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October 23, 2011 2:23 pm

Ignoring Romania’s Holocaust Complicity: Not an Option

avatar by Oleksandr Feldman

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The death train from Iaşi. Photo: Unknown Journalist.

More than 70 years after the start of World War II, one would think that few secrets remain from what might be the most heavily researched and examined period ever in world history. Each year, however, historians uncover new elements to the scope of horror that defined this era – and in particular the Holocaust. The sheer magnitude of human evil is difficult enough to comprehend, but when one looks at the mass murder of an entire people, it becomes all the more unfathomable.

One such example must be the complicity of the Romanian government in the murder of more than 400,000 Jews, the vast majority of them in the villages and forests of the Ukraine. Among Hitler’s allies, the Romanians are all too often forgotten. Unlike Japan and Italy, Romania wasn’t driven by a global conquest complex. Its motivations for an alliance with Germany were not principled or ideological; they were simply based on what was viewed to be in Romania’s narrow national interest. Yet, the crimes perpetrated were no less evil and perhaps even worse than many other nations typically thought of as partners with the Nazis.

In 1939, at the outbreak of WWII, Romania adopted an official policy of neutrality. However the increasing instability in Europe and growing anti-Semitism lead a Fascist political force known as the Iron Guard to rise to power. The regime’s policy platform was staunchly anti-communist and ultra-nationalistic. Members were known for their virulent anti-Semitism. During this period, the growing weakness of Romania’s main territorial guarantors France and Britain became increasingly obvious. The Iron Guard already favored an alliance with Nazi Germany and hoped their alliance would ensure similar territorial guarantees from the Germans.

The result was a tragedy for the Jews of Romania who consequently suffered inexplicable evils at the hands of their own countrymen and neighbors. In 1941, in one (of many) pogrom alone, 15,000 Jews perished in the city of Iasi. The horrific act was carried out by squads of Romanian soldiers and policemen. The Jews also suffered regularly from violent mobs in what amounted to state-sponsored genocide.

The brutality of the Romanians extended beyond its borders and into Ukraine where many Jews fell victim to German-controlled Romanian forces. During the Odessa Massacre in 1941, Romanian soldiers gleefully took part in a gruesome attack against over 19,000 Ukrainian Jews. The Romanians sought reprisal for a bomb attack they believed to be carried out by Jews. The entire local Jewish community was assembled in a square, sprayed with gasoline and burned alive.

Romania failed to acknowledge these genocidal outrages along with a multitude of similar acts carried out against Romanian and Ukrainian Jewry for over a decade after the fall of communism. Adding further insult to the memory of the murder victims, no responsibility was ever taken for the fate of murdered Jews inside Romania or in the Ukraine during their occupation there.

Until today there remain serious distortions of history regarding Romania’s role in WWII and more specifically the Holocaust. In recent years, only following significant international pressure, did the Romanian government agree to create a panel of historians to investigate their nation’s actions during the Holocaust.

The commission compiled undeniable evidence that implicated Romanian culpability in the systematic murder of Jews. It also found that Romania bore responsibility for the deaths of more Jews than any other German allied country other than Germany itself.

Yet in the face of all the clear evidence of the destruction of communities and loss of life, Romania maintained its innocence. In an attempt to absolve themselves of any guilt or responsibility Romania has consistently laid blame exclusively on the Germans, the Hungarians, virtually everyone else in the area except their own regime and the people who supported it.

Evidence of pogroms and the fact that death trains were dispatched from Romanian cities was eventually, reluctantly acknowledged by the authorities. Even then it was under the guise that such tragedies were not ethnically based and took place because of the communist sympathies of the murdered victims (ie. Jews).

Tragically as recently as 2003, Romanian officials, including then president Ion Iliescu declared that it was “unjust to link Romania to the persecution of the Jews in Europe” and that numbers were being inflated for the sake of media impact. The odd ‘academic’ revisionist or extremist kook who denies the Holocaust is uniformly ostracized by the civilized world. Yet, hardly an eyebrow was raised when the national leader of a bona fide nation state essentially denied the Holocaust, or at least Romania’s sanguinary complicity in mass murder.

If Romania wants to be a respected member of the community of nations, it must to confront and accept the horrors of its past in the same ways as have so many other European governments.

With this goal sharply in mind, we will gather—for the first time ever—on November 9th in Kiev for a Conference to highlight the role of Romania in the Holocaust in Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union. We will present the Romanian Government with an historic opportunity to correct the horrific crimes of their past. Only in admitting guilt will Romania be able to properly commemorate the memories of the victims and establish a new generation of understanding, education and atonement.

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  • Numacalca Dotro

    Search for “History of Romania part 15 – Holocaust” on youtube to see the TRUTH about WW2 Romania.

  • andrei

    Just another ucrainian idiot.

    • Numacalca Dotro

      Search for “History of Romania part 15 – Holocaust” on youtube to see the TRUTH about the so-called “holocaust of Romania”.



    • Sir,
      Please do not go to conclusions when you seem to ignore facts.
      For your knowledge , at the end of June 2011 it was comemorated 70years of IASI Pogrom . In addition to all the official ceremonies attended by representatives of Gov. Army. Church, local authorities participated reputable ROMANIAN HISTORIANS who all admitted the magnitude and cruelty of Romanian contribution to Holocaust. So think again about this Cain mark on Romania and try to mend it.

      • Mircea Popescu

        The question remains, why weren’t these atrocities revealed and investigated right after WW2 by Hannah Rabinsohn (alias Ana Pauker), László Luka (alias Vasile Luca), Boris Grünberg (alias Alexandru Nicolschi), Ernst Neuländer (alias Valter Roman), Saul Bruckner (alias Silviu Brucan) and all other Jews that were ruling Romania at the time? They sent a lot of Romanian intellectuals to life in prison or death for simply being anti-communist. Why wasn’t anybody tried for being anti-semitic? Nobody knew at the time about the 400,000 Jews being killed by the Romanians?

  • jam doe

    Good luck with that one Germany barley took any responsibility for killing Jews and as long as we have people denying the holocaust that only gives country’s an excuse.

  • Mircea Popescu

    Please make sure Mr. Putin and Russia admit that many Jews fled Germany and came to USSR, only to be rounded up by NKVD and delivered to the Gestapo. Also, the NKVD gave the Gestapo the lists of communist Jews living in Germany. You don’t need the exact numbers, just come up with an arbitrary figure, like 400,000 Jews killed by Romanians.

    • Olga

      Typical Romanian response – put the blame on another entity, and try to avert attention from your own crimes, to absolve your own culpability. Such a nice example of what the writer was describing. Thanks for giving the world a case in point. Not that the NKVD didn’t also persecute Jews…but that’s is not the subject of this article. So be a man and accept the blood on your country’s hands.

      • Mircea Popescu

        I am a man, and that’s why I would never admit to a lie.

  • Robert Veress

    As a half Romanian half Hungarian I am ashamed for what some of my predecessors have done during the WWII. Still… I am equally disturbed by the inexactitudes from this article. In my opinion, a life cannot be equaled by anything, not even by two, three, a million or a billion lives. And so, when you talk about a death toll you must try to be as precise as you can. Also, you have to be accurate when you put the blame on an entire nation. I don’t find any references in your article. No one in the entire world had before stated that “Romania bore responsibility for the deaths of more Jews than any other German allied country other than Germany itself”. You quote a finding by a Romanian panel of historians. This “finding” does not exist! There is no serious historian in this world to state that the Romanian government murdered 400.000 Jews. Maybe you consider also the Jews deported from Transylvania, but the Romanian province was under Miklos Horty’s authority during the WWII.

  • Tony Sien

    The vast majority of the Communist leaders in Romania after WW2 were Jews. If so many Jews were killed by Romanians, why didn’t they start an investigation THEN, when witnesses were still alive, memories were still fresh, and objective evidence was still easier to find?

    • Olga

      Actually this is completely false. This is an invalidated statement that Romanians who want to excuse their countrymen’s antisemitism post1989 always push forward. it is false. Ceausescu was an anti-semite himself – very nationalistic.

      • Tony Sien

        CeauÈ™escu’s Romania was the only Communist country that retained diplomatic relations with Israel and did not sever diplomatic relations after Israel’s launch of the Six-Day War in 1967 against neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. CeauÈ™escu made efforts to act as a mediator between the PLO and Israel. And I was talking about 1945-50 anyways…You need to come up with some better arguments than “It is false”…

      • Tony Sien

        Fact: The Instructing Commission of the International Tribunal of Nuremberg exculpated the Legionary Movement, the National Romanian Government, and the Romanian army. Those entities are not guilty of either “war crimes,” or “genocide”; and they are not “fascist”, or “nazi”, or “collaborationist” either. It is well known that the work of instruction to a tribunal is secret and its acts and decisions are not made public. However, the acts of accusation and the sentences against other organizations of the International Tribunal of Nuremberg were published. Thus, alongside of the Fascist Party and the Nazi Party, alongside of the SA and of the SS, almost all nationalist movements of Europe were found guilty of “war crimes and crimes against humanity”, of “fascism”, “national socialism”, and “collaborationism”, including that of Leon Degrelle, the Croatian ustasha, the Hungarian Cross and Arrows, the Slovak Hlinka-Garda, and so on. It was only the Legionary Movement and the Bulgarian Strajniks (modelled after the Legionary Movement) of Professor Cantargiev that were exonerated from that type of sentencing.
        Let me know if you need more FACTS, not opinions.

        • Tony Sien

          Olver Lustig, Holocaust survivor writes:
          In the south of Transylvania, under Antonescu’s rule, the life of not one single Jew was endangered. While the Jews of Cluj and Dej, of Oradea and Satu-Mare, of all towns and villages of Northern Transylvania were rounded up and all of them to the last old man, to the last infant, were driven under the threat of Horthy’s bayonets, to the crematories and gas chambers of Birkenau-Auschwitz, the Jews of Turda and Alba-Iulia, of Arad and Timisoara were not even as much as asked to wear the yellow star!
          What is more, those towns and as a matter of fact the towns in all of Romania were a safe haven for all Jews of Northern Transylvania – and even of Hungarian cities – who managed to escape from the ghettoes and flee to Romania.
          The cable sent from Budapest to Berlin is well known and frequently quoted in specialized literature in which Veesenmeyer reports: “from the circles of the Romanian consul general of Cluj it has transpired that the Jews who fled from Hungary to Romania are treated there like political refugees, and the Romanian government is to facilitate for them their emigration to Palestine”.
          Dr. Israel Gutman, college professor in Israel shows, in a report titled “The Status of Romanian Jews against the Background of a Europe Conquered by the Nazis”, that in Romania the nazi plans of deporting the Jews to the extermination camps of Poland met with “energetic opposition on the part of the Romanian people and of the Romanian authorities, including the government and the dictator Ion Antonescu … Their refusal to deliver the Jews grew with time and it was this resistance that saved the majority of Romanian Jews from the ‘final solution’ as conceived by the nazis. It does not seem to me that that was just the consequence of opportunistic stances or changes in alignment, but decisively in part and to a great extent it was the result of a difference in the positions and concepts as regards the Jews that prevailed in nazi Germany on the one hand and on the other in Romania under Antonescu’s dictatorship.”
          In a study entitled “Antonescu’s Regime and the Saving of the Jews of Southern Transylvania”, Dr. Jean Ancel of Israel writes that: “The problem of the Jews of (Southern) Transylvania and the Banat can be considered to be the first serious disagreement between the plans of the Nazi government and the steadfastness of a small nation. If we consider Stalingrad to be a decisive event in the history of World War II, a moment which marks the beginning of the end of Nazi domination in Europe, then the Romanian government’s refusal to hand over its Jews may be considered one of the great acts of resistance in Europe, at a time when Germany was at the peak of its power…”
          Surely, the Jews of Romania were not exempt from a series of anti-Semitic measures, vexations and persecutions. At the time of the legionary rebellion of January 1941, among the victims there were 130 Jews. Then in the Yassy pogrom there perished several thousand. It has not been possible to arrive at an exact figure because of lack of documentation. Referring to the rebellion and to the Yassy pogrom, college professor Dr. Israel Gutman from Yad Vashem writes: “It is to be supposed that the Nazis were the initiators and fomenters of those tragic events, however it cannot be denied that some anti-Semitic elements from among the local population also participated.”
          It is unjust, it is unacceptable to consider equal the fate of the Jews of Horthy’s Hungary – about whom the American historian Randolph Braham writes that “they were annihilated with unprecedented speed through the most barbarous deportation and the most pitiless program of massacre that prevailed during the war” – and the fate of the Jews of Romania, a country that was, according to the same historian, “an oasis, a haven for the Jewish refugees from Hungary.”