"Libau – Liepaja" - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Latvia and Estonia
(Libaui or Libava, Latvia)
56°31' / 21°01'
Translation of "Libau – Liepaja" chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Latvia v'Estonia
Written by: Dov Levin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1988
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sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.
This is a translation from:Pinkas Hakehillot Latvia and Estonia:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities,
Latvia and Estonia,
Edited by Dov Levin,
published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
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(pp. 170, 180-186)
Libau – Liepaja
Translated by Shalom BronsteinSubdistrict City in Kurzama (Courland). Second largest city in Latvia; important port city on the Baltic Sea.
|1795|| 4,548|| 19||0.04|
|1850|| ---||1,218|| ---|
|1863|| 9,970||1,700|| 18|
|1881|| 29,611||6,651|| 22|
|1897|| 64,489||9,454|| 15|
|1911|| 83,650|| 10,308|| 12|
|1915|| 43,620|| 7,163|| 16|
|1920|| 51,583||9,758|| 19|
|1925|| 60,762||9,851|| 16|
|1930|| 57,238||7,908|| 14|
|1935|| 57,098||7,379|| 13|
History to the End of World War I The first mention of the town
is during the rule of the German Orders in a document from 1253 and it is
described as a fishing village and a natural port used by boats from
Scandinavia. In the beginning of the 14th century, German merchants began using the port and as a result, the location
received a Latin name Liva Portus (Liva Port) and its German form Libau.
At the end of the 16th century, an improved port was built that greatly aided in the commercial
development of the city. After various changes of rulers, it became part of
the Duchy of Courland in 1608 and it was granted city status in 1625.
[The above is the introduction found on page 170.]
Page 180 column 2, beginning where indicated:
Battles Against the German Invaders:
From the first day of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941,
the city was heavily bombed by the German air force. Initially, the Soviets
made great efforts to defend the important port: numerous young people were
pressed into service, among them many Jews, citizens were confined to their
regular places of work or pressed into public service and men were prohibited
from leaving the city. The Soviets began evacuating the families of officers
of the Red Army along with the families of local government officials from the
second day of battle. A small number of Jewish families were also included. A
few Jewish women and children managed to squeeze into the overcrowded
evacuation trains, without official sanction, and escaped deep into the Soviet
Under increased German military
pressure, the city became a battleground. Homes were destroyed, many civilians
were injured, and the population hid in below ground shelters. These
conditions made leaving the city difficult. Within a few days, the rail link
between Libau and Riga, the main evacuation route to the east, was bombed out
of commission. The Red Army withdrew from Libau in the end of June. The city
was surrounded on all sides by the German army and all escape routes were cut
off. A group of Jews attempted to break out by way of the sea, but their boat
was hit and they drowned. The Workers Guard remained at their posts and in the
heavy battles that took place on the roads leading to the city and in the area
of the port, many of them, including Jews, fell. Among them was Abba
Friedberg, the principal of the local school.
On 29 June 1941, after a week
of fighting the Germans conquered Libau. Dozens of Jews fell during the week
both as civilians and as fighters. Because of being confined to their
workplaces, the general draft and the destruction of the rail link only a few
hundred Jews managed to escape deep into the Soviet Union. The majority of the
community, some 7,000 people, remained in Libau and fell into German hands.
Under Nazi OccupationJuly 1941 Decrees and the murder of males:
Along with the entry of the German army into Libau came the German police
forces. With the aid of the Latvian Independent Guard, which began
organizing itself during the battles, arrests and murders on political grounds
began [and took place] for the most part in Rainis Park in the new section of
Libau, alongside of the defensive trench dug by the Soviets.
Jews were among those murdered, including a group of 33 Jewish men who were
executed during the first days of July. There were also random brutal murders
of individual Jews. Among these victims was the director of Libau's opera, a
Jewish refugee from Vienna named Walter Hahn who was murdered on the doorway of
On 5 July 1941, in the pages of
the Latvian newspaper Kurzemes Vards, the local military governor published a
list of restrictions in effect for the Jews of Libau:
(1) All Jewish men, women and children are required to wear a yellow star on their
chest and back. The minimal size of the star is ten centimeters by ten
centimeters. These regulations went into
effect on the day they were published with a stern warning that any Jew who did
not fulfill them would be punished in the most severe manner. After the
publication of the regulations, every morning in the square near the fire
department, thousands of Jewish men would gather. They were surrounded by
units of police equipped with firearms and clubs and subject to various kinds
of abuse. A portion of those gathered were taken to forced labor by
representatives of the German army, another group was sent for hard labor and
assigned to clear the ruins caused by the war and to bury the dead. Many were
taken from the square and led to the prison for political criminals on Tilzas
Street that had previously served as a women's jail. On July 7 and 8 mass
arrests of Jewish men and women were carried out including those seized on city
streets. The women were released shortly afterwards, and the men remained
incarcerated in cells already jammed with hundreds of Jewish detainees. Thirty
of them, designated as Jews and Bolsheviks were already taken out
and executed on July 7 as retribution for shots fired at German soldiers. On
the 8th and 9th of July, the remaining hundreds of Jewish prisoners were taken from the jail
and murdered by shooting. In the last week of the month, the scope of the
arrests and murders was increased: some one thousand Jewish men were taken
from the square, from the streets and from their homes and murdered. Among
them was also a group of a few dozen mental patients who were taken in their
pajamas from the hospital. They were also shot. Participating in the mass
murder were volunteers from the Latvian unit Arias Commando that
was established in Riga (cf.). Most of the executions were carried out on the
Baltic coast south of the lighthouse and a smaller number took place in Skeden,
north of the city. The magnitude of the July bloodbath included more than one
thousand victims most of them young and middle-aged men including a
large portion of the communal workers and cultural leaders of the community.
(2) All Jewish men between the ages of 16 and 60 are
required to report to the City Square every morning to be assigned to work
(3) Jews are allowed to shop only between the hours of
10:00 and 12:00 in the morning. Outside of these hours, it is prohibited for
them to make purchases of any kind.
(4) Jews are permitted to leave their houses only between
the hours of 10:00 to 12:00 in the morning and between
3:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon. Exceptions are made only for those engaged in
public works according to paragraph 2.
(5) Jews are forbidden to use any kind of transportation
and to visit public places or beaches for bathing.
(6) Jews are required to get off the sidewalks whenever
they come across a German in uniform.
(7) All Jewish store-keepers are required to post signs in
indelible letters of at least 20 centimeters by 20 centimeters bearing the
words Jewish Store.
(8) All Jews are required to turn over to the authorities
at once all radios, typewriters and vehicles of
transportation bicycles, motor bikes and
automobiles, as well as uniforms, weapons and
any ammunition in their possession.
At first, the Jews of Libau did
not realize what was happening. Although there many accounts of executions of
Jews, at the same time there were widespread rumors that Jews had been sent
outside of the city to work. What greatly increased the confusion was the
practice of Latvian women of delivering notes and messages to the families
ostensibly from those who were missing with requests for money, clothing and
food. It took a few weeks before the bitter truth that the missing would never
return was revealed.
The Jews suffered from the
first days of the occupation including economically. They were fired from
their places of employment, their property was plundered and they were evicted
from their residences. Germans and Latvians would routinely seize clothing,
utensils and items of value from Jewish homes. Jews, especially owners of large
houses located in the wealthier parts of the city, were evicted from their
homes in order to make them available to the German and Latvian officials.
In the middle of July 1941, the
units of the security police who entered Libau with its capture left the city.
A permanent regional station of the German security police was created locally.
The commander of the post was an SS person named Keugler and his superior was
the SS commander Dr. Dietrich. From then on, these two SS people had ultimate
operational jurisdiction over the German policy towards the Jews in Libau and
the surrounding area and bore the responsibility of organizing their
The situation between August and December 1941:
In August, there was a temporary respite in the mass murder of Jews and a short
period of relative calm began. Jews, including men and women, worked at
various places on a steady basis and received working papers. These documents
freed the men from the requirement to report daily to the Fire Department
Square and granted them some protection from being seized and executed. This
trend, which already began in July, expanded with time and included
increasingly large numbers of Jews. In either September or October, the
requirement to report to the square to be counted was discontinued. The Jews,
for the most part, worked for units of the German army and navy and police
stations. Skilled workers and technicians, who worked in their fields for the
Germans, were considered in their eyes as vital,
and their condition was relatively more secure and stable. Others did physical
labor that did not require special training or skills. Women were utilized in
cleaning and doing laundry in police stations and in the private homes of
German police officers. During this time, two Jewish social service agencies
operated in Libau: the old age home and the hospital Linat
Hatzedek. The hospital had 15 beds and a small operating room. Because
of the lack of equipment and the absence of means of anesthesia, it operated
mostly as an infirmary and first aid station. The professional staff included
four physicians Plotkin, Baron, Weindrich and Zik, two nurses, as well
as kitchen and cleaning personnel.
Even during these relatively
quiet months, the murder of Jews continued unabated, although not on the scale
of the massive pogroms in the month of July. According to German police
reports covering this period of time found after the war in Libau, there are
many particulars concerning the executions of Jews. The report of 22 September
1941 records the execution of 61 Jews; the 24 September report records the
murder of 37 Jews; reports covering the period between 25 September and the 17th of October (the time of the holidays of the month of Tishrei 5702) mention the
liquidation of 454 Jewish men and women who are not fit for work.
This included mostly the elderly, pregnant women and the ill. In this pogrom (Aktzia), the residents of the old age home were completely wiped out. Thirty Jews
were murdered between November 3 and 13; between the 13th and 27th of November an additional 33 Jews considered dangerous from a political
standpoint were executed as well as another 43 Jews between the 10th and 13th of December. The murders of a total of 658 Jews are recorded in these
documents. According to an official German source, only 3,890 Jews, mostly
women and children, remained in the city by November 1941.
The murder of the women and children:
On Saturday, 13 December 1941, Dr. Dietrich, the senior SS officer in Libau,
published an official order in the pages of the Kursemes Vards newspaper,
requiring all Jews of the city to be confined to their houses on Monday and
Tuesday, the 15th and 16th of December. At the same time, the German security police issued 300 to 350
new working papers, which were distributed, to Jews working in the police
stations, the medical staff of the Jewish hospital and various other workers.
Including their families, these numbered some 1,000 people, less than one third
of the Jews still alive in the city. Fear, suspicions, rumors and various
interpretations were rife among the Jews. Many attempted to prepare for the
future. Some certificate holders inflated the number of their family members
to include as many people as possible; others decided to disregard the order
and prepared hiding places for themselves in the cellars, attics and among
their Christian acquaintances. In some cases, German military personnel
managed to get additional working papers for a small number of added Jews.
In preparation for the pogrom (Aktzia), the city was divided into three sections: New Libau, and Old Libau into two
parts East and West. On Saturday night, between the 13th and 14th of December, Latvian guards began to arrest the Jews in New Libau. In the
following days, arrests were carried out in the rest of the areas of the city.
The guards had exact and detailed lists of all of the names of the Jewish
residents and went house-to-house, conducting searches for those missing. The
Jews were brought to the women's prison yard. The Yard was too small to
accommodate the large number of people, which included many women, children and
infants. In this crowded place, the Germans inspected the documents separating
those with the new work permits from the rest. During this time, the Jews were
forced to stand for hours facing the wall, without water or food. It was
forbidden to talk or move. Children cried and the adults, who began to realize
what was in store for them, began to panic. In order to preserve
order the Latvian and German guards utilized brutal and savage measures.
At the conclusion of the inspection, those with documents were sent home with
their families, and the rest of the Jews were led to their execution in the
town of Skeden on the Baltic coast north of Libau. Large pits 60 to 100 meters
long and 3 to 4 meters deep had been previously dug. The Jews were taken to
Skeden in trucks and on sleds. Children and the elderly were thrown into them
with utmost cruelty. Others made their way on foot on the slippery road in the
freezing cold of 5 degrees Celsius. Upon arrival at Skeden, the Jews were put
in a shack. The men and women were ordered to completely disrobe, in groups of
ten they were forced to run to the pits where they were shot by groups of
Germans and Latvians. Two executioners aimed their weapons at each victim.
Mothers were ordered to carry their little children on their shoulders to
enable the murderers to shoot the children with greater ease. The horrendous
bloodbath began on the morning of December 15, while the arrests of the Jews in
Libau were at their height, and concluded on the afternoon of 17 December.
During the three days of the Aktzia, 2,700 to 2,800 Jews were systematically murdered in cold blood, most of them
women and children. After the Aktzia,
about one thousand Jews remained in Libau those who held work permits
along with their families and some Jews without work permits who managed to
evade the massacre.
Throughout the winter and
spring of 1942, lesser Aktzias took place: the third week of February 1942 the Germans carried out an Aktzia against those without a profession or those who were not engaged in essential
work. However, many Jews, learning their cruel lesson from the December Aktzia, managed to escape this time. There were some who received prior notice from
Jews who worked for the police and they managed to hide during this Aktzia. Others managed to leave jail after obtaining by various means the required work
permits. A group of 22 Jews exhibited special daring; while being led to the
killing pits in Skeden, they attacked their drunken Latvian guards and managed
to escape. Jews paid off the German commander, Kigler, known as being amenable
to bribery, and the German search for escaped Jews was called off. (Kigler was
removed from his position in 1943 and sentenced by an SS court for taking
bribes and financial irregularities.) Some one hundred Jews were murdered in
these Aktzias, and another ten Jews committed suicide. In the second half of April 1942,
the Germans executed a few more dozen Jews in the killing pits of Skeden.
Approximately 800 Jews remained in the city after this carnage and they were
confined to a Ghetto shortly thereafter.
In the Ghetto July 1942 to November 1943Creation of the Ghetto:
The setting up of a Ghetto in Libau was delayed until the middle of 1942, as
there was no specific Jewish area that could serve as its basis. In order to
concentrate the Jews in one area, hundreds of Christian residents had to be
moved. This ran into the obstacle of the lack housing because of the war.
However, as early as the fall of 1941 the German authorities considered
evacuating army bases outside of the city to establish a Ghetto. This was
never carried through. Instead, the Germans set aside a small quarter in Old
Libau for the remaining Jews and ordered the Christian residents to vacate
their homes. The area which included 11 or 12 buildings, encompassed parts of
four streets: Herrenstrasse, Gartenstrasse, Wiesenstrasse and Oststrasse. On
July 1, the Jews were given ten days to relocate to the Ghetto. In August, the
barbed wire fence that enclosed the area was completed and the Ghetto was
sealed off. Jews were prohibited from leaving without permits and Christians
were not permitted to enter it and or to maintain contact with its residents.
Warning signs posted on the fence threatened that violators would be shot. A
few Jewish women, married to Latvians, were required to undergo sterilization
in order to continue living with their husbands outside the Ghetto. However,
at a later stage they, too, were forced into the Ghetto. Other mixed couples,
with the encouragement of the Germans, separated before the Ghetto was set up,
and the Jewish partner shared the fate of the other Jews.
Administration of the Ghetto and its institutions:
Authority was placed in the hands of the German security police. A German
police officer by the name of Kerscher was appointed the commander of the
Ghetto. According to the testimony of survivors, he related to the Jews in a
humanitarian manner. The Ghetto guards, who numbered 12 to 15 Latvian guards,
were under his command. The Ghetto also included a place for the detention of
those who 'violated' the various regulations it was known as the
'bunker' by the residents. During the time of the existence
of the Ghetto, the Germans executed several dozen Jews for the 'crimes' of
conducting illegal trade with non-Jews, taking various supplies and items from
their places of work, going out without wearing the yellow star, remaining
outside the Ghetto without permission and other similar offenses.
About a year before the Ghetto
was established, the Germans appointed a committee of Jews that was officially
called the Council of Elders (Altestenrat), and known by Jews as Kehillah. At its head was an long time public servant by the name of Izraellit who was
aided by a young lawyer named Kagnesky. The committee was responsible for all
areas of life in the Ghetto and it was given the authority to keep order and
discipline. Under its command was a small Jewish police unit responsible for
the day-by-day maintenance of order and sanitation as well as the
implementation of the Ghetto regulations such as the nighttime curfew and the
limitation on the use of gas, etc. In the framework of the Jewish
administration of the Ghetto, there was also an employment bureau that
concerned itself with the organization and distribution of work. The chairman
of the council headed it. Also set up were a central agency for the
distribution of food, workshops and training classes. The Linat Hatzedek hospital, whose origins date back to before the Ghetto was set up, also
continued to function. In addition to providing medical care, the medical
staff provided documents for workers and performed abortions as pregnancy was
prohibited in the Ghetto. An arbitration court of honor, headed by the
attorney Wolf, dealt with disagreements between neighbors and with violations
of the internal Ghetto code. The elderly and those whose working capacity was
limited cared for the few children. The Ghetto residents organized several
small cultural activities a library, a drama club and a small synagogue.
In one of the houses, there was a radio that provided the Ghetto residents
news of what was happening. According to the testimony of survivors, all of
the Jewish functionaries of the Ghetto, including the police, behaved with the
utmost efficiency, honesty and without bureaucracy. They endeavored to ease
the plight of the Jews and were well regarded by the residents of the Ghetto.
Some of the Jewish workforce was employed in the Ghetto but most worked
outside. The Jewish Committee attempted to take into consideration the
professional expertise and the physical capabilities of the workers.
For the most part, those
engaged outside of the Ghetto worked for the German army or police in
sewing workshops, as shoemakers, carpenters, in garages and in workshops. They
were employed as craftsmen and unskilled laborers. A portion worked in army
and police warehouses where lumber, clothing and plundered items were stored,
at the railroad station and in various workshops producing shoes, smoked fish,
gasoline, etc. The women worked in factories, workshops, in kitchens and in
cleaning. The workers gathered early every morning at an assigned place in the
Ghetto, were organized into groups (kolonot) according to their places of
employment and marched to and from their jobs in orderly rows accompanied by
the Jewish head of the group. This was in contrast to other places where the
Germans required that the head of the group be a non-Jew. They worked long
hours and with the daily marching to and from their jobs, they spent most of
the day outside the confines of the Ghetto.
Those working inside were
involved in the Ghetto operation and in workshops and work places set up by the
Committee of Elders in sewing, shoe repair, as blacksmiths
and in a gold and silversmith workshop. These places were under the
supervision of the Germans who would periodically tour the Ghetto. They
supplied the Ghetto needs and took outside orders from Germans and Latvians for
which they were paid. This money was turned over to the German administration.
The elderly and weak were employed in the Ghetto workshops to spare them from
having to do hard work outside.
A small number of noted Jewish
experts, employed by the economic arm of the German security police, received
special documents granting them additional privileges, including free movement
outside the Ghetto. They utilized these privileges to help others and enjoyed
special status in the Ghetto. Outstanding among them was David Ziftchon, the
'Over Jew' ['Jew Supervisor'] of the electric workshop of the police and Arieh
Hertzbach who operated the gold and silversmith workshops and did personal work
for top ranking German police officials.
Physical and economic conditions:
The Germans allotted only four square meters per resident of the Ghetto causing
serious overcrowding. For example, a five room dwelling with a kitchen housed
22 people, that is 3 to 6 people per room. In order to limit friction, the
Committee tried as much as possible to match residents with each other;
whenever possible, each family was allocated one room to itself. People who
had close family members were joined together and single people were assigned
separate rooms. The Jewish workers remodeled the dwellings and most of them
had sanitary lavatories and cooking facilities. The authorities provided
technical assistance and help in supplying material for heating. The Jewish
Committee enacted special regulations to maintain cleanliness and order and the
Ghetto police supervised their implementation. As a result, there was no
incidence of neglect, filth or plague in the Libau Ghetto.
The official food rations
allotted to working Jews and their families was centrally distributed to the
Jewish Committee and they in turn distributed it weekly from the Center for
Food Distribution. The weekly allocation was 2,500 grams of bread, 180 grams
of sugar, 50 grams of butter, potatoes, soup prepared in the Ghetto kitchen and
occasionally other food items. Those engaged in heavy labor received an
additional ration of food. However, the official allotment did not contain
enough to meet the requirements of the average person. In order to obtain
additional food and other required items, such as cleaning and heating
supplies, the Jews had to endanger their lives and find other ways, which were
considered serious violations
of German regulations. From their places of employment, Jewish workers would
smuggle sugar, coal, leather, clothing and other items for personal use,
for sale or to trade. Others exchanged items of value that they had saved from
before the war for needed items. Trade, both for cash and barter, was carried
on among the Jews themselves and with the Latvians, at their work places and on
their way to work. Some Jews paid with their own lives and in some cases with
the lives of their families for this violation.
The small number of Ghetto
residents, the fact that it included only workers and their families, the many
connections they had with their surroundings, and the relatively benign
authorities that were in charge of the area, all of these helped prevent hunger
in the Libau Ghetto. Even so, there were instances of malnourishment.
The Riga Group:
On 22 October 1942, a group of Jews from the Riga Ghetto, consisting of
Latvian, German and Lithuanian Jews, was brought to Libau to work in the local
sugar factory. Including their families, this group numbered about 160 people.
At least one physician came with them from Riga. They were housed in separate
buildings in the Ghetto. At first, they were barred from entering the main
part of the Ghetto but, with time, this prohibition was cancelled. The new
arrivals also received their weekly food rations through the Center for Food
Distribution in the Ghetto. The Committee helped them obtain food to prepare
hot soup. Many from the Riga group succeeded in smuggling sugar into the
Ghetto from the factory. They would sell it for 40 marks a liter. Some were
caught and executed. Eight of them were shot to death one night for unclear
reasons. At the end of December 1942, with the completion of the seasonal work
at the sugar factory, about one hundred of the group was returned to the Riga
Ghetto. About fifty others remained in the Libau Ghetto on German orders to
work in loading and unloading in the port. Three representatives, one from
each of the three 'ethnic' groups, went to Riga with German permission to bring
back winter clothing. They utilized this opportunity to establish contact
between the two Ghettos by bringing news with notes and messages. The Riga
group smuggled coal from the port that was sold for 3 marks a liter. In March
1943, they were all sent back to the Ghetto of their city [Riga]. At the same
time, some skilled craftsmen in the building trade were taken from the Libau
Ghetto. Together with their families, they numbered 32 people. They were sent
to work for the building company of the SS in Paplaka, some 35 kilometers
outside the city.
Liquidation of the Ghetto:
In the fall of 1943/44, the Council of Elders was notified by the
Ghetto commander, Kerscher, that the Ghetto was to be liquidated and its
residents were to be transferred to a concentration camp. They were further
informed that the Jews would be permitted to take with them all that they could
carry by themselves. From past experience, the Jews did not put much trust in
the German announcement and thought that 'the transfer' was a pretext for the
murder of the Ghetto residents. Many Jews obtained poison tablets and some
even used them. Others, gave their valuable possessions to Latvian
acquaintances for safe keeping with the hope that they would be able to reclaim
them upon their return in the future. A few of the youth planned to resist and
wanted to set the Ghetto on fire and a small group managed to escape from the
Ghetto on the eve of its evacuation (see below). The Ghetto Council tried its
best to rescind the extreme decree and was aided in this by the Ghetto
commander Kerscher. He suggested to the German authorities that residences for
the Jews could be provided at their workplaces after the Ghetto was terminated
and that they not be deported to concentration camps. However, his suggestion
was ignored. Meanwhile, in the workshops of the Ghetto work clothing was
prepared for the Jews to wear in the concentration camps. On the last night
before the liquidation, the authorities cut off the supply of gas to the Ghetto.
On Friday, the eve of Yom
Kippur 5704, 8 October 1943, at 4:00 AM the Jews were assembled in the Ghetto
yard. They were required to turn over all their money and valuables and then
were loaded on cars of trains destined for the concentration camp of Kaiserwald
near Riga. The following day, all those who were unable to work, the elderly,
weak little children along with their mothers, about one half of the Jews of
Libau, were sent to the Latvian section of the Riga Ghetto where they remained
until its liquidation. The second half remained in Kaiserwald. In Libau, the
Germans kept three Jews from the Ghetto to do various kinds of work. They
escaped shortly afterwards finding refuge with Latvians (see below). On 29
April 1944, a group of Jews working for the SS in Paplaka were arrested. After
a few of them managed to escape, the rest were sent to the central prison in
Riga. On May 2 of the same year, they, too, were transferred to the camp in
Kaiserwald, where the remaining Jews of Latvia were assembled. The fate of the
remnants of Latvia's Jews was the same as that of the rest of the prisoners of
the camp. The city of Libau and its environs was then officially declared
Judenrein, free of Jews.
Rescue and Rescue Attempts:
During the German occupation, Jews attempted various rescue efforts and some of
them succeeded in the short term. A group of Jews managed to hide during all
of the Aktzias and left their hiding places only when the Jews entered the Ghetto. As
previously noted, a group escaped in February 1942, on the way to the killing
pits of Skeden. Other Jews obtained documents testifying to their affiliation
with the Christian church. In August 1942, the Germans accused a Russian
priest of the Greek Orthodox Church of selling these types of documents to six
Jews. Eleven Jews hid in a 'bunker' after the liquidation of the Ghetto and
survived until the end of the war. David Ziftchon and Michael Skotlavski, who
enjoyed free movement in the city due to their professional expertise, prepared
the bunker during the time of the Ghetto. It was constructed under
the cellar of the bakery at 14 Kaufstrasse, where David Ziftchon had previously
lived. With the help of the Latvian janitor Sedulas, the place was well hidden
and equipped with an air vent, water, electricity and gas as well as method of
warning if danger approached along with means of escape.
On the last night before the
liquidation [of the Ghetto], Ziftchon, Skotlavski along with their wives in the
Ghetto found shelter in the prepared bunker.
After a while, they were joined by a woman who escaped from Kaiserwald, the
three Jews who the Germans kept in the Ghetto after its liquidation and others.
The number of those rescued came to eleven people. In exchange for electrical
equipment and shoes, the Latvian janitor Sedulas secured food for them. He
also obtained a pistol and bullets for self-defense or to use to commit suicide
in case the Germans discovered their hiding place. After Sedulas was killed in
shelling of the town, his wife and friends, who were in on the secret,
continued to concern themselves with their needs.
About ten other Jews hid with
Latvians in various places around the city. Some children were hidden with
area farmers. Between twenty and thirty Libau Jews remained alive until the
city's liberation on 9 May 1945.
After the war, a few hundred
Jews from various places settled in the city. With time, they left Libau and
there is no longer a local Jewish community.
Yizkor Book Project
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Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
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Contact person for this translation Caroline S. Ruda
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Updated 2 June 2002 by LA