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[Page 207]

In the mission to save
the Jews of Romania and Bessarabia

by Baruch Kamin

Translated by Sara Mages

It is no coincidence, that among the dozens of emissaries from Israel, who were selected for the mission to rescue Jews from the Diaspora during the Second World War, were many from Bessarabia. There were several reasons for this: the special status of the Zionist movement in Bessarabia, which was formerly part of Russia, and later, between the two world wars, part of Romania. The proficiency of the former residents of Bessarabia in both languages - Russian and Romanian, and maybe we should mention the decisive reason: their passion for the war against the Nazis and providing help to their relatives and loved ones who remained in the Diaspora. Many former residents of Bessarabia enlisted in various auxiliary units in the British Army, and later, with the establishment of Jewish combat units (“Buffs”), many of them enlisted in these units assuming, that in this way, they would be able to fulfill the above two goals that stood before their eyes. However, as is well known, the Allies refrained from transferring Jewish combat units to the front on various excuses, justified and unjustified, and in the meantime the mass-murderers carried out the work of extermination, and also the Jews of Romania and Bessarabia received their punishment. Many of them were concentrated in camps in Transnistria and their end was also near. After vigorous activity on the part of the authorized institutions in Israel, it was approved to parachute emissaries to Romania, and other European countries, in order to save all that can still be saved and organize the escape of Jews from Europe to Eretz Yisrael.

Among the dozens of emissaries, who were selected for parachuting in Romania, were also two from Akkerman and the surrounding area: Dov Harari (native of Byeramtcha who was educated in Akkerman) and the writer of these lines, a native of Akkerman. Fate summoned us together again and this time as a parachuting pair, because paratroopers usually parachuted in pairs. I was in Egypt with Dov and we trained together. In the morning of 1 August 1944, we parachuted together to Romania.

When we arrived in Bucharest each of us turned to his field of activity. Dov - for the establishment of his movement “Habonim Dror” and the centralization of the written expenses of “HaHalutz,” and I - to the establishment of “Gordonia” which was my movement before my immigration. I saw my main role in bringing Jews to Israel, and after a while I began to organize the “Bricha” [escape] from Russia to Romania and from Romania, through Hungary and Yugoslavia, to Eretz Yisrael.

In August 1944, the war was still in full swing, the Soviet army camped on the Romanian border and the Germans still ruled the territory. At that time, many Jews from Bessarabia, among them many from Akkerman, managed to infiltrate from Transnistria to Romania and were found in the country's major cities, especially in Bucharest. Their financial situation was very bad and we began to distribute allowances to the needy from a special fund set up for this purpose. Bucharest was an open city, those who managed to get to this city found refuge there and therefore we encouraged this infiltration as much as possible.

On the second day of my second arrival in Bucharest from Israel, November 1945, Shaike Trachtenberg introduced me to a Jewish officer in the Soviet army named Weizmann. This officer took off his uniform, wore civilian clothes, and all his ambition was - to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. Shaike (now his surname is - Dan), and also me, have done our best to persuade this officer to return to his first “being,” that is, to put on his officer's uniform, cross the border into Russia and serve there as an emissary for the “Bricha.” He would locate the Jews in Kishinev and Chernivtsi, help to smuggle them to Bucharest, and from there the road to Eretz Yisrael was already short.

Weizmann accepted our offer, agreed to leave his wife in Bucharest and took on the mission. When he introduced me to his wife, it turned out that she was none other than Rosa (we called her Rosczka) Gordon from Akkerman - my hometown. It's hard to describe our excitement when we met. From her I received the first greeting from my family and townspeople, as well as from the members of the “Gordonia” movement. Rosa told - and we both cried non-stop.

For a whole night she told me about destruction and killings, about the wanderings of Akkerman's Jews as far as Siberia and Tashkent and all the atrocities and torments that befell them, about the members of “Tzeirei Zion” whose only aspiration was to find a way to immigrate, etc., etc.

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I would never forget the “greetings” I received from my city' and my townspeople' after a long separation from them. Even after I parted from Rosa I couldn't stop thinking about all the sad information I received from her. From now on my activity at the “Bricha” center increased. I believed that I would be able to provide the only way out to the Jews of my birth-place - Akkerman.

With the liberation of Southeast Europe, the roads to the Mediterranean ports were opened. The chances of escape increased and many former residents of Akkerman began to move in the wake of the Soviet army and concentrated in Bucharest.

The Feldstein family was the first Jewish family from Akkerman I met. I then met with Kvitko, Itsikson and others and, at a later stage, with Schildkrauth, Kroyt, Menuali, Zukerman and others. Romania was the center of escape through the ports of the Black Sea and the Adriatic, Turkey and Syria. The traffic was heavy. The Black Sea was still full of mines, but this did not deter those for whom immigration to Israel was the only way out after the horrors of the war. Also the hostile attitude of the Mandatory Government and the rickety ships, in which the immigrants made their way to Israel, did not frighten those who had faced fear for a long time. We, the “Bricha” activists, were mainly faced with the problem of how to concentrate in Bucharest masses of Jews from Transnistria, among them many from Bessarabia and Akkerman, and extend first aid to them until their time comes to travel to Israel. The Soviet occupation authorities aided the activity because they were interested to free themselves from the burden of the displaced Jews and, on the other hand, also wanted to cause trouble for the British Empire. The goal I set for myself was to pave the way for the immigration of Jews from Bessarabia, Bukovina and Northern Transnistria, by all means. I was looking for a suitable person to move to Chernivtsi, which was now under Russian rule, and in which masses of Jews were concentrated. From Chernivtsi it was possible to contact Bessarabia, which was our main destination. This man had to bring to these Jews the message that a chance for immigration had opened up, and to organize and guide them without the Russians' knowledge. We soon had the opportunity to meet such a man, and he's - Leizer, today Professor Tur-Kokhba, Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences at the Tel Aviv University, who was a native of Northern Bessarabia. On 20 December 1944, Leizer is telling, Sheiko, who was the representative of the “Bricha” in the Bukovina border, transferred him to Siret and from there he traveled by cart to one of the villages in the area. After hiding during the day at the home of a farmer, he managed to reach Chernivtsi with the help of border smugglers and met with Beresh (now in Ein Harod). Beresh painted posters for cinemas, but his main occupation was preparing forged papres for the Jews who concentrated in Chernivtsi. Meanwhile, Zelig (today member of Kibbutz Hanita), also arrived in Chernivtsi and he, too, joined the mission of smuggling Jews to Bucharest. Rumors of the possibility of immigration from Bucharest spread rapidly throughout the youth and Zionist circles in Russia, and reached as far as Central Asia where there was a great concentration of Bessarabian Jews. These Jews were extremely happy when they learned about the two paratroopers (Dov and I) from Akkerman, which were known to many of them from the days before the war. Needless to say that, we too, waited impatiently for the meeting with the people of Akkerman, and it can be said that “more than the calf wishes to suck - does the cow yearn to suckle” meaning, our passion and willingness to bring them to Israel was no less than their desire to immigrate.

From December 1944 to March 1946, hundreds of Jews from Chernivtsi and Bessarabia arrived in Bucharest. Two centers were activated on the Soviet border to help the escapees: Siret and Rãdãuţi. The refugees, who arrived in these places, were equipped with appropriate papers, clothing and money for initial expenses. The activities of Zelig Weizmann greatly helped to increase the smuggling rate. It was necessary to overcome a lot of mishaps, the roads were dangerous, and if it is said “with cunning you shall wage war,” it can be said that with cunning we also made “Bricha,” and this is not the place to list them all. Our activity lasted until 6 March 1946, when the repatriation of Jews from Northern Bukovina to Southern Bukovina in Romania began.

Yisrael Schildkrauth, of the leaders of “Tzeirei Zion” in Akkerman, is telling: in 1945, when the war ended, I traveled with my wife to Kishinev. When I arrived to my previous apartment I found out that it was occupied by a Jewish family from Russia. I've been told that this Jew from Russia knew about my Zionist past, and if I started harassing him with a lawsuit to evict him from my apartment, he might report it to the authorities and then I would live not in my previous apartment but in a Soviet prison… I was helpless until a rumor reached me that “Jews travel to Chernivtsi and from there they travel on.” I got up and traveled to Chernivtsi. I went to Chernivtsi's market to meet Jewish acquaintances and learned that the border to Romania was already closed. I did not have a choice but to rent a room and live in Chernivtsi until the rage passes. Two months later they started again to register Jews who wanted to cross to Romania and a committee was set up for this purpose. An officer of the Red Army also participated in the committee, and a Jew, who knew Russian and Romanian, sat down and registered the candidates. After a while this Jew passed away and a Jew from Akkerman, named Magzinik, took his place. There was a rumor that this Jew was taking 5,000 ruble for arranging a travel document. I came to Magzinik's house several times, but each time his wife told me that he was not at home. I was close to despair, but one day I met this Magzinik on a city street and he told me: “ Schildkrauth, why

[Page 209]

don't you sign up for the trip to Romania?” I told him; where would I get 10,000 ruble for two people? He answered me: go and register because ten thousand people already registered and one day the registration will close. Don't be afraid, go to “Zaks” (Russian institution for civil registration), register without paying and don't worry about the payment. I did as he advised, I signed up without paying and after a while I learned that other people from Akkerman signed up without paying, including Zieglwax, Menuali and others. Two months later, I met this Magzinik again and he said to me: prepare firewood for the winter. Chernivtsi belongs to Ukraine, we sent the papers to Kiev and there is reason to believe that instead of Romania they would send us to Siberia... It is easy to describe our anxieties until a rumor spread that in the morning a special window was opened at the NKVD to distribute numbers to those who wanted to travel to Romania. I went to Magzinik and he told me that he has the number 8,000 while I will have the number 10,000…

I crossed the border one kilometer from the town of Siret in Romania. There were many carts there and also a man from the “Joint” who transferred the refugees to the synagogue's courtyard. All night we lay on our packages and in the morning I went to look for a “contact.” Acquaintances told me to go to a certain room, and when I got to that room, I was terrified and frightened because there were slogans of Stalin, Lenin, Marx, etc. on the walls. I ran away in a panic. That day, I met a guy named Shaike who invited me to come to him, to the same room from which I ran away, and he offered me a sum of money saying that the money was sent to me by Baruch. I was afraid to take the money and asked him to tell me who Baruch was, and then he revealed to me that the man was none other than Baruch Kaminker. I breathed a sigh of relief, took the money I really needed, and together with Menuali rented a room for one night. I then traveled to Galaţi ;while Menuali traveled to his wife's sister in Ploieşti. After Passover I traveled to Bucharest. I met with Baruch who provided me with financial help that allowed me to bring my wife and get organized until our immigration to Israel. By Baruch's recommendation to the “Ihud” party I started to work as an instructor in cities and towns in Romania.

Tzvi Menuali, who was chairman of “Tzeirei Zion” in Akkerman, is also telling a similar story. He, and his brother Shmuel, also arrived in Chernivtsi based on the rumor that from there it was possible to travel further in the desired direction… They crossed the border to Romania and when they arrived in Siret they received a telegram from Baruch Kamin that the members of the “Bricha” would take care of them and transfer them to Bucharest. In Bucharest they also received financial aid from the Israeli aid fund, and in June 1947 traveled through Hungary, Austria and Italy and arrived in Eretz Yisrael.

I could also bring here the story of Zadok Zuckerman, son of Akkerman's slaughterer, and other stories that can testify that the same “mysterious” Baruch did not forget his Jews, the Jews of Bessarabia in general and the Jews of Akkerman in particular. If I may testify for myself, I will only say this: I did my best to help Jews to reach safety. It's hard to describe my excitement with each meeting with a Jew from Akkerman. The best reward I've received was a poem dedicated to me by the well-known poet, Bartini, who was also among those helped by me.

On my return to Israel, at the end of my mission in Romania, I was elected to the Second Knesset as a representative of the Romanian immigration. I'm allowed to admit, without boasting, that my heart overflowed when I stood on the Knesset podium to deliver the oath of allegiance. In my imagination I saw my father and mother, all my family and the Jews of Akkerman who were executed. I also saw myself as their representative. I pondered in my heart: I must justify this trust given to me by continuing the struggle for the immigration of Romanian Jewry. This was in 1954, when the communist regime in Romania plotted against immigration and Zionist activity. Zionist and immigration activists in Romania were arrested and imprisoned and many of them were prosecuted for espionage and treason. As a new and young member of the Knesset, I had to, of course, learn the ways of parliamentary activity, and so I've done, but the issue of immigration from Romania was my top priority. Together with the member of the Knesset, Idov Cohen, also from Romania, I began to initiate, in cooperation with the institutions of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Israel, protest rallies in Israel and abroad against the suffocation of immigration from Romania. These rallies received many responses and I especially remember the words of Emanuel Celler, member of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, following our wave of protests. In addition to the protests, we also announced a hunger strike of communal workers, immigrants from Romania, as a sign of solidarity with the Prisoners of Zion who are rotting in prison in Romania. The fast began on 24 May 1954 at the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv. Among the participants in the fast were, of course, the two members of the Knesset who represented the Romanian Jewry: Idov Cohen and I. According to our proposal, the Knesset presidency gave urgency to the proposal we submitted regarding the Prisoners of Zion in Romania. In the speech I delivered in the Knesset on 25.5.54, to substantiate our proposal, I described the situation of the Romanian Jewry during the Nazi occupation and everything that has happened to this Jewry since then to this day. I noted that the wave of arrests and trials came as a result of the wild incitement of the Romanian Yevsektsiya [Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party]. From the Knesset podium, I sent a warm greeting on behalf of all the participants in the fast, and on behalf of all the Romanian Jews in Israel, to the Prisoners of Zion who are rotting in Romanian prison.

All the Israeli newspapers reacted to our activities, especially to the forty-five communal workers who emigrated from Romania. Many telegrams of encouragement and solidarity with our fast and protest arrived to the Great Synagogue, as well as large delegations of

[Page 210]

rabbis, communal workers, workers' representatives and many different public organizations. The Society of Emigrants from Bessarabia invited all its members and activists to the place where we fasted to express its appreciation and solidarity. We were also visited by the Prime Minister Moshe Sharett z”l, the Speaker of the Knesset Yosef Sprinzak z”l, and the chairman of the board of directors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Berel Loker z”l. We spent the days of fasting reading, studying the Talmud, talking, etc., each person according to his inclination. Dr. V. Abelis, director of Kupat Holim in Jerusalem, was the medical supervisor of the participants in the fast. After five days of fasting, the hunger strike was stopped at the request of President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, which was brought to us by his wife and his Military Secretary. Over twenty thousand people visited us during the five days of fasting, and many newspapers abroad wrote about our protest. That was our goal - to arouse public opinion in the world - and that goal was achieved.

Since then, things have changed. Today's Romania is the only country in the Eastern Bloc that has diplomatic ties with Israel. Is it possible that our vigorous response, from many years ago, also has some part in the current situation?

 

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The hunger strike at the Great Synagogue of Tel Aviv for the Prisoners of Zion in Romania, 1954.
Moshe Sharett visits the participants in the fast. Baruch Kamin is standing next to him.

 

[Page 211]

The Flag

by Shmuel Miniali (Netania)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Who, among the Akkerman Jews, does not remember the blue-white flag that was carried high during every important public event and in the front of all the national parades and Zionist demonstrations? This flag touched all Jewish hearts in Akkerman and filled them with pride.

As the rumor said, this flag was made illegally at the time of Herzl and the first Zionist Congresses by the few Zionists who lived in our town. It was made of expensive silk, the Star of David was of golden color and it carried the inscription “Carry to Zion the Flag, the Flag of the Camp of Yehuda.” This flag symbolized for us the national revival and the hope for a Jewish State.

 

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A respected resident of the town, perished in the Holocaust

 

During many years was the flag kept in the “craftsmen's synagogue” and it was impossible to describe the feeling of happiness felt by those who happened to carry the flag, which was quite heavy, while leading a procession. The strongest youngsters were chosen for this task. As a student in the high-school, I often had the opportunity to argue with the attendants of the synagogue (Yashpun, Shayke Shlein and Chaim Leib Speevak), asking to borrow the flag for a parade. Sometimes it was not easy to make a decision.

Several times I had the privilege to be the carrier of this flag at the head of a parade and salute the authorities who were standing on the official platform on Michaelovska Street near the public park. At the head of those parades, always walked the High-School orchestra, directed by the Brothers Palikov.

In 1940, as the Soviets occupied the town, the flag disappeared and nobody was interested to know its fate. I had the good luck to see it for the last time, one or two days before the war broke out – the last days of the Soviet rule in Akkerman. This is the story:

At that time I was living in the Kwitko House, not far from the Craftsmen's Synagogue. One day, I passed near the synagogue and noticed that the door to the basement near the gate was open. I thought that I should look in, to see what was hidden in the cellar, which was familiar to me since my childhood, when I was part of the choir that accompanied the cantor of the synagogue Moshe Kogan z”l and we would change our clothes there before our appearance. My eyes noticed immediately, that our dear flag had been thrown on a pile of waste, old and dirty. My hart ached seeing the humiliated flag, whose fate was similar to the fate of the Akkerman Jews.

Scared and full of fear I left the place, hoping that the flag would be crowned again sometime.

[Page 212]

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[Page 213]

A Miracle did not Happen in Karnitchka

by Berurya Har-Zion

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Many holidays and other events were celebrated in our school in Akkerman, but etched in my mind is the memory of the holiday of Lag Ba'omer. It is not one of the major Jewish holidays, but I remember from those far years all its details, as if it were today. Maybe the reason is the memory of our parade through the streets of the town, which touched our hearts and filled it with Jewish pride. Indeed we had parades in honor of the Romanian national holidays as well, and our school excelled in organizing them, but we never received the highest grade among the other schools.

Not so on Lag Ba'omer. This holiday was all ours, created for us, part of our history and our heritage. The preparations would begin long before the holiday, and on the morning of Lag Ba'omer the principal of the school would walk between the rows of students, check if the shoes were shining, if the buttons of the shirts were in place, if the shoelaces were tied well, etc. – exactly as before a general Romanian holiday. I confess, that all these procedures annoyed me and I would think: what can be the connection between this Jewish holiday, which symbolizes the heroism of the Jews, the Bar-Kochba revolt, Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, and the strange procedures of the holidays of the Gentiles? But I would forgive the principal, after I heard his speech, which I remember well, since he repeated it every year and no wonder that we remembered it…

In the neighborhood of our town there were many places with beautiful fields, full of fruits and vegetables, but everybody knew that on Lag Ba'omer our aim was only one place – Krinitchka. Indeed, this was a place which was, apparently, created for Lag Ba'omer. There were many legends about the nearby spring, the tall cross, the many events that had happened there etc. One legend I remember well:

Many years ago, a group of fishermen lived there, whose sustenance depended on fishing alone. One day, the well that served the inhabitants of the town dried up. People died of thirst, babies perished, epidemics broke out. As the situation got worse, almost all residents decided to leave the place. Only very few remained, and all winter they drank snow water. When spring came and the snow began to melt, someone noticed some water under the snow. They followed the little stream and found a spring with sweet and clean water. At the place they erected a small building with a big cross on the roof, as thanks to God Who sent them water. This legend accompanied me through my entire childhood.

I think that they could not have chosen a better place for our outings. The usual fine weather in the month of May, clear skies, green trees all around, intoxicating bloom, chirping birds, blue water of the Liman – all this fused with the surrounding landscape. No wonder that the Lag Ba'omer songs echoed during our parade with enthusiasm and youthful beauty: many weeks before the holiday we anticipated the experience and longed for it.

In the afternoon, after the lower-grades pupils returned home, the upper grades would gather with their teachers under a large tree and have a long discussion. The teacher Tcherniavskki would mix his tales and songs with Russian words, and I remember in particular the Hebrew song Al tira avdi Ya'aov [do not be afraid, my slave Yakov], inlaid, like a gem, with stories.

Sport events, bicycle races, various games – were the special agenda of the day. The echoes of our songs were heard all around, and even the Christians knew what this holiday meant for the Jews. Only late afternoon, when the sun began to set and a violet-greenish light would spread at the edge of the sky – we began preparations to go back to town.

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After more than thirty years, in 1966, I visited Kishinew and met my kindergarten teacher Mania Sherira, and we reminisced about the Lag Ba'omer festivities. We sat in a room with the shutters closed and remembered those old days. How sad it was to hear, that Krinitchka, where Jewish children would gather with songs on their lips to remember Bar-Kochba and the heroism of the Jews – was the last station of thousands of Jews from Akkerman, who perished there with the words Shema Israel, and not Al tira avdi Ya'aov on their lips. I said to Mania: Why did the powers of nature not react? Why did the lake not erupt into the air? Why did the trees not tremble at the moment of destruction, the same trees in whose shade we sat on Lag Ba'omer? How could all these be silent witnesses to those indescribable things?

Indeed, the miracle that happened so many generations ago has not repeated itself. The soil, which in those far days of Lag Ba'omer festivities drank the songs of our youth and the burning of our hearts – now drank the blood of our beloved. The place, which had symbolized youth and hope for the children of Israel, now symbolizes for all of us the bitter end of the Jews of Akkerman and surroundings.

 

By mistake, the wrong picture was printed on page 214.
Below is the correct picture:

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Memorial service for the Shoah victims at the Akkerman Meeting

[Page 215]

A Story of a Name

by Asher Shwartzman

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

I wouldn't tell a personal story if I hadn't thought that it would be of interest not only to me. In any case, I learned a great deal from this tale – the story of my first name.

Asher was the name given to me at my Brit Milah [circumcision]. But in fact, I never used this legal name of mine. There were many reasons for that: I was ashamed; I was afraid of the reaction of my friends on the street and at the playground, and my teachers, who might mock this strange name; I was afraid of the reaction of the various officials when I had to fill forms in some office. When I reached the age of 14-15, the shame with my “strange” name turned into real pain. It became an obsession. I began comparing my name to Russian, Ukrainian and other names. I longed to understand the problem – why was my name worse than other names? Why should I be ashamed with the name that was given me at my birth? The result that I came up with was that a Jewish name could not be equal to other people's names. Jewish names were names of a nation of merchants (although my father was a laborer and my grandfather was a cobbler), a nation of weak people (my father was a proud soldier in the Red Army and fought the Germans and fell in battle with his weapons in his hands), a nation who remained in Tashkent the length of the war… My inferiority complex in face of other nations grew deeper.

This was not easy for me, maybe because of my character. After some time, I discovered that many Jews changed their names and took Russian names, but my own character was strengthened by the reality, the surrounding conditions and the neighbors and I abandoned the idea of changing my name. My name remained proudly written on my identity card, my matriculation diploma, my army card, my university diploma and my marriage document. However, I gave in at the end, following two things that forced me to change my “unhappy” name. The first happened after I graduated from the university and I began working as a teacher at a teachers college. It was not easy to be a teacher when your name is Osher Osipowitch… The second case – after my first daughter was born, I thought to myself: What is the fault of my children? Was it not enough that I was suffering? I decided to change my name and I chose the name Leonid. This name was printed in my identity card, so my children could use it, and the old name Osher remained on all other documents.

When I made Aliya, my new name – Leonid – was on my “immigrant card“ and my new identity card. I decided to adopt back my original name Osher but a new problem arose: many people, who knew me as Leonid, were wondering about the Hebrew name and I had to give lengthy explanations. For me it was not a minor change, but a return to my origin. I belong to my name and my name belongs to me and with it I feel that I am myself.

 

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[Page 216]

The “flag-Day” ['tag-day']

by Beruria Har-Zion

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

I remember, when I was a pupil in the lower grades of school, my desire was to be one of the carriers of the “blue-white box” on the “tag day” (when we collected money for the JNF and every donor received a little blue-white tag to pin it on his/her shirt). At the time I did not know what the real meaning of the “blue box” was, but my relation to it has not diminished. Knowing that it was very dear and very important was enough for me.

We went out in pairs, one of us carrying a large cardboard in the shape of a star-of-David with the tags arranged on it like flowers and the other carrying the box. It was Sunday and the street was full of people. We were assigned the stretch between Michalovski Street and the town park, where there were many Jewish shops. Our instructions were to approach every person and enter every shop, Jewish and non-Jewish. When we came near one of the stores, my partner told me that I will have to go in myself, not telling me the reason. I entered the store of Mrs. Constantiner and the owner received me with shouts: Again you came to beg?? I asked many times not to come to my store. Go to your Palestine, you insolent and dirty youngsters, the Arabs will slaughter you there. Don't come here anymore!

I was stunned. I was not ready for such a “welcome.” I didn't understand why she said “dirty.” I tried to say something, but this increased her fury and shouts, and I ran away, ashamed.

My next “tag-day” was Tu Bishvat. This time I knew more about the Box and its purpose. Again I was assigned the same street as on Lag Ba'omer. When I reached the Constantiner store, my heart began to beat strongly. I peeked into the store and saw two people: a young officer and a lady. I decided to go in, and offer the young couple the tag. The owner started to yell again, but I was ready and managed to say: “Sorry, we did not come to you, but to the people in your store. I approached the pair and offered them a tag, explaining the purpose of JNF, as we had been instructed. The officer responded politely and gave a nice contribution. The owner of the store was furious again, but I felt that I won and thanked them, as I was taught to do. But I also felt the need to take revenge on the lady owner; when I was at the door I said to her: We shall always visit your store, but you should know that we are not coming to you, but to your customers, whom we already know…

 

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[Page 217]

The Akkerman Jews
during the War and after it

by Kwitko Michael

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Very often I find myself thinking about the bitter fate of the Akkerman Jews. A while ago I heard from my friend S. Rosenthal that no more than 12-15 families are living in Akkerman nowadays. The town itself has grown and developed, but its 5000 Jews have perished. Why did the Akkerman Jews “drink the poison cup” in its entirety? Why was their fate so cruel? Why did they not flee and escape before the end came?

I think that there were several reasons, which depended on the Jews themselves. I would like to mention some of them. In 1918, when Bessarabia left Russia and became united with Romania, the Akkerman Jews lost the center town that they loved, Odessa, which had remained in the hand of the Russians; but little-by-little they got used to live without Odessa and accepted the fact that Akkerman was under Romanian rule. Moreover, they learned to make maximum use of this fact. The Romanian anti-Semitism, which was felt very well in other towns, was almost not felt in Akkerman, and during 29 years, until 1938, the Jews could lead quietly a regular life. I think that this quiet life was, partly, the reason that did not hurry to leave the town when the days of the Holocaust came. There are testimonies that the Jews who gathered around the Bet Midrash listened to the attendants and leaders and decided not to leave the place. This influenced others as well and they didn't move out.

A second reason, and maybe this was the most important one, which convinced the Akkerman Jews not to move out from Akkerman, was the great disappointment from the Communist regime. Many have felt this disappointment, even among those who had been members of the Communist Underground. Very few maintained the hope that the communist regime would save the Jews from the danger of Nazism and bring them peace. The Jews did not trust the Soviet rule at all; some of the moves of the Soviet political leadership were considered by the Jews anti-Semitic schemes planned in advance.

The fact is, that during an entire year of Soviet rule, n o t h i n g was said (in the press or by the authorities) about what had happened to the Polish Jews who lived in the area occupied by the Germans, nothing about what was expected to happen to the Soviet Jews if the hand of the Germans would catch them. Great speakers who came to Akkerman indeed spoke about the danger of war against the Germans, but not one word was said about the great danger for the Jews in particular. No wonder that many still believed that it would be possible to make arrangements with the Romanians through various “payments,” as was the custom to do. This was why it happened, that in contrast to the flight to the interior of the Soviet Union, which many have chosen, the Akkerman Jews preferred to remain in place rather than take the risks of evacuation. This was the reason they perished. Even those who reached Odessa did not reach a safe heaven. The Romanians caught them and they perished as well. Some of them (like the mother and sister of Dr. Shaul Palikov and the parents of Riva Axelrod) did arrive at far-away places, but the cruel hand of the Nazis reached them there as well. Only a small number of Jews, who reached, after great suffering, Asia, survived.

After the war, the Akkerman Jews who survived preferred not to return to their town, but chose other Russian cities (Cernowitz, Kishinev and Odessa) because from there it was easier to go to Romania and then to emigrate to USA or Israel or other countries. This was the reason that so few of the surviving Akkerman Jews returned to their town of origin.

The fateful day was, as it is known, the 28 of June 1940, when, following a Soviet ultimatum, the Romanians were forced to leave Bessarabia according to the agreement and enable all the Bessarabians to return from Romania to their homes. The Jews preferred to endanger their property and remain where they were and not join the returning Romanians.

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Those who did return to Bessarabia (Akkerman included) were not followers of the leftists-communists, as for example Eng. Trachtman, former director of JCA in the Balkans or Eng. Grushmsn, director of JCA in Romania and former chairman of “Maccabi” in Akkerman. They died (the first on the roads of Bessarabia, the other committed suicide by hanging after his wife, his daughter and his grandson fell in the snow while running and remained on the side of the road. Among those who did return, were Jewish doctors, who succeeded in Bucharest, but preferred to leave their wealth and their professional success and return to Akkerman (Dr. Karadonski, Yellin and others), taking with them only a few packages and suitcases. None was sorry about the property that was lost. They tried to get used to the new conditions, hoping that in time they will overcome the difficulties. Soviet citizens, who came to Akkerman, began to buy everything from the stores, and formed long lines, never seen in Akkerman before. It was possible to notice at first sight the lust for money of the Russian officials who had come to town. However, during the beginning of the Soviet occupation it seemed as a paradise on earth. Actors came from Odessa and performed theater pieces and reviews, fat lady singers sang Soviet songs, but unfortunately together with the artistic groups came people of the NKVD who made nightly raids and arrested “suspected elements”: former merchants, Zionists, public activists, Hebrew teachers and the like. And so life went on: in the morning they were making jokes and at night every person feared for his own life and the lives of his family members – who knows who will be the prey of “the black crow” tonight?

Towards the New Year, the authorities gave us a “present” – paragraph 39 of the Soviet Law, which defined the place of residence of the citizens and forced many to relocate in 3 days to a village which was at least 30 km. from the former residence in the city center. This was a smart move, which enabled the new residents to get good apartments and working places.

As a son of a wealthy person, I too received the “present”. I decided to check the justice of the Soviet law and I appealed to the general Attorney of the area. He listened, then asked me whether I know the Russian saying that “when one cuts wood, splinters are flying around”…. This was the end of our discussion and I was ordered to leave my town, my home and my work and relocate to a village, without taking with me my things, when my wife was six months pregnant. Thus I had the opportunity to understand the meaning of the Soviet Communism…

It didn't take long, and the Nazi soldiers invaded almost all of Europe, from Greece in the south to Norway in the North. The Nazi “Barbarossa Plan” was activated and the great strategist, the “Sun of the Nations” did not listen to the warnings of an invasion of Russia by the Germans coming soon. Ten days before the invasion they “took measures”…On the night of 12 June Jewish old and sick people (among them my mother, who was sick and blind) were awakened from their sleep and, defined as “dangerous anti- Soviet elements” were taken to investigation or chased out of town. The German residents in town were not touched. Neither were the Ukrainians, who, as was well known, immediately began collaborating with the Germans. The evacuated people were not allowed to take their clothes and not even medicines. It is easy to imagine how the Soviet justice looked in their eyes. It is worth mentioning, that many communists and former underground fighters were deeply disappointed from the Soviet regime – they felt well this “justice” on their own bodies…

When war broke out, on 22 June 1941, the Romanian prime-minister Antonescu spoke to his Romanian citizens, saying: Romanians, cross the River Prut and liberate our Bessarabia, punish the Jewish population for its bad behavior and attitude toward the Romanian army and kill 10% of the Jewish population! On 29 June the authorities took “measures” and, among others they accused the Jews of the city of Yassy [Iaºi] that they signaled the Soviet airplanes and shot through their windows at German soldiers. They carried out a terrible pogrom in town and killed over 12,000 Jews. This was a general rehearsal before the Romanians invaded Bessarabia.

The Soviet propaganda hid from the public Antonescu's speech as well as the Yassy pogrom. It is possible, that if the Jews had known about those terrible acts, they would have understood what was awaiting them and would have reacted differently – they would not have believed in a possibility to “make an arrangement” with the Romanians and would have escaped in time.

All units of the Romanian army hurried to perform Antonescu's instructions concerning killing Jews, and as the soldiers entered the Bessarabia villages and towns their first acts were to rob the Jews and then kill them, men and women, young and old. In towns where the number of Jews was large, they gathered them in one place and murdered them without mercy.

The 35th infantry battalion, which had been stationed in Akkerman before the Russians came, returned to town. One of the captains, the son of a local peasant, born in Akkerman, Okishor by name, was responsible for

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killing the Akkerman Jews. During the first days of August 1941 they gathered all Jews in the Craftsmen's Synagogue after they had robbed their belongings. More than 1600 men, women and children were kept there several days without food, then they forced them to run through the main streets, in front the old man Feigin, naked, to the “Karnitchka,” where in the past we used to hold the Lag Ba'Omer festivities. By the command of captain Okishor all were shot and buried in a pit that they had themselves dug before. Another officer should be infamously mentioned, Freulich, son of a former German resident, who conducted the murder of the Shaba Jews. On 9 August this Freulich came to Tatarbonar and, together with the local commander of the ghetto captain Bato Jonas robbed and killed 451 Jews in the ghetto. On pages 71-72 of the Black Book by M. Karp, former secretary of the Jewish community in Bucharest, is printed the document that describes this event.

I, my wife and our baby miraculously succeeded to escape, thanks to our acquaintance with some rare and charitable farmers. The engineer Ivan Ivanovitch Baloban endangered his own life and helped me in the winter of 1942 to get from Odessa to Bucharest with my baby. The Christian Greek Saropolo hid me and my wife in Odessa during two months of the winter of 1941-1942 and so saved us from being sent to the concentration camp. I want to mention, with good blessings, he engineer Gregory Andonianetz from Akerman, who was the head of the Goltianesk Region. With his help, I succeeded not only to help myself but also to establish a Jewish Committee after the war. Dr. Feldstein was the deputy head of the committee and I was given the possibility to act through it for the benefit of the Jews. With the help of Eng. Andonianetz I managed to send to Bucharest a memorandum describing our situation and connect with Dr. Corneliu Iancu, deputy head of the Zionist Federation in Romania. Thanks to this connection we received from Bucharest financial aid, which helped us to open medical clinics, an orphanage, a pharmacy and several workshops that employed Jewish people. I managed to save, feed and educate 90 children, many of whom are now in Israel with us, as the sisters Gerzberg from Sarata. One of them, who is called now Lily Bardev and lives in Ashdod, I took out from the death camp Achmatchatka in a sack of bread. About a year later I managed, with the help of the Red Cross, to take Lily to Eretz Israel. Her elder sister came later, through Cernowitz.

After we were liberated from the camp, I managed to stay in Bucharest and I worked at finding the Romanian murderers and bringing them to justice. Among others, I managed to find the above mentioned Okishor; he was arrested by the Romanians and I testified concerning all his terrible acts in 1941 in Akkerman.

On the mass grave in Karnitchka, where over 1600 Jews are buried, there is no memorial stone.

Among the Jews who fled to Odesa and survived all the horrors of the war and returned to Akkerman: Dr. Yeshayahu Feldstein and his wife, his son Dr. Musia Feldstein and his wife and daughter, Dr. Tesia Elberg, Huna Kapelnikov with his wife and two children, Brand Soya and several others. Dr. Tchobotaru from Tatarbonar and his wife and children are now living in Kishinev. Eng. Brodeski with his wife and children are now living in Bucharest. Every one of them has a long story to tell about the road of suffering that they had to take and how they survived.


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Jewish survivors in the 1980s

by Yakov Zigloks

Translated by Sara Mages

The Jewish community of Akkerman was one of the first communities of Eastern Europe. Throughout the centuries of its existence it has known periods of ups and down, but reached its peak in the 1920s and 1930s of this century. Vibrant community life, extensive social activities, vibrant spiritual life, cultivation of Jewish tradition, schools and synagogues, kindergartens, “OZE” institution [Association for the Preservation of Jewish Health], lending and saving fund, libraries, sports associations, Zionist clubs, nursing home, a club for Yiddish culture, and much more. The marvelous infrastructure of Jewish culture has also given rise to important public activists who have become famous in and around the city: the rabbis Moshe Zukerman and Roller, the philanthropists Milstein, Alman and Kroschkin, the Zionist leaders Kestretz, Berger, Serper, the communal workers Kishpon, Kushner, Schildkrauth and many others. It was the golden age of the community of Akkerman.

The decline of this community came at once with the entry of Soviet Russia into Bessarabia in 1940, while the tragic end came in the days of the Nazis. Indeed, even today, about fifty years after the Holocaust, Jews still live in Akkerman, but they are in terms of the survivors left among the ruins, and they mourn the glorious past.

In the summer of 1945, I returned to Akkerman from the battlefront against the Nazis. At the same time additional Jews started to return from the front to the neglected and ruined city. There was hunger in the city. Bread, potatoes, milk and all the essential commodities for a person's existence were out of reach. People went to the market every day, but only a few, especially those that had items to exchange, could get the essentials there. On a street corner it was possible to find a barrel of wine, from the wines that my father, and many others, drowned their grief and poverty in the red drink. I remember that once, when I passed through the market among a lot of junk for sale, I discovered at a Russian woman, who sold all kinds of haberdashery in the market, a “Mahzor” that was published in Hungary in 1860 and was already partly charred. I took this “Mahzor” from her and kept it for a long time as a remnant of the sanctity of the past.

The market served as a meeting place for Jews who congregated in Akkerman, most of them are no longer alive, but let us mention the last of the Mohicans by their names.

Meir Kogen - a wise Jew, religious and advanced who bought all kinds of haberdashery at exorbitant prices from businessmen in Odessa and sold them in Akkerman. Avraham Greenshpon - a blacksmith with a healthy body who, at every meeting, lamented his fate and always repeated one saying that was common in his mouth: “see what they've done to us, what was left of us.” Nachum Feldstein, whose pipe never left his mouth, was a sexually transmitted disease doctor. For a long time he was under investigation by the Soviet security organizations who tried to incriminate him, but he defended himself and told them: “my father, Isak Feldstein (also a doctor), and I always served the public in faith, why are you harassing me?” Boris Roitman, a watchmaker by profession, decent and orderly man who miraculously survived together with his family. Gedalia Sterltz, an entertainer and comedian, a lover of Jewish folk songs and cantorial music. He was always willing to give “A shtikl Hazzanut” to every passerby, especially his hit, “Mizmor leDavid” [A Psalm to David]. Mendel Gelman, a slaughterer who was knowledgeable in the Bible and Mishnah, lived and even prayed alone. His impressive white beard also earned him respect by the Russian residents. Ajzik Blinder, one of Akkerman's veterans, was observant and jealous, small, gaunt, and wrinkled. He seemed a little strange in the eyes of the street children who called him Cheetah. Tulia Skliar, a carpenter, a former Yiddishistl who was a member of the “Bund.” He left his wife and lived with a Russian woman. Isak Tendenik, a beggar, sloppy in his clothing and appearance, passed among the rows of sellers of dairy products and innocently tasted from the cheeses and other food products, and in this way he satisfied a little his constant hunger. Yeshayahu Jaroslavsky, an old bachelor who loved to eat. He offered his friends delicacies that were rare in those days and found in the back pocket of his pants. He sold bread, flour, sugar, etc. Isak Stetzky, lame and asthmatic, but a man who loved life. He always hoped that he would be able to reach his son, Shmuel, who immigrated to Israel, but he took his hope with him to the grave.

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The beginning of recovery

By the spring of 1946, several hundred Jewish residents had already concentrated in the city. A considerable number came from towns and villages in the area. Among them were: Isak Wallier from Shabo, the Komarovsky brothers from Tuzla, Surka Telmzan from Dyviziya, David Rozanskie, Olishenty Slepoy from Volontrikova, the family of Hassid and Isak Katchalski from Sarata, Hersh Kleitman from Artsyz, the brothers Aspis and Alexenberg from Tatarbunar, Isak Greenberg from Kiliya, Yisrael Yagolnitzer from Bologard, and many others.

The first to try to reorganize the life of the Jewish community was David Berkowitz. With his meager strength he renovated the neglected Great Synagogue and the “Kloyz.” He obtained Torah scrolls, candlesticks, prayer books and other ritual articles, and in the fall of that year the Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in accordance with law and custom. At Simchat Torah, the children waved flags with apples and candles attached to them. The authority soon banned this religious activity. The disappointed old man obtained a permit from the chairman of the Supreme Council of Russia to leave the country and immigrate to Israel to reunite with his many family members.

City life slowly returned to normal. There were a lot of problems of job search, food and housing, but the situation of the Jewish residents continued to be serious and the locals treated them with overt or covert hostility. Once, as I passed a cafe on Moskovskaya Street, I saw drunk drivers harassing the brothers, Abraham and Solomon Shorr, who came to Akkerman from Kantemir. The brothers said something to them, a boxing match ensued, and I noticed that the drivers' faces were badly bruised and bleeding.

Another incident took place in the city center near the council building to Baruch Weini, a daring fighter who was severely wounded in a battle near Tashkent and even received a medal for his heroism. A Christian called out to the mustachioed Baruch “Zyd!” In response, Baruch lowered his pants and revealed to the crowd, who had gathered at the place, his buttocks with the deep scars - a result of the wounds he sustained in this part of his body when he was in the battlefront. In his act, Baruch wanted to emphasize his part in defending the Russian homeland, and the audience understood the “thin” hint...

Over time, the abuse of Jews took on more serious dimensions, Jewish public institutions and houses of worship became sports halls, dance halls and vocational schools for the youth. The magnificent Craftsmen Synagogue (“Remesline Shul”) became a supply and clothing warehouse for the army. The Jewish Nursing Home - to students' dormitory, the building of “Tarbut” gymnasium - to a hospital for the disabled. There is no trace left of Jewish culture, tradition and Jewish life. It can be said: the last Jewish spark has faded. Tired of the hardships of the war and the great Holocaust, the Jews succumbed to the dictates of the new life and began to adapt to the new circumstances.

 

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The new Jewish cemetery (the old was destroyed in the Holocaust) in Akkerman

 

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On the ties with Israel and Judaism

In early 1948 fragmented news, which were published in the government press or other communication tools, began to reach Akkerman about the struggle of the Jewish settlement in Israel for political independence. There was nothing in these news items to give us an idea of what was really happening in Israel, about the struggles of the Palmach, Etzel or Lehi. The establishment of the State of Israel was described as a Soviet political victory to ensure the legitimate rights of the people of Israel. The news of Israel's declaration of independence was received, of course, with great joy, but also with a certain restraint, since it was clear to us that any manifestation of identification with the State of Israel could be interpreted by the authorities as an “anti-revolutionary” move.

In the fall of 1948, a funeral service was held for the remains of Jews who had been shot in Akkerman by the Nazis. They were discovered in the pits of the quarry south of the city, behind the meat factories. The funeral procession proceeded to the new mass grave that was excavated in the Armenian cemetery on Shabskaya Street. In the inscription above the mass grave it was not mention at all that the victims were Jews, even those who spoke at the ceremony did not say the word “Jew,” but everyone knew that most of the murdered were Jews. We, the Jewish survivors who attended this funeral, knew very well who we were accompanying for eternal rest. We knew that we were accompanying the bones of entire Jewish families (Zimmerman, Folkman, Farberski, Kafelnikov, Brand, Erlich and more). We accompanied, but we kept our grief within us as we feared that any such expression might be harmful. I can bring up the names of the Jews who were present at this sad ceremony, and these are: Aharon Trachtenbroit, Yehciel Sztulman, Mendel Tabchnik, Yoel Nidriker, Yisrael Solomon, Boris Steinberg, Chaim Vorotnikov, Pinchas Milman, Zalman Glabonski, Dr. Shvarzman, Wilkomirski, Pipergal, Izia Chamilkis, the midwife-nurse Fidelman, the accountant Risenzon and many more.

At the time, this kind of power was Israel's victory in the Six Day War. Despite the unrestrained anti-Israel propaganda of all the Soviet media, which presented Israel as occupying territories not belonging to it, there was an awakening in the Jewish public, feelings of Jewish pride arose and Jewish identification erupted spontaneously. At the same time, there was also a rising wave of anti-Semitism. Discrimination against Jews in all aspects of life gained legal validity. For no reason they started ousting the Jews from government jobs. The thugs also raised their heads, painted swastikas on Jewish homes, desecrated tombstones, etc. The Jewish youth began to see the current situation, realized that their chances of taking root in the new reality were nil, and began to look for a way out. Like a thunderbolt on a clear day, the news spread about the failure of the escape attempt of Sylvia Zalmanson's group and Eduard Kuznetsov, and the hijacking of a plane at Leningrad airport. Not only did it not weaken the hands, but gave an emotional boost to the beginning of mass immigration to Israel. The youth began to learn Hebrew, the publications of “Ikhud” - the Zionist movement in the underground, appeared, the number of “Refusenikim” increased, and at the same time deportations and imprisonments began in the big cities of Russia. Many of Akkerman's natives made their way to Israel and were absorbed in many settlements in the country. The authorities tried to stop the wave of immigration to Israel that swept the Jewish population, but they could not. A typical case: The shoemaker, Isser Frank, informed the chairman of the city council that if they did not provide his family with a suitable apartment, he would immigrate to Israel - he was immediately provided with a suitable apartment. I remember how warmly the Jews of Akkerman accompanied me when I immigrated to Israel in the spring of 1974. My childhood friend, Chain Zunis, asked me to kiss the earth of our homeland in his name. Yosef Friedman, a Jew from Zhitomir, who now lives in Akkerman, asked me to make sure that those, who reluctantly remained in Soviet Russia, were not forgotten. Also a Christian neighbor gave me her blessing for the road and also added that she read in the Bible about the return of the children of Israel to their promised land.

When I looked, for the last time, at the city's clean streets and the residents who walked in them, I felt how the life that once forcibly flowed under the clear skies of Southern Bessarabia was disappearing...

It was not even possible to think of Zionist activity under the conditions of those days, although there were already quite a few Zionists in the city such as: Dora Goldman, Fania Druze, Lipa Wolozyn, Keila Weissberg, Anya Guchman, Chancza Frechter, Yasha Yusim, Chaim Zunis, Izia Shinkrovsky and others. We were separated from each other, there was an atmosphere of fear and suspicion and fear of betrayal and provocations. The Zionists, David Kogen, Efraim Abramowitch and Dvora Blanowitz, were imprisoned in Siberia at the time and their fate stood before our eyes. I also received a letter

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from David Kogen, through the Christian Butshai who sat together with him in jail in exile. In this letter there were clear hints of incessant investigations being conducted by the men of the KGV about the Jews who returned to Akkerman. Therefore, it was natural that we avoided the risk of Zionist activity in the underground.

Meanwhile, anti-Semitism has also increased and its marks were well visible everywhere. In the government shops, in which Jews were employed, they slowly began to dismiss all the Jews and replaced them with the young people of the “Komsomol.” Having no choice, the Jews began working in various factories as technicians, locksmiths, carpenters, painters, etc. Only a few Jews were accepted to study at universities and higher education institutions. Jews were not given any senior position. Moreover, the entire country began to eliminate everything that was left of Jewish culture and the highlight was the murder of Jewish writers, the director Mikhoels, and the plot against the Jewish doctors headed by Professor Vofsi. There were plans to deport masses of Jews to Siberia and Birobidzhan, and only Stalin's death delayed their execution. The days of mourning, which were declared in the country after his death, were days of restrained joy for us. We breathed a sigh of relief.

 

Restoration of public property

Another wind blew around. Hopes arose for a new life, and we hoped too. A problem of competent representation from every ethnic community arose. It was solved to us by the agile and resourceful Jew, Kalman Frechter, who undertook the task of establishing a special group that would represent, and also preserve, Jewish public property in Akkerman. The group began raising funds to rehabilitate the destroyed Jewish cemetery. Its eastern side was smashed to the gate, most of the tombstones were broken and traces of vandalism were visible everywhere. Also the historical monuments for the victims of the 1905 pogroms in Akkerman, and the mass grave for the victims of the First World War, were also desecrated. This group, headed by Kalman Frechter, erected a fence around the cemetery, organized the guarding of the place, resumed the activity of “Chevra Kadisha,” and organized a minyan for prayer on the Sabbath and holidays. I will mention these activists by name:

Kalman Frechter, agile and flexible, with a matter-of-fact approach to every issue, nurtured the relations with the authority even during the Romanians' reign. He released, in exchange for “hush money,” young people from good families who had been arrested for communist activity by the secret police. Velvel Jacobson, was the treasurer of the group and had a good sense of humor. Reuven Glickman, an educated and progressive man in his views, well versed in Jewish affairs and also in classical literature. It was possible to obtain from him literature that was banned by the censorship such as “The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising” or Graetz's history books. He was an honest man and his words could be trusted. Shaike Rotenberg, a redhead who was always meticulously dressed and wore suspenders. He obtained several prayer books from the rabbinate in Moscow and printed them for the needs of the community. As an employee of the “Wine Vodka” store, which opened at dawn, he was the first to know the news, who was born and who died. Kalman Kleiner, a leather worker by profession, who previously belonged to the Zionist-religious party “Mizrahi,” had the “right” to recite “Kaddish,” “Yizkor” and other prayers. He immigrated to Israel and lived with his daughter in Jerusalem. Avraham Telzman, a carpenter by profession and cantor by his hobby, led the prayers on the Sabbath and holidays and trilled “El Male Rachamim” in funerals. A proud Jew dedicated to public needs. Moshe Edelstein was educated in “Betar” and remained faithful to the movement's ideology. As a government employee he was also active in the trade union but also took an interest in the activities of the Jewish community. In his entanglement in unnecessary arguments, and being of a weak character, he was exploited by the Russian police and sometimes even told more than he knew. A propaganda booklet, in which former wealthy Jews were accused of being bourgeois and exploitative, was published in Akkerman and his name appeared on it as the author. Naturally, the Jews did not have too much affection for him, they insulted and cursed him. His conscience tormented him and he contracted a fatal disease and died. David Zonis, was the shamash in the synagogue. The poor laborer spent day and night in the cemeteries. He cleaned the gravestones, wrote in a notebook the names of all the deceased in chronological order and in return received a donation or alms from the Jews.

This group of communal workers couldn't continue its activity for a long time. From the outside they were harassed by the authorities and from the inside they did not receive much encouragement, for, as stated above, many chose the path of adaptation, joined the Communist Party and hoped to build their careers in this way. Such were, among others, Monish Trachtman, director of the municipal printing house, Yosef Flikov, director of the culture section of the local executive committee, Yerachmiel Goldman, in “Promkombinet.” Alexander Meglnik, director of the Tea House and others. There were those who did not refrain from passing convicting information, some out of fear, some just for flattery and some for the benefit. There was no shortage of Akkerman Jews who were addicted to drinking alcohol and playing cards, and there is no point in naming them here. But most Jews worked hard and led a modest and fair lifestyle, such as Burok Buca, Moshe Kushnir, Yasha Guzmann, Schwinn Niuma, Lushak Filia, Zelig Tabachnik, Chaim Midman, Yafim Sordlik, Katz, Zufrik and others.

It should be remembered, that apart from Akkerman's longtime residents many Soviet Jews, who came from all over Russia, lived and settled in the city. They were steeped in the new Russian culture, removed from a Jewish way of life and excelled in excessive affinity with the Soviet regime. There is no doubt that most of the Jews

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did not trust the new regime, and even if they identified with it outwardly, then, within themselves, in their homes, they maintained loyal to Israel and the Jewish people.

During my travels throughout Soviet Russia for my work, I also met many Jews from Akkerman who did not return there after the war for various reasons. In Kiev I met the lawyer David Milstein, in Moscow - Hersh Cheritonov and the tailor Raphael Tukhman, in Lvov - Mendel Arbeit and Chaim Greenspan, in Stanislav - the blacksmith Moshe Weinstein and Osip Streich, in Chernivtsi - Chaim Zeff, Yoel Malinsky and Zerach Gorfield, in Chi?inãu - David Weisser, Reuven Kaplinsky, Pluski, Gordon, Sania Shrira and his grandmother - his wife aunt Manya the kindergarten teacher who educated in her kindergarten generations of students for the Hebrew Gymnasium.

Today, close to six hundred Jewish families live in Akkerman. The older generation - passed away, the next generation - grew old, while the third generation - our children and grandchildren - are almost completely cut off from their Jewish roots, and except for section 5 of their identity card, which mentions their Jewish national affiliation, there is no sign of their Judaism in their way of life, education, culture, etc. Mixed marriages are very common, assimilation is increasing and only a serious force from outside may help the members of this generation to discover their Judaism.

 

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Memorial conference of former residents of the Akkerman District in Israel in memory of the victims of the Nazis

 

[Page 225]

 

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Yisrael Schildkrauth speaks at the memorial conference for the Jews of Akkerman

 

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Dr. Shaul Zerling speaks at the memorial conference for the Jews of Akkerman

 

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