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Use our multimedia maps, and explore the family pictures, archival material, and personal stories of 21 Jewish Holocaust survivors to get a unique insight into the rich Jewish heritage of these two European cities.
Alunelul Park used to be a part of the Jewish cemetery; in the Soviet period, at the end of the 1950s, the older part of the cemetery was abandoned, the park was created and tennis halls were built that now separate the green area from the part that still is the Jewish cemetery. Visitors will notice the remains of former tombstones that are scattered throughout the park.
In the north-eastern part of the park, near the former main entrance where a synagogue used to be, stands a memorial to the early 20th century Chişinău pogroms. Built in 1993, a red, split granite stone commemorates the events from 1903. In 2003, a stone with an inscription was added to the memorial. An information board summarizes the tragic events in Romanian, Russian and English.
The pogroms were triggered by the rumor that Jews had murdered a Christian boy. The accusation was wrong, as it later turned out. On April 6th and 7th, 1903, just as the Orthodox Christians were celebrating Easter and the Jews were celebrating Passover, a mob of adults, teenagers and religious students went to the streets, spurred on by anti-Semitic media, partly drunk and with the blessing of the Orthodox Bishop. People threw stones, at first, then they chased Jewish men, women and children. While Jews were beaten and murdered, their shops and apartments were plundered, destroyed or set on fire.
In the history of the Russian Empire, the Chişinău pogroms of April 1903 are seen as the most violent anti-Semitic riots of that time. 49 Jews were killed, around 600 Jews were injured, numerous women raped and around 1,500 Jewish-owned buildings destroyed. The names of the 49 dead, as far as they are known, can be found on the information board.
Kelman Voliovich is listed as number 8. He was the Grandfather of Ida Voliovich, who shared with us in her Centropa interview from 2004 how hard the violent riots hit her family:
In 1903 a tragedy happened in my father’s family: My grandfather Kelman Voliovich was born in the 1840s in Orhei and spent his youth there. Later he and my grandmother Hina moved to Chişinău, where Kelman became a grain dealer, a wealthy and respected man. My grandfather owned a big three-storied house in the center of the town. Grandmother Hina took care of the children and the household. She had housemaids to help her around. They were a religious family. My grandfather had a seat in the synagogue of butchers, a big and beautiful synagogue on Izmailskaya Street. My grandfather got along well with his Jewish and Moldovan neighbors, never refusing to lend them money or give advice. During Passover in 1903, his neighbor came with his Ukrainian friend to my grandfather. They had arrived from Nikolaev the day before. Kelman greeted his guests, and his daughters Ita and Hava, young beautiful girls with long black hair, joined him, too. However, their neighbors didn’t come there with good intentions – they knew that Jews were being beaten and robbed in the town and wanted to take advantage of Kelman. When they saw the girls, they went for them. Grandfather stood up for his daughters. The ‘good neighbors’ beat him mercilessly, and then struck my grandfather on his head with an iron bar. Grandfather Kelman was taken to the Jewish hospital where all victims of this ‘Bloody Easter’ were taken. He died the following day. […]
This terrible disaster shook the family. Grandmother Hina died shortly after the pogrom. The sisters Ita and Hava recovered physically, but their moral condition was terrible. They never got married. The whole town was aware what happened to the girls. This was a family tragedy. According to Jewish traditions older sisters were to be the first to get married and since they never did, the rest of the children couldn’t get married either.
Zakhar Benderskiy´s grandparents survived the pogroms. In a Centropa interview from 2002, he described how his family remembered the event:
I remember my grandmother in the wheelchair. She was paralyzed. In 1903 there was the most horrible Jewish pogrom in Chişinău. It lasted three days. Many Jews were killed and many houses destroyed. The police didn’t interfere. There were no policemen in the streets. […] My father and grandfather told me about the pogrom. We had quite a few pictures that my grandfather took after the pogrom, but they were all lost during the war and evacuation. I remember a picture of my grandfather’s store with broken windows and a total mess inside. There was also a picture of our house after the pogrom. I asked my relatives about it, and later my brother sent it to me from Israel. There’s one picture of our house and another one of the street with the bodies of our neighbors on the pavement. My father told me that my grandfather presented these pictures in court. My grandmother also fell victim to this pogrom. My grandfather was on business in the surrounding villages at the time. My grandmother was alone at home. She was beaten very severely by the perpetrators. They left her unconscious in the yard thinking that she was dead. She survived, but she had her backbone injured and spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair before dying in 1923. My grandfather spent a lot of money and energy to reconstruct his factory and house after the pogrom.
The press in Western Europe and the United States reported critically on the dramatic events of April 1903. Famous Russians, such as Vladimir Korolenko, Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorki, intervened, condemned the violence and showed solidarity with the Jewish victims. Poems, essays and novels bear witness to what happened during those days, and still today, academics research the tragic events.
Besides the numerous anti-semitic attacks, there were also cases of neighborly support.
Such solidarity also saved the grandmother of Shlima Goldstein from the marauding hordes:
My grandmother was a kind person. She had many Jewish and Moldovan acquaintances. My grandmother told me that during the Chişinău pogrom in 1903, her Moldovan neighbors gave her and her two children shelter in their house.
The aftermath of the pogroms saw not only the strengthening of the Zionist idea, but also a large wave of migration from Chişinău to the whole wide world.