The Iaşi pogrom of June 27, 1941 was one of the most violent pogroms in Jewish history, launched by governmental forces in the Romanian city of Iaşi against its Jewish population, resulting in the murder of at least 13,266 Jews, according to Romanian authorities.
During World War II, from 1939 to 1944, Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany, and echoed its anti-Semitic policies. During 1941 and 1942, thirty-two laws, thirty-one decree-laws, and seventeen government resolutions, all sharply anti-Semitic, were published in the Official Gazette.
On June 27, 1941, Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu telephoned Col. Constantin Lupu, commander of the Iaşi garrison, telling him formally to "cleanse Iaşi of its Jewish population", though plans for the pogrom had been laid even earlier.
Before the pogrom, rumors backed up by the state-run press, that stated that Soviet parachutists had landed outside of Iaşi, and that the Jews were working with them. In the week before the pogrom, the signs grew more ominous: houses were marked with crosses if the residents were Christian, Jewish men were forced to dig large ditches in the Jewish cemetery, and soldiers started to break into Jewish homes "searching for evidence." On June 27, the authorities officially accused the Jewish community of sabotage, and assembled the soldiers and police who would spearhead the pogrom, where they were falsely told that Jews had attacked soldiers in the streets.
Soon, Romanian soldiers, police, and mobs started massacring Jews, at least 8,000 were killed in the initial pogrom. The Romanian authorities also arrested more than 5,000 Jews, forcing them to the train station, and shooting those who did not move quickly, and robbing them of all of their possessions. Over 100 people were stuffed into each car, and many Jews died of thirst, starvation, and suffocation aboard two trains that for eight days travelled back and forth across the countryside.
In the midst of brutality, there were also notable exceptions. In the town of Roman, there was Viorica Agarici, chairman of the local Red Cross during World War II and one of the 54 Romanian Righteous Among the Nations commemorated by the Israeli people at Yad Vashem. On the night of 2 July 1941, after caring for the Romanian Army wounded coming from the Russian front, she overheard people moaning from a train transporting Jewish survivors of the Iaşi pogrom. Taking advantage of her position, she asked and received permission to give food and water to those unfortunate passengers. Her actions were strongly condemned by the community of Roman and she had to move to Bucharest.
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