The Murder of the Jews of Iasi

The Engagement Photo of a Couple in Iasi, Romania; circa 1927.

Pre-war Jewish Life in Iasi

On the eve of the Holocaust, Jews were the second largest ethnic group living in the city and had 127 synagogues.  With a huge part in small industry and textiles, the Jewish community of Jassy had remained mostly intact throughout the interwar period.  However, there was some decrease in economic viability of the town and some migration to Bucharest that caused the population to drop. There was a slight economic degradation of the Jewish community in progress already, but the swift end to Jewish life in Jassy was something nobody had suspected. 

The previous years had set the perfect scene for the approaching terror. First, the widespread belief that all Jews were communist sympathizers had certainly made its way into the fabric of Romanian society. For years the university in Iasi was known to be a hotbed of anti-Semitic sentiment, and now it was the center of fascist activity. It is certain that Romanian-Jewish relations in Iasi were not ideal in years prior, but after 1930 life was seriously colored by anti-Semitism. As June, 1941, approached the community stood at approximately 45,000; this would be the last time there were over 1,000 Jews in a city that had been inhabited by Jews for 400 years.

A young newly-married couple takes a photo with the mother-in-laws. Iasi, Romania; 1939.

jewish victims of pogrom

Jewish victims of the pogrom lay on the street in Iasi, Romania.

The Pogrom in Iasi

On the night of the 28 June, 1941, the terrorizing of the Jewish community of Iasi began on the outskirts of town. Homes were pillaged and destroyed, and many people were murdered and raped.  The survivors of the initial wave of violence were brought to the local jail.  

The implementation of the Iasi pogrom consisted of five basic elements:

1) spreading rumors that Jews had shot at
the army;

2) warning the Romanian residents of what was about to take place;

3) fostering popular collaboration with the security forces;

4) marking Christian and Jewish homes; and

5) inciting rioters to murder, rape, and rob Jewish civilians.

Many Romanian civilians of Iasi took part in the destruction of their Jewish neighbors.

Jews of Iasi During The Second World War

On June 27, 1941, Ion Antonescu issued the formal order to evacuate Jews from the city via telephone directly to Colonel Constantin Lupu.

Lupu was instructed to take steps to “cleanse Iasi of its Jewish population.”  On the night of June 28, the army began to arrest and execute Jews in the city.  There had been many signs of impending violence in the previous days – including the mobilization of able-bodied Jews to dig trenches where their coreligionists would soon be shot and buried in a mass grave.  Additionally, all Christian homes were marked with a cross in order to easily distinguish them from their Jewish neighbors.  Also, in the days leading up to the pogrom there was a lot of anti-Jewish propaganda being published – stories accusing Jews of attacking Romanian troops; blaming Jews for Soviet bombings; and the government began staging battles to give the impression of a Jewish uprising.

Romanian guards arrest jews

Romanian guards arrest Jews in Iasi.

On 22 June, 1941 the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany. Romanian forces were also used to fight as Romania and Germany were allies. Hitler had promised the re-acquisition of lost territory to Ion Antonescu, the leader of fascist Romania, if the Romanians assisted in the invasion.
Two days later, the Soviet forces dropped bombs on Iasi for the first time. There was little damage done and even fewer victims, but the beginning of the anti-Semitic hysteria had come. Many members of the fascist parties began spreading rumors that the Jews were all in the service of the Soviet Union. Two days later on 26 June, 1941, the Soviet Union again dropped bombs on Iasi: this time the damage was huge. Over 600 people (including 30+ Jews) were killed by the Soviet bombs, which also wiped out the Headquarters of the Fourteenth Division and a hospital.
As a result of this many Jewish homes were searched and over 200 were detained for various “suspicious” activities, some of which included owning flashlights or objects made of red cloth.
On the morning of 28 June, 1941, the abuse of Jews in Iasi started with savage beatings and murders. Posters openly calling for the massacre began appearing on the walls in public places. On that morning [the 28th] German soldiers also joined the Romanian police in their pillaging for the first time.  That night it was decided by some of the leaders of the town that Jews would be rounded up and brought in, starting on the following day. The 29th of June brought mass arrests of Jews – mostly men at this point – who were then detained at the police station.  About 1,000 men were shot at the police station, and many, many more were killed in the streets and at home by gangs of local Romanians.  It was a free for all, and many of the people were murdered simply because their neighbor wanted to steal their stuff and saw an opportunity to do so.

Over 6,000 Jews were buried in the cemetery in mass graves (which were also dug by Jews.)  

People murdered in iasi pogrom
People murdered in iasi pogrom

Posters of people whose families are looking for them, most were lost or killed in the pogrom.

People murdered in iasi pogrom

Civilians walk past the bodies of Jewish citizens of Iasi that have been killed and left strewn around the street.

The Two Death Trains

The surviving Jews were taken to the railway station where they were put on a train.  Along the way they were beaten, robbed, and humiliated.  The first death train left Iasi for Calarasi, southern Romania, and carried as many as 5,000 Jews – only 1,011 reached their destination alive after seven days.   The second death train was destined for Podu Iloaiei, and it had 2,700 Jews crammed into its boxcars – again the death toll was huge and only 700 disembarked alive. 

They [Romanian fascists] purposely kept the trains going back and forth between the same cities with the clear intention of killing the jews onboard by exposing them to the scorching July heat for hours.  The first death train traveled a circuitous route to Tirgu Frumos, Pascani, Lespezi, back to Pascani, then on to Roman, and finally back to Tirgu Frumos, where it halted temporarily. By this time hundreds had died. Three or four of the railcars were opened to remove the dead. The second death train also departed Iasi early on June 30. This transport carried 1,902 Jews who were packed into 18 railcars, along with 80 corpses of those who had been killed earlier. The train took eight hours to reach its final destination at Podul Iloaei. As with the first train, hundreds died along the way. Only 708 of the captives reached Podul Iloaei, where they were confined to synagogues or assigned to private Jewish homes. The survivors remained between one and three months before being allowed to return to Iasi.

The Engagement Photo of a Couple in Iasi, Romania; circa 1927.

Pre-war Jewish Life in Iasi

On the eve of the Holocaust, Jews were the second largest ethnic group living in the city and had 127 synagogues.  With a huge part in small industry and textiles, the Jewish community of Jassy had remained mostly intact throughout the interwar period.  However, there was some decrease in economic viability of the town and some migration to Bucharest that caused the population to drop. There was a slight economic degradation of the Jewish community in progress already, but the swift end to Jewish life in Jassy was something nobody had suspected. 

The previous years had set the perfect scene for the approaching terror. First, the widespread belief that all Jews were communist sympathizers had certainly made its way into the fabric of Romanian society. For years the university in Iasi was known to be a hotbed of anti-Semitic sentiment, and now it was the center of fascist activity. It is certain that Romanian-Jewish relations in Iasi were not ideal in years prior, but after 1930 life was seriously colored by anti-Semitism. As June, 1941, approached the community stood at approximately 45,000; this would be the last time there were over 1,000 Jews in a city that had been inhabited by Jews for 400 years.

A young newly-married couple takes a photo with the mother-in-laws. Iasi, Romania; 1939.

Jews of Iasi During The Second World War

On June 27, 1941, Ion Antonescu issued the formal order to evacuate Jews from the city via telephone directly to Colonel Constantin Lupu.

Lupu was instructed to take steps to “cleanse Iasi of its Jewish population.”  On the night of June 28, the army began to arrest and execute Jews in the city.  There had been many signs of impending violence in the previous days – including the mobilization of able-bodied Jews to dig trenches where their coreligionists would soon be shot and buried in a mass grave.  Additionally, all Christian homes were marked with a cross in order to easily distinguish them from their Jewish neighbors.  Also, in the days leading up to the pogrom there was a lot of anti-Jewish propaganda being published – stories accusing Jews of attacking Romanian troops; blaming Jews for Soviet bombings; and the government began staging battles to give the impression of a Jewish uprising.

jewish victims of pogrom

Jewish victims of the pogrom lay on the street in Iasi, Romania.

The Pogrom in Iasi

On the night of the 28 June, 1941, the terrorizing of the Jewish community of Iasi began on the outskirts of town. Homes were pillaged and destroyed, and many people were murdered and raped.  The survivors of the initial wave of violence were brought to the local jail.  

The implementation of the Iasi pogrom consisted of five basic elements:

1) spreading rumors that Jews had shot at
the army;

2) warning the Romanian residents of what was about to take place;

3) fostering popular collaboration with the security forces;

4) marking Christian and Jewish homes; and

5) inciting rioters to murder, rape, and rob Jewish civilians.

Many Romanian civilians of Iasi took part in the destruction of their Jewish neighbors.

Romanian guards arrest jews

Romanian guards arrest Jews in Iasi.

On 22 June, 1941 the Soviet Union was invaded by Germany. Romanian forces were also used to fight as Romania and Germany were allies. Hitler had promised the re-acquisition of lost territory to Ion Antonescu, the leader of fascist Romania, if the Romanians assisted in the invasion.
Two days later, the Soviet forces dropped bombs on Iasi for the first time. There was little damage done and even fewer victims, but the beginning of the anti-Semitic hysteria had come. Many members of the fascist parties began spreading rumors that the Jews were all in the service of the Soviet Union. Two days later on 26 June, 1941, the Soviet Union again dropped bombs on Iasi: this time the damage was huge. Over 600 people (including 30+ Jews) were killed by the Soviet bombs, which also wiped out the Headquarters of the Fourteenth Division and a hospital.
As a result of this many Jewish homes were searched and over 200 were detained for various “suspicious” activities, some of which included owning flashlights or objects made of red cloth.
On the morning of 28 June, 1941, the abuse of Jews in Iasi started with savage beatings and murders. Posters openly calling for the massacre began appearing on the walls in public places. On that morning [the 28th] German soldiers also joined the Romanian police in their pillaging for the first time.  That night it was decided by some of the leaders of the town that Jews would be rounded up and brought in, starting on the following day. The 29th of June brought mass arrests of Jews – mostly men at this point – who were then detained at the police station.  About 1,000 men were shot at the police station, and many, many more were killed in the streets and at home by gangs of local Romanians.  It was a free for all, and many of the people were murdered simply because their neighbor wanted to steal their stuff and saw an opportunity to do so.

Over 6,000 Jews were buried in the cemetery in mass graves (which were also dug by Jews.)  

People murdered in iasi pogrom
People murdered in iasi pogrom

Posters of people whose families are looking for them, most were lost or killed in the pogrom.

People murdered in iasi pogrom

Civilians walk past the bodies of Jewish citizens of Iasi that have been killed and left strewn around the street.

The Two Death Trains

The surviving Jews were taken to the railway station where they were put on a train.  Along the way they were beaten, robbed, and humiliated.  The first death train left Iasi for Calarasi, southern Romania, and carried as many as 5,000 Jews – only 1,011 reached their destination alive after seven days.   The second death train was destined for Podu Iloaiei, and it had 2,700 Jews crammed into its boxcars – again the death toll was huge and only 700 disembarked alive. 

They [Romanian fascists] purposely kept the trains going back and forth between the same cities with the clear intention of killing the jews onboard by exposing them to the scorching July heat for hours.  The first death train traveled a circuitous route to Tirgu Frumos, Pascani, Lespezi, back to Pascani, then on to Roman, and finally back to Tirgu Frumos, where it halted temporarily. By this time hundreds had died. Three or four of the railcars were opened to remove the dead. The second death train also departed Iasi early on June 30. This transport carried 1,902 Jews who were packed into 18 railcars, along with 80 corpses of those who had been killed earlier. The train took eight hours to reach its final destination at Podul Iloaei. As with the first train, hundreds died along the way. Only 708 of the captives reached Podul Iloaei, where they were confined to synagogues or assigned to private Jewish homes. The survivors remained between one and three months before being allowed to return to Iasi.

Body of A Jew who died on Death Trains in Iasi

The body of someone who was killed on one of the two death trains from Iasi.

Body of A Jew who died on Death Trains in Iasi

Gypsies who were being forced to assist by unloading the corpses of Jews who were killed by the overwhelming heat of the death trains. The stench of the bodies was so bad that some stations did not even allow the train to stop, and nobody went near the passengers.