ASSOCIATION OF THE ROMANIAN JEWS
VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST
Translated from Romanian by Petre Maria (second year student at the College of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University)
Translation edited by Alexandra Beris
2nd Edition revised and complete
Question from the audience:
Yes. And related to this I will describe 2 episodes: the initial meeting and the sequel.
[…] When we got closer to the stables, they all were ‘at attention’. Before them – two gendarmes. And a civilian wearing a leather coat over a green shirt, boots and a belt with a pistol holster. He was short, skinny and bony, with a pointed nose and thin lips. His eyes were narrow and shrewd like a badger’s, and the arms were swinging loosely around his body. Long arms, monkey-like, with huge, horny palms and bony fingers. A caricature.
He’s so ugly – I thought.
My mother whispered to me at the same moment:
- It’s good that you came. Luckily they haven’t called the roll yet.
- Kikes… – this is how Mr. Gogleata started his “welcome” speech. The marshal sent you here to work, and to croak… I’d rather have you croak first, and then work you. On January 21st, last year, I took pat in our holy legionnaire rebellion. I squared accounts with many of you back then. Those I sent to heaven…sorry… I mean to hell. Because you kikes have no God. You have Satan inside you. Traitors of nation and homeland. The marshal considered that I am more useful here. I’m an agronomist. Mister Gogleata, agronomical engineer… That’s who I am! These fields you see, I have planted them … I’ve worked the heck out of the tscheloveks[*] around here. But it’s not enough. They farts couldn’t keep up with the hard work… Lazy to the bones. This farm is the state’s farm. You’ll work. You’ll work your asses off. If not … I’ll water the ground with your blood. Roll call! I want to hear your names. To see you. That’s how I like it. To know who I’m dealing with. And your girls, your women… I’ve always liked kike women. They smelled good. It’s been a while since I had one in bed…
We were 212 people lined up on five rows. 212 livid faces, with terror in their eyes. Before us stood a maniac, a psychopath. Our lives rested in his hands. The two gendarmes were smiling, happy with the spectacle they were watching. They sensed we were frightened. Floating through the air was a smell of ash. Probably from the trenches out there, in the field.
- Abramovici Zalman , Abramovici Braha , Abramovici Sara , Abramovici Mona Abramovici Ghita…
- Cernat Mihai , Cernat Elena , Cernat Mioara […]
The beauty of Mioara Cernat had rattled him. He lingered around her for a few moments, then ordered Blumenthal to continue.
The small children were crying. They were hungry. Gogleata’s comments, delivered at gunpoint, had us terrified.
At high noon, with the sun above us, he got tired too.
- I’m going to eat. Tomorrow we’ll see each other again… Don’t leave these stables and don’t make a mess. If you disobey… you’re finished…
Gogleata, accompanied by the gendarmes, turned on his heel and left. We stood unmoved, in silence. We were in a state of shock.
[…] Around 10 o’clock two gendarmes showed up.
- All gatheeeeeeeeer! The director wants to make some announcements! Line up, quickly! In formation! Move!
Again on five rows, pressed against each other. Like a wall. Like a living wall.
Gogleata appeared on horseback.
- Today is Sunday. A sacred day! A day of joy and celebration. The day when each Romanian must give homage. So let me give homage right here, with you. Ha-ha-ha-ha. Come closer – foreman, corporal! I say we start the game!
Nobody dared to move. Not even the children. Gogleata started walking among the rows.
- Hey you, step
out! You there, step out in front, and
you, and you… You, the tall guy, get out there, and you with big nose. You, the fat guy … and you , the skinny one. Good.
Let’s see. Do we have ten?
The ten were standing before us. Gogleata arranged them by height, one after the other. Sandu, the tallest, was last. Fritz stood in front of him, then Dolphi, the “fat guy”. Mister Mailender, the shortest, was first.
Gogleata eyed them time and again, from several different angles. He seemed satisfied. He addressed the 2 gendarmes, who listened amused.
- See these guys? They’re lined up perfectly straight. True, one’s taller, one shorter – that’s the
way they are! I bet you on a bottle of tuica[†]
that I can kill them all with one bullet. So, what do you say?
So he planned to kill them all, with a single gunshot. Shrieks and screams pierced the silence. Dolphi’s wife leaped out and threw herself at Gogleata’s feet. She was small, chubby, with short brown hair.
- Don’t kill him, sir, don’t kill him. We have a child to raise. Victor, beg for mercy, beg the gentleman to spare your dad.
Victor, a skinny child, thin like a reed, took a step forward. He was pale and shaking all over. He stood next to his mother, who was groveling at Gogleata’s feet. And Gogleata was laughing, satisfied.
From the five rows other women rushed forth. Irene, Fritz’s mother, planted herself right in front of Gogleata. Her voice was shaking.
- You can’t do such things. Nobody so far wanted to kill us. You have no right to kill us. And if you do it … kill us too, his parents. Don’t murder our children! Gogleata frowned. A real tumult ensued – wailing and screaming everywhere. No one stood still. We were all in a frenzy.
The two gendarmes loaded their guns, pointing them towards us.
But Gogleata felt like playing further. Sneering, he drew closer to the ten:
- Hey you, you over there, what say you? Stoop down some, you back there. I can’t shoot a bullet through ten heads, when yours sticks out over all the others. Do you want me to lose the bet? Hey you, the fat one! Why are you swaying back and forth? You’re not going to faint on me, are you?
Sandu, the tallest of the bunch, didn’t even budge. Chin up, oblivious to the events around him, he was watching the flight of some flimsy white clouds against the clear sky.
We all started shouting: don’t shoot, don’t kill them, don’t shoot, don’t kill them…
The sun was shining brightly. It was a beautiful late autumn day. In a nearby tree, the birds were chirping joyously. For us however, everything was doom and gloom… Gogleata’s continued his game for a few more minutes. The cries of the wives and mothers could be heard all over. Shaken, the children started crying themselves. My mother drew me close to her, whispering: “Mein Gott! Mein Gott! Warum? Warum?” My father was clenching his fists and shouting along with the others: “Don’t kill them! Don’t kill them!”
Suddenly, Gogleata’s turned towards us. Moving softly, he put his revolver back in the holster.
- Take your boy, Ma’am. But know this: had I shot him today he would have been better off. He would have suffered less. And you, woman – he addressed Dolphi Hechter’s wife – take back your fat man. You all would have been better off if I had shot you today. Believe me, I would have done you a favor. And you, gentlemen – he addressed the two gendarmes – come over to my quarters for a good strong tuica, to tickle the back of our throats…
He mounted his horse and galloped away.
The two gendarmes shouldered their rifles and departed as well.
One evening I was dressing the wounded hand of one of the Zwirn brothers. Cernat entered the room. He was livid.
- Sonia, I would like to talk to Crestinu. What should I do? Knock on his door? I’m afraid a disaster has happened. Mioara hasn’t come back from work.
- Have you been to our room? Have you talked to Matilda? Have you asked her where she left Mioara?
Cernat hesitated. Eyes in the ground, he whispered:
- Gogleata’s kept her behind to clean up his room.
None of us said a word. In our minds, we all relived the scene of Gogleata’s expressing his admiration for the blond girl with large blue eyes and porcelain complexion.
- It’s already night. She always used to be back in the camp by this time. My wife is crying. What should I tell her? Mioara didn’t stay behind with Gogleata’s of her own free will. She couldn’t stand him. Don’t imagine she was accepting his favors. A few days back, she told us she’d rather die than have him touch her. Why are you staring at me? I know, I know what you’re thinking…
- Mr. Cernat, I’m not thinking anything. Let’s go find Crestinu!
Avram Crestinu accepted, after long and unpleasant discussions, to go to the Guard Corps, which was located about 100-150 meters off camp. After an hour, he returned. We were eagerly waiting for him at the infirmary station. He was flushed and agitated.
- They’ll bring her to you… Now go to bed, everyone! How will you get up for work tomorrow, early morning, if you don’t get some sleep? Go, Cernat, go! They won’t kill her… They’ll bring her…
Cernat left the room, slamming the door behind him. We didn’t know what to do. We could imagine what had happened - and was still happening - to Mioara Cernat. Even though she wasn’t part of our daily camp routine, she was still “one of ours”.
Cernat was crying, holding his head in his hands. I tried in vain to appease him. How could I have? He was the father of the girl being mistreated by those beasts. What could I have told him?
- She’ll be back, you’ll see… I’m sure it’s nothing serious…
- I can’t go back to the room. My wife is waiting for me. What can I tell her? Calm down, lady… Our beautiful daughter, formerly part of Bucharest’s elite, is now in the hands of a syphilitic legionnaire, maybe even the Guard Corps? … What can I tell her? I cannot go back…
Jagerman stayed with Cernat. Nobody went to sleep in our room. They were all waiting for me. Matilda had told everyone that Mioara failed to return from work. I shared what I knew with the others. Crestinu had told us they will “bring” Mioara Cernat.
- In what state? That’s the question, whispered Irene. In what state will the poor girl be when she comes back? …
Bercu was clutching Matilda tightly. He was pale. His teeth were clenched, his eyes sparkling with anger. We all knew what he was thinking. Matilda cuddled in his arms, as if seeking shelter…
- Come to the infirmary. They’ve brought her!
I ran out there right away. While running, I was thinking what to do. I was less than fourteen years old; I knew very little about sexual relationships, about rape. My knowledge on this subject came exclusively from the books I had read…
Mioara was lying on the infirmary bed, covered with a towel. Jagerman was awkwardly stroking her forehead.
I touched her hand. She opened her eyes. She looked at me for a few seconds. She seemed to have awoken from a heavy slumber. Her mouth was puffy, her lips cracked, bitten and bloody. Her hair, always neatly combed, was tangled and sticky with sweat. Stray hair strands covered her eyes. She could barely talk. I drew near, so I could hear her words.
- Warm water… no… hot! Lots of water... Soap... Clean clothes... Let dad bring them. I don’t want mom to know. Wash me!
There was still hot water left over in the shower cauldrons. Jagerman set out to fetch the clothes. I brought a large washbasin filled with water, soap and a towel.
- Don’t be scared… they bit me… they burned my skin with their cigarettes… They hit me… They passed me from one to the other… the beasts… I screamed… I struggled, I bit, I kicked with my hands and feet. At first… Gogleata’s called them all. They held me, four of them. He… he was the first… Then the others. I struggled no more. I screamed no more… Oh, the beasts… I’ll feel them as long as I live…
I washed her wounded body, riddled with burns and bite marks. Mioara could barely move. Eyes closed, she just moaned. I watched her until the break of dawn […].
For a few days in a row, she didn’t go out to work. One day, Mioara showed up in the infirmary. Her face still showed the bruise marks. Her lips were still swollen. Her hair, however, was neatly combed.
- You know why I’m here? Give me a haircut! A short one, like a boy!
- I can’t give good haircuts. Let Mr. Solomon do it tonight.
- No, I don’t want anyone else to touch me. Moreover, what does it matter if it’s a good haircut or just… a short one.
- As you wish.
While I cut her golden hair, Mioara was crying silently.
- You are still a little girl… don’t deny it… it’s true… But never forget this evening! Do you hear me? Never forget! They killed, in that moment, my soul, my joy to live. I was a “good girl”. It’s over! From now on, Mioara Cernat will be bad. She will give, but she’ll also know how to take. And I will take…
I never spoke to Mioara Cernat thereafter. Two months later, she was repatriated along with her parents. One of their rich friends, with high connections, had obtained their repatriation. Our paths never crossed again.
It was in the summer of 1947, in Bucharest. I had been working for five days as an editor for the “Romania Libera” newspaper. I was nineteen. Nicolae Belu, the newsroom manager, called me in his office. A little intimidated I walked in.
- Today will be your first day in the field. Here is an entry pass for the Ministry of Agriculture. They will present the plan for the autumn farming campaign. You go, listen, take notes and write a column about 40 lines long!
Entry pass in hand, I arrived to the Ministry of Agriculture conference room. I was holding on to my notepad, ready to take notes… At 11 o’clock sharp, five men and one woman stepped on the podium and started addressing the audience. I looked at each one in turn… Suddenly I flinched. My heart started pounding…
It can’t be! I must be wrong! Up there on the podium, the third one in line, was Gogleata, agronomical engineer Gogleata, former director of the state-farm “Vogoda” in Ovidiopol county, a few kilometers from Odessa. The man who had terrorized us for 3 months, day after day, in the Transnistrian camp.
I can still see the scene: standing to attention, on four rows, 212 Jews scrutinized by the eyes of this man.
- Roll call…!
The accountant Alfred Blumenthal takes a step forward. With a trembling voice he starts calling out names. The ones called answer ‘present’. Gogleata makes his comments, evoking roars of laughter from the gendarmes but not at all funny to us. Once the roll call finished, he starts pacing up and down along the lines. With the tip of the whip, he motions to his victims – one after the other – to step out of line. Eventually, 10 men are standing out in front. “Gentlemen”, he addresses the gendarmes, “I bet you that I can kill them all with one bullet! I bet you on a bottle of old tuica.
It takes us a few moments to grasp the situation.
- No, don’t kill them! – desperately yells Dolphi Hechter’s wife, falling down to her knees at Gogleata’s feet. She is a small woman, chubby, with short brown hair. “Victor”, she urges her son, a feeble child with a fearful expression, “beg the gentleman to spare your dad”. Victor, no older than six, but still old enough to understand the danger, gives a protracted shriek: “Daaad!”
Irene Brauch, the mother of Fritz (one of the ten men chosen), steps out in front. She is a thin, short woman, with graying hair.
- Sir, don’t kill my boy! You have no right to! He is innocent!
- Shut up, lady! shouts Gogleata twisting the gun in his hand. What do you mean – I have no right to? Isn’t he a kike? Hey listen – he addresses Leonard Grienstein – stoop down a bit, you’re taller that the others…
We all start hollering: Don’t shoot! ... Don’t shoot! ... Don’t shoot!
I felt caught by shoulder.
- Please don’t scream, comrade!
Scared, I opened my eyes:
- Sorry… a dizzy spell !
Back at the newsroom, I wrote my column about the Ministry briefing. I gave it to Cornescu, the newspaper secretary.
However, I also went to Nicolae Belu, our manager. I told him about Gogleata.
- I want you to write a memo. Put everything in writing.
Before leaving the office, I left the memo on his desk.
… Two years went by.
One day I was summoned to appear at Calea Rahovei, the Security Center of investigation, ‘Tuesday at 6.30 AM’. My whole family was in a panic…
- Enter and wait!
I found myself in a square, dimly lit room, with one table and two chairs serving as the sole furnishings. I sat down.
At eight o’clock an officer walked in, with a file under his arm. I got up confused.
- Sit down, comrade, sit down...
He took a sheet from the file.
- Have you written a memo two years ago?
- Me? – I had completely forgotten.
- Yes, you! You’ve met engineer Gogleata under unfortunate circumstances, so to speak…
- Oh, yes…
- We have examined the facts – continued the officer. – …There was a war, as you know, and he did his duty. How shall I put it?! At the moment, engineer Gogleata is an indispensable staff member. An important employee of the state …
I looked him straight in the eyes and replied:
- I understand! An indispensable staff member!
Smiling, the officer rose from his chair and stepped out, after shaking my hand. I was escorted through a dark passage, down a flight of stairs, and found myself back in the street. It was 8.30 AM – still early enough for me to get to work.
From the first public phone I called home: “Everything is all right! I am free! ... I’m on my way to the office…”