Jānis Lipke: Save as Many as Possible

Jānis Lipke built up a network of helpers. Together they organized the escape of Jews from the Riga ghetto and hid them. In November of 1941, Jānis Lipke observed thousands of Jews being herded out of the ghetto. They were all shot in the forest by members of the mobile killing unit Einsatzgruppe A of the Security Police and the SD (Security Service) of the SS. Jānis Lipke decided to save as many Jews as possible. He was supported by his wife Johanna and his children Alfrēds and Zigfrīds. Jānis Lipke actively sought additional helpers. They risked their lives to help persecuted Jews.

Jānis Lipke and his helpers secretly brought Jews out of the ghetto and out of labor camps. They hid the Jews temporarily in Lipke’s house and in a ”bunker“ on his property. All told, Jānis Lipke’s group arranged hiding places for more than fifty Jews. Most of them survived the war.

Žaņa Lipkes memorials, Riga
Jānis and Johanna Lipke
Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand/Braun Engels Gestaltung Ulm
Ostland Reich Commissariat

Latvia under German Occupation

Starting in July 1941, German troops took violent measures against Communists and the Jewish population. Some Latvians worked together with the Germans in the administration and the auxiliary police. Within six months, members of the mobile killing unit Einsatzgruppe A, along with their Latvian helpers, shot 30,000 Jews.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 121-1109
Latvijas Nacionālā arhīva Latvijas Valsts kinofotofonodokumentu arhīvs, 1. f., 101549N
The Riga ghetto
Gosudarstwennyi archiw Rossijskoi Federazii (GARF), Moskau, Fond 500, opis 4, delo 91

Escapes Organized by Jānis Lipke

Jānis Lipke worked in a warehouse of the German air force. He arranged for thirty Jews from the ghetto to work there, and he drove them back and forth daily. Through this arrangement, and despite the danger of being discovered and punished, he was able to smuggle people out of the ghetto. Two friends who worked as truck drivers helped him in his efforts. Together they helped a total of almost fifty people who wanted to escape, and also organized hiding places. Lipke bribed guards and police with money, cigarettes, and alcohol so they would not intervene.

Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv Potsdam 30013528
Work crew
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
The Lipke family’s house
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
The Lipkes’ barn

“After the horrible massacres to the Jews in lateNovember and early December 1941, I realized thatthe Nazis pursued the goal to destroy the Jews as a whole people. This was the time I made the planto save my Jewish compatriots.”

Jānis Lipke in conversation with David Silberman, after 1945

Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
Jānis Lipke
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
Delivery card
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
The Lipke family
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga

Jānis Lipke’s Helpers

At first, two friends of Jānis Lipke helped Jews flee the ghetto. Lipke also sought additional hiding places among his circle of friends, which eventually led to a network of roughly 25 people. They set up hiding places in apartments or workshops in Riga, and arranged for food, clothing, and medicine. When the Riga ghetto was supposed to be cleared in 1943, Lipke and his helpers feared further mass murders, so they brought many Jews to safety in the countryside.

Kārlis Jankovičs
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
Fridrihs Rozentāls
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
Vilis Bīnenfelds

Those Who Were Saved

Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
Vili Friš
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
Sofia Stern
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
Hanna Stern
Žaņa Lipkes memoriāls, Riga
Those who were saved