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Târgu Frumos

Small town in the Moldavian region of Romania, near Iaşi. A Jewish-owned inn stood in the village that preceded Târgu Frumos as early as 1755, and in 1763, when the Moldavian prince decided to develop the town, Jewish inhabitants were exempted from taxes. In 1774, there were 15 Jewish families; the total fluctuated from 70 in 1803 to 60 in 1830, and to 225 in 1845 (representing 17.7% of the population). The number of Jews grew in the second half of the nineteenth century to 1,258 in 1859, peaking at 2,123 in 1899. Later, the population diminished as a result of railway construction, a factor that reduced the need for local merchants and craftsmen. Hence, there were 2,106 Jews in 1910 and just 1,608 in 1930.

In 1907, peasants incited by an antisemitic priest attacked Jews and robbed the synagogue; the priest was later arrested. In 1898, a boys’ school and a girls’ school had been founded with the aid of the Jewish Colonization Association, and the two institutions merged in 1919 because of financial difficulties. In 1927, a Jewish credit cooperative was established with the help of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and functioned in the framework of the Jewish Cooperative Movement. In 1930, during an antisemitic demonstration, some Jews were attacked, but the local police accused them of violence; nine were arrested but freed after the incident was debated in the Romanian parliament. The antisemitic National Christian Party, which had organized the demonstration, was accused instead. The Jewish community was modernized and recognized as an association in 1932.

One of the rabbis serving in Târgu Frumos was Shalom ben Shemu’el Shmelke Taubes (1825–1888), author of the responsa She’elat Shalom (1868). Other rabbis included Eli‘ezer Frisch and his son, Efrayim (1877–?; rabbi from 1909, after his father’s death).

In the fall of 1940, all Jewish men in Târgu Frumos between the ages of 18 and 50 were conscripted for forced labor. Many were sent to the work camp Tudoreni-Rechita (in Botoşani county); some were deported to Transnistria. On 1 July 1941, on its way to the Călăraşi internment camp, a death train carrying Jews from Iaşi stopped in Târgu Frumos for 24 hours. The leadership of the Jewish community was contacted to assist with Jews crowded into the wagons and to bury the dead. Local leaders tried to give water to the Iaşi Jews, but Romanian police officers and soldiers did not allow this; in response, they threatened, beat, and murdered some of the town’s Jews. Those who had died on the train, together with those killed by the police, numbered 1,258 and were buried in the local cemetery in two mass graves dug by Jews from Târgu Frumos.

In the spring of 1944, as the front lines edged toward the town, many Jewish inhabitants left, afraid of being killed by retreating German soldiers. A number of Jewish homes were destroyed. Only a third of the town’s Jews returned and remained in Târgu Frumos: 1,637 Jews lived there in 1942, but by 1947 the population had dwindled to just 530. Later, these totals decreased due to emigration, mainly to Israel. Only a few Jewish families were still living there in 1969, and the last funeral in the Jewish cemetery was in 1977. In 2000, no Jews remained in Târgu Frumos. A monument commemorating the victims of the death train, erected shortly after the war, stands in the Jewish cemetery.

Suggested Reading

Jean Ancel, Hakdamah le-retsaḥ: Pera’ot Yasi, 29 be-Yuni 1941 (Jerusalem, 2003), pp. 169–174, 191–251; Eli‘ezer Ilan, Divre yeme yehude Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 53–54 (Holon, Isr., 1985/86); Theodor Lavi, “Targu-Frumos (Târgu-Frumos),” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 130–132 (Jerusalem, 1969); Liviu Rotman, Ḥevrah bi-re’i ha-ḥinukh: Bet ha-sefer ha-yehudi ha-romani, 1851–1914 (Tel Aviv, 1999), pp. 89, 91–92, 176; Moshe Ussoskin, Struggle for Survival: A History of Jewish Credit Co-operatives in Bessarabia, Old-Rumania, Bukovina, and Transylvania (Jerusalem, 1975), pp. 44–78, 280–287; Dumitru Vitcu, “Evreii din ținuturile Cârligătura, Herța şi Dorohoi în anul 1834,” Studia et acta historiae iudaeorum romaniae 9 (2005): 78–105.