Between July 1941 and June 1942, the Romanian military with the authorization of the government, carried out the deportation of approximately 120,000 Romanian Jews from the provinces of Bessarabia and Bukovina to Transnistria, a 16,000 square mile region in the western Ukraine between the Dneister and Bug Rivers. In late June 1941, shortly after Romania joined Germany in its war against the Soviet Union, Romanian and German army units, assisted by SS killing squads from Einsatzgruppe D, swept through Bessarabia and Bukovina, killing up to 60,000 Jews and forcing the survivors into ghettos and transit camps. The ghettoized Jews were deported to Transnistria in three phases: from July to August 1941, when the Jews of northern Bukovina and Bessarabia, with the exception of those concentrated in Cernauti and Chisinau, were deported; from October to December, when most of the Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovina were expelled; and in June 1942, when the remaining Jews of Bukovina were deported. During the first phase of the deportations Germany still occupied Transnistria, and although the German military authorities permitted the first group of 25,000 Jews to cross the Dneister River, they abruptly reversed their decision, refusing to take in more Jews and expelling those who had been admitted. A cruel tug-of-war ensued between the two military authorities, during which the Jewish deportees were marched in circles for weeks without food and shelter. Finally, on August 30 the Germans ceded Transnistria to the Romanians, and on September 12 the deportations resumed. The Jews were marched to the Dneister River in groups of 1,500. Though some deportees were able to procure wagons or carriages, the conditions were nonetheless cruel. The exiles received little food or water and suffered from exposure to the elements, ruthless beatings and random killings along the way, resulting in the death of thousands. The second phase of the deportations was more organized than the first and exploited the economic resources of its victims. The Jews were robbed of their possessions before they were expelled, and in Cernauti, where it was decided that 20,000 would be saved, exemptions were sold to those who could afford them. During this phase of the deportations some groups were deported by train and carriage, while others marched on foot. Again, thousands died or were shot along the way. In the final phase, which began on June 7, 1942, 4,000 formerly exempted Jews from Cernauti were deported by cattle car. The Romanians had no plans for the resettlement of the thousands of Jewish deportees, and made no provisions for their shelter or sustenance once they crossed the Dneister. They sought only to drive the Jews further to the north and east. Ultimately, a number of makeshift camps and many ghettos were established by the Romanian authorities. In some of them the appointed Jewish committees were able to set up self-help institutions such as orphanages, soup kitchens and hospitals to assist in their survival. The winter of 1941-1942 in Transnistria was severe, and thousands died from exposure, starvation and disease. That winter thousands of other exiled Jews were massacred by Romanian troops with the assistance of Ukrainian auxiliaries at camps in Bogdanovka, Domanevka and Akhmetchetkha. The situation of the Jewish exiles started to improve toward the end of 1942 when the first shipments of aid from Jewish communities in the Regat (Romania in its pre-1918 borders) were received. This was followed by a more sustained aid effort provided by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and several other international organizations. In April 1943 the papal nuncio in Bucharest, Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, visited Transnistria. After the German defeat at Stalingrad in early 1943, the Romanian Jews became a bargaining chip for the Antonescu regime, which now began to consider the repatriation of certain categories of Jews from Transnistria. However, it was not until December 20, 1943 that the first group of Jews, 1,500 from Dorohoi, left Transnistria. Several months later, 1,846 Jewish orphans were transported through Romania for resettlement in Palestine. With the Red Army closing in on Transnistria in mid March 1944, Antonescu finally authorized the repatriation of the surviving 50,000 deportees.
[Sources: Carp, Matatias. "Holocaust in Rumania: 1940-1944." Budapest, Primor Publishing Company, 1994; Shachan, Avigdor. "Burning Ice: Ghettos of Transnistria." New York: Columbia University Press, 1996; Ioanid, Radu. "Romania," in Laqueur, Walter (ed), "The Holocaust Encyclopedia." New Haven, Yale University Press; Gutman, Israel. "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust." Macmillan, 1990.]