“Falesht”
Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 2
(Făleşti, Moldova)

47°34' / 27°43'

Translation of
“Faleshti” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Romania

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1980


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Romania, Volume II,
pages 386-388, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980


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[Page 386]

Falesht

Translated by Ala Gamulka

Romanian: Falesht; Russian: Falesht.

It was a small village in the Balti (Beltz) District on the Beltz-Sculeni road.

Jewish Population

Year Number
of
Jews
%
of the
population
1900 870 21.9
1924 1,200 families  
1930 3,258 51.1

 

Up to the End of World War One

The village was founded in 1792. The Jews were mainly merchants and craftsmen. A small number of them were in agriculture. They owned fields and vineyards. The merchants dealt in furs. Many Jews worked as laborers in the fields. In 1890 the mayor preferred to hire Jews, instead of Christians, during harvest in more urban areas. They were given higher wages because they worked well. In December 1888 there was a huge fire which burned 300 homes and deeply affected the Jewish population. The local authorities plotted against the Jews who were hurt by levying on them a higher tax (triple the usual) when they applied for permits to rebuild. They were subsequently prevented from doing the construction on the pretext that the government architect had not yet drawn a plan for the entire village. The Jews of Falesht were abused by the mayor and the chief of police. Eventually, the district authorities gave them permission to begin construction. The mayor tried to find other ways of taking revenge by ordering that all village dogs be killed and buried in the canal that surrounded the Jewish cemetery. This would desecrate the cemetery. The community again had to complain to the central authorities so that these persecutions by the mayor, the chief of police and others would be stopped. They were sometimes fortunate to be able to cancel the directives.

 

Between the Two Wars

After the annexation of Bessarabia by Romania in 1918, there was an agrarian reform done by the Romanian authorities. Some Jews in Falesht received land and they received 5 hectares each. Relations between the Jews and the local Romanian population were stable until the anti-Semitic propaganda of the Cuza party, in the 1930s, reached the area. Eventually, the lands given to the Jews were taken back- even fields and vineyards owned before the distribution.

 

Institutions and Organizations

The community supported a hospital which also served Christians. Some Jews were insured by the local health clinic. The `hekdesh` became an old peoples home for the poor who had no place to live.

Seven synagogues and the house of study served the religious needs of the Jews. One synagogue was particularly beautiful - `the Big Shul`. There were always one Rabbi, a judge and four ritual slaughterers. The last Rabbi before the exile – Rabbi Plum –was killed by the Romanians on the way to Transylvania.

 

Education

There were two elementary schools, one for boys and one for girls. For a while there was a Hebrew high school. In 1932 a private high school was established. Its students were children from wealthier families since the tuition fees were high. The language of instruction was Romanian and most of the students were Jewish. In the late 1930s a large high school was built by the Romanian authorities and Jews were allowed to attend. Tuition was free and the language of instruction was Romanian. Religious instruction was done in three Heders and in the House of Study near the Big Shul.

 

Zionist Movement

The first Zionist movement in Falesht was Maccabi- really a sports organization. It disbanded after a few years and most of its members transferred to Gordonya. There was also a branch of Beitar. Later on a branch of Mizrahi – religious Zionist – was founded by the judge of the community. The first Zionist groups fulfilled the dream of Aliyah. Among those who went were Moshe Kalinsky, head of Gordonya and David Gellman who had followed him as leader (went to Eretz Israel in 1933). Gordonya lasted longer than other organizations, but it broke down in 1937. A new Zionist center was organized and it drew the youth. It disintegrated in 1938 when Berel went to a preparatory kibbutz. Many Jewish youths in Falesht prepared themselves for Aliyah, but only some of them actually succeeded. They can be found in various kibbutzim, especially in Kibbutz Masada.

 

Political and Social Activities

The majority of the population of Falesht were Jewish and they tried, whenever possible, to elect their co-religionists as mayors and aldermen. They were sometimes successful. Yitzhak Buch was one of the Jewish mayors and Avraham Pinchevsky was head of the Farmers Party.

There were two banks in Falesht as well as a branch of the Cooperative Loan Fund. Almost all heads of families were among its members.

In April 1940 the authorities, following their anti-Semitic politics, withdrew Romanian citizenship from several dozen Jews. They became foreign citizens as a result.

 

Soviet Times

At the end of June 1940, all of Bessarabia was annexed by the Soviet Union. At first, there were no changes in the lives of the Jews of Falesht. There had not been any Zionist organizations since 1938 so there was no need to disband them. The synagogues were not closed and people continued to pray. The Soviets did not disturb the religious life of Falesht. The high school became a school where Yiddish was taught. The hospital continued to operate with the same medical staff. During the week before the war broke out, 19.6.1941, all `enemies of the people` were arrested. Zionists and wealthy people were sent to Siberia. The Soviets confiscated the assets of the Cooperative Loan Fund, arrested its director and exiled him to Siberia. Many of those exiled remained alive. Some of them returned to Bessarabia after the war, others stayed in Siberia and still others managed to reach Israel in various ways.

 

Holocaust

On the first day of the war, 21.6.1941, Falesht was bombed by the German Air Force. The first bombs fell on the House of Study and many Jews were killed. A disorganized flight took place. The first to leave were those who owned wagons. They fled towards the Dniester. Others began to walk on foot. A few who managed to cross the Dniester remained alive. Others were killed in the bombing raids and still others were murdered by the quickly advancing German army. Almost all the Jews who escaped towards the village of Dumbraveni died. The local farmers killed any Jew they encountered. It is impossible to know exactly how all the escaping Jews were killed, but we do have some data. A caravan of 50 Jews, on the road Falesht-Chishcautzi, were all murdered by a unit of the Romanian army. Some 20 Romanian soldiers met the Jews who were walking on the road between the village of Taura-Veche and Taura-Noua. They robbed the Jews, including their clothes and pushed them into swamps. They ordered them to lie face down and killed all of them. There were 8 children among them. Only two women remained alive and were found by German soldiers. The Germans were angry about the event and they complained to the local Romanian authorities.

The first German soldiers entered Falesht on June 27. Those Jews who were unable to escape remained hidden in make-shift cellars. There were some Italian soldiers who came in with the German forces. At first, the German soldiers did not touch the Jews and even the Romanian Christians (Moldovans) did not do any harm. The latter had remained in the surrounding hamlets out of fear of the unknown. A few days later, when the Romanian forces came to town, attacks on the Jews began. Murder and robbery were committed by soldiers, civilians and area farmers. The farmers stole anything of value. They destroyed everything else. The Jews who did survive were taken from their homes and placed in another area which served as the ghetto. In addition to Jews of Falesht there were others from Parlitza, Sculeni, Ungheni and hamlets in the area- Ostia, Albinetsi, Limbeni, Chetrosu, and Catrinik. A Romanian officer, who remembered the assistance he had been given in June 1940 when his unit was retreating, tried to help those families and actually managed to delay their removal to the ghetto. However, once he left the area, these families were also exiled to the ghetto. 14 Jews were arrested when the ghetto was formed and they were used as hostages in order to prevent the escape of others. The young Jews were locked up in the `Big Shul`. The building had been destroyed and the young people slept on the floor. The elderly and the sick were sent to Limbeni-Noui. The men were ordered to work on repairing the roads and the women did chores for the German and Romanian soldiers.

There were incidents of abuse of Jews performed by German soldiers. The German and Romanian soldiers used to go out at night to rape the young women. A German soldier grabbed the beard of Israel Kleizner, gave him a hammer and ordered him to destroy two Magen David symbols on the doors of the House of Study. His hands were shaking, he cried and he refused to do it. The poor Jew was soundly beaten, his beard was torn off with his skin. Still, he did not obey. One of the ritual slaughterers had a cultivated beard. He was tied to a tree by the beard and was tortured until he died. It must be noted that among the German soldiers there was one who always tried to help the Jews. His name is not known.

It is known that the Jews who were sent to Limbeni stayed there until September. Many of the Jews of Falesht were killed there. Children, the elderly and the weak died daily of dysentery and other ailments due to hunger or spoiled food distributed by the authorities. From Limbeni they were transferred to Markolesht where more Jews died. An epidemic soon broke out and the Jews were not sent to work. They were also not attacked because there was fear of contamination. At the end of October 1941, in the dead of night, the Jews were taken out of Markolesht. They were divided into two columns – separating families- and taken on foot to a small village near Odessa. Only four Jews remained alive. All the others were shot to death after being ordered to dig their own graves. Most of the Jews of Falesht who had remained alive until then were killed in Birzshele. The second column consisted of the sick, the elderly and the weak and they left later towards the Dniester. En route those who could not continue walking were shot to death or murdered by the Romanian soldiers and civilians. The civilians were sometimes more cruel than the soldiers or the police. Many more Jews were killed in the Coshautsi forest on the way to Transnistria. The rest were brought to Obodovca in Transnistria.

ZAG 0-3/1409,2556;PKR/III


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