Operation Barbarossa - Holocaust Survivors Remember
Yosef Finkelstein was born in 1922 in Iasi, Romania, the elder of two brothers. In 29 June 1941, when the Germans headed through the city in the direction of the front, all the Jews of the city were gathered by Romanian soldiers and local criminals and were ordered to report to the police station. The women and children were permitted to return home; however, the men - including Yosef, his father and brother - were marched to the train station and turned over to German soldiers, who beat them with clubs until they bled, and loaded them into terribly congested cattle cars.
The ride of death continued for seven days without food or water. Many perished from suffocation and dehydration in the burning hot cattle cars. As well, at each stop, the soldiers would open the cattle cars and shoot into them. At one stop, the prisoners were ordered to get rid of me bodies, and it was in the bottom layer of bodies that Yosef found his father and brother.
The journey continued until they reached Roman (Romania), where the local director of the Red Cross, Viorica Agarici, who later was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations, gave the prisoners water. The Jews were then loaded on the train of death once again, which continued until it arrived at Calarasi Ialomita (Romania). The surviving Jews, who were naked, were released and were cared for over duration of a month and a half by the tiny local Jewish population.
Following his stay in Calarasi Ialomita, Yosef went back to lasi, where he lived with his mother and worked in a nearby labour camp until the city's liberation by the Russians in August 1944. In 1973, Yosef immigrated to Israel and worked as a surgeon. Today, he has a daughter and two grandchildren.