“To be sure, while the numbers of those killed may well be lower than those in some other cases of genocide, there is no precise numerical threshold that has to be crossed before one can speak of “genocide.” As noted earlier, genocide need not entail a group’s total destruction. Rather, killing is a matter of degree, and the thoroughness displayed can vary from case to case. In fact, one sociologist cautioned, “making the definition of [genocide] a matter of percentages [of the population killed] risks creating a morality based solely on bookkeeping.” What is key is the willful destruction or attempted destruction of large numbers of people innocent of any specific crime other than belonging to a certain group.”
— Norman Cigar in Genocide in Bosnia (via fuckyeajews)
9:22 pm • 12 December 2013 • 41 notes
Lodz, Poland, A “Zionist Youth Front” memorial service for Herzl and Bialik.
photographed by Mendel Grossman
9:09 pm • 12 December 2013 • 2 notes
Ella Liebermann - Shiber was born in Berlin in 1927. In 1938 her family relocated to Bedzin, Poland. Upon the outbreak of the war, they were interned in the ghetto. In August 1943, Bedzin was declared “Judenrein” [German: clean of Jews] and the family was sent on a transport to the Auschwitz - Birkenau camp. Her father and brother were taken to their deaths, while her life was spared along with her mother’s, due to Ella’s artistic talent. She was put to work by the Nazis as a portrait artist.
In January 1945, as Soviet forces approached the Auschwitz camp, Ella and her mother were sent on a death march to Germany, where they were interned in the Neustadt camp, a subcamp of Ravensbrueck. They were liberated there in May 1945.
Ella Liebermann married Emanuel Shiber in Poland in 1946, and the couple moved westward assisted by Ha - Bricha, the organization aiding Jews emigrating from Eastern Europe on their way to Mandatory Palestine. They sailed on the illegal immigration ship “Ben Hecht” that was turned back from the shores of Palestine to Cyprus in March 1947. In a detention camp there, Ella was among the many artists taking part in the art courses organized by Naftali Bezem of Jerusalem’s “Bezalel” Academy. The participants published an album, “In the Cyprus Exile” [Hebrew title: Be - Gerush Kafrisin], with 26 linocut prints depicting daily life in the camp.
After 13 months of internment, the Shibers were released; in April 1948 they arrived in Haifa.
During the years 1979 - 1983, Ella Liebermann - Shiber studied art at the University of Haifa, in workshops in painting, graphics, and sculpture.
Several years after her liberation from the camps in Poland and Germany, she had begun to produce sketches and descriptions depicting life and death in the camps. These recollections formed a series of 93 artworks she titled “On the Edge of the Abyss” [Hebrew title: Chayyim ‘al Kav ha - Ketz], exhibited in the Ghetto Fighters’ House museum and donated to its art collection. Ella Liebermann - Shiber regarded her dealing with these subjects in her artworks not only a documentation of harsh experiences and events, but also the beginnning of a rehabilitative process.
Ella Liebermann - Shiber died in 1998 following a severe illness.
titles of drawings
1.August 1, 1943 - Bedzin / “Judenrein” [Clean of Jews].
2.”Shema Israel” — Memorial Candle for Our People Who Perished in the Holocaust.
3.The Nazi Boot Threatens the World, 1933 - 1945.
4.A Book Burning.
5.The Burning of a Synagogue.
6.Abducting Jews for Forced Labor.
7.Amusements of the Gauleiter’s Son.
8.”Make Way for the Representative of the Master Race.”
9.Abuse of a Defenseless Jew.
10.Throwing Jews into the River.
Images and information from the Ghetto House Fighters Archive
6:39 pm • 12 December 2013 • 5 notes
The Arajs Kommando (also: Sonderkommando Arajs), led by SS-Sturmbannführer Viktors Arājs, was a unit of Latvian Auxiliary Police (German: Lettische Hilfspolizei) subordinated to the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst (SD). It was one of the more well-known and notorious killing units during the Holocaust.
After the entry of the Einsatzkommando into the Latvian capital contact between Viktors Arājs and Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker was established on 1 July 1941. Stahlecker instructed Arājs to set up a commando that obtained an official name Latvian Auxiliary Security Police or Arajs Kommando. The group was composed of students and former officers of far-right wing orientation. All of the Arajs Kommando members were volunteers, and free to leave at any time. The following day on 2 July, Stahlecker revealed to Arājs that his commando had to unleash a pogrom that looked spontaneous.
The Arajs Kommando unit actively participated in a variety of Nazi atrocities, including the killing of Jews, Roma, and mental patients, as well as punitive actions and massacres of civilians along Latvia’s eastern border with the Soviet Union. The Kommando killed around 26,000 Jews in total. Most notably, the unit took part in the mass execution of Jews from the Riga ghetto, and several thousand Jews deported from Germany, in the Rumbula massacre of November 30 and December 8, 1941.
Some of the commando’s men also served as guards at the Salaspils concentration camp.
As can be seen in contemporary Nazi newsreels—part of a documentation campaign to create the image that the Holocaust in the Baltics was a local, and not Nazi-directed activity—the Arajs Kommando figured prominently in the burning of Riga’s Great (Choral) Synagogue on 4 July 1941. Commemoration of this event has been chosen for marking Holocaust Memorial Day in present-day Latvia.
The unit numbered about 300-500 men during the period that it participated in the killing of the Latvian Jewish population, and reached up to 1,500 members at its peak at the height of its involvement in “anti-partisan" operations in 1942.
In the final phases of the war, the unit was disbanded and its personnel transferred to the Latvian Legion.
After successfully hiding in West Germany for several decades after the war, Viktors Arājs was eventually arrested, tried, and imprisoned for his crimes. More recently, the governments of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia were involved in the attempt to extradite Konrāds Kalējs, a former officer of the Arajs Kommando, to Latvia for trial on charges of genocide. Kalējs died in Australia before the extradition could proceed, maintaining his innocence to the end, stating that he was fighting Russia on the eastern front or studying at university when the slaughter of Jews took place in 1941.
Naums Lifšics, a Jewish-Latvian economist and survivor of the Stalinist deportations, suggested that NKVD agents probably participated in the activities of the Arajs Kommando. (via)
2:24 pm • 12 December 2013 • 3 notes
photograph of Herberts Cukurs in 1937
Herberts Cukurs (May 17, 1900, in Liepāja, Courland Governorate, Russian Empire – February 23, 1965, in Montevideo, Uruguay) was a Latvian aviator. He was a member of the notorious Arajs Kommando and was involved in murders of Latvian Jews as part of the Holocaust but he never stood trial. There are eyewitness accounts linking Cukurs to war crimes. He was assassinated by Mossad agents in 1965.
As a result of actions during the Nazi occupation of Latvia from 1941 to 1944, Cukurs became known as the “Butcher of Riga”.
As a pioneering long-distance pilot, he won national acclaim for his international solo flights in the 1930s (Latvia-Gambia and Riga-Tokyo). He was awarded the Harmon Trophy for Latvia in 1933. He also designed the Cukurs C-6bis prototype dive bomber in 1940.
Participation in the Holocaust
During the occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany in the summer of 1941, Cukurs became a member of the notorious Arajs Kommando, responsible for many of the crimes of the Holocaust in Latvia.
In his book The Holocaust in Latvia, 1941-1945, historian Andrew Ezergailis writes that Cukurs played a leading role in the atrocities committed in the Riga ghetto in conjunction with the Rumbula massacre on 30 November 1941. After the war, surviving witnesses reported that Cukurs had been present during the ghetto clearance and fired into the mass of Jewish civilians. During interviews with the press, Ezergailis stated that there is no evidence that Cukurs had been at the pits at Rumbula, and that it has not been proven that Cukurs was “the most eager shooter of Jews in Latvia”.
According to other sources Cukurs was the most recognizable Latvian SD man at the scene of the Rumbula massacre. Ezergailis states that “although Arājs’ men were not the only ones on the ghetto end of the operation, to the degree they participated in the atrocities there the chief responsibility rests on Herberts Cukurs’ shoulders.”. Cukurs was described as follows:
The Latvian murderer Cukurs got out of a car wearing a pistol (Nagant) in a leather holster at his side. He went to the Latvian guards to give them various instructions. He had certainly been informed in detail about the great catastrophe that awaited us.
According to another account Cukurs also participated in the Burning of the Riga synagogues. According to Bernard Press in his book The Murder of the Jews in Latvia, Cukurs burned the synagogue on Stabu Street, but only after dragging Jews out of the neighbouring houses and locking them inside
Eyewitnesses heard the people who were locked inside screaming for help and saw them breaking the synagogue’s windows from inside and trying, like living torches, to get outside. Cukurs shot them with his revolver.
Time magazine reported at the time of his death in 1965 that his crimes included the Riga synagogue fires; the drowning of 1,200 Jews in a lake; and participating in the November 30, 1941 murder of 10,600 people in a forest near Riga.
Post-war and Assassination
Cukurs was mentioned several times in the Nuremberg Trials as a vicious Nazi executioner, but his whereabouts were unknown and he was never formally charged. He had fled to Germany with retreating German troops.
After the war, Cukurs emigrated to Brazil via France. There, he established a business in São Paulo, flying Republic RC-7 Seabees on scenic flights. While living in South America he neither hid nor tried to hide his identity.
He is now known to have been assassinated by Mossad agents, who persuaded him to travel to Uruguay under the pretense of starting an aviation business, after it was found out that he would not stand trial for his participation in the Holocaust. An acquaintance named “Anton Künzle”—in reality, disguised Mossad agent Yaakov Meidad—cabled Cukurs from Montevideo. He was invited to a house in a remote suburb of the city that had just been rented by a man from Vienna. He was shot in the head twice with a suppressed automatic pistol after a short but violent struggle that was not heard by neighbors.
Media outlets in South America and Germany were sent a note stating:
Taking into consideration the gravity of the charge levelled against the accused, namely that he personally supervised the killing of more than 30,000 men, women and children, and considering the extreme display of cruelty which the subject showed when carrying out his tasks, the accused Herberts Cukurs is hereby sentenced to death. Accused was executed by those who can never forget on the 23rd of February, 1965. His body can be found at Casa Cubertini Calle Colombia, Séptima Sección del Departamento de Canelones, Montevideo, Uruguay.
The note was initially dismissed as the work of a crank, but then police were notified and the body was discovered.
Since the fall of Communism, there have been efforts in Latvia to rehabilitate Cukurs. For example, an exhibition was held in Riga in honour of the ‘national hero’ Herberts Cukurs, in which his work in the Arājs Kommando was portrayed as having been harmless.
The Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks condemned the issuance of postal envelopes dedicated to Cukurs in 2004. In a statement, Pabriks said that “those who produced such envelopes in Latvia evidently do not understand the tragic history of World War II in Latvia or in Europe”. The foreign ministry stated that Cukurs was “guilty of war crimes” and that he “took part in the activities of the notorious Arājs Kommando, which participated in the Holocaust and was responsible for the killing of innocent civilians. The General Prosecutor’s Office of Latvia has twice rejected the exoneration of Herberts Cukurs”.(via)
1:26 pm • 12 December 2013 • 1 note
Burning of the Riga Synagogues
The burning of the Riga synagogues occurred in 1941, during the first days of the World War II Nazi German occupation of the city of Riga, the capital and largest city in the country of Latvia. Many Jews were confined in the synagogues and died in the fires, and many other anti-Semitic measures were launched at the same time, ultimately followed by the murder of the vast majority of Jews in Latvia.
The German army crossed the border into Latvia in the early morning of Sunday, June 22, 1941. On June 29, 1941, the Red Army began a disorganized withdrawal from Riga, then under German aerial bombardment. On July 1, 1941, the German army entered Riga. There were approximately 40,000 Jews in the city at that time. The Germans were welcomed by the non-Jewish majority portion of the Latvian population of Riga.
Shortly after German troops entered the city on 1 July 1941, the Nazi occupation authorities incited Latvian nationalists to commit deadly anti-Jewish riots known as “pogroms”. Within three months, more than 6,000 people were killed in Riga and the vicinity. Professionals such as lawyers, physicians and engineers in particular were targeted by the Nazis. Frida Michelson reported that they were singled out by fellow Latvian professionals from among the other Jews arrested and immediately shot. Large groups of prisoners were taken out of the Central Prison by truck to Bikernieki Forest, where they were shot. On July 2, at the instigation of the Germans, Latvian armed youths wearing red and white armbands went about the city dragging Jews out of their homes and arresting them. The Latvian collaborators assaulted a number of Jews, some so severely that they died, and shot others. The same morning, all of the telephones belonging to Jews were disconnected.
Pērkonkrusts (Thunder Cross or Swastika) was the name of the Latvian fascist party that was active in the 1930s. Members of Pērkonkrusts including, among others, Viktors Arājs and Herberts Cukurs cooperated with the Nazis in exterminating the Jews of Latvia. The university fraternities were also involved with the party. In July 1941, after the German occupation, Pērkonkrusts took over the house of the Jewish banker Schmulian, in Riga, at 19 Valdemara Street (Gorki Street under Soviet rule), to use as their headquarters. A Riga newspaper Tēvija, (“Fatherland”) regularly published anti-Jewish propaganda, such as an editorial on July 11, 1941 entitled “The Jews—Source of Our Destruction”.
The Jews arrested were taken to police headquarters (or “prefecture”) and the Central Prison, also known as the Zentralka. Old and sick people were brought in naked. Young women were stripped naked and confined to cellars where they were raped. There were reports of women being raped in front of their husbands and children. Traditionally-attired Jews, especially those with beards, were targeted for humiliations such as dragging them around by their beards and forced shaving. Others were forced at gunpoint to put on the talith (prayer shawl) and tefilin (phylactery), then dance and sing Soviet songs. People, including non-Jews, were commonly accused by their enemies of “Communist-Jewish activities”.
In the days following July 2, the Jews at the prefecture were marched out to perform forced labour, then confined back at the prefecture during the night. The Latvian Roberts Stiglics was in charge of the prefecture. Much of this was simply makework designed to humiliate and intimidate the Jews, although in at least one instance a small group of Jewish women was detailed to Jelgava to work in the fields for six weeks. The only Jews not immediately subject to brutality at the hands of Latvian thugs were those who had been members of the Jewish Latvian Freedom Fighters Association (Latvian: Lačplēsis), but this immunity did not last.
Destruction of the synagogues and cemeteries
Jews were rounded up and forced into synagogues, which were then set on fire. The Great Choral Synagogue, on Gogol Street, was burned on July 4, 1941, with 300 Jews locked in the basement. Historian Gertrude Schneider, a survivor of the German ghetto, assigns responsibility to Viktors Arājs, Herberts Cukurs and Vilis Hazners. Historian Press states that some of the victims were Lithuanian Jews who had taken refuge there. Schneider identifies the victims as mostly women and children. Frida Michelson, a Latvian Jew who had been working near Jelgava in a forced labour crew when the synagogues were burned, reported that on her return to Riga, she was told by a friend (who had heard it from someone else) that the halls and the backyard of the Choral Synagogue were filled with Lithuanian refugees. Perkonkrusts and “other Latvian hangers-on” surrounded the building, trapped the people inside, and set it on fire. The burning of the synagogue was filmed by the Germans and later became part of a Wehrmacht newsreel, with the following narration:
“The synagogue in Riga, which had been spared by the GPU commissars in their work of destruction, went up in flames a few hours later.”
According to Bernard Press, Herberts Cukurs, a Latvia air force officer, and his gang of thugs, burned the synagogue on Stabu Street, but only after dragging Jews out of the neighbouring houses and locking them inside:
“Eyewitnesses heard the people who were locked inside screaming for help and saw them breaking the synagogues windows from inside and trying, like living torches, to get outside. Cukurs shot them with his revolver.”
Only the Peitavus synagogue in the centre of the city was not burned, and this was because of its location among apartment buildings. The interior was however ransacked along with all other Jewish places of worship. The mob also attacked the Jewish cemeteries. Kaufmann also describes a number of incidents of Jews being locked inside synagogues by Latvians which were then set on fire, including:
”* * * a vehicle full of armed Latvian volunteers drove to 9 Kalnu street in the Moscow suburb. All of the building’s Jewish tenants were forced to leave it immediately and taken to the old Jewish cemetery. Here they were locked into the synagogue and burned alive in it.”
.Among the Jews killed in the synagogue massacres were the cantor Mintz and his whole family, the rabbi Kilov, and Sarah Rashin (or Rashina), a 21-year-old internationally-famed violinist. (Another source says that Sarah Rashina was killed at Rumbula on November 30, 1941.
Further restrictions on Jews
By July 16, 1941, Jews were no longer allowed on the streetcars of Riga. Armed Latvian policemen wearing red-white-red armbands arrested Jews on the streets. Those arrested were taken to the police prefecture near the railroad station and to other prisons.
At the end of July, the city administration switched from the German military to German civil administration. The Germans issued new decrees at this time to govern the Jews. Under “Regulation One”, Jews were banned from public places, including city facilities, parks, and swimming pools. A second regulation required Jews to wear a yellow six-pointed star on their clothing, with violation punishable by death. A Jew was also to be allotted only one-half of the food ration of a non-Jew. The Nazis then registered all the Jews of Riga, and they further decreed that all Jews must wear a second yellow star, this one in the middle of their backs, and were not to use the sidewalks but walk in the roadway instead. Jews could be randomly assaulted with impunity by any non-Jew. The reason for mandating that Jews wear two stars was so that they could be readily distinguished in a crowd. Later, when Lithuanian Jews were transported to the ghetto, they were subject to the same two-star rule.
Officially the Gestapo took over the prisons in Riga on July 11, 1941. By this time, Latvian gangs had killed a number of the Jewish inmates. The Gestapo initially set up its headquarters in the former Latvian Ministry of Agriculture building on Raina Boulevard. A special Jewish administration was set up. Gestapo torture and similar interrogation tactics were carried out in the basement of this building. Anyone who happened to survive this treatment was then sent to prison, where the inmates were starved to death. The Gestapo later relocated to a former museum at the corner of Kalpaka and Alexander boulevards. The Nazis also set up a Latvian puppet government, under a Latvian general named Danker, who was himself half-German. A “Bureau of Jewish Affairs” was set up at the Latvian police prefecture. Nuremberg-style laws were introduced, which tried to force people in marriages between a Jew and an non-Jew to divorce. If the couple refused to divorce, the woman, if she was a Jew, would be forced to undergo sterilization. Jewish physicians were forbidden to treat non-Jews, and non-Jewish physicians were forbidden to treat Jews.
Construction of the Riga ghetto
On 21 July, the Riga occupation command decided to concentrate the Jewish workers inside a ghetto. Prominent Riga Jews, including Eljaschow, Blumenthal, and Minsker, were chosen to be on the ghetto council. All of them had been involved with the Jewish Latvian Freedom Fighters Association and it was hoped this would give them credibility in dealing with the occupation authorities. Council members were given large white armbands with a blue Star of David on them, which gave them the right to use the sidewalks and the streetcars. The Nazis issued an order that, by October 25, 1941, all Jews were to relocate to the Moscow suburb of Riga. As a result, about 30,000 Jews were concentrated in the small area known as the Moscow Forshtat by the end of October 1941. The Nazis fenced them in with barbed wire. Anyone who ventured too close to the barbed wire was shot by the Latvian guards stationed around the ghetto perimeter. German police (Wachmeister) from Danzig commanded the guards. The guards would engage in random firing during the night. Thirty-five days after the Riga ghetto was established, 24,000 of its inhabitants were forced to march out of the city and were shot at the nearby forest of Rumbula. (via)
8:04 am • 12 December 2013 • 3 notes
Portrait of Olga Grenenberg, paratrooper and scout, was active in Riga during WWII and was shot by Nazis in Bikernieki wood in August 2nd 1944. Photograph taken in 1943.
4:02 am • 12 December 2013 • 7 notes
Map from the Stahlecker Report, entitled, “Jewish Executions Carried out by Einsatzgruppen A.” This map was entered into evidence at the Einsatzgruppen trial. The map shows the area between the German-Soviet Demarcation Line and the area of the farthest German Army advance in the Soviet Union at the time. A Summary Report of charts, maps, and illustrations were compiled by SS-Brigadier General Stahlecker. This information was presented to the Reich Security Main Office in Berlin on October 16, 1941. All of the deaths recorded in this map occured between June 22, 1941 and October 15, 1941. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Thomas Wartenberg
October 16, 1941. SS-Brigadier General Walther Stahlecker submits his report on the killing of Jewish civilians in the northwestern region of the Soviet Union. The report documents the killing of more than 220,000 unarmed Jewish men, women, and children by men under his command between June 22 and October 15, 1941. He submits his report to the Reich Security Main Office in Berlin, which has responsibility for carrying out the Holocaust in German-occupied Europe during World War II.
Stalhlecker commanded Einsatzgruppe A, one of four German mobile killing units assigned to kill Jews, Roma, and government officials during the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. With the help of local auxiliaries, informants, and interpreters, Stahlecker’s men swept through the Baltic States and Belarus directly to the home communities of Jews (especially in Kovno, Riga, Vilna, and Minsk) and shot them without regard for age or sex.
Stahlecker’s report was submitted as evidence of Nazi atrocities (crimes against humanity) at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after the war.
10:23 pm • 11 December 2013 • 3 notes
Mendel Grossman - The Lodz Ghetto Photographer
Still Mendel thought that he should change his technique, from then on he climbed electric power posts to photograph a convoy of deportees on their way to the trains, he walked roofs, climbed the steeple of a church that remained within the confines of the ghetto in order to photograph a change of guard at the barbed-wire fence.
Weak and sick, he found it difficult to accomplish all those feats, but he was contemptuous of danger and did not heed the pleadings of friends. Inside the church he discovered a strange world – a surrealistic picture which could be only the product of morbid fantasy – the entire interior was covered with a thick layer of white feathers.
Waves of feathers rose into the air with each step, each movement. Every breeze caused a cloud of feathers to form in the air. The altar of carved wood, the figures of the saints, and the huge organ – all were covered with feathers, all undulated in the breeze.
Amidst all that he saw human figures, also wrapped in white, sitting, running around, standing. A small sign attached to the entrance attempted to explain what was happening inside. It read Institute for Feather Cleaning, but the sign did not tell the whole truth. The Church was the place to which the bedding robbed from Jews who were sent to death from Lodz and surrounding towns was being brought.
There, in the Church of the Virgin Mary, the pillows and featherbeds were ripped open by Jewish men and women, then the feathers were cleaned, sorted, packed and shipped to Germany, to merchants who sold them in the Reich.
Mendel spent many weeks in the church, covered with feathers. He looked for varied angles which would fully explain to future generations what was happening in that church. He created evidence of the crime, the full extent of which was not yet known to him. Only his intuition told him that this must be recorded.
The collection of negatives grew from day to day its contents became richer and more varied. The negatives were hidden in round tin cans, among them a can full of negatives from the performances of Habimah in Lodz in 1938.
Mendel again and again stressed in conversations with friends that he expected those negatives eventually to reach Tel Aviv and be given to the theatre. He did not speak of the plans for the future - he only wanted his photographs to be exhibited as testimony of what took place in the ghetto.
The desire to record, to record at all costs, had become part of the consciousness of the inhabitants of the ghetto. All parts of the community had become permeated by this desire, and Mendel with his camera was received with open arms and with full understanding, in workshops, in hospitals, in orphanages, in offices, in the streets.
8:55 pm • 11 December 2013 • 8 notes
“I list the stations: Basznice, Wrenczyca (it is 5 A.M.), Tarnowitz (7:30), Gross Dombrowka, Krowlewska- Huta (9:30). We keep singing our songs. Auschwitz, 10:30. It is 12:00. Large barracks. I don’t know the name of the station. Men and women are separated. Children are here, too. Old people, too. NILI [Netzah Yisrael lo yishaker: the Eternal of Israel is not false]. Be strong and brave, Rachel.”
— Rachel Boehm, meticulously recorded the stops on her transport. As arranged beforehand, she then hid her note between the logs of the train compartment so it could be found when the car returned empty. Jews who were put on cattle cars did not know their destinations.
6:03 am • 11 December 2013 • 4 notes