However, after one year of Soviet occupation, as soon as the Romanian troops re-entered Cernovitz, they invaded the Jewish quarter and began "cleansing the city of Jews". Over 2,000 were killed in twenty-four hours. They raided courtyards, cellars, attics, and anti-aircraft shelters, indiscriminately shooting anyone they found. The corpses were hauled out of the city in garbage trucks and buried in four immense mass graves.
Patrols of gendarmes rounded up another 3,000 Jews and dragged them to the dungeons of the Gendarmerie. These victims were beaten throughout the day, while the commander of the Gendarmerie, Major Cicandel [Chicandel], quietly watched. During the night, body searches were made. Women were subjected to a genital inspection. Then they were freed; the men were sent to slave labour.
Over 12,000 Jewish people were murdered in Cernovitz and in the nearby city of Storojinets during the pogrom.
In October 1941, the city ghetto was established. After it was surrounded with nets and barbed wire, 50,000 Jews were forced out of their homes and herded into the ghetto. They were allowed to take with them only what they could carry. Thousands of other Cernovitz Jews were also deported to Transnistria.
During 1941-1942, the Mayor of Cernovitz was Traian Popovici, a man with high moral standards and compassion. He fought vehemently against the measures taken by the Romanian authorities, and he was instrumental in saving over 16,000 Jews from deportation. "THEY HAVE WRITTEN A PAGE OF APOCALYPTIC SHAME IN THE CHRONICLE OF THE ROMANIAN PEOPLE", he wrote in his memoirs.
Queen Mother Elena of Romania, whose personal physicians were Jewish (Dr. Blatt and Dr. Cahane), supported Traian Popovici in his attempts to halt further deportations planned for 1942. Both the Queen Mother and Mayor Popovici were later bestowed the title of Righteous Amongst the Gentiles by the Yad Vashem Institute in Israel.
[ Index ]