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Dvinsk and the Jews


"Country on the Baltic Sea. After World War II broke out Latvia was first occupied and later annexed by the Soviet Union, according to the terms of the Nazi- Soviet Pact. However, in June 1941 Germany attacked its former ally, the Soviet Union. Soviet-held territories like Latvia were immediately occupied by German troops. Incorporated into the reichskommissariat Ostland, Latvia became known as Generalbezirk Lettlend. A civil administration was appointed under D. Heinrich Drechsler and was made up of Latvians. At that point, some 70,000 Jews lived in Latvia.

At the end of July 1941, the mobile killing units of Einsatzgruppe A carried out the first mass murder of Jews in Latvia. From July to October 1941 some 34,000 Jews were massacred, including 4,000 inhabitants of Latvia's capital, Riga. At the end of October about 32,000 Jews from Riga were forced into two Ghettos. At the same time, higher ss and police leader Friedrich Jeckeln arrived to take over the extermination of the remaining Jews in Latvia. His orders, straight from SS chief Heinrich Himmler, were to "empty the ghetto." On November 30 and again on December 7, thousands of Jews were taken from the ghetto and shot to death in the Rumbala Forest. About 25,000 Jews were murdered in this Aktion, nicknamed the Jeckeln Aktion. The Jews imprisoned in the ghettos in Dvinsk and Liepaja were also annihilated in November and December 1941. A commando of Latvians under Viktor Arajs was responsible for the murder of many Latvian Jews.

In November about 20,000 Jews from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia were brought to Latvia and moved into the Riga Ghetto in place of the Riga Jews who were being killed. A small number were used by the Germans as forced laborers, but the majority---some 14,000---were killed in the forests from January to July 1942, just like the Jews of Latvia.

By the beginning of 1943 only 5,000 Jews remained in Latvia, either in the ghettos or in a few Forced Labor Camps, such as Kaiserwald. That fall, the Jews that were left in the ghettos were moved to Kaiserwald. In the late summer of 1944, as the Soviet army drew near, the last Jews in Latvia were sent to camps in Germany; many died en route. By war's end, nearly all of the 70,000 Jews living in Latvia in 1941 had perished

"City in the government of Vitebsk, Russia. It is situated on the River Düna, at the intersection of two railroads. It was founded in 1278 by the Knights of the Livonian Order, and in 1561 was annexed to Poland. According to the census of 1897 it has a population of 72,231, the Jews numbering 32,369. The latter are engaged in commerce, industries, and manufacturing. The local trade is entirely in their hands, and the chief articles of commerce are flax, flaxseed, and timber. Toward the end of the last century the business transactions amounted to ten millions of rubles annually.

Industrial occupations are also left almost entirely to the Jews. According to the official census of industries made in 1893, there were in Dvinsk 330 industrial establishments owned by Jews, and 99 owned by non-Jews, while the number of Jewish artisans was only 741. As a matter of fact both the absolute and the relative number of Jewish artisans is much greater. According to a private investigation in 1898 there were 4,862 Jewish artisans, including 2,193 masters, 1,760 journeymen, and 909 apprentices.

The most important of the trades followed by the Jews are tailoring (1,210) and shoemaking. In the 32 local factories and workshops (match factory, tannery, sawmill, button factory, etc.), all owned by Jews, there is a total of 2,305 employees, of whom 1,942 are Jews. There are in Dvinsk 658 Jewish day-laborers.

Taking the average family as consisting of five persons, it appears that in 1898 thirty per cent of the Jewish population of Dvinsk applied for aid from the community. The help given to poor and destitute Jews comes from a savings and lending association, and from various charitable institutions. The first of these, founded in 1900, was established as a mutual aid society. It has more than 1,200 members, and lent in 1902 (up to Sept. 1) various small sums, ranging from 15 to 50 rubles, and aggregating 41,321 rubles. There is another organization, established on charitable principles, for the advancement of small loans. This is a loan fund of 13,000 rubles founded in memory of M. Vitenberg. Loans, secured by personal property, are advanced without interest. Of other charitable institutions there are a society for aiding the poor, founded by the governor, with an income in 1899 of 8,917 rubles; a cheap dining-hall; a biḳḳur ḥolim; a dispensary; and a lying-in hospital.

In the year 1898, in the general schools of Dvinsk there were 1,203 pupils, 359 of them being Jews. In the schools exclusively Jewish there were 401 pupils. The attendance in the general schools was as follows: scientific high school, non-Jews 344, Jews 36; girls' classical high school, non-Jews 240, Jews 140; city school, containing industrial classes, non-Jews 151, Jews 74; private four-class girls' school, non-Jews 73, Jews 76; one-class girls' school, non-Jews 36, Jews 33.

In the Jewish schools: Talmud Torah, 122; Jewish school, with preparatory class, 116; three-class Jewish industrial school, 87; private Jewish school for boys and girls, 51; private Jewish one-class school, 25.

In several of the general schools Jews are not accepted; and those that are open to them are so crowded that many Jewish children can not gain admittance. The poor people can not even send their children to the "melammed," for the latter charges from 40 to 50 rubles a year for instruction. The local Zionist association opened in 1901 a model free ḥeder, where about 80 children get instruction. Thanks to the efforts of the Zionists, there were established in 1900 a library and reading-room, with a charge of three kopeks for admission.

Dvinsk is one of the chief depots for artillery of the Empire."from The jewish encyclopedia