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Jewish genocide memorial day marked in Latvia

One of the darkest days in Latvian history is commemorated July 4: Jewish genocide memorial day.

State President Egils Levits, who is himself of partly Jewish heritage, will attend a remembrance event at midday at the site of the former Rīga Great Choral Synagogue, which was burned to the ground with people inside it in one of the most horrific episodes of the Second World War in Latvia.

The Nazi occupation of Latvia brought the atrocities of the Holocaust with it. The first mass murders of Jews began in 1941 with the largest actions taking place in Riga, Daugavpils, and Liepāja, as well as in other smaller towns.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs provided an early reminder of the occasion on social media

Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks, himself a historian, released a short video (with English subtitles) stressing the need to heed the lessons of history.

 

A full account of these horrific events can be read at the website of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia which records:

The first mass murders of Latvian Jews started in July and continued until September. Groups of Jews were ordered to be shot in Riga, Daugavpils and in many smaller towns. Recent research shows that all these actions were organised by the German authorities but usually carried out by Latvian auxiliaries without direct German involvement.

In September, the remaining Jews in Riga were herded into a fenced-in ghetto in the city's Moscow Suburb and forcibly kept there under guard.

From the Riga Ghetto, under the direct supervision of Friedrich Jeckeln, about 25,000 Jews were driven on foot to Rumbula Forest, on the outskirts of Riga, and murdered there in two operations— on 30 November and 8 December 1941. Latvians performed guard duties; Jeckeln's SS men shot the victims."

About 3000 Jews from Liepāja were murdered between 15 and 17 December. This was practically the end of the mass annihilation of approximately 70,000 Latvian Jews.

To see how the Holocaust unfolded in a typical small town away from Rīga, we recommend viewing this short 15-minute documentary, with English subtitles, from LTV outlining the fate of the Jews living in Valdemārpils. We also have this summary of the documentary.

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