NOTION OF THE HOLOCAUST
The “Holocaust” (from the English holocaust, derived from the ancient Greek ὁλοκαύστος – “burnt offering”) is a term which means persecution and mass destruction of Jews during the Second World War (1939-1945). Currently, such term as the “Shoah” (“the Catastrophe”) is used in Israel, and the tragedy of Jews during the Second World War is described by the term “the Catastrophe of European Jewry”.
THE HOLOCAUST IN MOLDOVA: GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS
The problems of studying the issues of the Catastrophe of the Jews in the territory of Moldova during the Second World War (the Holocaust) are connected with territorial and historical details in many ways. The modern territory of Moldova is different from the Bessarabian governorate within Russia, Bessarabia within Romania, and the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the USSR. Therefore, the estimates of the numbers of the Jewish population residing in the territory of the present-day Moldova in 1940 and the Jews who lost their lives during the war differ. In 1941, Transnistria was formed. From August 30, 1941, the Romanian administration operated there. The territory included both a part of modern Moldova and a part of modern Ukraine.
In Transnistria, both local Jews and those expelled from the territory of Romania, Bessarabia, and Bucovina perished. However, a number of Jews survived the terror of the first stage of extermination in 1941-1942.
In the territory of Romania, Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transnistria, the following persons took part in the actions of extermination and murders:
- German officers and soldiers of the SS units (the outrage in Iasi, the shootings in Chisinau, the shooting in Dubasari, the shooting in the ghetto in Tiraspol, etc.);
- Romanian gendarmes and soldiers (most actions of destruction, killing the deportees, murders in ghettos and camps);
- Ukrainian police and nationalists (mainly in the territory of the concentration camps in Transnistria);
- local collaborationists and bandits (attacking Jews during deportation, the outrage in the town of Valea lui Vlad in Moldova, murders in Chisinau, etc.);
- German colonists (in the territory of the modern Odessa Oblast and Transnistria);
- Hungarian soldiers and gendarmes (in the territory of Transylvania);
- the Vlasovites and soldiers of other Eastern legions of the SS (as noted in the memoirs by ghetto prisoners in Ribnita and other places).
The death toll of Bessarabian Jews, that is, Jews who resided in the territory of modern Moldova at that moment, was estimated by scientists and researchers in different ways: from 87000 (Nathan Ak) to 250000–300000 (Rabbi Moses Rosen).
By December 1941, the absolute majority of Jews of Bessarabia were massacred or exiled to Transnistria. Bessarabia (like Estonia, for instance) was declared a territory “cleaned” from Jews (judenfrei). In Bessarabia, fewer than 1000 people survived the Catastrophe (including Jews saved by the Righteous Among the Nations). About 14000 Bessarabian Jews survived in Transnistria and lived to see their liberation.
The Romanian Jewish communities managed to abolish mass deportations to Transnistria and the extermination camps in Poland several times, as well as to annul the requirements to wear a six-pointed star (which Jews of Transnistria and Bessarabia were obliged to wear) and to achieve providing assistance to prisoners in Transnistria after 1942 and returning certain categories of deported Jews (for example, orphans) to Romania.
Jewish communities of Romania succeeded in gaining some support both within the country and from the international Jewish organizations. For instance, in Romania, the queen mother (the mother of King Mihai) supported the Jews and helped to save many people; she was awarded the title of the Righteous among the Nations. There were some cases of rescue of Jews by individual members of the Romanian administration. For example, the mayor of Chernivtsi is known for saving about 20000 Bukovina Jews from deportation. He was awarded the title of the Righteous Among the Nations.
In Transnistria alone, approximately 88000 Romanian Jews were exterminated, including about 19000 who were massacred by the Germans. All in all, at least 220000 Jews were killed in Transnistria.
THE HOLOCAUST IN BESSARABIA
In June 1940, Bessarabia becomes a part of the USSR. Together with the MASSR, the Moldavian SSR is formed; in its territory, about 300000 Jews reside. The fate of the Jews of Bessarabia during the Holocaust is the most tragic. With the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, mass murders of Jews take place in every village. Often, massacre is accompanied by sadistic cruelty. For instance, in Rezina, about 1000 women and children are burned alive in lime kilns, people are buried alive, hanged alive on iron hooks, etc.
Already in July 1941, ghettoes begin to form. The first 25000 Jews are expelled to the territory occupied by the Germans of Ukraine; during the occupation of Chisinau, German and Romanian soldiers massacre at least 10000 Jews.
By August 1941, there are 7 large ghettos and Jewish concentration camps in Bessarabia, where approximately 65000 Jews are kept.
Constant slaughterous actions take place in ghettoes and camps. From September 1941, the deportation of Jews to Transnistria begins. Until December 1941, almost the entire Jewish population of the ghettoes is deported, the conditions of deportation are terrible, and thousands of people die on the way and during the passages. Bessarabia is declared judenfrei, several hundreds of Jews remaining in the Chisinau ghettoes and other territories are expelled in early 1942. In the ghetto in Chisinau, for example, no more than 15 people remain.
Several dozen families manage to escape, traveling to Romania with the help from their relatives and friends; however, such cases are sporadic.
Unlike in the territory of Romania, Transnistria, and even Bukovina, by the late 1941 – the early 1942, almost the entire Jewish population of Bessarabia is either destroyed or deported to Transnistria. In our opinion, taking into account the persons saved by the Righteous Among the Nations and other unknown heroes, by the moment of the liberation of the territory of Bessarabia in 1944, no more than 1000 Jews are still alive.
PARTICULARITIES OF THE HOLOCAUST IN TRANSNISTRIA
The territory between the Dniester and the Bug was transferred to the Romanian administration in August 1941 under the name of Transnistria. The Jews from Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Romania were expelled to Transnistria. It became a graveyard to many of them.
In September 1941, there was a mass execution of Jews by firing squad in Dubasari, during which 18000 people were massacred. German officers and soldiers took part in the execution.
From September to December, in many regions of Transnistria, mass executions and murders of deported Jews and Jews who resided in that region took place. There were murders and executions in Tiraspol, Ribnita, Cobasna, etc.
In November 1941, a death camp was organized in Pechora, where about 8000 people died.
In December 1941, massacres began in the Bogdanovka ghetto, where about 50000 people were massacred.
In November 1941, the governor of Transnistria issued an order on establishing labor colonies for Jews in Transnistria (the word “ghetto” was not used).
The specific trait of the region of Transnistria was that, since the autumn of 1942, aid from Romania started arriving there, and in 1943, the Committee of the Red Cross from Switzerland visited some of the camps. Those who lived through the terrible winter and the actions of 1941-1942 had an opportunity to survive.
In total, 93000 Jews survived in Transnistria, including approximately 14000 Bessarabian and 50000 Romanian Jews. At least 220000 Jews were exterminated in the territory of Transnistria.
The most terrible places of massacre were Bogdanovka (about 50000 victims), Domanevka (18000), Pechora (8000), and Akmechetka (4000). In the Berezovsky District, Otto Ohlendorf’s SS men killed 40000 Jews.
Most Jews survived in Mogilev-Podolski (13000 people), Bershad (about 11000), Zhmerinka (3500), Shargorod (more than 2000), Tomashpol (1000), and Kopaygorod (1000).
Photos: Agency for Inter-Ethnic Relations, sites oldchisinau.com and logoschisinau.com