History of the Jews in Moldova


History of the Jews in Moldova

The History of the Jews in Moldova reaches back centuries in history. Bessarabian Jews have been living in the area for quite some time.

Early history

* 1889: There were 180,918 Jews of a total population of 1,628,867 in Bessarabia.
* 1897: The Jewish population had grown to 225,637 of a total of 1,936,392
* 1903: Kishinev in Russian Bessarabia (modern-day Chişinău) had a Jewish population of 50,000, or 46%, out of a total of approximately 110,000. While almost non-existent in the countryside, Jews had been present in all major towns since the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. Jewish life flourished with 16 Jewish schools and over 2,000 pupils in Chişinău alone.
* February 16, 1903: Kishinev pogrom.
* 1920: The Jewish population had grown to approx. 267,000.
* 1930: Romanian census registers 270,000 Jews

Kishinev pogrom

In 1903, a young Christian Russian boy, Michael Ribalenko, was found murdered in the town of Dabossary (Dubasari in Romanian), about 25 miles north-east of Kishinev; the town is situated on the left bank of the river Dniester, and formally was not a part of Bessarabia. Although it was clear that the boy had been killed by a relative (who was later found), the government chose to call it a ritual murder plot by the Jews. The mobs were incited by Pavel Krushevan, the editor of the Russian language anti-Semitic newspaper "Bessarabian", and the vice-governor Ustrugov.fact|date=November 2007 They used the age-old calumny against the Jews (that the boy had been killed to use his blood in preparation of matzo).

Viacheslav Plehve, the Minister of Interior, supposedly gave orders not to stop the rioters. However the pogrom lasted for three days, without the intervention of the police. Forty seven (some say 49) Jews were killed, 92 severely wounded, 500 slightly wounded and over 700 houses destroyed. Despite a world outcry, only two men were sentenced to seven and five years and twenty-two were sentenced for one or two years. This pogrom is considered the first state-inspired action against Jews in the 20th centuryfact|date=November 2007 and was instrumental in convincing tens of thousands of Russian Jews to leave the Russian Empire and to the United States and Palestinefact|date=November 2007.

Many of the younger Jews, including Mendel Portugali, made an effort to defend the community.

The Holocaust

* 1941: The Einsatzkommandos, German mobile killing units drawn from the Nazi SS and commanded by Otto Ohlendorf entered Bessarabia. They were instrumental in the massacre of many Jews in Bessarabia, who did not flee in face of the German advancement.
* July 8, 1941: Ion Antonescu, Romania's ruler at the time, made a declaration in front of the Ministers' Council:

:"....With the risk of not being understood by some traditionalists which may be among you, I am in favour of the forced migration of the entire Jew element from Bessarabia and Bukovina, which must be thrown over the border. Also, I am in favor of the forced migration of the Ukrainian element, which does not belong here at this time. I don't care if we appear in history as barbarians. The Roman Empire has made a series of barbaric acts from a contemporary point of view and, still, was the greatest political settlement. There has never been a more suitable moment. If necessary, shoot with the machine gun." (This quote can be found in "The Stenograms of the Ministers' Council, Ion Antonescu's Government", vol. IV, July-September 1941 period, Bucharest, year 2000, page 57) ("Stenogramele şedinţelor Consiliului de Miniştri, Guvernarea Ion Antonescu", vol. IV, perioada iulie-septembrie 1941, Bucureşti, anul 2000, pagina 57).

The killing squads of Einsatzgruppe D, together with special non-military units attached to the German "Wehrmacht" and Romanian Armies were involved in many massacres in Bessarabia (over 10,000 in a single month of war, in June-July 1941), while deporting other thousands to Transnistria.

The majority (up to 2/3) of Jews from Bessarabia (207,000 as of the last census of 1930) fled before the retreat of the Soviet troops. However, 110,033 people from Bessarabia and Bukovina (the later included at the time the counties of Cernăuţi, Storojineţ, Rădăuţi, Suceava, Câmpulung, and Dorohoi - some other 100,000 Jews) - all except a small minority of the Jews that did not flee in 1941 - were deported to Transnistria (World War II), a region which was under Romanian military control during 1941-1944.

In ghettos organized in several towns, as well as in camps (there was also a comparable number of Jews from Transnistria in those camps) many people died from starvation or bad sanitation, or were shot by special Nazi units right before the arrival of Soviet troops in 1944. The Romanian military administration of Transnistria kept very poor records of the people in the ghettos and camps. The only exact number found in Romanian sources is 59,392 died in the ghettos and camps from the moment those were open until mid 1943 [http://www.worldwar2.ro/generali/?language=ro&article=96] . This number includes all internees regardles of their origin, but does not include those that perished on the way to the camps, those that perished between mid 1943 and spring 1944, as well as those that perished in the immediate aftermath of the Romanian army's taking control of Transnistria (see for example Odessa massacre), many other thousands.

Present day

* 1993: At the end of this year, there were an estimated 15,000 Jews in the Republic of Moldova. During the same year, 2,173 Jews emigrated to Israel. There were two Jewish periodical publications, both published in Kishinev (Chişinău). The most widely circulated was "Nash golos" — "Undzer kol" ("Our Voice"), in Yiddish and Russian.

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