Testimony by Joseph Berman regarding atrocities committed by Oberscharführer-SS Rudolf Seck and others in Latvia

They say that a picture paints a thousand words, and that is true, but it never tells the full story. It is just a snap shot of time. Especially when it comes to the Holocaust, pictures are powerful but I believe the testimonies of those who survived and lived through the horrors are much more powerful.

Rudolf Joachim Seck was an SS officer during World War II during the course of which he committed a large numbers of crimes against humanity, for which he was later sentenced to serve life in prison by a West German court. Seck held the SS ranks of Unterscharführer and later Oberscharführer (Staff Sergeant). He was the commander of Jungfernhof concentration camp, near Riga, Latvia. His office was at the Gestapo headquarters in Riga on Reimerstrasse. According to Joseph Berman, a Jewish man from Ventspils and a survivor of The Holocaust in Latvia, who was assigned to the work detail cleaning Seck’s automobile, Seck was closely associated with Rudolf Lange, the main SS leader in occupied Latvia.

Rudolf Lange

Seck made it a habit to meet, at the Skirotava railway station, trains of Jews deported from Germany, Austria, or Czechoslovakia. Theoretically these Jews were to be sent to the Riga Ghetto or the Jungfernhof or Salaspils concentration camps, but usually this did not occur, as Seck would instead take them to Bi ernieki or Rumbula forests, near Riga, and shoot them.

Following the war, Seck was tried in West Germany before the Landsgericht Hamburg with other Nazi personnel who planned or participated in the murder of Jews in Latvia. In 1951, Seck was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Below is the testimony of Joseph Berman against Seck

“I am the Joseph Berman mentioned in the House of Commons White Paper on Buchenwald, Advisor to the Prosecution and first Rebuttal Witness in the Buchenwald Trials held at Dachau in 1947; former Intelligence Investigator of the Office of Military Government for Bavaria.

I, Joseph Berman, born on the 25th June 1925 at Ventspils, Latvia, and now living in London, was a political prisoner during the German occupation, first at the main headquarters of all concentration camps in Latvia – Kaiserwald, Riga and later on in the extermination camp Dondangen, Kurland, Latvia. I hereby make the following declaration:-

Rudolf SECK was the man I saw almost every day, beginning from 1941, either coming from or going to the headquarters of the Gestapo for the Baltic States, which was situated at Reimerstrasse, Riga. Mostly he travelled with his car to and from Jungfernhof, Salaspils, the Headquarters, Central Prison, and sometimes also the Riga Ghetto.

He was always with “Sturmbannfuehrer” Dr. Lange’s group, which met the incoming transports of Austrian, Czech and German Jewry at Skirotawa Station. These people were supposed to be taken by him to Salaspils, Jungfernhof or the Riga Ghetto, but usually did not arrive at their destination, because he took them to the Bikernieku or Rumbuli forest to be shot. These facts are known to me because, when cleaning the car of Seck and all the other cars every day, they used to stand next to me and I could hear them brag about their shooting abilities.

I used to see Seck leaving Reimerstrasse with the various convoys that set out from Riga to other parts of the Baltic States and White Russia to quell partisan uprisings and liquidate certain camps or Ghettos or the so-called special “Himmelfahrtskommando.”

I also saw Seck at Peterholm Street, the Clothing Depot of the Gestapo, from where he took away suit-cases full of new clothing, Jewelry, etc., after the unfortunate victims had been taken care of by him.

I also saw him during the “actions” in the Riga Ghetto in 1941, and he was a visitor of Scherwitz at Auseklu Street, and later at Lenta.

Although he never asked me to come with him when he went out on these criminal expeditions, I am aware of the fact that he was one of the leaders of the N.C.O.s at Gestapo headquarters, Riga, who were in charge of Jewish affairs during the German occupation, and I know that he definitely accomplished his mission and ruthlessly liquidated European Jewry.

I was present one day in 1942, in the yard of Motor Pool in Reimerstrasse, when “Untersturmfuehrer Reese, Nickel, Seck, Tekemeyer and Mohr searched the home-going (to the Ghetto) “Reichsjuden” column, after a transport of foodstuff including delicacies had arrived from Paris (stolen by the Riga Gestapo from the Wehrmacht). It consisted of tinned fruit, best chocolates, etc. Hardly anything was found on the unfortunate victims; some had a few potatoes or a piece of bread. 15 people were brought into one of the newly finished garages (they were Jews from either Germany, Austria, or Czechoslovakia); I had to run away when I saw the above-mentioned SD-men lead these men into the garage. To our great surprise, a Jew by the name of Heppy, who, together with Otto Mohr was working in the kitchen of Gestapo headquarters and was responsible for supplies of provisions, and who was respected for his work and organising ability, initiative and personality by all who had contact with him, was also locked up with the above mentioned 15 unfortunate victims. Heppy was a Latvian Jew and had been a sailor for many years; he was an example of cool thinking and open resistance against the Nazi beasts. He must have saved thousands of people by the many favours he bestowed on them.

These 16 people were kept at Reimerstrasse for one night, and the next day the whole Gestapo in Riga turned out to watch them being taken away to Salaspils in a Renault lorry. I still remember the numberplate of the lorry, which was Pol. 91088. They were liquidated in Salaspils in front of all the inmates of that camp. The personalities of the Gestapo headquarters in Riga that day, smiling and in very high spirits, followed the procession to Salaspils; 1 saw them later return to Reimerstrasse. Whenever people were being shot or hung, the same 20 or 30 high ranking officers of the Riga Gestapo had to have their transportation ready in a matter of a few minutes.

I was often maltreated by Rudolf Seck, and whenever he came to Reimerstrasse or to any other place where I was present, he used to kick everybody around.

I saw him many times with an automatic pistol (some of theirs were the small type used by airborne troops), and I saw him carrying an extra large pistol, whenever he went out on one of his criminal expeditions.

(signed) JOSEPH BERMAN

London, 16 February 1949.

I herewith certify that the above is a true copy of the English original.

(signed) H. MICHELSON

London, 16 February 1949.

sources

https://www.testifyingtothetruth.co.uk/viewer/image/106498/2/

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/latvia

https://www.dodax.com/en-us/books-audiobooks/lexica-reference-work/betascript-publishing-rudolf-joachim-seck-dpCH6QFIS3006/

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Judenfrei-Free of Jews: At least 2 executions a man per day.

Frei

I am always amazed by the fact that there are still people who desperately want to deny the Holocaust. Although there is so much evident and a lot of it very graphic, they still say it never happened and that the photographic evidence are staged pictures, produced by the allies.

The one thing they do forget is the evidence produced by the Nazi’s themselves. The Nazis kept records of nearly everything they did, in fact they insisted in getting this done pright. Some used the records to impress their superiors. Reports like the Jaeger and the Stahlecker reports proved extremely valuable during the Nuremberg trials.

nuremberg

Franz Walter Stahlecker  was commander of the SS  for the Reichskommissariat Ostland (the civilian occupation regime in the Baltic states-Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania-, the northeastern part of Poland and the west part of  Belarus).in 1941–42.

On October 16 1941, Stahlecker submitted a report documenting the murder of over 220,000 Jewish men,women and children between  June 22 and October 15, 1941,by Einsatzgruppe A.

report

The map at the start of this blog was included in the report, it gives the breakdown of the deaths per country, the deaths are illustrated as coffins. The total number on the map is just over 218,000 so I don’t know if the map was complete before he finished his report or if there are discrepancies, either way the numbers are massive On top of the map it says “Judenfrei” meaning free of Jews.

Most of these killings would have been done via executions. The einsatzgruppen varied from 500-1000 men, so if you take the higher number of 1000 that would come down to more then 220 executions per man, or close to 2 executions, per man a day.

But if you take that massive number of 220,000 it still only represents about 3.5 % of all Jews killed during the Holocaust.

Stahlecker was killed in action on 23 March 1942, by Soviet partisans near  Krasnogvardeysk, Russia.

Stahlbecker

 

 

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Arajs Kommando

Arajs Kommand

The more I do these articles the more I discover how deep the hatred was against Jews. It wasn’t only the Germans but also troops from other axis powers who were happy and willing enough to fulfill the Nazi’s final solution.

The Arajs Kommando (also: Sonderkommando Arajs), led by SS-Sturmbannführer Viktors Arājs, was a unit of Latvian Auxiliary Police  subordinated to the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst (SD). It was one of the more well-known and notorious killing units during the Holocaust.

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After  the Einsatzkommando had entered into the Latvian capital, contact between Viktors Arājs and Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker was established on 1 July 1941.

Franz_Walter_Stahlecker01

Stahlecker instructed Arājs to set up a commando that obtained an official name Latvian Auxiliary Security Police or Arajs Kommando. The group was composed of students and former officers of far-right wing orientation. All of the Arajs Kommando members were volunteers, and free to leave at any time. The following day on 2 July, Stahlecker revealed to Arājs that his commando had to unleash a pogrom that looked spontaneous.

The unit numbered about 300-500 men during the period that it participated in the killing of the Latvian Jewish population, and reached up to 1,500 members at its peak at the height of its involvement in anti-partisan operations in 1942.n the final phases of the war, the unit was disbanded and its personnel transferred to the Latvian Legion.

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The Arajs Kommando unit actively participated in a variety of Nazi atrocities, including the killing of Jews, Roma, and mental patients, as well as punitive actions and massacres of civilians along Latvia’s eastern border with the Soviet Union. The Kommando killed around 26,000 Jews in total. Most notably, the unit took part in the mass execution of Jews from the Riga ghetto, and several thousand Jews deported from Germany, in the Rumbula massacre of November 30 and December 8, 1941,where about 25,000 Jews were killed.

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As can be seen in contemporary Nazi newsreels—part of a documentation campaign to create the image that the Holocaust in the Baltics was a local, and not Nazi-directed activity—the Arajs Kommando figured prominently in the burning of Riga’s Great (Choral) Synagogue on 4 July 1941. Commemoration of this event has been chosen for marking Holocaust Memorial Day in present-day Latvia.

Horalas_sinagogas_monumenta_fragments_1

Some of the commando’s men also served as guards at the Salaspils concentration camp

 

After successfully hiding in West Germany for several decades after the war, Viktors Arājs was eventually arrested, tried, and imprisoned for his crimes.

More recently, the governments of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia were involved in the attempt to extradite Konrāds Kalējs, a former officer of the Arajs Kommando,to Latvia for trial on charges of genocide.

Konrads_Kalejs

 

Kalējs died in 2001 in Australia before the extradition could proceed, maintaining his innocence to the end, stating that he was fighting Russia on the Eastern Front or studying at university when the slaughter of Jews took place in 1941. Latvian Holocaust historian A. Ezergailis estimates about a third of the Arājs Kommando, 500 of a maximum of around 1,500 total members, actively participated in the killings of Jews, and claimed that one cannot be convicted of crimes against humanity based solely on membership in an organization.

Herberts Cukurs another member of the Arajs Kommando never stood trial, though there are eyewitness accounts linking Cukurs to war crimes. He was assassinated by operatives of the Israeli intelligence service (Mossad) in 1965,in Montevideo Uruguay.. As a result of his actions during the Nazi occupation of Latvia from 1941 to 1944, Cukurs has been called the “Butcher of Riga”.

Photograph_of_Herberts_Cukurs_in_1937

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