The Radautz Jewish Cemetery Documentation


Bondy Stenzler & Yossi Yagur


This article was first published in Sharaheret Hadorot Vol. 22 No 1, February 2008, a publication of the Israel Genealogical Society (IGS)


The Town of Radautz

Radautz[i] (in the Austro-Hungarian original, Radauti in Romanian today, Radevitz in Yiddish) lies in the southern part of the Bukovina District, which was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and today is part of Romania. The town was founded in the 14th century and Jews began settling there in the 15th century. The Jewish community was at its height on the eve of World War II, when it numbered about 9,000 out of the then 40,000 residents of the city. The community never regained its former strength after the war and now only a few Jews live there.

The Cemetery

The Jewish cemetery is situated about four kilometers from the city – on the way to the village of Marginea. Ephraim ben Jacob Goldschlager, at that time the ritual slaughterer and spiritual leader of the community established it in 1831, when the Jews in the locality numbered about 370. Unfortunately the slaughterer Goldschlager was also the first person to be interred there – he died in the cholera epidemic that year. The cemetery was enlarged to its present size in 1921.

The cemetery is divided into twenty-six sections of various sizes and also contains a ritual purification facility along with several ohalim[ii] of rabbis and families. Paths separate the sections from each other. Some are clearly defined, while others are in such poor condition that the boundaries between sections are completely obliterated. Regarding the number of graves in each section, some are still completely empty, some are small sections with only several dozen tombs and some, for example, are as large as section 23, which has 17 rows, with about 80 graves in each for a total of about 1,250 graves.

The headstones in the cemetery are of different kinds. Some are made from hard stone, beautifully carved and have stood the test of time for 150 years or more; there are limestone headstones, a portion of which have crumbled a little with time; headstones of concrete and plaster which are badly deteriorated and finally headstones made of metal, completely rusted now and of course, undecipherable. There also are beautiful marble headstones dating from the second half of the 20th century.

The text written on the headstones varies with each period. The oldest headstones are totally in Hebrew containing only the Hebrew date and without family names. Subsequently there are a few last names inscribed in Hebrew. Later there are family names and non-Hebrew names along with the traditional Hebrew text, first on the back of the stone only, then on the stone itself, on its lower part. Still later the Gregorian date of death and even date of birth appear. As the community deteriorated, mistakes appear in both Hebrew dates and spelling and some have only Romanian inscriptions.

The cemetery is in generally good condition, although it has suffered from the ravages of time. Even though there is a watchman on behalf of the community, marble plates, candleholders and so on have been stolen. Part of the fence of the cemetery has been fixed, thanks to the project of conservation and documentation.

The Project of Conservation and Documentation

In 2004 a group of former Radautz residents and their children joined together with the intent to conserve part of the material and spiritual values of the community. A detailed account of their activities can be found at, built and maintained by Bondy Stenzler. Documenting the cemetery has so far been the principal concern. An early and partial version of the database is available at the site mentioned above. The site also has an extended bibliographical list of sources for information about Bukovina Jewry in general, Radautz in particular and details about the project of restoration and conservation of the main synagogue of the town. Apart from the documentation project a few steps have been taken to improve the general state of the cemetery. Using money donated by former residents of Bukovina, the holes in the fence surrounding the cemetery have been fixed, tools have been bought and while leaving massive trees in place, trees and bushes have been cleared.

The Raw Material

The burial data of the cemetery is based on three kinds of sources: photographs of headstones, burial maps and a partial index. The following paragraphs describe each of these sources in detail.

Photographs of Headstones: in the spring and summer of 2005 Bondy Stenzler, with the help of his wife Sidi, photographed about 3,600 headstones in the cemetery from sections 1 through 23. Sections 24 and 25 were very partially photographed and section 26 was not photographed at all. In total, about 5,700 photographs were processed. In many cases more than one photograph was taken of each headstone either from different angles, concentrating on a particular part or of the back of the stone if it contained additional information. The pictures were taken with a digital camera, using quite high resolution, so each picture has a volume of 1.5-2 Mbytes. Using high resolution made the deciphering of the photographed data easier, especially with those headstones that were in poor shape. In some cases the headstones had to be cleaned first with a brush - this too was done by Bondy and Sidi. Some 3,600 names were deciphered from the pictures of the headstones. The overwhelming majority are in Hebrew with the name of the deceased and of his/her father. Some of them contain the foreign first name and family name as well. Very few stones have only Latin lettering and they date from the middle of the 20th century on. The greater part of the names on the headstones also appear on the burial maps and most of those inscribed in Latin letters only are also in the index. Furthermore, the pictures of the headstones are a unique source for about 360 first and family names engraved on other peoples’ stones, recording of those who perished in the Holocaust especially in Transnistria and elsewhere.

Maps of the Cemetery: there is a map of the entire cemetery as well as one for each section. In certain cases there are two maps for one section, with minor differences between them. On the comprehensive map a separate section where victims of cholera were buried is indicated but there are no headstones and no map of the section. The maps were filled by hand, some of them in pencil, by several writers, all of them anonymous. The name of the deceased is written in Hebrew in the usual way “Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen,” and sometimes, especially in the 20th century, the first and last names are in Latin letters. Some of the names written in the map in Latin script use  only the foreign version, for instance, Sally instead of Sara. In a small number of cases the date of death was also written on the map. The systematic listing on the map was almost completely discontinued in the middle of the 20th century and few burial data have been entered since. The authors of this article are of the opinion that the maps were originally made in the first half of the 20th century, listing the graves of the cemetery and using no other sources. Pictures showing headstones that have fallen down substantiate this assumption. Even though according to the map those graves are supposed to be occupied, the names of the deceased are not filled in. Bondy Stenzler photographed the maps in the summer of 2005, using a hand-held digital camera, under far from optimal lighting conditions, but using high resolution. The maps of the large sections were photographed piecemeal, with some overlapping, to make it possible to decipher every name.

Partial Index of the Cemetery: Between the years 2001-2003 the late Ms. Tania Grinberg, the Jewish community’s secretary, made a partial index of the cemetery. The index is written in Latin script and is alphabetical according to last names. It contains the following columns: last name; first name; Gregorian date of death; section; row; number in the row; number of death certificate and notes. The index contains some 2,850 names with about 18 names on each page. In a large number of cases, only the name and the section number are spelled out. It is our opinion that the main source of the index is the names written on the maps in Latin letters. As Ms. Grinberg did not know Hebrew, she could not read the Hebrew names. Beginning with the 1940s there are detailed lists of deaths including the number of the death certificate. These data were probably taken from the community’s archives. A special subgroup of this collection consists of names without the place of burial, section or row. No parallels of this kind of list were found either in photographs of the ground or in the maps and it is doubtful that those listed are buried in Radautz. The names listed in the index are mostly written using German spelling with the balance in Romanian especially towards the end of the period. Bondy Stenzler also photographed the index in the summer of 2005, using a hand-held digital camera, under far from optimal lighting conditions but using high resolution.

Analyzing the Sources of Information

In principle, the photographs of the graves are the fullest and most abundant source of burial data and probably also the most accurate of all three. In reality, some of them have been hard to decipher, for one or more of the following reasons: part or all of the headstone has fallen; partial deterioration of headstones made out of concrete or soft stone; sinking of the stone into the ground; trees making the text invisible; peeling paint; non-optimal lighting conditions; non-optimal photographing angle; spots and sediment on the stone, etc.

The second-best source is the maps of burial sections. Because of the incompleteness of the data on the maps their main function is to support the evidence provided by the photographs. This takes one or several of the following forms: adding a family name if it was not written on the headstone; adding non-Hebrew first names and the date of death if it was not deciphered from the headstone. In addition, the photographer’s route was “tracked” on the map. This tracking has made possible the completion of names in cases where headstones had been completely destroyed and not photographed but were still in good condition when the map was made and the name of the deceased was recorded on the map. The maps are the best source of information for those cemetery sections not yet photographed.

The third-best source of information is the burial index. Its basic incompleteness, in that names written only in Hebrew are not included, spelling mistakes, double entries, as well as missing entries all render it less than optimal. Nevertheless, this source has been used for completing information in quite a few cases in addition to the pictures and maps of one or more of the following: adding non-Hebrew first names; date of death, if not deciphered from the stone and additional information drawn from the notes. Above all, as mentioned above, the index added names that do not appear in the maps or photographs.

Principles of Listing

In view of all this, it was decided to adopt an inclusive attitude in listing the data. This means all the accumulated data on every deceased person from different sources shall be written down. It holds true for data occurring in one source and not in others, family name and so on and data occurring in markedly different forms in diverse sources, especially in the columns of first and last name.

The justification for this is that it provides every researcher access to all information using the data that he knows. For example, a person whose first names are Ya’akov Eliezer is listed under them on the Hebrew part of the tombstone. If the non-Hebrew part exists he might occur as Jakob (German) or Iacob (Romanian). In this case the name will be written as Ya’akov Eliezer Jakob Iacob.

The Structure of the Database

An Excel spreadsheet was used for building the database, because of its availability, the ease with which it can be converted to HTML and for the sake of its posting in an Internet site. The data taken from the raw material has been transferred to the database with one row for each record of a deceased person. The (-) sign in any cell means absence of any information. The (?) sign means doubt about the correctness of information, both because of difficulties in deciphering and because of conflicting data. Between 2006-2007 Yossi Yagur deciphered the data, cross-referenced it and entered it into the database.

On every row, the data has been set in 34 columns as follows:

Name (Latin lettering): last name, if known; first name; Hebrew name (for example Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen); in the column of last name the (/) sign is used for dividing two transliterations of the same name and the (-) sign for dividing between two family names. In the first-name column the (-) sign is used for differentiating between two first names and additional (non-Hebrew) names occur at the end without any sign.

Additional Names (Latin lettering): father’s name, including last name if known and different from deceased’s name; mother’s name and additional family names, if recorded.

Dates and Localities (Latin lettering): Gregorian birth date; place of birth; Gregorian death date; Hebrew death date; place of death; Gregorian date of burial, if known and not identical with date of death and age at death, if explicitly stated in the information sources. Gregorian dates are recorded by day, month and year. Where there was a contradiction between the Hebrew and Gregorian dates in the sources of information, it was solved by finding the origin of the mistake and entering the correct date in the record. If unsuccessful, the information is written down as it occurs, with an appropriate comment in the notes column.

Name (Hebrew lettering): last name (if known), first name.

Additional Names (Hebrew lettering): maiden name, father’s name, mother’s name, spouse’s name.

Dates (Hebrew lettering): Hebrew date of birth, Hebrew date of death and Hebrew date of burial, if known and different from date of death.

Other Data (Latin lettering): number of section, number of row in section, codes used for sources of information: H=Headstone; M=Map; I=Index and T=Tablet. This last item indicates that the source of the information is from memorial inscriptions engraved on the headstones of other deceased persons identification of the pictures of the headstone, up to four per record and notes. The notes column provides annotations on family relations such as grandson of Rabbi xyz, profession, ritual slaughterer/doctor, etc.; mention of two persons buried in the same grave; an indication of conflicting information and so on.

This database includes as a subset all the data types defined in the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) data entry template. Identical columns are called by identical names. This has been done to enable future support of some “shrinking” of the database to JOBWR template.

Statistical Data

At this point, the database includes the following:

About 5,700 names with family name for about 3,800

About 360 names of people who perished in the Holocaust

Record of about 3,700 headstones, in 5,700 pictures

Summing up

This article sums up the work done so far on registration of the cemetery of Radautz. The detailed information will be posted on the above-mentioned website towards the end of 2007 or the beginning of 2008. As mentioned above, there are some sections that have not been photographed therefore the information is incomplete. But, as there is now no precise decision to continue the work, it is better to publish the existing material and ensure public access to information, rather than wait for an unknown period for more complete information. Posting the information on the web ensures the tribute to the memory of the Jewish deceased of Radautz at a time when the physical access to the cemetery and perhaps even its very existence in future generations are not at all certain.

[i] See Israel Margalit, Radautz – A Jewish Community in Growth and Decline (Postilnik, 1990), It was published in Hebrew by the Organization of Former Bukovina Jews in Israel.

[ii] A structure built over the grave of a famous rabbi. Among Hasidim the ohel [singular form] becomes a place of pilgrimage and gathering. Prayer notes are often left on the grave protected by the ohel. The word means tent in Hebrew.