SS Standartenführer Rudolf Lange, commander Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in Riga, Latvia.

16-04-2019

Rudolf Lange was a German SS functionary and police official during the Nazi era. He served as commander in the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and all RSHA personnel in Riga, Latvia He attended the Wannsee Conference, and was largely responsible for implementing the murder of Latvia’s Jewish population. Einsatzgruppe A killed over 250,000 people in less than six months.

Lange   was born 18 April 1910 in Weiswasser. His father was a railway construction supervisor. Lange finished high school in Stassfurt in 1928 and studied law in theUniversity of Jena. He received a doctorate in law in 1933, and was recruited by the Gestapo office of Halle. He joined the Sturmabteilung (SA)  in November 1933, but soon felt that this had been a bad career move. Thus, in 1936 Lange joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) (with member number 290,308).

As a mid-level Gestapo official, Lange rose rapidly. He adopted the SS ideology wholeheartedly, and resigned from the church in 1937. From 1936 he worked in the Gestapo office in Berlin. In May 1938, Lange was transferred to Vienna to supervise the annexation of the Austrian police system. There, he met and worked with SS Brigadeführer Franz Walter Stahlecker , who later became his superior in Riga. Stahlecker was killed in action on 23 March 1942, age 41, by Soviet partisans near Krasnogvardeysk,

Russia In June 1939 Lange was transferred to Stuttgart. In September 1939 the security and police agencies of Nazi Germany (with the exception of the Orpo)  were consolidated into the Reich Main Office (RSHA) of the SS, headed by Reinard Herydrich. The Gestapo became Amt IV (Department IV) of the RSHA and Heinrich Müller became the Gestapo Chief, with Heydrich as his immediate superior. From May to July 1940, Lange ran the Gestapo offices of Weimar and Erfurt, while working as the deputy head of the office of the Inspector of the SiPo in Kassel. In September 1940, Lange was promoted as the deputy head of police for Berlin. In April 1941, he was promoted to SS-Sturmbannführer..

On 5 June 1941 Lange was ordered to Pretzsch and the command staff of Einsatzgruppe A, headed by SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polize Dr Stahlecker

Lange was a Teilkommando (detachment) leader in Einsatzkommado 2, or EK2. He was one of the few people aware of the Führerbefehl or “fundamental orders” for the so-called ” Jewish pronlem” in Latvia. According to Lange himself:.From the very beginning, the goal of EK2 was that radical solution of the Jewish problem by killing all Jews.

On 3 December 1941, he was promoted as commander of EK2, replacing SS Obersturmbannführer Eduard Strauch . Strauch died in Belgian custody on September 15, 1955, age 49, in a hospital in Uccle, Belgium.

 Lange was also the area chief of the Sicherheitsdienst. He was in charge of Department IV of the SD in Latvia. The department was the “hub of the whole SD organization in Latvia, the other departments served it.” Matters of formal rank and titles were never clear in the Nazi occupation regime for Latvia, as the lines of authority within agencies and the relationship between one agency and others were “ambiguous, overlapping, and unclear”. Nevertheless, Lange is widely recognized as one of the primary perpetrators of the Holocaust in Latvia.

His headquarters were in Riga, on Reimersa Street. From the beginning of his involvement in Latvia, Lange gave orders to squads of Latvians, such as the Arajs Kommando, that the Germans had organised to carry out massacres in the smaller cities. According to one historian, SS Sturmbannführer Victors Arias  was “held on a short leash” by Lange. Victor Arias was a Latvian collaborator and Nazi SS officer, who took part in the Holocaust during the German occupation of Latvia and Belarus. On 21 December 1979, Arājs was found guilty in the State Court of Hamburg (Landgericht Hamburg) of having on 8 December 1941 conducted the Jews of the greater Riga Ghetto to their deaths by the mass shooting in the Rumula forest. For participation in the murder of 13,000 people, he was sentenced to life imprisonmen. In 1988, Arājs died in solitary confinement in a prison in Kassel.

Another local organisation receiving orders from Lange was the Vagulsans Kommando, which was responsible for the Jelgava massacre in July and August 1941.  Lange also personally supervised executions conducted by the Arājs commando. He appears to have ordered that all the SD officers should personally participate in the killings.

Lange was responsible for the Latvian part of the decision by the Nazi regime to deport Jews from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to Riga. In this connection, on 8 November 1941, he issued detailed orders to Gauleiter Hinrich Lohse , who was Reichskommissar Ostland, regarding the transport of 50,000 Jews to the East, with 25,000 going to Riga and 25,000 to Belarus. Lohse spent his twilight years in Mühlenbarbek where he died, age 67, on 25 February 1964. At the same time, Lange was organising the construction of the Salaspils concentration camp, originally intended to accommodate these deportees.Because the Salaspils camp would not be ready by the time the Jews would arrive, Lange decided to send the transports to an abandoned estate near Riga called Jungfernhof or Jumpravmuiza, which would be set up as Jungfernhof concentration camp. 

In November 1941 Lange was involved in the planning and carrying out the murder of 24,000 Latvian Jews from the Riga ghetto which occurred on 30 November and 8 December 1941.This crime has come to be known as the Rumbula massacre. In addition to the Latvian Jews, another 1,000 Jews from Germany were also murdered. They had been brought to Latvia on the first train of deportees, which arrived on 29 November 1941. Following the 29 November train, more rail transports of Jews began arriving in Riga from Germany, starting on 3 December 1941. The Jews on the first few transports were not immediately housed in the ghetto, but were left at Jungfernhof concentration camp.

In May 1942, Lange issued orders to SS-Obersturmführer Günter Tabbert to kill the surviving Jews in the Daugavpils ghetto Only about 450 Jews survived in Daugavpils after this action, which involved killing of the sick, children, infants and hospital workers. In addition to Tabbert, the Arias Kommando of native Latvians was responsible for a major part of these killings.

In 1942, Lange became an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the head office in Riga until 1945, when he became Head of Reichsgau Wartheland’s SD and SiPo. He was promoted to SS-Standarteführer in 1945.

Lange was called to the Wannsee Conference by Heydrich in January 1942

Wannsee Conference: conference site View Photographs   Lange (an SS major) was the lowest-ranking officer present.Heydrich viewed Lange’s first-hand experience in conducting the mass murder of deported Jews as valuable for the conference. Instead of Lange, Heydrich could have invited either SS Standartenführer Karl Jäger  or SS Standartenführer Erich Ehrlinger , who commanded the SiPo and SD in Lithuania and Belarus respectively, and were responsible for similar massacres  Jäger committed suicide on 22 June 1959 , age 70,  by hanging himself in prison in Hohenasprerg while he was awaiting trial in June 1959 and Ehrlinger due to disability, his sentence was officially remitted in 1969, four years after he was released from prison. Ehrlinger died old age 93 on 31 July 2004 in Karlsruhe, Heydrich chose Lange because Riga was the main deportation destination, and because Lange’s doctorate made him seem more intellectual than the other two men. Lange’s superior, Franz Walter Stahlecker, was not invited, as he was not familiar with the realities of the Jewish deportations and was not located in Riga.

It’s not clear if Lange was killed in action on 23-02-1945, age 34 and others say he committed suicide.

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