“Lipkany”
Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 2
(Lipcani, Moldova)

48°16' / 26°48'

Translation of “Lipkany” 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 362-365, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980


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[Pages 362-365]

Lipkany

Translated by Ala Gamulka

In Romanian it was called Lipkany-Targ and in Russian – Lipcani- a village in the District of Khotin
on the western banks of the Prut River and on the railroad from Balti to Czernowitz.

Jewish Population

Year Numbers % of Jews in
population
1874 313 families  
1897 4,410 people 64.2
1930 4693 79.9

 

Beginning of Jewish Community

The village was settled in the second half of the 17th century when a family of local aristocrats- the Lapchinskys- invited Jews to settle there. When the Jews arrived the village acquired a typical form. The Jews paid taxes to the owners.

Between the two world wars the village developed and the Jewish community grew. Lipkany also had refugees from Ukraine and Jews from nearby villages who came to settle there. The village also absorbed Jews from Noua Sulitsa.

 

Formation of the Community

There was no organized community until the Russian Revolution. The community was run by rabbis and ritual slaughterers who were paid from the Meat Tax revenue. The official rabbi appointed by the government took care of the registration of the population. Several powerful community leaders were supported by the authorities in their handling of the affairs of the community.

Leaders were not chosen in free elections until the last year of the Russian reign – in 1917. When the community was organized properly it also undertook the burden of paying the rabbis and the ritual slaughterers and it also supervised existing institutions. The community supported the Talmud Torah where a hot meal was given to the students on a daily basis, the synagogue, the Jewish Hospital, the Home for the Elderly and the public bath house. It also provided fire wood and other necessities to the needy. It even gave money to the large public library named after Yehuda Steinberg. The library had many volumes in Yiddish and Hebrew. In 1919, when many refugees arrived from Ukraine, a committee was formed to offer them legal and financial assistance. The committee even opened a kitchen where meals were served.

The Hevra Kaddisha operated in Lipkany almost from the beginning of the Jewish community and it looked after burials in the Jewish cemetery and its maintenance.

 

Synagogues

There were about 20 synagogues in Lipkany- among them houses of worship belonging to the Hassidim of Stepanesht, Sadigura, Boyan, Strelsk, etc. Each group of craftsmen had its own synagogue and there was also the Great Synagogue. Unfortunately, the latter caught fire many times and had to be renovated often.

 

Education

Until the beginning of the 20th century the children of Lipkany studied in Heders. When the national movement and the Enlightenment reached the village, “Modernized Heders” and schools were established. There were no public schools except for one that did not admit Jews. In the 1920s a Tarbut school came into being. It had 6 classes and Hebrew, general studies, Jewish studies and crafts were taught.

In the 1930s a private school, under the direction of Avraham Rosenblatt, was established. This educational institution, where Jewish studies were offered, did not last long. Young people who wished to pursue their studies and to write external examinations would travel to Balti. A group of students founded an illegal school for poor children. They rented three rooms where they taught general and Jewish subjects. The school was closed after one year. Another school, run by the brothers Eliezer and Moni Steinberg instilled national-Zionist spirit in its students. It was a nice-looking building, surrounded by a garden.

 

Economic Situation

Most of the Jews of Lipkany made their living by trading, mainly with farmers from surrounding areas and as craftsmen. A few of them leased estates, owned flour mills and factories producing oil and soap. All the craftsmen were organized in profession associations. The Jews of Lipkany had an important role in the economy of the district because they exported the produce of northern Bessarabia to Austria, Germany and other countries. Dealers in furs and leather sent their goods to the United States. There was also a cooperative of merchants who dealt in eggs.

 

Inauguration of the Tarbut School

 

Prior to WWI there was, in Lipkany, a Jewish bank, “Cooperative Bank of Credit” which was connected to the Jewish Colonization Association. In 1917, during the revolution, all banking activities ceased. Instead of this bank, another, called Savings and Loan Fund, was founded and all accounts were transferred there. Some Christian members joined the new bank and they were able to obtain loans, but they did not repay them. Since they were considered to be important people there was no legal action taken against them.

 

Zionist Movement

In the days between the world wars, Zionist activities increased in Lipkany. Many young people took part in the preparatory branches prior to making Aliyah. The first group went in 1921.

In 1914 and 1915 a young group was founded –Lovers of Hebrew. The goal of its members was to learn Hebrew and to propagate Zionism among the youth. Hundreds of young people joined the group. In 1913 the group, as a minority sect, took part in the first revolutionary demonstration in the village. They waved the blue and white flag. In the early 1920s there were many active committees in the village – Zionist, Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod, etc.

Among the Zionist youth groups active in the village, Hatkhia (Revival) led all the others. It eventually became the Gordonya and attracted the working youth. Students joined Hashomer Hatzair. Many young people prepared themselves for Aliyah in various centers and in 1921 the first group reached Eretz Israel. Others organized themselves in a Zionist non-political group-Aviva. There were also branches in Lipkany of Maccabi, Poalei Zion, and Hechalutz (1932).

 

Anti-Semitism

The Jews of Lipkany had good relations with their Christian neighbors. Still, from time to time, there were attacks by unemployed laborers who came to town and set houses on fire in order to create work for themselves. In 1892 the first such fire was lit and there were many others in the years that followed. The Jews of Lipkany suffered from attacks by pre-army young men who sowed their wild oats in the nights of August-September. They frightened the residents, especially the Jews.

In 1905 a rumor reached the village that a group of hooligans were coming from Oknitsa to Lipkany and a group was formed for self-defence and for guard duty. The hooligans stopped when they saw the preparations for self defence.

In the years 1914 and 1915 the army came through the village on a continuous basis. The soldiers slept in Jewish homes and emptied the wine cellars. In May 1936 there were crosses on the outskirts of Lipkany when the followers of Koza held a convention there. There were thousands of farmers in the area who were behind this group. They called for the deportation and murder of the Jews. The military commander defended the Jews and no harm came to them.

 

Holocaust

On June 22, 1941 three German airplanes bombed Lipkany. Some Jews were injured or killed. The next day the Soviet authorities ordered the evacuation of the village which was being bombed non-stop. The escape route was through the mountains to Bricheni, about 30 km east of Lipkany. In Bricheni the evacuees were housed in great discomfort. There were 6 or 7 families in a room. Many people had to sleep outdoors. The Jews were starving because the area farmers had stopped bringing produce into town – the ruble was not worth much anymore. There was very little water distributed.

On July 10 the Red Army began to retreat towards the Dniester. Dozens of Jewish families, refugees from Lipkany, tried to accompany the army. They even succeeded in crossing the river, but they fell into the hands of the Germans near Yampol where they were shot and buried in a common grave.

On July 11 hundreds of Romanian peasants entered Bricheni and caused riots. There were many dead, among them 80 people from Lipkany.

On July 18, 1941 all residents of Lipkany were gathered outside town under the pretense that they “were going home”. A long journey of persecution began and about 80% of the Jews of Lipkany died. There were heavy rains on that day and the gendarmes received those gathered with shouts and beatings. They tore beards from elderly Jews, with the skin, yelling “this is only the beginning”. The deportees became depressed and were full of despair when they realised that they were not going back to Lipkany, but were being sent on a torturous road to Edinets. It was a difficult climb and they sank in deep mud. The elderly could not get out of the mud and were shot by the gendarmes. Families were separated in the darkness, mothers lost their children and babies froze to death in the mud. At midnight they arrived to the village of Dolores, about 18 km from Bricheni. The deportees were either lodged in mud huts or they remained outside. On the next day they were ordered to continue on their way. They walked through fields of wheat and rye and fruit orchards. In spite of the threats by the soldiers they managed to eat some of the produce. As they were going through one of the villages, the gendarmes disappeared and the peasants began to rob them. Two days later they arrived in Edinets where they were placed in the crowded ghetto together with Jews from Secureni, Bricheva, Riscani and Balti. There were 7-8 families in a room and no one was able to sit down. The lineups at the three wells were long. The young people were sent to work packing and unpacking food sent to the front. They were paid with a loaf of bread and a can of jam.

Ten days later all former residents of Lipkany were ordered to continue their trek. They were again guarded by gendarmes and the walking was difficult. They were very thirsty and any deviation from the line was met by deadly shooting.

A few days later they arrived in Ataki which had been emptied of its Jews. The soldiers stationed there abused the deportees. They ordered the elderly to pray and to move accordingly, to lie on the floor and to get up quickly, to sing and to dance. Anyone who dared to disobey was beaten badly. Towards evening they were all placed in the Great synagogue. During the nights the soldiers appeared again and ordered the Jews to entertain them, but the gendarmes pushed them away. In the morning the women peasants arrived and bartered with the Jews – clothing for bread, gold for food. Some local Christians brought food and clothing to the deportees, but the gendarmes threw them out and beat them.

That day, again the order was given to advance towards the Dniester and to cross it. By nightfall they reached Mogilev. Several families escaped and hid in town while the others were ordered to leave and to climb the mountain towards Ozarinets. On the way, some people disappeared and from Ozarinets they came to Yampol.

From there they again crossed the Dniester and returned to Bessarabia. The first stop was in the Rublenitza Forest which was filled with bullet-ridden rags and pools of blood. New gendarmes replaced the previous ones and they received the Jews with anger and cruelty. The deportees spent two weeks in the forest and they were unable to find anything to eat, not even grass and peels. Water was available at a distance and they were only given one hour to get it. Any lateness, even for a few minutes, any disobeying of an order to dance, to sing, were punished by death. Dozens of bodies were buried in the forest.

Two weeks later the deportees were again sent to Secureni where they starved. Three hundred young people were ordered to work. They were given bread and sugar and were accompanied by armed gendarmes.

When they reached Lipkany they were sent to work at the train station, in clearing destroyed houses, in weeding and in cleaning. The work was not difficult and their guards did not abuse them-so ordered by their supervisor. The workers were even given three hot meals per day. They were visited by former acquaintances, Christian residents who brought them food, clothing and even money,

A short time later they were returned to Secureni where they did not find any family members because they had been sent to Edinets. Many of their relatives died on the way. The day after Yom Kippur of 1941 they were sent eastward and by the end of October they reached Mogilev again. A day later they continued on their trek.

After they had covered about 60km the gendarmes informed them that they would continue without any accompaniment. The deportees became suspicious and fearful. What settlement would allow them to enter? They decided to disperse and to leave a few families in each village.

When they arrived in Kopaigorod the local Jews were afraid to approach them. That night some of the deportees froze to death and were buried in the cemetery of Kopaigorod. The rest continued on their travels and left a few families in each village. Martinovka, 10 km from Kopaigorod, saw 40 families who were allowed to stay. They were even given a windowless building with a leaking roof. It was autumn and the cold was penetrating. Children had to sleep sitting up because there was no room. A few days later several families left.

Some of the deportees moved to Kuzmints and others to Frumushintz, on the border between the German and Romanian areas. Soon the Jews were evicted from there as well.

In Martinovka there were less than 30 families who had very little. The winter of 1942 was severe and almost half of them died of cold and starvation. The dead were not even buried, but were covered with piles of snow. In spring there was a Typhus epidemic in the district. The authorities exiled the Jews from Martinovka to an area about 5 km from the village.

The survivors from Lipkany were spread all over Transnistria and most families were separated. The deportees were located in all of the camps of Transnistria, Kopaigorod, Vapiniarca, Tulchin, Murafa, Jemerinka, Pechora, etc. In Vapiniarca there were 650 families and of these only 2 families were from Lipkany. The Jews of Lipkany were exiled from Kopaigorod to the adjacent forest where they were shot and buried in a common grave. In Tulchin the deportees of Lipkany worked at hard labor in the peat mines for 12 hours a day. They received food as payment, but every so called transgression was punished with a beating to death. There were also, in the camps, cases of poisoning due to rotten food provided by the authorities.

In the summer of 1943 the first partisans came to the forest of Motikova. The Jews of Lipkany who were in Gorodok escaped to Martinovka and hid in homes of Ukrainian peasants who were kind to them. At that time the Romanians did not abuse the Jews. Some young Ukrainians in Martinovka organized a spy ring and several Jews from Lipkany were included.

On the evening of 21 March 1944 the Red Army entered and the deportees of Lipkany returned home. They found their houses destroyed and many of the survivors made Aliyah.

Z.A.G


Pinkas Romania/II; P-6/2;73

Bibliography

Testimony of Ruska, archives of Former Residents of Lipkany, Tel Aviv, 1960
Community of Lipkany: Yizkor Book, Association of Former Residents of Lipkany in Israel, Tel Aviv, 1963
Shuster, Aaron: Lipkany of Yore, Montreal, Canada, 1957
Carp, Matatias: Cartea Neagra, vol. III, Bucharest, 1947, pp.34, 35, 79.

 


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