Marcu Rozen is a survivor of the Shargorod concentration camp, in the Moghilev District of Transnistria. After the war, he resumed his studies and, eventually, graduated from university. He subsequently held a series of important positions with various government institutions in Romania.
After his retirement, Marcu Rozen dedicated himself to fighting against deniers of the Holocaust in Romanian. To this end, he published articles, pamphlets and books providing information about the tragedy of Romanian Jewry during World War II. Marcu Rozen is a committee member of The Association of Jewish Victims of the Holocaust in Bucharest, Romania.
|Let the honour of your friends be as dear to you as your own.|
More than half a century after the tragedy of the Dorohoi Jews unfolded--at a time when some people brazenly deny that the deportations and the Holocaust ever took place--I feel compelled to recount, in plain language, some of those horrific happenings. I therefore testify here, not only as an eyewitness, but also as a victim and as a very sad survivor.
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Dorohoi was founded in the sixteenth century as a small market town. However, there are documents attesting to the existence of Jewish settlements in the area as far back as the 1400s during the rule of Alexander the Good. Over the centuries, the Dorohoi Jews had developed a well-structured, energetic community, proud of both its heritage and its achievements. By 1941, when Romania joined Germany in the attack against the Soviet Union, over 10,000 Jews were residing in Dorohoi.
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I was born in Dorohoi, on March 20, 1930. My father, Iancu Rozen, worked as a typesetter; my mother, Malvina, was a housewife. My maternal grandfather, Meer H. Peretz, had fought in the Romanian army during World War I. He subsequently passed away from a disease he acquired while in the army. My family observed traditional Judaism; at home we spoke Yiddish. Although I was only 10 years old, I remember quite clearly the pogrom, which took place in my native town at the beginning of July 1940. Many innocent Jews were killed. Many others were raped, beaten or robbed during that pogrom. It was a veritable massacre -- the first killings of Jews in the history of our town. Unfortunately, those casualties were not to be the last.
That same year, the newly passed racial legislation barred me from attending public school. At my young age, I could hardly understand why attending my old school was unacceptable to some people. Nevertheless, my parents enrolled me in grade four at a school organized by the Jewish community. I soon adjusted to the change, and developed very fond feelings toward my new colleagues, toward my teachers, and, especially, toward our principal. I will never forget the terrible beating my principal suffered at the hands of some of the Fascist Iron Guard hooligans. It took him a very long time to recuperate from that ordeal.
The threats, the terror and the fear increased day by day... The July pogrom was just the first in a long line of crimes to take place during the war, crimes whose main target were the Jews. With the start of the war against Russia, in late June 1941, a new wave of persecutions began. We heard rumours about an impending deportation of Jews to an unknown place called Transnistria, and the community started to panic. During the month of November 1941, those rumours became a reality. The deportation of the Jewish population was done street-by-street, and family-by-family. For two days in a row, eastbound cattle trains would carry away the beleaguered Jewish deportees carrying their pathetic little parcels.
Our family -- my parents, my grandmother, my little brother, Sorel, and I -- were taken on the second day. That is when our hellish ordeal began. Traveling in overcrowded cattle cars, while lacking food, water, and toilet facilities, in the midst of a cold, early winter, was almost unbearable. Once we reached the banks of the River Dniester, we were ordered out of the train and ferried across the river into the town of Moghilev. There, before being herded further east, we spent the night in a transit encampment. The next morning, exhausted, frozen and starving, we set off on a march, which for most of us was to be the last one. The first casualties occurred as soon as we started on our deadly trek through the muddy dirt roads of Transnistria. The dead were simply abandoned along the road. Following a three-day march, we reached the town of Shargorod. Since we arrived completely drained, my family decided to go into hiding. The rest of the convoy proceeded further southeast, towards the camps along the bank of the River Bug. Few people were to return from those abhorrent camps.
The little town of Shargorod was situated in the northern part of the territory dubbed Transnistria. During the pre-war years, the town hosted a tightly knit Jewish community, which, compared to our Romanian standards, lived under rather primitive conditions. Soon after the outbreak of the war, thousands of Jews from Romania (mainly from the provinces of Bessarabia, Bucovina, and from the Dorohoi area) were deported there. Shargorod was designated as a transit camp, although many deportees were to remain there for the entire war. Like in many other camps in Transnistria, the Jewish deportees were tortured, beaten, starved, and worked to death. The first winter, 1941-1942, with its extreme frosts, brought upon us a vast array of epidemics as well as physical and mental exhaustion. For many of us, the conditions proved to be unbearable. Every morning, a sleigh pulled by a scrawny horse would make the rounds of the camp, in order to collect the bodies of those whose misery and pain ended overnight.
How many died? Many, too many! The precise number will never be known. Under those circumstances, no one attempted, nor would anyone have been able to keep records.
During that cruel winter, my grandmother and both my parents died. I found myself alone having to care for my six-year-old brother, Sorel. In order to survive, we would go begging. We were so desperately hungry we would often sneak out of the camp, a severely punishable "crime", and trudge over to the surrounding farms, where we would pick up potato peelings, which had been disposed of by the farmers.
Our aunt, Dora Peretz, had been a sick and feeble woman for as long as I could remember. She and her two children were also deported and, somehow, also ended up in Shargorod. Her husband, Rubin Peretz, was not in Transnistria, as he was taken to a forced labour camp in Romania. Taking pity on us, our aunt took us into her hut, and together we struggled for our survival.
In June 1942, just a few months before Sorel died, my aunt told us that our uncle, Carol, who lived in Bucharest, found a way to send us some money. Although we had not received the money, the mere fact that somebody out there was concerned about us gave me incredible hope. I eventually wrote a postcard to uncle Carol, in which I informed him of the tragedy that befell our family, and pleaded for his help. By some miracle, uncle Carol had actually received my sad postcard, kept it, and gave it to me after the war. He also gave me copies of the petitions he had sent to Marshal Antonescu on our behalf. These petitions were never answered. Uncle Carol also sent petitions through the Jewish Central Office, from where he did once get an acknowledgement. Unfortunately, his pleas to have Sorel and myself sent to Bucharest and put under his care had not been successful.
Sadly, in September of 1942, Sorel became very sick, and lacking any medical assistance, he died at the age of six. Thus, I became the only survivor of our family of five. Shortly after Sorel's death, my aunt had nothing left to exchange for food, and she was no longer able to keep me in her care.
In the midst of all that tragedy, a glimmer of luck came my way. I was taken to the orphanage in Shargorod. It was a rather primitive place, with only skimpy resources, but it provided a roof over my head and also some food, however meagre. The orphanage was run by the Jewish Committee of Shargorod, managed with paltry funds received from the Jewish community in Romania. It sheltered about one hundred orphans from Bucovina, Bessarabia, and the Dorohoi area. We were all sick and starving; almost on the verge of dying. Only through the devotion and hard work of some of our caretakers, did we escape the clutches of death.
While in the orphanage, I acquired my first close friends with whom I shared my despair as well as my hopes. I had a little notebook, which I used to keep a diary. It was my personal treasure. It had for me such emotional value that I have kept it to this very day.
Sometimes, when my mind drifts back into those dark times of my childhood, I will look through my little notebook and recall each one of my friends. How I long to know what happened to them! Yet, I have no idea as to their whereabouts, nor do I know if they are still alive. At such times, I vividly remember our endless hours of talking about the terrible conditions under which we lived, the family members we had lost in Transnistria, our good lives back home, and our plans for the future. Whenever these . Whenever these memories invade my mind, I open my little notebook and slowly read the names I had recorded. Then, as if in a dream, the faces of my friends appear in my mind like photographs: Sidi Picker, Carol Ruhm, Ester Stein, Betty Klein, Betty Gasner, Pepi Grunfeld, Harry Lessner, Mina Leibovici, Tina Fruht, Mishu Shapira, Josif Tesler, Iancu Katz, and many, many more.
August 2, 1942
To Marshal Antonescu,
I, the undersigned Chaim Peretz, residing in Bucharest, Calea Dorobantilor Nr. 49, Second Floor, am respectfully submitting to your attention the following:
During the winter of 1941, the family of Iancu Rosen, my brother-in-law, was deported to the town of Shargorod, Moghilev District, Transnistria, together with other Jewish residents from the town of Dorohoi. The family consisted of a husband, wife, mother and 2 children: Marcu, eleven years old, and Sorel, four years old.
I have recently received a postcard from my eleven-year-old nephew Marcu Rozen, in which he informs me of the sad news that his father, his mother and his grandmother had died, and he and his little brother are left without any support. I am attaching a photocopy of the postcard for your attention.
The parents and grandparents of those unfortunate children were born in the town of Dorohoi, Romania; their maternal grandfather, who was also my father, Meer H. Peretz, served in the Romanian army during the 1916/1918 war and died as a result of a disease contracted during the war. Please note the photocopies of the related documents.
I, too, was born in Romania, of Romanian born parents, and I spent the 1916/1918 campaign as a cadet, having previously attended the Military School of Infantry in Botosani. I was decorated with the War Commemorative Cross. Please note the enclosed photocopies.
On behalf of those unfortunate children, left without any support, I am respectfully appealing to your sense of justice and humanitarianism, and ask you to approve the return of Iancu Rozen's children. They are:
Marcu Rozen, 11-12 years old and
both born in Dorohoi, deported to the town of Shargorod, House Nr. 143, Moghilev District, Transnistria, to Bucharest. I ask for them to be placed under my care. I do have the means to take full responsibility for these children's upkeep, as stated in the attached certificate, issued by the Jewish Community Offices in Bucharest.
Marshal, I beg of you to save those unfortunate children left alone among strangers, and I can assure you that we will always be grateful to you.
May you have a long life.
JEWISH CENTRAL OFFICE IN ROMANIA
Instituted through Decrees No. 3415/941 and No. 319/042
Telephone:Central Off. 5.13.42, Secretary General 5.39.29
Telegr. address: CEVROM Bucharest Dr. Burghelea St. No.3
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL
No. 4850 Bucharest March 3, 1943 Ref. J. 6223
Mr. Chaim Peretz
Calea Dorobantilor 49, 2nd Floor
This is to inform you that your application registered with us under Nr. 6223/943, together with our memorandum Nr. 4714/943, was forwarded for resolution.
In the fall of 1943, two years after our deportation, the front line was rapidly approaching Transnistria. Under those circumstances, the Romanian government, eager to improve its public image, conceded that the deportation of Jews from Dorohoi had happened due to an administrative mistake. The wretched survivors were thus allowed to return home. Unfortunately, for many deportees, that decision came much too late, as they lay buried in mass graves throughout the eerie territory of Transnistria. Those innocent victims never had the privilege of having a proper Jewish burial, nor were their names inscribed on tombstones, so their loved ones would know where to observe Kaddish (the memorial prayer for the dead).
In December 1943, I returned to Romania, together with the remainder of the Dorohoi deportees. The surviving deportees from Bucovina and Bessarabia were liberated by the Soviet Army some months later, in the spring of 1944. Since I had no family left in my hometown of Dorohoi, I settled with some relatives in the neighbouring town of Botosani, where I also resumed my high school studies.
In 1949, I moved to Bucharest, as I wanted to pursue a post-secondary education. There, I lived with my uncle Carol Peretz.
I was accepted in the Agricultural Sciences Program at the University of Bucharest, and I graduated in 1953 as an agricultural economics analyst.
After graduation, I was assigned to the position of economic coordinator at the Central Board of Statistics. In 1970, I was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, where I became a department coordinator.
After my retirement, in 1990, I made it my goal to gather documents related to the activity of extremist legionnaire groups, the very groups who are still denying that the Holocaust in Romania had ever happened. In order to counteract their propaganda, I also published a pamphlet titled The Situation of the Jews During the Second World War in the Territories under Romanian Authority.
As a survivor, and also as a committee member of The Association of Jewish Victims of the Holocaust in Romania, I feel compelled to provide my own testimony for publication in this book. I see this as essential, especially now when some dark forces are trying to deny the Holocaust in Romania and Transnistria. Not only do those groups deny the Holocaust, but they are again inciting the Romanian population through anti-Semitic hate- propaganda reminiscent of the pre-Holocaust years. Therefore, preserving the memory of the horrors I have experienced is of utmost importance to me. I believe that no Jew, no decent citizen, regardless of their religion, should ever forget the monumental tragedy which did happen in Transnistria.
I am leaving this legacy not only as a victim, but also as a citizen of Romania, the country where I was born, where I still live and work side by side with Romanian nationals.
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