About 25,000 Jews remain in the city of Czernowitz, capital of the province of Bukovina – the survivors of a Jewish population of more than 80,000 – it is reported here by the noted Soviet war correspondent and playwright Constantine Simonov who visited Czernowitz while touring the fronts.
Siminov spoke with the rabbi of the city, who spent the entire 33 months of the German occupation hiding in cellars. During this period his wife and children died. The correspondent describes him as “a very old man with a white beard, long white hair and deeply wrinkled face.” He learned later that the rabbi was only 52.
Czernowitz was occupied by the Germans on June 25, 1941, only three days after they had launched their attack on the U.S.S.R. Immediately after their entrance, the Nazis ordered a registration of all Jews. On the basis of these lists they summoned 3,000 to 5,000 young Jews to appear at a designated place every Monday. Of these ten percent were shot.
On these “Black Mondays,” the rabbi told Simonov, the Nazis would hold those they did not shoot until after 9 P.M. when they were told to return home. However, since it was unlawful for Jews to appear on the streets after 9 P.M., many of the Jews were killed by Rumanian units patrolling the streets.
After about ten weeks of this “cat-and-mouse” game, the Rumanian authorities, who were the nominal rulers of the city, posted a proclamation requiring all the 30,000 Jews remaining in the city to move to a ghetto area consisting of four blocks in which there were 30 houses. Failure to move to the ghetto was punishable by death. The rabbi disclosed the almost unbelievable details of how 112 persons lived in a small bed-room; how people dwelt in court-yards, on roofs, in hallways, on stairs, and in every available corner of space.
After they had been confined in the ghetto for some time, the Jews were notified one day that they had one-half hour to prepare for deportation to Transnistria. About 50,000 of the ghetto’s inhabitants were shipped off in freight cars. The others remind. Of the 50,000 only a scattered few have returned to Czernowitz, Simonov learned. The others perished in Transnistria from lack of food, shelter, clothing and medical and health facilities.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.