[Pages 22 - 43]
The statistical data of this period do not include references with respect to the socio-professional structure of the Jewish population in Bacau, and thus does not reflect the dynamics of its evolution. There are not even materials to statistically represent the working sectors of the Jews in Bacau. For 1930, the percentages regarding Jews, mentioned in the Census must have been generally valid: 36.5% Jews were active in trades (possibly owners and tradesmen), 28.1% in various industries (owners, workers, technicians), 6.3% in agriculture, 5% in public institutions, 3.5% in banking, 3% mining and transportation. Even though we lack statistical data for the period, it is known that the inter-war years intensified the Jewish social layering process, which had already started at the end of the XIXth century. The social layers of the Jewish population in Bacau were comprised of a few important manufacturers, merchants and bankers who desired to integrate themselves in the leading structures of the Romanian society; another small category of wealthy small business owners, many middle and lower class workers (tradesmen, technicians and professionals); and last but not least many salaried Jewish workers (industrial workers and various office workers). This layering process greatly influenced the organization and attitude of the Jewish population with respect to various problems of their social life.
The only existing statistics are the unofficial ones published in 1943 by the Central office of Jews in Romania 4, from which we can conclude that before the Second World War, there were 1,038 owners (commerce and industry), 2,219 tradesmen and workers, 999 public officials, 115 professionals, 120 teachers and clergy, and 152 others.
Let us try and make a connection between these statistics and what is known about the Jews' role in the economic and social life of the city of that time. During the years between the two world wars, the Jews in Bacau played an important role in merchandise transportation. A picture of the Jewish commerce of the time showed the traveller who came into Bacau through one of the city borders, Piatra-Neamt, Focsani or Roman, would face a picturesque scenery. On each side of the streets Bacau-Piatra, Bacau-Focsani and Calea Marasesti, and continuing on Strada Mare, Bulevardul Carol, strada Stefan cel Mare, Hala Pietei Centrale there were stores with various products, cosmetics, iron works, textiles, farmer equipment, grains, bricks, horse gear, clothing, book stores, coffee shops, furniture store, bakeries, winery, lumber yards, green grocers, butchers, gas stations, tanneries etc. Each store had its own sign indicating the speciality and the army division in which the owner had served during the war [ ] 5
Clearly, we cannot enumerate systematically all the Jewish commerce owners in Bacau of that time. We must limit ourselves in mentioning randomly the names and events, which for some reason have remained in the memory of the people in Bacau.
The grain commerce continued to be the most important occupation of many Jews at the time. Aside from those mentioned prior to the First World War, we must mention the name of Isac Reizel and I. Herscovici. The important role that Jews played in the grain commerce is reflected by the fact that in 1933, the president of the grain owners association, Oboru, was Avram Simon.
Of equal importance was the role of Jews in the cattle commerce. With respect to this trade we found that: at the slaughter house, both in the days of market as well as during the yearly fairs, the most important transactions were those for working and slaughter cattle, which were transported in great numbers to Craiova and towards the Danube to Galati, Braila, and Calarasi 6. A great farmer and exporter of cattle was Lazar Haber or Iancu Iancovici (called the shepherd) who had high quality sheep and breeding cattle.
In the iron industry, we have to mention Moritz Merdler and Jacques Klein, who took over the store from Faivis Klein and held it until the middle of the fourth decade of the century. We must also mention Iancu Iakerkaner and the brothers Cohn.
Iancu Kendler and the Goldenberg brothers were engaged in the lumber commerce, while Manascu Goldstein, B. Weissman, H. Alterescu and others were in involved the construction materials business (paint, bricks and others).
In the commerce of colonial products (tea, coffee) there were not in the order of importance -aside from brothers Hirschenbein (import and wholesale), the brothers Fighel, Hary Solomon, Natan Isac, Lupu Isac, Aron Kreuer, Strul Schwartz, etc.
The brothers Kitner, Bahman, and I.Rozenberg owned bookstores -some of which were still open after the Second World War.
In the commerce branch of Bridal gowns and accessories, Gr.Grigorovici mentioned M.Hirschenbein and H.Horovitz, Grinberg (the Elegant Bride), the store for wool textiles Sache Moscovici, the storeMona Lisa, D.Leventer, storekeepers S.Bernstein, Fritz Lupovici, Leizer Grimberg, (Ceho-Romana), Pincu Gloter and others. There were others Jews who manufactured and sold various products: Haim and Iancu Brill (cotton), Moritz and Heinrich Aroneanu, brothers Horn (hats), Pascal Lazarovici (silk and clothing) N.Seidman (furs), and others who sold threads, socks, leather articles, shoes, musical instruments, chemical products and paints. Jews were also active in the fish market - Balau, Balan, bakeries - A.Pais, Schwartz, groceries - brothers Leibovici, M.Blank, confectionery among which was the famous Abramovici, butchershop - Smil Klein, H.Herscu, J.Rechler, gas stations - Fillip Schweiger, Blum, Fainaru, wine stores, etc.
Many Jews owned bars, restaurants and inns. Some of the famous names were Mielul alb (The White Lamb), Consumul general (General Consumption), Micul Consum (Small Consumption), La Balena (The Whale's), Pui de Lup (Wolf Cubs).
Rubin Waksman and Haim Stopler were in the scrap iron business.
Many drugstores opened in Bacau were founded or run by Jewish people: for example, A.Averbuch, I.Nahmansohn, Golesteanu, Rozenzweig, L.Rintzler, and S.Fainaru.
The important role that Jews played in diverse business areas is also illustrated by the fact that at various times they were elected to run numerous Business Public Institutions. As such in 1920, the leaders of the Commerce Chambers were 4 Jews and 6 Christians7. Some were awarded the distinction commercial and industrial merit8. At the helm of the Chamber of Commerce were, at different times, Ozias Herscovici, Aurel Negrescu, and Iosif Feldher. The president of the commercial council was, for a long period, Herman Kisler.
Evidently, we are unable to present in these pages a scientific evaluation of the significant role played by the Jews in Bacau in merchandise transportation. Such an estimate can only result from a thorough study. All we can mention is that there was a great number of Jewish tradesmen, considering both the large and small Jewish stores in an area where the Jewish population was predominant, such as Strada Mare, Leca borough, Bacau-Piatra street, and other major Jewish areas. Their personal characteristics influenced positively the economic development of the town: innovative spirit, accelerating methods of rotating the capital, conscientious acceptance of trade risk. The import/export practice brought by many merchants from Bacau also produced a great influence on the national economy; another phenomenon worth mentioning is the evolutionary use of capital (banks and development of industrial venues)-discussed here as well.
Let's discuss the different trades the Jews of Bacau were involved in in the inter-war years. First, let's discuss the auto shops, the most renowned being Herman's and Strulica Schwartz's, as well as Marcu Steinberg's and Ekstein Deju's. Benis David had an electrical bobbins shop; other people were electricians, with or without their own shop.
There were a great number of tinker shops, amongst which we need to mention the ones owned by Lazar Digot and Volf Marcovici. Zeider and Zilberman were well-known window makers. The house painter N.Inger represented an example of good work and honesty. Pizam's sharpening shop and Iriham Antler's ropemaking shop were also well known in the town.
The watchmakers Leon and Artur Solomon executed the finest and most precise work, and were renowned in the whole town for their honesty and loyalty. Other Jewish tradesmen were S.Steinstein, A.Gutman, Zeigherman and Leon Zilberstein, jewellers I.S.Segal and Bernat Goldrin, and photographers Agatstein, Segal, Strulescu.
L.Tukerman and David Segal had carving shops, while A.Ghelber and Smil Moscovici owned wool-combing shops. The paint shops of the town were those of I.Ilovici, Avner Idelovici and Nuhamovici; B.Baranceanu, David Vataru, and Iosef Rozenfeld owned laundromats and die-houses.
There were a great number of tailor shops. Lets mention only the fine ones: La Vienezu, H.Schwartz, G.Iusen, Sloime Rozenfeld, Micu, Lupu Saler, as well as the shops of Alter Ghersin, I.German, Aron Grinberg, Moise Kraus, Pincu Schwartz, Haim Gutman, and many others, who had numerous workers and apprentices, both Jews and Christians.
Lora David and Carolina Moscovici owned designer boutiques while Paula Schwartz, Fani Aronsohn, Pescaru and Gheiman Nuta were women's tailors, fashion designers and lingerie makers.
Itic Blumenfeld, Avram Ghelberg, Isac Atlas, Iosif Braunstein, Cusmaru Ilie and others were furriers (men) while N. Gheiman made fur coats for women 9.
There were also numerous shoe makers/repair shops Hofman Avram's, Leizer Moise's, H. Lovingher's, M. Leibu's. The most talented ones were the leather-boot makers Bercu Leibovici, Leon Leobovici, Lovingher Gheza and many others.
Avram Hausfater owned a belt-shop while, N. Ghersin built luggage cases. The tanneries of the time were owned by Leibovici brothers, Gustav Clemer, Max Wechsler, Morit Schild. The Rotman brothers' tapestry shop was appreciated for the high quality of the work.
Leon Rapaport owned a dowry-case making shop, along with many other smaller carpenters: Minter, H. Zisman, Calman Croitoru, Avram Moscovici etc. J. Romascanu and M. Pescaru were painters of logo signs, while David Rozenberg, A. Goldsmit and H. Copel had printing shops on King Ferdinand Street and General Grigorescu Street respectively 10.
Among Jews there were also many butchers and gut makers, some with businesses and others who were working for the slaughterhouse. Moreover, most of the carriage drivers were Jewish. Some had exclusivity for certain services: E. Braunstein for weddings, Wolf Iser for funeral convoys as well as Lipa Goldstein. After 1920, A. Goldenberg owned an automobile, which was used to transport people from Bacau to various other cities within the county.
There were also many Jewish barbers and hairdressers in Bacau: Moritz's salon (in the centre of the city), others spread throughout the neighbourhoods: Haim & I. Cioara's, Leon Parah's, Leizer Avram's and H. Cojocaru's.
The large number of tradesmen is reflected by the organization of synagogues based on trade: the one belonging to the tanners, bricklayers, young and old tailors, carriage drivers, shoe makers, furriers etc.
It is obvious that the Jewish tradesmen were active in all kinds of trades, even those considered as more difficult, requiring great physical effort. Thus, they fulfilled many of the country's economical needs, demonstrating an innovative spirit and striving to produce high quality work. They played an important role in the development and modernizing process of the economy as well as in the urbanization process of the town.
However, although the town was developing greatly, many Jewish merchants led a difficult life. Most of the poor merchants and almost all carriage drivers lived on Leca Street. This was the Jews' street, with very tiny houses, all linked and crowded along half a mile. Starting from Bistrita River, the other end represented the downtown, in Plaza Florescu. The street had a modest aspect, but it had a pictorial view. Here were most of the synagogues, especially the ones belonging to the tradesmen. There was a bakery, a coffe/tea shop and of course a few bars where the clientele were mostly tradesmen. One of them was called La Calul balan (White Horse).
During the inter-war years, the Jewish Industrial activity in Bacau was remarkable, the most famous conglomerate being the Filderman Enterprises. After 1922's fire, which destroyed most of the leather factory, the owners rebuilt it and took various measures of expansion and development reorganizing its energy system. During this time, the collective society Filderman Enterprises founded new sectors and factories in many fields. In 1939, they consisted of two factories, one for thick cloth and one for civilian and military footwear (founded in 1931), a horse gear section (founded in 1936), a systematic mill and a hydro plant. Through these new factories, the complex was able to offer various elaborate products. The factories were also an important supplier for the army. During the Second World War, the Antonescu regime had militarised these factories using them to their full capacity. In 1943, the leather factory had 554 workers, of which 154 were unskilled labourers. In 1934, the Filderman Mill (founded in 1923), ranked as one of the most systematic mills in the country, employed 52 people. Nearby, the Filderman Association built one of the largest and most modern bakeries, Sanitas. The Thick Cloth factory had at some point 450 workers. In 1944, the eviction notices as well as the damages created by the German troops had destroyed most of these factories; those that remained were taken over by the Government in the Nationalization process in 1948 11.
In the leather industry there were other factories, those of L. & L.C. Klein's (still functioning in 1941), Brill & Davidsohn's, Ettinger's, Hercovici's as well as the shoe-making factory of Moise Zalman 12. In the textile industry, Isvoranu's factory was in 1944 the largest in the country employing 547 people. The second largest was Filderman's Thick Cloth Factory while the third one with 255 workers was Bacau (former J. Singer), which in 1921 had been approved to benefit from the Industrial Law 13. There were other factories at the time: the ribbon and cloth factory Gloria Leon Grad, the knitted goods factory Lanarie owned by I. Isersohn, founded in 1923, the handkerchief and bandanna factory Camelia founded by I. Milcovici in 1923, the stockings/socks factory Idealul founded in 1926 by I. Nahmansohn which in 1941 had 44 workers.
In the milling industry, the mill taken over by H. Calmanovici & Sons was modernized after a fire in 1926, functioning till after the Second World War; in 1930, it had 30 salaried workers 14. The Mills Aurora property of the Schuller brothers had 27 workers. The smaller mills belonged to Iacob Rubin, Smil Moscovici, Manase Lazarovici and Avram Aberman 15. Furthermore, in the food industry, there was Ozias Katz' distillery Bistrita, L. Adelstein's Saturn, A. Stramwasser's Candy factory, L. Haber & Ciuga Segal's Vegetable Oil Factory and Lupu Klein's Carbonated Acid Factory.
Among the forestry enterprises were: in 1918 Iosif Feldher founded a Timber factory Bicazul, later transformed in Forestiera de Nord S.A. (inc.), which had 97 workers in 1944. Calmanovici's Timber Factory had 200 workers 16. Other factories in this field were D. Z. Goldenberg & Sons with 20 workers and Lemncom owned by J. Ellenbogen.
In the metallurgical sector, the most important was Davidovici & Sons foundry, created in 1918 17. Initially in 1925, it had only 25 workers; it developed gradually, through technical investments and by increasing its number of workers fivefold.
Another important unit was Blum-Fainaru's Oil Refinery, which aside from diesel and paraffin produced gasoline for the aviation and automobile industries 18.
It is beyond the scope of this book to describe all the factories founded and managed by Jewish people. However, it is clear that hundreds of Jewish and Romanian workers and technicians worked in these factories.
The Jewish workers from the textile industry, tanneries and leather factories, mills and printing organizations lived mostly on Leca Street and the neighbouring areas (near the tanneries on Factories Street) as well as in the Bacau-Piatra area, all districts of poor people.
Furthermore, the economic life of Bacau was also enhanced by some of the banks founded by Jewish people. In 1919, the Credit Bank was founded as a Credit Union for the tradesmen. S. Filderman was the Central Bank's chairman of the administrative council while Aurel Negrescu was director; in 1924 the bank doubled its social capital 19. Ozias Hersovici also owned a bank. The other banking institutions that Jews were employed in were Marmorsch-Blank branch in Bacau, Small Credit Bank and The Romanian Commercial Bank.
The talented journalist Marius Mircu had the unique idea of publishing a list of all the households that existed during the interwar period on Main Street and on the central part of the Bacau-Piatra Street. Thus he painted a very authentic picture of all the trades of people living in these areas, among which were many Jews. The picture is significant for the Jewish socio-professional structure as well as for the social psychology of the era. We list here some of the existing businesses from this part of the city: The Jewish Teashop, Herman Schwartz' Viennese Tailor shop, the Moritz' Salon, acupuncture salons, the Consumption bar/restaurant, Herman Isac's Fine Restaurant, the renowned Old Grunberg for yeast; Voaleta Bacaului Milca Marcusohn, the resturant Sorbona Taica Gutman, and the bars The Fair Scale, The Riders' Junction, The White Horse etc.
A similar list of the households in Leca Street would have been as noteworthy. Unfortunately, we must rely only on the memories of those who spent their childhood on the street where many tradesmen, office workers, merchants and industrial workers lived. This was the street of the poverty-stricken Jews. Its residents spoke both Romanian and Yiddish and even though they were not very religious people, they were closer to the Jewish tradition than many of the wealthy Jews who lived in other parts of the city. Leca Street was the centre of Jewish gatherings during the Purim, when it would be become animated by the fiddlers' music. It would also become full of life in the fall holidays, when even the rich would go to Bistrita to wash off their sins by doing the Tasleh; you could see them throwing away in the river the dust from their pockets. On Leca Street, there were also sidewalk artists who would bring with them the songs of all Jewish areas. This is where the big muscled porters and carriage-drivers would organize the defence when it was known that Cuza's supporters or the green shirts intended to visit the Jews. Without being an actual ghetto it was the street that conferred them protection, a street where many Jewish and Zionist Organizations had their headquarters.
However, from time to time, there would be trouble on Leca Street, among which was the memorable fire, which immortalized Bacau in the famous quartet:
In Bacau, in BacauThe challenging life of this large number of simple people, poverty-stricken but always hopeful for a brighter future has been reflected in the works of Marcel Marcian, Mihail sabin, Al. Simion and Al. Sever. As early as the end of the First World War, the Jews realized that they had to continue fighting to obtain their civil and political rights, equal to the rest of the population. The Native Jews Union, later named The Romanian Jews Union had resumed its activity in Bacau. In 1918, the local office of the Union organized a solicitor's office committee for citizenship having 6 members, led by physician A. Brill 20. The Jews welcomed the late government approval for Jewish naturalization as well as the proclamation of the new Constitution. The Jews enlisted themselves on the naturalization lists, while the Jewish community followed closely the judicial process by which the citizenship was conferred.
In a suburb
A great, great mess
Alongside its leaders, the entire Jewish community of Bacau took part in expressing their joy regarding the unification of the country under a democratic process. However, they soon noticed that the anti-Semitic forces were opposing the democratic progression. Such anti-Jewish events, for which both high-school and university students were trained, took place in Bacau in 1922 21. During the same time, manifestos against the New Constitution were being dispersed. In 1923, also part of the anti-Semitic movement, they disturbed a show organized by some Jewish students, breaking windows and destroying some Jewish houses and stores 22.
Many more such chauvinistic acts took place in Bacau in the inter-war decades. In 1925, the Jews passing by the Public Garden were disrespected and beaten up23, while in 1927 some groups armed with clubs destroyed many Jewish districts 24and spread a hatred document called The Manifesto of the Christian National Romanian Worker's Group 25. Grigore Urziceanu, a fascist writer published many articles full of hatred, mocking the Jews who fought and died in the country's Unification War 26.
The impoverished Jews held the memory of Dr. Aroneanu who had been savagely killed in police dungeons for advocating social-democratic ideas. In the Leca district, one could hear the now famous song:
The sad children are looking up and downThe large Romanian population, preoccupied with its everyday living were estranged from the chauvinistic attitudes. In 1930, when Solo Brucar, one of the town prestigious lawyers died, stores were closed and the courthouse delayed its trials, while all his colleagues went to the funeral.
Wondering where their father has been taken
He's not coming back, not on this ground
Since Major Polter, crazy dog
Has killed Dr. Aroneanu
The direction promoted by the Romanian Jews Union (RJU), also shared by the leaders of the community in Bacau, was that Jews had to fight for obeying the laws, working in the democratic parties. They had been accepted in various parties, however without playing any important role. It is well known that the political parties of the time, instead of intensifying the democratic process, were promoting a blind policy by tolerating various antidemocratic, chauvinistic and retrograde movements. Common sense forced these parties to allow Jews to be part of the democratic life, but they only admitted this to the local authorities.
Some of the proficient Jews had enlisted on the Communal Election Party Lists; as such in 1926, there were 6 Jews enlisted on the National Labourers Party list27. Although the discrimination against Jews was quite visible, the RJU persisted in its attitude, even more so making it a priority in the Community Leadership elections. Its advocating position was also made public in the 1926 conference, led by the industrialist Ozias Herscovici, the president of Bacau's community as well as the Community's Councillor. The lawyer Eugen Manas was also part of the Community Council 28 and together with Herscovici got re-elected in 1928. The County's Council was made up of I. L. Ianovici, L. Iosup lawyer and A. I. Israilovici 29. In 1930, ten Jews were elected as members of the Community Council: Iosif Feldher, Herman Kisler, Avram Simon, Ozias Herscovici, Dr. A. Brill and others 30.
The community leaders in Bacau were encouraging the Jewish population to show their dedication for the country. As such, on National Days (May 10th, Heroes Day, and Unification Day) the Jews were called to take part in the public referendums. Should the city's administration call on its people, the Jews were encouraged to participate. As a result, in 1928 around Christmas, when City Hall had made a request to help the poor, many Jewish business made important donations: F. Klein's business, The Commercial Club through C. Braynstein and I. Iancovici, L. & L.O. Klien etc 31. As a sign of solidarity to the town's population, in 1933 the Jewish community was involved in collecting money for rebuilding the town of Marasesti, which prompted the City Hall to show their gratitude 32. Furthermore, in 1939, when the campaign for lending equipment was launched, the Jews thought they should be the first to honour it 33. During the same year, due to a great drought, the Rabbi's Office instituted a day to fast and pray for rain 34.
The numerous journalists from the local newspapers have also worked on bringing together the Jewish and Christian communities. Advocating fair resolution of the town's issues, they promoted a spirit of order, legality and responsibility, thus trying to create a lobby group favouring democracy and progress. Bernard Klein was vice-president of the Newspapers Association of Bacau; Paul Kissler-Bistriceanu editor-in-chief of Bacau's Newspaper; Emil Mititelu director of Bacau's Tribune, Roland Kaufman editor of the weekly magazine Bacau's Issues and then of The Hour. The most important local newspaper was Bacaul, which for many years was edited by M. Margulius Maragrit, I. Voldei and M. Zilberstein; a permanent columnist for this newspaper was Hary Rabinsohn. Lupu Glasman and Marius Mircu, a renowned columnist were correspondents for the central press.
It is worth mentioning here a phenomenon specific for Bacau of those times, which affected both the Romanian and Jewish population alike. We are talking about the great fires, which arose for some unknown reason quite frequently, destroying many households, usually the less fortunate ones. Bacau was famous for its great many fires and this became obvious in the folk songs the children were singing: Popovici's mill is burning and the firemen in Bacau have made it even worse. The writer Marius Marcu echoed this calamity in his works in a typical Jewish humour, emphasizing the Great Fire of 1926.
In the years following 1930, internationally, the ascension of the aggressive fascist troupes became a threatening force. Nationally, the activities of right-wing extremists amplified.
Many Jews started to see they were facing tough times ahead, when the Jewish population may itself be brutalized by fascists. In an attempt to prevent the threatening dangers lying ahead, some Jews, especially the workers, joined illegal leftist associations, taking part in factory strikes (for example, Lovingher Herman, Zisu Weingarten, Ioinovici Serena etc). Many were arrested, sentenced to many tough years in prison and later sent to prison camps (Steinbach Iosif, Leibu M. Volf, Seinstein Mali, Zisu Solomon and others). Six Jews from Bacau went as volunteers to Spain, taking part in the civil war along side the anti-Fascist forces.
To be truthful, we must mention that, although they shared RJU's attitude, which favoured their status, the prosperous leaders of the Jewish community felt the precarious attitude of this organization; they recognized its insufficiencies in front of the strengthening anti-Jewish movement. Many of them would manifest their approval of the Zionist Cult, especially in front of the Central Organizations. As far as the Jewish masses were concerned, the Zionist Movement was their only hope in creating a Jewish territory on their ancestors' land. Numerous youngsters enrolled in various Zionist organisations and began diverse Zionist spiritual & ideological preparation activities. Some of them reached Palestine, thus becoming the pioneers of creating the future Israel.
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