“Edinets”
Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 2
(Edineţ, Moldova)

48°10' / 27°18'

Translation of “Edinets” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Romania

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1980


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Romania, Volume II,
pages 323-327, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980


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[Page 323]

Edinets

Translated by Ala Gamulka

In Romanian it is Edinetz and in Russian it was Edinitz, but the Jews called it Yedinetz or Yedinitz. It was a village in the Khotin district, 28 km. from Bricheni. It is now located in Moldova. The village lies in a fertile plain known for its wheat, corn and sunflowers as well as cattle and sheep.

The section of the village inhabited by non-Jews (Romanians, Ukrainians, gypsies, etc.) was referred to by the Jews as “Vartz”. The Romanians made an artificial division into two administrative units. (The purpose of this division was political, in order to deter the Jews, who were in the majority, from administering the entire village).

Jewish Population

Year Numbers % of Jews in
entire population
1897 7,379 72.1
1930 5,341 90.3

 

Up to the End of World War I

The Romanian geographer Tufescu estimates that Edinets was founded in 1820. The first settlers were Jews, but there were also Ukrainians, Russians (persecuted sects) and Moldovans. The Jews, who comprised about two-thirds of the population, lived in a separate area. Most of them dealt in commerce or were craftsmen. All the doctors and pharmacists were Jews. Even the wagon drivers, who maintained contact with other settlements, were Jews.

Relations between the Jews and the local population were good for many years.

In 1878 the cornerstone for the big synagogue was laid, but the building was never completed. There were already 8 prayer houses, a burial society and a cemetery in existence since the beginning. The cemetery also served Jews in surrounding villages and the Mikve was used as a bath house for non-Jews.

In 1887 there was an unsuccessful pogrom instigated by the Casaps (Russian sect). The incident was reported in world press. Attempts to harm the Jews were renewed towards the end of WW1. Even before the retreat of the Russian army, there was a three-day pogrom followed by plunder and burning.

On March 5, 1918 a small Romanian army unit entered the village. The commanding officer demanded that a committee of 7, Jews and non-Jews, welcome the soldiers with bread and salt. When the committee arrived, all its members were arrested and were to be used as hostages. The following day the commander gathered the citizens and announced his intention to fight the Jews. A Jewish merchant was arrested on false charges and the commander ordered his execution. He was freed after a large sum was paid as ransom. This arrest gave the signal for attacks on Jews the elderly, women, etc. Jewish property was confiscated and it became dangerous to be seen on the streets. The curfew that was ordered after 8 PM was mainly intended to target the Jews.

The same year, on the last day of Passover, three Jews were shot to death. They were part of a delegation of 16 Jews and 6 Russians who wished to bring the complaints of the population to the Romanian military authorities. The three were shot on orders of Colonel Elefterescu. He actually had planned to kill the whole delegation, but was stopped by the intervention of some wealthy landowners. He sent a telegram to Balti in which he defended his deeds by accusing the Jews of revolting against the Romanian army. He reported that the three Jews died during this revolt. However, the Austrian army was in a nearby village, Bricheni, and they told the true story about the murder. Colonel Elefterescu was sent away from Edinets.

 

Between the Two Wars

Commerce and industry were booming in Edinets during this period. The local Jews fulfilled an important economic role by exporting good local agricultural products and by servicing the needs of the farmers. Poultry and eggs were even exported to Eretz Israel. In order to process local agricultural products several plants were established: factories for preparing sunflower oil and soap, a flour mill, shops for making sweets and for weaving cloth. Jewish merchants exported furs and skins to the United States and a shop for auto parts supplied the entire area. Electricity was provided by a private Jewish enterprise. Many of the Jews were craftsmen: tailors, shoemakers, bakers, butchers and carpenters.

In the years 1935 -1936, a general professional association was formed. It was actually a camouflaged Communist group which struggled to ameliorate work conditions. The authorities pursued the association and from time to time its members and leaders were arrested. Most of the members were Jews.

The Savings and Loan Bank served as a useful economic aid by giving loans at good terms to small merchants and craftsmen.

During this period of time there were 20 prayer houses. The most important charitable organizations in the village were “Ozhe”, Wizo, and Help for the Poor. In 1930 a Jewish hospital was founded and in 1936 a new home for the elderly was established.

 

Education

At first there was only traditional education, but between the two wars modern schools were added. There were 8 Heders, some more modern than others where Hebrew was taught. In one Heder German and Mathematics were also taught. A modern “Talmud Torah” was partially recognized by the authorities and the language used in it was Hebrew. There were also three elementary Jewish schools, one of them a “Tarbut” institution. There was also a private high school that later became a Romanian school. Since most of its students were Jewish, Hebrew was taught for one hour each day. Jewish children also attended government schools. In the 1930s all children had to attend government schools. There was also a Tarbut library and amateur theatrical productions.

 

Zionism

The Zionist movement was developed in Edinets with all its factions: General Zionists, Zeirei Zion, Poalei Zion, Mizrahi, etc. There were also all the youth groups. The representatives of the different parties belonged to a central Zionist committee. Their numbers were determined by the number of votes each party received in the elections to the Zionist Congress. Gordonia had 350 youths under 18 years of age and it held many discussions and lectures on Jewish and general topics. When the members reached the age of 18 they attended a Hahshara with the aim of making Aliyah. The Hahshara took place in various ranches. In order to sustain themselves the pioneers worked in the nearby train station. The illegal Communist organization drew into its ranks many young Jews from the wealthier families and it was well liked in many groups. A Maccabi branch organized extensive sports activities. The local Jews also participated in municipal affairs. During this time a Jew served as mayor and several Jews had important positions in council. Even when the mayor was not Jewish, his assistants were Jews.

 

Persecution of the Jews

The persecution of Jews began in Edinets in the 1920s. There was a theological Seminary where hundreds of non-Jews studied. This was a hotbed for anti-Semitism. The students would attack Jews, especially on Shabbat. However, young Jews organized a self-defence group. In 1920 Captain Dimitriu mocked Jews by ordering them to salute his hat which was carried on a stick. In 1925 a Jewish merchant was brought to the military police station where he was badly beaten. He had supposedly had a fight with a farmer, although there was no complaint registered. In 1927 Father Georgescu was dismissed from his position in the theological seminary after he had propagated anti-Semitic propaganda. He eventually left the priesthood and became a member of the Iron Guard.

During the Veida Regime (1932) many Jews were arrested and were accused of being Communists. The case of the Zionist Shimshon Bronstein was well known. He was tortured on false accusations.

When Goga-Kuza came into power (1937) anti-Semitism reached new heights. All the Jewish organizations were dismantled and scattered. The Jewish mayor was removed from office and his successor was openly discriminatory towards the Jews. After this regime fell life returned to normal, but the relations between the Jews and Romanians remained tense.

 

Soviet Period

After Bessarabia was annexed by the Soviet Union the Jews of Edinets hoped that the new regime would be better than the previous one and there would more equality and freedom. At first, the heads of the local regime were village residents, most of them Jews. However, one of the first steps the new regime took was the appropriation of property from wealthy Jews and their expulsion from their homes. Eventually, the heads of the local regime were replaced by others from the Soviet Union. Commerce was stopped, there was a lack of food and essential products were missing from stores. Cooperatives were formed where Jewish craftsmen worked. The synagogues were closed and became warehouses. In the end those Jews who were considered wealthy or active Zionists were sent to Siberia.

 

Holocaust

On June 21, 1941, the Soviet army retreated from Edinets. Several senior Jewish clerks left with them. The rest of the Jewish population were not able to leave Edinets for several reasons: all vehicles were confiscated by the retreating army; unsubstantiated rumors were flying saying that Jews could not travel without a special internal permit. In spite of that, many Jews decided to leave, but the majority stayed in town. A few days later, on July 2, Romanian and German parachutists landed on a hill near the Edinets cemetery. They were able to shoot from this position. At that point, the Jews began to escape from Edinets. Many groups went on the road to Secureni and from there to Ataki. They intended to cross the Dniester and to go to Russia.

The Romanian soldiers that entered Edinets went on a shooting spree for two to three days. Hundreds were killed. The Jewish families gathered inside their homes. After the village was conquered they were ordered to come to the courtyard of the municipal offices. They were to be informed about important events. Most of the Jews remained in their homes, but those that did appear were jailed. The Romanian soldiers incited the local population to take revenge on the Jews. They announced that Jewish lives and property were insignificant. In addition to Romanian soldiers and other residents of Edinets, local peasants also took part in robbery, rape and murder. The peasants came from Ruseni, Golieni, Urdinetst, etc. Many Jews tried to defend their women and daughters from attacks by Romanian soldiers and local hooligans. However, the heroic deeds were not helpful and entire families- hundreds of Jews were killed by the soldiers and the hooligans. Some women and girls who had been violated hung themselves. After the first few days of attacks, the Romanian authorities, who had returned to the village, hung signs on Jewish homes proclaiming them Property of the State. All Jewish property was confiscated by the Romanian government and Jews were not allowed be on the streets. Jewish males were sent to work in the village. They were abused, insulted and beaten. After one week, everyone was instructed to gather in two places the central marketplace and the bridge to Balti. They were then deported in the direction of the Dniester. Some of the deportees were brought to Ataki and Rezina while others were taken to Skuren and Bricheni. They wandered between the two towns and Edinets. Before the deportation a local priest attempted to convince some 80 Jews to convert. The Jews refused and preferred deportation. About 1000 Jews of the 5000 resident there were murdered in the first two weeks of the entry to Edinets of Romanian forces.

Those Jews who escaped from Edinets and were unable to reach Russia had a bitter end. Here is a story of one of these groups: when the first escapees reached Ataki they found out that the bridge had been blown up and the railroad had been conquered by the Germans. Thus the road to Russia was closed to them. The Jews of Edinets had to retrace their steps, but were attacked on the way by Romanian and German soldiers. Many of them were killed.

Some escapees went to Skuren where they met other Jews who had arrived from Edinets. The others warned them not to continue on their way. In the meantime German tanks entered town and conducted a three-day massacre. Many of the Edinets Jews were also killed.

When the military police discovered that there were Jews from Edinets in Skuren it ordered them to gather so they could be sent back home. Many people were at work when the announcement was made and the members of their families hid and did not come to the gathering place. Others were taken away, but instead of being brought back to Edinets they were taken to Bricheni. Eventually those hiding were also deported. They were divided into groups and we only have evidence of what happened to one group.

This group of 400 people continued on its way from Bricheni accompanied by Jews from other towns. They were going towards the Dniester. The gendarmes stole their belongings and shot the elderly and the slow.

After three days of walking along the Dniester they crossed the river and reached Sokolov in Ukraine. Before they crossed the river, a Romanian officer ordered Rabbi Yehoshua Frenkel to cross himself. He refused and was tortured to death by Romanian soldiers. He managed to recite Shema Israel before he died. The farmers brought some food in exchange for clothing. The next day the deportees were taken out of Sokolov and brought to a river bed. There were about 25 000 Jews from other places. The area was outlined with chalk. Anyone who tried to cross the lines was shot on the spot. Heavy rains began to fall and the river bed was flooded. Many people drowned. This was a small area and there were many people in it. They were forced to wash and use the location for bathroom needs. The people were covered with lice and were not given any drinking water or food. Every morning a Romanian officer would arrive to inspect the chalk marks. One of Edinets deportees dared to cross the line to speak to this officer. The officer invited him to his office and when asked to alleviate some of the conditions he asked for payment in Rubles. He promised he would give the deportees a little more freedom and would allow them to gather potatoes in the area. Two sacks were quickly filled with Rubles and the officer actually fulfilled his promise. Additional money and jewelry helped to send groups of 300 people to different villages in the area.

A group of Jews from Edinets arrived in one of the small villages near Sokolov. The municipal head received the Jews and allowed them to spend the night, but he advised them to leave on the next day. He was afraid of riots. These people decided to return to Bessarabia through Ataki. On the way they met German soldiers who took them along the Dniester in spite of the fact that this was not permitted. Some of the Edinets Jews tried to go back home, but they were robbed and beaten on the way. The Jews stayed in Ataki for three days. On the fourth day they were surrounded by German and Romanian soldiers and they had to be on their way again. They were told they would be brought back to Edinets, but they were taken to Skuren. This march took a whole day, in pouring rain, without any food or water. The slower people were shot.

When they first reached Skuren they were not allowed to enter the town and they remained in a nearby forest. A Romanian sergeant allowed the people to exchange their money for Romanian currency and provided them with food. Three days later they entered Skuren and were placed in camp surrounded with a barbed wire fence. In this camp they were able to organize their lives somewhat and they remained there until October 3, 1941.

At the end of Yom Kippur 1941an order was given that the all the small groups were to gather in the marketplace in order to be transported from Skuren to another camp. Anyone who would not appear would be shot. The Jews of Edinets, accompanied by a small local group with shovels, were taken towards Ataki. On the way they were ordered to dig holes in order to bury the elderly and the slow that had been shot.

They group reached Ataki at midnight. There the deportees were tortured and beaten and the women and young girls were raped. At night they were whipped and again were forced to cross the Dniester. This time they were on the way to Mogilev where they were only allowed to stay for a few hours.

On October 5, 1941 Romanian and German soldiers woke up the exhausted deportees and ordered them to leave town. The convoy continued inside Transnistria. On the way some farmers tried to give them water, but the gendarmes spilled it.

On October 6 the group arrived in Kopaigorod. The local Jews helped the deportees. They served them soup and bread. Anyone who tried to get seconds was badly beaten by the gendarmes. At night they slept outdoors in very cold weather. One woman froze to death. In the morning they continued towards the village of Mitki. They stopped in the fields nearby. Again the groups organized themselves according to their hometown. Municipal leaders from nearby village and each one of them took a group of Jews. The Jews of Edinets were to Kianovka.

In Kianovka the women slept in the school on the first night. It was too small to contain everyone. The men remained outdoors. That evening the municipal head distributed bread and apples to the deportees. People attacked the food. The next day they were given food brought from the farm cooperative. The cooperative wanted the deportees to work, but they were too exhausted from their trials.

A few days later the Jews of Edinets continued on their way to Bar, 8 km away. Bar was under German authority and the deportees who remained worked in a sugar factory. When they saw how difficult their living conditions would be they began to negotiate with the municipal leader of Kianovka asking him to take them back. He agreed to take some of them and arranged work in the cooperative. Others went to Balky (between Bar and Kianovka) and remained in the local concentration camp. The Jews of Edinets left Bar in time, before all the local Jews and deportees were murdered.

In Kianovka the Jews of Edinets managed to find work with the farmers who provided them with food and treated them well. A few months later, in the winter of 1941-42, the local police led by the municipal head, suddenly appeared with 3 sleds attached to horses. They ordered everyone to pack their belongings and to go to Balky. There were terrible rumors coming from that camp. People were dying there on a daily basis. On the way to Balky the deportees stopped the horses. They got out of the sleds and remained in the fields. One of them returned to Kianovka and begged the municipal head to take them back. The deportees returned to the village, but their lot was not any better. There were many people in a small place, not enough food and a Typhus outbreak.

In the summer of 1942 a camp was established in Kuzmints, a distance of 6km from Kianovka. On the other side of Kuzmints, 6 km away, was Mitki, the headquarters of the Romanian gendarmerie. The new camp was meant to be the central place for all area Jews and so the Edinets group was sent there from Kianovka.

The camp was situated in an old barracks surrounded by a barbed wire fence and life was more difficult there than in the village. They suffered from lack of food and were covered in lice.

From November 1941 until April 1944 the Jews of Edinets stayed alternately in Kuzmints and in Kianovka. At times they succeeded in leaving the camp and staying in the village until they were returned to the camp by the Romanians. This situation continued until the arrival of the Red Army. Several months earlier contact was established between Edinets Jews and the partisans. Some Jews took part in sabotage activities. For example, several locksmiths from Edinets prepared special keys to take apart the railroad tracks. In this way they caused two German trains filled with soldiers to derail.

When the Soviets came to Kianovka all the Jewish men from Edinets joined the Red Army. The women remained in the village and worked there. Six weeks later the women, the elderly and the children left Kianovka and returned to Edinets.

 

The Camp in Edinets

After the Jews of Edinets left their village a transit camp for deportees was established. It was intended for several groups of Jews: Bucovinians sent from Banila, Chiudei, Vashkauts, Jadova, Vinnitsa, Lujeni and Hertsa: Jews from Bucovina who had been gathered in Storojineti and Jews from Bessarabia not permitted by the Germans to go to Transnistria

On August 20, 1941 the first group of deportees reached the camp. They originated in Bucovina and Bessarabia and were housed in stables and barns surrounded by a wire fence. Many others had to sleep outdoors and received little water and no food. Every day, 70-100 people died of hunger and exhaustion. Those who tried to leave were shot. In spite of all this some people managed to escape and got in touch with the mayor. They were given permission to buy food and bring it back to the camp after having bribed him.

A Romanian doctor was also bribed- he was a major- and 2500 people were allowed to enter Edinets and to be housed in houses abandoned by local Jews. They were divided into groups, but they still surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

A few days later 300 men were taken out of the camp and sent to work through Bricheni and Ataki to Khotin in Bessarabia. Among them was Rabbi Frenkel from Seletin in Bucovina. He encouraged the deportees. Another group of 500 men was sent later and was used to build roads.

In the meantime more groups of deportees were brought to the camp and their number reached a total of 23 000. The Jews of Bessarabia were the worst off because they arrived in Edinets exhausted after a difficult trip. Mortality was high, especially among the children (85%). Soon an epidemic of Typhus was rampant,

At the end of November 1941, on the eve of Hoshanah Raba, the camp was evacuated. The deportees were divided into two groups: the first group composed of Jews from Strozhnits and Zhadoba was sent to Markolesht in Bessarabia. On the way many were murdered, among them the Rabbi from Strozhnits and Rabbi Ginsburg from Zhadoba. The second group was made up of Jews from Hertsa, Banila, Seletin, Panatela and Barkhomt. They were taken out on the eve of Shmini Atzeret and were left in a field drenched in rain and snow. Five hundred people died there and the remainder were sent to Ataki. Some had means and were able to rent wagons, but those who lagged behind were murdered. Among those killed were Rabbi Frenkel from Zapolokauts and Rabbi Frenkel and his family from Seletin. That night 800 people were either murdered or died of exhaustion. Finally, on the eve of Simchat Torah the remnants of the group arrived in Ataki and they crossed the Dniester on the Mogilev.

Z.A.G

Encyclopedia of the Shoah: O-3-1129, 1417, 1439, 1445, 1527, 1534, 1741; O- 11 é 6-5; PKR-III.
Carp archives, volume 5, page 38; volume 8, pages 78-80


Bibliography

Yad Le Edinets: Memorial Book for the Jews of Edinets, Bessarabia, Tel Aviv, 1973;
Eisenberger A. The Tortuous Road of Bessarabian Jewry. Arbater Vort, 29.11.1946.
Carp, Matatias: Cartea Neagra, vol. III, Bucharest, 1947, page 33

 


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