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Ghettos: Memories of the Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau)


The Commission, made up of Division General Constantin Niculescu, the Military Commander of the Capital, as Chairman, and Attorney General Stroe Stefan, the Inspector of Military Justice, Laurentiu Preotescu, the President of the Appeals Court of Chisinau, Traian Niculescu, Chief Prosecutor of the Appeals Court of Chisinau, Lt. Colonel Alexandru Madarjac, Managing Prosecutor at the Military Court of the Capital and Inspector General Paunescu of the National Bank as members, all appointed by the order ofMarshal Ion Antonescu, transmitted as Nr.217 of December 4, 1941, by the General Secretary of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, started their work on the 4th of December, 1941, related to the investigation of irregularities in the Ghetto of Chisinau.

As basic documentary material, we were presented with the following by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers: an information memo, the report Nr.741/941 of the Council of Lapusna[3] , the report of December 1, 1941, of the General Secretary of the Presidency to the Marshal, a copy of the investigation report of the Commission established for the inquiry into the disappearance of a quantity of gold obtained from KISEL KREMER and others from the Ghetto and a summary note entitled "The Ghetto". In this note, under the title of "Organized Robbery", the types of irregularities committed are described, thus delineating the objectives of the inquiry as follows: the lack of organization in the Ghetto, the assistance of illegal acts through the mixture of Christians with the Jews of the Ghetto and the lack of support in the situation of the internees, escapes from the Ghetto, the entrance into the Ghetto of different suspicious persons without control, as a result of which damaging acts to the State were made possible and were performed, the lack of organization by the B.N.R.[4] , robberies and crimes committed during the evacuation and the crossing of the Nistru[5].

In addition, the Minister of Justice made available to us report Nr.512, of December 3, 1941, by the Chief Prosecutor of the Appeals Court of Chisinau, together with a number of appendices referring to some irregularities and illegal acts, also committed in connection with the Jewish camps in Bessarabia.

After the program of work was established, to fulfill our mission the Commission travelled to Chisinau on December 6, 1941. It was decided to proceed in stages, the initial phases of the illegal acts and irregularities connected with the establishment, the organization and the evacuation of the Ghetto, as well as the investigation along general lines of all the consequences arising out of the activities mentioned above, such as:

  • The work of protecting and conserving the valuables and buildings received by the State, performed by the administrative authorities of Bessarabia;
  • The legal conditions arising out of the deportations and the properties left behind, based on Governmental actions and enacted legislation;
  • Contradictions in prerogatives, resulting from the superposition of powers as a result of laws of the Government of Bessarabia and of the High Military Command;

During its operation, the Commission travelled to the Ghetto and to Orhei, interviewed 137 witnesses, some of them in confrontation with each other, and obtained all official documents connected with the camps and ghettoes of Bessarabia.


Before describing our observations and conclusions, as a result of the investigations which we performed, we consider it necessary to discuss some phenomena which characterize the general atmosphere and activities in the province over the river Prut[6]. These are considerations relevant in weighing the decisions which will be taken and which refer to the following:

A. Special psychosis, leading to excesses and exaggerations.

The recent social upheaval, partly caused by some initial difficulties of administrative organization, feelings of revenge, and the lack of scruples and conscience of many, have released in Bessarabia a real avalanche of informers which, by means of letters, denouncements or gossip, have created an atmosphere of permanent suspicion which contributes, on one hand, to making the work of reconstruction and return to normal life more difficult, and on the other hand to an incomplete and sometimes an unreal view in the mind of the State Leadership of the real situation in Bessarabia.

To a great extend, the unsatisfied ambitions of some locals who expected their appointment to various public functions have contributed to the atmosphere described above.

The factors which generate such manifestations are:  

  1. Elements from among the public who, under the guise of anonymity or false identity, send written communications to the representatives of the administration or the Military Command, and various information, real or invented, expressing them in an exaggerated form or often through sentiments of revenge or jealousy.

Such denouncements have not spared even the most eminent public figures such as General Zwiedineck, former Sub Secretary of State of Romanization and General Athanasiu,the Commander of the Third Army Corps.

Counsellor Dardan, of the Appeals Court of Chisinau, confined to us that he was told that even the communist NKVD was frightened be the large number of denouncements inBessarabia. They received 50,000.

  1. Some intellectuals, who claimed to be well informed, felt the need to pursue self interest or to satisfy their feelings of revenge.

Let us present two enlightening examples:

(a)    The lawyer Ilie Cernautianu, of Chisinau, communicates to Reserve Captain Cepescu, of the Bessarabian Government, that he knows many things related to the illicit trade in the Ghetto.

The Commission, taking into consideration the position of the volunteered informer and the serious prospect that it represented, decided to interview him. During his interrogation, he told us that he "heard talk" among the clerks of the Court of Appeal that one can obtain a postponement of the evacuation of Jews for 10,000 lei. He gave no details, made no checks and spread the news.

In addition, he also told us that Clerk Adascaliti of the court of Appeal told him on the day of the Plebiscite[7] that Lawyer Hogas, from the Town Hall, speaking to Mr. Salceanu, told him that the Jew Schur has at his disposal a million lei so that he could help him remain in Chisinau.

Here also, he conveys hearsay information communicated to a third person and which is not reliable.

(b)    Reserve Lieutenant Constantin Badescu, a clerk in the Ministry of the Interior and currently living in Craiova[8] presented himself to the Mayor of Chisinau and asked for an immediate raid on the house on Mihai Viteazu No.23[9] , the domicile of Int. Captain Roescu, a member of the Government, where many precious objects could be found as well as a large quantity of gold. The raid was executed and nothing was found, a fact which raised the suspicion that the valuables existed but were removed.

Asked by the Commission what caused him to make this verbal accusation, he replied in a written deposition that, simply, he wanted to take revenge on Captain Roescu, with whom he has had an incident, finishing his deposition as follows, which characterizes fully his mentality: "... considering myself fully satisfied, also giving him a future lesson, that he should remember that I have also caused him ill".

  1. State informing agents. In the absence of serious control of their recruitment and their insufficient professional training, they provided information lacking seriousness and objectivity. In many cases they illicitly traded with their own function. Let us give some examples

(a) On December 9, 1941, the Commission received a note from an informer with the explicit mention that it comes from "personal observation" and stating that on the above date he saw two trucks loaded with furniture and carpets leaving Chisinau, through the gate of Hancesti, and in one of them, next to the driver, was Colonel Eugen Dumitrescu

However, it is known that since December 5th, Colonel Dumitrescu was arrested at the Military Jurisdiction C.M.C. and the trucks, searched by all Gendarme Legions along their probable route, were not found.

(b) The special informing agents Constantin Madan, Ion Cojocaru, Ion Nedu, Gheorghe Marin and Constantin Ionescu, attached to the Government for informing purposes, staged the escape of some Jews, with the knowledge of their superiors and for the purpose of discovering those that deal with such practices, and with this occasion appropriated an important quantity of gold from the Jews, the subjects of the staging. They are all under arrest and under investigation at the Prosecution Office of the Lapusna Tribunal.

  1.  Subversive action by the legionnaire movement[10]

Lt. Colonel Pallade provided us with the informational note No.2505, of November 10, 1941, where it is mentioned that the legionnaire movement in MoldovaBessarabiaand Bucovina sent instructions to all county centers to create and sustain an unfavorable atmosphere to the present regime; for this purpose:

(a) Where there were Jews, reclamations should be formulated which should show that the rich ones have bribed officials and military commissions in order to be exempted from forced labor.

(b) Reclamations should be formulated, on the subject of the wealth left by deported Jews, indicating facts emphasizing interested favoritism.

In this activity, it was recommended to use only legionnaires who fought on the front and are presently demobilized and the insinuations should be spread among the lower classes and specially among the wives of those mobilized, in order to create a mass of dissatisfied people for future demonstrations.

In addition, we were given another informational note, No.2748 of November 27, 1941, and report No.2770 of December 2, 1941, of the Iasi Military Statistic Office, addressed to the General Staff, Section II, indicating that an action of defaming the army was also started by the legionnaire movement. A number of specific cases were mentioned which lead to the conclusions emphasized above.

B. The supporting environment leading to wrongdoing.

Until the occupation of Odessa[11] , an atmosphere of war existed in the whole of Bessarabia. This was a normal consequence of movements of troops, trains loaded with wounded and security measures aimed at assuring the rear of the front, etc.

Under these conditions, the exercise of the law and order function of the administrative structure was more difficult.

On the other hand, the situation of the Jews, which were subjected to restrictions imposed by higher imperatives, exited in a large measure the inclination towards abuse. This was accentuated as the living needs of the Jews increased the pressure on them, and the desire for freedom led them to pursue all possible means, thus encouraging the temptation of those who could provide any advantage that would benefit them.

Also, the unanimous feeling that they were already out of the protection of the law, led any authority to amplify its power and to encourage its independent abuse.

In particular, during the deportations, both before the departure and on the way, on the routes followed, when the convoys of Jews were reduced to simple anonymous masses, without personality and without identity, when their life ceased to represent a notion worth defending, the abusive atmosphere grew in intensity contaminating as a plague, with or without reason, almost all conscience in such operations.

The idea of irresponsibility predominated, provoking and waking up primitive instincts. Under its cover, even remarkable aspects of honor and honesty were derailed and became entangled in the ambiance of infringements of the law. A case in point is that of Captain Alexandrescu which we will present later in this report.

All of the above was undoubtedly helped by the agitation and natural flight to delivery of the Jews, which devoted to their despair all the ancestral habits which characterize them.

Although, to a great extent, the informational material on the illegal activities in Bessarabia, connected with the Jews, was corrupted by the lack of seriousness and often overwhelmed by sentiments of revenge, nevertheless the Commission was able to obtain from its complexity some valuable indications which were able to lead us on the road of fulfilling our mission.

Helped by this information and covering the full range of investigations involving research, we succeeded in presenting in this report facts, the majority of which are precise, related to the establishment of the Ghetto in Chisinau and the camps in Bessarabia, the life in the Ghetto and camps, the deportations, and the illegalities and infractions which occurred in connection with this situation, as follows:

Translator's Notes:

1. Chisinau is the Romanian name. In Russian, and also internationally, it is known as Kishinev or Kishinew.

2. These two reports are undated, at least in the available form without any cover letter of transmittal. When were they written? The Commission arrived in Kishinev on December 6, 1941.  In Part II, section E, mention is made of "... today, six months after the liberation of Chisinau, ... ", which would make it mid-January 1942, and in Part IV, section F.5., the date of January 10, 1942, is entioned, the latest date in the report. The best guess of the date of the reports is the middle or end of January, 1942. Copies of these original Romanian reports are presented in Appendix 1.

3. Lapusna is the name of the country in which the city of Chisinau is located.

4. B.N.R. stands for "Banca National Romana", the National Romanian Bank.

5. The river Nistru, or Dnestr, separates the provice of Bessarabia from the Ukraine, or its southern part denoted as Transnistria. For some 22 years, between about 1918 to June 28, 1940, it was the frontier between Romania and the Soviet Union.

6. This refers to the geographic provice of Bessarabia, located between the river Prut, on the ewst, and the river Nistru (Dnestr) on the east, which was returned to the Soviet Union on June 28, 1940. It has been under Romanian jurisdiction since the collapse of Czarist Russia after the October Revolution of 1917.  The river Prut was crossed by the Romanian and German armies on June 22, 1941, when they launched Operation Barbarossa, their invasion of the Soviet Union.

7. During the month of November 1941, the fascist dictator of Romania, Marshal Ion Antonescu, held a national plebescite on his leadership. People were asked to vote YES or No. Next day, the Romanian papers published the names of the 14 people nationally who voted NO! I remember these days vividly; at the time we were inhiding in an apartment that my uncle Monia Apotecher rented for us on the fifth floor at No.3 Mantuleasa Street in Bucharest.

8. Craiova is a city in the province of Oltenia, part of the old Romania.

9. Mihai Viteazu No.23 was our home!  My father bought this property from Mr. Ghers Sehter in January 1931.  At the time, its street number was No.21; it was later changed to No.23. I visited it during my recent return visit to Kishinev after 53 years.  It is now Mihai Eminescu No.23, the big house has been divided into two parts and is inhabited by two different families.  We were driven out of our home to the Ghetto on Thursday morning, July 24, 1941.  Although I am not sure, I have a vague recollection that my father knew Int.  Captain Roescu and left him the keys to the house.

10. The "legionnaire movement" was the fascist Iron Guard organization, founded in Romania in 1927 which, despite the execution of its leaders by King Carol II in 1938, became a powerful force in Romania in the late 1930s.  In 1940 the Iron Guard helped bring Ion Antonescu to power.  While he was a fascist ally of Nazi Germany, Antonescu suppressed the organization in 1941 and thousands of Iron Guard members were killed.

11. Odessa was occupied by the Germans and the Romanians on September 16, 1941.  The deportations from the Ghetto have already started some days earlier.  We escaped the day before and arrived by train in Bucharest early morning on September 16, 1941, when the headlines in the local papers were announcing the fall of Odessa.

Source: Memories of the Holocaust: Kishinev (Chisinau) 1941-1945.