Bălţi During the Holocaust
Under Soviet Rule
Until the annexation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the USSR in June 1940, the Romanians continued their anti-Jewish policies of pushing Jews out of their various businesses and questioning their legal status. As a result of the Law for Reexamination of Citizenship passed by the Goga-Cuza Government at the beginning of 1938, the citizenship of many Jews was revoked.
Following the annexation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the USSR in 1940, the first Soviet troops entered Bălţi on 28 July. Unlike other villages and towns in Bessarabia, the retreating Romanian forces did not harm the Jews of the town. Before the Russians had even entered the town, many wealthy Jews fled to Bukovina, leaving behind their houses and other possessions.
Within a very short time after the Soviets entered Bălţi there was a turning point. The authorities banned all private business interactions and thousands of Jews found themselves without a source of income, meaning not a slice of bread, the very next day. My father, z"l, was then approaching fifty… he went to work as a carrier in a wood warehouse; hard, backbreaking work."Zipporah Unger-Mazur, Sefer Bălţi, p. 563
During the first days after the annexation the attitude of the authorities towards the Jews was relatively fair, but very quickly Bălţi – like the rest of Bessarabia – found itself under Soviet authoritarian rule that included the socialization of the economy, the closure and liquidation of national and religious institutions, the Sovietization of the educational system, the dissolution of Zionist and Jewish political parties and youth movements, and more.
The Hebrew Gymnasium became a Yiddish school, and the principal, Raphael Katz was ousted and arrested. A Jewish man from Odessa by the name of Girshman was appointed as the new principal.
In the middle of the school year [at the Gymnasium], members of the secret service began to call previous youth movement leaders in for interrogation, with the "request" that they keep an eye on the actions of our former youth movement colleagues, and if they seemed harmful or resistant to the USSR, which was known to be surrounded by capitalism, Trotskyism, revolutionaries and other kinds of enemies – we were to report that in detail.Mordechai (Motia) Kogen, Sefer Bălţi, p. 562
With the new population registry, taking out your identity card caused great trepidation. If it was written that you were the son or daughter of "Tirnovitz" – a merchant – that was an indelible stain that threatened exile to Siberia.Zipporah Unger-Mazur, Sefer Bălţi, p. 563
Some six months after the Russians arrived in Bălţi, arrests of anyone identified as a Zionist, an entrepreneur or a member of the "bourgeoisie" began. According to lists prepared beforehand by local communist youth movements, people were dragged out of their homes in the middle of the night. Women were torn from their husbands, and children from their parents. They were all taken to the train station and sent to Siberia. The train bore the sign "Traveling Willingly," and at the station, where the Jews from the villages surrounding Bălţi were also gathered, loud music was played in an effort to drown out the weeping. Between 2,000 and 2,200 people were exiled, 80 percent of them Jews.
On 13 June 1941, at 2am,… we heard thunderous knocking at the door of our apartment… the door was smashed open and three representatives of the Soviet police dressed in NKVD uniforms burst in, accompanied by soldiers armed with bayonets, and without explanation or any written order, and with no discussion, ordered us to leave our house. In the middle of the dark night they threw us into a truck… and brought us in the dead of night to the train station… like animals in a long convoy of sealed cattle cars, and carried us across Greater Russia. We were exiled to the far and threatening land, the frozen wastes of Siberia.Menachem (Monia) Ackerman, Sefer Bălţi, p. 567