Until 1918, Bessarabia (most of which is part of Moldova today) was part of the Russian Empire. Before the Second World War, most of present-day Moldova was part of the Romanian region of Bessarabia, while a slim strip of land east of the Dniester River was part of the Moldavian Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic (MASSR) within Soviet Ukraine. According to the secret addenda to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939, Bessarabia was, among other regions, assigned to the Soviet zone of influence. On 28 June 1940, Romania was forced to hand over Bessarabia to the Soviet Union. The new Moldavian Socialist Soviet Republic (MSSR) within the USSR was formed on 2 August 1940 mostly from six counties of formerly Romanian Bessarabia and six raions (regions) of the former MASSR. After the German attack on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, Germany's ally Romania regained its former region of Bessarabia until the Red Army recaptured these territories on 24 August 1944. The recaptured territories thus remained within the USSR as one of the union republics (MSSR) until 1991. When the Soviet Union dissolved, the Republic of Moldova declared independence in 1991.
In 1940, the territories of today’s Moldova had an estimated total population of 2,468,000 people. Some 270,000 to 280,000 of them were Jews. The Soviets deported about 8,000 Jews as “class-hostile elements” to remote areas of the USSR and tens of thousands of Jews managed to escape or were evacuated to the east when the German-Romanian invasion began in July 1941. Romanian and German units began the mass extermination of the Moldovan Jews. The surviving Jews were deported to Transnistria, the area between the Dnister and Bug rivers and around Odessa given over to Romanian occupation. Thousands died in the process or later on in transit camps. Once there, some were killed in mass shootings, but many more died from disease, hunger and overwork in the ghettos and camps. Most of the Jews in the Moldovan districts in Transnistria perished in a similar fashion. Some relief sent by Romanian Jewish aid organizations reached the survivors of the deportations after the Romanian dictator Antonescu stopped his policies of extermination in 1942/1943. Overall, around 150,000 Jews from Moldova perished in the Holocaust.
In the 1940s and 1950s, prewar archival collections of the former Bessarabia and MASSR were transferred to the Central State Archive of the Moldavian SSR in Chisinau (opened in 1958). In 1992 this archive was renamed as the National Archive of the Republic of Moldova (NARM, Arhiva Naţională a Republicii Moldova). As a consequence, the majority of local archives throughout the country contain postwar files. The State Archival Agency (Agenția Națională a Arhivelor) is in charge of the State archival system. Parts of the former Moldovan MVD (Ministry of Interior Affairs) and KGB (Committee for State Security) Archives were transferred to the NARM. Another part was transmitted to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in 2003 and 2012. The rest is stored in the Special State Repository of the Intelligence and Security Service (Depozitul Special al Serviciului de Informaţii şi Securitate al Republicii Moldova) and is, for the most part, closed to researchers.
The majority of Moldova's Holocaust-related collections is concentrated in the National Archive of the Republic of Moldova and the Special State Repository of the Intelligence and Security Service. The majority of NARM’s Holocaust-related collections has been described by EHRI. Outside of Moldova, EHRI was able to identify important Holocaust-relevant collections at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), which has numerous microfilmed records from the NARM, People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) war crimes investigation and trial documents, as well as dozens of oral history interviews from Moldova. More Holocaust-relevant material on Moldova can also be found at Yad Vashem, which holds legal documentation from Moldovan KGB archives and, to a lesser extent, at the state archives of Odessa and Mykolaiv Oblasts in Odessa, Ukraine.
A. EHRI approach to Moldova: Pre-existing research, available archival guides and expert support
In the case of Moldova, EHRI could rely on a number of pre-existing works on the Holocaust in Romania, as well as a number of works specifically devoted to the Holocaust in Bessarabia and Transnistria. These works include the following monographs: Jean Ancel, Documents Concerning the Fate of the Romanian Jewry during the Holocaust, 12 vols. (New York: Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1986); Jean Ancel, Transnistria, 1941-1942, 3 vols. (Tel Aviv: The Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center, 2003); Radu Ioanid, The Holocaust in Romania: The Destruction of Jews and Gypsies Under the Antonescu Regime, 1940-1944 (Ivan R. Dee, 2008); Dennis Deletant, Hitler's Forgotten Ally: Ion Antonescu and his Regime, Romania 1940-1944 (Springer, 2006); Diana Dumitru, The State, Antisemitism, and Collaboration in the Holocaust: The Borderlands of Romania and the Soviet Union (Cambridge University Press, 2016); Vladimir Solonari, Purifying the Nation: Population Exchange and Ethnic Cleansing in Nazi-Allied Romania (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). EHRI has also relied on third parties that had previously carried out survey and copying work, such as the USHMM and Yad Vashem.
EHRI did not identify finding aids specifically devoted to archival documents regarding wartime Bessarabia and Transnistria, but instead relied on available finding aids for different archives in Moldova. Four archival aids must be mentioned in particular:
Tsentral'nyy Gosudarstvennyy Arkhiv Moldavskoy SSR i yego filial v g. Tiraspole, kratkiy spravochnik [Central State Archive of the Moldavian SSR and its branch in Tiraspol, a brief finding aid] (Kishinev: "Shtiintsa", 1988)
Îndrumătorul Arhivei Naţionale a Republicii Moldova (partea II-a, 1918 – începutul secolului XXI, ediţia a II-a, revăzută şi completată) [The Guide of the National Archive of the Republic of Moldova (Part II, 1918 - beginning of XXI century, second edition, revised and supplemented)] (Chişinău, 2012)
Arhiva Organizaţiilor Social-Politice a Republicii Moldova. Îndrumător [Archives of the Social-Political Organizations of the Republic of Moldova. Finding aid] (Chişinău, 2008)
Tsentral'nyy Gosudarstvennyy Arkhiv Pridnestrovskoy Moldavskoy Respubliki. Putevoditel’ [Central State Archive of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. Finding aid] (Tiraspol', 2010)
Relying on these finding aids, EHRI identified relevant archival fonds, compared archival holdings in Moldova with the archival holdings copied from Moldovan archives by the USHMM and Yad Vashem, and introduced both to the EHRI database.
EHRI established contact with the director of the National Archives of the Republic of Moldova (NARM) in order to facilitate access to the Holocaust-relevant archival sources for EHRI Moldova country experts. Taking into account that a number of highly relevant documents are still stored at the Special State Repository of the Intelligence and Security Service (SIS), which regularly does not provide access to researchers, the full extent and importance of Holocaust-related documents held in Moldova is yet to be determined.
B. Characteristics of Moldova's archival system and specific challenges
Moldova exhibits a highly centralized archival system and its administration, the State Archival Agency (Agenția Națională a Arhivelor) is in charge of the State archival system. The state archives are made up of two major archives in Chisinau and multiple regional and departmental archives. For a guide to the Moldova's archival system and its history see Mihai Taşcă et al., Ghidul arhivelor din Republica Moldova [Guidebook for the Archives in the Republic of Moldova] (Chișinău: Pontos, 2011). Prewar archival documents of Bessarabia and MASSR are stored in the NARM due to centralization effort during the 1950s.
The main challenge regarding research in Moldova's archives is the accessibility of data. Some documents of the archival fond remain partially closed to the public. In NARM and the Archives of Socio-Political Organizations of the Republic of Moldova (AOSP, Arhiva Organizaţiilor Social-Politice ale Republicii Moldova) accessibility to inventories remains a challenge as the latter are only partially available in the reading rooms and must be requested separately. Access to thematic catalogues and the provision of advice and guidance to researchers are also often problematic. The archives in Moldova have only very recently started to digitise their collections.
C. EHRI identification and description results on Moldova
C.I In Moldova
In Moldova, EHRI has identified several archival institutions which hold or may hold Holocaust-relevant documents on Bessarabia and Transnistria. For these institutions, EHRI has made over 150 Holocaust-relevant archival descriptions available. In the NARM, EHRI identified documents on the prewar Jewish life and education, as well as wartime documents issued by the Romanian authorities related to administration of Bessarabia and Transnistria Governorate: directorates, town administrations (primaria), county administrations (prefectura) and district administrations (pretura), files of the gendarmery, corps of the Romanian army, police, tribunals, financial administration, chambers of commerce and industry, religious administration et altc. In the AOSP and Central State Archive of the [unrecognised] Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Tsentral'nyy Gosudarstvennyy Arkhiv Pridnestrovskoy Moldavskoy Respubliki), EHRI identified documents of the postwar Soviet authorities that mainly relate to the effort to assess the damage and human losses caused by the war.
C.II In other countries
EHRI has identified and partially described archival institutions and/or collections outside of Moldova that are relevant to Holocaust research. Primarily, these are Holocaust-relevant collections at the USHMM, which has numerous microfilmed records from the NARM, as well as People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) war crimes investigation and trial documents, and dozens of oral history interviews from Moldova. EHRI identified and introduced files to the database that are stored at the NARM, but are not mentioned in the NARM finding aid. Copies of these files, however, are available in the USHMM, including the files of the Republican Board of the Moldovan SSR to promote the activity of the emergency state commission for the investigation of crimes committed by German-Fascist invaders (1943-1947). In Israel, at Yad Vashem, EHRI identified war crimes investigation and trial records copied from the Special State Repository of the Intelligence and Security Service.