Rumbula After The War



Michael Genchik lost seven of ten members of his family at Rumbula Forest including parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. He maintained the mass graves after the war as a member of the Soviet Army and has since immigrated to the United States. Here are his answers to questions about Rumbula Forest.


Photo of the Genchik Family - Riga, Latvia in 1929.
Pictured are Gdaly Hirsch and Rocha Zelda Genchik and their three children,
Israel (left), Abram (right)and Mordcha (front).
Only Mordcha (Michael) and Abram Genchik survived the war.

MICHAEL GENCHIK REMEMBERS

What do you personally know of the history of Rumbula Forest, the graves and any markers there the years?
Rumbula is a forest on the outskirts of Riga, close to the highway from Riga to Moscow. After the Soviet Army liberated Riga, the killing place in Rumbula didn't get much attention from the officials.

Then young Jewish activists from the Riga synagogue decided to take care of the place. They brought trucks with soil close to the place and dropped it on the ground by the highway. From there they carried the soil on stretchers to the gravesite and formed graves.

After that the officials erected the tombstones, but were afraid to write on them, that there were mostly Jews among the killed, instead saying that there are buried war prisoners and other soviet citizens.

In later years the officials held memorial services every year in November or December. There were speeches reminding of the atrocities of the Nazis. But saying kaddish was forbidden. Once after the official part of the meeting, Jews tried to say Kaddish and tell a little about the ghetto, but the police didn't permit to do so. Until 1972, when I retired from the army, I did my best to keep the place neat.

 

Earlier in 1941, did the Germans intentionally attempt to fool people that they wouldn't be so bad, thus preventing a large scale and universal opposition before they developed solid control?
In Riga many Jews were oriented to the German culture and spoke mainly German. People knew that Germans are a civilized and cultural nation and could not believe that they would harm innocent people. They knew, that in WWI the Germans didn't harm innocent people and were sure they will not hurt them now. That's one of the reasons why so many Jews didn't leave Riga in the first days of the war. No one, of course, knew the plans of the Nazis to wipe out the Latvian Jews.

 

What should young people today, who were born several generations after these events, learn from Rumbula and the Holocaust in Latvia?
No doubt that people, especially young people, should learn from the Holocaust, part of which is Rumbula. The mass killings of absolutely innocent people only because they belong to a certain group or nation is not permissible and should never happen again to anyone. I think that the tragedy of the Holocaust should be taught to as many people as possible. That's why I think that the website rumbula org. is an excellent way to bring it to as many people as possible and that you started a very good step in that direction.


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