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Memories of the Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau) - The Operation of Buying Valuables from the Deported Jews by the B.N.R. Commission

Some of the investigations conducted by the Commission indicated that, after the crossing through Rezina of approximately 10 convoys containing some 8,000 Jews, all without being searched, Lt. Popoiu, who was in charge of their transport across the Nistru, informed his superiors through the chain of command that the Germans were searching them in Transnistria removing all valuables and currencies in their possession.  This was at the beginning of October 1941.

Having been notified, the Presidency issued an instruction to the Ministry of Finance, No.8507 of October 5, 1941, which in turn sent a memo No.269274 of October 14, 1941, to the Government of Bessarabia in which it established the exchange rates.

On October 8, 1941, the central office of the B.N.R. was made aware by the Presidency and, as a consequence on October 9, 1941, sent to Chisinau by plane a commission under the chairmanship of Mr. Bucur Jugareanu.

Simultaneously the Government also issued the telegraphic order No.9, dated October 9, 1941, to the Prefectures of Balti and Soroca containing exchange rates.

The B.N.R. delegates divided themselves into three Commissions, working as follows:  the first chaired by Mr. Bucur Jugareanu at Visterniceni, Orhei and Rezina, the second at Marculesti and the third at Cetatea-Alba.

Each commission was made up of: B.N.R. representatives, a representative of the army and the necessary experts for the valuation of gold and precious stones.

The army representative, specifically requested by the B.N.R. Commission, was needed to prevent, through his presence, suspicions which could have been created as a result of the operations which were performed.

The Commissions worked under very difficult conditions because of the trickling of the convoys from various directions and the subsequent need of its displacement, of the absence of proper premises and the bad weather.  They often worked at night, in the rain and without sufficient light.

The criteria of exchange and valuation, provided by the Ministry of Finance, the General Management of Currency Exchange, were as follows:  

  • Payment in rubles, at 1 rubble = 40 lei
  • Gold paid according to its weight and purity at the official rate.
  • Stones and other precious objects paid according to a valuation by an expert and only 20% of valuation, which was equivalent to the ratio of gold at its official price and on the free market.
  • Lei were also exchanged for Kassenschein at the rate of one to 60 lei.  In any case, they were not allowed to cross the Nistru with Romanian currency.[23]

 The operation of control and exchange was carried out thus:  

  • The exchange of Lei into rubles was initially made with nominal lists.  Later, because of the accumulation of work, this system was abandoned, having been considered an unnecessary formality.
  • For jewelry, gold coins and valuables, individual receipts were initially generated with the detailed description of the value and the amount paid.  These were placed in separate envelopes which were deposited in special boxes.  Later, for the same reasons mentioned above and for greater simplicity, the individual receipts system was given up and tables were generated.

After work, the boxes with the envelopes and valuables were deposited in the B.N.R. safe which accompanied the Commission. The safe was locked and the key was given to the President of the Commission.  Security was by military guards under orders not to allow to anyone to open the safe except in the presence of the full Commission.

In the cities where the National Banks had safes, for example in Orhei, the boxes with the valuables were deposited there, the safe was locked with one of the keys taken by the President of the Commission and the second by the representative of the Army.

On October 22, 1941, Cpt. , the Commander of Police Company 23, submitted a report in which he described alleged shortcomings in the procedure followed by the B.N.R. Commission -quoting the lack of a cash register for the exchange of rubles, the lack of a safety box for the deposit of the valuables, in place of the envelopes and the wooden boxes which were used and the need for establishing a controlling register for these valuables.

The Government, informed of this report, verified the observations of Cpt. Paraschivescu and concluded that the procedure followed provided all the guarantees of an honest operation.  

In conclusion:

The operations performed by the B.N.R. Commission were normal and did not create any observed deviations from an honest and conscientious line.

Translator's Notes:

23. 'In addition to the confiscation of four-fifths of the valuables' the fixing of the rate of the ruble at 40 lei was another measure of robbery. 11 marked the third compulsory exchange of currency within a year-aitd-a half lime span - in July, 1940,.  July, 1941.  October,1941.  As a result, a man who had 1,000,000 lei on July 1, 1940 - a fortune at that time - would receive for them 40,000 rubies from the Russians who had taken over.  On July 1. 1941, after the Romanians re-occupied this area, that amount would be exchanged for 25,000 lei.  In October, 1941, this amount was exchanged for 600 rubles. for which the deportee later received 10 German Marks - the price of one loaf of bread!' (Fisher, 1969, p.61)

Deportations, in and out of the Ukraine, and official robbery are, unfortunately, not new for the Jews.  Here is but one example from history:

    ,... in 1727 an order was promulgated to the effect that 'All Jews found to be residing in the Ukraine and in Russian towns shall be immediately expelled beyond the frontier, and not allowed under any circumstances to enter Russia.'

    Prince Demidoff San Donato, in quoting this expert in his excellent book, says that a proviso to this ukase stipulated that before leaving Russia all the Jews were to be made to exchange their gold and silver for copper money!' (Davitt, 1903, pp.8-9)

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