Crisana Province is in north western Romania and its principal city is Oradea. The region, which has a rich Jewish heritage, is part of Transylvania, which was awarded to Romania after the First World War.
Jews have probably lived in the region since the 10th century, but it was only in the 19th century that the Jewish population grew steadily. The Jewish population participated in every important development in the city's history. The city had a Jewish hospital and a number of schools. Significantly, the Jewish community embraced the Hungarian language and culture. During the interwar period this made them a target for Romanian nationalists and fascists. After the creation of the fascist Iron Guard in 1927, the Jews of Oradea suffered from violent attacks and synagogues were vandalised.
In 1940 the area was given to Hungary under the second Vienna Awards. Oradea assumed its Hungarian name of Nagyvarad. The state’s anti-Jewish laws meant that situation of the Jews of Crisana deteriorated further. From 1942, Jewish men in the area were forcibly recruited into labour battalions in the Hungarian army and Jewish businesses were confiscated.
In 1944, about 30,000 Jews lived in Oradea, a third of the city’s population. In May 1944, they were forced into a ghetto alongside 8,000 Jews from the surrounding area. Nine transports left for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp in occupied Poland in the weeks that followed.
Thirteen-year-old Eva Heyman left behind an important testament of this period. In her dairy she describes the deteriorating situation in Oradea. Heyman was a highly assimilated middle-class teenager. The Eva Stories project tells her story on Instagram. Heyman was murdered in Auschwitz in October 1944.
After the liberation Oradea became a regional hub for survivors and had a Jewish population of 8,000. Many Jews passed through the city on their journey out of eastern Europe.
After the Second World War, Crisana province became once again part of Romania. Today, there are only a few hundred Jews living in the city but there is a functioning Jewish community.