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The Demographic Development of the Jews of Roman and Surroundings

Their Participation in the Economic, Cultural and Political Life. Aspects of Their Relationship With the General Population.


I. Jewish Presence in Roman and Surroundings Prior to 1938

The City of Roman is situated at the confluence of the Moldova and Siret rivers, on the great road of the Siret, which connected long ago the north of Moldova with the Danube ports. Roman is mentioned in “The List of Romanian Cities” compiled between 1287 and 1392, which indicates that the City existed even earlier. This is also based on the fact that the city seal is written in Latin, as well as the fact that according to Armenian traditions in Roman their first wooden church was purchased from the Sas ethnic group, in 1355. The ruler of Moldova, Roman Vodă Mushat, is the founder of the castle of Roman, as is mentioned in 1392[1].

With respect to the length of time of the presence of Jews in the city, there exist the following documents and evidence:

  1. In the book of gold of the Community “Pinkas” [Register], dated 1773, there is an inscription from that year. In subsequent inscriptions it is mentioned that the old cemetery in 1872, when it stopped functioning, was 300 years old.
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    Rabbi Iacov Isachsohn avers that he had seen, in 1880, a headstone of similar age.
  1. A document of 1526 estopped Armenians and “Jews” trading in food and beverages, to prevent “contamination of Christians”. From this document it is deduced that Jews started to settle in Moldova under the rule of Alexandru the Good, at the same time as the Armenians. “Strongly we urge all foreigners, Armenians and Jews, to work industriously at the taverns, the food markets and the bakeries”.[2]
  2. A ruler's decree dated 29 November, 1825, by Ioan Sandu Sturza, regarding the old cemetery, concerning complaints of certain citizens of the City, avers that said cemetery was located there for “hundreds of years”, there was no marketplace there, but “open space” and it is added “since even now it is not located in the middle of the town but far from it”.
  3. The correspondence of Stavrri with the famous Hagi Constantin POP from Sibiu asserts the existence of shop booths “of Bercu the Jew, near the bishopric, donated by Andronachi”.[3]
Tradition supplements the documentation.

One of these holds that at the beginning of the XVth century there existed a wooden synagogue, situated on the spot of the actual Central Synagogue. At that time, Alexadru the Good, leaving for battle, directed that the Jews should pray for his victory and in fact he joined in the services held in the synagogue. After victory, the Ruler exempted the Jews from levies for three years.

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Another tradition holds that Bogdan Vodă the Blind, son of Stefan the Great, passing through Roman, Suceava bound, visited the wooden synagogue, donating a sum of money, with which a Torah scroll was brought from Poland, and it was known as the “Torah of Bogdan Vodă”.

This holy writing existed till 1830, when the synagogue was set afire by the nobleman Vâlcov, when the Torah was burned as well. J. Kafman states in the “Israelite Magazine” that, in the year 1880, there were elders in Roman who said that they read from that Torah and gave precise details thereof.

In 1657, April 11, at Iaşi, Toader Banta made a complaint regarding a plot of land for a home, bought on the border of the town Scheia–Roman. A witness at the transaction was Moise, a Jewish doctor. “And this transaction was concluded at our own free will in front of their highness Ion Prăjescul treasurer, and in front of Iordache manager of the town of Iaşi and in front of Moisă the doctor and in front of the priest Bele from the town of Scheia…”[4]

The same Moise the doctor purchased in 1662, September 15, in Iaşi, houses from Iorga Karaiane.[5]

Certainly, this doctor had connections with the Roman county; some authors figure him to be the same as Doctor Cohen, from Iaşi. (Not to be confused with his namesake at the end of the following century.)

For the beginning of the XVIIIth century, the learned Bishop Melchisedec offers details regarding the Jews, beginning with the year 1704. But in detail, the documents of the Bishopric remind us of the rulers' book of 1709, wherein it stated that “it is owed to the Bishopric 2 bani per shop booth, all merchants from Roman–Christians, Armenians or Jews.”[6]

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A tombstone discovered in 1928, when the construction of the “Roman Vodă” high–school began on the site of the cemetery, had the following content: “The Rabbi, our most devout tzadik and renowned for his distinguished qualities, David Ber, deceased on the 27th Tevet 5584 (1724).”[7]

In a book of court records from 1742, among the Jews of Iaşi, Isac and Volea, there is mention of a Jew from Roman, Haim.[8]

In 1745, a tombstone is mentioned, belonging to “the notable man, learned and teacher of laws, Mister Yehuda Leib son of Mister Tzvi Hersh.[9]

In 1785, CERBU, a “Jew from Roman” lived in Iaşi on Main Street, also known as the Squire's Street, litigated 12 years ago with Pavel the carter because of a bull drowned while pulling a cart with wine from Movilău.[10]

Similar transaction was done by Moise who brought a load from Ozarniţa to Roman, one.[11]

In 1765, the Jewish Community in Roman was wrongfully accused of plundering a church, they suffered insults and beatings.[12]

According to a document of the squires of 1769 only at the towns of Cernăuti, Botosani, Roman, Focsani, Galati, Chisinău there are settled shopkeepers”. In Roman there was in 1794 a guild of Jewish craftsmen tailors.[13]

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According to the 1774 census there existed in Roman 14 Jewish families.[14]. P. Răşcanu mentions also two years later Jewish shopkeepers in the city.[15]

In 1780, on a list of debtors of the Squire Constantin Balş the following are recorded:

Solomon son of Cerbu, Lupu the Jew, Leiba the Gabbai (synagogue manager) of Jews, Lepu and Dov Focshaneanu, Litman the Jew, Giacal (who pawned pearls), Peisală Leibi Ishlicary's wife (made squire hats) and David son of Leibi, from Roman and Bercu the Jew for the feudal system from Trifesti, Pascal from Trifesti.[16]

In 1792, The Roman Bishopric owed to: Leiba “the Jew of Roman” 1053 lei and 99 bani, since 1786–August 25, but 1000 lei given in money and the balance merchandise, thus the 1000 lei accrued interest for 6 years and 2 months–493 lei and 40 bani; 413 lei and 33 bani to Leiba the short one and 224 lei to Smilu Barohu, the Jew.[17]

In the same year, Antoniu, Bishop of Roman, gave a plot of land for a house to doctor Moise, for definitely settling in town, “as to one who served the town and continues to serve it now”. The document describes him as being “diligent and dedicated in the time of need, he sought out those who fell ill among the people”.

The house was given to him on Main Street, to set up shop.[18] According to Dr. Epifanie Cozărăscu, the Precista Monastery Hospital, established in the city in 1798, if he were a full doctor with title, he would have been employed by the hospital; but he was not. Our query: was he still alive in that year?[19]

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According to M. Schwarzfeld, in 1794, at Roman the Jewish craftsmen's guild, which encompassed all without differentiating by discipline or specialty, decided to donate 2 lei yearly each to the Holy Society (probably the burial society Chevra Kadisha).[20]

Two years later, a document mentions “the shop booths of Bercu the Jew”. [[21] In 1798, in the ledger of expenses of a certain glassware manufacturer from Miclăuşeni, Roman county, the following is recorded: Avram son of Iacob the craftsman, who received 70 lei for work (probably the same as Avram the Jewish glassblower mentioned in a document from 1785 in Anuarului Eparhiei Romanului, 1936), and Herşil who supplied potash ash (62 lei and 60 bani for 100 merţe). To the master they also gave at marriage time, 14 lei, money for meat, corn, wheat, and food. For two years of work he was paid 80 ducats.[22]

In the same year, the Ruler of Moldova, Alexandru Callimachi, regulated the rights of the Bishopric of Roman over the town and townspeople: for all the wine and brandy that will be sold in the town taverns, Christians, Jews and others will have to pay to the Bishopric 2 bani per a quantity of wine…and one ban for a quantity of brandy; but the sale will belong to the bishopric. Shopkeepers will pay also to the bishopric, for the site of the shop booth.[23] These levies being oppressive, the inhabitants of the city were against said liens. It was attempted to justify the increased dues by the building of the hospital, which required extensive funds.

N. Iorga offers us certain information regarding the Jewish trade in Moldova:

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“The Jews brought in their shop booths at fairs, foreign made merchandise – Turkish textiles, household utensils, tools for field workers from Graz, in Silezia…thick English cloth at convenient prices, and later all that was necessary to furnish a house according to European taste”.[24]

Toward the end of the XVIIIth century, the Jews were involved in commerce and crafts: glassblower, doctor, tavern keepers, money changers. We must remember of course also the money changer Constantin Balsh, who was a titled squire. As a rule, the exchangers were those who had liquid currency.

In 1817, the inhabitants of the Scheia village complained of the leaseholder of the estate who subleased to Leiba the Jew the license for beverages. But over 4 decades the inhabitants of the Săbăoani estate, Roman County, complain also against the owner of the estate, Dimitrie Stan.[25] It is not the fault of any one nation, but of the lack of regulations in the fiscal, agricultural, etc. areas.


Statistics of the Jews in the 19th Century

The census of 1820 shows 104 Jews (families) that have been permitted to settle, while the one of 1832 shows 1154 Jews (see appendices). For the year of 1848 we have only civil records figures: born – 36, married – 10, and 20 deceased (12 men and 8 women[26]). Two years later, 363 Jewish families lived in the city[27], while other sources specify 562 Jews (families); otherwise we cannot explain the drastic reduction in numbers compared to the 1832 statistics.[28]

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Although the prince Mihail Grigore Sturza applied restrictive measures against the Jews, in the decree of 28 February 1844 he emphasizes:

  1. Most of the towns in Moldova that are private property are inhabited by Jews, because the locals are much better suited to agriculture work.
  2. If the Jews of these towns were forbidden to deal in food and drink commerce, there is no doubt that they, lacking the opportunity to earn their living, will leave the towns, which will remain deserted.
  3. The consequences will be grave losses to properties, because there is no possibility to inhabit those towns with peasants, given that the big estates are in demand of inhabitants.[29]
Here is the number of Jews in the other towns.[30]

In 1859 at Bozieni there were 176 Jews and 172 Romanians, in Dămieneşti 155 Jews, while in 1889–1890 in those towns and others, the distribution was as follows: Bozieni (1890) 500 Jews and 500 Romanians, at Băceşti – 453 Romanians and 474 Jews, at Dămieneşti – 170 Romanians and 154 Jews, at Băra – 195 Romanians and 245 Jews, and at Onişcani – 80 Romanians and 68 Jews.

In 1895 at Băra there were 407 inhabitants, most of them Jews, while in 1890 at Bozieni – 350 Jews[31].

For the 6th decade of the 19th century, I. Psantir gives the following data: Băceşti – 120 families, Dămieneşti – 12 families, and Băra – 30 families[32].

For the year 1884, I Valentinianu presents the following statistics for Roman: births – Romanians 252 and Jews 312, deaths – 280 Romanians and 152 Jews.[33]

The great number of deaths in the Romanian population, especially in the villages, was explained – at the national level by Dr. Iacob Felix and at the local level by dr. Dimitrie Cantemir – by the lack of sanitarian assistance, and even more by the lack of social aid, which always was an important part of the budget of any Jewish community.

For the last half year of the year 1886, the local newspaper “Romanu” supplies us the following data: Romanians – births 262, marriages 45, deaths 203; Jews – births 136, marriages – 20, deaths – 75[34]. In 1887 there were 2116 Jews in the Roman County[35]. In the first trimester of that year 141 Romanians were born, 12 married and 138 deceased. In the same period, 70 Jews were born, 2 married, 38 deceased[36]. The next year, for the last trimesters, the situation was similar. Between 1 Aug 1887 – 1 Aug 1888, 559 Romanians were born, 70 married, and 479 deceased. 275 Jews were born, 18 married and 162 deceased[37].

For the year 1887 in the “United Plases” (Plasa – a subdivision of a county) there were 511 Jews of a total of 42079 inhabitants, in Plasa Siretul de sus (Upper Siret) 681 Jews of a total of 25773 inhabitants,

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while in Plasa Fundul, 924 Jews of a total of 18434 inhabitants[38]. In 1892, the number of Jews was 6025, compared to 7182 Romanians[39]. In December 1894, there were in the city of Roman 6200 Jews (3134 men and 3066 women), and in the county 7942 (3975 men and 3967 women)[40]. The total number of inhabitants in the county was 108704 people.

In 1831, the inhabitants of the city Roman have complained to the authorities, asking for the liquidation of the small alcohol distilleries, most of them kept by Jews, since, as mentioned in a document from 1846, some of the Jews have obtained various jobs at the big estates, renting distilleries, mills and forests[41].

In 1835, the under–physician Abraham Meizels, of 33 years age, a Jew from Bacău, is mentioned as the temporary replacement of the physician Alexandru Theodori; he spoke the Moldovan language. It should be mentioned that Dr. Theodori was responsible for the sanitarian services of the counties Roman, Bacău, and Neamț, being a resident of Roman[42].

Various documents mention Leib, the money–lender, who lent 500 ducats to a certain boyar, as one of the shopkeepers – Haim Argintaru, David Argintaru, Iancu and Avram[43]. In 1852, Th. Codrescu mentions the merchants Hascal son of Iosip, Ițic Nadler, and the tailor Bercu. According to the newspaperman Marius Mircu, in 1831 there were 175 Jewish tailors.[44] The names of some of the synagogues refer to the occupations of the praying people: tailors, boot–makers, cabmen, etc.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the following merchants and craftsmen are mentioned: M. Berman – upholsterer (had also a furniture shop), Iosef Ratimberg, tannery, M. Bring – owned a shop selling “exotic goods” (spices, coffee, etc…), Uşer Vaisman – metal goods shop, Iosef Bainglas – tinsmith, had a glass and porcelain shop, Haim Solomon – bakery, Iosef Zingher – selling harnesses and money lender, Ioil Medonick, selling glass products, porcelain and tin products, M. Daniel – supplier of wood for heating[45]. Iosub Zingher manufactured soap and candles, while Leizer son of Nuhem had a mill with two stones[46].

A bigger factory, of leather goods, belonged to Grinberg.[47] Another who is mentioned is Sender Baraf, responsible of measurements accuracy, and E. Rostreich who sold an uncommon product, lye for washing cows, extracted from tobacco.[48]

In general, the Jews of Roman have arrived, at different times, from Poland. In order to fill the unknown details about their origin, or the Romanian localities they lived before moving to Roman, we use the family names. The ones living in Roman for a long time are called ot Roman, mi (from in Hebrew) Roman, and those who had come recently Romaşcanu. We find others, as Iosăp a Jew ot Hălăuceşti, Haim Gălățeanu, Sender Burdujanu, Heis Bârlădeanu, Iancu Horodniceanu, Sache Alterescu – Buz(o)ianu, Iancu Pietrenu, A. Polak (the Polish) etc.

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The family names help us identify their occupations as well: Zalman Stoleru (carpenter), Avram Ceasornicaru (watchmaker), Ițic Curelaru (harness maker), Max Blecher (tinsmith), Sandu Sticlaru (glass–maker), Ițic Cotiugaru (carriage driver), L. Tejghetaru (cashier), Pascal Bacal (grocer), Avram Meşter (craftsman).

There are those who carry usual Yiddish names, derived from German, others have translated their names to Romanian, as Cerbu (Hirsch–deer); others Romanized the Yiddish names – Alter – Alterescu. There are those who carry Romanian nicknames: Lungu (the long one), Scurtu (the short one), etc.

N. Iorga mentions that in the second half of the 19th century, the Englishman W. Beatty Kingston describes the city: “If among the three and half millions of the people in London, two millions were strangers, with criticizable habits, and all of the commerce was in their hands, I don't think the other one million and half would sympathize them” He declared this, thinking that in the city of Roman the Jewish element is dominant and that Roman can be compared with London[49]. The Englishmen though, have not been scared too much by the Jews, the proof being the lord Beaconsfield–Disraeli, who held the position of prime minister of the United Kingdom for a record–time, even though in that country the number of Jews was below the 4%, the maximal number achieved by Jews in Romania.

Following is the description of a German: “Inside, it (the town) resembles the other Moldovan towns, a long alley by the name of Ulița Mare (the long alley), a row of open booths, covered carelessly, behind them standing some Jews dressed in black, with curly

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side–locks, or bearded Romanians in their sheep–hide coats… In the booths we find brooms, wooden articles, pots and pans, or food – in such small quantities that the worth of such a booth is hardly several golden coins.”

In the Romanian war of independence, Jews of Roman have fought alongside the Romanians. The soldier Froim Trent of the 14th infantry regiment died in the line of duty. Jews from the Roman city and county have contributed in money, food, animals and other objects. Some of them are enumerated in M. O. 22 Sep 1877, 6/18 Oct. 1877, 8/20 Oct. 1877, 22 Jan 1878 etc.

Performing their duties, the Jews thought they were entitled to rights. Thus, in the issue of 16 December 1878, the newspaper “Telegraful” published an impressive letter addressed to the president and members of the Romanian Parliament, requesting civil rights. They did not receive a positive reply.

Later, in 1880 and 1881, such rights were bestowed upon three Jews of Roman: Sache Alterescu, Ph.D. in law, awarded by royal decree the title of Knight of the order “Romanian Crown”, the banker Ios. Moscovici and the pharmacist Max Frankel (M.O. 40/1880, 61/1880, 15/1881).

In 1885, the requests for citizenship of the Jews Aron S. Goldentahl, I. Reinstein, Feldman Simo, and E.L. Fischler were rejected[51].

In the 20th century, the demographic situation of the Jews in Roman and the neighborhood was the following: In 1900 there were 7982 Jews in the city, of which 3936 men and 4046 women[52].

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The most complete statistics is presented by Leonida Colescu, who gives the following numbers: in the Roman County there were 7.4% Jews, in the city of Roman there were 6432 Jews out of a population of 16288 inhabitants. In the rural communities, where Jews were less numerous, the number was 1804 out of 95300. At Băceşti there were 40, Băra 308, Dămieneşti 194, Galbeni 59, and Onişcani 44[53].

In 1905, based on the local community statistics, in the city there were 1027 family heads, 4620 people, 986 married men, 986 married women, widows 94, bachelors 17, widowers 23, boys at school age 1215, girls 1300, literate men 759 and literate women 453[54].

In 1912, there were 11754 Romanians in the city, and 5299 Jews; of other nationalities, there were 1075 inhabitants[55]. In 1925 dr. W. Filderman repeats those numbers. In 1926, Rabbi Mendel Frankel informs of 1000 Jewish families, with 3600 people. In 1930, there were in the city 7129 Jews, in 1939 – 7163, in 1941 – 6025, and in 1942 – 6485 (24.8%)[56]. In that year there were 4639 literate Jews (78.3%).

One of the Jewish occupations was tenant (land leaser). There are also mentioned associations of tenants. Thus, in 1859 the Jews Ariton Solomon, Hascal and Cunea son of Iosip, form such an association[57]. In that time, also existed the tenant trusts of the families Costiner, Iuster, and Gutman[58]. Based on other data, Jews held in the 20th century in the Roman County:

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706 ha. of arable land, 300 ha. of grazing land, 1454 ha. of forests, 2460 ha. in total.

In 1907, the demands of all the peasants were the same: reduction in the prices of leasing the plowing fields and the grazing fields, and correct accounting. Everywhere, the houses of the tenants were destroyed, the accounting registers torn, the clerks beaten.

A newspaper of that time remarks that in Moldova “most of the tenants are Jews. In order to transform the agrarian revolt into a pogrom, all that was needed was several clever maneuvers; all that was required was the intervention of the clever anti–Semitic demagogy, the kind we find so disgraceful, all over Europe”[59].

The socialists and the students exploited this and, based on the existence of an anti–Semitic wave, were trying to give it a religious aspect. Beccaria, an Italian diplomat, mentions the Fischer trust in Moldova, which possessed 237000 ha. of leased land, of those 159000 ha. arable land. The tenants paid 21 lei per hectare, and demanded of the peasants 40–60 lei per hectare.

Following Beccaria, the one who was to blame was the government, who tolerated the existence of Jewish trusts for leasing land, although it was illegal by law[60].

At Hălăuceşti, the shop of a Jewish woman was destroyed, and at Muncel, the bureau of Milo Somer. In the same village, on 12 March the peasants of the village, together with those of Mogoşeşti, destroyed the Jewish shops. At Trifeşti, Herzberg's courtyard was destroyed. The inn–keeper Aron, being attacked, has defended himself, together with his son, until the army arrived[61]. Radu Rosetti affirms that not only Jewish houses were destroyed, the fact being confirmed by documents.

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Violence occurred in the communities of Herbăşeşti, Strunga, Criveşti, and Brătuleşti, where 400 peasants went through the communities, driving the Jews away. The shop of the merchant Iacobsohn was ruined, and the merchandise thrown out in the street.[62] The peasants of Bârjoveni kept the brothers Solomon, tenants, captive, demanding the abolition of debts[63]. Severe clashes occurred in the community Cârligi, where the estate of the brothers Zarifopol, was leased by I. Spotheim. “The revolt had a very violent character; the peasants sought to kill the tenant, and destroyed his house. Although the landowner Zaripofol has promised to change the arrangements, the peasants held to their threatening attitude, requiring the prefect to send troops from the 8th artillery regiment”.[64].

Although the Jews of Roman have participated in the Romanian war of independence, and the grant of civil rights was denied, they still kept fighting for the country where they were born.

During the Bulgarian campaign in 1913, the soldier from Roman Cahane Leibu, of the 14th infantry regiment, died. Three years later, Romania joined WWI, called the war for the union of the nation. The Jews of course, participated in this war as well.

The city and County of Roman has sacrificed many victims during this war. Among them 19 dead, 14 wounded, 7 heroes were decorated. The following died during the fights: Baum Max, soldier of the 16th infantry regiment, Bercovici Iancu, Coflea Herşcu, Chegler Wolf,

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David Strul, A. Edelstein, Ellman Iancu, B. Feldstein, Galet Ițic, Katz N. Bercu, Moses Avram, Meer Nută, Scorțanu Leiba, Ţifui Isac and Zait Gavril, soldiers of the same regiment. Others that died were T.R. Chegler Ţalic, Leizer Manole and Leiba Mendel (maintenance corps). The following soldiers of the 16th infantry regiment were wounded: Cherpel Haim, Feler Herşcu, Handel Frederic, Haimovici Faibiş, Marcu Ilie, Marcu Iacob, Romanaşcanu Moise, Sfarț Lazăr, and the officer Adm. Israil Gh.

The following were decorated: Atlasman Lazăr (soldier of the 16th infantry regiment) with “Manhood and Belief” with swords, 3rd class. From the same regiment, the following have received the same decoration: Leibovici Aron, Meer Vigder, Roşu Ilie, and Sacaleț Herşcu. The soldier Rivenzon David has been decorated with 2nd class[66].

The constitution of 1923 granted the Jews civil rights. The U.E.R (Union of Romanian Jews) has conducted a bitter struggle for obtaining those rights.

In 1934, the Jews of Roman have celebrated 15 years since emancipation. The mayor of the city, Moisina, participated in the festivity along with the Jewish representatives, pharmacist Horovitz and the lawyer Schwartz[67].

We have only limited information about the participation of Roman Jews in local politics. In 1926, the following were candidates on the Liberal list: Iancu Gross, lawyer N. Maximilian Schor, Osias Beram, H. Haimovici, and Bercu Zingher[68].

In the 20th century, the fields of occupation of the Roman Jews diversified.

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New professions appeared among Jews, and in the practiced professions their number increased.

In the jubilee exhibition of 1906, some Jews from the Roman County were awarded prizes. M. Somer–Poiana (for wheat), A. Focşaner–Cordun (the same), both receiving bronze medals with a special diploma, and Leizer Rubel–Trifeşti, I. Spodheim–Cârligi (corn), R. Cligher–Oniceni (barley), Oscar Guttman–Boteşti (beans and barley), Ackerman–Stăniță (wheat), B. Zingher Băceşti (wheat), A. Focşaner–Cordun (wheat), C. Iacobsohn–Strunga (rye), N. Isac–Tupilați (barley), were awarded diplomas and special distinction.[69]

In 1936, the firms S.I.N.C – David Laufer and M. Zingher of Roman, were mentioned for commerce of cereals and their derivates, with a capital of 500000 lei, and S.A. “Prodagricol” Roman, for the industrialization and commercialization of agricultural products and derivates, with a capital of 1 million lei, invested by a group of seven people, among them M. Zingher – 350000 lei, B. Rohrlich – 300000 lei, and I. Brucmaier – 100000 lei.[70]

The appendices offer abundant material about the numbers and diversity of the commerce practiced by the Jews in the Roman town and County. Solomon Zingher was the president of the merchants' council in Roman, and A. Weisman was the president of the merchants' council in Băceşti–Roman.[71] In the 20th century the following workshops and factories existed in Roman: the leather factory “Zimbru” belonging to the Rosemberg brothers, with a capital of 5 million, the workshop of leather processing belonging to Isac and Iancu Mairsohn, S.I.N.C. with a capital of 100000 lei, the soap factory “Luceafărul” of Aron Margulis, with a capital of 150000 lei,

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the sweets and marmalade factory of H. Ghelberg and Gh. with a capital of 409000 lei, the factory of articles made of tin and metal–wire “Leul” of M. Saider, with a capital of 250000 lei, factory of metal–wire “Vulturul” belonging to Anita Lebovici, with a capital of 200000 lei, tin factory “Fierul” of Herman Kendler, with a capital of 150000 lei, the factory of articles made of metal–wire “Gloria” of Sigmund Rosen with a capital of 250000 lei, the foundry “Ferometal” of Avram Davidovici, with a capital of 200000 lei, the terracotta factory of Lazăr Blecher, with a capital of 300000 lei[72]. In his notes, the Rabbi Mendel Frenkel also mentions: the Rohrlich mill, the leather factory Grimberg, and several other workshops for manufacturing hairgrips, buckles, soap, candles. The archives material add also: the textile factory of Marcovici Silvian, the factory owners Mayersohn Buium, Max Bucă, Stein Iosif, Moses Schechter, Werner Solomon, Iosub Leizerovici, the cinema owner I. Lazarovici, the harness work–shop I. Stumer, the oil factories Grimberg Samoil, Grimberg Adolf, Grimberg Moriț and Grimberg Ițic, the timber factory of Straucher Moriț, Straucher Vili and Straucher Iosif.[73]


II. The Jews in Roman during the period of the Dictators

The short duration of the Goga–Cuza regime has left its imprint on the life of the Jews, particularly with respect to the problem of renewing their citizenship. This would

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continue with perseverance also under the Legionary government.

From the correspondence of the community of Roman with “the Union of Communities of the Former Kingdom [Regat]”, we discover that those without citizenship were divided into two categories:

  1. Those reviewed and rejected. In order to obtain identity cards, they were asked to present their wedding certificates and their children's birth certificates, proof of having satisfied their military service and receipts of their taxes payments.
  2. Those who were not reviewed or were not citizens, possessing: a travel document (if a foreigner), a Nansen passport (if Romanian), birth certificates or military record. In 1939, there have been 101 Jews without Romanian citizenship[74]
In general, the documents do not offer us any real data, but only the reflection of the characteristic events in the whole country at the time. There has not been any victim. The display windows and the doors of the Jewish stores were glued on with posters: “Attention! A Jidov's shop”! [”jidov”= a derogatory term for a Jew].[75]

The Pogrom in the city of Isai had profound connections with the Roman County. A certain document appears to lead to the idea of premeditated plans. A week prior to the arrival of the death trains, the Jews of Roman have dug communal graves for those who would die in the torturing “death trains.”

Of the wanderings of such a train we find out also in the local newspaper “Ceahlăul” no. 107/16 VI 1990:

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In Mirceşti, the dead and the dying were thrown from the train cars, loaded onto carts requisitioned in advance and flung again, this time along the Northern part of the “Iugani Canal.” There, as the heat waves were great, they have grown putrefied. Not able to breathe any more in town, the authorities have requisitioned carts again and by compulsory labor dug a common grave at the intersection of the communal road of Iugani and the National Road Paşcani–E–85.

Professor Trifan asks: Are there one hundred? Hundreds? Ask yourselves, good Christians, if someone came to the assistance of the dying. Witnesses, who would not give their names, gave the excuse: fear of the town's Gendarmes! Anyone who would step out would be hit with the butts of their rifles, with special predilection toward dying Jews!

Nevertheless, it appears that at least one of the dying has been saved; it must have been the one who was hidden in the cellar of Mr. Dumitru Vernica, a Sergeant ctg. 1936 of Mirceşti. This probability arises from the fact that when Mr. Vernica died on December 30th, 1985, his spouse, not liking to boast, has related to us, nevertheless, that Mr. Vernica, while acting in the capacity of a provisions Sergeant with the Pioneers of the Cernăuţi Unit, had saved the Jew Leizer Rosenthal, who subsequently succeeded in reaching the U.S.A.

A controversial fact is that of the obligation to wear the Yellow Star, at least for a limited time. Here is what Oliver Lustig is telling us in “The Flame” of 5–December–1986: “It is true that, through ordinance number 3/23. VIII. 1941, the General Constantin Cernătescu, commander of the 4th (VI) territorial headquarters, ordered

[Page 28]

that all residents of Jewish ethnic origin, of whichever sex or age, found in passage or residing in the judiciary territory of the 4th territorial headquarters (the counties of Iaşi, Baia, Botoşani, Roman, Soroca) are obliged, in 48 hours of the present announcement, to wear a distinctive mark on the left side, of two equilateral triangles of a 7–centimeter base, superposed in such a way so as to form the Jewish star, made of yellow cloth”. It is right that over some time, it seems a month, this ordinance has been revoked. Although the city of Piatra Neamţ and the Neamţ County have not been part of the headquarters of the zealous general, the yellow star was worn there; among other similar testimonies, we should mention also that of Professor Ştefan Cazimir.

With or without obvious reasons, there have been Jewish refugees from the towns and villages of the Roman County, as well as from Târgul Frumos and Târgul Neamţ. They ran from their homes leaving behind all their property and savings – hundreds of millions of Lei. Thus, on 11 July 1941, in Roman there were 807 people evacuated from the county, who did not have the means of providing for themselves sugar, oil and bread; 331 ate at a community kitchen while 476 obtained their food supply through commerce.[76]

In 1942, the city of Roman had 6,485 Jews including those from evacuated towns: Băceşti, Dămineşti, Bozieni, Negreşti. 64 Jews were deported to Transnistria, 1116 were taken to compulsory labor, 685 of them in the county and the rest in the city. Most of them received help: 270 had lunch at the canteen, 160 had at home

[Page 29]

lunch supplied by the canteen. They were not allowed to step out of their homes, stores or workshops except between the hours 10–12 a.m., the children were not allowed to leave their courtyards.[77]

For the effectuation of compulsory labor, statistics regarding age have been drawn up. Among women born between the years 1889–1905, 789 have been selected for compulsory labor, while among those born between the years 1920–1929, 677 have been selected.[78]

Child labor constituted a particularly disturbing chapter. Thus, in an address of the “General Staff of the IVth Army Corps, office 9 Jews” to the county office C.E.R. Roman we read: “The Great General Staff by ordinance 433703/25.XII.1943 orders that Jews between the ages of 15–17 who perform compulsory labor in the local townships not be paid anything since they do not fall within the framework of those fit for labor “.

In the event of desertion, measures were taken against the parents. In a report regarding the work of teenagers of ages 15–17 in the Roman City Hall, we find out that: “from the date of 28 June 1943, 10–12 of the teenagers have been used as cart boys of the City Hall oxen cart for carrying garbage off the streets and carrying away the construction waste of the old courthouse.

– A group of 12 teenagers is working at cleaning the public gardens, sweeping and watering the parks and tending the flower beds.

– Another group is scrubbing the mosaic tile stones which function as border edges for sidewalks.

– Another group is turning the concrete mixers for footbridges (6–8 teenagers were assigned for each manual task).

[Page 30]

– Other groups are spreading construction waste on streets and sweeping the “non–asphalted” streets. Groups of teenagers gather the hay and make bales.”

Starting on 20 August 1943, 15 teenagers worked at covering a trench shelter. Part of the teenagers removed old border edges from streets and replaced them with new ones. The work hours are 7–12, 14–18, sometimes extended. Many of the teenagers have been beaten by Pavel, the driver of the oxen cart, since, in his opinion, they were not well–trained to handle oxen and were not loading quickly enough the gravel, the sand, the dirt, the construction waste. Even the mayor has beaten teenagers.

The children, 160 in number, worked since 28 July 1943 with no rotation applied.

E. Popescu, the engineer who conducted the work of the teenagers (whose number the mayor had reduced on September 1st) dismissed those who did not satisfy the required workload conditions, those who were small in stature, the weak and the sick; he retained 30–40 better–developed teenagers.[79]

The F.C.E.R. archives contain documents which record the compulsory labor in the service of the Romanian national roads. From those documents the following emerged: the workers were subjected to hard labor, inadequate nutrition and mistreatment. The same conclusions can also be drawn from Leon Segal's memoir, which was dedicated to the Roman 450 Jews who have effectuated the compulsory labor in the service of the Romanian roads.

[Page 31]

Something about the work detachments:

– Dorohoi's detachment was divided into three groups: the first group was in Herţa, the second in Vărnav and the third in Dorohoi. The Jews have been provided with travel assistance by the C.E.R. Roman County office.

– Detachment 8 roads, Company 5 quarry, established in the Lisa–Teleorman community. In November 1943 they went to Turnu Măgurele. The county C.E.R. Teleorman office reported that in the county, in Salcea near Roşiori de Vede, there was a detachment which included people from Roman; most of them were barefoot and naked.

Conforming to ordinance M. Statute M. number 928.265/942, Jews who were registered and those exempt from compulsory labor were obligated to contribute donations for equipping the exterior detachments. Those who would not contribute would be confined to a labor camp (the Ordinance of the Commander of the IVth Territorial Corps, Office 9, of December 12th).

Chief of General Staff
C. Mironescu
  Chief of Office 9
Major Gogu[80]


On 25 April 1943, 133 Jews left for Sihna Botoşani; over 100 of them needed to be fitted out. From 15 May 1942, 250 Jews performed compulsory work in Floreşti–Bassarabia and 100 from September 1942. 35 craftsmen were concentrated in Tiraspol, and some of the Roman Jewish craftsmen were rounded up in Iaşi and Rădăuţi.

350 Jews performed compulsory work in Floreşti and Măcin at a stone quarry. In June 1943, 600 of Roman's Jews were dispatched as exterior detachments.

[Page 32]

In Roman, 1143 Jews, 851 of them between the ages of 20–40, were mobilized as exterior detachments.


Local Detachments

The Army

Division 7 1
14th Regiment Infantry 37
4th Regiment Artillery 46
12th Regiment Cavalry 10
64th Regiment Artillery 17
3rd Battery Instr. Auto 19
Legion of Gendarmes 5
4th Company Sanitation 8
Subsistence storehouse (Depot) C 4 A/7
Surrogate Military Factory 4
Roman's Territorial Group 2
Transport Service (Usually–food) 2
Military supply warehouse 6
Military hospital Z I/445 7
Precista Mare Hospital 448 13
Roman's Arms warehouse 6
The office of military zone 10
The firefighter's section 3
Trifeşti Ammunition 1
Total 204 Jews


Civilian Authorities

Roman City Hall 54; Communal enterprise 4; Industrial high school 12; Sugar factory 25; Boys high school 2

Total – 97 Jews

[Page 33]

Exterior Detachments

The Service of National Roads 137 Jews / Section L4 C.F.R. Bacău 23 Jews
Batalion 1 Roads Predeal 13 Jews / 8th Batallion Roads Roşiori de Vede 235
Batalion 4 Roads Predeal 1 Jew / Regiment 4 Pioneers, detachment 103 150 Jews
Company 5/7 Măcin 95 Jews / The Transnistrian Government 2 doctors
“Recuperation” barrack (infirmary) Tiraspol 30 Jews / The Transnistrian Government 1 pharmacist
Clothes manufacturing workshop Iaşi 3 Jews / Insurance House Petroşani 1 doctor
Prisoners' camp Independence 1 pharmacist
Instruction center Sarata 1 doctor / Garrison Predeal 1 doctor
Ghindinici Detachment 5 Jews / Livezeni Hunedoara detachment 1 doctor
Camp 6 Calafat 2 doctors
Total 726[81]

Mendel Cuperman and Moise Leibovici were released in Roman after having been detained for over 3 years in the country and in Transnistrian camps. Their families were short of living supplies. The sewing machine of Zaharia A. Şloim, a refugee and Gendarmes' Warrant Officer (Sergeant), was confiscated. These people were refugees from Târgul Frumos.[82]

The Jew Simon Ghingold's travel authorization was not released so he could not relocate to Iaşi. Concerning the acquirement of coats and jackets necessary

[Page 34]

for the Jews of the exterior detachments – the M.A.I orders have not provided for such a case.[83]

In February 1943, a petition was addressed to the president of the county bureau of C.E.R. Roman, collections section, which reads: There is a total of 1143 mobilized Jews, out of which 851 Jews are today in the detachment of Măcin, Floreşti; in Tiraspol there are about 400 Jews.

For the rest of the Jews who will eventually be sent (in the Predeal detachment, 130 Jews) as well as for Jews from interior detachments, there would be need for equipment, shown in the adjoining table. To establish the necessary equipment specified in the table, we have taken as norm the percentage of Jews (50%) equipped by us for the exterior detachments, as would be the case with the Floreşti detachment, where the Jews were held for 10 months (with the exception of the legal leave and replacement of the sick) and those who worked in the stone quarry, where the clothing used is being torn quickly. The Jews in the Măcin detachment, who also worked in stone and are wearing out the equipment in a very short time, found themselves in the same situation. Out of a number of 283 Jews left in the interior detachments, there were about 150 Jews who needed to be equipped and for whom a special effort would be made in order to provide for their needs – an effort which would prove hard enough to actualize since, until the present two collections have been made for this purpose, which exceeded our city's means. In addition, an amount of 848,616 Lei was spent by the Roman Jewish community in aid for the Jews of the exterior detachments, as follows:

[Page 35]

Floreşti detachment: cash (244,220 Lei), medicines (54,549), food supply, cigarettes, tools (147,000 Lei).
Măcin detachment: cash (62,800 Lei), medicines (8,966 Lei), food supply and miscellaneous (27,869 Lei).
Bârlad detachment: cash (88,435 Lei), medicines (1045 Lei).
Dorohoi–Iaşi detachment: cash (46,425 Lei), medicines (19,334 Lei), food supply, cigarettes, miscellaneous (139,308 Lei).
Tiraspol detachment: cash (7,505 Lei).
Total: 848,617 Lei

There were also people who helped those suffering:

The assistance of Sir Samoil Hirsch concerns the Jews of the detachment Bucureşti, Saint Apostoli St.[84]

I have the honor to confirm the receipt of the packages sent by you personally and our compatriots who are in Bucureşti. Through your gesture, we shall alleviate the suffering of many needy families of the locality. We hope that in the future, you will honor us with the same attention and generosity, for which we are asking that you accept our thanks.

Leo Rohrlich
  With particular honor
for the general secretary
Pharmacist J. Horowitz


(Personal archive Pincu Pascal)

[Page 36]

The sum of 500,000 lei was paid on October 1943 by five Jews for exemption from compulsory labor.[85]

However, S. Cristian affirms that Jews who possessed exemption cards have been taken into compulsory labor as well.[86]

In July 1944, 131 Jews discharged from the 678th German Pioneer battalion, who had been taken from the 52nd German Pioneer battalion, worked in 4th battalion–roads (5th corps Army). The work was performed in the village Storneşti–Iaşi, 40 km from Roman, and the Roman Jewish community supplied them with food every five days. The men were housed in uncovered sheds; work conditions were inadequate. For about two months, Jews from the detachment were not given the possibility to bathe or to mend their clothes.[87]

In 1944, 1200 Jews were assigned to compulsory labor: 150 in the Teleorman detachment; 100 in the Cataloiu detachment; 120 in Oancea–Brăila; 60, in the C.F.R.–Bacău; 30 in the cavalry detachment and 300 in the exterior detachments.[88] The Jewish refugees from Târgul Frumos were assigned to the following detachments: Oţeleni 59, the 55th battalion P. Sagna 17; workshop 55; automobile 24[89]. In the same year, the following were assigned for work at the military detachments: 4th company, 2nd platoon Poeniţa 72; 1st Platoon Carol Gădinţi 103; 8th battalion roads 23; IV Company 3rd platoon Lucşa 48; the German Mission “antitank” 98.[90] In June 1944, the Jews were evacuated from Târgul Neamţ. In May 1944, the leading committee of the Târgul Frumos community was established and, owing to opposition to compulsory labor, the Jews were threatened with “ghetto–ization.”[91]

[Page 37]

In 1940, the Hebrew school was confiscated. During the legionary period, attempts to “Romanianize” enterprises and buildings belonging to Jews were made. Later, the Ion Antonescu government successfully completed this plan.

In 1941, the Schwartz building on Dr. Riegler's St. was confiscated,[92] in 1942 the community building on 3 Miron Costin St. was passed to C.N.R; on 4 February 1943, 25 buildings belonging to the local community (hospital, old–age shelter, fowl slaughter–house, girls' primary school, soup kitchen, 13 synagogues and the cemetery) were “Romanianized”. On 22 June 1943, the same happened with the property of the Băceşti community (the synagogue and the bathhouse), and again, on 26 June 1943, with two more synagogues in Roman.[93] Agricultural property which was owned by Jews was expropriated: a total of 2,460 ha. (arable land, pastures, forests).[94]

Enormous sums of money were paid under pompous titles, such as lending for re–integration. Some authors cynically affirmed that the war has been conducted with the money of the Jews. Many times, the loser was the one found guilty. There have been indications of losses suffered by the Jews evacuated from towns and villages. Beds, mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, etc. have been confiscated.[95]

A sad chapter for Roman's Jews was the deportation to Transnistria. In September 1942, Jews suspected of Communism were sent there. Most of them have not had any connection with Communism and we don't know whether any ethnic Romanian Communist was deported there.

[Page 38]

Feinstein Jean, a chef from Roman was accused of having conducted, in 1921, subversive activities in the circle of the waiters' syndicate – a fact which was not proven in any court since it was not even examined.[96]

Sofia Marcovici of Roman (5 Petru Rares St.), aged 64, presented a petition to Marshal Antonescu, in which we read:

“On 5 September 1942 my husband, Ilie Marcovici, aged 74 years, was sent to Vapniarka camp. At present he is in Grasulovca–Tiraspol. The commission found my husband innocent and placed his name on the list of those to be released. As the first phase of liberation took place in the Transnistria ghetto and my husband was ill and incapable of moving, he asked to remain in the camp's infirmary.”[97]

Abramovici Marcu was in Mostovici–Berezovca (Transnistria), sent there in September 1942. He had never engaged in politics. Kirenman Marcu was in Berezovca, sent at the same time, was not accused of any political activity and has not asked for repatriation. Alter Iţic, sent to Transnistria in the same period, was equally not accused of political activity.[98] Lehrer Herman, having returned from there, was interned in the T.B.C. Bisericani Sanatorium.

Children were also sent to Transnistria, most of them repatriated in 1943. It was there that Tejgetaru Moise Leib was born.[99]

We must also mention the physicians, Dr. Micu and Falcoianu who tried to save a pregnant deportee.[100]

[Page 39]

For the collection of clothes for Transnistria & Dorohoi, the following commissions operated:

– Misses Toni Avram, Bella Iohan, Mr. Avram Iacob, Messrs. Maximilian Schor and Richard Stein (for Dorohoi).

– Miss. Charlotte Krakauer, Mrs. Sidonia Brand, Misses Roza Steinberg and Liza Feider, Messrs. Iosub Segal and Marcel Zingher.

– Messrs. Rudi Markus, Marcel Iancu, Zilman Feider, Avram Ghertner and Miss. Nahuma Solomon and Florica Koffler.

– Misses Fani Veidenfeld, Hermina Hirsch, Margareta Schwartz, Surica Pincu, Rebeca Pincu, Bella Veiss, Jeni Stein, Fani Horovitz and Messrs. David Schaechter, Solomon Sabo, Gherşin Moldoveanu, Gerşin Curelaru, Iosub Maier, Aizic Baier and the engineer Beer Camille.[101]

For the repatriation of 150 children from Transnistria in February 1944, there were the following delegates from Roman: Dr. Maier Reznic, Dr. Iosef Straucher, Dr. Leo Wiegler and Dr. Max Lazarovici.[102]

If all of those misfortunes took place owing to the times and laws, it did not mean that “there didn't exist particular initiatives, too”.

In Roman, for example, it was the mayor N.C Pipa, of whom the rabbi Mendel Frankel wrote: “We should not forget the bestial behavior of the former mayor who has not permitted one Jew of the 53, buried in the Jewish cemetery of the locality, to be saved” (they were buried alive!).

The same mayor ordered that the Jews receive 200gr. of sugar a month per person while the gypsies were receiving 200gr. and the Christians 500gr.[103], considering

[Page 40]

that, in fact, gypsies too, are Christians. In February 1943, by the decision of the same mayor, Jews were allowed to procure food supply only after 10 a.m.; “those who would not respect this decision would be sent to (labor) camp.”[104]

In April 1944, the mayor became brutally involved in the affairs of the community, requesting the resignation of the committee, the new committee to be established by him.[105]

Ion Dascalescu, a refugee from Ardeal, complained to the ministry of health that the Roman sanitary service issued an authorization for the Jews, contrary to the law.[106]

But there was also Viorica Agarici, for whom I have reserved a special place.


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