07 August 2007
Theodor Criveanu, a Righteous Among the Nations from Romania will be posthumously honored at Yad Vashem tomorrow. A memorial ceremony will be held in the Hall of Remembrance at 11:00, followed by the recognition ceremony in the Synagogue and the unveiling of the name of the Righteous in the Garden of the Righteous. The ceremony will take place in Hebrew and English, in the presence of Willie Criveanu, Theodor’s son, and of representatives of the Romanian Embassy in Israel, and family of the survivors.
After the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, Romania re-annexed Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, and gained control of Transnistria, a part of the Ukraine Romanian forces invaded together with the Germans. Approximately 60,000 Jews were murdered in Bessarabia and Bukovina by Romanian and German army units, assisted by the local police and inhabitants. The remaining Jews were forced over the river to the Transnistria region, where about 120,000 Jews perished. According to the Elie Wiesel Commission that submitted its report to Romania’s President in 2004, it is estimated that between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews were murdered by the Romanians during the Holocaust period.
In October 1941, the Romanian regime interned the 50,000 Jews of Czernowitz (Cernauti) in a ghetto as a preliminary measure to their deportation to Transnistria. By mid-November, about 28,000 Jews were deported. The deportations were halted after the Mayor of Czernowitz, Dr. Traian Popovici managed to persuade the Romanian military governor and General Antonescu to leave the remaining 20,000 Jews, claiming that they were vital to the economic stability of the town. They were allowed to return to their houses, but in the summer of 1942, Mayor Popovici, who was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1969, was charged with granting permits to “unnecessary” Jews, and was removed from office. After Popovici’s dismissal, a further 5000 Jews were deported over the river Bug, and most of them perished. Approximately 15,000 Jews with legal permits remained in Czernowitz, and another 2000 who were living in hiding or were using false permits.
The permits in Czernowitz were the Jews’ passport to life. Theodor Criveanu was a lawyer from Brashov, recruited as a reserves officer to bring Antonescu’s secret plan to concentrate the Jews of Czernowitz in a ghetto. As part of this job, he was told to present the authorities with a list of names of Jews who were required for work in the city. Against orders, and notwithstanding the grave risk to his own life, Theodor secretly handed out permits beyond the allowed limit, also giving them to Jews who were not essential to the workforce. Amongst these Jews were Berta and Osias Hefter and their daughters Hilda and Malvina.
In her testimony to Yad Vashem, Hilda explained that Criveanu gave permits to many Jews who were not entitled to them, thus saving them from deportation to Transnistria. During this period, an attachment was formed between Theodor and Malvina Hefter, and through her, Theodor provided permits to Jews who applied directly to either of them.
Theodor and Malvina married, and in 1945 their son Ze’ev (Willie, currently of South Africa) was born. In 1950, Malvina and Zee’s moved to Israel. Theodor stayed in Romania, and passed away in 1988.
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For more information about the Righteous Among the Nations Program, click here.