The Artifacts Collection
Artifacts in the Synagogue
ספר תורה ולוח עשרת הדיברות
Displayed in the Yad Vashem Synagogue is a metal sheet inscribed with the Ten Commandments and a small Torah scroll, two artifacts that the Jews deported to the area of Transnistria took with them. While there, the deportees fashioned a simple Torah mantle and crude wooden staves for the Torah scroll. When these Jews returned to Czernowitz, they brought the artifacts back with them.
Transnistria, today part of western Ukraine, is a region between the Bug river in the east and the Dniester river in the west. Hitler gave the area its name after it was captured from the Soviet Union by Germany in the summer of 1941. The region was given to Romania as a reward for Romania’s participation in the war against the Soviet Union and as compensation for the transfer of most of the area of Transylvania to Hungarian rule in 1940.
Before the war approximately three hundred thousand Jews lived in the area of Transnistria. Ten thousand were murdered by the Nazi Einsatzgruppe D and by other German and Romanian troops. In 1941, when the Romanian government expelled the Jews of Bessarabia, Bukovina and northern Moldavia from their homes across the Dniester river, the area became notorious. Most of the deportees were closed in ghettos and camps in Transnistria where the Romanian authorities washed their hands of them, failing to take responsibility for minimum living conditions: housing, food or basic medical care, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands from hunger, cold and disease.
Only in 1942 did the Romanian government change its policy and stop collaborating with the Nazi’s plans to deport all the Jews of Romania to the Belzec death camp. When news of the terrible conditions in Transnistria reached Jewish communities inside Romania, various organizations organized relief for the deportees. It was only at the end of 1943, with the advance of the Red Army that the efforts of the Romanian Jewish community finally bore fruit, and the Romanian government finally began allowing the return of the deportees. Out of one hundred and fifty thousand deportees, approximately ninety thousand perished.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection,
Gift of Noah Kempinski, Secretary - Czernowitz Jewish community, Romania