28 June 2015

Good News from the Region State Archives of... (Odessa - 3070 km)

(Odessa, 21.06.2015 - 26.06.2015) My day in Odessa usually starts (and ends) at one of my most favorite places in town, the Gogol-Mogol Art Café, a cozy restaurant serving traditional regional - i. e. mainly Jewish - specialities.

From the Gogol-Mogol Art Café it is only a stone's throw away to the State Archives of Odesa Oblast located in the former Brodskaya Synagogue named for the "Brodski" Jews, since many of them came from the Galician town of Brody to Odessa.

Generously assisted by Tatiana Dettmer, a young Odessan philologist and prospective historian, living in Cologne, who was extremely helpful in identifying the database at the State Archives of the Odesa Oblast, we met Deputy Director Lilia Bilusova [in the middle]. In close cooperation with the MIGDAL Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Museum of Odessa, Lilia and her team are doing an oustanding job in unearthing historical treasures from the deeps of the archives. The Ghetto Prisoners Database, is just one of these projects of special importance and was for me the decisive factor to add Odessa to my itinerary.

Let's have a closer look to the above document from the September 1942 in order to comprehend its significance. It displays 21 recipients of payments, being deported to Bershad in Transnistria, as well as the payments effected in R.K.K.S (Reichskreditkassenschein) by donors from Romania destined for softening the cruel fate of their relatives and/or friends. Out of 21 entries, 13 deportees came from Czernowitz, 3 from other places in Bukovina, 1 from Bessarabia and for 4 of them no place of origin was mentioned. That is very much in line with the content of this database, meaning that the overwhelming majority of the deportees, who received a financial aid came from Bukovina. After processing the Ghetto Prisoners Database, made available to the public both by courtesy of MIGDAL and the State Archives of Odesa Oblast, we've compiled a listing of more than 5,000 payment transactions to deportees in Transnistria, sorted by the recipients.

In addition we learn from The Nizkor Project: "A special Jewish Aid Commission for Transnistria was set up in Bucharest. It worked with the Federation of the Unions of the Jewish Communities of Romania, but it maintained complete autonomy. The commission consisted of Dr. M. Zimmer, A. Schwefelberg, Fred Sharaga, Israel Leiwandman and E. Costiner, The Joint, the Zionist Organization (Michon Benvenisti), the WIZO, and 'The White Angel'. They all collaborated with this committee. Volunteers collected from donors a variety of goods, as well as money, and found ways to clandestinely send parcels to Transnistria. Due to bureaucratic procrastination, the aid shipments usually arrived after lengthy delays. Eventually, a special Romanian delegate was sent to intervene and accelerate the process. Money was also sent to Transnistria. By November 1943, a total of 79,462,000 lei (exchange rate was 143 lei to one US dollar) had been sent. The official monetary aid was accomplished by Jewish donors depositing Romanian lei in a government account at the National Bank, which exchanged these monies for RKKS (Reichskreditkassenschein), according to the specifications of the Aid Commission."

No doubt about, "Good News from the Region State Archives of Odessa", but the best is yet to come: The Ghetto Prisoners Database is an ongoing project and another approximately 15,000 - 20,000 datasets are scheduled to be released as early as September 2015 on the occasion of the 2nd Academic and Research Conference "Archives. The History. The Present." dedicated to the 95th Anniversary "State Archives of Odessa Region, 1920-2015", which will be held in Odessa on September 3-4, 2015. The slogan "Next year in Czernowitz!" has to be supplemented with "This year in Odessa!".


Leah said...


This is wonderful news indeed. Thank you for keeping the group informed. The more information about the past that keeps coming available to the public now (and for family members in particular)is so important.


Alan Genachowski said...

This is quit an amazing accomplishment. I don't understand something though, and please excuse my lack of history here. I see two people who I know of who were from Cernauti. One was sent to the ghetto in Copaigorod and the other to Scazinti or Skazinti all in the Moghilev district. These were ghetto's set up by the Nazi's on Russian soil? I have never heard of that. And who was keeping track that the donations made it into the ghetto to their intended recipients? This is fascinating.

Edgar Hauster said...

I'm really sorry for the very belated response. For more information on the Transnistria Governorate between 1941 - 1944 please refer to: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transnistria_Governorate
And, no, there is no evidence that the donations made it into the ghettos. My personal guess is, that they did, becoming in fact nothing but another opportunity for Romanian authorities and/or the Ukrainian rural population to rifle the deportee's possessions.