Jewish victims of the pogrom lay on the street in Iasi, Romania.
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
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
Approximately 45,000 Jews were living in Iasi in June, 1941. 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 in Iasi.
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
They 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.