Although we now live all over the world, there is a small town in Moldova, a Jewish shtetl, where we were born. We left in Blts our childhood and the cemetery of our fathers and grandfathers.

 
A little bit of history:


According to the census of the tzarist authorities, in 1812 - 244 Jewish families (1,220 people) already lived in Balti. As the years went on, the number of Jews of the city grew.
The population census of 1897:
 Total - 18,478 residents [2]
     * Jews - 10,323
     * Russians - 3627
     * Moldovans - 3157
     * Ukrainian - 581
     * Polish - 533
     * Germans - 103
     * Armenians - 50
     * Greeks - 16
     * Bulgarians - 7
     * Gipsy - 6
     * Gagauz - 3
     * The rest - 72
 
As a product of policies to promote the tzarist-ruled settlements in Bessarabia, the Jews enjoyed many freedoms throughout their stay in the region of Moldova. Russian laws granted them permission to do business, rent or take possession of vacant land, to settle in villages, and to produce and sell alcoholic beverages among others.
 
In 1832 Emperor Nicholas issued a royal decree stating that all persons of Jewish nationality who wish to leave their city of residence and settle on the lands of Bessarabia and Kherson, long unoccupied due to under-cultivation, will receive benefits for their work on the land, be exempt from taxes, and their children will be exempted from military service.
 
However, by the early 1840s the position of Jews from Blts, as well as all of Bessarabia, was deteriorating. During this time, the tzarist government decided that the region had been by a sufficiently inhabited, and began to pursue a policy of harassment and restrictions - re-equating the Jews of Bessarabia to their brethren in other Russian provinces.
Restrictive provisions were introduced already in 1835, but in Bessarabia, they did not begin to operate until 1839 and drafting Bessarabian Jews into the army began with in 1852. A decree passed in 1858 stated that Jews were forbidden to reside within 50 kilometers of any border. The decree however exempted those who already made their permanent residence their.
 
The most severe anti-Jewish laws were passed in 1882. They restricted Jews from living in villages and from owning property. Since Belts was the center of the northern region of Bessarabia and was located 50 km from the border, the new laws directly impacted the city's Jews and their numerous relatives living in the county.
 
In just one year, 1887, 5,000 Jews were expelled from Belts and the adjacent villages. These operations are carried out by the police, and were accompanied by brutal violence.
 
Despite the emigration of much of the Belts' Jews, in 1900 they still numbered 11,000 out of the of towns 20,000 total residents. Throughout the 1870s and 80's Beltsy continue to grow as a trading center of handicrafts and artisan products. By this time the city had three candle factories, a mill, a distillery, and dozens of shops- the owners of most were Jews.
Religiously, the most influential trend in the Jewish community was Hasidism.
At the head of the Chabad Hasidic center before World War I were the major Torah scholars, Chaim Bar-On and Noah Sofer. The official Rabbi at the time was Rav Yakov Simon, who held this post for Belts more than 25 years.
 
In those years in the city supported  a "Talmud Torah", a few cheders, a Jewish Hospital and a soup kitchen for the poor.
 
In 1883 the city opened a branch of the Friends of the Settlement of Eretz Yisrael (Hovevei Zion) in the city. The initial membership consisted of 120 members.

In 1887, the Zionists of the city organized a group of forty families to establish a settlement in Eretz Yisrael. For this purpose a delegation was sent to Paris. The delegation managed to convince the tzaddik Cohen, chief rabbi of Paris (and later all of France) and Michael Erlinger, leader of Parisian society "Hovevei Zion," to speak in protecting the interests of "Olim from Balti" in front of Baron Rothschild.
By the turn of 20th century the city had organized a Keren Kaemet "(Jewish National Fund") and "Haftsat ashekel" (membership fees).
 
Near this time, official recognition of the Beltsy branch of Hovevei Zion was granted and the city was allowed to send a delegate to the 7th Zionist Conference in 1905. They elected S. Rabinovitch.
 
At the turn of the century, there was a still very active emigration from Balti (as well as the whole Bessarabia) due to the anti-Semitic wave that swept the region during these years. The community was further weakened by the outbreak of World War I, where Belts was on the front lines. Military actions on the Austrian front, as well as events that occurred after Romanian entry of into the War, further weakened the Jewish population.
 
The deposition of the Tzars and the October Revolution of 1917, and the annexation of Bessarabia  by the Romanian kingdom marked a period of serious upheaval for the Jewish masses.
 
In the face of growing public anti-Semitism many were forced to learn the national language - Romanian. In the next 30 years, Belts became a center of the openly Nazi parties the "kuzist" and Gestapo unit of the "iron guard".
But, despite the extremely complex social, political, economic, ethnic situation, Jewish Balti continued to grow.
 
Largely this was due to their diligence, perseverance and fortitude and loyalty to the Jewish tradition and the desire for a better future for their children - qualities intrinsic to our people.
In the mid 30's Belts successfully operated hospitals, shelters for the elderly, primary, industrial and commercial schools, male and female high schools, soup kitchens, primary care centers, as well as an orphanage, clinic, library, day care, night shelter.
 
The secondary schools were taught in Hebrew, which contributed to the rapid absorption of the people in Eretz Yisrael. By the end of the 1930s more than 500 students were enrolled in the primary and high schools.
Public health occupied a special place in Jewish Belts. There was a Jewish Hospital but it was only named as such because it was built and supported by Jews.
Since there was not a single municipal hospital in the city for many years, the Jewish Hospital treated all patients, regardless of their religious affiliation. Anyone who needed medical care was able to get it without regard to origin or social status, and most important for that time - treatment was free.
 
The situation in Europe and around the world in the 1930s and 40s put a new strain on the Jewish community Belts. As a result of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, 1939 Bessarabia in June 1940 was occupied by the Red Army.

Jews, like all other citizens, had to dig up their textbooks and speedily learn Russian. The Russians targeted the activists of the community, the Zionists, and on the night June 13th 1941 Hundreds of families were deported to Siberia as enemies of the people.
 
But the worst awaited Jewish Belts few weeks later. On June 22, 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union. At dawn on that bloody Sunday the city was subjected to fierce bombardment. Interestingly enough, on this night, and during subsequent raids not a single military camp, barracks, border guard or any other military facilities suffered any damage.  The Jewish quarter, however, was completely wiped out.
On July 9, 1941, the 11th German Army invaded Belts. Regular Wehrmacht troops and Aynzatsgrupp Sonderkommando SS-1OA entered the city. Aynzatsgrupp and Sonderkommando was a special unit whose task was to destroy civilians, and above all - the Jews.
 
The Germans forged a bloody path in Bessarabia, then continued to destroy tens of thousands of Jews in Southern Ukraine, Crimea and Kavkaza. The headquarters of eleventh army from July 9, 1941 was then moved to Belts.
 
Jews were herded into two ghettos of the city: the yards of the bank "Moldova" and the city jail. On July 11, ten Jews were killed in the square in front of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas.
 
SS captain Prastio had a sadistic "hobby": he photographed Jews before, during and after execution, corpses of men, women, old people and children in ditches, trenches. His pictures are preserved in the collections of Yad Vashem and Lohamei HaGetaot.
The Germans formed a "Judenrat" - an administrative committee made up of Jews. On July 15 all of the "Judenrat" were led to the Gestapo. They demanded a list of twenty-Jewish communists. All members of the Jewish Committee unanimous decided to refuse to comply. They were immediately arrested.
 
After these massacres, executions, mass burnings Belts' Jews who survived, were interned in a camp called Reutsel, located a few miles from Belts. On 31 August there were 706 men, 1469 women and 1160 children. The supervisors running the camp were a cruel and inhumane.
 
On September 28, 1941 the survivors were deported to Transnistria. The government attached such importance to the complete destruction of Romanian Jews, that the mayor was personally invited to every council meeting that discussed the Jews.
 
The Romanian military authoritys own statistics testify to the scale of the Holocaust of Jewish Bessarabia. Of the nearly 80,000 deported Jews of Bessarabia, 56,000 people were sent across the river Dniester, and by the beginning of May 1942 only about 12,000 were still alive. 
 
Belts' Jewish Cemetery Is located: on flat land
Is surrounded by: a broken wall
The cemetery has: a gate that locks.
Size of cemetery: 800.000 sq. m.
Number of real gravestones: 25.000+
Tombstones are datable: from19 centure
Special memorial monuments to: Holocaust victims
Vandalism: acts took place between 1990 and 2004
Recently the grave of a grandson of the Lubavicher Rebbe Shneur Zalman from Lyad was found.
 

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