During WW2, there were several prisons in Liepaja as well as prisoner-of-war camps and prison cells located in functioning factories. The most sinister and terrifying of all was the Women’s Prison. Jews who were arrested during the first days of the German occupation as well as those seized on the streets during raids were taken there (just men, no women). The Jews imprisoned there were locked up for days, even weeks in terrible conditions – mocked, humiliated and insulted in every possible way.
A Liepāja Jewish survivor, Kalman Linkmeer recalls :
“As soon as the gates of the prison opened, blows rained down on our heads … We were stuffed like herring in a barrel in the prison yard. About a thousand Jews, young and old, stood there in the blinding sun. If they bent their heads or tried to move they received terrible blows. The torturers beat them to death. It was dreadful to hear the voices of exhausted victims being killed. “
Many well known Liepaja townsfolk were submitted to beatings in this prison – doctors, teachers, including the respected Dr Schwab, who was later shot at the lighthouse along with hundreds of others.
There was only one way out of the Women’s Prison – to be shot. At dawn, trucks transported the tortured victims to the dunes, forced them to dig their own graves then they were shot.
Those who were not shot in the early days of arrests sometimes survived, the currency being a Leica camera or a gold watch. Some managed to buy their freedom this way if only for a short while. Those who could help did so, realizing that they might be saving someone but the next day they would need help themselves.