The Nizkor Project

50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

The Death Trains From Iasi

The Supreme General Staff allocated a number of freight cars for the purpose of transporting the remaining Jews out of the city of Iasi. Twelve cars were rejected because they were cattle cars and had small openings for ventilation. Such air supplies, limited as they were, were incongruent with the murderous plans of the perpetrators. The cattle cars were subsequently exchanged for freight cars, devoid of almost any air supply.

The Jews rounded up for this journey to hell were robbed, beaten with rifle-butts, prodded with bayonets, counted and herded into the awaiting freight cars. About 2,500 Jewish men were stuffed into thirty-three cars. Then, the train with its unfortunate human cargo took off for an unknown destination.

The inferno of the Iasi Death Train is deeply etched into the souls of the survivors. The wives, children and other relatives of those who perished remain indelibly scarred by the memory of the hell that the Death Train represents. It moved at a snail's pace from one train station to another, through the scorching days of July. After a few days, the delirious human cargo was barely alive. They had been condemned to turn into corpses on this journey to nowhere.

They were dying from dehydration, even the urine they came to drink was not sufficient to support life. They were dying because the deprivation and suffering became unbearable. They were dying because of their open wounds, which had become infected and purulent. They were dying because they no longer had anything to live for! When the train would stop at stations and the doors would be flung open, a pestilent stench was discharged from the cars filled with the dead and the dying.

A second death train from Iasi departed to Podul Ilioaiei. It travelled for 18 hours. Its human cargo was subjected to the same desperate and agonizing slow death as that in the first train. According to a secret memorandum from the Iasi Inspectorate of Gendarmes, the first train contained 2,500 men, the second 1,900.

On August 31, 1941, late at night, one of the death trains returned to Iasi. D. Pacu, the Chief of Police, was waiting at the train station, sitting at a table lighted by two lanterns. After the survivors were deloused, the Chief addressed them with the following words: "Boys, you have been tried and found innocent. You are honourable men". One of the survivors dared to ask: "Mr. Chief, when we left Iasi there were several thousand of us and only 824 have come back. Those others, were they found innocent too"?

Approximately 10,000 people died in the Iasi pogrom, about 6,500 in the city proper, and about 3,600 in the death trains.

[After the war,] "during the trial of Antonescu and the trials of some other Romanian war criminals who had been responsible for the Iasi pogrom, it emerged, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the pogrom had been planned and organized by the S.S.I. and its squad for special assignments ('special echelon'). The latter dispatched a team into the city well in advance and informed the Romanian military and police commanders about the planned operation. At the same time, Mihai Antonescu was instrumental in achieving a prior agreement between the S.S.I., the commanders of the German troops in Iasi, as well as the German legation in Bucharest. The commander of Einsatzgruppe D, Otto Ohlendorf, who arrived in the town of Piatra Neamts on June 24, [1941] was also party to these agreements. Iasi was the scene of the inaugural operation of the 'special echelon' of the S.S.I. At the trial of the S.S.I. Chief, Cristescu, the prosecutor said: 'the path of Echelon I is strewn with crimes and massacres'."<13>

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