Jewish survivors of World War 2 received more than $70 billion in compensation from the German government. However, Germans have refused to pay one small group of Jews who survived a massacre in this city near Romania's eastern border.
Iasi is home to just a handful of Jews now, but at the start of World War II, half the city's population of 100,000 was Jewish. In 1940, under the dictator Ion Antonescu, Romania became an ally of Nazi Germany and began to implement its own anti-Semitic laws.
A plan, which was devised by Romanian and German officials, was launched by police and soldiers. The plan was launched one week after Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. The lasi’s Jews were rounded up as the officials claimed that the Jews were fifth columnists who were helping the Russians against the German and Romanian armies.
The number of Jews that were shot, stabbed and beaten to death totaled 8,000. Five thousand were murdered in a public square. Seven thousand more were herded onto trains, with the expectation that most would die from heat, starvation and overcrowding in the locked cars. Bodies were thrown from the trains as they rolled slowly towards their destinations elsewhere in Romania over many days. Only a few thousand passengers survived.
Iasi Pogrom sprout into existence after around 13,000 and 15,000 Jews died. George Herscu, just 13 years old, escaped death by hiding in a cornfield. But his father Joseph, also hiding in the field, gave himself up to save George. Joseph was taken to the courtyard where most of the Jews were killed and survived the shooting. But then he was loaded onto a train.
The German government accepts that the deaths on the train were a war crime, but hasn't accepted that it should compensate the survivors. It compensates World War 2 survivors who were held in an open ghetto or a concentration camp.
The survivors will be represented by Attorney Stu Eizenstat, who served as an official in the Carter, Clinton and Obama administrations, who will be chief negotiator as they press the Germans for payment. He said that conditions for Jews in Iasi meet Germany's technical requirements for compensation.
The situation is bound to take a different turn as German officials will meet on Friday with representatives from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which represents about 1,000 Jewish Iasi survivors in Berlin to negotiate potential compensation.