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Society of the Survivors of the Riga Ghetto (New York) -- Former Jewish policemen and Baer

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5041 | Film ID: 3400, 3401, 3666

Several former Jewish policemen from Riga, Latvia describe the division of the ghetto into sections for Latvian Jews and German Jews, dealing with the Nazi discovery of a secret weapons cache, and responsibilities as Jewish police. Lanzmann raises the question of collaboration and acknowledges the survivors’ openness as they talk at a conference in New York in 1978. The material also contains a short interview with veteran frontline soldier, Friedrich Baer.

FILM ID 3400 -- Camera Roll #65 -- 01:00:00 to 01:11:33
NY65 Lanzmann interviews three survivors of the Riga ghetto. The first man on right describes how the ghetto was partitioned into two sections: one for the German Jews, one for the Latvian Jews. The three interviewees resided in the German section. Each side had a police force comprised of its own residents. The man recounts that one day he was called to a meeting by the German authorities. This was already well into their time of captivity in the ghetto: they had arrived in January of 1941, and the meeting took place at some point during 1942. He, along with other young, strong German Jewish men, had been designated to police the Latvian section of the ghetto. As it turns out, several Latvian Jews had escaped; their police were blamed and executed for the incident. The three men go on to relate their experiences as policemen. They had little real authority, carried no weapons, and, it seems, mainly served to assist the SS in "keeping order" and cleaning up after executions, which they were forced to attend. The audio continues for a few seconds after the video ends.

FILM ID 3401 -- Camera Roll #66 -- 01:11:34 to 01:22:49
NY66 The same three men continue to describe their experiences as Jewish policemen in the ghetto. One recounts how he was sent to investigate a hidden weapons cache which had been smuggled, piece by piece, into the Latvian side of the ghetto. The weapons were brought out by German soldiers and the Latvian side of the ghetto was closed. Lanzmann comments on the survivors' willingness to talk: survivors who had served as policemen in other ghettos, such as Lodz, refused to talk about their involvement. These men from Riga, however, claim to have had a different experience: whereas police from other ghettos may or may not have been seen as collaborators by fellow Jews, these police from Riga had no choice in the matter. They were told to serve and could not refuse. Moreover, they actively used their unique position to help their comrades, whether that had been by alerting them to searches conducted by the SS or security, turning a blind eye to allow Latvian Jews into the German section, smuggling people into jail to pay visits to family members, etc. Thus, others may have been less inclined to see them as collaborators deserving of condemnation; neither do these men view themselves as such.

FILM ID 3666 - New York 175 (NY 68) Baer
Fred Baer was a German Jew who fought at the front during WWI. After the war he worked in a department store in Gelsenkirchen until 1939 when he was sent to Oranienburg concentration camp. After a month at the camp he was released, and subsequently immigrated to Panama.

Event Date
November 1978
New York, NY, United States
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
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Record last modified: 2018-11-27 11:04:52
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