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[Page 84]

Vatra Dornei
(Romania)

47°21' / 25°22'

Translation of chapter
“Dorna-Watra” from Volume II:

Geschichte der Juden in der Bukowina

Edited by: Dr. Hugo Gold

Written by: Prof. Dr. H. Sternberg, Tel-Aviv

Published in Tel Aviv, 1962

Translated by:

Jerome Silverbush


This is a translation of the chapter “Dorna-Watra”, Geschichte der Juden in der Bukowina
{History of the Jews in the Bukovina} Edited by: Dr. Hugo Gold,
Written by: Prof. Dr. H. Sternberg, Tel-Aviv, Published in Tel Aviv, 1962


Dorna-Watra in contrast to Dorna Kandreny in Southern Bukovina was for many years the last station on the Bukovina local train that ran from Hatna to Gura Humorului to Kimpolung1. The situation of the town in a mountain valley where the Dorna river joined the Goldene Bistriz and on the old trading route that ran from Siebenbuergen to Suceava was favorable to its growth.

I. The History of the City

One assumes tat the name Dorna goes back to the Roman colony Docirina in the Daker realm. If this assumption is correct, then on this spot there was an ancient settlement whose name was Latinized by the Roman conquerors. It is not know if Jews lived there in those early days but it can not be ruled out, since it is known that after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans many Jews fled to the Daker realm. Dorna was a rest station for business travelers going from Siebenbuergen to Sucidava (later Suceava). In the 14th and 15th centuries Jewish caravans were documented on this route. They traveled out of Poland, through Chernivtsi and Iasi with permission of the Moldavian princes and on to the Black Sea and with the same goal from Hungary over Bistriz-Dorna-Vama and Suceava. On Sabbath, the Jewish merchants stopped to rest in towns where they could find Jewish hostels and kosher food. If Dorna was one of these towns is not known to us. During the period of the spread of Ottoman rule over southern Europe, because of the disruption of war, long distance trade was halted. Turkish businessmen came to the towns and villages and as masters of the land, brutally wiped out any competition. We first hear about Jewish settlements in this area in the 17th century. These were probably the 15 villages in the district of Kimpolung and without a doubt, Dorna-Watra (Vatra-Dornei) was among them2). In Kimpolung in 1774, there were 9 Jewish families with 45 souls. Two years later, there was a small increase. Even after the occupation of Bukovina by the Austrians (1775), the Kimpolung district enjoyed certain privileges. However, the anti-Semitic government in Vienna enacted laws that forced restrictions on the Jews. In 1803, 6 Jews who were not involved in farming were deported3. The few Jews who lived in Dorna-Watra shared the fate of the Bukovina Jews. The Jews contributed greatly to the blossoming of the settlement which thanks to its carbon dioxide rich springs became a favored spa town. According to the census of 1880, 4944 of the 3980 inhabitants of the town were Jewish. They belonged to the KultusgemeindeA of Kimpolung which in 1859 had asserted its independence from the main Jewish community in Suceava5. Since 1896, the Jews of Dorna-Watra had their own community6. The Jewish population increased dramatically. The population of the inner city was approximately 80% Jewish. In 1910, Vatra Dornei and the surrounding area had a total population of 15,529 people of whom, 19257 were Jewish. Even under Romanian rule after 1918, at first, no restrictions were placed on the Jews in the exercise of their rights. The last count set the number of Jews at 17638. Dorna-Watra was still a spa town with a tourist industry whose basis was the Jewish element. The gradual worsening of conditions for Jews in Romania also affected the Jews of Dorna-Watra. After the annexation of the Northern part of Bukovina by the Russians in 1940, many Jews fled to Dorna, but soon moved on. Also the native Jews couldn't escape the wave of destruction in WWII. Far removed from the central government, they suffered under a corrupt, out of control local administration. Finally, the bitter end also caught them up. Only a few could rescue themselves and some of these found a new home in Israel.

II Trade and Commerce in Dorna

The position of city Dorna at the “Three Country Corner,” where Austria, Romania and Siebenbuergen (which was one of the countries under the Hungarian crown) was very favorable to the development of trade during the Austrian period. The trade was almost entirely in Jewish hands. The main branch of trade was the lumber business.

The cutting of the forests belonging to the Orthodox Church as well as the sawmills and the export business was controlled by individual Jews or firms in which the Jews played leading rolls. Even under Romanian rule, there was little change in this situation. Among the lumber companies were the firm “Moldova,” Schaje Pistiner, the Schieber brothers, Jakob Druckmann and the sawmill of Mosses Paecht and Aharon Katz. Among the industrialists Nathan Klipper was an important figure. The Jews were also strongly represented in the clothing business. All the tailors were Jews, the same with the majority of plumbers and shoemakers. The only book printer business in the town was the Jew Pinkas Rosenstrauch and it later belonged to the Schaffer brothers.

The fact that the town was a popular spa during the Summer was important to the hotels and small businessmen. Trade with groceries and delicatessen blossomed. Well known were the firms Sachter, Paecht, Rauchwerger and Goth (groceries), Siegmund Wolfer and David Schmidt (hardware). Jews were also represented in the hotel business. Even the casino owned by the Church was leased for many years by a Jew (Star). During the peak season, there were not enough restaurants and cafes and there were many Jewish “take out restaraunts” which enjoyed a large clientele. Many hotels were owned or leased by Jews .including the Kommunalhotel whose lessee was Mathias Neumann, the Zentral hotel leased by Faust and Drach, the Runkhotel, and Hotel Habsburg owned by Nachum Braunstein. The visitors also stayed in private Jewish houses. Almost every Jewish family rented free standing furnished rooms in the Summer months to earn a supplementary income.

In the last two decades before the outbreak of World War I, the spa experienced its greatest success. The visitors were mostly Jews from Chernivtsi, Kolomea, Stanislau and also some from Lemberg, Vienna, Romania and Bessarabia. The Austrian government encouraged the expansion of the spa facilities. A monumental Kurhaus (spa hotel) was built and the management of the Bukovina Local Railroad Company built a station hotel. The old wooden bridge over the Dorna, which flowed through the center of the town was replaced with a new one built with iron girders. The grand spa park with the manicured walks and the graceful spring houses were a special attraction9. The Jews Schloime Pistiner, Jankel Druckmann, and Meschulem Druckmann sat on the city council. The cosmopolitan spa life, that with every year became more luxurious, would have been unthinkable without the Jewish element. The Jews alone recognized the economic value of the tourist industry and developed it for their own benefit and the benefit of the entire population. Jewish doctors gave the mineral baths a distinctive stamp. The most well known names are: Kaiser's Advisor Dr. Loebel, Dr. Antler, Dr. Bergmann, Dr. Blechner, Dr. Bronstein, Dr. Druckmann, Dr. Gottlieb, Dr. Greif, Dr. Antonie Gruenfeld (gynecologist), Dr. Hart, Dr. Scheid, Dr. Wohl. The pharmacists and even the personnel in the baths were partly Jewish. The dentist Mohr was well known.

Also among government officials and in the professions, there were many Jews. Employed in the district court were the Jewish judges Rubinsohn, Drach and Wender, the officials Rubin, Pollak, Gershon Greif and the veteran keeper of the property registration books, Kessler. In the tax office, the Jew H. Kassner was employed. The Jewish lawyers were Dr. Gabriel Hauslich, Dr. Lipowitz, Dr. M. Dollberg, Kessler, Dr. Hochstaedt, E. Koenig, Dr. F. Schaffel, Dr. Isidor Hauslich, Dr. A. Langhaus, Dr. S. Rubinger, Dr. M. Rosenstrauch. The Jew Schattner directed the post office, Two of the postal officials were F. Salzinger and Max Frucht.

It doesn't have to be mentioned that the bank and lending institutions were Jewish. Some names were : the Drach bank, the bank of the Schieber brothers, a branch of the Chernivtsi bank (Banca Comerciala) directed by Konsul Luttinger, and branches of the Hypothekenbank and the Socominbank

III Community Life

a) The Community
After separating from the Kimpolung community to which the Jews of Dorna had belonged for many years, they formed their own community10. The spiritual leader was Rabbi Fraenkel, followed by the rabbis Margosches (father and son). President of the community was Jakob Antschel who held this office until 1914. During the First World War, Leib Arje Hauslich with an advisory council was the interim leader of the community. The next presidents of the community were: Meschulem Druckmann, Jakob Druckmann, Jakob Schieber and since 1931, lawyer Dr. Moses Dollberg. Dr. Dollberg was vice president for 10 years and then president for 10 years. Members of the executive committee were: Isak Rosner, Abraham Bronstein, Schmaje Pistiner, Salomon Kohan, Isak Paecht, Moses Resch, Israel Jakob, the leader of the Chewra Kadischa (burial society), Efraim Fleischer. Pinkas Rosenstrauch was the arbitrator of the Kranken-Unterstuetzungsverine (organization that cares for the sick) The community secretary was Benjamin Ellenbogen. In 1914 the community had a budget of 16,398 Austrian crowns. There were three support organizations for the needy, including one for women and two loan organizations to satisfy the need for credit of businessmen with no means11. There was a large synagogue in the city that was built around the turn of the century. The land for the synagogue was contributed by the Orthodox Church. Occasionally, lectures were held in the synagogue dealing with Zionism or other Jewish nationalist themes. To satisfy religious needs there were two smaller prayer houses, the “Wiznitzerschul” and the “Handwerkerschul.” The Zionists would occasionally have services in the Hebrew school building.

b) Education
In the general 6 class Volksschule (elementary school) and later in the state gymnassium, Jewish children were admitted for a long time, but the Zionistic oriented members of the community built a Hebrew school using private funds that was subsidized by the community. Even earlier, a committee headed by engineer Josef Tischler had founded a Hebrew school, probably the oldest in the land. The school in Dorna-Watra was directed by Ascher Barasch, q well known Hebrew author, who passed away in Tel-Aviv in 1951. He was followed by the teachers Jakob Feldmann and Meir Alberton. Jehoshua Weisselberg, a member of the community ran the Konzessionserteilung (issuing of concessions?) at the Bucharest Zentralstellen (central location?). Adults could study Hebrew in evening courses. There were also evening courses for apprentices.

c) The Zionist Movement
There was an active Zionist life in Dorna-Watra. The younger generation was especially attracted to Zionist ideas. Shortly after the First Zionist Congress, Markus Retter, a highly educated person established a Zionist society in Dorna, one of the first to be created in Bukovina. The Zionist idea took fire. In the first days of its existence, the society attracted a goodly number of members. The founder took the helm and until the outbreak of World War I lead the organization with a lively propaganda for Zionism. During the war the activity of the society ceased. Around 1932, two more organizations came into existence, Poale Zion (labor section of the movement) lead by Mayer Alberton and Jeshajahu Lackner and Misrach Zion.

More than any other, Israel Biber was ceaselessly active. The modest man affected all who came in contact with him with a “suggestive” influence. In addition to him, the following people were considered conscientious and leading Zionists: Dr. M. Dollberg and Pinkas Hilsenrad from the “Emunah” (Chernivtsi), Leon Hauslich, Zwi Essner, David Schmidt, the leader of the Misrach group, the Schaffer brothers, Mathias Neumann, Jehoshua Weisselberg, Jakob Schieber, Mendel Schieber, Adolf Katz, Adolf Rosenwald and so on.

The well known leader of Poale Zion movement in Bukovina, Dr. Meier Rosner lived in Dorna-Watra. Money was diligently collected for the Zionist fund. In 1942, Leon Hauslich and the women's organization, Ruth gave 100,000 Lei12 to the organization Zion. In 1927, the local branch of the Federation of Zionist Women was inscribed in the “Golden Book” of the KKL. The ladies Klara Neumann-Dachner and Mizzi Gelernter-Schieber distinguished themselves in the Jewish culture organization, Sinai which was lead by the gentlemen Biber and Hauslich. Some fellow workers were: Klara Neumann-Moskowitz and Hilda Paecht-Jablonower. In addition to many others, Mendl Gottlieb, Dr. Isidor Auerbach, Schmuel Aba Schaechter and Lazar Herling were members of the organization. Wizo which had 14 branches in Bukovina was also represented. The last presidents were the women, Cilla Dollberg and Sofie Gottlieb. The first chairperson of the Zionist Society was Markus Ritter. The society was founded around 1900. From 1918 to 1928, Israel Biber was president. Intermittently this position was held by Isidor Blum, Jakob Feldmann (died in Transnistrien), Pinka Hilsenrad and Dr. M. Dollberg. Jakob Antschel was at the head of the Jewish National Society. The Woman's Aid Society, Ruth was lead for many years by Mrs. Reisl Schafer. There was also a schmorerorganisation in Dorna-Watra.

IV The End

The disaster that overtook the Jews of Bukovina in 1940 didn't spare the Jews of Dorna-Watra. As early as 1938, when the government of Goga Cuza came into power, the situation of the Jewish population of the city had become precarious. The Jews, relatively small in number compared to the total population of the city were delivered defenseless to the criminals of the “Iron Guard.” An event that took place on November 9, 1940 illustrates the situation: The concession of the two Jewish book dealers in the city, Simon Landau and S. Zimmet was suddenly withdrawn without any reason offered and they were ordered to hand over their shops with all the stock to the Legionnaire, Paulescu, a brother of the mayor and to a man who had just arrived from Bucharest13.

The statistical data presented at the Jewish World Congress in 1947 gave witness to the changes that occurred within a few years. In 1930, 1737 Jews lived in Dorna-Watra which had a total population of 7759. In 1941 out of 8217 inhabitants, 2029 were Jewish. In 1942, after the deportation to Transnistrien ordered by Germany and carried out by Antonescu there were only 21 Jews left. The rest had been wiped out by German and Romanian murderer bands or fallen victim to the deportation. According to information provided by M. Carp, the number of Jews deported from Dorna-Watra and the surrounding villages was 2650.


1. The last stretch from Valea Putnei to Dorna-Watra was finished on October 23, 1902. During World War I, the Austrian army for strategic reasons extended the line to Bistritz. Back

2.  The inhabitants of this region suffered greatly from the repeated attacks by barbarians during the middle ages .During times of war all commerce ceased. Only after the Hungarian King Ludwig (1342-1382) drove back the Tartars, did the caravan trade in which Jewish businessmen participated, blossom. Refer to Vol. I, p. 9 Back

3.  Vol. I, p. 30 Back

4. Vol. I, p. 46 Back

5.  Vol. I, p. 48 Back

6.  Vol. I, p. 49 (Ordinance of the Ministry for Religion and Education of June 26, 1891, regional law summary 1891, No. 17) Back

7. Result of the census. Back

8.  Vol. I, page 156 (Vereine (association?) IV) The picture shows the Falkenhainquelle ( falcon grove spring) The gentleman in the center is the mayor of Chernivtsi, Dr. Salo von Weisselberger. Back

9.  The statute was similar to that of the other 14 communities because of the ordinance of the Ministry for Religion and Education. Back

10. Contributed by Dr. N. M. Gelber, Jerusalem. Back

11. Vol I, p. 105. Back

12. List of the Vertrauensmaenner (confidential people?) who on January 30, 1924, were delivered to the main office through the Landessammelstelle (regional collection place?) Back

13. According to a report by M. Carp : Breviar pentru Cartea neagra Vol III (1941, p. 131)Back

A. Translators note: As dictated by the Austrian government, all towns with a Jewish population over a certain number were organized as a “Kultusgemeinde” or religious community. I simply use the term “community.” Jews in small villages were attached to the Kultusgemeinde of a large nearby town. The community was administered by two comities, the Kultusvorstand and the Kultusrat whose members were elected by the tax paying members of the community. The community would collect its own taxes to support a rabbi and other religious needs. The community also had a president and a vice president. Back



During a period in which documents were intentionally destroyed or lost by chance, eye witness accounts are especially important. Many details in this essay are directly attributable to Mrs. Clara Dachner (Tel-Aviv) Mr. Pinkas Hilsenrad (Rischon-le-Zion) for which we owe them many thanks.

Prof. Dr. H. Sternberg (Tel-Aviv)

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