Chernivtsi (Chenovtsy, Czernowitz, Tshernovits, Cernăuți) | Chernivtsi

Identification card issued to Lotte Gottfried Hirsch by the Czernowitz County Office of Jewish Affairs, authorizing her to remain in Czernowitz. © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Carl Hirsch Portrait of the Weidenfeld family wearing Jewish badges in the Czernowitz (Cernauti) ghetto shortly before their deportation to Transnistria.© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Jack Morgenstern A Romanian Jewish couple walks to the synagogue together with the rabbi and his wife.© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Shneur Elgar A group of Jewish youth pose in a park during the Soviet occupation of Cernauti/Czernovitz.© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Thea Friedman / Town Center © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Town Center © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum A former synagogue in Chernivtsi, today a restaurant. It is located on Synagogue Street, former Barbus Street.   © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Another synagogue which was located on the site if the former ghetto.   © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The building of the former synagogue built in the 19th century, known as the Temple,  it was set on fire by the Germans on July 7, 1941. Today, it is a cinema.   © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The oldest synagogue in Chernivtsi, located on 3 Lukian Kobylytsia Street.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The House of Jewish Culture © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Jewish cemetery in Chernivtsi © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Jewish cemetery in Chernivtsi © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Found matsevot throughout the city that were brought back to the cemetery  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Monument to the memory of approximately 1,000 Jews killed under the Nazi occupation © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Railway station from where the local Jews were deported to Transnistria.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The building of the former Jewish school located just across the street from one of one of the synagogues. The building is located on the Synagogue Street.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum A street that was part of the ghetto. The main street of the ghetto was Sagaydachnogo street, former Morariugas. © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum A street that was part of the ghetto.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum A street that was part of the ghetto.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum A street that was part of the ghetto.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The market where old clothing, probably taken from the Jewish residents of  the ghetto, were sold. Today it is a central square with a monument of WWII. © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Former prayer house located on Synagogue Street. Today there are offices in this building.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The visible sign of the Jewish heritage in the today’s town of Chernivtsi. © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum On the left, the former  “Black Eagle” hotel where the members of Sonderkommando 10b stayed. The basement of this building was used for tortures. Today, it is a bank.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Klara K., born in 1935, a Jewish survivor from Chernivtsi. After having stayed in the ghetto for a couple of moths together with her family they were deported to Transnistria and ended up in the camps of Pechora and Mohyliv-Podilsky.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Y Ilya K., born in 1925. His father was asked by a Jew to transport him and his belongings from the ghetto towards the railway station.  ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Volodymyr  G., born in 1929, lived in the village called Zadgora, today it is the part of Chernivtsi. He was witness to the humiliations to which the Jews were subjected to. © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Yahad’s team during an interview.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum /

Execution of Jews in Chernivtsi

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Town/ On the bank of the Prut River/ Place so-called ’Bila’
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Approximately 3,000

Witness interview

Ilya K., born in 1925: « When the Romanians arrived they gave back all of the Jewish businesses that were nationalized by the Soviets. However, the Jews were marked with yellow stars and were resettled on the grounds of the big factory under the pretext of “protecting them from those who want to harm them”. On the day of the deportation, we were asked to come to the ghetto. We stopped in front of the gate where a Romanian soldier was standing. We came to escort a Jew who had asked my father to bring him to the railway station. Once we put all of his belongings inside the cart we left. He didn’t have any furniture with him, only the most necessary belongings. My father and I made five round trips because other Jews asked us as well to give them a lift. At the railway station, there were many other Jews waiting. They weren’t guarded. But I must say, that not all the Jews from the factory were deported. Those who stayed were released but they continued to wear yellow stars.” (Witness n°2302, interviewed in Bila, on September 23, 2017)

Soviet archives

« […] When they caught any former employee of the Soviet regime, they were beaten, humiliated and deprived of all rights, and their house was looted. Other arrestees had to present themselves at the Gendarmerie twice per week. Every Jewish family was arrested, and after being tortured, beaten and raped, more than 120 people were deported to the camp located in the district of Storozhynets. There were no killings in our village.” [Deposition of local resident, Ukrainian, Toder Nimachuk, who spent 6 months in Sadhora [today it is part of Chernivtsi]; RG.22.002M: 7021-79-79]

German archives

« We stayed in Czernowitz for a while. As well as I remember, until mid-August 1941. The SD unit carried out the executions in Czernowitz. I know that because we, from the Schupo, had to surrender the execution site. In Czernowitz, many people were crammed inside the school and another building. The majority of them were Jewish because the Jews could be easily recognized as they wore yellow stars. […]When we arrived on the site we didn’t know that an execution would be conducted on the hill. After a while, I saw about 60-70 people being marched from the town escorted by the SS soldiers. These people passed between the cordoned off area we made on the hill. Among the people who were taken to the hill, there must have been those who were arrested and detained in the school in Czernowitz. I think it was them because we were told afterward that these Jews were supposed to be murdered as a reprisal for a murdered German pilot. There were only men, no women or children. Before the group of Jews who were arrested were brought to the site members of the SD, Wehrmacht, and Luftwaffe had arrived. The SD and SS groups numbered about 30 soldiers in all. I wouldn’t be able to tell how many Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe soldiers there were because they arrived in small groups. The SD and the SS soldiers were armed with rifles; however, I didn’t see any Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe soldiers with such weapons. Once those arrested were brought to the hill, we heard the gunshots which lasted for about 1hour. According to what I remember, they fired a salvo with a 5-10 minute interval. I won’t be able to tell who fired because I didn’t see the execution form my post. As the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe soldiers didn’t have rifles I suppose that they just watched and the SD and the SS groups shot the Jews. I can’t give any details about the execution because, as I said earlier, I didn’t see anything from my position. […] I don’t know if the Jews were forced to undress before being killed. I don’t know anything about other executions in Czernowitz." [Deposition of a police battalion n°9 member, attached to Zonderkommando 10b, Helmut F., given in Berlin on September 12, 1961; BAL B162-983 p.100]

Moldovan/Romanian Archives

“Program for the gathering of Jews in the ghetto of Cernauti October 11, 1941:

7am – The members of the Jewish community of Cernauti and vicinity would be gathered at the military post. They would be alerted the same day between 5am and 7am by the regional police unit of Cernauti. At 7am the attached announcement, n° 38 would be read, as well as the rules inside the ghetto. Without exception, no matter if they are employees of the companies or the state service, they would be confined into the ghett;

8.30-9.30am- The announcement will be made by the members of the Jewish community to the other Jews of Cernauti. At the same time, the officers of the Regional Police Inspectorate will also announce to the Jewish population about the present order at the crossing;

9.30am-6pm- The Jews are confined to the ghetto;

6pm- The ghetto is closed. After this time none can enter the ghetto without my written approval. (Except for the Christians who live in the neighborhood in question, by showing their passes)” [Taken from the deportation archives, RG.25-004M]

Historical note

Chernivtsi is a town in southwestern Ukraine, located on the banks of the Prut river, about 500km (317miles) southwest of Kyiv, and 270 km (167miles) southeast of Lviv. The first record of the Jewish community goes back to the early 15th century. The Jewish community increased significantly through the 16th and 17th centuries. At the end of the 18th century, the town was annexed to the Austrian-Habsburg Empire and became the capital of the Bukovina region. In 1849 it was designated the capital of the new Habsburg crown province of Bucovina. The majority of the Jews were craftsmen, merchants, moneylenders, builders, and real estate owners. It is the only region in modern Ukraine where the Jewish community was so deeply Germanized. Besides Talmud Torahs and heders, there were German-Jewish public schools, including high school. During the 19thcentury, the town developed and became an important cultural and economic center. In 1850 4,678 Jews comprised 23% of the total population. By 1910 its population increased and numbered 28,610 comprising 33% of the total population.  From 1918 until 1940 the town remained under Romanian rule. In 1930 42,592 Jews lived in the town, making up 37% of the total population. Between 1919 and 1933 the Jews were subjected to Romanization mainly through education, however, they continued to prefer German and Yiddish languages and culture. In 1930, the majority of the Jews living outside the town declared Yiddish as their mother tongue, while those who lived in Chernivtsi itself were German speaking. Once the town was taken over by the Soviet Union in June 1940, about 3,000 members of Jewish intelligentsia were deported to Siberia. Many cultural and religious movements were forbidden.  On the eve of the war, about 70,000 Jews lived in the Chernivtsi district. On July 5, 1941, the town was occupied by Romanians and Germans.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

On the day following the occupation, a pogrom was organized by patrols and gendarmes. In the next 24 hours Romanian gendarmes killed between 1,000 to 2,000 Jews in their houses, attics, or on the streets, and then looted their belongings. The young women and girls were raped. The bodies of the victims were taken to be buried at the cemetery, where a monument stands today.

On July 7, 1941, about 400 members of the intelligentsia, including the main Rabbi, Abraham Mark, were rounded-up by the Germans and detained in the Cultural Palace. After a couple of days of humiliation and torture, they were taken to be shot, outside the town, close to the village of Bila, on the bank of the Prut River. They had to dig the pit by themselves in a small forest next to the river. Upon an order issued on July 30, 1941, the Jews, including children, had to wear yellow distinguishing stars. Access to the market and other intuitions was restricted.

The ghetto was created on October 11, 1941, in the former Jewish district of the city, serving as a transit point before the deportations to Transnistria. More than 50,000 Jews were confiend there. The ghetto was fenced in with both a wooden fence and barbed wire. According to a Jewish survivor, interviewed by Yahad, many ghetto inmates had to stay under the open sky not having enough room in the buildings. The non-Jewish residents of the buildings continued to live in the ghetto as well. The first deportation to various camps and ghettos in Transnistria started in November 1941. On the way, many Jews, mainly the weakest ones, were shot dead and left behind.

The ghetto was liquidated in December 1941, however, with the help of the local mayor, Traian Popovici, 25,000 Jews could stay in the town as they were considered useful for the town’s everyday life. They continued to perform labor. According to a Jewish survivor Siegfried Rosenzweig, about 5,500 Jews from this group were deported on June 7,14 and 28, 1942, while others managed to survive the Holocaust. 


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