Šķēde (Skede) | Kurzeme

Nazi police warning to the Jews of Liepāja to remain in their houses on December 15 and 16, 1941, in the German and Latvian languages. ©Bunderarchiv, Taken from Wikipedia Nazi police warning to the Jews of Liepāja to remain in their houses on December 15 and 16, 1941, in the German and Latvian languages. ©Bunderarchiv, taken from Wikipedia Members of a Latvian self-defence unit assemble a group of Jewish women for execution on a beach near Liepaja. ©Bunderarchiv, Bild_183-B11441 Women and children forced to undress prior to shooting. ©Bunderarchiv/ Taken fromYad Vashem Jewish children at the execution site before the shooting. ©Bunderarchiv/ Taken from Yad Vashem Photo Archives A group of Jewish women, among them Naomi Yankelowitz, Miriam and Fruma Parvie, huddled together, waiting to be shot on the beach. ©Source: Bunderarchiv/ Yad Vashem Photo Archives, 4613/626 Mia Epstein. She is eighteen. She is squatting down and covering her breasts not just out of modesty but because it is so cold. The people either side of her are her mother and her fifteen year old brother. ©Bunderarchiv/ Yad Vashem Photo Archives A Latvian guard leads Jewish women to the execution site. ©Bunderarchiv/ Yad Vashem Photo Archives Jewish women about to be shot by the Nazis. ©Bunderarchiv/ Yad Vashem Photo Archives / Lilija,I., born in 1934: “It was summertime. The witness’s father was riding on a horse from Liepāja and saw a group of Jews being taken towards the beach.” ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum Lilija,I., born in 1934, at the execution site at the Šķēde dunes. ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum Lilija,I., born in 1934: “It didn’t have as many trees as now, just some bushes. These sagged valleys are the mass graves. The execution site was much larger than the present memorial.” ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team on the way to the execution site. ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team during an interview with   Lilija, born in 1934, reconstructing the crime conducted in December 1941.   ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum Arturs V., born in 1932: “Aizsargi did not participate in this. It was the Germans who fired. The Jewish women had to undress, while the children were separated and also killed with bullets.” ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum At the entrance to the Šķēde dunes memorial. ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum Monument in the memory of Jews, Roma and communists murdered during the war. ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum According to the archives, in mid-December 1941, mass killings of 2,800 Jewish men, women and children took place at the beach in the dunes of Šķēde. ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum The Šķēde dunes have a memorial today. ©Eva Saukane/Yahad - In Unum

Exeution of Jews in Šķēde

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Between 2,700 and 3,640

Witness interview

Lilija, I., born in 1934: “YIU: Did you see the Jews being taken away?
W: I didn’t see it, but my father did. He was coming back from Liepaja by cart and he saw a group of Jews being taking towards the beach. They were all walking on foot, but some adults were carrying children. It was clear that they were being taken to the dunes to be shot. Later, during the night, we heard gunfire.
YIU: Did you hear isolated gunshots or were they automatic rattles?
W: They were automatic.” (Witness n°48Lv, interviewed in Zvaigznes, on October 3, 2019)

Soviet archives

“From August 1942, I personally participated in the executions of Soviet citizens in the vicinity of Šķēde, on the coast of the Baltic Sea, located about 10 km from Libava (Liepaja). The first time, I was as a guard during the transportation of the arrested people by truck to Skede to be shot. In August 1942, I carried out the shooting of Soviet citizens several times. After taking them by truck, they were unloaded 200 meters from the place of execution, stripped down to their underwear and taken to the execution in groups of 8-10 people. Chief SD policeman S., Lieutenant R., Chief of Police K. took them, one by one, to the pit and lined them up on the edge of it with their backs to the shooters. On K.’s orders, I, Karlis B., Robert K., Roudolf K., Janis E., Karlis R. and Karlis P. opened fire and shot them with automatic weapons. All of them were thrown into the pit. Then I and the above-mentioned people filled it in. On that day when I participated in the execution, the pits, 8m long, 3m wide and 2m deep were dug. In my presence, 42 people were shot. [...]” [Deposition of an SD police member, born in 1920, Karlis I.; GARF 7021-93-2419, pp. 112-116.]

German archives

“Right before Christmas 1941, the Jews suddenly didn’t come to work anymore. I heard that they had been permitted to leave their houses, because they were to be registered again. A few days later, I saw columns of Jews in the city, carrying their belongings. I also saw children and old people being transported on trucks. They were guarded by the Latvian police. It was told that the Jews would be put into a camp. But it became clear that the Jews were taken to the northern area of the war harbor and shot there. It was said that the Latvian police, under the supervision of an SD-unit which came from Poland, carried out the shootings. (…) It was told that about 4.000 men, women, elderly people and children were shot. The victims had to undress and their clothes were collected. As far as I can remember, the clothes were taken to the same building where the depot for clothes of the navy was. (…) The Jews who were still living in Libau were put into a ghetto in the town. Jews form other regions were also interned in this ghetto. (…) I can remember that shortly after the shootings in Libau, several barrels with chlorid from the navy depot were ordered. It was put into the ditches where the Jews had been shot.” [Interrogation of Carl M., Source: B162-2626 RG-14.101M.0343.00000486 Bl. 1281]

Historical note

Šķēde is a suburban settlement located 13 km (8mi) north of Liepāja. There is no information on whether the Jews lived there before the war. A big Jewish community that largely developed in the 19th century lived in Liepāja. Jews worked predominantly in commerce and industry. The city’s Jewish population reached its zenith in 1911, consisting of 10,308 people. In 1935, 7,379 Jews lived in Liepāja, making up 13% of the population. Five years later, in 1940, the Soviet Union occupied Liepāja and the rest of Latvia.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Šķēde and Liepāja were occupied by Nazi troops on June 29, 1941. The Šķēde dunes became a site of the largest Aktion against the Liepāja Jews. The first shooting of Jews in the Šķēde dunes took place in September 1941, during which a couple of hundred persons were shot. The largest Aktion occurred in December 1941, when, over the course of three days, the majority of Liepāja Jews were murdered. During these three days, about 2,700 Jews were rounded up from their homes by Latvian police, taken to the prison and driven to the Šķēde dunes to be shot. The shootings were conducted by Einsatzgruppen, the SD units, and the Ordnungspolizei.  

In February 1942 approximately 150 more Jews were shot in the Šķēde dunes. The isolated shootings continued until 1945. Roma, communists, and mentally ill people were also murdered in Šķēde. In all, according to the www.liepajajews.org website, 7,000 victims were massacred there, including 3,640 Jews.

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