« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 444]

Translations by Moshe Devere

Paul Leinburd's Story

July 1994. I'm sitting, along with my mother, in a cab that is rushing toward Winnipeg Airport, on our way to a destination that has been waiting for me in my old dreams. It is likely that my brother, Sorrell, who lives in Vancouver, is already on his way to meet us in Bucharest.

Thoughts are running through my head. We waited 35 years for this moment. I am carrying with me about 30 rolls of color photographs, about 10 rolls of black-and-white film, and also a video cassette. I have always felt like I have left something behind, something I am longing for. Every time I thought about going back there, the time was not right, or at least that is what I believed. Time passed, and the past became the present. When I was making the arrangements to buy the tickets for the three of us, there rose the feeling that I had to pay for everyone's expenses. I don't know exactly why. Just that.

 

Suc454.jpg
The Leinburd family:
Paul with his parents, Yaakov and Betty, and his grandparents, Naḥum and Leah

 

My wonderful daughter, Lauren, was born in 1983, and my beloved son was born in 1986. These were significant moments of happiness. But soon, somehow, that happiness was mixed with sadness. In 1987,

[Page 455]

my father, Jacob, passed away at a very young age. He was only 67 years old. I felt as if I was orphaned. My life changed forever. My wife could not cope with my father's illness.

It all happened during that critical year, 1987; my watershed year. My marriage fell apart, I bought a company that needed resuscitation, and I also stopped smoking. How did I stop smoking amid all the turmoil and pain in my life? Probably because of the acupuncture.

Suddenly, I had an urge for a cigarette. But here we are, at the airport, our luggage is already underway and my mother was smoking a cigarette instead of me. How sad it must be for her, I thought, to travel to the land of her childhood without the man she has loved all her life. No one will welcome us at the airport. What will we find there that will connect us to our memories?

We are talking. Memories are piling on top of memories. We are talking about Suceava, the city where I was born, the city of the Leinburd families, and Fălticeni, my mother's city. The “vast” distance between the two cities was only about half an hour's drive away, like a half-hour drive from north end of Winnipeg to its southern end. As a child in Fălticeni, I used to spend special weeks with the Kalmanovich and Hermann clans. We used to go to the Yarmerock, the traditional July Fair, which was a favorite place of mine. Much, much later, I found out that this fair was known all over the country. When I close my eyes, I can smell the foods and hear the gypsy, lautary (lute-playing?) musicians. Did they really exist? They had to actually exist outside of my memories, otherwise they would not have shown up there. Whether these cities exist at all, or is it all part of some illusion that I have created for myself and for my brother; an illusion that my parents reinforced. I have already heard stories about how over the years, after the Jews, who were a large part of the population here, had left, the appearance of these cities changed. The architecture, for example, changed radically.

Mrs. Sylvia Solomon, a family friend, said I would not recognize Suceava at all, that poverty and squalor there had reached an unbelievable level. And no Jews remained there. All the synagogues had been destroyed. “Are you sure you want to go there and be disappointed? It's better not to go,” she said. But her stories about the Leinburd brothers, or “La Flimbare” on Saturday nights on the main street, gave me a sense of everlasting sorrow. He had to go there. My mother, Sorrell, and I had to go there. My father would be with us. I have to take something with me that belonged to my father, to sense his presence. No doubt he would be there with all of us.

And there was also the specter of Transnistria, the nightmare that took place between 1941 and 1944. It finally convinced the Jews of Romania, including my family, that their future was not there. I was born a few years after the war in Romania. Tales of heroism, survival, and the underground

[Page 456]

were part of my adolescence process. They were recounted repeatedly, like the Seder Haggadah, so that we would never forget. I thought we might also go to Murafa, a village in Transnistria where the Jews from Suceava and other villages and towns in Bucovina were forcibly deported. My grandfather, Nathan, known as Nuchem Ber, told me about his brother, Uncle Harry, who emigrated to Winnipeg around 1920 and how he purchased a Nansen passport for the Leinburd family for an immense sum. It was a passport issued by the League of Nations, the organization that preceded the UN, for stateless people. Since my grandfather had never been a Romanian citizen, this “right” was denied to him. He met the conditions for obtaining this passport. On a technical, practical level and according to international law, the Leinburd family was now under the protection of the League of Nations. They were supposed to be immune to any antisemitic rampage of a nation that had gone mad, as Robert St. John put it in his book Foreign Correspondent. I mean, it would be true if there was indeed a member nation who cared.

As far as I know, the Leinburd family was the last Jewish family to be deported from Suceava. How did they make it safely to Murafa while thousands perished in the death marches or were murdered by bandits who coveted their clothes? They had a reprieve over five or six hours, so I read that most Jews got to pack their belongings. My grandfather spoke Ukrainian and Russian fluently because he came from Skvira, which was a stetle (village) near Kiev. How does one prepare for such a journey? How does one plan to survive?

And Murafa, does it still exist? It's surely still there, between the Republic of Moldavia and Ukraine. I remember the stories I heard and now they are coming back to me in an avalanche of memories. We cannot get to Murafa, but if we go there, we'll probably take the route the Leinburd family took. There is no other way. The only thing I know is that they crossed the river near Yedinets. These stories are seared into the memory banks in my brain. In this place, my father saw the words written in blood on the walls of the looted houses; words written by the victims, who were murdered because they were Jews. Those words were long-forgotten names. Names of entire families from which no one survived. “Please, say Kaddish over us,” the words begged. “They murdered us, all of us, children and babies.” A tremor passes through my body. Pictures from Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird flicker before my eyes. But no, it can't be. He wrote about Poland. This is Romania. Romania was much better. See, see how many survived. Yes. Ask Mr. Weissman, who came from Diviciorii, who didn't want his children to even learn to speak Romanian. It's even better if you ask the Huebners, originally from Czernowitz. They were friends of my parents and their daughter, Ruth. She is my friend, my oldest friend in the world. Today, she lives in Israel. She often recounted

[Page 457]

how her father and mother witnessed an incident in which their families were buried alive by Romanian soldiers in a building opposite the house where they were hiding. After the war, Suceava was just a transit point for them, on their way to the Promised Land. They tell me this every time I visit Israel. They prefer to speak German.

We traveled to Bucharest and from there to Suceava. Communism went to oblivion, like fascism before it. Will the Romanians know how to cope with the freedom they regained? I love history. According to the books, I didn't find a time when Romanians were truly free, even for themselves. I remember the books. Freedom must be carefully and meticulously cultivated, otherwise it is destroyed.

Finally, we are on the plane to Montreal. From there, we will board an Air Canada flight to Frankfurt and from there, on a Malév [flight] to Bucharest. In Montreal, I went to one of Air Canada's desks and inquired if there was an option to upgrade the flight ticket. I explained that my mother was already 73, and I thought it might be …………are relaxing in the first-class seats of an Air Canada plane. My mother is so pleased.

 

Suc457.jpg
Jacob and Betty Leinburd on the main street of Suceava, 1945

[Page 458]

We are served coffee with linen napkins. Even something as simple as a cup of coffee evokes memories for my mother. Even after 35 years in Canada, when she says “home,” she still means Suceava and Fălticeni. It is strange to refer by “home” to a place where you were forced to wear a Star of David patch as a sign of identification, even if you were only 16 or 17. Where if you were caught outside after normal daytime hours, you might be arrested. However, it was home and there were wonderful memories of it. For me too, the aroma of Turkish coffee evokes memories. I open my eyes and see my grandparents' house. Sunday mornings in Fălticeni were always special, my mother reminds me. Oh, of course, I remember the parade, the military parade on the main street “Fe Strada Mare,” where the Kalmanovich family and other Jewish families lived. It, too, was buried in my memory database, along with the stones that paved the street they were walking on. I wonder if my father's flour mill is still standing there, on Granichery Street. My mother is muttering before she falls asleep. I am floating in a dream of my own.

In the spring of 1994, a few months before the trip, I found myself by chance in a bookstore in Toronto. I found a book there called Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History by Robert D. Kaplan. The book mentioned not only Suceava, which excited me. Kaplan's words took me back to the reality we are now traveling to. On one occasion, I met a couple of former Romanians who immigrated to Canada 12 or 15 years ago. Both were doctors and both were well acquainted with Romanian culture, were well versed in its politics and music, and more. I enjoyed practicing my mother tongue by talking to them and discussing the politics of the country I was now about to visit. The conversation took place entirely in familiar and well-known areas, but I was amazed to find that they did not know about Transnistria or the role played by Romanians in the Holocaust of Romanian Jews. I laid out before them the horror stories of my father and his friends. I saw on their faces an expression of disbelief and also of a little insult. But when I said that the country could not have a future without being willing to look at itself in the mirror, I saw they understood something. These were just preparations for the journey. Timing, I thought, timing is everything. My eyelids opened. Another cup of coffee came so I would not fall asleep.

I pulled a small notebook out of my briefcase. Sorrell insisted I take a notebook with me. I have to write, but I'm not a writer. I express myself in photographs and many other ways, but I don't write. When my memories came up, 1958 appeared before my eyes in great sharpness and clarity. That same year in the fall, the hepatitis epidemic raged in Suceava. I, like many others, was hospitalized and in isolation during the first week of December. I don't really remember how long I was in the hospital and no one could actually tell me. However, I remember that one day, my father showed up in my room very happily. He told me we had been given permission to leave Romania and go to Israel. I was allowed out of the hospital, provided I was not in contact with anyone because I might still be contagious. When I got home, everything was in turmoil. My parents were in the middle of trying to sell or bequeath furniture, books, objects accumulated over a lifetime. My father reminded me they were only things. How can one end a lifetime in his homeland? My father has not seen his parents or brothers in over 10 years. My mother hasn't seen her parents and brother in over 10 years. We should have expected that. The decision was made for us.

Even if we were lucky enough to be allowed to leave, how do we get on with our daily lives? How do you relate to neighbors and friends? Maybe one of them will like our house? Perhaps one of them will do us a favor and buy it? One thing was sure: You don't want to be the last Jew in Suceava! Entire streets were emptied of their inhabitants over the course of 25 years, when over 400 thousand Jews left Romania. No one complained about the country's leadership selling its middle class for US dollars. They just wanted to leave, no matter what. Never mind that they could take only 40 kilograms of things collected over the course of a lifetime. It was forbidden to take silver jewelry, coins, stamps, or books, Romanian or other, certificates, diplomas, photographs, works of art, gold wedding rings over a certain amount of carat, or any jewelry. Everything the green shirt wearers did not steal, the Communists confiscated.

In my mind, I went back in time to January 1, 1959. I don't remember the holiday feasts my parents used to have on December 31st each year, along with the Huebner and Horowitz families and the rest of their friends. I don't know how they celebrated this time, but I guess they hugged, kissed and raised a glass in honor of the truth inherent this time in the verse “Next year in Jerusalem.”

The carriage (“Trasora/Piaker”) came to take us to the train station. My father ordered the carriage many days in advance to come and take us. Even the teamster was Jewish. I sat down next to him. My mother, father and two-and-a-half-year-old brother sat comfortably in the back, but I had an excellent vantage point. The teamster snapped his whip. I remember thinking I should look back and see our home for one last time. It was early and cold early morning. Everything was covered in frost. The creaking of the carriage wheels was the only sound heard. A transparent curtain of floating snowflakes fell about, slowly, so slowly. The sight was so beautiful, but also sad, very sad. Not a soul was out. Everyone was still sleeping it off after last night's festivities. Where were all my friends? Nobody waved goodbye to us.

[Page 460]

Ten years passed before I first returned to my birthplace (Malaygorla Natale) and now it's August 2004. How time flies. Over the years, I told my children that one day, when they were old enough to understand, I would take them on a journey through time, back to their and my roots. Now, that day has come.

I found everything written that had the names Suceava or Fălticeni in it. The few books I found I eagerly devoured, hoping to find a solution to the puzzle that appeared repeatedly in my dreams. Coincidentally, I came across Norman Manea's book, The Return of the Hooligan, while browsing through the New York Times book supplement. Here it was indeed, a brilliant writer who not only wrote about Suceava, but was also born there. I was enchanted. I found the book and read it from start to finish without a stop.

In the book, he wrote not only about Suceava but also about relatives, people and places as if they originated out of my own memories. It seemed as if we were taking parallel paths. He wrote about the places I photographed in 1994. A few weeks later, when we finally met, he helped me complete some pieces of the puzzle. Since then, we have met several times but after our meetings I always felt that we had not spent enough time together. I was always amazed by the people who survived Transnistria, and then the green shirts that turned red and then tri-colored, but it amazed me even more after I met Norman. If I had been born a few years earlier, and if my parents did not have the courage to leave at the stage when they left...

Well, now everything was ready, and the plans took on a life of their own.

I flew with my son Cole to Montreal, where my daughter, Lauren, attended Concordia University. The three of us boarded an Air Canada flight to Frankfurt and from there to Bucharest. After spending a few days in the Romanian capital, after Lauren and Cole had adapted a bit, we boarded the Tarum flight to Suceava. The night flight, which lasted just one hour, was full of emotional questions. I lectured, once again, about the Romanian, Byzantine political system, before and after the war, about the treatment received by the Jews, about their ways of survival, and reaching what I thought was the veritable miracle of World War II. Over 400 thousand Jews survived in Romania, more than in any other Eastern or Western European country. And all this happened in a country that was Nazi Germany's closest ally. The only country, except Germany, which set up its own death camps, a country that sent half a million troops to help the Germans invade Russia. I told of friends and neighbors that we met ten years ago, and about the painted synagogue, the “GHACH Society” Synagogue, with its wonderful paintings, the only one that remains standing

[Page 461]

out of the ten synagogues that were there before the war.

When we landed at the airport serving Suceava, it was already after 10 p.m. Outside, it was pitch-dark. There was no taxi in sight. It was a hot summer night, and the crickets provided a musical backdrop to our long-awaited adventure. The airport was all closed, an unusual sight for an airport serving a city of about 100 thousand inhabitants, but the only flight attendant nearby was considerate. He called our hotel and asked them to come pick us up. I heard Cole and Lauren giggling in the background. I wondered if they expected this. About half an hour later, a car stopped in front of the airport and the driver politely informed us he was sent by the hotel to pick us up. I tried to speak to him in Romanian and found out he was a friend of the receptionist on the night shift at the hotel. Immediately after registering as a religion, we retired to our rooms and, paying no attention to the living conditions, collapsed, exhausted, but full of anticipation for the next morning.

The hotel was at a good strategic point: exactly in the center of the quarter where I spent my childhood. We passed an Orthodox Church and found ourselves at the entrance to my high school, the “Ştefan Cel Mare” High School. This is where my father, his brother Yoczi, and I studied. I repeated the almost ceremonial movement, which I often imagined, and opened the door. Now, finally, I have done it for real, with Cole and Lauren being my witnesses, just like my mother and brother Sorrell did ten years ago. The images were slowly revealed to us as the heavy oak door opened. In front of us stood the bronze statue of the prince, after whom the institution is named. On the left, high above, I noticed quotes from the words of Emil Cioran and Mircea Eliade, idols of Romania's Fascist period, which were not seen in the years I studied here. It's interesting to see what freedom does to people, especially if they've never been free. This is difficult to explain to my children, who grew up in an environment that existed light years away from the world before us. Now, ten years later, I remembered aloud a scene that was revealed to me ten years ago when I walked along the left side of the marble staircase. I met a young teacher then who wanted to know why I wanted to come back and if I was Romanian. “Of course, I am Romanian. After all, I was born here,” I explained to her. She asked my name and suddenly I remembered. I told her my name was Leinburd. “Oh,” she said, “But that's not a Romanian name. So, you're not really a Romanian.” “Of course I am. I was born here. But I am also a Jew.” Interesting: The land where I was born is the only place in the world where I am a Jew. In Israel, I am Romanian first and only afterward, a Canadian. For some unclear reason, in Canada I am seen me as a European. But here in Romania, I am a Jew.

We kept walking down the street and then turned into a side street. In front of us was an intersection to the left of which was Armeniasca Street and to its right, Ion Krianga Street, the street where we once lived. We had to go to

[Page 462]

the Jewish community offices at 8 Armeniasca Street. Here we were greeted by some members of the community: Sidi Saldinger, Marcel Simon, Kalman Jaeger, and the president of the community, Shloimel Patriario. They were full of information. I translated for my children, even though I thought Lauren understood. Yes, they remembered my father, Yaakov, and his brother, Yoczi, and their parents. It's been 45 years since I left Suceava with my family. My grandfather, Natan, and my grandmother, Leah (Lottie), left before, in 1952. I felt just great meeting people who remembered them. I was bothered because Cole didn't understand the language at all. I had been hoping he'd have picked up something, at least a few sentences, a few keywords, before we left here. But we were all very excited that we had found people who, after all these years, still remembered our family. Later, when I told my local friend Ion Andreu about it, he said they must have made an impression on the people, so they were remembered so well. “Only the best gets to be remembered,” he said. “It is our duty is to remember our past, our roots.” I listened to him carefully. I felt like he was also talking about his father, who died a year ago. Ion's father was a renowned heart surgeon who helped many people. His father, like my mother and her family, had roots in Fălticeni. His grandfather was mayor there in the 1930s.

I wanted to show the children the decorated synagogue, which I have told them about repeatedly, all my life, I believe. As we prepared to leave, Mr. Patriario kindly offered to come with us and open the gates of the synagogue for us. It was very close by, one block away from my school, among the crowded apartment buildings. We went into a narrow, somewhat dark corridor. At the end of the corridor, on our left, was a small house of worship. A small red Persian rug covered the bimah, the reading table. We photographed everything we could, noticing the details and names commemorated there. The small room opens toward the main sanctuary. This was the decorated hall I thought about so often.

I know that in Bucovina and northern Moldova, decorated synagogues were a normal sight, but outside that area, there is nothing like these painted synagogues. The ceiling, painted in its own style of trompe l'oeil always led me to believe that it was convex, although in reality it was flat. The paintings of the animals symbolizing the 12 tribes adorned the ceiling, the margins of which were highlighted by musical instruments. The walls of the synagogue around and the wall of the Holy Ark were painted uniform blue-gray, which highlighted the painted ceiling. Greek columns were painted on the surrounding walls at equal distances and in a very realistic style. The Holy Ark was covered by sparkling blue velvet fabric. I lead my children to a black granite slab that was attached to the wall, to the left of the entrance to the main prayer hall. I showed

[Page 463]

the children the names engraved in it, including the name of their great-grandfather, Nathan Leinburd (Nuchem Ber). I remember how excited I became. It is not a common thing, a situation in which a Jew returns to his birthplace in Eastern Europe and finds physical, tangible evidence there that he or his ancestors actually lived there. Now there are rows of benches in the main hall and an elevated table stood in the center of the room. In the 1950s, there were personal prayer stands with drawers where you could place the tallit (prayer shawl) or the [prayer] books. I used to sit in the front row, to the left a little from the Holy Ark, and every time I looked up and to the right a little, the Lion of Judah stared back at me. Today, forty-five years later, I stand here with Cole and Lauren and show them this work of art. I think this lion is one of the few things that hasn't changed here in Suceava.

In the 1950s, the synagogue faced a rather large square that was once used as a market, and during the winter holidays, the Christmas tree stood there. Walnut trees then stood along the sidewalks. But most of them are no longer there today. Objects of urban development, multi-story buildings now surrounded us on all sides. These are not concepts I would have attributed to the Suceava where I grew up. Modernization seems to call for the destruction of the past, inviting us to pretend that history can be rewritten. If they allow erasing the architecture that was such a central part of old Suceava, the new buildings will not remind the new generation of the shared heritage, the contribution of other peoples who left and found refuge elsewhere. The new sterile concrete surfaces can never contain and describe again the quality, shape, and atmosphere in the city that has evolved slowly for over 500 years. How can I explain what was here once, when before us the present looks like this? My kids never saw the Suceava of my childhood. How are they going to really understand the warmth and atmosphere that I knew and how much I miss it now? The street we used to walk on during the evening hours is gone. The main street where the dense treetops allowed a few sun rays to cast impressionist paintings on the checkered pavement is gone and no longer exists. I closed my eyes and heard a faint and distant sound, an orchestra playing a Viennese waltz, or maybe it was the tango. The scent of beer, the Gratar, and the Mititai is airborne. Max Glueckmann was always playing when we met with the Horowitz and Huebner families. Many years later, when we had already built a house in Canada, I discovered that there was a certain family connection between me and the Glueckmanns. His son, Joe, was one of my closest friends. The same Max Glueckmann and his band of musicians came by sleigh, in the cold of 35 degrees below zero, from Suceava to Fălticeni, on January 25, 1944, to play at my parents' wedding.

We passed the place where the “Cofateria (Cafeteria) Wagner” once stood. It was a small place

[Page 464]

of pilgrimage for dessert lovers in the area. When friends or family met and reminisced, the name Cofateria (Cafeteria?) Wagner always came up. Viennese cakes and ice creams, is what I mostly remember. My father particularly liked their cremeschnitte: Two layers of thin puff pastry with a yellowish and fragrant vanilla cream between them. I heard that this illustrious pastry shop was closed after the Wagner family immigrated to Israel and never returned.

I sought to instill in my children the feeling of this community of German-speaking Romanian Jews, who survived here for centuries, lived here, and took root. This is where they went to school, got married, and started families. This is where they laughed and cried. They knew each other, knew everything about each other, so it has been for generations. But after the persecution and events of Transnistria, after the war, starting in the late 1940s and for 25 years, almost all of them had left and were gone. They left here, taking with them only memories, and a few other things that they could take, or were not stolen from them. From here, they dispersed to the four corners of the world, but most of them went to their dreamland, to Israel. The difficulty with which they found themselves in their new reality brought back memories of their homeland. Nobody knew who they were and nobody cared. They parted from their mother tongues, Romanian and German, and in most cases, at least that was the case with my parents, they also parted from friends who were never supposed to say goodbye. They were reborn by Cesarean birth in the most difficult of conditions. I wonder if this is how the Jews of Spain felt when they were expelled from there and forced to leave.

In the center of Suceava, I knew only the city hall (Primaria), built similar to Vienna's city hall, from the hustle and bustle of the Catholic Church beyond and next to the park, where stands a bronze statue of the composer Ciprian Porumbescu. Next to the municipality was once one of my favorite places, the bookstore, which probably wandered from there to a more modern location.

We walked back to the intersection of Armagnasca and Caryanga Streets and chose the latter, where we strolled. I relished the moment, but my kids must have wondered what was in store for them around the corner. It must be hard for them not to understand the language people spoke here. Maybe even boring. The streets seemed narrower and the houses smaller than I remembered them. Of course, that is how I felt ten years ago, when I was wandering around here. We got to house number 11, the house where I was born. We took pictures from the outside and tried to get into the courtyard, but there was no one in the house. No problems. We'll come back later. We kept walking down the street. A little further, on the left, was the turn to Turno Roucho [Street]. I pointed to the home of Prientella Bertiano, the Orthodox priest who was our neighbor. Ten years ago, we were invited in and to my mother's delight; we were served Turkish coffee, cold water and a delicacy of bitter-sweet cherries, the traditional refreshment in the area.

[Page 465]

My kids smiled every time I mentioned it. Really?! Bitter-sweet cherries. There's no such thing! We rang the entrance bell. This time, there were no chickens in the yard that flew wildly from place to place and heralded our arrival. A very polite lady came over and opened the gate. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bertiano, passed away a few years ago. How sad. I was hoping to see them again. A decade ago, I sent her a package of black-and-white photographs. I brought them with me in case the original package I sent did not reach its destination. We were invited in. She showed us to the untidy, colorful garden and invited us to sit at a table surrounded by large vines. In the background, I noticed huge sunflowers, huge rose bushes, and a small orchard containing cherry, plum, and apple trees. Yes, she remembered us. Her parents told her about our family. But first we have to taste some homemade wine and tsuika. We remembered we should not forget the bitter-sweet cherry jam. “Here's a jar of jam for Grandma, too.” It was very hard for us to leave. I reminded my children that this is the traditional reception in Romania. People here are hospitable; we have seen it repeatedly. I have traveled the world a lot but I have never met such cheerfulness. Of course, if you speak the local language, you are at an advantage.

A few more steps up the street and we reached the Keren family home whose son, Doto, was a good friend. Next to it was the Huebner family home, in front of which was a huge apricot tree, which I used to climb on in the fall. I am reminded of Rut. Her family name now was Golan. We always talked about the possibility of us coming to visit here together, with our families. We are still working on it. Across the street stands the Niedermayer family home. This is where my friend Johnny lives. I have lost touch with all the people I grew up with, except Rut.

We turned left and reached Torno Roche Street, corner of Armeniasca Street, then right toward Zamca. One time there used to be open fields here, where wheat grew to waist height. Now there were apartment buildings and some private homes. Little by little we will see the Zamca, the citadel-monastery built in the Middle Ages. We got to the intersection, but I couldn't identify any road signs. I was looking for Rosalia's family home. In those days, he stood out in its solitude. Rosalia was my mother's assistant and my babysitter. Her family used to weave rugs for my parents. The intricate patterns and cheerful colors have always fascinated me. The circumstances differed completely from, of course. Many years later, when I sat down with my mother and reminisced about my childhood, she told me how she used to read aloud the letters Rosalia received from her lover, and then wrote answers as Rosalia dictated them. She herself could not read or write, a fairly common phenomenon in those days. It turned out,

[Page 466]

following questions I asked, that Rosalia used to dictate answers with perfect rhymes and love poems she had invented on her own. I was amazed. It was pure poetry, love from the heart. Her letters began with the words Feulle verde (green leaf?), the line that traditionally opens romantic folk songs. When I expressed my amazement, my mother said it was a fairly common phenomenon: people from the village may have been illiterate, but they had a rich culture that had been passed down from generation to generation.

We turned right and came to the Zamca. I remember picnics we had here with my parents. Selkoum trees stretched out on the left and the flat ground rose to a towering hill, covered in trees. In the spring, the scent of the selkoum filled the air, and the perfume filled our memories. As a child, I played here on the cobblestones and the broken and windswept ancient walls. And inside was a church with a dilapidated roof. The little color that survived in the 500-year-old paintings of saints was stained with tears, but in reality, raindrops, neglect. I remember how fascinated by the story that became clear that archaeologists had discovered a tunnel connecting Zamca and the Chatata, the fortress that served as the palace of Ştefan the Great, the famous prince of the 15th century, the capital of which was Suceava.

The Zamca has been renovated and repainted. When we arrived, the gate opened for us by a tall and gaunt elderly man, about eighty years old. He introduced himself as the castle's guard and began a lecture on the history of the local Armenian community. Unaware that we were Jews, but feeling relaxed enough because I spoke Romanian to him, he continued to tell us anecdotes, some of which are rude. In my mind, the question came up: Where was he and what was he doing in the early 1940s?

On our way back, we walked faster. We arrived at Armeniasca Street. I wanted to show the kids Freddie and Mata Horowitz's house, which were like another couple of parents to me. I often ran away from home and rushed to Mata's house to taste her potato pancakes. Years later, my brother would run away and gobble up the wonderful pickles she made. We got to the house pretty quickly. At the turn of the century, it was redesigned for an engineer from Vienna. The original designer iron gate stood there unharmed, but the rest of the building seemed to be divided into separate parts. I saw no sign of the famous rose garden that once stood in front, or the carriage house, which could be seen from the street. A barking dog raced toward the gate to greet us. I didn't feel like trying to get in, but I'd like to see the frescoes I remembered painted on the walls and ceiling of the bedroom foyer. Another time. We need to leave something to see next time.

In the next few days, we went to Fălticeni, my mother's birthplace. I wanted to introduce

[Page 467]

my children to Ion Irimescu, the most renowned Romanian sculptor, who retired at 98 and moved to live in the museum where his works are displayed. But that is another story. I also wanted them to meet Tanya Greenwald, who remembered the cake served at my parents' wedding and claimed to be the only Jew left in the city. Her mother was the seamstress who sewed my mother's wedding dress.

My friend, Ion Andreu, and his sons were wonderful guides, and the visit provided us with enough time to sit together and reminisce.

Dragomirna, one of the famous monasteries of Bucovina, was on the next site on our list. Despite its proximity to Suceava, I never visited it, so I was very excited about visiting a place that was not connected to my memories. It was wonderful in its simplicity.

We went back to the hotel and collapsed, completely exhausted. We woke up around 8 p.m. and went for a walk, but then we found that all the restaurants were already closed. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a McDonald's popped up in front of us. After filling up on chips, we left. We wanted eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, telemya. The substitutes were not enough for us. When we returned to the hotel, we heard folk music playing from afar. We tried to peek through the closed dining room doors. Inside was a wedding party. The guests were meticulously dressed. We saw the bride and groom approaching the door. I think they noticed us. Suddenly, I felt several pairs of hands holding me and dragging me into the room. I glanced aside and saw that Cole and Lauren had been similarly dragged in. That is the punishment when you get caught peeking. Not bad. However, a problem: But we cannot go in. We were dressed like street brats compared to the wedding guests. You cannot come to a wedding in street clothes. No one was interested in our excuses. We were physically pulled in, through the crowd, and seated at a table with the other guests. We were very aware of ourselves and our dress, which made us look very different. However, on the one hand, we were hungry; loaded plates were placed onto our table. We relaxed somewhat. We were served homemade plum brandy. To die! The food was amazing and exactly what we desired. There is a God! After all, we didn't break into the wedding uninvited. We were dragged inside, and we became part of the event. Everyone wanted to know where we came from and why we actually came to Suceava.

An hour later, we no longer felt like strangers. However, we didn't want to overdo it. So, we stuck a little gift in the bride's hand and slowly moved toward the exit door. Suddenly, I felt my arm resting on my shoulder. I turned around. It was the groom's father. With a big, cheerful smile on his face, he asked if I was Ukrainian or Romanian. I hesitated for a moment. What else could happen here?

[Page 468]

Is there a right answer and a wrong answer? I said I was Jewish, that I was born in Suceava, but I left in 1959. He started laughing and introduced me to another guest, who was sitting at the same table with me the whole time. It turned out to be the bride's father. The groom's father informed me he was Ukrainian and that the father of the bride was Jewish. He immigrated to Israel many, many years ago, he said, but his children came to study in Bucharest and now he came to his daughter's wedding with his other two sons.

Cheerful music started up and people began dancing. My children suddenly found people their own age to talk to, not in Romanian, but in Hebrew.

Eventually, all good things end. We retired for our night's sleep, shocked and amazed by the wonderful hospitality and warmth with which we were greeted by complete strangers.

Our last day in Suceava arrived, and we had still not been inside house ¹ 11 on Kyranga Street. I told my children that even in 1994, we tried, but there was no one in the house even then. We didn't lose hope and planned to try again. The day was warmer than in the previous days, and our choice to go there the long way did not ease the situation. Finally, we reached the street and headed toward a narrow alley. When we got to the front of the house, we saw the current landlord standing at the gate, as if he was looking forward to us. We introduced ourselves to him. His surname was Greco. He'd love to show us the house.

 

Suc468.jpg
The Leinburd Family (2006)
From the right: Cole, Paul, Lauren, Betty, Noah and Sorrel

[Page 469]

He led us to the garden and introduced us to his wife, a pleasant and very kind woman. I looked for the bitter-sweet cherry tree on which I often scratched my knees while climbing. It was not there. In its place stood a younger tree, probably of the same species. The walnut tree in the center of the garden was just the shadow of the tree from my memories. Yes, it made too much shade, and it had to be pruned to let in sunlight into the corn and potatoes beds. There was no trace of the plum trees, the pear, and the white cherries, or the shrubs that once adorned all the edges of the garden, along the fence.

We climbed four steps and entered the house. The bathroom and kitchen were on our left. The guest room was on our right. Directly in front of us, behind closed doors, there were stairwells. One leading down to the basement, and the other up to the storage area. The French doors were still there, hiding the bedrooms. Icons we didn't recognize and a large Romanian carpet adorned the wall. Another small traditional carpet was laid out on the floor. Glowing colors were screaming out at me. I was looking for something familiar, a piece of furniture, a picture, something. Nothing. Only walls. Enormous windows opened up toward a garden that carried so many memories with it. I remembered my dog, for example. My children asked questions and interfered with my thoughts. They wanted to see the second floor. I remember hiding some books there before we left. It would be interesting if... There was also a large painting there painted by my uncle, Joe, showing a woman naked from her waist up. It was, in fact, the first painting I saw up close. I remember the space there, but there was nothing there. This was where nuts were stored to dry after harvesting.

We went back downstairs and the Greco couple were kind enough to offer us cold water and also, of course, wine and fruit. We talked a little about the old days, about the difficult times they went through. All the things they described happened after 1959, after we left. I translated their words for my children, and I translated my children's questions and the answers they received. The Grecos have a relative who emigrated to Canada many years ago. His name is... Maybe we know him? No. We did not know each other, but we wrote down his details, just in case. One cannot know. We were ready to go when Mr. Greco announces he has a gift for us. His mother, who passed away 15 years ago, left him a coat made of young sheep fur. He wants to give it to us. My children are protesting. But he shows it to us, so that we will appreciate and rave about. The coat is embroidered, most likely handmade. It was packed and carefully placed into my backpack, despite our protests. We thanked our hosts and left.

It's been 45 years, but I have gone back to the house where I was born. I brought my children with me.

[Page 470]

Over the years, I have bored them endlessly with stories on top of stories that were meaningless to them. Until now. Now that they have been here with me, they can understand and emotionally connect with stories. My father would have liked that.

 

Shmuel (Sasha) Lechner's Story

About the Lechner family

The Lechner family was one of the oldest families in Suceava, and according to the dates on the tombstone, for over 200 years. My grandfather was a member of the city council. My father, Adolf, was born in Suceava in 1909. He owned a small grocery store, worked for a time as a bank clerk, and after his marriage to Sali, went “on a honeymoon” in Transnistria. There, he worked in a cooperative for a minimum wage. They were satisfied that they had hot water for tea and a slice of bread with jam. After being liberated by the Russians, he traveled with his wife, who was pregnant, about 3 weeks by wagon until they reached Suceava. My father's mother and many other relatives and friends were left in Transnistria.

After returning to Suceava, he served as a clerk, marketing manager and deputy director of the Elementera Cooperative and retired in 1971. He emigrated to Israel in 1987. Having a Jewish heart, he kissed the earth as soon as he got off the plane and said, “Thank God I will be buried in the sacred earth of our Holy Land.”

He passed away in 1991 and was brought to rest in the Ashdod cemetery. In 1995, my dear mother Sali died and was buried in the Ashkelon cemetery.

Practically speaking, the Lechner family's life was that of most Jews in Suceava. My father was the first Lechner who was not buried in or around Suceava. I, Sasha was the first child born in Suceava after returning from Transnistria. After I graduated from high school, I was a student at Iaşi University, where I studied economics. Although my grades were very good, I could not remain in the university because I was Jewish. I worked in Suceava as an income-tax supervisor and then moved to the Association of Craftsmen, in charge of supply and marketing. My manager, Shmuel Kriegsman, promoted me to a senior position. I emigrated to Israel in 1987 with my two sons, leaving behind the grave of my wife Frederica (Boulog) Lechner née Fuchs, who was a dentist and from a religious family.

In Israel, God willing, I succeeded with my sons. Eddie (Zvi) is an independent lawyer in Beersheba,

[Page 471]

an intelligent and talented man; Norbert (Yaakov) is a computer expert and works in his profession. My daughter-in-law Dalia is also employed by a computer company. She is a Sabra and a business administration graduate. They have a child - Avraham Ben (named after my father) who is the first Lechner not born in Suceava but in Israel. When the time comes, I will take him to visit my beloved Suceava.

After many years as a widower, I met Hannah, also a native of Romania. We live in Ashdod. I work in an important position as an income-tax auditor and will retire in 2012.

Translated from Romanian by Yehuda Tennenhaus

 

Mina Moses' Story

I was born in the town of Burdujeni on May 11, 1934, to Rachel and Shulim Braunstein, their second daughter and sister to Frederica. Our house was on Ştefan Cel Mare Street, the town's main street. Three generations of my father's family lived in the town since 1830. My father's parents, Avraham and Ḥayya Braunstein, had four children: Rivka, Mina, Shulim and Jeanette, from whom three reached adulthood. My grandfather owned a stationery, books and newspaper shop and was also the main newspaper distributor for the entire region.

 

Suc471.jpg
Mina Moses

[Page 472]

After my parents' marriage, they also had an identical shop. I remember having a happy childhood and since my parents were busy in the shop, we had two housekeepers who did all the housework and also walked with us. In 1940, when my sister was supposed to start first grade and I in kindergarten, Jewish children were forbidden from visiting state schools. So, we stayed at home.

On October 9, 1941, all the Jews of the town were deported to Transnistria after only eight hours' notice. All the Jews marched to the train station, were put in freight cars, and the train left for an unknown destination. On the same train, my entire family was expelled from both my father and my mother's side. The people sat on the floor of the carriage crowded, desperate and worried, and trying to calm the children down. After a two-day journey, the train came to a halt. The carriage doors opened and Romanian soldiers ordered the occupants of the carriages to immediately get out, and began hitting with rifle butts those who had difficulty getting off, especially the elderly.

Outside, it was raining, the ground was muddy and slippery, and the soldiers ordered those coming down from the carriages to get into the rows and start walking. Of course, the beating continued. My mother dared to ask a soldier where we were and, surprisingly, he politely answered that we were in Bessarabia on the Ukrainian border, and urged us to keep walking quickly. Meanwhile, it got dark, and the march continued in the dark. My grandmother tripped and was immediately hit with the butt of a rifle. Finally, we reached the door of a large hall and were ordered to squeeze in as much as possible because many more were still waiting outside. We sat down on the floor and the crowding was great. We asked and could go outside to go to the toilet. Outside it was cold and dark and my mother lit a small pocket flashlight that was forcibly taken from her by a soldier.

In the morning we were led to the riverside of Dniester, where we were put on large boats. Here, we were required to hand over all the certificates as well as to exchange the Romanian money we had for rubles. My mother thought logically that it was impossible that in the Romanian-army controlled territory the Ruble would have more value than the Romanian money. Therefore, she hid most of the Romanian money, which saved us later on. On the other bank of the Dniester was the city of Mogilev. We were led on foot to a place that was a closed barracks, guarded by Romanian soldiers.

From this camp, the Jews were deported deep into Ukraine, which in the meantime was covered by a heavy layer of snow. Clearly, only a few would survive the cold, snow, and hunger. That was actually the intention of the authorities. My mother quickly realized that the only way to stay alive was to find an option to get out of the camp and stay in Mogilev. She found a way by bribing

[Page 473]

the soldier, and we got out of the camp, came to Mogilev. There we rented an apartment for the whole family, some 14 people.

It was clear that this was only a temporary solution, but salvation came from an unexpected direction. My uncle Marco met an acquaintance who worked with him at the sugar factory in Iţcani. He offered to contact the Romanian authorities with a proposal for the Jews to operate the sugar factory that existed in Vendichany, since they had experience from their previous work in Romania. Because of the lack of sugar, the authorities agreed to the proposal and my family moved together with many others to Vendichany. Thus, we were saved from deportation deep into Ukraine.

 

The journey to Eretz Israel

On December 22, 1947, I boarded the Pan Crescent in Burgas, Bulgaria, which, together with the Pan York, transported 15,000 people to Eretz [Israel]. The sea was stormy, and the children were holed up in the ship's hold did not know what was happening on board when British warships forced the ships to sail to Cyprus, where we lived in tents without electricity and running water in the cold and rainy winter. In April 1948, we were transferred on the Adria to Tel-Aviv Port. We were taken by boat to the beach, loaded onto buses and drove to the immigrants' house in Ra'annana, where they housed us in tents. After a short time, they took the children to the “Onim” Children's Village near Kfar Saba. Here we lived in the rooms and there was even a swimming pool and counselors who looked after us. Of course, we were very satisfied after about six months not seeing a house, bed and running water. These good times ended soon because we were transferred to Hadassim in the middle of the dunes. Still, we lived in buildings and there were a few public buildings. The place developed and I studied there for six whole years.

In the first year at Hadassim, I was among the few students who were transferred to continue their studies in the regular classrooms, compared to the majority who were transferred to agricultural classes. I belonged to a group that realized themselves in kibbutz Hahushlim, now Ammi'ad. I could finish eighth and ninth grades. In the meantime, my parents immigrated to Israel and were housed in a transit camp, so I had somewhere to go. I preferred to join my friends in the Amiad group, much to the dismay of my parents, who wanted me to continue my studies. My group members, who were already over the age of 18, joined the army, and since I was only 17½ years old, I was not recruited, and under pressure from my parents, I returned to Hadassim for further studies, this time at my parents' expense.

In the summer of 1954, I finished 12th grade and took my matriculation exams. At the time, Hadassim opened a seminar for teachers, and the couple, Jeremiah and Rachel Schapira, the directors of the institution, urged me to stay

[Page 474]

at the seminary, this time at the expense of the State. I preferred to move in with my parents in a shack in the Ramataim transit camp. I began studies at the Levinsky Seminary in Tel-Aviv, all funded by my parents.

In the summer of 1956, I completed my teaching studies, enlisted in the IDF as a soldier teacher, and in the summer, I underwent military training. I started teaching immigrant children in September 1956. In 1958, I completed my military service and moved to Lod to teach for two years. In July 1959, I was married in Kibbutz Amiad to Eli Moses, a former pupil in Hadassim, where we met and where our long love affair began.

I teach the kibbutz children in Amiad. In October 1960, our eldest daughter Iris was born, and in September 1963, our daughter Liat was born. From 1961 to 1963, I taught at the Ayyelet Hashahar Regional School. In 1964, we left the kibbutz and moved to Tel-Aviv, to the Maoz Aviv neighborhood, a neighborhood where we still live today. The first period was hard because we left the kibbutz empty-handed, but we got by. My husband worked as an accountant and I as a teacher and we slowly got along.

During my work, I continued my studies and completed the Levinsky Seminary in mathematics, continued to a bachelor's degree from Hebrew University, and finished with a BA in September 1974. Our son, Tal, was born while I was studying and teaching. In 1987, I retired early and began my studies toward a master's degree in sociology at the Hebrew University, until their completion.

In July 1997, our first grandson, Dor Ben, was born to our daughter Liat and Yaakov Amar. In July 1980, our grandson Ro'i was born to our daughter Iris and Eyal Manzer (Mintzer?). Over the years, we have traveled to many places around the world, and among others, we have also visited Romania and our town of Burdujeni. Our home was still standing, but now it is no longer so. Meanwhile, more grandchildren and granddaughters were born to us. To this day, I maintain friendship with some of my childhood friends from Burdujeni.

 

Norman Manea's Stories
Biography

(as related by NM and translated by Simcha Weissbuch and Benzion Fuchs)

Norman Manea was born in Suceava on July 19, 1936, to Marco and Jeanette (née Braunstein).

The family lived in Burdujeni from 1936 to 1941, in Suceava from 1947 to 1959 and 1970 to 1981. They were deported to Transnistria and stayed throughout the period, 1941-1945, in Mogilev, then in Yurkatuz and Vendichany. On the way back [to Suceava], in Bereznyi. Members of the family who died there

[Page 475]

were the grandparents, Ḥava and Avram Braunstein. Marco and Jeanette Manea survived and their children, Norman and Rut. From the Braunstein family, uncles Shulim and Rochelle and cousins Frieda and Mina, who have been living in Israel since 1950, were saved. Their mother passed away in Suceava in 1988. Their father immigrated to Israel in 1989 and died in Jerusalem in 1999. Norman grew up in Suceava, graduated magna laude from the Ştefan Cel Mare High School and left in 1954 for Bucharest, where he graduated in 1959 with a master's degree in engineering from the Faculty of Hydro-Technology. He returned to Suceava for two years and then lived and worked as an engineer in Ploishti (until 1965) and then in Bucharest, where he also began writing. However, from 1974, he was devoted to writing full time. In 1986, he left for West Berlin, where he spent about a year. In 1988, he came to the United States and lived in New York and served as a professor of the Chair of European Literature and Culture and as the in-house author at Bard College, New York.

 

Suc475.jpg

 

Since he began beginning writing in 1966, until he left Romania in 1986, Norman Manea published ten books (reference, fiction, essays). This annoyed the communist regime

[Page 476]

but enjoyed the support of literary critics and reaped praise for the authenticity of its content, its style and its critical stance. He received prizes of the Writers' Association of Bucharest (1979), and the Writers Association Award in 1984 (an award canceled by the Socialist Cultural and Education Council!).

Manea's work, fiction or non-fiction, is almost entirely marked by the trauma of the Holocaust, exile and life under a totalitarian regime. It has been previously compared to the writings of Gogol and Bulgakov on the one hand, and of Robert Musil or Bruno Schultz on the other. His books were translated into about 20 languages and enjoyed great international success. Writers such as Heinrich Bell, Octavio Paz, Imre Kertész, Philip Roth, Ernesto Sábato, and others wrote in praise of him.

 

Suc476.jpg
In the GACH Synagogue
From the right: Kosio Singer, Marco Manea, Ephraim Weissbuch

 

Among Manea's many awards are: the Guggenheim Prize (1992), the prestigious MacArthur Prize (1992), National-American Prize for the Jewish Book (1992), National Library's Literary Lion Award from New York (1993), the International Naples Prize for Fiction (2004), the Holtzbrinck Prize (Berlin, 2005) and more. In Romania, after 1989, he received the Bucovina Prize and honorary citizenship of his hometown Suceava. So far in Israel, five of his books have been translated into Hebrew and published.

Below are excerpts from the stories by Norman Manea, which he submitted for this book, some before their publication.

[Page 477]

My place of birth or The Report

“Eighteen renowned rabbis, headed by Rabbi Dr. Nimmerover of Bucharest, Rabbi Zirelson of Kishinev, and Rabbi Dr. Burstein of Botoşani, sat in council on the conflict.”
In 1928, a “serious investigation” was conducted in Burdujeni by the emissaries Y.M. Wechsler and Sucher Feller. On December 31, 1928, their summary report was published, following which they rushed back to their home in Botoşani because it was the eve of the Sylvester, the infidels' feast! Indeed, they tried to claim innocence, but it is merely the anniversary of the entry of the Jewish child Jesus into the covenant of our Father Abraham. After all, he was Rabbi Yehoshua long before he became the Jesus the savior, and certainly not Roman or Spanish or German, or even Romanian or Russian, as the rabble often wanted to believe. However, the emissaries did not have time to delay and postpone their return home to Botoşani. According to them: “Mr. Celik Greenberg was called together with four members of the committee, as well as Mr. Herman Horowitz and four members of the opposing committee, and were asked to provide the ledgers and detailed protocols. We also called and consulted some serious people who asked that the peace and prosperity prevail in their city of Burdujeni.” So much for the opening section of the aforementioned investigators' report.

What a public uproar! Indeed, the people of the in Eastern Europe were careful to stetlech distinguish themselves and stay away from any opportunity for eating non-kosher (food) or enjoyment during the gentile holidays, such as the Sylvester, since they would be the first to be harmed.

And next: “While Mr. Celik Greenberg presented us with all the notebooks, the protocol book and even the receipts for the money paid, Mr. Horowitz and his board had nothing to submit. We found the Jewish school closed and about to be destroyed and the state of the charitable enterprises for the needy was no different. When we asked Mr. Horowitz what the purpose of his committee was, he replied, “The expulsion of Rabbi B. Baskes. To this end, they brought in a butcher named Ḥaim Littner and appointed him rabbi, although he was not authorized for such a position. We also learned that eighteen renowned rabbis, headed by Rabbi Dr. Nimmerover of Bucharest, Rabbi Zirelson of Kishinev, and Rabbi Dr. Burstein of Botoşani sat in council on the conflict and punished H. Littner the butcher... and so forth.”

Despite their haste to return home even before the “holiday,” whose coming was already in the air, accompanied by the usual anxiety, the distinguished emissaries/investigators were not satisfied with a brief and concise assessment of the situation. The purpose of their mission was to “bring calm in the community of Burdujeni” and therefore proposed ways of reconciliation for the New Year, as well as: “New elections, run by a committee composed of a local business manager and one from the Botoşani community; After the elections, the sanctions against Ḥaim Littner will be lifted, which will be redeemed and returned to his original role of butcher, while Rabbi B. Baskes will return to serve as Chief Rabbi, a role he respectfully fulfills, as expected of a scholar and author of an important book.”

[Page 478]

In this report, Mr. Wechsler and Fleur did not reveal their identity and importance, as befits such a serious and fateful mission.

And perhaps Senator Y.M. Wechsler was a relative of the poet Fondueyano, who was born in Iaşi as Benjamin Wechsler and who was to meet his end in the Auschwitz death camp under the pen-name Benjamin Fondane. And indeed, a decade after the aforementioned report and events, Fondueyano's poem “And more will arrive in the evening / and I will get out of here” would have served as a warning and a timely duty, not only in Burdujeni or in Romania, had they been read with the proper intention.

A letter sent on February 28, 1929 by representatives of the local Jewish community to the Association of Jewish Communities in Bucharest, shows that villainous acts in Burdujeni continue: “Mr. Horowitz's team has personal aspirations and does not want free and fair elections. We have made a previous attempt, in which we informed the public of such elections (headed by the mayor himself and with the participation of the local military commander!) But it ended sadly. Mr. Horowitz, who owns a tavern, first launched his followers and the entire cheerful gang broke into the voting hall, violated the peace, and caused such a scandal that the authority's officials canceled the event and left shaken and disgusted. And the question arises, do we have the capability, in this state of affairs and atmosphere, to hold free elections?!” There is no one to restrain the militarists. The conflict is surging, despite the poverty, fear and other worries in the great “city” of Burdujeni, where every bastard is king before the storm.

It should be said that the Sages of Burdujeni then joined the authors of the report in recommending that “in the meantime, the temporary committee will continue to handle the affairs of the community until the spirits are calmed.”

On April 2, 1929, journalist Horia Karp arrived from Bucharest on a mediation mission and reports: “At my request, each camp sent five representatives. Representatives of the Horowitz Group requested that Mr. Kalman Rabinowitz, not a local resident, also take part as secretary of their group, but this was strongly opposed by the Greenberg Group. The Horowitz Group withdrew and only Mr. Horowitz alone remained, and so the final protocol was signed, after discussions that continued into the night.” In the end, the Greenberg Camp and the Horowitz Camp (through their leader) agreed to a compromise that the Rabbi would continue in his position, as did Dayan Littner as a butcher under his auspices.

The four decisions of the intermediary are clear and final are:

  1. The provisional Greenberg Committee will complete the balance sheet by April 30, after which it will disperse and finish its activity.
  2. The Horowitz Group will also add several members of the Greenberg Group to the list of candidates for the new committee
[Page 479]
  1. Rabbi B. Baskes remains as the sole rabbi of the community with all the rights arising from this position and his salary will always be greater than that of the butcher. In addition, the Rabbi, a scholar, is asked not to interfere in community politics and to preach understanding between community members.
  2. To preserve the dignity of the 74-year-old butcher Littner, he remains with the title Dayan, but only for honor and without the possibility of fulfilling the actual role.
In July 1936, elections were held again in the Jewish community. The elected Shulim Braunstein was probably the best suited to the job. He was the son of Avraham Braunstein and the brother of Jeanette, known as Sheina, Yaffa, beautiful, my mother. After the war, he returned from Transnistria, where his parents died, namely my grandfather. Alarmed by the “paradise” of the ruling regime in Romania, he emigrated to Israel, and here he returned to his former career as a book and newspaper seller.

His sister, Jeanette Braunstein, a few years before that election in 1936, on the Fălticeni-Suceava bus, met the handsome bookkeeper of the Iţcani sugar factory, and married him. She adopted a new name after marriage and died in 1988.

On July 28, 1936, I was initiated into the covenant of our Father Abraham. At first, they thought there was not much chance of me living, and I was kept for days and nights in an incubator. The family only hoped that my mother could be saved after such a difficult birth, and indeed she did.

Only my grandfather Abraham thought her brother wanted to call me by the name of his brother Noah, who had died some time earlier. He said that if I had fingernails, it was a sign that I would live. And I indeed had tiny nails and I am alive and well.

Excerpt from a story with the same name, translated from Romanian and edited by Simcha Weissbuch, and Benzion Fuchs

 

The Little Democrats

The homecoming did not take place in April 1945, after we were liberated and left the Transnistria exile. That summer of 1945, we lived in Fălticeni, in a house that was still under the almost sacred aura of my mother's aunt, Leah Rimmer. Later, for two years in Rădăuţi, in which I was the well-liked student of Teacher Vera Yorashuk, whose magic has not yet left me to this day, 60 years since.

I returned to Suceava in the summer of 1947. That fall I was honored to attend the first class of the Jewish High School, the newest in the city, with the required hat and uniform. The three cousins,

[Page 480]

Ḥaim, Otilia and David Rimmer, who came from Fălticeni, became the mathematics teachers for the upper classes, and so, luckily, I did not have to meet their superlative requirements. I enjoyed visiting the same school as my two cousins, Minoza, in second grade, and Ficoza, in third grade, with whom I shared both the Transnistria and, in the months following the liberation by the Red Army, studies at the local Soviet school.

Our chubby class-star Goldenberg, the only son of the man with the mustache, the owner of the appliance store on the high street and the brunette, gentle lady, who also sometimes helped behind the sales counter, gave the impression of being slightly crippled. Probably because of his illness that made it difficult to walk and hence the cause of his obesity. Being invincible in school, playing the accordion well, cordial with everyone around him, Sandy Goldenberg rightly became class leader.

However, my friend Auerbach decided and planned a “putsch.” Even though I felt threatened by his family, I befriended Yehudah Auerbach. I followed in amazement at Udi's complex attempts, orphaned from his father, to slip out of the house where he was already supposed to serve as head of a family. I was also embarrassed a little by the severe, grieving and laconic mother, as well as the little brother, Merzi, an uncontrollable savage. But also, the full, soft and smiling grandmother and especially old Grandfather Oberweger, always in an elegant black suit buttoned up to the neck with the eternal black hat of a devout alchemist, an introverted patriarch with a white beard cut in a perfectly straight line, wore delicate shoes with thin leather uppers.

The real chieftain, Mr. Oberweger, controlled not only the glassware store on the ground floor but also the entire family that lived on the second floor, in the house at the beginning of the main street, on the corner of the “Jewish Street” (Armashuli, later Karl Marx Street). In this narrow and lively alley of small shopkeepers, I would stand and marvel in front of Goldenberg's shop window full of unusual appliances, which I visited only once in awe and reverence.

With my both nervous and tidy friend Judah, as I called Yehudah Auerbach, I had an excellent relationship. The coup plot against the boring, self-satisfied regime was hatched, most likely with my consent. Democracy excited our imagination and desire for a subversive game that revived our day-to-day existence.

Indeed, the majority vote knocked out the perfect Sandy Goldenberg who had to settle for accordion and first in studies. I was appointed president of the class, but also editor-in-chief of the wall newspaper, The Little Democrats, which in the eyes of our homeroom teacher, Prof. Rohrlich, was a symbol of our destiny and spiritual future.

[Page 481]

This presidential status did not avail me when, after a few months, I had to agree to change the name of the newspaper, which the educator and I were so fond of, for the casual name of The Wall Newspaper. Apparently, some communist teachers were annoyed by the suggestion the previous name inferred the electoral language of the “bourgeoisie” parties from the dying parliamentary opposition.

I agreed, more surprised than mutinous, to the name that was not a new name. In fact, I was completely immersed, not only in my presidential fame but also in the poetic hints of my attraction, in my excited following of my neighbor in the class diary, Bronia.

Manea Norman, Norman Bronia... An act of destiny, or so it seemed. The little dancer with long linen braids and thick ankles fascinated me so much that I couldn't help but organize a kind of ceremonial seduction show in “Fedorica.” It was a playground in a secluded grove at the hilly end of town. In the presence of her regular best friend, Eva Gingold, as well as my accompanying “deputy” (was it perhaps Adi Bodinger? Or perhaps his friend Fleischer? However, good Judah is certainly not missing) I read out a full-blown declaration of love. It was the beginning of works of theatricality not only of love but literature as an expression of the deep “I” was often accepted as a farce by many.

A phenomenon far more bizarre than renaming the newspaper was being removed from the school's end-of-year celebration program. For the pre-premiere presentation of the play we prepared, among other representatives of the local political establishment, the husband of the beautiful French teacher, Rita Pupik, also took part. The impressive tall blond man with a flashy mustache, who would later become an important officer in “Sekuritata,” was already introverted and possessed an impenetrable armor of secrecy and silence.

The small group of important guests invited to the pre-premiere show did not seem thrilled with the enthusiasm with which I read the poem “Pribeagul.” At the end of my segment, however, there seemed an excited quality in the core of the more distinguished visitors. I was asked to repeat the first stanza of the poem: A wretched nomad will come to stay in your tent/ give him bread, salt and a good word / Reach out to him water to ease the pain of his wounds / But do not let tremble your lips tremble when he asks/ Where did you come from? And where are you going? I recited it again with more emotion. But the long-awaited response was late in coming. The faces of the guests became even more unfathomable.

Homeroom teacher Rohrlich signaled me to repeat the entire poem from the beginning. I gathered strength and trusted in the last stanza, the irresistible finale: “Do not ask in vain the dead leaf/ about the branch from which the wind ripped it off/ Not even the purpose to which it was carried.”

The guests were not moving or even seemed aware of the orator's efforts. It was the words that interested them. Astonished, I realized that although the words did not excite them; they raised the tension

[Page 482]

and interest of the authority's officials. I was no longer asked to repeat what I said. Their faces and discussions were frozen. Things got worse and worse and didn't look good. No one felt compelled to explain the inexplicable to me. I only heard whispers between one teacher and another and a student and his friend, different words like fatalism, bourgeoisie, nationalism, pessimism, ghetto...

The atmosphere was freezing, loaded with importance and guilt at the same time. It seemed it was not about celebrating our end of the year with the sketches, readings and awards that followed, but something without a serious and fateful comparison, from a very secret and serious threat.

In the following years, in the short period of his passionate revolution poetry, it was necessary for the rulers. Alexandro Toma, the author of the poem that stirred up the rulers, was to be a poet full of national respects. In fact, it was the same person, the Jewish poet Moskowici, who had long written, back in 1900, the dramatic poem that I orated with melodramatic intensity.

The rendition of such a Jewish text, in a Jewish high school, under the conditions of the “revolutionary changes” that Romania and the poet had undergone, was received, as I later understood, as an outrageous provocation. The Jews of the Communist establishment, whose “hat was always burning on their heads” came to the same show in order to protect our educational institution from the lack of pleasantness and errors in their vague and ambivalent relationship with the new regime. But also, to defend themselves with excessive vigor, which was never considered enough, against the suspicions and hostility of their communist comrades. It is difficult to say how successful the “purge” of the end-of-year celebration program has strengthened their position in the ranks of the party leadership, but our school did not quickly get to enjoy any good-character recommendation.

In June 1948, at the end of the school year in which I did not give any attention to studies, the chief means of production were also nationalized, the banks, as well as other important economic enterprises, along with the educational institutions. Private schools disappeared and the Jewish high school ended its short-lived existence. That Moskowici-Tomas's “Pribeagul” was considered a provocation was no accident. The Zionist movements that returned to cultivate the dream of the ancient homeland, from which the storm uprooted the ancients and turned them into nomads, and the horizon to which they aspired in the future, also made them vulnerable.

The proletarian dictatorship has taken on the past, present and future of all of us.

However, some time before the end-of-year celebration, I attended a strange meeting in the courtyard of the city's Great Synagogue. Somewhere, far away, an event took place and reported by all the newspapers, but was still considered secret; told in whispers and joy laced with fear. The declaration of the State of Israel shocked not only

[Page 483]

the Jewish Street but also in the communist government and there were vague reactions. They didn't really know how to relate to the news: a victory over British colonialism that was quickly confirmed by the positive vote of the Soviet Union at the United Nations, of course. But without a clear and expansive sense and with vague implications for the history of the Wandering Jews for thousands of years or the immediate history of the countries through which they would continue to sojourn.

In the newly agitated Jewish community which recently returned from the Transnistrian exile, the satisfaction of finally fulfilling their main aspirations that have never been fully appreciated was laced with the ancient suspicion of all sudden joy, but also in the urgent question: Will the wanderers now have to immediately resume their migration to the distant waters of the Jordan? Put an end to the 2,000-year-old migration by a long journey into the unknown?!

Not everyone seemed ready for this new adventure. Speeches were given in the synagogue 's courtyard. The opening speech, the Rabbinical one, which described with broad gestures and long sentences the existence of the sacred treaty between God and his People. This was followed immediately by a speech by a Jewish communist delivered peacefully, with slight contempt while mentioning the rescue of our people by the decisive victory of the Soviet Union against the Nazis, as well as the modern era of equality and justice that begins both in postwar Romania and in the other countries that the Red Army unshackled from the burden of enslavement and exploitation between people.

 

Suc483.jpg

[Page 484]

They were followed by a young student, bespectacled, with a different tone, elegant sentences, some of which I did not even understand, a smooth full voice... who spoke about a fish split in half: The unacceptable fragmentation of the Promised Land, the “division” of the of the Holy Land, an injustice caused by the false generosity of the world toward the exiles, who suffered wherever they lived but made significant contributions to the standard of living in their host countries. He talked about value and contribution, not only did the establishment's emissaries who stood as a group on the side seemed embarrassed, as they would show in a few weeks at the end-of-year celebration of high school, but also the entire audience seemed very embarrassed, a prelude to what was to come with Moskowici-Tomas's “Pribeagul”?!

Suddenly, the speeches and atmosphere came to mind from the synagogue courtyard, not while reading the stanzas of the poem in pre-premiere, in which it was decided to remove me from the celebration program, but after a few days, when I left the hall where the end-of-year celebration took place in which I did not play or was not awarded.

In the absence of the sublime moment of reading the poem, the end of my high school year did not bring me joy, nor did the educational awards. I achieved nothing but a second commendation in the class. The first was given to my friend Yehuda Auerbach, and he too followed the obvious first prize holder.

The first year after returning to Suceava, I gained greater joys than any award or the unsuccessful reading of the poem. Excited and exhilarated about my return to the places before the exile, the streets, the park, the Fedorica, the football game near the Courthouse, close to the home of the butcher who slaughtered the chickens for the Jewish housewives on Shabbat eves. I followed how the chicken necks were grabbed and how, in one sharp motion, he slit their throats and waited until their last drops of blood dripped out. Accompanied by all this, the gossip about the house of ill repute near the courthouse. They said that gypsy women lived in the municipal brothel; the high school uniform that raised the importance of everyday anew; our putsch at school; Bronia and the stuttering first romance; the “Little Democrats” and the great hopes; all of which amounted to nothing at all when compared to the enjoyment as important as the joy gained from that of creation.

I did not care so much about anything. I gazed indifferently, but also with undisguised superiority about the parents after the celebration, lingering in the street to congratulate the Goldenbergs on their offspring's success. Since they must have received information about the cynicism with which I lowered Sandy, their beloved son, parents of the prize holder, graciously and mutually exchanged congratulations

[Page 485]

with the conspirator's parents. It was a faint but sweet revenge with nothing else.

Soon, not only Sandy but also Judah, Bronia, Eva Gingold and later, Minoza and Picoza, as well as others from the ephemeral Jewish high school in Suceava, will begin their migration to the Holy Land of the nomads. The former president of the first class and editor of the wall newspaper “The Little Democrats” would remain longer, too many decades in undemocratic Romania, governed under terrorism by a dark tyrannical president. But eventually, I, too, wandered to the “New World,” and laid anchor in New York, the “Dada” capital of exiles from everywhere.

Translated from Romanian by Tamar and Benzion Fuchs

 

Excerpt from the book, Întoarcerea huliganului (The Hooligan's Return)
“...I see the grave for the first time. Up on the left, the yellowed picture within a locket. Below it is the Hebrew and Romanian text.

Jeanette Manea, wife and devoted mother
Born: May 27, 1904. Died: July 16, 1988.

... Someone nearby is grumbling the ancient words of the Kaddish: Magnified and sanctified will be His great name, the prayer for the dead from ages ago and for times to come. It is the voice of an old man, but it is clear, my parents' friend.

He prays in the name of their son who listens without participating or understanding the ancient words “in the world he created by His will. May He establish His kingdom...”.

... I walk away and meet my mother's new neighbors of Mom, Dodi Strominger, Max Sternberg, Lazar Meirovici, Yaakov Kaufman, David Hershkowitz, Leo Herrer, Noah Schnarch, Yosef Liquornik.

... In the city, I stop for a while in front of the GACH Synagogue. Two adult worshippers, appearing nicely dressed in the old Austrian fashion, apparently knew about my arrival. Approaching me, they introduced themselves with names that were meaningless to me. They claimed that they were friends of my parents.

I ask after Dr. Rauch. Yes, he's still alive. He's 90 years old and lives in one of the nearby blocks. He's known me since I was a student. During Mother's illness, he took care of her every day.

Going up to the first floor, ring the bell, wait, and then ring several times. Then a neighbor says, “He was admitted to hospital last night because of a urinary tract infection. “

Translated from Romanian by Simcha Weissbuch

 

« 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.

  Suceava, Romania     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


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

Copyright © 1999-2022 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 7 Jun 2022 by MGH