“Harlau” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 1
(Hirlau, Romania)

47°26' / 26°54'

Translation from Pinkas Hakehillot Romania

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1969


Project Coordinator

Robert S. Sherins, M.D.

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Romania,
Volume 1, pages 111-114, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1969

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(pages 111-114)

Hirlau, Romania


By Theodore Lavi, Ph.D., Coordinator of Pinkas ha-Kehilot in Yad Vashem/Transnistria, Hargat

English translation researched and edited by Robert S. Sherins, M.D.

Translated by Ziva Yavin, Ph.D.

Translation donated by Robert S. Sherins, M.D., Richard J. Sherins, M.D., and Beryle Solomon Buchman

Harlau: A town in Northern Moldavia, Botosani district, 48 kilometers from the town-district. Capital city of Moldavia in the 15th century.

Year Number % of Jews in
1803 784  
1838 1,008  
1859 1,389  
1886 2,254 56.6
1899 2,718 59.9
1910 2,023  
1930 2,032 22.3
1941 1,736 18.0
1942 1,300  
1947 1,936  

Until the Breakout of WWII

The Jewish Settlement

According to the tradition of Harlau Jews, a Jewish settlement was already there in the time of Stefan the Great (Stefan cel Mare, 1457-1504). The Prince's physician was the one who brought to the place his extended family members that formed the settlers' first group. Tombstones in the old cemetery are from several hundred years ago. Documents preserved from the beginning of the 18th century are on exemption from paying taxes to several Jewish craftsmen who arrived at Harlau from Poland; one of them was the goldsmith of the Moldavian ruler Grigorie Ghica the second (1735-1739).

In 1768, the ruler Grigorie Calimachi granted a license to a Jew to build a glass factory and a paper factory employing sixty workers and exempted from paying taxes three of the Jewish craftsmen who were among them. In 1786, the ruler Mavrocordat exempted from paying taxes a Jew who was sent to Poland on behalf the glass factory to buy raw materials. Things like that drew to Harlau many Jews from Poland. In a Romanian document from 1769, Harlau is mentioned as one of the towns in the country inhabited with Jews who traded with cattle, grains, alcoholic beverages, crude oil and more.

In 1829, the Moldavian council informed that Harlau Jews who are natives to the country are exempt from supplying food to the army but are obliged to transfer alcohol to the troops.

In 1831 a farmers' revolt erupted because of a dispute over contracts on work conditions. One of the leaders of the revolt was a Jew named, Shmil, a distinctive member of the kehillah.

The Jewish congregation got organized in 1751 as a “Guild.” In 1805 the head of the congregation named Baruch was mentioned in a formal document. In 1834 the Guild became an actual congregation.

In 1897, the congregation opened an elementary school, but had to close it after two years because of a dispute. A few years before the outbreak of WWI the school reopened and with the aid of JCA (Jewish Colonization Association), a magnificent building was built for the school in 1904, housing 400 students.

Five synagogues were in Harlau, one was the Big Synagogue, founded according to the tradition at the end of the 17th century, and in its Holy Ark - 50 Torah books. The congregation owned also a bakery for unleavened bread (matza), a ritual bathhouse, a slaughterhouse and a “Talmud Torah”. When the old cemetery was full, another plot was allocated for a new cemetery.

Zionist Activity

Already in 1883 a branch of the movement to settle in Eretz Israel was active in Harlau, with 50 members. In the times of Hertzel, a Zionist Association was established there and also a branch of the Union of the Native Jews (U.E.P) and a branch of the Jewish Party of Romania.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Harlau Jews suffered from anti-Semitism. In the years 1899-1900 half of Harlau's Jews emigrated, most of them to the US. The emigrants walked by foot to the seaports. Until this day there is an association of Harlau' Jews in New York. However, the number of Jews in Harlau did not diminish since many of the Jews from the neighboring farms settled there during the farmers revolt (1907).

The economic situation of the Jews in Harlau remained fine. In 1903, 212 were house owners. In 1910, 233 were merchants, 87 tailors, 49 shoemakers, 17 blacksmiths, 9 carpenters and 191 of other professions. In the same year a mixed school with 205 students operated there. In 1913 almost all the craftsmen of the town were Jewish and also almost all the traders and merchants.

The Congregation between Two World Wars

Up to 1922, the leadership was elected by representatives from the synagogues. However, in this year general elections were held for the first time, and all the congregation's members participated. Of the four competing parties, the party headed by the Zionist leader Dr. W. Abeles, won. In 1928 the congregation was reorganized according to the religions law from the same year.

After the Emancipation was granted, there were always Jewish members among the towns' council. Often the representatives of the ruling party were elected from the congregations' most distinctive members. With time Jews were accepted to Romanian parties as well. In 1930, 4 Jews belonging to the ruling party were elected to the towns' council, 2 belonging to the opposition party, one as the merchants' representative, and the local Rabbi.

Apart from the existing institutions, the Joint aided in establishing a Jewish bank, which gave loans to the needy.

Rabbis and Personalities

Among the well known Harlau's Rabbis were: rabbi Chaim Yitzhak Aizikson; born in Harlau around the eighties of the 18th century. Known as an enthusiastic Hasid and stayed in the righteous Rabbis courts. Passed away at 72 years old. His son who had risen after him, Israel Aizikson (born around 1840), wrote a book by the name “The Good Deeds Keeper”. He also took part in Zionist activities and in 1882 he traveled to Paris to convince Baron Rothschild to donate money for establishing a settlement in Eretz Israel for the Jews from the Dorohoi and Botosani districts. Rabbi Israel Aizikson was the grandfather of Michael landau, a former delegate in the Romanian parliament and later the Head of the local lottery in Israel. Another Rabbi worth mentioning is Rabbi Menachem Nachum Buchner, author of the book “Saying Amen.” Between the years 1916-1944 the Rabbi Mendel Rabinovitz presided, whose father Rabbi Meir, and grandfather, Rabbi Yosef, were Rabbis in Harlau before him.

The Jewish journalist Horia Carp was born in Harlau (1869). He was a delegate to the Senate in the years between the two world wars. Also noted is Dr. L. Abeles, president of the congregation and of the Zionist Movement in Harlau and his son Dr. W. Abeles (1903), later the general manager of the Health Organization in Jerusalem and the Israeli ambassador to Columbia (1960-1963) and to Costa Rica.

During the Holocaust

In the autumn months of 1940 several thousands German soldiers camped in Harlau.

Under the leadership of Antonescu, Ion Bulfan was nominated to be the Mayor of Harlau. He was a shoemaker, who learned his profession from a Jew. Together with his deputy Botezatul, the head of the postal office Gramada, the commander of the legioner's police Rosca, the veterinarian Dr. Pantelimon Scripea and the physician Dr. Tibuleac, began with systematic persecutions towards the Jews. They scattered communist pamphlets in several Jewish homes and after that arrested them on the basis of them being communists and sent them to be sentenced in a military court in Iasi. Following a thorough interrogation they were freed.

Following the first days of terror, the mayor summoned Rabbi Mendel Rabinovitz and promised that the terror acts will stop on the condition that the Jewish traders will agree to give gradually their stores to people from the “iron guard”. The Rabbi gathered all the kehillah leaders and it was decided that in order to prevent disasters it would be better to give up their stores, so the confiscation started, however, many of the Jewish traders left the town. Besides the stores other assets were confiscated and also houses, especially belonging to wealthy Jews.

The persecutions continued and became tougher from day to day; Jewish men were enlisted to forced labor before the law allowing it was legislated. The legioners murdered the congregation's head Yosif Lozner with his wife and daughter and several other Jews. The Jews were forbidden to pray publicly in the synagogues so they prayed secretly in private homes. The school building was confiscated and the kids studied in the Big Synagogue. In a few months all the Jews were obliged to carry the yellow mark of shame. They were allowed to buy food only in certain hours. The mill, which was operated by a Jew, was confiscated and the Jewish bakers were left without flour. The locals were not allowed to sell bread to the Jews. Jewish owners of grocery stores could not buy oil and the locals were not allowed to sell it to them. A Jewish chemist was forced by the head of the police to leave town.

In December 1940, a new wave of robbing Jewish homes begun, executed by soldiers accompanied with students who arrived for Christmas. Many Jews ran away, the stores closed, the economic life became paralyzed and the situation got so grave that in January 1941, the Mayor asked Rabbi Ravinovitz to convince the Jews to return and promised to keep the order.

After the fall of the “Iron Guard” (Jan. 1941) Dr. Agapie was nominated to be the Mayor of Harlau and the head of the police was Simu. Every month the Jewish leaders handed them a sum of money collected from the Jews as bribe and in return, the two protected the Jews. After the breakout of the war between Romania and the USSR (June 1941), when the command to expel the Jews from the town arrived, the mayor and the head of the police succeeded to get a permit to cancel it. Even the German soldiers who crowded the town did not dare to harm the Jews.

However, they were unable to prevent a general command that brought to the arrest of 22 of the more distinctive members of the congregation by the police. They were held for three days in a small room with closed windows and the room was so narrow that they were forced to stand the whole time. After that they were transferred as hostages to the Big Synagogue and accused of causing all the sabotage and bombing acts and destined to pay with their lives. Here they were imprisoned for two months with Romanian and German soldiers passing by threatening to kill them.

The Russians bombed the town and the authorities spread the rumor that one of the pilots is a Jew from Harlau. But the hostages were saved because the only person killed in the air raid was a Jewish woman. After that their situation became easier thanks to the intervention of Romanian aristocrats (see below) and from there on they could be exchanged one by one.

From May and on Jewish companies were sent to labor work in Bessarabia, where they worked in quarries with an anti-Semitic officer ordering them around and made their life miserable.

When the front got closer to Harlau, the Germans decided to wage a massacre on the Jews and left in the town a unit to execute this planned “action.” But they did not have time because the Russian army entered the town from two directions, from the direction of Butasan and from the direction of Iasi, and the German unit was imprisoned.

In the spring of 1944, Harlau was conquered by the Russians and the anti-Semitism stopped.

Among those who helped the Jews in this period were two priests: Constantinescu and Stefanescu; When Rabbi Rabinovitz was taken hostage, priest Constaninescu visited his family and swore on his life that the Rabbi will not be harmed. Priest Stefanescu hid valuable things belonging to Jews in his home and returned everything after the war.

Also the noble Romanian families Ghica-Deleni and Polizu-Micsunesti helped the Jews from time to time.

After the war life returned to be normal.


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