The visual evidence of the murder of the Jews of Liepaja

Women and children stand on the edge of a pit before their execution Women and children stand on the edge of a pit before their execution

In retrospect, Sedul saved not only eleven Jews from Liepaja, but indirectly contributed to the rescue of the visual evidence of the murder of this community’s Jews.

The three-day action of 15-17 December 1941, in which almost half the Jewish community of Liepaja was killed, took place in the dunes on the Baltic Sea beach at Skede, north of Liepaja. The mass shootings were carried out by German police and Latvian auxiliaries. The Germans took photos of the killing – the photographer was SS-Scharführer Carl Emil Strott. David Zivcon, who worked as an electrician in the offices of the German Security Service in Liepaja accidentally found four rolls of film when he was asked to repair the wiring.

When he examined the film Zivcon realized that the pictures depicted the executions of the Jews of Liepaja. Showing great presence of mind, he took the films, had a friend make copies, and returned the originals before their absence was noticed. He then placed the photo prints in a metal box and buried them. After the liberation he retrieved the photographs and handed them to the Soviet military authorities. The photos were used as evidence at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and today they are displayed in many museums around the world and serve as a visual documentation not only of the murder of the Jews of Liepaja, but of the killing by the Einstazgruppen – the shooting of the Jews in the territories occupied from the Soviet Union.