Part 4: The Reoccupation of Northern Bukovina in 1941 by the Romanian Army
From the Website of Willi Kosiul
Posted with permission of the author’s son, February 21, 2021
When on June 22, 1941 the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union on a broad front – from the Baltic Sea to the Beskids – and the Romanian army advanced in the southern section of the front – in the Jassy – Galatz area – to Bessarabia, one emerged in the northern Bukovina area Vacuum. Since the Soviet troops present here – in northern Bukovina – did not want to be encircled, they withdrew independently and prematurely from this area – without a fight – to the east. Only then did the Romanian troops – coming from Sereth, Radautz and Suczawa – cross the border to the northeast on July 1, 1941 and followed the withdrawn Soviet army into northern Bukovina. At that time there were no German units in this Romanian section of the front.
On July 2nd, Romanian infantry units reached the market town of Czudyn, 20 km from the border, on the trunk road, on their advance via Storozynetz to Chernivtsi. As there were many Jewish citizens living in the market town of Czudyn, as well as in Storozynetz and Chernivtsi, they began – especially in this first conquered place Czudyn – on the Jewish population – for their political action on June 28, 1940, when the Soviet army marched into to avenge the northern Bukovina especially. Here from Czudyn and from all the surrounding areas, all Jewish citizens (from children to old men) were taken from their homes by Romanian soldiers and concentrated in the former courthouse in Czudyn, after which they were all shot immediately.
During my trips to Bukovina and the research there, a contemporary witness from Czudyn told me the following: “After the start of the war between Germany / Romania and the Soviet Union in June 1941, Romanian troops marched into northern Bukovina at the beginning of July and reoccupied it. When Czudyn was reoccupied by the Romanian troops, all local Jews from Czudyn and the surrounding area were arrested by the Romanian military in their homes on July 5, 1941, brought to the courthouse and initially locked up there.
In the course of this arrest operation, a young male Jew managed to escape from his apartment in the center of Czudyn that day, but this was seen by the Romanian soldiers. This fleeing Jew ran on foot – from his apartment in the center of Czudyn – through the district of Kornischor and across the large Hutweide towards the community forest to hide in the forest Carpathians and to save himself. But a Romanian soldier took up the chase on a horse as a rider, caught up with this fleeing Jew – on the large open pasture – and shot this Jew – during the day – on the spot, from the horse. Some residents of this area are said to have observed and seen this murder.
Out of the courthouse, some Jews had to dig a large mass grave behind the courthouse, in which they were later all “buried”. These Romanian soldiers had previously taken all valuables such as cash, watches, rings, necklaces, brooches, etc. from all Jews, first plundered them and only then shot them. In this courthouse in Czudyn, these 634 Jews were shot, from children to old men. The Jews imprisoned in the lower rooms and the first floor of the courthouse were shot one after the other by Romanian soldiers in the respective rooms at the window with pistols and then thrown outside through the open window. Some Romanian soldiers stood outside the windows of the court and had taken the dead Jews as corpses for onward transport. With self-made long metal hooks and similar devices they had hooked into the clothing of the dead and pulled them on the ground, behind the building, on the ground to the mass grave. Other Romanian soldiers were posted at the mass grave and had the task of throwing the drawn dead into the mass grave and covering the mass grave with earth after the completion of the death.
Many of these Romanian soldiers had personally enriched themselves through the pillaging of these Jews. Very brutal Romanian soldiers did not shrink from knocking the golden teeth out of the mouths of the dead Jews with the toes of their shoes in order to be able to capture them too. As my travel companions had reported to me there, this inhumane mass murder was seen and observed by some residents. My over 80-year-old travel companion, who was a native of Czudyner, wants to have seen it himself and secretly observed it.
For these 634 Jews from Czudyn and the surrounding area who were brutally murdered by the Romanian military, a memorial was erected in the courtyard of this courthouse. I saw it personally and captured it in pictures. This memorial consists of a large gray concrete slab on a base. The gold-colored inscription is in Russian on a black background with the text: “The murdered 634 Jews in 1941 by the occupants.”
Such shootings of Jews took place in 1941 not only in Czudyn, but also in other places and cities in northern Bukovina. This shooting action of the Jews in several places in northern Bukovina in 1941, after the reoccupation by the royal Romanian troops, took place on the orders of the Romanian general in command of this section of the front.
After that, the local population did not speak or discuss it at all. The contemporary witnesses who happened to see or secretly observed these murder procedures there, as well as my old travel companion from Czudyn, had remained silent about it. At none of these places was there a protest by the local residents against this brutal murder of the Jews by the Romanian military. Nothing could be felt or heard from Mitlied either. The majority of the Romanian residents behaved passively to disinterested and when it was all over, everything was done for them.
The opinion of the local population was different at that time. At that time, some Romanian residents there viewed the Jews, from an economic and moral point of view, as “fraudsters and speculators” on the local residents who had shopped with them as customers. The envy and resentment also played a role, the very large social gap between the poor Romanians and the rich and wealthy Jews. These social reasons, the poverty of many Romanians there, their subservience as well as the material and financial dependence on the wealthy Jewish businessmen or entrepreneurs in the previous Romanian period also played a major role. Yes, some bad or unjust personal treatment of the Romanians by Jewish businessmen and entrepreneurs also led to that it was generalized and that such Romanians were not very good at talking about the “arrogant rich Jews”. Such pent-up, pent-up personal differences and conflicts between individual Romanians and some Jews also led to the anti-Jewish attitude of the residents there. They also led to their attitude, in Czudyn, Storozynetz as well as Czernowitz and also other places to these shootings and murders of the Jews.
From a political point of view, the Jews there were regarded as traitors to the Romanian kingdom because they made pacts with the Soviet Union and, during the occupation of northern Bukovina in June 1940, regarded and celebrated the Soviet army as their liberators. When the Soviet Union occupied northern Bukovina, many Jews viewed the invading Soviet army – in fact – as their friends and allies. On June 28, 1940, the Jewish students in particular publicly welcomed the Red Army with red flags and flowers as their liberators in the streets and squares of Czernowitz. That is why some Romanians, full of hatred, described the Jews as traitors to their previous fatherland Romania. Especially the members or supporters of the radical national party of the “Cusists” as well as the “Iron Guard” of Romania, Those who opposed the Jews in their entire political stance were able to depict the Jews as traitors with these examples full of hatred and very effectively. In such cases they were happy about such “consistent settlements” with the “Jewish traitors”. This part of the Romanian residents there saw these shootings as “Romanian retribution” against the “traitorous Jews”. For them it was the day of the “fair reckoning” with their Jews there. This part of the Romanian residents there saw these shootings as “Romanian retribution” against the “traitorous Jews”. For them it was the day of the “fair reckoning” with their Jews there. This part of the Romanian residents there saw these shootings as “Romanian retribution” against the “traitorous Jews”. For them it was the day of the “fair reckoning” with their Jews there.
Other Romanians who had a different view were afraid to speak about it and express their opinion. They did not want to expose themselves to Romanian state reprisals and persecution and suffer political disadvantages because of it. That’s why they preferred to keep quiet about it.
The former large, massive Jewish temple in Czudyn, which was the only temple for all Jews in this area, was destroyed by fire in the summer of 1941 and then completely demolished. After the execution of these 634 Jews in Czudyn, there was not a single Jew left in Czudyn and the surrounding area. Even today there is no Jew living there.
The Jewish cemetery in Czudyn, which was the cemetery of all Jews in the area until 1941, was devastated over time, by nature but also by theft of gravestones and their borders and other grave desecrations. Even today, in 2002, there are grave desecrations in the form of graffiti and vandalism by residents of this area. The police there have neither the strength nor the interest to deal with it.
The attitude of those “of different faiths” to the Jews seems to be a general problem that is still latent or even open today in many European countries.