Jews performing the rite of tashlikh on Rosh Hashanah on the outskirts of Gertsa, 1928. (YIVO)

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Town in Ukraine, close to the Romanian border; now part of the region of Chernivtsi. Jews settled in Gertsa (Rom., Herța) in the second half of the seventeenth century, the result of a privilege granted in 1672 by Prince Gheorghe Duca (renewed in 1817 and 1824). A yeshiva had been founded there in the eighteenth century. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, Rabbi Eli‘ezer Volf, a Hasid, settled in the town.

The urban center of Herța developed thanks to the presence of Jewish merchants and craft workers, whose numbers increased after 1830 as a consequence of continuous emigration from Galicia and Ukraine. Trade with Bucovina played a significant role in the economic development of the town. In 1890, of Herța’s 1,180 inhabitants, 820 were Jews. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the town had two major synagogues and four houses of prayer, as well as several religious schools. Daily communication was mostly in Yiddish. Although they did not enjoy civil rights, many Jewish men were mobilized and served in the Romanian army during the Second Balkan War (1913) and during World War I.

After 1919, the Jewish population of Herța continued to grow proportionately with the diversification of economic activities, although most families were quite needy. In 1930, the Jewish population totaled 1,810 out of the town’s 8,454 inhabitants. The process of integration in Romanian society developed despite antisemitism that grew increasingly violent in the 1940s.

Although located outside the borders of northern Bucovina, Herța was occupied by the Red Army on 28 June 1940. The Jewish “bourgeoisie” was expropriated, culminating in the deportation to Siberia in June 1941 of 38 families. The Romanian army reoccupied the town on 5 July 1941, resulting in a series of attacks during which 150 Jews were massacred, among them the community’s rabbi and teacher. Approximately 1,650 Jewish survivors, collectively accused of harboring Communist sympathies, were evacuated and imprisoned in the transit camp of Edineț (in Bessarabia); beginning in October 1941, they were deported to camps in Transnistria. It is estimated that roughly 800 people died.

By December 1943, when the Romanian government accepted the repatriation of Jews from Dorohoi county, approximately 450 Jews from Herța were still alive. They were forbidden to return to their town, which had been occupied by Soviet forces, and remained within Soviet borders. Most of the former Jewish inhabitants of Gertsa immigrated to Israel. The 1989 census listed 15 Jews; only four remained in 2001.

Suggested Reading

Jean Ancel, Transnistria, 3 vols. (Bucharest, 1998); Jean Ancel, Contribuții la istoria României: Problema evreiască, 1933–1944 (Bucharest, 2001), vol. 1, pt. 2, pp. 121–122; Nazionalnyi sklad naselennja Cernivetzkoji oblasti ta joho movni oznaky: Za danymy Vseukrajinskoho perepysu naselennja 2001 roku (Chernivtsi, Ukr., 2003); Pinkas ha-kehilot. Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 118–119 (Jerusalem, 1969); Marcu Rozen, Evreii din județul Dorohoi în perioada celui de-al doilea război mondial (Bucharest, 2000).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea