A. Robberies in the city immediately after the retreat of the Bolsheviks.
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.
- During the first days of segregating the Jews in the Ghetto, 5 to 6 women complained to the Community that they were raped by soldiers, in particular those in passing. This fact was brought to our attention by Leib Rapaport, Dr. Leila Telis and Nuhim Sadagurschi, who stated that he was an eye witness to the rape of a girl by a barber. No specific details were given to us either of the victims or of the perpetrators.
- Also, from the declarations of the above and without being given other details, the commission was informed that during the same period of establishing the Jews in the Ghetto there were cases of Jews being robbed by passing soldiers.
- Only the witness Itic Nuhim Buicovschi declared to us that, during one of the days of September 1941, a sergeant major, whose name he did not know, entered his dwelling in the Ghetto andforcibly removed a blanket, a bed cover and a wooden box.
- During the process of installing the Jews in the Ghetto, Colonel Tudose told us that the Germans, abusing their power, would initially take out groups or individual Jews and use them to identify dwellings where materials or hidden valuables could be found. This, with all the opposition of the Romanian guarding units. Because of this situation, Colonel Tudose was obliged to issue orders to shoot anyone who would enter the Ghetto by force or for abuse.
- A specific case of theft was charged against Cpt. Ioan Paraschivescu, the Commander of the Gendarme Unit in Chisinau, who guarded the Ghetto. Abusing his position and using the orderly soldier Ion Trifan, he took from the Ghetto store items left by the Jews, domestic objects and dishes, and sent them to his wife in Bucharest in baskets and in many transports. This fact was proven by the declarations of the soldier Ion Trifan, the sergeant Dumitrache and front rank Radu Florea, who helped him in execution and in transporting the objects. In addition, by means of a number of house searches in Bucharest and confrontations which took place between the above, most of the stolen objects were identified.
C. Attempts and escapes from the Ghetto.
The cases found by the Commission were as follows:
- Kisel Kremer and Smil Veisencher ran away from the Ghetto and were caught at the railway station in Chisinau where they were trying to leave by train. This took place on October 22, 1941. They were arrested and returned to the Ghetto through the local police. They declare that no one helped them escape and that they left the Ghetto illegally.
- The Germans helped the escape of the following Jews: Spanermann, Mortcovici Samuel, Kalikman, Allerman, Boserman, the families Ghermann, Cervinschi, lawyer Sudit, Abramovici, and Gherstein. The family Gherstein, made up of father, mother, son and daughter, paid to a German car, driven by a non-commissioned officer and two soldiers, the sum of 150,000 lei, to be taken to Bucharest. We have this information from the agent Galtov and from the admission, in front of the Commission, of all the members of the Gherstein family and the above mentioned Samy Mortcovici.
- Melich Schwartzberg was brought to Bucharest by train by an alleged agent covered by the police, Petrescu. He paid 20,000 lei and a gold wedding ring. He acknowledges the fact. The case is being investigated by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
- Itic Nuhim Buicanschi escaped alone arriving by train to Bucharest. He acknowledges the fact. It is being investigated by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
- The family Marcu Cohn (husband and wife) and Cervinschi (husband, wife and children) were transported to Bucharest by train by police agents Ion Rohan, Neamtu and Stoenescu, the first being paid 50,000 lei and the last two 100,000. They acknowledge the fact and are under investigation by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
- Solomon Spanerman, Saia Perlmutter, Levensohn with wife and one child, Cristal, Weisser with his brother and wife, were brought to Bucharest in a car, between October 10-14, 1941, by Captain Ilie Doicescu of the Aerial Defence Command. This was executed with the help of his concubine Nadejda Sumnevici and of Eugen Dumitru of Chisinau. It is claimed that they took 2,000,000 lei. The first two are under arrest and the affair is under investigation by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
- Apoteker with his family escaped from the Ghetto to Bucharest during the night of October 15-16, 1941. It is suspected that he was helped by Major rez. Petre Mardare of Bucharest, with whom the above had commercial connections. The case is under investigation by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
- The family Spanermann, comprising mother and two children, together with Iosif Volovet, agreed with a front ranker airman to be brought to Bucharest for the sum of 6,000 lei. They started in the car and, after they took from them another 2,000 lei on the way, at a distance of 30 km. from Chisinau the driver stopped the car under the excuse that he needed to add water to the radiator. Afterwards, he claimed that the car would not move unless pushed my its occupants. All descended, pushed the car which took off leaving them behind. This information is from the declaration of Iosif Volovet.
D. Illicit trade of jewelry and precious metals
- Initially, many German military would enter the Ghetto to buy gold through a middleman called Lew (The declaration of Commissioner Virgil Ionescu whose constituency included the Ghetto) Also, the witness Andrei Neago declared that a watchmaker sold some gold to German soldiers who paid him with out of circulation old marks.
- The witness Itic Nihim Buicanschi described that someone named Spingeanu, ex-owner of the shop "Casapian-Spingeanu" of Chisinau and now living in Bucharest, would come to the Ghetto in his car buying precious stones and gold objects. Also, he hinted at Nadejda Terzi, former concubine of Colonel Eugen Dumitrescu.
The respective authorities have, under preliminary investigation, the following cases of trade in precious metals:
- Leonida Harbuz, who was caught in the Ghetto with 273 grams of gold bought from Polea Sisma. It is being investigated at the Martial Court.
- Cpt. rez. Vasile Serbanescu and Major rez. Petre Mardare are under suspicion of helping a Jew, accompanied by two Jewish women, to take valuable objects and precious metals out of hiding places in Nr.10 Eminescu St. and Nr.46 Carol St. The first occurrence was made in the presence of the wife of Dr.Cpt.Popa, who occupies the house at Nr.10 Eminescu St. The fact is under investigation by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
- The fact that the Jews possessed precious metals and jewelry and were trading them in order to have means for daily living was verified also in a trap, organized by Captain Paraschivescu, the Commander of the Ghetto, with the knowledge of the Commander of the Third Army Corps and the assistance of a military prosecutor.
E. Illicit trade of authorizations for entering the city, for postponing the deportation and influence trade.
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:
- Legally, for the postponement of the departure on October 21, 1941, to: David Mulamud, Mina Nisemboim, Ion Meifet, Zina Fleischer, Raia Maghid, User Zilbrang, Pulina Svalboim, Motel Davidovici, Aron Cogan, Torban Cresea, and Iser Rabinovici. All were found with the above mentioned.
- She negotiated with the lawyer Rabinovici the selling of seven authorizations, for staying until the last convoy, for 35,000 lei of which she received an advance of 15,000 lei. The above mentioned lawyer, having been advised by his brother-in-law not to give any more money since he will in any case be left for the last convoy because of his wife who was gravely ill, asked Nadia Terzi for the return of the advance. She did return the money but, as retribution for Rabinovici's behavior, intervened with Col. Dumitrescu and he decided for immediate deportation, although the wife was not in a condition for deportation and the medical doctor of the Ghetto was recommending a postponement.
- The Jew Iaroslavici received 3-4 deportation postponements paying for them with a diamond ring valued at 72,000 lei.
- Mura Volovet and Ida Spanerman also paid for three authorizations 5,000 lei each and material for a coat with lining and a fur collar. They received them through the intermediary Jew Simha Glukman.
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.
However, Colonel Dumitrescu also worked on his own for the above purposes.
- On October 23, 1941, Colonel Dumitrescu received from Kisel Kremer the sum of 700,000 lei, of which 500,000 were counted within the premises of the Community, and 200,000 lei through the lawyer Sapirin, that he not be send to Balta.
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.
- He received on a number of occasions, for the same benefits, sums of money from Sapirin, and from Nina Vecselstein 30,000 lei to be allowed to leave with the last convoy.
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 Commission found the following cases:
- Colonel Dumitrescu ordered Cpt. Alexandrescu, his Chief of Major Staff, to send to Bucharest a soldier courier to carry correspondence between the Community of the Ghetto and the Jewish Community of the Capital.
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 Jew Sapirin, lawyer, Vice-President of the Community of the Ghetto, was transported by the car of the Military Commander of Chisinau, driven by Captain Alexandrescu, in order to make contact with the Jewish Community of the Capital. He stayed one day in Bucharest and was returned in the same way to Chisinau. The Jew travelled in a military uniform to avoid the problems of controls. Cpt. Alexandrescu claims that this Jew was brought to Bucharest, at the urging of Col.Dumitrescu, in place of the lawyer Sudit, who was requested by the Presidency and who on that date was not to be found. The fact is acknowledged by Cpt. Alexandrescu and confirmed by many witnesses (Guttman Landau, Sebel, etc.)
- On November 1-2, 1941, Guttman Landau, the President of the Ghetto Community, asked Cpt. Alexandrescu to take 250,000 lei and to convey them to the Jew Sapirin, who already left with a deportation convoy. - Sapirin was to be found on the way and the money transmitted after Visterniceni, the locality where the B.N.R. Commission was searching the deported Jews. The officer, after persistent denials and in a confrontation with Guttman Landau, finally admitted of taking the money and handing it to Colonel Dumitrescu, who also gave him 100,000 lei. He claims that he spent this money on acts of benevolence and the needs of the Command, which had no funds allocated to it.
The above case was referred to the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
- On October 23, 1941, the Jews Kisel Kremer and Smil Veinsenker were apprehended at the Chisinau railway station while trying to escape. They were sent under arrest, through the local Police Station, to the Commander of the Ghetto, Lt. Pop, who received them together with the sum of 34,995 lei found in their possession.
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.
- On December 15, 1941, a search was conducted at the house of Lt.Col. Grigorescu of Sebes-Alba, Str. Drumul Sibiului Nr.21, to determine what he transported from Bessarabia and what was the source of the goods transported. Very many objects, materials and animals were found having been brought by train from Bessarabia, being able to justify only a few of them.
The investigation is due to be completed by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps, where the officer is under arrest.
On January 10, 1942, he was made to retire under Article 58 of the L.I.A.
- The same above mentioned officer, took together with the unit that he commanded - Battalion 20 of Artillery - his concubine, Maria Licicovschi. He dressed her militarily, thus taking her with him from June 22 to November 25, 1941, when he returned to the Garrison of Sebes-Alba. The fact is established with the acknowledgement of Maria Licicovschi and the declaration of the informer, Lt. Aurel S. Samargiteanu.
The judgement of the case is with the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
- During the deportations, Sergeant Major Saftenco of the Gendarme Legion of Orhei, among others, was assigned with guard duties of the crossing of the Nistru.
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.
The fact was established from the declarations and the subsequent confrontations between the above mentioned non-commissioned officer, Mura Volavet and Ida Spanerman.
It is being investigated by the Martial Court of the Third Army Corps.
- One of the systems employed by Colonel Dumitrescu for extorting money from Jews was also to threaten them with various measures or to pretend to execute measures based on superior orders.
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.
- With the purpose of verifying some rumors related to the escape of Jews from the Ghetto, Lt.Col. Radulescu, the Cabinet Director of the Government, approved that the special agent Constantin Madan simulate helping some Jews to escape, who would be surprised by a military magistrate in the process of bribery.
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.
The Military Magistrate, who accompanied them, made a formal report of the quick search of the Jews and after his departure they were given over to the five agents, who proceeded to perform a second rigorous search in the cellar of the Service.
On this occasion, they found on the Jews approximately 1,200 gold coins, two gold watches and 20,000 lei cash.
From these valuables, they delivered to the Military Tribunal the gold watches and some coins and distributed the rest in a brotherly fashion among themselves.
They are all under arrest and under investigation of the Preliminary Investigatory Office of the Lapusna Tribunal.
G. Robberies during the deportations
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:
- First of all, the cart drivers were those who, through either threats or explicit robberies, stole from the possessions of the Jews.
Most often, they did not complain for fear of retribution from the robbers.
Information on these facts was supplied by Lt.Col. Radu Lazar, Major Bechi, Gendarme Sergeant Major Ioan Harbagiu, Guttman Landau, and Alexandru Margulius.
- Peasants and tramps also took active part in active robberies along the deportation routes.
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).
In Atachi, civilian population penetrated at night through the gendarmes in the Jewish camp and stole. The guard was strengthened and the robberies stopped (declaration of Lt.Col. Pallade).
On the route between Visterniceni and Orhei, peasants and tramps tried to attack the Jewish carts in order to rob them. The escorts intervened, stopped and dispersed them (declaration of Sub.Lt. Pericle Penisoara).
In Orhei, a guard and a civilian stole during the night things belonging to a Jewish woman (declaration of Mura Volavet).
On the road between Orhei and Rezina, a group of peasants tried to rob a convoy. They were caught, their papers taken and they were forwarded to the Tribunal of Orhei (declaration of Major Bechi), Also, on the same road some cart drivers took off the boots of three Jews who died on the way (declaration of Alex. Margulius)
- A specific case is one related to the Jew Sapirian of which a soldier stole 20,000 lei and 2,000 rubles in the segment from the Ghetto to Visterniceni, and in the segment from Visterniceni to Orhei his luggage was stolen (declaration of Bucur Jugareanu and Kisel Kremer).
- In Perisecina, two soldiers who were on duty at a mill took from the luggage of Ghers Pulferman all the kitchen utensils, and in Orhei his wife was robbed by two other soldiers and a non-commissioned officer of her purse, clothing, and toilet items. In the same locality, The Jew Ghers Pulferman offered to a sub-lieutenant to sell his wallet for 600 lei. The officer took the object and, under the excuse that he was going to change money in order to pay him, went away and never returned.
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.
The following cases were discovered:
- Ioan Handarenco, cart driver from Chisinau, Str. Posta Veche, hid for the Jew Bragar and his daughter, 19,000 lei, 4050 rubles and two gold male wrist watches.
- Gh. Neamtu, cart driver from Chisinau, Str. Visterniceni Nr.25, hid for Jews two pocket watches, a male wrist watch, a silver cigarette box and 10,000 lei.
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:
- “... when the Romanian troops entered Bessarabia and took control of the region, all hatred for the Jews there erupted in general massacres. In Kishinev, where only about 11,000 Jews were left, the inhabitants were enclosed in a ghetto.
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)
- 'In glaring contrast to their persecutor's depravity stands the heroism of the Jewish victims. A lawyer, Shapiro, (his first name unmentioned) had the amazing ingenuity to obtain and wear an army officer's uniform. He flew in a military airplane to Bucharest in an effort to save his brethren from deportation. His efforts, however. were unsuccessful. By remaining in the capital he could have saved his own life. Instead, he returned to Kishinev to perish along with thousands of his people.' (Fisher, 1969, p.54-55.)
Rabbi Safran continues:
- “Shapira, one of the main leaders of the Kishinev ghetto, had dressed as a Romanian officer and thus made his way to Bucharest. When he arrived. he was immediately brought up to my apartment. The people from the Federation were staggered: if Shapira had been discovered in that dress on his way to Bucharest he could have been shot. And the same fate could wait not only him, but also myself and all those who gave him shelter. But none of us even thought of this. All our thoughts were centered on what could be done to help, to save the remaining Jews of the Kishinev ghetto, to prevent their 'evacuation', that is, their deportation to Transnistria, and their massacre on the way. This was our sole concern.
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)
- “When we finally met. emotion filled my words. my lone, my insistence. I begged him to take pity on those wretched. dislocated, hunted people and not to send them to their death. At a certain moment it seemed that he was touched. but soon after he started to rant and rave. I tried to calm him, to point out that, with but one word, he could stop the catastrophe, prevent the destruction of so many homes and return those people from that painful trek that could lead to the death of so many. But he merely stared at me severely with his sometimes burning, sometimes icy eyes, and maintained that the Jews deserved their fate. His face grew alternately bright red and pale while. and he appeared like a wild beast ready to tear me to shreds. I had summoned up all my spiritual strength to guide me through this audience. but at this point I already started murmuring Shema Israel. My feelings during this trying experience, which remains etched in my soul, cannot be translated in words.” (Safran, 1987, pp.81-82)
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:
- “In a small Romanian city outside Bucharest. an enthusiastic crowd that includes members of Parliament and other Governmental officials cheers as a statue of General Ion Antonescu - a mass murderer responsible for the deaths of 250.000 Jews - goes up in the a public square.”