A last witness

Bălţi (Beltsy) was and is an important urban center in Bessarabia. Until the war, half of the population was Jewish. Not much is visible of that today, but the Jewish cemetery continues to tell of the past.

The first look from the window in the morning was a surprise: The rain, which began last evening, changed overnight into snow. The rooftops were white. Although the snow thawed quickly, the weather is again cold and gray. Heavy clouds drifted over Bălţi.

From old Bălţi not much is left. The city was destroyed during the war and Soviet-style rebuilt – first with the elaborate buildings of the Stalin era, then with cheap prefabricated concret buildings. In between are some old houses and functional buildings from the post-Soviet period.

One of the most important witnesses of the past is the Jewish cemetery, which is located close to a railway embankment in the northwest of the city. Like other cemeteries that we have seen in Bessarabia, it is situated on the slope of a hill and looks down onto a plain.

The cemetery consists of 20,000 graves. The large number of graves from the post-war period indicate that there has been Jewish life in the city even after the Holocaust. The ancient tombs are located in the lower part of the cemetery. They are almost always in bad condition, but the terrain is largely maintained.

Nearly two hours we wandered through the cemetery. Hardly anyone was there. An old woman cared for a grave, a solitary walker went along the tracks. The whistling of a locomotive startled us out of our thoughts, a train passed by.

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