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The Extraordinary Commission Lists: Riga

Introduction by Mike Getz
Data Extraction and Donation by the Latvia SIG

The Origin of the Lists

Following the end of World War II, the Soviet Union embarked upon what was intended to be a comprehensive review of war crimes taking place within its territory during the period of German occupation, 1941-1944. The full name of the Commission of Inquiry was the "Extraordinary State Commission to Investigate and Establish War Crimes of the German-Fascist Invaders". The lists were originally compiled from interrogations, the testimony of neighbours, witnesses, and evidence at trials relating to Nazi actions at particular locations. These were documented as official reports by members of local NKVD committees [precursors to the KGB] and submitted to the Commission itself.

The Database

This database consists of over 2,000 individuals residing in Riga who are recorded as having perished at the hands of the German forces, most during the mass killings of 1941. In fact this is only a small fraction of the over 27,000 Jewish victims from Riga believed to have perished by that date.

Acknowledgments

The Latvia SIG is indebted to Vadim Altskan of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Peter Lande, volunteer at the Museum who first brought these records to the attention of the SIG and who organised their extraction thereby bringing this project to reality. Frank McNulty helped with the Russian translation.

Work on Areas Other than Riga

This database focuses on residents of Riga. Work continues in respect of records relating to areas other than Riga. See the article by Marion Werle, "Extraordinary Commission Records for Latvian Towns Available for Translation", by Marion Werle, past President of the Latvia SIG, found in the Latvia SIG Newsletter, Volume 3, Number 4 [December 1998]. Names of Jews and their families make these records important to the Jewish Community as a whole as well as to Jewish family historians with roots in Latvia.

The Latvian Holocaust Names Project
Ongoing Work on the Extraordinary Commission Lists

The records do not follow a consistent pattern, vary in quality and are not comprehensive. The list contains a number of names which are obviously not Jewish but rather Latvian in origin. It is hoped that these lists will be further reviewed by the specialist archivists in Riga as part of the overall project that is planned to compile a definitive list of those Latvian Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The Extraordinary Commission lists are one of a number of sources which will be thoroughly examined and assessed as part of this project. This project is still in the planning stage but will be under the auspices of the Centre for Judaic Studies and further details will be announced as they are received.

Where to find the Documents

These reports, handwritten in Russian, are organized geographically by republic, oblast (state), raion (county) and town. They were stored in the Central State Archive of the October Revolution in Moscow, with relevant copies in republic area archives.

These reports were microfilmed in Moscow by Yad Vashem in 1990, and copies are available in Yad Vashem's Archive in Jerusalem. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington DC has copies of these microfilms, 27 reels, catalogued there as [RG-22.002M].

For more information about the Extraordinary Commission records, there is an excellent study by Michael Steinore at http://www.angelfire.com/or/yizkor/rg22002m.html. Also see "More Resources in Israel", by Sallyann Amdur Sack, in Avotaynu, VII:2 (Summer 1991); and "New Sources at the U.S. Holocaust Museum Archives", by Vadim Altskan with Karl Modig, in Avotaynu IX:3 (Fall 1993).

Using the Lists: Transliteration Challenges:

The entry fields in this database are relatively straightforward but the spelling of names is not. The list has been through three transliteration exercises. By 1941 Jewish names had already undergone a transformation into a Latvian name form so that most names will have an "s" or "is" suffix and even an "as" on occasion as in the entry for "Kaplanas". Latvian "c"s take on a characteristic "ch" form. The letter "z" is often substituted for the letter "s" for example the name "Sanders" has been transliterated as "Zandrs". In part these difficulties arise because of the layering of transliteration as the names were first restyled in the correct Latvian form and then transliterated into Russian by the Investigating Officer. Finally the Russian form has been transliterated back into an attempt at an English equivalent. Each stage involves the potential for error and distortion. Notwithstanding these problems many family names can be recognised by simply sounding out the name and ignoring the final "s" or "is". Eventually, with the help of records in Riga we will be able to restore this name list to reflect each family name as it was known in 1941.

Many of the entries in the database are not Jewish. This figure may be as high as 1 in 5. However, each of the individuals on this list were viewed as victims of the German Fascists and were remembered as such by the neighbours and family left behind who had the courage to give evidence to the Extraordinary Commission Inquiry. There is clearly a great deal of further work to be done on this material but it is brought to you as a working project of the Latvia SIG.

The Data Entry fields are as follows:

  • Auto Number: This relates to the original source document and is a finding aid for those searching the original microfilms.

  • Surname: This is the person's family name, sometimes called the "last name".

  • Given Names: These are the names the person was known by. Most entries have given names but occasionally there is only an initial and in a handful of cases there is no given name or initial at all. Such entries have limited value to the family historian but the entry has been retained to preserve the integrity of the original extraction exercise.

  • Patronymic: This is the given name of the person's father, if known by the person reporting the event. The database has relatively few patronymics.

  • Year of Birth: Few entries have a year of birth and in a few cases there is an actual date of birth. Clearly few neighbours remember information of this sort in any detail and it is not surprising that there are few entries in this category.

  • Gender: Male or Female. Many genders are not recorded but can be inferred from the given names of the individual. There are genders recorded which are apparently wrong for example a "Mozus" seems an unlikely choice for a female name and to have 4 daughters called Mozuz in the same family [eg the Latter family] strains credibility.

  • Page: Relates to source document and again is given as a finding aid for those wishing to refer to the original documents.

  • Line: Also relates to the source documents.

  • Residence: This database is made up from records that relate to Riga and most individuals are recorded as residing in Riga prior to death. About 15 individuals are recorded as resident in Valmiera without further explanation as to what the precise connection with Riga was. A few individuals are formally recorded as of "unknown" residence and a further handful list other places including Libava [Liepaja].

  • Perished: Many entries record the year and sometimes date and month of death. Most were murdered but some will have died from disease arising from the conditions in which they were held; The majority of Jewish victims were killed in 1941 and many of these would have been victims of the mass killings in the forests of Rumbuli which took place in 1941.

This database has been supported and donated by the Latvia SIG.

Constance Whippman, All Latvia Database Co-Ordinator
Copyright ©2001, Latvia SIG
February 2001
Last Updated: Jan 18, 2002  JMB

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