Sunday, July 15, 2018

Report on the Deportation of Reich Jews to Riga in December 1941

Author: Jonathan Harrison
On December 26, 1941, Paul Salitter submitted a report on a transport from Düsseldorf to Riga that had taken place between the 11th and 17th of that month. A copy of that report, the original of which is in the Wiener Library, London, can be seen here whilst an English translation is here. Below I analyze its most pertinent contents and compare it to other sources, such as Meurin's report of the transport to Minsk of a month earlier.

The third paragraph informs us that a Jew attempted suicide but was unsuccessful and therefore "realized that he could not avoid sharing the fate of the evacuees." This reveals that Salitter knew that the deportees faced a fate worse than suicide.

The breakdown of the 1,007 passengers by occupation shows that the majority were not of working age (521 were "ohne Beruf" - without vocation). The age breakdown was: 41 aged 1-6 years, 62 aged 6-14, 62 aged 14-18, 408 aged 18-50 and 434 aged over 50. Most of these Jews could not therefore be regarded as suitable for labour deployment in the East. Deporting young children and old people to Latvia in December was genocidal on its face; deaths could be anticipated in such a climate and with inadequate nutrition and medical care.

Salitter was a aware that the Soviet Jews in Latvia have been subjected to genocide. He noted that Riga's initial population of 35,000 Jews had been reduced to only 2,500 male Jews being used for labour in the ghetto. The rest had been shot by the Latvians. He then continued:
The Latvian people are, so far as I could observe, Germanophile and to a large extent speak German. However, it was it many cases discernible from the behaviour of individual personages that they were still loyal to Tsarist Russia. No Latvian, however, wants to have anything to do with the Bolsheviks, for there is scarcely a family among them that did not make a blood sacrifice during the Soviet occupation.  Their hatred is directed towards the Jews in particular. Therefore, from the moment of their liberation up to now, they have participated very extensively in the extermination of these parasites. It seems to them, however - something I was able to notice among Latvian railway personnel in particular - incomprehensible that Germany is bringing Jews to Latvia and not exterminating them in their own country
[Translation from Angrick and Klein, p.203, with minor spelling and grammatical corrections. German text: Das lettische Volk ist, soweit ich beobachten konnte, deutschfreundlich und spricht zum großen Teil deutsch. Vielfach war aber auch aus dem Verhalten von Einzelpersönlichkeiten erkennbar, dass sie dem zaristischen Russland immer noch in Treue ergeben sind. Von den Bolschewisten will jedoch kein Lette etwas wissen, da es selten eine Familie gibt, die während der Besetzung durch die Sowjets ohne Blutopfer davongekommen ist. Ihr Hass gilt insbesondere den Juden. Sie haben sich daher vom Zeitpunkt der Befreiung bis jetzt auch sehr ausgiebig an der Ausrottung dieser Parasiten beteiligt. Es erscheint ihnen aber, was ich insbesondere beim lettischen Eisenbahnpersonal feststellen konnte, unverständlich, weshalb Deutschland die Juden nach Lettland bringt und sie nicht im eigenen Lande ausrottete.]
When compared to the Meurin document, Salitter was more explicit and detailed about extermination, which he assumed to be a shared fact among Latvians, especially railway workers. This is likely to have been because Salitter was reporting a month later, when killing policies were more advanced and knowledge had spread farther. However, as with Meurin, the treatment of Jews along the route makes it clear that they were not meant to survive very long. Salitter and Meurin also shared an assumption that the Baltic people would wish to exterminate Jews as retribution for the crimes committed by the Soviets. They also made no distinction between the worth of Reich and Soviet Jews, who were deemed to be equally culpable for Soviet crimes.

An important difference between Salitter and Meurin is that Salitter was reporting after several thousand deported Reich Jews had already been shot. The first set were shot in Kaunas [Kovno] and their killings were reported in the second Jäger Report:
25.11.41 Kauen-F.IX 1,159 Jews, 1,600 Jewesses, 175 Jewish children (resettlers from Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt am Main) 2,934 
29.11.41 Kauen-F.IX 693 Jews, 1,155 Jewesses, 152 Jewish children (resettlers from Vienna and Breslau) 2,000 
[Gesamtaufstellung der im Bereich des E.K. 3 bis zum 1.Dez.1941 durchgeführten Exekutionen [second Jäger report], 1.12.41, Blatt 5, YVA O.53/3, pp.88-96, here p.92; English translation here].
The killing of approximately one thousand Reich Jews at Rumbula, Riga on November 30th and December 1st, 1941, was included in the total of 27,800 Jews shot at the site reported by Stahlecker here. Stahlecker reported the same number of Latvian Jewish survivors (2,500) as Salitter, and also revealed knowledge of the parallel extermination in White Ruthenia (White Russia):
In Minsk itself - exclusive of Reich [Jews] - there are about 1,800 Jews living, whose shooting must be postponed in consideration of their being used as labour.
The Commander in White Russia is instructed to liquidate the Jewish question as soon as possible, despite the difficult situation. However a period of about 2 months is still required - according to the weather. 
Salitter's knowledge that the Latvian Jewish population had been reduced to 2,500 also mirrors that included in the monthly Activity and Situation Report Nr. 9 (Tätigkeits- und Lagebericht Nr. 9), which can be found at YVA O.53/3, pp.178-179:
Now as ever the attitude of the Jews is unequivocally anti-German and criminal. It is attempted to purge the Ostland as completely as possible of Jews. Executions by shooting are carried out everywhere in such a manner as not to attract public attention. The public and even the remaining Jews are mostly of the opinion that the Jews have only been transferred to a different domicile.

Estonia is already free of Jews.

In Latvia the number of 29,500 Jews remaining in Riga was reduced to 2,500. Nine hundred sixty-two Jews still living in Dvinsk are urgently needed as workers.

In Lithuania the country and the smaller towns have been completely purged of Jews. Aside from basic considerations this was particularly urgent because Communist elements, especially terror groups and circles of the Polish resistance movement were establishing connections with the Jews. The Jews, on the other hand, often tried to arouse anti-German feeling among Lithuanian circles by themselves willing to participate in the reconstruction.

The Jews in Zagare were particularly active. There, 50 Jews escaped from the Ghetto but could be caught again and shot. During the shooting of all Jews in Zagare, organized as a result of the above mentioned incident, the Jews attacked the guards while shouting "Long live Stalin" and "Down with Hitler". Resistance was crushed immediately. In Lithuania there are still 15000 Jews in Kaunas [Kovno] 4500 in Shavli, and an additional 15000 in Vilna who are also needed as workers. In White Ruthenia the purge of Jews is under way. The number of Jews in the part up to now handed over to the civil administration amounts to 139,000. In the meantime, 33,210 Jews were shot by the special unit of the Security Police and the Security Service
[3876-PS, English translation here].
The extermination of Jews was therefore being carried out systematically across the Ostland and knowledge of this policy was shared by German and native perpetrators in the Baltic States and White Russia (White Ruthenia). No distinction between Soviet and Reich Jews was being made locally, even though labour needs and domestic political pressures in the Reich had delayed the execution of the Reich Jews left alive after the shootings at Kaunas and Rumbula.

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