Who do I tell what I have heard and seen?
Even just for this one day, Friday, May 20, who can I tell what I have heard and seen with the Yahad-In Unum team, thanks to the good will of the witnesses? My wife? My parents? My friends?
In Cherchensti, a column of about 100 Moldovan Jews crossed the village during the summer of 1942. Women, men and children were surrounded by Romanian guards on horseback. The mothers and the youngest children were crying. Everyone was shot in a valley. Two Romanian shooters brutally assassinated them. They took care to select the young girls in order to rape them before shooting them last. The witness brought us to the killing sites: an immense field. He showed us the place. We then dived into the green field of wheat. Renata marked the GPS coordinates. It was not a mass grave because the Romanian guards left the bodies on the ground, unburied. The bones were moved after the war. A second witness confirmed the story of this tragedy.
In Grabovo, I did not linger at the shooting site near the village’s slaughterhouse, the corpses transported on sleds, the birds feeding off the blood running through the snow, the bodies thrown into the “silo-pit” of the kolkhoz of which there is no single trace and where cows graze today. Not far from this barbaric pit, there is a thick forest called “Stinka,” the “wall,” as it is dense and impassable. I will never forget this bizarre garden, a mix of indistinct land and a potato field bathed in the shifting afternoon light: a small white and blue house in which the Jews were gathered; the wall of those shot invaded by brambles; the old monument recalling the massacre consumed by vegetation.
To whom do I recount this abyss? This death-dealing knowledge, I can only share it with members of the Yahad-In Unum team. On a human level, something very strong takes place. A link is created well beyond a simple professional relationship. It’s necessary to go on the field to live this experience, to become truly aware of these events. To be at the sites of all these bodies. To be guided by the archives and the words of the witnesses. To have your feet planted in the black soil of the fields. To sit on a small, precarious wooden bench and to listen to the pain-filled voice of each witness.