The Riga Ghetto was a small area in Maskavas Forštate, neighborhood of Riga, Latvia, designated by the Nazis where Jews from Latvia, and later from Germany, were forced to live during World War II.
On October 25, 1941, the Nazis relocated all Jews from Riga and the vicinity to the ghetto while the non-Jewish inhabitants were evicted. Most of the Latvian Jews (about 24,000) were killed on November 30 and December 8, 1941 in the Rumbula massacre. The Nazis transported a large number of German Jews to the ghetto; most of them were later killed in massacres.
While the Riga Ghetto is commonly referred to as a single entity, in fact there were several "ghettos". The first was the large Latvian ghetto.
In March, 1942, the Nazi authorities in Riga decided the German ghetto was getting too crowded, and organized two massacres of the German Jews. These massacres became known as the "Dünamünde Action" in which they killed about 3,800 people, mostly children, the elderly and the sick, using a ruse to trick the victims into believing they would be going to an easier work assignment. Instead they were all shot.
Executions in the ghetto
Hangings were frequent in the ghetto, almost a daily occurrence. Generally men were hanged, while women were taken to the cemetery and shot by Commandant Krause. Krause in particular seemed to enjoy shooting women himself; for example, about 10 days after the Dünamünde operation he shot the teacher Mary Korwill, who had made the mistake of wearing her own gold watch, a "crime" in the ghetto. Krause was somewhat erratic in that he did not always execute an offender. Male violators could expect no mercy from Krause; they were always hanged, although in one case, of Johann Weiss, a lawyer and an Austrian veteran of World War I, he allowed a "commutation" to shooting.
As the Jews were marched back into the ghetto from their work assignments, they were searched, and those that were found with food, even potato peelings, were arrested.
1942 in the German Ghetto
The German Jews in the ghetto began to rumor among themselves that the Germans had brought them to Riga to be exterminated. Outside of the ghetto there were housed a few Jews whose work duties gave them confirmation of the overall Nazi plan.
Some Jews worked at the headquarters of Einsatzkommando 2c were given the task of sorting the clothing and jewelry that had come from the victims of the massacres in Latvia. Many of these came in suitcases, and from the names and addresses on the luggage, the Jews charged with sorting the items could tell where they'd come from.
The Nazi gave the task of digging graves to a work detail called "Kommando Krause 2." This group of 38 Jewish men, was housed at the Central Prison. They were instructed not to tell anyone about the mass killings. 16 of these men survived long enough to be returned to the German ghetto, violated their instructions, and told the people there about the mass killings that had been perpetrated in the forests around Riga.
Lilli Henoch, a German world record holder in the discus, shot put, and 4 × 100 meters relay events, and the holder of 10 German national championships, was deported to the ghetto on September 5, 1942, and killed by machine gun and buried in a mass grave shortly thereafter.