Mendel Basch

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Mendel Basch (* 1919 ; † 2012 ) was a Latvian - Jewish locksmith , orchestra conductor and university professor who survived the Holocaust .


Mendel was the first of three sons of a shoe modeller and his wife. According to his own statement, the father was "very musical, had a beautiful voice, was a chorister in the synagogue ". Mendel was also musical and had piano lessons since he was six . But because he was supposed to become a craftsman like his father, he attended the Jewish crafts school from 1937 and became a locksmith and precision mechanic . In addition to his work, he also studied at the Riga Music Academy , where he attended the composition class .

After the Wehrmacht attacked the Soviet Union , he was arrested on July 3, 1941, along with his father and younger brother Isaac, and taken to the central prison in Riga . On August 6, a group of doctors and craftsmen were singled out for forced labor while all the other Jews were murdered in the Bickern Forest . The three men of the Basch family had to work in the workshops of the SS security service . First the craftsmen were housed in the workshops on Peterholmschen Strasse, then in the former “Lenta” factory. When the Wehrmacht backed away from the advancing Red Army in October 1944 , all the men, including the father and Mendel's brother, were deported to the Stutthof concentration camp , where most of them were killed, including Mendel's relatives. He himself was left behind in Libau at the last moment because the SD needed a jeweler to dismantle the rings and jewelry of the murdered Jews. Mendel fled and saved his life during a violent air raid by the Soviet Air Force.

While his father and younger brother Isaak perished in Stutthof, his older brother Abram had fled to Palestine as early as 1939 and thus survived the Holocaust.

After the liberation from National Socialism , Mendel successfully continued his musical training as a composer and orchestra conductor. Since 1950 he has held a professorship at the Music Academy and at the University of Education . He also became principal conductor of the Daugavpils Theater , the Riga Operetta Theater and the Riga Wind Orchestra. He has conducted many operas , operettas and concerts . Mendel also wrote a requiem in memory of all murdered Jews, which the Latvian Radio performed - but only once.

Basch also appeared as a contemporary witness in front of students and in public. At a book reading by the historian Anita Kugler on March 3, 2005 in Berlin, he recognized the author for her research on the murders of the Jews in Latvia.


On October 28, 1999, Mendelis Bašs was honored with the highest Latvian award, the "Order of the Three Stars".


  • Hanna and Wolf Middelmann: Escaping the murder of Jews. Report on two decades of our intensive exchange with the survivors of the Holocaust in the Baltic States , Villa ten Hompel aktuell 20, Münster 2014, ISBN 978-3-935811-17-0

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Matthias Kolb: In Latvia there is a debate about the Riga concentration camp commandant Fritz Scherwitz - Schindler or swindler? ( Memento from March 12, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) In: Berliner Zeitung . March 3, 2005.
  2. ↑ Medal winners from 1994 to 2004 (doc file, in Latvian; 2.7 MB)