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Parascita S., born in 1930:
“Before the war, there were Moldovans, Gypsies and Jews living in Dereneu. The Gypsies were locksmiths and they would shoe horses. The Jews were mainly merchants and artisans. I remember that several Jewish women from the village were talented tailors. Many of them had sewing machines in their homes and they would make clothes for local peasants. We would buy textiles in Jewish shops, then go to those tailors to order clothes.”
(Witness N°58, interviewed in Dereneu, on December 3, 2012)
“Right after their arrival in 1941, the German-Romanian troops started immediately arresting local Jews and peasants. After locking them in the basement, the Romanian soldiers would bring their captives to the anti-tank trench located in a field, shoot them and steal their belongings. The shootings took place under the responsibility of Vassili Mikhalaka, the chief of the post, and various Romanian officers. This way, more than 200 Jews and non-Jewish peasants were shot (…) ” [Deposition of Ivan D., born in 1897, living in Dereniov [Dereneu], District de Bravicea: GARF 7021-96-92]
Dereneu is a village in Călărași District in central Moldova. Before the outbreak of the WWII, there were Moldovans, Jews and Gypsies living in the village. Very little is known about the Jewish community of Dereneu. Thanks to the interviews conducted in Dereneu during the investigation trip, YIU managed to establish that Jews from the village were mainly merchants and artisans. They owned several shops in the village. They would import and export different sorts of merchandise. They also provided different services to the local population, such as tailoring, for example. Pavel S., born in 1933, remembers some of his Jewish neighbors: Avrum, Leizer, Strulia, Aaron and Iosuf.
When the Romanian soldiers arrived in the village, they went from house to house assembling all the Jews in the courtyard of one of the Jewish homes. Pavel S., born in 1933, remembers that “the house belonged to a wealthy Jew. The courtyard was fenced but not big enough to contain all the Jews. That’s why some of them were put in the basement of that very house. There were men, women, children and even babies.” According to Soviet archives, an unknown number of non-Jewish inhabitants of the village were also caught and imprisoned with their Jewish neighbors. In total, the Romanian soldiers assembled more than two hundred people in the courtyard. Pavel recalled that those people were imprisoned there for several days during which they were guarded by Romanian and German soldiers who were looting their belongings. After that, the victims were put in columns and brought to the anti-tank trenches where they were shot. The victims’ bodies were buried a few days later by the villagers who couldn’t stand the smell of the decomposing corpses. Today, the mass grave of more than two hundred Jewish and non-Jewish victims is unmarked.
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