Brief Historic Overview
In August 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Germany negotiated a pact of non-aggression with the Soviet Union, thereby ensuring the neutral stance of the Soviet Union after the onset of World War II. One of the secret provisions of this non-aggression pact granted the Soviet Union the prerogative of annexing the regions of Basarabia and Northern Bucovina (territories previously belonging to Romania).
In June 1940, relying on Germany’s support and with little fear of repercussions from the part of France and Great Britain (which were engaged in combat with Germany at that time), the Soviet Union occupied the regions of Basarabia and Northern Bucovina.
In June 1941, Romania entered World War II as an ally of the Third Reich. Notwithstanding the non-aggression pact negotiated previously, the German and Romanian armies started the invasion of the Soviet Union, reoccupying the territories annexed by the Soviet Union one year previously. As the Romanian and German troops advanced into Basarabia and Northern Bucovina, a systematic anti-Semitic campaign was promulgated, leading to pogroms, massacres and assassinations of roughly 50,000 Jewish inhabitants of these regions.
The German and Romanian armies continued their invasion of the Soviet Union beyond Basarabia and Northern Bucovina, advancing into the Ukraine and occupying this region.
The German army continued their invasion of the Soviet Union beyond Transnistria, marching east towards Stalingrad.
Shortly after the invasion and occupation of the Ukraine, the Romanian Government under the leadership of Marshall Antonescu started actions of mass deportation and mass extermination of the Jewish population in the territories under Romanian jurisdiction. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were systematically deported and/or exterminated, the vast majority from the regions of Basarabia and Bucovina, as well as from the newly occupied region of Transnistria (part of the Ukraine).
Approximately 90% of the Jewish population of Basarabia and Bucovina was deported to various concentration camps in Transnistria. Out of the Romanian Jews deported to Transnistria, roughly 60% were exterminated during the deportation. Huge contingents of native Ukrainian Jews (roughly 85%) were also exterminated during the Romanian occupation of this region.
The overall extermination rate of the Jewish population from the regions of Basarabia, Bucovina and Transnistria under the Romanian jurisdiction during World War II is estimated at 72%.
Towards the end of World War II Romania switched sides, becoming an ally of the Soviet Union. At this point, some of the surviving Jewish deportees were repatriated to Romania.
The war ended, with Romania on the winning side. A certain contingent of the Romanian media portrayed Marshall Antonescu as a national hero, glorifying his leadership role during World War II. He received public praise for the fact that “the Holocaust never affected the Romanian Jews”. A statue of the Marshall was erected in Bucharest, and avenues in various other cities were named “Marshall Antonescu Blvd.” in his honor.
Alas, history seems not only cruel, but also forgetful and sarcastic.
And since the truth, no matter how dreary, should not be retouched or forgotten, here is the testimony of a woman who lived through those very events. As a teenager, Sonia Palty was deported to Transnistria with her family, on a death journey that lasted fourteen months and covered much of the Basarabian and Ukrainian land. She is one of the few to survive, remember, and speak up for posterity.