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50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

Revisiting Transnistria After Fifty Five Years

Jacques Gabor is a survivor of Transnistria, an engineer in his late sixties, living in Tel Aviv. Fifty five years ago Jacques, the teenager, was deported from Radautz. He arrived in Ataki in an overcrowded cattle train. Then, he was taken on a barge across the River Dniester to Moghilev. In 1996, Jack, now a grandfather revisited Moghilev, accompanied by his son. They had hired a taxi, which drove them from Chernovitz to Moghilev. The following are some of his sad memories as he roamed through the familiar places where he experienced so much suffering and so many losses.

"My first visit was to the Moghilev cemetery, to find my beloved father's grave. My father, Dr. Max Gabor, died in Moghilev, in 1943, at the age of 47. I was forced to take on the role of the head of the family at the age of 15. Father's was one of the few individual graves in that cemetery. The gravestone had sunk into the ground, and his name was hardly legible. My son and I cleared the weeds, and, with the help of some local people we had hired, we raised the gravestone to ground level and cemented on it a plaque we had brought with us from Israel. Then, we mounted a metal railing around the grave. When our work was finished, I knelt by the grave, and said Kaddish (the Jewish memorial prayer) shedding many tears.

I found the entire cemetery devastated and overgrown by weeds. Over the years, the rains have washed away some of the soil and bones of the victims were sticking out to the surface. Some parts of the cemetery were buried under mounds of dirt, which had been dug out for the construction of a nearby gas station.

...I was standing in front of the Moghilev Foundry, where, as a boy, I have worked for about two years. I closed my eyes and vividly remember the freezing winter day, when I was given a permit to go to the print shop for some office supplies. At the gates, two Romanian soldiers stopped me for identification. As I reached for my permit, one of the soldiers struck me with his rifle-butt on the head, the other one struck me on my mouth. The blood was gushing out and slowly freezing all over my head and my face. I fell unconscious. When I got home a few hours later, my mother did not recognize me at first. My face was swollen, bruised and covered with frozen blood

With pain in my heart, I then walked toward the Moghilev train station. My memory returned to the day when I was grabbed on the street by German soldiers. They took me to the train station to load ammunition into carts. Then, I had to lift the heavy carts onto the high platform. After loading several crates, under the watchful eye of my guard, I was exhausted. The soldier was thirsty and went to fetch some water. I took that opportunity to run away and climb up a tree in the nearby little grove. When he returned, he was furious at my disappearance and started shooting in all directions. Luckily, it did not occur to him to look up the trees. At night, I climbed down and returned to my family. They were panic-stricken, as they were sure that I had been killed.

In 1944, when the Soviet soldiers arrived, they grabbed several of us youngsters on the streets and took us to the train station, to clean it up. As payment for a few hours of work, we were given a long thick wooden plank, which we had planned to use for heating. After carrying the plank for only about 100 meters, one of the soldiers started screaming, swearing, and shooting in the air, accusing us of stealing war materials in order to sabotage their efforts to pursue the Germans. He did not believe that we had been given the plank. He ordered us to line up against the wall, hands up, and was ready to shoot us as German spies. Just as he chambered his riffle, the soldier who had given us the plank arrived and testified to the truth. This was the second time I escaped death in the Moghilev train station.

Overwhelmed by gruesome memories, I was walking through the decrepit streets of the city. I was roaming the streets of the former Moghilev ghetto and up to the town center. There, stands a statue in memory of the victims of the surrounding concentration camps. This is one of the few memorial plaques that mentions that the victims were Jewish. The inscription (in Ukrainian) reads: "Here, rest the remains of the Jews from Bucovina, Bessarabia murdered by the Fascists during 1941-1944." Humbly, I bowed in front of it and said a prayer for those who have perished by the hands of the Nazis. Then I meandered toward the wooden bridge, which leads to Ataki, now in Moldova...

Before departing from Moghilev, my son and I revisited my father's grave. To our dismay, we found the plaque and the metal railing removed by vandals.

My trip to revisit Moghilev was a heartbreaking experience. I am hoping that it will help me take one more step ahead in the life long recovery process that every survivor must go through.

For my son, the trip was not only very emotional, but he also became an eyewitness to the places I had talked to him about in his childhood. He also gained a keener understanding of both my pain and my healing process."

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