Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Baltic Holocaust

A Jew being dragged away by Latvian soldiers in the Riga ghetto in Latvia / Riga, during the Holocaust

At noon on 4 July 1941, dozens of Jewish families were driven into the Greise Hor School, Riga’s biggest synagogue. Approximately 300 Lithuanian-Jewish refugees had also taken refuge in the cellars of the synagogue. Latvian Nazis locked the doors and set the building on fire. Hundreds of Jews were burned alive. A similar atrocity took place at Riga’s Old Jewish Cemetery… The percentage of Latvian Jews who survived the Holocaust is lower than anywhere else in Europe: 1.9 per cent.German official reports characterized the Latvian farmers’ hatred of the Jews as ‘monstrous’. They had ‘already done a great deal of the dirty work’ before the Germans could intervene … Thank God Riga’s memory is short, for otherwise it would be unbearable … The catalogue from the Museum of Occupation correctly mentions the flowers with which the German ‘liberators’ were welcomed by the Latvians in 1941 … There is one issue, though, that the catalogue barely touches on: the zealous support the Germans received in Latvia and Lithuania for their persecution of the Jews... During the Second World War 70,000 Jews were murdered in Latvia, 30,000 of them by summer 1941. In Lithuania, almost all of the country’s 200,000 Jews were killed.

Geert Mak [In Europe, 2004]

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