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Susan Taube: Deportation to the Riga Ghetto

First Person Podcast Series

Susan Taube discusses her deportation from Berlin to the ghetto in Riga, Latvia, and the days immediately following. She was deported in January, 1942, along with her mother, sister, and grandmother.



SUSAN TAUBE: No food, no water, except what we had with us, nothing at all. Two buckets on each side for our physical needs and that’s it. When this car was full it was shut from the outside sealed and off we went.

NARRATOR: Over 60 years after the Holocaust, hatred, antisemitism, and genocide still threaten our world. The life stories of Holocaust survivors transcend the decades and remind us of the constant need to be vigilant citizens and to stop injustice, prejudice, and hatred wherever and whenever they occur.

This podcast series presents excerpts of interviews with Holocaust survivors from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s public program First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors.

In today’s episode Susan Taube talks with host Bill Benson about her deportation from Berlin to the ghetto in Riga, Latvia, in January, 1942.

SUSAN TAUBE: Sunday morning we all had to assemble in from of the synagogue. There were trucks there if you couldn’t walk to the train station which was Grunewald. It was, I don’t know, about an hour walk. You can go on the trucks and we will take you there, but we walked and we came to the station and the trucks came to the station too. And we didn’t see a train. What we saw were the cattle cars, what you see here in the Museum.

The cattle cars were opened, the doors were opened, and about 80 to 90 people were pushed into each cattle car. Along the walls were benches made out of straw, and the floor was covered with straw and that was our seating and laying or whatever arrangement for 90 people. No food, no water, except what we had with us, nothing at all. Two buckets on each side for our physical needs and that’s it. When this car was full it was shut from the outside, sealed, and off we went.

It was a very cold winter, an extremely cold winter. Naturally, you are sitting next to each other keeping warm, but it was awful. The train trip, I think it took about two days, three days, I don’t remember exactly. I know we arrived in Riga on the 29th or 30th of January.

Once we arrived, the doors opened up and there was the SS and the dogs and the trucks and “Out Out Out!” And people could hardly move, they were frozen stiff but, “Out Out Out!” They were hitting with--I don’t know what they had. Again they assembled us in front of the train, “If you can walk, it’s about five kilometers to your destination. And if not, you can go on the truck and we will take you there. You can leave all your belongings here and it will all be taken to you at your destination.” Well, whatever we left there we never saw again, and the people who went on the truck we never saw again either.

We marched. By that time it was kind of dusk already and we came to a place that was surrounded by double chicken wires all around. They pushed us in a house, no light, no water, nothing. We didn’t know where we are, what’s happening. I mean, completely blank. So the next morning when it got daylight we got out, and when we went out we saw clothes laying around, everything in ice, everything was frozen in ice. Red spots in the ice. We didn’t know what happened. Later on we found out that this was the ghetto of the Latvian Jewish population who were assembled there for three months and just the month before we arrived they were resettled also, to mass graves. Twenty-nine thousand people, so.

BILL BENSON: Susan, the scene you described when you woke up in the morning, you said everything was coated in ice. There was food left on plates from the people that were forced out, the Latvian Jews before you, with everything, the plates, everything in the house was covered in ice.

SUSAN TAUBE: Plates…frozen, frozen…frozen with ice.

BILL BENSON: And what were you made to do almost immediately once you…

SUSAN TAUBE: I think it was the second day right away we had to go to work. So there was a man who was in charge. He was put in charge of the house, and the able-bodied people had to assemble in front of the house and we were sent to the city and in the city we received the ice picks and shovels and whatever to loosen the ice from the sidewalks so the population of Riga could walk on the sidewalks. We were not allowed to walk on the sidewalks. Also, by that time, we had the Jewish star. This we received in Berlin already. So that was our job.

In the morning we got a little piece of bread and when we came back I think we got another piece of bread, but there was no way that we had a warm meal or anything like that because there was no facility to warm anything even. For water we picked up the snow and we drank the snow.

NARRATOR: You have been listening to First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors, a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Every Wednesday at 1 p.m. from March through August, Holocaust survivors share their stories during First Person programs held at the Museum in Washington, DC. We would appreciate your feedback on this series.