The Nizkor Project

50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

Compassion in Transnistria

There were also people who attempted to help and encourage the victims in the camps. Such acts of compassion occasionally came from Romanian gendarmes and soldiers, railway personnel, envoys from Romania, and Ukrainian peasants. Sadly, there were not many such humane people. Nevertheless, some of the survivors owe their lives to their courage and compassion.

In Berezovca, the commander of the gendarmerie, Major Ursuleanu, acted as a clandestine courier, bringing money and letters to the deportees from their relatives in Romania. He also ordered his gendarmes not to release any of the deportees when Einsatzgruppe D or the Volksdeutsche arrived to "recruit" them.

Major Iacobescu, the camp commander in Tiraspol, continuously protected the deportees from the wrath of the Germans. This camp had a workshop set up by the German authorities. When they came to inspect the work, they were allowed inside the camp only if escorted by a Romanian gendarme. In addition, Major Iacobescu saved many Jews who had escaped from other camps or from convoys, and brought them to Tiraspol, under the pretext that they were specialists needed in the workshop. He was also able to save a group of Jews who were supposed to be transported to the River Bug for extermination.

In Domanovca, the regional commander, C. Bica, and Agricultural Engineer, V. Garabet, director of the administration, acted on complaints from the deportees about the Jewish committee, who turned out to be a puppet of the gendarmes. The deportees were allowed to elect a new committee to better represent their interests. Engineer Garabet personally contacted the Jewish Aid Committee in Bucharest and presented a detailed report about the situation in the camp to Cornel Iancu, a member of that committee. This initiative resulted in obtaining some assistance for the deportees. Eventually, Colonel Isopescu, the Prefect of the Golta region, a vicious anti-Semite, learned of these acts of compassion and ordered that Bica be put on trial. It is not known what happened to engineer Garabet.

Lieutenant G. Petrescu from Bershad had such a humanitarian attitude to the deportees, that he was dubbed " the Messiah." Unfortunately he was released from his post because of his compassionate behaviour.

The Romanian officer Melinescu, who was ordered to kill 48,000 Jews in the camp of Bogdanovca, courageously refused to execute the order. Unfortunately, the chief of the Ukrainian militia, Kazakievicz, took it upon himself to carry out the order, and did so with incredible cruelty.

Despite the anti-Jewish background of many Ukrainians,<33> some of them risked their lives to help and hide Jews. In Odessa, Christians secretly stowed Jews in underground hiding places or in their country homes. Others obtained false identity papers, which enabled some Jews to escape from camps and to find work. Still others provided opportunities for work and paid the deportees with enough food so they could take some back to their families in the camps.

One poignant example of compassion is that of a group of female Ukrainian peasants from around the Shargorod camp.

"During one of the freezing days of November 1941, having come to the market in Shargorod with their produce, the Ukrainian women met a convoy of several hundred women, children, and elderly deportees from the area of Dorohoi. These people had been marching from Moghilev for several days. They desperately needed to stop for a rest and for food. However, the Mayor of the town ordered that they be herded further east, towards the River Bug. When the Ukrainian women saw these worn out people, destined to die on the roads from the frosts and blizzards of that early winter, they distributed to them all the produce they had brought for sale. Then, they marched to the City Hall, where they knelt in the snow, begging the Mayor to allow the Jews to stay at least until the heavy frosts and blizzards had passed. Swayed by their pleading and particularly by their threats and curses, the Mayor rescinded his order, and the convoy remained in Shargorod.

It is also important to mention the existence of a few Ukrainian militia units who behaved with compassion towards the Jews. These units were headed by disguised partisans. In Budy the Ukrainian, Vasile Kolishnek, dubbed 'the man of the Germans' made every effort to clandestinely help and hide Jews."<34>

Some of the personal testimonies in this book and some survivors' accounts documented at the Yad Vashem Memorial Centre in Jerusalem report that at times Jews were hidden or given life-saving food by Ukrainian peasants.

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