Over viewEdit

The Nazis Germany forcibly conscripted many of Latvia's inhabitants in their armed forces. During World War II more than 200,000 Latvian soldiers ended up in the enemy forces; approximately 100,000 were killed in combat.

In 1943-1944, two divisions of Waffen SS were formed, largely from ex-Latvian soldiers, along with political agitators, and forcibly conscripted individuals, to fight the Soviet army and lost after heavy fighting in 1944.

Immediately after the Germans took over in July 1941, the racial persicution of the Jewish and Roma population began. Major arbitry killings took place at Rumbula and elsewhere. The killings were committed by the Einsatzgruppe A, The Arajs Kommando and the Wehrmacht amongst others. The Latvian collaborators, including the 500–1,500 members of the Arājs Commando and the Latvian members of the SD, were also involved. As of the end of 1941, virtually all of Latvia's Jews exterminated. About 25,000 Jews were also brought from Germany, Austria and the present-day Czech Republic, of whom around 20,000 were killed in Latvian camps.

The Soviet Union conscripted into its army seving sections of independent Latvia's military units, as well as those Latvians who had ended up in Russia as a result of previous wars or had originally been born and lived there since.


The racist The Arajs Kommando (also: Sonderkommando Arajs), were lead by the Latvian SS-Sturmbannführer Viktors Arājs (which alone killed around 26,000 Jews. It was a unit of the Latvian Auxiliary Police (German: Lettische Hilfspolizei) and was legally subordinated to the Nazi SD. It was one of the more well-known, notorious and ruthless Nazi killing units during the Holocaust.

This particular 'Auxiliary Police' group, composed of Latvian men, made contact with the leader of Nazi Germany's Einsatzgruppe A, Walter Stahlecker, in early July 1941, immediately following the German capture of Riga. All of the Arajs Kommando members were volunteers, and free to leave at any time.

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.

The Arajs Kommando unit actively participated in a variety of Nazi war-crimes, including the killing of Jews, Roma, and mental patients, as well as variose punitive actions and massacres against civilians mostly along Latvia's eastern border with the Soviet Union. The Kommando killed around 26,000 Jews in total, such as at the Riga ghetto and several thousand Jews deported in from Germany, at Rumbula on November 30 and December 8, 1941.

As can be seen in contemporary Nazi-era newsreels, which were part of a documentation propaganda campaign to create the image that the Holocaust in the Baltics was only a local phenomina, not as a Nazi-directed and incited activity, the Arajs Kommando figured prominently and were involvrd in the burning of Riga's Great (Choral) Synagogue on 4 July 1941.

Some of Arājs's men also served as guards at the Salaspils concentration camp.

Commemoration of the burning of Riga's Great (Choral) Synagogue has been chosen for marking Holocaust Memorial Day in present-day Latvia.

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