Gertrude Schneider, a noted Holocaust scholar and survivor, tells the story of German Jews sent east for extermination in 1941-1943, who were instead given a reprieve in order to fill essential jobs in Riga–the capital of Latvia. Amid constant waves of arrivals and killings, these Jews transformed their part of the Riga Ghetto into a structured community. This is the story of the creation and ultimate destruction of that Ghetto community based on extensive research, personal recollections, interviews, and documents from Russian, German, Israeli, and American archives.
The strange paradox of normal behavior within abnormal context is exemplified by such events as concerts and mass burials, sports and tortures, as well as friendships and love affairs between SS officers and Jews. In addition to this charged surrealistic atmosphere, a unique feature of Professor Schneider’s book is her examination of the psychology of the prisoners, including a belief of the Latvian Jews that their people had been killed to make room for German Jews, and a conviction of the German Jews that they were privileged and, therefore, exempt from extermination. This book is a must read for scholars, students, and the general public interested in the Holocaust and World War II in Eastern Europe.