The project «Stolpersteine: the Story of the Victims of the Chișinău Ghetto» studies the mysterious plaques that appeared in the summer of 2018 in the historical center of the city of Chișinău, on 17 Alexandru cel Bun Street and 27 Armeneasca Street. A presentation in the form of a website is structured as four chapters. The first chapter presents the biographies of the victims of the Holocaust whose names were engraved on the surface of the plates. Chapter Two retells the story of the commemorative plaques’ appearance in the Republic of Moldova and introduces the initiators of this project. Chapters Three and Four relate the history of the Holocaust in the Republic of Moldova and the drama of the Second World War that the Jewish community of Bessarabia went through in the years 1941–1942.
On the 28 June 2018, the first street monuments appeared in Chișinău, installed in memory of the victims of Nazism. They have the shape of cubes and are known as stolpersteine (from the German for «stumbling blocks»). Barely visible, the plaques with the names of the victims were installed in the pavement in front of the last known homes of these people. We can «stumble» upon the names of Bunya Bron and Moise Berliand by walking outside 17 Alexandru cel Bun Street and 27 Armenească Street respectively. But what was the story of these people and who are their descendants today?
The first commemorative stone was installed in front of 17 Alexandru cel Bun Street.
Here lived Moise Berliand, born on July 23, 1885 in Chișinău.
Moise Berliand was the grandson of the well-known leader of the Jewish community in Chișinău, Solomon Berliand. His father owned at least two houses, numbers 15 and 17, located on Alexandru cel Bun Street.
Moise married Berthe Teplitsky (1891–1969) and the couple had at least one son, Joseph, born in Odessa in 1912. Some say that Moise Berliand was a funny person and could speak thirteen languages. He worked at the Odessa Theater as a stage director, and his wife was a trained actress.
In the interwar period, more precisely in 1928, the Berliand family emigrated from Bessarabia to France. Moise remained there until the Second World War; in 1940, he was arrested by the Nazi authorities in France, taken to the Drancy International Camp and deported on 7 March 1944 with transport no. 69 to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.
The Shoah Memorial (Paris, France)
There he was killed immediately upon arrival, on 7 March 1944. This information is based on the list of deportations from France, found in the Memorial of the Deportation of Jews from France (Béate and Serge Klarsfeld, Paris 1978).
Source: Interview with François Berléand on Canal 2, 6 January 2016,
François Berléand One of Moise Berliand’s descendants is François Berléand, his nephew, a French actor and stage director. In an interview with Canal 2, referring to his family’s past, he stated, «It so happened that my father and grandfather were born here. I walk in the footsteps of my ancestors. It’s thrilling for me. It’s very touching...»
Source: Reportage during a talk show on Radio Europa Liberă, 25 September 2018
Richard Berliand Another descendant of Moise Berliand is Richard Berliand. He knows that the Berliand family began living in Chișinău around the middle of the 19th century and that his great-grandfather, Solomon Berliand, lived here around 1870 and had five children. The youngest, Iașa Berliand, was Richard’s grandfather, who emigrated from Moldova in 1970. His older brother was Moise Berliand, who emigrated initially to Italy and then to France, from where he was deported to Auschwitz and met his tragic end.
The second memorial stone was installed in front of 27 Armenească Street.
Bunya Bron was born in Chișinău in 1890. Her parents were Fishel Imas and Leya née Zeltser. She was married to Itzkhak. At the beginning of World War II, Bunya Bron lived in Chișinău. In the municipal register of 1940, Bunya is registered as the owner of an apartment on 27 Armenească Street, together with her mother Leya Imas.
Did you know...?
The names of the victims of the Nazi regime are kept in the Yad Vashem Museum complex. Most of these names were collected with the help of relatives of the victims and the statements of the people who witnessed those events.
The names of our compatriots, who lived in Bessarabia and died during the Holocaust, can also be found in the archives of the Yad Vashem Museum. The museum also contains a lot of information about the lives of these people, photos and sometimes their personal belongings. There are also stories of the Righteous Among the Nations, those who saved the Jewish population during the Holocaust.
Bunya Bron was shot in 1941 and her daughter was also assassinated by the Nazi regime. Her son survived and presented reports about the deaths of his mother and sister to the Yad Vashem Museum in 2001, when her son was living in New York. Bunya Bron also had at least one grandson, Igor Bron.
Source: Interview with Victor Popovici, Principal Specialist in Monument Protection
In this interview, Mr. Popovici talks about the implementation of the international project to commemorate the victims of Nazism, Stolpersteine, in the Republic of Moldova.
Source: Interview with Ion Ștefăniță during a talk shows on Radio Europa Liberă, 25 September 2018
During the same talk show, Ion Ștefăniță claims: «We try to promote everything related to the patrimony of national minorities and it is very important that our society takes note of everything that has happened before us. It is very important to educate citizens, and not just citizens, to culturize this society through these pages of history. The project is partially funded by the Association “Memorie”, the United States Embassy and the Monument Inspection and Restoration Agency.»
The first Stolperstein installed in front of the house at 17 Alexandru cel Bun Street in Chișinău was placed there by the project’s founder, Gunter Demnig.
Gunter Demnig grew up in Nauen and Berlin. In 1967 he graduated from high school and began studying art at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin under Herbert Kaufmann.
From 1971 onwards he continued his art studies at the Academy of Arts in Kassel, receiving his first degree in 1974.
The first Stolperstein was installed on 16 of December 1992 in front of Cologne City Hall in Germany. The purpose of installing this stone was to commemorate the Auschwitz decree.
The Auschwitz decree marked the beginning of the mass deportation of Jews from Germany fifty years previously.
The project, which began in 1996, has installed 75,000 stones in 1,265 German municipalities and 24 European countries. For a time, it was considered the largest decentralized memorial in the world.
The commission of inquiry, set up by Ion Antonescu, reported that the number of Jews in the Ghetto had reached a maximum of 11,525. The liquidation of the Chișinău Ghetto began with deportation operations in October. All deportations took place between October 8 and 27. The additional 1,004 Jews were deported by October 31. The mass deportations of Jews to Transnistria in the autumn of 1941, including the dissolution of the Chișinău Ghetto, were carried out by the Romanian authorities and remotely supervised by the German authorities.
Source: Paul A. Shapiro, Ghetoul din Chișinău 1941–1942, Curtea Veche, Bucharest, 2016
In late 1941, it was officially announced that Bessarabia was judenfrei, meaning cleansed of Jews. There may have been a few individuals that survived somewhere. The majority – here the figures vary widely from 200,000 to 700,000 people – became victims of this extermination machine. In this camp, the Jews were employed in hard labor, starving to death. Those who managed to survive were shot and their bodies burned. This means that it is difficult to prove the exact number of victims."
Not only Jews, but also Roma suffered from the crimes of the Nazi regime. According to researchers, more than 50,000 Roma were exterminated in Moldova.
The existence of these initiatives to commemorate the victims of Nazism, to install cubes with their names, commemorative plaques, monuments, etc. shows that we understand and become aware of the tragedy that the Jews went through and the inhuman attitude with which they were treated. This cruel experience must be kept in the memory as a lesson, as an admonishment to be better and to accept our differences. When we «stumble» on the names of those victims on the streets, it would be good to remember the heroism with which they faced those conditions and, ultimately, to never repeat the mistakes of those before us.