by Roland Binet (Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium)
The Nazis tried to hide their crimes against humankind during World War II. They had tried to hide the fact that in the former territories of the USSR they were killing Jews on a colossal scale starting in July 1941. And not only Jews, also anyone suspected of being a communist.
Although many soldiers in the Wehrmacht or the Waffen SS took pictures of Aktionen against the Jews, even kept pictures of massacres or dead Jewish bodies in their wallets, most of these photographic proofs of the Nazi crimes against humanity were destroyed, stolen from their corpses after their deaths, kept at home in Germany by descendants of these heinous and barbarous extermination soldiers, or, sometimes, recuperated by allied nations which kept them and not solely kept them, but displayed them as a testimony to these barbaric events.
On July 2, 1941, the first number of the bilingual newspaper Kurzemes Vāds (The Word of Kurzeme) could proclaim, speaking of Liepāja:
“Our native city has been freed from the yoke of the Jews and the Bolsheviks. We thank therefore our führer Adolf Hitler. His fight is our fight.”
(The Extermination of the Jews in Latvia 1941-1945, historical work under the direction of Rabbi Menahem Barkahan, © Shamir 2008)
The main massacres of the Jews in Liepāja, more precisely in the dunes of Šķēde, near the seafront, occurred at the end of July 1941. Some 3,000 Jews were killed. There were further mass killings in September, and again from December 15 to December 17, 1941 when a detachment under the order of SS Untersturmführer Kugler, killed some 3,500 Jews, with the help of members of the Arājs Kommando and members of the 21st (Latvian) Police Battalion (The Extermination of the Jews in Latvia 1941-1945).
I have a strong imagination and can visualize without any pictures or films how it must have been for young children, adolescents, women, men and elderly, to have to go through the undressing process in bitter cold, then face the determined and coldblooded killers, and finally, feeling that tremendous explosion in the head or in the chest, falling into an open pit on top of other bodies or corpses. I can also imagine what it must have been like to have survived the killing and being pressed on and other bodies and corpses hours on end until the final moment.
But when I look at the series of pictures that were taken in Šķēde in the bare winter conditions of December 1941, when I see these forlorn Jews looking at the camera or having been caught unawares, I don’t have to imagine anything. I can comprehend the scope of the desolation, the total hopelessness that awaited the future victims and grasped them in these icy, chilling death claws. I can see and understand that young boy taking a glance sideways while walking to the killing ground, at what must have been an open pit already full of corpses. I can see and understand that young girl who, curious moments before her death, looks behind her while she and her fellow condemned form a row awaiting the killing bullets. I can see and understand in another picture, a very young girl, who, in sheer terror, hides her face against what we must assume is her mother while five persons are posing in front of the photographer, a fellow mass killer. We see half-naked or entirely naked women being processed to the killing grounds, some try to hide their nudity, all suffering from the extreme cold.
One last picture of very bad quality shows a mass pit with some fighters (“His fight is our fight… thank therefore our Führer Adolf Hitler”) working hard at freeing their region of the Jews.
This must have been quite hard labor and perhaps it is the reason why some of them and their proud descendants proudly celebrate each year their fight (“His fight is our fight”) in Riga each year on March 16.
This amateur video is in honor of the victims of Liepāja. The piece of music accompanying the stills is one of my own compositions called, Threnody, played on the flute by myself.
That their memory live forever.
The memorial composition and video on Youtube: