Bukovina and its capital Czernowitz (Chernivtsi) was Crown land of the Habsburg Empire until 1918. After the First World War, the region fell to Romania. As a result of the Hitler-Stalin pact, the Red Army occupied Northern Bukovina in 1940, and in 1945, the area was divided between the Ukrainian Soviet Republic and Romania (which fought against the Soviet Union as an ally of the Germans until 1944). In Czernowitz, Jews, who made up about 30 percent of the population before the Second World War lived alongside Romanians, Germans, Ukrainians and Poles. The cultural diversity founded the myth of peaceful coexistence, although this was put to the test by an aggressive policy of Romanianisation in 1918.
This all changed radically in the autumn of 1941, when most of the Jews in Czernowitz were deported to camps across the border river Dniester. In this area, run by Romania and designated as “Transnistria”, a third of them died in extremely cruel conditions. Only about 20,000 Jews were allowed to remain in Czernowitz with a so-called ʻauthorisationʼ. However, their lives were severely affected by strict curfews, the requirement to wear the Star of David in addition to other sanctions. After the liberation by the Red Army in March 1944, the Jews who had survived the deportation were able to return to the now Soviet-occupied Czernowin. Most of them left Romania in the following years and emigrated to Israel.
In this Philharmonic Salon entitled “Czernowitz is gewen an alte, jidische Schtot” (Czernowitz was an old Yiddish town), Götz Teutsch traces the lives of Czernowitz survivors who found a new home in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa at the end of a destructive century. The pianist Cordelia Höfer and members of the Berliner Philharmoniker play klezmer music and works by Eusebius Mandyczewski, Joseph Achron, and George Enescu among others, and Udo Samel reads texts by Paul Celan, Rose Ausländer, Mihail Eminescu, Edith Silbermann and Gregor von Rezzori.