Train Ride to Riga and Arrival in the Ghetto

»Deported to their Deaths « – panel 6 – Deportation and Death

It took several days for the deportation trains to travel from Hannover to Riga. Provisions and toilets were insufficient; drinking water and washing facilities were not available at all. In the wintertime, many detainees lost limbs to frostbite in unheated railcars; in the summer months, deaths from dehydration were common.


“We were still lucky because we got a proper passenger car that was heated until [we reached] the border (…). Then, from the border onwards, as we left the territory of the Reich, it became hell; then the heating was turned off immediately and the windows were covered up.” Gerd Landsberg, b. 1926, memories 2005

The deportation train from Hannover arrived at the Šķirotava marshalling yard in Riga on December 18th, 1941. SS men herded the deportees out of the railcars; people who were incapable of walking were driven immediately into a forest for execution. The others marched for several kilometres to the ghetto under the surveillance of Latvian SS men.

On the morning of the fourth day they said: “Everything out of the train, line up in fours. Whoever cannot walk has to drive. You can leave the hand luggage in the train car; it will be collected with the truck.” I say: “Mama, don’t drive; take the little bit of stuff you still have and pull yourself together. Look, they shoot; the people in the car we won’t see again.” Henny Markiewicz-Simon, née Rosenberg, b.1925

Like all groups of detainees, the Hannover Jews were allocated to their own block of houses in which the group members had to take up residence. Several families, couples, and single people shared a room.

We couldn’t believe our eyes. Are we actually human beings or animals? A small room, everything thrown about helter-skelter. Burst water pipes, everything full of water. Dark. Sour food on the table. Grime, impossible to describe. We were at our wits end; what to do; we have to live in these [squalid] rooms. Outside in the snow we see traces of blood. Our first question: “Who lived here?” (…) Slowly we started to tidy up. (…) Washed the dishes, threw out rags, stopped up the tap in a makeshift fashion. Because we then realized that we would not set eyes on our belongings again, we kept the food and clothes from the rooms. From the diary of Lore Oppenheimer, née Pels, b.1926

Picture credits

Municipal Archive Bielefeld


Exhibition: Deported to their Deaths
Duration: December 15th, 2011 to January 27th, 2012
Location: Neues Rathaus Hannover, Bürgersaal
Panel: 6 from 39 – Deportation and Death
Size: 650 x 2050 mm
Technique: Digital print on Alu-Dibond