The Nizkor Project

50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

Assistance for Transnistria Victims

The Federation of the Unions of Jewish Communities continued its appeals to the government to help the deportees. Reports by the Inspector General of the Gendarmerie of Transnistria described the deplorable conditions of life in the camps: the lack of food and clean water, overcrowded shelter, lack of medical assistance, etc. He attributed thirty-four cases of typhus among his gendarmes to these conditions. In December 1941, Marshal Antonescu approved the shipment to Transnistria of some money and medication. Because of bureaucratic inefficiency, the aid arrived only in February of 1942. Nevertheless, over time, aid expanded to other items such as clothing, food, tools, dishes, heaters, coal, large quantities of window-glass, wood for repairs of the little houses and huts, and for the building of wooden bunks. Salt, and lye for the manufacturing of soap were also sent at that time.

A special Jewish Aid Commission for Transnistria was set up in Bucharest. It worked with the Federation of the Unions of the Jewish Communities of Romania, but it maintained complete autonomy. The commission consisted of Dr. M. Zimmer, A. Schwefelberg, Fred Sharaga, Israel Leiwandman and E. Costiner, The Joint, the Zionist Organization (Michon Benvenisti), the WIZO, and "The White Angel". They all collaborated with this committee. Volunteers collected from donors a variety of goods, as well as money, and found ways to clandestinely send parcels to Transnistria. Due to bureaucratic procrastination, the aid shipments usually arrived after lengthy delays. Eventually, a special Romanian delegate was sent to intervene and accelerate the process.

Money was also sent to Transnistria. By November 1943, a total of 79,462,000 lei (exchange rate was 143 lei to one US dollar) had been sent. The official monetary aid was accomplished by Jewish donors depositing Romanian lei in a government account at the National Bank, which exchanged these monies for RKKS (Reichskreditkassenschein), according to the specifications of the Aid Commission.

Towards the end of 1942, the commission obtained permission to visit Transnistria. Headed by Fred Sharaga and joined by a representative of the Council of Ministers, this Commission consisted of I. Ebercohen, I. Schachter, and Ichil Marcovici. They spent two weeks in Transnistria and were allowed to visit some of the camps specified on an itinerary prepared by the Governor in Odessa.

In December 1943, when the Romanian government approved the return of the Jews from the Dorohoi area, another delegation led by Fred Saraga left for Transnistria. Their goal was to assist in the repatriation process of the survivors from the Dorohoi area. In February 1944, yet another aid commission left for Transnistria. It consisted of Dadu Rosenkranz, Ithak Herzig (today Ithak Artzi), M. Blumenthal, and M. Diamant. They travelled to Transnistria specifically to gather the orphans and arrange for their transportation back to Romania.

Due to the intervention of the World Jewish Congress, the International Red Cross also became involved in the plight of the deportees. In December 1943, Karl Kolb, the representative of the International Red Cross in Romania, and Mrs. Ioan, a delegate of the Romanian Red Cross, left for Transnistria. Several other Romanian officials accompanied them. The conclusions reached by Karl Kolb were brought to the attention of Jewish institutions abroad. As a result of this report the aid provided by the Joint was greatly increased. In addition, Mr. Kolb personally presented his report to Mihai Antonescu. This intervention greatly influenced the finalization of the negotiations regarding the return of about 2,000 orphans to Romania.

In May of 1943, Monsignor Andreas Cassulo, the Papal Nuncio of Romania (a permanent diplomatic envoy of the Pope to a foreign court or government), also visited Transnistria. Having personally seen the tragic conditions there, he donated on behalf of the Pope, the amount of 1,353,00037 lei to be used for aid in Transnistria. This money finally arrived in February 1944.

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