The book “The Holocaust in Latvia” by Ezergailis provides comprehensive details of events in Latvia and Lohse’s actions at precisely that time which are incompatible with the Wetzel draft, particularly if it is interpreted as an announcement of extermination. In the section headed “The Reich Jews in Latvia”, beginning p. 352, Ezergailis writes:
The gate of Riga ghetto was not fully secured, the barbed wire not yet strung around the periphery, when Dr. Rudolf Lange, on October 24, took the lead in a conversation that unsettled Reichskommissar Lohse and Generalkommissar Drechsler. The conversation touched on the very core of the August 18 agreement between the SD and the Ostland administration on the Jewish question. The ambiguity of the agreement, which never was of much concern for the SD, began to turn against Lohse. Lange, who was the SD point man, informed the civilians that Heydrich had ordered Riga to receive shipments of Jews from the Reich and that the first transport was scheduled for November 10. This was the first notice that the Riga civilian government had received about the plans. Drechsler expressed regret that the decision was being presented to him as an accomplished fact and that no prior conversations had taken place, but the meeting progressed in quiet tones. Lohse supported Drechsler’s objection and noted that the planned activities had far-reaching political significance and that they must be discussed with him. Lohse said that the next morning, October 25, he was going to be in touch with Berlin to clarify the matter. On the question of building new barracks (that turned out to be the Salaspils camp) as housing for the incoming Jews, Lange said:
…that up to now only some trees have been felled to make a road and a construction shack has been raised. Significant work has not been invested in the construction of the camp, so that other arrangements still could be made without damage.
[Source: YIVO Archives Occ E3-30]
The civilians were on a slippery slope and the slide continued. They were trying to maintain an untenable position: deprive the Jews of everything but life, and still win an argument with the SD. On November 8, less than two weeks after the closing of the ghetto and the conversation in Lohse’s office, Lange sent a message to Lohse. His letter searched for no compromises or any agreement with the Reichskommissar, as Lohse had hoped in the previous meeting; it was merely informative, and, in fact, confrontational. The Reichskommissar was told that in the near future 25,000 Jews would be shipped to Riga:
Commander of the Security Police and the SD
To: Reichskommissar of the Ostland
Re: Jewish transports from the Reich to the Ostland.
As per information received from the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, 50,000 Jews will shipped to the East.
As reported, 25,000 will be shipped to Riga and 25,000 to Belorussia. The transports come from all the larger cities of the Reich and the Protectorate. The first contingent of 1,000 Jews will arrive in Minsk on November 10, 1941. Until the 16th of December 1941, the transports will arrive at the rate of one every two days. The remaining transports will be sent during the time from January 10th to January 20th, 1942.
Transports to Riga will begin on November 17, 1941, with the first contingent arriving here on the 19th. Until December 17 there will be further contingents of 1000 Jews each, arriving every second day. The remaining transports will be sent between January 11 and 29, 1942.
There are plans to send the first five transports meant for Riga to the ghetto in Kaunas instead. If it is technically possible to do this with the first five, or with later ones, has not been decided definitely. I will let you know about it.
Barracks are being built near Salaspils as fast as possible. Since there are difficulties in obtaining materials and also a lack of experts, the barracks will not be finished when the first contingent arrives. It is therefore planned to house them in the troop barracks in Jumpravmuiza [Jungfernhof], to the right of the Riga-Daugavpils Road, between Riga and Salaspils.
The Commissar of the area Riga-Land has agreed. His staff-leader, party member Bruhn, went to see the places himself.
As regards food for the Jews, arrangements have been made with the office of the Generalkommissar and with the farm administration.
[Source: YIVO Archives Occ E3-31, translation by Gertrude Schneider]
One day later, on November 9, Friedrich Trampedach, Lohse’s political adviser, wired to Rosenberg’s ministry: “Urgent, please, stop the trnasports, the Jewish camps must be moved further east” [Source: YIVO Archives Occ E3-32].
The housing for the incoming Reich Jews, as the letters indicate, was a big problem in November 1941, and similar complaints were also arriving in Berlin from Minsk. The fuss about the housing question that the dispute has left in the archives also helps us to unravel two historiographical problems that have arisen in the memoirs and history books about the transports of Reich Jews. From Lange’s letter it ensues that there was no room to spare for any incoming Jews in Latvia, certainly not in the quantities anticipated. The Riga ghetto was full of Riga Jews, the Salaspils camp was not ready, and because of the shortage of materials, progress was slow. The first and highly emotional question was whether the Riga Jews were killed to free housing for the Reich Jews? The second has been whether the KGB “historians” were correct in asserting that 240,000 or more Reich Jews were sent to Latvia”.
Before this passage, Ezergailis gives extensive details about the establishment of the Riga ghetto. The transfer of population had begun as early as the middle of August, and the fence was erected around 10 October. The deadline for Jews to transfer to the ghetto was 25 October, ie the same date as the Wetzel draft.
On 4 December, Leibbrandt of the Reichsministerium fuer die besetzten Ostgebiete in Berlin wrote to Lohse, informing him that the plan to build a Jewish camp near Riga had been changed to Pskov.
It is clear that the above course of events is incompatible with the Wetzel draft. If Lohse had already been discussing with Wetzel the possibility of setting up a gassing installation in Riga to do away with surplus Jews (ie in his report of 4 October, Wetzel’s letter to him of 18 October), why was he so concerned when Lange revealed to him on 24 October, the day before the draft, the plan to send Reich Jews to Riga? Why was he so concerned with the housing problem? Why did Trampedach on 9 November ask Rosenberg’s ministry to stop the transports?
If Lohse knew that moves were underway to set up a gassing facility, he would not have been so concerned. He would have known that the surplus Jews would be killed, and he would not have a problem with overcrowding.
Lohse’s reaction on 24 October to Lange’s announcement of the impending arrival of the Reich Jews indicates that he did not have the faintest notion of killing off the surplus Jews by gassing or any other means. He obviously thought that he was going to be lumbered with the Jews in the Riga ghetto and the incoming Reich Jews for the foreseeable future. That is why he objected.
The reaction to Lange’s letter of 8 November further indicates that Lohse and his administration had not heard anything about plans to kill surplus Jews, otherwise he would not have asked for the transports to be stopped and the camps to be moved further east. This casts doubt on the Wetzel draft – obviously it was never sent.
Furthermore, if Wetzel was telling Lohse about gassing plans to relieve the pressure of population, why did not Lange also inform Lohse about those plans? If Wetzel knew about them, and was informing Lohse, there would have been no restraints on Lange confirming that information. If Lange had done so, it would have removed the cause of contention between himself and Lohse.
On another matter, it may well be that the barracks referred to by Lange are the “Unterkuenfte” referred to in the Wetzel draft.
Ezergailis also provides the following table of transports of Reich Jews to Latvia (p. 355):
Day of Departure.......Number of.......City of...........Destination
27 November 1941.....1000..............Berlin.................Rumbula Forest (massacred 30/11)
29 November..............714..............Nuernberg..........Jumpravmuiza (Jungfernhof, a camp)
7 December..............1000..............Koeln..................Riga Ghetto
9 December................991..............Kassel................Riga Ghetto
11 December............1007..............Duesseldorf.........Riga Ghetto
12 December............1000..............Bielefeld..............Riga Ghetto
15 December............1001..............Hannover............Riga Ghetto
9 January 1942.........1000..............Theresienstadt.....Riga Ghetto
13 January...............1037..............Berlin..................Riga Ghetto
15 January...............1000..............Theresienstadt.....Riga Ghetto and Salaspils (a camp)
19 January...............1006..............Berlin..................Riga Ghetto
21 January...............1000..............Leipzig................Riga Ghetto
25 January...............1051..............Berlin..................Riga Ghetto
26 January ..............1200...............Wien...................Riga Ghetto
27 January..............1000...............Dortmund............Riga Ghetto
6 February..............1000...............Wien...................Riga Ghetto and Rumbula (partial massacre?)
This table shows that only the first transport, which arrived on the morning of 30 November, was subjected to massacre at Rumbula Forest, since it arrived just as the massacre of the Riga Jews was about to commence. The massacre appears to have been a mistake by HSSPF Jeckeln. This transport was the subject of Himmler’s famous telephone message of 30 November to Heydrich, ordering that it not be exterminated; unfortunately, the order came too late.
Some of the last transport may also have been massacred at Rumbula, but the circumstances are not clear.
All the remaining transports were taken into the Riga Ghetto or to camps. That fact is incompatible with a previously agreed plan to gas the unemployable Reich Jews.
There had been two earlier massacres of Reich Jews at Fort IX at Kovno (Kaunas). The first five transports from the Reich had been sent to Kovno instead of Riga, as foreseen in Lange’s letter of 8 November. On 25 November, and again on 28 November, the Reich Jews who had arrived at Kovno were taken to Fort IX and shot there by EK 3.
In my opinion, these two massacres were not part of a plan, but were excesses of zeal by the commanders of EK 3, Karl Jaeger and Joachim Hamann, both quasi-criminal types. Details on these two are given in the book “Die Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges” by Krausnick and Wilhelm. Jaeger had many convictions for drunken driving, while Hamann, a teen-aged thug, had been thrown out of the paratroops for unnamed reasons, most probably brutalisation of men under his command.
Jaeger and Hamann both had pasts to live down and a strong motivation to impress their superiors. They may also have been influenced by the alacrity with which Lithuanians joined in the massacres of Jews, even without German participation. Certainly EK 3 killed more Jews, or claimed to have killed more, than any other unit of the Einsatzgruppen.
A possible course of events is:
25 November.......................First massacre of Reich Jews in Kovno
27 November.......................First transport to Riga of Reich Jews leaves Berlin
28 November.......................Second massacre of Reich Jews in Kovno
30 November.......................0800: Transport from Berlin arrives Skirotava Station.
..........................................The Jews are taken to Rumbula and shot en masse.
At some stage Himmler learns of the massacres at Kovno, and telephones Heydrich to bring his men under control; the task of the Einsatzgruppen is to destroy dangerous Bolsheviks, including Bolshevik Jews, not to kill deported German Jews, who were to be housed in camps.
An alternative possibility is that Himmler and/or Heydrich had indeed ordered the massacres at Kovno and Riga, and there had been a sudden, permanent, change of plan. What could have brought about such a plan is unknown.
Since all the discussions between the police and the civilian authorities had been predicated on making room for the incoming Reich Jews, and housing and feeding them, and all the transports to Riga after the first one were taken into the ghetto or camps, the most reasonable interpretation of the evidence is that German Government policy was not to kill the deported Reich Jews but to accommodate them in ghettos (if necessary, killing local Jews to make way for them), and that the two massacres at Kovno and the one at Riga were local aberrations, essentially blunders by the local police who had got their blood up.
Ezergailis provides further information on the fate of the Reich Jews in Latvia (p. 356 onwards).
After Rumbula the Latvian Jewish population was stable. In comparison to the Latvian Jews, from the Nazi point of view the Reich Jews were an inefficient lot: there were many children, elderly, and feeble people incapable of work. The Reich Jews in general came from business and professional classes, and were less used to manual work than were the Latvian Jews, among whom there were many craftsmen. The great majority of the Reich Jews were of German origin, but among the shipments there were three transports from Austria and two from Theresienstadt, which included many Jews from Czechoslovakia. The fate of the Reich Jews in the Baltic was terrible, but in comparison to those who were sent to Auschwitz, as a whole they fared much better. In August and September 1944, when the Jews were sent back to Germany, about one-third of them were still alive. The Nazi logic for sending the Reich Jews to the Baltic is baffling. There could only have been one reason for them being sent there: to kill them. The first six transports, five to Kaunas and one to Riga, were killed upon arrival or soon after. The something happened – all of a sudden the killing stopped. It appeared that Jeckeln was taking a breather, or Berlin may have reconsidered its options. Other reasons for the slowdown in killings may have been Lohse’s protests (during early December he was in Berlin), the demand for labor, a reconsideration of the killing strategy – the death camps were opening up in Poland – the high expense of transporting Jews to the Baltic. The slowdown of the killings in Latvia in general coincided with the German debacle at Moscow. The longer the postponement lasted, the more chances opened up for the Reich Jews. Since the Riga Jews had been killed, there was no lack of demand for Jewish labor; if nothing else, there was always a need for people to shovel snow.
Note: Ezergailis’ commitment to intentionalism and the concept of Hitler’s fundamental orders causes him to get tied up in all sorts of knots. Because of it, he offers a variety of reasons why the killing suddenly stopped, and ignores the one suggested by all the evidence; it was contrary to the German Government plan for the Reich Jews, it was carried out by some local hotheads, and was promptly stopped by Himmler before it went too far.
Ezergailis continues (p. 357):
November 29, 1941: On the night before the first Jeckeln action at Rumbula, the first shipment from Berlin arrived at Skirotava station. Except for some men who were sent the three kilometers to Jumpravmuiza, the whole transport of Jews was killed in Rumbula at 8:00 AM, while the Riga Jews were still on the way there.
December 1 to 8. Four shipments, 3,747 people in all, from Nuernberg, Stuttgart, Vienna and Hamburg, arrived in Latvia and were quartered in Jumpravmuiza. The housing there was insufficient for the numbers, and thus the death rate was very high. Many died of malnutrition and exposure to the elements, and many of the Jumpravmuiza Jews were killed in Bikernieki by Arajs’ men. The major early losses among the Reich Jews occurred principally among those settled in Jumpravmuiza. Some of the early arrivals also ended up doing construction work in the Salaspils camp.
December 10. 1,000 Cologne Jews were the first Reich group to be quartered in the ghetto. Without telling Oberbuergermeister Wittrock of their intention to reoccupy the ghetto, the SD took full charge of the situation. Kurt Krause and Max Gymich received the group in Skirotava station. Krause announced himself as the commandant of the ghetto. A struggle ensued between the city administration and the SD over the control of the ghetto and Jewish property within it. According to Schneider [= Gertrude Schneider: deported to Riga as a young girl, she survived and later recorded her experiences in the book “Journey into Terror”] Krause intentionally set up a feud between the Riga and the Reich Jews. In a public address, Krause told the Cologne Jews upon their arrival that they had been sent to Riga for labor to help the war effort and implied that they were a preferred replacement for the Riga Jews because they spoke German. The camps of the German and Latvian Jews remained separated by barbed wire. The Reich Jews had their own council of elders and ghetto police.
December 14, 1941 – February 10, 1942. During this period fourteen groups of Reich Jews arrived in the ghetto. That terminated the shipments of Jews to Riga; the Heydrich plan that Lange wrote about in November 1941 was fulfilled. Except for one major upset on February 5, when about 1,500 older Jews from Berlin and Vienna were taken off to be killed, the ghetto was peaceful. The life of the Reich ghetto began to take shape. Although on a certain level the Reich ghetto operated as a unit, some of the most important activities, even schooling, took place within separate groups organized by city of origin: Vienna, Dortmund, Berlin, Prague, Hannover, Bielefeld, Duesseldorf, Kassel, Cologne, Leipzig and Hamburg. For each group the Germans selected separate policemen, representatives, and overseers of labor details. Rations were also distributed according to groups. The Reich Jews began to germanize the Latvian street names: Ludzas iela became Leipziger Strasse; Viljanu: Bielefelder; Liksnas: Prager; Maza Kalnu: Berliner; and Virsaisu: Koelner Strasse.
During this period the Salaspils camp was being built and numerous newcomers, mostly young men from the ghetto and Jumpravmuiza, were used on the project. The conditions during the building stage were devastating, and the death rate from cold and malnutrition was high.
Here Ezergailis has got it right. The Heydrich plan for the Reich Jews was to settle 25,000 of them in the Riga ghetto and nearby camps; it was not a plan for extermination. The selecting out and killing of a minority of older Jews was probably a reaction to the famine conditions due to the destruction of the 1941 Russian harvest, as a result of which there was not enough food for everyone. Ghettos all over the occupied territories were being downsized, and the Reich Jews were not spared, particularly as they were in the main unproductive, with an abnormally high proportion of older people. This represented a change from the earlier situation, where Latvian Jews were sacrificed to make room for Reich Jews.
March 15. The Duenamuende Action. The commander of the ghetto ordered each group to select sixty to one hundred and twenty older people for transfer to Duenamuende, Daugavgriva, a city near the delta of the Daugava. Since it had many old people, the Berlin group were told to supply 600. A similar action had taken place on March 13 and 14 in Jumpravmuiza, organized by SS-Obersturmfuehrer Gerhard Maywald. The Germans claimed that the Jews were needed for work in a fish-canning factory in Duenamuende, where the work was easier and more suitable for old people. Instead of to Duenamuende, the people were take to Bikernieki forest. The people in the ghetto noticed the fast turn-around time of the trucks and began to suspect the promises. In the killing, Jeckeln’s Sardinenpackung was used, and among the killers was the Arajs commando. All told, the ghetto lost about 1,900 people and Jumpravmuiza 1,840. The pit-diggers were a group of thirty-eight Jews who were kept in the Central prison, separated from the ghetto.
After Duenamuende the Reich Jewish population in Latvia was reduced to about 11,060: there were 9,100 in the ghetto; 1,550 in Salaspils, and 450 in Jumpravmuiza. By February 1943, according to Latvian census keepers, the numbers seem to have reduced even more, to about 8,060. By mid-1942 there had been no precipitous losses among the Latvian Jews: their total numbers in Riga, Daugavpils, and Liepaja should have been about the same as in late December 1941, in the range of 5,500 to 6,500. The exact number of Jews for 1942 is difficult to ascertain because of the German practice of Kasernierung – moving Jews and quartering them at their labor locations.
Comment: The reasons for the liquidation of some 3,740 older Reich Jews were presumably the same as for the smaller liquidation on 5 February. The comment about the effect of Kasernierung on the calculation of the number of surviving Reich Jews is crucial; it raises the possibility that numbers were consistently under-reported.
Ezergailis goes on to describe the crushing in October 1942 of attempted resistance in the Latvian ghetto.
Lange thereafter placed the Latvian ghetto under a strict 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM curfew. The Latvian ghetto lost its autonomy, and later its police and administration were subordinated to those of the “tamer” Reich Jews. The incident further poisoned the relations between Latvian and Reich Jews, for the former suspected, although there was no hard evidence, that the latter had betrayed the resistance fighters to the SD.
Fall 1943. The Transfer to Mezaparks. According to Gertrude Schneider, life in the ghetto was harsh, but in comparison with the other ghettos of Eastern Europe, relatively comfortable and safe. There were even backyard gardens. By 1943 an intricate social life had developed in the ghetto; it included schooling, music, singing, dancing, sports and courtship. If the Latvian and Reich old folks were feuding amongst themselves, the youngsters did not. By early 1943 the news from the front was good, and one could begin to hope to survive. The ghetto was not merely a Nazi institution: the Jewish family and vestiges of community were still preserved. The ghetto did not prevent the reproduction of Jews (although in the Riga ghetto new-born babies were poisoned as a rule) and the way rules were enforced did not utterly exclude the possibility of “miscegenation” with Gentiles. In the spring of 1943 the construction of a new labor camp was begun in the Riga suburb of Mezaparks. The camp was intended to house about 2,000 people, but also to serve as a center where all the Jews in Latvia would be registered. The camp would provide temporary quarters for those Jews between jobs. Mezaparks served as a home camp for various Kasernierung stations, where Jews lived and slept near the job site or in satellite camps. Along with the Riga ghetto, the ghettos of Daugavpils and Liepaja were also ended, and most of the Jews sent to Mezaparks.
The first transport on foot took place in July 1943. Two other transports on foot followed, but thereafter the inmates were taken by truck. By August 21, 1943, 7,874 ghetto inhabitants had been sent to Mezaparks.
November 2. The Transport to Auschwitz. By the end of October most of the inmates of the ghetto had been transferred to Mezaparks; only some labor details, old people, children, and supporting personnel remained in the ghetto. On November 2 all older people, children under ten, teachers, the sick, and those functionaries who did not want to be separated from the children were removed from the ghetto and transported to Auschwitz. Max Gymich led a hundred-man SS guard that surrounded the ghetto. The numbers evacuated are disputed, but most observers put them at more than 2,000.
The categories sent to Auschwitz suggest that they could have been sent there for extermination, while the employable Jews were retained at worksites in Latvia. However, by late 1943, the German concentration camp administration was trying to keep as many inmates alive as possible, for the purpose of labour exploitation, so the extermination of this group of 2000 cannot be assumed a priori.
Furthermore, if the German intention was extermination of unemployables, why did they send them all the way to Auschwitz? Why did they not simply take them into the forest and shoot them, as they had done with similar groups earlier?
Closing of the Ghetto. As the ghetto was closing in November 1943, a small detail of 120 Jews was pulled in from a variety of Kasernierung stations and quartered in a building of the ghetto. Their purpose was to clean up the area and salvage valuable goods to be sent to Germany. Their life then, in comparison to that of the others, was an easy one. By July 1944 only about sixty Jews remained in the ghetto, and when they were sent to Mezaparks the ghetto was closed for good.
Comment: One of the most noteworthy things about the closure of the Riga Ghetto is that it was not accompanied by massacres.
Ezergailis then gives some details of the process of exhuming and burning the corpses buried in the Rumbula and Bikernieki forests. When the wind blew from the east, the stench hung over Riga.
Altogether, in 1943 the Jews worked at about 465 sites. The largest workforce was at the Dundaga camp, where in 1944 as many as 6,000 Jews may have been employed. Other camps were at Salaspils, where by the end of 1943 only a handful of Jews remained; Jumpravmuiza, Strazdu muiza, and Spilve. Among the live-in locations were Suzumuiza, Army Motor Park (HKP), the Army Apparel Center in Milgravis, the Troop Supply Camp (TWL), the Reich railroad, Allgemeine Elektrizitaets-Gesellschaft (AEG), and numerous peat bog sites.
The controls, although very strict in Mezaparks itself, varied from very strict to lax – in some locations the Jews could leave the encampments and visit the local farmers. In general Jews preferred the live-in locations, although the Dundaga camp, especially during the winter of 1943 to 1944, was almost a Vernichtung durch Arbeit camp. One of the most favoured sites was Lenta in Pardaugava.
Ezergailis goes on to give details of the concentration camps in Latvia (p.363 on).
On June 21, 1943, Himmler issued orders to dissolve all ghettos. The practical consequence of the order was that the Jews were completely taken over by the SD, even for assignments of labor duties. By the end of July, about 5,000 Riga Jews had alreadt been reassigned to the Mezaparks system. The final move came on November 2. The capacity of Mezaparks itself was only about 2,000 inmates, but the new system was not intended to have all of the Jews housed in the camp; Mezaparks served rather as a center of registration, where the prisoners signed in and then were reassigned to other satellite camps or sleep-in worksites. Frequently the jews were directly reassigned from one worksite to the other without passing through Mezaparks itself. No document has been found that shows the comings and goings, the whole flow of prisoners into and out of Riga. Mezaparks was an SD-run facility and most likely the documents were destroyed with the dismantling of the camp in September 1944. By entering Mezaparks, the Jews entered the SS archipelago of camps, and thus it becomes difficult to follow the shipments into and out of Latvia. Some Jews from Vilnius and Czechoslovakia arrived in Mezaparks during late 1943. In April 1944, a shipment of more than 500 Hungarian Jewish women arrived, which was perhaps the largest incoming transport since February 1942. The centralized Jewish camps in Latvia became part of the whole SD network, and there was movement between the camps. The workstations for Jews registered in Mezaparks were not limited to Latvia alone. They could be sent to Estonia, Lithuania, or even Auschwitz without much fuss or notice. Thousands of Riga Jews, for example, were sent to Panevezys airfield in Lithuania, never again to return to Riga.
In August 1944 the Jews from the satellite camps and live-in stations near Riga were returned to Mezaparks, and from there the majority were sent by ship to Germany – some went directly from Riga, others through Liepaja. In Latvia during 1944 there were at least about 12,000 of the Latvian and the original Reich Jews alive. And during 1944, some Jews from Vilnius, Czechoslovakia, and Germany arrived in Latvia. To Joseph Katz, who had spent the spring and summer in Spilve, Mezaparks looked quite different from the way it had on the day of his first arrival:
Flowers have been planted around the barracks, vegetables are growing between the blocks, and at the entrance to the camp there is a large tomato field. All this gives the camp a very pleasant appearance, but the initiated Know that every tomato vine and every head of cabbage was planted with the blood and the sweat of the Jews.
The shipments to Germany left on August 6 and September 25 and 29. The final shipment took place at the beginning of October. Some were sent to Stutthof, others to Hamburg, and still others to Liepaja. The Red Army entered Riga on October 13”.
Ezergailis describes the Salaspils, Jumpravmuiza (Jungfernhof) and Dundaga camps:
The purposes for building the Salaspils camp are unclear. Initially, in 1941, according to some statements by Lange, it was a rush-project built to house the Reich Jews, but as soon as the camp was finished, about September 1942, it was turned over to quarter Gentiles, mostly Latvian and Slavic political prisoners…………………….”
It was mainly Reich Jews who built the camp. When the first Jews arrived in Salaspils there were no finished barracks there, just a rough road and a clearing in the woods. Completed, the camp comprised about forty-four structures, among them numerous service buildings and workshop”…………
Jumpravmuiza was a large, neglected baronial estate near the Daugava River and near the Skirotava railroad station. It had several large barns, stables, and service buildings. During the 1940-41 Soviet occupation there had been plans to build an airfield on its grounds. During the German occupation the SD had proposed to turn the estate back to farming, using Jewish labor. It would be a nucleus for Germanic colonists, an example of the New Europe. It was not suitable for quartering thousands of people – not in the middle of winter in sub-zero weather. Bunks were constructed and placed within the barns and sheds. The Jews were employed in a variety of jobs, fixing up the estate, quarrying stone near the Daugava, and working in the craft shops in the vicinity of the estate…………………..
The number of victims during the winter of 1941 to 1942 was very high. On the average three people a day died. It is estimated that in the Duenamuende action of March 1942 as many as 2,000 people were killed in Bikernieki forest. By 1943 there were only about 450 prisoners left.”
“Dundaga, in the northern part of Kurzeme, in mid-1943 became a major employer of Jews. The SS decided to establish Sea-Camp Dundaga (Seelager Dondongen)………
According to Vestermanis, in the summer of 1943 about 5,000 Jews from Riga were delivered to Dundaga I. In November of 1943 a second camp, Dundaga II, was established………..If Vestermanis is correct, about 6,000 prisoners were in the two Dundaga camps………….According to Shpungin a third complex was added in May 1944, in which 5,000 Hungarian women from Auschwitz were housed.
The purpose of the Dundaga project was to create a germanizing colony in Latvia, to which eventually colonists from Germanic countries would be brought. During the was a variety of German SS units were stationed there. In June 1944, after the Soviet breakthrough in Jelgava, the project was abandoned. The Jews were driven to Liepaja for transport to Stutthof and other locations in Germany. The abandonment of the project gave an opportunity for about 300 Jews, among them Vestermanis, to escape and join the partisans in the Kurzeme forests. Life in the Dundaga plywood tents during the winter of 1943 to 1944 was terribly harsh. The death rate was very high (ten to twenty daily, according to Bunzl’s testimony), but it is not quite correct to call it, as do Joseph Berman and Abraham Shpungin, an extermination camp. It was more like a ‘destruction by labor’ camp.
Other camps or workstations where Jews lived and worked were the Balasta Dambis cement factory, Milgravis, Spilve, Suzumuiza, and numerous military and peat bog locations. Suzumuiza was an old estate the SD had taken over. In part it was a rest area for the SD, in part a training site. Dogs and horses were kept on the estate.
Note Ezergailis’ comment about Dondangen; some of its survivors called it an extermination camp, although no extermination in the orthodox sense was carried out there. That may indicate that there was a general tendency of survivors to apply the epithet “extermination camp” to any camp where death rates were high, even ordinary labour camps.
Finally, one more important comment by Ezergailis. On page 149, he writes:
The gas-vans in Latvia only arrived in December 1941, after most of the killing was finished, and it is not known that they were ever used.