Rainis Park – Below is the picture of a memorial stone dedicated to the first victims of the Holocaust in Liepaja in 1941.
On June 28, 1941, Hitler’s troops marched into Liepāja and had occupied the entire city by the next morning. On the same day, the Latvian aizsargi1 and hakenkreuzler [swastikawearers] came out of hiding and, together with the Germans, began persecution of the Jewish population.
The murders of Jews in Liepaja began as early as June 29, but the first documented massacre took place in the evening of July 3 or 4, when Erhard Grauel, the head of the German EK 2 team, arrived in the city. He discovered that the EK1A firing squad led by Fritz Reichert was killing Jews in Rainis Park. This was solely a German operation with no Latvians on site. The exact number of victims is unknown.
The victims were Jews randomly arrested in the streets as well as communist prisoners and their sympathizers. Fortification ditches had been left behind by the Russian army in the park and Reichert filled these ditches with corpses. Within two days, 150 Jews had been killed.
Over the course of five to six days, about 300 Jews were shot in Rainis Park. Their corpses were dumped into trenches and covered with sand. Because of the hot weather, the bodies began to decompose so the Nazis reburied them.
To carry out this task, the Germans arrested several Jews in the street, including Kalman Linkiemer (who described this atrocity in his diary). The Jews arrested believed they were being arrested to work so were not too anxious. However, when they crossed the city bridge to the Rainis Park pavilion, the Germans provided them with shovels which led them to understand they were about to dig their own graves. Despite beatings by the Germans they refused to obey orders. The truck driver however suggested they do so otherwise they would only have to dig up the corpses and then rebury them.
As they began digging and at a depth of about twenty centimetres corpses began to appear with fractured skulls and all with bullets to the back of their heads. The Jewish workmen soon realised these were the prisoners arrested a few days earlier and managed to write down the names of the victims. Some were easily identified with others identified from their ID documents.
All the victims were buried in the Jewish cemetery, except for five Latvians who were buried in the Central cemetery.