Horrified by the roundups of Jews that were taking place in Riga, Janis Lipke decided to help Jews as much as he was able. Throughout the three years of the occupation of Latvia, Lipke used different methods and ruses to extricate Jews from the ghetto and hide them in his home or on a village farm that he purchased for this purpose. At times he enlisted the services of Latvian Karlis Jankovski, who would transport the Jews hidden under a pile of scrap metal in his truck.
Lipke collected the jewelry and money entrusted to him by Jews that he hid, and passed it on to prisoners in the ghetto so that they would be able to bribe their Latvian guards. He exchanged Jews that he took from the ghetto for "work" with Latvian acquaintances who disguised themselves as Jews by affixing yellow stars to their clothing and later removing the identifying badges in order to exit the ghetto.
At the end of 1941, Lipke smuggled a group of Jews out of the ghetto and hid them in assorted hiding places. He hid seven of them in his own home, among them Haim (Arke) Smolianski.