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Memories of the Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau) - The Deportations

A. Orders and basic instructions.

From the memorandum of the Governor of Bessarabia, with respect to the Ghetto of Chisinau, addressed to President of the Council of Ministers, it follows that the decision on the deportation of the Jews of Bucovina and Bessarabia, across the Nistru river, was taken in a Council meeting in Tighina, with the participation of all provincial Governors. On that occasion, precise instructions were given on the manner that the operation should be executed. The Major General Staff was given the responsibility to manage the operations, together with the Major Pretor, General Topor, and the Gendarme Inspector of Bessarabia, Colonel Meculescu, as executive organs.

On behalf of the Major General Staff, Lt.Col. Pallade was assigned with the elaboration of the plans for deportation.

B. The given instructions, itineraries, the points of passage.

On September 7, 1941, the Major Pretor, General Topor, provided to the Inspector of Gendarmes in Chisinau, in the form of a "Note", the following instructions:

  1. The Jewish deportation operation will start on September 12, 1941, with the camp of memontowards Casauti and Rezina.
  2. Groups of maximum 1,600 including children, but crossing the Nistru only maximum 800 per day.
  3. Approximately 40-50 carts for every group.
  4. Groups will leave Vertujeni every two days.
  5. At each crossing, approximately one officer of Legionnaire gendarme.
  6. The itinerary will be fixed by Lt.Col. Pallade with the commanders of the Legion.
  7. The crossing without any formalities.
  8. Two supplementary platoons as assistance.
  9. The gendarmes of the territorial locations to help with the cleaning of the area and the burial of the dead with the help of the inhabitants.
  10. The manner of dealing with those who do not comply? (Alexianu)
  11. No custom duties to be levied. Those who rob will be executed.

Following this note, Colonel Meculescu, the Inspector of Gendarmes in Bessarabia, together with Lt.Col. Pallade, gave detailed instructions to the Gendarmes Legionnaires including the established routes.

These established routes, to be followed by the convoys, were as follows:

  1. For those from the Northern Bessarabia and Bucovina: from the camp of Vertujeni, through Soroca - point of crossing Cosauti and through Mateuti - point of crossing Rezina; those from Bucovina through point of crossing Atachi.
  2. Those from Southern Bessarabia, were directed, from Cahul, Belgrad, Ismail, Chilia Noua, Valcov, through Tarutino, point of crossing Purcari.

From the information given to the Commission by the Inspector of Gendarmes Chisinau, it was shown that, through the points of crossing mentioned above, there were deported from Bessarabia 55,867 Jews and from Bucovina 45,538 Jews.

A total of 101,405 Jews.[19]

Now, in the Ghetto of Chisinau there are: 17 Jews left with a special authorization, 34 sick in the Ghetto hospital; 14 representing the personnel of the hospital (doctors, nurses, "ciocli"[20] ); 15 companions of the sick and 6 children left from an orphanage. Total of 86 Jews.

C. The execution of the deportation from the Ghetto of Chisinau.

The deportation from this Ghetto started on October 12, 1941, with a column of about 1,500 Jews.[21]

In order to achieve order in the formation of the convoys and their departure, the Ghetto was divided into sectors. Those in question were notified through the Community, by the organs of the Military Command of the Ghetto, one day in advance in order to prepare for departure. There was no precise instruction given of the nature and quantity of the luggage that they were allowed to take with them.

As a norm, each was allowed to take as much as they could carry.

If until this period the life in the Ghetto had acquired somehow an aspect of peace and order, from now on an atmosphere of worry and ferment was unleashed.

The fear of the unknown, the difficulties of the journey and the rumors which disturbed the spirits, forced the Jews, on one hand, to take all available means to evade and escape the departure or to postpone it, and on the other hand, resulted in many abuses and illegalities.

Many of the Jews would ran away the day before departure from the sector to be deported to another one, whose turn was to come later, hiding in attics, cellars, etc., in order not to be found.

The illegal sales in the Ghetto intensified more than ever, also the transactions of precious metals.

The orders of the march were: by foot for those capable, the carts for the old, the sick and the children. The luggage was also loaded on the carts.

The columns marched with great difficulty, disorder and with resulting confusion because:

  1. Due to winter, the rains and the cold weather started.
  2. In general, the number of vehicles were insufficient, some became defective on the way, some were driven by oxen and some by horses.

For the Ghetto of Chisinau, there were two stages: Chisinau - Orhei[22]; Orhei - Rezina.

Initially, the order of the Major Pretor was that there should be provided 40-50 carts for a convoy of 1,500 Jews.

Nevertheless, because of the large number of old people and young children, who where unable to work, the Legions had to have more carts.

There were, however, many difficulties because the Government issued order Nr.4029/941, that no requisition take place, so that agricultural work not be impeded, and on October 28, 1941, another No.519, which required only one cart for 70 people.

The Prefectures followed Governmental orders and, as a consequence, refused the demands of the Legions of Gendarmes. This led to cases of direct hinderance of the deportation operation.

Thus, the Mayor of the commune of Vascauti, in the county of Soroca, not only refused to cooperate in the collection of the carts, but urged the inhabitants to run away with the carts in the fields. (Report Nr.3245 of October 2, 1941, by the Inspector of Chisinau Gendarmes, to the prefecture of the county of Soroca). To all of this is added the appetite for speculation of the cart owning peasants, for whom the requisitioning authorities did not establish a given payment for the imposed service. With the intention of maximizing their profits as a result of the need, they kept very many Jews, and specially those suspected of having resources, in a permanent state of pressure. Threatening to remove them from the carts or simulating the overturning of the carts, they forced to be given money and various objects.

After the passing of a number of convoys, this system became popular and, for purposes of making a profit, carriers could be seen waiting at road intersections and offering their carts and services.

The conveys were led by gendarmes, generally under the leadership of a noncommissioned officer, who allocated a soldier for guarding every five carts. Some of these fraternized through non intervention with the machinations of the carriers, which lacked humanity.

Among those who were walking, many were left behind, not being used to the difficulties of the march and due to physical exhaustion.

For all these reasons, the convoys appeared as interrupted lines; itineraries could not be kept and sometimes convoys would meet at the same point.

The periods of rest were carried out in the field or near woods, to avoid stopping in villages and thus escaping possible attacks and robberies by the peasants. Nevertheless, notwithstanding these precautions, cases were observed when, during the resting period, peasants would come out of the fields of maize or from the ditches where the convoys were waiting and commit acts of robbery.

During the march, the deported had to obtain food by their own means.

Those who died on the way were buried during the first stages.

In the other camps, the deportation was generally conducted in the same way.

D. The crossing of the Nistru

The convoys arriving at Rezina were received by a group of gendarmes, under the command of Lt. rez. Popoiu, who had the responsibility of executing the operation of crossing the Nistru. He would receive them, would transport them in a convoy to Rublenita in Transnistria where he would transfer them to the local gendarmes given this mission. The crossing was done on foot and in carts.

The Jews deported from Bucovina were brought by trains until Atachi. Because of this mode of transportation, they took with them large quantities of luggage. However, from here onward, having to travel by foot or in carts until the crossing of the Nistru and in Transnistria only by foot, they were not allowed to carry with them except luggage strictly necessary and possible to be transported in this new situation.

The remaining luggage which was left, was stored in the care of the gendarmes and the organs of B.N.R. in Atachi and Marculesti.

With respect to the ownership rights of this luggage, discussions arose between the Governor of Bucovina, who claimed that it belonged to him since it came from Jews deported from Bucovina, and the Government of Bessarabia, which claimed ownership since it was on its territory.

This was reported telegraphically to the Major General Staff as early as November 14, 1941, and a Commission is still working today on its inventory and placement.

In conclusion:

The deportation was executed under difficult conditions and is characterized by difficulties encountered on it way, due to lack of vehicles and robberies committed by the population of the communities located along the routes of the convoys. The cart drivers exploited the circumstances, trying to extort, by all available means, money and objects from the Jews.

The transportation difficulties and the bad weather helped these robberies, sometimes committed with the complicity, or at least the tolerance of the escorts.

Translator's Notes:

19.  Very, very few of these survived Transnistria!

20.  The Romanian word used in the manuscript, "ciocli" is defined in the dictionary as "grave diggers, sextons".

21. I remember clearly seeing this convoy leave the Ghetto. it was the seventh day of Sukot!    We escaped three days later, on October 15, 1941.

22. A personal note: Remaining in the Ghetto, after our escape, was my paternal grandfather, Aaron-Iosef Cervinschi, with his second wife and her sister (my grandmother had died in 1933).  At the time he was 69 years old, a religious Jew and a hasid of the Skvere Rabbi who was also in the Ghetto.  My grandfather would not consider shaving his beard or leaving the Rabbi.  As Cohanim, he blessed us the morning that we escaped and the only thing that we know of his subsequent f ate was a postcard that he wrote on the way to my aunt, his daughter, living in Romania in the city of Iasi.  The postcard was written in Romanian, obviously by someone else since my grandfather did not know Romanian (the original postcard has been deposited some years ago at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel; a copy is presented in Appendix 2).  It is addressed to "Mrs.  Ghenea Fisman, Str.  Anastasiu Panu No.5, Iasi",, with the return address indicated as "Cervinski, Orhei"; it even bears a rubber stamp proclaiming "Censorship Orhei".  Here is its translated text: 

    'Orhei. 29 October, 1941

    Dear Ghenea, We arrived here yesterday.  From here 1 will travel further, where I do not yet know.  We are all healthy.  From David [my father] I have not received anything for 12 days since he moved.  To you and to your family 1 write that you should move as soon as you can into a new house.  Yours is humid and you should move where Nuta lives [Nuta was my grandfather's brother who. before WWI, immigrated to Haifa, Palestine].  Not withstanding the fact that this will be expansive, you should move.  With money (alone) one cannot live.  I do not like your house; it is humid and cold and can damage you with rheumatism.  God should help us and we should see each other again at my brother Nuta. Kiss all, Your Father.'

In memory of my grandfather, who was murdered and perished somewhere on the roads to Transnistria with thousands of our brethren, my father changed his surname to Aharoni and I changed it to Aroni!
Memories of The Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau) 1941-1944