Kandava (Kandau) | Kurzeme

Synagogue in the early 20th century. During the occupation, it was used by the German authorities and their collaborators to gather the city’s Jews before their execution in the Elki forest. ©Beth Hatefutsoth / Kārlis Ķ., born in 1934: "In Kandava, the Jews were rounded up in the local synagogue and taken to the forest to be executed."    ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad – In Unum Fricis K., born in 1938 : "I remember that Soviet POWs were also used for forced labor by the Germans and some local people. As the German authorities had requisitioned the livestock and machinery, this workforce was very useful."    ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad The site of the mass grave located in the Elki forest, 5 km (3 miles) northwest of Kandava. There, on August 8, 1941, the German authorities had 68 Jewish residents of Kandava and the surrounding area shot.    ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad – In Unum Monument in front of the mass grave. An inscription in Latvian says: "In this forest, in July 1941, Nazis and their collaborators murdered the Jews of Kandava.  ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad – In Unum

Execution of Jews in Kandava

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Period of occupation:
1941 – 1945
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Fricis K., born in 1938: "I don’t know the exact details of the shooting of the Jews, but I know where they were killed. One summer day, probably the day after the shooting, I discovered what had happened while I was looking after our cows. At some point, the cows walked away and went to the site of the massacre, where the blood was still fresh. Their mouths were stained with it." (Witness n°72LV, interviewed in Kandava, on September 2, 2021)

Historical note

Kandava is a town located 80 km (50 miles) west of Riga, in the Kurzeme region of Latvia. Kandava was founded in the 13th century by the Teutonic Order. In 1561, it became part of the Kingdom of Poland and in 1796, it was annexed by the Russian Empire. At the beginning of the 19th century, a Jewish community began to develop in the town. Around 1840, a Jewish cemetery was built. In 1881, 775 Jews lived in the town and formed the vast majority of the population. Around that time, a synagogue and ritual baths were built. At the beginning of the 20th century, a yeshiva (Torah study center) was in activity. In 1910, nearly 1000 Jews resided in the town. However, the local Jews were expelled to the Russian mainland in 1915 during the First World War. Following the conflict, some Jews returned to Kandava, but many of the infrastructure that belonged to them had been degraded or reclaimed for other activities. Subsequently, by 1920 there were only 44 Jews in the town, or 4% of the total population. During the interwar period, Jews lived off trade and owned many stores. The Zionist party was very influential in the area during this time. By 1935, 68 Jewish residents were registered in Kandava. In the summer of 1940, under the terms of the German-Soviet pact, the USSR annexed the region.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

On June 22, 1941, the German armies and their allies began their invasion of the USSR, marking the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. In early July, Kandava was captured. As soon as the occupation began, the German authorities put in place restrictive measures against the Jews. Wearing a yellow star was mandatory, forced labor was imposed, and the Jews were moved from the town center to the outskirts of town, to a sort of ghetto near the Dimžas farm. On August 8, 1941, they were gathered in the Kandava synagogue and taken to the Elki forest, located 5 km (3 miles) northwest of the city. A total of 68 Jews from Kandava and the surrounding villages were executed there. Only about 15 Jews were kept alive to serve as agricultural laborers. On August 28, 1941, they were taken to the Jewish cemetery and executed as well. At the same time, during the entire period of German occupation, Soviet POWs were also used for forced labor in the area. Kandava was liberated by the Red Army in May 1945.

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