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Yad Vashem This Month in Holocaust History
December 15-17, 1941, Jewish women before their execution in Skede, Latvia

December 15-17, 1941

Jewish women before their execution in Skede, Latvia

On the night of December 13, 1941, Latvian policemen arrested the Jews of Liepaja and took them to jail. Those with work permits, along with their families, were released.

The remaining Jews were taken to Skede, north of Liepaja, to the dunes overlooking the Baltic Sea, the site of a former military training grounds. A long ditch had been dug just before the dunes. The Jews were forced to strip off their clothes except for their underwear. Near the ditch they then were made to take off their remaining clothes and assemble in groups of ten. They were executed by members of a Latvian SD guard platoon, units of the 21st Latvian police battalion, and members of the Schutzpolizei-Dienstabteilung (German security police) under the command of the local SS and Police Leader Fritz Dietrich. On the 15-17 of December, 2,700-2,800 Jews were massacred, most of them women and children.

Two SD men who were present at the execution took this picture; one of them was identified as Oberscharf├╝hrer Carl Strott. It seems that Strott even used a whip to make the Jews pose for the picture. According to the SIPO report on the execution, the Germans filmed the execution to show that the executions were carried out by locals. The photographs were discovered by David Zivcon, a Jew who worked as an electrician in the SD Headquarters in Liepaja. A few weeks, or even months, after the massacre, he was called to fix something in Strott's home and he noticed rolls of negatives in an open draw. He took them, made copies with the help of a friend, and later returned them to the apartment under the pretext that there were electrical problems. He put his copies in a box and buried them in a stable. After the liberation he handed them over to a Soviet Intelligence Officer. The copies were then used as evidence in the Nuremburg Trials.

Yad Vashem Photo Archives 85DO2