Siret is a small town north of Radautz; from there we went on to Mihaileni and Dorohoi. Both places are no longer in Bukovina, but already in the neighboring Botoșani county. The traces of Jewish life are easy to find in all three places.
In the morning we went for a little walk. On the Internet I found a picture of a synagogue in Radautz that I hoped to visit. Thanks to my friends Ruth Ellen Gruber, Bruce Reisch and Sylvie Gsell it was easy to find – just a few minutes walk from the Temple Synagogue. The building is in a sad state; someone has set up a workshop in the former synagogue. It is the first synagogue, which we saw in Romania in such bad condition.
Today’s excursion took us to Siret (Sereth) – a small town close to the Ukrainian border. Three Jewish cemeteries are located next to the town’s center. The oldest cemetery dates back to 1560. The cemeteries of Siret cover half a millennium of Jewish history in the region. Achim asked a boy of about 10 years for the key to the cemetery. After a few minutes, they came up with the key.
The old cemetery is located on two small hills; the preserved grave stones are scattered over the terrain. They reminded me of the grave stones that I have seen in Busk in Galicia, which derive from the same period. While we took pictures a fox showed up and jumped over the wall.
The middle and new cemetery are not far away. On the middle cemetery grave stones are mainly from the 19th century; below is the new cemetery, with burials to the present decades. At the entrance is a monument to those Jews of Siret, who were shot in early July 1941.
From the top of the middle cemetery visitors have a breathtaking view over the new cemetery, which is like a sea of stones. Half a millennium of Jewish history in Siret will not be continued in the town.
For me Siret is inseparably connected with the writer Edgar Hilsenrath who spent part of his childhood there before he was deported to Transnistria. I owe him – among many great books – the theme of my blog.
The village of Mihaileni is located a few kilometers to the east – while driving, we saw the watchtowers of the Ukrainian-Romanian border. We found the Jewish cemetery on a hill next to the road to Dorohoi. The cemetery is bigger than expected. One can clearly see that someone has only recently begun to clear it – maybe just last year. But now the site is in good condition.
In Dorohoi we asked the taxi drivers for directions to the synagogue and two Jewish cemeteries. One of the drivers – a young man with tattooed arms – offered us, to show us the way. He drove in front of us, we followed. The new cemetery contents of graves almost exclusively from the postwar period and is extremely well maintained. Our taxi driver was surprised when he saw a tomb stone with a portrait of an old man on it. “That’s the hairdresser, to whom I went when I was a kid,” he wondered.
The old cemetery is idyllically situated on a hill overlooking a lake. However, the idyll is deceptive. The cemetery has been destroyed – only a small part of the tomb stones are preserved. The stumps of the stones plug like knocked out teeth in the ground.
The Synagogue of Dorohoi is situated hidden in the city center in the middle of a tower housing area. As a relic from the past, it sits on top of a row of garages. A talking picture for what we have seen today. We drove back to Radautz.
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