Already at the end of 1917, in Jewish leadership circles, the question had been raised of calling a Jewish-Austrian congress similar to the Jewish-American congress held at the beginning of 1917, at which the request of the Jewish people to the Vienna government dealing mainly with the question of national autonomy should be discussed and corresponding decisions should be made.
At the head of the initiators, stood the respected Zionists Adolf Stand and Robert Stricker, the parliament members, Dr. Benno Straucher (for Bukovina) and Heinrich Reizes (for Galicia) and moreover, representatives of the Austrian countries with a sizable Jewish population.
It soon became obvious, that the Austrian Jews, partly because of opposing business interests and partly because of resistance to Jewish Nationalism, to which the Zionist oriented Jews of Galicia and Bukovina were dedicated, couldn't come to a unified decision. Vienna turned the balance.
Because of the negative position of the Vienna Community1, and their president, Dr. Adolf Stern a congress was not called but the Zionist organizations never gave up trying to make the congress a reality.
In September 1918, a Zionist party convention took place in Lemberg at which in the name of the Jews of Bukovina, Dr. Martin Kraemer introduced the following resolution with four demands:
The party convention views in the granting of national cultural autonomy in Austria, the only way to remove the friction between the individual peoples of the monarchy and in this way to bring about a positive solution to the political crisis.
In connection with this, the following points should be included in the future constitution.
a) Constitutional recognition of the Jewish nationality as a body subject to public law with all rights of national autonomy.
b) All citizens born as Jews belong to the autonomous Jewish nationality as long as they do not separate themselves from it.
c) In addition to religious affairs, education, social services and business activity belong to the areas of activity of the Jewish community.
d) If in the framework of the monarchy, new states are created, Jews in these states should enjoy full political, civil and national equality as well as national cultural autonomy.
This resolution was greeted by all the Zionist state organizations in Austria, Bukovina included and adopted as the basis for their future demands.
Dr. Jakob Pistiner wrote in the name of the Jewish Social Democrat Party (Bund) the guiding principals for the creating of the Jewish nation as an equal member in the brotherhood of nations. Dr. Myer Ebener developed the political program of the Jewish State Party and the Zionistic State Party and Dr. Meier Rosner created the theses for Poale Zion. All agreed after a comprehensive discussion on a common platform and published a manifest written by the leaders of the four organizations.
The framework of the old monarchy started to tremble. Kaiser Karl's manifest of October 22, 1918, through which the monarchy was to be changed into a federation of states spelled the death knell of the several century old monarchy.
The National Councils adopted for the separate states in the sprit of the manifesto proclaimed the independence of these states as nation-states.
In Bukovina, the conditions were different than in Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, and Croatia. This eastern province of the Monarchy was inhabited by five nationalities of which the Ruthinians and the Romanians demanded national sovereignty for themselves. There was the threat of armed conflict between the Romanians and the Ruthinians when the Ukrainian National Council in Lemberg in November, 1918, declared that Bukovina would be an integral part of the future West Ukrainian Republic.
A Jewish self defense had to be created which would ensure the protection of Jewish life and property. This was accomplished at the initiative of the Czernowitz Chief Doctor, Dr. Ferdinand Sternlieb on October, 1918 and this organization maintained close contact with the leaders of the Jewish National Council.
The Ukrainian (Ruthinian) National Council under leadership of the School Inspector Emilian Popowicz called for a national assembly in Czernowitz on November 5, 1918 to which approximately 5,000 participants, mostly farmers were invited. The Jewish Self Defense made all preparations to forestall any excesses or plundering that would endanger the Jews.
But already on November 4, 1918, the last act in the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire took place, an event which presented the Jewish National Council with new and serious problems. An anarchic situation began that lasted eight days. Soldiers left their barracks and plundered the military depots. It was the Jewish Self Defense which prevented these degenerate soldiers from attacking the Jewish quarter and forced them to gradual withdraw from the city. On November 5, 1918 in the early morning hours, masses of Ukrainian farmers from the surrounding villages began streaming toward Czernowitz. Around midday, they occupied the central squares and streets. The Ukrainian National Assembly left quietly. At the request of these constituents the Regierunggeschaefte took over the Ukrainian National Council after the last Austrian State President, Graf Josef Ezdorf resigned from his office. Also, all public offices were taken over by the Ukrainians.
The new chief executive, Emilian Popowicz und the new mayor Bespalko (a Ukrainian Social Democrat) were informed by the Jewish Self Defense during the conference of the National Council that eventually, there was going to be an attack with weapons against the Jewish population. This warning didn't fail to have its effect on the Ukrainian leaders. They told the farmers to observe the great hour in a dignified manner and to leave the city in peace and order.
The Ukrainian National Council was not up to the tasks of running the government. It also did not have the military power to enforce its laws and decrees. Everywhere the feeling of uncertainty reigned, especially at night. The rabble in the suburbs had weapons and shooting was heard everywhere. The Jewish Self Defense proved its worth in those difficult days. Thanks to that organization, the Czernowitz Jewish population was protected against rape and pillage.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the Jewish National Council formed at the October 22, 1918 meeting decided at their meeting of November 10, 1918 to take over the Jewish Communities of the land and to turn them into Jewish Peoples Communities2
The Jews of Bukovina were stunned. They had seen better days and couldn't reconcile themselves to the new conditions. They thought on past days when they enjoyed full rights as citizens while in Romania, at best they would be second class citizens of the ruling nation a concept that was unknown in Austria. They had fought step by step for their political position and were the most grateful and best Austrian citizens, while the Romanian population saw their political goals beyond the border and some of the Ruthenians were Panslavists. Because of their patriotism, they bore patiently all the hardships the war had brought, since they had hoped for Austria's victory. The Romanian occupation of the land which threatened their future like a specter brought still unsuspected dangers with it.
Dr. Jancu Flondor, the president of the new Bukovina government, called a meeting of the Congress of Bukovina Nationalities for November 28, 1918 which was to finalize the unconditional annexation of Bukovina by Romania. He also conferred with the Jewish National Council which was the third largest national group in the land. On November 26, 1918, the Jewish National Council met in order to formulate its position for the upcoming Congress. All the Jewish politicians who took part in this conference of the National Council were aware of the gravity of the situation and decided after long debate to stay away from the Congress and to maintain a neutral position. This decision which was passed with a small majority was influenced by the fact that the Bukovina Jews had no political or economic rights. The two presidents of the National Council, Dr. Mayer Ebner and Dr. Jakob Pistiner, about midnight of the 26th to the 27th of November, 1918 mailed the decision of the Jewish National Council, that they would not take part in the Congress to the leader of the government. This position of the Bukovina Jews was caused by the fact that the government leader Dr. Jancu Flondor demanded unconditional annexation and was not willing in the proclamation to be issued by the Bukovina Congress to make a declaration of the full enfranchisement of the Jews and of their national autonomy as well as proclaiming equality for the Jews of Old Romania. Only the representatives of the German and Polish minorities came to the Congress of Bukovina Nationalities which approved the unconditional annexation of Bukovina to Romania.
Because of the Manifesto of the Copenhagen Zionistic Office, published on October 25, 1918, in which the demands of the Jewish people for a national Jewish home in Eretz3 Israel and full enfranchisement including national autonomy in the Galuth4 lands with large Jewish settlements were laid out, the Zionist World Organization began preparations for Jewish representation in the Peace Conference which was to take place in Paris. Leo Motzkin was entrusted with the organizing.
Meanwhile, the Jewish National Council delegations from Germany-Austria, East Galicia, West Galicia, Czechoslovakia Bukovina, Transylvania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Italy, Romania, Bessarabia and Eretz Israel at the initiative of Motzkin had traveled to Bern where a pre-conference had taken place and from there to Paris (The Austrian delegation couldn't get a visa from Paris).
The Bukovina Jewish National Council delegated dr. Benno Straucher, Dr. Max Diamant and Dr. Markus Kraemerr. Straucher, however didn't go along and remained in Vienna.
Starting January 18, 1919 the Zionists Sokolow and Motzkin as well as the Americans, Judge Mack and Louis Marshal negotiated with the representatives of the English delegation, Lucien Wolff and Montefiore and the president of the Israelite Alliance, Eugen Sue in order to create a unified Jewish peace delegation.
The negotiations failed because the Alliance and the English delegation didn't want to accept the national demands of the Jewish National Council.
The representatives of the American-Jewish Committee and the Middle and East European National Councils organized themselves on March 23, 1919 as the Comite des delegations privees aupres la Conference de la Paiz, under the presidium of Julian M. Mack, Louis Marshal, Nahum Sokolow, Leon Reich, Israel Rosoff, Menachem Usischkin with Leo Motzkin as secretary general.
The Bukovina delegation was a member of the Committee and took an active part in its work.
On May 10, 1919 the Committee presented a comprehensive document with the demands of the Jewish delegation to the Peace Conference.
The Bukovina delegation worked together with the Romanian delegation to determine Jewish rights in the peace treaty with Romania.
In numerous conversations with leading politicians, they championed the demands of the Bukovina Jews.
Together with Nahum Sokolow and Leo Motzkin they worked on all the memorandums, outlines and proposals for the minority requirements for the treaty to be entered with Romania.
In addition to insuring the Jewish minority rights, the problem of granting citizenship for the Jews from the new territories of Bessarabia, Transylvania and Bukovina had to be resolved. This was to be guaranteed in the peace treaty, which however the Romanian Minister President Bratianu refused to do. Only under the pressure of the council of four, which threatened to break off diplomatic relations with Romania did Bratianu's successor, Dr. Vajda-Voievod, sign on August 30, 1920 the treaty which was published on September 25, 1920 in the Romanian government newspaper, the Monitorul Oficial.
In numerous parleys as well as through the French press, the representatives of the Great Powers were informed about the situation of the Jews in Bukovina under the Romanian occupation.
On May 1, 1919, the Peace Conference created the Commission des nouveaux Etats et de la protection des minortees which consisted of representatives from England, France, Italy, Japan and the United States and had the task of finding the solution of the national and also the Jewish questions. The Jewish representatives from Bukovina stayed in constant communication with this commission.
While the Peace Conference in Paris conferred on the guaranteeing of the rights and the protection of national minorities, the Romanian officials in Bukovina continued their traditional anti-Jewish policies. This persecution was expressed by the mass deportation of numerous people with the excuse that they were not legal citizens. There followed restrictions in commerce without number. Many Jewish public servants were dismissed and others had to work for their former subordinates. In addition, Jewish officials had only a few months to prove they spoke and wrote the Romanian language perfectly and had knowledge of Romanian history. The State Testing Commission mercilessly reprimanded the candidates who didn't please them and then showed them the door. Many existences were victims of these unjust examinations by the officials. For example, they didn't hesitate to arrest Dr. Jakob Pistiner, the leader of the Social Democratic Party. Only after the intervention by his Romanian friends, Critescu and Sion with the Foreign Minister was he released.
This attitude of the government to the Jewish minority was one of the reasons the Jews decided not to vote in the Fall of 1919 for the Constituent Assembly. The press organ of the national Jewish parties was the East Jewish Newspaper, which in courageous and open language represented the rights of the Jewish minority. Dr. Mayer Ebner became its chief editor The newspaper most hated by the Romanian chauvinists was a voice for Bukovina Jews and in many respects also a voice for the Jews of Greater Romania.
The Ukrainians also boycotted the election. The government for reasons of prestige needed a Jewish candidate and found him in the person of the industrialist, Jakob Hecht who against the will of the National Council ran for the Senate and was elected. The fresh baked senator, published shortly after his election, in the government organ, L'independence Poumaine an explanation, according to which, the Bukovina Jews would be willing to join Greater Romania and were satisfied with the current situation. The Jewish National Council declared that Senator Hecht did not have the right to speak in the name of the Jews of Bukovina and through its delegate to the Comite des Delegations Juives aupres de la Conference de la Paix, made a formal protest which the Peace Conference officially acknowledged and had published in the foreign press.
The Jewish National Council, in 1919 worked intensively to protect the rights of the Jewish population. It campaigned for an independent Jewish school system. Up till then, Jewish school children had attended German schools; now the language of instruction (Yiddish or Hebrew) was in dispute.
The left oriented worker parties demanded that Hebrew and Yiddish be introduced as instructional languages in the lower classes of the middle school. Gradually, the two national languages would be also be used in the upper classes. The middle-of-the-road parties opposed this idea on pedagogical grounds and proposed to use only Hebrew as the instructional language in the lower gymnasium and German and Yiddish would be reserved for use as pedagogical aids. Yiddish was to be taught as an optional subject in elementary school. This proposal was accepted with 28 to 27 votes and as a consequence, the Jewish Social Democratic Party and the Poale Zion Party struck off in their direction in cultural questions. In July 1919, the Romanian government confirmed the leadership of the Czernowitz Jewish Community which had been installed by the National Council. In this manner, the autonomy of the old Community was restored.
A government edict of December 25, 1919 decreed the dissolution of all national councils in Bukovina. Also the Jewish National Council saw itself forced to end its activities. The parties that had worked together in the Council went their own political ways.
On 25 and 26 October, 1919 in Czernowitz, a state Zionist conference was held at which for the first time, delegates from Old Romania, Bessarabia, and Siebenbuergen attended. The conference concerned itself with questions dealing with Zionist-political, cultural and Eretz Israel and chose Dr. Mayer Ebner as president of the organization.
At this conference, Dr. Salomon Kassner was elected as vice president. He later had differences with Dr. Ebner and the Zionistic leadership and resigned his post. As Fildermann, the president of the U.E.R. (Union of Romanian Jews) tried to establish branch locations of the U.E.R. in the new province; he met heavy resistance, especially from the nationalist oriented Jews of Bukovina. There was an unbridgeable gap between the Zionist oriented Bukovina Jews and the majority of Jews who were more or less resigned to their roll as beneficiaries of the Romanian government. Finally Fildermann used the conflict between Dr. Ebner and Dr. Kassner and established Dr. Kassner in 1927 with a German language weekly newspaper, the Bukowiner Volksblatt (Bukovina Peoples Newspaper) and as president of the Bukovina branch of the U.E.R. which remained politically meaningless.
Dr. Theodor Weisselberger managed the Zionist State Organization for over two decades.
The political fight absorbed much of the energy of the Zionist movement. In spite of that, the Zionist movement was more vital in Bukovina than in any other Romanian province.
The youth were taken into Zionist organizations and were trained in sports. The Blue White movement was the center of the nationally5 organized youth. These youth groups soon merged into the newly created Maccabi Sports Union. The leaders of this movement wanted to train the youth in all branches of sport and to give them a national education. Engineer Michael Schindler who was the leader of the Bukovina Maccabi for about 20 years dedicated all his organizational talent and his feeling of national responsibility to this effort.
Since 1920 there was an intensive Chalute (pioneer) movement which trained the youth in farming skills for use in Eretz Israel. Hundreds of Chaluzim went to Eretz Israel to help with the building up of the land.
The Zionist Woman's' Movement under the leadership of Mrs. Klara Klinger educated a generation of Zionist girls in the love of Zion and Palestine work.
First in 1920, Dr. Benno Straucher returned to Czernowitz. His time had run out, but he hoped that with the help of the Romanian government he could silence his Zionist opponents. After Bukovina had been included in the Romanian peace treaty Dr. Straucher sought out and found a connection with Bukovina Minister Prof. Nistor who facilitated his return to Bukovina, probably because of the expectation of using him as a willing tool, since the Zionists under the leadership of dr. Ebner were not inclined or willing to accept the oppressive measures of the Romanian government without resistance. Among the Jews, there was the need to combine the Zionist State Organization, which had become the strongest Jewish party and the group led by Dr. Straucher. The Jewish National Organization was founded with Dr. Straucher and Dr. Ebner as equal presidents, an attempt which floundered on the intransigence of Straucher and his personal ambitions.
In 1920 Dori Popovici, a supporter of the first Averescu government won the election in Bukovina. Dr. Straucher intrigued and torpedoed Dr. Ebner's try for the Romanian Senate.
Although Dr. Straucher with the help of the first Averescu government was elected to the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, he had lost ground among the Bukovina Jews, the more so since he joined the Liberals after the short-lived Averescu regime.
He now became an ally of the notorious Jew haters of the Liberal party and whenever they came to power he was put on their list and was, against the will of the Jewish people, elected to Parliament.
After the occupation of Bukovina by the Romanians, the repatriation of Jewish war refugees who streamed back from Austria ran into difficulties, since most of the Jewish communities had been seriously damaged by the events of the war. The Jewish National Committee seized the initiative and through its delegates in Paris turned to the Alliance Israelite Universelle and to the representatives of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in New York for help. The representative of the Joint, Lieutenant Becker of the American Army came to Bukovina, visited the destroyed settlements, talked with the Provisional Relief Committee led by Chief Rabbi Dr. Josef Rosenfeld and made considerable sums available for immediate relief.
In Czernowitz, an inter-party Joint Committee was organized and Karl Klueger was elected as chairman. This committee had sufficient money to help rebuild Jewish houses in Sadagura, Waschkoutz and Wiznitz in such numbers that all the residents of these three cities were given the opportunity to reestablish normal business activity. In addition to this constructive work, the Joint engaged in helpful activity in all areas of Jewish life. It founded a bank, established branches in all provincial cities and offered long term loans which allowed craftsmen and businessmen to take up their work again. All the social organizations of the land were supported by the Joint. Karl Klueger was the initiator for this work. He was the man who combined a deep social understanding with a long range political outlook.
ORT, OSE6 and the Jewish World Help Conference started their activity immediately in Bukovina, mainly in the area of caring for the refugees streaming out of Russia. The world organizations started their activity at the initiative of Dr. Markus Kraemer. HIAS7 also opened its offices. Over 6000 refugees from the Ukraine alone gathered in Czernowitz, who the Jews of the city had to care for.
With the change in government, there came an appreciable change in business life whose difficulties were naturally first felt by the Jews.
In Austrian Bukovina, the Jews were the mainstays of commerce. Even in agriculture, in contrast to the Old Monarchy, with the exceptions of Marmarosch and Karpathorussland, the Jews played an important role.
After 1867 when the Jews of Austria were allowed to buy and own land, many Jews in Bukovina dedicated themselves to farming.
In 1910, 42% of the large estates in total 10.34% of the total farming land in Bukovina - was owned by Jews. On these Jewish estates, many Jews leased land or were employed as farmers.
Also even non-Jewish land was leased to Jews and farmed by them.
Now in Romania, agrarian reform was imposed which above all was intended to have the effect in Bukovina and Siebenbuergen of ruining Jewish tenants and land owners and through expropriation to make the large Jewish estates unprofitable.
With that, all the Jewish owned industries which thanks to Jewish initiative were associated with agriculture, like brick works, mills, breweries tanneries, saw mills, distilleries yeast factories and potash production, were endangered. In all these industries, the Jews as producers and sellers were leaders, especially in export.
The war had destroyed or severely damaged many undertakings. The Romanian government resisted giving the Jews any compensation.
It was necessary after 1918, to secure the necessary capital and to rebuild.
Also, trade which was mainly in Jewish hands from farmers to grain and cattle exporters, wholesalers and shop owners in Czernowitz and the provinces was throttled and the major part that Jews had in hand work was artificially restricted.
Now came measures of the new government administrators in connection with the granting of citizenship, confirmation of earlier concessions, business and work licenses which were intended to stop the activities of Jews. Jewish officials were dismissed, Step-by-step, the lives of Jewish lawyers (85% of all lawyers in Czernowitz), Jewish doctors (68% of all doctors in Czernowitz) were made more difficult.
In the cities, Jewish monopoly license holders for tobacco, salt and moreover movies and coffee houses where no longer granted licenses.
It now remained to fight politically for the handling of Jews as equal factors in business life.
This fight was, in view of the fact that the emancipation of the Jews in Romania - in contradiction to the Paris treaty - still hadn't become reality- not easy to conduct.
Under the ministry of Mihai Pherekyde, on May 22, 1919 a new law concerning the granting of citizen to Jews in Romania was proclaimed.
This law however contained a series of special conditions and didn't provide for a general naturalization of the Jews. This form of emancipation of the Romanian Jews satisfied neither the Jewish nor the non-Jewish worlds.
Final granting of citizenship to the Jews was supposed to be guaranteed by the treaty between the Allies and the associated main powers and Romania, which was signed in Paris on December 9, 1919.
In 1921, the Liberal Party, under leadership of Ion Bratianus came into power again.
Bratianu declared the Parliament as in session, which gave the country a new constitution.
A great debate began in the chamber. On March 16, 1923, the Jewish representative, Dr. Adolphe Stern, the old fighter for full Jewish emancipation in Bukovina categorically demanded that in article 133 of the new constitution which governed the political emancipation of the Jews of Old Romania, article 7 of the Paris treaty of December 9, 1919 which Bratianu refused to finish at the Paris Peace Conference, should be included.
After long negotiations between the government and the Jewish Parliamentary representatives Dr. Adolphe Stern, Dr. Benno Straucher and Dr. Salo von Weisselberger of the Liberal Party on March 28, 1923, an agreement was reached in which the Jewish Parliamentarians accepted the new version of article 133. Instead of the incorporation of article 7 of the Paris Peace Treaty, article 5 of the constitution was accepted as the basis:
Romanians, without regard to birth, language and religion shall enjoy the freedom of the constitution, the freedom of education and the freedom of the press, freedom of association and all freedoms and rights which are allowed by the law.
Of the citizens and political rights of the Jews in the annexed areas, there was no mention. The Jews in these territories had to wait for the determination of their status.
According to the provisions of the laws concerning the acquiring of citizenship published in the official gazette, Monitorul Oficial, No. 41 of February 23, 1924, the following people were granted Romanian citizenship:
a) All those Jews in Bessarabia who took up residence there before November 18, 1918.For Regat (Old Kingdom), the requirements of article 133 of the constitution apply.
b) In Siebenbuergen (Banat), all those persons who were resident in this territory on November 18, 1914
c) In Bukovina, only those persons who took up residence before November 18, 1908, insofar as they didn't have residence rights in a Community.
The law seemed to be most favorable for Bessarabia because the Russian monarchy didn't recognize the concept of residence rights. On the other hand, the decree conflicted in Bukovina with the Austrian residence law of 1896 which contained the provision that every Austrian who willingly lived in a Community continuously for 10 years could claim residence rights in that Community.
According to this new law, the following people would loose Romanian citizenship: All those former Austrian citizens who took up residence in Bukovina after 1908, in Siebenbuergen after 1914 and in Bessarabia after 1918. Also, anyone who took up residence before these dates, but hadn't reached their majority. Finally, Jews born in the above mentioned territories, whose mother came from another, previously Austrian area and who had only been married according to Jewish ritual.
It should also be mentioned that in many Communities, as a result of the Russian invasion, birth records had been lost and because of this, it was almost impossible to provide proof.
The determination of citizenship was regulated by the provisional law of April 15, 1924, no. 744 (Monitorul Oficial, no. 85 of April 17, 1924).
According to articles 19 and 21 of the law, the first level in this determination process was handled by administrative officials, and appeals would be directed to the Appeals Commission and a final appeal would be made to the Kassationshof, the highest court in the land (art. 64 and 65 of the law).
It is now clear that this law was in crass contradiction to art. 7 of the Paris treaty and to the amendment of art. 3 concerning minorities. It should also be pointed out that when the Paris treaty came into effect, Romanian officials gave citizenship certificates to all those who at that time had their domicile in the provinces of Romania and elected to become citizens and all these people became full Romanian citizens.
Since that time, those citizens had sent representatives to three Parliaments, served in the military, paid taxes and now because of the new law, they lost their citizenship without the possibility of opting for another country.
Thusly, the Romanian government caused thousands of Jews to miss the opportunity to opt for Polish, Czechoslovakian, or German-Austrian citizenship because they justly believed that according to the Paris treaty, they had the right to opt for Romanian citizenship. They became subjects (supusi) and weren't able to enjoy the rights of full citizens (cetateni).
Aside from the Minority Protection Accord, this law stood in crass contrast to the general concept of international rights that an individual cannot loose his citizenship without receiving another. Further, it was unjust that when a territory previously belonging to another state was occupied if the citizens don't retain the rights they had acquired earlier.
The new Romanian citizenship law of 1924 became a source of nameless suffering for the Jews, because in their profession as merchants their residence changed frequently and in the course of years they lost the connection with their original home town in old Austria without finding it necessary to secure resident privileges in a new Community in Bukovina.
More as 20 years during the whole time Bukovina belonged to Romania the Jews fought a difficult fight for their citizenship. As stateless people, the Jew was a stranger subject to expulsion and the loss of his existence without notice.
In this fight for their citizenship, the Jews had a courageous representative in the person of Dr. Mayer Ebner. He fought for their rights as a publicist in the Ostjedischen newspaper and also as a representative in the Romanian Chamber and the Senate.
When the Liberals stepped down in 1926, General Averscu took over the government. The Bukovian Minister, Dori Popovici made voting cartel agreements with the ethnic minorities in which they agreed to vote as a unit at elections but which didn't obligated them to join any political party.
In the parliamentary elections which were held in accordance with the new voting law, Dr. Mayer Ebner in the city of Czernowitz was elected to the Chamber8 and Karl Klueger to the Curie of the States in the Senate.
Several months earlier, the Jews in Popovici's opposition block to the Liberals, took part in the City Council elections in Czernowitz. The Jews comprised a relative majority in Czernowitz, who was led by Dr. Mayer Ebner. The Jewish followers of the Liberals under the leadership of Dr. Benno Straucher were small in numbers. In spit of this, he was installed by the Liberals at the head of the Community.
Dr. Mayer Ebner's election to Parliament brought a change in the political fortunes of the Bukovina Jews.
The followers of Straucher, along with his chief flag carrier, Bernhard Fleminger left him. The State Zionist Party resolved to separate Zionism from state politics which should be conducted by a special party. The Zionists and Fleminger's followers founded the Einheitspartei (Unity Party) which was to work evenhandedly until the dissolution was completed. Dr. Straucher was abandoned by the political leadership. He remained a hanger-on of the Liberal Party, however but was ignored by them in the 1932 Parliamentary elections and was replaced by the Jew Michelsohn who the Party added to its list.
After Michelsohn's election victory, Dr. Straucher had to give up the leadership of the Community.
Dr. Ebner and Flelminger took over the leadership of the Community. The election law became democratic. With the election supported by the new democratic election law, the Einheitspartei remained the strongest party in the Jewish Community. It was only contested by the Bund and under Dr. Ebner's leadership remained the Jewish party.
Dr. Ebner's Parliamentary activity took place in a period in which the anti-Semitic movement in Romania celebrated triumphs and manifested itself in demonstrations, in attacks on Jewish life and property, and in anti-Semitic laws and regulations.
The catastrophe of the Jews in Romania projected its shadow. It was in 1926 that the tragedy of the Jewish student Fallik occurred in the Justice Building in Czernowitz when he was shot by a Romanian school boy.
The Dr. Ebner's deputy brought up the case of Fallik in a sitting of the Chamber on November 6, 1926 and asked the Justice Minister Stelian Popescu which steps he intended to take to prevent future murders and which measures he would take to give the murderer his just punishment.
The government set December 2, 1926 as a deadline for the reply to these questions. Then, Dr.Cuza, the leader of the Romanian anti-Semites spoke out, rudely insulting Jews and Judaism. Then Dr. Ebner further developed his request, uncovered all the events leading to the Fallik affair and demanded an end to the government's campaign against the Jewish minority and asked that it set an example by giving the murderer the punishment he deserved. In the Senate, Karl Klueger made a similar request. The answer of the Interior Minister Octavian Goga was a slap in the face for the Jews.
The process against the 15 accused students, by order of the Bucharest Court of Cassation, was assigned to the Tribunal of Suceava. By order of the Averescu-Goga government, the Suceava Tribunal carried the process no further. In 1928 the Liberals who had come into power in the meantime, ordered the process to be taken up again and after some time, because of domestic and external political pressures, the process was dropped. The murderer, Nicolai Totu was turned over to the Kimpolung Court and then released. This judgment encouraged the Romanian students to further acts of heroism.
On December 4, 1927 a student congress which had a definite political character was held in the city of Orade-Mare which was situated on the Hungarian border. The congress was planed as a national demonstration of Romanian youth against Hungarian aspirations to take over the Siebenbuergen area. The government provided extra trains for the use of the students and financed the undertaking. 5000 students accepted the invitation to the congress. The Under Secretary of State, Gheorghe Tartarescu acted as godfather for the congress. The polemic against the Imperialist Magyars only filled a small part of the daily schedule. The main thrust of the proceedings was directed at the Jewish danger. The existence of Greater Romania was endangered. Wild diatribes were held against the Jewish minority. The Minister General Mosoiu challenged the students to take action. The result was immediately apparent. Under the eyes of the officials in Oradea-Mare, Jews were attacked and Jewish stores were plundered. On December 5, 1927, the Synagogue was ravaged, the furnishings were destroyed and the Torah scrolls were desecrated and in a solemn procession the holy books and sacramental objects were taken to the main square where an auto-da-fe was staged. After the completion of the deed, the officials placed trains for the return trip at the disposal of the students, which stopped at all the larger cities waiting according to schedule until the students had completed their work of destruction on Jewish property.
These anti-Jewish actions had their parliamentary sequel. In the Chamber, Dr. Wilhelm Fildermann and in the Senate, Horia Carp introduced a motion criticizing sharply the behavior of the officials, demanding punishment of the perpetrators and compensation for the damages.
The Interior Minister Duca in his answer expressed regret for these incidents and assured Dr. Fildermann that in the future, the government would not tolerate these anti-Semitic outbreaks. With this debate in Parliament, the affair of Oradea-Mare was far from concluded. At the convention of the Voelkerbundliga in Brussels in March 1928, the Jewish delegates talked about the events at Oradea-Mare and presented a paper which illuminated the situation of the Jewish minority in Romania and which contained documentation of the occurrences in Siebenbuergen.
The Romanian delegates at this conference, Prof. Pangrati and Prof. Juvara in their talks vainly attempted to put the situation of the Jews in a better light. They had a difficult time doing this in view of the proof presented in the Jewish paper.
When the Romanian Farmer's Party (Partidul National-Taranesc), under the leadership of Dr. Iuliu Manius came to power after a hard fought election, the Jews had high expectations.
The Farmer's Party whose followers were chiefly recruited from Transylvania, had already at their conference in 1918 at Alba-Julia which proclaimed the annexation of Transylvania to Romania, called for the basic principals of Democracy and respect for the rights of ethnic minorities.
The National Jews in Romania joined with this party in a voting cartel9.
On the government list, three National Jews, Dr. Theodor Fischer, Dr. Josef Fischer and Michael Landau in the Chamber and Dr. Mayer Ebner in the Senate were elected.. All four together with Dr. Mayer Ebner as chairman, constituted in 1929 the first Jewish club in the Romanian parliament.
They the Jewish club went about consolidating the inter-Jewish political relationships.
As was previously mentioned, in Bukovina in 1926, the fusion of the Jewish State Party with the Zionist State Organization created a platform which found its expression in the Unity Party. It was obvious that spreading from Bukovina, the total union of all nationally aware Jews of Romania was imminent. After long consultations, it was agreed to create the General Council of the Jews of Romania (Sfatul General al Evreilor din Romania) which was to function as the highest representative of the nationally aware Jews of Greater Romania. It was a political instrument which lacked the organizational foundations. Never-the-less the General Council created the initiative for the founding of a unified Jewish party in Romania.
On May 4, 1931 at the party congress in Bucharest attended by delegates from the Unity Party (Partidul Unitar) from Bukovina, the National Union of the Jews of Transylvania, the Bessarabian Jews and the Jewish National Party from the Old Kingdom, it was decided to form the Jewish Party of Romania (Partidul Evreesc din Romania). The new party entered united in the same year in the election fight for the law giving bodies of the land, won 64,193 votes which was 25% of the Jewish votes and so conquered 5 seats in Parliament.
The Bukovina Jews voted in an overwhelming majority for the new party and even though they represented only one eighth of the Romanian Jews, sent 3 representatives to Parliament, Dr. Max Diamanat, Dr. Mayer Ebner and Dr. Manfred Reifer.
In Transylvania, Dr. Theodor Fischer and Dr. Joseph Fischer were elected. No Jews were elected in Regat and Bessarabia.
Dr. Mayer Ebner declined in favor of Dr. Samuel Singer (Bucharest) who had been with him on the same list. Dr. Theodor Fischer gave up his mandate to Michael Landau (Bessarabia).
The Jewish Parliamentary Club was composed of the five Jewish members of Parliament with Dr. Joseph Fischer as their representative and it set out to address the needs of the Jewish ethnic minority. These were based on the fundamental principals of the Minority Treaties and concerned Community autonomy and a national school system.
The fight of the Jewish Parliamentary Club ran into stiff resistance. The notorious leader of the Iron Guard terror organization, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu used the Chamber as a platform as a platform for his anti-Semitic rhetoric. The majority of the Chamber members were united in their hate of the Jews, even though they wanted to use different methods to suppress the Jewish minority. The Romanian-ization of the minority schools won out. In vain, it was pointed out to the government in the Chamber, which dealt with the school question, that this violated the Minority Treaties. The minister of education at that time, Prof. Petrovici forced the Romanian-ization and as a result, the elementary and middle schools of the Bukovina minorities lost their national character.
At an international forum in 1932, the minority problem in Romania was discussed. The conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union which was held in Bucharest provided this opportunity. Dr. Reifer conferred with Paul Loebe, the president of the German Reichstag and asked him to bring the school problem of the national minorities up in the Political Committee. In the debate, Minister President Prof. Jorga made certain concessions, which remained, however only on paper.
The anti-Semitic wave engulfed ever widening circles of the Romanian population and influenced the domestic policies of the government. The Minority Congresses in Geneva which were attended by a delegation representing the Bukovina Jews gradually lost their meaning. No European government concerned itself about the Geneva resolutions. Even the League of Nations failed. The European minorities had to fall back on their own resources and negotiate with the individual governments to rescue the last scraps of the autonomy promised them in the peace treaties.
The Jewish Party of Romania was aware of the political situation of the Jews in the country and attempted to lead a unified Jewish politics.
It called for a general congress in Bucharest on November 7, 1933, at which the basic principals of Jewish politics were to be laid out. The party congress declared that the Jews of Romania were an ethnic minority which was entitled to individual and collective minority rights. The Jewish Party conceived of the Romanian government as a collective, higher entity which was to unite all citizens without regard to ethnic origin. The party congress loyally declared the spiritual connection of the Jewish minority with the Romanian people which found its expression in the love of dynasty and of fatherland. Expanding from this principal, the congress asked for the collective emancipation of the Jews and the possibility for the development of a normal life.
In the Parliamentary elections of 1932, the Jewish Party won a larger number of votes (75,00 votes) and got 5 seats in the Chamber, Dr. Mayer Ebner, Dr. Joseph Fischer, Michael Landau, Dr. Ernest Marton and Misu Weissmann.
The anti-Jewish fight took on more vicious forms. The delegates who followed Cuza didn't hesitate to attack their Jewish colleagues. It was no longer a question of enforcing the Minority Laws, but preventing the passing of laws hostile to the Jews. The Jewish parliamentary club with Dr. Ebner as chairman was forced to switch from the offensive to the defensive. The political situation of the Romanian Jews grew worse from day to day. All insightful Jewish politicians knew that Romanian Jewry was heading for a catastrophe.
In the parliamentary elections of 1933 from which the Liberals emerged as victors, the Jewish Party because of its internal splintering received only 40,000 votes and won no seats.
In January 1936, under the pressure of the spreading anti-Semitic movement, all the Jewish parities of Romania combined in a single political body, the Central Council of Romanian Jews, led by the president of the Union of Romanian Jews (Uniunea Evreilor din Romania), Dr. Wilhelm Fildermann.
The anticipated catastrophe broke over the Romanian Jews at the end of 1937. Carol II wanted to shore up his shaky throne and entrusted one of the theoreticians of the anti-Semitic movement, Octavian Goga with forming his Cabinet. He also wanted A.C. Cuza's party to have an appropriate roll in advising the Crown. Octavio Goga achieved an absolute majority in the Parliamentary elections and immediately set about realizing his anti-Semitic program. He appointed well known anti-Semitic rabble rousers as prefects, who initiated their taking office with riots against the Jews. In Bukovina, the Jews were chased from the villages, mishandled and their assets were seized. In Czernowitz, a brown house was set up in which arrested Jews were treated in Gestapo fashion. The military formation of the Goga-Cuza regime was the Lance Carriers (lancieri) who carried out their work on the pattern of the German SS. In addition to this activity in practical anti-Semitism, the legal machine worked in an anti-Jewish spirit. In the official gazette of February 23, 1938 appeared a royal decree which dealt with reviewing the citizenship of the Jews. The lawmakers started with the assumption that many Romanian Jews had circumvented the law of February 23, 1924 and had illegally established their citizenship. Therefore, a review of this citizenship was ordered. The reply to this royal decree which appeared on March 10, 1938 was signed by the king and the minority president and had legal power. Only a part of the Romanian Jews was exempt from this citizenship review, namely those who were citizens before the war in the Old Kingdom or those who were already acknowledged as citizens by a court judgment. This anti-Jewish law also contained the provision, that if denounced, any Jew exempt from citizenship review had to be examined. Also, those converted Jews who were baptized after December 1, 1918 were viewed as being Jewish and their citizenship was subject to review.
Of the 800,000 Jews living in Romania only approximately 650,000 had obtained citizenship based on the law of February 23, 1924. Now, they had to have their citizenship again be reviewed by the courts. In accordance with the royal decree and the new law, the citizenship of all Jews was suspended. a move which affected most lawyers offices. As a consequence, the right of Jewish lawyers to appear before a court was removed until their citizenship was reviewed.
The Goga-Cuza regime, which only lasted a few months brought the country into discredit with its Jewish politics. The general uncertainty in the country crippled industry, commerce and business. The attitude of the democratic powers toward this government was instrumental in Goga's demise.
The Cabinet of Armand Calinescu again established peace and order in the land and stressed the close relationship of Romania to the democratic states, especially to its French sister nation. In spite of this, thousands and ten thousands of Romanian Jews had lost their citizenship under this regime.
After the murder of Minister President Calinescu, and a short interim regime, Giugurtu was entrusted with establishing a Cabinet. He planned to reconcile the Iron Guard, whose leader Codreanu was deposed after Calinescu's murder, with the king and solidify his position with their help.
As a reward for this loyalty, the Jews were thrown upon the mercy of the radical anti-Semitic element. They were blamed for the loss of North Bukovina and Bessarabia to Russia (1940).
Looking back at the situation of the Jews in Bukovina for the past 25 years, it can be seen that since the land was annexed by Old Romania, their business fortunes had a steep upswing. In this period, they acquired large estates and enlarged the Jewish large holdings. The agrarian reform instituted in 1926 led to breaking up of a large portion of these estates without significantly reducing the agricultural output of the Jews. Cattle and poultry production stood at a particularly high level.
Also, in this quarter century industrial production took an upswing. Numerous textile factories were established. A capable metallurgical industry emerged. Factories for rubber and rubber products were built by Lithuanian Jews in Czernowitz In Itzkany, the border city between Austrian Bukovina and Old Romania the fourth largest sugar factory in Romania was built using Jewish capital. Two starch factories and chicken and egg canning factory were founded. The lumber industry, especially export in this period also lay mostly in Jewish hands. Through export, mainly driven by Jews an active balance of trade was established. This industrial development was behind the founding of many banks which were a significant factor in economic development and which were mostly in Jewish hands.
The cities grew in this period and became more beautiful. The flow of workers into industrialized Bukovina from the rest of the kingdom encouraged capital rich Jews to increased building activity.
Business and commerce experienced further growth. Czernowitz became a center for grain, fruit and raw material export. A large majority of the members of the Chamber of Commerce were Jewish and the stock exchange was almost exclusively their domain. The Jewish workers in the individual factories were specialists with great knowledge of their crafts.
Soon, however, business was badly shaken because of various official measures. The Conversion Law gave agriculture a moratorium and a kind of easier debt relief, but caused a liability for commerce in general. Commerce and industry, especially banking was hit hard by this law. It came to a collapse of banks which especially hurt small pensioners. Jewish business, especially the privately owned ones, experienced a further burden because of a government regulation stipulating that in all Jewish concerns, offices and shops, native Romanians had to hired in addition to Jewish officers and workers. This Romanian element was to be educated in Jewish businesses and later take them over.
Also in social areas the Bukovina Jews, under Romanian rule created more institutions for the general good. The Joint Distribution Committee (The Joint) supported social work generously. Care for orphans was given special attention.
At the initiative of the married couple, Nathan and Josefine Horowitz, the Czernowitz Bnai Brith lodge, Orient founded the Children's Protection Society and with the help of the Joint acquired a building in the center of Czernowitz in which orphans could be brought up and taught a profession.
The Jewish Tuberculosis Hospital which owed its creation to the husband and wife, Dr. Gustav and Zunia Schifter was also built by the Orient Lodge and the Joint and set up as a model institution. The Yiddish School Society dedicated itself to care of children by establishing a children's vacation home called Elizer Steinbarg on Cecina, a wooded hill near Czernowitz.
The brothers Jakob and Josef Peretz founded, mainly with their own money, a modern apprentice home which was directed in an exemplary way by Prof. I. Chessid.
Mrs. Karoline Leiter, the widow of the former vice president of the Community, Dr. Adolf Leiter was the initiator for the building of a modern maternity home and Mrs. Sarina Fokschaner for a day care center that was named, Regina Maria.
The Jewish Infirmary was enlarged with a new building and equipped with the newest medical apparatus. Dr. Wolfgang Fokschaner made the largest part of the necessary money available.
The president of the Bukovina Joint, Karl Klueger made possible the construction of a university dormitory which had a cafeteria associated with it. An existing dormitory in the city for students of all nations, paid for with Jewish money, by the way, was illegally seized by the Romanian government and barred to Jewish students.
In addition to these great institutions, there were numerous organizations in the land, one of the leading ones being the Jewish Woman's Help Society directed by Mrs. Gusti Weich which concerned itself with constructive charity.
The private Hebrew school, Safa Iwria expanded itself to a state wide Hebrew school society which represented all the private Hebrew schools and kindergartens in Bukovina.
Orthodox Jews exerted themselves to expand and improve their traditional school system. In Czernowitz, Daniel Sternfeld opened the yeshiva Ez Chajim and orthodox Rabbi Benjamin Katz founded a Talmud Torah school. His successor, Gaon Meschulem Rath laid the cornerstone for a rabbi seminar. In Wiznitz Rabbi Leiser Hagar built a modern yeshiva funded by a grant from the heirs of the merchant, Chaim Iwanier, in which the students in addition to the obligatory Talmud study, were trained in various trades and in agriculture.
The Yiddishists moved in parallel with this cultural trend. In 1919, the Yiddish School Society was formed for the purpose of building schools and nurturing the Yiddish language and culture as well as publishing works of Yiddish authors. Its initiators, Dr. Jakob Pistiner and Dr. Gabriel Rosenrauch came from the tradition of the Bund and the left leaning Poal Zion. The poet, Eliezer Steinbarg was the spiritual leader of this movement.
The Yiddish School Society had its own publishing house which since 1921 had the name Culture. Over the years, it brought out a number of pedagogical, cultural-historical and literary works, among them a number of the writings left by the poet E. Steinbarg with drawings and wood cuts by A. Kolnik.
The organization, Morgenroit, founded a vocational school in 1924 with support of the Joint and from private sources for the purpose of general and professional education of children of both sexes. A second structure with a theater was built from whose income, the school was supported. The Morgenroit library, Wladimir Medem was also housed in this building.
The Yiddish theater, which since the debut of Goldfaden had its home in Czernowitz experienced rapid growth in that period. Non-resident troupes (Mali Picon, Nelly Kessmann, Mischu Fischson, Paul Baratoff) appeared every season in Czernowitz and found an enthusiastic but critical public. The Wilnaer troupe, had its best performances in Czernowitz.
The Jewish population showed deep understanding for music. The Music Society founded in 1878 always had sponsors and active musicians. From this milieu came the Jewish composer Norbert Gingold and the world master of song, Joseph Schmidt, who had belonged to the Czernowitz temple choir.
Important painters and sculptors (Moses Barasch, Jakob Eisenscher, Arthur Kolnik, Schlomo Lerner, Bernhard Reder) enriched the artistic life in Bukovina with their works.
A young generation of talented poets in part, first showed their works in Czernowitz. The ballad poet Itzig Manger, Alfred Margul-Sperber, Moses Rosenkranz, Alfred Kittner, Rudolf Kommer from Czernowitz (died 1943 in New York) acquired excellent reputations as translators and dramatists.
Jews were leaders in the press. Of the daily newspapers run by Jews in Czernowitz, the Allgemeine Zeitung (edited by Dr. Philipp Menczel, later by Arnold Schwarz and finally by Dr. Adolf Niederhoffer), the Czernowitzer Morgenblatt published by Julius Weber and Dr. Ellias Weinstein, Vorwarts (Social Democratic edited by Dr. Jakob Pistiner) and Der Tag edited by Arnold Schwarz and Dr. Ernst Maria Flinker were printed in German. Numerous weekly and bi-weekly publications gave witness to a lively intellectual activity, which was even able to develop under the Romanian regime.
The follow publications should also be mentioned: The Zionist Jiddische Volksblatt edited by Schamschon Schaechter (Yiddish), Arbeiter-Zeitung (Poale Zion) edited by S.L. Steinmetz (Yiddish), Aufbau edited by B. Engler (Yiddish), Das Naje Leben (supporting the Bund), edited by Dr. Josef Kissman and Sarah Kissman (Yidish), Czernowitzer Bletter (no party) edited by S. A. Soifer (Yiddish), Osstjuedische Zeitung (Zionist) edited by Dr. Mayer Ebner (German), Das Frei Wort (Zeire Zion) edited by Dr. Benjamin Fuch (German), Neue Juedische Rundschau (Zionist) edited by Dr. Manfried Reifer (German), Bukowiner Volkszeitung (organ of the Union of Romanian Jews) edited by Dr. Salomon Kassner (German), Sonn und Montagszeitung edited by Dr. M. Kraemer (German).
There were many important writers and journalists among the Jews of Bukovina. From the previous century was Karl Emil Franzos (Halbasien) and in more recent times, Leo Ebermann (playwright, the Athenerin), Dr. Jakob Benkendorf, Dr. Schlomo Bickel (New York), Klara Blum (Moscow), Dr. M. Ebner, Dr. Berthold Frucht, M. Fried, Weininger (New York), Dr. Salomon Kasner, Dr. Josef Kissman, Karl Klueger, Josef Koller, Friedrich Leiter, Dr. Philipp Menczel, Hermann Menkes, Wilhelmine Mohr, Konrad Peckelman, Dr. Jakob Pistiner, Mathias Roll, Arnold Schwarz, Moritz Stekel, Julius Weber, Adolf Wallstein, Dr. Elias Weinstein, Micahael Wurmbrand, among others.
The 7 volume Jewish National Biography by S. Wininger appeared in Czernowitz in the years 1925-1936.
The Zionist organizations dedicated their main effort to educating the youth. People's High School courses deepened and widened the youth's understanding of Jewish history and culture. The youth organizations prepared them with spiritual and physical Hachschara (Hebrew word for preparation) for Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel). The Zionist woman's organization Deborah founded in 1906 which was transformed into Wizo in 1924 accomplished excellent work in cultural and social arenas under the leadership of Mrs. Klara Klinger. Mrs. Klara Klinger was also a member of the Czernowitz City Council.
The important Zionist leaders like Weizmann, Sokolow, Buber, Ussischkin, Jabotinsky, Lewin and Ruppin visited Bukovina and held lectures in Czernowitz. They helped make Zionism which in the Austrian period, men like Prof. Leon Kellner and Dr. Mayer Ebner had brought close to the people's awareness into the strongest people's movement among the Bukovina Jews.
Since 1919, Jewish politics was in a constant defensive battle against the chauvinism of the Romanian government. The drive for Romanianization and the preference for Romanians by birth gradually pushed the Jews out of state and city positions.
In the election of December, 1937 Codreanu's party received 16% (70 mandates), and the Christian Party 10% of all votes. After the collapse of the Goga-Cuza regime (December 1937 February 1938 and the murder of the Minister President Calinescu, King Carol appointed an authoritarian government (one sees the influence of Nazi Germany) with the patriarch Miron Christoa at the helm. Codreanu was sentenced to 10 years at hard labor and on November 30, 1938 was shot along with other Legionnaires while escaping. In 1940 the king named the industrialist Gigurtu as minister president. In Germany the Nazi leaders knew that Romania would be the first nation they would win with their policy of exterminating the Jews. The ground had been prepared by Cuza and his band of rioting students. The words of Hitler before the Reichstag on January 30, 1939 which predicted the annihilation of European Jewry found a lively echo in the land. When the first refugees arrived in Czernowitz soon after the German army marched into Poland, the spontaneous help which the Jewish population of the city gave them was not merely an act of humanity, but also the result of the recognition that in the not to distant future they would be in the same situation. The departure of the short lived Goga-Cuza regime was still followed with efforts to convince the Western allies, especially France, the great Latin sister of one's worthiness, but when the friend, France didn't take steps to prevent the occupation of Bessarabia and North Bukovina by Russia (194) who had a non-aggression treaty with Germany, Romania's interest in public appearances ceased. From then on, the Romanian governments were concerned only with completely fulfilling Germany's wishes. The Romanians saw in Hitler, the only ally against Stalin's lust for expansion. The war events in Europe strongly reinforced this opinion. After Bessarabia and North Bukovina were occupied by the Russians without a fight, Romania had to give a part of Sibenbuergen to Hungary because of the August 30, 1940 Vienna arbitration agreement and because of the September 6, 1940 Crajova agreement, they lost Sueddobrudscha to Bulgaria. Under the pressure of the collapse of the Greater Romania state, King Carol abdicated. His follower, Mihai confirmed Marschall Antonescu with Hitler's approval as minister president and Sima as his deputy.
Approximately 250,000 Romanian refugees from the lost areas streamed back into Romania. Their integration caused great difficulties. In order to solve the problem economically and financially, measures were taken against the Jews in the style of Nazi Germany. The Jewish population was to give the Romanian refugees a place to live and give them their homes and assets. Gigurtu had already started the disenfranchisement of the Jews when he, supposedly in the national interest, removed the Jews from public service. The Romanian Jewish politics prepared systematically for the final solution of the Jewish question. The law of August 8, 1940 concerning the legal status of the Jews defined three categories which were to be handled differently. The decree of October 4, 1940 removed the Jew's right to own estates and on November 17, 1940 they lost the right to own forest and ships and on December 4, 1940 they no longer were obligated to serve in the army and were forced into labor service, on March 28, 1941 their city land holdings were taken. In the fall of 1941, the National Center for Romanianization was created at which, the confiscated Jewish assets would be administered for the benefit of party fat cats. On December 16, 1941the existing federation of Jewish Communities was dissolved and a Jewish Central was created which was to assist in the liquidation of the Jews. In the Jewish Central in Bucharest and in many cities in which Jews lived, the officials were creatures chosen by the Romanians, mostly men without backbones and without conscience who sold and betrayed their fellow Jews. In all questions concerning Jews, Germany made the decisions. The German ambassador Fabricius was recalled and in his place came the SA group leader Killinger (he died by suicide in Bucharest in 1944) who conducted the final solution of the Jewish problem in accordance with the wishes of his master, Hitler. Under his direction the notorious Gustav Richter brutally managed Jewish affairs. On January 31, 1941, a revolt of the Legionnaires, initiated by the German secret police took place. Nevertheless, in order not to endanger his plans, Hitler let them fail and decided to support Antonescu whose help he needed for the war he intended to wage against Russia. The activity of the Jewish Affairs Advisor, Richter was now restricted to the Old Kingdom and for Bukovina and Bessarabia Lecca of the Romanian government was named to handle Jewish affairs. On June 21, 1941 Romania entered the war against Russia. Until July 18, 1941, Antonescu had the supreme command. He was in charge of the 2nd German Army. On July 4, 1941 Czernowitz was conquered by units of the III Romanian Army. On July 7, the Romanian units were followed by SD divisions whose leader quartered himself in the Black Eagle in Czernowitz. On July 8, 1941 Antonescu declared in Buckarest, minister advisor, in reference to the Jewish question and Nazi Germany, It makes no difference to me if we go down in history as barbarians. He was to remember these words when in Bucharest in 1945 a People's Court condemned him along with other war criminals to death for their crimes.
On August 19, 1941 the Romanian government decreed that Transnistrien, the area between the Bug and Dniester rivers, occupied by Romanian and German armies was to be administered by Romanian administrative organs. In the treaty of Tighina of August 30, 1941, the Germans objected on security grounds to the Romanian's intention to delay the deportation of the Jews over the Bug and demanded that the Jews be assembled in concentration camps in Transnistrien. According to the express wishes of Antonescu the deportation was to begin on September 15, 1941. Through this measure, Antonescu wanted to show the Germans his cooperation, since he knew that the chief of the Gestapo and the SD Heydreich von Goering were told on July 31, 1941 to make all necessary preparations for the final solution of the Jewish problem in German areas of influence. Also the decisions made at the Wansee Conference of January 21, 1942 in regard to the physical destruction of the Jews laid further plans for this effort. Only on June 9, 1944, the Romanian government influenced by the state of the war, as the defeat of Germany seemed inevitable, decided on their own law concerning the Jews, independent of Germany and shortly thereafter on August 13, 1944 had King Mihai Antonescu arrested and declared war against Germany on the side of Russia. King Mihai's abdication of the Romanian throne, force by Russia in 1948 ushered in the Communization of the country.
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