Project number: [JOWBR, MOLD-02279]


The ORHEI Cemetery in MOLDOVA

In order to query this database effectively it is necessary to understand where the data came from and how the data is constructed. The data in this database comes from primarily three sources: two different cemetery books, a number of memorial stones, and pictures of the gravestones. This cemetery is one of the oldest in the region, dating back to the early 1600's – it is believed that Jews were buried here as early as 1613 when a huge pogrom occurred in the area. It is estimated that over 15,000 burials have occurred in this cemetery. Most of the stones have totally deteriorated, are lying in piles of partial stones or are obscured by vegetation. The cemetery has been flooded many times which has increased the speed of deterioration of the stones and it has also endured three earthquakes in the 20th century which has broken, toppled and shifted many of the stones. Also, during WWII many of the stones were used by the Nazi's to repair buildings.

The first cemetery books contain entries for over 3100 burials. They range in date from 1893 to 2007. It was constructed in 1978 and is in order by grave location. Some entries were made in the ensuing years but are in random order. It was written in Russian script and usually contained the surname, given name, patronymic, date and grave location. Of the over 3100 entries only 2300 had surnames and only 2500 had dates. The book does not cover all burials from 1893 to 2007 and it is not known how it was constructed – none of the remaining Jews in Orhei could answer the question.

The second cemetery book was published in about 2007 and is printed in Russian Cyrillic. It contains over 3500 entries, also from about 1893 to 2007. It contains the surname, given name, patronymic, year of death and grave location. It is sorted alphabetically by surname, for those with surnames, and alphabetically by given name for those without surnames. About 2600 entries have surnames and 2100 of those have year of death (none have the full date of death). Over 850 entries have no surname but almost all have year of death. Almost every entry in the book has a grave location. The book also contains over 75 names from the main Holocaust memorial and from an Isakovo village Holocaust memorial.

Surprisingly there are a lot of differences between the two books. Although most of the names from the first book are included in the second book, the names and spellings often differ (although in most cases not significantly). However the dates of death and the grave locations are different at least 5% of the cases. There is no explanation for this that I can give.

There are several different memorials in the cemetery. Most are Holocaust memorials but some may not be. The main memorial, which is a Holocaust memorial, has over 150 names on it. Altogether the memorials have about 250 names. Although it is most likely that these people were not buried in the cemetery, they have been put into this database since the memorial stones are located in the cemetery. These have all been indicated as being on memorials by notes in the Comments column.

The third source is the gravestone photos themselves. These photos were taken by some volunteers in Orhei in exchange for money that was then used to do some reconstruction on the cemetery in an attempt to stop the continual flooding. A total of over 2900 photos were taken, but only about 2450 were readable. The rest contained gravestones that were too old and worn or were covered by too much vegetation. Of the 2450 photos about 1500 of them matched records from the cemetery book and the other 950 were new additions. Most of the new additions were gravestones from the 1800's. Surprisingly a total of 20 stones were found with dates in the 1700's (1722 and 1729 being the oldest). In addition there were a number of other stones from the Jewish year starting with 55 but the last two digits were unreadable – some of these were also probably from the 1700's.

There were two categories of gravestones: those that had both Russian and Hebrew on them; and, those that had only Hebrew. The ones with Russian and Hebrew were primarily from after WWII and those with only Hebrew were primarily from before WWII. Additionally, those with surnames generally ranged from about 1900-2007 and those without surnames were generally from before 1920.

Querying this database requires an understanding of the Russian/Hebrew issues and the surname/no surname issue. Since the cemetery book was in Russian and some of the gravestones were only in Hebrew this caused a problem in the Given Name and Patronymic (Father's name) columns. Sometimes the given name or patronymic is a Russian transliteration and sometimes a Hebrew conversion. In some cases this makes no difference because the name is essentially the same, but in many cases they are quite different. Examples are Chana vs. Khona, Yitzchak vs. Itskhok, Froim vs. Efrayim, Leah vs. Leya, Isrul vs Yisrael and many others. When querying, especially on those without surnames, it is very important to try both Hebrew and Russian versions of the given name and patronymic. It is also important to remember that over 1400 of the total of 4300 names have no surname.

It should be noted that many of the stones also have “In Memory” statements on them – there are over 200 burial stones containing memory statements. That information is contained in the Comments column. If you do find a relative that has a stone be aware of the fact that over 750 of these stones have photos of the person on them. That information is also contained in the Comments column. Obviously these are primarily on the newer stones. Finally, because most burials in most of the sections were almost in chronological order, I was able to determine some probable years of death in many cases – again those are shown only in the Comments column as “probable” dates of death and are found in brackets [ ]. Since about 5% or more of the gravestone locations are very questionable those probable dates of death should be used very carefully.

The picture below comes from the second cemetery book and shows where the different sections of the cemetery are located. This only helps for those entries that have grave locations and primarily for those that occurred after about 1900. According to documentation each section of the cemetery yields some information about the burials in that section. Remember, though, that the two cemetery books disagree as to where a person is buried in a small percentage of the burials.

Section A – Burials began in the early 20th century and it was a section primarily for men living in the rural villages (Susleny, Kipercheny, etc.). In the later years (1970 to present day) you will see quite a few women buried there (rows 24 through 38).

Section B – This section contains burials mainly from about 1960 to current day.

Section D – This section contains mainly burials of women from the 1960's and early 1970's..

Section E – This section contains burials mainly from the 1960's and 1970's.

Section G – This section started being used about 1920 and was for women from the rural areas .

Section I – This section contains burials from about 1950 to current day.

Section K – This section contains burials from about the 1890's through current day. It is primarily for men who lived in the urban areas.

Section L – This section contains primarily burials from the 1960's to current day.

Section V – This section contains burials primarily from the 1970's to current day and is mostly women.

Section Z – This section contains burials from the 1890's through current day. Although primarily for women who lived in the urban areas , there are a number of men buried here.

Section ZH – This section contains burials from about 1910 through current day. It was primarily for people who lived in the urban areas.

Old Cemetery Section – most of these burials occurred before 1920 (actually most in the 1700's and 1800's). There are no grave locations for anyone buried in this section. The cemetery is reported to have had about 15,000 burials since its inception. About 4,000 burials are in the newer sections listed above. That means probably about 11,000 burials are in this section – only about 600 have readable gravestones or were in the cemetery books, which indicates how many gravestones have deteriorated or have been destroyed.