The Germans occupied Riga in 1941, and confined the Jews to a ghetto. In late 1941, at least 25,000 Jews from the ghetto were massacred at the Rumbula forest, near Riga. Steven and his brother were sent to a small ghetto for able-bodied men. In 1943 Steven was deported to the Kaiserwald camp and sent to a nearby work camp. In 1944 he was transferred to Stutthof and forced to work in a shipbuilding firm. In 1945, Steven and his brother survived a death march and were liberated by Soviet forces.
Thousands of Latvian and German police came into the ghetto, drunk, most of them drunk--shooting, chasing everybody out. "Raus [Out]. Everybody Raus [Out]. Schnell [Quickly]. Schnell [Quickly]." They chased everybody out. Whoever couldn't walk was shot on the spot; children, women, elderly men, on the street. And German officers were walking around and telling the elderly, and the weak, and the ones who couldn't walk very well, that they will provide transportation for them. They...it would be much easier for them and they provided special blue buses. At that time we did not know what was happening to them, but they were chased through certain sections of town into the forest, a place called Rumbula. And there Russian prisoners, prisoners of war had prepared large graves, mass graves, and when the people got there they were told to undress, put the shoe in one pile, the shoes in one pile, clothing in another pile, driven to the edges of these mass graves, and machine-gunned. It was going on all night and the next day. Fifteen thousand of our people were massacred in that particular day.
We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.