We stood in long lines, and each person had to endure a body search. Everything we had hidden or carried on us was taken away from us and was lost to us forever. Then the SS man Bruener, who headed the labor-deployment department, came and announced that all valuables – gold, money and so on - had to be handed over. Disobedience would be punished by death. Finally it was my turn to be registered: I lost my name and now was called Prisoner No. 13122.

The camp representative also came to inspect us. I used this opportunity to make contact with him, using the agreed-upon code word (see the chapters on the barracks camps and the billeting department). He explained to me that he was in the know and that everything was all right. However, at that moment I did not have much faith in him, for he was drunk, as always. But in time he did do some things for me, after all.

Because it was already late, we were not sent to be deloused; thus we avoided a beating and were able to keep our own clothes. Now we went directly to the roll call; the reader already knows well enough what went on there. After that we were chased into our barrack. I was assigned to Block No. 4.

In the barrack it was a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah; everyone was screaming as though it were a railroad station. Most people were standing up, since there was hardly any room to sit down. Of course I saw many faces I knew from the ghetto. But nobody paid attention to anyone else, people were strangers to one another, everyone had countless cares and thought mainly of his own stomach. The inmates' appearance was indescribable: they looked just like tschutschalos (scarecrows).

They chased us to the place where food was distributed. In one place there was a little piece of bread, at another a bit of cheese, and at the next black coffee. The block representative, a Rumanian Jew who had an especially bad character, ordered us around and dealt out blows generously. We remembered his behavior well, and just a month later we made sure he disappeared for good. His helper Rothberg only shouted, "This is a concentration camp. there's no mercy here!"

We had to eat in great haste, and we newcomers as yet had no idea what to do. I saw my acquaintances the Dr. Jawitz brothers, the lawyer Berger and others. The same evening, sixty more persons arrived from the ABA (Army Clothing Department) barracks camp, including the engineer Schloßberg, Plonski, Ratz and others.

Now we were chased to our sleeping quarters, but where does one sleep if there are no beds? In one corner there was only a bunk bed for the block representative and his helper. The rest of us had to lie on the floor. Sacks of straw and blankets were distributed, but two to three people had to share a sack of straw and a blanket. Others had to lie on the bare floor without any covering at all. I too had received nothing at all, but I did manage to get a place under a table. The floor was indescribably dirty, but what could a person do?

As I lay under my table, I thought everything over and concluded that I had probably made a huge mistake, and perhaps even committed a sin, by not having ended my life together with my family. My son, who had already left everything behind him, seemed enviable to me. And as I looked around me and saw how all of these people had changed during the past few months, it became clear to me that here there was nothing but destruction, for nobody could survive it.

Sunk in thought as I was, I had not noticed at all that my acquaintance Professor Lemberger from Vienna was lying beside me. When he turned over on his other side he recognized me and called me by name. This splendid human being had become a shadow of his former self during the short time since he had left the German ghetto. The only words he said to me were "Kaufmann. I have no more strength. I want to die!" I could understand him well.

I spent my first night in Kaiserwald thinking over these words.


The next morning, after the general roll call there was another roll call for the new arrivals in the barrack. A barracks-camp crew for Dundaga was put together. I too was assigned to it. After I had already gotten into the line for this work crew, the camp representative came over. He saw me and immediately pulled me out of this work crew. He also explained to the head of the labor-deployment group (Schlitter) that I was not to be assigned to any outside work crew without his knowledge. So I stayed in the camp for the time being, and I have to admit that in this manner my life was saved. I was now assigned to another block. No. 3, and there I sat, initially without any work to do. I realized that I had a real source of support in the camp representative, and so I thought about how I could exploit this fortunate situation to help my unfortunate brothers as well. I immediately went to the infirmary to find out about the conditions there.

A hideous picture met my eyes. I saw there good acquaintances of long standing who were emaciated to the point of being mere skeletons and were waiting to die of starvation. My friend Rabinowitz ("Kniaz") was also lying there. The only word he could stammer when he saw me was "Save!" Another comrade, Nicun, who had lost his foot, also cried out. "Save!", and then this call for help sounded from all directions: "Save, save!" These were the people who had returned from Dundaga. There were also returnees from Dundaga in the barracks. Like shadows, they sat in their corners and waited for death. Among them I saw the friends of my youth: Woltschok, Borkon and others - all of them were skeletons! I had only one thought in my head: what can I do, how can I help them?

During this period I still had a small source of aid: I had left various things in the women's AEG barracks camp. and thanks to Mrs. Burian (from Prague) they were sent to me. I had die outside work crews get a loaf of bread for me every day so that I could distribute it in the camp. When the outside work crews saw my spirit of enterprise, they regularly brought me potatoes as well. Because I even had the opportunity to cook them, I could send mashed potatoes for 25 to 30 persons to the infirmary every day as long as I was in Kaiserwald. I will never forget how my comrades looked the first time I took this small bit of food to them, and as I sit here and write about it now I have burning tears in my eyes.

There was screaming and moaning from all directions: "Kaufmann, me! Kaufmann, me too!" But how could I give something to everyone? I helped with everything I could manage to scavenge, whether it was a needle and thread or something I had managed to get from the clothing depot where I had already made connections and so on.

The poor people always got diarrhea from the food and had no possibility of changing their dirty clothes. Now I dragged these things around in order to trade them, if possible, for another shirt or another pair of trouser. I was a great help to the German Jews too, because I made no distinction whatsoever between all these unfortunate people. If I was turned down at one place, I went undiscouraged to the next one until I had gathered together what I needed for the others. And many were willing to meet me halfway, because they saw my msirus nefesch (self-sacrifice) for a good cause. But my financial reserves were not so great, so they were soon at an end. How could I go on helping now? I organized a collection in one corner of the barrack, and I invited to it all the wealthy people from the outside work crews, the dental clinic and so on. Thus I managed once again to get some money to buy bread for the hungry ones. The people who worked in the outside work crew at the slaughterhouse also gave me support. They would get brains for me, which we added to the meals for the sick and the weak to try to make them a bit more substantial.


The block representative Vilsinger (an Aryan) tormented us constantly, and my talking to him didn't make any difference. He beat us murderously, and on top of that he claimed he was taking good care of us. One day old Reznik (a timber dealer) was punished with a beating after a foot inspection, and the same thing happened to others. It was heartbreaking to see all this happening without being able to help!

Once there was an alarm during dinner and everyone had to vacate the barracks. The zebras were standing at the doors with large truncheons, and they used these to beat us about the head. Screams! The whole barrack was vandalized. By the time a person had gotten out, he had tripped over beaten, bloody, fallen human beings. The children wailed, and those who were able to jumped out the windows to save themselves. We were ordered to gather in the square, and there a moral sermon was delivered to us, to the effect that we had to improve our behavior and so on. The comrades told us that this event had been nothing compared to what had happened the previous month. That night, which the prisoners called the slichot night (a sleepless night spent praying), had cost many lives.

In other barracks the conditions were no better than in ours. There I met many acquaintances again, for example Landau, the director of the Schereschewsk cigarette factory. All of them were barely recognizable. My comrade Schelkan and others had moved to other barracks camps. Everyone was trying to get out of this hell in any way he could, for this was the worst period at Kaiserwald. During this time, the notorious Stützpunkt (base) barracks camp was set up. Initially, those who were to be transported to it were fetched from the concentration camp by a large group of guards carrying machine guns. Later on, the same group of guards waited for the transports at the gate, so as not to cause any agitation in the camp.

 Once, it was a Saturday, a holiday on which we didn't have to work - we Jews celebrated Hanukkah (the festival of Chasmonea) and Shabat rosch-chojdesch (the first Saturday of the month). I organized two religious services in our barrack. Cantor Serensen prayed in one corner and the cantor from Hannover (who had the voice of a giant) in another. All the others were standing. praying and weeping. Afterward a Hazkoro (prayer of commemoration) was spoken and those present said Kaddish (the prayer for the dead).

Everyone truly did say Kaddish!


I had never experienced a harsher winter than that of 1943. I clearly saw my destruction before me. Nobody was interested in the political news any longer, and because I myself cannot remember it as well as the news we received in the ghetto period, I will skip over it here.

At that time, not only the German Jewish elite of the ghetto but also the former police chief Haar were brought to the concentration camp. The VIPs were received by us with many beatings, in accordance with their earlier behavior toward us. Unfortunately, Haar was unassailable. He was brought by Commandant Roschmann personally and delegated to a work crew by Sauer. Because the German Aryan prisoners regarded Haar as a rival, they agreed to get him out of the way. This decision was implemented on New Year's Eve 1943/44.

Haar was invited to a small New Year's Eve party organized by the Aryan prisoners. In the middle of the night they dragged him to the latrine and tried to drown him in the filth. A former boxer, he reportedly defended himself fiercely. After he had been pulled out of the latrine half-dead, he was killed for good. The ones who did it were the murderer Mr. X and the Pole Bolek. We Jews did not regret this death in the least, for we had not forgotten various things Haar had done to us during those difficult times. The following morning Sauer showed up to investigate the incident, but the investigation came to nothing. Haar was wrapped in a paper sack like the other corpses and taken to the Mateja Cemetery to be buried.

At the end of January 1944 the director of the Heereskraftpark or HKP (Army Vehicle Park) was brought to the concentration camp. A new department of the HKP, called the Park, was established, and I was appointed to be the foreman of the work crew. I did not want to accept this position under any circumstances, although the conditions in Kaiserwald were especially bad at that time. But the misery and suffering there gave me no rest. There was no help for it.

had to go. In the evening, when all the inmates of our barrack had gathered together and everyone knew I was about to leave Kaiserwald, the German Jews started to thank me with long speeches for all the good I had done them, and they were followed by all the others. Afterwards, as I spoke a few words of farewell all of the barrack's inmates stood up as one. Tears choked my voice and I could scarcely speak. What I had done was my duty. but unfortunately I could not fulfill it as I had wished to do. I saw before me the sick people lying in the clinic. The next day they would wait in vain for a bit of hot food.

But I could not stay. I was compelled to leave Kaiserwald, and I thought that perhaps in my new position I could once again do just as much for my brothers as before. "Very many" of those who were in my block at that time, and with whom I shared countless difficult experiences, survived - that is to say, one single comrade, Niburg. and I.

While I was writing this chapter, I happened to meet Niburg again here in Germany. I invited him to visit me and I read these lines aloud to him. Because we were the only surviving witnesses of those events, that time appeared again clearly before our eyes.

The next morning I was taken away to my new work station. I did not return to Kaiserwald until about three quarters of a year later, as a hostage.


The mortality rate in Kaiserwald was especially high until the spring of 1944. Several small transports of children and older people to Treblinka and Auschwitz took place. The summer was somewhat easier in the camp, and the camp administrators decided to dig up all of the sandy soil and to plant gardens. After doing a great deal of work in the outside commandos, people now had to do heavy labor at the camp in the evenings too. People planted and laid cobblestones. The stones for this work were fetched from the new Jewish cemetery. Our Jews were forced to destroy the graves of their brothers and demolish the gravestones. Bricks from the burned Gogol synagogue were also used.

The crew of the notorious Stützpunkt (base camp) was working with extraordinary intensity at that time, and small groups were transported there every week. The front was moving closer, and the traces of the murders had to be erased as fast as possible. The following acquaintances of mine were taken to the Stützpunkt: Berell, Schulkin, Wolfsohn, Weinberg, Rips, Awsei Gurwitz, Junowitz, Kaufmann, Borowski and others.

Because of his drinking, the camp representative Rosenmeyer was also taken away. For us Jews his departure was a misfortune. Although he had treated us badly in the beginning, he took good care of us later on, and during the final period he tried to do whatever he could for us. His job was taken over by the Aryan political prisoner Hans Brunns, and under him we suffered badly once again.

At that time one of the Jewish policemen - or "mobile work units", as they called themselves - managed to attain a certain position in the camp, and another man, Grischa Altschuler, became a Rädelsführer (ringleader). I can not explain precisely the role the two of them played at that time, but the fact that Altschuler possessed a great deal of gold when he was arrested and sent to the Stützpunkt doesn't exactly speak in his favor. On the way to the Stützpunkt he reportedly tried to flee, but was chased down and shot dead.

In the meantime, one of our young men came to be suspected of betraying us. According to reports he had told the overseers that the Jews were wearing other clothes under their striped prisoners' suits so that they could escape at any time. It was decided to eliminate this young man, whose name was Arschon. This mission was undertaken by Harry Kußmann, Bubi Mischinski and the German Jew Ludwig, an electrician. They threw a blanket over Arschon, carried him half-suffocated to the latrine, and forced him to hang himself from a noose that had already been prepared for him there. When "Herr Kommandant" heard of this incident, he ordered the corpse to be dug up again and an autopsy to be made. As a punishment. eight Jews were sent to the Stützpunkt. But the true culprits were not found.

The barbers (Zijuni and others) also had a lot to do in Kaiserwald by the end of the summer. Everyone's hair was cropped very short and a stripe was shaved down the middle of-their heads. The women's hair was shaved off completely. Only the privileged ones who wore blue caps were not subjected to this gezeire (affliction).

Political events started to happen in a rush, and the front came closer and closer. The camp administrators started to think about what should be done with the Jews and when they had to begin evacuating them. They decided to liquidate the old and the weak ones and to transport those who could still work to labor camps in Germany. Actions were carried out in all the barracks camps and in Kaiserwald (see the chapter on the barracks camps and the small concentration camp). The people were taken from the liquidated barracks camps directly to Kaiserwald, and from there to points further on. Among these unfortunates were the Kor brothers, who managed to survive by sheer accident.

The organizers of all these actions were Dr. Kreßbach, Dr. Wisner, Hirsch and others. The barber Fonarow from Kaiserwald told me that the SS people would return from these actions with their faces completely scratched up. On the way there, our Jewish women had flung themselves at the guards and attacked their faces with their nails and teeth. According to reports, there was even a shoot-out, which once again cost people their lives. When Fonarow asked the SS people quite naively why they had such scratched-up faces, they answered: "That's the handiwork of Jewish women!"

There were also reports that these Jews had written little notes in Latvian and that these notes had been found. These notes read: "Latvians, save us!" But these appeals were directed to the wrong people. Some of the victims were gassed and others were sent to the Bikernieki forest and killed there.


Most of the survivors of Kaiserwald were transported to Germany on 6 August 1944. They were sent together with the prisoners from the other barracks camps in the large transport ship Bremerhafen via Danzig to the Stutthof concentration camp. Only about 1.500 people, men and women, remained in the Kaiserwald concentration camp. I too returned to Kaiserwald as a hostage together with four comrades from my barracks camp. The reason I was a hostage was connected with the escape of our representative at that time, the Czech Jew Steuer. After having to sit in the bunker for several days, we were released and selected to serve in the "potato commando" (see the chapter on Jumpravmuiza). Luckily, through a coincidence I was able to stay in Kaiserwald.

By comparison to earlier times, our concentration camp had become a veritable "paradise" (and thus the words once spoken by our ghetto representative Leiser "came true"). In the first place, the SS leader at that time, Schimmel, was a relatively decent human being: and secondly, we were put into work crews that were very convenient for us, since in them we could scavenge and steal all kinds of things. I was once again assigned to my former block. whose representative was Funkelstein. Except for a few old German prisoners, none of the earlier zebras remained. During this time a German boy (Benja) in our block went insane and was immediately liquidated by the concentration-camp administrators.

Finally, only a single work crew was put together out of all the former work crews, with a day shift and a night shift. We worked in the harbor unloading ships. Although I had learned all kinds of new trades during my time in the concentration camp, this activity was still completely new to me, but finally I became a dockworker too. The work was by no means easy and one needed a fair amount of practice to master it. But a person can get used to many things, and after a time it even seemed easier to me, through practice, to unload large bombs weighing 300 to 400 kilos than to do other things.

Our VIPs granted access to the food supplies only to those who were really good at scavenging. Everything was on offer, starting from cigarettes and shoes to the best liquors. The SS people were also extraordinarily interested in the ships' loads and took a large proportion of them for themselves.

The final nights were quite "jolly". The Russian air force was in constant action and dropped many bombs. The flak-throwers responded, and our barracks rocked so hard that we expected them to collapse at any moment. At that time the front was already at Baldone, 40 kilometers from Riga. Commandant Sauer tried to "save the day" by setting up a special company of SS men to be sent immediately to the front. Our camp representative Bruns and Mr. X were also sent to the front. (We were not sad about this!) But this "first aid" was to no avail, for Riga was completely surrounded by the Russians. At this time some of our people escaped from the work crew in the harbor. Mrs. Dolgizer and her daughter were the last women of Kaiserwald who tried to save themselves by escaping.

There was a lot of talk about how our "father", the Commandant, would arrange to have a ship take us deeper into the Reich. And in fact the day did come when we were taken to the harbor and put onto a ship. Now only a very small work crew remained in Kaiserwald, and once again several of its members escaped (Harry Nis, Slowin and others). A couple of them were caught and shot (Michlin and others). This work crew was later enlarged by adding to it the people returning from the Park barracks camp. But then all of them together were sent to Germany.

Kaiserwald, bloody Kaiserwald!

How much pain, suffering, and human lives it cost!

Kaiserwald has an especially important place in the history of suffering, the martyrology. of the Jewish kibbutz (community).

Today Kaiserwald is a camp for German prisoners of war. The commander is a Russian officer, the Jew Michalowitz.

The soil of Kaiserwald is soaked with our blood!

Today this soil is being walked on by prisoners of war.

Barracks Camps – Small Concentration Camps

After the Germans had occupied Riga, the Jews were deployed to do various types of work. The regular army, or Wehrmacht, the civilian administrative bodies, and even the Gestapo – all of them used the Jews for hard physical labor. It was convenient for them to use the Jew, not only because of their abilities and intelligence, but also because the Germans could speak to them in our language. Professionals and skilled craftsmen were installed in newly created workshops, and these workshops were set up in all the units for every craft. Later on, the so-called marching commandos were lodged wholly or partly in barracks camps so that they could be exploited more intensely. After the first large-scale extermination action had been carried out in the Small Ghetto and the Jews consequently no longer felt secure there, they developed a veritable psychosis about the barracks camps.

And now I will give the readers a look at these barracks camps, which later were transformed into small concentration camps that were more or less branches of the Kaiserwald concentration camp.

a)   “Gestapo”, later the Lenta Concentration Camp

During the very first days after Riga had fallen into the Germans’ hands, the Gestapo fetched people from the police headquarters to be “uses” for all kinds of hard labor. Gradually a permanent work crew consisting of men and women was created. Lew Arnow (Aronsohn) was appointed Oberjude (head Jew). Whereas the Jewish men were forced to do the hardest physical labor, the women had to clean and scrub the SD men’s apartments. Over time, the specialized craftsmen were picked out of the men’s group and workshops were set up for them. Specialists were even brought out of the Central Prison. The man in charge of all Jewish affairs was the SD man Scherwitz.

The tailor Boris Rudow, who was well-known in Riga, was used in the tailoring shop. He proved so capable in his work that he was appointed head of the workshop. Very quickly he won the trust of the Jews worked there.

The crafty Scherwitz, who was then still low in rank, quickly sized up the situation and realized that the right moment had come to make himself a fortune through the Jews. He took away Arnow’s position as Oberjude and put Boris Rudow in his place.

A short time later, Scherwitz decreed that Rudow no longer had to wear the Star of David. He did this so that when Rudow visited the “higher-ups” for fittings he would not look like a Jew.

During this time a woman from Lodz in Poland was working as a cleaner in the marching column. Her name was Tamara Schermann. Scherwitz noticed her because she was pretty, and he appointed her to clean his apartment. She too had to take off her star while she was working.

Scherwitz had commandeered a special building on Liela Maskavas Street for his Jews and their families. Shortly before the liquidation of the ghetto, the marching column was housed in Washington Square and Peterholm Lane. It was mostly wealthy Jews who managed to get into these barracks camps. Genuine skilled craftsmen were put into this work crew to cover for those who were not craftsmen.

The clever Rudow sized up the situation very quickly, and Sherwitz, to whom he was a great help, decided to Aryanize him. Rudow now claimed he had been a foundling who had merely been taken in by Jews. Aryan papers were provided for him and Mrs. Schermann. These two could now move about the city in absolute freedom. But Rudow remained “passionately Jewish” in his heart. He understood the infinitely difficult situation of his co-religionists and helped them whenever he could. He even managed to employ his father and his brothers, under another name, in his commando.

His position as the representative of the Jews was now taken over by a certain Schönberger from Jelgava. Meanwhile, Rudow the “Aryan” was appointed supervisor of the workshops. Whenever he made a tour of inspection together with the higher-ups, he always made sure everyone knew about the inspection in advance. Those tanners and tailor who had never before held a needle in their hands now suddenly looked like masters of their respective crafts. The same thing happened in all the other workshops. Rudow would show up, accompanied by his supervisors; he spoke to the Jews only with his voice raised, but winked at them in secret so they would know they had nothing to fear.

After the arrival of the Jewish transports from Germany, all the suitcases that had been brought along were immediately confiscated and taken to the Gestapo. There the contents were sorted by Jews especially appointed to do this work. This was a work station where people could “organize” various things for themselves, for often valuables worth a considerable amount of money had been sewn into the clothing. Although the Jews in this work crew were inspected from time to time, Scherwitz always made sure they were covered. Nonetheless, sometimes there were arrests that ended with prison. In any case, the Gestapo barracks camp was the best one by far.

Once a small group of Jews was sent to work at another SD camp in Pleskau (Pskow). In this group were Rudow’s brother, Dr. Rudow, and the woman dentist Dr. Kirschbaum. The two of them did not return to the Gestapo but instead were sent to the small ghetto. After the great “weapons incident” in the ghetto, the Gestapo work crew also had victims to mourn for.

The whole family of the Riga interior decorator Rosenstein, as well as Konrad Treister, Stupel, Jakobsohn and Miss Ebi Kaufmann from Berlin were taken to prison and died there (see the chapter on the Small Ghetto).

While Scherwitz was on a business trip to Paris, the SD men decided to get rid of the “Aryan” Tamara Schermann, whose real name was Esther Hamalko. She was arrested and put in prison. Only with a great deal of effort was Scherwitz able to get her released after his return. At that point he sent her to the Reich. Her luck continued and, as far I have heard, she is still alive.

After the liquidation of the Small Ghetto, when everything was put under the command of the Kaiserwald concentration camp, the Gestapo barracks camp was also changed into a small concentration camp. The workshops were moved to the Lenta factory on the other side of the Daugava, and the work crews were enlarged by adding to them people from the Small Ghetto and the Kaiserwald concentration camp. From that day on, the unit was no longer called the Gestapo barracks camp; it was called Lenta.

It took a fairly long time to remove all the machines from the Lenta factory and transform it into a residence hall. Witkind (who was later arrested) was appointed business manager, and Herzenberg from Libau became the chief supervisor. Now a Jewish police force was set up, consisting mostly of German Jews. Among them was a certain German Jew named Levi, who was sent to the “base camp” because he was making trouble for his co-religionists. Others were also sent there as hostages because of various crimes (Jakobsohn, Steingold and others). Roschmann also granted “housing” in Lenta to the elite of the German Jews (Leiser and Dr. Aufrecht).

Under the rule of this Commander Roschmann the camp’s inmates experienced especially difficult times. This was why various inmates – for example Firkser, the Juters (father and son), Schneider (of the Makabi sports club) and others – escaped to Dobele in Kurzeme. Of these, Juter Jr. and Schneider were shot by the Latvian Aizsargi shortly before the liberation. Later, Schloma Koblenz and his brother, Traub, Rotbard and others also escaped. As a collective punishment, the lovely gray suits were striped with white oil paint, the men had a stripe shaved down the middle of their heads, and the women had all their hair cut off. Others were arrested, sent to prison and murdered there. The only person who died a normal death, of a heart attack, was Hirschmann from Jelgava. In spite of the hopeless situation, a small Jewish religious center was formed. There people studied the holy scriptures, the Talmud, and observed the holidays (Golowtschiner, Jogge, Borchowik and others).

Our artists Schelkan, Schalit, Aronsohn, Perling-Tschuzoj and others also tried through their art to help us get through difficult hours.

Overtime, the Jews in the Gestapo barracks camp in Lenta were joined by others from Daugavpils and Vilna (e.g. Sienitzki the gardener).

As soon as one murderer was transferred elsewhere, a new one took his place. In any case, no Jew from Lenta will ever forget the names of the SD men Jener, Nickel and Daiber.

As the Russians were approaching Riga, another period of escapes began (Ritow, Schetzen and others). Three young men were among those who tried to escape. In the course of this attempt Schenker and Chone Glaser were shot. Schenker was buried in Lenta, but after the liberation he was dug up and re-buried in the Jewish cemetery. The only one who succeeded in escaping was Nioma Gutkin.

After the Russians had occupied Jelgava, the “Aryan” Boris Rudow also disappeared, He was liberated by the Russians, but unfortunately he was later arrested by them. Some of the Jews, about 105 of them, were transferred from Lenta to Salaspils and from there to Kaiserwald. Most of them were sent to the notorious “potato commando” (see the chapter on Jumpravmuiza), where they died. Most of the others were transported by ship to Germany. The rest, about eighty people, were taken to Liepaja, accompanied by Scherwitz. There they were thrown into prison. Many were killed there in the bombardments (Jascha Zimmermann, Mula Nowik, Leo Friedmann, Herzberg, Kleinstein and others). Only a few were able to escape to Sweden by ship.

That was the end of the Jewish barracks camp that was initially known during the German occupation of Riga as Gestapo and later as Lenta.

b) Army Vehicle Park (HKP – Heereskraftpark)

After Riga was occupied by the Germans, the HKP was one of the first work crews they set up. It was located on Ganu Street and was headed by Max Fainsohn, who was well-known in the film industry. He immediately made the right contacts with the leading figures of the HKP.

This work crew, which was part of the Wehrmacht, consisted of numerous factories and workshops for repairing all the motor vehicles. Mainly professional mechanics were employed there. Non-professionals were sent there to be assistant workers, so that over time they could learn the necessary skills.

The major who headed the HDP relied heavily on Max Fainsohn’s abilities. He trusted him and called him the Jewish “General”. The Jews too now called him the “General.”

Later on he was joined by a little man whose rank was Obergefreiter (Private First Class), who organized the Jewish workers’ deployment schedule. This man was Walter Eggers from Hamburg. He was a very crafty and clever man, and he realized immediately that the moment had come when a man could amass a fortune with the help of the Jews. He was very poorly endowed in terms of character, and the very first money and valuables he took away from the Jews in return for small favors or advantages granted by him strengthened his intention to concentrate on Jewish affairs as intensely as he could.

According to reports, he didn’t trust Fainsohn initially, but was in complete agreement with him later on.

Of course it was easier for wealthy people to be assigned to the HKP. Besides the professional mechanics, who covered for the non-professionals in the workshops, women also worked there as cleaners. Others worked as seamstresses in the workshops to supply the clothing depots of the Wehrmacht

A small group of Jews was lodged in the HKP barracks camp in the late fall of 1941; the rest were brought later on from the ghetto to work here. A certain Machnonik was in charge of the rations at this barracks camp. Later he was replaced by Sch. Isaksohn (Izig), Brin, Schnitke from Liepaja, and the pharmacist Ceitlin worked in the kitchen. Sascha Rubinstein, who was the group leader of a department (in the large market halls), became a leading figure.

The Jews did very well in this barracks camp, because here they had connections with the city and thus were able to trade and sell things. Thus one or another of them could sometimes afford to get a bit more for himself. After the liquidation of the Large Ghetto this work crew was enlarged. They are also joined by the German Jews from the Small Ghetto.

While Roschmann was the ghetto commander, various rumors about “the good life” at the HKP reached his ears. For this reason he had Fainsohn and several women, including Zilla Dolgicer and B. Raikina, Schäffer, Petersohn and others, arrested and taken to the ghetto. They were later freed but then put into prison again. This time too, they were lucky and were once again released. This time Fainsohn was not returned to the HKP but put into the Gestapo work crew (see the chapter on Jumpravmuiza). Some ot the women were returned to the HKP while others were taken to the Kaiserwald concentration camp. At the same time Isaak Misroch, who lived at the HKP with his whole family, was also arrested. He was accused of having made contact with Aryans. He was put into prison and died at the base camp (see the chapter on Rezekne). Several other cases of “criminal activity” also led to arrests and releases.

As the barracks camp grew, it was moved to a building on Invalidu Street that was part of the HKP. The guards there were members of the Wehrmacht. They led the work crew to its various work stations in the city. In the evening everyone came back to the barracks camp to sleep. The rations were provided by the Small Ghetto, and they were very meager. But all kinds of things could be acquired through the many contacts between the barracks camp and the city.

Commandant Roschmann carried out several inspections in this barracks camp. These always meant trouble for us. Everything (valuables and money) was buried in the ground or hidden in holes in the houses. For a short time Benjamin Blumberg (who had owned a lumber company was the Oberjude; he was succeded by Sascha Rubinstein. In the meantime, the bloodsuckers” Eggers and his assistants could no longer be bought off with small bribes; their acts of extortion became more brazen from day to day. People had to pay for every small favor. Every transfer from the ghetto to a barracks camp had to be paid for in gold. The standard of value was the ten-ruble gold coin from the time of the Czars. In any case, the Jew had to give up their very last possessions in order to save their lives. At that time entire families were living in the HKP, which was a rarity; among them were the Kriwitzki, Rubinstein and Friedman families.

After the Kaiserwald concentration camp was put in charge of all the Jews, the HKP barracks camp was also moved across the Daugava into a building on Udena Street. This building had formerly been used as a bathhouse and was now rebuilt. Thus the HKP in Udena Street was transformed into a small concentration camp.  Although the internal control was in the hands of Wehrmacht representatives (Schiffmacher, Schiphausen and Eichle), it was the SS that was actually in command.

Two large work stations were now set up nearby (Work Stations Nr. 9 and Nr. 30) for the Jews to work in. At these work stations many people learned the auto mechanic’s trade especially well.

Another large work crew went to work at the headquarters on Ganu Street and in other places in the city.

The Jews lived in large rooms that were called blocks. One of the block leaders was Dr. Goldring. The new arrivals to the HKP came from the liquidated ghetto and from Kaiserwald (Robert. L. Karstadt, the engineer Grinblatt, Ch. Schabel and others). The new arrivals from Kaiserwald lived under worse conditions than those who had come to the barracks camp before them. They had already been robbed of all their valuables in the concentration camp and had no more possessions to trade, so they had only their meager rations to live on.

A large clinic headed by Professor Mintz was set up. Dr. Gurewitz also found a broad scope for his professional activity there. Because of various accidents and misfortunes, there was no lack of patients. Other doctors such as Dr. Gitelsohn, Dr. Jaworkowski, Dr. Blowitz, Dr. May and Dr. Goldberg worked at the large work stations.

The dentist Berniker was in charge of a dental clinic that was amply and well supplied. Dr. Heimann from Warsaw worked together with him.

There was also several older children (Berniker, Sima Kamenkowitz, Nathas and others) and babies (Feldhuhn and others) at the barracks camp on Udena Street. Unfortunately, this small group of children was taken to Kaiserwald and from there to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Kamenkowitz, who managed to get transferred to the Park barracks camp. During the extermination action he was living there, and so he survived.

As soon as the murderer Sorge from Kaiserwald was put in charge, hard times began at the HKP. His visits were always connected with torments. He made body searches of the prisoners, took away from them the photos of their relatives, which represented the holiest of holies for everyone, and burned them up. He also ordered the prayer books and other religious implements to be destroyed.

At that time one of the block representatives was a certain Raickin, who was later sent to Spilve, and from there via Kaiserwald to the base camp. All of these depressing cares made it necessary to look for a way out, so it was decided – with Eggers’ permission, of course – to set up a new barracks camp in the city, located at the HKP headquarters. This new camp was called the Park (see the chapter on the Park barracks camp).

After Rubinstein and Legow were arrested and sent to Kaiserwald, the truly decent German Jew Wolf from Danzig succeeded them as the camp representative.

Even under these difficult conditions, the Jews prayed every Saturday and on every religious holiday. At Passover a Seder was organized, including matzos which were baked for everyone at night. Moreover, to help people cope with these difficult times and give their broken hearts some support, the artisits in the camp (Sperling-Tschuzoj, G. Joffe, Kocer and others) did all they could. Even the young people from Vilna and the women tried to make our life more beautiful with their melancholy ghetto songs. Even small children sometimes stepped onto the “stage”.

During that period our comrade Berel played a leading role as the head of a work station. Later on, when he was sent by the murderer Blatterspiegel to the base camp via Kaiserwald, everyone mourned for him deeply and continued for a long time to speak of him and his decent and comradely behavior. Regrettably, he died.

The elite of our ghetto and the Reich Jewish ghetto, together with their wives, were also lodge at the HKP (Kassel, Frankenberg, Perl, Neuburger and others).

The camp representative Wolf did not stay in his position for long. After the SS men Sorge and Greschel were replaced by the SS man Blatterspiegel, he was replaced. Blatterspiegel even slapped him and ordered his transfer to Spilve. The now-vacant position was given to the German Jew Metzger.

Of course this difficult period at the HKP made the Jews fear greatly for their lives. They saw that everyone was being killed, one person sooner and another later. So people were forced to think about what they could do to save their own lives. The only way was to escape – which was not completely safe either. But this alternative was available only to the Latvian Jews, for they still had connections in the city from former times.

The “season” was opened by Dawidow (owner of the Holstein Company). He managed to escape, but I don’t know whether he survived later on, because after the liveration he was no longer seen. Next in line were Drisin (who had owned a lumber company) and Dagarow-Epstein (a cinema entrepreneur). Other escapees were Wolf Sr. ( a jeweler), Magilnikow (an engineer), Dr. Goldberg and Drejer (from Latgale). Drejer attempted to escape on the same day as Goldberg. He was unlucky, and was captured and shot on the spot.

Because of these escapes, many people were designated to serve as hostages (the engineers Kagan and Friedmann, Kleinstadt, Treinin, Minin and many others). They were taken to Kaiserwald and many of them were transferred from there to the base camp.

After an act of sabotage in one of the work stations, hostages were once again sent to the base camp via Kaiserwald. A small work Crew from the OT gas station was also lodged in the HKP barracks camp. One day half of the twelve-man work crew was taken away to the base camp, including Faiwusch Schiff. Of course all of them were very hideously killed. The son of the leather magnate Wolfsohn was killed because an Aryan woman had given him a food package.

Here as everywhere else, the men and women had their hair cut short. Besides the large-scale children’s action, there was also another one for the old and weak people. It was carried out by the SS man Dr. Kreßbach (who was recently hanged after being sentenced in the Mauthausen trial).

On 4 August 1944 the SS surrounded the HKP building on Udena Street. All the inmates were taken away to Strasdenhof without any baggage. There they met some of their fellow workers from the HKP Park camp. They were put into prisoners’ uniforms. Then Eggers, with the help of O. Steuer, who was then the inmates’ representative at the HKP Park camp, selected one hundred people (men and women) to be sent to Kaiserwald.

The rest were sent, together with a small number of people from Strasdenhof and other Kaiserwald barracks-camp inmates, to Germany by ship on 6 August 1944.

The only inmate of the HKP on Udena Street who did not share this fate was Dr. Gurewitsch from Daugavpils – but only because he had committed suicide.

c) Park (HKP)

The Park barracks camp was a branch of the large HKP barracks camp. At the end of January 1944 it was set up in the center of the city on Ganu Street.

“Iron Gustav”, an SS man who tormented the Jews in the HKP with particular cruelty, forced them to seek a way out of this suffering. So they created a new barracks camp in the city with the help of the German Private First Class Eggers, who was responsible for Jewish affairs. Eggers, who was himself a bloodsucker, immediately used the opportunity to enrich himself, for every barracks-camp assignment to the new Park work crew cost a fee that had to be paid in gold. Only a few specialists who had to cover for the non-professionals got in without having to pay for it. Even Jews took advantage of the opportunity to earn something by getting into these barracks camps. 

Word of these circumstances reached the ears of “Iron Gustav”, and he ordered the arrest of Sascha Rubinstein and Legow. They were transported to Kaiserwald during the time I was there.

In the meantime the camp representative of Kaiserwald had decided to send me to be the representative of the Park camp. Initially I refused, for I knew how much my help was needed in the concentration camp (see the chapter on Kaiserwald, section XVII). But after the camp representative explained to me that if I didn’t go they would send another man in my stead who would be very bad for the Jews at the Park barracks camp, I finally accepted the position.

The work crew there consisted of more than 200 people, men and women. Some of them lived in the HKP and came from there every day to work in the Park camp. Others were lodged in a barrack on Ganu Street. I would also like to mention that at this time the Park camp was the only barrack camp in the city. The living conditions were very good in comparison to those in the other camps. We even had a washroom with hot and cold running water, and later on an extra dining room.

Workshops had been set up. At that time Potasch, Pristin, Joffe, Zemmel, Meller and others worked in the men’s tailoring shop. In the women’s tailoring shop Mrs. Rubinstein, Mrs. Friedmann and her daughter Madi, Mrs. Kamenkowitz, Mrs. Minsker and her daughter, and Mrs. Kirschbaum-Rudow worked as seamstresses. Borkum, Rosenthal, Ritow, and the professional painter Kahn worked in the painting workshop. The workshops for plumbing, radio repair and carpentry employed the Maurer brothers, Mula Burstein, Zlotnikow, Golombeck, Urewitz, Juli Kreitzer and others. Among the cleaners were Mrs. Sima Dreyer, Mrs. Burstein and Mrs. Dolgitzer. Interior work was done by Mrs. Lilia Misroch, Schmemann, Legow, Machmonik and Max Salmanowitz.

Lazer, Bahn, Paul Levi, Reisele Lubotzka and others were in a special commando that worked at the NSDAP. A group headed by the specialist Perl worked in a large factory hall; here one saw Sascha Woloschinski, Ritow, Dr. Blowitz, Lewensohn and Raft. Max Michelsohn, Sioma Gurwitz and some others worked in the drivers’ pool. A great many women worked in the huge laundry, which was headed by Rosa Kramer; they included Miss Misroch (the daughter), Zilla Dogitzer, Jetta Feldhuhn and Betty Segall. In the shoemakers’ workshop, which was headed by Kagan, shoes were patched, repaired and re-soled by Dubowitzki and various others. The Amburg brothers, Auguston, B. Blumberg, Paul Vange, I. Schalit and others worked in what was called the construction-site work crew and in the carpentry and transport crews.

Through their transport opportunities, our comrades Blumberg and Vange sometimes improved our situation by providing our work crew with food.

There was even a soap-making crew (in which the engineer Wulfowitz worked) and a photo studio.

Dr. G. Rudow provided medical services.

The necessary work in a warehouse for replacement parts was done by the Meller brothers, Lola Birkhahn and others. The engineer Rappoport worked as a draftsman.

Also living in the Park barracks camp was the entire Kriwitzki family (husband, wife and two daughters) and Shapiro with his daughter.

In general, the work was not hard. The Jews got an extraordinary amount of work done and the Germans were very satisfied. Most satisfied of all was Eggers, for he received money for every small favor. He was assisted in this by Rubenstein, who had returned from Kaiserwald, and later on by the Czech Jew Steuer.

When I arrived at the Park barracks camp I was struck by the fact that here, in contrast to all the other barracks camps and the former ghetto, there were many people who had enough to eat and many who were going hungry. (The latter group mostly consisted of German Jews.) With Schmemann’s help this difference was soon eliminated. We set up a kitchen for everyone and later on we even sacrificed a large part of the food we received regularly as our rations, for the benefit of the HKP and Balasta Dam barracks camps.

During the first days after my arrival I made a speech to the Park work crew to the effect that this unjust situation was intolerable. I also explained that I had come there only because I was forced to do so, because the situation had required it, and that after losing my entire family my only concern there was for my co-religionists, as it had been in Kaiserwald. I ended with the words: “The greatest reward for me will be if one day I can open the gates of freedom for you.” So later on my comrades often asked me:” When will you open the gates for us at Last?”

The Park’s administrators – high-ranking officers – summoned me to tell me that I was responsible for all the Jews who were working there, and that I would lose my head if anything went wrong. At that time I gave them a very brief and cold-blooded answer: that I was a person who knew what responsibility meant, and that I would assume total responsibility for my co-religionists.

Life went on fairly normally. Every day we went to work at six in the morning and came back at the same hour in the evening. Then we gathered together, engaged in a great variety of pastimes, and sometimes held religious services, for which comrade Pill made the preparations. On Sundays we always had visitors from the HKP barracks camp. We arranged small entertainments (with Tschuzoj and others), or some of us would go to visit their friends in the HKP.

Of course there were incidents now and again in the barracks camp, but these were taken care of by Eggers in exchange for good payoffs. On account of gold coins that were found in his possession, one of our comrades, the engineer Goldarbeiter, was arrested and taken to Kaiserwald, where he found his death.

I would like to note at this point that Kaiserwald constantly required people for the base point; in one case, no fewer than fifty people was sent from the Park and the HKP camps. With the help of the camp representative of Kaiserwald, this gezeire (affliction) was ended, and many who are now living as a result have this man to thank for it. Comrade Abram Lazer also helped us a great deal in this respect, for he sent to Kaiserwald free of charge, as a reward, many bottles of drink from the unit in which he worked.

For the second evening of Passover I decided to organize a Seder for my comrades. The Seder was very, very modest, but we had gotten a bit of matzo and eggs from the HKP. Mrs. L. Misroch took on the role of hostess.

Ho lachmo anijo” (the bread of the poor). Never in my life had I had such a Seder; the bread really did look poor.

Hoschato awdo, Ischono hazojs bnei chojrin!” (Now we are slaves, but this year we will be free men.) “Ma nischtana” (the four questions asked during the Seder ceremony) was asked, but the Haggadah was not read.

On this occasion I once again made a short speech, in which I compared the period the Jews spent in Egypt to our own. “Mawdus lchejrus” (from slavery to freedom) was the basic theme and main subject of my speech. All the comrades had tears in their eyes, and I myself had to weep.

The summer brought dramatic events: the front was constantly moving closer. The enemy was not pushing directly toward Riga but further back toward Vilna and Kovno, so that the only direction in which we could retreat was the sea. Many comrades who had assessed the situation clearly were already preparing hiding places for themselves in the city. I too had found a hiding place for myself, but because I knew that others would inevitably have to pay for my flight with their lives, I decided to stay on until the end.

During this period a small action to exterminate the children was carried out in the HKP and the other barracks camps. This is why I had taken young Kamenkowitz out of there, said he was older, and integrated him into the Park work camp. I still regret that it was impossible for me to save more children at that time.

In order to find Jews who had hidden, many house searches were made in the city during that period. Seven people were arrested at the home of a Mrs. Pole at 15 Peldu Street. They defended themselves with automatic machine guns and killed three of the Latvians who had forced their way into the apartment. The Jews themselves had four casualties, including Josel Grundmann, Lipmanowitz and Sergei Gurwitz. The other three, including Dr. Herzfeld’s son, escaped.

In May 1944 Sauer visited our barracks camp. When I heard about the visit it was clear to me that nothing good was in store for us. I immediately made sure that all the divisions would stay in their places so that they would be working when Sauer inspected them. He made his first visit to the laundry. There he saw two women who were not occupied at that moment, and he immediately slapped them. He then went directly to the construction section of the mechanics’ workshop. The head of this section was the Nuremberg Jew Salaman, a strict German captain who wore an Iron Cross. On his inspection tour Sauer discovered that various types of food, including strawberries, had been concealed in the large kettles that were standing there. He was so angry that he slapped Salaman resoundingly, just as he had done to the two women. After that he had his helpers fetch our comrades Duchownik and, later on, Rosenthal. He also ordered the entire work crew of the construction section to assemble, including Magarik, Lewin, Juli Ariewitz and Chace Abram. All of them were arrested and transported to Kaiserwald. He also took the German Jew Schneider, who was the former helper of the ghetto policeman Wand. Only Jascha Landmann, who “fortunately” had broken his foot, escaped this destruction. He survived. We found out later that the real reason for Sauer’s visit was that he wanted to have Salaman, Duchownik and Rosenthal transported because they were still in contact with their Aryan wives in the city. Because he accidentally found the hidden food in the course of his inspection, he had the entire work crew arrested.  

The “great man” also inspected my bed; although he found nothing, I definitely did not feel my life was safe.

In Kaiserwald Salaman, Duchownik and Rosenthal were first severely tortured and then transported to “points unknown”. The other people from the construction section had a black point sewn on the backs of their prisoners’ uniforms, which meant they were next in line for transport to the base camp. Lewin and Magarik were exempted from this transport because they paid the labor-deployment team well. All the others had to go to prison, and from there to the base camp.

Like everywhere else, our women and men had their hair cut, and the men had the usual stripe shaved down the middle of their heads. The shoemaker Kagan, who was bald, had a stripe painted down the middle of his head with paint.

Blatterspiegel, who was at that time an SS Scharführer, was determined to get S. Rubinstein from the Park work crew and put him in prison, so he ordered gim to be transported to Lenta. Later on, Rubinstein returned to the Park work crew, was arrested there, and was thrown into prison, where he died.

Three people disappeared from the barracks camp one afternoon in July 1944; they included Willy Nogaller and Miss Lilly Kreitzer. They escaped through the potato cellar.

During one action that was carried out in our camp to exterminate older people, an SS man came to check us against his list. One after another we had to march past him. As we did so he selected five women, including Mrs. Barenblatt and Mrs. Minsker. When he came back the next day to fetch them, I told him they had already been transported to Kaiserwald, which of course was not true. In any case, that time their lives were saved. When Kaiserwald called up Eggers to ask for the women again, he gave them the same information – that they had been sent off and ought to be there already – and so the whole attempt came to nothing.

In the meantime Jelgava, which is about 50 kilometers from Riga, was occupied by the Russians. There was a great panic in all the administrative offices. They began to evacuate us willingly and even eagerly, we packed our things. This was probably the only piece of work that we did with real pleasure.

On the evening of 29 July 1944 our comrades Dr. Rudow, Izia Pristin and Mrs. Rudow escaped very suddenly from our barracks camp. We found out later that they had taken off their marked clothing in a cellar room and had fled to a nearby courtyard using a second key. From there they reached Dzirnavas Street. The reason for their hasty flight was that the “Aryan” Rudow had told them that an action was planned for that night and that they absolutely had to flee. Rudow himself also disappeared from Lenta.

This event threw us into a great panic, and each person thought only of how to save himself. On the same evening, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the clothing depot (Kapisius) summoned some of our comrades to the second courtyard, which was opposite the Park barracks camp. He said he wanted to speak to them about the escapees.

Sascha Woloschinski, Paul Vange and Leo Arenstam went to the meeting point. Later they were accused of having planned to escape, and were locked into separate cells. Vange, who was very strong and had been put into the cell next to the attic, managed, by his own account to remove the iron bars of the cell and escape over the roofs. And he did indeed survive.

That whole night was very agitated in the barracks camp. Some people, like Ritow and Gruschko, fled through the fence before my very eyes. During an air bombardment which took place that night, the second Ritow (a painter) disappeared too, and the next morning Lewin (a leather manufacturer) was missing. But he was unlucky, for he was caught on the street; Gruschko had the same fate.

Later the whole work crew was assembled and most of them were transported to Kaiserwald. I used this opportunity to voluntarily hand over the leadership of the work crew to the Czech Jew Steuer. After that I worked as a transport laborer among those who still remained in the Park. From that point on we were lodged in the Ciekurkalns suburb and had to wear prisoners uniforms

Some of those who had been taken to Kaiserwald by Eggers were sent away and died in an action that was carried out there at that time. Among the victims was my best friend. Sascha Woloschinski, and my comrades Liowa Neuburg, Gruschko, Machmonik, Leo Meller, Lewin and others.

I worked in the Park a while longer until our representative, Steuer, escaped. He managed to flee in the following way: Aryan women in whose homes Neuberger and Janowski wanted to hide came to the camp to talk about this matter, and he persuaded them to save him instead of the other two men. Five hostages were selected in reprisal for his escape: Jakob Abramsohn, Legow, Gut, Dubowitzki and I. We were fetched by SS men and taken to Kaiserwald in a truck, in which we were forced to lie on our stomachs. We were in absolute despair. Our further fate is already known to the reader from the chapter on Kaiserwald (section XXII).

Nor did the others remain in the Park for long. Some people from Kaiserwald (Misroch, his daughter and others) joined them, but fairly soon all of them were taken away by ship to Stutthof.

d) Billeting Department

The largest work crew in the ghetto period was the Billeting Department one. It was a Wehrmacht unit that dealt with the billeting of the military forces and was lead by Captain Zorn. Hotels and numerous Jewish apartments with their furniture intact were available for this purpose. Jews worked in all sections of this work crew; a small fraction of them lived in a barracks camp there.

At the headquarters of the Billeting Department on Valnu Street there were workshops in which shoemakers, tailors (Baschkin and others), electricians, mechanics, watchmakers and others worked. Many Jews worked in the furniture transport unit, and the women (Mrs. Kimcho. Mrs. Oretschkina and others) worked as cleaners.

From July 1941 until the liquidation of the barracks camp on 21 November 1943 the overseer of this work crew was Private First Class Schmidt. A sadist by nature, he terrorized the Jews in the worst way imaginable, and his only concern was to squeeze money out of them. He dealt out beatings very “generously”.

But our real overseer was Sergeant Bendel. He too was very greedy for our money. Once he had received his payment he immediately forgot what it had been for, so that one had to give him money again and again. Nonetheless, the Jews tried very hard to get assigned to this work crew. The work was not too hard, and besides in the city center they could make contact with the outside world.

Besides the Latvian Jews, many German Jews, men and women, also worked in this barracks camp. After the liquidation of the large ghetto, many Jews tried to escape from here. One of the first was Lipmanowitz; in reprisal, his brother was taken to the ghetto and shot. Several people escaped from other sections as well, for instance three people from 9 Gertrude Street and various Jews from Eksporta Street (the musician Ostrowski and Fomin). In the large barracks camp at 93 Brivibas Street a clinic had been set up in the large Witte building, and Jews had to work there as well (G. Raicin, Feldmann, Gustav Joffe, Kocer, Mrs. Peres née Blumstein from Königsberg and others). Mrs. Peres, however, was soon arrested, put into prison, and shot there.

People said that one day Private First Class Schmidt went to the ghetto commandant Krause to ask him to release from prison a number of people whose names were on a list of various specialists he said he needed. Presumably Schmidt had been paid well by these people’s relatives. At first Krause postponed the whole matter, but eventually he ordered Schmidt to the prison to fetch these people. He made him wait there, and in the meantime shot all the people whose names were on the list. After that he called Schmidt, pointed to the corpses, and said: “Now you can take your ‘specialists’ away with you.”

During the period when I too was housed there, the following people worked in the various sections of this work crew: Waldenberg, Patzkin Peretz, Brandt, Reikin, Kapulski, Löw, Schelkan, Berner, Michlin, the Rabinowitz brothers and others. The shoemaker Fischelsohn also worked together with us. He was an especially hard-working and decent person, and he saved up a great deal of money in order to rescue his two children, who were in prison on account of the weapons incident. Through the mediation of the German Jew Kohn, he personally handed over to Commandant Roschmann a large number of gold coins. Roschmann took them with thanks and promised that everything would be put in order, but nothing happened. Roschmann was given further payments via Kohn, but nothing was ever done. Later, when Kohn himself fled from Kaiserwald, he received his “reward” from the Russians, who shot him.

On the evening of 20 November 1943 after the Hawdole (Saturday evening prayer), Patzkin and Reikin disappeared. Consequently we were badly terrorized all night by Schmidt and Bendel, and the next day all the Jews in the Billeting Department barracks camp were assembled, thoroughly searched by the aforementioned “gentlemen”, beaten and transported to the ghetto, which had been nearly liquidated by then.

e) Spilve

This name was known to us natives of Riga as the site of the largest airport on that side of the Daugava. Now the airport’s administrators ordered the delivery of about 350 Jews from Kovno in Lithuania to work there. Those Kovno natives who had relatives in the Riga ghetto immediately volunteered for this transport; others had to be forced to join it. The transport,which arrived in Riga on 25 October 1942, included men, women and a small number of children. The Kovno Jews had with them not only their large pieces of luggage but also sewing machines and things of that sort. Their representative was the German Jew Kohn from Munich. Some very well-know Jewish public figures from Kovno were also in the group.

All of these people were lodged in the large building of the Ilguciems brewery near Spilve. Initially the German Wehrmacht supervised and fed them; the person in charge of all organizational matters and supplies was the non-commissioned officer Löffler and Private First Class Schuhmacher. With their help it was possible for people from Spilve to visit their relatives in the ghetto and vice versa. Because these visits enabled people to give one another support, everyone’s life became somewhat easier.

The Jewish police officers at Spilve were the master painter Zapp and his wife, who were from Kovno. Mrs. Zapp did not treat the women well, as I myself witnessed. For this reason, later on everyone uttered her name only with contempt.

Medical assistance was provided by Dr. Klebanow from Kovno. He was a gynecologist and had a truly great Jewish heart; he showed understanding for every individual, and so he was loved by everyone. Because even the German military men valued him, he was able to lighten the Jews’ burden. It was Dr. Klebanow who set up a dental clinic, in which a woman dentist from Kovno worked.

The work done at this barracks camp consisted of serving the needs of the airport, large and small. Summer and winter, the Jews in the camp had to do heavy labor. Craftsmen such as shoemakers and tailors worked there at their trades.

The whole situation at Spilve changed when Kaiserwald took over the control of this barracks camp. At that point Spilve became a small concentration camp. Many people were delivered to Spilve in the summer of 1943 from the Small Ghetto before its liquidation and later from the Kaiserwald concentration camp. There were thousands of them, and the living conditions became more and more unbearable. The SS guards and the rations were now also provided by Kaiserwald. The result was that people died like flies. Although Dr. Klebanow was given the Riga physician Dr. Solomir as an assistant, this was not enough. People were sent back to Kaiserwald starving and half-dead. I will never forget something I saw at the end of winter 1943: people were being taken from Spilve to the Kaiserwald concentration camp on a sledge piled up like a stack of wood, and many of them had died on the way.

In January 1944 the camp representative Kohn and his wife came to Kaiserwald, and his post was briefly taken over by the Aryan prisoner Mr. X, who was notorious in Kaiserwald. He was assisted by Raikin, whom the Jews tried to get rid of as soon as possible. Mr. X was succeeded by the SS murderers Sorge and Greschel, who are already known to the reader, then by a Swiss prisoner, and after that by the SS man Blatterspiegel. These conditions forced many people to flee. The first ones to make the attempt were Boris Schmulian, Gruschko (both of them were found and shot), Jeletzki, the engineer Kodesch, Monastirski and others. Schneidermann, well-known because of the Trud tobacco factory, threw himself under a train “Iron Gustav” ordered that the corpse, whose head had been separated from the body, should be “punished” by being locked in a bunker for three days. Blatterspiegel ordered the hanging of a Czech Jew. These are only a few cases, but they are probably sufficient to illustrate the conditions at Spilve.

In April 1944 a large work crew of men and women was transported to Ponewesch and Siauliai in Lithuania. They had to work at the airport there and lived in wooden huts. When the front moved closer, they were taken via Stutthof to Dachau. The physician Dr. Solomir was among those who died in Dachau.

A small group of Lithuanian Jew was sent from Silve to Daudzeva-Viesite in Latvia to do logging. They worked there for seven months, and the following people risked an escape attempt: the Safir brothers, Miller and Winokur (all of them were from Kovno). After the Russians had advanced to this point as well, the work crew was moved to Liepaja, where fourteen more people escaped. In Liepaja the work crew had to work for the navy. Later it was combined with the small remainder of the Army Clothing Department (ABA) barracks camp in Riga, transferred to the prison in Hamburg, and taken from there in groups to Bergen-Belsen. Among those who survived was my comrade Hermann.

Of course extermination actions were carried out in Spilve, as they were everywhere else, beginning with the children and ending with the old people. The usual haircut, which I have already described, was given to the inmates here too. The hair was collected and sent to Germany to be processed.

On 6 August 1944 the remainder of the Spilve barracks camp was sent by ship to Germany. Only a small group remained to do the clearing up. But because they had sung Soviet songs they were punished by being sent to Kaiserwald. From there the “guilty ones” were sent to the base camp to work in the notorious “potato commando” (see the chapter on Jumpravmuiza), where their lives came to an end.

Bloodsoaked Spilve, which had requisitioned thousands of people, also claimed thousands of victims.

After I had finished writing this chapter I learned that “Iron Gustav” (the commander of Spilve) had been sentenced to twenty-five years of hard labor by a Russian military court in the Sachsenhausen trial in the Russian zone of Germany (the death penalty had been abolished under Russian law).

Among the many statements made by “Iron Gustav”, the one that is perhaps especially worth repeating is: “All the SS men were beasts, but I was the worst one!”

f) Army Clothing Department (Armeebekleidungsamt – ABA)

About 2,000 Jews worked in this large barracks camp, which was located in the Riga suburb of Milgravis. The main work was the transportation and sorting of clothing. Teenagers and children had to help do this work; their job was to push the clothing carts back and forth.

It was exclusively a Wehrmacht unit. The camp representative was the German Jew Schulz whom the reader already knows from the chapter on the ghetto, where he headed the Labor Authority. The Latvian Jews were not very satisfied with him; moreover, they still resented him for the way he had treated them in the ghetto. The supervisor of the Wehrmacht work crew was the non-commissioned officer Müller and Privates First Class Saß and Schwellenbach. They made life extremely difficult for the Jews. The Riga Jews in this work crew were the engineers Antikol and Zaslawski, Dr. Tumarkin, Dr. Joseph (from Berlin), and others.

Several extermination actions were carried out here, as they were everywhere; here they were implemented by the SS men Kreßbach and Wiesner. The children’s action cost nineteen children their lives. In the last and largest action, everyone had to take off his clothes and be inspected by the aforementioned SS men. Those whom they didn’t like or who had a physical handicap, men and women, were ordered to step to the side. As they gave these orders, the murderers added, laughing: “For a holiday!” Those killed in this action included the entire Pukin family, the lawyer Finkelstein, Hermann Rozin, the engineer Lubotzki and others. At that time, the three Galanter brothers were also taken to the bunker. They had been caught as they tried to escape, but they were lucky and survived.

On August 1944 most of the people in this barracks camp were taken to Stutthof. They continued to work in the same unit in the concentration camp. The others were also transported to Stutthof later on. Some of them were then taken to the prison in Hamburg and from there to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Of this large barracks camp, only a very few (Schulz, among others) survived.

g) AEG – VEF (National Electricity Works)

In August 1943 a group of women was sent from Kaiserwald to the AEG works to be tried out as workers there. After the management had seen that the Jewish workers were usable, this work crew was gradually enlarged and it was decided to set up a barracks camp for them. The women were housed in a building on Vidzemes Avenue across from the factory, next to a large camp for Russian prisoners of war. The factory’s managers constantly requested more and more workers, so that finally about 1,000 women were working there.

They worked in the division for electric bulbs and wiring. They were guarded by armed Latvians, and SS-Mädels (SS girls) commanded them as representatives of the Kaiserwald concentration camp. Initially the SS girl Emma was their supervisor. She was a calm person who paid little attention to the barracks camp as a whole. The situation worsened after Emma was replaced by the SS girl Marija (A Latvian woman), for Marija beat the women and tormented them whenever she could. But the SS girl Kova, who was sent from Kaiserwald to be in charge for a short time, was the one who indulged her sadistic instincts the most.

The living conditions in the barracks camp were miserable and the rations were extremely meager. The many women from Germany and from Vilna who were in this work crew lived in especially difficult circumstances; the Riga women, who had contact with the city through the men and women factory workers, could at least alleviate their own situation somewhat by trading their possessions that were still in the city for food.

A great many young girls who had been separated from their parents also worked in this barracks camp. The leader of this work crew was the Austrian Jewish woman Mrs. Naftali. She was clever and knew how to deal with the management and the SS girls in a way that benefited the barracks camp. The block representative Hilda from Liepaja was less popular with the inmates.

There was no clinic. Only a woman doctor from Vilna was available for any cases of illness. The drives to Kaiserwald to fetch rations or visit the clinic or the dental clinic were the women’s only connection with the outside world. On these occasions people brought back letters and other forbidden items from Kaiserwald. Very often, strict inspections were carried out before they left Kaiserwald, and only too often the SS man Hirsch (who was from Bavaria) beat the women mercilessly (among them were L. Burian, O. Rogalin and others).

Because of their difficult situation, some women tried to escape from the AEG barracks camp, as people were doing everywhere. But they were caught, taken back to Kaiserwald and punished there. A certain Sophie Berger, who had handed a letter to an Aryan, was fetched by Commandant Roschmann in person and transported to prison. But she was lucky and was not killed at that time.

The order to crop the inmates’ hair was a great tragedy for all the women. Commandant Sauer himself went to the AEG barracks camp to make sure this barbarous order was implemented precisely. After that the unfortunate women could be seen marching to and from the factory wearing their striped zebra suits and headscarves. When they were on the street, the rest of the traffic was barred from Vidzemes Avenue. In this way the commanders tried to keep people from seeing the women or giving them anything.

Nobody who was not there himself can describe the misery of this barracks camp. It was also called the “women’s cloister”.

In August 1944, when the AEG factory was evacuated to Thorn, some of these women were also transported there. They reached their destination after a long journey under inhuman conditions in cattle cars. Those who remained in Riga were taken to Stutthof by ship on 25 September 1944 (see the chapter “The Evacuation”). During this evacuation the half-Aryan Mrs. Olga Klaus (Mrs. Günzburg) succeeded in escaping. The women who had been transported to Thorn had to work in bunkers under very difficult conditions and were supervised by the SS man Blatterspiegel.

In early 1945, as the Russians were approaching Thorn, the work crew was taken away from there to an unspecified destination. But as they were on their way, the hour of liberation struck for these women, through the Russians. Blatterspiegel and his guards managed to disappear before this happened. A great many of the liberated women survived: Mrs. B. Kaufmann and her daughter, Mrs. Gurwitz and Mrs. Salzberg from Kovno, L. Burian and Mrs. Ameisen fron Prague, Mrs. Rogalin and her daughter Olga, Fira and Rosa Paperna, Fani Gurwitz and her mother, Rita Blond, Frida Schwarz, Mrs. Ulman with her two daughters, Judith Jakobsohn, Mali and Sonia Jakobsohn, Anni Michelsohn, Riwa Stein, Herta and Ruth Berg, Rosa Estermann, Cila Arenstam, Eta Bojarska, Mija Schwab, Mali Ellinson, Betti Leibowitz, Fani Hisrchfeld, Luba Tewelew, the tennis player Rosa Schulman, Herta, Dora, Ella, and Inna Berger and others.

However, nearly all the women who were sent back to Stutthof or remained in Riga died of starvation and typhoid fever.

h) Strazdumuiza (Strasdenhof)

Mir seinen Strasdenhofer idn
A naje Europa boien mir
Die arbet is bai uns farschidn,
Nur cores iz do gor on a schir.

(We’re the Jews of Strasdenhof
We’re building a new Europe
We’re doing all kinds of work
But troubles and miseries abound.)

(The “Strasdenhof Hymn”, composed by Etele Zin from Liepaja)

Before the liquidation of the Small Ghetto in October 1943, a new barracks camp named Strazdumuiza was set up. It was lodged in a large factory building that stood next to the new building that stood next to the new bridge on Vidzemes Avenue on the banks of the Jugla River. All the workshops this work crew had had in the German and the Latvian ghettos were moved by the Area Commissary to the new barracks camp. A great number of children, women and older men worked in Strazdumuiza. Later a large number of women from Vilna were brought from Kaiserwald to join them. Many Jews also worked in such nearby factories as Rigas Audums (a textile mill), Juglas Manufaktura and several leather factories. The teenagers in the work crew had to work in the division for electrical wires and telephones.

The living conditions and the rations in the Strazdumuiza barracks camp were extraordinarily bad, and the mortality rate was very high. The German Jew Baum from Cologne was appointed to head the labor-deployment team. He was well-known to the German Jews from their days in the ghetto, and he demonstrated his powers as much as possible. But his “reign” did not last long, for he was liquidated together with his two sons at the first opportunity. I happened to be in Kaiserwald to pick up rations just as he arrived there. When the German Jews in Kaiserwald heard he was coming, they prepared quite a “reception” for him. In particular, he was taught how to work, and during the one or two days he was in the concentration camp the “poor man” was forced to suffer in abundance everything he had missed in the ghetto; he was beaten as well.

The guards consisted mostly of Germans from Siebenbürgen (Transylvania in Rumania). They were headed by the SS men Hofmann and Dering. They punished even the smallest infraction with the greatest cruelty. For example, Mrs. Irka Jerusalimska from Vilna was horribly beaten with a truncheon. Others who lost consciousness during these beatings were doused with water and then tormented further. On Sundays, when they did not go to work, everyone had to clean latrines.

Of course, because of this treatment everyone looked for contacts that could help him escape. The first ones to do so were the Keile sisters, Rachil Brudner and Miss Raja. After them came Liolia Gittelsohn and Luba Drujan (all of them were from Vilna). Some of the Latvian Jews also escaped: Bermann, the engineer Seidemann and his brother, and Salgaller. The latter, however was unlucky. Later the leader of the work crew, Morein, also escaped.

The German prisoner Hans Brun was the camp representative. This political criminal, who had already spent a long time in concentration camps, made life difficult for everyone. For a short time Reinhold Rosenmeyer was the camp representative, later on it was the engineer Rago.

Of course Strazdumuiza was not immune from extermination actions; these were carried out on 28 July and 3 August 1944. The last action was implemented with especial cruelty, so that two-thirds of the entire work crew were killed. No action of this kind – in which the teenagers up to the age of eighteen and the men and women older than thirty were killed without exception – had ever been carried out before. Some of the people who had hidden in an attempt to save themselves were found and shot (Leib Machelsohn, Buchbinder, Hamburger from Vienna and others). Among the participants of this persecution were the extremely sadistic SS man Hofmann and “Uscha” Dering.

But some people did manage to save themselves. For example, Rabbi Spitz hid in the factory’s large chimney, and the camp representative, the engineer Rago, was taken out of the camp in the garbage truck, completely covered with garbage. Both of them survived.

From later reports we learned that some members of the work crew were taken to the delousing station of the former ghetto on Ludzas Street and gassed there. The rest were taken to the Bikernieki forest and shot. After these murders a group of women was sent to the delousing station to sort the dead people’s clothes. They recognized many items of clothing that had belonged to their relatives who had been in Strazdumuiza.

Thus only about 700 people aged between eighteen and thirty remained from the large barracks camp that had once numbered several thousand, All of them were put into prisoners’ uniforms and transported by ship to Stutthof on 6 August 1944, together with the Jews who had arrived in the meantime from the HKP barracks camp. The survivors of this transport include the following women from Vilna: Lisa and Sarah Pruchno, Mascha Tschernuska, Dusia Atlas, Frieda Zewin, Rachil and Sarah Delaticka, Sonja Schulkin, Mania Lewin, Rita and Rachel Lekachowitz and others.

A very small number of Jew who had been kept in Strazdumuiza for cleanup work – these included the Gottlieb brothers, their sister, and Edelstein, all of them from Liepaja – were taken a short time later to the Kaiserwald concentration camp and there put on the next transport ship to Germany.

i) Reich Commissary (Reichskommissariat) 

In the center of the city, on Valnu Street, there was a small barracks camp consisting of about 350 men, women and children. It was called the Reich Commissary.

It consisted of tailoring workshops that belonged to the Reich Commissary. Good specialized workers and also people they had trained (such as Mrs. Pikelni from Lodz) worked there. The head of this barracks camp was Leibsohn (a familiar figure because of the Jockey Club Company).

The inmates came to the ghetto very seldom and lived in their barracks camp as if they were in a small prison. This was also the last barracks camp in the city to be liquidated and sent to Kaiserwald. From there the inmates were sent to the large TWL barracks camp.

Liebsohn, however, was arrested and put in prison. Others said that because he was in the fashion business the SA had sent him to Hungary. No details were known about his fate; in any case, he has not shown up among the survivors so far.

j) Reich Railroad (Reichsbahn)

This barracks camp was so named because its inmates worked on the Reich Railroad. There were about 850 men, women and children, who were housed near the freight depot. A great many of them were Jews from Liepaja, for example the lawyer Kaganski, the writer Juli Rabinowitz. the Schwabe boys and others. Among the Riga Jews sent to this barracks camp were Robert Schlomowitz, Borkum and Iwoschker. The latter considered no effort too great to organize religious services again and again.

Everyone lived there in the barracks, but in comparison to other barracks camps these living conditions were not bad at all. The camp representative was the German Jew Steinberg, and the camp commander was the SS man and Reich Railroad official Keller. In addition, Chief Inspector Schibbe from Eberswalde had a particularly bad reputation. For even the smallest infraction people were transported back to Kaiserwald and then, for punishment. moved on to the base camp (for example. Leib Saminski and Mote Naj from Liepaja).

On 20 July 1944 Rafael Schub, Per Ostrowski and Remigolski escaped. The latter hid in the home of a Latvian in the city. After the Latvian had taken his valuables away from him he turned him out onto the street. Remigolski was caught and shot.

In the Reich Railroad barracks camp as in other camps, a large-scale extermination action was carried out in July 1944; about 350 people lost their lives in this action. The others were transported via Stutthof to Stolpe. They worked there under very difficult conditions, and only a few of them survived.

k) Balasta Dam

The Commerce Department of the higher-ranking SS had moved its camp to the banks of the Daugava River. Here Jews were used for transport work and other types of work. As long as the ghetto existed, a work crew went out from it every day to work here. Later. after Kaiserwald was set up, a barracks camp for about 300 persons. including thirty women, was set up directly on the Balasta Dam. These people worked not only for the higher-ranking SS but also in the nearby Zunda saw-mill. Their work consisted of sorting lumber (they had to pull logs out of the water onto land) and working in the carpentry workshops.

The inmates were housed in completely unhygienic barracks guarded by the Latvian SS. The local representative of the Kaiserwald concentration camp was Unterschalsführer Decker, an extreme sadist. The post of camp representative was held by the Czech Jew  Oppenheimer, and among those responsible for maintaining order inside the camp was a certain Glaeser. The poor rations and the hard labor caused very many cases of illness, most of which ended in death after the people were taken to Kaiserwald. Among the inmates of the Balasta Dam barracks camp were Rabbi Gawartin of Kreuzburg with his brother, Director Bergmann of the public college-preparatory school, the teacher Gramm, the three Kor brothers, Itrow. Egber and others. At one point a certain Schmulian escaped from this barracks camp. Because they too were suspected of plotting to escape, Abe Lif and Gramm were taken to Kaiserwald and from there to the base camp.

On 7 August 1944 the whole barracks camp was transported to the Kaiserwald concentration camp. All of these people were put for several days into what was called the "barrack of the dead". Because large-scale extermination actions were being carried out in Kaiserwald at that time, the entire barracks camp was to be either gassed or shot. Because of an Aryan inmate twenty-two teenagers were selected out, including the three Kor brothers, the Beliak brothers and others. Two teenagers. Jachnin and a twelve-year-old boy, both of them from Dvinsk, had hidden in the latrine pit. They were pulled out, completely covered with filth, and sent to be liquidated.

That was the sad end of this small barracks camp.

l) Dünawerke

In Dinawerke arum tajch un Wald Zajnon do idn fun gor der Welt Arbeiten alle schwer and in Kelt...

(At the Dünawerke, surrounded by water and forest, There are Jews from all over the world

They do hard labor in the cold...)

(a hymn)

A barracks camp called the Dünawerke was set up in the former building of the large Prowodnik rubber factory, which was known throughout the world.

About 800 men and women, mostly women, were sent to work there. Among them were a great many women from Vilna (the sisters Henia and Fania Durmaschkina, Esia Raichel, Ester Lipow and others) and from Germany. Among the men from Latvia were Sascha Kaufmann from Auce, Salzmann, Lewenstein from Jelgava and others. The camp representative was the Jew Joseph Kußmann. The overseer was Unterscharführer Becker, who.,thanks to the German Jewish woman Liesel, did not pay too much attention to the barracks camp. This clever woman administered the affairs of the Jews in the camp very skillfully. All the inmates were housed in quite decent rooms, and in addition to the starvation rations they received it was possible for them to acquire food elsewhere. They had to do both heavy labor and easier kinds of work, and had contact with many Aryans from foreign countries who were also housed in this barracks camp but were free.

Medical services were provided initially by Dr. Berkowitz and later on by Dr. Jakobsohn. On 8 February 1944. 102 persons were taken away from this camp to the Dundaga extermination camp. Among them were Lewenstein, Pitum, Moisej Igdalski and others. Dr. Berkowitz was also among them; he was tortured in Dundaga and sent back half-dead to Kaiserwald, where he was killed under unknown circumstances.

In the summer of 1944 the Dünawerke barracks camp was closed down. The inmates were taken to Siauliai in Lithuania and from there to Stutthof Regrettably, one of those who died there was the pretty Liesel.

m) The Dundaga (Dondangen) Extermination Camp

In the Kaiserwald card file Dundaga was called a work camp, but I can only call it an extermination camp, for it had practically nothing to do with work and a great deal to do with extermination! Only a few work crews went to work, and all of the others worked inside the camp. Dundaga is a well-known fishing town near the Baltic Sea, not far from the well-known Dundaga Forest. Formerly, prominent Latvian public men went boar hunting there. People said that Goring too once went on a boar hunt there.

Now a training ground for some of Adolf Hitler's Leibstandarte (personal SS guards), the tank grenadiers, was set up there. But this plan could not be implemented because of the clayey soil, into which the "victorious tigers" (the tanks) sank too deeply in their training maneuvers.

The actual "host" of the Jews was an SS division that also served as a guard unit. The whole division took orders from the commandant of Kaiserwald. Initially it was commanded by the SS man Greschel and later on by "Iron Gustav". There was no permanent housing at all. People lived summer and winter in tents whose floors were strewn with straw that did not give sufficient protection from the damp earth. A great hardship was the scarcity of water. not only for washing but also for drinking.

The work consisted of building barracks for the soldiers stationed there. There were also a few other work crews, for example one that put up telegraph poles from Talsi to Stende and another that worked in the construction yard. The rations were so miserable that many people fell ill.

There was no clinic. The sick inmates were given only two days off work and then sent to the central clinic in Kaiserwald. Thus Kaiserwald constantly delivered new people, but Dundaga sent back only half-dead or entirely dead ones. The Dundaga commanders made sure of that. The guards also made cruel sport of the Jews. They forced them to laugh, to cry, to dance or to do other tricks. Because they were unable to take off their clothes and wash, the men and women suffered constantly from lice; because of the lice they had many festering sores. Nobody could last long in this hell; within a short period of time one would become a passive "Mussulman". The women, some of whom were especially pretty, soon resembled witches.

In their desperation the inmates of this camp took all kinds of risks. including going to the nearby villages to scavenge food. For this crime the Riga dentist Scheinensohn V, as hanged. In total hopelessness a Czech Jewish doctor hanged himself from a tree in the forest. Dr. Rogalin, who had been hanged by his feet as punishment, withstood this torture and survived.

Once the inmates had high-ranking visitors, namely Sauer and Kreßbach, and this visit too cost human lives.

As the front moved closer in May 1944, the barracks camp was evacuated and preparations were made to move it to Stutthof. At that time about 100 people tried to escape. But when they reached the front they were caught and shot. Many of the others, who were moved to Liepaja, died on the way. The "Dundaga veteran" Josef Hermann survived.

n) Popevalns

Cu wejst - Du id? Wu blut schrajt fun di griber
Fun masen-griber, Kworim lang un brejt.
Dort tojt-gefaln zajnen dajne brijt
Dort lign tate-mame dajne tojt!!
Cu wejst - Du id? Wu es blondzen noch neschomes
Farpajnigt fun muter, foter, kind
Dort schrajen Himlen un die Erd: NEKOME!
Nekome far di schojderhafte Zind!

(Do you know, Jew, where blood is screaming from the pits
From mass graves, graves long and wide,
There are your brothers, fallen dead,
There lie your dead father and mother!
Do you know, Jew, where the souls are wandering
Of tortured mother. father, child?
There heaven and earth scream: VENGEANCE!
Vengeance for the hideous sins!)


"Mein Cawoe" (My Testament), Jakob Rassein. Popevalns concentration camp 1943

Near Dundaga there was another barracks camp: Popevalns, to which Jews were brought from Kaiserwald. Although these inmates worked under somewhat more bearable conditions, nonetheless the mortality rate was very high. The camp representative was the Jew Scheinberger. and the commander was the SS Rottenführer Baufeldt. For listening to a secret radio station, Soloweitschik, Korotkin and others were shot, and the industrialist Tankelowitz from Livonia was killed in a work crew that worked nearby. Before their liquidation, the two barracks camps were merged and then evacuated together.

 o) Other Barracks Camps

During the summers between 1941 and 1943, Jews were sent from the ghetto to cut turf.

Every summer a large barracks camp was set up under the command of the camp representative Schwabe in the turf factory of Sloka (see the chapter "Bloody Sloka"). Jews also worked in the turf factory at Olaine. The post of camp representative was held there one summer by Fisch and then by Magon-Polski from Vilna.

During a visit by Commandant Roschmann and Gymnich in 1943, the singer Karp was shot in Sloka because five eggs had been found in his possession.

There were also barracks camps for turf-cutting in Ploce and Aizpute in Kurzeme. The conditions there were not bad, and the main thing was one's awareness that the murderers of Riga were far away. Four Jews escaped from Aizpute. They hid for a long time in the old fortress of Aizpute, but were finally found and shot by the Latvians in January 1944. Those who died were the Uzdin brothers from Viski, the medical aide Cheifetz and Gotz.

After the sugar-beet harvest Jews were also sent to the sugar factory in Jelgava. As they worked there they learned the exact procedure of sugar production, so that later on they were able to manufacture sugar themselves by primitive methods in the ghetto.

A large barracks camp with workers from the Kaiserwald concentration camp was set up in the paper factory at Sloka. They lived and worked under very difficult conditions.

There was also a barracks camp in the Meteor rubber factory (of Sobolewitz). During the final days before it was liquidated. Fedia Lew escaped together with a woman from Vienna and a German doctor and his wife. The doctor and his wife were unlucky: they were discovered and transported via Kaiserwald to the base camp.

The large TWL barracks camp was located near Kaiserwald. Mostly German men and women worked there. The camp representative was Kagan, who had been an employee of the Letre Company. He had a very sadistic nature, and nobody could elude his hands (I. Springenfeldt and others). The reader will hear more about him in the chapter on Buchenwald and Magdeburg.

A small barracks camp consisting of more than 100 Latvian and Lithuanian Jews was put to work very close to Salaspils in the stone quarries of the Behm Company. Their camp representative was Jakobsohn (of the Riga Yacht Club). Until July 1944 we heard no more news at all about these people. Later, when the Aryan camp in Salaspils was liquidated, people reported that all of them had been shot.

                                                                   The Evacuation

We were taken in trucks to the harbor. The route was already familiar to us from the daily work we had done there. We noticed that a large-scale voluntary evacuation was taking place in the city. Large carts loaded with suitcases and other baggage were being pulled to the harbor and the freight depot on Pulkveza Brieza Street. We also saw at the freight depot some trains that had already been prepared for the evacuation. I had no doubt that those who had our sisters and brothers on their conscience would now head for safety with our possessions. On the way we met Gymnich, the "terror of the ghetto", on a bicycle. He gave his "old acquaintances" a very sidelong look.

In the city center people were already busy setting up street barricades. Our truck was the first one to reach the harbor. The others followed one by one. The inmates of all the barracks camps arrived. We saw the large work crews from the AEG "women's cloister" and the Lenta barracks camp. All of them were still wearing their gray uniforms. Their representatives, Scherwitz and company, arrived in elegant cars and took charge of their work crews. They brought all the machines with them, for they had been told that their work stations would he set up again in Konitz - but this was not true.

All the supplies and machines were also brought from Kaiserwald and the other barracks camps for loading. The riverbank swarmed with people, and many people who had not seen one another for a long time met here again. Many were wearing a double layer of clothing because they intended to try to escape. Unfortunately, this plan succeeded for only a few: Julius Kreitzer, lzraeli, Percwozki from Vilna and some others. Now and then we heard shots being fired by the guards, which apparently cost some people their lives. As for me. I was in total despair, but I decided to resign myself to my fate.

The ship that had already been prepared for us was a large military transport ship several stories high. The men were lodged on the bottom level and the women on the top one, but in the rest of the ship people could move about freely. There were no beds at all. For this purpose we had to lie down on the steel floor.

Goods were loaded all night into the lower part of the ship; even the cars were brought along, and we had to work hard helping to load them. Food was distributed the next morning. The German Jews were the only ones among us who were in quite good spirits. They felt they were leaving the damned East and returning to their homeland. Large amounts of food were taken on board.

Finally it was our turn, and we boarded the ship via the gangway. As I climbed the gangway I did not turn around any more. I felt no desire to see the city one last time. I had only one thought in my head: maybe the Russians would reduce Riga to rubble. May the enemy, who had wanted to build a new life on our blood, now drown in his own blood!

That day was Erew Yom Kippur, the day before the Day of Atonement. In the good old days one would go on this day to the Mincho (afternoon prayer) and beat one's breast (wide). And sometimes people beat themselves in malkes (an act of repentance). Now this was no longer necessary, for we were beaten all year long anyway. The ship raised anchor and when the Kol Nidre (evening prayer on the Day of Atonement) was said we were already at sea. Religious services were being held in every corner of the ship, and everywhere people lit small candles. All at once it was quiet and peaceful everywhere.

"Kol Nidrei weiesorei... "(All vows, oaths, bonds...)

Everyone was weeping, including the women on the top deck. I did not go to prayers. I lay down on the steel floor, putting my prisoner's coat under me and using as a pillow my only piece of baggage, a loaf of bread and my bowl. Thus I lay sleepless for 24 hours until the Nile. or final prayer on the Day of Atonement. I didn't want to speak to anyone and I didn't do so. During the long. lonely hours I drew the balance sheet of my life (cheschboin hanefesch).

“Jaale tachnuneinu meerew, wjowoj schawoscheinu mibojker!" (0 let our prayer ascend from eventime, and may our cry come in to Thee from dawn!) I still saw before me Cantor Joffe from the past years in the ghetto, wearing his coat and tales. He had not only sung this prayer but also wept together with all of us. Today we needed schawoscheinu (help) more than ever, but we had given up all hope of its arrival. It was already Nile. People wept, people cried out: perhaps there was help for us after all? But no tkia (horn player) was there. "Bschono hazios beerez Isroel" (This year in the land of Israel). We could no longer wait till next year, we had to be freed this year (bsehono hazois)!

That night we dropped anchor off Liepaja. It turned out that several evacuation ships had been attacked by the Russians. Later, people said that two had been sunk, but we didn't know whether this was true. In any case, we were lucky. We sailed on, and we landed in Danzig on the third day. We left the ship and spent the whole day in the harbor. That evening we were loaded onto old fishing cutters; since there was not enough room for all of us, some of the women were put onto completely open boats. Thus our newly created flotilla sailed toward Stutthof. This trip. which would have taken ten to fifteen hours in normal times, lasted four days. Some of the time we were sailing on the open sea, and some of the time through various locks. The chains connecting us to the tugboat kept breaking and it took hours to repair them. No food of any kind, and above all no drinking water, had been provided for us. At night there was still a light frost. The poor women sat on their benches starving and shivering from the cold, and it was no wonder that some of them died of these hardships.

As for me, I was lucky, for I was on the steam-driven tugboat that was carrying all of the provisions. Of course we had enough to eat, only there was no bread.

At last we saw a large sign: Stutthof!








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