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[Page 136]

Life in Suceava after the Holocaust

by Simcha Weissbuch

Translated by Moshe Devere

After the Red Army liberated Transnistria in the spring of 1944 and headed west toward Bessarabia and Bucovina, the Jews who survived the Holocaust inferno began returning home.

The road was not strewn with roses. There were many cases where Russian soldiers confiscated the horses that were harnessed to carts carrying the elderly, sick, and children, as well as the little belongings that the Jews still had. Those who rushed back reached their place of residence, but those who tarried were detained in Bessarabia (mainly in the city of Bereznyi) and Czernowitz in Bucovina, since the Russians, who annexed Bessarabia and northern Bucovina back in 1940, closed the border to Romania and only allowed their return in April 1945.

There were also several cases of Jews preferring to remain in the Soviet Union (Hollinger, S. Landau, D. Wagner, G. Margolis) and others who disappeared (Schulz, A. Totyrover and Roul). Some Jews who fled Romania to the Soviet Union in 1940 because of persecution returned to Suceava at the end of the war (J. Gronich, H.L. Fuchs, J. Nussbrauch and others. About 6000 Jews who came to Suceava, since Jews from Czernowitz and Northern Bucovina, Bessarabia and other cities in Romania also came. At first, the returnees often could not settle in their homes because of the proximity of the front lines. Many residents fled to Suceava and invaded the Jews' empty apartments. At that time, two young Jews were shot dead: Y. Singer near the Suceava River, and Schaechter in his fiancée Sali Gelber's [perhaps Gelbert or Sally Geller?] apartment.

The Jews began organizing to resume their lives in the city and established a community that was controlled by the communists. All the community leaders, starting with A. Schaechter, were members of the Communist Party. A Jewish high-school was opened, recognized by the authorities, to allow students who had lost school during the deportation years to complete them at an accelerated pace under the management of Dr. Rosa Levi and later under the management of Professor Schulman. The Joint [Distribution Committee (JDC)] helped the community with money, food and clothing; arranged for the renovation of the Great Synagogue, whose walls remained standing, maintenance of the cemetery that at the time of the expulsion was desecrated and many tombstones were broken.

Rabbi Goldenberg of Fălticeni served as rabbi of the city. After immigrating to Israel, Rabbi Tiernauer of Rădăuţi and sometimes Rabbi Wasserman of Dorohoi came twice a week. Ephraim Weissbuch began teaching Hebrew to young people on the pretext that Hebrew was necessary for understanding what was written in the prayer books and the Bible. A [ritual] slaughterer came twice a week and assured kosher slaughter.

For a time, Romania sold kosher meat to Israel. For this 5-6 butchers came from Israel and slaughtered in Burdujeni, allowing those of the Jewish population from the city who wanted to, to get kosher meat. Matzo and kosher wine for Passover came from Israel with the help of the Joint.

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Most of the students who graduated from the Jewish school and got a high-school diploma were members of the Zionist Youth movements. Many of them went to Hachsharah to prepare for Aliyah. But there were others who preferred to continue their studies at universities (J. Spiegel, M. Klueger, L. Schaerf, R. Ostfeld, R. Weitman, J. Huebner, S. Weissberg, L. Schulzon, the Bessler brothers, M. Rosner, and others) and even successfully completed their studies.

The Jews regained the buildings in which they once lived and their businesses. They reopened their stores, and those of the free professions continued in their occupations. Zionist activity was renewed even more strongly in both youth and adult organizations, as well as increasing Aliyah by all possible ways, legally but mostly illegally (Aliyah Bet and Gimel) by crossing the borders into Hungary and Yugoslavia and from there to Israel or Germany, France and Italy. Thus, Dr. Boymovich traveled with his car as a tourist to Yugoslavia and from there to the free world, leaving a well-appointed apartment and a large sum of money in the bank. The Meirovici family also fled as tourists. Dr. Butenero left behind a wife and a young child and were only reunited in Israel after many years.

In 1946, six years after Jabotinsky's death, a large rally was held. Likewise, on Romanian Independence Day, on the day the war ended, marches were held throughout the city, with the Zionist youth movements marching with blue and white flags. All this took place until the authorities outlawed the Zionist movements.

In Suceava, the Irgun (ETZEL) were illegally active and prepared the Revisionist youth for the underground struggle against the Mandatory power. Thus, one day a young man came to Dr. A. Weitman's clinic and was treated by him for a gunshot wound to his hand received during training.

It should be noted that at the end of 1947, approximately 15,000 Jews left Romania semi-officially on their way to Israel via the Bulgarian port of Burgas on the ships Pan York and Pan Kraschnet. But the authorities approved the departure, providing no passports or cargo certificates.

A small portion of the Jews from Suceava thought that a society based on socialist principles could solve humanity's problems in general, and of the Jews in particular. The Jews took important positions in both the Communist and Social-Democrat parties, as well as municipal government positions, in the militia and the Sekuritat (V. Popic, K. Gabor, D. Bacal, J. Moskowici, P. Glickman, A. Merdler). At the Municipality, Deputy Mayor and Secretary of the City (L. Rothkopf, B. Schalit); in the District Court, Vice President A. Hecht and Judges L. Goldberg, K. Zlochiver, Moskowici); the State Attorney's Office, Attorney General A. Koerner; in diplomatic corps (J. Acks, Martin Ruckenstein–Russo) and the Romanian Academy (A. Rachmut, associate professor).

The regional Department of Education was headed by D. Rimmer, and the municipal Department of Commerce was headed

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by J. Strominger, the director of the regional Department of Sanitation was Dr. B. Merdler and Dr. J. Stettner. The hospital was headed by Dr. A. Weitman, and the head of the polyclinic was Dr. A. Anderman. The secretary of the regional council was Feurstein; chairman of the Cooperative Association, A. Segal; head of the leather and shoe factory, T. Hilsenrat.

Many Jews occupied important positions in the Communist Party apparatus. As a counterweight to the aspiration of the Jews to emigrate to Israel, the Jewish Democratic Committee (CDE) was established, on behalf of the authorities, to persuade the Jews to remain in Romania. This committee was headed by A. Segal, K. Bogen served as secretary and Erlich, Katz, Weber and others were activists. The committee's activity was anti-Zionist and worked to prevent Jews from emigrating to Israel. The Committee established a club called Y.K. (Yiddisher Kultur Farein), which was unsuccessful among the Jewish population. The person in charge was Selig and Technical Secretary K. Weitman.

It should be noted that the CDE also organized two [legal] Aliyah groups to Israel and an illegal Aliyah by which several thousand Jews left Romania. In February 1948, the Beitar movement in Suceava was dispersed and went underground. The rest of the Zionist movements were dispersed by the Romanian authorities in March 1949. The authorities began arresting Zionist activists, including A. Abush–Druckman, who was interrogated days and nights and was eventually sentenced to many years in prison.

After the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, the gates of Romania and the Jews of Suceava filed applications en masse for Aliyah, and indeed, many of them came on Aliyah. There were only a few who did not ask for an exit permit. Of course, they were the zealous communists (Segal, Wigder, Popik, Bernstein). Toward the end of 1953, the Jews were expelled from the militia, the Sekuritat, and other important places (Merdler, Moskowici). Others who signed up for Aliyah were expelled from their jobs and sent to lowly jobs with starvation wages. Jewish students were expelled from the universities (D. Herr, S. Haas, Fischel, S. Weissbuch) and no new students were accepted. Doctors cannot take the exams to rank as specialists and were employed in general medicine (Dr. Anderman, Dr. Stettner, Dr. Weitman and others).

In 1956, the CDE ceased operating and disappeared because of a lack of any successful results in its anti-Zionist propaganda. The Romanian government prohibited, by decree, the ownership of gold coins and foreign currencies and had to be handed over to the authorities. Many of the city's Jews were imprisoned and tortured and asked to hand over their gold and gold coins. Those who did not do so voluntarily were sentenced to hard labor on the Danube-Black Sea Canal, where many perished (Gross, Haimovici). Others were sentenced to many years in prison (Blum, Dr. Schaeffer and his wife, Meirovici, Klopfer, Volkmann and others).

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Some families from abroad paid ransoms in dollars (for those who wanted to immigrate and did not receive approval). The size of the payment depended on the person's “value”. An English Jew named Yacobar transferred a lot of foreign currency in cash to the Romanian authorities (counted in millions) in exchange for the passports – (thus, 4 people from the Kopalovitch family were redeemed). Several Jews were even released from prison thanks to activities of a committee led by a rabbi from the United States, of course, in exchange for money (Schmelzer, Merdler, Meirovici).

Today, only a few Jews remain in Suceava, most of them elderly, sick, or those who, over the years, came from other places and settled there. A significant number went to western countries (Germany, France, the United States, Canada, etc.). But for the vast majority who survived the Holocaust, the prophet Jeremiah's prophecy was fulfilled and…and thy children shall come back again to their own borders (Jeremiah 31:16).


General stories of people from Schotz and about them
Suceava is Schotz and maybe… Crazy Schotz: A city in a distorted mirror

by Simcha Weissbuch

Translated by Moshe Devere

The city's Jews have always called it “Schotz”, and that name has taken root to this day, so anyone referring to the city in which he was born and raised only uses the name Schotz. Over time, a less respected name was tacked on becoming “Crazy Schotz.”

It is possible that people who came to the city from other places and encountered them invented this nickname. It is a fact that there's been quite a few weird characters, insane, and retarded. They integrated into the city's social landscape, which accepted them with understanding.

What's more, according to the legend, it was widely believed that everyone who comes to the Red Tower (Turnul Roşu) circles three times around it, and then goes for a drink from the Şipot (Judgment) spring will go crazy. However, the Schotzer was given this odious name with indifference and even equality. Some argued that it all stemmed from… jealousy and not to begrudge. The Schotzer are considered wise and sagacious, intellectuals, disciples of the wise, scientists and above average people, whose fame goes far and wide. This was the magnificent and large community in southern Bucovina. Therefore, they said, it was easy to understand that it is all the result of the frustration by outsiders. And so, by the way, when they asked someone from Schotz where he was from, he replied preemptively, “You yourself are crazy.”

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The following are examples of some of these types, non-Jews and Jews, who may have “contributed” to the title “crazy”.

Soft-headed Hochsiebzehner, who during World War I was buried alive, rescued, and lost his mind ever since, spoke only to himself about the “17th Battalion” where he served. He was a pauper who swept the streets and shouted aloud “Hochsiebzehner,” meaning, “Long live the 17th Battalion!” and everyone dropped him a coin.

Papiercu is said to have thought he once won the grand prize in the lottery, but unfortunately lost his ticket, and has since collected every piece of paper from the streets as well as from the rubbish. He stored all this in his shabby house on the outskirts of town. Some say he collected tons of paper.

“Baronul”, a dandy with a shaved head, dandily dressed and wearing a brown hat with a broad rim like the Canadian soldiers wore. He brokered young women who came from the villages to work as maidservants for homeowners, claiming to be the illegal son of Baron Caffrey, who owned many forests around the village of Udeşti outside the Schotz.

So much for the non-Jewish types in the city, but the place was also blessed with quite several Jewish lunatics.

Araleh Kaconia, who wandered the streets of the city and blew on a funnel in his attempt to make the sound of a shofar. Passersby mocked him and asked him to sing with his trumpet and handed him a coin.

“Moishe Huhner,” another weak and poor man who is said to have once been sent with chickens to the slaughterhouse before the holidays. After the rooster was slaughtered and before it died, he would say: “I brought you here, from here on, you will go home by yourself.”

Janio Hellman did not have any nicknames stuck to him, but he was a very strange man, and maybe suffered from illusions. He worked as a laborer at the Diamant soda factory. On those days when he wasn't working, he would dress in white clothes from head to toe, stroll down the city's main street and in public parks among people there.

Orzio–Borzio and Zili were a begging couple who wore old clothes that they received as gifts and walked by shop entrances and doors of Jewish homes to beg, always fighting among themselves and those who evaded giving them a handout won a healthy dose of curses. It is told that Orzio once had a serious “accident” that almost cost him his livelihood. He was once caught, Heaven forbid, eating non-kosher food on Yom Kippur. The whole city was shocked.

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All these Jewish characters perished in the Holocaust, but their memory is cherished by the city's former residents, who are still alive.

And how can one finish this gallery of characters without mentioning “The Drummer”, Traian Bolocan. This continued on even from 1945 to 1946, after World War II. It's hard to believe today that in those days, the only media outlet in town was the “Drum.” When local authorities wanted to send a communique or notice to the public, Traian implemented it with his drum. And this was how this activity was carried out: He stood and drummed in the middle of the main street (at the time cars were a rare commodity, except for a few carriages), took out a piece of paper and began reading the communique in bad Romanian with a stutter. His appearance was always entertaining. Here are some “pearls” from Traian's messages.

One day, it was decided to recruit soldiers who were ordered to report to the recruitment offices. And this was what he announced: “We announce that all those born in 1938, 1940, 1942…” Here is where he stopped because he did not understand what was written regarding the last year. Manio Michalovici, who was behind him, whispered to him: “Also those born in 1848.” Without a second thought, he repeated what he was told, which caused an outburst of tremendous laughter from the crowd. Of course, once he realized he had been deceived, he poured plenty of juicy curses upon the whisperer such as cannot be put to paper.

Another time, he wanted to announce that the mayor's pig had been lost. But in his bad, confused language, it sounded like the pig mayor was lost. It is easy to understand that laughter reached all the way… to City Hall. Or when a ram was lost, he announced that whoever finds him, white and small black (black spot) with few (short) horns, is invited to come to the municipality, on the 32nd floor of Room 2 (he reversed it), to receive a reward.

And more, when President Roosevelt died in 1945, and mourning was declared, he announced: “Rosenfeld died.” Which Rosenfeld? The egg seller? Of course, this time too, the asker received a healthy dose of profanity. And these are all examples in a nutshell.

Well, crazy or sane, they were among the Jews of the city from all walks of life, from the soft-headed to those of stature, poor and rich, stingy and philanthropic, the boors and the scholars, a kind of micro–cosmos of exiled Jewry. {the source has כאין instead of כעין}


A Schotz chess story

by Simcha Weissbuch

Translated by Moshe Devere

An interesting case happened once in a game between two prominent chess players in the city, Adv. Kinel (a Christian married to a Jew), and Kopalovitch. Usually when two among the best players in town met,

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everyone stood around in awe, expecting see a brilliant move that would charm the spectators. The game was coming to an end when Kinel suddenly announced that he was going to win within a few moves according to the state-of-the-art methods of Soviet chess (as most world champions and famous chess players in the former Soviet Union). The tension peaked, and everyone was waiting to see how Kinel landed the winning blow upon his opponent. And while everyone looked intently hoping to decipher the last brilliant move for themselves, when suddenly Kopalovitch softly voiced one of the most hated words by any chess master: Checkmate. Everyone is shocked to look unbelieving but indeed, it was Checkmate! Woe was Kinel's embarrassment, who just a few minutes ago loudly announced that he was on the verge of a brilliant victory. He sat entirely frozen in place, looking but not understanding where this blow came from. With his head bowed, he dared not to move for a while. Then he slowly got up, as if old-age had overtaken him. Without making a sound, he turned to the exit and left the hall. It was his last game. Since then, he did not set foot in the club, and stopped playing. Sic transit mundi gloria (Thus passes the world's glory)


The Great Shabbat in Suceava

by Yehuda Tennenhaus

Translated by Moshe Devere

In all of Bucovina and Galicia, it was most famous that on the Great Shabbat, all the bald or the so-called PARECH traveled to Egypt. There is no certainty about the origin of the custom, it may be due to the resemblance of the word PARECH to the fact that the Egyptians worked the Israelites hard (perekh).

Around this custom, a small industry for printing special travel cards developed, which sent by courier to the bald person's house. Also, telegrams were sent by post with train departure times, etc. In short, they harassed the poor souls without end on the evening before the Great Shabbat, if that was not enough, the next day, when they came to the synagogue for morning prayers, they would approach them and give them a great welcome (A big Shalom Aleichem) as if they had returned from a distant trip, and would invite them to an Aliyah to the Torah, if it was possible and ask them recite the hagomel blessing.

There were those who took the jokes in good spirit, but there were others, too, who tried to get away by going to the Great Shabbat to the Rebbe, but that did not help them much. The telegrams with the travel tickets would also reach them at the Rebbe's Court.

And here is a case that happened before World War I: In Suceava, there was a Jew, the owner of a tavern called Zalman Parech. All this happened when there was no running water in the city.

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Water was delivered to houses, in a barrel on a cart by water carriers. Once before the Great Shabbat, several pranksters hired a water carrier, decorated his cart with Simḥat Torah flags, and several Gypsy musicians were added to stop in front of Zalman Parech's house and play for him as if they had come to escort him to the train station.

Indeed, on the morning of the Great Shabbat, the entire group appeared in front of Zalman's house and began to play. The hot-tempered Zalman went out to the street and slapped the water carrier and the musicians. Of course, the matter went to the courts and Zalman was found guilty. The difficulty was explaining the whole thing to the non-Jewish judge who sat in judgment, not understanding at all why they were all excited about… Jews.


To Stalin's credit

by Simcha Weissbuch

Translated by Moshe Devere

1) This happened in 1946 when dictator Stalin's personality cult embraced the entire country, since Romania was then a kind of satellite country of the Soviet Union.

The Zionist movement was still legal, and most Jews, old and young, were active in one of the many parties.

The Jewish School in Suceava was a hotbed of Zionist activity and almost all the students belonged to one of the youth movements. I was in Grade 7 in high-school (equivalent to the 11th grade in Israel) when one day, the physics teacher, Frieda Wigger, a devout communist, entered the classroom. When she noticed that on one wall hung pictures of Herzl (the visionary of the State of Israel) and Stalin, she was furious and ordered me to immediately remove Herzl's picture because politics does not belong in school. As an obedient student, I got up on a chair and started taking down the picture of… Stalin.

At that, a cry of despair was heard from the teacher: “What are you doing?” “If we don't do politics, I'll take both pictures down.” “You can't take down Stalin's picture,” screamed the teacher. “So, we'll leave both of them!” was my answer. In an angry voice, she asked me to return to my place, and so I did. And so, thanks to Stalin's picture, Herzl's continued to be showily displayed in its place.

2) My late father worked for a time as an accountant in an office of a government company. As an observant religious person, he approached the late Jacob Strominger (his former student) who was then the director of the city's Commerce Department, asking him to exert his influence on the company's manager to allow him to work on Sundays instead of Saturdays, and the holidays would be offset by the annual vacation, and so it went.

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One day, on the evening before Shabbat, my father received an urgent call that he had to report to the office the next day, Shabbat, at the office because a high-level visitor from Bucharest was to arrive, and all employees must be present. Having no other choice, my father went to the office early in the morning. After the staff was presented to the visitor, my father approached him and told him he was the cantor in the synagogue, and today a special prayer was planned for Stalin's safety and success.

Upon hearing my father's words, he ordered him to leave immediately and go to the synagogue. And so, my father arrived in time for the Shabbat prayers thanks to… Stalin.

 

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