« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 53]

Diary pages from Czernowitz
and Transnistrien

By Dr. Nathan Getzler , Montreal (Canada)

Translated by Jerome Silverbush

Sunday, June 22, 1941

At 4:30 in the morning we were awoken from a deep sleep by thundering and crashing.

We suspected immediately that the war must have started since we had already heard on London radio that troops were massing on the German-Russian border. About 6 o'clock in the morning, we knew for sure: The radio announced that hostilities had started between Russia and Germany with the bombardment of the airports at Lemberg, Kiev and Czernowitz.

On the street, one saw shocked faces. Russian soldiers marched at double-time in the direction of the People's Garden, that is, to the nearest border which was only 30 km. away. Germany's attack without a declaration of war had agitated everyone. It was feared that the Germans would soon arrive.

We hurry to the suburbs to secure a hideout against the possibility that the Germans would break through the lines in the next few hours and start hunting in the city for defenseless victims, especially Jews. Everywhere there was fear and anxiety.

According to one rumor, the Czernowitz airport was completely burned down. Columns of smoke from that direction, visible from a distance seemed to confirm the rumor.

There were air raid alarms at midday and in the evenings. Airplanes circled low over the roofs. Anti-aircraft fire from the squares rang in our ears.

We all know that the days of the Russians in Czernowitz were numbered. The grocery stores are sold out. There is neither bread, nor sausage nor sugar in the grocery stores. The people are looking for food like mad men.

Monday June 23, 1941

Already at dawn, the motors of the German aircraft are roaring. There is heavy flak fire.

From the direction of Luzan and Toporooutz, Russian fliers appear and the Germans flee.

The whole day, troops march through the city. Rumors about a great battle by Lemberg trickle through. There is danger of the Russian troops being surrounded in Bukovina.

In the afternoon, the first transport of the wounded arrived in our clinic from Herza, a small Romanian city which was hit by Romanian artillery fire. There were many wounded civilians. Seriously wounded with abdominal and other wounds and were taken to the central hospital.

Repeated air raid alarms at the approach of enemy airplanes without any bombs being dropped.

Woman faint, children scream. The Russian civilian population begins to leave the city.

In our workplace, the Polyclinic a deathly silence reigns. Everyone is griped by the fear of death.

During the day, one observes very few troop movements but at night, thousands of Russian soldiers march through the city. Through the night one hears the roaring and clanking of tanks.

Men up to 30 years old are called up and put into uniforms. Things are getting serious. Across from the Polyclinic, a command post has been established. The automobiles camouflaged with willow and birch branches park along the garden fence. One auto has a giant antenna. The radio operator comes to us as a patient and always has optimistic news.

The mood becomes more and more nervous. We hear that the Battle of Lemberg has been lost.

June 24-27, 1941

The air attacks come less often since immediately after the appearance of the German machines, which hardly need 5 minutes to reach us from the border, Russian airplanes come into action and the flak has become much heavier.

The families of the Russian officers were transported away on the first day and now follow civilian families in trains and autos. The non-Russian population is not permitted to go along. The officials attempt to sooth the population. A general holds an assembly in the theater in which he reports that everything is going well on the front and there is no reason to be upset.

June 28, 1941

The reports from the front lead us to believe that we will shortly have to evacuate the city.

The officials try to maintain order in the city and to maintain food supplies. One sees great anxiety everywhere.

Many spies are arrested. The square near Tuerkenbrunnen is filled with flak artillery just like the fields around the insane asylum and Theater, Ring and Austria squares.

June 30, 1941

Every second night, we have duty in the Polyclinic. Last night we heard that Lemberg is already occupied by the Germans.

All the streets of the city are clogged with the fleeing automobiles of the evacuated officials and ambulances. The vehicles are well camouflaged.

We learn that Kamienetz-Podolsk was badly bombarded. Everyone is seized by crippling fear. On Ringplatz, the loudspeakers announce the news from Radio Moscow at hourly intervals.

The Russian General Staff which had been located on Landhausgasse left the city and with it left all hope of rescue from the Germans.

The militia was also in large part evacuated, probably to Kamienetz-Podolsk.

Meanwhile, the flak artillery continued to thunder. The civilian population remained in constant agitation.

The night from June 30 to July 1, 1941

On all the streets of the city, the Russian troops are withdrawing. A long line of tanks, armored cars, artillery, foot soldiers moves eastward in an unceasing pouring rain.

From the window of the house at Wolangasse 64, where we have set up a hideout in the basement we observe this retreat with fear. At approximately midnight, the flow ceases. About this time we hear several detonations in rapid sequence from the direction of Zuczka. We knew instantly that the bridges over the Pruth had been blown up.

At dawn, giant clouds of smoke hung over the whole city. Faces distorted with anxiety in which one could see clearly see the strain of the night watch, peered through the windows.

In the morning, we go into the city which offers a completely changed picture. Farmers wagons loaded with civilians from the regions of Storpzynetz and Czudyn travel eastward. They don't want to fall into the hands of the Germans. There are no more Russians to be seen in the city.

We heard later that the refugees of the last two days were murdered by German patrols or were brought to the internment camps of Jedinetz and Marculesti where they died miserably.

July 1, 1941

At 7 in the morning we hurried into the city and heard that there was fire around the post office. At every corner, there were sentries who fired wildly. Evacuation Commandoes broke into stores and distributed the wares to the crowd. Fire had broken out in many houses. Using circuitous routs, we found our way to Postgasse where we had previously lived.

The whole post office was burning, since mines placed in the cellar and offices had been exploded. There was no more fire department, since the retreating Russians had taken all the fire fighting equipment with them. It smelled like burned rubber. Out of the stock exchange building, from which weeks previously all radio equipment had been forcefully removed, rose columns of smoke. The residents of Postgasse, as far as it was possible have carried away their possessions although we don't believe there is an immediate danger, even though the houses around the corner have started to burn. A soldier stands in the middle of Postgasse and when someone doesn't leave the street quickly enough, he starts to shoot. Then we leave our dwelling which we will never see again and return to Wolangasse.

In the center of the city, the mob plunders homes and businesses. The plunderers carry sacks of clothing, shoes and other things from the broken open warehouses. Barrels of wine are brought out of the wine cellars. Various household goods are carried away on every possible vehicle. The pavement is covered with shards of glass. Anarchy reigns in the city. Soon one hears the call, “kill the Jews” (“Moartea jidanilor”). We had hardly returned to Wolangasse when a friend dashed in and gave us the news that he saw how our house caught on fire from the flames reaching out from the burning stock exchange. We immediately started back to our house, but couldn't get there because the streets leading there were impassable. From the distance, we saw the flames rising high. The Hotel Gottlieb, which lay on Postgasse burned fiercely as did the Dorahof. At the house that ran through from Hauptstrasse 9 to Poststrasse 6, a certain Luttinger worked with a hand sprayer. He wanted to rescue the house, in which effort he was successful after some time.

July 5, 1941

Friends who had lived in the now burnt out Postgasse slept at our house. In the morning we go into the city to see if there is something we can rescue from our house. From the ashes of our house and our neighbor's houses some things are rescued. On the street, one sees people carrying wash tubs, baskets, house hold items, etc.

People are still standing around by the ruins. Here lies a bathtub, there a burned-out instrument case. The hopelessness is sobering.

July 6, 1941

The first Romanian posters appear. Already on Saturday patrols from Bila and Cecina had penetrated. First Sunday morning massive numbers of troops came into the city. It was reported that numerous Jews had been shot in Bila and Klokuczka. In the afternoon the Jews from entire sections of the city were brought to the police station where they were forced to pay large sums of money in dollars. Among those subject to the extortion were the doctors Dr. A. Tyndel, Dr. Schapira, Dr. Brecher and others.

With outrage, we learned of the shooting of dr. Lerners, who was shot during a staged search of his home. Our friend Littmann Schaffer was hit by a bullet and died as he hurried to the Jewish Hospital to care for the sick.

The German Gestapo and the German military command have established themselves in the hotel “Zum Schwartzen Adler” on Ringplatz, where the actual headquarters is situated.

At the Jewish cemetery, there is frantic activity. Mass graves swallow the numerous victims.

The Land Registry Official Sternberg killed by a bullet as he tried to escape from his pursuers through a back window of his home in upper Russischen Gasse. His wife succeeded in escaping with an infant in her arms.

In our neighborhood, on Molnitzergasse lay many corpses of murdered Jews. We expected that the murderers would also come to us. In fact, a military patrol soon appeared consisting of Romanians and Germans and demanded that we show our papers. After we showed our documents, they left. We had been lucky.

We received frightening news from the insane asylum. The Jewish employees had been victims of a blood bath. The insane asylum was directed by Dr. Pitzinger, who was powerless to stop the brutalities and murders.

Ukrainian and Romanian youth with badges on their lapels led the patrols to the homes of Jews.

In Braeuhausgasse many Jewish families were killed. The goal was to leave no Jew alive in the city.

At dawn, hidden behind our window curtains, we see Mrs. Dr. Samet-Zaloziecky sitting on a coffin on her way to the cemetery. She is taking the Jewish corpses from the hospital.

One speaks of 3000 dead Jews.

After a while, reports come from the provinces. In Czudyn all the Jews of the village (450 in number) were said to have been gathered in the court building and killed by machine gun fire.

The whole border along the Czeremosch from Wiznitz to Zalesczyki is like a sea of blood. In Banilla, the postmaster is responsible for all the murders.

In Millie, along with other Jews, Dr. Jakob Geller with his wife and child was stoned to death.

Dr. Kula from Toporoutz reports that the Jews from Kotzman and Zastawna are collected in camps and murdered.

Wednesday, July 9, 1941

Shots continuously echo from all directions. The streets of the city are devoid of people.

Neighbors who come into our hideout report that 150 Jews were taken by the German Gestapo through the city to the target range and shot there. Among them was the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Abraham Mark. Dr. Mark along with the Chief Cantor Gurman, Jakob Galperin, Fruehling, Josef Reininger and others had earlier been locked in the elevator shaft of the Hotel “Zum Schwartzen Adler.” The elevator ran up and down and every time threatened to crush those imprisoned in the shaft. After these unfortunate people were tormented in this way for an entire day, they joined the group of those doomed to die and were taken to Pruth near Bila and were shot.

In the following night, other Jews were forced to burry those who were shot. Eye witnesses, among them, Geiger Koerner reported the incident. They had been forbidden under the threat of death to talk about the affair.

The mass grave in Bila remains a silent witness to Nazi-German bestiality.

Thursday, July 10, 1941

4 o'clock in the morning, the police drive the Jews out of their beds and take them in groups to the Pruth Bridge, where they driven by blows and lashes of the whip have to carry beams, stones and other heavy loads.

Those who are severely beaten and injured by the blows are delivered to the hospital daily. Also in the center of the city, the clean up work is done by the Jews.

On the march to and from work, the police beat the Jews marching along like sheep with unheard of sadism.

Friday, July 11, 1941

The arrests continue. There are beatings, robberies and plundering of homes with the excuse that the Jews had shot at the Romanians entering the city and that they still have weapons concealed. The plunderers consist of officials, civilians, soldiers and police, who, griped by the hate for Jews like an epidemic, were destroying everything Jewish since there was nothing to hinder their sadistic urges and the murder of Jews was richly rewarded.

Here special mention should be given to the teacher from the military gymnasium in Czernowitz, Paul Robescu who bragged that he killed 78 Jews in Rosch and Klokuczka, among them Bernhard Keller, Ruff, Koerner, many women, old people and children.

The parade of the column of workers through the city driven by blows of clubs and whips, accompanied by the crude curses of the mob offered a terrible and shocking sight.

Saturday, July 12, 1941

In typical German pattern, commissions come from Bucharest to inventory the assets of Jews. They are led by the notorious Eugen Pavlescu who cheated the state and made millions for himself by making low estimates of the value of Jewish industries.

Romanian officials who had previously worked in Czernowitz refused to recognize Jews they had known and remained aloft.

Tuesday, July 14, 1941

Three good friends, respected citizens of the city of Czernowitz, a professor, a lawyer and an editor were arrested and taken away by a military patrol. No one can find out where they were taken.

Members of the military secret service extort money successfully from many Jews.

An oppressive lack of money is experienced. If you still has relatives in Bucharest, you occasionally receives small sums of money from them. This way you manage to get by. With 20 Lei daily, you can survive quite well. The physician, Dr. Lupu-Strejac becomes mayor of the city. He names the physician, Dr. Sigmund Neuberger as leader of the Jewish community. The new mayor, Dr. Strejac takes an active part in the measures against the Jews.

Dr. Nandris who has a record of hostility to Jewish doctors becomes the director of the Central Hospital.

The director of the insane asylum issues a directive that within two hours all Jewish patients must be moved to the Jewish Hospital. Patients who are still there after the two hours are over are to be shot. The transfer of patients is completed. The newly arrived patients run freely around in the hospital courtyard and the surrounding area and raise the prevailing atmosphere of confusion to the level of pandemonium.

The previously mentioned Dr. Nandris was also president of the “Societatea pentru Cultura si Literatura” (Society for Culture and Literature) which took an active part in the deportation of the Jews by sending communiqués and memorandum to the authorities demanding the elimination of the “Jewish element” in Bukovina – a great cultural accomplishment. In addition, Dr. Nandris was also president of the “Council of Christian Doctors” where the like minded Dr. Ioanetz backed him up.

German National Socialism had made its mark in Romania.

Saturday, July 19, 1941

In the hospital, Dr. Neuberger and his followers established themselves and acted as the intermediaries with the authorities. Dealing in passes allowing movement during curfew hours, releases from forced labor, and other favors began.

The leader in these transactions is Camillo Harth who brags about his connections to the ruling Romanian authorities and makes a tremendous fortune.

Those who fled to Russia and those who fled there number together about 20,000. In Czernowitz, the number of Jews is about 50,000.

Daily in the morning, the war reports are brought to the hospital. There are people who can listen to the radio and one listens with rapt attention to their descriptions and comments.

Jewish intellectuals and craftsmen can't practice their trade because they are Jewish. We wait for a miracle to rescue us.

End of July, 1941

The influence of the German Gestapo is felt more strongly every day. An order is issued according to which, all Jews without regard to age or sex, within three days must wear a yellow “Jewish star” on their left breast side. Those who don't comply will be severely punished.

The Romanian administration is strictly controlled by the German Gestapo which gives orders that the Romanian functionaries must strictly follow.

Many nationalistic Ukrainians who were disappointed in their belief that Czernowitz, that is to say Bukovina would become a part of West Ukraine as promised by Hitler left for East Galicia where most of them joined the Gestapo and SS. We are happy that these militant enemies of the Jews leave the city.

August, 1941

We offer a hotly pursued friend refuge in our small dwelling.

New anti-Jewish regulations are issued daily. A curfew is imposed on Jews who are only permitted to leave their homes from 8 to 11 in the morning to go shopping. The Jews are only permitted to go in the stores after 10 am in order that the non-Jews can shop without competition until then. Jews can't own or use a radio or a telephone. Jews can't make any trips without first getting special permission from the governor.

The governor, Colonel Riosanu is not exactly an enemy of the Jews, but he has to follow the regulations. Also, he is continually incited against the Jews by the notorious Jew haters, Dr. Strejac, Dr. Marmeliuc from Bucharest, Dr. Voronca and the editor of the “Bukovina.”

Governor Riosanu becomes sick and is attended by a Jewish physician, Dr. Brettler.

A new frightening piece of news: 40 Jewish men, mostly intellectuals are called to the police station and are held there as hostages. They are sent to a camp in Rosch. After four weeks, another group of 40 men is exchanged for the first group.

Wild rumors circulate that soon all the Jews will be removed from the city.

A new method of hunting people in initiated. About 6 in the morning, entire blocks are searched. They are hunting for Jews capable of working who are hauled away to work gangs.

The police officials Grossariu and Theodorescu are tried before a military court on charges of corruption, are found not guilty and Paul Avramovici is named as police chief. Avramovici is soon replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Glogusanu who not only tolerates all the misdeeds of his subordinates against Jews, but actually encourages them. Later, Dr. Axmann, a German becomes police chief. To be sure, he does not have any enmity for the Jews, but he has to follow the directives issued by the Germans.

December, 1941

Oppressive statutes concerning the Jews are issued continuously. Jews are directed to report to the Cercul de Recrutare, then the police and then to the hospital. All the announcements result in torment and fear. While the Jews stand in lines in front of the reporting buildings, they are beaten bloody by the police. Also, individual Jews are pulled out of the lines and taken to work. Jews who are caught not wearing the Jew star are at best put in a camp if they are not subject to a trial and punished heavily.

The Jews of the city have become free as birds and are afraid to go out on the streets.

On a Thursday afternoon, all the streets are blocked and the housed are searched for weapons. During this operation, many valuable objects disappear from the houses.

Kiev has fallen. The German army stands before Moscow and Leningrad. The “Radianska Bukowina” and the “Adevaerul Bolsevic,” which were published in Czernowitz during the Russian time have become goldmines of information for the Romanian Secret Police in creating files about “suspicious” people which later is to have disastrous consequences.

The Ghetto

October 11, 1941

For two days now the rumor has gone from mouth to mouth and faces freeze with terror: the Jews of South Bukovina have been evacuated. The Jewish population of the cities Suceava, Radauti, Kimpolung and Dorna-Watra and also the Jews from other places are on their way to the camps of Transnistrien. A biting east wind blows hurricane like through the streets of the city and brings the first unwanted greetings from the Sarmatischen lowlands where our fate is being prepared.

We are bewildered and quickly begin to gather food for the long trip. The night from October 10 to 11, 1941 passes in worry. In the morning we are woken by thunderous noise. We hear soon that the evacuation of the Jews of Czernowitz has been decided. This decision has been brought in the night from Bucharest and the local civil and military authorities have conferred the whole night on how to carry out this evacuation.

No signs are posted or written instructions distributed in order to increase the confusion and uncertainty. Also, it appears that they don't want to commit anything to writing.

We are notified orally that all Jews of Czernowitz must report to the ghetto set up for them by 6 o'clock in the evening and that anyone found in his home after 6 o'clock will be shot. The Jews are only permitted to take as many of their possessions are they can carry in their hands. Any possessions that remain belong to the state. It is also ordered that Christians are forbidden to accept any objects of value from the Jews.

Before 7 in the morning, the entire Jewish population is on the move. With clenched teeth, looking neither left or right, tens of thousands of Jews carry and pull their meager belongings to the area set aside for them as a ghetto. It encompasses a part of Wolangasse, Str. Olteniei, Neueweltgasse, Pitzelligasse, the entire Russische Gasse from number 46 up, the Morariugasse, Nikolausgasse, Landhausgasse to the corner of Tuerkengasse, Schulgasse to the Krankenkasse, Hormuzakigasse, Mehlplatz, Eminescugasse, Steingasse and the upper part of Dreifaltigkeitgasse and also the area inside the border of the city adjacent to the streets named.

The movement of the Jews into the ghetto is completed quietly, without interruption by 6 in the evening without moaning or complaining despite provocations by the onlookers. One quickly throws what ever one can grab into suitcases, baskets and crates and carries it to acquaintances that moved into the ghetto earlier. Small rooms, hardly sufficient for a family now hold up to 20 people. Since the water pipes for the streets mentioned have already been cut off, it is not possible to flush toilets. Going to the bathroom becomes a difficult problem. For the 50,000 unlucky people who inhabit the ghetto, the shutting off of the water brings the threat of disease. In spite of this the will to survive remains strong.

Romanians come into the ghetto behind the mask of friendship offering to safe keep valuable objects. In reality, they intend to keep these objects for themselves. For small outlays, they make millions.

The ruble which at the entrance of the Romanian army was exchanged at the rate of 1:1 now that it supposedly is good in Transnistrien is exchanged at the rate of 1 ruble = 40 lei.

A deceitful swindle was carried out by the National Bank. Gold, silver and other valuables had to be brought there. The officials of the bank arbitrarily estimated the value of the items. Dr. Blaukopf received the ridiculously low price of 15,000 lei for 35 kg. of silver.

In the ghetto, the anguished Jews tried to get the possessions they had brought along ready for the long journey.

A 8 year old child named Schwitz fell under the wheels of a wagon and died before rescue could come.

The mob streamed out of the suburbs and broke into and plundered the deserted homes.

In the ghetto itself, people are constantly stopped by the patrols and harassed.

Overall on the streets and in front of the houses lie mountains of luggage. In the houses, places to sleep are set up on tables, sewing machines and crates and cooking facilities are improvised.

Bitter cold sets in. Many who have fur hats and warm shoes are robbed of their clothing in broad daylight by the Romanian soldiers.

Mass Imprisonment

A three meter high wooden fence and barbed wire surround the ghetto. Only at two places is one permitted to leave and enter the ghetto with special permission from the ghetto commandants, all Christians, who live in the ghetto reservation. Jews like the X-ray engineer Margulies, who are urgently needed in the city are only permitted to leave the ghetto escorted by gendarmes carrying rifles with fixed bayonets.

A 6 year old girl whose parents were murdered in Rostoki and who was brought to the city by sympathetic farmers was taken in by us.

On all faces, you see the fearful question: What now?

Up to 10 suicides occur daily. Many suicides are delivered to the hospital unconscious.

The gendarmerie headquarters is located in the house at Russische Gasse 46. Major Jacobesen and several officers are in charge. At the street corners, especially at the corner of General-Averescu and Springbrunnen Gasse, where the path leads over the open plaza to the synagogue, a sergeant stands. Athletically built, he stands like a general as the lines of wagons drive by him. In one hand he holds a whip which he uses to brutally beat everyone who passes by. He pulls the luggage from the wagons and spares neither old people nor children.

The commandant of the ghetto, Major Nicolai Jacobescu controls everything from the sidecar of a motorcycle, but does nothing to stop the cruelness. Several villainous Jews like Camillo Harth and Weiser, among others promise the unfortunate victims, authorizations to remain in the city upon payment of gold, silver or other valuables, naturally with no intention of fulfilling their promises. Using the same scam, a former Tax Office controller called Alexexcu reaped valuables worth approximately 50 million lei. Out of fear of the repercussions, the victims made no attempt to report the swindle.

October 14 and 15, 1941

The residents of Franxos, Dreifaltigkeits and Fraanzengasse in the ghetto are driven like cattle to the railroad station. Farmers smelling a rich harvest brought their little wagons and take 3000 lei per trip to the railroad station. On these wagons ride old people, children and the infirm in endless lines, without tears and powerless through the Synagogue, Kaliczanka and Weidengasse to the freight train station. A woman named Tamler, three days after giving birth and with a high fever, carrying the infant, died on the way. An especially terrible scene could be observed at the corner of Dreifaltigkeit and Albertinegasse. The last members of the Bojan rabbinical dynasty came out of their houses to face death in their best clothing carrying the Torah scrolls in their arms. The onlookers, both Jewish and Christian watch this drama. There is sobbing and sighing. Shaken, we are observers of a tragedy that will be ours tomorrow. Rough soldiers drive the onlookers away and already the long rows of wagons have swallowed everything.

October 16, 1941: evening

Approximately 6000 people have already been sent to their deaths. Then the good, friendly mayor Traian Popovici brings the news in the Jewish hospital that he was successful in obtaining a temporary delay in the deportations in order to separate out the Jews necessary for commerce of the city.

This news spreads like wild fire and brings a measure of release to the tense masses of people. A tremendous crowd is gathered before the hospital. Wild rumors circulate uncontrollably.

October 17, 1941

Various lists are made up for presentation to the authorities, classifying the Jews by their professions. Representatives of the various professions like bureaucrats, retirees, reserve officers, industrialists, hand workers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. came to the school on Landhausgasse to request authorization to remain in the city.

Middle men emerged who promised authorizations for the payment of large sums of money. The authorizations issued were not given to the applicant, but held back in order to extort more money. Here also, Camillo Harth played a leading roll. For example, two doctors received their authorizations only after paying 200,000 lei. The authorizations for the patients of the insane asylum were badly misused. They were issued under different names to the highest bidders (in dollars or gold coins).

Many months later a commission came from Bucharest to look into this extortion. General Ionescu and Major Jacobescu were investigated and naturally not found guilty of any transgressions.

Terrible news came back from the first transports. Already at the Dniester River the documents of the unfortunate ones were torn up so they went into exile as nameless people. There many died from hunger and the cold as well as from diseases like typhus. Their luggage which had already been examined at the Czernowitz railroad station where a good part was confiscated, was controlled a second time with further losses at the banks of the Dniester.

In the meanwhile, 15,000 authorizations were given out in Czernowitz. A part of the authorizations given out by General Calotescu were torn up by General Ionescu, since as he explained, “too many Jews would remain in the city.”

The deportations started up again, street by street driven by blows of the club and lashes of the whip. Panic, confusion, misery and fear of death accompanied the next transport.

The first snow fell.

November 1 and 2, 1941: The review

An ordinance appeared according to which, the entire Jewish population of the city had to undergo a review to determine if they could remain in Czernowitz or if they had to leave the city (that is, be deported).

The reviews took place in a large meeting room in city hall. There were many tables and the Jews had to go to the table for the first letter of their name. The reviews were conducted by non-commissioned officers who often couldn't even read the names so that disastrous mix-ups took place which led to the deportation of innocent people. In many cases, the Jews were sent to the notorious Inspector Cojocariu the adjacent room who simply tore up their exemption and had them deported. His helpers, Nedelcu and Luczin let no one pass without paying tribute.

Often, a person wouldn't finish the review in one day and had to come a second time, suffering the fear of death in the interval. In the room itself, Jews were beaten with clubs. So an elderly Czernowitz doctor, a captain in the reserve collapsed streaming with blood.

As on the final day, I was carrying the last three rugs I owned through the Russische Gasse to my office, Commandant Jacobescu standing by his window called me and my wife into his office, took the rugs and called me a thief. Since I dared to contradict him, he coarsely reviled us. We only got out because of intervention by a colleague. Jacobescu later called us in, threw me 5000 lei for the rugs and hit me in the ribs. We were happy that we were not deported to Transnistrien because of the rugs.

The ghost city

They stand dark and lonesome, the deserted houses of Czernowitz. Entire streets are devoid of humanity. That is especially true for Franzos and Drefaltikeit Gasse whose inhabitants had almost entirely been driven into mass graves. Thieves scavenge through the dwellings, plunderers enter through broken windows and doors even though all the entrances had been sealed and stamped with the notice “Averea Statului” (Property of the State) by city officials during the ghetto period. A robber band from Kaliczankagasse, led by a certain Laschkowski is especially bad. In the empty dwellings, cats and dogs cry for their masters. The dried out leaves of thirsty plants, philodendrons, cactuses and azaleas, hang mournfully.

The deportations still haven't come to an end. The stragglers who had no luck in the review are loaded into the last wagons.

Snow falls in great flakes. Many who have fled from one street to the next finally meet their fate. All these last transports are directed through Marculesti to Transnistrien. A large number of these unfortunate ones are massacred in Marculesti.

The house “superintendants” and their wives sell stolen Jewish goods in the streets adjacent to the Jewish Hospital looked upon by the police with good natured tolerance. The purchasers are the thousands of farmers who had come from near and far to Czernowitz to profit from the city's “bargain week,”

Because of the constant stress the Jews who remain in Czernowitz are subject to, one can see in them a condition of hysteria and nervousness.

The mortality among the Jews is very high. There are also many suicides including Gruenfeld and his wife (both medical doctors), Professor Drimmer and his wife, Miss Singer, Dr. Med. Mrs. Seidman, Prof. Amalie Spire among others.

The incapable and unloved leader of the Jewish community stepped down to make room for another, just as incompetent. Perhaps this leadership could have done something to reduce the misery if it were not for the new edicts that appear each day that steadily placed increasing burdens on the Jews, which really could be seen as extortion. One especially obnoxious example was a sort of half-official undertaking called “Patronaj,” in which the representatives of the community collected bed linen, underwear, and used articles of all sorts from the Jews. Captain Anghelescu was in charge of the Partonaj operation for Czernowitz. The overall operation was directed by a Mrs. Cancel in Bucharest. She would make a “guest appearance” once a month in Czernowitz to receive the collected goods. It was an open secret that most of the collected and extorted goods became her private possessions.

The Jews were forced to work at various jobs, without pay and they were usually subjected to abuse.

At the dividing up of the booty from the furnished houses, the robbers often came to blows. Because of this, the Mayor, Dr. Traian Popovici, who had tried to help the oppressed had to resign. He was replaced by an abject character, the State Justice Minister, Dumitru Galisch, a worthy collaborator with the infamous Major Marinescu and Inspector Cojocariu.

Around this time, a movement started in Czernowitz which recommended conversion to Christianity as the only way out and as a last ditch attempt at rescue. Several hundred Jews, modern Marannos, considered it advisable, until further notice to turn their backs on the Jewish community. Baptism, however brought few advantages to the converts – many didn't wear the gold star. In exchange, there were significant disadvantages. Those who were baptized were subjected to a judicial process in which the judges, Monteanu and Allaci outdid themselves in the prosecution of the converts. Their sadism knew no bounds.

Transnistrien, the grave of hundreds of thousands

The reports arriving are incomprehensible. It appeared that the insanity had exceeded all bounds. The speed at which the starving deportees were forced to march, while the guards drove them forwards with blows of their rifle stocks caused 60% of them to collapse and freeze to death.

In the ghetto, the dead lay for 6-8 days after death near the living. Typhus and other epidemics – caused by hunger, crowding, and primitive sanitary conditions decimates the survivors. Of the 150,000 Bukovina Jews, 80,000 have already died. Only 50,000 Bessarabian Jews still survive. Around Mogilev, where Chmilnitzki's band murdered Jews 400 years ago, history is repeating itself. One stands shuddering in the piercing feeling of one's own helplessness.

Beginning of January, 1942

The Jewish institutions, the nursing home, the orphanage and the insane asylum are reorganized. In the nursing home, the old people lay around in heaps and as soon as enough bed linen and underwear for them has been gathered, the order comes to deliver it to the “Patronaj.”

The orphans, driven out of the orphanage are put in the former maternity home whose facilities are inadequate. In one narrow room, 8 times as many children are placed as the room can hold. The orphans are poorly clothed, since besides our children, there are the children brought from Poland by sympathetic people.

Most horrible is the insane asylum where the sick, wrapped in rags wander freely. They can simply walk into the city, since there are few attendants. The sight of the insane begging in the city is terrible.

A committee of woman cares for the orphanage. Through the initiative of Mrs. Selma Singer, they are successful in having numerous orphans adopted by Jewish families. Jews can't travel on the trolley anymore because their fellow travelers attack them when they see the Jewish star. The Christian population's hatred of the Jews influences even their children. One day, a 12 year old boy pounced on a baby carriage that a Jewish mother was pushing and started to strangle the baby. The horrified mother, paralyzed with fear, screamed for help. A few bold men forcefully tore the boy away from his victim.

End of January, 1942

Officially, help for the Transnistrien victims were strictly forbidden. Violating this regulation was punishable by long imprisonment or death. That, however didn't prevent the Czernowitz Jews from helping their family and friends by using bribed officers or couriers to send money, clothing and underwear to Transnistrien. These deliveries, however seldom reached the intended destination. Even honest couriers were caught by the border units. Since they usually named their Jewish client, trials and severe sentences followed. Many helpful Jews had to go to Transnistrien.

February, 1942

The police are again hunting Jews, especially those who have dared to go on the street without the gold star. Also, they continue to arbitrarily arrest many Jews.

Middle of May, 1942

Approximately 25 “suspicious” Jews are arrested and deported. No one knows where they have been sent. Among these suspects are the physicians: Dr. Kessler, Dr. Weiner and Dr. Moritz. Among the new “heroes” of the day the following are particularly “outstanding:” the leader of the Housing and Requisition Office, Badalutza, a nephew of the infamous General Governor Calotescu – know to the people as Calautescu (hangman) as well as Petre Penteleiciuc.

End of May, 1942

Daily, new rumors concerning the deportation of Jews from Czernowitz to Transnistrien appear. The fear is understandable, since we now know that deportation to Transnistrien means death. This time, the fear of the Jews is all the greater since we believe that the new transports are supposed to go over the Bug to the German

extermination camps.

Hundreds of homeless, angry dogs roam in the ghost streets of the city.

June, 1942

The fate of the Jews deported from Czernowitz during, June, 1942 who were mostly delivered to the German murderers on the far side of the Bug belongs to the saddest chapter of the history of the Jews of Bukovina.

In the night from the 7th to the 8th of June, 1942, all the authorities of the city were mobilized. Earlier, various offices like the City Administration, the Tax Office, the Police, the Gendarmerie, and the Governor's Office had prepared lists of the Jewish families designated to be deported. Now came the order to carry through these measures.

The Jews already sensed that a transport was imminent but they didn't know which categories would be deported and on which criteria the process would take place. Already on the 4th and 5th of June, the curfew for Jews was especially strictly enforced. On the evening of the 7th of June, the arc lamps were turned up to full brightness so that the unholy work could be more easily carried out at night. Since the Jews were trapped in their houses, there could be no hiding or escaping.

One had waited for this night of terror with fear and trembling. From behind the window curtains, people looked into the streets where soldiers patrolled. The directors of this terrible action were Major Marinescu of the General Government and his helpers, the infamous mayor D. Galisch, the president of the chamber of commerce Dr. Octavian Voronca, the Chief District Attorney Christian Allacci and the editor of the Romanian newspaper “Bucovina” under direction of Munteanu.

This horrible spectacle was repeated two more times in the month of June, 1942, on the 14th and finally on June 28. Also, on these two occasions, the deportations were carried out at night on the German and Russian pattern. The victims were indiscriminately taken from the houses and loaded in waiting trucks.

The process was carried out in a gruesome way. Neither old people nor the sick or children were spared. An elderly lady dressed in only a nightgown and slippers was thrown into the truck in that clothing. She died on the way to the train station. An other sick woman who suffered from dementia was loaded along with her husband and her nurse and brought to the train station – she was already dead when she was loaded into the cattle car.

Since in the last deportation on June 28, 1942, there were too few Jews collected to fill the cars waiting for them, the order was given to comb through Piteygasse and to simply grab all the Jews that were found and bring them to the train station. Since in earlier deportations several Jews on Piteygasse who had possessed authorizations to remain in Czernowitz, had been left in their homes, these poor people, in spite of that, were seized and sent to a certain death in Transnistrien. With this last deportation of June 28, 1942 the sad story of Jewish deportations had reached its tragic end.

Author's notes

What Hitler sowed in Romania grew bountifully. So, Judge Traian Ioonescu-Barbuteanu stated in a tax appeal negotiation: The Jews in Czernowitz had acquired, in spite of the fact that there are no mines here, tremendous riches in gold silver and crystal and built blockhouses. They have robbed the city of millions by cheating on their taxes and when we discovered their machinations they sent their tax specialist, Dr. Pinkas Laufer to Bucharest to end the carriers of the controllers who prescribed high taxes for them. These times are over; the time for revenge has come.

The Romanians were blinded by Hitler's successes and stood under his influence, since his camouflaged helpers were represented in all the key positions of Romania and directed the sad fate of the Jews. The Romanians quickly forgot that it was the Jews whose trade and industry caused their economy to prosper. The lumber trade blossomed thanks to Jewish initiative. The progressive industrialization was a Jewish accomplishment. Here are some examples chosen at random: the textile factory “Hercules” (Harry Schaerf), the Deligdisch brothers, “Trinaco” (Trichter, Naftalison, Weinblum), “Postavaria” (Liebermann), Trinotania” (Sigal), “Pluschul” (Hafner), the rubber factory “Caurom” (Jortner and Roschkes), the soap factory “Noa Lehr” etc. Jewish manufacturers, had by producing high quality wares, had made the Romanian market independent of Germany and Czechoslovakia.

But now we return to:

The terrible night from June 6 to June 7, 1942

About one o'clock in the evening we heard hobnailed boots in front of our house. The Loewensteins, an old married couple living in our house, who were previously not deported because of their age, were taken away by the soldiers. Boxes and beds were searched and the cellar and attic were ransacked. A so called “inventory” was taken, during which almost all the valuable objects disappeared.

Since 6 o'clock in the morning, families were taken from their houses under military escort to the market place where they – after a thorough search for gold and valuables – were sent helpless and defenseless to their deaths. The unfortunate ones were next collected in Springbrunnenplatz, Heiligenkreuzplatz and Petersplatz and then brought to Makkabiplatz where further processing was carried out.

In this deportation, as well as the following two in the night from the 13th to the 14th of June and in the night from the 27th to the 28th of June, 1942 a total of 5000 Jews were taken away. On these three days by the orders of the already named infamous mayor Dumitru Galisch, the city was decorated with flags.

The loading of the unhappy Jews in cattle cars was carried out by dehumanized soldiers and police in the most brutal way. Fifty people were loaded in a car and then the car was locked and sealed.

Eyewitnesses reported that in Atachi the train had to be emptied in less than 5 minutes. The old and the sick were driven out with blows from clubs and whip lashes. A rich booty of luggage was left behind for the hyenas.

The unhappy ones were then driven to the Dniester where they spent the night under the open sky. Here, most of what they had left to them was stolen.

On the next day, they were brought over the Dniester with ferries and boats. During the passage, many of the Jews drowned when they were thrown in the water by the soldiers. The soldiers also cut open the backpacks of the unhappy ones and stole any valuable objects that they found.

On the far side of the river, there was another search with the anticipated results. Also the second night had to be spent under the open sky.

Only on the third day did they reach “Cariera de Piatra” (Stone Quarry). There they lay for hours in the vicinity of windowless and door less barracks which they were not allowed to enter. Only after much pleading and crying and giving of Baksheesh, were they given access to the barracks. The hundreds of people, soaked by the rain, whipped by wind and hail rushed into the lousy, barn like rooms where the whining starving children and the powerlessness of the parents made terrifying pictures. No food, no warmth, no medicine.

Finally, after five days, each person received 100 grams of bread, mixed with sand and bran which was supposed to be nourishment for three days.

After eight days the unhappy ones were sent to Czetwertinowka where they had to sleep in stalls from which they first had to clean out the pig and cow manure. In one stall lay 3 to 400 people. The people were desperate. Some succeeded in fleeing to Odobowka, Berschad and other camps.

The remainder stayed two months in Czetwertinowka. One day, the SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Mass came and gave orders that all the Jews had to be sent to work on the other side of the Bug. Forced onto trucks by club blows, the inhabitants of the camp were driven in the direction of Ladejin. As toward evening they arrived on the bank of the Bug, a large part of their luggage had disappeared.

At night, the Jews were taken over the Bug. On the next morning their possessions were searched again. The whole day passed in the search for gold, watches and valuables. They spent half the night in the open. After midnight, and SS-man, named Feuerstein arrived and said that all the people would go to a central camp where they would be divided up according to their professions. In addition, they would get three meals daily and get a good bed. Everyone took hope. Later, as individual trucks came, they were stormed by the people hoping to get a good place. During this process, family members were separated from one another, since the father would get in one truck, the mother in a second, the child in a third and the luggage eventually in the fourth. They all believed with certainty that they would go to the “central camp.” On the next morning they found that they had been torn apart. After this night, they never saw each other again.

One day later, the order came to give up all valuables. Immediately afterwards, the SS searched their belongings. The SS people said that a pistol had been found, which most likely belonged to a Jew, and for that reason, they had to thoroughly search all the Jews' luggage.

During this search, almost clothing, linen and other objects in half way decent condition were confiscated. Afterwards began the forced labor at road building, in stone quarries and in construction of defense walls and as the winter arrived – in snow shoveling.

They were fed only one meal per day: moldy millet, insufficiently cooked. The daily march to work and back totaled 20 km.

Approximately two months passed this way until Yom Kippur, 1942. Then the SS began the “clean-up” action in the Krasnapolska camp. On the morning of this day, all men and women over 50 years old and children under 14 years old as well as the sick and the weak were taken to one side while the others were ordered to march to the work location. When they came back in the evening, there were mass graves dug behind the camp in which they found their relatives. Screaming and moaning began, but the SS threatened to shoot everyone in the camp if quiet wasn't restored. So, the unhappy ones spent the most terrible of all nights in unbearable pain.

Similar actions followed at the same time in the camps: Iwangerod, Mihailowka, Teplik, Gaisin and Uman. In Uman where previously 60,000 Jews had lived, hardly 7 Jews who had disguised themselves in farmers' clothing and hidden, remained alive. When asked what had happened to the Jews, the camp commander replied that the rest were Christmas presents.

Actually, these “clean-up” actions were carried out every two months. In these actions, those incapable of working were selected and after the others had marched off to work, were killed. The scenes were heart wrenching when family members were separated and had to say good-by. As those going to work marched away, they got one last glimpse of their relatives. The marchers didn't dare to turn their heads because of the threat of death. The slave work continued daily in the same way.

In Teplik, the bloodhound, SS man Fischer knocked on the doors of the barracks, which were unheated in winter, daily at 5 am. In two minutes, everyone had to be prepared to march with tools, picks and shovels.

The forced work was carried out under military guard, whereby the guards were not stingy with club blows on the back and other parts of the body. The work extended until late in the night. Therefore, it is not surprising that up to December 10, 1943, in all camps together, barely 40 to 50 Jews who succeeded in escaping were still alive. Many who tried to escape over the Bug paid for this gamble with their lives. So were, among others, the families Preschel, Weiner, Dr. Schulmann, Schuller and Mrs. Professor Beral shot during the attempt.

11 escapees were sent by the ghetto commander of Berschad to Voitowka and from there further back over the Bug where they were immediately shot.

The camp inhabitants who remained behind were shot, one after the other in short intervals. The mass graves were covered with a thin layer of earth, which, because of the escaping gas, lifted in a few days, so that pestilent odors spread.

It should be mentioned that the militia that stood under the German commander were much worse than the German SS soldiers.

The deportations to Transnistrien, planed and carried out by the Germans are the most tragic chapter in the history of the Bukovina Jews and a stigma on the Germans which can never be washed away.

Dr. Nathan Getzler

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  History of Jews in Bukowina     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max Heffler

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 10 Aug 2006 by MGH