Historical Background

90,000 Jews lived in Latvia prior to the German occupation in summer 1941. In the days preceding the German occupation some fled and around 70,000 remained. Significant numbers of Latvians organized in armed groups, which they called self-defense units, attacked and murdered Jews for their alleged collaboration with the Soviets.

With the German entry into Riga anti-Jewish riots increased. Jews were arrested by locals, murdered and synagogues and houses of prayer were desecrated. By the end of 1941 all but 9,000 Jews remained in Latvia, half of them in the Riga ghetto. By November 1943, the ghetto was liquidated. Its inmates were murdered or sent to camps.

Latvian police units were deployed in the murder of the Jews and in retaliation against local populations in other countries of Eastern Europe. Despite the warm welcome and the ties between Latvian nationalists and Nazis, the Nazi occupation was harsh, and those helping Jews risked their lives and the lives of their families.

Only 200 Jews survived on Latvian soil.