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


"This book is dedicated to my dearly beloved wife Franka,
and my son Arthur, as well as all my relatives who were murdered."

(Izkor) Commemoration

The communities of our innocent brothers and sisters, parents and children,
who perished in the chambers of hell and the crematoria of the damned
Moloch-Hitler or died in other ways will remain in Israel's memory forever.

These rivers of spilled blood will seethe and flood the world with the eternal
sign of Cain until the evil that produced such destruction has been rooted out.

May these few words be the flowers on their grave!

Honor their memory!

The author



The Association of Liberated Latvian Jews in the US-occupied zone of Germany warmly welcomes the publication of their comrade Max Kaufmann's book, in which he recounts the tragedy of Latvian Jewry, which was once so splendid and flourishing. The decision to write such a work and the author's creative power are equally admirable.

The homeland of Latvian Jewry is soaked not only with the blood of innocent Latvian Jewish men, women and children; in addition, countless transports of Jewish men, women and children from nearly all the countries of Europe were murdered on Latvian soil by the bestial, cowardly German and Latvian Nazi bandits.

The work of our comrade Max Kaufman is the first to recount, more or less comprehensively and objectively, the sufferings and tragic destruction of the splendid Jewry of Latvia, and to inform the world about the role played by the local Latvian population, which largely shares the blame for this tragedy with the rapacious and bestial Nazi bandits.

We are absolutely convinced that Max Kaufmann's work will receive a very strong response and that the world will at last understand the depth of the tragedy that has affected, among others, the small band of surviving Latvian Jews.

Jeannot Lewenson, lawyer

Chairman of the Association
of Latvian Jews in Germany

The martyrology and the destruction of the Jewish community in Latvia is connected with the fate of a part of the Jews of Vilna, who were brought to Riga on 29 September 1943 after the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto and who shared with the Latvian Jews the final path of martyrdom and all the stages of destruction.

The Kaiserwald concentration camp in Riga, with its divisions - the HKP, Strazdumuiza, TWL, HVL, ABA, DŁnawerke, Lenta, Meteor, the Balast dam etc. - and, later on, the concentration camps in Germany - Stutthof, Magdeburg, Burggraben, Riben etc. - are the milestones along the cruel, thorny path walked by the Jews of Latvia and Vilna.

The book Churbn Lettland, which describes the destruction of the once-splendid Jewish community in Latvia, is also part of the history of the destruction of Vilna Jewry. A specific and precise picture is provided in the descriptions of the Stutthof and Buchenwald concentration camps, in which I lived through difficult times together with the author.

The author, Max Kaufmann, is the only person to date who has told the story of churbn Lettland.

We salute him and hope that his work will be well-received.

Nochum Senitzki, engineer

Chairman of the Association
of Vilna Jews in Germany


"Ani Hagewer raa oni baschewer ewrato!"
(I am the man who has known affliction,
I have felt the rod of his wrath.)
(Lamentations of Jeremiah, 3:1)

This book describes one of the gravest crises - in fact, the near-extinction - of our Jewish-Latvian kibbutz (community).
Let the book speak for itself!
I would like to preface it with a few words of a personal nature.
I do not want the reader to regard the following report as a memoir in the proper sense of the word, but rather as the outpourings of a heavy heart that wishes to rid itself of all these terrible experiences and to forget them.
Six dreadful years lie behind me, and only now am I beginning to write down my memories in Churbn Lettland. I often tried to do so during those years of suffering, but every time I was dragged from one ghetto to another, from one concentration camp to another, I had to destroy what I had written down. The same thing happened to many of my faithful friends from Riga who were good writers and kept diaries or wrote down their impressions. All of these documents are either buried in the earth or have disappeared altogether.

This is the only explanation of the fact that although I have read a number of books about ghettos and concentration camps since I have been living abroad, the world still knows little about the fate of us Latvian Jews. Therefore, I decided to fill that gap and to describe in my book the destruction of the once so beautiful Jewish community of Latvia.

It is a very, very difficult task, even if I were a great poet or writer.

Who can understand  or believe that so much cruelty was at all possible in the twentieth century?

However, unfortunately, the events I have described here are facts.

I wish to build, in my own way, a lasting memorial to all those who have perished.

I wish to provide material to the future historians who will one day describe the great destruction of our Jewish people.

I wish to give to those of my countrymen who have not been in Latvia during the past few years a clear picture of the misfortune and the sufferings of the Latvian Jews.

For the few remaining Jews who survived their persecution, I wish to hold up a clear mirror to the difficult time they have lived through.

I wish to let the world know how large a role was played by the native Latvian population in our tragedy, and above all I wish to give our young people a true picture of the martyrdom and destruction of their brothers and sisters, their parents and grandparents, so that they will always remember their sufferings and prove worthy of them.

"Zchoir et ascher oso Icho Amolek!"
(Remember what the Amalekites did to you!)
(Deuteronomy 25:17)

Whole countries are in ruins, a whole world was drowned in blood and tears and the Jewish people with it. Yes, in this catastrophe they paid the highest price. Nonetheless we, the remaining Latvian Jews, hope that a new and free life may come for us all!

Finally, I wish to remark that it seems an irony of fate that I am writing my book in Germany - in Munich, the very place where Hitler, the originator of all our sufferings, came to power.

"Ki eichcho uchal weroisi beroo ascher imzo et ami?
Weieichcho uchal weroisi bawdoin moladti?"

(For how can I bear to see the calamity which is coming upon my race?
Or how can I bear to see the destruction of my family?)
(Esther 8:6-7)

Munich, July 1947






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