One of the regular readers of my blog wrote this comment in which the Rumbuli forest was mentioned.
Begin quote from comment written by Talbot:
“Its claimed that these 2,000 deportees from Theresienstadt were taken all the way – 1,300 kilometres – to the Rumbulla Forest just outside Riga in Latvia. Why the Nazis wanted to take them that enormous distance just to kill them all is difficult to fathom. […] The Rumbulla Forest sounds remote and sinister, but a quick glance on Google Earth shows that the “forest” consists of a narrow strip of scrubby heathland – no more than 500 metres wide – between a parallel main road and a major railway line, and right on the outskirts of the sprawling city of Riga.
That’s a strange location for a massacre site, because not only were the 2,000 from Therensienstadt massacred there, but up to 25,000 Latvian Jews from the Riga Ghetto who it is alleged were brought to the site in two batches during late-November and December 1941.The story goes, that after the shootings, the bodies were buried in six huge pits and left there to rot for well over a year before they were all dug up again and somehow burnt in their entirety so that they vanished forever.”
End quote from comment written by Talbot
Theresienstadt was originally set up as a holding camp, from which Jews would be sent to the east, according to Holocaust historians.
The first transport to be sent to the east from Theresienstadt consisted of 2,000 Jews who were sent to Riga on January 9, 1942 from the Bohusovice train station.
According to Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert, all 2,000 of them were taken to the nearby Rumbuli forest where they were shot. The most horrible aspect of this is that the Jewish “self-government” in the camp was initially in charge of selecting the people for the transports, although they did not know what their fate would be at that time.
Unwittingly, they sent the young able-bodied Jews to their deaths, thinking that they were sending workers to labor camps in the east.
A total of 44,693 Jews from Theresienstadt were sent to Auschwitz, where all but a few of them allegedly perished.
On September 8, 1943, a transport of 5,006 Czech Jews was sent to Auschwitz where they were put into a “family camp” which was liquidated six months later. There were 22,503 Jews from Theresienstadt who were transported to unknown destinations in the east.
In keeping with the stated policy at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, Hitler’s plan was to evacuate all the Jews to the east. Eight thousand Jews were sent from Theresienstadt to Treblinka and 1,000 to Sobibor, two death camps that were right on the border between German occupied Poland and the Soviet Union.
Another 1,000 Jews were transported from the Theresienstadt ghetto to a concentration camp near the village of Maly Trostenets, just outside of Minsk in what is now Belarus, better known to Americans as White Russia.
Two thousand Jews from the Theresienstadt ghetto were sent to Zamosc, 3,000 to Izbica and 3,000 to Lublin, all of which were cities near the eastern border of occupied Poland.
Although the Theresienstadt ghetto was originally supposed to be a home for elderly Jews, the Nazis began including some of the older inmates in the transports to the east after the camp population on September 18, 1942 had reached 58,497, its highest number of prisoners.
With such horrendous overcrowding, the death toll was around 4,000 just for the month of September in 1942 and most of the dead were elderly people. Between September 19, 1942 and October 22, 1942, there were 11 transports carrying ghetto inmates from Theresienstadt to other camps farther east in order to relieve the overcrowding.
Toward the end of the war, there were rumors circulating in all of the major Nazi concentration camps that Hitler had given the order for all the inmates to be killed before the arrival of the Soviet or American soldiers. This was believed to be the purpose for building a gas chamber at Theresienstadt in 1945 at the tail end of the war.
At Auschwitz, the inmates were given the choice to stay in the camp, or to follow the Germans on a death march to the camps in the west before the Soviet army arrived. Very few stayed behind, except those who were too old or too sick to walk, because the prisoners believed that they would be killed if they stayed.
After April 20, 1945, there were 13,454 of these wretched survivors from Auschwitz and other camps who poured into Theresienstadt. Some were housed in the Hamburg barracks, right by the railroad tracks. The others were put into temporary wooden barracks outside the ghetto, which were taken down soon after the war.
Some of the newcomers had been evacuated from Buchenwald on April 5th just before the camp was liberated by American troops on April 11, 1945. Before the Americans arrived, Hitler himself had given the order to evacuate the Jews from Buchenwald in an effort to prevent them from exacting revenge on German citizens after they were freed.
Some of them arrived at Theresienstadt in terrible condition after they had been traveling by train for two weeks without food. After the liberation of Buchenwald, some of the prisoners, who had not been evacuated, commandeered American army jeeps and weapons, then drove to the nearby town of Weimar where, in an orgy of revenge, they looted German homes and shot innocent civilians at random; this was the type of thing that the Nazis were trying to prevent by evacuating the concentration camps before they were liberated.
According to Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott, who was one of the prisoners brought to Theresienstadt in the last days of the war, the inmates of the Theresienstadt ghetto went on a rampage as soon as they were released. They looted homes, beat to death an SS guard from the ghetto, and attacked the ethnic Germans who were now homeless refugees, fleeing to Germany, after being driven out of the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia.
Some of the people who arrived from the evacuated camps were former inmates of Theresienstadt who were now returning. Others were Jews who had been in the eastern concentration camps for years. On May 3, 1945, the ghetto was turned over to the Red Cross, by Commandant Karl Rahm.
According to Martin Gilbert in his book entitled “Holocaust Journey,” Rahm told the Red Cross that he had received orders from Berlin to kill all the inmates in the ghetto before the Russians arrived, but he had disobeyed the order. Gilbert wrote that because of this, Rahm was allowed to leave the camp unmolested on the day before the Russians arrived on May 8, 1945. He was later captured and tried in a Special People’s Court in nearby Litomerice; he was held in the Small Fortress at Theresienstadt until he was executed in 1947.