The Grinberg Family - Iași, Romania

In June 1941, Haim and his older boys, Şaia and Avraham were murdered in the Iași Pogrom. His wife Rosa and his children TONI, Michael and Ita survived.

Rosa-Blima (née Zilberman) and Haim-Yitzhak (Izek) Grinberg lived in Botoşani, Romania.  Haim served in the Romanian Army in World War I.  They had six children.  Gamliel-Milo (died of measles at the age of 9), Şaia (b. 1918), Toni (b. 1920), Avraham (b. 1921) and Ita (b. 1925) were born in Botoşani.  After Ita's birth, the family moved to Haim's hometown, Hârlău, where Michael was born in 1927.  Haim made a living in trade.  The family maintained a traditional Jewish lifestyle, and the children attended the Jewish primary school.  In order that the children would be able to continue their high school studies, the family moved to Iași in 1933.  Şaia joined the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, and all the other children followed in his footsteps.  Haim started working in trade between Iași and Bucharest.  He travelled most of the week, and returned home for the weekend.  Toni was active in the leadership of Hashomer Hatzair, and moved to Bucharest in 1938, eventually immigrating to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) in November 1940.  Haim came from Iași to bid her farewell, telling her: "If it's hard for you, and you have any regrets, that's nothing to be ashamed of.  If that happens, come back home."  Toni replied: "I have no regrets.  I'm immigrating to Eretz Israel." "So why didn't you arrange for us to immigrate too, so that we could all immigrate together?" asked Haim.

With the rise of Ion Antonescu to power in Romania, the organized persecution of the Jews of Iași began: forced imprisonment, torture, bribery, confiscation of property, appropriation of businesses and factories, trials based on trumped-up charges of affiliation with the Communist party, and more. In November 1940, two of the most ornate synagogues were destroyed on the orders of the "Iron Guard".

Iași Pogrom

On the eve of the war against the Soviet Union, at a time when Iași became a gathering point for Romanian and German Army units, tensions flared between Jews and non-Jews.  Rumors abounded that Jews had signaled to the Soviet airplanes that bombed the city.  In light of this, attacks on Jews began on 28 June 1941, perpetrated by Romanian and German soldiers, policemen and many locals.  The riots in the city were organized by members of the Romanian secret service, the Liaison with the German Army, the leaders of the Romanian civil and military authorities in the city, and Romanian and German Army units encamped in the area.  Thousands of Jews were murdered in their homes and on the streets.  Thousands more were arrested by Romanian and German soldiers and brought to police headquarters.  At the same time, crosses, icons and signs reading "Christians live here, not Jews" appeared on Christian homes.  On 29 June 1941, coined by the Jews as "Black Sunday", many of the thousands of Jewish men gathered in the police headquarters courtyard were shot by Romanian and German soldiers.  The survivors of this massacre and Jews gathered from all corners of the city, were crammed into sealed cattle cars on two trains, and sent to two destinations, Cãlãraşi and Tirgu Frumos, hundreds of kilometers away from Iași.  Thousands died of asphyxiation or thirst in the trains, while many others lost their minds. Approximately one third of Iași's Jews were murdered in the Iași Pogrom, over 14,000 people, most of them over two days, 29 and 30 June 1941.  The pogrom was also the scene of robberies, rape and wholesale destruction.

Haim and his sons, Şaia, Avraham and 13-year-old Michael were among the men gathered in the courtyard of the police headquarters. Michael relates:

On Sunday, we awoke early in the morning to the sound of tremendous chaos in the streets.  Screams, shots in the air, cries of: "Jews, get outside!"… The Germans as well as Romanian soldiers spread out on all the streets.  "Jews out! All men out!"  They went from house to house, knocking and searching each house and taking all the people out into the streets… Every male over the age of 13 was thrown out of his house… Each one suffered a body search accompanied by beatings and curses.  It began at five in the morning and went on for hours… Everyone was taken to the police courtyard. Thousands… it was so crowded that it was impossible to sit on the floor… like sardines… At some point, German soldiers with machine-guns went up to the roof of the building and started firing into the crowd.

In the resulting tumult, Michael couldn't find his father and two brothers.  He managed to escape from the courtyard by jumping over the wall.  He was caught up in the flow of people being led to the railway station, and found himself pushed into one of the cattle cars.  Being very skinny, Michael succeeded in jumping out of a narrow opening in the car, and returned to Iași.  After wandering the streets for hours, he returned home, where he found his mother and sister.  His mother tearfully told him that his father had returned from the courtyard, but not finding any of his sons, he went back to search for them.  Haim, Şaia and Avraham were amongst the Jews murdered on the cattle cars that left Iași.

Michael was less than 14 years old when he found himself responsible for supporting his mother and sister.  Following rumors of deportations of Jews to camps in Transnistria, Rosa, Ita and Michael decided to leave Iași.  They gave away the contents of their house as they were unable to sell anything, and joined members of Rosa's family in Botoşani.  In Botoşani, Michael was taken for forced labor on the outskirts of the city, and the three of them stayed there until the Red Army liberated the area in spring 1944.

In 1947, Michael immigrated to Eretz Israel and joined a group of people settling in Kibbutz Shamir.  His mother, Rosa followed him in 1954, and six years later, Ita, who got married after the war, immigrated with her family.

In 1986, Michael Geva (Grinberg) submitted Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of his father Haim, and his brothers Şaia and Avraham.  In 2012, Toni (Grinberg) Ilon donated documents and family photographs to Yad Vashem as part of the "Gathering the Fragments" national project, some of which are displayed here.

Related Video

Holocaust survivor Michael Geva (Grinberg) talks about his escape from the "Death Train" during the Iași Pogrom in June 1941

Holocaust survivor Toni Ilon talks about the parting from her father Haim Grinberg