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[Page 283]

Notes From A Legacy

by Dr. Yosef Laron z”l

Translated by Ala Gamulka

At the beginning of 1900 the general population of Tarutino was 6 000 residents. It seems one third was Jewish and two thirds German. The Jewish population had no civil rights and its members could not vote in local elections. They also were not permitted to own property. It was only after the 1917 revolution that the Jews obtained these rights. Until then there was no organized Jewish community, but there were some institutions that received some funds from the government. However, the government managed to take back these funds in the form of additional taxes levied on the Jewish population. After Akkerman, Tarutino was considered to be the most developed and progressive village in southern Bessarabia.

A river, called Hadgi Krak by the Turks, divided the village into two sections. There were 20 bridges across it. The bridges were mostly made of stone and a few made out of wood. Eventually, the residents of Tarutino renamed the river Tchikrak or Anchiokrak.

There were almost no observant Jews–with ear locks and traditional Hassidic garb– in the population. The Jews were concentrated in the center of the village. Their children played with German children and these, in turn, learned Yiddish. In the years 1910–1912 a change occurred and the religious position grew among the Jews. However, even the observant Jews were liberal and there was no religious jealousy in the village.

A big change came into the lives of the Jews, as mentioned above, after the 1917 revolution. The Zionist movement began to organize and many cultural institutions were established. There were a Hebrew elementary and High School where the language of instruction was Hebrew. Later it became Romanian. The Jewish Community grew at the same time.

Jews dealt in commerce and on Shabbat and Holidays the stores were closed. My grandfather was also a merchant. However, earlier he had been a sexton in a synagogue called “The Polish Shul”. The name is a bit misleading since all the participants came mostly from Podolia, but they were nicknamed “Polish”. I remember, when I was five the building burned down. A new Polish synagogue was built in its place. It had stained glass windows. The official opening of the new building was a big event in the village. The governor of Bessarabia arrived from Kishinev.

The majority of the Jews were members of the middle class, but there were some wealthier people. There were very few poor ones. Those who could afford to do so sent their children to study in Akkerman, Odessa and Kishinev. The German residents in the village also followed this practice.

Tarutino served as the cultural center for nearby small villages. In 1907 ‘Pirhei Zion’ was founded. I was a Zionist at the age of 8. In my father's generation the following were active Zionists: Yekutiel Rosenberg, the owner of a grocery store and the treasurer of the Polish Shul; he was an educated man with an attractive appearance and an excellent speaker, as well as Rabbi Bronstein and Y.L. Baratz. My father was also active in Zionist circles and contributed much to the establishment of the cultural center and the library in the village.

[Page 284]

akk284.jpg
Zeirei Zion in Tarutino saying good–bye to Dr. Grebois (General Zionist)
Standing left to right: Vinitsky, Pinhas Rosenberg, Nissan Imas, Avraham Sofer, Ozer Rotberg, and Mendel Gochberg
Seated left to right: Yeshayahu Friedman, Israel Rosenberg, Dr. Yitzhak Grebois, Mordehai Rosenblatt, Mordehai Haklai (Kuris)

 

Our Zionist activities in the years 1900–1910 were mainly for the benefit of the Jewish National Fund and collecting of money for the Odessa Committee for the Establishment of settlements in Eretz Israel. I received my early Zionist upbringing in those gatherings organized by Yekutiel Rosenberg. When I grew up and completed my academic studies I, too, became one of the featured speakers in Zionist gatherings. After WWI I founded, in Tarutino, a branch of Zeirei Zion. It came as a result of my participation, as a delegate from Teleneshti, to the Zionist conference in Kishinev in 1919.

In 1911–1912 two important personalities arrived in Tarutino. These were Dr. Avraham Grabos and Dr. Eli Epstein. The former had studied law in Berne, Switzerland. During his studies there he established a Zionist organization called ‘Friend’. He was an outstanding speaker and a talented organizer. He was also the first president of the Zionist Organization of Tarutino.

At the same time a bank was founded in Tarutino with the help of a wealthy Jew from Akkerman – Milstein. The bank was run by two Germans and the above mentioned Dr. Grabos. In 1919 Dr. Grabos went to Odessa intending to make Aliyah. However, he was stuck in Odessa where he ran the national bank. Later he became the head of a large national concern dealing in transportation.

Dr. Epstein was a medical doctor and ran the government hospital in Tarutino. He, too, was a Zionist and an excellent speaker. However, he did not have an extensive Jewish education. He was also the brother–in–law of Zeev Jabotinsky (married to his wife's sister).

In addition to the above it is important to mention several young and talented people who stood out in Tarutino: Nahum Sirota who was active in the Zionist Union and who eventually held an important position in it and Avraham (Bazia) Haham who was an active Revisionist and who later was part of the Hasmonaim movement in Bucharest. For a while we were both leaders of Zeirei Zion in our village.

Both of them made Aliyah and died in Israel.

[Page 285]

In 1905 there was a group of Jews who intended to immigrate to Argentina to join others who had established colonies of the Jewish Colonization Association of the Baron de Hirsch.

My father was one of the members of this group, but in the end the group dispersed and no one left the village.

The wealthiest Jew in the village was Shmuel Breitburd who owned a large textile business. He was observant and was well regarded by the members of the Jewish community. His family originated in Moldova, but he moved to Kishinev and from there he arrived in Tarutino. He was one of the few people who knew the Romanian language well. He led a life of a wealthy man and traveled in a cart with two horses. In his cellar there were old wines and he loved to entertain important people in his home. When the governor of Bessarabia came to the launching of the renovated synagogue he stayed at Breitburd's house. He also had an extensive collection of Jewish art. In 1910 my grandfather became a partner to Breitburd and they established a private bank. Breitburd's wife was observant and charitable. Under her influence and my father's, Breitburd decided, in his old age, to open an inn for Jews who came to Tarutino. One time, there was a Bris in our home and Breitburd donated an amount of 10 000 rubles. This was a large sum at the time. The money was intended for the founding of an elementary school and a high school. Next to the school building he built a Matzoth factory.

He died in 1917. A tent was erected over his grave and was decorated in marble and gold. This was a very special gravestone in the Tarutino cemetery.

Another donor who should be mentioned is Leib Shtilman. He was well educated and observant, but he wore European clothing. He had arrived in Tarutino from Kishinev, leased a flour mill and later bought it. Thanks to this mill there was always enough flour in the village during WWI. He also led the life of a wealthy man. He even had a car with a chauffeur.

 

akk285.jpg
Pioneers from Tarutino in Eretz Israel in 1921 with visiting Zionists from Tarutino
Standing left to right: Israel Schwartzman, Yaakov Zaltshendler, Avraham Sofer, unknown, Mordehai Kochuk, Mordehai Haklai (Kuris), Schwartzman
Seated in the middle row from left to right: Yosef Rotberg with his young son Aaron (eventually Superintendent of Police, Aaron Sela), David Schwartzman, Yekutiel Rosenberg, unknown, Aaron Kuris
Seated in first row from left to right: Yosef Dubobis, Yitzhak Stromberg, Moshe Toporov, Zeev Stoliar, and Pivnik

[Page 286]

After the 1917 revolution there was much social and Zionist activity in the Jewish community. Soon a few hundred Soviet soldiers were sent to Tarutino. They established a Council. Some Germans joined it as well as the author of this article. There was great fear among the Jews and no one knew what would happen next. The representatives of this Council also were part of the local municipal council and this caused more fear of the future. I organized a group of Jews called ESOB – Jewish Section for the Public Defence. It was a self–defence group that also trained with arms. We sent people to Bolgrod and they came back with 100 guns. However, in 1918, when the Romanians arrived, we gave up these guns. The task of the members of the unit was to guard the markets and entrances to the village so that the hooligans would not be allowed in. It must be mentioned that ESOB saved Tarutino from pogroms in the stormy days of winter 1917.

The Romanians behaved cruelly when they entered Tarutino. There were, in Tarutino, about 50 university students who studied in Russia. Among them was Fishman who was the secretary of the Zamir choir. He had a list of all participants in the choir. One night the Romanian police arrested Fishman and tortured him. They accused him of plotting against the new regime. Under duress Fishman admitted that the Zamir choir were a group of Bolsheviks. All members of the choir were arrested. Among them were: Avraham Lerner and Attorney Sperling– a socialist from Bendery who lived in our home and later became Principal of the Tarbut School. I, too, was arrested by the Romanians. They burned all my books.

When it comes to artistic activity in our village I can say that, as of 1910, there were drama groups. They presented ‘MIrel Efros’ and ‘The Slaughter’. Residents of Tarutino also traveled to Odessa to see plays as well as to concerts by the singer Isa Kremer. There were amateur groups that put on literary trials and occasionally, Cantorial concerts (Kvartin, Blazer, etc.) In 1925 Maccabi was active in the village and it was headed by Dr. Strahilovich.

 

Jewish Education

Prior to 1917 there were, in Tarutino, a Heder and a Talmud Torah. The language of instruction in both was Yiddish. I remember two teachers from 1905. One had a white beard and was nicknamed Yankel Smetene (Sour cream). His family name was Rikenberg. The other was Kardman. He was better educated and his Heder operated like a school. I studied with him for half a year. There was also a teacher from Podolia who taught Tanach and also knew Russian.

 

akk286.jpg
Pioneers leaving Tarutino for a preparatory Kibbutz
Standing from right to left: a man from Bacau, Sonia Berman, Devorah Lainzon, Devorah Skolnik, Yehuda Bronfman, Leah Sverdlik, and Fira Melament
Seated: Hannah Ganegorsky, Leib Toporov, Golda Lainzon

[Page 287]

My father used to bring him daily to our house so he would teach the children Russian and Hebrew. In the years 1907–1909 there was a private school in Tarutino where Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian were taught. The school was founded by Zvi (Gersh) Zilberman. He also published novellas about Jewish life in Bessarabia. He was an active Zionist and an interesting personality. I remember two Hebrew teachers in this school. One was Krisman who was a Hebrew writer and had come to Tarutino in 1908. He had come from Eretz Israel where he had been an agricultural worker. He brought a Zionist spirit to our village. It is due to him that there was Zionist education in the village. I used to accompany him to Zionist gatherings. Another teacher was Alesker who had come to us from Galicia. He later immigrated to Argentina and eventually made Aliyah and settled in Jerusalem.

Other teachers in the school were: Lieberman, Kripitz and more.

In 1915 a Kindergarten was opened by the Silberstein sisters and a teacher by the name of Zilberleyev. My brother and sisters learned Hebrew in the Tarbut School. In 1919 I also taught in the school.

 

akk287a.jpg
Members of Hashomer Hatzair in Tarutino in 1933–34
From left to right: Bassya Finkelstein, Deutch, Treistman, and Leah Grinberg
Row one: Hannah Malamud, Sonia Friedman, Manya Berman, Haya Auerbach, Dolia Shulman, and Shura Frank
Row two: Riva Sirota, Rozalia Zuckerman, Vaskovnik, Vinitsky Rosenthal, Yocheved Bronstein, unknown, Baratz, Lota Sirota
Row three: Esther Leizerovitz, Rosa Zuckerman, Hinda Rostetcher, Hannah Arbeitman, Leah Lainzon, Perper, Tzirel Rotberg, Ethel Katz
Standing from left to right: Yaakov Schwartzman, Zuckerman, Yitzhak Rostetcher, Kalman Cooperman, Gersh Berger, Moshe Zaltshendler, Sioma Fisher, Boria Kochuk, Eli Hellman, Israel Leitman
Last row: Leib Schwartzman, Shuka Katz, Sioma Kogan, Iliusha Lerner, unknown, Velvel Dorfman, Haim Trachtman

 

akk287b.jpg
Students in Tarbut High School in Tarutino with teacher Lily Bronstein in 1933
Left to right: Isia Brilliant, Nahman Shulman, Melech Shafir, Lily Bronstein. Fira Gnessin, Avraham Stoliar, Feiga Katz


[Page 288]

From My Memories Of Tarutino

by Shmuel Rosenberg

Translated by Ala Gamulka

After the Napoleonic wars in Russia, as happened in many other settlements, the village of Anchiokrak renamed itself Tarutino. It was the name of a location where Napoleon had been defeated. The same custom occurred in Rezina, Borodino, Krasnaya, Kolm, Pereshemfunaz and others. Tarutino, located in the northwestern part of the Akkerman District, was surrounded on three sides by tall mountain ranges and on the east was the Kugilnik River.

In the last years before WWII the population consisted of 5500 Germans and about 2500 Jews. There were dozens of Russians who were mostly government employees. The majority of the Germans were farmers and some had large areas. The Jews were merchants and their ancestors had come from Poland, Lithuania and Old Russia. Until the advent of Hitler relations between Germans and Jews were cordial. It is important to note that the German residents in Tarutino had opposed the passage of the railroad through the village because they wanted to keep the rural atmosphere of the settlement. The railroad tracks were moved a distance of several kilometers from the village.

Tarutino was a commercial and industrial center for the entire area. There were plants for casting of metals, production of beer and paper, flour mills and textile dying. There were many businesses selling cloth, metal and small wares. There were banks, pharmacies, a hospital, mail and telephone service and two cinemas. In the educational field there were two high schools, one of them a Hebrew one–one of the first in the world. Prior to the establishment of the Hebrew High School there were two Heders. The Jewish community also founded a large public library. Four synagogues served the Jewish public– a third of the entire population. The Germans –the majority– had only one church.

One of the teachers in the Heder was Yankel Smetene (real name Rikenberg). One of his students was a German, Albert Bugner who eventually moved to Artsiz. His uncle, Rudolph Hirshkorn also studied in this Heder. Both continued their studies in the German High School together with Jewish youth. I was among them. During exams in Russian, Bugner would sit close to me. We had a special “code” so that he would know when to add “Yad”. As was true for many of the German youth in Tarutino, he also knew Yiddish. When I was studying in Odessa he sent me a letter half in Russian and half in Yiddish. He wrote that his uncle, Rudolph had become a habitual drunk…

During WWII Rudolph served as a military doctor and arrived with Rommel to Africa. He was injured and was taken prisoner by the British. I was told that in the medical clinic a doctor from Eretz Israel came to look after him, but he pushed him away and said, in German:” I do not want to receive any help from a Jew…”


[Page 289]

During The Days Of The Holocaust

by Yehuda Bronfman

Translated by Ala Gamulka

June 28, 1940 was a bitter day for the Jews in our village and in all of Bessarabia. The Russians who came to “free” us managed in a few days to create upheaval in Tarutino. They closed the stores, confiscated possessions and turned most of the residents into unemployed and poor people. No one knew what to expect on the following day. People were exiled without any trial and for no reason. The first to go were Tzadok Gochberg, Israel Kochuk and Michael Katz. They were expelled by the Soviet Inquisition and no one knew what happened to them. There were several textile plants in Tarutino and workers came from Bucharest and other places. Their daily wage was 8 rubles. I met a family that lived near my house. The head of the family came to Tarutino from a small village and his wife was from the Gammer family in town. They had three children and needed to buy 2 kg of bread daily at a cost of five and a quarter rubles. The head of the family worked in a textile factory and I saw how he and his family suffered more and more each day. After three months of working in a factory under the Communist regime, the head of the family hanged himself at home. This is how terrible things were during the “redeeming and liberating” regime.

In June 1941, when the German–Soviet war broke out there was a general draft. I joined the army together with Israel Glickman. He was an outstanding accountant, but had a weak physique. We both served in various divisions of the Russian artillery. The regiment was camped on the border between Bessarabia and Romania on the banks of the Prut River–near the villages Liova–Kaul. Soon the order to retreat was given. We retreated at night and in the daytime we dug trenches. We also had to look after tall and fat horses. We had to put saddles on these tall horses which weighed 25 kg. It was not easy to do especially for Israel Glickman who was quite weak. Every time he tried to raise the saddle onto the horse he would fall. I ran to him many times to help him. In the end I was forbidden from doing so. Israel's sergeant was a cruel anti–Semite and he used to yell at Israel, in front of his superior: “Srulik, Kike Face. You are a s–t eater”. In spite of the fact that we were in different divisions, I tried to visit him in the evenings. The last time I saw him he felt ill and complained that he had been badly beaten by the sergeant. On the next day I searched for him in various locations and I was unable to find him. When I asked the superior officer where Israel Glickman had disappeared, he replied curtly:”This is not the appropriate time to look for various Israels.” All this happened even before the first shot was heard on our front and prior to our battle with the German army.

Nearly all the Jews of Tarutino escaped from the village before the Germans came. Only a few families were left and I only heard about their fate after I returned to Tarutino after the war.

Israel, son of Menahem, Melament–about 21 years old, a real hero– and Avraham, son of Eliezer, Leizerovitz were hung in the town square. Their bodies were only removed eight days later. The residents of the village and nearby areas were ordered to come to market to see how the Jews were punished.

Binyamin Sheinman and his family (wife and two sons) were slaughtered by shooting. In the family courtyard a similar fate awaited a couple of elders– Zalman and Elka Vineberg. They were neighbors of the Sheinman family who owned a diner in the village.

A most tragic end awaited the sisters Bricker, daughters of a businessman who sold newspapers. On the morning of the first day at 10 am the Germans brought the two miserable sisters to the town square. A large crowd was gathered. There were soldiers and a military band. The killers tore off their dresses and ordered the sisters to dance with their arms pointing upward. The commander had promised them that they would remain alive if they complied. They refused to obey. The sisters began to dance and the band played music. Those gathered laughed at them. They were elderly and they could not keep their arms up. The commander began to shout and the sisters understood what their fate would be. They stopped motionless and hugged each other. Helplessly they yelled “Shema Israel” and fell down–never to rise again.

[Page 90]

The ritual slaughterer Yitzhak Rosenblatt, his wife and their baby remained in Tarutino after the Russians left. (The oldest daughter was saved and lives in Israel today). The Nazi beasts came to their house and ordered them to go out into the yard. When they came out the SS officer forced the mother to give her baby to the soldiers. The mother refused to obey the order and held the baby closely. The commander ordered two soldiers the pull the baby from the mother's arms. The mother prostrated herself in front of the officer and begged him to kill her before they shoot the baby. The Nazi beast replied that they did intend to shoot the baby but to tear her in half and ordered the soldiers to do it. When the mother heard the command she fainted and was shot by the German soldiers. Yitzhak was watching these events and he screamed and fell on the ground. He was paralyzed and unable to move even though the soldiers tried to make him stand up. He fell again. The next command was for two soldiers to hold him up, put a rope around his neck and bring him to the slaughterhouse in the village. This is where animals were slaughtered. The fate of other Jewish families in our village was similar. Many died on the roads from hunger or other illnesses. Many young people were killed on the battlefield in the service of the Red Army.

When I arrived in Tarutino after the war I could not find the graves of my ancestors. I froze when I saw the condition of the cemetery. It had been completely destroyed. I was unable to find the graves, but I searched for the gravestones. I found some of them in the yards of some Christian residents. They were used to pave sidewalks and the letters were upside down. The new residents were not familiar to me. Most of them were Bulgarians who came from surrounding villages. I stopped in one of these yards and I said Kaddish in their memory. There was no sign of the four synagogues that had stood in Tarutino and the buildings were used for various purposes. It is difficult to believe that there is no sign of the lively Jewish life of the recent past.

I walked around the village imagining my wife and only son who were burned in the army fortress in Odessa. I was hearing my son's first words. We who remained alive are the only monument to our dear ones. Let us hope that we preserve the tradition left to us by our ancestors and the memory of our dear ones who perished.

It is important to note that some of the youth of Tarutino, born in the last generation, are now well–known scientists. Among them is Israel, son of Tzadok, Gochberg. He was a famous mathematician in the Soviet Union and now serves as a professor at Tel Aviv University. Another is Avraham, son of Aaron, Stoliar who is a Physics professor.

There are other scientists born in Tarutino who work at the Hebrew University and in the Soviet Union.

(Translated from Yiddish by Sh. Brilliant)

Another account of the terrible lot of the Jewish community in Tarutino is told by Dr. Eliahu Feldman in Pinkas Kehilot Romania:

“Several divisions of the Romanian army entered Tarutino. The majority of the Jewish population had not left with the retreating Soviet army. During the first days the Romanian soldiers and Christian residents went wild. They did not spare the lives and possessions of the Jews. After they stole their money and other valuables, the Romanian soldiers gathered the Jews in a large field. They were placed on benches brought in advance. They were told that they were being photographed for identity cards. However, instead of a camera there was machine gun covered with a black cloth – to pretend that it was a camera. This machine gun eliminated the Jews of Tarutino. The bodies were placed in a large trench near the road. Prior to that some men were selected to do forced labor– mainly to maintain the roads. There was a lot of rain at the time and the burial place of the Jews of Tarutino was uncovered and these men had to put earth all over the grave. These were their brethren. There are no other details about the fate of these people”.

Shalom Kochuk speaks:

In September 1978 I visited Tarutino. There was nothing left of what was dear to us. The homes were gone and the businesses, workshops and factories had disappeared. Tarutino serves these days as the center for the Odessa District. Instead of the destroyed buildings new ones were erected by the cooperative. Near the Hebrew high school, still standing, there is a business called “Univermag”. Shtilman's flour mill is also standing. As to the Polish synagogue, only the walls are still standing. Our High School building now serves as a district school and the German Sport Club is a cultural center. The power station built in 1938 is still standing.

[Page 291]

I went to the cemetery to search for my family, but you cannot even go in. On the road from Berezina one can see the broken stones as proof that it had been a Jewish cemetery. No Jews are left in the village. The local residents told me that the cemetery was razed by tractors. The entire village was destroyed by the Soviet army. They burned anything made of wood without paying attention to what it was. They tore out windows, doors, floors and roofs to use as firewood.

 

akk291.jpg
Ritual slaughterer Yitzhak Rosenblatt and his wife, z”l and their daughter Nusha who survived

 

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