Orhei | Orhei

/ Jewish cemetery in Orhei, one of the biggest in Bessarabia. Located on a hill and partially fenced, it counts several thousand gravestones today. Most of them date from the 18th century. © Markel Redondo - Yahad-In Unum A memorial for Holocaust victims and Jewish soldiers on the Jewish cemetery in Orhei.© Markel Redondo - Yahad-In Unum Zinaida D., born in 1926 :  “My father worked for Jewish traders. With his cart, he would transport merchandise for them from Orhei to Chișinău.” © Markel Redondo - Yahad-In Unum Dumitru T., born in 1931:   “During the occupation, the Jews from Orhei were placed in the ghetto which was fenced and watched by Romanians. Locals would go there to give the Jews some food or to trade with them.” © Markel Redondo - Yahad-In Unum Feigel K., a Jewish survivor from Orhei, evacuated to Azerbaijan during the war. © Markel Redondo - Yahad-In Unum Eugenia S., born in 1920:  “The Jews from Orhei were massively shot in different places. One night, I heard the gunshots of an execution coming from the soil quarry.” © Markel Redondo - Yahad-In Unum Zinaida D., born in 1926 :  “One day, when I was going to the mill, I witnessed a shooting of about fifty people, mainly women, children and elderly. It was horrible.” © Markel Redondo - Yahad-In Unum YIU’s team during the interview on the execution site of Jews from Orhei. © Markel Redondo - Yahad-In Unum Mass grave of about fifty Jewish victims, mainly women, children and elderly people, killed by the occupants in 1941 near the village of Slobodzia Doamnă. © Markel Redondo - Yahad-In Unum

Execution of the Jews of Orhei

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Ravine
Memorials :
No
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
Several hundred

Witness interview

Dumitru T., born in 1931: “The Soviets arrived in Orhei in June 1940 and the Romanians in July 1941. During the Soviet occupation, many Jews worked in the Soviet administration. Many people were deported at that time. Within 24 hours, they deported the entire intelligentsia: the doctors, the teachers, the employees of the administration. They were picked up at night by black metal armored trucks. When the Romanians arrived in July 1941, the Jews were locked up in a ghetto which was located in the southern part of Orhei and surrounded by a fence. The Moldovans were going to feed the Jews in the ghetto. Successively, the Jews were shot in various places in trenches outside the city. The Romanian gendarmes would bring the Jews to the shootings with trucks.” (Witness N°60, interviewed in Orhei, on December 4, 2012)

Soviet archives

“Straight after the passage of the German-Romanian occupants, Romanian punitive units, in other words gendarmes and policemen, arrived in the town. Upon the arrival of these punitive units the mass executions and arrests of civilians started. I saw with my own eyes several groups of Soviet civilians being arrested under the command of the chef de poste from the Orhei district, Panush, as well as his deputy [name illegible], the commissar G., and the sergeant K. The groups numbered from twenty to thirty people. Some of them were taken under guard to the camp in Ribnita, while others were taken to the village of Slobodka [Slobozia Doamnă], where, as I heard from the locals, they were shot.” [From deposition of a local resident Zinaida F., born in 1914 in the town of Orhei; Document n°5, made on April 11, 1945 to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); GARF 7021-96-92]

Moldovan/Romanian Archives

“(…) When the gendarmes arrived in the courtyard of the police station, (there) were about 500 Jews gathered by military units (…). On July 20, 1941, in the afternoon, Major Bechi and Captain Adamovici called in the courtyard all the leaders of 4 sections of the gendarmerie, as well as the non-commissioned officers to form patrols in order to assemble all the Jews from Orhei and its surroundings, apart from those already gathered in the courtyard of the police station. The found Jews  were placed in the industrial school, in the synagogue and in a house near the legion of gendarmerie. On July 21, 1941, at 2 p.m. the gathering of the Jews was completed. Around 600 Jews were closed in the school, approximately 200 were locked up in the synagogue and in the house near the legion.

Before this operation was carried out, Major Bechi had already killed other Jews. The first batch that were the victims of this order were the Jews from the synagogue and the house near the legion of gendarmerie. The Jews were escorted by non-commissioned officers to the Siliștea forest located on the road leading into the village of Peresecina (Orhei district). After, about 4 km from the outskirts of town, in the Siliștea forest, Sergeant Gheorghe gave the order to shoot all the Jews. The corpses remained until the next day, then they began their burial (…)” RG-25.004M; Selected Records from the Romanian Information Service, 1936–1948 Reel #16 p.26]

Historical note

Orhei is a town in Orhei District located in central Moldova. Before the outbreak of WWII, there were 19,211 Jews living in the District and half of them lived in the town of Orhei comprising more than 40% of the town’s total population. The Jews from Orhei were merchants, shop owners, businessmen, artisans, craftsmen and doctors, some of them were also farmers, viniculturists and factory owners. The Jewish community from Orhei had several synagogues, houses of prayer, cheders , many cultural, educational and welfare institutions, as well as a Jewish cemetery.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

After a brief occupation by the Soviet Union that started in 1940, Orhei was occupied by German-Romanian forces on July 8-10,, 1941. By then many of the wealthiest Jews joined the retreating Soviet Army to flee eastward. Many of them were killed in the bombardments of the Germans as well as from hunger and diseases before they reached the other side of the Dniester River. When the German-Romanian troops arrived in town, they were welcomed by the Jewish delegation but its members were directly killed by occupants. In the following days, many Jews, considered “dangerous elements,” were killed in the whole District of Orhei as a part of the campaign called by occupants “cleansing the territory”. In July 1941, the remaining Jews from Orhei were caught and imprisoned in three locations in town: in a synagogue and a big private building (200-300 persons), in an industrial school building (600 persons) and in a courtyard of the police post office (500 persons). The Jews who were kept in the first location were shot by the gendarmes on the 21st of July near Siliștea. The Jews who had been imprisoned in the school building were executed in Slobozia Doamnă, the suburbs of Orhei, by German and Romanian firing squad. The remaining Jews from Orhei, as well as many Jews from the surroundings, were placed in a ghetto established by Romanian authorities in Orhei, while their houses were looted by the occupants and locals. The ghetto was guarded by armed German and Romanian soldiers. Jews from the ghetto were massively dying from hunger and very severe living conditions. Those who attempted to escape were successively caught by the gendarmes and killed in the Orhei forest (several dozens of victims). The Jews from the ghetto were successively deported to Transnistria starting in August 1941. Only a group of about 250 Jews (Christian converts and those who came from mixed marriages) were left in the ghetto in order to perform forced labor, to be finally deported to Transnistria in May 1942. Most of the Jews from Orhei and surroundings deported to Transnistria didn’t survive the war.

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