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BELTSY (Rum. Bălti ), city in Bessarabia, Moldova; in Romania 1918–40 and 1941–44. Jews were invited there in 1779 when an urban nucleus was formed in the village. Their rights and obligations were established by an agreement in 1782. By 1817 there were 244 Jewish families living in Beltsy. The community subsequently increased through immigration; after the *May Laws were issued in 1882, many Jews expelled from neighboring villages settled in Beltsy. The community numbered 3,124 in 1864 and had grown to 10,348 in 1897 (56% of the total population) even though Jewish domicile was limited by legislation and Jews were often expelled from the city as illegal residents. As an outcome of these expulsions, coupled with economic difficulties, many Jews from Beltsy emigrated toward the end of the 19th century, including a group who journeyed to Ereẓ Israel.

In 1847 a Jewish state school was opened in Beltsy. A talmud torah, founded in 1889, provided instruction in both Jewish and general subjects. By the 1930s Jewish educational institutions included a kindergarten, three elementary schools, and two secondary schools, for boys and girls. Welfare institutions included a hospital and old-age home. The Jews in Beltsy were mainly employed in commerce and crafts; some living in the vicinity engaged in agriculture. The 1,539 members of the local Jewish cooperative loan-bank in 1925 included 656 engaged in business, 441 in crafts, and 156 in agriculture. The Jewish population numbered 14,259 (46% of the total) in 1930. When Bessarabia became part of Soviet Russia in June 1940, the communal organization was disbanded.

[Eliyahu Feldman]

Holocaust Period and After

In June 1941 about two-thirds of the town's buildings were destroyed in German and Romanian air raids. The Jews fled to nearby villages, mainly to Vlad. On July 7 a gang of Vlad peasants seized homes sheltering the refugees, murdered the occupants, and set fire to the houses. The next day a group of Romanian soldiers encountered 50 Jews on the road to Beltsy, drove them into the swamps, and shot them to death. Beltsy was captured by the Germans on July 9 and those Jews who had returned were deported to a concentration camp. The same day 10 Jews who had been taken as hostages were executed. The Gestapo also asked the ghetto committee to furnish it with a list of 20 "Jewish communists" who were to be put to death. When they refused to do so, all the committee members, together with another group of 44 Jews, were forced to dig their own graves and shot. Twenty more Jews were shot by the Germans on July 16. On July 11, 1941, all surviving Jews were assembled in the courtyard of the Moldova Bank. Romanian troops transferred them to an internment camp in the Rāuţel forest, some 7½ mi. (12 km.) from the town. Many of the inmates died from starvation and disease. By August 30, 1941, only 8,941 Jews were left in the entire district (compared to the 31,916 who resided there according to the 1930 census). They were concentrated in three camps, and later on all were deported to *Transnistria. Even the Jewish tombstones were removed from the cemetery in Beltsy to erase all traces of the Jewish inhabitants of the town. Jews returned to Beltsy after the war. The only synagogue was closed by the authorities in 1959 and the Jewish cemetery was badly neglected. In 1962 militia broke into a house where Jews had assembled for prayer; those attending were taken to the public square where communist youth had been gathered to jeer at them. Their children were expelled from school. The city has retained a certain Jewish character and Yiddish is often heard on its streets. Its estimated Jewish population in 1970 was 15,000 and 1,000 in the early 2000s.

[Jean Ancel]


E. Schwarzfeld, Din istoria evreilor … in Moldova (1914), 36–39; M. Carp, Cartea Neagr, 3 (1947), index; Feldman, in: Sefer Yahadut Besarabyah (in press); M. Mircu, Pogromurile din Basarabia (1947), 5, 17, 160.