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Yad Vashem The Story of the Jewish Community of Bălţi, Romania (today Moldova)

Commemoration

No Brother, No Friend Awaits Me

Bălţi, April 1945. Memorial ceremony for the Jews murdered at the beginning of the German occupation, next to the Sobor Church. In the photograph are hundreds of Jews in front of the church. The victims were brought for reburial in the Bălţi Jewish cemetery.Bălţi, April 1945. Memorial ceremony for the Jews murdered at the beginning of the German occupation, next to the Sobor Church. In the photograph are hundreds of Jews in front of the church. The victims were brought for reburial in the Bălţi Jewish cemetery.
Bruria Haber, student at the Bălţi Hebrew Gymnasium, survived Transnistria together with her sister Hadassah. The two emigrated to Eretz Israel in 1944. Their parents were killed. Bruria was killed in the Mount Scopus convoy in 1948.Bruria Haber, student at the Bălţi Hebrew Gymnasium, survived Transnistria together with her sister Hadassah. The two emigrated to Eretz Israel in 1944. Their parents were killed. Bruria was killed in the Mount Scopus convoy in 1948.
Monument in Bălţi in memory of the Holocaust victims from the Kishinev ghettoMonument in Bălţi in memory of the Holocaust victims from the Kishinev ghetto
Monument in Bălţi in memory of the Holocaust victimsMonument in Bălţi in memory of the Holocaust victims

Now, no brother and no friend awaits me
In the green fields of the Răut
Now it is desolate
The tiled rooftops have disappeared among the ruins
The grace of the world that once was here
Is gone forever
And what is left to see
Are only the ghostly remains of my father's house.

Jacob Fichman, Bait Mul Haraut (Heb.)

After the war, the surviving Jews began to return to Bălţi. Among them were survivors from Transnistria, and those that had fled to the heartland of the Soviet Union. Scenes of destruction and devastation greeted them from every angle:

You walk across Bessarabia… and see on your right and on your left the bountiful fields, hills and valleys. There the Jewish farmlands and towns would flourish, Jewish families scattered across the villages… Jews running factories and flour mills, or trading in farm produce… it was so idyllic during the hot days of summer, when the golden sunflowers would smile at you from both sides of the path across spans that the eye could not behold, but it was now "Judenrein," and the heart bled with sorrow.

Josef Mazur, Sefer Bălţi, p.654

Survivors from Bălţi came to Eretz Israel, built new lives and contributed to every sphere of life – new settlements, security, governmental service, academia, industry, science, education and more.

Four Bălţi emigrants fell fighting for the underground, in the British army during WWII and in the Haganah during Israel's War of Independence:

Bruria Haber, daughter of Esther and Abraham, was born in Botoşani, Romania and lived with her family in Bălţi. Bruria was a member of Hashomer Hatzair and a student at the Hebrew Gymnasium in Bălţi. She spent the Holocaust in Transnistria, where her parents perished, and emigrated to Eretz Israel in 1945 with the Youth Aliya organization. On 13 April 1948 she was killed in the "Hadassah Convoy" on the way to Mount Scopus.

Yosef Finkelstein, son of Pessia and Yaakov, was born in Bălţi and studied at the Hebrew Gymnasium. He was a member of the Hechalutz youth movement. He emigrated to Eretz Israel in 1931 and was killed on 19 August 1938 defending a bus being attacked next to Kibbutz Sha'ar Ha'amakim.

Aryeh (Lyoba) Tzivman, son of Shmaryahu, was born in Bălţi. He was a member of Beitar, and emigrated to Eretz Israel in 1933, where he worked in agriculture. Aryeh was killed on 16 December 1938 in a battle against a gang of Arabs in the Ramle-Lod orchards.

Aryeh (Leonya) Shechter, born in Bălţi and a member of Hashomer Hatzair, emigrated to Eretz Israel in 1939 and joined Kibbutz Shamir. After the war broke out, he volunteered in the British army and in September 1944 joined the Jewish Brigade. On 31 March 1945 he was killed in a battle against German soldiers in Italy.

Immediately following the war, the Organization of Bessarabian Jewry in Israel and the Bălţi Immigrants Association were established, whose members were pioneers from Bălţi that had come to Eretz Israel in the 1930s, among them David Oleinic and Mara Vartzman. They helped survivors settle in Israel by extending mutual aid for housing and employment, establishing a loan fund for financial support, and holding social gatherings for Bălţi immigrants. The ceremony awarding the Jacob Fichman (the poet from Bălţi) Prize became a tradition. In 1993, the Bălţi Immigrants Association published a memorial book of the community in Hebrew entitled Sefer Bălţi Bessarabia – Yad Vezecher Leyehudei Bălţi.

Every May, the Bălţi Immigrants join the Bessarabia Immigrants Association for a Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial ceremony and to mark liberation and the end of the war at the Bessarabia Jewry House in Tel Aviv, used by the Bessarabian immigrants as a center for meetings and activities. During the festival of Sukkoth, a social gathering takes place of the members, together with Bălţi immigrants and their families from Israel and around the world.

For years I dreamed of returning to my town of Bălţi, and in my dreams I kissed every stone on the street. My hometown was so dear to me… there were once Jews there… with a vibrant communal life… [today] without any institution like the Hebrew Gymnasium, without any Jewish youth movement [it is] a most ordinary town, and there is nothing about it to miss …"

Nona Pozis-Shacham, Sefer Bălţi, p. 341

A monument to the Jewish victims of the town was erected in the center of Bălţi, as well as one to the victims of the Kishinev ghetto.

The online exhibition was made possible through the generous support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.