by Simcha Weissbuch
Translated by Moshe Devere
A town in Mogilev Province, 45 km northeast of the provincial city, and 25 km from Shargorod. In 1926, there were 1470 Jews living in Djurin, comprising 24.3% of the population. The GermanRomanian army occupied the town on July 22, 1941. The first deportees from Hoteni in Bessarabia arrived in September 1941. After long wanderings from camp to camp, they arrived naked, tired and sick. They were housed in the synagogue. From the end of October of that year until January 1942, hundreds of deportees who had previously lived in Mogilev, poured into the town. Together, the number of deportees reached 3500, including 300 from Suceava.
The local Jews
When the deportees arrived, they found a Jewish settlement that before the outbreak of World War II numbered about 2,000 people living in a separate district, most of whom worked in the local sugar factory. They had a synagogue, a study hall and a small cemetery. Their spiritual leader was Rabbi Herschel Kralnik. When the war broke out, the men were recruited into the Red Army, and only the elderly, sick, women and children remained in the town, about 1,000 people. The sugar factory was bombed and partially destroyed, leaving the Jews without means of a livelihood.
In the fall of 1941, when the Romanians took power, the Jews had to wear a yellow patch and their movement in the streets was restricted. The local Jews welcomed the deportees with open arms. Eight to ten people were crowded into a single room. In that manner, they absorbed two-thirds of them. The rest, about a 1,000, were housed in cowsheds and warehouses.
Living conditions in the ghetto
Leaving the ghetto was forbidden and anyone who had violated the ban faced a death sentence. Initially, the ghetto was subordinate to gendarme's headquarters and to the head of the Shargorod subdistrict, but in May 1942 a gendarme's station was established under the command of Corporal Floriano.
About 300 deportees among those with means, mostly from Suceava, obtained permission from the Romanian authorities to live outside the ghetto. They rented rooms with the Ukrainians in exchange of money or garments. Each family received its own room. Their movement was unrestricted and could trade with the Ukrainian population and earn their livelihood. The Jews in the ghetto existed under great privation. Some got a job with the Ukrainians from the city or with the peasants in the area. Others worked as craftsmen. Rabbi Baruch Hager
of Siret succeeded by donations to organize a soup kitchen where 300 needy people ate.
Money shipments came from the Bucharest Assistance Committee, the Bessarabian and Bucovinian committees from Bucharest, the Zionist Organization in Romania, and from a fund collected by the Rabbis Hager. Romanian officers served as couriers, taking part of the money sent with them.
Men and women aged 16 and over were employed in various types of forced labor and received only a little food. One hundred men were sent to the Ciubotarca Forest. Seventy worked digging a trench from Odessa's warehouses to the seaside. About 300 Jews worked in Vavarivka and Troiţa. A group of deportees worked on constructing a bridge over the Bug River. They were under the supervision of the Germans. There were also families with means who did not go to work by paying bribes and often made a living bartering clothing and jewelry for food.
The government and the regime
The Jews in Djurin were subjected to the persecution by the gendarmes and especially Floriano, who issued new decrees every day to extort money. Among other things, he banned Jews from leaving their homes, allowing only men to leave between 7-9 a.m. to stock up on food. The Jews who dared to leave the ghetto to meet their relatives were shot by Floriano in the Polish cemetery in Shargorod.
In January 1942, a typhoid epidemic broke out and raged out of control there. In the first few months, the mortality rate was high, but after a hospital was activated, the number of casualties declined.
In the spring of 1942, a 7-member Jewish committee was established, headed by Rabbi Baruch Hager of Siret. The Commissioner of the Shargorod subdistrict appointed Dr. Max Rosenstrauch of Suceava as chairman. He was responsible for fulfilling the instructions received from the authorities. The practical leadership of the Jews of Djurin was in the hands of the Deputy Chairman of the Committee: Moshe Katz from Rădăuţi. The committee established a Jewish Police, a hospital, a soup kitchen, an orphanage and a Jewish court. The Jewish Police, a group of 20 people, were at the Committee's disposal and helped maintain order in the ghetto. They also had to assist the gendarmes when they took people to labor camps.
The hospital began operating in the winter of 1942-1943. It had 56 beds, two doctors and three
nurses. There was a severe shortage of instruments and medicines. During the entire time of the deportation (1941-1944), some 400 people perished in the epidemics. In the beginning of 1943, there was also a pharmacy where medicines sent from the Bucharest Assistance Committee were distributed. The soup kitchen that Rabbi Hager established in December 1942 came under the Committee's management. The number of needy people reached 8001000 people. Each day, they received potato or bean soup and a slice of bread.
The orphanage was founded in the fall of 1943, and housed 51children orphaned from both parents. Besides them, there were 194 children orphaned from one of their parents in March 1943. The institution operated until the spring of 1944, when all orphans from Transnistria were returned to Romania. Its founder and talented manager was the late Dr. Bigo Hart, an advocate from Rădăuţi, who administered it with great devotion. At the entrance to the institution was a sign that read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou founded strength (Psalm 8:3).
A Jewish court heard disputes among Jews. The proceedings were like those of ordinary courts. The Romanian authorities did not interfere in this institution's activities. The Committee imposed taxes on religious services: slaughtering, kashrut and burial. All the merchants and craftsmen paid a fee to get a license from the Committee. Those deportees who received financial aid from their relatives in Romania had to give up some of the money for the Committee's benefit.
In 1943, a rumor was circulated that all the local Jews were about to be deported from the Shargorod subdistrict to the German area. To prevent the deportation, the subdistrict's Commissioner Dindelegan demanded a sum of one million Marks from all the region's towns. The people of Djurin alone had to collect 100,000 Marks. They collected 60,000 Marks, which were delivered in Shargorod to the subdistrict Commissioner and were thus saved from deportation. Likewise, through bribes, they were able to cancel the decree on the weekly market closure, and the prohibition on leaving the house for over two hours a day, etc.
It is worth noting that Deputy Chairman Moshe Katz of Rădăuţi shared the suffering of the Jewish population and took an active role in rescue operations, and endangering his life. He got ID cards for fleeing Jews who came from various places, and thanks to him, the soup kitchen also operated.
A special mention is due to the worthy figure, the leader of the local Jews, Rabbi Herschel Kralnick. His decrees were accepted in the Jewish homes, in the synagogue, and in the study halls. And so, in the harsh winter of 1941-1942 there was not a single death because of the cold weather. He ordered firewood to be prepared from the synagogue's furniture, including the Holy Ark, and fed about 30 needy people every day.
Religious and cultural life
The Jews prayed in the ancient synagogue that had just been renovated, after the Soviets had turned it into a grain warehouse. Many worshippers prayed at Rabbi Baruch Hager's home. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jews in the ghetto had to finish prayers by 9 a.m.
In the months between May and September 1943, an underground newspaper called Curier was published at the initiative of the four students who assisted the doctors at the Hospital for Infectious Diseases: Dov Katz, Berl Rosenblatt, Borshy Brown [Bar-On?] and Bertel Hart. This newspaper was written in Romanian and German. At first, even the Jewish Committee knew nothing about it. It appeared weekly in a six-page edition. The handwritten pages contained articles, descriptions and events from ghetto life, jokes and paintings. Among the writers were Fuldi Ungerish (later, Gideon Naor, obm) and J. Konstadt, who published an article in Israel about the newspaper's history. The editorial board was located in the hospital's duty room where the gendarmes never dared to enter for fear of infectious disease. Distribution was carried out at night. When the Jewish Committee learned of the newspaper's existence, it warned the editors and ordered them to cease publishing it. The editorial board's venue was then moved to the attic of a destroyed house and the newspaper continued to appear. After one issue fell into the hands of the gendarmes, the newspaper was forced to stop publishing.
Menahem Bernstein from Rădăuţi, who was in the Djurin camp, knows and can relate about an underground ken of Zionist Youth. They would gather at the house of one of the friends, hear lectures, sing Eretz Israel songs, and also take part in the writing of the Curier newspaper. Besides him, Karl Schnarch, obm, Rita Poplenyker, Puyo Rinzler, the late Bertel Hart, Borshi Schweierman, Elsa Schnarch and Eliezer and Moshe Hager, sons of Rabbi Baruch Hagar, also participated. On May 22, a great artistic performance was held in house number 929, which included readings and skits performed by actor N. Berkovici from Mad Willner.
According to reports by the Bucharest Assistance Committee, 3500 Jews were found in Djurin in January-March 1943, of whom 3053 were deportees and 447 were locals. The gendarme's headquarters lists from September of that year show 2871 deportees. Of them, 2440 were Bucovinians, 381 of them from Bessarabia and several dozen from Dorohoi Province.
Phases of the liberation
In December 1943, those of the surviving Dorohoi Jews were returned to Romania. On March 19, 1944, approximately 2700 deportees were found there. The next day, 32 Jews perished in a German bombing. The Russians immediately recruited the local able-bodied Jews who were fit for military service
and those deportees who volunteered. The others, about 2,500, began to leave. Of the town's Jews, local and deportees, about 500 people perished during the war. This was the lowest mortality rate in Transnistria.
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