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Iasi (cont.)

Between Two World Wars

The Organization of the Kehillah; The Zionist Movement; Cultural Life; Persecution of the Jews

The Organization of the Kehillah After World War I, the Kehillah reorganized itself. During the war, several Jewish institutions were destroyed: the school(s,) the hospital, and the old peoples' home. The Jews of Iasi faced severe welfare problems. During the summer of 1919, a few maskilim and leaders of institutions tried to renew the activity of the Jewish institutions and summoned their representatives, including the synagogues' lay officials. They elected a provisional council, which drafted the Kehillah's regulations. On November 9th of the same year, the first Jewish leaders of the Kehillah were chosen.

In 1927, a new committee was elected and the ministry of religion approved the Kehillah's regulations. That same year, the Kehillah received formal approval in keeping with the new laws pertaining to religion. Three years later, elections were held with candidates chosen from a unified list representing all parts of the community. A representative body headed the Kehillah, composed of committees reporting to it for education, culture economic, social problems, and religious affairs, In 1937, the budget of the Kehillah was 6 million Lei, but this sum was not sufficient for all their needs. The activities of the Kehillah's leaders were made difficult by the opposition of other institutions, which continued guarding their independence.

During the period between the two World Wars and during World War II, the rabbi who served in Iasi was Dr. Yoseph Safran. Other rabbis worth mentioning were: Rabbi Shalom, son of Rabbi Israel Gutman (b. 1867), the author of the books, “Drishat Ha'ari”(The Lion's Request) and “Tiferet Beit Levi;” (Pride of the House of Levi) Rabbi Shmuel Schwemer (1909-1959), who published Torah periodicals and many books (passed away in Israel, in 1956); and Rabbi Menachem Gutman (now in Israel), whose book, “Drashot Shem Tov,” (Good Name Sermons) appeared in Iasi after the Holocaust.

In 1939, there were 112 Houses of Prayer in Iasi.

During that time, the number of pupils in the Jewish schools lessened because the government schools had opened their gates to Jewish children. In 1922, a seminar opened in Iasi, where the language of instruction was Hebrew, in order to prepare Hebrew teachers, but this institution was closed after a year by the authorities.

In 1939, the Kehillah of Iasi maintained a kindergarten, 7 schools for boys, 3 of them elementary schools and 4 were Talmud Torahs, a Yeshiva (Beit Aharon) and 4 schools for girls, one of them a professional school (of “ORT” with 150 pupils). In total there were 2,250 boys and girls. The Kehillah provided a fifth of the schools' budget (one million Lei) and the rest the schools' committees (organized in 1939) raised.

In 1924, with the assistance of the Joint (Distribution Committee) the children's hospital (founded in the years 1915-1916) with 50 beds renewed its activities. The Kehilllah also made a yearly allocation to the hospital. In 1928, there was founded in the “Tirgul Kokoloy” quarter a society of craftsmen called “Ahavat Ha'adam” (Love of Mankind). In 1929, in the same section a clinic was established for the needy. The municipality made a plot of land available for this purpose and construction was completed in 1938.

The Jewish hospital expanded at that time patients flooded in from the entire area and even from Bessarabia. During the years 1932-1934, 6,985 patients were hospitalized and 2,063 surgical procedures took place. In its adjacent clinic, 72,462 medical treatments were conducted, 6,368 radiological tests, and 4,319 medical examinations. In 1937, there were 130 beds in the hospital, in addition to 32 beds for the disabled in another small building, and another small building for people with contagious diseases.

The old people's home also expanded and in 1921, new buildings were added. The dedication ceremony was graced by the presence of Queen Maria and Prince Nikolai. The Ministry of Labor and Welfare formally recognized the excellence of this institution. When a fire broke out in the building in 1929, the first donation for its reconstruction came from Queen, Maria in the sum of 50,000 Lei. In 1935, the building was reconstructed with places for 150 old people, and included a synagogue, an infirmary, reading rooms, a bathhouse and more. Also established in Iasi was a home for war orphans by a Woman's Committee (organized in 1920). The old municipality building was purchased by local means, and with the help of the JOINT (Distribution Committee). It housed 95 orphans. Following dispute among the managers of the orphanage, the institution was turned over to the supervision of the Kehillah.

In 1922, an overnight shelter for impoverished transients and for local poor was established. After some time, an infirmary and a soup kitchen were added. Jewish physicians worked in the infirmary without recompense and during the years 1926-1936, 8,885 people were treated, including 851 Christians. At that time, 7,277 needy patients were hospitalized, including 835 Christians. A society called, “Hachnasat Kalah” (Helping the Bride), was also established and supported by the generosity of the couple Getzler. From 1922 through1937, it helped make possible the marriages of 347 orphaned-brides.

In 1924, the JOINT (Distribution Committee) established a cooperative bank for workers and the craftsmen, which played an important role in the economic life of Iasi Jews. In 1943, it had 3,000 members. During that year the Children's Hospital was founded by Dr. L. Gelerter, which was built by donations from Romanian born American Jews.


Caption on bottom of photo on p.160
Dr. L. Gelerter (Founder of the Hospital that bears his name).


The Zionist Movement

After World War I and under the influence of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist movement in Iasi expanded and strengthened. Iasi Jews donated large sums of money to the development of Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish banker, M. Wachtel, built a rest home for workers on the Carmel, (Haifa, Israel) on the Ahuzat (The land first owned by Ephraim Catz my first cousin once removed, photo of groundbreaking can be included here if you wish It includes Catz his wife, Sir Herbert Samuel and others. - JHB) Sir Herbert Samuel. Yoseph Getzler built a spacious school in the same area.

The Women's Zionist Organization (WIZO) supported in Iasi a nursery day-care center where the language of instruction was Hebrew, and its members did a lot for Keren Hayesod (founded 1920 as Palestine Foundation Fund-today-United Israel Appeal) and Keren Kayemet leYisrael (Jewish National Fund). In 1919, the sport society, “Macabi,” was established and beside it an orchestra of wind instruments (started in 1925).

In 1922, the Zionist organization in Iasi, renewed publication of the newspaper, “Rasaritul” (The East), but it did not last long.

In 1924, a center for “hachsharah”(training for eventual settling in Eretz Yisrael) was founded in Iasi in accordance with the decision of the local Zionist organization leaders and in collaboration with the leaders of the “haChalutz” (The Pioneer) of Bessarabia. The Jewish hospital allocated for this center an area of 60-70 hectares of its land. With the initiative of the “emissary Barpal” from Eretz Israel, a “Society of Friends of haChalutz” was established, and with the help of donations from the Kehillah, the hospital, and the JOINT, as well as the aid of the Zionist Organization in Bucharest, the buildings required for the “hachsharah” farms were constructed. Cattle were obtained, fruit trees were planted, and fields were readied for the cultivation of vegetables. During the next decade over 700 young men and women worked on the farm; and when their training was complete, immigrated to Eretz Israel.

In 1925, a Zionist students' organization by the name, “Hashmoniah,”(Hasmonean-a member of the maccabees) was founded in Iasi. The group established a library (1936) with 1,500 books in Hebrew and in Yiddish. The number of readers reached 350 and lessons in Hebrew and Hebrew literature took place there. Within three years the number of books grew to 3,000. The girl's branch of “Hashmoniah” operated a restaurant for 200 school children.

In 1932, those from Bessarabia founded the society, “Ahuzah” (landholding-having to do with the hope of obtaining land in Eretz Yisrael.), which held lectures on literary topics, organized “Hanukah” and “Purim” parties, distributed kindling to the poor, and provided scholarships for Jewish students, who studied in the Conservatory. This society also established a large library.

In 1936, the Zionist Organization of Iasi renewed the activities of “Toynbi Hall,” which became once again the center of Jewish cultural life in the city.

Cultural Life

The historian, M. A. haLevi, beginning in 1926 published in Iasi a journal called “Sinai,” dedicated to studying the history of Romanian Jewry. After a time, the place of the journal's appearance was Bucharest. In 1928, a book “The History of Jews,” by Jack Pineles appeared, which contained a chapter dedicated to Romanian Jewry.

Between 1932-1940, the journal of the local Jewish party appeared, the weekly “Tribuna Evreiasca” (The Hebrew Tribune) [the dictionary gives the origin of Tribune as a dais or platform from which an assembly is addressed], which had a great impact on Moldavia. After awhile, it added editions in Yiddish and in Hebrew. The journal's staff also published two yearly editions in the years 1938 and 1939, where the preeminent of the Jews of Romania participated. The weekly had a circulation of between 10 and 12 thousand.

Dr. H. Solomovitz, (Solomovici) one of the Kehillah's leaders, a physician, by profession published in Iasi two books in Romanian: “The Problem of the Jewish Nation” (1924) and “Ways of Solving the Jewish Problem” (1928). He was murdered in Iasi during the riots of 1941.

The poet, G. Spina (b. 1896), who also worked as a journalist, became famous in a booklet where he exposed the well-known novelist Ionel Teodoreanu, as an anti-Semite. After World War II, he fought vigorously for punishing those responsible for the Iasi riots.

The “Green Tree” garden became famous on the eve of World War I and after it, when well-known actors and actresses began to arrive in Iasi: Clara Joung, Joseph Kessler, Baratov, Molly Picon, and famous companies, the Vilna Company, the Yiddish art theatre from Bucharest under the direction of Yaakov Shternberg.

Persecution of Jews

After World War I, anti-Semitic activity at Iasi University intensified, this time with the support of the authorities. Students started to travel to all corners of the land on special trains without paying, on the pretext that they would speak against Communism. In fact, they were busy distributing anti-Semitic literature and awakening in all Moldavian cities hatred toward the Jews. Participants in this were students of the Institute of Military Medicine, despite being forbidden to take part in any political activity.

In 1922, riots broke out in Iasi, in which not only students took part but also Russian refugees from the army of generals Denikin and Wranghel. Jewish students were expelled by force from the university and the dormitories. For instance, one night, 40 female Jewish students were forced out of their dormitory and only after the professors intervened, did they receive a 48-hour extension. During the riots, the printing house of H. Goldner was destroyed. At the same time there were found there a number of important manuscripts of Romanian professors; and Professor Yorga himself wrote an article protesting against its destruction. Several Romanian newspaper-publishing houses were also destroyed, since among their editors were Jews. The students disturbed performances of the Yiddish theatre and did not allow any show written by a Jew or any Jewish actor to go onstage in the government theater.

As a result of the riots the number of Jewish students in Iasi diminished by half. At the end of 1922, dormitories were built for 120 students, male and female, and a restaurant for 360 students. The students together with the Jewish population organized a self-defense force. The Workers Union followed that example. In December of that year, when the riots reached their peak, the Jewish storeowners closed their stores in protest.


Caption on p. 164
Burial of Torah Scrolls Desecrated in the Riots of 1922.


In August of that year, the Interior Ministry decided to establish in Iasi a subdivision of the police, who were to monitor Jews throughout the country, on the pretext that Jews were breeding grounds for Bolshevism, which was introduced by Jews from Bessarabia and Ukraine; however, this subdivision was dismantled quickly in the wake of protests of the newspapers and the Jewish leadership

In early 1923, riots broke out anew. On March 4th of that year, the “League of National Christian Defense was founded, headed by Cuza and with: the participation of Professor Sumuleanu, General Tarnowsky, Zelea Codreanu and his son Cornel. A month later, the students broke into the university led by Cordreanu and became entrenched there. Their slogan was, “A battle against giving citizenship to Jews.” In August 1923, in spite of opposition by the authorities, a students' conference was organized, led by Professor Cuza, which demanded the introduction of a “Numerus Nulus” against the Jews. Afterwards, students demonstrated in the city, shattering windows of Jewish homes and beating Jews in the streets. Towards the end of the year, the rector closed the university for two weeks and King Ferdinand declared in his speech that these riots were bad for Romania.

That same year, the Dean of the medical faculty, Dr. Bacaloglu, decided that Jewish students were prohibited from dissecting the bodies of Christians. Cornel Cordreanu threatened that if the Jews did not bring bodies of their own to the dissecting tables, he will insure that Jewish bodies will be there. However, other faculty professors forced the dean of the medical faculty to resign. Among those calling for his resignation was Dr. Constantin. Parhon, who following World War II became the first president of the Peoples Republic of Romania. In 1924, Professor Parhon offered a proposal, accepted by a committee of professors, that when there were no Jewish bodies available, Jewish students would be allowed to dissect Christians. But the senate did not approve this decision. As a result, Jewish students failed their exams, especially those of Professor Sumuleanu, who did not allow any Jewish student to pass exams in his department. Forty of them, who failed in medicine tried to transfer to Bucharest, but the committee of professors refused to accept them. Later, when Jewish students attempted bringing in Jewish cadavers from Bessarabia, they were accused of trading with bodies.

When the police attempted to end the constant uproar, Cordreanu killed the chief of the police of Iasi (October 25, 1925) and he thus became the national hero of the students and the anti-Semites. In a trial conducted in Turnu-Severin, the murderer was acquitted.

At the beginning of 1925, the Minister of the Interior ordered the elimination of the Christian Students' Union after they proposed an anti-Semitic program. Nevertheless, the riots continued. On several streets near the dormitories, Jews were not allowed to pass. During summer that year, the Jewish merchants gathered and decided to close their shops until the authorities stopped the riots.

In September 1925, several more anti-Semitic groups joined the “League of National-Christian Defense.” Among them were “The National-Christian Action” and “The National Fascism.” The riots continued into 1926. Professor Sumuleanu himself beat Jewish students, who dared to attend his lectures. Persecution of Jews spread to the Law and Pharmaceutical Faculties and even to the hospitals. In December of that year, students and hooligans attempted to storm the Tirgul Kokoloy quarter, but the Jews resisted forcefully and turned back the attack.

In 1927, “The Legion of the Archangel Michael” in Romania was founded by Cornel Codreanu; from it sprouted the “Iron Guard” in 1930, the most radical anti-Semitic party. Its members were nicknamed “Legionnaires.” In 1928, the students destroyed the synagogue on Pacurari Street. The authorities compensated the Jews for the damage. In 1929, a “Numerous Clausus” already existed in the University of Iasi, since most of the examiners providing entrance exams were anti-Semites.

As a result of the continuous persecution, the economic state of the Jews in Iasi worsened. In 1931, a Jewish member of the Municipal Council requested aid for unemployed Jews and even for the shopkeepers, who did not have enough to buy bread. In the Jewish quarter, soup kitchens had to be opened; in the Socola quarter, 400 families were given meals.

In 1933, the Minister of the Interior, Alex Vaida Voevod, in a secretly circulated memorandum to the Iasi manufacturers, requested them to choose their administrators in accordance with ethnic criteria.

In 1934, a few Jewish students complained to the court about Professor Sumuleanu support of the anti-Semites. As a result, they were sent to a military court and tried as organizers of a Jewish plot against their Christian associates. Two of them were sentenced to 2 weeks imprisonment, 3 – to one month, and 4, who were missing for the trial, were sentenced to one and a half years in prison, besides heavy monetary fines. A year later, 4 Jewish students were once more fined for denouncing Professor Sumuleanu.

In the summer of 1935, in Iasi the parties of Goga and Cuza merged into a “National-Christian Party” with an anti-Semitic agenda. Following this union, a festive sermon was held in Iasi's Cathedral with the participation of the Metropolitan of Moldavia. In 1936, the anti-Semitic students pressured the Metropolitan to evict the Jews, who rented apartments and stores in the church building. Indeed, the Jews had to evacuate their apartments. In the elections of the Students' Union that took place that same year, anti-Semitic students won 6 of the 16 seats in the leadership of the Union. On June 27, 1937, a Congress of the Cultural League was held in Iasi, with Professor Yorga presiding. On the agenda was the issue: “Romanization of the city.”

When the Goga-Cuza party rose to power (December 1937), and Professor Cuza was chosen to be the Deputy Prime Minister, his former students, the lawyers in Iasi, honored him by intensifying their persecution of Jews. The vice-president of the Bar Association in Iasi, the writer Yonel Theodoreanu, instigated their decision to expel Jews from the association and not to retain the services of any Jewish lawyer for the next 10 years. Immediately, (the Jewish) lawyers were forbidden entrance to the courts. Although the decision was cancelled by the highest appellate court as being illegal, it remained in force practically because Christian lawyers attacked every Jewish lawyer, who dared cross the threshold of a court.

Even after the fall of the Goga-Cuza government, in Iasi the law, which mandated examining the citizenship of Jews, remained in force and was enacted with arbitrary harshness. The authorities' administrators found all sorts of reasons to extort money from Jews in return for documents, which proved their citizenship.

The Central Zionist Archive, A 133 (1/2).
The General Archive for the History of the Israel, RM 93,RM 94,RM95, RM96, RM97, RM98.

Bibliography:

 

The Holocaust

Persecution during the Time of the “Iron Guard”: The First Days of the War: The Massacre: The Death Railway Wagons: The Kehillah's Activities: After the War.

Persecution during the Time of the “Iron Guard”:

With the ascent of Antonescu to power, the government formally declared that Iasi was “a city of the Legionnaires Movement.” In the wake of this announcement, a festive parade was held in the presence of King Michael, General Antonescu, ministers and representatives of German and Italian youth. The day before the celebration, members of the “Iron Guard” broke into Jewish homes on the streets where the parade passed, arrested Jews, despoiled and looted their homes under the pretext that they were searching for weapons.

During the following months, persecution intensified until General Antonescu himself, in a government meeting of October 11, 1940, instructed the Minister of the Interior to pay attention to the problem. The government directed that an investigation be conducted, and a commissar by the name of Vizitiu was dismissed, although he continued to act freely. The “Legionnaires,” led by their commander, Ilie Vlad Sturza, the Minister of the Interior's son, ruled in Iasi without interference, and did not obey any order.

This was the procedure: Jews were brought in groups or one by one to the police station, where they were accused of pasting Communist posters or possessing them, or of transporting red cloth for making red flags. These harsh events were initiated and carried out by the self same commissar Vizitiu. With the use of severe torture, those arrested were forced to confess to crimes they did not commit, and even to implicate acquaintances and relatives. On the basis of forced documents, the courts sentenced the accused a variety of punishments. Also, groups of pupils and youths were sentenced to prison or detention camps.

Ongoing searches were conducted at the homes of prominent well-to do Jews and the money discovered was confiscated. The deputy chairman of the Kehillah, S. Cristian, was accused of bribery in to save a Communist Jewish woman. The Ashkenazi rabbi was accused of striking and drawing blood from a Christian boy in the synagogue. Two Jewish merchants under torture were forced to sign a document that they had initiated sabotage; a group of Legionnaires confiscated 4.5 million Lei from them..

The earthquake, of November 1940, destabilized several buildings in the city. The Legionnaires claimed that two of the oldest and most beautiful synagogues, the Jurist Synagogue and the Upholsterer's synagogue in the Rapa Galebena quarter, were also unstable and constituted a predictable public danger. The synagogues were located in the vicinity of the ”Iron Guard's” “Green House”. The demolition order was issued by the mayor, Dr. Poliacu, himself a member of the “Iron Guard.” The headmaster of the “National Gymnasium” showed up with his students to execute the destruction. The Torahs were desecrated. Holy utensils and the building's paraphernalia were divided among the perpetrators as payment for their work.

The State's establishment on one hand and the parallel organizations created by the Legionnaires on the other, competed with each other as to their harshness in carrying out anti-Semitic decrees, whether official or not. Primary among those preaching hatred toward the Jews, were priests, many of whom were members of the Legionnaire's movement, and most of the Christian residents absorbed their doctrine.

In spite of the harsh terror, the Jews fought for their lives. In the Socola neighborhood, where the Jewish carters homes were, several groups of Legionnaires were beaten back after attempting to riot. When the Legionnaire's commander in Iasi ordered the Jews to open their stores on Yom Kippur, informing them that keeping the stores closed would be considered sabotage, the Jews of Iasi did not obey and did not open their stores. The Kehillah's leaders were not terrified of submitting complaints about the “Legionnaires” and instigated a government investigation. Nevertheless persecution did not cease, but negotiations began with the “Iron Guard.” The Kehillah was compelled to bribe and continue bribing their leaders with large sums of money to save the lives of those under arrest. In addition, the Kehillah was obliged to pay six million Lei in monthly payments to the “Iron Guard.” The final payment was due at the end of January 1941, - thus, the assumption by several of the Kehillah's leaders, makes sense, that it was the lust of the Legionnaires to get the remainder of the money, that saved the Jewish population of Iasi from large scale killing, since in January 1941, a pogrom was raging in Bucharest.

According to the law of October 14, 1940, Jewish teachers and students were expelled from government schools. The Kehillah was obliged to act quickly in order to take care of thousands of children, who were left without education. Thanks to the vigorous efforts of the head of the education department, the Zionist engineer, Ghejel Buchman, parallel classes were opened in the existing elementary schools and two high schools were founded, one for boys (with 400 students) and another for girls (with 300 students), as well as a commercial school for boys (with 200 students). Buildings were rented and repaired. Jewish teachers, who had been expelled from the government schools, were invited. Added to them were Jewish academics, who were not allowed to work in their professions; and Jewish professors and lecturers, who were expelled from the university. Many classes were also opened in synagogues.

Jewish studies were added to the official curriculum: religion, Jewish history, and the Hebrew language. High school graduates and students, who had been expelled from the universities, were provided with courses of a very high academic level, especially in medicine.

“The Struggle for acquiring the Stores and Homes of the Kikes”(Yehodonim?) – as the robbery of Jewish property was labeled by the Minister of the Interior – started in Iasi, as in other cities, with boycotting Jewish stores. Legionnaire guards prevented shoppers from entering Jewish stores, and posters were glued to their windows labeled, “A Kike Store.” Pamphlets were distributed calling on Christians to not buy from Jews.

Threatened and tortured in the cellars of the police or in the cellars of groups of Legionnaires the Jews of Iasi were forced to “sell” their plants and enterprises to the Legionnaire's central “office” at very low prices, which they never received. One of them operated from a church on Stefan cel Mare street (Stephen the Great) and another from Rapa Galbena. Daily, Jews from all strata of the population were brought in and tortured cruelly. Besides selling their plants, they were forced to sign that it was “with good will,” that they were donating large sums of money to “The Legionnaire's Aid;” and they further extracted from their mouths declarations that they were Communists.

In September 1940, the Legionnaires took over the “Chalutz” farm and expelled the chalutzim (pioneers), who tried to defend themselves with their hoes. Many of them were arrested and tortured. All livestock and agricultural equipment was stolen.

The economic situation of many Jews was totally ruined and the Kehillah had to take care of them. During the winter months of 1940 - 1941, the Kehillah distributed free of charge more than one hundred boxcars of firewood and daily more than 12,000 portions of food at the soup kitchens.

Even following the Legionnaires removal from government (end of January 1941), all attempts to return Jewish enterprises to their rightful owners failed and they remained in the hands of the thieves. Anti-Semitic tension did not disappear. The new police chief, Leahu, he who created this atmosphere, received from the Kehillah a monthly salary, in order to soften his stance. Police under his command behaved as he did.

In March 1941, Antonescu publicly decreed the deportation from the country of all Jews in possession of a Nansen passport [Nansen passports were internationally recognized identity cards first issued by the League of Nations to stateless refugees. Invented in 1922 by Fridtjof Nansen, in 1942, they were honored by governments in 52 countries. Approximately 450,000 Nansen passports were issued, helping hundreds of thousands of stateless people to immigrate to a country that would have them (http://www.wikipedia.org/ - RSS] and refugees from Poland, totaling about a thousand people, including prominent long-time manufacturing enterprise owners, were deported. After much exertion Antonescu cancelled the expulsion decree, but Iasi police continued for a long time to threaten Polish Jews.

When preparations for war against The Soviet Union began, units of the German army arrived in Iasi, among them a group of the “Todt” organization, which was housed in buildings that belonged to Jewish institutions. In March 1941, the high command of the security service sent the Iasi police a letter (No. 18087) requesting their paying attention to the fact that “the Jews are in a tense situation due to the presence of German armed forces.” In a second letter (No. 13,584) that same month, the police were alerted to pay attention to the organizing of companies of young Jews, which “in the event of a Russian nighttime air raid, would signal the Russians with the aid of lights and flares, towards points of strategic importance.” In May 1941, a secret report of the local command in Iasi (No. 17657) ascertained that “the Jews are blood enemies of the Germans and look forward to the defeat of both the Germans and the Romanians. If a war breaks out against The Soviet Union, and the Russians win some interim victories, the Jews will be a danger to our country and to Germany, since in such a circumstance – the Jews will conduct hostile actions and be friendly to the enemy.”

Thus, a pre-riot atmosphere was created. The authorities began with oppressive actions. Beginning in June, the Security Service declared that many Jews of the leadership of the Kehillah and of the well-to-do were suspected of Communism. They were arrested and transferred to the Targu-Jiu concentration camp. Among them were journalists and other intellectuals and also the long-time Zionist, Jacob Hirschensohn, who was in his time a delegate to the first Zionist Congress in Basel. He committed suicide a year later, unable bear the hard life in the camp.

Anti-Semitic activities accelerated rapidly. The orders came from General Antonescu himself. On June 19, 1941, he ordered the closure of all the coffee houses of the “Jewish communists throughout Moldavia and to identify all “kikes,”(Yehudonim) “Communist' agents and their supporters,” in order “to do with them as I'll order, when the time comes.”

In the wake of Antonescu's order to evict the Jews from the villages and small towns, more than four thousand were transferred by foot or ox cart to Iasi under the supervision of military police. Their possessions were stolen and they arrived without anything; and the Kehillah was required to house and feed them.

During that period, Antonescu founded a “Special Intelligence Service,” in order to prepare propaganda justifying action against Jews. A special branch of this service dealt with spreading rumors. For instance, Iasi police told its high command on June 22, 1941 that it had learned from a German source that “in case of armed conflict between Romania and The Soviet Union, the Jews would attempt to create an atmosphere of panic in the large centers and especially near the front, including Iasi, and would take over the main institutions.”


Caption on letters p.166. -- Letters from the Municipality of Iasi to the Commander of the Army, The Minister of the Interior and to Radu Laka; Requesting authorization to destroy the homes of 3000 Jews, asserting that they had been damaged in the earthquake of 1940, and the expulsion of all the occupants to Transnistria.


On the eve of the breakout of the war against The Soviet Union, Iasi looked like a front line city. The streets were jammed with German and Romanian army units. Cannons and tanks crossed the city on their way to the nearby border. The main buildings were seized for headquarters. On the buildings confiscated by the Germans, flags bearing the swastika fluttered, threatening the lives of the Jews.


Caption on document on p.? It is the document that is overwritten.

Report of the Supervisor of the “Center of the Jews” about the destruction of the Old Cemetery


The 30th Regiment of the German army including the 13th and 14th Brigades of the Romanian infantry, commanded by the German general, Hans von Salmuth, camped, in the city.

The first days of the war did not bring the victories expected by the German army. During June 22-28, the Russians withstood all attacks and only on the 29th were the Romanian armies able to cross the river Prut. The Prut front was 15 km away from the city. This failure caused panic in Iasi and it intensified after Russian bombardment had caused significant damage to the city.

At that time, the personnel of the Romanian Special Intelligence Service appeared in Iasi, among them a German major, Stransky, who served as communication officer between the German legation and the secret service of the German army, and between them and the special service of the Romanians. Stransky was a relative of Ribbentrop. He was joined by the Romanian Colonel, Ionescu Micandru, head of the office of communication with the German army. They were immediately in touch with the military commander in the area of the 14th Brigade of the Romanian army and gave him orders. Following the first Russian air raid (June 24, 1941), a rumor spread in the city that the Jews signaled the enemy with light bulbs on their chimneys and red blankets on their windows, directing them to important strategic locations. The Jews were also accused of giving shelter to Russian paratroopers.

Although only one man was injured in this air raid, Iasi Christians became quite anxious, accused the Jews, and attacked them in several neighborhoods. The Kehillah appealed time after time to the Romanian authorities, to the police, to the security service, to the court, to the military headquarters, and to the regional police, to alert them to the atmosphere of extreme unrest in the city. The response was that nothing bad would happen to them.

Following a second air raid on June 26, which damaged important targets servicing the command of a large military unit – the telephone exchange, the school where the German army was quartered, with about 600 people killed - the heads of the Kehillah were summoned to police headquarters and told that the Russian pilots were young Jews from Iasi and that Iasi Jews had been signaling the enemy. The Kehillah's leaders were ordered to gather, within 48 hours, from the Jews all lamps, binoculars, photography and cinema equipment. Although there were many Jewish casualties (38 dead, about 150 wounded and over 100 Jewish homes damaged) and though it was impossible to imagine that the Jews collaborated with the enemy – the Kehillah was threatened with severe retaliation. The walls were covered with instigating posters such as: “Romanians! Every Jew killed eliminates communism. The time of revenge has come!”


Caption below letter on p.167

A letter from the city council to Radu Laka, requesting that he give instructions to the Kehillah of Iasi, to turned over all synagogues for use as public Romanian institutions, for use as housing for Romanian refugees from neighborhoods damaged by bombing.


A unit of armed Legionnaires was concentrated in the Pacurari quarter and incited Christians against Jews. In the windows of Christian homes there began to appear crosses and icons, on the walls and fences large crosses and inscriptions: “Christians live here. No Kikes (Yehudonim) in the courtyard.” Many prominent and intellectual Romanians left the city. The incitement bore fruit. The first victims fell. A sergeant from the 13th cavalry regiment, Mircea Manoliu, Legionnaire par excellence, caught three Jews, one of whom had been injured in the Russian bombing, falsely accused them of flying rockets, with tracers, brought them to the barracks and later to regiment headquarters. Upon interrogation, they were found not guilty and freed, but meanwhile, curfew time had arrived; no Jews were allowed on the streets, so the sergeant was ordered to accompany them home. But, he walked them to the drill field and shot them there. One died, the second was injured and the third escaped. The next day, the same sergeant murdered five more Jews, forced labor, sent to remove bombs from the courtyard of the 13th Regiment

The Massacre

It was no accident that Iasi was chosen to be the first place to massacre Jews. For decades, hatred of Jews was continually nurtured, and a murderous atmosphere prevailed. Here the Germans could count on the Romanians cooperating with them against the Jews.

On Sabbath morning, June 28th, the same Magnolia, joined by groups of soldiers from his regiment, began to search Jewish homes in the Tatarasi-Ciurchi quarter, for broadcasting equipment. On the way, he was joined by a German unit located in the quarter and all of them, together with soldiers of the 22nd artillery regiment, continued to search and plunder, and by the way, killed several Jewish bartenders.

Units of military police were sent to the city's police stations. These later stood out as the most destructive and murderous. The police officers of Iasi were ordered not to interfere with army affairs and to enforce this their revolvers were confiscated. Many Jewish intellectuals were arrested as Communists or fellow travelers of the Communists and jailed in police cellars.

That evening, following a false alarm resulting from two rockets from a German plane – as was proven later – shooting began throughout the city, lasting the whole night.

Romanian and German soldiers checked and robbed Jewish homes through the entire night on the pretext that the shooting came from those homes. Jews were tortured and some were killed.

An objective investigation conducted by General Emanoil Leoveanu (see below), immediately following the riots, it became clear that there was no one killed or wounded among the guards, who were shot, and no indication of their being attacked. He concluded that “the false attack was conducted with mock arms and not by Jews.”

With daybreak, the German and Romanian guards, joined by loads of citizens, specially drafted from rabble in the outlying areas, began removing Jews from their homes and shelters and forced them to march with hands up to police headquarters. Many were shot in their homes or against the walls of their homes. Many were murdered savagely on the way to the police by soldiers or by civilians, who stood at roadside, using for this, stones, whips, and iron bars.

The German, Dr. Franz Babinger, at the time a professor at Iasi University and today professor at Munich College, declared in testimony at the Stuttgart court on April 4, 1957 that he witnessed a German infantry unit of General von Salmuth's army, under the command of a major, that shot at Jews in the yard of the palatial court building located in the city's center. Every home was checked and every Jewish man was removed, including the sick and disabled. While that was happening, German vehicles cruised the streets, broadcasting dance music from loudspeakers.

By 9 a.m., the police courtyard was filled with thousands of Jews, including the leaders of the Kehillah. They requested that the Kehillah's chairman be allowed to attend and by interviewed by the committee already convened, Upon entering, he saw seated next to the Romanian civil and military authorities, several German officers participating in the meeting. When he protested the arrests, torture, and the killing of Jews in the streets – he was told that it was the Jews' fault, because they signaled the enemy and shot at German soldiers. The Kehillah's chairman declared that all the Kehillah's leaders would be responsible, if it turned out that there was any basis whatever to these accusations.

At 11 o'clock before noon, the committee, comprised of four police commissars led by a captain, began to “select” among those arrested, and about two hundred men were freed, each receiving a card stamped with the word, “Free.” That misled many hidden Jews, who showed up at the police to get such cards. Soon enough, the “selection” stopped and from one in the afternoon – more groups of arrested Jews were brought to the police – among them also those with the “Free” cards. The Germans took over the entire police building and prevented the Jews from getting out. The arrested had to pass through two rows of German and Romanian soldiers, who were beating them cruelly. Many were murdered or badly injured.


Caption on p. 168
The note with the stamp “Free” distributed to Jews at the beginning of the pogrom. [The Yivo Collection. New York]


At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, a siren sounded and at that moment shooting began from headquarters, surrounding houses, roofs, windows and balconies, using guns, revolvers and machine guns, into the masses of Jews located in the police courtyard. Thousands of Jews were killed. Whoever tried to escape by jumping over the fence, was chased and shot. The army surrounded the yard and nobody could save his life. The shooters were Germans and Romanians: soldiers, policemen, armed civilians, with Germans in the forefront. By evening, only 2,500 of the detained survived, and Romanian General, Gh. Staverscu, the commander of the 14th Division, ordered them deported from the city. Acceding to his request, German units were also separated from the police.

Jews, who were not arrested by the police, were caught by the soldiers and the civilian mob. They were brought to other police stations and from there to headquarters in order to deport them from the city.

The Jews living in the Nicolina-Socola quarter, called by the Jews (the “Red Bridge” quarter) were lucky. The residents of this neighborhood were known for their bravery and the thugs did not dare enter, until the afternoon, after many of Iasi's Jews had been murdered. At gunpoint, thousands of Jews, men, women and children, were evicted from their homes, arranged in rows and led to the bank of the river Bahlui, to be murdered there. The minute they lay upon the ground waiting for the gunfire to start, the chief of police, Colonel Kirilovici appeared and ordered them freed.

The Death Trains

That same evening, 2,500 Jews, many of them wounded, were led to the train station. Upon approaching the station, the Jews were ordered to lie on the ground face down and not move. Whoever raised his head was immediately shot. At midnight they were led one by one to the station, where a freight train with 50 wagons was parked. With the use of bayonets, all were pushed into 35 of the wagons; sometimes 150 people were placed into one wagon, four times more than capacity. The wounded, who had difficulty climbing into the wagon, were murdered.

At first light on June 30th, a second column of 1,900 Jews arrived at the station. Some had been in the police cellar at the time of the massacre and others were gathered from all corners of the city and brought directly to the station. They were packed into 18 wagons, in spite the fact that there were 30 wagons available.

The wagons doors of both trains were locked and the windows sealed with boards. The first train with 2,430 people departed Iasi during the night of the 29th with the aim of arriving at Targu-Frumos. But, rather than stopping there, the train shuttled back and forth for almost an entire day, between Targu-Frumos and Pascani, Lespezi and Roman, until it stopped in Targu-Frumos on the evening of June 30th. During their entire stay on the train, they did not get one drop of water; many expired from thirst, others suffocated to death, and some-- lost their minds.

In Targu-Frumos, the Romanian commander of the local garrison and his German colleague were against letting people off the train. Still, 200 Jews came out of 4 wagons and were brought to the little town's synagogue. But, the authorities did not provide them food. All of them were beaten and robbed by Romanian and German soldiers. The remainder of the Jews were left on the train. The next day, July 1st, the Jews, who stayed in the synagogue, were returned to the train, after 654 bodies had been removed. The judge, A. Trianfad, was given supervision of the train, and by his orders, the train set off in the direction of Calarasi. On the way, the train stopped at some stations in order to get rid of the bodies of those who had died from suffocation and lack of water; 327 bodies were removed in Mircesti, and 300 in Sabaoani.

On July 2nd, the train arrived at Roman and stopped on a rail spur 200 meters from the station. Present in the station were Mrs. Viorica Agarici, chairwoman of the local “Red Cross,” and Colonel Graur, commander of the local guard. Hearing the cries from the wagons, the two of them approached the train, and in spite of the opposition of Judge Triandaf, broke the lead locks of the doors and ordered the military unit serving in the station, to bring buckets of water to the people in the wagons. Mrs. Agarici sent a message to the city's Kehillah leaders asking them to gather foodstuffs and clothes. In a short while, the needed provisions and required supplies were brought and the Kehillah representatives distributed them in the train station, in the presence of Mrs. Agarici and Colonel Graur. This was done in spite of the opposition of Deputy Mayor, N. C. Pipa, and members of the “Red Cross” committee.


Caption on p.169
Bodies of the Pogrom Dead Lying in the Streets


Mrs. Agarici directed the removal of the bodies of those who died during the 8 km distance between Sabaoni and Roman, 55 corpses, and after that she ordered the whitewashing of the inner walls of the wagons and sending the survivors to the bathhouse of the sanitary unit stationed near the train station. After several hours, Mrs. Agarici was dismissed from her post as chairwoman of the local “Red Cross” – a result of pressure from other members of the committee and the Deputy Mayor of the city.

The train continued its journey to Calarasi. Thanks to the treatment the deported received in Roman, the numbers of deaths on the train lessened. In Maraseti, 10 bodies were removed and in Calarasi – 25.

The train arrived at Calarasi on the afternoon of July 6th, after a journey of 6 days and 7 nights. Out of 2,430 Jews, who boarded the train in Iasi, 1,411 perished on the way; many of the survivors were near death. The remaining, numbering 1,021 were housed in the courtyard of an army regiment and received help from the local Kehillah (viz' Calarasi) and from the United Communities in Bucharest. Despite the treatment, 31 additional people died. On August 30, 1941, 980 survivors were returned to Iasi.

The second train left in the direction of Podul-Iloaiei under similar conditions. A distance of 20 km took 8 hours. In the wagons it was so suffocating (150 people in a wagon) that in that short distance, 1,194 perished.

The famous Italian writer, Malaparte, who by happenstance there with the Italian consul Sartori, describes:

“The dead fled the train, falling down in masses – making dull banging sounds, like concrete statues...soldiers climbed into the railway cars and started to throw bodies out one after another. There were a hundred and seventy-nine – all suffocated; their heads swollen and their faces bluish…flies swarmed angrily around them. The number of dead, lining the embankment reached 2000. 2000 dead bodies lying in the sun is a large number – too large. A live baby, a couple months old was pressed between his mother's knees, He fainted, but was still breathing. One of his arms broken.”

Mobs of gypsies and peasants swooped down on the dead stripping them of their clothes and even extracted their gold teeth from their mouths. Malaparte added:

“Sartori tried to protest, but the rabbi put his hand on his arm. 'There is nothing to be done,' he said, 'this is the custom,' and added in a whisper, with a sad smile, 'they will come tomorrow to sell us the clothes stolen from the dead and we will have to buy them. What else can we do?”

About 700 Jews, who survived, were housed in Jewish homes in Podul-Iloaiei.

In Iasi itself the killing continued; about 50 additional people were murdered. The arrests also continued and the arrested were sent to clean the city of the remnants of the killing. After the dead were gathered in piles, the streets and the police courtyard were washed clean of blood. The city's sanitation service spent the entire day loading the dead onto garbage trucks and transferring them to the cemetery and other unknown places, and handing them over to groups of people, mostly Jews, to bury them in mass graves; some of which had been prepared in advance. (In the Jewish cemetery, following of the authorities, two deep pits were dug. The digging was completed on June 26th.) Into these pits, people, who had not breathed their last, were thrown.

The general manager of the State Security Service, Emanoil Leoveanu, conducted an inquiry immediately following the massacre, and on July 1st, stated in a report to Marshal Antonescu, that the Jewish population was innocent and was a victim of a German plot with collaboration by the Legionnaires. Wanting to ascertain for sure if the Germans were truthful about 20 of their soldiers having been wounded in attacks by the Jews, he asked to visit the wounded in the hospital. But, the Germans did not honor his request. Not only that, but when they saw that he was about to expose the truth, the German command high made him leave Iasi three hours after he arrived there. In contrast, General Antonescu published an official announcement, on July 1, 1941, accusing the Jewish-Communist population of being in contact with Soviet spies and agents, who had been parachuted in. He also announced that 500 Communist Jews had been shot in Iasi, having been caught shooting live ammunition at German and Romanian soldiers from their homes.

In another official announcement on behalf of the Prime Minister's office published the following day, July 2nd, it was said that for each German or Romanian soldier, fifty Communist Jews would be executed.

In German documents, there are two versions of the massacre in Iasi. In a report dated June 30, major, G. Rank, the 11th Regiment Commander, declared that in Iasi, German soldiers were shot at and as a result the High Commander ordered the immediate transfer to the city of military police in order to maintain security there. To this end, the third unit of the 633rd Regiment commanded by a captain was dispatched, Contradicting this, another report from the general headquarter of the gendarmerie, of July 12th told that Iasi Jews tried to rebel, and being armed, constituted a threat to the German front; 2,000-2,500 Germans – it was written in that report – were killed by the Jews. After the war the German denied both reports and in the first reparations trial, conducted in Stuttgart in 1957, the German court declared that none of the German authorities had anything to do with that massacre.

Captions for portraits on p.171
Overall Caption - Personalities who perished in the pogrom.

Top right- The Engineer G.Buchman, Director of the Education Department of the Kehillah.

Middle top - Dr Cazac Averbuch , Famous Physician, yet active in public Jewish Life.

Left top - I.Getzler, Famous Philanthropist.

Bottom right - Haim Gelber, Leader of the Religious Zionists.

Center bottom - Dr. H. Solomovici (born 1870) served for a time as chairman of the Kehillah of Iasi wrote research papers in medicine and in the field of National Jewish Affairs.

Bottom left - The author Carol Drimer (b.1906, began writing in Hebrew in “Hatzephirah”, published articles in Romanian about Hebrew literature, Jewish tradition etc. and several articles pertaining to the history of the Jews of Iasi.


It is impossible to estimate the exact number of massacred victims in Iasi. When the Kehillah attempted to compile a list of those killed, the authorities forbade it and even ordered the destruction the lists that had already been done. The accepted estimate was twelve hundred dead. The charge sheet of the High Court of Appeals placed the number at ten thousand. The Romanian Institute of Statistics set the same number.

Among the murdered there were Jews belonging to all classes and all professions: wealthy industrialists and small craftsmen, wholesalers and retailers, lawyers, teachers, physicians, engineers, leaders of the Zionist movement, leaders of the Kehillah, university students and elementary school pupils. All the Jews of Iasi drank of the same poisoned cup. Among the famous dignitaries, who died on the day of death, it is worth remembering Dr. Herman Solomovici, writer of research studies about the Jewish people; the engineer, Getzel Buchman; head of the education department; the Zionist leader, Dr. Cazac Averbuch; the intellectual, Haim Ghelber; and his only son, the writer, Carol Drimer, who published many research studies about Judaism; the lawyer, Herz Gherner, general secretary of the Kehillah, Reichenbach; chairman of the burial society, Dr. Avraham Rosen; the cantor BenZion Abramovici; and others. Among the major figures in education killed were: the headmaster of the boys high school, Professor Koenig and his son; the headmaster of the commercial high school, Manas; a French language teacher Faier and his brother, a German language teacher; and the chemistry lecturer at the university, Puiu Gheler. Fifty-three pupils from the upper classes of the two high schools and sixteen mentors also perished.

The Kehillah's Activities

The results of the massacre in Iasi were extremely severe. Most Jewish families lost at least one member and in virtually all cases, those murdered were the family provider. In many homes women and children remained alone and with nothing. The Kehillah was in a state of chaos. The files destroyed, the leaders had a hard time reorganizing the lists of those in need. Nonetheless, since most of the families needed immediate help, the surviving leaders got action underway. Some of the Kehillah leaders went out to search for donors among the Jews who were in hiding. In a short time aid was set up for the needy of Iasi, and for the survivors of the death wagons in Calarasi.

Order in the city was not restored. The city was divided into two areas, one with the Germans in charge, and the other with the Romanians. This situation – as mentioned in the report of General Leoveanu – led to the continuation of the searches, and incidents on the German side, and further executions. Twenty of the survivors were arrested, three of them rabbis, and held as hostages responsible for any and all acts by Jews. After that, a term was set for hostages, who were exchanged monthly.

In November 1941, the city's power station was destroyed by sabotage with the Jews being blamed. The hostage's fate was settled, Besides them other Jews, doing forced labor in the power station, and Jews living in the surrounding houses were arrested. Thanks to the efforts and intervention of the Kehillah leaders, the executions were postponed. Meanwhile, it became clear, from the authorities' investigation that the saboteurs were Legionnaires, who worked as clerks and workers in the power station.

Around that time, several hundred Jews deported from Balti, their city by the army were brought to Iasi by foot, naked, starved, and sick, A few later, they continued to a camp in Giurgiu. During the days they camped in Iasi, the Kehillah provided food, clothes, and medical treatment. Thirty-eight of them were hospitalized at the Jewish hospital. The Kehillah leaders succeeded through bribery, to free these sick people and they alone remained alive. All the other deportees were returned after a time from Giurgiu to Balti, where they were shot.

Meanwhile, there were changes in the Romanian High Command and the new commanders were also eager to demonstrate their anti-Semitic zealousness. On August 6, 1941, General D. Carlaont, who had replaced Colonel Lupu as military commander of Iasi, ordered the evacuation, within three days, of the Jewish population from all the neighborhoods between Cacaina brook, Rapa street, Muzelor street, Conta street, Pacurari street, Scoalei street, Tomacosta street and Iasi-Munteni road. According to the orders, the Jews could take with them only valuables and the most necessary personal items and leave all the rest. Whoever would be found there afterwards would be considered a spy and the sentence was death. The deportees had to crowd into the neighborhood, where they were permitted to live, and all of them, men, women and children, were ordered to prominently attach on the left side of their garment, above the heart, a yellow star on a black background, made of cloth, 7 cm in diameter,

This mark, which the Jews of Iasi wore for 5-6 months, brought in its wake a new wave of persecution against them. Daily, police agents arrested old and young and even 3-4 year old children, for not wearing the yellow mark even while they were in their own courtyards, or for the mark not being big enough. Thus, the movement of Iasi's Jews was restricted in time and place, and entrance to certain neighborhoods was totally prohibited.

On August 1, 1941, a new law was promulgated requiring Jews to do forced labor in the framework of the military and all men ages 18-55 were drafted to work. A few worked within the boundaries of the city, in public institutions, in sanitation services, in workshops and army warehouses, and in loading and unloading wire and building materials. Some were put at the disposal of the Germans in Iasi to build work in their warehouses. However, 4000 of the city's Jews were organized in work units and sent throughout the country.

With the withdrawal of the German-Romanian army in the spring of 1944, and when the front got closer to Iasi, the Jews were employed with digging trenches in Stanca-Roznovanu and along the Prut River. Altogether, 168 such work units were organized in Iasi. The work was backbreaking. The workers did not get adequate food and clothes, were beaten and degraded. Many perished and many others were disabled for life. One forced labor unit of Iasi Jews worked in Predeal, paving a road to the villa of the tyrant Antonescu. Even this despot could not bear seeing the Jews working in winter half-naked and sent an order to the Kehillah in Iasi to supply them with warm clothes. The Kehillah organized a workshop for making clothes and collected donations of clothes and underwear.

Many Jews in Iasi were arrested and sentenced to death or deportation to Transnistria with their families accused of deserting the forced labor units or being absent one day or even several hours. The belongings of both these types of accused were confiscated. Jews accused of Communism were also sentenced to deportation, as well as those who requested transfer to Bessarabia, after its annexation by the Soviet Russia. The Kehillah's leadership tried to save them from death or deportation by appealing to the Metropolitan Irineu from Moldavia. However, success was beyond their grasp, since the one responsible for executing this edict was Hugo Schwob, a general of German origin. Only after using all kinds of deception, such as concealment, hospitalization for surgery, destroying the deportation decrees and the files in the archive, the Kehillah succeeded in saving some of the condemned from deportation. Very few of those deported remained alive.

The Kehillah's efforts prevented the enlisting of women and children 15-18 years of age to do forced labor. In 1943-1944, in Iasi's court about 2,500 Jews were brought to trial accused of violating the race rules or other regulations against the Jews. They were brought to court arrested, chained and sentenced in a quick military trial. The Kehillah organized a special legal service that took care of trials for those without means or for Jews, who arrived in Iasi from other places, paid large fines for those who could not afford to do so and took care of their families.

The Kehillah also housed 4,000 people, who were expelled to the city from the villages in Iasi County, took care of those evicted from the neighborhoods, the families of the dead, and the families of those who were drafted for forced labor. As long as it had any means at all, the Kehillah established soup kitchens and extended financial assistance to twenty thousand people.

In April 1942, 1,500 Jews were deported from Podul Iloaiei and brought to Iasi. They were forced to abandon all their belongings and took with them only what they could carry in their hands or in small carts. They were housed in synagogues and in local Jewish homes, sometimes 25-30 in a room. The Kehillah was forced to take care of their needs and even opened a special school for the children of those deported.

Towards Passover of 1942, (the Kehillah) secretly managed to obtain flour to bake matzoth from a warehouse designated for the Germans, and even distributed 80 tons of potatoes to the city's Jews. Thus, the Jews of Iasi were able to properly celebrate the holiday.

When the mass extermination of Jews began in Poland, many Jews managed to escape to Romania through Bukovina. Some were shot at the border; others were caught and sent to Transnistria through Iasi. When the Kehillah leadership found out that groups of Jews from Poland were waiting at the train station to be sent to Transnistria, they managed to get in touch with them, in spite of the absolute prohibition on it, and gave them food, clothes, and money.

The worsening economic condition of Iasi Jews in those days is clear from the following facts from 1942; out of 3,114 craftsmen and workers, 2,210 were out of work; out of 1,392 bureaucrats, 974 lost their positions; out of 1,146 owners of small businesses and manufacturing, plants 902 enterprises were confiscated; out of 205 members of the free professions, 90 were stripped of their right to work; out of 231 with independent occupations, 143 were left with no work. In the years 1940-1941, 3,972 buildings were confiscated from Jews in Iasi County, 2,239 hectares of forests, 314 hectares of vineyards, 2 hectares of lakes, 1,515 hectares of cropland, 18 mills and several factories. Forty synagogues were also looted.

In April 1941, there were 37,472 Jews in all of Iasi County. Of that number, 33,135 lived in the city of Iasi, 1,618 in Targu-Frumos, and 1,265 in villages. In 1942, having added those deported from villages in the vicinity, there were in Targu-Frumos 1,637 Jews, Not one Jew remained in the villages.

In spite of everything, the Kehillah continued to maintain a cultural life. In place of the leadership of the Kehillah's department of education, who had been murdered on the day of massacre, there were now Dr. Marcu Bercovici, the lawyer Mitelman, and Dr. Grunberg-Moldovan. The latter organized a series of professional courses: electrical technology, mechanics, tinsmithing, carpentry, tailoring, and dental technology. Four to five hundred pupils studied in these courses,

The elementary and high schools, which had been founded with great effort during the time of the Legionnaires, were confiscated. However, education continued in them (the schools) some in synagogues (several classes were conducted simultaneously in different corners of the synagogue); some in the Jewish student's dormitory; and some in the “Talmud Torah” building in Tirgu-Kokoloy. Instead of the teachers and headmasters, who had been killed, others came forth. The budgets of the two high schools were covered by tuition and the remainder was used to cover the budget of the commercial school and the elementary schools, most of whose pupils were poor. At the end of the school year, students from the other cities of Moldavia, whose home studies had centered around Jewish subjects, especially Hebrew language and the history of the Jewish people, also participated in the examinations. The educational work in those schools, together with Shabbat and Holiday get-togethers, lectures etc., lifted the spirit of Iasi Jews during those very difficult days.

In the spring of 1941, a Yiddish Primer was published “underground,” titled “Unzer Shprach” (Our Language). Its author was the writer, Eliezer Frenckel, a teacher of Yiddish in the “ORT” school. The place and date of its publication was disguised by “Warsaw, 1932.”

The two Jewish hospitals in Iasi fulfilled an important role in those days. The Jewish hospital, which had been evicted from its building and crowded into the maternity ward, had to replenish the equipment that was confiscated together with the former building. The managers of the hospital remained extremely active, continuing to hospitalize maternity cases, the sick with tuberculosis, and all other illnesses, even though the “Jewish Center” took for itself half of their income that came from the burial society. The hospital, named for Ghelerter, was not confiscated, but struggled for its existence, so that sick people and orphans (2-5 years old), whose parents had been murdered during the days of the massacre, could be hospitalized there. The Kehillah could only offer minimal support.. The orphanage also housed children, whose parents had been murdered. The financial aid to it was minimal, and the little ones suffered greatly.

Caption on p. 174 right below 1932

Title Page of the Primer “Unzer Shprach” by Eliezer Frenckel, which appeared “underground” during the period of the Holocaust


In December 1943, when the deportees from Dorohoi region were returned from Transnistria, the Iasi Kehillah was the first to provide aid to the returnees.

In the spring of 1943, Marshal Antonescu visited Iasi and dismissed the mayor, General Ionescu, on the grounds that his actions for raising the status of the capital of Moldavia were not moving rapidly enough. In his stead, he appointed his protégé, Constantin Ifrim, a long time anti-Semite, and follower of Cuza. Although the German and the Romanian armies were retreating and the outcome of the war was already clear, the new mayor continued to act against the Jews. His first target was the 400-year old cemetery in the Ciurchi quarter, extending over a large plot with 27,000 graves, including the graves of rabbis, scholars and writers, and tombstones with historic and artistic value. Claiming that the land had to be divided for poor Christians, and build dwellings there, the mayor got a permit from Marshal Antonescu to destroy the cemetery and dig up the graves. He immediately organized Christian youth groups, who started to destroy the cemetery wall. A fierce struggle began between the Kehillah – with the help of Jewish leaders from Bucharest – and the mayor. After great effort, the Jewish leaders succeeded in getting a decree to stop the demolition, but the mayor did not obey any decree from higher authorities and even intensified the demolitions by drafting additional workers. The tombstones were transferred to the municipality's warehouses and the remains of the skeletons were taken out and arranged in heaps within the cemetery. The Kehillah held an emergency meeting, whose participants included the rabbis of Falticeni, Stefanesti, Botosani, Lapusna and Calarasi, all of Iasi rabbis headed by, Dr. Yoseph Safran, A day of mourning and fasting was announced for all Iasi Jews. Thanks to the intervention of the Moldavian Metropolitan, it was agreed that only Jews would perform the evacuation of bones from the graves. The Kehillah was permitted to employ for that task 100 Jews, from those who had been drafted for forced labor. Those Jews, together with the above-mentioned rabbis, surrounded the cemetery and following tradition, prayed, and chanted psalms. Thousands of Iasi Jews joined the entourage, arriving to take leave of the deceased. Several rabbis recited “Kaddish” near each grave, which had been opened; the bones were boxed and transferred for burial in the second Jewish cemetery (Pacurar). Within 68 days, the land of the cemetery was turned into a pasture. The Christians, to whom the mayor promised building lots, refused to accept the land because of their fear of the dead. The mayor was satisfied with desecration itself, and even received a good deal of money from the Kehillah for granting permission for the transfer to the new cemetery of several tombstones of historic value.

Caption on photo on left side of p.174

A pigpen built with the tombstones taken from the Jewish cemetery following its desecration.


In the autumn of that year, the mayor demanded permission to destroy 1,472 buildings, where about 3,000 Jews dwelled, on the grounds that those buildings became unstable after the earthquake of 1940; and were about to crumble. He suggested that the evicted Jews be sent to Transnistria, to the villages Ovidiopol, Berdicev, and Jitomir. Since that suggestion was opposed, he suggested that the “Jewish Center” be forced to build cabins for the evicted. It seems that this proposal did not materialize, because the front was getting closer to the city (January 1944). Even in February, he suggested the transfer all Jewish prayer houses to municipal ownership, in order to turn them over to institutions of public importance and to destroy the synagogues that were unstable from the earthquake and give the land to Christians. His instruction was only partly fulfilled, but following the Romanian armies retreat through and departure from Iasi, the mayor turned the synagogues into stables for his horses.

In the spring of 1944, the front came closer to Iasi, which became a large hub for army units, and the life of the Jews was in constant danger. The Russians were on the bank of the river Prut. The Christian population began to leave the city in droves, The Jews could not move at all because they were prohibited from traveling without a special permit. Even so, several thousand Jews with means, risking their very lives, managed to flee to Bucharest, But, the masses of Iasi Jews stayed in cellars and shelters, fearful of Germans, thugs, and deserters, who robbed and looted, and the air raids of the Russians, which intensified. More than half Jewish homes in the city were destroyed in the bombings and many were killed. Getting food became a life-threatening act and prices were exorbitant. The Kehillah distributed several million lei that arrived from the Bucharest help-committee to the needy.

Despite their difficult situation, Iasi Jews continued to support their brethren in other communities. When (in March 1944) the first deportees to Transnistria began their return to Romania, poor and destitute, The Kehillah of Iasi sent a delegation on its own to Tighina on the banks of the Dniester in Bessarabia. These delegates brought with them financial aid in the sum of 2 million lei. Also, the Kehillah of Iasi took under its wing a significant portion of the orphans who had returned from Transnistria and took care of their rehabilitation.

A number of hours after the Russians breakthrough on the front, Red Army units entered Iasi. Street to street fighting continued. Jews hid in cellars, armed with sticks and axes and decided to fight the retreating German and Romanian soldiers to the death. On August 21, 1944, all of Iasi was in Russian hands. After some time, some of Iasi Jews, who had fled to other places, returned, but many of them settled in their new locations. In contrast, the deportees from the villages and small towns settled in Iasi, as well as refugees from other places.

After the War

The first act of Iasi's Jews was building a monument to the memory of the thousands of hallowed martyrs. In June 1947, a memorial was dedicated in the garden across the street from the Jewish hospital, with the inscription in Hebrew and Romanian: “To our hallowed ones, who fell from bullets, suffocation, hunger, and thirst. Our people will never forget them.” On the other side a citation from The Book of Lamentations 1:12-13, Look about and see; Is there any agony like mine…From above He sent a fire down into my bones. (NJPS)

In the spring of 1947, the Romanian Parliament defined the massacre in Iasi as a “war crime.”

That same year, the Jewish woman, Lucia Taler, who lost her all family in the massacre, committed suicide. In the letter she sent to the press, she explained her act by the fact that all the murderers walk freely in the streets of Iasi and that she preferred to die rather than to see them daily.

On June 26, 1948, the Romanian courts sentenced 50 of those responsible for the massacre to a variety of punishments, from 5 years in prison to hard labor for the rest of their lives. That maximum punishment was imposed on General Stawarsco, Colonel Constantin Lupu, Colonel D. Captaru, and the county's ruler and legionnaire, Mirca Manuliu.

In the framework of the project dedicated to perpetuating the Kehillahs, undertaken by Israeli schools, The Kehillah of Iasi was adopted in 1965 by the school, “Netzach Israel,” in Kiriat Malachi.”

DL

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