The Nizkor Project

50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

The Pogroms In Bessarabia

Many thousands of Bessarabian Jews perished in the pogroms before the deportations began. Others fled deeper into Russia to escape from the Nazi invasion. The following sections provide details of a few of these pogroms:

The Edinets Pogrom
July 6, 1941

On July 6, 1941, the town of Edinets, with a Jewish population of 5,349, was occupied by Romanian troops. Two days of massacres resulted in the death of 500 Jews. Women and girls were brutally raped. Those who could not deal with the humiliation and pain committed suicide. Their bodies were buried in mass graves, dug in the Jewish cemetery by some of the survivors of the pogrom. Many of the gravediggers were killed after they buried the corpses.

The Beltz Pogrom
July 11, 1941

Pre-war Beltz had a Jewish population of 14,259. Here too, hundreds of Jews from the surrounding area migrated to the city. A frequently used method to instil panic in the community was hostage taking. As soon as the German-Romanian authorities entered the city, they executed ten hostages in the public park. Bernard Walter (the last president of the Jewish community), gave this dramatic testimony about those events:

"The area of Beltz was occupied by the troops of the German XI Army on July 9, 1941. The Jews who had survived the massacres in neighbouring villages fled into Beltz. As they arrived, one group was gathered into a camp set up in the courtyard of the Bank of Moldova building, and the other was put under preventive arrest. Later, forty-four Jews were randomly pulled from a group of 150 prisoners and were held as hostages elsewhere. On the evening of July 11, 1941, another ten detainees were shot on the pretext that the Jews had fired at a German truck."<14>

The Kishinev Pogrom
August 1, 1941

Kishinev, the largest city in Bessarabia, had a Jewish population of 41,405. The Romanian army entered the city on July 17, 1941. This army of "liberators," immediately proceeded to kill Jews. The number of victims of the first massacre remains unknown. When the ghetto was established, the killings continued, until the liquidation of the ghetto and deportations to Transnistria. Estimates from a number of Jewish sources indicate that over ten thousand Jews had been killed in the Kishinev ghetto.

Like many others, the Kishinev ghetto was a source of free labour for the Nazis. On August 1, 1941, 450 Jews were pulled out of the ghetto, mostly intellectuals and beautiful women. They were herded outside of the city, where 411 were shot to death. Some of the surviving women and girls were transported to the Soroca military brothel.

On August 7-8, 1941, a roads maintenance supervisor came to the ghetto, and requested 500 men to work at the nearby village of Ghidighici. Twentyfive women were also "recruited", supposedly, to prepare food for the "workers". After only 2 weeks, 200 of those Jews returned to the ghetto, incapable of continuing to work. The fate of the other 325 remains unknown.

The largest ghettos were set up in the cities of Cernovitz, in Bucovina, and Kishinev, in Bessarabia. The purpose of the ghettos was to crowd the Jews into places where they had to live in subhuman conditions, demoralize them, and have them readily available to be transported to the concentration, labour, and death camps.

"Romania never had an 'organized', scientific system of 'liquidating' the Jewish population. What was clearly known and approved by the highest authorities of the state down to the most humble civil servant in the village offices, was that the Jews had to be killed or deported.

This campaign was carried out in Romania before the extermination camps began to function elsewhere in Europe, before the trains began to transport victims from many different countries to Poland, before the ovens began to smoke in Auschwitz, Maydanek, Treblinka, and other annihilation camps."<15>

While we briefly described the massacres in Dorohoi County, Bucharest, Iasi, Edinets, Cernovitz, Beltz, and Kishinev, it is important to note that similar pogroms took place in other towns and cities in Romania.

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