The Jews of Latvia

Documents obtained and donated by Paul Berkay and transcribed by Sherri Goldberg and Margaret Kannensohn


Alcoholism Jewish Religious Communities
Anti-Semitism, History of Functionaries
Birth Rate Judiciary, The
Citizenship Languages
Civil Service Marriage
Commerce Medical Practitioners
Criminality Minority Rights
Discrimination, Extra-Legal Mortality
Divorce Occupational Structure
Education Population
Employment Press, The
Family Life Reconstruction Agencies
Government, Attitude of Taxes
Departments of Jewish Affairs Trade Unions
Groups-in-Exile Underground Movement
Health Services United States, Attitude toward
Hospitals Wages
Housing War, Attitude toward
Immovable Property, Appropriation of Welfare Institutions


According to the last official census (1935), there were 93,479 Jews in the country, out of a general population of 1,950,502 (4.79%). In 1939, the estimated Jewish population was about 95,000; the general population was estimated at 1,990,700 (Latvia in 1939-1942, Washington, D. C., 1942, p.29).

There was in Latvia practically no difference between the number of Israelites (adherents of the Mosaic faith) and Jews in the ethnic (nationality) sense. According to the census of 1935, these two groups in the five administrative districts into which the country was divided were tabulated as follows (the capital city of Riga, though geographically in Vidzeme, was considered a separate administrative unit):

Jews by nationality Of Mosaic faith Percentage of Jews in Latvia Percentage of Jews in relation to the general population
Riga 43,672 43,558 46.72 11.34
Vidzeme 2,458 2,460 2.63 0.60
Kurzeme 12,012 12,002 12.85 4.11
Zemgale 7,363 7,382 7.88 2.46
Latgale 27,974 28,004 29.92 4.93
Latvia 93,479 93,406 100.00 4.79

(Maldups, ed., Latvija Skaitlos, Riga, 1938, pp. 67, 68, 69, 71.)

After the First World War, Latvia emerged as an independent state out of several components, each with a different historic heritage. The city of Riga, though outside the Jewish Pale in Russia, contained a number of "indigenous" Jews and another group of "tolerated" ones who had settled to the districts of Kurzeme and Zemgale. Vidzeme was outside the Pale and even under subsequent Latvian rule never attracted a large portion of the Jewish population. Latgale, on the other hand, belonged to the Pale (province of Vitebsk) and held a comparatively dense Jewish population.

These pre-First World War conditions are still reflected in the returns of the census of 1935, though it should be stressed that the general trend of Jewish population movements during the twenty years of Latvian independence was toward concentration in the capital of Riga. In 1920, 24,863 out of 79,368 Jews lived in Riga; in 1930, 42,328 out of 94,588; in 1935, 43,672 out of 93,479.

In 1935 a total of 86,555 Jews lived in urban settlements in Latvia, and only 6,924 in rural settlements. In the nine largest cities and towns of the country, the figures for the total population and for the number of Jews were as follows:


C i t y

T o t a l Absolute Percentage
Riga 385,063 43,672 11.3

Daugavpils (Dvinsk, Dunaburg)

45,160 11,116 24.6

Liepaja (Libava, Libau)

57,098 7,364 12.9

Rezekne (Ryezhitsa, Rositton)

13,139 3,338 25.4

Jelgava (Mitava, Mitau)

34,099 2,043 6.0

Ludza (Lyutsin, Ludsin)

5,546 1,522 27.4

Kraslava (Krislavka, Kraslava)

4,276 1,445 33.9

Ventspils (Vindava, Windav)

15,671 1,246 7.9

Krustpils (Kreytsburg, Kreuzburg)

3,658 1,041 28.4

(Yidishe Ekonomik, published by the Yivo, I, 1937, p. 195: from IV ieme Recensement de la population en Lettonie, Riga, 1936/37)

The population of Latvia in 1935 was divided as follows according to nationality:





1,472,612 75.50


206,499 10.59


93,479 4.79


62,144 3.19


48,949 2.51

White Russians

26,867 1.38


22,913 1.17


7,014 0.36


8,946 0.46


1,079 0.05


1,950,502 100.00

Jewish Religious Communities

The Latvian constitution adopted in the early 1920’s established only the equality of all citizens before the law without specifying details. When admitted into the League of Nations, Latvia pledged fair treatment of her minorities and lived up to her obligations. Religious freedom never constituted a problem, either under the democratic rule or under the authoritarian regime established on May 15, 1934; as a matter of fact the dictatorship even played up religious tolerance and gave pronounced support to the Jewish Orthodox party, the Agudath Israel.

Nevertheless, no Jewish religious community (Kehillah) was established in Latvia. In Riga there was an institution known as the Jewish Kehillah (located at Jekaba Iela 8), which registered births, marriages and deaths as an agent of the municipality, but this Kehillah was considered a private institution, not a public corporation.

In general it may be said that the Jews of Kurzeme, Zemgale and Vidzeme were Mithnagdim (followers of the letter of the law, without fidelity to any rabbinic dynasty). Their origin led to Prussia and partly to northern Lithuania. The Jews of Latgale were most frequently Hassidim (followers of a rabbinic dynasty) of the Habad school. In Riga both sects were represented. In the life of the younger generation, the division between the Mithnagdim and Hassidim played a rather insignificant part. No clashes between the sects were recorded even during the earlier part of the nineteenth century. The dividing line between observant and non-observant Jews did not coincide with the difference between Hassidim and Mithnagdim.

It is hard to evaluate exactly the degree of Jewish religious observance, but it was no doubt fairly strong. At the end of the 1920’s the arrival of the Lubavitcher Rebbe from Soviet Russia, brought about by the Agudath Israel leader, Mordecai Dubin, helped to rally the Orthodox group. With the establishment of the authoritarian regime which turned over the Jewish school system to the Agudath Israel, religious observance began to be definitely encouraged by the state, whereas pronounced anti-religiosity was bound to be considered characteristic of leftism.

The Agudath Israel representatives in the Saeima (Diet) steadily supported all government coalitions, but in the course of time grew nearer to the Peasants’ Union, of which Karlis Ulmanis was leader; when Ulmanis established his dictatorship, the Agudath Israel was given practical control of Jewish cultural life and became identified with the authoritarian form of state.

Religious Functionaries

Some rabbis of the traditional type exerted considerable influence within their sphere on the basis of their personal qualities. No modern rabbis after the German model were found in independent Latvia. The Lubavitcher Rebbe had great influence among his followers, from Czarist times on. It was increased when the Rebbe was brought to Latvia from the Soviet Union and maintained even when the Rebbe left for Poland in the 1930’s.

Family Life

The Jews in Latvia had kept pace with the general westernization of the country during the last sixty years, so that there was no marked difference between the family position of Latvian Jewish women and those in the non-Jewish populations of Latvia or even of the United States. To an increasing degree, women were represented among the gainfully employed; practically no difference existed between the elementary and secondary education offered to boys and girls. In social and political life women were also quite active. The role of the father or of the large family in the Jewish group was therefore not extraordinary.

If impressions may be accepted as evidence, the Jewish family, owing to its traditional coherence, seemed to be somewhat more stable than the average. It may be appropriate to cite the figures for extra-marital births in 1938, according to ethnic groups, in relation to the general number of births in the respective groups: Poles, 33.8; Lithuanians, 23.3; Russians, 12.7; Letts, 7.3; Germans, 6.4; Jews 3.1.


Jewish marriages could be registered either directly with the municipality or with its Jewish agency, the Kehillah. In the latter case, a religious ceremony had preceded the registration.

In 1935, 1,008 Jewish men and 999 Jewish women were married. In 1937 the corresponding numbers were 857 and 859. The average number of marriages for every 1,000 inhabitants in 1937 was 16.23; i.e. 8.12 marriages; for the Jews the corresponding figure was 18.32 (9.16).

The extent of mixed marriages in 1937 was as follows: 839 Jews married Jewish women, 4 Jews married Lettish women, 5 Jews married German women, 6 Jews married Russian women, 1 Jew married a Lithuanian woman, 2 Jews married women of other or unknown nationalities; 14 Jewish women married Letts, 3 Jewish women married Russians, 1 Jewish woman married a German, 1 Jewish woman married a Pole, 1 Jewish woman married a man of unknown nationality.


The total number of divorces in the country listed for 1938 was 1,601, including 979 Lettish couples and 134 Jewish couples.


In 1937 a total of 13,738 persons were convicted by civil and military courts. They were divided as follows:

Number Percentage


9,314 67.8


2,349 17.1


681 4.9


572 4.2

The average number of convictions by the civil and military courts, for every 1,000 inhabitants, was 7.0, but according to nationalities, the ratio was as follows:

Germans 3.8











The Riga municipal health center for alcoholism in 1933 treated a total of 281 persons: 219 Letts, 29 Germans, 14 Russians, 11 Poles, 4 Jews, 2 Lithuanians, 2 Frenchmen. Jews, therefore, comprised 1.42% of the patients in the city where they formed 11.34% of the population.


In the province of Kurzeme and in the city of Riga, some sections of the Jewish population had, during the latter part of the 19th century, begun to acquire the German language instead of Yiddish; in the 1890’s, Russian was also acquired. The Russian census of 1897 showed Yiddish to be the mother-tongue of those affiliated with the Jewish religion in the following proportions: Province of Kurland (comprising Kurzeme and Zemgale), 73.8%; Vidzeme (including Riga), 80.0%; Latgale, 92.0%. In the whole of what later became Latvia, 81.9% of all the Jews reported Yiddish as their mother-tongue in the census of 1897.

Censuses taken during the period of Latvian independence contained no questions regarding linguistic backgrounds. Many Letts by nationality spoke Russian or German as a mother-tongue and the Latvian government did not want to offer figures that would diminish the prestige of the state language. In the case of the Jews, conclusions can be drawn from the numbers of pupils who attended Yiddish and Hebrew schools.

Language conflicts were largely avoided by the school legislation of Latvia which conceded schools in their respective languages to every minority group. For the same reason conflicts between adherents of Yiddish and Hebrew were greatly reduced. Requests for the recognition of Yiddish as an official language were never put forward as the number of the Jews in the country did not warrant it. In the municipal government, particularly in Latgale, where the Jews formed a rather conspicuous part of the urban population, Yiddish did enjoy some rights during the democratic regime.

Multilingualism in Latvia was not limited to the Jews. To understand conditions in the country correctly, one must bear in mind that Lettish was young, not only as an official language, but also as a language of civilization in general. German, the official language in the country until the 1880’s, and Russian, the language of the government and schools between that time and the First World War, consequently enjoyed much more prestige even among the Letts themselves than they would have as languages of rather inconsiderable minority groups within the country. Even the Lettish intellectuals, including the founders and leaders of the state, had received their education in one of these languages. During the period of independence many Letts still had to use Russian or German in business dealings.

The variegated language picture of the country is reflected in the following figures (1930):

Average Number of Languages Known by One Person

Nationality % in the whole country % in cities and towns


1.28 1.72

White Russians

1.50 1.83


1.54 1.88


2.40 2.60


2.47 2.89


2.51 2.09


2.70 2.79


2.91 2.93

Several conclusions of a more general nature may be drawn from these figures.

  1. Members of smaller language groups in a country (Poles, Estonians, Lithuanians) must know a greater number of languages.
  2. Members of language groups (for instance the Germans) who are preeminently city dwellers must know a greater number of languages. This is particularly true of the Jews who as a rule seem to approach every person in his own language. The conclusion as to the Jews is substantiated even further by the figures referring to the capital of Riga, whereas for the Russians and Germans, conditions in the capital appear to deviate from those in the country as a whole.

Of the 369,212 inhabitants of Riga in 1930, 39.79% knew three languages; 28.73% know one language; 26.70% knew two languages; and 10.56% knew four languages. The particular nationalities, however, differed greatly as to the number of languages known. The following table referring to the city of Riga in 1930 is illuminating:

Nationality Number of Languages
1 2 3 4
Jews 9.93 17.11 26.11 36.68
Russians 9.78 23.70 47.65 13.92
Letts 36.23 28.44 29.26 4.72
Germans 42.41 33.03 18.44 4.44

Attitude Toward War; Toward the United States

In spite of their many adversities, the Jews of Latvia knew that war would infinitely worsen their position. Russian conquest meant nationalization of trade and industry, standardization of education along Communist lines and ostracism, if not liquidation, of all those suspected of bourgeois leanings. Nazi conquest meant physical extinction. Now that both conquests have successively materialized, it has turned out that the worst expectations were by no means exaggerated.

The attitude of the Jews in Latvia toward the United States, as of those in the whole of Europe, has always been enthusiastic. Many of their compatriots had immigrated to the United States; their social and economic advance had been duly noted, and many persons and institutions benefited directly from material support coming from America.

Underground Movement

No information about an underground movement in the Latvia of today has seeped through. Soviet reports speak of a partisan movement in this region, but in view of the early and complete segregation of the Jewish population by the Nazis, it appears doubtful whether any considerable number of Jews could have joined the partisans.


No attempt to set up a Latvian government-in-exile has been made. At the end of 1939, after signing the Moscow pact of mutual assistance, the Latvian government decided that in case it should be deprived of its freedom of action, all its powers would be transferred to the Latvian envoy in London and should he prove unable to carry out his mission, to the Latvian envoy in Washington, D. C., Dr. Alfred Bilmanis. A union of Latvians abroad set up during this war in New York has as its vice-president a Dr. Danenberg.


The citizenship law of Latvia gave the opportunity of naturalization to anyone who had resided in the country for five years. In 1935 the Jews of Latvia were classified as follows: Latvian citizens, 86,427; aliens, 3,625; stateless, 3,313.

After the coup d’etat of 1934, naturalization became much more difficult. IN view of the relatively small number of stateless Jews involved (26% of the stateless residents of the country were Jews), statelessness did not constitute a serious problem, the chief difficulty being that stateless persons had to pay a rather heavy tax for the right to stay in the country and that the permission to stay had to be renewed every six or even every three months.

Civil Service

There were practically no Jews in the civil service of the country even under democratic rule. Margers Skujeneiks, known as a socialist economist in Czarist days, later the leader of the "New Farmers" and for many years the chief of the state statistical department, one of Ulmanis’ lieutenants during the coup d’etat and an ardent advocate of Lettization, publicly pointed to the absence of the Jews from civil service as one of the signs of the privileged economic positions held by the minorities. According to him, they stubbornly refused to enter the low-salaried civil service because more brilliant careers were open to them in the professions and in private business.


Since the urban population bore the chief burden of taxation in the country and persons engaged in commerce and industry wore the chief taxpayers, the Jews paid more taxes than their proportion in the general population would have warranted. But no particular complaints of discriminatory assessment of taxes were known to have been made by Jewish taxpayers before Ulmanis embarked upon a program of depriving the Jews of their economic strongholds. In this undertaking he made use of more effective means than the exaction of excessive taxes.

As the Jewish Kehillah was not a public corporation, no special Jewish taxes were collected by the state. Yiddish and Hebrew schools, though completely tax-supported, were maintained out of the general funds of the Ministry of Education.

Minority Rights

Minority rights in Latvia were in the main school rights, providing opportunity to educate children in their own languages. Latvia did not sign the Versailles minority treaties, since the country was recognized de jure considerably later, but in a declaration issued on its admission to the League of Nations, Latvia promised fair treatment of minorities. The democratic government fully lived up to these promises; even the totalitarian government of Ulmanis, though it aimed at uprooting the minorities economically, infringed upon the autonomy of the minority groups in the educational field without abolishing the minority schools as such.

The school laws of democratic Latvia gave parents the right to send their children to a school conducted in the language they preferred. The state, or for that matter the municipalities, had to provide the necessary number of classes. Administration of the minority schools was granted to the Russian, the German and the Jewish departments respectively of the Ministry of Education and were entitled to be present at the meeting of the Council of Ministers when questions relating to their fields were to be discussed. Appointments were recommended to the Minister by the Saeima (Diet) members of each respective nationality; a consultative body of educational leaders of each nationality was to assist the director of each department. As far as is known, no conflicts in carrying out these regulations occurred.

Under Ulmanis the minority departments as well as the consultative bodies were abolished; instead, individual officials (referents) for each minority school system were appointed. For the Jewish schools, Morduch Khodakov, an active member of the Agudath Israel, was chosen.

A limitation imposed by the Ulmanis government upon the minority schools was that parents could no longer arbitrarily choose a school for their children; children could attend either a school in their family language or a Lettish school.

Government Departments for Jewish Affairs

Except for the Jewish department in the Ministry of Education, there was no office devoted to Jewish affairs in any ministry.

Occupational Structure

The occupational distribution of the gainfully employed Jewish population according to the census of 1935 was as follows:

% of gainfully
Number employed Jews


457 1.11


11,838 28.74

Trade and Commerce

20,021 48.63


903 2.19

Public Administration

610 1.48

Professions, education, art, etc.

3,046 7.40

Public health, hygiene

1,642 3.99

Domestic service

838 2.04






For the purposes of comparison it may be useful to quote the respective figures for the German minority group which, particularly after the agrarian reform of the early twenties, was also predominantly an urban group (the total number of Germans in 1935 was 58,113; of these 51,106 lived in urban settlements):

Occupation No. gainfully employed %
Agriculture 5,917 15.97
Industry 9,915 26.77
Trade and commerce 7,310 19.74
Communications 1,523 4.11
Public Administration 1,165 3.15
Professions, etc. 4,527 12.22
Public Health 1,844 4.98
Domestic service 2,416 6.52
Others 2,423 6.54
Total 37,040
(A. Maldups, Latvija Skaitlos, 1938, p. 77)

The Judiciary

As far as known there were no Jewish judges in independent Latvia.


Latvian statistics deal with crafts (artisan) and industries together, so that there is no way of distinguishing them in the following discussion except that the statistics regarding the number of persons employed in an enterprise may offer some clue. Although gathered a year after the establishment of the authoritarian regime, the 1935 figures essentially reflected pre-Ulmanis conditions since the new economic policy gained momentum only later.

The statistics differentiate between individual enterprises and corporations of all kinds. No detailed classification of the corporates is given. In 1935, 49,774 individual enterprises were existent in Latvia, of which 35,416, or 74%, were owned by Letts; 67% of the employees were Letts. The total value of industrial and craft production in 1935 was 476,000,000 lats ($95,200,000). The value of the production of all four forms of companies was 204,500,000 lats ($40,900,000) which would leave to the individual enterprises 271,500,000 lats ($54,300,000). There were 213 corporate enterprises owned by Jews; their total production was valued at 72,798,000 lats ($14,559,600), or 35.6% of the total production value of the corporate firms.

The number of Jewish enterprises according to the number of workers employed was as follows:

Size of enterprises by no. of workers Total no. of enterprises Total no. belonging to the Jews Percentage in relation to the no. of Jewish enterprises
Absolute %
I 0 — 4 46,404 4,627 9.97 92.62
II 5 — 9 833 193 23.17 3.86
III 10 — 19 369 93 25.20 1.86
IV 20 — 49 224 56 25.00 1.12
V 50 — 99 61 17 27.87 0.34
VI 100 and over 30 10 33.34 0.20
Total 47,921 4,996 10.43 100.00

Division by craft and industry was as follows:

Branch Total no. of enterprises Total no. of Enterprises owned by Jews % in relation to no. of enterprises owned by Jews
Absolute %
I Mines & quarries 30 - - -
II Ceramics, stone products 30 3.80 0.60
III Metallurgy, mechanical, construction 6,545 646 9.87 12.93
IV Chemical industry 290 87 32.00 1.74
V Leather industry 798 135 16.92 2.70
VI Textile industry 1,317 77 5.85 1.54
VII Lumber industry 6,346 198 3.12 3.96
VIII Paper industry 72 31 43.05 0.62
IX Graphic arts 755 128 16.95 2.56
X Food industry 4,075 343 8.12 6.87
XI Clothing, shoe industry 18,947 2,967 15.66 59.39
XII Building industry 7,923 353 4.46 7.07
XIII Public Utilities 33 1 3.03 0.02
Total 47,921 4,996 10.43 100.00

Of the total number of enterprises in crafts and industry, 53.66% were located in urban settlements and 46.34% elsewhere. The enterprises owned by Jews were predominantly urban, the corresponding figures being 92.61 and 7.39%. the distribution according to districts was as follows: In Riga the Jews owned 23% of all individual enterprises, in Vidzeme, 2.54, in Kurzeme, 13.51, in Zemgale, 6.78, in Latgale, 27.14. The distribution of these enterprises according to districts showed that Riga had 58.85% of all individual enterprises owned by Jews; Vidzeme, 2.88; Kurzeme, 12.48; Zemgale, 5.44; Latgale, 20.35.


In 1935, statistics concerning commercial enterprises included the following:

Absolute Percent Persons Employed Percent
Enterprises owned by Letts 27,164 58.8 51,757 54.5
Enterprises owned by Jews 11,295 24.4 23,943 5.2

The number of persons employed in Jewish enterprises is by no means identical with the number of Jews employed in commerce. The latter figure may be approximately obtained by deducting the number of Jewish owners of commercial enterprises (11,295) from the total number of Jews engaged in trade and commerce (20,021), leaving 8,726. In Latgale, the percentage of commercial enterprises owned by Jews was as high as 60%. In 1937, 11,242 trade licenses were issued to Jews which, however, constituted no more than 28.9% of the total number of licenses issued.

Trade license statistics also show that the number of large enterprises owned by Jews had dropped during the years 1933 to 1937:

Licenses of the First and Second Category Issued

1933 1937
To Letts: 27.3% 33.6%
To Jews: 48.6% 45.8%

Other figures, however, show that 11,166 commercial enterprises were owned by Jews and 22,405 by Letts. The percentages, according to the latter data, are:


Letts Germans Jews Poles Russians Others
1st & 2nd categories (larger) 30.0 16.3 47.9 0.5 1.4 3.9
3rd, 4th, & 5th categories (smaller) 58.0 4.2 27.8 2.1 6.0 1.9

The total commercial turnover during 1936 amounted to 1,170,000,000 lats ($234,000,000). After deducting the turnover in state monopolies in rye, sugar, spirits and wood, the figure of 897,000,000 lats ($179,400,000) is left. Of this, 496,300,000 lats ($99,260,000) were provided by the large enterprises, of which 149,000,000 lats ($29,800,000) were provided by enterprises belonging to Letts. Altogether Lettish-owned enterprises provided 381,500,000 lats ($76,700,000) and those owned by Jews 349,000,000 lats ($69,800,000).

The policy of Ulmanis, before his access to power, was openly directed toward eliminating the minority groups from economic life and of giving the Letts access to all positions in the national economy. But since the development of this policy seemed too slow and events in Europe seemed to justify a prodding of the historical process, Ulmanis and his group seized power and started to use the state machinory for the purpose of creating a "Lettish Latvia". More than once Ulmanis emphasized that "government in business" was not contemplated as a permanent policy and that eventually private enterprise would be returned its full measure of rights. In the meantime, however, ‘social justice’ demands "a rearrangement of the hitherto existing position" (Ulmanis in a speech, February 5, 1937) by which the Letts had been presumably underprivileged in their own country. Birznieks, the Minister of Agriculture, in a speech delivered in Ventspils on January 26, 1936, was much more outspoken:

"The Letts are the only masters of this country; the Letts will themselves promulgate the laws and judge for themselves what justice is."

This passage refers to the economic laws of December 31, 1935 and January 11, 1936 which together with subsequent laws and regulations succeeded in establishing in Latvia an economic order that in respect to state interference was second only to Soviet Russia.

These laws provided for the establishment of a chamber of commerce and industry. "To fulfill particular tasks and in order to cultivate activity of businessmen and industrialists", business and industrial associations were created which were to function under the direction of the chamber. "In every town with a population of over 10,000 inhabitants one such association is to exist…Apart from…associations under the control of the chamber no associations or organizations are to be founded for protecting and furthering the interests of commerce and industry. All hitherto existing commercial and industrial non-profit associations, alliances and organizations of different types have to cease their activities within three months after this law comes into force…"

The point was clear. All minority associations were to disappear in favor of a state-supported, government-supporting chamber of a fascist brand, to consist of 90 members and 45 substitutes to be appointed by the Minister of Finance for three years. Four Jews were among the appointees but they had no influence. All non-profit business and industrial associations previously in existence had to surrender their whole property to this newly-created, Lettish body.

In close cooperation with the chamber of commerce and industry, the government proceeded in its ruthless policy. As J. Bokalder, a member of this chamber, wrote in "The Industry and Home Trade of Latvia" (The Latvian Economist, Riga, 1937, p. 75): "In accordance with these necessities and the guiding principles of an authoritarian state, the government on July 9, 1936 promulgated a special law…concerning craft and industrial enterprises…to correspond with the correctly and objectively understood interests of national economy…Thus the Ministry of Finance will be able in the future to prevent the opening of new branches of enterprise in which there is already over-production or at least the danger of overproduction…In every enterprise there has to be a…manager…responsible for the rationality and utility of the enterprise…The Minister of Finance can by special decree determine which industrial enterprises or industrial groups require a technical manager with professional rights acknowledged in Latvia, or with a special education."

The Latvian Credit Bank (Latvijas Kreditbanka) has been founded even earlier, by the law of April 9, 1935. It was modestly presented as a private credit establishment which at the beginning had a capital of only 10,000,000 lats ($2,000,000). No restrictions customarily applied to commercial banks were imposed; according to the by-laws of the bank, the functions of the board and of the general meetings were transferred to the Minister of Finance.

Thus instruments were created by which the government could "take possession of any commercial enterprise in the country, should this be in the interest of the state." A number of the most important textile plants, breweries and distilleries, tanneries, chocolate factories, tobacco factories, plywood, brick and cement factories owned by Jews were taken over by the Credit Bank or by corporations assigned by it. L. Ekis, Minister of Finance, did not entirely deviate from the truth when he wrote (Latvian Economist, Riga, 1937, p. 17): "In many cases where the credit bank has taken over private economic enterprises, this has been achieved by free-will sales." He could even have added that the Credit Bank, or for that matter the government, paid good prices and that in spite of severe restrictions in exporting money, the sellers, at least in some cases, obtained their money in foreign currency abroad. The only thing he failed to say was that the "free will" was created by coercion. In mmany places, enterprises were combined; for instance, of eleven plywood plants only three remained. Competition was reduced and frequently eliminated.

Banking was one of the chief objects of Lettization. According to some computations, about 90% of the credit establishments in Latvia were in Lettish hands in 1939, as against 20% in 1933.

Foreign trade was also controlled. Imports were subjected to a rigid system of concessions or even monopolies. A state-supported association of import cooperatives was founded under the name Turiba (Prosperity) with a founding capital of 7 million lats ($1.4 million); its secondary purpose was to endeavor to distribute cooperatives equally throughout the whole country. Shortly after May 15, 1934, the export of butter, one of the chief items in Latvian economy, was concentrated in the hands of Centralais sviesta eksporta; the export of bacon and other basic products of the country was handed over to an organization called Bekone eksporta; other agricultural products, too were similarly handled. Fixed prices, on a considerably higher level than the world market, were established and guaranteed to the producers. Import companies for coal (Ogla) and other products also started functioning under government guidance, which meant the elimination of non-Lettish capital, management and labor. The names of the same officials, Peasant Union bosses, and professionals close to the government appeared on the boards of more and more commercial and industrial enterprises.

To round out the fasciasation of the country and its transformation into a "cooperative state", a chamber of professions and another of literature and art (May 5, 1938) were established. A general law concerning non-profit-making societies enacted on February 11, 1939, implied the liquidation of all associations not complying with the law relating to the chambers.

Employment; Wages

No figures were published regarding Jewish employees and workers. The Department of Statistics did, however, tabulate the number of persons, not indicating nationality employed in 1935 by individual enterprises belonging to Jews. The general number of employees in the country is given as 95,486, out of which 15,664 (16.41%) were employed by Jews.

As a rule, Jews could get work only in enterprises owned by Jews. There was, however, a proportion of Jewish workers in highly developed plants that came into being in the 1930s as a result of the rigid anti-importation laws.

Jewish workers were paid the same wages as their non-Jewish colleagues where they worked together, although the promotion of Jewish workers even in Jewish-owned enterprises was somewhat slower. In the small artisans’ shops where no more than one or two Jewish workers were employed, their average income was certainly lower than in the industrial enterprises.

Trade Unions

There were no separate Jewish trade unions in Latvia. In the democratic era some Jews did achieve prominence in the socialist or the communist unions (before the latter were suppressed). The unions created by the Ulmanis regime were compulsory for all workers and as far as the larger enterprises were concerned this rule was strictly adhered to, but the leadership everywhere was confined to Letts.

The Press

The impact of the totalitarian regime upon the Yiddish press is best presented in the following figures of publications in Yiddish:

193311 19352
193414 19362

In 1937 one Yiddish daily and two weeklies were in existence.

The large Russian newspaper Sevodnia, which appeared twice daily and was quite influential all over the Baltic countries and widely read as far as Warsaw, was published by a Jewish-owned concern, the Riti corporation. This publishing house also issued several weeklies, magazines, books, etc. in Russian, Yiddish, German and Lettish. Under the new economic laws the whole concern was taken over by the government.

In the highly developed Lettish press, the Jews as a rule did not play any part worth mentioning. Jaunakas Zipas, which enjoyed the widest circulation, had some foreign correspondents who were Jewish.

Health Services

In democratic Latvia there seems to have been no discrimination against the Jews in state or municipal health services. A Jew for many years headed the Health Department of Riga. Under Ulmanis not only was he removed, but most of the Jewish physicians who worked for the Health Insurance (Slimibas Kasa) were dismissed. As far as is known, no particular complaints were voiced about the treatment of the Jews as patients.

Jews also had their own supplementary Jewish agencies, centralized by the OSEWorld Health Union in Riga. According to the report published in the Paris Revue OSE (March 1939), the Latvian OSSE was at that time maintaining 41 different health institutions caring for between 4,000 and 5,000 children in eight towns; two health centers in Riga and Daugvpils (Dvinsk, Duenaburg); two summer camps for 800 children; one summer camp for adolescents, and other institutions. About 300 families suspected of being tubercular were under constant observation; a number of backward children were cared for and the medical and dental care of the whole Jewish school population was entrusted to the OSE. At least part of its income was derived from municipal bonds.

Medical Practitioners

There were 1,589 physicians in Latvia in 1938, including 967 Letts. Earlier and detailed figures give the following information:

1927 1932 1934
Total No. No. of Jews Total No. No. of Jews Total No. No. of Jews
Riga 1,006 438 1,205 490 1,251 496
Vidzeme 194 28 261 35 294 31
Kurzeme 195 95 246 107 263 104
Zemgale 131 37 202 65 215 60
Latgale 150 78 211 99 230 90
Of these, the following number were dentists: 524 372 649 443 754 441


Data regarding Jewish hospitals and sanatoriums in Latvia in 1938 are as follows:

Hospital No. of Beds Number of patients during the year
In Riga
1. Bikur Holim (organization) 100 1,799
2. Linas Hacedek (organization) 50 1,505
3. Shenfeld 30 62
4. Dubinski 15 371
5. Chackelson 10 132
6. Hercfeld 12 262
7. Berniker 10 247
8. Naichin 10 101
9. Ickin 7 406
10. Kushner 5 89
11. Aronshtam 20 58
12. Minc 21 485
In Jelgava (Mitava, Mitau)
13. Bikur Holim (organization) 40 324
14. Chanal 10 139
In Ludze (Lyutsin, Ludsin)
15. Gurevic 20 251

The total number of beds available in the hospitals and sanatoriums of the country in 1938 was 13,218; the number of patients admitted to these institutions during the year was 130,871.

Birth Rate

The number of births among Jews was:

Year Number of births Percentage of Jewish births in relationship to total number
1925 1,755 4.2
1930 1,515 4.0
1935 1,290 3.8
1936 1,204 3.4
1937 1,261 3.6

There was a similar decrease among the Germans, Russians and Lithuanians in the country. Per 1,000 Jews the birth rate was:

1925 18.34
1930 16.5
1935 13.79
1936 12.86
1937 13.46

The corresponding figures for the other nationalities in 1937 were:

Letts 17.09







The Russian birth rate for 1925 (34.88) for every 1,000 Russian inhabitants of Latvia, shows a decrease by 10.64, or more than 30% in 12 years, while the decrease among the Jews in the same period was 4.88 or 26%. The birth rate for the country as a whole during the decade in question decreased by 4.53.

The number of children born to an average Jewish family are shown by the following figures (1931):

Children born in wedlock (by order of birth)

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th Over 6


33.52 23.01 15.07 9.86 6.70 4.15 5.63


39.22 24.13 16.01 9.40 5.62 2.63 2.28


The mortality rate for 1938, according to nationalities, was as follows:

Total number of deaths


Absolute number Out of 1,000 persons of each nationality


1,079 17.8


765 15.3


19,946 13.4


3,217 13.3


281 12.3


1,111 11.8

In infant mortality (children under one year), the Jews occupied the lowest place.

Out of every 100 children born alive, there died in


1931 1938


3.49 3.2


6.07 5.5


7.92 6.0


8.18 9.8


10.29 9.4


12.93 10.4



There were considerable differences in infant mortality among the non-Jews as to the districts; significantly, however, there was no practical difference among the Jews. The following statistics (1936) are of infants who died out of every 100 born alive:

Riga Latgale Latvia as a whole


Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls


5.5 2.9 9.0 7.1 6.7 5.3


3.2 3.9 3.1 3.9 3.3 3.2

Average for all groups in the whole country: boys - 8.6; girls - 14.1. There was also a much higher mortality of boy infants than girls among the Letts, whereas no such discrepancy existed among Jews.

The progress made by the Jews in combating infant mortality is shown by the figures for 1927. The Jewish infant mortality rate (the number of infants who died out of every 100 born alive) for 1927 was 4.22, showing a drop of 25% in nine years.

Latvian official statistics cite nationality in relation to death causes only with regard to tuberculosis and other pulmonary ailments:


Total No. of deaths Deaths due to Tuberculosis Other illnesses of the respiratory organs
Absolute Percent Absolute Percent % in relation to total deaths Absolute Percent % in rel. to tot. no.















For 1935 the following figures on housing conditions in Latvian cities and towns according to nationality are available.

Housing conditions in Latvian towns according to ethnic groups in 1935 (in percentages)

Number of Rooms






5.1 13.1 15.3 5.4

1 room

11.5 44.3 40.7 23.08

2 rooms

24.9 23.6 22.5 23.2

3 rooms

26.6 11.2 12.8 19.6

4 rooms

17.0 4.5 4.7 12.6

5 rooms

9.6 2.0 2.2 7.8

6-7 rooms

4.5 1.0 1.4 6.1

8 & over or unknown

0.8 0.3 0.4 1.5


Before the establishment of the Ulmanis regime, the educational facilities for Jews were provided as part of the minority set-up of the country. Schools in which Yiddish and Hebrew was the language of instruction were maintained by the municipalities or the state, and there was a Jewish Department under the Ministry of Education. Under Ulmanis the Jewish schools were affected by a law promulgated on July 24, 1934, abolishing the minority school departments and substituting individual officials ("referents"). The Jewish schools of all types were turned over to the Agudath Israel which did its best to transform them, with the help of state machinery, into Orthodox schools. A number of Jewish parents who disliked this return to religious schooling reminiscent of the Heder (Hebrew school), preferred to transfer their children to Lettish schools. Nevertheless it must be emphasized that the right of the Jews to have their own tax-supported schools in their own languages (Yiddish or Hebrew) was maintained even under the dictatorship, but a number of Jewish schools were closed for reasons of "economy" or "efficiency" in the general course of school reforms. In 1932 the total number of Jewish schools was 122; in 1939 it had fallen to 77. The corresponding figures for Lettish schools in these two years were 1,679 and 1,672.

Elementary Schools: Of the 1,904 elementary schools in existence in the country in the academic year 1937-38, 62 (3.3%) were Jewish (Yiddish or Hebrew was the language of instruction). They were attended by 9,715 (4.2%) children out of the total of 231,533 children of school age. Since there were 11,372 (4.87%) Jews by nationality in the elementary schools of that year, only 1,657 Jewish children attended Lettish schools. In preceding years the number of children attending Yiddish and Hebrew elementary schools had been:







The proportion of Jewish children in the elementary schools of the country during the preceding years had been:


Total Number


1925-6 173,099 11,804
1935-6 223,483 12,347
1936-7 231,591 11,912
1937-8 231,533 11,572
1938-9 229,825 11,127

An average Jewish elementary school had 157 children. for an average Lettish school the corresponding figure was 124; for a German, 86; for a Lithuanian, 48; and Estonian, only 29.

The number of teachers in Jewish (Yiddish and Hebrew) elementary schools in the academic year 1936-7 is given as 544. Most of them were undoubtedly Jews, but exact figures are available.

Trade Schools: In the elementary trade schools, the number of Jewish students in 1936-7 was 465, or 10.4% of the total attendance. During the next year, the number dropped to 463.

High Schools: There were 11 high schools (9.67%) in Latvia where Yiddish or Hebrew was the language of instruction (it should be noted that the Latvian high school Vidusskola which prepared students for the university was roughly equivalent to the American high school plus the first two years of college.) These 11 schools had 1,626 students in 1937-8. The total number of Jews by nationality in high schools was 2,367 (10.0%), which means that 742 Jews attended other than Jewish high schools.

In contrast to the elementary school populations, the number of students in Yiddish and Hebrew high schools had increased almost constantly during the preceding years:

1920-21 664 1935-36 1,561
1933-34 1,549 1936-37 1,550
1934-35 1,400

For the academic years 1936-37 and 1937-38, the following figures are available:

Jewish High Schools belonging to:

Number of Schools Number of Students Number of Teachers
1936-37 1937-38 1936-37 1937-38 1936-37 1937-38

The State

2 2 267 273 29 28


2 2 375 363 49 48

Organizations and persons

6 7 908 989 100 105


10 11 1,550 1,625 178 181

In 1936-39 there were the following Jewish high schools in Latvia:

Name of School

No. of Students No. of Teachers



Yiddish City H.S. (Munic.)

225 32


Jewish H.S. of Arts/Letters

153 18


Jewish Society H.S.

212 17


Ezra H.S.

244 20


Kheder Mosukon H.S.

66 17


J. Rauchvarger H.S.

217 18

Liepaja (Libava, Libau)


Jewish State H.S. (State maint.)

154 16

Ventspils (Vindava, Windau)


Jewish Assn H.S. (State maint.)

16 10

Daugavpils (Dvinsk, Duenaburg)


Jewish State H.S. (State maint.)

150 17

Rezekne (Ryezhitsa, Rositten)


Jewish State H.S. (State maint.)

113 13

The Jewish high school students (2,367 in 1937-38; 2,311 the previous year) were distributed in different types of high schools as follows:

Type of High School 1936-37 1937-38

General (gymnasium)

2,156 2,192


90 107

Teacher training

28 29


22 21


1 1


14 17

There was also one Jewish school for nurses, with 15 students (1936-37 and 1937-38). In 1936-37, eight girls were graduated from this school. The ORT Society for the promotion of trade and agriculture maintained a vocational school for agricultural and technical instruction.

Private courses: On December 1, 1937, private courses in the following subjects were attended by Jews:


Men Women

Bookkeeping, typing, etc.

17 58


15 4


68 153

Home economics

1 --


18 87

Arts and crafts

753 99

Dancing, athletics

21 122


50 118


-- --

Painting, drawing

5 5

Religious courses

399 39


87 81


1 43


1,435 809

Higher Education: In the three institutions of higher learning in Latvia, the Jews were represented as follows in the academic year 1937-38: University, 432 Jewish students (6.4% of the student body); Conservatory, 45 Jewish students (16.2%); Academy of Arts, 1 Jewish student (0.5%). In the Latvian University the ration of Jewish students had decreased steadily. In 1936-37 the percentage had amounted to 6.38; in 1924-25 to 8.84; in 1919-20 19.57.

Within the university, the Jewish students were distributed as follows (1936-37): architecture, 16; philology, philosophy, 38; engineering, 28; chemistry, 62; agriculture, 19; mathematics, science, 52; mechanics, 76; medicine, 34; law, economics, 130; veterinary art, 8; total, 463.

According to the degree of their economic independence, the university students were distributed as follows:

Total no. of students Jewish students

Completely independent

3,226 152

Partly independent

929 80


3,092 212

The number of Jewish students at the Conservatory was as follows:

1927-8 34 1936-7 50
1931-2 56 1937-8 48
1935-6 48

(Salnitis, op. cit., p. 183).

The number of Jewish students attending the Academy of Arts was:

1935-6 3
1936-7 4
1937-8 1

There are also available figures concerning Jewish attendance in the following institutions classified as higher vocational schools, both public and private (1936-7):


No. of Jewish students Total no. of students

Commerce Institute

3 108

2nd Commerce Institute

31 222

Herder Institute (German)

4 220

State English Institute

34 378

Under the democratic government the teachers for the different types of Jewish schools were selected by the respective teachers’ organizations and appointed by the Jewish department of the Ministry of Education. The practice was so liberal as to allow even the appointment of a number of aliens who by the regular procedure of naturalization became Latvian citizens after five years had elapsed. Under Ulmanis the training and selection of teachers was entrusted to the Agudath Israel.

Welfare Institutions

Exact data on Jewish welfare organizations in Latvia are practically unavailable and no reports of such institutions can be traced for the time being. It may be said, however, that under the democratic regime, Jewish institutions were not discriminated against as far as participation in state and municipal funds was concerned.

History of Anti-Semitism

In the Czarist days an outspoken anti-Semitic faction was led by Fridrichs Veinbergs, whose mouthpiece was the paper Latviesu Avize. It did not survive the First World War, but the anti-Semitic ideas continued to permeate the ideology of several social and political groupings in independent Latvia. They were particularly recognizable in the Peasant’s Union headed by Ulmanis, although this does not apply to Ulmanis himself, who freely associated with Jews in his numerous business enterprises and seemingly had no personal prejudices. Anti-Semitic doctrines were also noticeable among the Union of New Farmers, who were granted land under the agrarian laws of the early 1920s; their leader was Margers Skujenieks, a former Socialist who repeatedly advocated the abolition of the economic "privileges" of minorities, including the Jews. In 1934 Skujenieks, as Vice-Prime Minister, joined Ulmanis in the proclamation of the authoritarian state under the slogan "A Lettish Latvia".

During the first years of Latvian independence there was much hostility against the Jews which led from time to time even to outbursts and kept alive a feeling of insecurity in the Jewish population. The reasons were partly of an economic nature; young Lettish bourgeoisie and professionals, imbued with pride in their newly-won independence, viewed the Jew as an undesirable competitor. There was also a feeling that the Jews, with their leaning toward German or Russian — the languages of two powerful adjacent cultures — menaced development of a strong Lettish culture. When, however, Latvia succeeded in overcoming the attempts of the Russians and the Germans to deprive her of her independence, and conditions became stabilized, the anti-Jewish feelings gradually subsided. During the 1920s, before Nazi doctrines penetrated into the country, there was never a thought of encroaching upon Jewish rights and even the cooperative movement was as a rule not supported by the state to the detriment of the Jewish population engaged in trade and commerce. The meticulous regard of the governments and the municipalities for the school rights of minorities aided in the development of the general feeling that the Jews were equal citizens.

Particularly close cooperation existed in the labor organizations. The Bund — the Jewish Socialist organization — and its youth division from the very beginning constituted a section of the Social Democratic party of the country. No separate Jewish trade unions were in existence.

With the rise of National Socialism in Germany, Hitlerian ideas also spread to Latvia and no doubt Nazi money rather early became active in the country. At the beginning of the 1930s or somewhat earlier, an organization sprang up called Perkankrusts (Lightning Cross), patterned after the Nazi model in both name and ideology. Small in size, it exercised considerable influence. Its first adherents were probably drawn from the ranks of university students who anticipated Jewish competition in their later professional life. They were supported by some professionals and intellectuals. Some higher-rank military, administrative and police officials also lent the Perkankrusts their support. The actual strength of the organization was never revealed because it preferred to veil itself in secrecy, but in the early 1930s it started to stage street demonstrations directed against Socialists and Jews, and to publish pamphlets and leaflets against both of them.

One of the pamphlets (published in 1934) was significantly called Socialdemokratija Ka Zidu Privata Armija (Social Democracy as a Private Army of the Jews). With the rise of Hitlerism in Germany, the movement seemed to gather momentum; rumors about close ties between the Perkankrusts and the Nazis never ceased to circulate. Ulmanis cited the alleged preparations of the Perkankrusts to seize power as one of the reasons for his coup d’etat, and indeed the Ulmanis regime suppressed this movement together with all other forms of political activity. During the summer of 1934, Gustavs Celmins and a number of other persons connected with him in the leadership of the Perkankrusts were arrested and never heard of again.

In the early 1930s, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and several other Nazi publications were translated into Lettish. The following anti-Jewish publications of 1933-34 may also be quoted:

Nostradamus Redivivus, Arcanum revelatum (astsegtais noslepums) jeb Patiesiba par zidiem (The Revealed Secret or the Truth about the Jews) Riga, 1933, 112 pp; Dr. M. Luters, Par zidiem un uinu meliem. Tulkojis un apgadajis J. Davis (Luther, About the Jews and their Lies), Riga, 1934, 15 pp; J. Davis, Rabins Pauls ka kristietibas par zidotajs

(Rabbi Paul, the Judaizer of Christianity); J. Davis, Kapec veca doriba nav macama skolas un baznicas? (Why the old Testament should not be taught in Schools and Churches); G. A. Kalninz, Zidu loma cilvoces vesture (The Role of the Jews in Human History), Riga, 1934, 178 pp.

J. Davis, previously a leader in the anti-alcoholic movement, seems to have been particularly active in publishing anti-Jewish literature. The pamphlet on the Social Democrats as Jewish mercenaries mentioned above, which significantly ends in a eulogy for Ulmanis, also bears his name.

These anti-Semitic publications, as indicated by their titles are strikingly reminiscent of the German literature of the Theodor E. Fritsch brand. Fritsch is profusely quoted in most of the pamphlets. In some cases Christianity is identified with Judaism, though simultaneously the Jews are pictured as the worst enemies of Christendom. The Jews in Latvia are only casually referred to, which is additional proof that the ideas contained in these publications were imported.

With the establishment of the totalitarian regime, the attitude toward the Jews became more aggressive. Though no law was promulgated that explicitly discriminated against the Jews and though the other minorities also felt the meaning of the "Lettish Latvia" policy, the situation of the Jews as a whole and of every Jew in particular tended to become more precarious. The object lesson of the Social Democratic organization in practicing partnership had disappeared; the new unions established on a fascist model by Ulmanis’ propaganda minister, Alfreds Berzins, always stressed the predominance to be accorded the Lettish element. The whole economic policy of the state, with its candid intention to eliminate all non-Lettish groups, succeeded in creating within the Jewish population a sense of being doomed to poverty and disappearance. This apprehension grew more acute with the growth of Hitler’s international power and the imminence of war.

Among the outspoken anti-Semites in the 1920s and 1930s may also be mentioned: Arveds Bergs, a lawyer and editor of the newspaper Latvis, and the politician Breiks.

Attitude of Government: Before 1934

There is little to be said about the attitude of the Latvian government toward the Jews before the establishment of the authoritarian regime in 1934. The government scrupulously fulfilled its obligations in regard to maintaining the Jewish school systems. No limitations were imposed on the Jews in the political field or in free business enterprise. There were limitations to Jewish participation in officialdom and in the allotment of government orders to private business firms. Even more restricted was the admission of Jews in the Latvian University, where rigorous entrance tests in the Lettish language were used to keep away a considerable portion of Jewish applicants. Only one or two Jews were admitted to professorships at the University during the whole period of Latvian independence.

There is one particular point in the situation of the Jews in Latvia which may be understood only through an intimate knowledge of the situation. It is connected with the name of Mordecai Dubin, the leader of the Agudath Israel. A powerful and genial personality, this businessman, without any general education and with a knowledge of only colloquial Lettish, became involved in politics and was elected to the Diet where, among the 100 members split into an endless series of factions, every vote counted. Dubin easily found his way around in the different party maneuvers and soon was at home in every government office from the ministries down. Every Jew in Riga and all over the country became aware that Dubin’s intervention could help him toward confirmation of his citizenship, toward the lease of a lot belonging to the government, the extension of permission to conduct a certain kind of business, or the grant of a visa for a relative. In the late afternoons and late evenings Dubin’s reception room was crowded with visitors and several secretaries had to be employed to cover all the work.

Never did Dubin accept any remuneration for his services. On the contrary, he rendered assistance in the payment of government fees, as well as by encouragement. This personal charm of Dubin’s was to a considerable extent responsible for his successes during elections, but from the point of view of the political development of the country and the Jews in it, grave fears were voiced even before the establishment of the dictatorship. Dubin’s way of managing things, it was said, amounted in effect to converting rights to which the Jews were entitled into favors that might or might not be granted. His influence was maintained until the outbreak of war, although it had by that time become limited to matters of no material importance.

With the advent of Hitler in 1933 and the dictatorship in Latvia itself a year later, the nationalistic course was strongly emphasized and made a matter of pride instead of evasive apologies. State officials were forbidden to answer questions in any language other than Lettish, except when the person in question was a foreigner who had proved his status by his passport. On June 5, 1934, Ulmanis assured a Jewish delegation that his regime would not limit the rights of the Jews. In all subsequent enunciations of the dictator (who soon was given the name of Vadonis, an exact translation of Fuehrer) and his followers, constant reference was made to the necessity of making Latvia a Lettish country and of eliminating "alien" influences. The economic policy of the Latvian government in crushing minorities was second only to Hitler’s anti-Jewish measures, but the word "Jew" was never explicitly mentioned in any law and, in this respect, Ulmanis kept his word. Whether such linguistic delicacy was of any practical significance is another question.

After the cancellation, in October 1938, of the Polish citizenship of many thousands of Polish Jews living abroad, Latvian consuls were advised not to grant even temporary visas to Polish Jews. The influx of Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, Memel and Danzig was severely curtailed; some refugees who had not been able to leave Latvia after the expiration of their temporary visas were said to have been put to forced labor in the summer of 1939.

Extra-Legal Discrimination

Extra-legal discrimination against the Jews was practiced chiefly in the economic sphere. Some students of Latvian life believe that nowhere else except in Soviet Russia had the state assumed such power in the economic life of the nation as in Latvia. In view of the avowed intention of the authoritarian regime to make Latvia Lettish, the Jews had nothing to hope for. It is nevertheless significant for the general trend of development in Europe in the years preceding this war that the initial anger of the Jewish population quickly changed into sad gratefulness for what little was left. When Ulmanis came into power, Hitler had been dominating Germany for more than a year and the inauguration of full-fledged Nazism in Latvia was just feared. There was considerable relief when it turned out that although Hitlerism was spreading and increasingly ominous news came from Poland, Hungary and Romania, Ulmanis intended to impose "only" dispossession and poverty.

The first year of the war, before the Soviet occupation, saw no essential change in the policy of the authoritarian government although in official pronouncements more stress was lad upon the necessity of the unity of all citizens.

The Soviet authorities of occupation did not differentiate between Jews and non-Jews in nationalizing property and industrial or commercial enterprises, or in prosecuting non-Communists and so on. On the other hand, Jews were admitted to employment in the nationalized enterprises, though the Latvian Soviet government exercised great caution in putting Jews in conspicuous posts on the ground that the impression should be avoided that the Soviet regime was a Jewish one. Some Jews, however, believed that anti-Semites had remained in or were given key positions.

Appropriation of Immovable Property

The appropriation of immovable property under the authoritarian regime was also subject to governmental authorization; practically, only Letts were granted this right. Lettization of Latvian economic life may be gauged by the fact that as early as 1937 all nationalities lost in the number and value of immovable properties in favor of the Letts.

The number of immovables which changed hands in cities or towns in 1937 was:


Increased no. of immovables Value in 1,000 lats


+338 +11,536


-185 - 4,119


-119 - 3,898


- 90 - 772


- 25 - 2,746

Reconstruction Agencies

Among the foreign agencies which will be able to cooperate in the rehabilitation of the Jewish population are the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; the American Joint-Reconstruction Foundation; the ORT Society for the promotion of trade and agriculture among Jews; the OSE World Union for health protection, the HICEM (Hias-Ica Emigration Association) and the Jewish Agency for Palestine.

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