Romania Passes Bill Mandating Holocaust and Jewish History Education in All High Schools
by Shiryn Ghermezian
Romania’s parliament passed a law on Monday that makes Holocaust and Jewish history education mandatory in all high schools throughout the country.
The school subject will be called “History of the Holocaust and the Jewish people,” with curricula, teaching materials and methodology developed by the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, in collaboration with Romania’s Ministry of Education.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the Conference of European Rabbis, welcomed the bill’s passing and efforts to introduce the Holocaust and Jewish history into the education system.
“It is growing in Europe and helping us to build a more tolerant and inclusive European society for all religions,” he said Friday.
The bill, which passed 107-13, was introduced by MP Silviu Vexler and MP Ovidiu Gant, and co-sponsored by bipartisan lawmakers from the Social Democratic Party and the National Minorities Parliamentary Group, among others.
“This is a historical moment not only for the memory of all the victims of the Holocaust but also for Romania,” Vexler said during parliamentary discussions. “We are setting the foundation for our common future, a modern framework through which young people can learn and understand what happened in the past as a central part in their formation as citizens. Education and understanding are our best tools to cultivate democracy and freedom, to fight antisemitism, intolerance and extremism.”
The law would ensure that “the history and identity of Romanian Jews is being recovered,” calling it “a moral imperative for repairing the injustices of the dictatorial regimes that ruled Romania during the Holocaust.”
Members from the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, Association of Romanian Jews Victims of the Holocaust, United States Holocaust Museum, the Mémorial de la Shoah in France, Yad Vashem, American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International were also asked to be involved in developing the new school course.
The bill also establishes the Constantin Caragea National Prize, named after the Swedish-Romanian diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust and was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. The prize will honor special achievements in protecting the memory of Holocaust victims; fighting antisemitism; developing Holocaust educational and research programs in Romania; promoting the history, culture and traditions of Romania’s Jewish community; and presenting Jewish contributions to the evolution and modernization of Romanian society.
The Romanian Parliament has recently passed several bills expanding financial support for Holocaust survivors in the country and promotes the opening of the National Museum of Jewish History and the Holocaust in Romania, which will reportedly take a “few years” to establish. Another recent law considers all antisemitic incidents to be criminal offenses, punishable with prison sentences ranging from three months to 10 years.