Translation of Rabnitza chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Romania
Translation of Rabnitza chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1969
Published in Jerusalem, 1969
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Romania,
Volume 1, pages 509-511, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1969
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Translated by Ala Gamulka
In 1926 there were 3568 Jews in town, representing 37% of the total population.
When Romania entered the war in June 1941, many local Jews were either drafted by the retreating Red Army or escaped following in its footsteps. Some parents, who remained in town, wished to save the younger generation from being sent to concentration camps. As a result, these parents placed their children with Christian families. Other parents married their daughters off to Romanian husbands. In December 1941 – according to the gendarmerie – there were 1467 Jews who were to be deported across the Bug River.
The town served as an entrance point to Transnistria .From October 1941 to January 15, 1942, 24 570 Jewish deportees passed through it. As in other entrance points to Transnistria, the deportees were not allowed to linger in Rabnitza. Most of them were sent to villages along the Bug River. Only 1500 people managed to escape and blend into the population. The town had served as a transit station even before the deportations. Several months earlier – June/July 1941 – many groups of Bessarabian Jews had crossed the Dniester near Rezina and they fled to the villages. They were escaping the German-Romanian armies who attacked wherever they passed and murdered the Jewish residents. However, the conquering armies also crossed the river and came to Rabnitza. They annihilated most of the local Jews and the refugees. As of August 1941, many refugees from Bessarabia came to Rabnitza from the area villages in order to earn a living. They lived in abandoned Jewish homes and the area was declared a ghetto. The Jews were immediately taken to do forced labor. They were involved in clearing ruins and in cleaning. Their pay was a daily bread ration.
|The Massacre in Rabnitza - Woodcut by A. Marculescu|
The first convoys of deportees came on October 8-10, 1941. They were Jews from Bessarabia who had been, until September15, in a satellite facility of Vertujeni concentration camp and also in Markolesht concentration camp. They arrived showing signs of their hardships. They were barefoot, skinny and dressed in tattered clothes. The young looked like old people. They were, at first, crammed into stables and sheep pens in the outskirts of town. They were then deported across the Bug. A few managed to escape and they went to work. They received permission to remain in the ghetto and received a daily bread ration.
A similar fate awaited the convoys of the deportees who were soon brought from the Chisinau ghetto. Most of them were sent to the area villages and some managed to hide and to remain in town. There were 3000-3200 Jews in the ghetto. They were the remnants of local population, the first refugees and about 1000 deportees.
In mid November 1941,snow began to fall and Colonel Corbu, the commander of the province, decided to demolish some houses in a part of the ghetto. He wanted to erect there a national park to be named after Marshall Antonescu. Following this decision, many Jews had to leave their residences and to move into hovels. After the demolition the Jews were taken to work by the gendarmerie on a daily basis. They were men, women and children 13 years old and up. They were all emaciated and semi naked. The men demolished the houses and the women and children removed the stones and cleared the area. They were supervised by gendarmes equipped with whips.
The terrible housing conditions and the lack of nutrition did not allow for proper hygiene. Soon Typhoid fever broke out. There was no medical help and the sick could not be looked after. By January 1942, one half of the ghetto residents were infected. Corbu ordered a complete quarantine and placed guards at the entrance to the ghetto. There was no food. Forty –eight Jews who dared leave the ghetto to procure food for the children and the elderly were caught by the guard. They were all shot on orders by Major Gh. Bototoaga.
Starvation and cold increased the mortality rate that affected two-thirds of the ghetto residents. Statistics provided by the Bucharest Aid Committee that had begun to send help indicate that by November, 1942 there were only 1080 people left.
As soon as the snow melted in spring 1942, the Jews again were taken to work on the public park. It was to be dedicated in August when a German-Italian-Japanese delegation was scheduled to visit. The commander ordered the Jews to leave for work at 5:00 am. He would visit the site several times a day. The Jews, weakened by illness and starvation, had to lift stones weighing 30 kg and to carry them through semi-frozen mud. The commander also ordered the removal of gravestones from the local Jewish cemetery. They were used for the construction of a memorial in the park. Some of the stones were also used to pave the sidewalk in front of the commander's house.
Until the day of the visit of the delegation, the Jews worked endlessly day and night to prepare the park. On visiting day, the Jews were confined indoors. The visitors were accompanied by G. Alexianu, governor of Transnistria, and other dignitaries.
In autumn 1942 some Jews from Rabnitza were sent, on a temporary basis, to collective settlements nearby to harvest sugar beets. Some deportees worked in Romanian government offices. Craftsmen found work in various government factories and workshops. They were paid in minimal food rations.
In spring 1943 Rabnitza became an important link between the front and the Romanian state. The imminent fall of the Nazis was felt. Two German military hospitals were established. In September 1943 many herds of sheep were transported across the Dniester to Bessarabia. They were loaded on train wagons by Jewish workers.
At the same time a GEP (German Field Police) was established in town under the command of Captain Von Weber.
According to statistics produced by the gendarmerie, in September 1943 there were only 404 deportees left in the ghetto. Of these 370 were from Bessarabia and 37 from Bucovina. In addition, there were 800 local Jews.
In October 1943 Camp Vapiniarca was closed. There were 54 Jewish Communists who were transferred from there to prison. In 1942 they had been in Romanian jails.
That month representatives of TODT arrived to build another bridge across the Dniester. The new commander of the gendarmes, Captain Popescu, was bribed by the Jews to not send them to work on the bridge under German supervision. Still, Popescu acceded to German demands and sent 70 Jews to German labor camps – Varvarovca and Nikolayev – across the Bug.
From May 1943 until spring 1944 there was a unit of 650 people from the “Balta 120 Work Party” in town. It included Jews from Ragat and was stationed in the village of Birzula. As of December 1943 it also included a group of 120 pioneers deported from Bucharest to Transnistria. This group looked after herds, harvested hay and loaded and unloaded freight trains. The workers were housed in a demolished jailhouse with no doors or windows. They received little food. Typhus was rampant and often unreported. The situation improved after a delegation went to Bucharest where they received clothing and medications for the forced labor workers.
Stages of Liberation
As the front moved closer the authorities in Rabnitza became stricter in guarding the ghetto under the pretense that enemy parachutists could hide among the Jews. At the same time, partisan activity increased in the area. There were many sabotage actions and contact was established with the political prisoners.
On the morning of 17 March, 1944 the ghetto deportees were ordered to be prepared to cross the Dniester and off they went. They crossed the river on an improvised bridge made of boats. They were able to reach Rezina in Bessarabia.
Unfortunately, the lot of the political prisoners was different. In addition to political prisoners there were hundreds of Ukrainian and Russian criminals. Before he retreated, the Romanian commander gave over the prison to the German Police commander, Von Weber. He, in turn, transferred jurisdiction to SS Commando officer Scwarzkalb.
On the night of 18-19 March 1944 the criminal prisoners were liberated, but the political prisoners were shot. Among them were 54 Jews. The next morning, before retreating, the Germans lit the prison on fire. Only 2 of the 54 Jews survived. They had managed to escape during the night.
After the war, the Peoples Court in Bucharest sentenced Constantine Clineanu, the commander, to a prison term.
Yad Vashem Archives: 1948/170-k; 1791/208-R; 1096/63-A; 867/54-A; 767/43;
PKR/V-69 (1057, 1082-87); PKR/V -111(1366-71). O-3/143, O-3/1464, O-3/1530, O-3/1927, O-3/2448.
M. Carp Archives: VII, 352; VIII, 1,352, 473, 482.
Carp, M.: Cartea Neagra, III, Bucuresti, 1947, pp. 201, 213, 260, 271, 302, 320, and 442.
Gall, Matey: Masacrul, Bucuresti, 1956.
Zaharia, Gh.: Quelques donees concernant la terreur fasciste en Roumanie, 1940-44. Revue Roumaine d'histoire. Bucaret, 1964, III, No. 1, p. 126.
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