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Memories of the Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau) - The Operation of the Chisinau Ghetto and of the Camps

A. The guarding of the Ghetto and its organization.

The Ghetto depended on the Military Command of the city of Chisinau, which was led in succession by: Colonel D. Tudosie, from July 18 to September 1, 1941; General Panaitiu, from 1 to 7 September; and Colonel Eugen Dumitrescu from September 7 to November 15, 1941.

The guarding of the Ghetto was done by different units, which constantly changed because of movements governed by operational necessities The following units contributed to guarding:  

  • Company 1 of the Infantry Regiment 50
  • A unit of Infantry Regiment 68
  • Police Company 10 - Lieutenant Puscasu
  • The disinfection Company - Captain Poenaru
  • Divisional Battalion 20, Lt. Col. Grigorescu and Lt. Emil Pop during 9-27 October, 1941
  • Police Company 23, later changed into Mobile Gendarme Company of Chisinau, from 27 October, under the command of Cpt. Paraschivescu.

Because of this fact, through some houses and courtyards which led to these borderline streets, it was possible to enter and leave at will and to transport illegally any objects [17].

The lack of resources, when compared with the appreciable length of 4 km. of the circumference to be guarded, was one of the main reasons for the situation described above. The resources for guarding varied between 80-250 persons, the larger number having been reached only on October 27, 1941.

In addition to the problems mentioned above, there were other limitations, resulting from the location of the Ghetto as follows:  

  1. The presence in the area of approximately 100 Christian families, who lived there. For these it was not possible to make any restrictions of circulation, exit or entrance into the Ghetto.
  2. The presence in the same quarter of storage containers of grain and corn, of the Recruitment Center of the County of Lapusna, factories of soap, siphons and rope, for which again, it was not possible to have limitations of circulation.
  3. The road to the airport, which was heavily travelled, passed through the length of the Ghetto.

B. The living conditions in the Ghetto.

These were not determined by a precise and judicial regulation. Everyone, rich and poor, lived on their own account. For this purpose, the entry into the Ghetto of peasant carts were allowed, bringing various food products. Colonel Tudose established their own bakery, hospital and pharmacy.

The social composition of the Ghetto was approximately as follows:

  • 4,148 men, 4,476 women and 2,901 children; total of 11,525 persons.
  • 1,502 men and 1,704 women; total 3,206 people.

As far as material conditions were concerned, the majority were poor, among which approximately 3,000 were completely without means of support being helped, even before their introduction into the Ghetto, by the Jewish Community. Better off, with own means of support, were some 2,000 Jews with only 200 among them which that could be considered wealthy.

In view of this situation, except the 3,000 supported by the Community, the majority obtained money for living by selling different objects in their possession.

Until the beginning of the deportations, when there was a categorical order stopping the trade in the Ghetto, these transactions were neither encouraged nor expressly forbidden. The lack of any indications from the Military Commander, helped the trade and embezzlement operations of valuables to the detriment of the State.

C. Other institutions existing in the Ghetto. 

  1. For the maintenance of order it was established, from the beginning, a police unit under the leadership of Commissioner Virgil Ionescu, who had at his disposal a group of public guardians. This police instrument, aimed at collaborating with the Military Commander, was never known to intervene in order to prevent, discover or describe the abuses taking place.
  • This situation is partly due to the excessive pressure on the military authorities and also due to the recommendations actually given by the police chiefs to stay as much as possible in the background.
  1. The Jewish community in the Ghetto had it own institution of leadership in the form of a committee of 20 persons, under the chairmanship of Guttman Landau. The Committee worked directly with the Military Commander of Chisinau to whom it expressed its complaints; it also managed the execution of orders with respect to taking Jews to public work and to the deportations; finally it provided help to the poor, sick and handicapped.

D. Mortality

By natural means, it was not too high. In Chisinau, 441 Jews died of which 20 committed suicide before the deportations[18]. A bigger percentage was in the camp of Vertujeni, namely about 1,800 Jews of which a majority was from among the 13,000 Jews brought into Bessarabia by the Germans and who were in a special state of physical misery. Lt.Col. Pallade, from whose deposition these facts are taken, told us about an incident suggestive of the way that the Germans understood treating them. Namely, when transferring the Jews to us and seeing that the Romanian authorities were distributing bread and tea, they protested saying: "Why are you giving them bread and tea? We shoot them".

E. The behavior of the guarding authorities in the Ghetto.

In general, the treatment of the Jews in the Ghetto as a result of the behavior of the soldiers, officers and the organs of the military leadership, was humane and civilized. This was confirmed by many testimonies. (Guttman Landau, Dumitru SiliSolomon SurIlie BodoiNina ZolturCpt. rez. Balinski, and others)

F. Entries and exits from the Ghetto until the beginning of the deportations.

During the leadership of Colonel Tudose, other than the freedom given to some Jews, who returned to their former residences to recover some of the things left behind, the system of entries and exits from the Ghetto was operated in good order.

The authorizations were given without the Military Command.

At the beginning, when the appetite for robberies had been unleashed and rapes of Jewish women by soldiers became more frequent, particularly by the German army, Colonel Tudose took drastic measures of preventing them by stopping the entry into the Ghetto of soldiers independent of their army. The same applied to vehicles and to any person who did not have any connection with the Ghetto.

He established powerful patrols for the prevention of entrance into the Ghetto indicating that, in case of opposition, firearms should be used.

The issued authorizations were only for Christians living in the Ghetto, for peasants bringing in provisions and for the institutions based there.

The same regime was continued also under the leadership, of a few days, of General Panaitiu, after which, with the arrival of the command of Colonel Eugen Dumitrescu, tolerance and irregularities became the rule.

Tolerance, meaning that the selection of those who entered or left was not executed in the former strict manner but favoritism became prominent.

Irregularities, meaning that persons without any reason, except that they were in the graces of the Military Commander of the city, of the Ghetto, of the Major Chief of State, or of the Commanding office, entered and left whenever they wanted, exercising all manner of transactions and abuses, which we will describe in the chapter on the infractions which occurred.

We cite among them: Nadia TerziMaria Licocofski, Zina FlaiserGabriela Gherstein, and others.

In addition, a witness (Nina Zoltur) told us that she saw military vehicles which took some of the more beautiful girls from the Ghetto into the city.

G. Guarding and the life in the camps.

In the other camps of Bessarabia life took the same form and with the same means.

The guard was provided by gendarmes of the respective legions but under better conditions, particularly in Vertujeni and Marculesti, because the location of the camps was more appropriate for such a purpose.

In conclusion:

  1. The organization and the functioning of the Ghetto of Chisinau was characterize by the absence of instructions which would have described precisely the required behavior of the executive organs.
  2. The guarding of the Ghetto of Chisinau was executed in a mediocre manner because of the low level of resources with which a serious guarding was not possible.
  3. The full functioning of the Ghetto of Chisinau was left in the hands of the military organs, the civil authorities avoiding or evading any action.
  4. During the period that the Ghetto was under the command of Colonel Tudose, his concern was evident for the organization of a life as humane as possible for the Jews, as well as for the prevention of abuses.

Translator's Notes:

17. It was indeed through one such courtyard and f ence that my family and I were able to escape from the Ghetto early morning on Wednesday, October 15, 1941.

18. This is an annual mortality rate of 15.3%, excluding those who were murdered in the special actions taken during the existence of the Ghetto.

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