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[Page 341]

Occupation And Holocaust

Translated by Ala Gamulka

 

David Wertheim, Z”L

He was taken from us suddenly on 25 Nisan 5713 – April 1953

*

David Wertheim, z” l, began his intensive activities at a young age in Bendery. His eminent father and famous grandfathers came from a dynasty originating with the Baal Shem Tov, z” l. They instilled in him a love of Zion and his people. His great–grandfather, the genius Rabbi Shimon–Shlomo, a most liberal man, used to say “When a Jew loves other Jews and Eretz Israel, God will forgive all his sins…”

In his Bendery youth, he immediately joined Zeirei Zion [Zionist Socialist Party] in Bessarabia. He quickly started to draw young Jewish people with his fiery oratory and warm treatment of others.

His revolutionary boldness gave him the strength to oppose not only the Tsarist rule, but also, later, the Soviet police. He also stood against his own fanatic background which did not understand, then, that the pioneers were not against the Messiah, but were helping him to delay the “end.”

Bendery was a true Jewish town and people always described details about this young man from town who was able, under the nose of the police, to speak in front of large groups, from a balcony, in the middle of the street. Among his listeners were not only young men and women, but also their fathers. These were followers of his own father. They would gaze at him and wonder how a child of the Rabbi would dare go against his own dynasty, his own flesh and blood.

After David Wertheim came to America, he played an important role in his Poalei Zion and in the united party of Poalei Zion. He served the party for 13 years as the General Secretary and he represented it in various conventions and congresses. He was always fired up, but his honesty and heart were visible. Not everyone agreed with Wertheim and some criticized him. However, he always promoted our ideals in a dynamic way. No one could ever oppose him for his willingness to sacrifice for these ideals.

Lately, Wertheim carried a heavy burden in the Histadrut campaign in the United States and South America. He attracted thousands of new friends by his appealing personality and our ideals.

His tragic end came while he was actually at work.

David Wertheim had fulfilled his duty in Miami and was on his way by taxi from the airport in Havana, Cuba, when he was stricken. He had worked diligently at his duties and was doing his utmost to promote the party ideals. He had done so all his life, until the end.

We mourn the loss and we will never forget him.


Avraham Wertheim, Z”L

Our dear member and chairman of the National Board, Avraham Wertheim, died at the age of 66, after a long illness.

This is a loss not only for our association, but also for other institutions where the deceased was active.

Avraham Wertheim, z” l, was born in Bendery into a famous rabbinic family. The family had the Ba'al Shem Tov as an ancestor. He was active in many cultural, social and community affairs. Prior to his Aliyah in 1919, he spent a long time in Warsaw as a “Joint” leader. In Eretz Israel he was active in the Jewish Agency and he also headed the workers' section. There he dealt in arbitration.

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After the founding of the State of Israel he switched to the Ministry of Labor. His heart condition prevented him from doing more activities as a volunteer. At the end, he was chairman of the Association of Residents from Bessarabia in Israel.

At his funeral, there were many representatives of the Ministry of Labor, national institutions and many friends.

L. Kupershteyn, spoke, representing the Association of Residents from Bessarabia in Israel, Rabbi Efrati spoke for the family and Cantor Leib Glantz recited the “Maale.”

There was a special memorial assembly for Avraham Wertheim, z” l, at the end of the thirty days. It was held in the Jewish National Fund Hall in Tel Aviv. The following gave eulogies: Yitzhak Greenbaum, Prof. Fishel Shneyerson, Cantor Leib Glantz, Y. Korn and D. Fistrov, representing his fellow compatriots. Cantor L. Glantz recited the “Maale.”

We mourn, and we will never forget.

(News of Bessarabia in Yiddish,” March 1958 – Adar 5718)


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Women's Organizations in Bendery

 

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WIZO in Bendery
Unknown names designated with –––
Fania Chaplik, Schwartz, Bendersky, –––, –––, –––, Yatom.
(first on top: Bettye Sverdlik)
–––, Pagis, Bendersky, –––, Berman, Rosa Fein, Veizgendler, Fania Resnik, –––, Shprintzak,
Rachel Kogan, Krasnopolsky, Ida Kishinevsky, Sonia Slepoy, –––, Chana Averbuch

 

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A group of WIZO members

 

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“Women's Association” Bendery (Tighina) – 1931

ben344a.jpg

 

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Appreciation from Women's Association
to Mrs. M. Fein upon her going to America

 


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Bendery After the Shoah

Rabbi Israel Bronfman (Jerusalem)

On the banks of the Dniester, in Bessarabia, lies Bendery – or as it was called in Romania – Tighina. Before WWII there were about 5,000 Jewish families living there. We had 18 synagogues, a Jewish hospital, a Seniors' Residence, a Jewish high school, Talmud Torahs, etc.

The life of local Jews was much the same as in other villages and towns in Tsarist Russia. In 1918, the Romanians annexed Bessarabia. Jewish occupations were as merchants, clerks and craftsmen, free professions and even ten idlers. The Jews were always busy and worried about their livelihood: how do we buy food for Shabbat? It was difficult to overcome the constant stress and fear of the Romanian authorities. They always looked for ways to lay their dirty murderous hands on Jewish earnings.

I was born in 1915, and I do not remember, at all, how life was under the Tsarist regime in Bessarabia. I was attached to the House of Learning almost until the arrival of the Soviets. However, I often heard that honorable people had prayed for the Soviets (the Reds) to come. God listened and the Soviets occupied Bessarabia. Actually, the Jewish masses rested a little from the Romanian terror. It was bad in the last few years before they left Bessarabia. Sadly, it did not take long for the population in general, and the Jews in particular, to feel Stalin's might.

At the beginning of the war, in 1941, many Jews escaped from the Nazis and were evacuated deep into Russia. The Soviets helped those who wished to be evacuated, at the beginning – Jews and non–Jews. Many Jews were thus saved. The Jews of Bender had better opportunities to escape because the town was on the banks of the Dniester. I heard from many sources that there was a smaller number of Bendery Jews killed by the Germans.

The war ended and the Jewish families that remained alive returned to their former homes. I did not know Bendery before the war as I had never been there. In November 1945, I was liberated from the Work Army and I returned to my village. I had lived in Kalarash before the war. The village was 95% destroyed and I had nowhere to live. Rabbi Yosef Applebaum of Kishinev offered me a position in Bendery as a religious leader.

What I then find in Bendery?

After the end of the war, in May 1945, Jews slowly began to return to their former homes. They no longer believed in the “Red Messiah.” They saw the lies, suffering and terror. They began to return to God and to visit the cemetery with their tears flowing. They organized a Minyan for Shabbat and even during the week, as well as a Hevra Kaddisha. The Sadigura Shul had remained standing because the Germans used it as a barn for their horses. The Jews took it over and held services there on Rosh Hashana. Those involved in organizing the Jewish community were Yaakov Kutchuk, Haim–Moshe

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Fishov, Yosef Moshe Goldmacht, Meir Hochman, Leib Alter, Alter Itzkovitch, Efraim Sudit, Avraham Finkelstein, Tzirelis and many other young people who returned from the war as invalids. The shul was cleaned up, arranged for a women's section, hired a cantor – Shuster, a war invalid. This is how we were able to pray on the High Holidays after the war, in 1945. At that time, a leader emerged for all Jewish matters. He was Yaakov Kutchuk, z” l.

 

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Rabbi Israel Bronfman with Cantor Cooperman in the Sadigura Shul in 1954/55

 

Yaakov Kutchuk always worked as a bookkeeper at the business of Zeidel Katzap. He was a fine and noble person and a Jewish nationalist. It is thanks to the dedication of Yaakov Kutchuk and the faithfulness of many local Jews that there was such a strong Jewish community. After Sukkot, Yaakov Kutchuk was called to City Hall. There, he was told that he was obliged to register the Jewish Community in the Soviet Ministry in Kishinev. The office of religious affairs required a rabbinic leader – as the law required at that time. On November 15, 1945, I became the religious leader of the Bendery community.

At the head of the community then was Yaakov Kutchuk as President. He died in 1949. Others were Yosef–Moshe Goldmacher, first Treasurer, who made Aliyah in 1956 (he died in 1967); Shlomo Burstein, may he live and prosper, and Yehuda–Leib Alter who moved to Riga in 1958 and passed away there. The Search Committee had Alter Itzkovitch – who later left Bendery, Avraham–David Giterman (Ish Tov) – still in Bendery, and Noikhovitch.

After we cleaned up the synagogue we began to organize the two cemeteries – the Old Cemetery located in the lower part of town, near the Dniester, and the New Cemetery, in the upper section. The Germans and the Romanians had started to destroy the Old Cemetery and the Russians completed the task. Since I was the Chairman of the Jewish community from 1947 to 1957, I was often approached by the Soviet regime asking me to sign away our right to the Old Cemetery so they could liquidate it. I refused every time and I told them to get permission from those lying buried there… Of course, they took it anyway, without our knowledge, and they put a few hundred pigs on the premises. We saw that the Old Cemetery was almost completely ruined. We announced, in the synagogue, that anyone who had relatives buried there could transfer them to the New Cemetery. We moved the graves of the four sainted members of the Wertheim family, and we built a built a new little house. It is still standing. The Christians living nearby used many headstones to renovate their homes. The regime built a stone fence around the stadium. They pretended that it had been the Romanians who had done it in January 1943.

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During the hard times of Stalin, the leaders of the Jewish Community were treated very badly and they suffered greatly. For instance, they were called in to the Town Committee many times and given new orders about the synagogue, the cemeteries, baking of matzoth and even about the hiring of cantors. In 1948, after the founding of the State of Israel, there was a “visit” in the synagogue. They probed and searched and, I, as the chairman of the community, did not know what was happening. Of course, they did not find anything wrong. Later, I discovered, that at the same time exactly, there were such searches in all Jewish communities that had administrative offices. It was all connected to the arrival of Mrs. Golda Meir, Israeli ambassador to the Soviet Union. Many Jews requested permission to make Aliyah and the NKVD thought that the Jewish communities were connected to this event. This was followed by the Doctors' Trial, known to every Jew. It created great fear among the Jews who thought they would all be sent to Siberia. During Stalin's time, the NKVD did not interfere in the inner affairs of the Jewish Community. We could elect people to the synagogue leadership, but there were secret service agents watching us. They reported everything, even “how many times the rabbi cried during prayers.” On the High Holidays we noticed, among the audience, some Christians – secret service agents dressed like Jews. There was no pressure on Jews when it came to circumcision, weddings, ritual slaughter. Except that I, as Rabbi, ritual slaughterer and circumciser, had to pay high taxes. Other Jews always came to my aid and the leaders took care of me. I, too, looked after myself and God took care of all of us.

It was different after Stalin's death. In Khrushchev's time, the NKVD – now called the KGB – there were no secret service agents in the synagogue. However, anyone elected to the leadership had to be approved by the authorities and, it turned out, they were all followers of the KGB.

In 1957, I was ordered to resign from my position of chairman of the community. In 1960, I was forbidden from serving as the Rabbi. I then left Bendery and moved to Odessa


[Page 350]

In Those Dark Days…

B. Levi

Usually, when we speak of the destruction of European Jewry, we think of the victims of the war. As to the Jews of Bessarabia, it is not entirely true. The destruction of Bessarabian Jewry began in 1940 when Stalin, the Cruel One, broke up all Jewish institutions and organizations. Many “undesirables” were evacuated to Siberia where they were placed in prisons, forced–labor camps. These people were mostly leading Jewish personalities, businessmen and intelligentsia.

These tortures took place in Bessarabia in 1940–1941, and the Jews were petrified. Many Jews, a high percentage of them, ran from town to town to disappear from the horizon. They wanted to avoid having Paragraph 39 inscribed in their passports. Paragraph 39 indicated people to be non–productive or socially unacceptable, and they would become candidates for evacuation from their homes to Siberia. The Jews were running from Kishinev, Bendery, Soroca, Beltz, Khotin, etc. to Czernowitz, Lvov (Lemberg), Ternopol and Stanislav. They went from villages to towns and vice versa. The unavoidable happened. The terrible days of June 13 and 14, 1941 will never be forgotten. In those days “Comrade” Stalin managed to produce the “cleansing” of Bessarabia of all socially unacceptable and undesirables because they did not suit the purpose of the revolution…

Hundreds of thousands of citizens of Bessarabia were evacuated. Among them – due to their social and commercial standing – the majority were Jews. Jewish Bessarabia was inundated with a flood of tears. It was Tisha B'Av in all homes. People sat on their suitcases, fearful, and waited. They listened to every rumor – they are coming to get us, they are knocking on our doors… The “Father and Leader of all people”, Genghis Khan the Second, was raging like a madman. “Moscow does not believe in tears.” Nothing helped. “Why?” He, “Joseph the Terrible” had decided on cleansing the area, and his orders were followed blindly, without pity, stubbornly.

Thousands of Bessarabia Jews, entire families, were evacuated. No one knows the exact numbers. It was kept secret. The Gulag was also not published.

Some of these evacuated people were allowed to return to their homes after Stalin's death. Their rights were restored to them. A few even recovered their belongings in Khrushchev's time.

The majority, however, perhaps 80% of those evacuated, never returned. They were victims of the brutal regime of Stalin and they died. Their souls found their final rest, far away from family and friends – in cold far–away places – in snow covered hills…


[Page 351]

Testimony of a Witness
(Archives of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem)

Miller David (Tirat HaKarmel, Amidar 88)

I was born in 1913 in Bendery, Bessarabia. Our town was on the right side of the Dniester. During the 20 years of Romanian occupation, Bendery was a border town, and the Dniester was a natural division between Russia and Romania. In Bessarabia, there were many Jewish towns and villages where Moldavian was the language used. However, Bendery was always a Russian town with a fine and intelligent young Jewish population.

The town is also famous for its ancient Turkish fortress which occupies almost half the area.

My father was a tinsmith. There was a large train station in Bendery with a big depot. My father, even before the revolution, worked there even though Jews were not usually hired for this work.

Our town had a thriving Zionist movement. The approximately 20,000 Jews maintained a Hebrew High School, under the direction of Zvi Schwartzman. In 1934 he made Aliyah.

My father gave me a religious education – I attended a Heder until I turned 13.

In time, our neighborhood changed completely. In 1918, Bessarabia was occupied by the Romanians, and Bendery was considered a town with Russian leanings. The Romanians did not allow the town to develop because most commerce was handled by Jews. Thus, the Jews suffered from this new occupation.

It must be said that in comparison with the status of the Jews on the other side of the Dniester, Bessarabia was like Garden of Eden. Still, life was difficult.

My father allowed me to learn a trade, but I saw that, in Bendery, there was no future for a young man. In 1933, I left for Galatz (Romania) and I worked in a big factory called “Fernik.”

I stayed in Galatz for one year and then I moved to Bucharest. In 1938, I married a woman from Bucharest – Hinda, daughter of Shmuel Segal.

I had not even managed to organize my family life and WWII broke out.

We immediately understood that the Russians will retake Bessarabia from Romania. They were only waiting for an excuse.

Indeed, in 1940, the Russians, “without a drop of blood”, took Bessarabia back. All of us who were born in Bessarabia were given permission to return home.

Although I was quite young, eight years old, when the Romanians occupied Bessarabia, I spoke Russian well. I could also read and write. All young people from Bendery were attached to Russian culture, literature, music – even those who were Zionists and remote from Communism.

In 1940, I returned to Bendery with my wife. I settled in a house and I was given a job in the railroad station. This is where my father had worked for many years.

I was content. We thought the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact would last. However, we were wrong.

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The day came – 21 June, 1941 – the Germans entered Russia. Two other countries – Romania and Hungary – joined Germany.

Bessarabia was especially singled out for suffering by the Romanians. They began again to anticipate becoming the owners of Bessarabia again.

Swarms of German airplanes filled the skies on the Russian border from the White to the Black Sea.

Millions of citizens, me, women, children and old people filled the roads as they were fleeing from the border deep into Russia.

My home town of Bendery played an important part in saving and helping hundreds of thousands of refugees in the years of WWI and the Russian Revolution. Thousands of families in Eretz Israel, America and other countries remember with thanks the wonderful hospitality. In Bessarabia, in Kishinev, Bendery, Beltz, Soroka, Akkerman and other places, they found the residents happy to share, with them, to the last piece of bread. There were many refugees, especially from the Russian Revolution.

Now, 25 years later, this wonderful town fell into a muddy war. Hundreds of thousands of refugees left their homes and searched for havens. They left their belongings behind – belongings they had worked years to obtain. It must be said that Russia did its best to organize an orderly evacuation.

I was an employee of the state and I was evacuated with other personnel. My wife and my mother came with me.

My father was no longer alive and other members of the family had escaped wherever they could.

After much travel, we arrived at Rostov on the Don River. This was in the first few months of the war. Everywhere in southern Russia there was not a place to be found that would be safe and restful.

Rostov was full of refugees and it had already evacuated children and women who worked in the government. It was not the last place to stay when escaping.

My friends and I were mobilized to work. My mother and my wife were registered as refugees. They were given a place to sleep and they lived on a “refugee” ration. This lasted only a short time.

The front chased us and the cruel blitzkrieg did more harm to civilians than to the military.

One day, I came home for a few hours to see my dear ones, but I did not find them. I was told by neighbors that they had been further evacuated. Where to? I did not know and neither did anyone else. There were no lists available to see who had been evacuated.

I found my wife six months later and my mother only in after four years. She was sent to Turkestan. The front lines changed and reached Rostov. When the first sounds of war were heard, we were sent away.

I was sent to the railroad line Batiusk–Aksiov in November 1941. There was cold rain and winds from the Black Sea and from the North it was difficult to be at the front. We did not have warm enough clothing.

On such a cold, wet day, the Germans sent a barrage of artillery.

I was lying in a ditch and near me a large bomb exploded. I was flung and I lost consciousness.

To this day, I do not know how long I was lying there, but I was taken to the hospital in Krasnodar. Either my friends, or the nurses, told me that I was unconscious for 2–3 weeks. I could not remember.

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For several months, I could not recall anything. Slowly, I began to speak, but I had a hearing loss – to this day. It took me about 6 months to regain my memory.

A piece of shrapnel had pierced my skull. I lost part of my ear and I had a concussion.

I “travelled” from hospital to hospital: Krasnodar, Minvada and others. My last stay was at the military hospital #5 in Kagan, Uzbekistan.

In the summer of 1942, I was brought in front of a military commission. It recognized me as an Invalid of the War, second group. I was liberated from the army.

My wife had been evacuated from Rostov. I was astonished to discover that she was alive. She came to me, to Kagan, after my liberation. We remained there until 1943.

In Kagan, I was obliged to live on the small pension and rations given to War Invalids.

Naturally, the pension did not supply us with food. Like other Jews, I had to do some business in order to earn enough to pay for food.

However, I was not a good businessman. I had always worked before, but it was difficult to live as an invalid – so far away from home. I decided to ask to be mobilized again. The military did not want me anymore. I had previously worked for many years on the railroad and had technical experience. I was then sent to complete a special technical course in Omsk, Siberia.

I completed the course as a lieutenant of an operating military group. I specialized in setting up benches for the railroad.

The Russian military was, by then, in full offensive state. Every day, news came of dozens of liberated towns and villages. The Russian front became broader from the center and from both sides – north and south.

In July 1944, my town of birth, Bendery, was liberated. I immediately asked to be sent there in order to rebuild the railroad depot. I was delighted to go back home.

Unfortunately, just at that time I received some bad news. My brother, Berel (Boris), had been killed on the front, near Konigsberg. My mother, wife and I stayed in Bendery until the end of 1945. In the beginning of 1946 we crossed the border into Romania. We did not imagine what kind of a regime would be coming to Romania.

In Romania, I was again recognized as a War Invalid. I found work in a casting plant in Bucharest. I worked there until 1950. The agreement between Russia and Romania dictated that all former residents of Bessarabia would be sent back. I did not wish to go to Russia,

I managed, with great difficulty, to obtain permission to go to Israel.

My mother died in Czernowitz, and my wife and I arrived in Israel in 1950.

We were sent to Tira North where we stayed in a small shack. There was no work. There was very little food. Soon after we arrived “rations” were instituted. People were complaining and moaning, but I could not understand how quickly they forgot that we had suffered “there.” I realized that the difficult war with the Russian “Garden of Eden” was now but a dream. I was very hopeful and knew life would be good. I was not wrong. In 1953, I found a steady job in the Alliance factory (rubber products). We moved, from the shack, to a nice apartment in a new development. I was recognized as a War Invalid – 50% disability. I now live a normal, quiet life. May it be to a 120! Amen


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Deep in the Autumn Night

Y. Manik (Lederman)

Deep in the autumn night
I wander in destroyed villages.

A muddy street, hit by fire,
I follow quickly; the roads are disappearing.

How long has it been since this place was full of life?
A long tune was heard,
In the forest and the valley,
One could hear the warm sounds of my language.
How long has it been since my youth blossomed here?
And now – the owl hoots on the ruins
And the windmill is like a phantom
With broken wings…

I think that God is wandering
In the forlorn streets,
Lonely voices stop him
And he cries…

A synagogue is here – a reminder of the destruction,
Where once the voice of the Prayer Leader was heard
The Torah is orphaned.
There is no reason to rejoice here.

An old menorah,
That was lit here
Every Shabbat…


In Your Blood Shall You Live

Yehuda–Leib Garfield (New York)

And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood. Live; yea” (Ezekiel 16, 6)

The extermination and humiliation of the Jews of Bessarabia by the Romanian police together with the Nazi murderers in the summer of 1941 is described in the Archives of YIVO, New York:

The Romanians had previously tolerated the Jews in Romania proper. The towns of Iasi and Galatz, bordering on Bessarabia, were not spared. There were many Jews killed there.

Our town of Bendery, on the Dniester, suffered greatly. Of over,15 000 Jews, only 58 remained after the war. This according to a tabulation at the time. It seems that in Bendery, itself, there were no concentration camps. Most people were killed in place. Others were taken to Transnistria.

In October 1941, when the Germans and the Romanians marched to Odessa, they killed thousands of Jews on the way. At the time, the Jews of Bendery were marching and many lives were lost.

The remaining Jews of Bendery were to be sent to Transnistria, but the order was postponed for a little while. It was either due to a lack of communication from Berlin or an official decree.

“In accordance with discussions with the Board Envoy Khodomeier and S.S. officer Eichmann (May his name be erased), on August 30, 1942 I share with you the situation and the relation towards Tighina (Bendery). In addition, I wrote about it on March 5, 1942. I have obediently taken the following stance…

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In order to strengthen transportation and due to the need to get along with the Romanian authorities in the interest of conducting the war, the Romanian commanders want us to stop, for now, evacuating Jews across the Bug River. Temporarily, the Jews of Tighina (Bendery) are to be kept in local centers before it becomes possible to send them East.

This was signed for the Romanians by General Shtob and Major General Tataramu, for the Germans Ubercommander, Major–General Haufefe.

There is no doubt that many Jews of Bendery had already been sent to various camps throughout northern Bessarabia. The following official decree shows how inhumane and gruesome was the treatment of the Jews, in the concentration camps, by the Germans:

  1. In Edinets, many Jews were killed and other Jews had to dig common graves for them There were 300 bodies in each common grave. Those who dug the graves were also then shot.
  2. 10,000 Jews were evacuated from Lipcany and Khotin. They were tormented and forced to hard labor. In addition, they were not allowed to buy food in the marketplace (Order of July, 1941).
  3. On July 17, 1941, the Gestapo, together with the Romanian army, arrived in Kishinev. More than 10,000 Jews were transported to a camp in the forest.
  4. The first 300 Jews brought by a Romanian Corporal to the Dniester in order to transport them to Transnistria, were forbidden by the Germans from crossing the Dniester. The soldiers shot and killed them. The Romanians told the survivors that if they would hand over money and jewelry, they would be allowed to cross the river. The murderers were immediately given a few hundred rings and other jewelry as well as cash. When the Jews went into the water, they were shot. 60 people survived and were able to give testimony of this horror.
Those Jews who survived the camps had to do hard labor. They were humiliated, oppressed, starved and made ill. Young girls and women were shamed by the Romanian officers and soldiers. On the other side of the Dniester, the Germans sent the Jews from Transnistria Camp to Ataki. From Novoselitza, there were also Jews sent to Ataki, to a camp on the riverbank. Romanian patrols accompanied the Jews there and back. They shot those who were tired and sick. Many of those shot were thrown into the Dniester. The events were described, in a laconic manner, to the authorities in Kishinev. The authorities reacted by putting aside all these reports.

On October 9, 1941, Dr. Fielderman, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities, appeared before Marshall Antonescu as a representative of the Federation. He requested that a stop be put to the evacuation of Jews from Bessarabia to Bucovina – where they would surely die.

On October 12, 1941, there was an order to evacuate all Jews from Bessarabia to Bucovina and to confiscate their belongings. They were allowed to take food and clothing, only what they could carry.

On October 14, Professor Antonescu promised Dr. Fielderman to stop the deportation of professionals, businessmen and partisans. However, Dr. Fielderman asked also for all others to be returned home.

On October 19, Dr. Fielderman received a reply from Marshall Antonescu. He accused the Jews of the two provinces of collaborating with the Communists against Romania. They are now being punished for their behavior.

In the meantime, Jews in Kishinev were treated with cruelty. Only converts to Christianity and capable craftsmen were spared. The situation in the concentration camps worsened.

October 16, 1941. Hans Raguer, a camp administrator, came to Camp Petchero and ordered all girls 14 to 20 to be used as nurses in the military hospital near Vinnitsa.

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Around 150 young women were assembled and they were placed in special cars that were waiting for them. The girls were driven to a nearby forest, where they were shamed, beaten and then shot. Only one girl, Frida Kofler, survived with the help of a German soldier. He had previously worked in Dachau.

On May 26 – previously mentioned that Dr. Fielderman was asked to pay 4 billion lei. Dr. Fielderman did not have the money, and he was sent to Transnistria on July 30, 1941.

On January 1, 1944 – Marshall Antonescu announces the following: “We handled the residents of the occupied areas with gentleness and humanity. No one was beaten or looted in these places. Wherever we went, no one was deported and no one was hurt in our camps. We did not uproot any families or people because of national or political interests.”

I only chose some examples of the Nazi horrors, together with Romanian collaborators.

This is a table indicating the extermination plan of the Romanian authorities in September 1941 – in the locations shown:

Beltz 2,923
Kohul 47
Akkerman 55
Kiliya 130
Ismail 1,259
Lopushne 215
Orgeyev 360
Soroka 1,279
Bendery 58
Czernowitz 49,497
Staradjhinetz 4,311
Khotin 559

And the camps:

Securin–Edinetz 20,909
Markulesht 10,737
Vertujhen 24 000
Ghetto Kishinev 10,096

The Jews of Transnistria do not belong to this table.

The pre–war statistics indicate these provinces had 274,036 Jews. This number grew higher when Jews from the Soviet Union arrived in 1940. It is estimated that more than 150,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis and the Romanians.

* * *

“My ancestors belong to the present House of Israel. I come from these martyrs who gave the world God and morals. They suffered through the battles of memory.”


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The Bendery Society

Yehuda–Leib, son of David, Halevi (New York)

 

ben357.jpg
The Bendery Society of New York at a memorial assembly for the Jews of Bendery who were murdered in the Holocaust

 

Bendery was a town with a colorful setting. It sat in the middle, between old and new Bessarabia. It was an important summer resort on the Dniester. There were fruit orchards on one side and vineyards on the other side. The most important actors from Peterburg (St. Petersburg), Moscow and Odessa used to perform in Bendery, using their vacation time. There was good income for all, and very few Jews had immigrated to America. Some young people went to study in Paris and remained there. Others made Aliyah. After WWI, there were young working people who moved to America.

The Bendery Society was founded in 1920, and it was always, and still is, a lively and mobile organization in America. It strives to cooperate with all Jewish institutions. When Bessarabia absorbed many refugees from the Soviet Union and the economic situation was critical, the Bendery Society sent financial help. It also sent help, with a full heart, to other groups. All this until WWII broke out.

When the Association of Bessarabian Jews was established, the Jews of Bendery were an important part of it. They helped considerably in the work of the association and later in the Council of Bessarabia.

Those from Bender remain in contact with their compatriots in Israel.

[Page 358]

In Israel, they established a loan fund to help those who are in need.

Many compatriots from Bendery are quite enthusiastic and interested in the “Center of the Jews of Bessarabia” in Tel Aviv. They decided that it was their duty to uphold the good name of the Jews of Bendery by giving larger financial support and building the Center of the Jews of Bessarabia.

Bendery was, for many generations, a beautiful Jewish town with its cherished Bessarabian Jews and Jewish institutions. It can also be proud of the beautiful and important monuments in the society here, in America.

Bessarabian Jews” bulletin, 21.10.1967


Bessarabian Jews Intensively
Construct a Building in Israel

The Association of Bessarabian Jews, established at the beginning of WWII, did much to help the remainder of the community. The author of these words held all important positions in this association, and he faithfully served the Jews of Bessarabia during all that time.

When the Cold War brought a cooling in our midst, those who were nationalistic Jews left the Association. The Council of Bessarabia was then established with the help of MK Yitzhak Korn, the dynamic Jew from Kishinev. He is the President of the World Association of Jews from Bessarabia.

Throughout the years, we built dwellings for newcomers, as well as absorption centers, residences for seniors, and other projects. However, the most important project of Yitzhak Korn was the construction of the Center for Jews from Bessarabia. It will be a grand building with a lot of sections and great historic perspective.

It is essential to note that the more notable Jews from Bessarabia, all over the free world, have enthusiastically participated in this project. The building is almost completed, and we are now waiting only for the official opening in May, or beginning of July, this year.

My intention is to draw the attention of the locals, mainly the New York members from Bessarabia, especially those who have not yet committed themselves to this building. The time is short and they must be involved now. If not, they will be late in becoming partners, with others from Bessarabia, in this historic project. It will be the Center of the Jews of Bessarabia.

This building is a monument for Bessarabia and all Jews from there must be involved.

There is still space for these people to contribute their portion in the building of this monument. History will note this fact.

Several organizations have pledged large sums. In front is the Bessarabian Society of Baltimore. In second place is the Bessarabian Society of Pittsburgh. Among the individuals there are many important personalities such as President Moshe Libman, z” l and, to differentiate, the present president, Morris Ginsburg. The Bendery Society of New York has pledged to pay for the Bendery Room in the Center for the Jews of Bessarabia.

If you want to sponsor a room in your name or you wish to give a lesser amount, there is still time to do so. This is the last opportunity. There will not be a second chance for you.

With warm regards and with great respect,

Leon Garfield
National Secretary
Day–Morning–Journal,” New York


[Page 359]

The Progressive Bendery Benevolent Society

The organization was established in 1920 by 18 members, headed by Yosef Tabachnik, z” l. When the Association of Bessarabian Jews was founded five years later, the society was among the first to join in relief–work. In the last few years, they lost three of their active members: Yosef Tabachnik, z” l, Zelig Broitman, z” l, and Eliezer Sverdlik, z” l. They had done much for the Bendery and the Bessarabian Associations.

The President, Yosef Gorenstein, Rabbi Moshe Z. Berman, Avraham Forman and Leon Garfield were the only ones who helped to create the Association of Jews of Bessarabia. Leon Garfield is one of the most active leaders and Vice–President of the Association. An important role is played by Max Broitman as the Chairman of the Relief Committee. The Relief Committee was established by H. Bidnik, L. Kliatz, Leon Garfield, Paul Garfield, I. Gorenstein, S. Roth and A. Forman.

David Carmeli
The Jews of Bessarabia,” January 1946

 

ben359.jpg
A meeting of former residents of Bendery, Tel Aviv, 1969,
where it was decided to publish the Bendery Yizkor Book

 


[Page 361]

Afterword

P. Bendersky

Jews have a nice custom – going to the cemetery – to remember and honor their ancestors. This custom is connected to the forging of the “golden chain” which entwines the Jewish past with the present. There should not be, God forbid, a break in the chain.

The Yizkor books are written by those who survived the Holocaust. It is a miracle that they were not annihilated by the murderous dogs during the terrible times of WWII. They remember well the life of the Jews – in spite of the evil decrees and confinements. They did not have a country, and they were strangers in all the foreign lands in which they found themselves. How great was their spirit!

The present generation and the future one, when they will come to discuss Eastern Europe, will learn about the spirit of the once vibrant Jewish life in towns and villages, everywhere in the diaspora.

Our longing, we Bendery Jews, will never stop. We have undertaken a difficult task – to eternalize our beloved town, with its fine Jews – religious and secular – and its institutions and societies.

Bendery was a cherished community, and it is truly important to eternalize it.

It is possible that we began this large and important task too late. Many smaller communities in Bessarabia have already done it some time ago. However, in spite of all difficulties, we have not stopped, and we will complete our task. As it said – better late than never.

In Bendery, thanks to its topographic location, there was a colorful community life. There were Hassidim, Zionists and their branches, Bundists and Revolutionaries who vociferously opposed the Tsar.

The generation that had the luck to be born at the end of the 19th century and the dawn of the 20th was one that was imbued with high moral ideals. This is why our Zionist ideas were followed. To our great sorrow all of this disappeared. This is why our memories of those days must not be forgotten. Our parents have earned it, and the memories will truly honor them.

This Yizkor Book has as its base not the individual memories of every family, but those that are true of the entire Jewish community of Bendery.

In our Yizkor Book there are descriptions of Jewish life until the last stroke. There are wonderful pictures of nature in Bendery and surroundings, its river and fields. All seasons of the year, memories of Shabbat and Holidays, and Jewish customs are included. All of this together with the horrors of the Holocaust. This why our Yizkor Book is our memorial to the generation that no longer exists. All those who were cut down and did not manage to make Aliyah to our great Jewish homeland– the STATE OF ISRAEL.

 

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