JAUNIJELGAVA (Ger. Friedrichstadt), city in Zemgale (Courland) district, Latvia., S.E. of Riga. In the period of czarist rule it was a district capital in *Courland. Jewish artisans from the villages started to settle in Jaunijelgava under Russian rule at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1850 the Jewish community numbered 1,483, increasing to 4,128 (70% of the total population) in 1881, and 3,256 (62.5%) in 1897. Apart from petty trade and artisanship, some wealthy Jews dealt in the export of wood, hides, and bristles. During World War I, the Jews in Jaunijelgava were expelled in July 1915 into the Russian interior, but before that three prominent members of the community were arrested as hostages, to be executed if cases of treason were discovered among the Jews. The city was subsequently destroyed in the fighting between the Russian and German armies. The community did not recover after the war, and only 680 returned by 1925. The Jewish population had decreased to 561 (26% of the total population) by 1933. Despite the decline Jews dominated the town's trade, owning most of the business resources. A Yiddish school existed, and the local rabbi functioned also as deputy mayor of the town. After the Soviets took over in 1940, they nationalized businesses and liquidated Jewish public life. Germans occupied the town in the end of June 1941. The Latvian "Self-Defense" forces began killing Jews. They assembled them in the synagogue. In the beginning of August a group of young Jews was taken out to dig ditches and then was shot there. On August 7, 1941, all the Jews – 167 families – were taken there and murdered. After the war some Holocaust survivors reached the town, took care of the cemetery and the mass grave, and erected a monument to the Holocaust victims. Later they dispersed, most of them leaving for Israel. At the beginning of the 21st century no Jews lived in Jaunijelgava.
L. Ovchinski, Di Geshikhte fun di Yidn in Letland (1928).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.