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Concentration Camps: Kaiserwald

Kaiserwald was a Nazi concentration camp near a village outside Riga in Latvia.

Kaiserwald was built in March 1943, during the period that the German army occupied the Baltic states. The first inmates of the camp were several hundred convicts from Germany.

Following the liquidation of the Riga, Liepaja and Dvinsk ghettos in June 1943, the remainder of the Jews of Latvia, along with most of the survivors of the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto, were deported to Kaiserwald.

In early 1944, a number of smaller camps around Riga were brought under the jurisdiction of the Kaiserwald camp. Ultimately, all the Jews living on Latvian soil were incarcerated there.

Following the occupation of Hungary by the Germans, thousands of Jews were sent to Kaiserwald, as were a number of Jews from Lódz, in Poland. By March 1944, there were 11,878 inmates in the camp and its subsidiaries, 6,182 males and 5,696 females, of whom only 95 were gentiles.

The camp commandant was an SS - Obersturmfuhrer named Zauer.

Unlike Auschwitz or Treblinka, Kaiserwald was not an extermination camp, and the inmates were put to work by large German companies, notably Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft, which used a large number of female slaves from Kaiserwald in the production of electrical goods. Other prisoners worked in other factories, mines, and farms, as well as inside the camp.

In July 1944, as the Soviet army approached the Latvian border, the Germans began gradually to evacuate the inmates to Poland. Prior to the evacuation, thousands of Jews who were unfit for work — the ill, the frail, and the young — were put to death. All Jews who had ever been convicted of any offense, no matter how minor, were executed prior to the evacuation, as were all Jews under 18 or over 30. By September 1944, all the inmates of Kaiserwald had been moved and the Red Army liberated the camp on October 13, 1944.

Sources: Wikipedia; Gutman, Israel. ed. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Vols. 1-4. NY: Macmillan, 1995.