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A little-known heroine.

Imagine yourself in the city of Roman in Romania in the summer of 1941. Your country is a staunch ally of Nazi Germany, and although home to many Jewish communities, it is overtly antisemitic. You are a nurse, head of the Red Cross in Roman, and mother of a well-known ace fighter pilot in the Romanian military.

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany and its allies, including Romania, invade Russia, and your anxiety for your son skyrockets. You begin to hear of vicious pogroms against Jews across the country. Less than a week later, you hear that in Iasi, only two hours away, soldiers and the police, as well as ordinary Romanians, have murdered thousands of Jews in their homes and in the streets! Has the world gone mad?

Wounded Romanian soldiers quickly begin to arrive from the nearby Russian front, and you spend your days at the train station providing aid. Has it actually been only two weeks since life was normal? On the evening of July 2, you hear moaning from a freight train that pulled into the station for the night. On inquiry, you find out that it is a train full of Jews rounded up in Iasi that has been shuttling between stations for three days. “How many Jews?, you ask.” “Around 2,500.” Horrified, you continue, “How are they being fed and cared for?” “They are Jews; who cares?”

You ask if the Red Cross might provide food and water to the passengers and allow them to wash. The authorities are reluctant, but on learning that you are the mother of a decorated flying ace, they agree. Imagine your horror when the freight doors are finally opened, and you find more than half of the Jews dead from thirst and suffocation!

You manage somehow to keep the train in Roman the following day and provide food and water to the remaining passengers. The train leaves on July 4, and despite your best efforts, only about 1,000 of the original passengers arrive at their final destination alive.

You might hope that your compassionate care of the Jews would be applauded, but in fact, you are strongly condemned in your hometown and forced to resign your position and move away. After the war your son returns to you safely and your countrymen slowly begin to view your actions in a positive light, but not so the Jews. Not for a moment did they forget your brave and heroic efforts in the face of insurmountable odds and great danger. The Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania proudly supported you for many years, and in 1983, you were recognized as Righteous Among Nations.

You are Viorica Agarici, little-known heroine of the Romanian Holocaust.


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