Franklin Mott Gunther on “Recent Developments in the Situation of the Jews in Rumania” in 1941

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The Department is already aware that the military occupation of Bessarabia and northern Bucovina was followed by the establishment of Jews in ghettos in the larger cities, and that large numbers, particularly from Bessarabia, were gradually evacuated into the territory lying beyond the Dniester River. These measures were carried out under appalling conditions and accompanied by innumerable kinds of frightfulness, including robbery, starvation, killings and other brutalities. Only a relatively small number of Jews are believed now to be left in Bessarabia – estimates vary from ten to thirty thousand out of a total of just over two hundred thousand residing there prior to the Russian seizure of Bessarabia in June 1940 – while in Bucovina there are, according to reliable Jews, some fifteen to twenty thousand Jews now awaiting deportation eastward to Transnistria and other parts of the Ukraine. A great many, undoubtedly tens of thousands, have already been thus evacuated.

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During the past three weeks evidence has been accumulating – first in the form of vague rumors and unconfirmed reports, then through increasingly substantial sources of information and finally in exchange of letters between Marshal Antonescu and the head of the local Jewish community – that such as remains of the Jewish population in Bucovina and Bessarabia is being evacuated eastward into the war-devastated territory of the Ukraine under conditions so appalling that they would seem to afford a substantial share of the evacuees little chance to survive. Persistent reports have reached me daily regarding these unfortunate peoplemen, women and children, including the old and ill – who, given only a few hours notice with the right to take with them only a meager ten kilograms of belongings and the equivalent of two dollars in money – the stories almost invariably add that these belongings and the money are taken from them en route – have been herded eastward on foot or in carts or box-cars, to war-swept regions where buildings have been razed and food and other supplies destroyed or removed and where winter weather will soon prevail. This modern Captivity would seem deliberately calculated to serve a program of virtual extermination and, even if the persistent rumors that the evacuees in numberless cases are plundered of their belongings, that dozens and hundreds are shot en route, pushed off bridges or dead of exhaustion, are greatly exaggerated or untrue, it seems certain that many thousands will perish. Of course, as suggested in the last paragraph of my telegram first cited above, many of these reports and rumors are unconfirmed and must be classified as hearsay, or even propaganda by interested persons [...] but I am bound to say that even the minimum of truth that I am sure lies in

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these stories is sufficient to give grave concern to the civilized world.

References

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The United States of America were neutral during the first two years of the Second World War. They were brought into the conflict by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 and became one of the decisive belligerent nations, defeating Japan in the Pacific and heavily contributing to the war effort against the Axis powers, e.g. during the Allied landings in North Africa, Italy and France. American forces invaded German territory early in 1945. On the eve of the Second World War...