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Translation of Tarutino chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Romania
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1980
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities,
Romania, Volume II,
pages 357-359, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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Translated by Ala Gamulka
Romanian and Russian Tarutino
It was a German colony in southern Bessarabia, about 70 km from Tarutino.
Until the End of World War I
The village was founded close to the time of the annexation of Bessarabia by the Russians (1812). A few other settlements were founded at the same time. They were all named after places where there were great battles between the Tsar's army and Napoleon. Tarutino was settled by German colonists who formed the majority of the population until the Jews arrived. They earned their living in agriculture and industry. The Jews were not permitted to settle there. However, in the years 1840-1870 the prohibition was not strictly followed.
The Jews began to settle in the village in 1832. Most of them came from Podolia and Ukraine. Tarutino became the largest Jewish settlement in southern Bessarabia after Cetatea-Alba. Tarutino hugged both banks of the Anciokrak River. There were 2-3 stone bridges and 20 wooden bridges connecting the two sections. The Jews lived mainly in the center of town.
In the 19th century Bessarabia had about 100 settlements and villages inhabited by Germans, especially in the southern part. In these German settlements around Tarutino there were very few Jewish families – 2-3 in every village.
Tarutino was the German center in southern Bessarabia. The Germans contributed to the growth of the area. They built factories, mills and schools. Their level of culture was higher than that of the local population or the Jews. The Jews were greatly influenced by the Germans and had good relations with them. During the Russian reign there were no pogroms.
The economic situation of the Jews was good. Most of them were in business. Very few of them were truly poor.
Religious and Cultural Life
Until 1917 there was no organized Jewish community in Tarutino. There were only a few Jewish institutions funded by taxes levied on the Jews by the municipality. The village had four synagogues: Mittel Shul, Zalohasa Shul, Polish Shul and Tailors Shul.
The Jewish cemetery existed since 1895 and was used for burial by Jews from surrounding communities. There was also a Mikve.
Students attended a Heder and a Talmud Torah. Rabbi Bronstein organized a school with 30 students. They were taught in Yiddish. In 1910 a private school was founded with several teachers. Teaching was conducted in Yiddish, Russian and Hebrew. The school stopped functioning in 1915/16. The children were then sent to other towns. There was also a library.
In 1915 a local Tarbut branch was opened.
In Tarutino there were also charitable organizations: Ezrat Holim (Assistance to the Sick), Someh Noflim (Help for the Needy), and Help for poor brides.
On Purim there was a group of young people who went from door to door collecting donations for the poor. On Passover they gave Maot Hittim to the poor.
There was no old People's home and no orphanage.
In 1910 the Russian authorities founded a hospital which belonged to the state.
That year the Small Credit Bank was also founded. It helped to improve the lives of the Jews by providing loans. These were hard-working small merchants, craftsmen, etc.
In 1907 the Zionist group Pirhei Zion (the flowers of Zion) was formed. The entire Jewish community was Zionist. The leaders always spoke in synagogues along Zionist themes. In the years 1900-1910 they began Jewish National Fund activities.
Between the Two Wars
After the July 1917 revolution the Kerensky government granted political rights to the Jews. However, when the Bolsheviks came into power in October the situation worsened. Between December 1917 and February 1918 there was no central authority. At that time there were several hundred Russian soldiers in Tarutino. They created their own gang. They did accept some Jews and Germans. The representatives of this gang were part of the municipal leadership.
The situation was unpredictable and there was fear of attacks and pogroms. The local Jews began to organize themselves so they could repel any attacks. Some Jews founded a self-defence group called ESOB (initials of the Russian term for Jewish branch for public peace). Young Jews wore uniforms and trained in the use of arms. They received about 100 guns from Bolgrod. The group was especially active on market days when there was a chance for rioting. Guards were posted on four roads at the entrance to town in order to deter gangs from entering on market days. This self-defence activity saved the Jews of Tarutino in the difficult times when no there was no authority in charge.
The entry of the Romanian forces into Bessarabia in mid-1918 made the situation of the Jews of Tarutino worse. As the Romanians entered, all the guns of the Jewish self-defence group were handed over to them. However, the Romanians were cruel to the young people and to all Jews. They arrested most of the Jewish students who had studied in Russia – about 50 of them. Among them was Frishman, the secretary of the Zamir choir. He had a list of the performers and they were all arrested. It was claimed that they were plotting against the new regime and were not really singers. They were tortured and forced to admit they were Bolsheviks. They were only liberated when the local press put pressure on the authorities.
Education and Culture
In 1910-1940, Rabbi Bronstein lived in Tarutino. He was a scholarly man and a devout Zionist. He organized the religious Jews to be in favor of Zionism. Due to his influence and that of the community, the Jews of Tarutino changed their way of life. They became less observant even before the Russian Revolution. The big change was most obvious in their clothing.
After World War I a kindergarten, an elementary school and a high school were opened in Tarutino. The teaching was done in Romanian, Russian and Yiddish. It should be noted that Jewish children learned Hebrew at a young age.
The Zionist movement developed especially after the 1917 revolution. After WWI (1919) a branch of the Zionist movement – Zeirei Zion (Youths of Zion) was founded. The Zionists in Tarutino benefitted from being close to Kishinev and Odessa.
The Zionist Jews worked hard for their cause. Among them there were three who stand out. Chsil Rosenberg, a merchant and the Gabbai of the Polish Shul, was active in 1890-1910. He was a scholar a talented organizer. Yehuda Leib Baraz was a merchant and served as treasurer of the movement. He worked hard for Jewish National Fund. The third was Rabbi Bronstein, mentioned previously.
The Maccabi branch was strengthened after WWI. It was led by a doctor from the village. Many young people contributed to Jewish National Fund.
Between the two wars about 60 young people left Tarutino and made Aliyah. They were all members of Zeirei Zion and Gordonya.
The relationship with the non-Jewish population was good, in general, until 1939. When the anti-Semitic activities of the Goga-Kuza grew, the situation of the Jews of Tarutino worsened. They did not suffer physical harm. The older population remained on good terms with the Jews, but the younger people were drawn to Fascism and showed anti-Semitic attitudes.
Romanian army units entered Tarutino and most of the Jewish population remained in town. They did not run away with the retreating Russian army. During the first days of conquest the Romanian soldiers and the Christian residents went berserk. Jewish properties and Jews were attacked. After the Jews were robbed of their money and other valuables, they were brought to a large field by the Romanian soldiers. There they were seated on benches and told that they would be photographed for Identity cards. Instead of a camera there was a machine gun covered by a large black cloth to give the impression that it was a camera. The Jews of Tarutino were thus gunned down after they sat on the benches. They were all buried in a large pit near the road.
Earlier, several men had been chosen to do forced labor. The roads had to be maintained in good order. The torrential rains at the time of the massacre uncovered the burial place of the Jews of Tarutino. These same men had to cover again the bodies in the communal burial place where their dearly beloved lay. No one knows the fate of this work force.
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