Horowitz in Romania


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By Dr. Chaim Horovitz*

 Persecution of the Jews, Holocaust, and Zionism in Romania

Romania, a country in Eastern Europe, underwent several political events, and border changes, after becoming an independent state in 1877. The present population of Romania is 24 millions. At the beginning of WW2 750000 Jews lived in "Greater Romania." As a result of the Holocaust, and mass emigration after the war, about 14000 Jews remain in this country.

It is worth to mention that until the 19th century the Jews, as well as other ethnical groups in Romania, didn’t carry family names, but only their first name, and eventually the description of their profession. Apparently, beginning with the late 18th century, Horowitz individuals and their families, mainly of origin from rabbinical families, emigrated from Central and Western Europe, and from the Russian Empire, and settled in various provinces of Romania.

Despite the antisemitism of the Romanian population and discriminatory laws of the officialdom, the Jews were forcefully recruited into the Romanian army, and to participate in wars, though few Jews were allowed to advance to officer ranks. Many Jews participated in the war of independence of Romania against the Turkish empire in 1877, and among them were Hershcu Horovici and Ilie Horovici (a Romanian kind of pronunciation of Horovitz), both originating from Iasi. Also, thousands of Jews participated in the Romanian army during WW1, and among the 882 Jews who were killed, was one Fisher Horovitz. However, despite the sacrifices of the Jews during the two wars on behalf of the Romanian homeland, the antisemitism and discriminatory laws continued and even became worse.

Many persecutions, mass expulsion, and tragic incidents mark the history of the Jews in Romania. The Jews were accused of provoking the revolt of the Romanian peasants in 1907, when as a result of antisemitic incitements, pogroms and plunders happened in villages and small towns in Moldova. More than 2300 Jewish families were killed in these tragic events. At the beginning of the anti-Soviet war in 1941 gangs of fascist militias "The Iron Guard" and incited Romanian groups provoked pogroms in Iasi, Bucharest, and in other localities, and more than ten thousand Jews were killed in these awesome events.

The persecution of the Jews increased dramatically during WW2, and in the period 1941-1944 some 360000 Jews were murdered. Among these martyrs were many rabbis, among them Moshe Aharon Horowitz from the village Valcaul-de-Jos, Naftali Horowitz from the village Barsana, Elisha B’r Naftali Zwi Horwitz and Naftali B’r Abraham Abish Horwitz from Bistritza, Menachem Horowitz and Pinchas Horowitz from the town Sighet.

A large Zionist activity developed in Romania between the two world wars, and from 1945, until the era of the communist regime. Matatiahu (Mates) Horowitz (1906-1942) was a member of the leadership of Hashomer Hatzair in Romania in the 1930-s, and participated in the Hagana in Haifa, as well as in other activities of the Jewish community of Palestine. Mordechai Horowitz (1925-1995), a descendant of the rabbinical dynasty in Mihaileni, was active in the leadership of the youth organization Hanoar Hatzioni in Romania. After his immigration to Israel, except his practicing lawyer, Mordechai was active in various social fields. Many individuals named Horowitz were important party activists in the Betar organization, such as Moris Horowitz, the commander of Betar in the city Czernowitz in the 1940-s, Lonya Horowitz, the commander in the village Barshad, and mainly Meir (Max) Horowitz, the commissioner of Betar in Romania, who was imprisoned by the communist regime in the 1950-s.

At the beginning of the war in 1941 the Zionist youth organizations and political parties went underground and carried out clandestine activities. In 1942 a group of 17 Jewish boys and girls were arrested for illegal activity, and sentenced to 10-25 years of prison with harsh work, and me, Chaim (Carol) Horovitz, was among them. After our liberation in August 1944, most of us emigrated to Israel.

During WW2 campaigns to save the Jews from Romania and from neighboring countries continued, mainly through the Black-Sea port Constantza. However, entering Palestine was dangerous and hampered, such as happened with the passenger boat Struma. It left Constantza on 12 December 1941 with 769 emigrants on the overloaded boat. But the British mandate authorities didn't allow the boat to land Palestine. After shifting more than two months with the starved and trembling with cold passengers, on 23 February 1942 the boat was sunk by a torpedo. Among the victims, except for only one survivor, was the 19-year old Daniel Horovitz. He was ill treated during the fascist disorders, escaped in 1941 from the concentration camp in Moldova, and hoped that his family will follow him to arrive to Palestine. In this period I, as well as many other Jewish youngsters and older people, tried to catch a place on the overloaded boats with emigrants hoping to enter Palestine.

Several Horowitz individuals participated in the struggle for survival of the newly born State of Israel and its later wars. At age nine Dov Horowitz (1926-1948) immigrated with his parents to Palestine, postponed his outstanding studies because his activity in the Hagana, and was killed in the war against the Iraqi troops in the Negev. The exceptional musical talent of Andrei-Robert Horowitz (1946-1969), was cut when being killed during his service in the Israeli army. At age 17, after passing the concentration camp in Cyprus, Biniamin Horowitz (1931-1973), born in Bucharest, participated in the war of independence, and was killed during the Yom Kippur war at the Golan heights. David Horowitz, born in 1934 in Gura Humor, Bukowina, was taken at the age seven in the concentration camp in Transnistria, Ukraine. In 1952 he immigrated to Israel, and served in the Israeli army in the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Religious Activities. Outstanding Rabbis in Romania

Like the many famous Horowitz rabbis in Europe and America, in Romania there were some twenty rabbis from the Horowitz dynasty, who played an important role in the Jewish life of this country. To mention several of them:

In the 1820-s rabbi Ioske Leibush Halevi Horowitz acted as chief rabbi in Iasi, the capital of the province Moldova, and he was a forerunner of the Chassidic movement in this heavily populated by Jews region. Later, in the 20ed century acted in Iasi rabbi Arieh Horovitz

Falticeni, a city in Northern Moldova, was the first city founded by Jews in 1774, but in later times it became a place of troubles against the Jewish population. Rabbi Efraim Halevi Horowitz was installed the rabbi of this city in 1846, and he wrote a commentary of the Psalms.

Mihaileni, a town in Northern Moldova, was a center of Jewish and Hebrew culture, and around 1800 its first rabbi was Yehuda Aharon Horowitz. He was followed by his son, the outstanding rabbi Naftali Horowitz, known as a paragon personality, with the nickname "the philanthropic rabbi." Another rabbi of this town was Moshe Ish-Horovitz, who acted at the beginning of the 20th century.

A specially dynamic personality was Yohnatan Benjamin B'r Moshe Yehuda Halevi Horowitz (1866-1940), who was installed as rabbi in 1886 in the town Bistritza, Transylvania. He was involved in many fields of activities of the Jewish community, and developed good relationships with the local authorities, and the Christian clergy. In the 1920-s he emigrated to Palestine, became chief of the organization Holland-Deutschland, and was one of the dominant figures of the religious circles in Palestine. Yohnatan Horowitz died in Jerusalem in 1940.

Rabbi Zwi Halevi Armin Horovitz (1864-1934) was elected in 1894 the chief rabbi in Sibiu, one of the main cities in Transylvania. In 1898 the synagogue in Sibiu was inaugurated, and rabbi Armin Horovitz became, during his forty years activity, the initiator of many religious, cultural, social and Zionist activities.

Rabbi Samuel Horovitz developed, together with Dr. Richzeit Zsigmond, a reliand social activity in the reform movement of the Jewish community in the 1870-s in the city Tirgu Muresh, Transylvania. The activity of this group was combated by the opposing orthodox and conservative movements.

Rabbi Pinchas Abraham Zeev Horowitz (1858-1938) functioned as a religious judge in the city Baia-Mare, Transylvania. He wrote several religious books, known as "Sefer Beit Pinchas."

Rabbi Isak Horowitz-Meisels imposed his ultra-orthodox principles to the religious life in Bukowina.

Cultural, Social, Scientific and Political Activities in Romania

Several Horowitz individuals contributed to the Jewish and Romanian cultural, social and political activities in this country. To cite some of them:

In the town Valea-lui-Mihai, Transylvania, functioned in the period 1907-1939 a printing house, where several Hebrew books were published. The activity of its founder Eliezer Shifman was continued by his brother-in-law Matatiahu Horowitz.

The town Sighet, Transylvania, was a center of Hebrew books lovers, where rare and antique books were collected. One of the enthusiastic collectors of antique Hebrew books was rabbi Eliahu Horowitz (1833-1927). The town Viseul-de-Sus, Transylvania, was a center of Zionist activities, and in the 1930-s was published the Hebrew and Yiddish newspaper "Kolenu-Unzer Stimme,” conducted by Iechiel and Moshe Horowitz. The Jews of this town manifested a strong Jewish affinity, and at the 1930 census the absolute majority of the Jewish population declared Yiddish as their mother language.

Isaac Horowitz, Yiddish author, journalist, and translator, born in 1893 in the town Epureni, emigrated to the United States, where he died in 1961. He was the president of the United Romanian Jews of America.

Moshe Horowitz (1844-1910), Yiddish actor and author of theatrical plays, was born in Stanislaw, Poland, spent his youth in Iasi, Birlad and Bucharest, later in Budapest, Vienna and London, and died in New York. In 1862 he settled in Iasi, and acted as Yiddish teacher. In 1871 he founded the Hebrew and Romanian newspaper "Timpul," but without further success. In 1877 he founded in Bucharest the Yiddish theater "Israelite Dramatic Society," which competed with the theater founded by Abraham Goldfaden, and other theatrical groups. His first play was "Poilishe Inghel" (Polish youngster), and further he wrote 89 plays, mainly historic operettas, such as Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon), Prophet Yermiyahu, Sabetai Zwi, the comic play Dangerous neighborhood, the melodrama in 3 acts The Tyrannic Banker and others. Except his own plays, Moshe Horowitz translated in Yiddish numerous plays from German, English and Russian authors. He often participated in these spectacles as actor and director, which were played before Jewish masses in Romania, Poland, England, and America.

After WW2 the Yiddish Cultural Union, IKUF, was organized in Bucharest, and the State Yiddish Theater was at the center of its activity. Among its talented members was the actress Edith Horowitz (currently Silbermann)

Aurelia Horovitz, born in 1881 in Dragusani, Moldova, was one of the solitary Jewish women in Romania who dedicated to academic activity at the beginning of the 20th century. At the age 26 she sustained her PhD dissertation "The Philosophy of Lessing" at the university Bern, Switzerland.

Filip (Philippe) Horovitz (pseudonym Orovan, a kind of Romanian translation of his family name), historian, poet, literary writer and translator, was born in Iasi in 1894. In 1926 he sustained at the University Iasi his PhD dissertation "The Provinces of the Roman Empire." This was an odd event in the antisemitic atmosphere, which dominated the Romanian academy of this period. He also wrote historical biographies of the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, Cleopatra, and the courtesans of antique Greece.

Aaron Horovitz was born in Botoshani, Moldova, and came to Canada in 1910, where he became a manufacturer. He served as mayor of the city Cornwall for seven consecutive terms (1930-1937), and being also active in Jewish affairs, he acted as member of the National council of the Zionist Organization of America.

A. Horovitz-Iasi, developed in the 1930-s an activity in Romanian political affairs, and was one of the founders of the Romanian Socialist United Party.

Between the two world wars several Horovitz individuals developed a rich activity in various fields of natural and social sciences, technology, as well as in university, secondary and higher education. Their activity was presented in numerous published books. To cite some of them: Ossi Horovitz in chemistry, Marcu Horovitz in economics, Alex Horovitz, Beatrice Horovitz, Bernard Horovitz, Sorel Horovitz in technology, whereas Emeric Horovitz and Donald Horovitz were active in social sciences.

Many Horovitz individuals participated in the rich social-cultural activities of the Jewish communities: Adolf Horovitz was active in the leadership of the community in Iasi in the 1930-es, S. Horovitz in the community Buhusi, and Dr. Horovitz in the community Galati. Sami Horowitz was active in the management of the synagogue Matzmiyah Yeshua in Bucharest between the two world wars.

S. Horovitz performed a pioneering medical research of the Parkinson disease, and published in Iasi in 1906 a book with his results of clinical investigations of atypical forms and anatomical pathology of this scarcely studied disease at the beginning of the twentieth century.

About my Family and Myself

My great-grand father was Mordechai Dov Halevi Horowitz, and his wife was Chana. They lived apparently in Southern Poland.

My grandfather Shimshon ben Mordechai Halevi Horowitz (1848-1931) was born in the place Suchastaw, Poland. He lived with his second wife Perla, born Weidenfeld (Satu Mare 1853-Solca 1937) at the beginning of the 20th century in the villages Ilisheshti and Cacica, Bucowina, which were in this period part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Shimshon had 15 children, but only eight of them survived: Emil Horovitz, Sacher Horovitz, Todres (Theodor) Horovitz, Chaim Horovitz, Chana Fuhrer, Sali Saphir (Cacica, 1895-Jerusalem, 1983), Lea, and Chaia Ghitel (Gusta) Grunberger (1905- Bucuresti, 1946). One of Shimshon's brothers was Israel Shlomo Horowitz, who lived in Poland, and died in Palestine, whereas Abraham Horowitz, another brother of Shimshon, immigrated to America. Moshe Chaim Horowitz was a stepbrother of Shimshon.

My father Todres (Theodor) ben Shimshon Halevi Ish-Horovitz (20.March, 1900- Jerusalem 9.May, 1980), the youngest son of his father Shimshon, was born in the village Parteshti, Bukowina. At the age 16 he was taken into the Austro-Hungarian army, where he was severely wounded. In.1924 he married Marietta, born Wexler, and they had three children: Chaim (Carol) born in 1925 in Botoshani, Yehoshua (Mozes), born in 1928 in Cacica, and Ruth Mayer, born in 1932 in Cacica. My father was a simple man, who only finished primary school, but he dedicated his free time during his whole life to studying the Holy Book and his commentaries, and volunteered as synagogue manager and cantor. He fulfilled his dream to move to the Holy Land and spent with my mother the happiest, the last years of their life together in Jerusalem. He asked for the inscription on his grave: Todres ben Shimshon Halevi Ish-Horovitz. The family name “Ish-Horowitz”, which is owned only by few members of the Horowitz dynasty, represents a kind of distinction, like the prefix “von” or “Sir” of distinguished German or English families. Unfortunately, no details about the attribution of this special ascription to our family are known.

My mother Marietta, was born in Corni, a village in Northern Moldova, on 17.February, 1904, where her father Chaim Wexler owned a water mill, which sustained his family with six children. The family escaped from the pogrom of the peasant’s revolt in 1907, and moved to the nearest town Botoshani. When my grandmother Rosa died of cancer, my mother, the oldest child, of 16 years old, has taken care of her younger brothers and sisters, and the whole household. Chaim married later Cha, the sister of my father, and she was involved in the marriage of my father Todres with Marietta. My mother died on 13.8.1984 in Jerusalem. She had two brothers Joseph (1902-1982) and Marcu (1907-1984), and three sisters: Saly, Chana (Ana) and Mina (1915-)

I, Chaim ben Todres Halevi Horovitz, was born on 10.5. 1925 in the city Botoshani, in the house of my mother's father. When visiting several years ago my birthday place, I was upset to realize that this house and the whole picturesque old neighborhood disappeared, and in its place new ugly buildings for the "working class" were erected by the communist regime.

I spent my childhood in Cacica, a mixed village of Romanians, Poles, Slovaks, Germans, and a few Jews, where I learned early from first hand about antisemitism. My parents made a life from a shop, where the peasants were buying, without paying in cash, and asking to write down their debts, for a later payment. Once my workaholic and energetic mother asked a debtor to pay at least part of his big debt. He angrily replied: If you want to see more your children, forget about my payment. As a result of the antisemitic tendencies between the two world wars, the “Conversion” legislation voted by the Romanian parliament in the 1930-s annulated all the debts of the peasants, a measure, which was addressed in special against the Jewish businesses.

I was the only Jewish child in the primary school class. One day I presented to my schoolmates several exemplars of the illustrated journal "Copilul Evreu" (The Jewish Child), with which I was proud to boast. The teacher observed this, and ordered me to stop bringing them to the school. My mother explained to me the difference between other children and me.

After moving with my family in 1935 to Bucharest, my education in the State secondary school was interrupted in 1940, because of anti-Jewish laws. During the disorders of the fascist organization "The Iron Guard" in Bucharest in January 1941 I was smacked up by a gang, and put at a wall to be shut down. However, as a miracle, I succeeded to escape from their bullets, when this gang was busy with catching also an old Jewish woman. I don't know what happened to this ill-fated woman.

During my teenage years I manifested some literary skills. Under the influence of reading with avidity an enormous number of classical literatures, I wrote several sonnets, and even a long historical novel. The authors who most impressed me were Jack London, Pearl Buck, Lew Tolstoi, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Shalom Aleichem. I read with passion the novel “Sufferings of the young Werther” by Goethe. Later, under the communist era, Maxim Gorki, Ilf, and Petrov, Boris Pasternak, and Mikhail Sholohov captivated me. I enjoyed reading poetry, and knew by heart French poets and Heinrich Heine. Until today I like to read from time to time the wonderful verses of the Romanian poet George Topirceanu, and the Russian Jewish poet Samuil Marshak.

My Zionist activity in the youth organization "Hashomer Hatzair" was interrupted in 1942, when I was arrested together with a group of youngsters. We were maltreated during the investigation under the accusation of anti governmental and illegal activities. At two o’clock in the morning the convictions of 20-25 years of hard labor were pronounced, and three youngsters of our group passed dead sentences, and executed. My parents, and those of the other members of our group considered at this moment that a wonder happened, because they feared that all of our group would be sentenced to dead. During my three years of prisons and concentration camp it happened that I, and part of our Zionist group of detainees, were converted to the communist ideology, as a result of the propaganda of political prisoners, a major part of them being Jews. They succeeded to convince us with demagogic arguments that the Jewish problem can be solved only by communism, as happened in the Soviet Union. Once I asked my mentor: What will happen beyond the evolution of the world from socialism to communism, and the fulfillment of this highest level of human society. He angrily apostrophized me:

"You idiot, there can't be anything better than communism !"

At the liberation from the concentration camp on August 1944, I returned to Bucharest, full of expectations for a New World. I stood at the University Square, and applauded, together with not too many people, the marching Soviet troops. I observed a Russian officer, who seemed to be Jewish, and I tried to get in touch with him, through Yiddish. Our short discussion ended with his advice: "Yingele, nem di fis in loif!" (Boy, run away). However, I didn't follow his advice, finished the interrupted high schools, and started my studies of agronomy. This profession seemed to me to fit with the communist ideology of transforming the Jews in a "productive, sound" class. At nights I worked at a printing house, to cover my studies.

When I finished my studies of chemical agronomy in Timishoara, I was sent for further study for the PhD degree at the Moscow Academy of Agriculture. In this period it was considered in Romania, and in other countries brought under the Soviet umbrella, a great honor to study in the Soviet Union, where there existed "the most advanced science and culture in the world." Once every two weeks, I listened the lectures of the Academician Lysenko, and was fascinated about his oratorical skills. But gradually, I realized that beyond the demagogic slogans, there is nothing of scientific value in his theories.

I married in 1954, and am proud of my three children: Elena, born in 1955, Simona, born in 1958, and Sergej, born in 1959.

My son, Shimshon (Sergej) ben Chaim Halevi Horovitz is the only man from the numerous descendants of my grandfather Shimshon, who is continuing our family name.

When Stalin died in 1952, I, as well as many people, were terribly disturbed, and couldn't imagine how could we live without our genius Father. I came to a great idea, and wrote a letter to Gheorghiu-Dej, the communist leader who captured by force the power in Romania. I wrote him a "personal" letter, in considering that he will pay attention to my writing, since we spent together years of detention, and ate the same thin bean soup and hard mamaliga (maize porridge). I proposed to him to change the name of the Danube river to "River Stalin," arguing that this big river is uniting many peoples in their "struggle for peace." Long time I wondered why no reply is coming to my proposal. Instead, the city Brashov was renamed "Orasul Stalin" (City Stalin), and I regretted that I didn't suggest this alternative change.

Antisemitic manifestations of the authorities and of individuals stired up my interest for the Jewsih heritage, which I desfyied for two decades. Once my aunt Ana, my father’s sister, a typical clever Jewish woman, expresed with a Yiddish ironical remark the way people were forced to eulogise the regime. Reffering to the obligations of institutions and individuals to decorate with slogans houses at communist holydays, the first of May or 7th November, she remarked: Men shtelt arois a bichale un a fin, in siz shoin yomtiv {You put (in the window) a booklet (written by Stalin) and a (red) flag, and the feast is going on}. I came gradually to the conclusion that, except for the oligarchy of the regime, there is no future in the dictatorship of Ceausescu. After several years of communist convictions and activity I have taken a risky decision, and I left Romania illegally.

I emmigrated to Israel in January 1969, when I was seized by the euphoria after the Six Days War. The blooming citrus plantations, pastoral views of kibutzim, Kineret, and Banias, flourishing Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa appeared me the fulfillment of Zionist ideals, which I imagined earlier when reading “Exodus” by Leon Uris.

My scientific career, which I developed in Romania, Israel, Germany and the United States, was marked by ups and downs. I invested my workaholic qualities, which I inherited from my mother, to the investigation of an obsessive question: Why are the majority of the chemical elemeconsidered inessential for life ?. My two volumes work "Biochemistry of Scandium and Yttrium" (two chemical elements which are scarcely investigated), published in 1990-91, represent an endeavor which took six years of hard work. My forty years of scientific research was summarized in this work, in which I explained that all the chemical elements are apparently involved in life processes.

Following my retirement from my former research activity in natural sciences, I am dedicating my interest to the investigation of the Jewish culture, and in particular to "The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s." I am amazed to discover how this more than two thousand years old biblical poem of love continues to influence various spheres of human affairs. The findings of the existing relationships between love, world literature, art, music and science gives me a great satisfaction. At the sunset of my life I am trying to summarize critically the religious, secular and literary commentaries of "Shir hashirim,” which were written by many hundreds exegetes.

My love for books brought me to accumulate a big library in Bucharest, which was unfortunately lost, when leaving illegally my birthplace country. Today I am proud with the library I succeeded to accumulate again in the last decades, with emphasis on illustrated editions of “The Songs of Songs”, Judaica subjects and art.

I survived in my life dangerous moments and various events, of which only few of them are mentioned here. My optimistic nature, inherited from my parents, are strengthening me until today, when terror and war are endangering the essence of the State of Israel. I am pleased to belong to the outstanding Horowitz dynasty and to the Jewish nation.


*Chaim Horovitz, biochemist, is investigating, in the frame of the Horowitz Families Association, the history of the Horowitz families in various countries, and in particular in Romania, and compiles a bibliography of the Horowitz members around the world. The presented information and data are considered preliminary, and need further verification and completion. Persons who are aware about these subjects are requested to provide available information, including documents, pictures, personal, and community stories. Please contact: Dr. Chaim Horovitz, Hershensohn Str 64, Rehovot 76484, Israel, e-mail: c-horov@zahav.net.il

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Last updated: 06/11/07.