Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rumbula: Latvia's Holocaust

The Wehrmacht advanced quickly through the Baltic States after the Nazis invaded Russia on June 22, 1941. Eight days earlier, 15,000 Latvians were deported to Siberia by the Communists. Most Latvians viewed the Germans as liberators. But not all of them. Almost 100,000 Jews lived in Latvia in 1941, about half of them lived in the capital of Riga. As in other conquered territories, the Nazis forced the Jews to live in ghettos. But by November of that year, the decision was made to kill them; 28,000 died at Rumbula, a forest just a few miles outside of Riga. It was chosen because it was on slightly higher ground than that of the capital, it was near a rail station, and the soil wasn't very sandy.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit, who took the photographs, and Little Marathon Pundit visited Rumbula last month.

These markers are scattered throughout the site of the massacre. During my two visits to Latvia, we drove many times on the Riga-Daugavpils Highway; there is another marker clearly visible from the road, in fact, the location of the slaughter is only about 100 yards from the highway.

On the left the engraving, in Latvian, Russian, and Hebrew, reads "Victims of fascism." The gold-colored plaque was added later. It says, "This monument was erected in 1964 under the Soviet totalitarian regime by activists of Riga's Jewish community. It was the only Jewish memorial to the victims of Nazi terror in the USSR."

Notice the stones on top of the marker.

Below the menorah are stones with names of some of the victims engraved on them. The trees in the background are pines, which dominate coastal Latvia.

The Rumbula murders were carried out by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen, or Mobile Killing Units, with significant local support from the pro-Nazi Latvian Auxiliary Police and the Arājs Kommandos. The killings took place on November 30 and December 8, 1941. As I wrote earlier, Rumbula is very close to a major highway, passersby must have known something horrible was occurring.

The bodies of the victims were buried in a mass grave marked by this concrete memorial.

Little Marathon Pundit and I visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum this spring. This video of the December 15, 1941 massacre in Liepāja, Latvia is shown there.

Related posts:

Salaspils concentration camp in Latvia
Sece, Latvia's World War I German cemetery
Two Russian army World War I pics
Lutheran church in Sece, Latvia
Twenty years ago: Latvia's Barricade Days
Riga Doms and Latvia's Barricade Days
Latvia 20 years after independence: Tearing down a Stučka statue
1990 bread line in Riga, Latvia
Potato harvesting in Latvia in the early 1970s
From the other side of the Iron Curtain: Gas mask drill in Latvia
Vintage photo: Janis Ancīts of Latvia
Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad
Latvian President Valdis Zatlers visits Chicago--with exclusive photo
Riga's House of Blackheads

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1 comment:

pathickey said...


This is a very fine reminder of what happens when a society plays God.