The Nizkor Project

50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

The Iasi [Iashi] Pogrom
June 29-July 6, 1941

The alliance between Romania and Germany in the invasion of the Soviet Union took place on June 22, 1941 and caused an intensification of the pogroms.

The massive pogrom in Iasi resulted in thousands of victims. It represents one of the most savage and tragic chapters in Romanian history. Like many of the others, this pogrom was portrayed by officials as a spontaneous outburst by the mobs. In fact, they were vicious attacks, planned by the authorities. The city was not too far from the battlefront, where Romanian military forces encountered one failure after another. Furthermore, the raids by the Soviet air force revealed the inefficiency of the anti-aircraft defence in the city.

In order to assert themselves, the authorities embarked on a ferocious campaign of anti- Semitic propaganda, intended to divert the attention of the population from these failures. The S.S.I.<12> was under the leadership of Eugen Cristescu, who had been expertly trained in such matters. The campaign was aided by a parallel German intelligence agency. Placards with pictures of Jews with the most outlandish appearances were posted everywhere. The captions stated: "Citizens, this is who is responsible for the war." Specialists from the Ministry of Propaganda in Bucharest were sent to Iasi to intensify the brainwashing campaign. Vehicles with powerful loudspeakers raced through the streets informing the population that the Jews were signalling to the Soviet air force identifying the locations of the targets to be bombed. Newspapers printed allegations stating that electric lamps, signalling the Soviet air force at night, had been "discovered" in the chimneys of Jewish houses. Other reports alleged that gigantic quantities of weapons and explosives had been found in Jewish homes.

Although none of these allegations were substantiated, they nevertheless produced the desired results, enraging and inciting the Christian population to commit crimes against the alleged criminal activities. Naturally, the Jewish community experienced times of great panic, anxiety, and fear.

Every representative of the government and the military authorities became a direct participant in the campaign of spreading these rumours. They were sown in the fertile soil of the festering anti-Semitism.

In order to protect themselves from the alleged conspiracies of the Jewish population, the Romanian authorities urged the Christian population to mark a cross and write on their houses "Christians live here." Then, a rocket was launched to signal the start of the pogrom. Before its light had a chance to dissipate, death and destruction began. Shooting started simultaneously in every Jewish district in the city. At night, attacks were timed to coincide with the movement toward the front line, under the cover of darkness, of Romanian and German troops. Suddenly, with the speed of lightning, rumours spread that "The Jews are firing on the Romanian army!" Panic broke out, and the troops that had been marching in silence, started shooting at the houses from where they thought they were being attacked.

Following the shooting, a thorough investigation was conducted in order to pretend the existence of a state of justice, and a semblance of order. Not a single Romanian or German soldier was found killed or wounded from the alleged attack by the Jewish population. It seemed that those who began the shooting were in fact the organizers and mercenaries of the S.S.I. Nevertheless, throughout the night, Jews were randomly arrested. They were taken to various concentration centres, mostly to the Police Headquarters of the city of Iasi. At dawn, on that Saturday, more than two thousand Jews had been rounded up. By noon, this number grew to five-six thousand and spilled over to the Police Headquarters courtyard.

Sunday, June 29, 1941, became the bloodiest day in the history of the Jews of Romania! The soldiers opened fire on this mass of people killing several hundreds. Some were beaten to death. The screams and wailing of the victims struck no mercy in the souls of the vicious perpetrators.

While this was happening at the Police Headquarters, the pogrom in the city raged with unprecedented cruelty. In the Jewish houses, where there was still a spark of life, a terror- filled silence prevailed.

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