One of the darkest days in the history of Latvia is commemorated on July 4: commemorative day of the Jewish genocide.
State President Egils Levits, himself of partly Jewish descent, will attend a commemorative event at noon at the site of Riga’s former Great Choral Synagogue, which was burnt to the ground with people inside in one of the most gruesome episodes of WWII in Latvia.
The Nazi occupation of Latvia resulted in the atrocities of the Holocaust. The first mass killings of Jews began in 1941, with the biggest actions taking place in Riga, Daugavpils and Liepāja, as well as other smaller towns.
Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs recalled the occasion very early on on social media
#Latvia marks a very dark anniversary. Eighty years ago, the Riga Choral Synagogue was reduced to ashes with people locked inside. This marked the start of #Holocaust on the territory of Latvia, tens of thousands of Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators #Never again pic.twitter.com/R3FJHFFh9V
– Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) July 4, 2021
A full account of these horrific events can be read on the website of the Occupation Museum of Latvia which records:
The first mass murders of Latvian Jews began in July and continued until September. Groups of Jews were ordered to be shot in Riga, Daugavpils and in many small towns. Recent research shows that all these actions were organized by the German authorities but generally carried out by Latvian auxiliaries without direct German involvement.
In September, the remaining Jews in Riga were herded into a fenced-in ghetto on the outskirts of Moscow and forcibly kept under surveillance.
From the Riga ghetto, under the direct supervision of Friedrich Jeckeln, approximately 25,000 Jews were led on foot to the Rumbula Forest, on the outskirts of Riga, and were murdered there in two operations, on November 30 and December 8. 1941. The Latvians were on guard; Jeckeln’s SS fired at the victims. “
About 3,000 Liepāja Jews were murdered between December 15 and 17. It was practically the end of the mass annihilation of around 70,000 Latvian Jews.
To see how the Holocaust unfolded in a typical small town far from Riga, we recommend watching this short 15-minute documentary, with English subtitles, from LTV describing the plight of the Jews living in Valdemārpils. We also have this summary of the documentary.
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