Hamburg Deportation Transport to Riga
© Wilhelm Mosel, Deutsch-jüdische Gesellschaft Hamburg.
Chapter 1. Evacuation Order to Riga
Chapter 2. Deportation Assembly Point Moorweidenstraße
Chapter 3. Deportation Procedure in Hamburg
Chapter 4. Deportation from Hamburg to Riga
Chapter 5. The Concentration Camps Jungfernhof and Salaspils near Riga
Chapter 6. The Execution Action of 26.3.1942 in the Bikernieki forest near
Chapter 7. The Evolution of the Ghetto area in Riga
Chapter 8. The Evolution of the rest of the city of Riga
Chapter 9. Deportations to further camps in Riga and environs
Chapter 10. Further Deportations in the direction of the Reich (1944-1945)
1. "Evacuation Order" to Riga
In a letter dated 1.12.1941 to the Hamburg Regional
Finance Office Claus Göttsche, head of the "Department for Jews"
(Judenreferat), for the Gestapo, Gestapo headquarters Hamburg, sent a list
of names of 794 Jews, who were to be “evacuated” (“evakuiert”) from Hamburg
to Riga on 4.12.1941. The typed number 750 of Hamburg Jews was crossed out
as was the deportation destination Minsk.
This fourth Hamburg transport actually departed for Riga on 6.12.1941 with
753 Hamburg Jews.
These deportees also received an “evacuation” order
(“Evakuierungsbefehl”) from the Gestapo, by registered mail, informing them
to report to the Masonic Lodge building at Moorweidenstraße 36 one day
before "evacuation". They were to be subject to special regulations for the
duration of the transport. Their assets were confiscated.
Each individual could bring: a suitcase with accoutrements weighing up to 50 kg,
clothing, bedding with blanket, food for 3 days and up to 100 RM currency,
which is to be surrendered at registration.
In addition they had to fill out the accompanying inventory of assets. This
"declaration of assets" ("Vermögenserklärung") consisted of 8 pages and had
to be filled out separately for each person. Especially ample space was
allotted for particulars of bank accounts, cash and securities, insurances,
properties, other receivables, business shares, and total assets.
"Declaration of Assets" Form. Click to enlarge
Thekla Bernau, one of those listed, was able to write to her two
daughters from her last address in Hartungstraße shortly before her
deportation. She must have been quartered here at short notice after having
received the deportation order, with 10 other people unknown to her, because
other addresses appear on the transport list both for her and those she
In her letter to Margarethe and Selma she writes:
“Now we know: We leave on 5 or 6 December. No one asks where. Everyone
knows, but no one says it. There are eleven of us in the two rooms in
In the morning SS men appeared three times and demanded our documents. We
told them that we had already surrendered them and that we were registered.
We asked whether there was some fuel for the stove and a doctor for Fanny
Borower. They smirked and told us that we no longer needed a stove
and that there were not even doctors for respectable people. (...)
Then a fat, uncouth woman arrived. Strip-search! She thrust her hand under
our shirts into our panties. We had to hold our arms high and spread our
legs. Her fingers entered everywhere and she took away the tincture for old
Borower’s knee. She said it was alcohol and that all alcohol was
forbidden to Jews. On penalty of death. (...)
(...) The woman told us we were to depart early the next day. We would be woken,
and would have to surrender our watches and wedding rings. And woe
betide those that hid anything. (...)
In the evening I had a crying fit. Wenkel said that it was the same
as with the previous transports. The cattle-wagons stood at Sternschanze.
Forty to a wagon. Women and men separate. In Altona wagons from Kiel and
Hannover were added. (...)
(...) The janitor arrived and said it would be better to place all our
valuables in his safe custody. (...) I have nothing. Only these pages and
indelible pencil. He procured an old envelope for me. I will now enclose
these pages and give it to him. He is to send it to Margarethe and Selma. He
promises he will. I will write nothing more. Adieu, my dears! Do not think
badly of me.”
2. Deportation Point Moorweidenstraße 36
Apart from a few exceptions those who had received a
deportation order for Riga also had to report to the Masonic Lodge at
This is confirmed by a survivor who particularly remembered the night before
6.12.1941 when people were closely packed together inside the Lodge building
awaiting the “evacuation” transport the following morning. The teacher
Jeanette Baer, herself later deported, was among those who helped and
consoled, until exhausted.
Frau I. W., who as a young girl helped with preparing
the provisions for this transport in the Jewish public soup kitchen at
Hartungstraße 9-11 (community building), reports about the catastrophic
sanitary conditions in the Lodge building due to the mass of people in the
unheated building in the bitterly cold weather:
“(...) the people had to stay overnight in the Lodge building. And because
they required something to eat and drink we made coffee for them. This meant
that in less than an hour we had to find hundreds of thermos flasks, coffee
and facilities to heat water. I have no idea how many thermos flaks I filled
Mr. Fritz Benscher, who also helped, then transported these flasks to
the Lodge building. Suddenly he returned and said we had to stop and brought
back all the flasks. While so many people had to use the inadequate number
of toilets, and with the cold weather and unheated building, they had become
frozen. The toilets had overflowed and were no longer functional. The
Gestapo thereupon ordered us not to give the people anything more to eat or
Benscher said we should pour the coffee away. He now required ladles. He
explained he wanted to scoop out the toilets. This he did. (...)
The circular “Evacuation IV” (“Evakuierungen IV”) sent
to the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland on 3.12.1941 contained
special orders from the Gestapo.
These regulations, which came into “immediate” effect, concerned the payment
for the “evacuation transports”. Each deportee had to pay an appropriate
part of his liquid assets (excluding securities) to the Reichsvereinigung.
The amount was not to be “less than 25%” of his liquid assets.
This payment was to be a “donation” whose necessity was to be made clear
the “donors” in “an appropriate way”. The deportees were to be informed
the donations were particularly intended to cover the cost of the transport
as well as for the provision of food, equipment, etc.
Just like the transportations to Lodz and Minsk the
deportees had to answer officials from the Hamburg Regional Finance Office
and suffer the control and chicanery of the Gestapo.
These officials from the “Property Utilisation Office”, who were always
present in the deportation assembly building, received the “declaration of
assets” forms and examined them in the presence of the deportees.
In the following days the items listed were examined in the abandoned
dwellings and suitable furniture selected for auction. Thereafter the
apartments were cleared.
Later, from summer 1942, the auctions were held in the apartments as this
speeded up the process.
Only a month after this transport had departed for Riga
the “Property Utilisation Office” informed the Hamburg Regional Finance
Office that 16 apartments had been cleared.
Among them were Carlebach, Ostmarkstraße 76 and Eldod,
To this transport list of 6.12.1941 there was a list of 31 people attached
who had “volunteered for evacuation” and a list of 13 people who had
committed suicide after having received an evacuation order.
Special regulations regarding the deportation building
also applied to medical cases (see letter, chapter 1).
There was a further feature already encountered with the second Minsk
Frau U. A., a survivor of the Riga transport, reports that she and her
mother brought their luggage to the gymnasium of the former Jewish girls’
school at Carolinenstraße 35. There they met the English teacher, Mr. Eldod.
Her mother approached Mr. Eldod and asked how her daughter was doing in
Among the people who had to spend the night of
6.12.1941 in the Lodge building at Moorweidenstraße 36 were Chief Rabbi Dr.
Joseph Carlebach, his wife Lotte and four of their nine
children: Noemi, Ruth, Shlomo and Sara.
Noemi wrote a postcard from Moorweidenstraße to fellow tenants at Oststraße
76 (former Hallerstraße).
A fellow tenant reported:
“When the deportation order arrived the parents were very calm, the mother
hardly left the apartment and the young girls were often below with us. They
did not have suitable underwear for the journey and my wife Anni hastily
sewed together underwear for Baby (Sara) from an old flannel blouse.”
On the night of 6.12.1941 there were also a number of
teachers who had taught in Jewish and non-Jewish schools on the deportation
| Name || Date of Birth || Place of Birth ||Last Address
| Naftali Eldod || 3.2.1899 || Höchberg ||
| Jettchen Heilbut || 7.9.1885 || Altona ||
| Therese Loewenthal || 16.12.1885 || Mühringen
|| Husumerstraße 1
| Margot Masse || 15.7.1895 || Hamburg ||
| Elsbeth Platz || 17.3.1884 || Dortmund ||
| Ernst Streim (Ephraim) || 4.7.1903 || Hamburg
|| Grindelallee 184
| Maria Beschütz || 11. 2.1882 || Hamburg ||
| Olga Beschütz || 28.1.1876 || Hamburg ||
| Julia Cohn née Cohen || 14.10.1888 || Hamburg
|| Klosterallee 13
| Dr. Richard Dannenbaum || 4.3.1879 ||
Fürstenberg || Parkallee 19
| Elsa Gottschalk || 13.2.1874 || Hamburg ||
| Jenny Meyer née Aron || 16.11.1877 || Bremen
|| Haynstraße 9
| Nanny Moxter née Dellevie || 26.11.1877 || Hamburg
|| Husumerstraße 14
Of the first six teachers listed four taught at the Jewish school at
Carolinenstrasse 35. Margot Masse finally as teacher of domestic
science, Elsbeth Platz as a teacher for Jewish emigrants.
Maria Beschütz finally taught at the school Erikastraße 23, her
sister Olga at the school Schwenkestraße 100. Julia Cohn
taught at the school Meerweinstraße 28 between 1930 and1933. Dr.
Dannenbaum taught at the school Kurze Mühren 40, Elsa
Gottschalk taught at the trade school Weidenstieg 29, Jenny
Meyer at the school Paulinenstraße 6 and Nanny Moxter at the
school Hopfenstraße 30.
Among those who received the deportation order for 6.12.1941 were also known
| Name || Date of Birth || Place of Birth ||Last Address
| Dr. Erich Brill || 28.9.1895 || Lübeck ||
| Edith Marcus || 23.2.1888 || Hamburg ||
| Lola Toepke (Edith) née Simon || 4.7.1891
|| Leopoldshall || Lübekerstraße 84
3. Deportation procedure in Hamburg
The day of departure of this Riga transport, 6.12.1941,
like the 25.10.1941 transport to Lodz and the 8.11.1941 transport to Minsk
was a Sabbath which must be regarded as a particular chicanery, particularly
for orthodox Jews.
753 Jews were deported to Riga on this day.
As with the deportations to Minsk the Reserve Police Battalion
101 were deployed as guard at the Freemasons’ Lodge where the deportees were
loaded onto lorries and escorted by policemen to the Sternschanze station
where other members of the battalion guarded the entraining.
The battalion also escorted the transport to Riga.
Frau U. R. confirms that the Sternschanze station was
used as feeder station for the transports departing in the autumn of
“(...) One day, definitely in the autumn 1941, my mother came home full of
dismay and agitation. She related she had observed something terrible near
the Sternschanze station: a large number of Jewish men, women and children
were herded to the station “like cattle” by men in uniform “with truncheons
and whips.” (...)
It must have been autumn 1941 because I was absent from school between
October 1941 and February 1942 as I was very ill. (...)”
The route these people took was also through the middle
of Hamburg, i.e. via Dammtor station, Hamburg Main Station and Oberhafen
station to Hanover Station, the actual departure station at
Dr. Max Plaut, then chairman of the community, wrote to the son of a
deportee on this transport:
“(...) Those to be deported were taken to the Hanove Station (a two
platform goods station) and had to immediately enter the train. (...) These
were passenger carriages. (...) The so-called station swarmed with Gestapo,
Protection Police, railway police and Jewish helpers who loaded food,
drinking and washing water onto the train (...) Parents and brothers and
sisters set a good example of calm and deportment (...)”
Claus Göttsche’s letter of 1.12.1941 (see chapter 1
had related the exact departure time of the train from the Hanover
station, i.e. “as scheduled” at 12.11 p.m., however for 4.12.1941.
It was also forseen that:
44 Jews from Lüneburg, 136 from Kiel and Lübeck and 75 from Danzig will be
attached to the transport.
For reasons of route it can be assumed a carriage with
people from Lüneburg was added to those of the Hamburg transport at the
Hanover Station. The carriages of people from Kiel and Lübeck were
added at Bad Oldesloe. The carriage of people from Danzig was added at Dirschau.
4. Deportation from Hamburg to Riga
There is a surviving seating allocation signed by the
spokesman for carriage number 12, Dr. Erich Brill, for the transport
from Hamburg to Riga. There are 52 people, including children over 6 years
of age, with no thought of food complying with dietary laws. This list,
without individual names, was to be immediately delivered to the “transport
leader” after departure. The spokesman had to select suitable people from
his carriage to organise the food for the journey.
The transport probably travelled via Hamburg
Rothenburgsort marshalling yard to Bad Oldesloe.
It can be assumed that the transport departed the
Hanover Station on schedule at 12.11 p.m. because it stood waiting at
Bad Oldesloe when the Lübeck transport arrived, the latter having departed
Lübeck at 11 a.m.
Because the 6.12.1941 was a Saturday, a Sabbath, a
member of the Lübeck office of the Northwest German district office of the
Richsvereinigung the Jews in Germany received permission from the Lübeck
police chief to travel from Lübeck to Bad Oldesloe and back.
Initially 3 helpers requested to accompany the transport on Friday,
Josef Katz, the sole Lübeck survivor of the Riga
transport, also incorrectly gives the 5.12.1941 as the date for
luggage control, at St. Annenstraße 11, the transport to Lübeck Main Station
and the journey to Bad Oldesloe station.
He relates that after having surrendered the key to his
apartment at Braunstraße at the police staion on 4.12.1941:
“Everyone is at the assembly building. Mrs. Prenski with her thre
young children, the 84 year old Mrs. Cohn, Simson Carlebach,
our Chasan (cantor) and also the catholic teacher from Sophienstraße. (...)
We are in total ninety Lübeck Jews. (....)
Next morning is luggage control. Three Gestapo officials arrived. Each of us
must present his evacuation order and open his luggage. (...)
Around 11 a.m. two large buses of the Lübeck Tram Company transported us to
the station. (...)
Two special carriages awaited us at Lübeck station. These were heated
passenger carriages. We slowly left the station and soon the towers of the
old city disappeared in the mist of the grey winter day. We were told that
in Bad Oldesloe we would be coupled to a Hamburg transport. The accompanying
Gestapo officer says our destination is Riga.
We are anticipated in Bad Oldesloe. Chief Rabbi Carlebach strides by our
carriage, always wearing his hat, to come to a stop at the window where my
mother is. “Hello, Emma”, he said. “It’s been a long time since we last saw
each other.” After having exchanged words of greeting my mother expressed
her incomprehension as to what the Reschoim (Christians) wanted to do with
us on our Sabbath day.
Whatever they do to us, Emma, we must hope for the best” said the Chief
Rabbi, gave her his hand and walked on. He stopped here and there each time
saying some friendly words. My mother told me that they had been
It must be assumed that the Lübeck Jews had to spend
one day longer in the assembly building, i.e. up to the morning of
6.12.1941. This is supported by the fact that Katz writes that that morning
was the first time he had seen Simson Carlebach and Mrs. Cohn travel on the
Wolf Hirsch, the sole Kiel survivor of the Riga
transport, also gives an incorrect date for the deportation, i.e. 7.12.1941
“We had to report on 4.12.1941. We, there were 54 of us, were held in the
air-raid shelter in the Kiel town hall for several days.
(...) Our evacuation began at around 3.15 a.m. of 7.12.1941. (...) We were
loaded into a passenger carriage that stood on a track outside the main
railway station, towards the sea. A wagon containing out luggage was coupled
to the carriages.”
They proceeded to Bad Oldesloe where the Hamburg and Lübeck transport
The quoted number of 54 people is confirmed by Heinz
Salomon, who had brought food to the town hall cellar prior to the
The Gestapo letter of 1.12.1941 (see chapter 3) also
indicates that Jews from Danzig were to be added to the transport.
Robert Sander reports that on 7.12.1941 a group of 27 Jews departed
Danzig for Riga. The Jews from Danzig joined the transport in Dirschau.
From this point on there were more than 900 deportees on the Riga transport.
Josef Katz reports about the journey from here:
“At the next stop the carriage doors were locked. Green uniformed police
with shouldered rifles now guarded the transport. (...) We are forbidden to
look out of the windows or to leave the carriages and mingle among the
people when the train stops at a station. I have no choice but to
throw some postcards to a few friends from the window. The train does not
make many stops. We rush pass the fertile land of East Prussia. We journey
via Memel into (...) Lithuania. The countryside is covered in snow. (...)
The route is single-track. At main junctions we give priority to oncoming
The next morning the transport passed slowly over the heavily damaged Düna
bridge into Riga. After a four-day journey we have reached our goal. Our
train is shunted onto a siding of the suburban Skirotava station. (...)
The journey from Bad Oldesloe to Riga took the normal
5. The Concentration Camps Jungfernhof and Salaspils near Riga
It is likely that the deportation transport that
departed from Hamburg on 6.12.1941 and that arrived in Riga on 9.12.1941
took the following route:
Hamburg Hanover Station, Hamburg Rothenburgsort marshalling yard,
Hamburg Wandsbek, Bad Oldesloe, Ratzeburg, Wittenburg, Hagenow Land,
Schwerin, Bad Kleinen, Bützow, Güstrow, Teterow, Stavenhagen,
Neubrandenburg, Pasewalk, Stettin, Stargard (Pommern.), Kreuz,
Schneidermühl, Konitz, Stargard (Prussia), Dirschau, Marienburg, EIbing,
Königsberg, lnsterburg, Tilsit, Memel, Schaulen, Mitau, Riga Main Station,
Josef Katz reports about the arrival:
Through the carriage window we saw a unit of Latvian SS with fixed bayonets.
The carriage doors were then unlocked. Suddenly the transport leader and
carriage spokesmen were called for.
Obersturmbannführer Lange commanded Chief Rabbi Carlebach (transport leader) to
stand to attention when he spoke to him. He told Carlebach he would not be able to set up shop here.
When Carlebach made no reply Lange punched him in the face.
In the meantime the people poured out onto the platform
under the insults from the SS men. There was chaos: children screamed and
wept, mothers wailed and in between shots from the SS were to be heard. An
SS man clubbed a nurse and goaded two old women with heavy suit-cases to
Thus they were herded slowly to the platform exit and
arrived at an open area in front of the station building.
Suddenly a squad of young people, Katz was among them, were detailed and
roared at to collect the luggage from the platform and clean the carriages
at the double.
Vehicles arrived for loading.
“One after the other suit-cases disappeared into the private vehicles of the
SS. Some German soldiers arrived and asked the SS for this or that suit-case
and then disappeared radiantly happy with the stolen property.”
Finally, in the evening, these young people joined the rest of the Hamburg
deportation transport at the Jungfernhof concentration camp.
Jungfernhof concentration camp lay roughly 3 km south
of the Skirotava station. Katz relates:
They entered the former estate, its gare guarded by Latvian SS. There were huge
barns, several houses for farm workers and the
manor-house. There were already people from other transports from German
cities there. Chaos reigned.
All camp inmates received the order to seek a place to sleep. Katz entered
the men’s barrack, an enormous barn with thousands of men and smokin stoves.
Chief Rabbi mourned his brother Simson who died of a stroke
while marching to the camp.
“It began to snow. The wind blew the snow through the gaps in the barn. The
gangways are narrow and the people stand around wrapped into their coats and
do not risk lying down because it is so cold and there are no covers.”
Next morning Katz had to report for the “station
commando” without sleep or breakfast. A huge pile of suitcases, stoves and
bedding lay in the open, under snow, because there was no space in the
barracks. The station commando had to work very hard. The kapo drove them
like a madman. He raved and yelled, threatened them with the SS, when his
orders were not immediately carried out.
“That evening I entered the women’s block for the first time in order to
visit my mother. She lay on the ground on a thin layer of straw. The women
are crammed together like herrings, the air thick enough to cut from the
perspiration from so many people. It is a former horse stable. (...)
My mother told me some had already died, and that she did not know what to
expect. (...) She told me that that morning the commandant had taken eight
old Viennese men from the men’s block, had led behind the latrine and shot
The women have no possibility of washing. They already have lice. A stove
stands in the centre of the barn but there is no fuel. My mother asked me
for a cover (...)
Shlomo Carlebach, Chief Rabbi Joseph Carlebach’s
youngest son who, together with eleven other people from Hamburg survived
the Riga transport, reported the following regarding his father:
As transport leader, who incidentally was permitted to leave the train in
the larger cities on route to post postcards, was offered a better
accommodation in Jungfernhof. However he wanted to remain together with his
suffering comrades in the barracks. Thus he had the possibility of “crawling
from hole to hole” to help and console the many desperate people.
“(..) That he found words of courage for people under circumstances where
he faced death makes him an historical, heroic figure who will
unquestionably take an important place in the history of the Jewish people
and in the history of mankind generally.”
Betty Wilner, a survivor of the Nürnberg
transport, made the following statement about Joseph Carlebach:
Rabbi Carlebach saw occupying the children as the most important task. His
deep psychological understanding immediately recognised the danger
threatening from the forced inactivity, the terrible cold, temperatures as
low as -40°C, the continuous hunger, the appalling living conditions and the
catastrophic conditions of hygiene. He immediately summoned together those
camp inmates with educational training. There were neither books nor writing
material. When Wilner submitted her timetables of lessons on tiny scraps of
paper Carlebach remarked that they were the smallest timetables he had ever
The teachers committed themselves to teaching groups of children at certain
times of the day according to subject. In this task Carlebach was exemplary.
In accordance with the age group he induced the children to inspired
cooperation. She often witnessed the “admiral” way in which he communicat
with the children and some of the melodies he sang together with the
children still ring in her ear to this day.
Carlebach also repeatedly held lectures. His “stirring”
words, sadly often for the victims of the cold, hunger and atrocities,
captivated everyone. His encouraging words, his God inspired discourse was a
“ray of hope” for the spiritually starving people.
Fanny Englard-Dominitz, at that time a sixteen year old who had
been deported alone and who became friends with Noemi Carlebach, made
similar observations regarding “Rav” Carlebach:
Carlebach represented a “light in the darkness” for us. She was one of the
200 young girls deported from Jungfernhof to the Riga Ghetto in February
Unterscharführer Rudolf Joachim Seck, was
commandant of Jungfernhof concentration camp, who as farmer became Commander
of the Security Police in Riga succeeding Dr. Wolf Lange and from
whom he received the assignment to work the Jungfernhof estate.
This estate was completely neglected. Seck sought to bring it back into
order. When the first Jewish deportees arrived in Riga from the Reich Lange
was induced to accommodate them at Jungfernhof.
Lange initially instructed Seck to accommodate around 1,000 people. Finally,
in the spring of 1942 there were between 4,000 and 5,000 people accommodated
In 1951 the Hamburg regional court condemned Seck to
life imprisonment for each of eight cases of murder.
Of the eight cases of murder of which Seck was accused seven were committed
“One day in January or February 1942, the witness Le., who was on th
Hamburg transport that arrived in Jungfernhof in December 1941 where she
worked in the sewing room, walked across the yard looking for Seck from whom
she required further instructions regarding a sewing job for him.
She observed the accused leave the so-called men’s block driving five old
men before him. The witness stopped near the witness; the five people had to
stand to attention and then kneel (...) She addressed the accused with
her question regarding the sewing work but received no answer. The accused
repelled her with a movement of the hand and began to shoot the Jews one
after the other with a shot in the back of the neck from a distance of 2 to
When the witness tried to run away after the first shot, the accused
threatened to shoot her if she did not remain. The witness was forced to
witness the further shootings.
The accused then shot the other four Jews. Between the individual shootings
he paused to insult his victims by calling them lazy or venereal dogs.
“One day in January 1942 the accused ordered the
prisoners out of the blocks and to assemble in front of block 5. The accused
instructed a prisoner who arrived late to turn round. The accused then
pulled his pistol and shot the prisoner in the back of the neck. (...)
On another occasion in January 1942 the accused was in the yard when a Jew
crossed the yard holding his trousers up with his hands as he had no braces.
This provoked the accused. He pulled his pistol and shot the prisoner from a
distance of one metre.”
Due to the appalling living conditions in Jungfernhof
the number of the deaths was high. Up to 80 people died per week. The
corpses could not be buried because of the frozen ground until finally a
hole was blown out of the ground.
There was an infirmary in Jungfernhof where around ten
Jewish doctors and nurses worked. Medicines were available only for as long
as that which had been brought on the transports lasted.
In January 1942 the Latvian guard was replaced by a
Jewish camp police of 20 to 30 men. Jupp Levy was their head.
The death penalty already stood for small offences such as theft, barter and
illegal absence from the camp. In such cases Seck had to inform Lange in
Riga. Occasionally Seck did not do this and the offenders received a
flogging from him instead.
The following deportation transports arrived in
Jungfernhof (generally 1,000 people):
| Place of Departure || Arrival in
| Nürnberg (Würzburg) || 3.12.1941
| Stuttgart || 4.12.1941
| Hamburg (Lüneburg, Lübeck, Kiel, Danzig) ||
| Vienna (I/II) || 2.01.1942
Strong men were an exception; they were selected either
on arrival at Skirotava station or soon after having arrived in Jungfernhof
and taken to Salaspils concentration camp roughly 15 km outside Riga.
There were approximately 600 men selected.
Salaspils concentration camp, drawing.
Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial, entrance.
Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial.
On 18.12.1941 Josef Katz was one of thirty men
so selected as fully employable. They were to build a camp for their
relatives. At roll-call Seck informed them the faster they worked the sooner
their family members could join them.
The next morning they set off on foot for Salaspils
guarded by Latvian SS. Having walked roughly 3 km the SS took their wrist
watches and rings under threat of shooting them. They finally arrived at
Salaspils. It lay hidden in a fir plantation. They found a partly built
block. The Jewish camp-elder Einstein and the commandant
Katz immediately saw that only those would survive who
could shirk the work.
After having roofed a block they had to clear tree stumps in order to make
room for the planned 48 other blocks.
Patient transport was organised which allegedly drove
to the Riga Ghetto. The vans left every 10 minutes although the ghetto lay
more than half an hour away.
Some were already too weak for such transports, for example Hirschel a
wholesale merchant from Hamburg. He was covered with suppurating abscesses
caused by lice. He slowly wasted away and knew that he would die. Should
Katz survive he was to take care of his daughter Hannelore and give
her his heavy golden wrist watch. He died soon thereafter.
Katz learned of his mother’s death from a Jew wh
accompanied the building material from Jungfernhof:
“My dear Josef, yesterday evening your dear mother died of a stroke in the
arms of Chief Rabbi Carlebach. She said “Shmah Jisroel” (hear Israel), she
was peaceful. (...)
I am to relay greetings from everyone here. Your loving aunt Linchen.
In the meantime a Mr. Besen had become known as
the “hangman” of Salaspils. In the early spring of 1942 Hans Meier
from Hamburg was condemned to death by hanging for bartering and hanged on
In January 1942 Seck, having succeeded Nickel, also
murdered people here:
On 16.1.1942 ill prisoners were to be transported to Riga. Witness M’s father
was too weak to leave the block. Witness D. and another prisoner grasped him
under his arms and walked him out. When Seck saw the condition he was in he
said that M. was not to be taken to the ghetto and ordered the witness D.
and the other prisoner to lie M. down. Then Seck went to M., pulled his
pistol and shot him dead.
6. The Execution Action of 26.3.1942 in the Bikernieki forest near Riga
Bertold Kohn, survivor of the Hamburg transport, reports the following
regading the execution action of 26.3.1942, the "Dünamünder canning factory action", where the majority
of the Hamburg deportation transport was murdered:
Commandant Seck again referred to the overcrowding of the Jungfernhof camp to Dr. Lange
and stressed that for this reason he was unable to fulfil his task of making Jungfernhof a model
husbandry. In February 1942 Lange instructed him to select as many people necessary for his enterprise.
The rest were to be removed from Jungfernhof.
Seck instructed the camp-elder Kleemann to make a list of those to be
removed. He himself selected 440 people to remain in Jungfernhof. These were healthy, strong people,
suitable either for agricultural work or who were craftsmen or otherwise specialised (sewing room,
To be removed were all:
1. old people and ill people
2. children under 13 to 14 years old with their mothers
3. people over 46 to 50 years old, apart from some fully able to work.
There were approximately 3,000 people selected out. They were told they were to be transported to
Dünamünde where would have better living conditions and light work in canning factories.
On 26.3.1942 the people were separated into two groups. Some of those initially
selected to stay were placed in the larger group. Those finally selected to stay, the men in block 5 and
the women in the sewing room, were locked in.
Busses and lorries arrived to collect those selected for evacuation. All luggage had to be left behind.
A shuttle system was used until all had been removed. The vehicles returned every 15 to 20 minutes.
The people were taken to Bikerneiki forest near Riga. Here labour commandos from
the Riga Ghetto had dug large pits. The people were shot here. "Not one of those removed from
Jungfernhof during this action was ever seen again."
Shlomo Carlebach was one of the 300 people who remained in Jungfernhof. He
remained about one year there until all were transferred to the Riga Ghetto.
Also Betty Wilner was one of those selected to remain in Jungfernhof. She
was transported to the Riga Ghetto on 4.7.1942.
When the action of 26.3.1942 was immanent Chief Rabbi Carlebach asked her to take care of the sacred
books (Bibles, prayer books etc.) which had been brought on the deportation transports.
On the day Carlebach wanted to give her the final instructions regarding the books his wife Lotte
approached from the opposite direction, from the so-called Hamburg block.
"Knowing of their immanent earthly separation Rabbi Carlebach's parting words of deepest love and
sincerity were expressed in all-embracing warmth and loyalty."
In 1951 in the Hamburg regional court Seck explained that he neither knew nor
imagined that the people were to be killed in the "Action Dünamünde". He thought the people were to be
accommodated in the Riga Ghetto.
However, the court heard that the day prior to the "Action" Seck had told Lore
Kleemann, who had "pleaded to be allowed to accompany her elderly father", it would be better if
she remained in Jungfernhof otherwise she would regret it.
The court required to know "that, where and when" the around 3,500 Jews in
Jungfernhof were killed. None of the witnesses could give exact information. They were only able to
repeat what Latvians had told the Jews remaining in Jungfernhof. It is conceivable that the people were
first taken to the Riga Ghetto and then shot at a later date.
It is conceivable that the people were first taken to the Riga Ghetto and then shot
at a later date. However, there is no evidence of this. The "Action" also took place on the same day in
the Riga Ghetto. It is reported that here people tried to escape the evacuation when they realised the
lorries returned empty after only 20 minutes. The SS then herded them onto the lorries with blows
from clubs and canes, with kicks and punches and robbed them of their blankets, bags, bundles and
Up to 5,000 people were shot by Latvian firing-squads in the Bikernieki forest.
Sign to the Bikernieki massgraves and memorial, left and right of the road
Postion of the mass graves in the Bikernieki Forest left of the road leaving
Malwine Stabulnik, who lived in Riga at the time, was on 28.11.1944 a
witness at the Soviet investigation:
"My house is only one to one and a half kilometres from the forest. I could therefore see how the people
were brought to the forest and hear how they were shot. (...) That was on Good Friday and Saturday
before Easter 1942. The people were brought in buses and grey vehicles. (...) On Friday alone I counted
around 41 buses within twelve. (...) Day and night heard other inhabitants and I
heard the shots from the rifles and automatic weapons. (...)
On Easter Sunday everything was quiet. (...) Like many others I and my family went
to the forest, (...)
Among the many graves we saw (...) an open grave filled with the corpses of those who had been shot. The
corpses lay in disorder only lightly dressed or in underclothes. They were the corpses of women and
children. The corpses showed the signs of having been brutally abused and tormented before being shot.
Many had scratches to the face, swellings on their heads, some with their hands severed, their eyes
gouged out or their bellies slit open. Beside the grave there were pools of blood, hair, severed fingers,
brains, cranial bones, the shoes of children and other personal belongings ...
Foreign Jews were also shot. One could see this from the various articles
left there. Beside almost every grave was evidence of a fire (...)
Where the fire had been and beside the graves were various documents, photographs and identification
documents. From these it was possible to determine from where these people came (...) I saw that they
were from Austria, Hungary, Germany and other countries.
Before their flight the fascists erased all traces of their crimes. In the summer
that year they opened the graves in the Bikernieki forest, exhumed the corpses and burned them.
The fires in which the corpses were burned were seen by many people from Riga from a long way off. My
family and I saw the entire operation. (...) the smell of the burning corpses was also pervasive."
One of the Bikernieki massgraves
The Bikernieki Holocaust Memorial
7. The Evolution of the Ghetto areas in Riga
Of the survivors of the Hamburg deportation transport only Josef Katz gives a detailed report of the Riga Ghetto. Katz was accommodated four
times in the Riga Ghetto interrupted by labour details outside the ghetto. He came in contact with the ghetto commandant Karl Wilhelm Krause, the "elder" of the Jews
from Hannover, Günther Fleischel and the "elder" of the Jews from Cologne, and later the elder of the large and small ghetto, Max Leiser.
During his first stay (18.5.1942) Katz was imprisoned for bartering. He and the prisoner Sigi were personally collected by Gimlich, the
ghetto commandant's adjutant, from a market garden in Riga Kaiserwald.
Contrary to expectation they were released from the "ghetto bunker". However, they received ten blows of the rod from head of the Jewish ghetto police. Ten other Jews
imprisoned at the same time who has stolen army forces property were shot by Krause some days later at the cemetery.
Afterwards Krause would often go to a sand pit where Jewish children played and gave them presents of chocolate and sweets. Some children called him
He also shot ten women who supposedly had stolen clothes from an army camp. A woman begged Krause on her knees to spare her life as she had a young child. He used his feet
on her and then shot her.
In July 1942 Katz returned to the ghetto again. Their vehicles stopped in front of the commandant's office. A medical orderly led them to delousing.
As there was no Hamburg group in the ghetto Katz was sent to the Hannover group. He found these in the "Berliner Straße".
He received a ration card and was sent to the "housing pool" who sent him to an accommodation which was already occupied by a teacher Erlanger and his wife.
It was a small garret. A flap in the roof lets in fresh air. There was a small stove which smoked badly. There was a rickety table and two rickety
chairs in the centre of the room. Erlanger and his wife slept by the left wall and Katz on a mattress by the right wall. At night Erlanger was always busy killing the
numerous bugs with a candle.
Katz was sent to the elder Günther Fleischel who approved of everything he
needed after hearing of the camps he has already passed through. Initially Katz had a good impression of Fleischel.
Günther Fleischel had converted from Protestantism to Catholicism. He was an ardent SA man in Hanover
when, following the death of his father, he discovered he was a Jew. This he
regarded as the "shame of his life". The thirty-two year old was compelled to resign from the NSKK (NS Kraftfahrerkorps) but his heart belonged to his "Führer". In 1937 the
travelling salesman was arrested and sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment for committing "racial dishonour". After his release in 1941 he lived in a "Jew House"
at Herschelstraße 31 in Hannover, ever ready to serve the NS regime. After his deportation to Riga on 15.12.1941 as elder for the Hannover ghetto he ensured for rigid
order. As the practically omnipotent "assistant to the commandant" he policed the exhausted labour commandos on their return to the ghetto. If someone had food he took it,
beat the individual and reported this to the SS which often resulted in the Jew's death. In February 1942 he also became group elder of the Viennese and Berlin Jews. He
permitted devotions for Jews of catholic denomination in his room. Fleischel had the trust of the SS in all his activities. When, in September 1943, Fleischel died of
cancer his coffin was carried through the ghetto like a state funeral. Ghetto commandant SS-Obersturmbannführer Kurt Krause had three salvos fired over Fleischel's grave.
Prisoners were employed in the clothing room, upstairs in the commandant's office, unpacking the suitcases from the Berlin transport. Katz received so
many articles of clothing that he had more objects for barter than he had had for a long time.
He went to the Hannover food distribution office with his ration card and received the following week's ration: two pounds of cabbage, 90 gm horse
meat, 1,260 gm bread, 90 gm suet and 90 gm oats.
Katz was assigned to the port commando. He had to unload freshly dredged gravel from barges which was taken away in lorries. The commano was hard
work but good for barter.
Other Jews worked for the Reich Railways, in the SS military hospital, at the Reich's Commissioner in the Schloss or loading wood for the SS office. Another commando was
busy supplying the troops at the front and a large number of Jewish women worked in the army mess.
In the evenings Katz walked through the ghetto. Girls still wearing their clothes from Germany stood at the fence which separated the German and
Latvian ghettos. They waited for their Latvian friend, who may only enter with an identity card issued by the police chief of the German ghetto. Latvian friends are very
popular because they have good connections in the city and bring butter and bacon. With these everything is available in the ghetto. Nearly every girl had such a friend.
Some also married in the ghetto and became registered by the Council of Elders.
Click to enlarge.
The main street with the ghetto gate ran between the fences of the ghettos. Left of the gate was the hospital. Here are beds with white sheets, the
patients are nursed by trained nurses, only medicines are mostly absent. The senior medical officer was Dr. Aufrecht, a Cologne Jew. The food supply is the same as
in the ghetto. Very few left the hospital alive. The surgeon Dr. Aufrecht had also to carry out abortions.
The actual Jewish hospital "Linas Hazedek" now lay outside the ghetto. This large building now served for the disinfecting of articles of clothing.
In October 1942 Katz was also an eye-witness to further SS "Actions" against the Latvian Jewish ghetto police in which nearly all were murdered:
"As usual we assembled in the morning. We stood on the assembly ground waiting for the SS escort. Suddenly a group of one hundred SS, in full marching order, with
sub-machine guns, entered the ghetto. The Latvian Jewish police were rounded up. They were locked into the commandant's office. SS stood at
each road crossing. The ghetto was surrounded by another group of one hundred Latvian SS. All the labour commandos leaving the ghetto were searched for weapons. It is said
that caches of weapons had been found in the Latvian ghetto. All Jews found with articles of barter or anything else forbidden were led under guard to the Latvian assembly
area. They had to kneel in the sand with their hands held high. As we marched past I saw mostly young Latvians but also many old men.
The German ghetto was also searched, all the Jews assembled on the Latvian assembly area were marched out of the ghetto under heavy guard. Only their clothes returned
after being deloused.
The further scenes took place in the German ghetto:
The Latvian Jewish police, all young and strong, were led to an open area in the ghetto by the SS. There were around 50 Jews. A grave had already been dug for them. They
resisted but being unarmed the SS shot nearly all of them. Some of the SS were injured. The Latvian ghetto was now placed under German Jewish administration.
At the end of December 1942 Katz met ghetto elder Max Leiser, from Cologne, when he requested clothing for a group of German Jews in a labour
commando in Libau in west Latvia. He explained that their clothes and footwear were torn and tattered by their work in a sugar factory. But Leiser refused and accused them
of having sold previous things.
In March 1943 Katz returned to the ghetto again and was accommodated together with a Mrs Kiewe. She told him the following about a young
On a Sabbath in the spring of 1942 young men in the ghetto were called out and driven away. Of the around 50 only three returned, practically out of their minds. They had
had to dig mass graves in the forest. The next morning the graves were full and only covered with a thin layer of sand. Each day those who were no longer fit for work were
shot. The commando was then replenished.
8. The Evolution of the rest of the city of Riga
On 29 and 30.6.1941 Riga came under German artillery fire. The tower of the
Petri Church, the second highest in Europe and a landmark, went up in flames.
The fire fight between the Russians and Germans was not intensive. Nevertheless the inhabitants of Riga
did not venture out for two days. On the night of 1.7.1941 the gunfire ceased. Soon thereafter German
soldiers entered the city the Soviet army having retreated. Many had flowers in their rifle-barrels,
appeared surprised about the friendly reception of the inhabitants. They did not realise that they were
regarded as liberators.
The staff of Einsatzgruppe A was on its way to Riga. Their leader, Dr. Walther
Stahlecker had already entered Riga with the troops with groups of Sonderkommando 1a and
Einsatzkommando 2. By 4.7.1941 the Einsatzgrüppe reported having reached Riga.
At the end of September 1941 Stahlecker was also "commander of the security police and the SD"
("Befehlshaber der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD") (BdS) with headquarters in Riga. The "commander of
the security police and the SD for the general district Latvia" (KdS) was formed from Einsatzgrüppe 2
stationed in Riga, Schaulen and Libau.
The post of KdS for Latvia was occupied by Rudolf Batz until the beginning of November 1941, Dr.
Eduard Strauch until the beginning of December 1941 and then Dr. Rudolf Lange from
The post of the BdS for the general district Latvia (Generalkommissariat Lettland) was occupied by Heinz
Jost from 24.3.1942, Dr. H. Achamer-Pifreder from September 1942, Friedrich
Panzinger from September 1943 and then Dr. Wilhelm Fuchs from May to October 1944.
The quick advance of the German troops, also in the Baltic region, made it possible
to install a German civil administration after only a few weeks.
The highest authority of this civil administration was the Reich Ministry for the Occupied
Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete) in Berlin, headed by Alfred
The two Reich's Commissariat for Ostland and for the Ukraine were subordinate to the ministry in
Hinrich Lohse was the Reich's commissioner for Ostland with its headquarters in Riga. The Reich's
Commissariat for Ostland consisted of four general districts or general commissariats: Estonia, Latvia,
Lithuania, White Russia.
A Hitler decree from 17.7.1941 coupled each Reich Commissioner with a so-called
Higher SS and police chief (HSSPF) and each General Commissioner with a so-called SS and police chief
These were the personal representatives of the Reichsführer SS and chief of the German Police (RFSS),
Heinrich Himmler. They had to coordinate the activity and employment of the Security Police and
SD on the one hand and the Order Police with Protection Police and Gendarmerie on the other hand. They
had command authority over both branches of police, e.g. with joint deployment. In all other respects
special orders of the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) had precedence over the Security Police and SD
and special orders of the Main Office of the Order Police had precedence over the Protection Police and
Hans-Adolf Prützmann was the HSSPF for Ostland (and Russia-North), until the end
of October 1941, his successor was Friedrich Jeckeln, until the middle of February 1942. Riga was
Hugo Wittrock was the provisional mayor of Riga until 1944. Dr. Hans
Windgassen was his deputy.
Click to enlarge.
According to a report made by KdS Dr. Lange there were approximately 70,000
Jews in Latvia when German troops invaded the country. From the very beginning the task of
Einsatzkommando 2 was a "radical" solution of the "Jewish Question" through the "execution of all Jews".
To accomplish this, extensive "mopping up actions" ("Säuberungsaktionen") were
carried out throughout the entire operational area by Sonderkommandos, with assistance from Latvian
By the beginning of October 1941 approximately 30,000 Jews had been killed. In addition there were
thousands of Jews who were "eliminated" by "self protection squads" ("Selbstschutzformationen").
The complete "elimination" of the Latvian Jews was not possible for economic reasons. Jewish craftsmen
were also required for the reconstruction of the destroyed cities. Execution was deferred for these
These Jews, required for labour, were enclosed in ghettos so as to exclude them from local life.
They were also marked by having to wear a yellow star.
Latvian forces were active in Riga from very early on.
On 4 July 1941 Latvian police drove the Jews living in the roads neighbouring the Main Synagogue in
Gogolstraße into the synagogue cellar and set the building alight. In the past Latvian Jews had fled
here. Everyone attempting to escape was shot by machine guns. The cries of the burning victims were to
be heard far away.
Already by 7.7.1941 Stahlecker reported that all synagogues in Riga had
With the German invasion the time also arrived for the extreme rightwing,
nationalist organization "Perkonkrust" ("Thunder Cross"). Einsatzgruppe A armed the "Perkonkrust". They
proudly called themselves "Arajs' boys" and formed the core of the Latvian SD. They made their
headquarters in the villa of a former Jewish merchant where they planned assaults on Jewish dwellings,
synagogues and small provincial towns.
A Perkonkrust member stated their goal was "300 Jews per night".
From 4.7.1941 Einsatzgruppe A almost constantly relied on Commando Arajs
("Sicherungskommando der Hilfspolizei").
Numbering between 500 and 1,200 members at its height it is estimated that they killed 26,000 Jews in
It was the Commando Arajs that carried out the mass shootings of the Jews deported to Riga from Germany,
Austria, Czechoslovakia and other countries.
Its members also formed the guard for the concentration camps Jungfernhof and Salaspils and carried out
all the executions there. Likewise it carried out the "Action Dünamünde" in the "Reich Jews' ghetto"
in Riga in March 1942.
The Germans established a ghetto early on. A four point programme was submitted to
a Jewish committee. Thereafter all Jews able to work had to register at a labour office and were
obligated to do the work imposed on them.
The ghetto was established in a quarter called the "Moscow suburb". It was one of the poorest and unhygienic
quarters consisting predominantly of timber buildings mainly of which had no drains or W. C. The
approximately 10,000 people, who lived here, mostly Russian and Polish worker families, were resettled
to make room for around 30,000 Jews. A large school building became the Jewish community building which
had to develop and organise a second city administration.
It was not until 23.10.1941 that the ghetto was officially established in an ordinance from General
Commissioner Dr. Otto-Heinrich Drechsler. The removal of the people was made extremely difficult
because Drechsler forbade the use of the pavement or of transport, i.e. tram, bus, carriage. Thus people
were forced to walk, heavily laden, in the gutter always under the threat of being flogged by the SS
On 25.10.1941 the gates of the "large ghetto" were closed. Roughly 30,000 people
were crowded together behind barbed-wire, among them roughly 5,600 children and 8,300 people "incapable
On 30.11.1941 and finally on 8.12.1941 the majority of these Latvian Jews were
marched to Rumbula and killed there. Rumbula was situated in a small wood adjacent the Rumbula railway
station not far from the main road to Dünaburg.
On 10.11.1941 HSSPF Jeckeln was ordered to Berlin by Himmler. The
extermination of the Jews of Riga was decided at this meeting. Only several thousand craftsmen and
people able to work were to be spared.
Jeckeln personally selected the place of execution. Rumbula made an ideal killing
site: Its sandy soil near the banks of the Daugava River made digging graves easy. It was also close
enough to march Jews from Riga, but far enough so shots, which might have caused panic and hampered
efficiency, would not be heard in the ghetto. And trees would also muffle the gunfire and screams. On
his instruction an SS Construction Commando (Baukommando) drew the sketches for the mass graves and made
the necessary preparations. A ramp was constructed on one side of each grave so that the victims could
directly enter the pit where they were shot. Soviet prisoners of war had to dig the graves and were
themselves shot afterwards.
Dr. Lange, who directed at least two such executions, reported that 27,800 people were shot. This
included victims of a deportation transport from Berlin that arrived in Riga early in the morning of
30.11.1941 and who were shot before the inhabitants of the Riga ghetto.
Shortly before the "Action" of 30.11.1941 around 4,500 Jewish Latvian men were
accommodated in a special camp, the "small ghetto". This ghetto existed until 2.11.1943.
The "Reich Jews' ghetto" ("Reichsjudengetto") was established south of this "small
ghetto" when Jews deported from Germany were accommodated in the empty buildings here following the
8.12.1941 execution action.
From the beginning the death rate was high due to hunger and disease. This ghetto was repeatedly
refilled from deportation transports that arrived in Riga in 1942. There were approximately 11,000
people in this ghetto. This ghetto was also liquidated on 2.11.1943. Prior to this there were many
victims of execution actions because there were many mothers with children and people "unfit for work".
The survivors were transported to Kaiserwald concentration camp or other camps.
Roughly 20,000 Jews arrived in Riga on around 25 deportation transports. They were
deported from the following cities:
Berlin, Nürnberg, Stuttgart, Vienna, Hamburg, Cologne, Kassel, Düsseldorf, Bielefeld, Osnabrück,
Münster, Hannover, Theresienstadt, Leipzig and Dortmund.
A report about these "Reichsjuden" transports from Einsatzgruppe A made at the end
of January 1942 stated;
"Some of the first 10,000 Jews evacuated to Riga were accommodated in a converted reception camp others
in a newly built barrack camp near Riga. The other transports were initially accommodated in a separate
part of the Riga Ghetto (...) Only a small minority of the Jews from the Reich is fit for work. Around
70% to 80% are women and children as well as old people unfit for work. The mortality rate rises
constantly due to the unusually severe winter.
The productivity of the few operational Jews from the Reich is satisfactory. They are preferred to the
Russian (Latvian) Jews because of their ability to speak German and because they are relatively cleaner.
The Jews are remarkably adaptable."
9. Deportation to further camps in Riga and Environs
On 2 November 1943 the Riga Ghetto was wound up.
The few surviving members of the Hamburg deportation transport were transferred to the Kaiserwald
concentration camp in Riga or to its satellite camp Straßenhof near Riga.
Josef Katz gave a detailed report of the Kaiserwald concentration camp:
A Hauptscharführer came out of the commandant's office of the former ghetto and informed them that 88
Jews were to muster for transport to Kaiserwald. After a short distance watchtowers appeared. They had
to stand and practice removing their caps fof half an hour in front of the camp gate. They had to surrender
all valuables, money, identification documents, photos, etc. and after a cold shower and body inspection
dress again. They all entered block one.
Kaiserwald concentration camp.
Under the charge of Polish kapos they all had to push trucks. Obersturmbannführer
Sauer walked among the labouring men. He wore a long grey leather coat and knee-boots with spurs.
He did not speak to the prisoners but incited the kapos against the prisoners.
The women's camp is separated from the men's camp by a double barbed-wire fence.
Men stand near the fence and converse with their women. Sometimes something is thrown over the fence
although it is strictly forbidden.
This concentration camp is relatively small. There are to only three men's and
three women's blocks, a common sick-bay, a clothes depot and various workshops. The laundry and kitchen
are in the women's camp. Around 5,000 prisoners are accommodated in this camp.
The block elder is a certain Hannes Filsinger. It is said that he is in the
camp because of procuring.
He is not quite as brutal as the other German Kapo Xaver Abel. It is said that Abel was a
professional car thief and has already spent 6 years in concentration camps. He became leader of an
external commando because of his ability in beating Jews to death. He throws weaker Jews in the water
and when they surface he used a plank to immerse them until they drown.
The camp elder also abuses his power. Rich Jews either pay him tribute or disappeared into another camp.
Every morning he walks around the roll call area like a "king". From time to time in passing he strikes
someone "in the gob". In front of each SS man he doffs his Kapo cap to the ground and standing rigidly
to attention receives their commands which he passes on to Abel or Filsinger.
Many prisoners became victims of the cold. Many Jews had frostbite on their hands
and feet. The blocks became increasingly infested with lice. The lice nest in the dressings and irritate
In June 1944 the former Jewish hospital "Linas Hazedek" was converted into a
Some Jews had seen how lorries arrived with selected Jews. The lorries departed empty. Other commandos
saw lorries departing with articles of clothing. The concentration camp prisoners therefore assumed that
the Jews were gassed and burnt there.
In the final weeks of the concentration camp there were new instructions daily.
Firstly all Jews had to be shaved bald. Then the hair that grew back was to be cut with a machine in
strips from ear to ear and from the forehead to the back of the neck.
10. Further deportations in the direction of the Reich (1944-1945)
In the autumn of 1944 only around 30 Jews from the Hamburg deportation transport
were still alive. Among them were Stefan Weinberger and Josef Katz. Josef Katz reports
Suddenly one afternoon all Jews were ordered to assemble to receive new prison clothes. When it became
dark they left Kaiserwald concentration camp in the direction of the port of Riga where others were waiting.
On the ship they are distributed in the holds by SS men where it was pitch black. There was no straw and
no other arrangements made. Later toilet buckets were handed down. Finally a bread ration for
350 people was passed down the ladder. It was the only food for three days, roughly 300 grams.
After three days they entered Danzig in the morning where they were heavily guarded
at an assembly area by guards from Stutthof concentration camp. In the evening 500 prisoners were loaded
in open Vistula barges used to transport sand and stones. The people stood there, wrapped into their
covers starving and freezing, days on end without anything warm to eat. After six nights with little
sleep they reached Stutthof concentration camp.
Block three is for all new arrivals. Here they found three storeyed bunks, each 70
cm wide to accommodate four people. Next morning they stood two hours for roll call in the pouring rain.
The first warm food they received, soup with potato peels, they had to eat standing without spoons.
Defecation was difficult as the block toilet was clogged and therefore locked. It
was necessary to run around for hours before one could perform the call of nature uninterrupted.
Polish prisoners occupied the functionary positions in Stutthof. These Kapos were
extreme anti-Semites and most were imprisoned for serious crimes.
One day a Jewish transport arrived from Libau with the former Riga ghetto elder Leiser who was
beaten from all sides.
One morning all of us had to board a Vistula steamer which took us to the Danzig
Schichau shipyard, the department for submarine construction.
They marched through Danzig past at old patrician houses and churches to the railway station.
They arrived at yet another camp where everyone had a bed when only of straw. They had to work twelve
hours in an enormous shipyard hall. At noon they received a hot clear broth that tasted awful.
In December Katz was taken to the sick bay with a fever. Typhus was suspected. As
there were no medicines he had to lie there for weeks with fever and diarrhoea. Again in January he had a
high temperature but decided not to return to the sick bay fearing he will be deemed unfit to march.
Suddenly one morning in January they received the order to decamp. There was no
food or rest. In the evening they were locked into a village church where they had to sleep on the stone
This night was one of the most terrible in Katz's life:
He was convulsed with shivers of fever and remained lying the next morning. After some time he gained
consciousness and found himself on a horse drawn cart. They spent the next night in a barn.
Finally they came to Rieben in Pommern in an abandoned Nazi labour service camp. As
there is no space for Jews in the blocks the 500 Jews were locked in the cellar. This is the third night
without sleep or food. In the first fourteen days 100 Jews died and 120 are ill. The remainder are
barely strong enough to walk.
One day Wehrmacht officers entered the camp. They asked the commander for prisoners
to dig tank ditches.
Then one day Stefan Weinberger, deported from Rendsburg, was carried out
dead. He and Katz had met again and again and been happy to see each other alive.
Then the camp was vacated. Only the sick bay was to remain where Katz wished to
remain having no other choice. Prisoners who had hidden themselves and some of the ill now stormed the
Then tanks were heard and shortly thereafter a Russian soldier stood in the door.
The Jews hugged and kissed him, wept, laughed and yelled.
Immediately some Russian paramedics began work. Doctors and nurses led the typhus
patients from the dirty sick bay into the former SS accommodation. After being bedridden for weeks the
doctor permitted Katz to rise and leave.
German refugees had to dig a mass grave in the centre of the former roll call area
where the dead prisoners were finally buried.
Some days later the survivors left Rieben concentration camp.
At the beginning of May they were brought to Neustadt in Pommern. There are
roadblocks at each road junction. They are repeatedly counted.
Katz and the other German survivors want to return to Germany via Danzig as soon as
possible. These twenty men and women had to go through a lengthy verification of their documents by the
Russian commander's office.
It became more difficult once they entered Danzig. The Polish guards let them pass but the
Russians stopped them at the station exit. The guards were obviously distrustful as the men of the
group were still wearing old Nazi labour service uniforms. They had no civilian clothes. Finally they
were taken to the commander's office and Katz to the commander. They were taken to be Germans as the
Jews were dead. As nothing suspicious was discovered regarding them they were allowed to return. And as
by a miracle they received their documents from the commander.
Next morning they travelled in open goods wagons to Schneidemühl. They were unable
to board the train to Berlin as the Poles did not allow any Jews onto the train. Everywhere they are
harried by abuse.
Some hours later they boarded a goods train which brought them to Köpenick on the
outskirts of Berlin. They took the tram into Berlin. The people they asked where they could find a
Jewish organization shook their heads in astonishment: There are no Jews here any more.
Finally they entered the former Jewish hospital in Iranianen Straße. Here Katz was
met by a girl with outstretched arms who helped him and who later became his wife.
Some days later Katz and a Jew from Hamburg continued on to Lübeck. They arrived at
the border of the Russian zone of occupation which they could not pass over. However, they succeeded in
crossing the border at night. In Schwerin an English soldier stoped his car and drove them to Lübeck.
In Lübeck little notice was taken of the homecomers.
When Katz registered himself at the police station the same policeman was seated behind the desk to whom
he had surrendered his apartment key prior to deportation.
"But Mr. Katz", he asked, "where have you been the whole time? I have no record of a change of address."
© Dipl.-Pol. Wilhelm Mosel,
Deutsch-Jüdische Gesellschaft, Hamburg.