Frontline World

Romania - My Old Haunts, October, 2002

Synopsis of "My Old Haunts"

On the Road in Romania

Exclusive Article and Archival Diary

House of Tudor

Examination, Interview and Quiz

Facts and FAQs about Romania

The Revolution, "Gypsies," Background




16 April 1944 (Easter Feast)
Photo of the journalThis journal was written by Father Grigore Dancus, a Greek Catholic parish priest in Botiza, a village near Sighet. His son, Mihai Dancus, the historian who worked to set up the Wiesel museum, said the bishop had instructed all his priests to keep journals of their parish. It was acquired by FRONTLINE/World on a recent trip to Sighet.

Three weeks before this date there was an order from above for every Jew older than 7 years to wear on his chest on the left a yellow star made of cloth. A few days after that in the Jewish Community began an unrest. And the disquiet was increasing day by day, passing to panic the week before Easter. Nobody knew what would happen, and they were expecting some kind of event.

On Easter Day, the 16th day of April 1944 at 6:30 in the morning, into the village came a patrol of policemen. This was followed by a gathering with the authorities and the commune [of Sighet]. After that, about 8:30, they gave the news with a drumbeat that no Jew is allowed to leave his home for three days.Quote from journal Immediately after this were formed two commissions of police and civil authorities. They went from house to house evacuating every Jew and sealing their homes. Their fortune, furniture, cows, all of it was given to be used and cared for by the Christians. The whole thing took three days, 'til the third day of Easter. All of the Jews were boarded at the Synagogue, and they could take with them only linens, bedsheets, two pair of undergarments and food for fourteen days.

On the third day of Easter the deportation began from the village of Dragomiresti, where the ghetto had been formed of Jews from the [River] Isa [region]. They were embarked on cars which were obliged to transport them freely without being paid. This is how they left the town, all the Jews to an unknown destination.

Today, the 22d of May 1944, as I write these lines all the Jews already are gone from Dragomiresti, and nobody knows where they'll stop. They were transported from Dragomiresti to the Viseul de Jos train station with carts and on foot. As this happened, some of them died walking and some of them, because they resisted leaving, were shot. At the Viseul de Jos train station, special German railroad cars were waiting for them, which did not have windows except a single opening in the ceiling for air. In these cars they were loaded, and then the cars were closed and sealed. From here they went to Sighet, and up to now, no one knows anything about what happened to them.

Quote from journalThere was great sorrow during all this time. No Christian was glad for the Jews' fate, on the contrary they sympathized with them very much. The Christian compassion was revealed with that occasion. Even if it was the holiday of Lord's resurrection whom the Jews persecuted till the death on the cross, a fact that the Christians are aware of anyway, immediately after the beginning of the boarding at the Synagogue, the Christians never stopped bringing them at the Synagogue all kinds of food. And they did this not just as long as the Jews stayed here in the village but even after they were transported to Dragomiresti. Even there, the women went almost daily and brought them food. They received food from the priest's family too. The only one who rejoiced at this event was and is the secretary Bodnar, a genuine Hungarian, a reformed (religion), originally from Hungary. Maybe other people have exulted but they haven't showed it openly.

Quote from journalPresently all the fortunes left from the Jews are under the administration of a committee, whose president for now is Mr. Maros Vasile, secretary pensioner originally from Ieud. The cattle were already sold, at an auction, and so were the poultry. The auction was fake because all there was left was split among the professionals. The land also is given to use to the local Christians, but of course the professionals took what was the best first.

There were some disagreements among professionals. They couldn't split it well. Better to say it wasn't enough [for them] because they were too previously starved. I was offered to take from all of them but I refused, judging that was not for me, it's not suited with the priesthood and the proud feeling of the Romanian, those dubious land reforms. I was very insistently invited to be part of the sharing of the sheep, which were brought from Poieni. I refused again. I was then provoked by the Hungarian teacher Molnar Istvan, Hungarian who came here too, in the following way: I was at the city hall; there I was consistently pestered to be part of the sheep sharing, but I refused saying that I have enough and I don't need them (although in reality I didn't have any, I was receiving some cheese and wool from my father-in-law Iurka George, priest in Harnicesti). Quote from journalTo this the respective teacher said (in Hungarian), "There's no way that the priest can be part of something with us." I stayed in my place as a passive spectator. The result was that they didn't share the sheep but they sent them to Poieni so that the mayor there would do whatever he wanted with them. (He shared them among the residents.) Why didn't the owners here take the sheep? Because none of them knew what to do with them. They would have given them to me so I would take care of them all, so that they can only take the cheese and wool.

Look what has become of the Jews' fortune: an occasion of quarrel and rage.

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Translation provided by Cristina Iacob.