Translator’s Note: The Romanian’s were given the task of administering Moldova and Western Ukraine (Transnistria) during the Nazi German invasion of the USSR commencing in 1941. The fascist Romanians pursued the ethnic cleansing of Jews and Romy from within the country. The Romanians operated Concentration Camps within Romania Transnistria, as well as made use of German Death Camps throughout Poland and other places. This part of the Holocaust deals exclusively with the purging of geographical Romania of Jews and Gypsies – and does not cover atrocities carried-out by the Romanian Army as it advanced deep into Soviet territory (other than in Chisinau). The fascist government of Romania was not as powerful and all-dominating as that of Hitler’s in Germany. There was a strong Socialist operation that even saw the support of a large proportion of the Jewish population! This disunity appears to have limited the effectiveness of the pogroms – and to have diminished the fighting ability of the Romanian Army which was considered notoriously unreliable by the Nazi Germany – and yet when the Romanian Army aligned itself with the Soviets, there was no apparent problem with its fighting ability. Romanian fascist leader Ion Antonescu was executed in 1946 for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. It is believed he authorised the killing of over 400,000 innocent people. ACW (24.11.2020)
‘I will not achieve anything if I do not purify the Romanian nation. Not boundaries, but the homogeneity and purity of the race give strength to the nation: this is my highest goal.’
Ion Antonescu (1940)
As early as 1940, the policy of violating the rights of Romanian Jews was in operation. Marriages between Romanians and Jews were prohibited, and during the rebellion of the legionnaires, the first large-scale pogroms took place in Bucharest and other cities of the country. With the outbreak of war on June 27th, another large-scale pogrom took place in Iasi, as a result of which (according to the Romanian Commission), 8,000 Jews died and 5,000 Jews were arrested and taken out of Yassy (according to other estimates, 13,266 people died, including those who died during deportation from the city). This pogrom was first organized at the initiative of the Authorities. One ‘justifying’ reason was the accusation that the Yassk Jews collaborated with (Communist) attacks upon Romanian soldiers serving the fascist cause. In the meantime, Antonescu pursued a tough policy towards non-Romanians, particularly Jews. Despite this, he was opposed by the Union of Jews of Romania and the (left-leaning) Jewish Party. The latter of which openly sent humanitarian aid to Concentration (Extermination) Camps (and enforced ethnic ghettos) situated in Transnistria.
Following the fascist plans of Antonescu, (with his direct assistance), a special plan was developed to eliminate all Jews in Romania. According to the plan, the Jews of Bukovina, Bessarabia and Transnistria were to be destroyed first. Following the repressions against the Jews of Ukraine and Moldova – with an interval of 5 years – the mass eviction of Jews from the central part of Romania was to begin. In total, about 600,000 Jews lived in Romania (including Bessarabia and Bukovina). The actual execution of the plan began on July 17th, 1941 (when Nazi German and Romanian troops entered Moldova and murdered 10,000 local Jews). Antonescu, being in Balti, gave the order to create ghettos and Concentration Camps in the occupied territories. Camps were constructed and operated in Vertyuzhansky, Sekurensky and Edintsky. In addition, a ghetto was formed in Chisinau.
However, the first to arrive in the Concentration Camps of Bukovina and Bessarabia were not Jews, but Gypsies. In Romania, 30,000 Roma were arrested, and another 6,100 were arrested in Moldova and Ukraine. Most of them were deported to the Transnistrian governorate formed in the occupied territory of the former MASSR and gathered in Concentration Camps near Tiraspol. Of the 25,000 Roma Concentration Camp prisoners, about 11,000 died. Following them, Romanian and local Jews began to be transferred to the Concentration Camps of the Bessarabian and Bukovina governorates.
On September 7th, Antonescu decided that the Jews should be evicted beyond the Dniester. For such mass deportations, a special plan and routes were developed. All arrested Jews had to walk on foot, and if someone lagged behind or could not walk, they were to be shot on the spot. In order to carry out such executions, holes were dug for 100 people each along the roads at a distance of 10 km from each other. Those who were shot were thrown into these pits. On December 9th, Roma and Jews were transferred from the Concentration Camps of Bessarabia and Bukovina to the Concentration Camps of Transnistria. They were joined by local Jews, in particular from Odessa.
However, the Romanian administration did not expect such a large number of prisoners. The Camps of Transnistria were overcrowded, in connection with this convoys made transitions from one Camp to another. In the Concentration Camps, there were often no buildings and food, and therefore many Jews died of hunger and cold. A particularly high mortality rate among prisoners was observed in the winter of 1941-1942. Due to hunger and disease, many of the prisoners did not live to see execution. The dead were not buried, which led to new outbreaks of disease. In Transnistria, in the county (district) of Gault, the worst situation developed. This county (district) received the unofficial name ‘kingdom of death’, since the largest concentration camps in Romania were located there. They were Bogdanovka , Domanevka, Akmachetka and Mostovoe. In the winter of 1941-1942, large-scale mass executions of Jews took place in these Camps. Indeed, 40,000 prisoners were shot in just a few days near the Southern Bug River (in the Ukraine), whilst another 5,000 were burned alive in Bogdanovka – as a means to speed-up the process and impress Hitler.
The situation changed in the spring of 1942. In the ghettos and Concentration Camps of Transnistria, with the assistance of the Romanian administration, systems of governance began to form. Each Camp or ghetto was run by a ‘Community President’ who was subject to highly structured social services and production of handicrafts. In addition, the Romanian Jews who remained at large began to regularly send food aid to prisoners of Concentration Camps in Transnistria. As this behaviour was unopposed by the fascist government – the presence of extra food in the Death Camps undermined the Extermination pogrom and ensured that at least 70% of the Jewish inmates survived to see ‘Liberation’ from the Soviet Red Army.
The (fascist) Romanian administrations of Bukovina, Bessarabia and Transnistria was responsible for the direct murder of at least 270,000 people in the Death Camps, (although this is a disputed figure as other sources suggest the number was double this amount), during the entire period of the Occupation. When the Soviet Red Army crossed the left-bank of the Southern Bug River (in the Ukraine) and emerged upon the right bank – Antonescu urgently gave the order to dig up the bodies of the executed Jews and burn them in an attempt to ’hide’ the evidence. At the same time, in the winter of 1941-1942 alone, 250,000 Jews were executed in Transnistria alone. In 1944, only 50,000 Jews and 15,000 Roma were counted as ‘surviving’ the fascist pogrom observed in the Soviet occupied territories of Romania. In Romania itself, there were 428,300 Jews counted in 1947.
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