Memories of the Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau)

Special Report

(1941-1944)


REPORT OF INQUIRY NR.2 OF THE COMMISSION APPOINTED BY ORDER OF MARSHAL ION ANTONESCU, THE LEADER OF THE STATE, FOR THE INVESTIGATION OF IRREGULARITIES IN THE GHETTO OF CHISINAU

While the commission conducted its work, certain special facts were established which, not being able to include them in the main report, we considered necessary to present them separately in this report.

The findings are as follows:

I.  The legal situation of the deported Jews and their real estate.

A. The number of interned and deported Jews.

From an overall statistical summary, presented to the commission by Lt. Colonel Pallade, the representative of the Major General Staff for the establishment of the camps and the deportation of the Jews, it is concluded that there were interned: 23,000 Jews in Vertuzeni, 11,000 Jews in Marculesti, 25,000 Jews in Edineti and Secureni and 11,525 Jews in the Ghetto of Chisinau. To these are to be added the Jews of Orhei, Cahul, IsmailChilia Noua and Bolgrad, where their number did not exceed 1,000 interned in each locality.

Approximately, there was a total of 75-80,000 Jews.

From the situation presented to the Commission by the Gendarme Inspectorate of Chisinau, responsible for the execution of the deportations, it follows that, through the various established points of crossing, there were 55,867 Jews deported from Bessarabia and 45,538 Jews from Bucovina.

In total: 101,405 Jews

As far as the Jews from Bessarabia, it follows that, between those interned of 75-80,000 and those deported of 55,867, there is a difference of 25,000 Jews, who died a natural death, escaped, or were shot by the methods that we will describe below.

B.  The systems of identification of the interned and deported Jews.

There was no special instruction, either verbally or in writing, given for their identification in the camps or in the Ghetto of Chisinau.

The only numerical criterion was that which determined the capacity of the camps as well as the formation of the deportation convoys.

Only in the Ghetto of Chisinau, there was an attempt of nominal statistics with respect to the Jews interned there which, however, was never finished.

One first consequence of this situation was the inability of identifying the Jews who escaped from the camps and, implicitly, the impossibility of discovering the escapees as well as those who may have helped them.

In the orders issued on September 7, 1941, related to the deportations, by the Major Pretor General Topor, it was explicitly stated that the crossing of the Nistru by the Jews should be carried out without any formalities.

According to this standard, the Jews were deported in strictly numerical lots, the situation which they followed along the routes and were transferred over the Nistru.

At the crossing points, an order was given by the actual representative of the Major General Staff, Major Tarlef, that all papers in the possession of the Jews be removed (the declarations of Lt.Rez. Popoiu and Lt.Colonel Pallade). In addition, Colonel Emil Brosteanu, the Inspector of Gendarmes in Transnistria, testified that the Jews were deported there without any identification.

C.  The consequences of this situation

1.  The establishment of property rights of various real estate in Bessarabia.

In accordance with the Legal Decree Nr.2, of September 3, 1941, related to some legislative measures for Bessarabia and Northern Bucovina, the Romanian State becomes, as a result of laws of romanization occurring after June 28, 1941, and of this law, the owner of property in the territory of Bessarabia which belonged to Jews, or to Jewish legal entities, on the date of June 28, 1941, or which Jews or Jewish legal entities acquired after this date.

It follows from this law, that the method of expropriating real estate property belonging to Jews in Bessarabia follows the same criteria as for Jews in the Old Regat[28], and that, consequently, compensation criteria and needed legal procedures for such an operation will have to be established.

This procedure, however, will not be possible because of lack of identification in which the deported Jews presently find themselves.  On the other hand, the forced deportation of the Jews over the Nistru can not represent the situation envisaged by the law - i.e. finding abandoned goods - because the owners did not abandon, on their free will, the goods which belonged to them, but were forcibly deported.

In these circumstances, the legislator must urgently intervene, solving the problem as it exists determined by actual facts.

2.  Possible consequences

For some future situations, in which, for the supreme interest of the Country, renewed discussions could arise with respect to settlement of the Jews who lived in Bessarabia and Bucovina at the time of reunification, it would be possible by those interested to exaggerate purposefully the number of these people over the real number and to make substitutions of persons, because of lack of any statistics and identifications.

We mention again that the same serious difficulties, and for the same reasons, will arise for the State in any other legislative or administrative action before the above described problems will be considered.

II. Executions of Jews

A. During the internment

1. In the Ghetto of Chisinau

On August 1, 1941, a German Lieutenant came to the President of the Jewish Community of the Ghetto of Chisinau and asked to be supplied in a few hours, for purposes of work, 250 men and 200 women.

The Jews were assembled and, at the appointed hour, the German officer returned accompanied by three soldiers and took away the group of 450 Jews, after inspecting them and selecting specially  intellectuals and beautiful women; for this purpose, according to a declaration on file, he used binoculars.  In the evening of the same day some of them, namely 39 old Jews, returned with the news that the rest of the 411 Jews were shot near Visterniceni and that they were sent to inform the Ghetto of this event.[29]

The next day, the same German Lieutenant came to the Ghetto and confirmed the fact.

Confirmation was also obtained by the President of the Community who, accompanied by 20 Jews, was sent to the communal grave, where the bodies of the executed were buried, in order to cover it since their burial was quite superficial.

This fact was also confirmed by Colonel Tudose, the Military Commander of Chisinau.

We cite that on this occasion was also killed the Christian Ion Carmen from Ploesti, who was in the Ghetto with his Jewish wife Fenia Carmen, having earlier, in December 1941, returned to Bessarabia to his family which he left under the Russians. [30]

Another case was that of August 7-8, 1941, when an inspector of roads came to the Ghetto and asked for 500 men for work at the building site of Ghidighici. These Jews were supplied together with 25 women for the purpose of preparing their food.  After two weeks, 200 Jews of them returned, having become incapable of working, and the rest of 325 have not come back to this day (the testimony of Gutmann Landau and Aizic Itico Sebel).

2. In the camp of Tatarasti, county of Cetatea Alba

On August 9, 1941, the Commander of the camp of Tatarasti received Cpt.Rez. Gh.Ion Vetu and the German Sub.Lt. Heinrich Frohlich, of the Major Staff of the German units in Chisinau, who informed him that, by order of Marshal I. Antonescu, all 451 Jews in this camp must be immediately executed.

Captain Vetu brought this fact to the attention of the Commander of the Legion, who ordered him to carry out the order, as a result of which the Jews were executed.

A written report was prepared by the German officer and the Cpt. of Gendarmes, a copy of which is enclosed to the official papers.

We report that, on the occasion of this execution, Cpt. Vetu took from the executed Jews the following valuables:  three watches, a gold ring, four gold wedding rings, a metal chain and the sum of 20,000 lei.  The Regional Inspectorate of Gendarmes contacted the General Inspectorate of Gendarmes so that the officer be send in front of the Reform Council.

It needs to be decided:

(a)  If the original report should be kept at the Inspectorate of Gendarmes or deposited in another place.

(b)  If it is appropriate that the officer, guilty of robbing dead bodies, be brought before the Martial Court, where a public trial would take place, or if the reform is sufficient.

3. During the deportations

With respect to the manner that the organs carrying out the deportation were to deal with the Jews which did not comply, the orders of September 7, 1941, of General Topor contained the following instructions:  "The manner of dealing with those who do not comply? (Alexeanu)".

The statement of Lieutenant Augustin Rosca, of the Gendarmes Legion of Roman, who was responsible for the deportation of the Jews from Secureni and Edineti, is enlightening in the understanding of the above order.  Indeed, the officer in essence states the following:

Having been summoned by Lt.Colonel Pallade, the representative of the Major General Staff, for receiving instructions on the manner of deportation, he was told on this occasion that he will also receive a special communication either from the Gendarmes or from Cpt. Popescu, the communication officer from Atache.

This special communication was made by the Commander of the Hotin Legion, Major Dragulescu, who told him that, according to the order of the Major General Staff, the Jews who will not be able to keep up with the convoys, for reasons of either lack of strength or illness, are to be executed.  For this purpose he was ordered to send, two days ahead of the leaving of each convoy, a responsible for the route who, with the help of the posts of gendarmes in the localities through which the Jews were to pass, will prepare each 10 kilometers a grave for about 100 persons where those lagging the convoys will be gathered, shot and buried.  The pre-military from the villages along the route of deportation are to help in the preparation of the graves and in the burial of those executed.

Lieutenant Rosca followed his orders exactly which resulted the execution of about 500 Jews among those deported on the route Secureni-Cosauti.

The same system was used also for the convoys along the route Edinet-Casauti, where the execution of the deportation was the responsibility of Lieutenant Popovici, from the same unit and under the orders of Lieutenant Augustin Rosca.

Because of the procedure used for the preparation of the graves and the burials, the peasants from the villages along the route became aware of the expected events and waited along the sides of the roads, in corn field and various hiding places, for the executions to take place so that they could throw themselves on the bodies in order to rob them.

From the verbal statement of Lieutenant Augustin Rosca, it follows that the preparations and particularly the execution of the given orders created such dramatic moments that those who took part will carry with them for a very long time the memories of these events.

CHAIRMAN, General Constantin Niculescu (signature)

MEMBERS: 

Attorney General Stroe Stefan (signature)
 Laurentiu Preotescu, President of the Appeals Court (signature)
 Traian Niculescu, Chief Prosecutor (signature)
 Lt. Colonel Alexandru Madarjac, Prosecutor (signature)
 Inspector General Paunescu, B.N.R. (signature)

Translator's Notes:

28. These are the old and original provinces of Romania.

29. August 1, 1941, was a Friday. At the time, we had been in the Ghetto one week, frightened and hungry with very little food. We "lived" in one small room of an old one-story house, in a large courtyard typical of the old part of the city where the Ghetto was located. Conditions were very crowded averaging one or more families per room.

That Friday morning, rumors spread quickly through the Ghetto that young men and women will be taken to work where they will also be fed. The assembly was taking place in the small public square of the Ghetto, around the corner from where we were located. Before the war, during my previous 14 years, my mother used to complain constantly that 1 was a poor eater. At that time, however, food became a great incentive and I went to the square willing, hungry and eager to "go to work".

I remember that summer day vividly. The small square was full of people surrounded by some soldiers; certainly more than the "three soldiers" mentioned in the Report. We stood in a long crowded queue before a table where lists were being made of the selected people. Although this was a German operation, Romanian officers were also present. After a while, torn between hunger and fears of the frightening possibilities of "the work",, I decided to retreat. It was not easy but not impossible either. I moved to the periphery of the square and convinced a soldier standing guard that I was almost blind in one eye and potentially not a good worker (this excuse came to mind since almost two years earlier I have been sick in an eye and lost one year of regular schooling because of it). He let me go.

About 5 p.m. that day, I watched the group of 450 being led away, surrounded by some soldiers and carrying tool boxes; we later found out that these contained ammunition f or their execution. The fighting at the front was still close to the city and there were frequent Russian air raids without much prior warning. Such a raid occurred that evening; as usual, in our courtyard, we took shelter in the large wine cellar that was available.

Suddenly, a man appeared at the entrance to the cellar. He was one of the ì39 old Jewsî, a resident of our courtyard at Alexandru Vlahutza No.19, and was in a state of hysterics. A few men took him aside, my father among them, and tried to understand his story. An attempt was later made to keep the truth quite, so as to avoid undue panic in the Ghetto, but this was not very successful. Our neighbor, whose name unfortunately I do not remember, and the other men in the Ghetto of his small group of 39 related their experience. The 450 were marched to the neighboring village of Visterniceni where there were apparently large anti-tank ditches prepared by the Russians. The young men and women, except the 39 older men, were executed in these ditches. The 39 were made to bury them. They were then lectured by a German officer and told to return to the Ghetto, tell the people what they saw and warn them that this will be their fate if "they did not stop signaling with lights to the incoming Russian planes".

In addition to their aim of killing Jews, the Germans obviously wanted to terrorize the Ghetto population. What I observed in those days, and on this occasion in particular, was how the normal human mind apparently switches off certain unbearable facts in order to protect its sanity. What happened after the murders of August 1, 1941, was that many in the Ghetto refused to believe the truth. This was manifested a number of times in a type of mass hysteria. At its few "gates", the Ghetto had tall wooden walls with posted guards. We knew them by their street names. What happened after August 1, and also later with respect to the people missing from Ghidighici, was that suddenly a rumor would spread in the Ghetto that "they are all coming back at gate X!". Hundreds would run to that gate to welcome them. Unfortunately, no one returned from the dead!

30. Ploesti is a city near Bucharest in the old part of Romania. The date of ìDecember 1941î in the Report is an obvious typo; it should be ìDecember 1940.


Source: Memories of The Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau) 1941-1944