Translated by Jerome Silverbush I've taken on the task of writing about the Jewish Hospital in Czernowitz after the First World War, although I am well aware of the difficulties of this task since precise data, exact dates and supporting documents are not available - having been lost in the chaos of destruction and besides a few exceptions, having all disappeared - so that I am forced to rely completely on my memory.
Until 1920 there was a Jewish Hospital in Czernowitz that was built on land donated by the Mr. and Mrs. Zucker only it had so many shortcomings that one could hardly consider it a qualified hospital. The primitive and inadequate building on Synagoguegasse that was called the Jewish Hospital served as an outpatient clinic for the poor of the lower part of the city as well as for detention of pressing social cases.
About this time (1919/1920) Dr. Moritz Schärf, Dr. Hermann Chajes, Dr. Rafael Münzer and Dr. Josef Ohrenstein practiced at the Jewish Hospital.
At that time there were no worthwhile surgical instruments, not even to speak of a laboratory or an operating room.
The question was often asked why, before the First World War, in spite of a considerable Jewish population in Czernowitz and in Bukovina, the existing Jewish Hospital wasn't developed into a modern hospital.
No one was able to answer this question for me in a satisfactory manner.
It is significant that in spite of the liberal atmosphere that reigned in Czernowitz and the provinces at that time, only few Jewish doctors were entrusted with leading positions in the hospitals, even though there were Jewish doctors in Czernowitz and the provinces who were employed by the government.
When Romania took over the administration of all public institutions in 1919 after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy the anti-Jewish program was stepped in all areas including the health services. In individual districts, Jewish doctors were tolerated and even more were hired, but only where no Romanian doctors were available. Jewish doctors were completely removed from the hospitals and replaced primarily with doctors imported from the Old Kingdom[A].
This meant for many young Jewish doctors who returned to their homeland after completing their studies that there was a serious danger that every possibility for continuing their professional development was eliminated.
This was probably the main grounds that led to the improvement and building up of the Jewish Hospital in Czernowitz.
About this time appeared in the person of the Dr. Josef Ohrenstein, a man and doctor of stature, the initiator of the modern Jewish Hospital in Czernowitz, which soon became a place of succor for thousands of sick people, not only from Czernowitz, but from all of Bukovina, from Bessarabia and the bordering districts of the Old Kingdom.
Dr, Ohrenstein had during the years 1907 - 1909, as well as during the war years (1914 - 1918) specialized in the genealogical obstetrical clinic of Prof. Schauta in Vienna as a woman's doctor.
That fact was however not decisive in his future activity in the Jewish Hospital. His administrative talent, his propriety, and his universally recognized authority enabled him to successfully handle the difficult task.
There was no lack of know it alls and jealousy, but Dr. Ohrenstein know how to achieve his goals in which, his former position as president of the Bnai Brith Lodge as well as other important positions helped him. I should mention here that Dr. Ohrenstein in 20 years never accepted recompense from the Jewish Community[B] for his directorial duties or for his position as leader of the genealogical department of the Jewish Hospital, which to my knowledge is unique in the annals of the Jewish Community.
No effort was to much for him in collecting the funds. With the agreement of the Jewish Community in 1919, he organized a drive for contributions which initially collected 20,000 Kroner. With this money, the first operating room was built. Nathan Eidinger who had reaped great riches during the First World War then stepped onto the scene and thanks to his intervention the Eidingers contributed all the necessary equipment for the operating room.
Thanks to his initiative, the Orient Lodge set up a building committee which at considerable expense built a small addition on the hospital as well as providing new furniture for the entire hospital.
Also, the Joint participated with an appreciable sum.
About this time, the middle of 1919, an important step forward was made in the development of the Jewish Hospital. Frau Dr. Frieda Wilenko, the first woman doctor in Bukovina founded the first surgical outpatient clinic in the Jewish Hospital out of which gradually developed the surgical department which in the course of years achieved great significance. Frau Dr. Wilenko got her PhD in Vienna in 1902. Over the years she had in various hospitals accumulated a great general knowledge of medicine She had the opportunity to learn surgery in the Czernowitz State Hospital with old Dr. W. Philipowicz as well as with Prof. Föderl in Vienna.
Frau Dr. Wilenko also distinguished herself chiefly through her great organizational talent. Through a series of events which she held in her tastefully decorated home, she was able to make a sum which greatly exceeded 100,000 kroner available to the above mentioned building committee of the Orient Lodge. This and further money collections by Frau Dr. Wilenko - together with additional donations - made possible the first phase of the expansion of the hospital and finishing the furnishing and equipping of the departments and operating rooms.
Around this time (1920), the individual medical departments of the Jewish Hospital had not yet been formed. There were only various outpatient clinics operating and the number of the ambulatory patients rose steadily. At the same time, the rooms in which the ambulatory patients waited were absolutely inadequate.
After the expansion, the hospital had at its disposal, in addition to the ambulatory rooms, approximately 35 - 40 beds if one didn't count the rooms which were reserved for the employees.
In mid-1920, Dr. Emanuel Flor joined the Jewish Hospital and with him began a new era.
Dr. Flor, modest, unprepossessing, and stingy with words earned his PhD in Vienna during the First World War in 1917.
He learned surgery during the war from the Vienna surgeon Dr. Lichtenstern, who was later to become a urologist with an international reputation.
There was no doubt that Dr. Flor was technically gifted and he learned to drive an automobile and fly airplanes.
As a surgeon, he was very exacting and wonderfully mastered the anatomical niceties.
What made him stand out and contributed substantially to his success was his unmatched maintenance of sterile operating conditions.
With these preconditions for modern surgery established, he successfully performed the first major operations in the Jewish Hospital which at that time earned him fully justified acclaim.
And so the surgical department of the Jewish Hospital was formed under the leadership of Frau Dr. Wilenko and Dr. Emanuel Flor.
Successively more small departments were added.
First a small four bed genealogical department directed by Dr. Ohrenstein was added. The secretary was Frau Dr. Mirjam Horowitz. The genealogical outpatient department was retained and was very busy. It was also directed by Dr. Ohrenstein in an exemplary manner.
The internal illnesses were managed by Dr. Martin Kraft, who was taken on by the Hospital as second doctor in 1921.
In 1921 the hospital was built up by the addition of an ophthalmologist with a modern education, Frau Dr. Mina Zloczower.
About this time, the Outpatient Department for Skin and Sexual Diseases was taken over by Dr. H. Greif who had profited from excellent training in Vienna under the well know dermatologist Prof. Oppenheim.
Staff Dr. Kimmelmann who was entrusted with the leadership of the Out Patient Clinic for Neck, Ear and Nose Diseases performed the first radical ear operation in the hospital with good results.
In 1922, the long time hospital doctor, Dr. Hermann Chajes died.
At that time, Dr. Rafael Münzer who had led the Outpatient Clinic for Ophthalmology left the hospital.
He was replaced by Frau Dr. Mina Zloczower who also directed the newly added Ophthalmology Department.
The Outpatient Clinic for Internal Medicine was directed by Dr. Lauer and the Internal Medicine Department of the hospital was directed by the experienced and theoretically educated internist Dr. Leo Meidler.
In December, 1922 I entered the Jewish Hospital for the first time and took a position as the first unpaid second doctor in the Surgical Department. I held this position until August 1, 1923. Around this time I went to Germany to finish my surgical education at the German Clinic.
In 1923, a whole series of young well educated doctors entered the hospital from whom in the course of time, the elite of the Czernowitz medical community emerged.
As first, we should mention Dr. Jakob Landau who divided the leadership of the Ophthalmology Department and the heavily visited Ophthalmology Outpatient Department.
Daily, hundreds of patients came from all of Bukovina and a large part of Bessarabia and from the surrounding areas of Old Romania to the Outpatient Clinic to get help and solace from the doctors.
In the same year, two talented gynecologists came to the hospital and became assistants in the Gynecological Department and the Gynecological Outpatient Clinic. They were Dr. Josef Weinberg and Dr. Reder.
In 1923, I left the hospital and was replaced by Dr. Josef Rath who I familiarized with the Hospital and for whom I put in a good word with the surgeons. I have never regretted helping Dr. Rath because he was an excellent person and a good colleague.
Before I close this chapter, I feel that it is appropriate to say several words about the nurses in the Jewish Hospital.
With just a few exceptions, they all came from middle class backgrounds in Bessarabia. None of them had attended a nursing school and they learned their craft gradually through practical experience under the tutelage of the older nurses.
I'd like to mention here the long time Chief and Operation nurse Czarna, the long time Outpatient Nurses Frieda, Rosa, Choma, Fruma and Helena, also the Department Nurses Golda, Dina and Ettale and finally the nurse Lia who later married Dr. Rath.
When I returned to Czernowitz, I found the hospital physically as well as in other aspects in a completely altered condition.
During my absence, the front part of the hospital was expanded and two large patient rooms with 8 beds were added. In the rear area, four small rooms and a large room with 12 beds were added. The Outpatient Clinic without exception was placed in the basement. A large waiting room was added.
In the center of the hospital a large new operating room was constructed which made it easier to transport the patients back to their rooms.
In the old operating room, a modern laboratory was set up at the urging of Dr. Leo Meidler, since an Internal Medicine Department cannot function without a laboratory. The supervision of this laboratory lay in the hands of the proven Frau Dr. Drimmer who married in 1932 and followed her husband to America.
At this point, the hospital had reached a capacity of 70 beds.
The demand on the hospital at this time was so heavy that the beds were always filled.
What was the situation with the medical staff of the hospital?
The Departments and Outpatient Clinic were completely set up and actually over-staffed.
LISTING OF THE DOCTORS OF THE JEWISH HOSPITAL grouped according to departments, for the period 1926-1928:
DIRECTOR: Dr. Joseph OhrensteinIn 1932, the first general practitioner position at the Jewish Hospital was created and Dr. Jusius Bacher was entrusted with this position. In the years that followed, Dr. Bacher who in the interval had become a surgical assistant proved himself extremely trustworthy and reliable.
INTERNAL MEDICINE DEPARTMENT:Chief Doctor: Dr. Leo MeidlerLABORATORY: Dr. Drimmer.
PRIMARY DOCTORS: Dr Martin Kraft and Dr. Otto Krauthammer, Dr. Josef Sandberg, who alternately directed the Men's and Women's Departments.
SECONDARY DOCTORS: Dr. David Klinger, Dr. Abraham Weissmann.
INTERNAL MEDICINE OUTPATIENT CLINIC: Dr. Otto Lauer.
SURGICAL DEPARTMENT AND OUTPATIENT CLINIC:PRIMARY DOCTORS: Dr. Flor and Dr. WilenkoEYE DEPARTMENT
ASSISTANTS: Dr. Rath and Dr. Klier.PRIMARY DOCTORS: Dr. J. Landau and Dr. M. Zloczower.GENLOGICAL DEPARTMENT;PRIMARY DOCTOR Dr. Joser Ohrenstein.NOSE, THROAT AND EAR DEPARTMENT:
ASSISTENTS: Dr. Weinberg and Dr. Reder.PRIMARY DOCTOR: Dr. M. Kimmelmann.CHILDREN'S OUTPATIENT CLINIC: Dr. Ossy Noe and Frau Dr. Dresner.
ASSISTANT: Dr. Buxbaum
DERMATOLOGY DEPARTMENT: Dr. Hermann Greif.
UROLOGY DEPT.: Dr. H. Berger
Also at that time, the Eye Department was enlarged with the addition of Frau Dr. Esperina Grün and Dr. Herzberg.
In the Gynecological Department Dr. Reder who had passed away was replaced with Frau Dr. Sammet as second assistant. Further, Dr. Hermann and Dr. Arinowicz were hired as education assistants.
In 1934 work on the great addition to the Jewish Hospital was started. The soap factory owner Noah Lehr provided the money for this project.
In March 1934 the addition was dedicated and handed over to the Community.
The addition contained 50 beds On the first floor there was a modern operating room equipped with no-shadow operation lighting and modern anesthesia apparatus. On the ground floor an X-ray Department[C] was installed. Dr. Josef Bierer was named as chief of this department. In 1937, Dr. Bierer who left the hospital was replaced by Dr. Paul Katz as chief of the X-ray Department.
In the same year (1937) another expansion was started. This time, the Dr. Fokschaner family provided the necessary funds. A children's department was part of the new addition.
As leader of this new department was named the most well know children's doctor in Czernowitz, Dr. Ossy Noe who had for years directed the Children's Outpatient Clinic.
After the completion of the new addition, the Jewish Hospital had a capacity of 120 - 130 beds.
The beautiful addition was now completed but a large sum was needed for the furnishings and the medical apparatus.
At that time, our unforgettable and famous landsmann [Yiddish for people who have same geographic origin] and singer Joseph Schmidt was in Czernowitz.
At that time there was no doubt that Joseph Schmidt was at the height of his art and was celebrated in the entire world as the greatest lyric tenor. The Jewish Community came to him with the request that he give a concert for the benefit of the hospital addition.
Joseph Schmidt who was a good and noble man naturally said that he would do it. The concert was not only a grandiose cultural accomplishment but also achieved great financial success. A sum of over 100,000 lei was made available for the above mentioned purpose.
The year 1939 came. Hitler's racial theories fell on no earth more fertile than in Greater Romania where Jew hatred flamed up to the heavens. Cuza-Goga played the overture for the tragedy of the Jews. Jews hardly dared to go on the streets. Jewish patients were no longer accepted in the state hospitals.
How beneficial it was for the Jewish population that the Jewish Hospital in Czernowitz equipped with all departments and laboratories was at all times ready to accept Jewish patients and the Jewish patients were not subject to the hate of the Nazi hooligans.
That, however was only a prelude. In the following years, the Jewish Hospital was to be faced with much more difficult tasks. It proved itself capable of handling all challenges which was to fill all the pioneers, benefactors and patrons of the Hospital's 20 years of existence, who were still able to appreciate it, with gratification.
It was on Friday, the 28th of June, 1940 that the Soviet troops entered Czernowitz. Three hundred tanks were in the vanguard followed by artillery and large numbers of infantry.
The residents of city observed the show.
The stores were without exception, closed, an eerie silence that sprang from the fear of the citizens cloaked the city.
On the next day, June 30, 1940, as on every other work day I left for the hospital at 9:00 am. I met two young men in the stairwell. They asked my where Dr. Weznetzer lived. When I told them that I was the person they were looking for they handed me a sealed envelope that they said came from the city government.
From the envelope I removed a small piece of paper that had a large seal and several Russian words on it.
Since I could neither write nor read Russian I took the way through Hormuzachigasse, where my friend and colleague Dr. Paul Katz lived, to the Jewish Hospital and since he had graduated from a Ukrainian high school, I asked him to interpret the contents of the slip of paper for me. Dr. Katz immediately explained to me that the paper contained my designation as provisional head of the Jewish Hospital.
My first concern was how I could gently break this news to my director, Dr. Ohrenstein. When I reached the hospital I found that the director had already been informed of my promotion. He had arrived at the hospital at 8:30, learned about my promotion and had immediately left the hospital.
I put off formally taking charge of the hospital until the next day without having a clue as to how much worry this provisional leadership of the hospital was to cause for me.
On Sunday, June 30, 1940 Dr. Ohrenstein was already in the hospital at 8:00 am and I had the opportunity to formally notify him of my being named provisional director of the hospital.
Dr. Ohrenstein took this news calmly and wished me success after which we collegially discussed the new situation.
Our cash resources were very low and were barely sufficient to last a week. The Community which maintained the hospital had since the entrance of the Russian troops, for all practical purposed practically ceased to exist.
I therefore directed that all patients who didn't urgently need to be in the hospital were to be discharged and for the next ten days worked out a modest menu for the kitchen.
On Monday, July 1, 1940 I went to City Hall to meet the new Russian hospital division head. The doctor Dr. Pessach who spoke Russian perfectly accompanied me to act as an interpreter. I explained the financial situation of the hospital to the division head. He gave me the short answer that he had no directions concerning the take over of the Jewish Hospital and dismissed me with the remark that I must be patient.
Meanwhile, the majority of the Jewish doctors in our hospital had gone to the State Hospital with the hope of getting good jobs there. In the Jewish Hospital remained only the doctors Bacher, Katz, Kraft, Krauthammer, Rath, Weissmann and Wiznitzer.
The Outpatient Clinic was closed since we were informed that in the Soviet Union, no hospital had an outpatient clinic.
After ten days had passed and we still hadn't heard from the division head I again went to City Hall to speak with him. I again received the same answer, be patient.
At the beginning of August 1940 the solution finally came. A commission consisting of five specialists appeared one day in the hospital, inspected all the rooms, checked the financial situation, the inventory, the food supplies, etc. and gave us a check to cover all expenses from June 29 up to the day of the inspection. From this day forward, the hospital was to bear the name, State Hospital II. Although the history of the hospital from 1919 - 1940 is finished, I feel compelled to say a little about the fate of the Jewish Hospital in the period from 1940 - 1944.
Eight days after the Russians took over the Jewish Hospital a Ukrainian who introduced himself as Nikolai Jacklowitz from Kiev, handed me the paper designating him as director of Hospital II. I gladly gave him all the documents for the hospital.
Nikolai Jacklowitz with whom I immediately became friends was a very experienced administrator and I learned from him much about this field which was to serve me very well later.
His guiding principal was: Don't scrimp! Above all, one must assure that the patients and the staff are well taken care of.
The hospital was wonderfully re-equipped from the ground up. Stalls were constructed near the hospital for milk cows and pigs, and he ordered hundreds of linen sheets and covers, new beds and other inventory items in generous quantities.
In the hospital itself the following departments were set up:
Internal Medicine DepartmentFurthermore a club room was elegantly outfitted in which the numerous meetings, seminars and events took place. His main concern however was always the kitchen.
A small Orthopedic Department
A laboratory and a pharmacy which was well stocked with medicine
The chief doctors were:
Dr. Kraft as leader of Internal Medicine who was assigned several doctors as assistants.I didn't remain in the hospital. On August 18, 1940 I was made director of the Blood Transfusion Institute for the entire district (oblast) and in November I was delegated to Vienna for six months in order to organize a hospital and a surgical department for the entire western area of Bukovina.
Dr. Sammler as leader of the Surgical Department
Dr. Paul Katz as leader of the X-Ray Department
Dr. Klier as leader of Orthopedics which was a sub-division of surgery.
Dr. Bacher was Assistant in the Surgical Department.
During the time frame of July 25, 1940 (the date that the Soviet officials took over the Jewish Hospital) until July 6, 1941, the date the German - Romanian troops marched into Czernowitz the Jewish Hospital functioned as the Russian State Hospital II and was completely controlled by the Russian officials who were located in the Czernowitz Justice Palace.
During this period the hospital underwent a thorough renovation whereby in addition to some construction work the inventory was expanded greatly and the surgical instrumentation was significantly increased.
On June 13, 1941, approximately three weeks before the Soviets left Czernowitz and the northern part of Bukovina and a still greater peace reigned I was named director of Russian Hospital II since the former director, Nikolai Jacklowitz was entrusted with the leadership of State Hospital I.
In these 3-4 weeks that followed my assignment and in which the transfer took place, historically important events took place, in which the hospital proved itself a Jewish center. It therefore seems important to me to describe this period thoroughly.
Hardly had the Jewish population of Czernowitz put behind them the terrors of the Russian mass deportation to Siberia (June 13 - June 15, 1941) in which 10,000 Jews had been taken away, when the June 22, 1941 declaration of war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia surprised them and put them in a state of fear and unrest.
One still didn't sense the scope of the tragedy that stood before the Jewish population of North Bukovina and the city of Czernowitz.
As on July 5, 1941 shortly before 9 am, the first German-Romanian advance guard marched into Czernowitz, the streets were literally devoid of humanity.
As responsible director of the hospital, I hadn't left it since the declaration of war since it was overfilled with the wounded and I was burdened with a tremendous responsibility. Leaving now would be even more difficult because of the danger outside.
The main entrance was guarded by a reinforced post of three men. No stranger, no matter who he was, was permitted to enter the hospital without my permission. In addition to this, there was a guard posted on the top floor of the hospital who through a small window could observe the lower part of Hauptstrasse and the Judengasse.
The doctors of the hospital who without exception lived in the city had not appeared for duty for several days, already since July 5th because any Jews who appeared on the streets put their lives in danger.
I, myself and my bold assistant Dr. Julius Bacher alternated service since July 27 and this situation was to continue for at least eight days.
On July 5 15 minutes after 9 am, we suffered our first casualty.
The well known in Czernowitz Littmann Schaffer who in the last days before the withdrawal of the Russians became purchasing agent for the hospital went - against my orders - before 9 o'clock accompanied by two Christian hospital workers in the immediate vicinity of the hospital to obtain important victuals for the hospital.
The first patrol recognized him as a Jew and shot him on the spot. His companions carried the corpse back to the hospital.
For 48 hours the German and Romanian troops rampaged through the mostly Jewish lower part of the city murdering and plundering. The soldiers forced their way into Jewish dwellings, shot entire families and stole all their belongings. Not rarely, they shot through the windows of locked homes.
On the street lay piles of Jewish corpses
The wounded couldn't be given medical help since every Jew on the street was shot without question.
This gruesome period of terror stopped after 48 hours with the appearance of SS troops in the Springbrunnen and Synagogengasse. Two SS men were posted in front of every house. Men between the ages of 18 and 40 years were dragged out of the houses. About 120 Jewish men were escorted to the Romanian Culture House on Theaterplatz where German officers segregated them. Those selected by this Commission were led by a German patrol to Pruthergeläde and liquidated.
Patrols were made less often and the inflow of heavily wounded began, brought to the hospital by their relatives. the majority of these victims were near death. Very few would have been helped by an operation. Countless moderately and lightly wounded were operated on and bandaged until late in the night and the following morning.
Only after a week, could the wounded who still lived be brought in to the Jewish Hospital from the provinces. What these unfortunate people told us about the enormity of the murders and plundering carried out by the German and Romanian soldiers could hardly be put on paper.
Since I don't have any statistical material available, it is impossible to say even approximately how many dead and wounded passed through the hospital.
In the meantime, the Romanian officials had installed themselves and taken up their administrative activities.
On July 15, 1941, that is ten days after the appearance of the victorious German - Romanian troops and after ten days and ten nights of high physical and psychological stress, came relief for me.
On July 15, 1941 Dr. Siegmund Neuberger appeared in the hospital and presented me with the decree, naming him director of the Jewish Hospital, written by the chief doctor of the Romanian city administration, Dr. Strejac. In the decree, was also a directive intended for me, stating that, I should immediately hand over the agenda for the hospital to the new director.
This hand-over took place in a short period, and then I asked the new director to allow me and my faithful fellow worker and assistant, Dr. Bacher a ten day vacation.
The Jewish Hospital had proved itself in this time of great need as an important institution, but soon it was to be faced with much more difficult tasks.
Namely, the new military governor had issued orders that all state Hospitals were to be bared without exception to the Jewish population. This drastic measure filled us with great trepidation, since there were approximately 80 Jewish patients in the state insane asylum.
Meanwhile, the every day made an appearance. The doctors, who during the Russian period (1940/1941) were detached to other hospitals came back to their jobs and the departments and outpatient clinics were reactivated and took up their earlier activities.
Of our former staff of doctors, to our great regret, two doctors didn't return, The well known surgeon Dr. Flor and the radiologist, Dr. Paul Katz. The former voluntarily went with the Russians on June 28, 1941 while Dr. Paul Katz with his entire family was deported to Siberia during the night of June 13.
On the other hand, we received in the person of Dr. Ludwig Sammler who during the Russian period directed the surgical department of the state hospitals, a worthwhile addition to the staff.
The hospital's poor financial situation immediately made itself felt in all areas. We could have coped with this and other internal and external problems if only the personal safety of the Jews could have been insured.
There soon circulated rumors that a deportation of the Jews from Czernowitz and all of Bukovina was planed and we constantly received this alarming news.
The effect of these rumors in the hospital was to take all enthusiasm for work away from the doctors and personnel.
At the end of August, 1941 we received a very uncomfortable surprise in the hospital. The new Romanian director of the insane asylum, Dr. Constantinescu immediately acknowledged the governor's directive and believed that as a good Romanian patriot he would fulfill a national duty by loading all the Jewish patients of the insane asylum on a wagon and sending them to the Jewish Hospital in a single day.
Among these mentally ill were also several violent patients who had to be isolated. For this purpose, three small rooms in the hospital were correspondingly outfitted. The others were assigned rooms like ordinary patients and naturally, we didn't have the necessary trained personnel to care for them.
The confusion and feeling of helplessness was great.
In this need, we turned to Dr. Rammler. This noble man took as doctor and human being this affair very seriously and put himself fully and completely in the service of these unhappy people. He worked untiringly to adapt a building in the Springbrunnengasse which was used for the purpose of housing these sick people. He did his best with what he was offered and I never saw him nervous, even for a moment. No word of complaint or discouragement ever passed his lips.
He took up a collection of linen and other inventory items among the Jewish people.
I often met Dr. Rammler later and helped him with his difficult work when I functioned as sanitary commissioner in the Kultusrat[D] named by the governor.
Really, an official committee should document his self sacrificing efforts, whose like can scarcely be found so at least, his activity dedicated to the common good will not be forgotten by posterity.
An end was put to his work in-so-far as on June 1942, in one night, all the patients of the Jewish Insane Asylum were removed and sent with a few of the personnel to Transnistrien where they quickly died.
At that time, there was almost no contact between the Romanian officials and the Jewish population. When in rare cases, contact was necessary; the leadership of the Jewish Hospital would act as intermediaries. And so gradually, the Jewish Hospital developed into the single representative of the Jewish people.
Meanwhile, a change took place in the Czernowitz city government mayor's office. Dr. Strejac, who was acting as provisional mayor was replaced by the Czernowitz lawyer, Dr. Trajan Popovici. Dr. Popovici was a man with human feelings and a real Bukoviner of earlier times, who used all possible means to create a milder regime for the Czernowitz Jews.
What we feared since the arrival of German - Romanian troops in Czernowitz at the beginning of July 1941 actually took place on October 11, 1941. Already on October 10 in the evening the news spread by mundfunk [word of mouth, pun on Rundfunk, the German radio station] that on the next morning (Ocotber 11) at 6 o'clock am all Jews of the city without exception had to go to the ghetto and any Jew who didn't appear in the ghetto by 6 pm would be shot. Even the dimensions of the ghetto were made known by mundfunk.
Although, no written orders were issued, on October 11 at 6 am, the stream of the 64,000 Jews who were still in Czernowitz at that time spontaneously began to pour into the ghetto which was located in the lower part of the city. The ghetto was surrounded by boards and barbed wire and stood under military guard. Jews who were found in their houses were driven, often by soldiers beating them with rifle stocks into the ghetto. At 6 pm, the entire Jewish population of Czernowitz was interned in the ghetto whose access points were strictly watched by military guards. Leaving the ghetto without express permission of the officials was punishable by death. Since the dwellings in the streets set aside for the ghetto could barely accommodate 5 - 6000 people, unbelievable conditions reigned. Many people had to stay in stairwells, attics, cellars or even outdoors in spite of the already cold weather.
Many hundred sick and weak people, approximately 850 who until then had been cared for at home had to go in the Jewish Hospital which was already filled almost to capacity with sick people. Every clinic and corridor and well as every available room in the hospital was filled with sick people. The same took place in the nearby Jewish Old People's Home.
I have to brag that the intake of these masses in the hospital took place smoothly and calmly, which could mainly be attributed to the fact that at time Dr. Jakob Landau had been appointed as deputy director.
Doctors and hospital personal worked day and night, the kitchen functioned flawlessly. The strictest sanitary conditions were maintained. Two rooms were always kept ready for isolation cases.
Outpatient clinics and Departments were all overloaded with work, since almost every private practice had been disabled since July, 1941.
It became clear and the word spread that the ghetto was created to concentrate the Jews of Czernowitz and then deport them to Transnistrien. In actuality, from the day of the construction of the ghetto, Jews partly individually and partly in groups were taken from the ghetto to the railroad station and there loaded in cattle cars and deported to Transnistrien.
A panicky desperation overcame the Jews. Mayor Dr. Traian Popovice, who at that time, represented the only hope of the Czernowitz Jews made overtures to the Romanian central government in Bucharest to hinder the deportation or at least to put it off. Soon came the great disappointment. Dr. Popovice was only able to delay the deportation of 20,000 Jews until spring. This delay worked to the favor only of special groups like intellectuals (doctors, engineers, and lawyers), and further reserve officers, retirees, industrialists, the seriously ill and special hand workers. The remaining 44,000 Jews were deported to Transnistrien and there up to 80% perished from hunger, epidemics, cold and mishandling. The Jewish Hospital was besieged daily by thousands who sought the exception granted by the so-called Popovici authorization.
In mid-November, 1941the ghetto was taken down and the 20,000 Jews who still remained there were permitted to return to their mostly plundered homes. Already in July, 1941 on the basis of a decree by the governor, the Jews were made to wear a gold star on their left breast, the so-called Jew star [star of David?]. This discriminatory mark was to make the Jews immediately recognizable since they were only allowed to go out before noon (from 10 am to 1 pm) to do the most necessary chores and if they violated this rule, they were severely punished, mainly by deportation.
The Jewish Hospital first of all had to be cleaned and in view of the greatly reduced Jewish population, it had to take a new direction.
Toward the end of November, 19441 the governor named Jewish representatives who would be responsible to the government for all affairs concerning the Jews.
I belonged to this chosen group and this office was later to cause me much discomfort.
In the course of registering the Jewish residents of Czernowitz, the governor demanded a list of doctors and other personnel absolutely needed to run the Jewish Hospital with its reduced work load. I as the person responsible for Jewish health questions had to compile the list.
It was now clear that every one of the 250 Jewish doctors from Czernowitz, when not as leader, had to be at least designated as a deputy leader of a department. For only so could one be protected from a future deportation in that one had an important occupation. The list which I therefore finally handed to the committee chairman designated 65 doctors, approximately 85 nurses and medical personnel and 35 people of lower grades.
This excess of hospital personal was later to prove harmful.
The governor removed a number of doctors and medical personnel from the list as being superfluous and then added these people to a list of those to be deported. We first found out about this one evening before the III deportation which took place on June 28, 1942.
And so it happened that on June 28, 1942 - the last Jewish deportation from Bukovina - long time doctors of the hospital and important medical personnel were torn from the hospital by the deportation. This sad fate struck Frau Dr. Mina Zloczower, the long time diligent eye doctor, Dr. Josef Rath, one of our best surgeons, who died later in Transnistrien and well as my long time assistant, dr. Bacher, and many long time and deserving nurses of the hospital, among them the diligent operating room nurse Jenny, who - like uncounted other innocent people - found their ends in the mass graves of Transnistrien.
In the meantime, the former hospital director Dr. Siegmund Neuberger took sick and the Jewish Community gave me the provisional leadership of the hospital until finally naming the new director.
At the end of December, 1942 the Jewish Comunnity was told by the governor to have the Jewish Hospital evacuated within 10 days (this period was later extended to 20 days and we took 5 days for ourselves) and to of course, leave the entire inventory. Our hospital was to be turned into a Romanian military hospital.
At the same time, the Jewish Community got the task of finding a suitable building for setting up the Jewish Hospital.
The Jewish Community agreed on using the house at Stephaniengasse 5 for a hospital. The dwellers in this house, after long, not very comfortable negotiations and discussions were situated in another house.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Community after getting instructions from Bucharest was split into an Oficiul Evreilor (the official representatives of the Jews to the Romanian officialdom) and in a Comunitates Evreilor (the Jewish representatives for internal Jewish affairs). As chairman of the Oficiul Evreilor Dr. Otto Plitter was chosen and as chairman of the Comunitatea, Dr. Ludwig Dische was named. The later was in charge of all buildings of the Community including those with religious functions
Being in charge of health, I was assigned to supervise the installation of the hospital in its new home. I would like to point out that Dr. Jakob Landau who at that time functioned as deputy director worked especially hard to move and set up the hospital in its new quarters.
We had merely 25 days to accomplish this move. The necessary inventory for 60 beds was camouflaged as personal equipment belonging to the hospital personal and gradually taken out of the old hospital.
We immediately began with the adaptation of the house at Stephaniengasse 5. Day and night - without interruption - worked masons, painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other craftsmen.
One large room was equipped as an operating room and a neighboring room was adapted for a wash and sterilization room. In the yard the out patient clinic, the kitchen and the laundry were set up.
After 25 days had passed, the hospital was ready to accommodate 65 patients. Also, apartments were provided for the administrator Schalit, the chief nurse and other personnel.
Here I would like to point out that Dr. Dische not only quickly put the necessary funds at our disposal, but also effectively helped me with actions and advice.
At the beginning of March 1943 - in response to my formal suggestion - the Jewish Community officially named Dr. Jakob Landau as the director of the hospital.
Dr. Landau deservedly enjoyed not only the trust of Community, but also enjoyed the full faith of the hospital doctors.
He held this office until March, 1944 when he made his aliyah [emigration or literally going up] to Eretz Israel. During this one year term of office he led the hospital in an exemplary manner.
In March 1943, the leadership of the Community selected Dr. Hamburg as director of the Internal Medicine Department and Dr. Bruno Korn as director of the Gynecological Department.
The small newly installed hospital at Stephaniengasse 5 was to fulfill an important roll in the two years following its creation. It had to provide medical care for 12,000 Jews and enjoyed great popularity among the reduced number of Jews with medical problems.
I should stress at this point that very many Polish Jewish refugees who had succeeded in escaping the Gestapo and coming into Romania were taken in by the Jewish hospital and here - thanks to Dr. Landau - received excellent care. From here, many were able to reach Bucharest and from there, illegally reach Eretz Israel.
I would also like to mention the great service given by our Landsleut [fellow countrymen] Dr. Sigmund Bibring, Berthold Sobel and Salo Schmidt who were responsible for the Centrala Evreilor in Bucharest providing the necessary funds to maintain the hospital and in addition provided it generously with medicines, bandages and other utensils which couldn't be obtained in Czernowitz.
In the years that followed there were no occurrences in the Jewish Hospital noteworthy of special mention.
After Dr. Landau left, the oldest female doctor in the hospital, Frau Dr. Wilelnko was entrusted with the leadership of the hospital.
In conclusion, I would like to mention the following: At the end of March 1944, the German-Romanian troops were forced to retreat from Czernowitz which the civilian authorities also had to leave since the Russian troops were advancing and approaching Czernowitz. At this point, the State Hospital as well as the Romanian Military Hospital in Synagogengasse (which had been converted from the former Jewish Hospital, along with its entire inventory) were evacuated and the total inventory of both institutions was taken away to the Old Kingdom
When the advancing Russians entered Czernowitz, the only hospital available to them was the small Jewish Hospital at Stephaniengasse 5. Therefore, all the civilian patients had to be sent home so that urgent cases, especially those from the nearby front with projectile wounds could be taken care of. In a few hours the little hospital was overfilled.
At the end of April, 1944, an order was issued by Marshal Stalin directed to all civilian and military authorities which was also announced on the radio and published in the press that all directors and leaders of factories, institutions and organizations or every type, no matter where they were to be found should immediately be set free so that they could return to their former workplaces which they had to leave in the years 1941/42 because of the Nazi invasion.
In connection with this directive, I received a letter from the Health Ministry which freely quoted read:
You are herewith named as director of Hospital II in Czernowitz, the post you held in June 1941. You must start work immediately. At the same time, you are named as leader of the surgical section of this hospital. You must immediately get in contact with all the responsible local officials.
On May 5, 1944 the refurbishing and renovation of the Jewish Hospital on Springbrunnengasse began.
From that day on, a large sign with the words State Hospital II of Czernowitz. stood above the entrance of the hospital.
The temporary location of the Jewish Hospital in Stephaniengasse 5 was closed and at that time the Jewish Hospital in Czernowitz ceased to exist.
As is often the case in life, chance led to the founding of Betar. The Vienna Zionist organization, Zeirenu had a branch in Czernowitz. Among its members were Jakob Gross (today vice mayor of Benjamina), Arie Ulin, Josef Tiger, Stanislawczekar, Sandberg, Tuchmann and others who later played a role in the Movement. In December, 1927 several members of the even newer Zionist Revisionist Party (it was founded at the Zionist Congress in 2925) among them M. Geiger, J. Mann, Benno Sternberg and Jakob Schieber tried to better organize the loose group Zeirenu and to win it for the Revisionist Movement. They were successful in creating the Zionist Revisionist youth organization Betar which was to win a place of honor in the Zionist movement in Bukovina.
At first in agreement with the youth group Brith Trumpeldor in Riga, the local Betar was made into a branch organization of the General Revisionist Youth Movement with the goal of working from Czernowitz to spread this movement to all parts of the newly created Greater Romanian nation. The Czernowitz cell quickly became stronger. The headquarters of the organization was in the school house of Safa Iwria on Synagogengasse. Many meetings took place and lectures on Zionist subjects were held, Hebrew was taught and in anticipation of joining a Jewish army in Eretz Israel, physical training was done. Betar sought and achieved a connection with the Romanian Boy Scout Movement and later with the Strajeri and because of these connections enjoyed the advantage of being able to operate undisturbed by Romanian officialdom. An official ban on their continued operation due to an unfounded accusation was soon lifted. Now the way was clear for spreading this national Jewish youth movement and its propaganda goal. Cells (Kenanim) were started in almost every town in Bukovina that had Jewish residents. It soon became obvious that the Zionist Revisionist Youth Movement had the strength to withstand the agitation against Revisionism that arouse after Arlosoroff was murdered and the Revisionist Zwi Rosenblatt from Kotzman was one of those who were accused of the crime. In 1931, our speakers were stoned because of the murder. In addition to the main organization in Bukovina (Galil-Betar Bukovina), new cells originated outside of Bukovina in Noua-Sulita, Hotin, Piatra-Neamti, Bacau and Jassy.
In Czernowitz, Betar published a weekly newspaper, The Jewish World, directed by Jakob Schieber and edited by H. Fekler. The Betarists [I've taken the liberty of coining this word to designate Betar members] were not afraid, in the interest of propaganda, to sell the paper in public places. The meeting of the state organization in 1931 was attended by representatives of most of the local organizations.
Almost every year, summer camps were held for the members, the first one being held in 1928 in Wizenka. There as also in Wiznitz, Lopuschna, Ribnia and other locations, summer meetings were organized at which also non-Bukovina natives attended. Among others, a camp was led by Eisik Remba (today publisher of the Cheruth) in 1928 in his capacity as general secretary of the main leadership (Schilton Betar). Arie Disenczik (fellow worker of the Maariv) [the evening prayer service for Jews and a newspaper] was also a delegate of the Schilton. Many went to Romania as teachers, among others Arie Ben Elieser (today the vice chairman of the Knesset). In Czernowitz a Hebrew seminar was started where many members from Bessarabia, who otherwise would have been caught up by the Communist stream received a thorough Zionist education. All the instruction was intended to prepare the participants for life in Eretz Israel. For that reason, Hachscharoth (training in agriculture) was created in Zastavna (leader of the farm was David Schuster), Kuczurmik, Doroschoutz, moreover in Nepolokoutz, Luzan and in Storozynetz on the estates of estate owners Ornstein and Baron Flondor. When Jabotinsky stayed in Bukovina he visited several Hachscharoth. At this point it should be remarked that also other personalities from the Revisionist Movement were interested in the accomplishments of Betar, like Aron Propes, Eri Jabotinsky, Eisik Remba, Dr. Wolfgang and Noemi von Weisl. The visit of the last named was organized by Betar. When Colonel Wedgwood visited he was greeted by a mounted Betar unit with others marching smartly. The English friend of Zionism took home a lasting impression. He had met a youth group that was preparing itself militarily for a life in Eretz Israel.
The young idealists ran into difficulties again and again. The Zionist organization wouldn't grant them the certificate, which alone would allow them to enter the British mandate of Palestine. But they knew how to help themselves. They traveled as escorts of transports by way of Constanza or attached themselves to illegally traveling groups.
The leader of Betar, Jakob Schieber moved to Bucharest in 1934 where two years later he successfully worked with others on the organization of the illegal Aliyah Bet which transported emigrants to Israel by way of the Black Sea. After he left, the Bukovina organization was directed from Czernowitz by S. Jungmann, A. Feiger, M. Steinmetz, Lecker and others. The illegal Aliyah became a pivotal factor in the Romanian youth movement.
The anti-youth policy of the Romanian security police became more oppressive from year to year. Emigration was the only possible path to relief. In 1936 the young Edi Wagner died a martyr's death in Czernowitz, supposedly because of participating in the murder of a Romanian theology student. Another victim of the police for the same reason was the Betarist Rudolf Mehr, of whom, no trace remained after he fell into the hands of the Romanian police.
When the Russians marched into Northern Bukovina in 1940, all Zionist activity ceased. Some tried to disappear from sight, but most just waited to be deported to Siberia. As, however the Russians seemed to take no measures against the former Zionists, the friends of Zionism began to make contact with each other. The Betarists and other Revisionists remembered the words of Jabotinsky that only the existence of a Jewish state presented the right conditions for social progress. So a movement started to reactivate the Ken, to be sure, on a strictly underground basis. The initial goal was to create a small core group which at the opportune moment could quickly put together a large group. Among the most enthusiastic proponents of the idea were the Betarists Liquornik, Axelrad (perished in Transnistrien), Moritz Horowitz, Rennert and others. The group came together mostly in public places always armed with Communist literature which served at the same time as a discussion theme and camouflage. The Russian propaganda literature had the reverse effect of its intended purpose in that it deepened their belief in the Zionist ideology. The Betarists, however suffered deeply because of their isolation.
In May 1941, the long feared deportation started and lamed every activity. When soon thereafter uniformed Romanian and Nazi German criminals occupied Czernowitz there followed constant persecution, house searches, arrests and dragging away for forced labor. The last Betarists again contacted each other and met relatively undisturbed in the courtyard of the Jewish Hospital. Gradually young middle school students joined the activities of the Ken. Even in the Czernowitz ghetto (October, 1941) the secret activity of Betar continued unbroken.
Although most of the active members had been deported, the work started afresh. Since among other measures taken against the Jews, school instruction of the Jewish children was forbidden, the children were threatened with growing up uneducated. Here Betar started a new activity. Qualified members gave group instruction in the homes of the parents of the school children, among others Goldig, Schifter, Weiser, Thaler, Schieber. Miliu Singer especially distinguished himself. He was a man full of energy and ideas who significantly helped to build up Ken. In addition to him should be mentioned the Betarists from Poland who succeeded in finding a refuge in Czernowitz. In particular, Izchak Ganzweich (Gan-Zwi) should be mentioned. Even in the catastrophic years, education continued. An excellent library of Judaic and Zionist texts was put together and also there was no lack of books with socialist and political content.
Soon an event took place that threatened to destroy the organization. Ukrainian residents who had noticed the meetings of the members in a private dwelling reported them for carrying on Communist activities. The police blocked off the street, arrested the girl's group with their leader Schmidt and Moschkowitz and 16 youths from the neighboring houses. Luckily, with money and much effort the problem was resolved. They were able to prove that the prisoners were not Communists, whereupon they were freed by a military court.
In 1944, the front came ever nearer to Romanian territory. Preparations were made to evacuate the Betar members, most importantly, the illegal Poles, to the Old Kingdom [the original Romanian state made up of the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia]. Unfortunately, several were arrested on the trip including among others Ganzweich, but he was freed in a short time. Finally, the Revisionists succeeded in organizing the first Aliyahs from Constantinople and Bucharest. Eight days before the Russians marched into Czernowitz, the first transport left Constantinople. Two weeks latter began the manhunt for the Revisionists. Fortunately, almost all of them had already left Czernowitz.
With that, the decades long activity of the Czernowitz cell came to an end. The last transport not only brought the banner of the cell to Israel but also many fighters for the independence of our land. Soon the Betarists were in the forts at Latrun and Bethlehem, but also could be found in the cells at Akko. The kibbutzniks Schneeweiss and Merling fell in a battle with the Arabs. The son of Dr. Tamler from Zastavna, the top leader of Ezel died a hero's death in the War for Independence, during the fight for Haifa.
Besides the above named, some other noteworthy members of Betar were: D. Kohn, Urzu Geller, Nagler and A. Fabian (Sereth); B. Pasternak, Tennhaus, Gruber, Bubi Sommer, Miliu Singer, Postelnik, Dr. Adi Mechel (Radautz); Udelsmann brothers, Muli Muhlstein, Paul Beberer, S. Fischler, Fanny Horowitz, the Mischoschnik family, Rauchwerger, Held, Zimmer, Pasternak (Czernowitz); Lawyer Scheuermann (Gurahumora); Aron Frölich and Kirmayer (Storozynetz); Fritz Baruch (Kotzman); Ausfresser, Schuster (Zastavna); Rosen (who died together with Strume (Wilavcze); Axelrad.
These and the many that were not named in this report earned the thanks of the nation. Honor their memory.
Also in 1925 in Bukovina, a state organization of the Revisionist Party was brought to life. Dr. Benzion Sternberg, Moritz Geiger and Schreiber among others played a roll in setting up the state organization. In the course of time this party developed into a strong factor in the Zionist Movement of Bukovina. It won - at the beginning, still within the framework of the Bukovina Zionist State Organization - 25% of the seats in the Executive and Party Council.
Already during the first years of the existence of the Revisionist Movement, especially in the year 1929 - 1931, two ideological streams became apparent in the party. The first, represented by Jabotinsky refused to recognize the Zionist Organization in its contemporary form as the legitimate representation of the aspirations of the Jewish people and therefore wanted to form a new independent Zionist organization. The second stream of thought represented by Grossmann, Stricker, Lichtheim and others wanted, in spite of the attitudes of the present Zionist leaders, not to leave the organization, but to reform it from within.
Therefore, Grossmann's fight at the Revisionist conference in Prague (1930) for recognition of his viewpoint. Grossmann and his followers recognized that it would have been a tremendous error if the Revisionists had left the Zionist Organization. When, at the 17th Congress after a stormy session Jabotinskie's end goal resolution was rejected and the Revisionist faction left the congress hall, it was Grossmann again who opposed the Revisionist's leaving of the Zionist organization. The Faction returned to the Congress.
But Jabotinsky and his closest followers, especially the Betar, the revisionist youth movement still wanted the Revisionists to withdraw from the Zionist organization and to create a new, independent Zionist movement. Again, there was internal conflict and again Grossmann rescued the situation in that the compromise of Calais was adopted in 1932. But already in 1933, it came to a final split between the two factions of the Revisionist Movement. As a consequence of this division, the group under Grossmann went to the 18th Congress as an independent democratic revisionist faction. At this congress which the Revisionists finally left, the Jewish State Party was officially brought to life and was recognized by the Congress as an independent faction.
Also in Bukovina, the independent democratic group under Grossmann's leadership sought seats at the 18th Congress. It was represented at the Congress by Dr. Max Kiewe and the writer of these lines who had taken part in the founding of the Jewish State Party. Then, this party began to expand in all the countries of Central and Eastern Euroope. It was able to send a significant delegation to every Zionist Congress and exert an influence on the history of the Zionist Movement.
In Bukovina, there existed strong local groups belonging to the Jewish state Party, besides in Czernowitz, in Sereth, Radautz, Kimpolung, Dorna, Gruahumora, Wiznitz among others.
The Jewish State Party took part in all Zionist work, in the gatherings for the Zionist fund, in the Schekelarbeit and in the elections to the Zionist Congress. From 1933 until 1939, the last Congress before the outbreak of the Second World War the party could muster 600 to 700 votes and send to those four Congresses at least one delegate, so to the 18th Congress as already mentioned, Dr. M. Kiewe and the writer of these lines, to the 19th Congress in Luzerne, Moritz Geiger. At the 20th Congress in Zurich the writer of these lines was the delegate. And at the 21st Congress, again Moritz Geiger.
The Jewish State Party also took part in the elections for the First Jewish World Congress in Geneva in 1936 and sent the writer of these lines as a delegate. This election was at that time in contrast to those to the later meetings of the World Congress held in a democratic manner. After their return from Geneva, the delegates gave thorough reports on the events at the Congress to a large audience gathered in the Jewish National House in Czernowitz. The Jewish State Party organized in addition to a series of small meetings, also large mass meetings, especially when Meir Grossmann and other leaders of the Jewish State Party came to Bukovina. In addition to this, the important Zionist detail work was not neglected. In particular, the youth group, Brith Hakanaim was created whose members received Youth Certificates after their Hachschar [program designed to prepare youth for emigration to Israel. The training stressed farming skills] and emigrated to Eretz Israel.
It should also be mentioned that the following people remained true to the Jewish State Party: Moritz Geiger, president and delegate to many Zionist Congresses, Dr. Chaim Gelber, Vice Chairman of the Jewish State Party, the Brothers Markus and Jakob Margulies from Sereth and Dorna, Josef Spiegel, Lawyer Wolf and Professor Sommer who was active in a wonderful way for the youth group Brith Hakanaim and its Hachschar and then Jakob Keller, Mück, Reismann, Feder, Mowermann, Rosenblatt, Schwarz and many others. They were certainly the unknown soldiers, without whom, out work would have been impossible.
We are all filled with satisfaction that we in Chuz Laarez, the smallest Zionist Party experienced, that our idea for the Jewish state was victorious.
And now, some of the contents of this periodical:
In contrast, the city cooperatives, the Volksbanks had a sharp upswing. The number of their members grew continually. While many large banks closed their doors, the Volksbanks remained unshaken until the arrival of the Russians on June 28, 1940 put an end to this productive activity. This day marked an end to many years of fruitful activity and at the same time was the final day of the Jewish cooperative.
Under the Russian regime, here as in all other banks, commissars came in to liquidate the institution. In accordance with the suggestions of the commissars, the bank officials were considered for jobs in the various branches of GOSBANK, the Russian National Bank. It is not known if it was the cooperative character of the Volksbanks or it was just chance that the officials were all suggested for higher posts as inspectors. They were called to the directorate of GOSBANK and after long discussions, two of them, Schmuel Aba Soifer and the writer of these lines were nominated for positions as inspectors. Then after we passed the tests, we were accepted as assistant inspectors.
I did my first inspection in the nationalized Perez factory. Since my skills in Russian were minimal, I asked my friend Chaim Lerner -later secretary in Knesset Presidium- to translate my report for me. And so, I withstood my baptism by fire in the Inspection Service. My superiors were very impressed by my perfect Russian and I was soon made an independent inspector. My responsibility was the light industry and the many cooperatives. In contrast to our genossenschafts, these made no pretense of independence and were state institutions. The controls were of a dual nature, credit inspections and cash controls. According to the rules of the GOSBANK, every money entry in the books must be balanced. For this purpose, the cash draws were always open. All transactions were confirmed through checks. Cash operations were strictly forbidden and were only allowed for paying workers, buying agricultural products from farmers who were not yet nationalized, like wood, potatoes, feed, etc. The nature of every withdrawal was closely examined and required an approval by the appropriate official of GOSBANK. These procedures were connected with much trouble and lost time. Also, the enterprises suffered from a chronic money shortage. Since any breaking of the rules could be punished with Tjurma, that is, arrest, every Glawbuch (chief bookkeeper) always stood with one foot in Tjurma. We inspectors didn't have it easy, our own people worked as bookkeepers in every business and on one hand they had to follow the orders of their naczalniks (directors) and on the other hand they were made responsible for every one of their delinquencies. One false report would break the inspector's neck. Happily, the Russians were tolerant in the beginning and had patience with the locals who lacked the necessary experience and the knowledge of the applicable rules. Thus, every inspection ended with a lesson and a warning. Continued inspections were cut short by the advance of the Germans and Romanians. With their arrival, catastrophe struck all the Jews of the city and the country.
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