Bălţi Under Soviet Rule
Until the annexation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the USSR in June 1940, the Romanians continued their anti-Jewish policies of pushing Jews out of their various businesses and questioning their legal status. As a result of the Law for Reexamination of Citizenship passed by the Goga-Cuza Government at the beginning of 1938, the citizenship of many Jews was revoked.
Following the annexation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the USSR in 1940, the first Soviet troops entered Bălţi on 28 July. Unlike other villages and towns in Bessarabia, the retreating Romanian forces did not harm the Jews of the town. Before the Russians had even entered the town, many wealthy Jews fled to Bukovina, leaving behind their houses and other possessions.
Within a very short time after the Soviets entered Bălţi there was a turning point. The authorities banned all private business interactions and thousands of Jews found themselves without a source of income, meaning not a slice of bread, the very next day. My father, z"l, was then approaching fifty… he went to work as a carrier in a wood warehouse; hard, backbreaking work.Zipporah Unger-Mazur, Sefer Bălţi, p. 563
During the first days after the annexation the attitude of the authorities towards the Jews was relatively fair, but very quickly Bălţi – like the rest of Bessarabia – found itself under Soviet authoritarian rule that included the socialization of the economy, the closure and liquidation of national and religious institutions, the Sovietization of the educational system, the dissolution of Zionist and Jewish political parties and youth movements, and more.
The Hebrew Gymnasium became a Yiddish school, and the principal, Raphael Katz was ousted and arrested. A Jewish man from Odessa by the name of Girshman was appointed as the new principal.
In the middle of the school year [at the Gymnasium], members of the secret service began to call previous youth movement leaders in for interrogation, with the "request" that they keep an eye on the actions of our former youth movement colleagues, and if they seemed harmful or resistant to the USSR, which was known to be surrounded by capitalism, Trotskyism, revolutionaries and other kinds of enemies – we were to report that in detail.Mordechai (Motia) Kogen, Sefer Bălţi, p. 562
Some six months after the Russians arrived in Bălţi, arrests of anyone identified as a Zionist, an entrepreneur or a member of the "bourgeoisie" began. According to lists prepared beforehand by local communist youth movements, people were dragged out of their homes in the middle of the night. Women were torn from their husbands, and children from their parents. They were all taken to the train station and sent to Siberia. The train bore the sign "Traveling Willingly," and at the station, where the Jews from the villages surrounding Bălţi were also gathered, loud music was played in an effort to drown out the weeping. Many Jews from Bălţi were arrested, interrogated and after a few months sent to forced labor in the heartland of the Soviet Union.
On 13 June 1941, at 2am,… we heard thunderous knocking at the door of our apartment… the door was smashed open and three representatives of the Soviet police dressed in NKVD uniforms burst in, accompanied by soldiers armed with bayonets, and without explanation or any written order, and with no discussion, ordered us to leave our house. In the middle of the dark night they threw us into a truck… and brought us in the dead of night to the train station… like animals in a long convoy of sealed cattle cars, and carried us across Greater Russia. We were exiled to the far and threatening land, the frozen wastes of Siberia.Menachem (Monia) Ackerman, Sefer Bălţi, p. 567
Between 2,000 and 2,200 people were exiled from Bălţi. 80 percent of those exiled were Jews, some of whom are listed below:
Baruch Abramovich, trader and head of the General Zionist Federation in the town. Sentenced to eight years hard labor. At the end of his sentence, he returned to Bălţi.
Misha Bronshteyn, young lawyer and active member of Beitar. Sentenced to eight years hard labor. At the end of his sentence, he returned to his parents in Bălţi.
Sonya Dardik, member of Tzeirei Tzion. Exiled to Siberia, returned to Bălţi and emigrated to Eretz Israel.
Jacob Finkenson, printing press owner and Zionist activist. Exiled to Siberia, where he perished.
Mendel Goldstein, lawyer and Latin teacher at the Hebrew Gymnasium in Bălţi. Outstanding member of Tzeirei Tzion. Sentenced to eight years hard labor, where he perished.
Dr. L. Gorpel, medical doctor and Zionist activist, head of the Revisionist Zionist Federation in Bălţi. Sentenced to eight years hard labor.
Zvi Heiniks (Geinicks), lawyer and journalist, Zionist activist, founder of Tzeirei Tzion in Bălţi. Sentenced to ten years hard labor in prison. Emigrated to Israel in 1957, and joined the World Union of Bessarabian Jewry.
Elazar Hik (Gik), public activist who headed most of the Jewish institutions in the town. He was devoted to Tzeirei Tzion-Poalei Tzion, and sentenced to eight years hard labor. He served his sentence and then emigrated to Israel in the 1950s with the help of his friend, the poet Jacob Fichman.
Hirsh Hoffman, lawyer and member of the Romanian parliament, devoted to Tzeirei Tzion-Poalei Tzion. Sentenced to eight years hard labor. After serving his sentence he returned to Kishinev, where he qualified as a doctor.
Rafael Katz, principal of the Bălţi Gymnasium. Exiled with his wife to Siberia, where they perished.
Aharon Krasyuk, farmer, member of Tzeirei Tzion-Poalei Tzion. Sentenced to eight years hard labor in Siberia, where he perished.
Gedalia Lipson, head of the General Zionist Federation in Bălţi. Exiled to Siberia, where he perished.
Beryl Milgrum, one of the leaders of Tzeirei Tzion-Poalei Tzion in Bălţi. On the eve of WWII he moved to Kishinev, where he worked at the Tzeirei Tzion headquarters and in Yiddish journalism. Sentenced to ten years hard labor in Siberia, where he committed suicide.
Y.L. Sternberg, rabbi and Zionist activist, worked for Keren Hayesod and the JNF, member of the Mizrachi religious-Zionist federation. Sentenced to eight years hard labor, where he perished.
Boris Sheinberg, farmer, member of the General Zionist Federation in Bălţi, worked for the JNF, secretary of the Bălţi Jewish community. Exiled to Siberia, where he perished.
Fanya Trachtman, Zionist and Beitar activist, exiled to Siberia. After her return she emigrated to Israel, where she worked as a nurse in an old age home.