“Soroka”
Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 2
(Soroca, Moldova)

48°09' / 28°18'

Translation of
“Soroka” 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 372-382, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980


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[Page 372]

Soroka

Translated by Ala Gamulka

Romanian: Soroca; Russian: Soroki.

It was a capital city in Soviet Moldova on the eastern bank of the Dniester.
In Hebrew sources the following names are used – Soroka, Sraka. Soroki, Soroke.

Jewish Population

Year Total
Jews
%
Jews
1817157
families
 
1847343
families
 
18644,13576.4
1880/819,20074
18978.78352.7
19028.70031.3
19305.45236.3

 

History of the Community Under the Moldovans (1656-1812)

Soroka, one of the most ancient cities in Bessarabia, was a transit station for many peoples and tribes during the Middle Ages. These peoples and tribes wandered from east to west and from south to north. In the 12th century merchants from Genoa built a fort there. The Turks used it to guard the border from an invasion of Russian Cossacks.

In the 17th century Soroka was destroyed by the Tatars and by the end of the century it was returned to Moldova.

In the 16th and 17th centuries there were market fairs in Soroka. It stands to reason that there were some Jews among the merchants.

The first documented mention of a Jewish community in Soroka is found in a diary of the German priest Conrad Hiltebrandt from Pomerania who was a member of the Swedish mission to Bogdan Khmelnitsky. On their way to Ukraine the group visited Bessarabia. In the entry for January 4, 1657 he writes that Soroka is full of Jews – escapees from Ukraine and Poland. He also adds that a local Jew called Avraham offered his services as a translator since he spoke both Russian and German.

A notice from 1711 hints at a Jewish community in Soroka. A traveler who visited in 1735 mentions Greeks, Moldovans, Turks and Jews as residents.

The traveler De Lange came to Soroka in December 1736 and wrote that the town is mainly settled by Moldovans with some Greeks, Turks and Jews.

In the years 1741-1742 a local Jew was fined 40 Hungarian zlotys for theft. However, when the court in Iasi investigated, it ruled that the accused was innocent. It ordered that the fine should be returned to him.

The legal position of the Jews of Soroka was established in the privileges awarded by the princes of Moldova. They were given the freedom to settle in the town and in villages, to deal in commerce and practice their crafts. They were not officially allowed to lease land and to sell alcoholic beverages in the villages. However, most of the time, these prohibitions were not followed.

The Soroka community belonged to a cooperative (breasla) of Jewish communities in Moldova. The cooperative ran along the lines of other guilds and professional associations for foreigners who were permanent residents in Moldova. Soroka was a unique community from an administrative and budgetary point of view. It paid a yearly tax to the authorities without being forced to do so. From a religious-spiritual aspect the Soroka community was under the jurisdiction of the chief Rabbi in Iasi (Haham Bashi). He ruled over all the judicial and religious questions of the cooperative of communities in Moldova. He followed the ways of the people of Israel by appointing rabbis, judges and even secular leaders in all the communities. He had permanent representatives in all the communities and was able to collect taxes through them.

The Jews of Soroka also dealt in agriculture: production of honey, beeswax, tar, leather, heating oil, cattle and sheep. They also provided horses for the Prussian army which had reached the Dniester. A document from 1757 informs us that the distillery in Soroka was established by a local Jew. Its products were sold in local Jewish taverns. In a memorandum from 1769 prepared by a Moldovan aristocrat about six towns in the area with stores, Soroka is mentioned as a “small settlement with limited commerce where there are a few shops selling food, tar, milk and heating oil”. On 10 January 1782 a tavern with a cellar was sold in the neighborhood of a local Jew called Israel. Three days later, on the 13th of January, a house was sold near a store belonging to another Jew called David. According to the list of foreigners from 1803 the number of Jews in Soroka and vicinity reached 686.

 

Organization of the Community

The community was headed by a committee elected every three years and which represented it in front of the authorities. The committee collected taxes, appointed rabbis and judges with the approval of the Haham Bashi from Iasi. All religious and public organizations were under its jurisdiction. On April 13, 1727 Prince Gregori Ghica permitted two local ritual slaughterers called Yaakov and Boruz to collected meat tax (Gebela) from Polish merchants. These merchants came for yearly fairs in Soroka. They also collected the tax from local butchers as had been the custom under the previous Moldovan rulers.

The rabbinic court in Soroka is mentioned in a document from 1808. The first head of the court is known as the Learned Rabbi Israel, the son of Daniel (z”l) from Kishinev. He was in the position in Soroka at the time and died in 1796. He was followed by Rabbi Daniel, son of Nahum, also from Kishinev. He, together with Rabbi David Shlomo, son of Avigdor, Eibshitz, ran the court and they were the rabbis in charge. They used to sign notes, fines, house deeds and other documents. An old deed of sale of house in Soroka from 1808 was preserved. It was signed by both rabbis.

Rabbi David Shlomo Eibshitz arrived in Soroka in 1800 or 1801 and remained there until 1808-1809 when he made Aliyah. He died in Safed in 1812 in the Yeshiva he had established. His students came from near and far. There were so many of them that there was not much space for them. A new building was built. The Soroka community saved the rabbi's desk and chair and kept it until the Holocaust. Rabbi Eibshitz was a Talmud scholar, an excellent orator and a loyal follower of Rabbi Zev Wolf from Cherna Ostrava. He was, thus, a student of the Maggid from Mezerich. He spoke sternly to his congregants and chastised them for “things that are rotten, especially the fact that there is too much talking in synagogue”. He also authored books that had great success: “Wearers of uniforms” about the laws of broken bones in animals. The book was printed in ten editions. The second part of the book had interpretations of the weekly portions that he had delivered in synagogue. This book was printed in 19 editions. He also wrote books about Shulkhan Arukh, ways of life and other topics. After he made Aliyah several years passed before his position in Soroka was filled

The first synagogue was built not far from the Dniester, to the left of the Turkish fort. It was completed in 1775. The year is etched under its large dome together with the twelve signs of the Zodiac.

There were three cemeteries in town. The first was erected on the slope of the hill and it seems, according to the ancient stones, that the first dead were buried at the end of the 15th century or the beginning of the 16th. Thus, it is assumed that the first Jews arrived in Soroka in the second half of the 15th century.

The Burial Society was established in 1778 (according to another source – in 1777). A third source insists that it was 1743 and that its Pinkas (book) was written by Rabbi Israel, son of Daniel.

 

Under the Russians (1812-1918)

According to the Bucharest Agreement of 1812, the Turks gave up Bessarabia and it was annexed by Russia. In early 1813 a civil and legal regime was established, outside the jurisdiction of the tsarist empire. A temporary government, following the framework of the Moldovan Divan, was formed. Bessarabia was given many privileges such as not having to pay taxes for the first three years and not having to serve in the army and others.

In 1818 a code of regulations for Bessarabia was published. It had the administrative and legal mechanism for the next 10 years, i.e., until 1828. Included were instructions for the Jews who constituted a special group. They still were obliged to register according to their professions in one of three sections: merchants, urban residents or agricultural workers. As a result they were permitted to trade in the rest of the province and in other parts of the Russian Empire. However, they were not allowed to purchase inhabited estates, only land that belonged to the treasury. They were also able to lease and sell alcoholic beverages on estates belonging to aristocrats and in those belonging to the state. They were also permitted to lease flour mills, distilleries and other plants. All privileges and rights granted by the Moldovan princes were also approved.

As of 1830 when three guilds were established in Bessarabia, Jews were also registered according to their particular trade.

The Russian government wanted to settle the sections of Bessarabia which were not yet inhabited and it put out a call for people to come and live there. It offered free plots of land, equipment and exemption from military service. Among the thousands of immigrants that arrived from other parts of Russia, there were many Jews who were enticed by the government promises, especially the exemption from military service. The Cantonists of Nikolai I had removed many children from their families and sent them to serve in Siberia. Many of them died and others were converted by the church.

The Jewish immigrants who arrived in Soroka came from nearby areas – Podolia, Ukraine, Galicia and also from Lithuania and Latvia. In the 1817 census it is noted that there were, in Soroka, 157 Jewish heads of family (145 men, 12 women). However, in 1847 their number grew to 343. In 1835 Soroka was promoted to the status of a town from that of a village and the general population, including the Jewish, was increasing.

In 1855 the list of merchants in the third guild showed 105 Jewish families (501 people) and in the second guild there was only one Jewish family.

The community was growing and in 1864 there were 4135 people (2065 men, 2070 women). In that year the governor sent the following data to the Ministry of the Interior in Petersburg – 200 births, 106 deaths, 58 marriages, one divorce.

That year there was also one synagogue and five houses of prayer while in 1857 there was one synagogue and two houses of prayer.

In conjunction with the government program to settle the emptier areas of Bessarabia and with the Jews beginning to work the land 9 Jewish agricultural settlements were established –in the years 1836-1853. Some of them were on purchased land and others on leased plots. These were: Dombroveni, Valea Lui Vlad, Bricheva, Markuleshty, Alexandreni, Vertuzhen, Lublin, Caperesht, and Zguritza.

In 1835 there was a change in the legal status of the Jews of Bessarabia. It became closer to that of Jews in other parts of the Empire and thus they began to lose their special privileges. However, they still were exempt from military service until 1852 and they could still reside in areas near the border. On April 9, 1839 the Tsar ordered that these exemptions were to be lifted. The situation eventually improved when it was decided that only those Jews who were not resident in Bessarabia before 27 October 1858 would be expelled. The excuse for the regulation was the accusation that Jews dealt in contraband and did not pay duty tax.

 

Economic Life

During tsarist times the Jews earned their living by commerce, mainly trading agricultural products, wheat, cattle, etc. They were merchants, agents, clerks and porters. Many Jews also were craftsmen: tailors, shoemakers, furriers, etc. They mainly served the farmers in the area. Some Jews also earned their living by working the land.

In the mid 1840s the Russian government distributed tracts of land to many residents. They planted vineyards and fruit trees. In the 1860s there were 40 Jewish families in Soroka growing tobacco. This became a branch of commerce particular to the Jews not only in Soroka, but also in other parts of Bessarabia.

The Jews of Soroka developed vineyards – for eating and medicine. When the Jewish Colonization Association, headed by the agronomist Ettinger – at the end of the 19th century- wanted to develop agriculture in Bessarabia, the Jews of Soroka already owned many vineyards and orchards.

Until the 1890s the Dniester was used to transport all produce on freighters. It was brought to Odessa and from there to other ports on the Black Sea. Also the produce was sent north to Austria and Germany. This commerce provided a good living for the Jews of Soroka and the entire province. In the last quarter of the 19th century transport was in the hands of 3 Jews: Horenstein, Zheldin and Tsimerman.

As of the 1880s the economic situation of the Jews of Soroka worsened. The international economic crisis and the decrease in the price of wheat – the main export from Bessarabia to markets in Russia, Austria and Germany – brought about bankruptcies of local Jewish merchants. Hundreds of families were impoverished and many others, clerks, agents and craftsmen suffered as a result.

The pogroms in Russia in 1881/1882 did not reach Bessarabia, but, still, they created a threatening and dangerous atmosphere. On May 3, 1882 the Interior Minister, Ignatiev, published the infamous “Temporary Laws” which forbade Jews from buying and leasing land and real estate as well as residing in villages- if they had not already lived there before that date. Lists of names of village residents were examined and the local authorities deliberately omitted many Jewish names, even though they had lived there for many years.

The 1880s and 1890s saw the expulsion of Jews from villages in the Soroka district. They would arrive in town naked and without any belongings and the community was obliged to take care of them. There was very little money in the public purse. In 1887 10-20 Jewish families arrived on a daily basis having been expelled from the villages. In 1891 the Jews were forced to leave the villages of Sofia, Chetrosu and Droyeti. In 1895 9 families were expelled from Koguresht. Also in that year 10 families left Costujeni and 22 were expelled from Kremenchug. They had all lived in these places until 1882. The expulsions continued in the second half of the 1890s and even affected the Jewish agricultural settlements.

The economic situation of the Jews deteriorated due to the freeze on trading wheat. The tobacco industry suffered because Crimea and Caucasus produced superior quality. Many local families were living in dire poverty. In addition, drought was present in Bessarabia and northern areas every 5 or 6 years. The Dniester was no longer an important transportation venue after the railroad was built. Soroka was then connected to all major railroad lines. To help matters many more Jewish families turned to farming. In July 1887 a group of 50 local Jews leased a plot of land measuring 55 Disiatin outside the town and they worked on it in a collective manner. In April 1890 the Duma, the municipality committee, rented 100 Disiatin of its land to 100 local Jews for a price of 5 Rubles per Disiatin for the purpose of farming. It was done with the assistance of its Jewish member called Sinland.

In 1898 the Jews of Soroka owned 51 fruit orchards near town on an area of 90 Disiatin. In 1900 they had 54 orchards on an area of 93 Disiatin. There were 293 workers on this land. Local Jews also worked as farm hands on estates owned by aristocrats in Soroka and Balti. They were excellent workers and outdid the Moldovan and Romanian farmhands.

The weekly publication Vozhod of November 8, 1887 describes the following: In the 102 villages in the Soroka area there are 758 Jewish families. They earn their living in this manner: 134 families –craftsmen; 60 –growing tobacco; 35- working the land. There were also in the entire Soroka District 398 Jewish farmers, 243 of them grew tobacco. Jews also owned the following: 32 flour mills with 123 workers, 44 of them Jewish; 2 flour mills belonging to a Jewish estate owner with 50 laborers; 68 additional flour mills on the banks of the Dniester; 12 lumber warehouses; 7 rafts on the Dniester with 80 workers; 20 Jews were wholesale dealers in wheat with 12 agents and 60 office clerks.

In the entire District of Soroka there were, in 1897, 3282 Jewish tradesmen and of these, 1297 (39.5%) in town. These were their occupations: 880 tailors and seamstresses, 240 butchers and fishmongers, 236 wagon drivers, 225 shoemakers, 177 female hat makers and linen sewers, 149 porters, 145 carpenters, 81 bakers, 78 water drawers and woodsmen, 75 men's hat makers, 67 producers of yeast and vinegar, 58 glaziers and cement workers, 512 coopers and wagon makers, 49 construction workers, 40 stonemasons, 39 flour grinders, 39 tinsmiths, 37 tile makers, 31 fur makers. 30 locksmiths, 29 rafts men, 28 barbers, 28 luggage makers, 19 clock makers, 19 bookbinders, 16 goldsmiths, 15 musicians and instrument makers, 13 lamp makers, 10 engravers, 8 cotton makers, 8 soap makers, 4 typographers, 3 photographers, 3 lathe operators.

At the end of the 19th century there was a severe drought in southern Russia and northern Bessarabia and thousands of Jewish families suffered from starvation. In 1901there were 200 families (980 people) that were registered in Soroka to receive welfare from the Committee to Assist Those Who Suffered from Poor Harvest in Russia which was established in Kishinev.

During the 1905 revolution there were no serious attack on Jews, but the authorities found a different way to fulfill their needs. They conducted an anti-Semitic campaign in the villages and encouraged the rural communities to evict the Jews calling them “foreign and harmful elements”. The inciters from the “Black Century” roamed the towns and villages of Bessarabia and invited their followers to beat the Jews and to attack them.

 

Immigration

The economic breakdown, the persecutions and the evictions from the villages produced an immigration wave to countries across the sea. The immigration wave began in April 1881 when the riots started in southern Russia and that summer 25 families from Soroka were stuck in Borody with hundreds of others. They hoped that the Alliance would transport them to the United States. Immigration from Soroka from that time on coincided with reactions to letters received from overseas. In 1891 there was a weekly exodus of tradesmen to the United States, accompanied by their wives and children. The wave intensified when there was an announcement about the plan of the Baron De Hirsch to settle Jews in Argentina.

In 1892, David Feinberg, the representative of the Baron, arrived in Bessarabia to choose appropriate candidates for the agricultural settlements in Argentina. He established a central committee in Kishinev with branches in other towns. Feinberg also came to Soroka and selected 100 families from the area. They were mostly people with an agricultural background and good work skills. He organized them into two groups of 50 families each. There was a general plan for 10 groups totaling 500 people. During his stay in Soroka he was approached by a local group of intellectuals asking him to intervene on their behalf with Baron De Hirsch. They wanted to settle in Argentina.

In April 1894 a group of 50 families (200 people) immigrated. Among them were two families from Soroka on their way to Argentina. In May a second group of 20 families from Soroka left with the hope that Baron De Hirsch would take care of them and bring them to peace on the land. It is important to note that of the 7 groups that reached Argentina the residents from Soroka stood out in their ability to acclimatize themselves to their new surroundings, their agricultural knowledge and their usefulness.

The immigration wave continued during the 1890s and daily there were many local Jews who approached the committee. Many of them were villagers who were in danger of eviction. In addition to the immigration to the United States and Argentina there were also some Lovers of Zion who wished to make Aliyah. In the 1890s there was activity in Soroka by the Association for the Encouragement of Working the Land in Syria and Palestine. Those who made Aliyah put their trust in Baron Rothschild who helped them to found agricultural colonies.

 

The Agronomist Akiva Ettinger

The young and energetic agronomist Akiva Ettinger arrived in Bessarabia in 1898. He was a representative of the Jewish Colonization Association in Petersburg. He was interested in a census of Jewish farmers in Russia. He visited agricultural settlements in the Soroka District and observed the decline in the produce of the vineyards. This was a result of disease of the vines. He also checked the tobacco industry and visited cattle and sheep owners and large Jewish estates. He returned to Petersburg and brought his observations, backed by statistics, to the central committee. He proposed an encompassing plan to cure the ills of Jewish agriculture and its development in Bessarabia. When his plan was approved he returned to Bessarabia and began to help not only Jewish agriculture, but farming in general. He chose to focus on Soroka where he leased 30 Disiatin for 24 years, from the municipality. It was a tract of black earth on the mountain overlooking the town. There he established an agricultural institute which became famous in Russia and in other countries. It was the Pitomniki Nurseries of the Jewish Colonization Association.

Ettinger selected 200 young men and women from Soroka and the Jewish agricultural settlements to clear the land, plant and sow and build structures, warehouses laboratories and hot houses. Soon these Nurseries of the Jewish Colonization Association became an agricultural school. It produced hundreds of thousands of vines, fruit trees, vegetables, etc. They were sent to other parts of the Province as well as to Podolia, Kherson and Yekaterinoslav. He taught modern work methods, gave counselling and rebuilt Jewish and non-Jewish farming settlements.

Ettinger built a canning plant for fruit, vegetables, tomato juice. He introduced modern stoves for drying fruit and plums and he also established Savings and Loan Funds and agricultural schools – all under the umbrella of the Jewish Colonization Association.

In 1906 the New Bilu movement was established in Russia and a group of pioneers came to the Nurseries of the Jewish Colonization Association for agricultural training. Eventually, the Nurseries became agricultural schools for the younger generation in Bessarabia. Many of its graduates made Aliyah and became part of the life there as farmers, counsellors, engineers, scientists and founders of settlements. The Nurseries also gave an impetus to many Jews in Soroka to purchase land on the mountain and to plant vines and fruit trees. The writer and educator Shlomo Hillelis wrote in his book “The Mountain of Compassion” that the time came for the mountain to become a star over the town of Soroka and its surroundings. He gave Ettinger a copy of his book as a gift.

A laudatory description of the Nurseries of the Jewish Colonization Association was given by the governor of Bessarabia (May 1903- October 1904), Prince D. Urusov in his book “Notes from a Governor”. He was especially impressed by healthy look and bright eyes of the young men and women who looked very different from the usual skinny and weak youths. It seemed to him that the workers in the nurseries were descendants of the early Jews who worked the land.

During the pogrom in Kishinev, in April 1903, Krushevan announced in the infamous “Bessarabitz” newspaper that the young men on the mountain were being trained to shoot by Ettinger. The police investigated, but it could not find any proof.

During the 1905 revolution a group of “Black Century” people in Soroka attempted to climb up the mountain. The workers in the nurseries and the trainees immediately took up positions ready to repel the attackers. The latter retreated fearing the “units of mountain defenders”. This is how it happened that in Soroka itself and in the district there were no anti-Semitic raids.

In September 1908 the nurseries of the Jewish Colonization Association put on agricultural exhibitions where they showed plants, special fruit trees, etc. in different towns in Bessarabia, in particular in Kishinev. The exhibitions were famous in Russia and outside it.

The great influence of Ettinger on Jews and non-Jews served as a reason for the authorities to constantly scheme and in 1906 he was arrested together with agronomist B. Segal. Great efforts were made to free them from jail. His loyal helpers for the 10 years he worked in Bessarabia (1898-1910) were: agronomist B. Segal, Yosef Mirkin, N. Fefergad, A. Aleinikov and A. R. Rabinovitch. They continued his work even after he left in 1910 to run the Baron's settlements in Argentina.

 

The Community and its Institutions

Soroka had complete autonomy in the daily running of its internal life. The rabbi dealt in all religious matters including synagogues and rabbinic court while the census of the Jewish population (births, deaths, marriages and divorces) were handled by the elected rabbi.

Rabbi Meir Deitschman was the chief rabbi from 1873 and until his death in 1887. His assistant was Rabbi Mordehai Frenkel, a grandson of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak from Berdichev. He was also known as the Rabbi from Semila. In the first decade of the 20th century he was head of the Kishinev Yeshiva and taught Talmud on a daily basis. He looked after the community and collected funds to pay for their firewood.

Elections for the rabbinic position were held every three years and they were fraught with scandal, disagreements, denouncements to the authorities and even fist fights. These events happened in many Jewish communities in Tsarist Russia. Every candidate had supporters and agents who tried to help them to win. They used many methods to convince the electors to vote for their candidate. In Soroka there was a custom of tempting the electors with restaurant meals and beverages and as a result many of them were drunk when they came to vote and they did not know their right from their left. The losing side would appeal and complain about fraud and distortions. The authorities would cancel the results and call for new elections.

Most of the candidates were of low intellectual ability and poor academic background. It was sufficient to have completed six years of school and the candidate could obtain a position of rabbi sanctioned by the authorities. At the end of the 1870s and the early 1880s Rabbi S. Borshtcheski held the position. In 1882 he moved to Kishinev and held the same position. In 1890 S. G. Bronstein was elected. He brought about innovations and improvements in social assistance and the supply of kosher food to Jewish inmates in the municipal jail. In the elections held in August 1896 Rabbi G. Bronstein received 962 votes while his opponent S. Fuchs had only 359. The loser, as usual, appealed the results.

The community had a large synagogue and 12 houses of prayer, mostly for craftsmen. One was called “white” and served the followers of Talne while another called “Ashkenazi” had mostly intellectuals and enlightened followers, so to speak.

In 1889 the authorities ordered the closure of two houses of prayer. They had existed for many years, but the authorities used the pretext that one did not have a permit while the other was too close to the local church. In 1890 locks were placed on their front door.

In the last quarter of the 19th century there were two burial societies in Soroka. In 1885 one of them had 100 members. The two societies competed for every burial and sometimes these disagreements and fist fights led to the desecration of the dead. The police had to intervene.

During that period of time there were several charitable institutions in the community. They looked after the needs of the poor: “Visits of the Sick”, “Bed for the Poor”, “Aid for Needy”, “Help for poor brides”, “Charity for those in need”, etc. Even poor Jewish travelers were well treated. They were given a bed for the night and meals in residents' homes. In the early 1890s “Clothing for the Naked” was established to help the poor Talmud Torah students. At the end of the 1890s I. Kitrosar founded “Lovers of Zion” which helped the poor. The group had 90 members and at the first meeting they collected 600 rubles. According to the minutes of December 1899 –April 1900 its income was 3400 rubles.

A thorough investigation of the economic situation of the Jewish population that year showed that there were 400 families (1600 people) that were poor and needy. In 1899 several educated women established the “Organization to help poor girls”.

 

The Jewish Hospital

in Soroka was founded in 1886 in a building purchased for 4400 rubles bequeathed in a will by the wealthy and childless Shmuel Keillis. (He was murdered along with his wife on Yom Kippur as they were on their way to synagogue. The case was never solved). IN 1887 the authorities approved an annual sum for maintenance of the hospital. It was to be taken from the “Meat Tax”. In addition, other sums came from income from the bath house and from personal donations. In October of that year it was established that there would be 10 beds- 6 for men and 4 for women. Also a walk in clinic and a pharmacy were added. Poor patients were given free medications, (In 1890 the authorities ordered that free medication would only be given to those who had poverty certificates issued by the police). The report made in 1888 by the president of the Sinland Hospital shows that in the previous year there had been 154 patients (83 men, 71 women). The number of patients in the walk-in clinic reached 1650 and the number of prescriptions was 5747.

For 15 years (1873-1888) the Jewish doctor M.A. Strusover worked in Soroka. He later moved to Odessa. He was one of the movers and shakers behind the establishment of the Jewish hospital and he took care of poor patients without any payment. He even gave them money.

The main source of income for the religious, public, educational institutions and for salaries for those worked there came from the Meat Tax (Korovka). It was a custom to do so in all Jewish institutions in Tsarist Russia. The tax was levied on the slaughtering of cattle and poultry and on the sale of kosher meat. The collection was done in public with the supervision of the authorities. The person in charge was stern and raised the cost of the meat. This was a problem for the poor. There were cases of corruption and they sometimes reached the courts since these were public funds. The victims were always the poor and their institutes. The funds were kept in the municipal treasury and were sparingly given after approval by the authorities. In fact, the majority of the funds were left in the city treasury. The leftover amounts came to tens of thousands of rubles. In 1855 they reached 45 000 rubles while the Talmud Torah was not given any additional funds. The authorities used these funds to build roads, pave streets and build schools. Very few Jewish children were admitted to these schools for legal reasons. In 1890 the authorities would not even approve the payment of a salary to the rabbi from these funds.

The Jews of Soroka participated in the municipal life of the town and there were always one or two Jews in the council. They were not elected directly, but were appointed by the authorities. Many Jews did not want to accept the appointment.

Bessarabia was fertile ground for Hassidism and their well-known dynasties – Sadigura, Talne, Batushan, Boyan, etc. These had been born in Podolia, Ukraine and Poland and had many followers in every village and town. The Jews of Soroka were also influenced by the dynasty of Vadu-Rashkov, founded by R. Shabtai. He had published the Siddur of Shabtai from Rashkov (Koritz,1797). Soroka had groups of do-gooders that appeared with their entourage of collectors. They distributed blessings and collected money. They disappeared soon afterwards. The local Hassidim had their own groups.

In 1902 Soroka was fortunate to have its own do-gooder when R. Nahum Shapiro came from Yampol. The locals now had their own “Good Jew”.

In 1891 there were 303 births (178 boys, 125 girls); 259 deaths; 90 marriages and 15 divorces.

 

Education

For many years the traditional Heder was the main educational institution in the community. Poor children completed their studies in the Heder right after their Bar Mitzvah. They would then become apprentices or did other work in order to help their families. Boys from wealthy families continued their studies with private tutors who came from Lithuania. The more capable of them studied in a yeshiva or in the synagogue.

The girls only learned to read the siddur and to write in Russian. In addition to the Heder there was a Talmud Torah for the poor and abandoned children. This was a sanctuary for them so they would not become criminals. From time to time community leaders would collect these children, hire a teacher and bring them to the house of prayer to study. This did not last long since the students did not have a good educational base.

In 1884 the Talmud Torah was housed in a dark and damp room near the bath house. At a general meeting of the municipality in October there was a proposal to increase the annual funds used for its maintenance from 400 to 600 rubles (this included 150 rubles to cover the tuition of poor students in the public schools). A Jew called Zinland, a member of the council, agreed to this proposal on the condition that the Talmud Torah would raise its academic standing and also include general studies. However, in spite of all this, things did not improve and in July 1886 the school was closed temporarily by the authorities due to negligence, dirty conditions, etc. In 1887 Zinland brought a new set of regulations for the Talmud Torah to the authorities. They, in turn, postponed their decision because they did not want to spend Meat tax money on it. The school remained closed until Rabbi G. Bronstein made desperate efforts to reopen.

In 1883 a group of enlightened women had a plan to open a school with classes for girls from poor homes. They would be taught handiwork there. The authorities did not approve the program, but they did allow a technical school. There were 25 girls there in May 1884. The school was subsidized by the sale of the handiwork of the girls and by donations. Many girls wished to attend the school, but there was not enough room for all of them. The equipment, such as it was, had also been donated by the founding group of women.

 

Secular Education

Tsar Nikolai I proposed a plan to elevate the educational and intellectual level of the Jews of Russia by establishing a network of schools where Russian and general subjects would be taught. By the 1830s, and even before that, there were some Jewish and private schools in various cities in Russia. These schools were rejected by the majority of Jews as vehicles for assimilation and conversion.

The Enlightenment movement and other secular trends reached Bessarabia and did not miss Soroka. In 1861 a first class Jewish school sponsored by the government was opened. Secular and religious subjects (Biblia in Russian) were taught in the school. The principal and teachers were graduates of the teachers' seminaries in Vilna and Zhitomir. When the principal, Barkhash opened registration, local parents did not rush to bring their children. In the years 1861-1863 the school was half empty. Barkhash blamed the private tutors for the lack of attendance. He visited the Heders, registered the children and ordered the tutors to send them to school in the mornings. Religious subjects would be taught in the afternoons. However, these tutors tried to fool him and did not send the children to the Jewish government school in the mornings. When Barkhash came to the Heder for inspection the children would disperse after being warned by guards.

In 1885 Barkhash, with the help of the authorities, opened a section for craftsmanship where carpentry, book binding and locksmith training were offered. In 1889 Barkhash was appointed principal of a public Jewish school in Kishinev and he was replaced by S. Sobelman in Soroka. The newcomer was able to endear himself to the parents and the students and he elevated the standing of the school in the eyes of Jewish community of Soroka. The school grew and more teachers were hired. One of them was Neumann, from Lithuania, who was an expert in the Hebrew language. He had been a student of the famous grammarian Yehoshua Steinberg in Vilna. The Society for the Circulation of Enlightenment of Petersburg, with his encouragement, opened a library with Hebrew and Russian books in Soroka.

In 1881 a public Jewish school with 2 classes was opened. It stood nearly empty because no religious subjects were offered. In 1886 the school had 120 students and another area school had 20 Jewish students. Many students were not included in the educational system due to the restrictions on the acceptance of Jews in public schools.

In 1887 a private school was opened in Soroka and in 1889 there were 80 boys in it. In the 1890s a school for girls was established.

After Sobelman died in the mid 1890s the public Jewish school deteriorated and its academic standing was not good. The 1897 census informs us that 27.5% of the Jews of Soroka could read Russian, but in the whole district the percentage was only 15.

 

Zionism and Love of Zion

In the 1880s changes occurred among the Jews of Russia. The riots of 1881/1882 rattled the Jews and caused a great disappointment in the hopes for emancipation, civil rights and integration into Russian society. The interest in Russian culture diminished and national awareness arose. The establishment of “Love of Zion” was the result.

In the 1880s a group of young people founded a movement for learning the Hebrew Language – “Clear Language”. It attracted many followers who wanted to revive Hebrew and to follow the national dream.

In 1890 Lovers of Zion was established in Soroka with 200 members. It collected donations and had a successful campaign on the eve of Yom Kippur in the various houses of worship. Many young people from wealthy homes joined the campaign in Odessa. The Lovers of Zion grew especially after the First Jewish Congress in 1897 when emissaries began to preach about the national dream.

In 1891 two young men from wealthy families made Aliyah and they were followed by the brothers Efraim and Nahum Komorover and their families. They settled in Ness Ziona. In 1901, Lovers of Zion sold 400 shares in the Colonial Bank. The first generation of Lovers of Zion in Soroka produced many community leaders who founded charitable and cultural institutions and were especially interested in Jewish education, the elevation of academics in the Talmud Torah and the financial health of the schools. They opened a Hebrew library and subscribed to the Hebrew press: “Hamelitz”, “Hamagid”, “Hatzfira”, as well as literary publications: “Ahiasaf”, “Tushia”, etc.

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hacohen Fishman-Maimon (1875-1962) spent some years in Soroka as a young yeshiva student, after he married a local woman. He writes: “It was a city of authors and bright people, generous wealthy men, scholars who followed Torah, Followers and people of action”, (The Minister of the Century, Part IV, page 167).

The national reawakening served as an uplift for Jewish education among the young generation. They were taught by teachers from Lithuania who came to settle in town. Among those is included Yitzhak Grodzenski, an intellectual who established a dairy farm in Soroka in his old age.

In the last quarter of the 19th century there were three other teachers who influenced the younger generation by forging their national-Zionist character. They were also from Lithuania. Zvi Eisenstaedt, who came in the early 1870s and was a private Hebrew language and literature teacher, soon, drew recognition by his generosity and depth of knowledge in general and in Hebrew subjects. After his death in 1891his students and admirers published a volume in his memory called “The Deer”.

The second teacher was Yitzhak Abramovitch-Ginsburg. In the beginning of the 20th century he passed government exams and moved to the Jewish agricultural settlement in Dumbraveni as the Director under the patronage of the Jewish Colonization Association.

The third teacher was Noah Rosenblum who was a private tutor and propagated Hebrew language in wealthy homes. He, together with his colleague Abramovitch-Ginsburg ,founded an “Improved Heder” where Hebrew was taught. It was the first such institution in Bessarabia. However, tutors and other teachers plotted against the school and it was closed after two years. Noah Rosenblum was a writer and a poet and his stories were published in several literary publications. He also wrote “Songs of Zion”. Among these songs was the famous song “Seu Ziona Nes Vadegel”. He also translated into Hebrew the song by Eliakim Tsunzer, “Hamkhresha” (the plough) and the song “Bamakom sham arazim”. At the end of the 1890s he was invited by the editor of “Hamelitz” to come to Petersburg and become his chief assistant. He died during the 1917 revolution alone and in poverty.

After these two Hebrew teachers left the quality of Hebrew education deteriorated in Soroka. There is a commentary about it in “Hatzfira” of August 1902.

From early 20th century and until Bessarabia was annexed by Romania in 1918, the community struggled along economic lines, the maintenance of public charitable institutions and participation in municipal affairs. In the September 1905 Duma elections only one Jew was successful even though two-thirds of the population was Jewish.

During the 1905 revolution there were no major anti-Semitic eruptions in Soroka, but the authorities incited the villagers to expel the Jews among them. Many Jews were obliged to leave with 10 days warning. The expulsions still continued in 1911.

In the first Duma elections in 1906, 18 representatives were successful in Soroka- among them were 11 Jews.

On May 16, 1906 the Savings and Loan Fund was established in Soroka.

The Yiddishe Kunst (Association for Jewish Art) was active in Soroka, encouraged and directed by the Bund and other Yiddishists. They also established a popular library in 1903 and it celebrated its 25gth anniversary in 1928. In 1908/09, according to minutes of this association, we learn that there was extensive cultural activity: 6 Yiddish plays and 5 literary evenings. One of these evenings was dedicated to the works of Shalom Aleichem. The income of the association that year was 816 rubles and its expenses were 671.

World War I brought great suffering to the Jews of Soroka: sons were conscripted into the army, economic life was destroyed and there were many murders and robberies committed by the retreating Russian army. In December 1914 a group of Jewish refugees arrived from Eretz Israel and local Jews contributed 384 rubles for their upkeep.

 

Under Romanian Rule (1918-1949)

In 1918 Bessarabia was annexed by Romania and all cultural and spiritual connections with the Jews of Russia were stopped. The connection had gone on for over 100 years and even agricultural markets were no longer available.

In addition to the difficulties connected to any change in regime, a wave of Jewish refugees arrived from Ukraine. They escaped without any belongings from the attacks by the Petlura gangs, the “whites” and the “reds”, during the civil war following the 1917 revolution. The refugees crossed the Dniester, but many of them were murdered or drowned by the border patrol. They were received with open arms by the Jews of Bessarabia and every village and town had a committee to look after the refugees.

In May 1919 Baruch Zuckerman, a representative of the Joint, visited Soroka to see how they could assist the population and to give constructive help. He formed the “Committee of Ten” with representatives of all public institutions in the community. Also, a local branch of the “American Central Committee to Help the Jews of Bessarabia and the Refugees of Ukraine” was established. It received considerable sums of money to help the refugees.

In August 1920 there was a memorial assembly in Soroka to commemorate those killed in the village of Peschenka in Ukraine and many refugees participated together with town rabbi, Mordehai Shokhetman.

In March 1921 some Ukrainian refugees were arrested and placed in jail in Soroka. They were then moved to Balti.

After some recuperation following the war, the annexation by Romania, the difficult economic situation, the Soroka community began to return to its social, cultural and spiritual life. In 1919 Hatkhia, a Zionist group was founded together with a local branch of Gordonya. There were many gatherings, lectures, parties, under its wings. In 1922 Hatkhia organized Hebrew language classes for adults. Among them were 40 laborers who also wanted courses in Romanian, Yiddish and mathematics. On 8 February 1921 a joint committee of the different Socialist Zionist held a conference in order to perform a mutual task for Keren Hayesod. On March 31 they held their first session in Soroka with representatives of professional unions in the district. A steering committee of 5 members was elected during this session.

In 1923 there was a large gathering in the municipal theater “Patat” for a Keren Hayesod activity. The representative of the central office in London, Dr. I, Sapir, attended. The speakers were the district rabbi, G. Bronstein and the local rabbi, Mordehai Shokhetman. The following day saw many active members collecting donations through the town for Keren Hayesod.

Hechalutz was founded in Bessarabia in 1920 and “Beit Hechalutz” was opened. It was closed by the authorities in 1921. That year a group of 100-120 pioneers went to do preparatory training in the nurseries of the Jewish Colonization Association on the mountain in Soroka. In the years 1923-1925 a group of 12-20 pioneers worked in the furniture factory belonging to Gershon Vinitsky in Soroka.

In the academic year 1919/20 a Hebrew high school, Tarbut, was founded in Soroka. It was headed by the poet Eliahu Maytus. He was followed by principals and teachers – Porat, Nitzotz and Bertini. In 1931/32 there were 7 classes, 12 teachers and 105 students (45 boys and 60 girls). In conjunction with the high school there was also an elementary school of Tarbut (Talmud Torah) which had 5 classes, 5 teachers and 158 students.

 

Secular Community

During the 1917 revolution the question of establishing secular and democratic communities was discussed by the Jews of Bessarabia in particular and Russia in general. For many years the community of Soroka had inner struggles about this topic – between those against and those for. Some people had selfish interests since they earned their living from the Meat Tax and they tried many methods to defeat free elections.

In 1927 town leaders met with representatives of the synagogues to try to prepare a constitution of the community. Denouncers rose immediately and the secular plan disappeared. The denouncers stopped the centralization of income from the Meat Tax which would have given funds to different public institutions.

After lengthy and numerous arguments, elections were held in June 1934 by a temporary committee of 5 members which had been appointed by the Ministry of Religions. In August 1935 the constitution of the new community was approved. Its new president was M. Flaksor, an attorney. The new community was given the registry books of the movements of the local Jewish population. The books had been, for many years, in the hands of rabbis during the Russian rule.

The income of the new community came from these sources: tax on ritual slaughtering and sale of kosher meat, direct taxes from members of the community (personal and free assessment). Expenses of the community: annual lines of budget to social institutions such as hospital, “Help for the Sick”, “Help for the Poor”, “Bed for the Needy” ,“Old Folks' Home”; for cultural and educational institutions such as the Hebrew high school, the elementary school and the library.

The community of Soroka was a member of the committee of Bessarabian communities that met in Kishinev. In November 1935 it was represented by its president, attorney M. Flaksor and in May 1936 it was attorney N. Freedman, assisted by attorney N. Fieldman.

In February 1938 there were elections and a committee of 14 was chosen. M. Flaksor was the chairman, I. Kitrosar the secretary and the vice-chairmen were David Zisser, Gitelman, and Avraham Hellman.

In the municipal elections in 1922, the Zeirei Zion prepared a list of Jewish candidates for all-Bessarabia. The list was successful in all areas and in Soroka it came in second.

Until 1929 the Jews of Soroka used to present a common bloc comprised of representatives of all movements of the Jewish community. This group used to join the Tsarists against the liberals. In the February 19, 1926 municipal elections this common bloc, together with the Tsarists and called the United Democratic List – 7 Jews were elected. The Jewish representatives were persecuted and attacked by their anti-Semitic colleagues. They often demanded that funds from the town treasury not be given to Jewish institutions, but the Jewish representatives held out and the others were not successful. Sometimes the mayor would cancel decisions made by the permanent committee in order to be against the Jews. Matters were so bad that on 1929 2 Jewish representatives- N. Hitrazh and Kh. Kropnik resigned. A delegation was sent to the police with a report on the unstable situation in the municipality. In 1930 in by-elections to the Romanian parliament the Zionist organization presented an independent list with the approval of local Zionists. However, the court canceled the list claiming that there were discrepancies. The Jewish member, attorney Michael Landau, demanded the annulment of the by-elections, but he was refused. In 1931, Dr. Theodore Fisher was elected Member of Parliament representing the Soroka district according to the list of the Jewish party. In the elections of July 1931 the List of the Jewish Party had candidates in 52 districts. They were successful in electing 5 members – attorney Michael Landau from Soroka and Khotin (eventually Soroka only). In the last elections in 1934 90% of the Jewish electorate voted for the National Jewish Party.

The Jews from Soroka District were often under anti-Semitic attacks, persecutions and murder. In the summer of 1924 a young Jew from Soroka was killed by a Romanian officer because he objected to the removal of a Christian servant from his home. Dr. Fishtiner, a Jewish member of parliament, complained and the officer was arrested. In 1930 hoodlums attacked the Jewish village of Timlaitz in the Soroka District and evicted the Jews from there. Also, the Jews residing in Sculeni were told to leave within 3 days. Anti-Semitic incitement reached such a pitch that the leader of the Liberals, S. Dumitru, warned in an article in the local newspaper in 1930 that the situation was dire and that the anti Jewish riots would be on a large scale if the hoodlums would not be stopped in time.

The year 1932 was full of riots and bad events within the Jewish community of Soroka. On the night between the 8th and 9th of January 6 young Jews – two of them female- had an agreement with the border guards to allow them to cross the frozen Dniester towards the Soviet Union. When the six young people arrived at the appointed time, a Romanian army unit shot at them. Five were killed on the spot while the sixth was mortally wounded and died soon afterwards. When the cart arrived in Soroka with the five naked bodies (the long hair of one of the women and the hand of another were dragging on the ground), hordes of shocked residents stood on the streets. (Witnesses reported that many of them fell on the ground and others ran crazed after the cart). On January 13, at the funeral of the sixth victim, thousands of resident came- Jews and non-Jews- and the stores were closed. Bakers refused to bake bread on that day. The authorities tried to justify the murders by saying that five of the six were Communists and the sixth a smuggler and that they tried to cross the Dniester to the Soviet Union. In addition, when the border guards motioned to them to stop they refused and continued on their way. As a result, the guards had to shoot them. The Romanian press accepted the government version and even demanded an award for the border guards for their bravery. The Romanian Parliament was flooded with requests for a special inquiry committee. Senator D. Iov, an author and a former governor of Soroka District, accused the border police of murdering the young people instead of arresting them and sending them to trial. A Socialist Member of Parliament, Cuzescu, proved that the six young people were killed in cold blood by the officer in charge of the border patrol. The officer did not want to be accused of negligence in his area of the border. Cuzescu also showed that the inquest was done behind closed doors and that the families of the six were not allowed to testify. Another Member of Parliament told the press that he objected to the murders, that the six murders were a blemish on the face of Romania.

The Jewish Member of Parliament, attorney Michael Landau, arrived in Soroka in order to find out what he could about the murders. His research not only disproved the official version, but also proved that the border patrol had misled the six young people and that the murders were pre-planned. In addition, the border police knew about the plan and even helped in carrying it out. The only conclusion was that the six young people were not killed as they were crossing the border, but even before they reached the frozen area, in other words still on this side of the Dniester. The Member of Parliament sent his findings to the government in Bucharest and the group representing the young people demanded an inquest into the events.

The murder of the six Jews made headlines outside the country and even reached the British Parliament. Associations of Former Jewish residents of Romania in the United States also searched for details about the murders.

The authorities closed the Hebrew high school –Tarbut- on the pretext that one of the murdered women, Rivka Derkautzin, had been a teacher there in the past. It was an evil denouncement since not one of the young women had ever been either a student or a teacher in the school. The central Tarbut office in Kishinev made strong appeals and the decision about reopening the school was transferred to the Romanian Ministry of Education. Eventually, after much effort and deliberation the authorities were convinced that the Hebrew high school in Soroka was innocent and the school was reopened.

In addition to all the events that occurred in the Jewish community of Soroka from early 1932, there were heavy rains that summer. Many homes were flooded and there was much damage. Thousands of residents were left without a roof over their heads. The majority of the victims were local Jews. The representative of the Joint to Bessarabia came to Soroka to assess the damages. A local committee was struck to help the flood victims. Also, a Jewish delegation arrived from the United States and offered their assistance.

In September, Dr. Michael Landau questioned, in Parliament, the cruel and evil deeds perpetrated by clerks of the income tax department in Soroka. They had seized many properties of local Jews even though they had paid their taxes on time. Some of them were even beaten and had to be hospitalized. The Minister of the Interior fired the chief clerk in Soroka and transferred his superior.

The suffering of the Jews increased when several of them who had worked in the stone quarry on the banks of the Dniester were arrested and accused of treason. They were tortured and kept in jail for a month. A military court ordered their release since they were innocent.

In 1935 the Member of Parliament for the District of Soroka, Israti Micescu, a well-known judge and an overt anti-Semite, demanded the establishment of Numerus Clausus on Jewish lawyers. On the other hand, at a conference of educators that year in Soroka there was discussion about opening all public schools to any applicant, without caring about race or religion, so that minorities would be assimilated in the Romanian majority and would become good citizens.

The waves of anti-Semitism in Bessarabia increased from year to year and worsened in 1936 in the District of Soroka. The rampant anti-Semitic incitement influenced the students and members of the Farmers Party to go to several rural settlements to rein in the radical incidents that were occurring in these areas.

That year, land in Soroka outside city limits and owned by local Jews, was confiscated. It included several houses of worship that stood on the land. All this was according to a real estate law that was passed in the Parliament on 13 April 1935 (approved by the King on 25 February 1936).

In Soroka and the district there were many propagandists who roamed the area, led demonstrations and declared themselves for Koza and against the Jewish Press. It is essential to mention that the Association of Merchants did much for the local merchants, Jewish and non-Jewish. In the summer of 1932 all commerce stopped due to the floods and the Association worked hard to return things to normal. It defended the Jewish merchants in Soroka from persecution and attacks by the authorities. In 1936 the Association established a Charitable Fund for its members – Jewish and non-Jewish.

In 1935 there was a meeting of the Savings and Loan Fund and a representative of the Association of Jewish Cooperatives in Bessarabia attended. The minutes of June 30, 1936 indicate that the number of members was 1041, there were 416,808 Lei in basic capital, 1,427,379 Lei in deposits and loans awarded totaled 4,595,958 Lei.

In 1936 the community celebrated 50 years of the founding of the Jewish Hospital and representatives of all Jewish institutions attended. Even the mayor and other government representatives joined them. The budget of the hospital that year was 270,000 Lei and that of the Old Peoples' Home was 130,000 Lei. The expenses of the Women's Committee for Social Assistance were 25,000 Lei.

Soroka had an active Zionist Women's Association headed by Fania Flaksor. In the years 1931-1932 this Association held bazaars and took in 100,000 Lei. There was also an active Akiva branch.

In 1917 there was, in Soroka, a printing press owned by Mendel Davidson. It published “Dror”- a Zionist propaganda booklet in Russian. In addition there was a by-weekly publication in Yiddish “Wind” (15.10.1931-20.3.1932). It produced 10 issues edited by the young writer Leyzer Fishman. He wrote stories, children's stories, poems and plays. He was a member of the Yiddishist “Bund” and headed the “Culture League”. He was also secretary of the Craftsmen's Association and chairman of the Clerks Association. (He died in 1935).

In 1937 there was serious drought in Bessarabia and many members of the Jewish community of Soroka were impoverished and suffered from hunger. The Talmud Torah opened a canteen in the Tarbut building where 125 hot meals were distributed daily to the students. It was supported by the Central Committee for the Hungry from Kishinev.

The political situation of the Jewish of Bessarabia became worse due to the harsh economic, social and cultural problems. In 1938 the authorities ordered the closing of the Jewish and Hebrew press, Jewish schools and preparatory training farms.

Thousands of Jews were barred from Romanian citizenship and were unable to work. In 1939 several local Jews were accused of falsifying documents used to prove their citizenship.

Hassia Turtel

 

Holocaust

In June 1941, during the Soviet rule, hundreds of Jews from Soroka were arrested and were brought by carts and convoys and under guard to Floreshti. There they were put on freight trains and transported to Siberia.

There is no original source information on the lots of the Jews after the war broke out. It is known that over 200 Jews were slain by order of the commander of the Gendarmerie in Soroka, D. Oliescu. Many others were killed as the Romanian army entered town. Before they were evacuated Jews had to wear a yellow star. The Jews of Soroka were moved from place to place until they were sent to Transnistria. Not far from town, in the forest of Coshautsi a camp was built and there tens of thousands of Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina were murdered. A Jew who had been exiled from Romania to Transnistria in autumn 1941 saw what had happened and related the following:

“During our travels to Transnistria at the beginning of the evacuation we passed through Coshautsi forest near Soroka. We stopped for a short time in the forest. I saw terrible sights: open graves with many Jewish bodies, naked and one on top of the other... Nearby there was an incinerator for bricks. Wild dogs attacked the open pits and a terrible stench arose from there. I was informed that there about 10,000 bodies inside”.

This is probably the reason that there no witnesses to what happened to the Jews of Soroka during the Holocaust.

Z.A.G.

Carp archive, Vol. VI, VII.


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