Bistrita is a town in Northern Transylvania, Romania. It was within Hungary until 1918 and between 1940 and 1944.
The town was established by Saxon immigrants during the 12th century. It was populated over the centuries mostly by German-speaking people, but later Romanians and also Hungarians started to live there. After the prohibition on Jewish settlement there was lifted after 1848, as in general in Transylvania, Jews began to settle in Bistrita, mainly from Bukovina and Galicia. The community in Bistrita was Orthodox with a strong ḥasidic element although there were also Jews who adopted the German and Hungarian culture and language. During the second half of the 19th century the Jewish community there developed and grew strongly. The first Zionist youth organization in Bistrita, in Hungary, Ivriyah, was founded in 1901 by Nissan Kahan, who corresponded with Theodor Herzl . In World War I, 138 Jews of Bistrita were mobilized in the army. After the war the central office of Orthodox Jewry in Transylvania was established in Bistrita. It represented 80 communities (135,000 persons) and was headed by the rabbi of Bistrita, Solomon Zalman Ullmann, until his death in 1930. Between the two world wars there was an important Zionist movement in the town. There was a large and important yeshivah in Bistrita under the direction of the rabbi.
The Jewish population of the city numbered 718 in 1891 (out of a total of 9,100); 1,316 in 1900 (out of 12,155); 2,198 in 1930 (out of 14,128); and 2,358 in 1941 (out of 16,282). In 1941 the Hungarian authorities deported several dozen Jewish families from Bistrita to Kamenets-Podolski in the Ukraine, were they were murdered by Hungarian soldiers. In the course of World War II, the Jews were subjected to many restrictions, and Jewish males of military age were drafted into forced labor service. Early in May 1944 the Jews were concentrated in a ghetto set up at the socalled Stamboli Farm, located about two miles from the city. At its peak the ghetto, consisting of a number of barracks and pigsties, held close to 6,000 Jews, including those brought in from the neighboring communities in Beszterce-Naszód County. Among these were the Jews of Borgóbeszterce, Borgóprund, Galacfalva, Kisilva, Marosborgó, Nagyilva, Nagysajó, Naszód, Óradna, and Romoly. The ghetto was liquidated with the deportation of the Jews to Auschwitz in two transports on June 2 and June 6, 1944.
The 1,300 Jews who resettled in Bistrita in 1947 included survivors from the camps, former residents of neighboring villages, and others liberated from camps in Transnistria and other places. Subsequently, the Jewish population declined steadily as a result of emigration to Israel, the United States, and Canada.
By 2002, only 15 mostly elderly Jews lived in the city.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.
E. Pistiner, Bistritz (Ger., 1953). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R.L. Braham, Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary (19942); PK Romanyah, 101–4.