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Singer sewing scissors used by Jewish Romanian woman who was killed during a massacre

Object | Accession Number: 2017.218.2

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    Singer sewing scissors used by Jewish Romanian woman who was killed during a massacre

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    Brief Narrative
    Singer sewing scissors that Ratza (Reyza) Solomonskaya used to earn her livelihood as a seamstress in the small town of Pepeni, Romania (now Pepeny, Moldova), during the Holocaust. She lived with her husband, a shoemaker named Mark Solomonski, and their teenage daughters, Khayka and Ita. During World War II, their town was in Bessarabia, a historically contested region, which had been part of Romania following World War I until it was ceded to the Soviet Union in June 1940. In June 1941, during the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Romania recaptured the region. On July 13, Romanian soldiers and gendarmes entered Pepeni and began rounding up Jews with the help of some local residents. Ratza left the scissors and her Singer sewing machine with neighbors for safekeeping. After being held for four days with no food or water, Ratza, Mark, Khayka, and Ita were among the approximately 250 Jews massacred when their captors and local collaborators opened fire on them. Several days later, a designated commission requisitioned and redistributed the property left behind by the murdered Jews. Ratza’s neighbors already had her sewing machine and it was not among those redistributed items. The family maintained possession of the machine and scissors until they were acquired by the Museum in 2017.
    use:  before 1941 July
    manufacture:  approximately 1930
    use: Pepeny (Moldova)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
    exterior, lower blade, engraved : MASINI DE CUSUT SIN(GER) [Singer Sewing Machines]
    exterior, joint, engraved : SINGER SEWING MACHINES
    Subject: Ratza Solomonskaya
    Manufacturer: Singer Sewing Machine Corp.
    Ratza (Reyza) Solomonskaya (1896-1941) was born in Pepeni, Russia (now Pepeny, Moldova). Following World War I, the region became part of Romania. Ratza was a seamstress and sometimes went by the name Roza. She was married to Mark Solomonski (1898 –1941), a shoemaker from Pepeni. They had two daughters, Khayka (1927 -1941) and Ita (1929–1941). The Solomonski family was part of a small Jewish community spread across several neighboring towns in the region just south of Bălți.

    On June 28, 1940, Romania was forced to cede Bukovina and Bessarabia, where Pepeni was located, to the Soviet Union. During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, in summer 1941, Romania, a German ally, recaptured the region and many of the Jews in Bălți took refuge in smaller towns, including Pepeni. Romania had a long tradition of anti-Semitism, and the government sought to remove Jews from its provinces by “cleansing the terrain”, a codename for mass-execution. On July 13, Romanian soldiers and gendarmes entered Pepeni and organized small groups of local residents to help them force Jews like Ratza and her family from their homes and into the local town hall. Many carried their valuables with them, but before leaving her home, Ratza entrusted her sewing machine to a neighbor for safekeeping. Ratza’s family was locked into the building along with approximately 250 of their Jewish neighbors, refugees from Bălți, and many others from neighboring towns. The doors were locked and no one was allowed to have food or water for four days. On the fourth evening, shots were heard from a nearby town, and the leader of the Gendarme said the Red Army and Jews from further away were threatening to enter the village, set fire to the buildings, and release those Jews being held. The leader tossed a grenade into the town hall and then some of the men under his control opened fire on those inside. Others wielded bats to keep people from trying to escape out the open windows, though a few people did manage to get past them and survive. Ratza, Mark, Khayka, and Ita were murdered during the massacre.

    That night, the gendarmes ordered that anyone still living be killed and that all the bodies in the town hall be carted off and dumped in nearby stone mines. The following day, local women and draftees were forced to wash out the blood soaked town hall. Several days later, a commission consisting of high ranking locals, including the mayor and head of the tax department, was formed to requisition the property left behind by the murdered Jews and distribute their valuables to those locals considered distinguished and others that had helped carry out the massacre. Ratza’s neighbors already had her sewing machine in their possession and it was not among those items redistributed by the commission. After 1944, many of the perpetrators, including 19 locals and the gendarme in charge, were brought to trial and held accountable for the mass murder, though some did receive amnesty following the death of Stalin.

    Physical Details

    Romanian English
    Tools and Equipment
    Cutting tools
    Object Type
    Scissors (aat)
    Physical Description
    Right-handed, silver colored metal sewing scissors with 2 looped handles that extend into wedge shaped, 4.5 inch blades with flat outer edges, sharp inner edges, and narrow, pointed tips. The lower blade is controlled by the circular thumb loop, and the upper blade by a larger, oval shaped finger loop. The 2 blades are connected at the center pivot point by a flush rivet. Manufacturing information is stamped on the upper blade and joint. The cutting edges of the blades have been worn down irregularly from repeated use and sharpening. The scissors are heavily scratched and discolored with some corrosion, and the lower blade tip is broken off.
    overall: Height: 7.125 inches (18.097 cm) | Width: 2.250 inches (5.715 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    overall : metal

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Pepeny (Moldova) Moldova.

    Administrative Notes

    The scissors were acquired by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2017.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2024-01-16 15:11:30
    This page:

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