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tili solomon

On Monday, 30th June 1941, the Jews who survived the pogrom of the previous day were forced to board cattle cars and were taken to Ialomita. Most of the bodies were unloaded and buried in mass graves in Podul Iloaiei and Targu Frumos. Few of them managed to stay alive: this is why they called them the death trains. My poor uncle never came back. My cousin asked me to light two candles for him; she is sure he ended up in the mass grave.
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I think my husband Aurel told me that he had been at the prefecture 'that Sunday.' Jews were being shot there. Aurel and some others were forced to wash the pavement with a hose. There were so many bodies in the courtyard that Sunday that the water flowed to the gutters on the street mixed with blood. On Monday morning two of my uncles who lived there went to their workplaces together. One of them was a watchmaker and had a workshop on Stefan Cel Mare Boulevard. When he got there and saw what was going on in the street, instead of opening the store he entered the courtyard, where some horrified relatives of his asked him, 'How did you get here? There's big trouble in Iasi.' The other one went further away. He was a clerk and worked for another Jew named Kratenstein who owned a small factory. He was supposed to get to I. C. Bratianu Street. Nobody knows whether he made it or not. But his wife and my cousin, who are now in Israel, claim that he was murdered on the street that Monday morning; he didn't get to the train.
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I remember my father and grandfather once worked for an employer who did business with walnuts. He bought them from peasants, his employees cracked them and dried the kernels, and he then exported them to I don't know where. It was a seasonal job, in fall usually. The employer's name was Herman Schneer. He died during the pogrom [in Iasi] [2] with one of his sons, and one of his sons- in-law. In our house, Schneer was thought to be a very clever man. He used to pay his employees on Saturday evenings. On one of those evenings my grandfather wasn't satisfied with what he got and refused the money, claiming he deserved more. The employer told him, 'Let me tell you something. You may not be satisfied, but take the money first, then negotiate.' These words were remembered in my family for a long time.
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Isac Tinichigiu

More than half of my former colleagues from Cultura died in that massacre in Iasi; I know of three of them that they emigrated, and one still lives in Bucharest now.
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During the Holocaust I was in Iasi. On 28th June 1941 there was a massacre, in which 11,000 Jews were killed [the pogrom actually took place on 29th and 30th June]. The number is still under debate, some claim there were only 4,500 – which they equal to 0. On the day before we had found out that in Abator, a Jewish neighborhood, several Jews were killed in their houses by Iron Guard [13] members and hooligans. The next day – it was Sunday morning – a sergeant, Zamcanu, came into our courtyard and yelled: ‘All Jews out of their houses!’ We were taken out in the street and forced to march with our hands up. We were mainly women and children. We walked like that for five kilometers, to the police station. My mother was sick and couldn’t hold her hands up; a policeman hit her with his rifle over the shoulders, so I went by her side and held her hand up.

In the police courtyard they started giving tickets to women and children, which said ‘free’ and had been stamped, and they announced that every Jew that didn’t have that ticket would be shot. I remember somebody started saying: ‘He’s a dirty gipsy; he’s not a Jew! What is he doing here among us?’, and pointed to my mother and me. The man knew me and started talking like this because he tried to save me from a very certain death. He succeeded. I never knew who he was. That was the great trick, because many men who had gone into cover early morning came of their free will, to get their ‘free’ tickets and they never came back: some were shot down in the police courtyard – about 500 men – and the rest were taken to the railway station, and forced to get on a train, 130–140 people in each wagon. The doors and windows were closed and nailed, so there was no air. After a day and a night they stopped to get rid of the dead and bury them in mass graves. This went on and on until the town of Roman, where something very unusual happened. A lady, the president of the Red Cross Committee, imposed her will of giving water to the prisoners on the leaders of the convoy. Then the train went on from Iasi to Calarasi, were the rest of the men were forced to work on different estates. The Jewish communities, which keep an exact record in their books of the Jews in the synagogues, estimate that there were 11,000 people killed.
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Simon Meer

But the 1941 pogrom from Iasi was a disaster, with the death train [7]. If 50 people were shot here during the pogrom, in Iasi there were a few thousands – 10,000 or 12,000 Jews were on that train. Many years ago, my wife and I went and visited the cemeteries from Targu Ocna, Podul Iloaiei, and Targu Frumos, where - you should see it - there are rows of tombstones, rows of them. For this train travelled on a route from Iasi, Targu Ocna, Targu Frumos – back and forth, asphyxiating them.

They kept the people inside cattle cars, without air, without anything, and kept moving them forward. And, for instance, if they opened the cars’ doors in Targu Ocna, they got off the train in Targu Ocna those who were asphyxiated, who were lying on the floor, and the Community there had to take care of funeral arrangements. Others who were asphyxiated by the time the train reached Targu Frumos were taken off the train in Targu Frumos. Then the train started the journey back. That’s how they kept moving that train until they asphyxiated everybody.
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Rifca Segal

The things that happened in Dorohoi… The things that happened in Iasi… A lawyer from Iasi, Avram Riezel, a very handsome man, who was a second degree cousin of my parents’, was boarded on the death train [8]. He died in that train car, together with his wife, Sally. They had no children. He was born in Sulita, but he married in Iasi with a very beautiful woman, herself a lawyer, they were very well off, she was rich, and he was rich when he left Sulita. His parents owned sheep. And they also had land, I believe, but they didn’t till it themselves, they hired people to do that. And someone who survived the death train experience – a friend of this cousin of my parents, someone who moved to Bucharest afterwards, and we met him – he told us how, forgive me, they relieved themselves right there, on straw, they weren’t given any water, food, nothing at all. And when the train stopped in Targu Frumos, there was this lady, Garici, may God rest her soul, and she approached the train to give them water to drink. For the train car had small, barred windows. And they slapped her over her arm, and she had to leave, otherwise they would have shot her. There were gendarmes on guard duty. And there is Yad Vashem [9] in Israel – I was there –, and there is a road there, where they planted trees “Righteous among the nations.” And Mrs. Garici has her own tree planted there. She passed away. She has a daughter here, in Romania, I don’t know how old she is, who has cancer, I believe. And she was sent to Israel for treatment. Well, if they could save her… But still, her mother’s gesture was extraordinary.
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Iancu Tucarman

The war broke on 22nd June 1941 [Romania entered World War II alongside Nazi Germany]. A week later the pogrom [3] took place in Iasi which would not spare me either. One third of Iasi’s population was Jewish, that is almost 45,000 people. And we all had a very pleasant life. On 29th June 1941 we found ourselves thrown in trains or killed on the street. It was like a cold shower. It was unexpected. There were frightfully few cases when nice people warned their neighbors and took them in their houses. It was a big question mark as to how this could happen in Iasi where we had lived until the War and till that day that turned into doomsday for many of us.

On the 29th, around half past 8 or 9 in the morning, when they took me out there was a long wall and 20-30 were already standing by that wall waiting for the others to be brought. A military passed by and at some point he drew his gun and wanted to shoot us. A major was passing by at that very moment and asked: ‘Soldier, have you been ordered to shoot?’ ‘No!’ ‘Get out immediately or you’ll be court-martialed!’ And he left. I don’t know who that was and I’m sorry I didn’t ask. We survived then but many of us who were taken to the Section [police headquarters] did not…

On the way there we walked with our hands up. Not a soul was to be seen on the street. The only people I saw were over to the Notre-Dame de Zion School – that is on Cuza-Voda Street. The building now hosts the Philharmonic. Germans stood at the windows and took pictures of us as we walked with our hands up. About 200 meters away, as we went further from our house towards the Section, there I was and my father walked on my left. We walked in lines of 7-8 persons towards the Section. A sergeant came towards me, slapped me twice over the face, took my wristwatch and said: ‘Hey, kike, you won’t need it anyways!’ It was then that both I and my father understood that something really bad was going to happen to us. And my father told me in Yiddish: ‘My dear, let this be an offering in exchange for your soul!’ And that’s exactly what happened. I managed to find myself among the survivors.

They took us to the police section. We spent all day there. Policemen with rubber batons stood on each side of the entrance and they would kick all those who entered. Since both I and my father were shorter we got away untouched. When we entered I saw piles of dead people one over the other and blood from those who had been hit on the head and died. When you came in the police section, in the middle, you could see some steps and two machine guns. One of them was aimed towards the gate, the other one towards the backyard fence. Anyone who tried to jump over the fence would be shot. They couldn’t bring in all of us and so they came up with a plan: the elderly and the children, but especially the men were given a 5/5 ticket with a stamp reading ‘free’. And they were told: ‘Tell the other Jews to come with their ID to receive a ticket like this one. Those who don’t present this ticket upon control will be shot!’ Out of fear, a lot of people came on their own. For the majority, the only freedom they got was the eternal one. And this is how they managed to bring everyone to the Section, even those who were not brought by the police or the army. My father got a ‘free’ ticket and managed to go back.

We spent the 29th at the Section. In the morning we were taken to the station, again walking in lines. On the platform in front of the station we were ordered to lie on the ground and we stayed like that until other people boarded the train. Then we got in the train as well and there was some guy there who kept counting. And I heard – because I didn’t know my number – I heard 137 and then: ‘Lock the train car!’

At the Iasi station a railroad employee shouted ‘Kikes, close the shutters!’ He came with a ladder and blocked our windows with some very big nails that were so long that they came out on the other side of the shutter and I had something to hang my raincoat on. I took off my coat inside. Because of the heat most people remained naked. I too took off my coat and my shirt. Inside the car some would go crazy and jump from side to side like at the circus. When there were only 10 or 12 of us left, the entire floor was covered with dead people. It was like a mattress they jumped on. They didn’t jump at first; at first everybody was normal. And one more interesting thing, a thing about dreams. I fell asleep in the train. And all these people that were jumping from side to side stepped on me, hurt my leg really bad and I woke up. But while I was asleep I dreamt that I was going to work at a farm. I saw a wheat field, fruit trees. Indeed, one week later I was sent to do forced labor at a farm and then this became my lifelong profession: agricultural engineer.

I believe in destiny and I wonder why I was among those chosen to stay alive. It was then that I noticed a very interesting thing biologically speaking. Namely that those who had least demands from life and the environment, that is the weak ones, were the ones to survive.

The first to die in the train was a sportsman. He died after an hour, an hour or so. I thought he just fainted, but he actually died of heat. And those who were least pretentious survived. All of us who got out were short and thin.

I can still remember as if it were today the moment when the train opened, at Podul Iloaiei. When the gates opened, I stepped back, although I was close to the door. But I just stood like that for about 2-3 minutes until almost everyone got out. I got out the last. Many of us when they breathed the fresh air fell down, fainted. The people got out on a field, there were very many puddles and they threw themselves in them because of thirst. Some wanted to cool down, others to quench their thirst. Many died right there on the ditch, others were taken to the hospital. One thing still haunts me: I was weary but I walked until I found clean grass with no mud in it. How could I refrain from jumping into the water then? I looked for a clean place so that my raincoat wouldn’t get dirty!

During the war

The Jewish community there was asked whether it would agree to receive, to host Jewish communists as we were labeled [The official propaganda called the victims of the pogrom Jewish communists to justify the repression.] So, after we spent about half an hour on the field, they lined us up and escorted us towards the synagogues in Podul Ilioarei. Lined up. There were some people from that town on the road that behaved really nasty: ‘Why did you come, kikes?’ Others even spitted on us. The Jews came first to look for their relatives, friends and acquaintances. A former classmate of mine and relative, one of the Idels, with whom I was to live during my stay in Podul Iloaiei, came before me: ‘Are you Iancu?’ I said: ‘Yes’. I looked at him curiously: ‘Are you asking me, dear former classmate?’ Other three survivors were in his house. And when I entered his house I stared in the mirror: ‘What is this?’ It was me. I didn’t recognize myself. I was haggard, nothing but skin and bones, my lips won’t close, my eyes almost popped out and then I suddenly realized why he asked me whether I was Iancu or not. If I couldn’t recognize myself, how could he then?

When they brought us to the synagogue, I sat down on a stair step and we were given tea. The first thing I thought about was this: until the day before yesterday I used to be a normal person and look at me now: who am I? A nobody! My turn came to receive a cup of tea. And I took the first sip. And it almost killed me. I chocked. It took me half an hour to calm down my cough and then I realized how dehydrated I was and I started to sip one drop at a time, like with a dropper, until I managed to swallow it.

After the first days in Podul Iloaiei passed, we were given a postcard to write on. And the first thing I wrote was this: ‘My dears, you cannot imagine the things I had to go through until...’ and I stopped and thought ‘Man, what are you writing about?!’ I took another postcard and I wrote: ‘My dears, I have arrived safely to Podul Iloaiei. All the best, Iancu’. Both I and my brother-in-law Leon Segal wrote the same. My sister got the postcard a few days later and learned that he was alive. My father had heard how many people had died there and counted me among the dead, delivered all the payers that should be delivered for the dead and got my postcard only a week later.
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Betty lost her husband Marcu Madrisovici, and their three sons – Strul, Iancu, and Lupu – in the Iasi pogrom.
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Leizer Finchelstein

My wife lost her father during the pogrom. She doesn’t know where he is buried either.
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My father was on “the death trains” himself, then he was taken to the labor camps of Calarasi and Ialomita. Afterwards, he returned to Iasi. He was profoundly affected by everything that he and his family experienced, and, in general, by what the Jews living in Iasi experienced. He was very weakened when he returned and he always avoided talking about this period.
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The chaos at the Police precinct was indescribable. There were Romanian gendarmes and I think I even saw a few German soldiers wearing helmets with “SS” written on them who were delivering blows left and right with a baseball bat. Dead people were already lying in the courtyard of the Police Precinct, there was blood and scattered brains everywhere. It was for the first time in my life when I saw dead bodies. I was so terrified.

After being taken to the Police precinct on “that Sunday,” I was boarded on “the death trains.” I was 17 at the time. It is extremely difficult for me to talk about this. I think no film director will ever be able to depict the experiences on “the death trains.” To lie with the dead, covered with excrements. We made chairs and benches out of the dead. We stretched the dead bodies and sat on them, stepped on them. Later, on reading about Auschwitz and other concentration camps, I told myself: ‘By God, perhaps those people were more fortunate than us. At least they entered the gas chamber and were dead in a matter of minutes.’ We stayed inside these train cars which turned into gas chambers and people would die just like that, standing up. Now one, another one 10 minutes later, and so on. Nobody had any hope left of escaping with their lives. There were over 100 people in our train car, of which about 20 survived.

When I was among those who stepped off the train cars and were instructed to bury our dead, I still had no hope left of ever returning home. Anyone could kill you, nobody was accountable for their actions. One of my brothers, Leon, who was also on these trains, was taken to the hospital, as he slipped when he got off the train car and a portion of skin from his back was torn off. At first, we didn’t even notice that Leon was missing, that’s how exhausted and terrified we were.

We were lodged overnight in Jewish homes from Podu Iloaiei. The following day we were taken out in the field where the dead bodies were unloaded from the trains and we were forced to bury them. The smell was awful and it was so hot.
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The pogrom took place in June 1941. A few Christians lived in the Targu Cucului neighborhood as well, and, before the outbreak of the war, we got along relatively well with them. However, some 2-3 days before the pogrom, many of them left their homes and marked their houses with crosses. We didn’t understand at the time what was going on. On ‘that Sunday’ [29th June 1941], Jewish men were taken out of their houses by force and taken to the Police Precinct. We had heard that Jews would be issued some sort of residence permit by the authorities. As we didn’t hurry to get to the police precinct, on Sunday morning about 4 sergeants from the police station and a few civilians entered our house. We were threatened and taken out of the house. My mother and sisters were forced to get out of the house as well, but they were released immediately afterwards. They made father and us, the boys, walk towards the police precinct along Cuza Voda St. in single file and with our hands raised above our heads. Even if this happened 65 years ago, I cannot forget the horror on my mother’s face when they took us out of the house, but neither can I forget her joy when 6 out of 7 men returned home. She was the happiest of all mothers, it was the second miracle of Maglavit. [Editor’s note: a shepard named Petrache Lupu from Maglavit claimed to have seen God in 1935 and King Carol II of Romania decided to build a monastery there]. I lost a brother then, Iosel, and to this day I don’t know where he is buried. I would offer a reward even now to find out where he is. We attend the commemoration of the pogrom every year, when the Community offers us transportation starting with the Pacurari cemetery, then to the common burial grounds of Podu Iloaiei and Targu Frumos.
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Iosel Finchelstein was born around 1919. He worked as a carpenter in a workshop together with my father and was killed during the Iasi pogrom in the summer of 1941. He was only 22 at the time. I don’t know where he is buried, probably in one of the common burial grounds.
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Aunt Pesl had 2 sons as well, who were born handicapped, they were deaf and dumb, despite the fact they were very intelligent children and physically very sound. They were both killed during the pogrom.
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