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"The Massacre of the Jews of Jassy"

World Jewish Congress, memorandum on massacre of Jews in Jassy 1941
Courtesy of The Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem
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tags: deportations group violence

type: Report

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) was founded in 1936 as an international association of Jewish organizations from around the world. It had an elected representative body and committees to address various issues facing Jews around the world. When it was founded, the organization was headquartered in Paris, but it moved to Geneva following the outbreak of World War II. When much of western Europe was overrun by German forces in 1940, the organization's headquarters relocated to New York. During the war, the organization also operated offices in London and Buenos Aires while maintaining their offices in New York and Geneva.1

During the war, the WJC's Geneva office became the most important field office of the entire organization. Switzerland was surrounded geographically by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Vichy France. The Geneva office was in a strategic location for the WJC. Geneva's proximity to central and eastern Europe allowed the office to keep in contact with individuals in the areas where the persecution and murder of the Jews was taking place. Because it was in a position to collect information from many different sources, the WJC's Geneva office was one of the first to alert Western governments to the systematic nature of the German genocide against the Jews in Europe. On August 8, 1942 Gerhart Riegner—the head of the WJC's Geneva office—sent a telegram to the British and American governments informing them that German authorities were planning to murder all European Jews.

The featured report was received by the WJC's Geneva office after a massacre in Iași, Romania, in late June 1941. Titled "The Massacre of the Jews of Jassy,"2 the report describes the state-sanctioned Romanian murder of Jews from that city. Thousands of local Jews were murdered in the massacre and its aftermath. There is no signature and no exact date on the report, and it is unclear who wrote it. It is likely that it was created by—or at least based on the account of—a surviving member of Iași's Jewish community who had witnessed the events.3

To learn more about the WJC, see George Garai, ed., Forty Years in Action: A Record of the World Jewish Congress, 1936-1976 (Geneva: World Jewish Congress, 1976); and Gerhart Riegner, Never Despair: Sixty Years in the Service of the Jewish People and of Human Rights (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006).

"Jassy" is a Francophone spelling of Iași.

For more on the massacre in Iași and the history of the Holocaust in Romania, see Jean Ancel, The History of the Holocaust in Romania (Lincoln and Jerusalem: University of Nebraska Press and Yad Vashem, 2011); and Radu Ioanid, The Holocaust in Romania: The Destruction of Jews and Gypsies Under the Antonescu Regime, 1940-1944 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2000).

The document is undated; "1941," written in hand, is added here.

Ion Antonescu, the far-right antisemitic Romanian dictator who brought the country into alliance with Nazi Germany.

Alexandru Cuza, an antisemitic right-wing Romanian politician who organized several far-right parties and was briefly made minister of state of Romania in 1937-1938.

Călărași is a city about 200 miles due south of Iași, close to the border with Bulgaria. 

Roman is less than 50 miles west of Iași.

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The Massacre of the Jews of Jassy              19411

A couple of days after the entry of Romania into the war, Marshal Antonescu,2 the Romanian Führer, in one of his first press releases, already marked the successes… clearly aimed against his Jewish subjects.

"In Jassy 500 Judeo-Communists were executed, after shooting at German and Romanian soldiers from their houses," said the press release, which terrified the Jewish population across the country.

For, at that time, what Jew was not considered to be a "Judeo Communist" and against what Jew could the accusation of shooting someone not be made, if one wanted a justification for a massacre.

Thus, the Jews of Jassy were massacred only because they were Jewish and particularly because of the antisemitic hatred that has existed for many years in the capital of Moldova, Jassy, a stronghold of Cuza,3 which the new Hitlerite order has found to be a suitable element eager to satisfy both this hatred and the Nazis at the same time.

It was on Sunday, June 29 1941, exactly a week after the beginning of the war that the soldiers and the police used force to gather a group of the Jewish population in the courtyard of the police headquarters.

In a few hours, after brutal torture, a group of those assembled was massacred by Romanian soldiers and policemen with the kind assistance of German soldiers, belonging to SS formations.

Simultaneously, soldiers and policemen entered into Jewish houses while shooting without distinction at those within their reach.

In the Jewish cemetery of Jassy alone 260 corpses were transported on this terrible day and were buried in a mass grave. However, witnesses affirmed that hundreds and hundreds of Jews were massacred in Jassy, the pogromists disappeared their human remains.

Those who escaped the slaughter, about 5,000 people, were gathered under the surveillance of public guardians in the station. Here freight cars, which had been loaded with chemical materials, were all ready. About 160 people were piled in each car, without ventilation.

Two trains were formed and left within a few hours of each other, in the early hours of June 30th.

According to the reports of the Gendarmerie, the first train (according to recent inquiries it would be the second train) left heading to Podu Iloaiei, located 20 km away from Jassy.

The train that left to Podu Iloaiei traveled the distance of 20 km in about 12 hours. According to the report of the Gendarmerie, this journey ended with 1,194 deaths. The bodies were buried in Podu Iloaiei, and the survivors were hosted by the Jews of this town (the Jews of the rural community of Podu Iloaiei, were evacuated from the village after these events).

The second transport (or the first according to recent inquiries) was sent to the destination of Călărași.4

The first stage was from Jassy to Roman, where the train arrived after four days.5

According to the report of the Gendarmerie, by the time the train arrived to Târgu Frumos (about 49 km away from Jassy), there were already 650 victims on this transport that were unloaded and buried in Târgu Frumos. 45 km further, in Mircești, we recorded another 327 victims that were unloaded and buried in this town. 10 km further, in Săbăoani, 172 new victims were unloaded and buried.

In the station of Roman, or more precisely 500 meter away from this station, the final 53 victims of this stage were buried in the Jewish cemetery of Roman as it appears in the documents composing this file.

The survivors who arrived in Roman were able to take a bath in a hospital train because of efforts made by the local Jewish community. However, most of them had to remain undressed and had to sleep on the wet ground in front of the rail cars. The consequence was a new series of victims.

In the second stage, the evacuated Jews from Jassy that arrived in Roman were sent to Călărași, where they were confined in a concentration camp.

On the route to Călărași another 40 victims were added. Those were unloaded and buried in Inotești in the region of Prahova.

In Călărași, the final point, according to the report of the authorities, another 25 dead and 69 dying were unloaded.

In this manner, on the route from Jassy to Călărași, there were 1,336 victims, whereby the total number of victims including the 1,194 victims of the Jassy–Podu Iloaiei route, rises to 2,530.

At this point of the research, no one can yet determine whether the figures released by the Gendarmerie match the reality, because it seems that the number of victims caused by the evacuation of the Jews of Jassy should be much higher.

Thus, according to these reports, it is said that in Călărași alone on July 6 1941 25 dead and 69 dying were unloaded. However, according to the list of deceased buried in the Jewish cemetery of Călărași, it appears that on the day of July 6th 35 victims were buried, on July 8th—5, on July 9th—35, on July 13th—16, on July 14th—25, on July 21st—2, on July 25th—12, on August 3rd—1, and on August 13th—12, and thus the disastrous journey from Jassy to Călărași caused a total of 143 victims.

An indication of the number of victims caused by the events endured by the Jewish population of Jassy during June 29, 1941 and the following days, can be shown in this finding that in the region of Jassy (this number must take into account the evacuation of the Jews living in the villages) in the census of 1930, the Jewish population consisted of 41,125 people, whereas in the census of 1942, the number of Jewish population was no higher than 34,006 people.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of The Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem
RG Number 68.045M
Date Created
Geneva, Switzerland
Reference Location
Iași, Romania
Călărași, Romania
Document Type Report
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