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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 –
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)
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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.