31 August 2017

Mesholim • Fables


On April 3, 1880 in the town of Lipcani, Bessarabia the great fable writer, Eliezer Steinbarg was born. It’s no exaggeration to say that among the Jewish youth in pre-war Bessarabia, Bukovina and Marmarosh-Sighet it was immpossible to find someone who didn’t know at least one line of a Steinberg fable...

Ostjüdische Zeitung, 11.01.1933

Courtesy: Yiddish Book Center

25 June 2017

Stimmen der Nacht • Voices of the Night


The poems written by Bernhard Horowitz, Laura (Pomeranz) Horowitz, and her sister Edith Pomeranz, in Bershad between 1943-1945, deal with daily life, emotions, fears, descriptions of nature, forced labor, and liberation.

Transnistria Deportee Identification Cards from the year 1948

Ossi Horovitz: "Thank you for your visit in Bershad [Bershad, Oy Vey Bershad], and for your contribution to not let this place to be forgotten. This is the place were my grand parents, all from Czernowitz, perished. The parents of my father, Yerma and Zirl Horowitz and the parents of my mother, Osias and Zipora (Cilly) Pomeranz, died during the first winter (1941-1942). My parents, Bernhard and Laura Horowitz and my mother’s sister, Edith (Dita) Pomeranz survived, but Dita died afterwards, after long severe sufferings, caused by the years in Bershad. After the death of my parents, I found the poems in German, which they had written in Bershad. Some of them where published in a little volume "Stimmen der Nacht", Hartung-Gorre Verlag Konstanz, 2000."

Edith (Dita), Coca and Laura (Lola) Pomeranz in 1922

Courtesy: Ossi Horovitz

19 May 2017

Spovedania • Testimony


Yad Vashem: "The Insurgent Mayor. When Germany signed its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, it took Besserabia and Northern Bukovina from Romania and gave it to the Soviet Union. In July 1941, when Germany attacked the Soviet Union with Romania at its side, the two territories were returned to Romania. For three days the returning Romanian soldiers carried out a massacre among the local Jewish population.

Born in 1892, Dr. Traian Popvici was the son of a Romanian Orthodox priest. He studied law in Czernowitz (Cernauti – the former capital of Bukovina – and today Chernovtsy in Ukraine) and earned a doctorate. When Soviet Russian annexed his town he moved to Bucharest. At first he supported Ion Antonescu's regime, but soon became disenchanted with its policy of segregation. When Czernowitz was returned to Romania in July 1941, Popovici was appointed mayor. By the time he moved into the mayor's office, some anti-Jewish decrees had already been enacted, and he tried to alleviate the Jews’ situation as much as he could. According to testimonies all persecuted Jews turned to him for help.

On 10 October 1941, the Romanian governor, acting on Antonescu's orders decreed the creation of a ghetto and the deportation of the city's Jews. Popovici expressed his objection, but to no avail. Within a few days the deportations began, and Jews from Czernowitz were transported across the river to Transnistria. By mid-November 28,000 of the town's Jews had been deported. The terrible conditions in Transnistria and the inhuman forced labor led to the death of approximately half of the deportees. Popovici later described the deportation: 'Out there a great column of people was going into exile: old men leaning on children, women with babies in their arms, cripples dragging their mangled bodies, all bags in hand; the healthy ones pushing barrows or carts or carrying on their backs coffers hastily packed and tied, blankets, bed sheets, clothes, odds and ends; all of them taken from their homes and moved into the ghetto.'

In his memoirs Popovici said that he contemplated stepping down, but was determined not to abandon the Jews in their time of need. Disregarding the risk to his person, he continued to protest to the governor and to Antonescu, arguing that the Jews were vital to the economic stability of the town. His ruse succeeded, and he was ordered to draw lists 20,000 Jews within four days. The Jews who received the exemption from deportation were allowed to return to their home. Popovici distributed authorizations to Jews - well above the quota he was given, and to people who had no professional skills whatsoever.

The abuse of his mandate cost him his job. In spring 1942 he was charged with granting permits to 'unnecessary' Jews, and was removed from his position and returned to Bucharest. In June 1942 another 5,000 Jews of Czernowitz were deported to Transnistria – most of them perished. The Jews remaining in Czernowitz survived.

Immediately after the war, Popovici wrote a book entitled Confession of Conscience. He described the events as a Romanian tragedy with deep implications for the moral consciousness of the Romanian nation. Traian Popovici confessed that he was not an adversary of Antonescu. 'Like many others in this country I believed in the myth of the strong man, of the honest, energetic, and well-meaning leader who could save a damaged country.' He went on to describe his motivations in helping the Jews: 'As far as I am concerned, what gave me strength to oppose the current, be master of my own will and oppose the powers that be, finally to be a true human being, was the message of the families of priests that constitute my ancestry, a message about what it means to love mankind. What gave me strength was the education I had received in high school in Suceava, where I received the light of classical literature, where my teachers fashioned my spirit with the values of humanity, which tirelessly enlightens man and differentiates him from the brutes'. It should be noted, of course, that many who had received the same education were among the perpetrators and bystanders, and that on the other hand, many rescuers did not enjoy and enlightened education at all. The answer to the question what prompted certain people to preserve human values is more complex.

Popovici died in 1946. Twenty-three years later, in 1969, he was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations -- the first Romanian to receive this honor.

Paying tribute to Popovici in his own country took longer. In June 2000, by resolution of the Bucharest town hall, a street in the Romanian capital was named 'Dr. Traian Popovici,' after the former mayor of Cernăuţi during the Second World War, who saved thousands of Jews from deportation to Transnistria."

Courtesy: Dr. W. Filderman Foundation

01 March 2017

Poporul acuză! • The People Accuse!


Michael Shafir: "Based on the Nuremberg model, People's Tribunals were set up in Romania by a decree issued by King Michael I on April 21, 1945. [...] There were two tribunals, one in Bucharest and the other in Cluj. The Bucharest tribunal sentenced only 187 people, the rest were dealt with by the Cluj one, set up on June 22, 1945, which in general pronounced harsher sentences (thirty people condemned to death and fifty-two to hard labor for life). [...] The first trial held by the Bucharest People's Tribunal ended on May 22, 1945. General Nicolae Macici and Constantin Trestorianu as well as Corneliu Calotescu and others, were found guilty of the massacres perpetrated in occupied Odessa and in nearby Dalnic on October 21-22, 1941 and sentenced to death; other members of the Romanian forces received varying prison sentences. On July 1, 1945, King Michael commuted Macici's sentence to life imprisonment; Macici would eventually die in Aiud prison in 1950. [General Corneliu Calotescu, formerly plenipotentiary Governor of Bukovina, was among this group of 29 officers sentenced to death for war crimes on 22 May 1945. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment but he was released in an amnesty in 1955.] Altogether, fourty-eight death sentences were pronounced by 'Old Kingdom' and southern Transylvania-based People's Tribunal, but only four were actually carried out, the others being either commuted to hard labor for life or decreed in absentia. None of the sentences handed down in northern Transylvania were implemented, and the leading people charged there had anyway left the region together with the Hungarian authorities. Although the People's Tribunals were liquidated in 1946, trials associated with 'crimes against peace' and other war-related charges would continue in the following years on the basis of law No. 291 of 1947, which stipulated sentences of between fifteen years and life imprisonment for such offences."

[Michael  Shafir “Romania’s Tortuous Road to Facing Collaboration”, in Roni Stauber (ed.), Collaboration with the Nazis: Public Discourse After the Holocaust, London and New York, Routledge, 2011, pp. 245 -278.6]

05 February 2017

Documents Concerning the Fate of Romanian Jewry During the Holocaust


Volume V: This volume is entirely consecrated to the fate of the Jews of Besarabia and Bukovina - the extermination by Einsatzgruppe D on one hand and on the other, by the army, police, and other Romanian government elements. For the first time, the secret Romanian orders concerning the exterminations, arrests and creation of ghettos and transit camps and deportation of the survivors to Transnistria - Southern Ukraine, between the Bug and Dniester rivers, chosen by the Romanians as the land of exile - are brought to light. The life of the Jews in Transnistria; the death of tens of thousands of them from hunger, cold, and diseases; the thousands of orphaned children resulting from this situation, as well as the 'miracle' in the land of exile: the self-help organization of the deportees who, with the help of their brethren still in Romania proper succeeded in overcoming, are discussed in these documents. Out of almost 160,000 Jews deported there, almost 50,000 remained alive. In this volume, numerous documents attest to the efforts to effect the return of the deportees - a partially successful struggle, unique in Nazi Europe [Jean Ancel].

Volume XI: This volume is to serve mainly those researchers who do not know Romanian, German and French. Summaries of all the documents are given here in English, some of them extensive and detailed, as well as archival designations. The volume includes a preface by Serge Klarsfeld and a detailed introduction by the editor.

Courtesy: Beate Klarsfeld Foundation