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III. The Jewish Community In Bacau In The Second Half Of The XIXth Century And The Beginning Of The XXth Century

During this period when the Romanian boroughs were experiencing significant development into a modern society, Bacau had also developed tremendously. Its geographical positioning (on the road connecting the North and the South counties of Romania), as well as its rich natural resources favoured the economic development of the city. The commercial, trading and manufacturing activities had all intensified, resulting in the appearance of many new factories. All of this sped up the urbanization process, attracting more people from the villages that surrounded Bacau, since there was an abundance of work places. The social categories interested in the modern development of the economy became more influential. The city expanded, new streets and suburbs were being built, and the population increased dramatically. The new administrative rules imposed on the process of modernising the city also contributed to its development. A new law passed in 1864 appointed the mayor's office as the administrative leader of the city, the first Mayor was Gheorghe Negel, who started the development process that was amplified in the following decades. As part of the urbanization, many streets were paved and widened as the sanitation process of the city began. It was at this time that new administrative buildings were being built: new schools, post office, city hospital, public park, and later the administrative palace, the high school, train station, and other buildings all facilitating the progress in different areas of technology. As in the rest of the country, the negative influence of the electoral system improperly managed (the vote based on censuses) as well as the lack of agricultural reform necessary to the peasants, stagnated the progress into the next era. Furthermore, during this period, the Jewish persecution was still in place. They had no political rights even though they had the same financial obligations as the rest of the population.

Let's take a look at what the documents show with regards to the demographic evolution of the Jewish population in Bacau, and the place it occupied in the economic life of the city during that period.

In 1866, the number of Jews in Bacau was 37711, around 41% of the total population. Information referring to the year 1880 shows the following numbers: There were 3912 families in the city for a total of 12, 675 people, out of which 1821 were Jewish families totalling 6122 people2, around 48% of the total population. The occupations of the heads of the Jewish families were as follows: 350 tradesmen, 442 merchants, 120 professional people and 409 manual labourers and people without a profession. The professional people were either leaders of the religious community (rabbis, shohets, cantors), teachers from the Jewish schools, administration employees or commissioned intermediaries working in connection with the Government.

Among the existing documents in the archive AC.M.E.O.R. from Tel Aviv, we find a directory of Jewish tradesmen, produced by the Jewish community in Bacau in 1884. It underlines the various specialities, over 42, in which the Jewish tradesmen worked.

We find similar numbers in a census from 18903, showing that Jews represented almost half the population of the city. The newspaper, “Egalitatea” (Equality) estimated that in 1896 the number of Jewish families in Bacau was 1659 totalling 7924 people. The professional structure was as follows: tradesmen - 635 men and 82 women; apprentices - 410 men and 492 women; manufacturers - 12; wagon drivers - 60; builders - 54; labourers - 86 men and 8 women; servants - 14 men and 51 women; merchants - 432; sales people - 402; tavern keepers - 118; bookies - 5; agents - 7; couriers - 55; entrepreneurs - 7; doctors - 6; dentist -1; lawyer - 1 4. An official document from 1896-1897 indicated there were 1721 families of Jews totalling 8209 poeple (1529 men, 1788 women, 2596 boys, 2296 girls) and as professions: 569 merchants, 598 tradesmen, and 1224 other professions5.

In 1899, out of a total population of 16,378 people, 7,850 were registered as Jews, meaning 47% 6 of the population. Similar statistical information appeared in published works in the beginning of the XXth century 7.

The role of the Jewish population in the commercial activity of the town is emphasized in the statistical information of the time. The document mentioned above in reference to 1896-97, which indicates the presence of 569 tradesmen of different specialities, points out the variety of stores run by Jews: accessories shop (Galanterie-a shop selling scarves, gloves, intimate lingerie) - 11, shoe stores - 3, lipscanii - 29 (Lipscanie-a shop selling merchandise brought over from Leiptzig) lingerie - 2, book stores - 5, convenience stores- 57, textiles - 1, porcelain - 6, furniture - 3, groceries - 63, paint supplies - 8, pottery - 4, leather goods store - 7, oil merchants - 9, smiths - 14, coat makers - 7, hoteliers - 8, chicken sellers - 7, fish sellers - 10, tobacco shop - 3, glass stores - 8, saddle makers - 8, cobblers - 3, and tavern keepers 128. It is unusual that this list does not include the grain sellers, who occupied a very important place in Bacau's trades. In the same census, marked as “different professions”, we find other Jewish commercial activities: pastry chefs, coffee storeowners, milkmen, butchers, commissioners, couriers, etc.

In order to portray a more comprehensive image of the Jewish influence in the commercial life, let's mention the names of some of the most remarkable people of Bacau. The Brills continued to be some of the most prominent names in the grains trade. Among the leaders of this trade were owners of large silos such as Shae Cofler, Pinhas Edelstein, Berl Malai, Mordehai Ber, and later the brothers Iacobsohn, Isac Avram, Dikman, Avram Gutman, Weissbuch, as well as many others. Not by chance, the greatest and most important Synagogue in Bacau was and continued to be the grain merchants' synagogue. Some grain merchants even had printed official postcards with their name and qualifications (for example Iacob Berkovici). A remarkable figure in this field was Moise Klein, originally from Poland, who in a very short time, became the most important grain merchant on the Bacau-Piatra Street. His son, Buium was the owner of the largest silos on the bank of the canal where all the windmills and watermills existed, later called the Filderman Watermill. Another important grain merchant was Aron Schuler, known for his philanthropic activities – among other things the hospital he founded named “Mina and Aron Schuler Hospital”. In 1914 he founded the agricultural society named “The First Seed”. Some merchants were interested in the export of grain. A.C.M.E.O.R. archives in Israel hold remnants of business correspondence from 1899 between David Reisel, from Bacau and international grain merchant M-Z-Chrisoveloni from Braila.

One of the trades that had strongly influenced the economic development of Bacau and all of Moldova was the iron trade. In his monograph, GR. Grigorovici mentions the largest iron merchant in Moldova was Faivis Klein, whose business was one of the oldest in Bacau and who provided the rails for the railroad. The author also emphasizes his great philanthropic work8. There were other Jews who participated in the iron commerce such as David Haran, Kahane, and others.

The Jews were also present in the lumber business, as well as construction materials, both very important to the development of the town.

Many Jews had grocery stores in Bacau and in the surrounding areas. Let us mention the brothers Hirschenbein, who provided groceries to many towns throughout Moldova and the surrounding villages of Bacau.

The first library in Bacau was founded in 1860 by Herman Margulies.

The Jewish people were also involved in manufacturing leather goods, for which the brothers Leibu and Iosef Brill were renowned having founded the first factory of this kind.

Many Jewish merchants owned small ware shops (sewing articles, buttons, threads), some were involved with fisheries, groceries while others owned taverns, and inns; moreover, others had food chains, farm supply stores selling reins for horses, plows, bricks, and all kinds of household products, their stores being lined up along Strada Mare (Great Street), Strada Leca, as well as the streets leading to the main neighbouring towns such as Piatra, Roman and Focsani.

Jewish merchants also lent their great personal characteristics to the trade: innovative spirit, open mindedness, and diversification, engaging in multiple trade sectors, and capital rotation (charging cheaper prices in order to increase the volume of sales). While some were interested in doing import/export as a diversification, others had learned how to invest their profits in a more evolved form of capitalisation (industrial, and banking).

The statistics from the end of the XIXth century indicate that over 20% of the Jewish population from Bacau had worked in trade shops as either owners or apprentices. N. Colescu left us a representation of all trades in which the Jews from Bacau were involved. Here is his list: 3 silver smiths, 6 barbers and hairdressers, 6 furriers, 2 tool and dye makers, 5 candy makers, 5 cheese makers, 18 bread makers, 2 cotton gin owners, 1 hat maker, 2 bucket makers, 5 watch makers, 3 saddle makers, 97 boot makers, 2 pastry chefs, 5 bagel makers, 91 tailors, 13 restaurateurs, 16 belt makers, 60 dress makers, 11 coachmen, 2 carpenters, 2 iron makers, 2 rope makers, 6 window installers, 4 jewellers, 5 lock smiths, 1 lumberjack, 1 candle maker, 14 butchers, 16 couturiers, 1 montor adjuster, 1 milliner, 3 shoe makers, 2 brush makers, 1 polisher, 1 wood sculptor, 5 steel workers, 2 tabacco makers, 17 crate makers, 7 furniture makers, 14 roofers, 12 printing press operators, 2 umbrella makers, 2 barrel makers, 5 masons, and 3 painters 9.

It is quite remarkable the diversity of trades that people specialized in. Some of the trades, which had not been mentioned in the prior century were: lock smiths, montor (installers), steelworkers, umbrella makers, jewellers, pastry chefs and watchmakers. This proves that Jewish tradesmen were keeping abreast of the evolutions of the period, and diversified their specialities accordingly to satisfy the new necessities. Strangely enough is that in the long list provided by N. Colescu we don't find some trades that many Jews were working in such as: oven makers, wagon drivers, and drivers for different means of transportation. The wagon drivers were so numerous that in 1885 they formed a union. Since 1875 the wagon drivers also had their own synagogue. Some of them became quite wealthy. One of the documents attesting to their financial well being is the Will left in 1879 by Smil Ber, son of Nahman Tudic. The Will comprised not only stipulations with regards to the wealth and properties of the estate but also indicated that “half of my place at the wagon drivers synagogue, which I have purchased in partnership with Moise son of Herscu, as well as half of the Torah can not be sold or given away, not even by my wife or descendants and will remain forever as a prayer place in the memory of my soul 10.

Another profession worth mentioning is that of a sifter of grain, a trade linked to the existence in Bacau of a large number of grain merchants. Moise Lupovici was a sifter before the 1900s.

The list mentioned above also shows that many Jewish tradesmen continued to practice the traditional professions related to clothing, and shoe making. There were so many tailors that in 1875, they founded a second synagogue called “The Synagogue of the Young Tailors.” Also there were a large number of shoe makers/repairers.

The large number of tradesmen and their need to look out for their own interests gave rise to their own union – ”The Union of Various Tradesmen” on April 24th, 1881; after many years, the union had reached such a high level that in 1915 that it was recognised officially as a moral and judicial entity 11.

The multitude of tradesmen who worked in constructions (bricklayers, masons, painter, carpenters, roofers, stove makers, etc.) unified in 1885 into a mutual help association named “Aghidas Haborinim”, which lasted till the beginning of the Second World War.

The Jewish tradesmen introduced new methods of work, which increased production. The print-setter M. Margulies, who had been in business since 1880 brought to Bacau in 1882 the first automated printing press with Latin and Hebrew letters, following in 1883 by the M. Haber, D. Rosenberg, A. Goldsmit, I. Copel and N. Auslander. The photo shops wanted to keep abreast with the new technology as well and they were making color photos since 1877-78 (the stores of Max Agatstein, Segal, etc.).

The tradesmen numbers continued to increase after the beginning of the new century. As such, in 1903, there already existed in town 654 Jewish patentari (workers that applied a heat treatment to metals to facilitate their processing), representing approximately 2/3 of all tradesmen in Bacau 12. In 1910, the Jewish patentari represented almost half of all patentari in Bacau County 13. This is even more remarkable, considering the tough restrictions imposed by the Profession Organizing Law from 1902, which assimilated the Jewish merchants with the foreign ones. These restrictions, as many other anti-Semitic actions of the time had forced many Jews both in Bacau and other towns to leave the country, between 1899-1904. Furthermore, such anti-Semitic manifestations that took place in the 1912 elections for tradesmen corporations; the Jewish press strongly combated the affirmations according to which the Jewish owners did not accept Christian apprentices.

The first factories were founded in Bacau in the second half of the XIXth century and it's fair to say that the Jewish people were the pioneers in this area. Naturally, they had started this industrial activity using the plentiful natural resources of the area: grains and other agricultural products, cattle, forests, oil etc. Many of the factories they built were initially simple workshops and only through perseverance were they able to develp them into top performing units of the field.

During those times tanneries, leather goods manufacturing and shoe making experienced the most intense and continuous development. The main factors contributing to this development were that the region favoured cattle raising and that the river Bistrita was so close by. The Brill brothers, Leibu and Iosif (part of the tradesmen with the same name) were the first ones to found tanneries. In the tannery on Flower Street, near Bistrita they brought over as foreman a Hungarian – Iosca, and a German – Carol Lahman. Unfortunately the tannery was destroyed not much later by flood. As a result they decided to open another tannery on Leca Steet which they moved subsequently to Tanners Street, on the other side of Bistrita river. This new factory, later renovated by the family descendants (Ch.S. Brill, Sahna Brill and Aron Davidshon) functioned for many decades till 1948, when the communists took over the property.

Since there was no leather goods factory in a “Russian system” – “iuft”, the same two brothers brought over to Bacau David Iuftaru in 1850, who founded such a factory on the north side of the town. This is mentioned in Gr. Grigorovici's monograph (Literary Works, p.199)

The Unification of the Romanian Principalities and later the Agrarian Reform in 1864 favoured the development of this industrial area. In 1876, Samuel Filderman, initially a show salesman, also founded a tannery in north part of the city. The production process was rudimentary, his former employees saying that in the beginning, the owner himself would gather bird residues and oak barks using them as tannin. However, this primitive factory evolved in the decades to come into the glorious complex “S. Filderman Enterprises”. The documents in archives indicate that in 1884 the tannery was organized as a factory, being listed in 1890 in the Industrial business registry. Although many of archived documents got lost, the important phases of the development and technical modernization of the complex can still be reconstituted. Aside from the tannery, S. Filderman bought from Paul Kisten a leather-manufacturing factory, already in existence since 1892. In 1908, dr. H. Perlbergher founded in Bacau a leather-manufacturing factory, where he produced for the first time black and coloured leather by using a chromium leather tanning process. Filderman's factory, which at the time could only offer regular leather, had also been modernized with machinery and leather specialists brought over from abroad. In 1908, the two businessmen merged founding the “First Chromium Processed Fine Leather Factory in Romania as well as Systematic Tannery in Bacau”14.

During the first world war, Filderman Enterprises were the only factories in the country supplying the army with leather manufactured goods and soles, producing for the first time boots, harness and furred goods 15.

On Fabricilor Street (Street of factories) there were many other tanneries owned by Jewsih people: Herman Abramovici (tannery founded in 1900), Weiss, Zelter, Froiche Grinberg. Moreover, many other leather-manufacturing factories were founded at the time, amongst which were L. Klein's in 1880 and H. Pfeferman's in 1875.

Another industrial area that the Bacau Jews were very active in was the milling trade. The mills in Bacau benefited from the grains and corn from the Eastern part of the county, centralized in Plopana, a center economically tied to the town. In the second half of the XIXth century, Brill Nemteanu (The German) founded the first systematic mill. At the time, there was also a much smaller mill belonging to Natan David, an agent of the Fighel brother's mill. In 1904, Herman Brociner founded a mill, which was later taken over by Calmanovici and his sons who modernized it.

The development of the textile industry in Buhusi facilitated the expansion of this industrial area in Bacau as well. The oldest textile factory was Singher's Thick Cloth Factory, founded in 1908; in the beginning, it would produce country folks thick cloth, later specializing in superior quality cloth. Another textile factory of the time was A. Isvoranu's Thick Cloth Factory, founded in 1898 initially in Tg. Neamt, later relocated to Bacau. “Gloria” - The Ribbon and Cloth Factory founded by Leon Grad in 1913 was to become the most important factory in the country in the textile industry. In 1907, S. Oringher started a factory to make quilts and mattresses. Other examples of textile factories: Thick Clothing Factory of Leon and Moritz Gros, Housewifes' Factory H. Schulemschon (founded in 1913), Quilt Factory S. Marcusohn (founded 1915).

The existence of vast forests in Bacau as well as the rafting done on the Bistrita through Bacau, allowed a rapid development of the wood industry, in which many Jewish entrepreneurs got involved. In 1916, Strul Kendler created a lumber mill factory, while in 1918 the timber factory “Bicazul” (founded in 1913) was taken over by I. Feldher. Other factories in this industry belonged to D. Goldenberg and sons16.

In the food industry, the oldest, though primitive establishments were “velnite” (primitive system for making alcohol and brandy). In 1834 Zisu Focsaner and Dumitrache Florea created such a factory where they made brandy with some workers they brought over from Galitia. In 1892, in Margineni-Bacau, Ellenberger had a rubbing-alcohol factory which was later taken over by Blum-Fainaru. The first brewery in Bacau, founded in 1867 was taken over in 1919 by Orzis Herscovici. Then, in 1884 there was a carbonated-water factory owned by J. Ellenbogen and in 1900 the one belonging to Tecuceanu.

In the metallurgical industry, the most active factories were Herscu Svart's Foundry and The Metal Enterprises of Moise Svart. However, the most important unit was the Foundry Davidovici & Sons, founded in 191817, although a modest factory in its beginnings it expanded greatly after the First World War.

There were other industrial enterprises initiated by the Jews. In 1870, Moscovici's brick factory was founded. Then, in 1892 and 1919, Bercu Gros and Ellenberger set up soap factories; candle factories – A. Hercovici 1892, I. Hechlingher 1893, M. Faclior 1895; dye-houses and chemical Laundromat's – Iulius Ilovici in 1910. In 1887, Blum Fainaru's oil refinery started functioning in Margineni-Bacau.

Many of these industrial units were quite modest, only few of them ever making it to the top; however all have contributed to the active economic life of the town, providing various goods as well as creating work places for the town's population. As such, the number of Jewish workers increased, mostly in the textile industry, in tanneries and leather manufacturing factories, mills and printing houses. Many of them lived on Leca District and around the tanneries on Fabricilior Street (Factories' Street), others on Bacau-Piatra Street, most of them working in the neighbouring factories.

During this period, some Jews were active in the banking and financial industry. As early as the first few decades of the XIXth century there were Jews lending money. There is one named Zeilic mentioned as a creditor first in 1828 and then in 1832 18. In 1845, great amounts are mentioned, when the moneylender Pinhas was in litigation with Avram Volf for 2,500 lei19. In 1862, two moneylenders, Mahal & Mendel also owned a coffee shop 20. In 1864, Moise Vertisntein borrowed from Bercu Berinstein 400 lei for 3 months 21.

In 1912, a Credit Union named “Hope” was set up in Bacau, with a starting capital of 20,000 lei; it was the “first Jewish financial institution in Bacau” 22. “The Credit Bank” – a credit union serving especially the Jewish tradesmen – was active in 1919 23, its director being Ludvig Goldstein.

Starting in the second half of the XIXth century, the Jews just like the rest of the country manifested their desire of changing their living conditions. Becoming more aware of what was useful for the Jewish community and influenced by the enlightening ideas of the Hascala movement, more Jews than ever were interested in studying the country's language, adapting to the modern culture, in supporting those forces seeking the progress of the Romanian Society. They wanted to actively participate in the maintenance as well as spiritual life of the town they lived in, to be part of the life of the entire country as citizens with the same rights and obligations as any other residents. On December 29th 1864, the Jewish community leaders wrote a thank-you letter to the ruler Al. I. Cuza, for his plans of granting citizenship to all Jews24. Expressing their gratitude for his projects, they added: Rest assured your Majesty, that the Romanian Jew will be worthy of the future you have in store for him, you will find him to be a good man as well as a loyal aide for your Majesty”, signed by the Romanian - Jewish representatives in Bacau: S. Alterescu, Alter Zilberhert, Mendel Pascal, and David Orenstein.

In Israel's Central Archives for the History of Jewish People, we find among others, a minutes report from a meeting on July 8th 1868, in which the Jewish Community leaders of Bacau, Moinesti, Tg. Ocna and Parincea participated. The main objective of the meeting was to discuss the Appeal of the Central Committee in Bucharest regarding “a monetary subscription to buy firearms”. Unanimously, the participants decided to honour this appeal, which would “raise the national prestige” since “the objective of equipping the country's army is to win Europe's respect and more important that of our neighbours”. Signing this appeal on behalf of Bacau was the president of the committee Mendel Pascal and a series of members, among which were Itig Igner, Avram Balter, Leib Focsaner, Mono Hirsenbain, Leon Caufman and others.

However, the hopes and dreams of the Jews were opposed on many occasions by reactionary forces comprised especially by those who had come to power after taking down Al. I. Cuza (the first ruler of the United Romanian Principalities). The Governors (Liberal Party and other parties) considered that Jews were foreign people, even if they were born and raised in Romania, not citizens of any other country benefiting from its protection or even though they had satisfied the military status. At the time many laws were passed, which restricted Jews' rights as well as many administrative measures against them. Some of these governors were even encouraging local Anti-Semitic excesses.

In the spring of 1868, the government under I. Bratianu passed through Parliament a discriminatory law, which banned Jews from living and working in rural areas. The anti-Semitic Mayor of Bacau County, Leca took advantage of this law and launched a barbaric action of driving away all Jews in the county's villages. Tens of families were driven away being able to take with them only a small part of their possessions. The remaining belongings were robbed. Many Jews were beaten and tortured, some of the most unfathomable events took place: a pregnant woman being taken out of bed, a woman with two children left in the woods in the middle of the night and others. The press tried to inform the population about these barbaric acts, but the Mayor would deny their existence; he would say that these were isolated cases, initiated by some villagers. In the same time, in Bacau, the so-called “National Guard” would act in the same anti-Semitic manner, closing off synagogues and destroying the Jewish cemetery 25. Since the internal authorities dismissed their protests, the Jews had to alert the International public to these atrocities. On April 9th 1868, they sent a letter to baron Rotschild in Vienna, describing how: “hundreds of Jewish families in Bacau have been driven away barbarically from their residence at the order of the Mayor, with total disregard for losses, sorrow and needs.” After indicating that all this had been reported to the authorities in Bucharest, the letter mentioned: ”Our complaints are being disregarded while the situation gets worse day by day and the danger increases progressively. Thousands of people are suffering in horrid condition. We plead to your Excellency to intervene and save them”26. The letter was signed by the Jewish Community Committee in Bacau, Moldavia. The Western Jewish press vigorously exposed the Government's position, which persecuted Jews through “legal” and administrative manners encouraging local “arbitrariness”. In Paris, the paper “Halevanon” (subtitled “Le Libanon, journal hebreu”) published Karpel Lippe's letter, dated May 6th 1868, in which the Government's attitude and “arbitrariness” were described in fact, as well as the fact that the Austro-Hungarian Consul in Iasi, Wahlfort had attested the existing reality. The author of the letter, a medicine student, later becomes a renowned physician in Iasi, as well as an important militant in the fight for Jewish rights and Zionism. Both the foreign press and the Western Diplomatic Corps had been informed of the situation. On May 9th 1866, the Conservatory Party's leader, P.P. Carp, interrogated the Government with regards to the events in Bacau; I. Bratianu was forced to promise that the ones responsible for these actions would be prosecuted and stated that the town's defence would be taken over by the army. In a subsequent letter published in “Le Libanon” on May 20, 1868, no. 20, K. Lippe indicated the the ruler Carol had visited Bacau and finding out about what had taken place, ordered Mayor Leca's dismissal and disarming the National Guard. However, the Anti-Jewish atmosphere was continued by the local police chief, Zaharia Moldovan and by professor Movileanu. The Jewish leaders in Bacau had to address the Ministry of Internal Affairs with a petition signed by 30 people, which described this anti-Semitic disorder. In his monograph, the former Mayor of Bacau, Costache Radu also mentioned the outrageous actions of Zaharia Moldovan 27.

The following years also witnessed hostile actions against Jews, as exemplified by a physician who refused admitting in the hospital a Jewish Teacher who was sick, even though the City Hall had approved his admission 28.

However, the truly enlightened people of the time were far from exhibiting these attitudes. The painter Nicolae Grigorescu who lived at the time in Bacau shared a great friendship with the Grimberg family, whose descendants later became renowned for their talents (painters, artists, scientists). Iosif Haim Grinberg had been the principal of the first Modernized Jewish School in Romanian in Bacau between 1863 and 1865.

The Jews of Bacau also gave their support to the Independence War in 1877. Some of the ones who participated were: Leibovici Avram, Abramovici Haim, Marcu Iancu, Avram Smilovici, Cazacu Moise, Herscu Zaharia and Avram Moise. In the old community cemetery lies Haim Grinberg, veteran of this war. Among the front line war participants were Artur Ehrilch who, as a non-commissioned officer, received many war decorations and later became chief of troops. The country's first Jewish Newspaper “Prezentul” written in Romanian published a vivid propaganda supporting the War. Its publisher was A. L. Lobel, a great liberal who had been nicknamed “the iron head”. The editor in chief was a student Iacob Rosenzweig, who was later known as physician and community activist Sotec-Lenteanu. Aside from the mobilizing articles “Presentul” also published the actual activities in support of the army: donations of clothing, footwear, food and money. Here is an example of what was collected for the army: 54 Jews donated 2065 bread loafs and money varying from 10 bani (pennies) to 150 lei 29.

Unfortunately, even after the war ended the Government anti-Semitic attitude continued. The Jews were refused citizenship, being granted only individually after a very complicated procedure. In the whole country, only a total of 95 Jews had been granted citizenship by 1900. In Bacau, only 5 people received their citizenship: Avram Focsaner, Tule Welt, and Adolf Meisels – all tradesmen as well as the lawyer Herman Grimberg and Lieb H Focsaner - landlord. Moreover, the Government kept on implementing measures against foreigners, which really targeted the Jews. They were banned from owning land, taking part in elections, and discriminated against in public functions, state education or in the army. At any point they could be discharged as happened to prominent people like M. Gaster, H. Tiktin, Lazar Saineanu etc or to newspaper editors. The most affected by these measures were the Jews living in villages, the tradesmen as well as the craftsmen. Enforcing the above-mentioned orders, the mayors of these rural localities forced Jews to leave the villages. We find in Jerusalem, in the Central Archives of the History of Jewish People an order from April 15, 1894 of Mayor Puscasu addressed to Iosub Mendel from Bahnaseni, Bacau county that stipulated: “According to the order given by Assistant Mayor no. 1363 and Mayor 2586, you are asked to leave the village immediately” and on top of it all the Mayor had the nerve to “politely” add: “You'll receive my considerations!”

Jews were also banned from owning smoke-shops; even the tavern keepers had to have Romanian citizenship. The Jewish merchants were required to register in and pay dues to various corporations, but could not be elected as chairmen; on the contrary they were obstructed from even participating in electing the leadership. The corporation had to have at least 50% of its members as Romanians, but in Bacau for a long time, the Jewish merchants predominated in numbers. Furthermore the Jews were not admitted in public auctions, and the Romanian craftsmen could not use Jews to complete their work. The directors of any bank, trading exchange, the commissioned salespeople or buyers had to be Romanian.

In Bacau, the situation was worsened by the activities of some of the local anti-Semitic forces. The leader of these events was Radu Porumbaru, the managing director for the paper company “Letea”.

Not only that he would not hire Jews, but he also would organize extreme anti-Semitic acts – beatings, material destructions as well as an anti Jewish attitude, recommending their drowning in Bistrita. His horrendous activities took place for years under the approving eyes of the authorities, even though the media would always make public his fanatic behaviour. In his book “The Town on Bistrita”, Voledi-Vardi has a chapter suggestively called “Porumbaru's Catapults”. Here, he gave proof of actual cases, describing in detail how Porumbaru had built these catapults and how his people would throw stone shells over the Jewish district Leca and over the funeral convoys that passed through Sarata street on their way to the cemetery. These horrific acts have all been “branded “ in a brochure published in Leipzig in German by Elias Schwarzfeld, the renowned fighter for the Jewish cause: “Radu Porumbar und seine Grauelthaten in der Papierfabrik zu Bacau in Rumanien”. (Radu Porumbar and his Atrocities in the Paper Factory in Bacau, Romania).

Of similar magnitude was the terrorist conduct of two police officers: I. Talianu and I. Georgescu against Jews in 1896 30. Moreover, in that same year, the Jewish school was closed for two months on the order Ministry of Internal Affairs, since the Community did not hire two teachers imposed by them; it is also important to mention the authorities' hostile attitude regarding the appointment of a brilliant professor, L. Torceanu in the Jewish Junior High School in Bacau.

Financial troubles, being discriminated against as well as all the abuses suffered at the hands of authority workers, all explain why so many Jews chose to emigrate. By August 1882, almost 20 families of Jewish tradesmen, totalling 131 people left the country 31. The same problem existed in 1886 32 and in 1889, 40 youngsters were enrolled in English & German language courses, their ultimate goal being emigration 33; in 1900-1901, approximately 400 Jews emigrated from Bacau. This was one aspect of the legendary “pedestrian emigration” (in Yiddish known as the Fusgeyers), also caused by the great economic crisis of the end of the century. The Jewish people were also attracted by baron Hirsch' colonization attempt in Argentina. At the same time, the Jews in Bacau were more and more absorbed by the Zionist movement and ideas and emigrating to Eretz Israel. In 1882, together with some Jews from Moinesti, the first group immigrated to the Holy Land. Another group left to Eretz Israel in 1892. The Jewish participation played a great role in the Zionist movement and in the colonization efforts of Israel and as such we have dedicated a special chapter for it in this monograph.

Far from adopting the hostile attitude of the authorities, the majority of Romanians in town shared great relationships with the Jewish population. Among the ones accompanying the Jews on their emigration endeavours were many Romanians who, until then had shared the hurdles of the times. The sensible, honest Romanians knew there was no reason for mutual hate. In the Central Archives for the History of Jews we find a letter from the Mayor of Bacau to physicians in the Hospital “Pavel and Ana Cristea” in which he wrote: “We respectfully ask you to admit in your hospital the old vaccinating physician Iancu Apfelberg, who has throughout times served both the community and the county of Bacau, give him the best care you are capable of.” The Romanian residents from the neighbouring areas of Leca street disapproved of the barbaric anti-Semitic acts and many times tried to jump in and help the victims. Major Piersiceanu made a public protest in front of the City Hall regarding the fact that no measures had been taken to stop the horrendous acts of Radu Porumbaru. Meanwhile, the Jews had found ways to show their devotion to the country as well as for the care of their community. It is significant that Faivis Klien left in his will a considerable amount of money for the City Hall, which financed the construction of a new wing for the town's hospital.

In the period under discussion, more and more Jews in Bacau realized that they had to fight the backwards process which the authorities enforced upon them, advocate their civil and political rights, as well as modernizing Jewish life. In his collaboration with “The Historical Society 'Dr. Iului Barasch'”, A.D. Birnber sent them various documents, which echoed Jews' life in Bacau as well as his monograph regarding Jewish roots in Bacau. Together with Iosif Bernstein, he initiated a financial support action for the “Jewish Yearbook”, an organization advocating progress. Rosenzweig, Faivis Klein, Haim Grimberg and others.

Other progressive press associations were supported in a similar manner. The list of supporters published in this Yearbook (year III, 1879-1880, p. 136) mentions among others Daniel Daniel, Volf Clejan, Manase Balter. In another list compiled by student Isac Brinberg were mentioned Iacob in 1890, the section “Patria” (Native Country), part of the General Association of Jewish People was set up, led by Dr. Fischler. The Association had offices in Bucharest, Barlad, Braila and Iasi and was led by Dr. Adolf Weinberg (who later changed his name to A. Vianu – he was the father of the famous writer and philosopher Tudor Vianu). The museum “The Community History of Jews in Bacau between 1703 - 1944” holds the membership card to “Patria” of Ignatz Gutman issued in 1890. In 1907, the president of the Bacau section (later called “Dreptatea” i.e. Fairness) was A. Silberscher. In that same year, Dr. L. Ghelerter, member in the Central Council of the Association held a conference in Bacau, encouraging Jews to legally fight for their political rights 34. This association later produced in 1911 the Union of Native Jews. Through public meetings and other propaganda, the local members of the association persuaded Jews to support the country's interests, fight discrimination against Jews as well as the anti-Semitic organizations, which manifested themselves in various aspects: high school students disturbing a Jewish theatre act, public disturbance at the elections of Tradesmen Corporation in 1912 35; minimizing the Jewish contribution to the Balkan War in 1913 and their registration to the national fleet 36.

Jews like H. Rozenberg have promoted the Workers Campaign hoping that by materializing the Socialist Principle they would absolve humankind of all its sufferings. Dr. H. Aroneanu who adhered to the same beliefs was the leader of “The Working Romanians” group in Bacau in 1905.

The War for Romania's Unification in 1916-1918 required great sacrifices both from the Jews of Bacau as well as from the entire population. A great series of documents and tomb stones stand as proof of the blood contributions made by the Jews of Bacau. There are no statistics with respect to the actual number of the Jews in Bacau fighting on the front lines or any regarding the victims of this war. The only document mentioning any numbers is the brochure named “Soldiers from Bacau's Heroes Cemetery, who died in the Unification War 1916-1918, identified by their official documents” – published by Bacau City Hall 37. It mentioned the names of 35 Jews buried in the Heroes Cemetery near the shooting range. Here are some of their names as buried with a grave number: 355 – Zalingher Itic, 356 – Bercu Leibu, 357 – Miosa Moscovici, 358 – Solomon Itic, 360 – Orenstein Herscu, 361 – Isac V. Hirschenbaum, 362 – Cahana Casian, 363 – Idel David Friedman, 364 – Leibu Moisa, 365 – Ioina Itic, 366 – Klaimberg M. Aizic, 367 – Herscovici Leibu, 369 – Schoper Peisah, 370 – Moscovici Leib, 371 – Chitac Smil, 372 – Zilberman Sloim, 373 – Adil Balol, 374 – David Crostic, 376 – Froim Zeilig, 379 – Zlate Marcu, 380 – Bernfeld Herman, 381 – Iulius Iosif, 382 – Polac Isac, 383 – Smil Leibu, 384 – Schinderman Solomon. Destroyed by weather throughout time, these grave stones are illegible and thus many names cannot be deciphered anymore. However, many of the war victims were buried in other cemeteries as well. Thus, the Old Jewish Cemetery holds the burial places of soldiers: Herscu Leon, Iosif Brener, Ernest Segal, Physician Aron Schwartz, while in the New Cemetery is buried Major Iancu Feldman decorated for his courageous acts with a medal named “Manhood and Loyalty”, 2nd class. One of Bacau's newspapers “Dreptatea” published the names of other Jews who died in this war: private Mendel Svart, sub captain Herman Buium, sergeant Samuel Aron, captain Lazar Davidescu and private Leibu Smil. Another journal “The Prayer”, published by Alex Manolescu, dedicated to the “Red Cross heroes who died for their country, 1916-1920” 38 listed more names of the Jewish heroes of Bacau. As mentioned by A. L. Iosif in “Mosaic Cult Magazine” no. 678/1983, many more war victims were buried in the cemetery “near the Postei street corner, in the great field where the yearly fairs were held. During the First World War, there was a hospital called “Lazaret” where all people infected with typhoid fever and cholera were brought.” The author cites Gr. Grigorovici: “here lie all heroes from all ranks and all armies, both Jews and Christians who died of typhoid fever as civilians. They were buried in communal graves, soldiers, civilians, men, women, Christians, Jews.” As a consequence, in 1923 when there was a debate regarding measures to be taken for honouring the victims' memory, the Jewish community pledged to care for the heroes' cemetery “Lazaret” 39.

Another Bacau Jew who sacrificed for the country in the First World War was Zalman Herman Kornhauser. Born in Bacau in 1881, he was married to the daughter of Simion Recu, a veteran from the Independence War. Kornhauser had moved to Targoviste where he was working as an electrician. During the war, he was arrested by the German army for helping the Romanian soldiers from the prisoner camp. As a sign of recognition, in 1931 he was offered post-mortem the medal “War Military Virtue”, 2nd class.

The war years did not spare Jews from the hostile manifestation of the backward population. Speakers of Yiddish (language containing many words of German origin) were driven away and sometimes beaten. This caused instances when Jewish soldiers were charged as German spies and therefore signed over to the Military Court where they were executed. Sadly, later on it was discovered that these accusations had no real basis and thus they had fallen victims of prejudice and ignorance 40.


  1. State Archives of Bacau, brief 19/1866, p. 64 - verso Return

  2. State Archives of Iasi, Bacau City Hall, brief 14/1880, p. 70, 84 Return

  3. Ortansa Racovita, Geographical Dictionary of Bacau County, 1895 Return

  4. Equality, no. 34, Aug. 30th 1896 Return

  5. State Archives of Bacau, Bacau City Hall, brief 68/1898, p. 1-7 Return

  6. Statistical Yearbook of Romania, 1912, p. 15 and Verax, Literary Works, p. 35-37 Return

  7. N. Colescu, Statistics of Trades, Bucharest, 1901, p. 104-104 and Industrial Inquiry of 1901-1902, Bucharest, vol. I, p. 126 127, table XXIVReturn

  8. Gr. Grigorovici, Bacau, Yesterday and Today, 1933, p. 140 Return

  9. N. Colescu, Literary Works, p. 102-104 Return

  10. State Archives of Bacau, Bacau City Hall, brief 6/1932, file 344, 344/v, 345, 345/v Return

  11. The Equality, Dec. 4th 1915 Return

  12. Verax, Literary Works, p. 302 Return

  13. The Statistical Yearbook of Romania, 1912, Bucharest, p. 309 Return

  14. Dumitru Zaharia, Emilia Chiriacescu, Literary Works, The Leather-goods Industry, brief 93 Return

  15. Dumitru Zaharia, Emilia Chiriacescu, Literary Works, The Leather-goods Industry, brief 93, p. 139-140 Return

  16. Ibid, The Wood Industry, brief 189 Return

  17. State Archives of Bacau, Commerce and Industry Chamber, brief 21/1934, p. 199 Return

  18. State Archives of Iasi, Bacau City Hall, brief 156/1832 Return

  19. Ibid, brief 177/1845 Return

  20. State Archives of Bacau, Commerce and Industry Chamber, packet X/123 (category II, 1629) Return

  21. Ibid, packet X/147 (cat. II, 1656) Return

  22. Equality, no. 20, July 1912, p. 226 Return

  23. Argus, Feb. 13th 1920 Return

  24. The Romanian Academy Library , Archive Al. I. Cuza, Manuscripts, Folder 16, “Letter”. Return

  25. Newspaper The Present (Bacau), March 27, 1868, p.1Return

  26. The Archives of Vienna, P.A. XXXVIII, Karton 178, Consulates 1868, Bucharest, 1 – V. Return

  27. Costache Radu, Literary Works, p. 102 Return

  28. The Newspaper The Present, March 11, 1876 Return

  29. Ibid, May 8, 1877 Return

  30. Equality, Aug. 9th 1986 Return

  31. Brotherhood, Aug. 20th 1882 Return

  32. Fraternity, Nov. 7th 1886 Return

  33. Equality, Nov. 5th 1899 Return

  34. Equality, July 18th 1897 Return

  35. Equality, June 29th 1912, p. 201 Return

  36. The Jewish Courier, Feb. 8th 1913 Return

  37. State Archives of Bacau, Bacau City Hall, brief 42/1933 Return

  38. State Archives of Bacau, Bacau City Hall, Jewish Common foundation, brief 6/1941 (extract from the bulletin “The Union of Reserve Officers”, no. 9-12, 1940) Return

  39. State Archives of Bacau, Bacau City Hall, Jewish Common foundation, brief 8/1923, p. 8 Return

  40. The Jewish Courier, Aug. 8th 1920 Return

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