Parashat Va-Yigash 5769/ January 3, 2009
Tenth of Tevet, General Kaddish for Holocaust Victims
the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of
The Scroll of the Destruction of Romanian Jewry (1940-1944)
An Anonymous Manuscript
Dr. Yaakov Geller
Center for Basic Jewish Studies
On the eve of the Second World War the Jews of Greater
Romania (Romania Mare) numbered approximately 800,000, and by the end of
the war only some 450,000 remained. In
the first few years after the end of the war a scroll was written documenting
the holocaust in
We wish to maintain for future generations a memory of those frightful days …for we are to remember what Amalek did to us … and not forget. To all eternity we must never forget the cry of those put to death, burned, hanged, slaughtered, and buried alive. We shall remember forever what was done to us… Let this scroll bemoan, along with all the other scrolls written in blood and tears, the holocaust that was wrought to millions of our brothers and sisters, our fellow Jews. 
The scroll is divided in six parts: an introduction, four chapters detailing the tragic events, and a concluding chapter. The introduction deals with the regime of the “accursed tyrant,” “the destroyer, crazy with hatred,” the despot who ruled for four years – Marshall Ion Antonescu, the “leader of the state” in whose day:
entire communities were wiped out; extended families, including young children, were executed; synagogues and houses of study were burned; public institutions and schools were leveled and destroyed; … hundreds of thousands of Jews were uprooted and exiled to distant realms; … rivers of innocent blood were shed like water. Leaders and rabbis, Jewish scholars and teachers, humanists and active members of the community, the pride and glory of Romanian Jewry – all fell by the wayside.
In the first chapter the author lists the steps taken by the authorities against the Jews of Romania: instigating hatred of the Jews among the populace and publishing new decrees against them daily; removing Judaism from the recognized religions in the land; nationalizing Jewish homes and real-estate and plundering Jewish property; expelling thousands of Jewish families from their residences; obligating Jewish merchants and workmen to keep their businesses open on the High Holy Days; confiscating and setting fire to synagogues and desecrating Torah scrolls.
This chapter also mentions the first pogroms:
the first massacre, in Dorohoi,
on the first of July,
The second chapter mentions another two pogroms:
the third massacre, in Iasi, the
capital of Moldova, in late June-early July
The third chapter deals with the expulsion to
Transniestria of the Jews of Dorohoi
Province and of Bessarabia and
In the fourth chapter the author of the document bemoans
the difficult condition of the 150,000 Jews of northern
The author also mentions the fifth massacre in Sarmas, a city near Turda, where 126 Jews, men women and children, young and old, were killed on the night between September 16 and 17, 1944, on the eve of the New Year, 5705. He also decries the sinking of two boats of ma’apilim, the Struma on February 24, 1942, and the Mefkura, on August 5, 1944, which set sail for the land of Israel from the port of Constanta on the Black Sea, carrying over 1,100 illegal immigrants, among them refugees from Poland and Hungary and orphans from Transniestria who were drowned in the sea outside the port of Istanbul.
In the concluding chapter the author describes the
Fascists’ intention to make
The author of this document praised the Socialist Romanian regime:
It was the democratic
regime that helped us rehabilitate our ravaged community, rebuilding our
communities and expanding our religious life…
We also have been developing closer relations with the remaining Jewish
Who was the author of this document, and why did he not sign his name to it openly, or even give an oblique hint (such as an acronym)? Why did he wish to remain nameless, leaving this piece of writing anonymous?
After thoroughgoing investigation we can say almost for certain that the author of this document was Rabbi Benjamin Vilner, who during the war years (1940-1944) was incarcerated in the Targu-Jiu concentration camp in Romania proper, and in the Vapniarca and Grosolovo camps in Transylvania, under suspicion of allegedly being a communist sympathizer.  He wished to remain anonymous due to the great praise that he voiced for the Socialist-Democratic regime in Romania, which had impoverished the Jews, seizing their assets and eliminating them from the economic life of the country, and for the Red Army, that attacked the Germans and expelled them from the country, thus saving most of Romanian Jewry from annihilation.
Rabbi Vilner was born in
 Thus far I have seen six scrolls written about the Holocaust: 1) Moses Prager, Megillat ha-Shoah, a lament of the destruction of European Jewry, Jerusalem 1967; 2) Michal Sharf, Megillat Hitler be-Tzefon Africa (Jewish literature in Morocco and Tunisia about the defeat of the Nazis), Haberman Institute for Studies of Literature, Lod 1988; Abba Kovner, Megillat ha-Edut (edited and prepared for publication by Shalom Luria), Mosad Bialik, Jeruslaem 1993 (a book containing five scrolls about the Holocaust); Avigdor Shinan, Megillat ha-Shoah (in Hebrew and English), Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, Jerusalem 2003,2004; 5) Behr Mark, Megillat Auschwitz (in Yiddish), Prolog Yisrael Buch, Tel Aviv 1977; 6) Yitzhak Menahem Mendel Steinmetz, “ Kinah le-Shoat Auschwitz” (in Hebrew and Yiddish), in Edut Hayyah, London 1998, p. 283-292.
story of the dreadful extermination of the Jews of Transniestria,
number of those killed or missing totaled 385,306.
According to the post-war report of the World
Jewish Congress in
 One of the things indicating that he was the author of this document is a comparison of the handwriting of the manuscript (written in the calligraphic style used for Torah scrolls, mezuzot and tefillin) with the writing of Rabbi Vilner, who was a Torah scribe, combined with testimony from the two sons of Rabbi Tzvi Guttman, for whom Rabbi Vilner did scribal work.