“Kalarash”
Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 2
(Călărași, Moldova)

47°15' / 28°18'

Translation of “Kalarash-Targ” 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 396-399, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980


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[Page 396]

Kalarash

Translated by Ala Gamulka

In Romanian it is called Kalarash-Targ and in Russian it was Kalarash. This was a village in the Kishinev-Lapusna district, now in Moldova. It lies on the Bik River, a tributary of the Dniester. The railroad passes through Kalarash and connects it with Kishinev and Iasi. The surrounding area is rich with fruit trees, especially plums, vineyards and wheat fields.

Jewish Population

Year Numbers % of Jews in
Population
1847 390  
1897 4,593 89.1
1930 3,631 76.0

 

Before World War II

Kalarash was established in 1716. It was situated in the most fertile part of Bessarabia. The village was part of an estate belonging to a Moldovan aristocratic family, the Rishkanus. It eventually belonged to another family the Gerchinskus.

When Bessarabia became part of Russia in 1812 a small Russian community began to develop. It was composed of laborers and small shop owners.

Before WWI, Kalarash supplied excellent prunes to the rest of the country. They were called “Kalarash prunes”. It also produced other fruit, wines and firewood. By then Jews comprised more than two thirds of the local Moldovan population.

There is no information about the beginning of Jewish settlement, but it is known that the Jewish community in Kalarash grew towards the second half of the 19th century. Most Jews earned their livelihood in the vineyards, production of wine and its sales, in the sale of prunes, nuts, flowers, trees, etc. There were also some craftsmen among them.

There was no organized community, but there were various charitable organizations, a Burial Society and a cemetery.

“Hatzfira” of 2.2.1896 reports that “Rabbi Yehiel Trubachnik and Avraham Bronstein who do charitable work are collecting a considerable amount of money to pay for firewood for the poor of the community”. The economic situation in the village was unstable and any events such as drought, flooded roads, rise in prices, etc., caused great difficulties. Poverty was high especially in 1900 as a result of the drought that affected all of Bessarabia. There were ads on the walls of the synagogue asking for help and the wealthier members of the community donated large sums of money to support a grocery store that sold food at lower prices. In 1901 the community was forced to approach the aid committee in Kishinev to obtain funds for the poor.

In Kalarash there were several assistance committees: “Clothes for the Poor” supplied clothing and shoes for poor children; “Committee for the Hungry” was founded in 1924 by Rabbi Levin to assist those touched by hunger; “Women's committee” that organized a canteen for 40 children from the poorer families.

In the years prior to WWI there was an improvement in the economic conditions of the Jews of Kalarash. They exported the rich produce of the area and they were the ones who sent the plums, wines and wheat in large quantities to different parts of Russia. They also dried the plums to produce prunes and in addition, they supplied area farmers with whatever they needed to do their work.

Many people in the village worked in professions involved in construction such as carpenters, glaziers, blacksmiths and labourers. New branches of work developed as the community grew. There were shopkeepers and peddlers who traveled with their goods to the area farmers as well as furriers and hat makers who used skins for their work. After the railroad connected Kalarash with the rest of Russia, many Jewish merchants arrived to do business. As the village developed many Jews left their smaller hamlets and settled near the train station. They rented lots and built houses.

Jews owned a factory for the canning of fruit and a plant that produced red bricks and they provided employment their fellow congregants.

The local organizations also included “Assistance for the Poor”. “Benevolent Society” (founded in 1924), “Maot Chitin”, “Savings and Loan Fund”, etc. In 1930 there was also “Help for the Sick” a group of women that organized summer camps for poor children. The Hevra Kaddisha looked after the cemetery.

 

Education And Culture

As in many other villages, education in Kalarash was based on the traditional Heder. The wealthy people sent their sons to study in Kishinev. In the 1890s Anna Abramovna Riselman founded a Hebrew school for girls. At the same time, Dr. Matmon established a Hebrew Day school, Beit Yehuda, where the language of instruction was Hebrew and the studies were quite advanced. The school was divided into separate groups for boys and for girls. From the end of the 19th century there was also a Talmud Torah where poor children studied religious subjects. High school and university students volunteered to teach local language, Russian, reading and writing and mathematics. The Talmud Torah also looked after supplying clothes and shoes to the children and served them food

There was also a private high school in Kalarash Shcoala Modie- with 80 students. The government elementary school used Yiddish as a language of instruction.

Tarbut provided classes in Hebrew, in Jewish History and Geography of Eretz Israel in the evenings.

The public library in the village contained books in Hebrew and in Yiddish.

After WWI, when Bessarabia was annexed by Romania, the economic situation of the Jewish community of Kalarash worsened once again. The border with Russia remained closed and agricultural products of the area could not be exported. The situation only improved in the 1930s.

 

Persecutions and Pogroms

Relations between Jews and the rural Moldovan population were decent until the Russian community in the village grew, after Bessarabia was annexed by Russia. The wave of anti-Semitic incitements that began in Bessarabia at the beginning of the 20th century did not bypass Kalarash. Agitators from Kishinev would visit the village and encourage the local anti-Semites. They helped to start the terrible pogrom of 1905.

On October 19, 1905, four days after the Tsar's edict was published, about 50 youths gathered in the marketplace near the public library. They marched and demonstrated in the streets of the village. They called on all workers to leave their place of work to celebrate the great event. The youths were joined by many passers-by, all happy and gay since the wine season had begun. The number of marchers grew and the riffraff moved on to the local authority building where the leaders gave speeches. The municipality clerks greeted the marchers and encouraged them. They marchers continued towards the market where most of the residents were Christians. On that day there were many Moldovan farmers who stood on the side and watched the demonstrators. Soon several Christian intellectuals appeared. They were followers of the notorious anti-Semite Krushevan from Kishinev. They began inciting against the Jews. Travelers who arrived that afternoon on the train from Kishinev spoke of the pogrom in the district capital. A few dozen youths went from Kalarash to Kishinev to help with Jewish self-defence. On the next day, October 20, some Jews arrived from Kishinev, accompanied by their wives and children. They spoke of the terrible events in Kishinev. On Shabbat, October 22, rumors were spread that on the following day, Sunday, there would be a pogrom in Kalarash. The Jews began to organize and that same evening a “self-defence” group was preparing feverishly for what would ensue. It must be surmised that without this self defence all the Jews of Kalarash would have been murdered by the rioters. Sunday was market day and as usual many Moldovans from the area came to sell their produce. The morning train from Kishinev brought a group of hooligans. Several of the members of the “self defence” group were in the train station and immediately recognized the troublemakers. All members of the self defence group gathered and prepared for battle. The hooligans began to riot in the marketplace, to break windows, to overturn kiosks and to beat any Jew that came their way. The Moldovan farmers immediately left the marketplace and the village and waited outside town limits. One of the rioters was heard to yell: “Beat the Jews!” and the others began to destroy Jewish houses. Some locals joined them- laborers, clerks and ordinary criminals. The self-defence group members tried to beat the rioters with sticks near the church and the municipal building. They managed to do so for two hours. However, the number of rioters grew constantly and they were armed with guns. After the first injuries the Jews began to retreat. Some 6-7 Jews had pistols and they continued to fight with the murderers. They, too, had to retreat. The Moldovans returned to the village and they, too, began to rob the houses and the stores. They even lit them on fire. The rioters broke into wine warehouses, got drunk and broke the barrels. They entered the synagogue, took out the Torah scrolls and tore and burned about 40 of them. Many Jews were shot or murdered with axes. Many women were raped. The hooligans rioted until 4 PM without anyone stopping them. It was only then that the vice governor arrived with 55 soldiers and the hooligans and Moldovans ran away. However, the pogrom was not yet finished. In the evening the rioting recommenced and houses were burned- almost the entire village was on fire. About 500 houses, representing two-thirds of the total were incinerated. The majority of the shops and the workshops were completely destroyed.

There were 55 dead who were buried in the local cemetery after the pogrom. Four more died later of their wounds. In total 220 people were hurt and of those 19 were sent to the Jewish hospital in Kishinev. In addition, 68 children were orphaned. The rioting did not pass by the Jews in the surrounding villages and many were killed there.

An aid committee was immediately formed and funds were raised from those who were not hurt. Help also came from other parts of Russia and from other countries. Special loans were available for laborers and small merchants.

In spite of all this help, life in Kalarash did not return as it was before. The Jews of the village could not overcome the events. The economic destruction and fear forced many families to leave. About 500 of them immigrated to the United States, 60 to Canada and 53 to Argentina.

When the revolution broke out in 1917 a great fear was felt in Kalarash. The Jews worried that the revolution would bring with it attacks and the Jews prepared themselves to face new problems. Again self defence was organized. Weapons were purchased or were stolen from the retreating army. All Jewish youths took part in guard duty. The taverns were closed and the guards spilled any wine found in cellars. This is how Kalarash was saved during retreat of the soldiers from the Austrian front at the end of WWI. Anti-Semitic persecutions continued in the village even after the district was annexed by Romania in 1918. On Hanukah 1924 a group of Koza hooligans came in to the village. Local youths welcomed them and they began to break windows, attack passers-by and break into houses. The Jewish youths threw stones (taken from the road) at them and the hooligans disappeared after the first direct hits.

On December 6, 1926 a new gang came to Kalarash. Its members broke into Jewish houses and stores, robbed and destroyed them. Many Jews were injured. Jewish property was burned in the marketplace.

 

Zionist Movement

The Zionist movement with its many sections had taken root in Kalarash. Keren Hayesod, Jewish National Fund and Friends of the Pioneer were quite active.

In 1919 a branch for preparing pioneers was formed with the encouragement of the Hechalutz from Kishinev. There were also youth groups: “Flowers of Zion”, “Revival” at the beginning. They were followed by Maccabi and Gordonia. In 1923 Hashomer Hatzair established a branch in Kalarash and in 1927 Beitar came to town. Many youths from Kalarash made Aliyah.

 

Holocaust

When Bessarabia was annexed by the Soviet Union in June 1940 the Romanians abandoned Kalarash. As they retreated the Romanian soldiers tried to hurt the Jews, but the latter stayed behind closed doors until they left.

On June 28, 1940, Soviet forces came to the village and they were received enthusiastically. The happiness soon evaporated. The Russians took most of the jobs. Russian families came to the village and took over local houses. There was lack of housing and food. Properties of merchants and store owners were appropriated.

Even at the beginning of the new regime the village leaders were arrested, active Zionists among them. Some were killed in Kishinev prisons and others were sent to Siberia. At midnight on the 13th of July all middle class people were gathered in the village and they were sent, with their families in transports going east.

In Tiraspol the men were separated from their families. They were sent in train cars further inside Russia. They were thus saved from being killed by the Germans.

A day after the war broke between Germany and the Soviet Union, on June 22, 1941, Kalarash was bombed from the air and one Jew was killed. On July 7 when it was discovered that the Germans and Romanians were coming to the village, many Jews fled, without any belongings, towards the Dniester. After difficult travels, hunger and fear of German bombing and attacks by the peasants, they reached the border. They lost many people on the way. Eventually they reached Tashkent, Uffa, Stalingrad and even Siberia. Some people were separated from the group by error or on purpose and their fate is unknown. Some made it to Uzbekistan where many of them died of hunger and cold.

During their travels on the road of misery from western Russia to its eastern part the Soviet authorities treated the refugees kindly. They provided them with trains, some food and even money. Some refugees were settled in cooperative settlements and were given work, but the youths were drafted into the Red Army.

 

A common grave in Kalarash
The Hebrew inscription says: 126 men, women, the elderly and children were murdered by Moldovans, Germans and Romanians during three days of killing of the Jews of Bessarabia in 1941.

 

One group of Jews from the village escaped to Kishinev where they put into the ghetto. Their fate was the same as that of the residents of Kishinev.

Those who were unable to escape or did not want to leave met a bitter end. Most of the Jews hid in attics and cellars in their own homes or those of their non-Jewish neighbors. Almost all of them were caught, tortured and killed in place or they were brought to a central place in the village. From there they were taken to Vetomineasa forest on the road between Kalarash and Shipoteni. They were ordered to dig a trench. The Jews were tied to each other with a metal wire and they were all killed with automatic fire.

As they fell the injured pulled the others tied to them, whether still alive, injured or dead. Afterwards, the killers covered the trench with earth and topped it with ramparts.

Only three women survived the massacre by pretending to be Christians.

 

After the War

When Kalarash was liberated by the Red Army in 1944 some survivors returned to the destroyed village. Only one building remained standing the Commissionaires Synagogue.

The survivors put a gravestone on the common grave.

Today there is a small Jewish community of a few families in Kalarash.

Z.A.G


Sources

Holocaust encyclopedia: O 3897, 898, 1490
Bibliography
Kalarash Yizkor Book- in memory of the Jews of the village that was destroyed during the Shoah, Tel Aviv, 1966; Ososkin, M. The organization of social assistance to Bessarabia Jews, chapters on Bessarabia, a collection of stories about the past of the Jews of Bessarabia…Tel Aviv, 1952, pages 32-90.

 


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