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Society of the Survivors of the Riga Ghetto Conference (New York)

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5041 | Film ID: 3400, 3401, 4646, 4705, 4706

Lanzmann films at a New York conference for survivors of the Riga ghetto in 1978. Includes an interview with several former Jewish policemen from Riga, Latvia who 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. He also interviews veteran frontline soldier, Friedrich Baer. The reels also generally show the conference proceedings inside the New York hotel.

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 Łódź, 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 4646 -- NY 68.69 Survivant Riga Baer Interview
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.

FILM ID 4705 -- NY 58,59,67 Banquet Riga
Camera Roll New York 58. Inside the Riga Ghetto survivors conference in a hotel in New York City. CU, flag “Society of Survivors of the Riga Ghetto. Inc.” Survivors talk with one another, some eat. They occasionally glance at the camera. A man exclaims, “Alright it’s a deal.” A woman looks off camera and asks, “What? You want to hear us talk or what’s the big idea?” New York 59. People converse with each other at the conference in New York. 00:02:21 New York 67. Woman at the mic announces winning raffle ticket numbers. People receive prizes. 00:06:15 Woman at the mic announces “207” and a man approaches, showing her that number tattooed on his arm as a joke and they laugh. 00:06:41 End.

FILM ID 4706 -- NY 60-63 Banquet survivants Riga
Camera Roll New York 60. Inside the Riga Ghetto survivors conference in a hotel in New York City. Man speaking. CU, poster in Hebrew. CU, poster “Cash for Economic Strength. Pay for your Israel Bonds Today.” Another CU, poster with Star of David then poster that reads, “Israel Bonds. Build Economic Strength for Peace.” Attendees grab food from the table. Camera Roll New York 61. Mute CU of flag pole with Star of David on top. CU of flag pole with an eagle on top. People converse with each other at a conference in New York. Camera Roll New York 62. CU of men’s kippahs on their heads. People continue to converse with one another. Camera Roll New York 63. (00:04:16) Woman yells, “louder” to another woman at the mic. Woman at mic, “What? Doesn’t work? How come it doesn’t work.” People from the audience speak. Woman repeats, “I don’t know how it works.” Man raises the mic stand. Audience laughs. Camera Roll New York 64. Woman at mic says its a pleasure to have seen so many people come out this year. She welcomes Lanzmann and the film crew. Audience claps. She asks the audience to cooperate with Lanzmann if he asks any questions. She also welcomes and introduces a Riga survivor from Israel, CU of the man. Elliot Weiss [?] works on Nazi war criminals living in the United States. She asks the audience to send statute of limitation cards back to Germany and talks about the prizes that were donated. She announces a wedding and some individuals whose names are hard to decipher. Lily Strauss is congratulated for celebrating her 75th birthday. A woman hands her flowers. CU of Lily Strauss. (00:08:45) Mr. Weiss [?] explains more about the card, until the end of the roll.

Event:  November 1978
Production:  1985
New York, NY, United States
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
Record last modified: 2021-06-03 12:48:04
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