Oral History

Steven Springfield describes the treatment of Jews in the Riga ghetto

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.


I remember while they were taking out those people from the ghetto, I was standing behind the barbed wire and I saw those wild animals, those drunk Latvian and German soldiers beating, killing, in the most brutal and barbaric way. I saw a woman walking with a child, with a baby in her arms, and somehow she slipped and the baby fell out of her arm. The Latvian policeman grabbed the baby, held it by its legs and put a bullet through it, and when the mother started pleading with him and crying, he shot the mother on the spot. I saw
that in front...just in front of me. So, when I saw that I had no doubt in my mind what was happening to our people. And it...it was the futility of the situation which made me raise my eyes to the sky and say "My God, it just cannot be." Human beings cannot do that to other people. It's just impossible. Day had turned to night. People became worse than animals, blood-thirsty, without any pity, any feelings for their fellow human beings.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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