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Dissertation on Concentration Camp Riga-Kaiserwald

Preparing her dissertation, Franziska Jahn has been looking through files and records at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen for a week. The historian supported by the Berlin Centre for Research on Anti-Semitism builds her paper on her previous finals’ thesis “Concentration Camp Kaiserwald in Riga. “The documents held by the tracing service provide accurate details on the life conditions and survival chances of prisoners kept in CC Riga.”

Doing research for her doctoral thesis, the 28-year-old already went to see the Riga State Archives, the Central Justice Administration Office of the “Land” in Ludwigsburg and the Federal Archives in Berlin. In the coming year, she will travel to Washington to pursue research at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Hardly any scholarly research has been done so far on Concentration Camp Kaiserwald in Riga,” knows the historian.

The camp was erected and opened in March 1943 to keep the Jewish residents of the occupied Baltic States confined. Later on, many Jews were deported from the German Reich to Latvia and victims from Latvian ghettos sent to the concentration camp. “The ITS files permit me to retrace and record Holocaust victims’ individual “life routes” and to draw conclusions for instance on how old the inmates were or who of them had the greatest chance to survive,” related Jahn.

Unlike Auschwitz or Majdanek, Kaiserwald in Riga was not an extermination camp. The prisoners kept there were mainly used by German large companies to do forced labour in their manufacturing facilities. With the Red Army advancing, the Germans, from September 1944, began to evacuate the prisoners to Concentration Camp Stutthof. “Survivors of the camps Kaiserwald and Stutthof often times talk about Stutthof only. I assume that the completely different life conditions in the camps are the reason for this if one considers that many people died on the transport or in camp Stutthof“, so the historian.