A completely different perspective followed the invasion of the Soviet Russian Army in June 1940. In word and print propagandists praised the great emancipator, Stalin.
Only few knew that on the day of the arrival of the Russian army, June 28, 1940 that the population still had the opportunity to follow the retreating Romanian troops to seek their safety beyond the newly drawn lines. They recoiled from the brutality of the Romanians and only few made use of this privilege.
Moreover, the majority of the population, especially the Jews, thought about an exchange of populations, in which they hoped for a regulation of the question of their real estate, business transactions, pensions, etc.
Shady people, including those of Jewish descent emerged and announced themselves as the avant-garde of the revolution. They occupied the city hall, the post office, made themselves comfortable in government buildings and divided the offices among themselves. Their reign was to last only 24 hours.
The Russian army was immediately followed by the Russian civilian administrators. The usurpers were reduced to the status of informants and denouncers. The majority of the population distanced themselves from the sad charade. They suspected what they were in for when released prisoners, mobs from the suburbs and half baked Communist youth became the advisors of the new government.
The civil administrators showed themselves in a completely different light. To them, the people and land in the newly occupied territory were something unique. They suddenly saw well clothed and good looking workers who lived in hygienic dwellings, sent their children to school and were satisfied with their lot. Influenced by propaganda they had pictured the hated capitalists and bourgeois differently. The Jews suffered the most under the measures enacted in Northern Bukovina. They were in the professions that the Soviet officials especially hated. First they had to get the blue slip, the dovidka. In the nationalized businesses, that is the businesses that the state had laid hands on the business administrator would fill out the form containing the personal information of the person seeking the pass. The administrator was a trusted person engaged by the militia who told them everything they wanted to know about the pass applicant. If the business was not nationalized the pass applicant had to get the dovidka at the Rayonstelle to which his business belonged where the resident stooges of the militia would grill the him to create a clear picture of his personality. Naturally, the pass applicant has to produce the necessary documents, most importantly, his work record, and then a permit about his occupation in the new regime. If he happily passed this procedure, then the second more difficult job followed. The applicant had to wait for days in line before the gates of the militia. If he succeeded in entering he was given a hearing by the relevant commissar, at which naturally local Communists checked the applicants specifics and checked his documents. Essentially, it was up to the Militia to determine if the applicant, before the occupation of this area by the Red Army, was a worker or a business owner, because the validity of the pass depended on this. If one luckily slipped through the meshes of this second procedure, he was almost certain that for a payment of 3 rubles per head, he would receive a pass within 24 hours. In the cases where the situation was not clear the militia would start an investigation and sometimes it took weeks to receive the pass.
In the Soviet Russian occupied former Romanian territories, there were two kinds of passes, type 39 and type 40, bad and good. The 39 pass was given to those people in the category of land owners, industrialists, bankers and business owners. The 40 pass was given to professors, teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers and workers. The holders of the bad passes were not able to find employment. If they had managed to work themselves into a company, an order from the NKWD, naturally confidential would arrive, stating that all holders of 39 type passes were to be dismissed from the business. That was by far, not the only drawback that went along with a type 39 pass. The owner of a type 39 pass could be ejected from his dwelling at any time and be dumped on the street and this occurred frequently. Generally, these people were given dwellings at the perimeter of the city.
The debt collection by the Russian State Bank was a chapter in itself in which all large and small banks in the affected city were bypassed. Amounts which long ago were redeemed and drafts which were long ago deferred were collected with the greatest inconsideration. One of the crassest examples of Soviet injustice was the claim against hundreds of citizens whose houses, a bank in an unoccupied area had held mortgages of varying amounts against. Instead of cash, this bank had given the borrowers a type of security traded on the stock exchange. This security traded at 30-40 percent of its nominal value. For example, if a borrower borrowed 1million Lei from this bank, the bank gave him a security for 1 million Lei, which however was traded on the exchange on the average for 30-40 percent of its nominal value. He received in reality not 1 million Lei, although his house was saddled with this amount, but only 300,000 to 400,000 Lei, depending on the rates at the stock exchange on the day the paper was issued. This was a long term loan to be paid off in 25-30. In the period of the occupation of the Romanian provinces the papers from this bank traded for a mere 20-25 percent of their nominal value. The Soviet Russian officials confiscated most of the houses, or as one expressed it in Communist terminology, they nationalized the private property, and installed caretakers everywhere, who regularly collected rent. Processes were brought against the former home owners for repayment of the full nominal values on the books and the most severe measures were taken to collect the debts. These debts couldn't be paid back with the securities of the bank, which barely sold for 25 percent of their nominal value on the exchange, but had to be repaid in hard cash, that is with Lei notes which stood in a ratio of 1to 40 with Rubles. The terror and anxiety of the affected Jews was limitless. The Communists seized their homes, collected the rent and demanded repayment of the debt at a rate of at least three times the effective loan. This panic was not unfounded because there was a threat of many years in jail if the loans were not completely repaid. The debtors engaged Soviet Russian lawyers, appealed to courts in Kiev and Moscow and tried to stretch out the case.
The Jewish craftsmen and small business owners tried to run their businesses without foreign help just using their own people. In spite of that they were called exploiters and treated in a corresponding manner. At first, they were hit with a high tax. They paid it even though their families had to go hungry out of fear of the arbitrary measures that the pitiless officials would take. The following tax increase exceeded the endurable. Since they couldn't pay the fantastically high sums demanded, they attempted a weak oral protest. Their names were then put on a special list. They were soon to find out what this meant.
The Health Department functioned normally. In the outpatient clinic, the sick saw doctors and received some medicines like aspirin, laxatives, etc. There were no specialists. Seriously sick people went to the infirmary.
The residents had to take care of cleaning the streets themselves since the former house superintendents as informers for the secret police were freed from menial duties. Especially oppressive was the fact that the blue police made educated people and former oppressors clean streets and shovel snow in areas which lay far from their dwellings. There was no street lighting. Only the homes of high officials and Communist big wigs received electricity.
There were long lines in front of the stores. It was sheer joy if one could grab something before it was sold out. Children and the elderly had to help by waiting in line, since the housewife couldn't get to all the stores simultaneously to make purchases. Bread was scarce and generally unenjoyable. Sugar and butter were rare. Workers could generally buy biscuits and sausage at their place of employment.
The schools were reformed in Communist style. The languages of instruction were Ukrainian and Russian. There were however two Yiddish schools in Czernowitz. The students were taught to denounce the enemies of the people, parents not being excluded, to despise religion and to honor Stalin like a god. Anything not agreeing with the Communist doctrine was despised, above all, any connection to the bourgeoisie.
Public announcements were posted in Russian which was also the official language in public offices. It didn't make the least difference to the new masters that the people didn't understand the language. Anyone who dared to ask for relief was threatened with an accusation of sabotage against the existing order. The threat was frightening because the sentences of the Soviet courts were devastating. For the most trivial offences, prison sentences of 20 years or more were handed down.
The crowning achievement of the Soviet administration in Czernowitz occurred on the night of June 13, 1941 when a large portion of the population were taken from their beds, loaded on trucks and resettled to Siberia.
The deathly silence of the city was suddenly broken by the deafening noise of trucks rattling along the streets. The population was woken from their sleep, but no one dared to turn on a light in any of the homes. There was no street in the city center that was spared. When a truck with a half dozen N.K.W.D. thugs stopped in front of a house, one knew what the inhabitants of the house could expect. The N.K.W.D. was a master of its craft. There was no hiding place or retreat which they couldn't ferret out. Neither old people, nor children were spared from deportation. Also, extremely sick people were sent into exile. It made no difference if the Medical Committee declared the subject capable of travel or not.
The deportees were divided into two groups by the N.K.G.B as follows: Group 1 consisted of criminals who had committed serious offences, like Zionists, Revisionists, Capitalists, land owners, politicians, prosperous merchants, etc. They were separated from their families and placed in various labor camps in the Teiga, mainly in the camp Ustwim which was located in the autonomous Soviet Republic of Komi, which had countless sites. The administrators of Ustwim were located in the M.K.W.D. settlement Wojaiel in Komi and the numerous sites were scattered in an area much greater than France, which however had no name and the sites were simply identified with numbers such as camp 1, 2, etc. The only way to communicate with the sites was by foot or horse or by throwing items from airplanes, since at that time there were no landing possibilities.
The second group, the Voluntary Settlers consisted of family members of the criminals and other delinquents such as small house owners, small land owners, and minor city officials from the Romanian era and so on. They were brought to Siberia as people without rights and were not permitted to live in the cities or villages. They settled mostly in the areas around Tomsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, etc.
The method of deportation was devilishly gruesome. Within a period of 1-2 hours, the unhappy victims had to say goodbye to the possessions they had accumulated in an entire lifetime and were permitted to take with them only what they could carry. That was at most, 50 kg. per person. Since they were unprepared and frozen with fright, they put trivial things in their knapsacks, while the most important objects were forgotten. Small and large tragedies were acted out. The hunt for the unfortunate people went on for three days. They were brought to the railroad station in trucks and loaded in cattle cars, 50 to a car, just like animals. Those who remained behind were able only with great difficulty to get to the station to find the cars and give the unfortunate ones something for the trip. Guards stood everywhere. The large sliding doors of the cars were closed. One could only communicate with the deportees through the small barred windows and possibly, by paying a bribe, still push through a thermos bottle or a Primus stove. It is notable that the N.K.W.D. didn't hesitate to also deport acquaintances and relatives of the subject who were by chance in his home when they made their search. Even the doors of the hospitals didn't stop them. Political suspects, who had lain sick for weeks, were given a through examination by doctors in the service of the N.K.W.D. and most often, in spite of the protests of the hospital doctors, had to follow the painful path to exile, that is to a tormented death. Families were often separated with the father traveling in one car and the wife and children in a second one.
Among the effected were former industrialists, estate owners, merchants, politicians, officials, judges, Zionists, Bund members, craftsmen who had employees in their business and various other enemies of the people.
Some of the names are: Dr. Theodor Weisselbergr (leader of the Zionist State Organization), Dr. Max Diamant, Dr. Benedikt Kasswan (President of ICHUDP), Dr. Karl Klinger (director of the Palestine Office), Dr. Salomon Kassner, Engineer Jerome Baltinester (Vice President of Maccabee), Dr. Berthold Falikman (member of the Zionist Party Council). Hermann Bianovici (Chamber of Commerce), H. Gottesmann, Chaim Engler, Simon Preminger, Jizchak Roll, Dr. Gerschon Frischwasser, Dr. Paul Katz, N. L. Segall, Max Deichsler, Druggist Dlugacz, Siegfried Singer, Dr. Josef Tau, Dr. Chaim Greif, M. Gaster, the industrialist, Jakob Krauss, Dr. Karl Kraus, Dr. Josef Kraus, Markus Weissmann, Dr. Leon Welt, Dr. Karl Gutherz, Dr. Eli Enis, Karl Rosenmann, Engineer Severin Barth, Dr. Isidor Zimmer, Dr. Markus Menczer, David Einhorn, Isak Einhorn, Wilhelm Ippen, Dr. Moses Greunberg, Isak Rosner, Mag. Alfred Glaesner, Marku Gewuerz, Moritz Bartfeld, Natan Segal, Leon Koenig, Dr. Jaques Schnee, City Council member Baumann, Dr. Max Fischer, Engineer Kressel, Dr. Emil Diewer, Jakob Rim, Dr. Artur Oberlaender, Dr. Hermann Rosner, Isidor Pachter, Dr. Albert Silbermann, Grigo Kaufmann, George Vartikovski, Dr. Jachim Greif, Dr. Badian, Dr. Gerhard Winkler, Wilhelm Schnapp, Isak Pachter, Selma Pachter, Isak Wandermann, Rosa Wandermann, Frieda Pachter.
Before they left, the deportees were forced to sign a document stating that they willingly agreed to the resettlement. After years, only a few survivors returned.
They waited in cars standing for three days in the burning sun at the freight station waiting for their companions in suffering to arrive from other cities who would also wait in the station to be shipped off.
Approximately 3,800 souls from Bukovina were sent to Siberia, among them approximately 80% Jews, mostly from Czernowitz. The deportees arrived in the region designated for them after a long trip, where mostly separated from the family members who had traveled with them, they had to perform compulsory labor. The number who perished because of cold, hunger and extremely hard labor was very high.
The few who tried to escape the long arm of the N.K.W.D. had little luck. Like bloodhounds, the N.K.W.D. hunted down those who were hidden in various retreats and drove them out. They were often successful in capturing the children and loading them on the trains, whereupon, the parents immediately turned themselves in, in order to remain with their children.
In spite of the Russian terror, there existed in Czernowitz in 1940/41 a secret Zionist organization, whose members were in constant contact with each other and especially concerned themselves with keeping people informed. Among the members were: Dr. M. Reifer, Isak Zehnwirt, Natan Boral, and Mosche Friedmann.
The war which broke out between Germany and Russia on June 21, 1941 forced the Red Army to retreat from the occupied provinces. The one year rule of the Soviets left behind deep traces of suffering among the population. Still worse days were to come for the Jews: The Antonescu-Hitler regime.
In conformance with Communist methods, the Jews in Czernowitz were shut off from the outside world and were not allowed to know the outcome of the Russian ultimatum of June 1940. In compliance with orders, the Romanians left Bessarabia and North Bukovina. Meanwhile, the Romanian officers and soldiers took revenge on the defenseless Jews as if they had caused the ultimatum.
On June 30, 1940, the troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment under the command of Major Valerin Carp withdrew from Northwest Bukovina to Falticeni. After a unit entered the village of Czudyn (District Storozynetz), at the command of the Major, the Jews Mosche Schaechter, Dr. Konrad Kreis, the Hessmann brothers, Herman Gross and his wife, daughter and grand child were shot in the center of the village. Dr. Kreis was especially brutally treated and his body was literally hacked into pieces. On the same day, a lieutenant at the head of 18 soldiers in Costina-Suceava brutalized the Jew Sucher Lax. They tied him to the tail of a horse and dragged him 3 kilometers to the end of the village. The corpse, penetrated by 20 bullets was found in a nearby forest. On July 1, 1940 Valerin Carp arrived in Saharestie in the district of Suceava. Since there was only a single Jew in the village, he ordered all the Jews in the surrounding area to gather, altogether 36 souls, among them Leon Hauser, Leib Steckl, Ira Lupovici, Nute Druckmann, Moses Haller, Bartfeld, Herer, Edelstein (mother and daughter), Dr. Gingold and had them all terribly whipped, some of them had fingers, tongues, and ears cut off. Finally, they were placed before a trench, shot and the dead together with the still living wounded were thrown into the trench. The daughter of the Major also took part in the massacre. At the order of the two legged beast, a horse cadaver was scornfully thrown in the common grave.
Encouraged by the bestiality of the troops, bands of farmers and Gendarmes committed robberies and massacres. We'll list some of the typical cases of shameless deeds committed against the Jews at that time: In Serbautz (District Suceava) the gendarme Bujica along with the farmer Hapinciuk forced their way into the home of Schmuel Geller where they found his wife Sali and Leib Elenbogen. All were murdered.
Similar crimes were committed along the entire path of the retreat of the troops.
In Comanestie (District Suceava) the Zissmann brothers were thrown out of a moving train and shot. Rabbi Leib Schaechter and two sons were tortured and murdered and the wife of the rabbi was shot while she prayed. Schlomo Merdler was killed . In Crancenie (District Radauti) the brothers Eisik and Baruch Wassermann were shot. In Adancata Mendl Weinstein, Maratiev and Strul Feigenbaum were killed. In Gaureni (District Suceava) the land owner Moshe Rudich was shot. In Liuzin-Humorului Natan Sommer was killed. In Igesti (District Suceava) soldiers and farmers murdered M. Huebner with wife and son and Josef Huebner with four children.
After the outbreak of the war between Germany and Russia, the Jews who lived in the area of North Bukovina occupied by the Russians faced a difficult dilemma. Should they remain and wait for the coming German-Romanian regime or flee to the interior of Russia? The military events moved so fast that a retreat with the Russian army became impossible for the civilian population. Already on July 5, the first Romanian patrols entered Czernowitz. The Jews quietly made preparations to receive the Romanian civil and military authorities although an official parole had not been issued by either side, because, since the soviet Russian occupation no official Jewish community had existed.
The first attempt that was undertaken by the Jewish side to demonstrate their loyalty to the arriving Romanian army failed immediately. They were forbidden by the wandering mob which had gathered around the black swastika flag, the same mob that only days before had hoisted the red flag with the Soviet star - to decorate their windows and balconies with Romanian tricolors and flags. But soon, the first cars raced through the streets carrying the German commanders into the city. There still wasn't a functioning civil administration, but one noticed on the day after the occupation, known Czernowitz Romanians, who entered the city immediately after the troops and reported that all the Jews of the city Siret had been killed by Romanian troops. They were still absorbing this terrible news when Christian messengers reported that in the access streets to the city, the murder of the Jewish population had started. Soldiers led by informants familiar with the area broke into the Jewish houses, plundered money and valuables and than shot the inhabitants. Now and then they managed to buy their lives by divulging where their remaining possessions were hidden. A military order had been issued stating that for a period of three days, one could kill Jews without fear of punishment. The first order issued by the Commanding General Petre Dumitrescu, in the name of the leader of the country, Marshall Antonescu stated that Jews could appear on the streets only between the hours of 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. The second order, issued after the three days of state condoned robbery and murder, commanded the population to peace, order and respect for the laws.
Simultaneously with the Romanian troops, the Gestapo entered Czernowitz. Their first action was to arrest the spiritual leader of the Czernowitz Jews, Chief Rabbi Dr. Abraham Jakob Mark. He was taken from his home to the temple and from there to the Hotel Black Eagle, the Gestapo headquarters where he was held prisoner for 48 hours with a few fellow sufferers. The only message he was allowed to receive in his cell was laconic, Mark, your temple is burning. And indeed, the splendid temple was going up in flames. Attempts to rescue the 63 Torah scrolls housed there were hindered by the Gestapo. Gestapo people dragged two barrels of gasoline into the temple, placed them before the altar and set them ablaze. In little time, the inner furnishings of the temple were burning. Thick clouds of smoke rose through the cupola. Masses of Romanian civilians and numerous German and Romanian soldiers was witnesses of this spectacle. Only the walls and the iron frame of the cupola remained of the once splendid building.
While brightly burning flames shot out of the temple cupola, the Gestapo was already at work. Under the leadership of their commander, Captain Finger, said to come from Eger, several streets, mainly inhabited by Jews were blocked off and all male inhabitants were taken from their homes, formed in groups and marched to the Romanian Culture House where they were subject to formal interrogations. After this short procedure, they were taken to the street, loaded on a train and brought to Bilaer-target range. Here the unfortunate ones had to dig their own mass grave. Shots in the neck in the well know German fashion finished this first transport (in which, besides the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Mark, the Chief Cantor Gurman and the Choir Director Towstein were to be found. A rapidly assembled Jewish workgroup provided the final service for the victims by closing the mass grave. Another Jewish workgroup was taken to the Jewish cemetery where they dug two mass graves. The Gestapo took no rest. A new street was blocked off. The unfortunate ones came to the same Cultur Palace, were given a short interrogation and after 7 pm were released as innocent. They were immediately shot by Romanian military patrols and the police in the surrounding streets because they had violated the rule stating that Jews were only permitted to be seen on the streets until 6 pm. One of the two mass graves was then put to use.
The killing was far from ended. One learned latter what had occurred outside of the city.
If the entrance of the Romanian and the German army units associated with them into Czernowitz meant an unbroken chain of bestialities carried out on the defenseless Jewish population, so the Jews in the surrounding areas and on the plains were to an even higher degree delivered with no hope of rescue to the uniformed murderers. They couldn't disappear in the crowds. For them there was no hiding place.
The first city occupied by the Romanians was Storezynetz. On July 4, 1941, the Jews were dragged from houses, cellars and streets and killed together with women and children. In the course of two days, approximately 200 Jews were killed, among them Salomon Drimmer, the president of the Community and his daughter in law, Jenny Drimmer. The wife of Moritz Loebl with her child in her arms together with her mother were killed with bullets in their heads. When her husband learned of the tragedy, he hung himself in the attic. Other victims were in the family of Mendl Schmelzer, Moses Jurmann, David Greif, Simon Schaefler, Schmuel Fleischer, Mrs. Siegler, Feinstein, Liebmann, Baruch Altmann, Mrs. Sonntag, Pessach Aufleger and the many unnamed. In Ropcea, the Jews were forced during a black night to go on a small bridge without railings over the Sereth and were shot as they crossed. Their corpses fell in the water. In Banila, the village inhabitants led by the Mayor Moskaliuk killed 15 Jews, among them the 80 year old blind M. Schatran. Dr. Salzberg was called to a woman in childbirth and after he helped her, he was shot. The village priest Stefanovici wanted to protest this infamous deed by not going to the church on the next Sunday. In Czudyn there were 572 victims. In Stanestie 80 Jews were shot, among them the Rabbi Friedlaender with his two sons. In Neu-Jadova, several dozen Jews were killed, among them the family of Moise Weiss. In Alt-Jadoa, Rabi Ginsberg escaped with a torn out beard and stab wounds on his head. Eli Schniter with his wife and B. Engel were shot and many girls were raped. In both Jadovas of a total of 543 Jews, only 80 who later were transported to a concentration camp, survived. In Costestie and Hlinitza of a total of about 400 Jews, only 80 survived. In Budinetz, of 8 Jews, 6 were shot, among them Isidor Berghof, the secretary of the Storozynetz Community, whose eyes were gouged out by the murderer before he was shot. In Cziresch, in addition to the Jungmann family, all the Jews were killed. In Vilavce, among the many victims were Seide Kriegsmann, Joel Kluger, Aron Burmann and son, Berl Tauber, Sissu Lax with his wife and son, H. Dermer, Steinbrecher and his wife. In Mille the mob stoned Dr. Jakob Geller, a Zionist leader who had gone there from Czernowitz to escape a threatened deportation to Siberia and his wife and daughter. The family Mehrmann consisting of 5 people was also stoned to death. 21 Jews were executed when Romanian army units entered Wiznitz on July 5. In Waschkoutz, where later a camp for 1500 Jews was built, 19 Jews, among them G. Wassermann, P. Haber, Leib Selzer and his son, Zloczower, Mechl and Joel Singer, Hans Erdreich, Moise Teller, Mendl Enzenberg and Fischl Papst were taken hostage and were shot several hours later. In Rostoki of 81 souls, merely 10 escaped the carnage, among them Dr. Stier with his wife and child, who were thought to be dead because they had lain unconscious. On July 6 in Novosielitza, of 80 Jews held prisoner in the distillery factory, 60 were taken out and shot immediately. In Czernowitz immediately after the troops marched in, more than 2000 Jews were murdered. In Sereth, the entire Jewish population, including old people, women and children (approximately 1800 people) were evacuated and interned in Krajova and Kalafat.
On August 1, 1941, the Romanian Postal Service received orders not to make any more deliveries of money or packages to Jews. The banks refused to transfer money addressed to Jews.
The above mentioned scandalous deeds represented only a small part of the dehumanizing crimes carried out against the Jews. In the framework of this article, it appears impossible to mention all of the known cases. The statistics speak louder than the words: On December 29, 1930 the official number of Jews in Bukovina was 93,101. On May 20, 1942 the number was 17,033.
On the first July days of 1941, Jewish corpses lay in the street ditches. Who would burry them? No Jew dared to go out. Also the people who died a natural death couldn't be buried. There were only a few brave souls who dared to take a corpse to the cemetery in a wheelbarrow. It was still impossible to make contact with the officials. The chaos grew from hour to hour and panic seized young and old.
The officials had firmly decided to radically solve the problem of the Czernowitz Jews. They didn't hesitate to drive Jewish orphans out of their homes, to eject Jewish mental patients from the insane asylum and Jewish sick from the State Infirmary and place them on the street. The police swept up Jews that appeared on the street and in the best case transported them to concentration camps.
Meanwhile, in Jewish circles, so called work squads were being organized, whose leaders had usually been reserve officers, who initially made contact with the police organizations from whom they received orders to put together Jewish work groups. The roll these leaders played was not always an honorable one. They were the first to get passes and also took over the job of providing food for the interned Jews. The number of Jews in forced labor numbered in the thousands. They had to do the hard work of clearing away the rubble from the buildings set on fire by the retreating Red Army and didn't even receive a half loaf of bread a day as payment. Hundreds of Jews were recruited by the German Death Group to labor on replacing the bridges that had been blown up. It was difficult compulsory labor and the workers were subject to a terrible regime of beatings. They were driven to work with an iron rod. They had to do the cleaning up work in barracks, railroad stations and administrative buildings. The overseers drove them with sadism, the like of which was hardly known. Jewish girls were forced to polish the tile floor in the railroad station with bare hands until it gleamed. Not only government officials could use Jewish workers without paying them, but also private individuals. It came to the point where every Romanian could use Jewish women and girls to clean their houses and Jewish men for heavy household work like chopping wood.
In the following period, the Romanian officials felt it necessary that in addition to the forced labor squads, a committee had to be formed which would have the task of leading the Jewish social institutions and of creating procedures to make it easier for the authorities to make use of the Jewish labor source. Dr. Octavian Strejac-Lupu, named mayor of Czernowitz in the meanwhile, commissioned the retired Jewish city doctor, Dr. Siegmund Neuberger, a Zionist from the Herzl era, to form this committee which was also to take over the political leadership of the Czernowitz Jews. Dr. Siegmund Neuberger was not completely free to choose his associates, since the authorities recommended the selection of several of the committee members. This body (with members: Heinrich Deligdisch, Georg Haller, Dr. M. Thaler, Dr. Leo Loewner, Dr. Jakob Landau, Dr. J. Mann, Arnold Zwecker, Karl Klueger, Mrs. Koppelmann-Finder and Engineer M. Schindler) was unfortunately not up to its most difficult task. The wave of pogroms in Bukovina gradually subsided, especially since the arrival of the Governor Alexander Risosanu (July 20, 1941). He came so to say after a fait accompli. The pogrom had ended. Bad news arrived simultaneously from the province, state and district of Czernowitz. The soldiers were told by their superiors not to waste ammunition. A Jew was not worth a bullet A new process of murder was instituted. Four Jews were laid on each other and killed with a single shot.
The Romanian military patrols pushed far to the north. In the territory between Waschkoutz and Wiznitz Szycz commanders from Galicia hoisted the Ukrainian national flag and declared the Ukrainian sovereignty of the territory in a gruesome way by slaughtering the resident Jews.
Also in the villages of Nepolokoutz, Iwankoutz and Juzinetz, the majority of the Jews were killed.
Thereby, approximately 7000 Jews were murdered. A hunt was opened for the survivors. They had to leave all the cities and villages in Northern Bukovina that had been occupied by the Soviets. Next, the Jews were brought from the region on the far side of the Upper Sereth to Storozynetz, their first station of suffering.
A small portion of the Storozynetzer Jewish population came to Czernowitz and was interned in the police headquarters. Thanks to an earlier good relationship to certain officials, The Police Secretary Alexander Grossar released them after three days in spite of the fact that the Gestapo Commandant, Captain Finger, wanted to personally try the Jews. They were all rescued. Those who had remained in Storozynetz were brought to the concentration camp in Waschkoutz where they remained a short time and then started on the trip to a new camp (Lujeni). Here they found fellow sufferers from the cities and villages of North Bukovina who through a miracle had escaped death. The surviving Jewish residents from Seletin, Putilla and Rostoki were taken to the camp in Wiznitz. The worst was yet to come: The march to the large Bessarabian concentration camps of Edinetz and Secureni. A trail of tears without end. Epidemics broke out and the number of dying children rose. The old and sick died on the way and were thrown into the nearest ditch. In the camps, themselves, there was a shortage of food and water. Typhus epidemics broke out. The possessions that were brought along, if not already robbed by the accompanying Gendarmes, had to be traded for food. There was neither medical help nor medicines available. All waited for the inevitable death.
The deportation continued in October 1941. Within five hours, 2650 Jews were deported from Dorna-Watra and the surrounding villages. Among the deportees from Suceava was the president of the Jewish Community Dr. Meier Teich. On October 11 toward evening, a third transport carrying deportees from Suceava stopped at the Czernowitz railroad station. The train remained for several hours while corpses were unloaded. The deportees from Suceava learned that the Czernowitz Jews awaiting later deportation were concentrated in a ghetto.
On October 13, the Jews being deported to Transnistrien from Storozynetz and other Ghettos were directed to Markulesti, where stressed by the weather and decimated by the bullets of their tormenters they arrived totally exhausted. The last train carrying Jews from Radauti and Kimpolung also arrived there.
In Radauti, Kimpolung and Suceava, 179 Jews received (earlier there were over 26,000) permission to be exempted from deportation, in Kimpolung it was 76, in the Radauti District 72, in Suceava District 3`, because they were considered essential. Among these were the only gynecologist in Radauti, Dr. Schurzer who was brought back from Ataki and Dr. Teitelbaum, who was the only dentist, also from Radauti.
On October 22, 1941, the Jews from the area surrounding Czernowitz and the villages from the Radauti district, approximately 8,000 were gathered in Czernowitz. They were then brought to Markulesti. The march was carried out under hair raising conditions. Anyone who couldn't keep up was shot by the guards. Stray dogs ran across the road with children's legs in their jaws. The groaning of the suffering could be heard from afar. Along the way lay hundreds of Jewish corpses. The Romanian Gendarmes plundered the victims. On the way from Markulesti to the Dniester several Jews were taken from the line of march and sold to farmers. The price agreed upon depended on the condition of the clothing. It ranged from 1000 to 1200 Lei. After the deal was closed, the Jew was shot, the farmer received the corpse and removed the clothing for his own use. After two days, they crossed the Dniester on a narrow bridge driven by blows from rifle stocks and sticks. Anyone who lost his balance fell in the river and drowned.
Jews were forbidden to send letters or money from Bucharest, Czernowitz and Bessarabia. Tremendous difficulties had to be overcome until the first amounts were successfully sent to Edinetz and Secureni. Everything had to be done illegally.
In Czernowitz itself, the persecution of the Jews continued under the eyes of the Police Commissioner, Dr. Paul Abramovici. The police commandeered everything that fell into their hands. Jews were required to give up their radios and telephones. The Jews were forced to clean the streets. They did this with dignity for weeks. One saw among the street cleaners, former members of the Romanian Parliament, high judicial functionaries, doctors, professors, private officials, merchants, clerks and workers. The encroachments of the police increased from hour to hour. Jews who dared to wait for bread along with Christians were cruelly driven out of the line by whip blows. It often occurred that farmers from the suburbs, supported by the police would drag Jewish women and girls out of these lines into their bars and make them work until late into the evening without giving them anything to eat.
A legal basis was created to justify the defamation and disenfranchisement of the Jews of Romania. The government of Marschall Antonescu decreed a new constitution for the land which had as a basis the Nuremberg Jewish laws. Engaging in the professions was almost completely forbidden. This harked back to the provisions of the old Romanian Jewish laws. Jews were forbidden to own or administer estates. Practicing the profession of attorney was forbidden inclusive of category II. In this category fell all those whose ancestors were granted citizenship by the prince/king (Carol I.) with concurrence of both houses of Parliament and the widows and orphans of all those Jewish soldiers who died or served with distinction in the War of Independence. This small group was only marginally effected by the Jewish provisions of the new constitution. As if the Nuremberg laws weren't by themselves hard enough, the governor of Bukovina received in addition to them, special privileges concerning the further striping the Jews of the province of their rights. The old Jewish law of Romania was put aside and the Association of Jewish Communities was disbanded. The Jewish Central of Romania was created and in the District Cities of Romania, the District Jewish Offices fell under its purview. In addition to these offices, there were also the Jewish Communities which had their own sphere of influence and which could only communicate with the officials by way of the Jewish Offices which usually consisted of three members. Communications between the District Jewish Offices and Jewish Central could only be carried out through the District Prefecture. Only Jewish Central had the power to choose the members of the District Jewish Offices and the responsible authorities reserved the right to ratify these choices. The highest authority in deciding the questions concerning Romanian Jews was a Jewish Department created by the Minister President at whose head stood the already named Government Commissioner for Jewish Affairs, Radu Lecca. This office was later attached to the Ministry of Work. The office of president of Jewish Central was offered to various Jewish personages in Bukovina, who declined it because they didn't want to be misused as a tool for advancing the plans of the government. Finally Senator H. Streitmann was named as chairman and Dr. Med. Nador Gingold who had long ago converted was named general secretary. Gingold managed to get rid of Streitmann and took over both offices. Jewish Central had a certain autonomy concerning taxes, synagogues, school administration as well as social welfare. Jewish Central was also permitted to make suggestions concerning emigration. The first measure the Bukovina Jewish Central took was to dissolve the Zionist organizations in the whole of Romania as well as confiscating all their assets. The first great service which the Jewish Central along with its subordinate district offices performed for the government was the census of Jews and the result of this work carried out by a large organization could be expressed in a concrete number: 287,000 Jews in all of Romania. At the outbreak of the war approximately 900,000 Jews lived in Romania. Of this number, the 150,000 who lived in the territory of Siebenbuergen which was ceded to Hungry by the Vienna arbitration must be discounted. There remained in Romania, therefore approximately 750,000 Jews. These were divided into: Bessarabia with 280,000, Old Romania with 250,00, Bukovina with120,000 and the part of Siebenbuergen which remained with Romania, 100,000 Jews. After the pogroms and deportations, there were 463,000 less Jews in Romania. That is the sad balance of the persecution of Jews under the regime of the state leader Jon Antonescu.
In response to the monstrous persecution which the Jewish population had to suffer, the Jewish leadership was not able to take any public position. All Jewish newspapers were shut down and the Jewish journalists were shut out of the press syndicate. Only the Gazeta Evreeasca was allowed to appear as the official gazette of the Jewish Central. All attempts undertaken by the Jewish leadership to get friendly influence rich Romanian circles to exercise some positive influence on the progress of events, failed at the onset. Events continued on the course set by the laws passed in 1940. The farms confiscated from the Jews were given to the newly created Romanization Office which leased them to favorites of the government at low rates. Members of the Iron Guard were given preference. The factories started up again. The former owners and workers were taken back in and given the strict task with the unequivocal final goal of training Christian workers within a given period to be capable of taking the factory over and making it Judenrein (free of Jews). These Jewish workers and officials were commandeered by the Work Office and confirmed by the Romanization Office and so to a certain degree were protected from deportation. Those who became superfluous and were dismissed were put on the list of Jews to be deported and were sooner or later sent to Transnistrien. The Jewish workers had to give 30 percent of their low wages to the Romanization Office and then pay taxes, so that no more than 60 percent of their wages remained, an amount that was far under the minimum needed to exist.
Still another institution concerned with seizing Jewish assets was created; the Patronage Office directed by the governor of Bukovina himself. Among other tasks, this office was in charge of caring for war casualties. It managed farms confiscated from Jews, built infirmaries and sanatoriums and forced the Jews to put up the necessary funds. Jews worked in the individual departments of this office for months without receiving the least compensation for their work. As long as they were carried as workers for this office they were immune from deportation. If they were dismissed, they were immediately added to the feared deportation list.
The regime was hardest in the province of Bukovina. It was considered as Bolshevik and had to be sanitized at all costs. The Jews had to pay the bill. It fairly rained anti-Jewish laws and decrees. This province had already been ill-reputed as contaminated by Jews. The regime concerned itself with breaking the intellectual and economical position of power held by the Jews. The Jews were forbidden under the Antonescu Regime to conduct any kind of business or commerce. The Jewish children couldn't attend any school in Bukovina because the officials wouldn't give the necessary approval. The Jews were even forbidden to attend religious services on the High Holidays. Those who dared to secretly gather in Catacombs to hold services were usually ferreted out by police agencies, arrested, driven through the streets to police headquarters and after a hearing, many times were turned over to a military court for judgment. These were mainly old people who no ordnance could force to give up their group prayers. Especially during Saturdays and on holidays, they were seized during their prayers and subjected to the punishment of earthly judges. Manly and proud with glowing faces, wrapped in their prayer mantels they walked, flanked by police, insulted by the gaping mob to the tribunal where they were to be judged. Also concerning the question of nourishment, the government acted to the detriment of the Jews. They had to pay twice as much as the Christian citizens for bread of the same quality and weight. The market only opened to them after the Christian population had satisfied its needs. For the most part, Jews could only get food at black market prices. If they were caught by the police paying over the maximum price they were subjected to the most severe punishment dictated by the law. They even observed the dwellings to prevent farmers from delivering agricultural products to Jews in their homes. Jews were only allowed to leave their houses in the time span from 10 AM to 1 PM under the condition that they made their purchases in the market place from 10 to 12 and in local stores from 12 to 1.
These regulations were most severely enforced and infractions were punished by internment in concentration camps. Only those Jews who were employed in individual Romanian business, could on the basis of passes issued by the business and validated by the police move freely outside the fixed hours, whereby it had to be expressly stated in the pass to where they were going and for how long they would be out.
Control was made easy for the officials. Already in the first weeks after the retaking of Bukovina, Governor Alexandro Riosanu decreed (July 30, 1941) that all Jews must wear the yellow Star of David on a visible place. The sides of the triangle had to be 6 centimeters long and the surfaces must be placed symmetrically over one another. This yellow mark was intended to make the Jews everywhere clearly recognizable and to subject them to the arbitrariness, tricks and crude instincts of the population. Invalid soldiers particularly distinguished themselves in this respect, often attacking and mishandling Jews. The police regularly took the opportunity to arrest Jews and extort money from them for supposedly concealing the star. Following this, General Calotescu, who became governor after Riosanu's death decreed on the advice of his Cabinet Director, Major Stelian Marinescu, that all Jews had not only to wear the star on their outer clothing, but also on their inner clothing (both were sentenced to death by the Bucharest People's Court in
1945. This punishment was changed to life imprisonment by the king. The aim was to make Jews clearly recognizable by the yellow blotch even when they took off their outer clothing. Jews were forbidden to seek public office and further, Romanians, especially lawyers were prohibited from intervening with the officials to aid Jews.
Soon new accusations were manufactured against the Jews. They were accused of carrying on whisper propaganda and an order was given that no more than three Jews could gather together on the street. If eventually a fourth joined the group, they could all be arrested.
The Jewish pensioners were especially hard hit. In Bukovina, for approximately two years the government refused to pay their pension. They had to sacrifice a lot of money, averaging 7 to 8 months payments until they were able to again enjoy the payments that they were entitled to by law. The path to getting back their pension was not easy. They had to obtain a document from the police stating that they had remained loyal to the Romanian people during the Bolshevik occupation. Then began the thorn filled road that had to be plastered with banknotes in order to lead to success. In spite of this, they were not successful in recouping the payments owed them for the year of Russian occupation.
These strict measures were chiefly carried out in Bukovina. All attempts made in Czernowitz to ease the situation foundered on the stubborn ideology of the Iron Guard to which the governor of Bukovina, General Corneliu Calotescu held to for his entire time in office. Only on the basis of the memorandum of December, 1943 to the Swiss ambassador, deWeek in Bucharest and to the delegate of the Geneva Red Cross in Bucharest, D. Kolb and the memorandum from the leader of the Jews of the Old Kingdom, Wilhelm Fildermann to the Deputy Minister President, Mihai Antonescu
was the decree concerning the wearing of the gold Star of David lifted on January 26, 1944. Naturally, there was no lack of protests from leading Romanian personages who saw in the removal of the yellow fleck an insult to the dignity of the Romanians of Bukovina. At the head of the bestial Jew haters marched the chairman of the Romanian Culture League, Constantin Loghin and the president of the Czernowitz Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Octavian Voronca as well as the director of the Czernowitz State Hospital, Dr. Nandris. This Culture League played a significant roll during the whole period of the persecution of the Jews. They were the ones who in the name of Romanian culture and civilization urged the officials to wipe out the Jews. They were the ones behind the closing of the prayer houses and who prevented the opening of the schools. They influenced the official government organ, Buconiva and made sure that regularly printed inflammatory articles fanned the flames of the people's rage.
Another measure taken in October, 1941 against all the Jews of Romania should be mentioned. The decree stated that all the Jews of Romania had to deliver clothing, underwear, shoes, hats and caps in proportion to their tax obligation. This debt could also be absolved with a corresponding amount of cash. This decree hit the entire Jewish population very hard since the clothing items demanded represented a great value and because of the war could not be replaced. In Bukovina, the population had to give up many of their valuable possessions. Eventually, they had to provide any carpets they owned for the Governor's reception room and also provide for the private wishes of the insatiable Cabinet Director Major Marinescu. The Jewish District Office, played as already mentioned the roll of executive organ for all wishes and demands of the authorities. At its head stood the former judge Otto Plitter, H. Fekler and J. Schattner. Hand in hand with the reprisals against the Jews went the process of making the Jewish masses miserable. Only a small number were allowed in business, but under such conditions that it was impossible to make a living. The larger part of the Jewish population was living from their last means. Therefore, the number of Jews that turned to the Community for help grew from day to day. Toward the end of 1941, in place of the aforementioned committees to care for the the Jewish institutions (infirmary, orphanage, old people's home and mental hospital). the District Council was named and the Jewish Community was reactivated.
In addition, there was one other support organization for the poor Czernowitz Jews, under the leadership of Dr. Nachman Denker and Dr. Ludwig Dische who directed seven people who concerned themselves with the affairs of the Community. The organization started a canteen which daily provided the poorest with warm soup and bread. The canteen was run by Prof. Josef Chussid and Prof. Dr. H. Sternberg among others. Plitter maintained contact with Mayor Dimitrie Gaidosch, a former judge, who was very different from his predecessor, Mayor Popovici. To keep him in a good mood, the Jews were pressed to give their last carpets, cushions, linens and underwear as voluntary contributions, supposedly for the aforementioned Patronage Office.
In the years 1940 to 1944 there was a Jewish underground movement which accomplished a great deal. A Transnistrien support was organized in which Dr. Hermann Scaerf, Feiwel Eifermann and Hermann Neumeier did outstanding work. Simon Eisenberg contributed 1,000,000 Lei to the Winter Clothing Action. One sought and made contact with the Central in Istanbul, the Joint Committee in Geneva, and the Jewish Factors in Bucharest. From July 5, 1941 to September 1942 came aid money in the sum of 35,000 Lei monthly and after that it reached 65-95,000 Lei. In October, 1943 it was 300,000 Lei monthly. The rescue fund which was obtained from various sources finally accumulated 6,000,000 Lei.
In October, 1942 a secret Zionist conference took place. Various ways of helping were discussed and a committee was appointed to carry them out. The Chairmen were Engineer Michael Schindler and Simche Eisenberg. Moshe Friedmann was secretary. Also, an Action Committee with 10 members and a Party Council with 15 members were set up. Since further meetings were not possible in view of stool pigeon activity of the Gestapo and other security organizations the committee restricted its work to acquiring activists. New members were Karl Klueger, Feiwel Eifermann, Dr. Nachman Denker, Josef Wronski and Siegmund Sternberg among others.
Czernowitz women, among them Josefine Horowitz, Klara Klinger and Gusti Weich telegraphed a plea to Marschall Antonescu to spare the lives of children, old people and pregnant women. In cooperation with Markus Gold (Bucharest) Simche Eisenberg, Josef Wronski, Jizchak Zehnwirt and Dr. Karl Guttmann worked with great success in the help effort for Polish refugees. Parallel with the mass murder of Jews continued the rescue attempts. Since the middle of 1942, the Romanian government prohibited the departure of ships from any port in the country. A group of Olim (emigrants to Israel), 79 men and women waited for many months in the Danube harbor of Tulcea to be rescued by the chartered wooden ship Peskarus. The Central Council negotiated with the Istanbul Central. Next, they considered building small ships in Turkish ship yards which were to enter Romanian harbors under foreign flags, but in Bucharest the usefulness of such a measure was doubted. The sinking of the Struma with its human freight was still a living memory. Finally it was decided to lead the refugees out through Bulgaria. For a great sum of money, the ships Martiza and Milka were chartered and the route from Constanta to Istanbul was decided upon. Similarly, the ship Symnra lying in Braila harbor was rented and overhauled for aliyah (emigration to Israel) purposes. At the initiative of the Czernowitz Zionists, it was arranged by the Istanbul Central that in Bucharest, the aliyah of Jews from Czernowitz and Transnistrien should be given priority. For this purpose 200 free places were requested for the Czernowitz Jews, but Bucharest only set aside 60, so many Zionists and youth were left behind. The Red Cross tried to intervene with the Romanian Government in Bucharest for permission to allow aliyah to Eretz Israel, but without success. Then the president of the Romanian Red Cross, Mrs. Costinescu, had the idea to cut the Zionist organization out of the loop and to appeal to Antonescu to let orphans from Transnistrien travel on the Bulgarian ship Blaschitza to Eretz Israel. This time Antonescu agreed. Also, non-orphans who could pay for the trip were allowed to go. There followed transports of children, some of which despite secrecy, had an unhappy end. Toward the end of 1944, the Turkish ship, Cazbeck, already chartered in April with 730 passengers aboard, arrive in Istanbul. In the early days of August, 1944 after Turkey had already broken off its connection to Germany, three more ships were being prepared in Constanta. They were the Bulbul with about 400 passengers, the Morina with over 300 passengers and the small ship Mefkura with 300 refugees and 60 children from Transnistrien which was sunk by a German U boat in the Black Sea. Only five of the refugees were rescued.
Now began a secret correspondence between the Jewish leaders in Bucharest (Dr. Fildermann, Dr. Zissu and Dr. Benevenisti) and the Central in Istanbul. Also, in order to rescue Jews, contact was taken up with parachutists and partisans. Couriers who were bribed however gave photocopies of the letters entrusted to them to the Gestapo. Things took a bad turn. In Bucharest in 1944, the lawyers Wilhelm Fischer, Mischu Benevenisti, Jakob Rosenzweig, Fuchs, Dr. Schmiel Enzer and many others were arrested as millions of Russian soldiers were approaching and the Gestapo people disappeared. With the deposing of Antonescus, came a palpable feeling of relief.
The general need of the Jewish population caused the leading Jews in Bucharest, mainly Bukovina Jews to start a help action for their Landsleute (countrymen). At the head of this committee which did a notable job in helping Bukovina Jews was the industrialist Berthold Sobel. He gave large sums of his own and in addition collected millions of Lei, which he gave to the Jewish population at critical hours. Thanks to his personal efforts and those of his fellow workers it was possible for the Jewish Communities to preserve their institutions and even to create new ones (tea and warm rooms). The most important members of this valuable committee were among others: Dr. S. Bibring, Z. Wolf, Salo Schmidt, Nathan Klipper, Dr. Chaim Gelber, Dr. Bernhard Tauber, Joachim Landau, Isidor Schwarz.
To the many monstrous injustices that the Jews were subject to belonged the practice of evacuating them from their own and rented homes. The system was simple. Every Romanian had the right to demand a home in which Jews lived and the inhabitants had to leave within 3 to 5 days. The authorities had no obligation to provide a new home for the Jews. Within the framework of the general Rental Office, a so called Jewish Rental Office was formed at the suggestion made by the Jewish District Office and approved by the authorities.
In conclusion, it can be said in connection with the Antonescu-Calotescu regime, that concerning the Jewish question, they were true scholars of their great teacher in the German Reich.
The Nuremberg laws fell on fertile ground during the regime of the leader Ion Antonescu and found their concrete expression in the annihilation of two thirds of Romania's Jewry.
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