Tg. Mures – Under the sign of the Judaic Permanency

  • At the happy hour of a restoration
  • GEORGE RICH, president of the “Joint” Commission for Eastern Europe – “This synagogue is one of the most beautiful in Europe”
  • Collecting our thoughts in Sarmas, on the CRYING HILL
  • JEWS FROM TG. MURES – Portraits
  • H. FREIFELD – The Holocaust survivors in Romania are not alone

    At the happy hour of a restoration

    Built between 1899-1900 (architect: the Jew Iakob Gartner, from Vienna), Templul Mare (The Great Temple) is, on the outside, but especially on the inside, one of the most beautiful sacred places in the country, also present in the album “Sinagogi din Romania” (“Hasefer” Publishing House, 1996). It has a capacity of 552 places, including 314 on the ground floor. Inside, on the entrance, there is a memorial plaque dedicated to the Jewish martyrs who died in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, and Bergen-Belsen. In 1970, 1972 and 1985, on the initiative of Chief Rabbi Dr. Moses Rosen, have been made repairing works, and in the last three years, with Joint’s help, the foundation, the interior and outside paintings have been restored, and the walls consolidated. Even if the number of Jews in town in very small, the historical and artistic value of this construction is of great importance for the treasures of our country civilization and for the worldwide Judaic civilization.



    GEORGE RICH, president of the “Joint” Commission for Eastern Europe – “This synagogue is one of the most beautiful in Europe”

    I am coming here, in Transylvania, for the first time. I’m glad I arrived in the Tg. Mures community, where I found friendly people, eager to cooperate, who make efforts of preserving the community life. In fact, I also speak Magyar, because I was born in Budapest.

    This synagogue is one of the most beautiful in Europe.

    We offer important aid to the communities in Romania, much more than for other countries with smaller communities. We want to do as much as we can, to involve the middle-age generation, knowing already that both youngsters and elderly people are active enough. We do understand that 30-60 year old people are busy with their jobs and activities, but we really hope that they would participate more to the community life. I visited Bulgaria and I found there an extremely active community life.

    It’s my second visit in Romania; from here I will visit other Transylvanian cities and I hope to have leave with the best impressions. Together with Mr. Dr. Zvi Feine, I assure you that the “Joint” will always be close to you.



    The synagogue ground floor is full of people. 300 persons came to the re-inauguration: members of the local community, but also from other cities, different rite representatives in Tg. Mures (Orthodox, Catholic, Reformed, Adventist), mass media, and guests from Israel. From “Joint”, there were Mr. George Rich and Mr. Zvi Feine; from “Targu Mures Trust” Association, Mr. David Bishop from Glasgow. From F.C.E.R. leadership, there were present lawyer Mr. Iulian Sorin, secretary-general, engineer Mr. Osy Lazar, O.S.B. president, Mr. Alex Silvan, general manager.

    After the presentation ceremony of the Torah sacred rolls and after a divine service celebrated by Rabbi Eliezer Glanz and cantor Tibor Kovary (who sung “Seieheianu”), Mr. Bernath Sauber, the community president, thanked those present to the community celebrations, the donators from America, England, Israel, Germany, Italy, and all those from Tg. Mures that have contributed to the restoration works.

    Professor Michael Spielmann, director with the “Teleki” Museum of History, briefly presented the history of Tg. Mures community, with a 400 years existence. In the late 18th century, there were circa 200 Jews here, and in the 19th century, their involvement in the economic and political life of the city was very active, especially after the promulgation of the “Emancipation law”, on July 28, 1849. In 1860, the first synagogue was being built, then the second one – in 1873 (today, the later doesn’t exist anymore). The community had a shelter for elderly people, a ritual bath, a canteen for the poor, a house of culture, and the Jewish population had very diverse occupations. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Zionist movement develops, supported by the Jewish press (“Hasomer”, “Noah”).

    Starting with 1940, the nightmare begins for the Jews who, between 1942 – 1944, have been deported and killed with a rate beyond 85% (5,943 victims from 7,000 – 7,500 Jews, from the city and from the near-by villages). To remember those victims, Mr. Ladislau Grun lighted up Menorah candles, and Rabbi Eliezer Glanz and cantor Tibor Kovary said prayers for the memory of the Jews killed by the Horthys, but also for the memory of the Romanians and Hungarians who tried to save the Jews from the killers’ hands. “Am Israel Hai!” (“The people of Israel is alive!”) – says Rabbi Glanz at the end of his sermon. The Mures district prefect, Mr. Dr. Dorin Florea, saluted with joy the events he attended to. “Everything that has been done in the last years and what we are still doing today represents a return to normality. It is desirable that the legislation to correct as soon as possible the old wrongs suffered by the Jews and other ethnic populations. We are proud that in our district, the Jews who once lived here decide to return from Israel to do business with us. In the same time, we are keeping alive the memory of those who disappeared in the tragic events of the last war”.

    The Tg. Mures mayor, Mr. Fodor Imre, said: “The 1989 Revolution that started in Timisoara, the Jews were standing side by side with the Romanians and the Magyars. I listened to the sermons of the late Chief Rabbi Dr. Moses Rosen, while he came to Tg. Mures, and I am also admiring the First Rabbi Ernest Neumann, from Timisoara. I was happy when, not so long ago, I had the opportunity to register the civil marriage between an Israeli citizen and a girl from Tg. Mures. I say to all of you: Salom Alehem!”.

    Then, the “Talmud Tora” Choir, with 30 members, arrived from Cluj and, directed by professor Halmos Katalin, sung, accompanied by violin and electronic organ, a beautiful suite of Jewish traditional songs.



    Collecting our thoughts in Sarmas, on the CRYING HILL

    On May 4, 2000, the F.C.E.R. leadership, the “Joint” representatives, Mr. George Rich and Mr. Zvi Feine, as well as the “Talmud Tora” choir from Cluj-Napoca visited the Sarmas Cemetery for the Pogrom Victims to pay their respects and to show they haven’t forget them.

    Rabbi Eliezer Glanz and cantor Tibor Kovary said the “Kadis” and held a divine service, then Mr. Dr. Nicolae Kallos, Cluj Jewish community president, remembered the terrifying circumstances in which took place one of the most terrible crimes of Shoah: “Of course – he said -, 126 victims represent only a small part of what the Holocaust meant, but while the war was almost over, a unit of Horthy military police force, led by lieutenant Lanz and incited by a local pharmacist, takes advantage of the breaking of the Romanian front already passing the zone and, on September 5, 1944, closes 126 local Jews from Sarmas (one of them, the 127th, escaped), beastly abusing them for 10 days and killing them on New Year’s Day («Ros Hasana»), in the night between September 15-16. After the appeals of Chief Rabbi Alexandru Safran and Matatias Carp, in 1946, the bodies were exhumed, and a memorial plaque was built, surrounded by the graves of those killed on a near-by hill. (The monument was built with «Joint» help, and was visited by Elie Wiesel; at the event took place all the Sarmas villagers). Among the 126 victims, 50 were women, the rest – children and men. A forensic examination noted that one third of them were shot, another third died after being savagely beaten, and the children were buried alive. The most part of the memorial plaques has no names on it; only the sex of the deceased is mentioned, because their name identification was not possible”.

    After hearing Dr. Kallos’ account, we descended “Dealul Plangerii” (the Crying Hill, the name of that place) with tears in our eyes. What use could it be that the lieutenant and the pharmacist, the main culpable for the massacre, were then judged and executed? Their victims couldn’t come as witnesses.

    Before leaving the Sarmas cemetery, the choir spontaneously sung “Hatikva” (Hope), the hymn of the State of Israel.



    “The statues, the graphic works made by Lovith – through a maximum concentration, through tearing apart from a certain preciseness – win in concentration and receive a generalizing value” (Nemeth Iulia)

    I enter the halls of the National Art Museum in Cluj – to see Marc Lovith’s the retrospective exhibition to see again what he created, with heart, thought, fantasy and skill this great artist. This man, with his cap and pipe -, who until a few months ago have had Margot (“Eternul cuplu”) permanently close to him – enriched and elevated the art treasures. In May, the artist will be 77 years old spent in his hometown, in Mexico and Dachau and, on his returning from the extermination road, linked his life to color, brush, pencil, clay, marble, bronze, and ceramics, creating his own world, but which is also ours.

    Passing by the first rooms of his exhibitions to enter the Holocaust world, including “Marturiile unui supravietuitor” (in the “Holocaust” series, some of the works are in Jerusalem “Yad Vashem” Museum, and many others are in the Dachau museum). You see not just the pain, the cruelty, but also the traumatic and tragic world, transformed in an artistic personal communication, not overwhelmed with pain, but a recall of the days spent in the hell named Dachau. I think of his works “Cartoful”, “Vagonete”, “Electrocutare voluntara”… “Cartoful” – a potato of which, in the extermination camp, your life depended on, many times. The room sheltering his works that share a common name – Holocaust – doesn’t bring in mind the Dante’s world of loss of hope, but the belief that no one can deny the dignity of the human being, that we must have hope that tomorrow will come. The artistic creation has a generalization value, being able to maximum sensitize through the reduction of the plastic methods of expression.

    The figure of David remains an obsession for the artist. He sees him as a poet: “David bard” (sculpture), “David cu harfa”, as a warrior: “David si Goliath”. (If we are not mistaken, 14 works are dedicated to David). The sculptor, the painter enters with shyness in the world of the Bible, exploring it, with a unique vision and approach, the Moses’ world, the Table of Laws, but also in the world of the one who, in his last moments of his life, shouts: “Eli, Eli, lama sabactani?”.

    The Mexican and Hispanic world represent a distinctive chapter in Lovith’s creation, bearing the artist vision towards the essentialness of a world in which he actually lived and continues to emotionally live. The “Pasari” series introduces us in yet another world. Small works, in golden bronze, give you a feeling of monumentality, and a desire for heights.

    Accommodated in four Museum rooms (with almost 600 exhibits), the exhibition comprises a creative period, between 1945-2000, divided in 16 cycles – different sides of Lovith’s creation. A world seen and created by him, a world that enriches us. As Dr. Alexandra Rus remarked, “the artistic process in Lovith generates not the visible, but the «sensitive», in discovering the most profound meanings”. We also notice the catalogue quality, due to Mrs. Alexandra Rus and Mrs. Livia Dragoi, art critics, and to the photographer Istvan Feleki and the S.C. PrintArt S.R.L. printing house, from Cluj – Napoca.


    “We must not forget, we don’t have the right! The surviving victim remains, by some miracle, a witness who has the duty to tell what happened, especially while seeing in the eyes of his contemporary the light of remembering fading away. I can keep alive this unforgettable fire and I do it with the belief that, at its light, the danger lurks and today it will be more visible. The deportations, the camps were meant for extermination. I am one of those who were meant to die because they are Jews. Among the millions who reached the heavens through the crematory chimneys, among the millions dead without a grave, there are my mother, my sister and many, many close relatives. I am part of this nation, I had to suffer and maybe I still have to suffer and still I don’t feel the burden and the <> of being a Jew. I was and I am still what I was born, a Levi…”.

    (From “Marturie de lagar”, “Tribuna”, July 14, 1991)


    The re-inauguration of the Great Temple – a real miracle

    We are living a moment of great Judaic spirituality with the re-inauguration of the Great Temple in Tg. Mures. I would estimate this event represents a real miracle. Who would have thought about such an event 56 years ago, when the Jews from this city, as the other Jews living in the temporarily occupied Transylvania, had been sent, as cattle to the slaughter house, to the road with no return of the extermination camps?! It is not for the first time in history when the Jews suffered pogroms, extermination actions, but it is for the first time in history when this crime is committed with premeditation, has been planned, with a clear objective: a total extinction of our people.

    But those attempts, not unique in history, proved useless because – “Am Israel Hai” – the people of Israel is alive and will go on until the Almighty decides that their mission, to spread the Word of the Bible, to fight for justice and light, to work for peace between people and a good companionship between human beings, regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliation, until the accomplishment of the God’s plan entrusted to the Jewish people, through Mose Rabeinu, on the Sinai Mountain, regardless of the past or, who knows, maybe future trails, is accomplished for the benefit of the entire world.

    We should be sure of this fact and the same is true for all those who held a Bible in their hands, who turned over its pages and red the sacred history of this people, red the Ester’s book, and they saw that not only Haman, but all the “hamans” who succeeded each other, during the centuries and milleniums, had the same destiny. And we advise them to take into account everything written in the Holy Scriptures, that is the Word revealed by the Almighty, and stop trying anymore, because the end will revenge against them.

    We are, we have always been and we will keep being loyal citizens of the state in which we live. We proved it through our contribution in art, science, culture, economics and, when needed, on the battlefield. The Jews weren’t Romania citizens in 1877, still they took part and shared their blood in the independence war, and in the 1916-1918 war, there were 20,000 Jewish victims on the battlefield; officers, non – commissioned officers, and soldiers have been decorated by the Romanian king for their bravery, for their courage in fighting for the making of Great Romania. These were the Jews, and these are the Jews, not those infamous caricatures that present the Jews as “village leaches”, booze sellers and moneylenders.

    Lazar Edeleanu, whose method of refining oil is still today part of the international technical patrimony, Tiktin, Lazar Saineanu, who published dictionaries, among the first Romanian language dictionaries, and many others people of science that we don’t have time to mention demonstrated the active participation of the Jews in the construction of modern Romania and modern civilization. For those who visit the Jewish cemetery in Iasi, Bucharest or any other cities, it is interesting to see the rows with heroes disappeared in Romania’s wars for independence, for completion and, opposite to them, see the mass graves of those killed in the Dorohoi pogrom, on June, 1940, in Bucharest, between 21-23 January, 1941, in Iasi, between June 29-July 1, 1941, in the “Death trains”, and ask: “As the work, so the pay?”

    The contribution made by the Romanian Jews to the prosperity of this country was not of conjuncture. As the prophet Eliahu urges us: “wish for the greatest good of your city in which you live, because on this good depends your own good”. It is a divine order and we keep it and implement it. This is why the event today puts us in the situation of understanding that we are facing a miracle in a city where over 5,000 Jews used to live – the most part of them being exterminated. Today, a community with only 200 souls, along with those living in towns very close to Tg. Mures, not only lives, works and participates actively, but has the necessary force to rebuild such a Temple, with a special significance, for that reason it was inscribed on the list with the historic and artistic monuments of Romania. We should recall here the name of the architect-historian Szekeres Gero, who projected the consolidation work and the restoration of this Temple and I can only think of him as being a brave climber who has just climbed Everest. Used with working on high altitudes, he proved himself able to reach the heights of art.

    Esteemed participants, it is far from us the desire to create hostility or to sow hatred. Sure, we don’t have a mandate to forgive or to forget, but we are aware of the fact that we must not mistaken the scum that can exist in every society, with the noble souls, with kind-hearted people that can be found in every country. Who could ever forget the terrible accusation, the lively protest uttered by the late Bishop Marton Aron, in the spring of 1944, in Cluj, at the “Sf. Mihail” Cathedral, in front of the Magyar authorities of the time and in front of the Wehrmacht, in which he denounced the Jews deportation from Transylvania. For his courage, the pay was to interdict him to speak again in his sermons. But Marton is a symbol of the noble Magyars, as the “People’s Righteous” are, in “Yad Vashem”, ordinary Magyars who saved Jews. We are all very aware of the fact that we have to turn this history page. We owe to work for a good companionship in the mutual interest of all ethnic groups, of all religions.

    Our joy is even bigger by the presence here, along us, of Mr. George Rich, president of the “Joint” Commission for Eastern Europe, a man with a great sense of analysis and synthesis. Although his staying here was brief, his presence was of real help for our community life, and for that we thank him. We are also happy that Mr. Dr. Zvi Feine – director of the “Joint” program for Romania – is collecting, as a bee, the pollen of the donations from different organizations and personalities, to “feed” the “Joint” funds, for helping the poor in the Jewish community. As inhabitants of Tg. Mures, you know best how much help “Joint” has offered to this community and how much money has been brought here, just for you.



    Between 1945-1946, there were living here circa 1,000 Jews, from the 7,000 of them in 1940. Some of them were locals, and others arrived from Cernauti. Today, the community is only 240-strong. On holidays, the divine service is officiated by Grunstein Iosif, 86, and by Mr. B. Sauber. The oldest member of the community has 96 years old, and the youngest are the Solomon’s children. At the community headquarter, I met Mr. David Bishop – from Glasgow (Scotland), one of the six members of a Jewish charity organization, “Targu Mures Trust”, seated in Great Britain -, Carol Margulies and Ladislau Grun (the secretary of a subsidiary of the Holocaust Victims Association) – two of the 51 survivors of the Holocaust. Ex-coach and sports teacher, Mr. Grun started, from 1997, on his own initiative, to make school presentations or at the meetings with young people in town, about the bloody history of the Jews, between 1940 – 1945, being invited, along with Mr. Carol Margulies, to give such lectures also in Switzerland (Zurich, Basle).

    We then went to the house of Mr. Robert Marmor, passing by two wonderful architectonic constructions: The Palace of Culture and the Prefecture Building, edifices built at the beginning of the 20th century, by two Magyar Jews coming from Vienna. Mr. Robert Marmor, doctor in judicial sciences, a true man of culture, collector of paintings and rare books, said to me that he has just celebrated “his second Bar Mitzvah”, celebrating 83 years on age, which means that at his 70, the age of King David when he died, Mr. Marmor added another 13 years. His wife, Martha Marmor, was for many years Romanian-language teacher at the most famous lyceum in town, “Unirea”.

    As many of his co-religionists, Robert Marmor is a survivor of the force labor camps (in Bielorussia, Cotul Donului). He is the one that urged me to visit the plastic artist Martin Iszak, a personality of our culture, that even now, at 87, spends many hours in his workshop. Martin Iszak welcomed me at the door, showing me the “Monument of the Romanian soldier”, his creation that can be seen at the bottom of the street, and he said to me, joking: “Do you know what the soldier is saying? « Here, this is the sculptor’s workshop! »”.

    From a catalogue with a preface written by Ion Frunzetti, in 1983, we find out that the artist made his debut in Budapest, in 1933. In 1938, he created the “Mihai Viteazul” monument, in 1939 he took part in the New York International Exhibition and, between 1942-1944, he was deported to a force labor camp. From 1949, he is professor at the Tg. Mures School of Arts, and in 1953 he became the president of the Plastic Artist Circle in town. Martin Iszak created impressive works representing personalities of the Romanian culture and history: Burebista, Balcescu, Eminescu, Enescu, but also Magyar: Bolyai, Bartok, Salomon Erno (poet, Jew, Holocaust victim).



    The Holocaust survivors in Romania are not alone

    The general assembly of the Association of the Romania Jews, victims of the Holocaust, hosted by T.E.S., debated a painful issue for its members: the efforts for adopting a legislation that will grant benefits to the Jews deported and persecuted between 1940-1944. Painful because, after 10 years from the creation of this Association, from the 1,500 – founding members just 700 of them are still alive, their average age is 75, and most of them are ill. More important than the financial compensations are the moral ones. It is true that the Government Ordinance 105/1999 included provisions granting benefits to the persons deported and persecuted between 1940-1944, but the ordinance omitted the victims of the force labor and Nazi extermination camps, from which only 4% of them returned.

    But nothing can take away the hope of this people that the obstacles can be surpassed. Who was once close to death has a different way of facing life. The Holocaust survivors aren’t alone in their efforts. The prove for this is the participation and the interventions of lawyer Iulian Sorin, secretary – general of F.C.E.R., engineer Osy Lazar, C.E.B. president, deputy Dorel Dorian, editor-in-chief of “Realitatea Evreiasca” magazine. In fact, in his speech, engineer Herman Freifeld, president of the Association, underlined the results, even partial, obtained through the efforts made by the present leadership of F.C.E.R., by renouncing the futile polemics from the past years and by establishing constructive contacts with the authorities, thus obtaining the acknowledgement of the tragedies that took place in the Transdniester ghettoes, in the pogroms in Bucharest, Iasi, and Dorohoi. The appeals to unity, a close cooperation in the community life, mutual assistance, as very effective forms of countering the external frustrations, represented the main themes of the interventions.

    Deputy Dorel Dorian made a synthesis of the steps and of the objective and subjective hardships that stood in the way of finalizing the Ordinance 105/1999, assuring the participants that he will continue his efforts in Parliament in order to eliminate the obstacles which lay ahead in passing this law. On the European scene also took place, in the last years, some evident shifts regarding the analysis and the acknowledgement of the accountability for the nightmare lived by some 12 million slaves in the force labor camps, close to exhaustion, or for the German agriculture or industry, in conditions below human dignity. It is estimated that only 1,2 million people are still alive. Through the personal involvement of federal Chancellor Schroeder and of president Clinton, together with representatives of the victims from Europe, at the end of last year an agreement has been reached for the creation of a 10 million German marks fund, to be at the disposal of “Memory, accountability and future” Foundation. In the making up of this fund, are participating in an equal proportion the German State and the German enterprises that made use of the force labor.

    It is encouraging the fact that, at the end of this century, in which Nazi Germany caused great sufferance, that sufferance, can be alleviated. The Association sent the newly created Foundation a documentary material, elaborated by a group of former deportees in Transdniester, for acknowledgment of the Jews sufferance, used by the German army for working behind the front lines, more then half of them never to return from the camps.