Memories of the Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau)
Infractions Associated with the Ghetto
A. Robberies in the city immediately after the retreat of the Bolsheviks.
Because of the lack of needed forces for municipal security and the disorder and panic left after the fighting, many robberies took place during this period.
Committing these robberies were the vagabonds of the peripheries, peasants of the suburbs and nearby communities and, in an organized way, German troops. Passing Romanian troops were involved to a smaller degree.
The robberies were directed more towards the abandoned houses, involving furniture and every item of value.
The Germans acquired the contents of stores and factory materials, removing, with the right of the conqueror, the Romanian military guards. From private dwellings they particularly valued peasant items, clothing and pianos.
This situation lasted 8-10 days after the occupation of Chisinau.
From the beginning, because of lack of resources, it was not possible to identify the criminals, so that today this action would be much too late and could not give any results.
B. Violations, robberies and arbitrary removals from the Ghetto.
C. Attempts and escapes from the Ghetto.
Less before and more during the deportation period, attempts at escape and actual escapes from the Ghetto took place.
The cases found by the Commission were as follows:
D. Illicit trade of jewelry and precious metals
The respective authorities have, under preliminary investigation, the following cases of trade in precious metals:
E. Illicit trade of authorizations for entering the city, for postponing the deportation and influence trade.
Such infractions happened exclusively under the command of Col.
Eugen Dumitrescu and through his concubine Nadejda Terzi.
This woman had at all times free entrance into the Ghetto and, with the protection and knowledge of the Military Commander, fully exploited this situation.
She established prices of 1,000-1,500 lei for a permit to exit to the city and 5,000-70,000 lei for the postponement of the deportation from one convoy to another.
Usually, the transactions were made in the house of the Jew Venisencher, which whom she was in close business association. In addition, she had as an accomplice also the Jew Maghidovici, who established for himself a kind of office for these practices.
The following authorizations were given, as discovered by us, for various sums of money:
Nadia Terzi acknowledged partly the accusation against her, confirming at the confrontation between her and Col. Dumitrescu that she received for the authorizations 100,000 lei which she handed over to the officer. Colonel Dumitrescu acknowledged that he gave to Nadia a few authorizations but not for money.
This happened the very next day after Kremer was caught at the railway station in Chisinau trying to run away and after Colonel Dumitrescu subjected him to a rigorous search. After the payment of the above sum, all restrictions on him were removed.
The facts in this chapter are confirmed from the partial confession of those implicated and also from the depositions made to the Commission by: Colonel Meculescu, Andrei Neaga, Kisel Kremer, Guttman Landau, Izidor Bikman, Michel Schwartzberger, Lt. Emil Pop, Ghers Pulferman, Mura Volovetz, Ida Spanerman, Alex. Margulius, and Aizic Itco Sebel.
F. Abuses of power and trust. Illegal wear of uniforms.
The authority of the institutions responsible with the supervision and maintenance of order in the activities of the Ghetto and the deportations, was often utilized for directly opposite purposes, namely to assist or commit various abuses.
The Commission found the following cases:
The courier made a number of trips for this purpose and, each time, Col. Dumitrescu was paid for this service 100,000 lei and Cpt. Alexandrescu 50,000 lei. This information was obtained from the Jew Aizic Itco Sebel, however without being corroborated by additional proof.
The above case was referred to the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
Lt. Pop claims that Lt.Col. Grigorescu, the Commander of the Battalion 20 of Artillery, who was guarding the Ghetto and who was present when the Jews and the money were transferred, ordered him to call them next day on the pretense of returning the money (22,995 lei to Kremer and 12,000 lei to Veinsencher), to get them to sign but not to return to them the respective sums. He claims that he executed the order, calling the above. Kisel Kremer's brother, Simcha Kremer, and Veinsenker himself appeared and signed a receipt without being returned any of the money. He claims that the sum of 34,995 was given to Lt.Col. Grigorescu. This denies the allegation.
The matter was transmitted to the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
The investigation is due to be completed by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps, where the officer is under arrest.
The judgement of the case is with the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
With the fulfillment of this service, he found the occasion to make money speculating on the state of misery of the deported. In particular, he offered rooms for sleeping, to those obliged to spend a night in Rezina, for various sums of money. This was discovered by determining that he took 5,000 lei from Mura Volavet and Erlich, providing one room for five families to take shelter for one night.
It is being investigated by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
A specific case was detailed by the witness Aizic Itco Sebel who declared that this officer announced to the community that, by orders received from superiors, he will send 400 Jews from the Ghetto for work to Tiraspol. The Jews, fearing that the execution of this order will result in the disappearance of those sent away, began negotiations with Colonel Dumitrescu, through the community representatives Bittman and Sapirin, who gave him three, four times 100,000 lei each to postpone the fulfillment of the claimed superior order.
No Jew was sent to Tiraspol.
On December 18, 1941, as a result of a confrontation arranged by the Commission between Colonel Eugen Dumitrescu and his concubine Nadejda Terzi, a confrontation which resulted in the preliminary establishment of the acts of illicit trade that the above mentioned performed with the help of and through this woman, the officer, probably realizing that the definite proof of his acts was now established, committed suicide by firing a revolver.
Agent Madan recruited 13 Jews among the wealthiest, headed by Kisel Kremer, with the help, in the operation to be executed, of four other special intelligence government agents, namely: Manu Gheorghe, Ion Cojocaru, Ion Nedu and Constantin Ionescu. For transportation it was established that he be given the sum of 1,200,000 lei. Simulating the escape and after asking for a deposit of 120,000 lei of the agreed price, the Jews were led to the headquarters of the Special Service in Chisinau were they were arrested.
G. Robberies during the deportations
The deportation convoys represented a most irregular pattern. Because of those who lagged behind, and of the carts which often broke down on the way, there were inevitable breaks in their continuity and in particular they sometimes spread over distances of a few kilometers. Homogeneous guarding was not possible under these conditions, particularly since the resources were limited. The allocation was one gendarme for five carts.
Because of these gaps and the inability of exercising sufficient supervision, for the reasons shown above, there took place during this operation many attempts and many actual robberies against the Jews. Also, during the rest periods, which took place at night, under the conditions of darkness and insufficient security, there were cases of robberies.
In our investigation, we have concluded the following:
Most often, they did not complain for fear of retribution from the robbers.
They smuggled themselves among the convoys and, sometimes even by means of direct attacks, stole all that was in their way.
On the road to Rezina, some peasants from the village of Biesti, came out in front of a convoy and stole the bundles of the Jews from the carts. The escorts caught them, their papers were taken by the chief of the office of Curleni and they were referred to the Justice system (declaration of Major Bechi).
Since the identification of all the perpetrators was not possible, because of the initial lack of diligence on behalf of the organs to whom the various cases were reported, and also because most of the robberies were not reported when they occurred, the Commission delegated to Lt. Mag. Luca Popescu, from the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps, to reconstruct all the infractions mentioned on the deportation route, to identify all the perpetrators and to bring them to justice.
H. The complicity of cart drivers in hiding valuables belonging to the deported Jews, in order to remove them from the control of the B.N.R. Commission.
Cart drivers, in addition to carrying out robberies, also served as accomplices of the Jews, to harm the state, by hiding valuable objects owned by the Jews.
The following cases were discovered:
25. These facts are mixed up. We never travelled with the Cohns and I do not know who they are. our escape is mentioned in two of the official Ghetto reports presented in Appendix 3. The three agents mentioned did indeed help us board the train in Chisinau and travel to Bucharest, after first escaping the Ghetto alone through a fence and meeting them at the railway station on the morning of Wednesday, October 15, 1941. I was 14 at the time and my brother Shraga (or Pava as he was then called) was 6 years old and in the middle of scarlet fever. In addition to the two of us, and our parents, we had with us my uncle and aunt, Misha and Ida Apotecher (nee Kanterman), and my aunt's sister Mania Kanterman. The train was full of soldiers, many injured, returning from the front. We heard a comment that "there are jidani (a derogatory term for Jews) in the train!". At the beginning we would change carriages almost every stop not to draw too much attention. The most dangerous stop was close to Iasi, at the old border with Romania, where papers were usually checked. My recollection is that the agents had false papers indicating that we were prisoners on the way to Bucharest.
The trip lasted some 19 hours, arriving in Bucharest about 5: 00 am. We had to keep my brother from sleeping since he spoke only Russian and we did not want him to wake up talking this language. On arrival the agents took us to my uncle Monia Apotecher's flat, who sent them in the first place, and he paid them the remainder of the money. We were immediately dispersed to various friends for hiding. These friends were literally risking their lives harboring US. A bit later, we were reunited with my grandmother Sarah Apotecher who escaped separately one day before us. Later still, we were installed in an apartment rented by Monia.
It was there, in the evening of November 24, 1941, that the police arrived over one month later, dragging along my uncle Monia. The agents who helped us escape had returned back to take another group (who exactly I am not sure but I believe it to be Kisel Kremer) and were caught at the railway station. They brought the police to my uncle 1 s place and f orced him to take them to where we were. Initially the atmosphere was "relaxed" since the policemen made my uncle believe that they were ready to be paid of; when he produced the money, they also arrested him for attempted bribery.
My parents, uncle and grandmother were all arrested and taken away; my father told me to take my brother and run away through the rear door. We went to friends of my uncle, the Saperstein family, and were still there on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, December 7, 1941. I remember how the entry of the United States in the war helped raise our lagging spirits! Mania Kanterman,who was in the apartment when the police arrived, was left to be; I believe that somehow they did not realize that she had also escaped from the Ghetto. Misha and Ida, luckily, were away at some friends place; they were never arrested and spent the rest of the war in hiding in one room of an apartment of a Romanian officer in Bucharest.
My brother and I were alone in Bucharest, helped by friends, until January 1942, when my uncle Iosif Landau came illegally to Bucharest from Galati (dressed as a Romanian officer, since Jews were not allowed to travel by train) and took us to their place. I was in Galati until 1943 when I returned to my uncle Monia in Bucharest (another long story!). My brother was in Galati until April 1944 when, before the end of the war, we were.reunited with our parents who were able to escape ahead of the advancing Russian troops from Transnistria, where.they were deported by train from Bucharest in April 1942. On July 9, 1944, we joined 731 other refugees and were able to leave Constanta to Palestine, via Turkey, on the "illegal" ship Kazbek.
A f inal note on the twists of fate. While we were hiding in Bucharest, before the arrest in November 1941, my father, who was a well known Zionist in Kishinev, was told by the Jewish organizers that we will be given a place on Struma, a ship in preparation for departure to Palestine. It finally left on December 12, 1941, eighteen days after our arrest; because of the arrest we did not sail on it. Those who remember history will recollect that Struma was kept by the British in Istanbul for two months, refused permission to sail or disembark, was made to sail back out into the Black Sea and was sunk there, apparently by a Russian submarine. Of the 769 people on board, only one remained alive! .(Wyman, 1984, p.158)
26. These facts are also somewhat wrong. It was only my grandmother, Sarah Apotecher, who was brought out by Major Mardare during the night of October 14-15, 1941. It should be noted that in Bessarabia, because of the different alphabets of the Russian and Romanian languages, many names get somewhat "changed" when translated back and forth between the two languages. Thus, my maternal grandfather's surname was "Apotecher" or "Apoteker" in Romanian and "Aptekar" in Russian.
The escape is mentioned in the official Ghetto reports presented in Appendix 3. This Appendix also contains a declaration that my uncle made in the Ghetto describing how we were robbed and our lives threatened by Romanian soldiers in July 1941.
27. This “abuse of power” and additional accusations against Colonel Dumitrescu, touch upon the tremendous efforts that were made on one hand by the leaders of the Jewish Community of the Ghetto to inform their brethren in the Romanian capital of Bucharest of the impending deportations, and what was felt will be their inevitable result, and, on the other hand, by the brave but unfortunately unsuccessful efforts of the Jewish leaders in Bucharest to save the Jews of the Ghetto and of the other camps in Bucovina and Bessarabia. The center of Romanian power was in Bucharest and the Ghetto inhabitants desperately looked towards the Jewish leaders close to that power to save them.
It seems relevant to quote at length from the memoirs of Rabbi Alexandre Safran, the young Chief Rabbi of Romania from 1940 to 1947:
The Federation [i.e. the Union of the Jewish Communities of Romania, presided in Bucharest by Dr. Wilhelm Filderman] sent a Christian Romaniaiz lawyer, Musat, to Kishinev. This Christian lawyer had been hired and well paid by the Federation to carry out important missions in places where only a Christian could enter and thus bring help to the wretched Jews. Only someone like him could bribe Romanian civilian and military clerks in order to obtain at least some temporary 'easing' of the situation. This was in the hope that meanwhile in Bucharest we could secure some postponement of the anti-Jewish decisions. Musat, a grim and severe Romanian, had been sent to examine the situation in various places where Jews were in particular danger and to report back to us. He had been sent not only to inspect the situation in Kishinev. but also, if possible, to see what was happening throughout the region. It was known that the massacres in Hotin, Balti and other Bessarabean towns had also been horrendous. While Musat was in Kishinev, I received countless telegrams from there: some arriving the same day, one after another. They were signed by a rabbi named Twerski (a reputed family of rabbis) and by other rabbis and lay leaders. [Rabbi Twerski was the famous Skvere Rabbi of Kishinev one of whose devoted hasidim was my grandfather Aron Iosef Cervinschi; they would all perish during the death march to Transnistria] Each telegram was written in an impressive style, containing allusions to the worsening situation. The senders employed all sorts of codes to deceive the censor - they spoke about interventions with professors, requests for medicine, desperate appeals to hasten in order to save the 'patience. One telegram said that 'the patient's fever is high', another that 'the fever is rising', others that the 'state of the patient is aggravated', 'the patient's state is very serious' or that 'the patient is in great pain' and, finally. 'the patient is close to death'. This was the alarming style of the telegrams; a pleading, touching, weak and desperate voice that suddenly faded...
One day a man dressed like a Romanian officer came to the house on Burghelea Street in Bucharest. He was a Jew, the lawyer Shapira who had escaped from the Kishinev ghetto to alert the leading Jewish bodies in Bucharest about the catastrophic situation that the last Jews of Kishinev were facing. (Safran, 1987, pp.78-79)
This is the same man described as the Jew Sapirin in the Report. A more dramatic description is reported in the book by Julius S. Fisher:
Rabbi Safran continues:
After a few moments, Filderman also came in, and we both listened to Shapira's description of the desperate situation in the Kishinev ghetto. We listened to him for hours - long, terrifying hours. Difficult hours. We tried to conceal our emotions from Shapira. but it was impossible.
I had previously given copies of the telegrams signed by Twerski and the others to the Queen Mother, Cassuto [Monseigneur Andrea Cassuto was the Apostolic Nuncio, the representative of the Vatican, with whom Rabbi Safran had a good relationship], [the delegates of] the International Red Cross Committee and the Swedish. Swiss and Turkish ambassadors. While Shapira was still with us, I contacted the royal palace in order to inform the Queen Mother of the latest developments. The same day. I also contacted Cassuto. Filderman and I kept our daily contacts with the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, with the Ministry of the Interior. Ministry of Justice. the military authorities and all those officials accessible to us. We also met with the opposition leaders - Maniu, Bratianu. Dr. Nicolae Lupu - the president of the Red Cross, the president of the Court of Appeals, and others. But we did not obtain any concrete results, only promises and sympathy. The ghetto evacuations continued. The deportations and 'liquidations' went on.
The autumn of 1941 was grey and damp; a cold, sad autumn as the backdrop to the deportations. This was the lime of the Tabernacles festival. Succot, when the Jew leaves his house and lives in a Succah, a temporary dwelling, for one week in commemoration of the Israelites' journey through the desert to the Promised Land. [Succot began the week of Monday, October 6, 1941; the deportations started the last day of Succot, Sunday, October 12, 1941. The Ghetto was a mass of desperate people, 'mice caught in a mousetrap'. Nevertheless, my grandfather build himself a "succah", a minimum cover over an old bed in the courtyard, and slept for the whole week there as required by law! His strong faith did not save him, but I am sure that it did provide a tower of psychological strength till the very end.] In 1941, the Jews of Romania began wondering through the cold, marshy desert of eastern Romania and the western Ukraine. A new and sinister word was opt the lips of Romanian Jewry: Transnistria. These Jews who had survived the massacres in Bessarabia, as well as Bucovinian Jewry and the Jews of Dorohoi, were chastened by the government by a wave of deportations to Transnistria under inhuman conditions.
Both Filderman and I were overwhelmed by pain and grief. After having discussed with Filderman all the hideous aspects of the situation. I wrote an appeal to Marshall Antonescu.” (Safran, 1987, pp.78-80)
Rabbi Safran's appeal to Antonescu was written on October 11, 1941. Dr. William Filderman, the President of the Federation of the Jewish Congregations in Romania, also wrote a letter on the same day (Fisher, 1969, p.71). The deportations began one day later! Safran tried unsuccessfully to see Antonescuís wife, Maria, and also the Marshal himself.
It is unfortunate that in our time history is being forgotten and attempts are even being made to rewrite it. Last month, in a memo to its members, Mr. Edgar Bronfman, the President of the World Jewish Congress, highlighted the following recent news item:
Source: Memories of The Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau) 1941-1944