The Nizkor Project

50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

Deportations From Bucovina, Bessarabia, Dorohoi
Other Areas in Romania

Romania joined Germany in the invasion of the Soviet Union launched on June 22, 1941. This campaign was called "Operation Barbarossa". Later that year, the Germans conquered south- western Ukraine. This territory was put under Romanian administration and it was called Transnistria, meaning "beyond the River Dniester".

Who Was Deported?

The decision taken by Marshal Antonescu to deport the Jews from Bessarabia and Bucovina was based on his allegations that the Jewish population was collaborating with the Soviets during 1940-1941, when these territories were ceded to the Soviet Union.

"It should be added in this context that the Jews from southern Bucovina and from the Dorohoi district, which had been included in the deportations, could not, by any stretch of imagination, be accused of giving a warm welcome to the occupying Soviet forces in 1940, because these areas had remained under Romanian sovereignty throughout the period in question."<16> There were several waves of Jewish deportations from Romania to Transnistria, most of them occurred in 1941, and some in 1942. In the fall of 1941, Romania began mass deportations of its Jews to Transnistria from Bucovina, Bessarabia, and the Dorohoi district.

In The Atlas of the Holocaust, the historian Sir Martin Gilbert states that in total 329,213 Jews were deported over a period of two years.

  • In 1940, seeking refuge from the Nazis, some Jews of Bessarabian origin who had settled over time in other parts of Romania strived to return to this Soviet occupied territory. In order to obtain the necessary permits to return to their birthplaces in Bessarabia, they had to submit applications to the Soviet Embassy in Bucharest. In 1941, after Romania allied itself with Nazi Germany, the Soviet Embassy was disbanded. Unfortunately, those applications were found by the Romanian authorities in one of the offices. All 598 Jews, who had submitted these applications, were arrested and deported to Transnistria as Soviet spies. They were sent to Mostovoi, a village in the district of Berezovca. Upon their arrival they were rounded up by a group of Sonderkommando comprised of Volksdeutsche, marched to the military quarters in Rastadt, ten kilometres away from Mostovoi, and shot. The execution took place the night before Yom Kippur<17> 1942. Of the 598 people only sixteen escaped.

  • Between May 1943 and March 1944, a Labour Detachment consisting of Jews from the Old Romanian Kingdom and Transylvania was taken to Transnistria for slave labour projects. This unit called 'Detachment 120 Balta' consisted of 1,400 Jewish men. Most of their labour projects involved cutting wood in the forests and farming. The unit was headed by Colonel Patrascoiu [Pytryshkoyoo]. The only reward for their hard labour was a meagre ration of food. "The officers of this detachment took sadistic pleasure in grossly abusing these men. After the war, the Popular Tribunal of Bucharest court-martialled and condemned many of these officers for abominable war crimes"<18>.

  • In September 1942, 212 Bucharest Jews, entire families amongst them, were deported to Transnistria for "disciplinary reasons". They were accused of failing to report to the site of a forced labour project. This was obviously a pretext, since children, women and the aged, who were not required to be at the work site, were also deported. One month later, an additional 72 young men were added to this group.

    How Was It Done?

    The Jews targeted for mass deportation were forcibly gathered at local train stations, clubbed, beaten, trampled, and shoved into over- crowded cattle cars. For many days and nights, long trains criss-crossed the railroads of Romania. Many deportees died on these trains. They perished from hunger, thirst, suffocation and panic, long before the trains reached their destination - the shores of the river Dniester. The dead bodies were periodically thrown out along the railroad tracks. Local peasants who coveted their clothes quickly stripped the bodies. Some of the trains stood on sidings for many days. Others travelled back and forth in what seemed to be an aimless journey. However, ultimately they all reached their final deadly destination - the river.

    Those who survived the "journey" arrived at the western shore of the River Dniester. Beyond the river lay the killing fields of Transnistria! "The Romanians established five crossing points along the river:

    Ataki (Bessarabia) to Moghilev Podolsk (Ukraine)
    Cosautsi (Bessarabia) to Iampol (Ukraine)
    Rezina (Bessarabia) to Rimnitsa (Ukraine)
    Tighina (Bessarabia) to Tiraspol (Ukraine)
    Olanesti (Bessarabia) to Iaska (Ukraine)"<19>

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