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December 8: 25,000 in Two Days

December 7, 2015

EpsteinWomenResizedto450wideThe Rumbula Massacre, second only to Babi Yar as the deadliest two days for Jews during the nightmarish years of the Holocaust, concluded on this date in 1941. Carried out in or near the Rumbula Forest near Riga, Latvia, the mass-shootings were done by the Nazi Einsatzgruppe A with the help of local Latvian militia. The “aktion” was led by SS officer Friedrich Jeckeln, a veteran of such massacres in the Ukraine, who had developed his own methodology, which included pre-digging pits to serve as mass graves and forcing victims to stand in those pits to spare the executioners from dragging their corpses. Some 13,000 Jews from the Riga Ghetto were murdered on November 30th, and 11,000 more on December 8th; 1,000 German Jews who had been transported to Riga were also killed. First came a 10-kilometer march from the ghetto to the killing pits, which had been dug by Russian prisoners of war. Some 1,700 German and Latvian men were involved in facilitating the massacre, but only twelve members of the Einsatzgruppe pulled the triggers, under the personal supervision of Jeckeln — who ultimately organized the deaths of over 100,000 Jews and other victims of Nazism. He was convicted in a Soviet court as a war criminal and executed in 1946.

“With their Russian automatic weapons set on single shots, the marksmen murdered the Jews from a distance of about two meters with a shot in the backs of their heads. One bullet per person was allotted in the Jeckeln system.” —Andrew Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia, 1941-1944