BERN (Feb. 20)
The first Rumanian Jew to succeed in escaping from Transnistria to Switzerland, today gave an appalling eye-witness account of how the Rumanian authorities drove thousands of Jews to death after having robbed them of all their belongings including their last shreds of clothing.
“Jews who happened to be wearing a good overcoat or good shoes were deliberately executed so that the Rumanian soldiers could get their clothing,” the escaped Jew reported. “The soldiers and officers who escorted the deported Rumanian Jews to
Transnistria threatened that anyone carrying forbidden articles would be shot on the spot. Although the Jews weren’t permitted to take with them any jewelry or more than 2,000 lei, most of the unfortunate people handed over to the soldiers whatever money and valuables they had.”
The escaped Jew related how 6,000 Rumanian Jews, of whom he was one, were deported to a Transnistrian village named Pecorka. Most of the journey, he said, was made on foot under the most terrible circumstances. “Hundreds of the deportees, mostly women and children, died on the road before they even reached their destination,”the stated. “Those of us who reached Pecorka were quartered in ruined dilapidated barracks. It was winter, but we were not permitted to keep the barracks heated, nor could we repair the barracks because we were not given any tools. Many persons were frozen to death.
WOMEN EAT GRASS TO STILL THEIR HUNGER; CHILDREN SEARCH FOR FOOD IN RUBBISH
The Jews in Transnistria had to live on a small piece of almost unedible black bread and a plate of soup a day, the eye-witness related. Anyone who had succeeded in holding on to some money bribed the Rumanian soldiers to get bread at exhorbitant prices. A few succeeded in securing odd jobs and earned a little money, but the majority of the Jewish deportees literally starved.
“When Spring came,” the escaped Jew continued, “nearly 4,000 of the 11,000 Jews who were interned in Pecorka had died of hunger or illness caused by starvation and cold. Many had been frozen to death after they exchanged their clothing and shirts for bread. I have seen with my own eyes how Jewish women ate grass in order to still their hunger. Jewish children whose fathers and mothers had died from starvation searched the rubbish heaps for potato peels which were considered luxurious food.”
DEPORTATION USED FOR BLACKMAIL; JEWISH MILLIONAIRES BEGGARED
The entire scheme of mass-deportation of Jews from Rumania to Transnistria was merely a means of blackmail, the escaped Jew pointed out. “Enormous amounts were asked by the Rumanian authorities from Jews who sought to avoid being deported. Sometimes, they ran into millions of lei. Those Jews who were known to be wealthy were so exploited by the Rumanians that in the end they were reduced to beggary,” he said.
The eye-witness revealed that a Jewish lawyer from Czernowitz named Zimmer, who was among the deportees, wrote to the Rumanian governor of Transnistria asking that he help him submit to Premier Antonescu an appeal in behalf of the deported Jews. Since Zimmer was a school-mate of the governor, his plea was taken into consideration. He was permitted to present a petition asking that Jews in Rumania be allowed to collect relief funds for the Jews in Transnistria and also to send them clothing and medicine. Antonescu, after long deliberations, permitted Jews in Rumania to spend twenty-five million lei a month for this purpose on condition that the relief funds collected were to be deposited with the National Bank of Rumania through which the money was to be transmitted to Transnistria. This transaction resulted in a third of the funds collected for the Jewish deportees remaining with the National Bank as compensation.