REMEMBERING THE DEATH TRAINS
IASI, ROMANIA:  JUNE 28-30, 1941
by Baruch Cohen
"The loss of memory threatens the very existence of human society." -- Elie Wiesel
[In 1566, Iasi became the capital of Moldavia.  The Iasi Jewish community, established in the 16th century, was known for its Jewish intellectuals, its rabbis, its Zionist activities, and its Jewish theatre.  The city was known as a center for antisemitic activity, and its Jews suffered from pogroms initiated by Romanian students in 1899 and 1923.  In 1923, the Christian National Defense League was created; it was the forerunner of the infamous Iron Guard, founded in 1930.  lasi was proclaimed by the fascist-Nazi regime of Ion Antonescu to be the capital of the Iron Guard (Semptember 8, 1940).]

Between thirty-three and thirty-nine cattle cars bearing 2,400 to 2,600 Jews from the Romanian city of Iasi were evacuated.  The cars were designed to transport freight and had no windows.  With bayonets and rifle butts, the captors pushed between eighty and 200 Jews into each car.  Many of the people began their journey already gravely wounded.  The guards nailed slats over the small ventilation shutters.  Breathing became increasingly difficult as the hours passed.  The military took special pride in "decorating" the cars with signs:  Communist Jews; Killers of Romanian and German Soldiers.

The train left lasi on Monday, June 30, 1941, under the guard of a police detachment.  It arrived at Tirgu-Trumos after seventeen hours.  The guards had forbidden anyone to open the doors, to air out the cars, or to offer anything to drink.  Everyone shared
one experience:  many went mad and died raving.  Trains stopped at certain stations, the cars standing still, in the sun, serving as ovens slowly baking their human cargo.

The "death train" captives had covered close to five hundred kilometers over a period of six and one-half days of intense heat.  Most of the time there was no water.  The train yielded ten corpses at Marasesti, 654 at Targu-Frumos, 327 at Miresti, 300 at Sardani, 53 at Roman, 40 at Inotesti, 25 at Calarasi.  The second train left on June 30.  In it, 1,902 Jews boarded 18 cattle cars.  Upon arrival at Podul Iloaei, 1,194 were dead and were buried in the local cemetary.  The 708 surviving Jews were locked up in synagogues. 

The total number of victims of the Iasi Pogrom and its aftermath can never be determined.  Some sources state the figure of
13,266, including 180 children and women.  No official number was ever established.

Remember.  Itgadai v'itkadash...
Source:  M. Carp, The Black Book (Cartea Neagra).  Bucharest:  Diogene Publishing (1996), in Romania;  Radu Ioanid, The Holocaust in Romania.  Chicago:  Ivan Dee, 2000 (Published in association with the US Holocaust  Memorial Museum).\
(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
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