The shootings were carried out under the direction of Colonel Dr. Lange, Commander of the SD and Gestapo in Latvia. Knecht was in charge of security at the liquidation sites. (2) I, Jeckeln, took part in the shootings on three occasions; the same holds for Lange, Knecht, Lohse, and Lieutenant Colonel Osis, commander of the traffic police in Riga.
Q: Who did the shooting?
A: Ten or twelve German SD soldiers.
Q: What was the procedure?
A: All of the Jews went by foot from the ghetto in Riga to the liquidation site. Near the pits, they had to deposit their overclothes, which were washed, sorted, and shipped back to Germany. Jews - men, women, and children - passed through police cordons on their way to the pits, where they were shot by German soldiers.
Q: Did you report the execution of the order to Himmler?
A: Yes, indeed. I notified Himmler by phone that the ghetto in Riga had been liquidated. And then when I was in Lötzen, East Prussia, in December 1941, I reported in person, too. (3) Himmler was satisfied with the results. He said that more Jewish convoys were due to arrive in Latvia, and these were to be liquidated by me also.
Q: Go into more detail.
A: At the end of January 1942, (4) I was at Himmler's headquarters in Lötzen, East Prussia, to discuss organizational matters regarding the Latvian SS legions. There Himmler informed me that additional Jewish convoys were due to arrive from the Reich and from other countries. The destination point would be the Salaspils concentration camp, which lay one and a quarter miles from Riga in the direction of Dünaburg. Himmler said that he had not yet determined how he would have them exterminated: whether to have them shot on board their convoys or in Salaspils, or whether to chase them into the swamp somewhere.
Q: How was the matter resolved?
A: It was my opinion that shooting would be the simpler and quicker death. Himmler said he would think it over and then give orders later through Heydrich.
Q: What countries were the Jews in Salaspils brought from?
A: Jews were brought from Germany, France, Belgium, Holland,Czechoslovakia, and from other occupied countries to the Salaspils camp. To give a precise count of the Jews in the Salaspils camp would be difficult. In any case, all the Jews from the camp were exterminated. But I would like to make an additional statement while we are on this topic.
Q: What statement would you like to make?
A: I would like to say for the record that Göring shares in the guilt for the liquidations of Jewish convoys that arrived from other countries. In the first half of February 1942 I received a letter from Heydrich. In this letter he wrote that Reich Marshall Göring had gotten himself involved in the Jewish question, and that Jews were now being shipped to the East for annihilation only with Göring's approval.
Q: This does not diminish your guilt. Describe your role in the Jewish liquidations in Salaspils.
A: I have already said that I discussed the extermination of Jews in Salaspils with Himmler in Lötzen. That alone makes me an accessory to this crime. Beyond that, Jews were shot in Salaspils camp by forces recruited from my SD and Security Police units. The commander of the SD and Gestapo in Latvia, Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Lange, was directly in charge of the shootings. Other officers who reported to me on the shooting of Jews in the camp were the commander of the SD and Gestapo in the Baltic States, Major General Jost; Colonel of Police Pifrader; and Colonel of Police Fuchs.
Q: Specifically, what did they report to you?
A: They reported that two to three convoys of Jews were to arrive per week, all subject to liquidation.
Q: Then the number of Jews shot in Salaspils ought to be known too, isn't that correct?
A: Yes, of course. I can give you the approximate figures. The first Jewish convoys arrived in Salaspils in November 1941. Then, in the first half of 1942, convoys arrived at regular intervals. I believe that in November 1941, no more than three convoys arrived in all, but during the next seven months, from December 1941 to June 1942, eight to twelve convoys arrived each month. Overall, in eight months, no less than fifty-five and no more than eighty-seven Jewish convoys arrived in camp. Given that each convoy carried a thousand men, that makes a total of 55,000 to 87,000 Jews exterminated in the Salaspils camp.
Q: This figure sounds low. Are you telling the truth?
A: I have no other, more exact figures. It should be added, however, that before my arrival in Riga, a significant number of Jews in the Ostland and in White Ruthenia were exterminated. I was informed of this fact.(5)
Q: By whom, specifically?
Stahlecker; Prützmann; Lange; Major General Schröder, the SS and Police Leader in Latvia; Major General Möller, the SS and Police Leader in Estonia; and Major General Wysocki, the SS and Police Leader in Lithuania.
Q: Be specific. What did they report?
A: Schröder reported to me that over and above those Jews who had been exterminated in the ghetto in Riga an additional 70,000 to 100,000 Jews were exterminated in Latvia. Dr. Lange directly oversaw these shootings. Möller reported that in Estonia everything was in order as far as the Jewish question was concerned. The Estonian Jewish population was insignificant, all in all about 3,000 to 5,000 and this was reduced to nil. The greater part were exterminated in Reval. Wysocki reported that 100,000 to 200,000 Jews were exterminated - shot - in Lithuania, on Stahlecker's orders. In Lithuania, the Jewish exterminations were overseen by the commander of the SD and Gestapo, Lieutenant Colonel of Police Jäger. Later Jäger told me that he had become neurotic as a result of these shootings. Jäger was pensioned off and left his post for treatment. All told, the number of Jews exterminated in the actions in the Baltic East reached somewhere in the vicinity of 190,500 to 253,000. (6)
(1) Minutes from Jeckeln's interrogation on 14 December 1945 (Major Zwetajew, interrogator; Sergeant Suur, interpreter), pp. 8 - 13, Historical State Archives, Riga.
(2) Max Knecht was the commander of the municipal police in Latvia.
(3) I.e., to Himmler's "Hochwald"headquarters in Lötzen.
(4) I.e., 25 January 1942, 11:30 A.M. - 1:00 p.m.; per RFSS appointments book, NS 19DC/vorl. 12, Bundesarchiv, Koblenz.
On the same day Himmler made the following handwritten entry, re: his telephone conversation "from the Wolfsschanze 17 [i.e., 5:00 P.M.] SS Gr.F. Heydrich Prague: Jews into concentration camps"NS 19/neu 1439 Bundesarchiv, Koblenz.
(5) Jeckeln was promoted on 31 October 1941 to Higher SS and Police Leader for northern Russia (H.Q. Riga); Jeckeln personnel file, Berlin Document Center. A second promotion to the rank of Leader of the SS Upper Section, "Ostland," occurred on 11 December 1941 (Bundesarchiv, Koblenz [NS 19 neu/2846]).
(6) In reply to telegram number 1331 from the Security Police of Riga (dated 6 February 1942), SS-Standartenführer Karl Jäger reported the following from Kovno on 9 February 1942: "Re: executions through 1 February 1942, by the Einsatzkommando 3A: Jews 136,421. Total: 138,272, of these, women: 55,556; children: 34,464" (Institut für Zeitgeschichte 3253/63 Fb 76 [a]).
September 10, 1997