The concentration camp of Cluj (Cluj County)

The camp in Cluj was established in the northern part of the city in the “Iris” brick factory. It housed 18,000 Jews from Cluj, Borşa, Hida, Huedin, Nădăştia, as well as the prisoners who had previously been transferred from the Gherla camp. It was the third largest in northern Transylvania, after the ghettos in Oradea (35,000 people) and Satu Mare (18,800 people). The rounding up and transfer of the Jews to the camp began on 3 May 1944. The population of the Cluj camp increased from 12,000 people (10 May) to 14,300 (16 May), reaching a figure of about 18,000 after the transfer of the Jews from the Gherla camp. About 5000 of the prisoners were children.

The commander of the Cluj camp was Urbán László, the chief of police. Living conditions were very poor in the camp, many of the prisoners being left out under the open sky, since the factory sheds were insufficient in number. Food was cooked in bathtubs that had been taken from the homes of the Jewish prisoners. Trenches were dug for physiological needs, but only a week after the Jews’ transfer to the camp.

An investigative and torture unit was set up in the camp, led by Gendarmerie Colonel Paksy-Kiss Tibor, commander of Gendarmerie District IX based in Cluj, and commander of all gendarmerie forces in northern Transylvania (except for Maramureş County, which belonged to Gendarmerie District VIII).

The serious situation of the Jews concentrated in the “Iris” brick factory stirred the compassion of Transylvanian church leaders, who took public positions condemning their ghettoisation. Dr Iuliu Hossu, Bishop of the Greek Catholic Church, Dr Nicolae Colan, Bishop of the Orthodox Church, Dr Márton Áron, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, Józan Miklós, Bishop of the Unitarian Church, and Dr Vásárhelyi János, bishop of the Reformed Church, all condemned the brutal measures taken against the Jews and helped some of the victims escape deportation.

The deportation of the Jews from the camp of Cluj to Auschwitz took place between 25 May and 9 June 1944 in 6 transports. The dates of the deportations were: 25 May 1944 (3130 people), 29 May 1944 (3417 people), 31 May 1944 (3270 people), 2 June 1944 (3100 people), 8 June 1944 (1784 people), 9 June 1944 (1447 people). According to the testimonies of certain witnesses, the departure dates for the trains transporting prisoners were: 25 May, 27 May, 29 May, 31 May, 5 June, 7 June 1944. The total number of deportees was 16,148.