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The Banality of History and Memory: Romanian Society and the Holocaust

  • Until recently Romanian society has avoided any genuine confrontation with its own culpability for the murder of Jews in Romania and in Soviet territory under Romanian occupation. For decades Romanians have sought to negate their own role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews. To the extent that a Holocaust in Romania was acknowledged, Romanians sought to blame it on others - including even the victims themselves.
  • In recent years, under international pressure, Romania agreed to convene an international commission of historians to investigate the facts of the Holocaust in Romania. The findings unequivocally indicate Romanian culpability: "Of all the allies of Nazi Germany, Romania bears responsibility for the deaths of more Jews than any country other than Germany itself."
  • The commission also called on the Romanian government to institute a school curriculum that will instill an understanding of the history of the Holocaust in Romania. It is hoped that the new regime in Romania will implement the commission's recommendations with regard to education.

In his book Kaputt, one of the earliest eyewitness accounts of the sufferings of Romanian Jews published in the West, the Italian war correspondent who wrote under the pen name Curzio Malaparte1 described what he had seen of the pogrom in Iasi in June 1941, in which up to fifteen thousand Jews perished:

The road was crowded with people - squads of soldiers and policemen, groups of men and women, bands of gypsies with their hair in long ringlets were gaily and noisily chattering with one another, as they despoiled the corpses, lifting them, rolling them over, turning them on their sides to draw off their coats, their trousers and their underclothes; feet were rammed against dead bellies to help pull off the shoes; people came running to share in the loot; others made off with arms piled high with clothing. It was a gay bustle, a merry occasion, a feast and a marketplace all in one. I flew at a group of policemen busily stripping dead bodies and hurled myself screaming against them, "Dirty cowards," I shouted, "get away, you lousy bastards!" One of them looked at me in amazement, picked up some suits and two or three pairs of shoes from a pile of clothing on the ground and pushed them toward me saying, "Don't get angry, Domnule Capitan [Mister Captain] there's enough for everybody."2

Malaparte's book was translated into most European languages, immediately after it was published in Italy. However, it took more than fifty years for a translation to appear in Romanian, and the reasons for that omission are not far to seek. How Romanian society has faced the darkest episode in its history - the torment and murder of Jews during World War II - is symbolized by the fact that the country's former president supported the contention that the Holocaust never came to Romania, as will be seen below.

For over fifteen years since the fall of communism in Romania over fifteen years ago, Romanian society, with few noteworthy exceptions, has failed to acknowledge any responsibility for the fate of Romanian Jews, or of the Jews murdered by Romanians during their occupation of parts of the Ukraine.

Antipathy and Complicity

The American historian Robert L. Wolff, who in World War II was chief of the Balkan Section of the Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA), noted regarding the period between the wars: "Romanians of all social classes and of any or no degree of education, of all Christian sects and all professions, hated Jews, and were prone to blame them for the troubles of the country. In the Hitler period, when antisemitism became fashionable in Europe, the Romanians often claimed to have invented it."3

Interwar Romania, with its Jewish population of some eight hundred thousand (nearly 5 percent of the total), was especially fertile ground for anti-Semitism, which accelerated from anti-Jewish legislation to mob violence to full-scale, state-sponsored genocide. As Romanian-born historian Radu Ioanid explained:

World War II transformed what might otherwise have remained a period of severe antisemitic outbreaks into a true Romanian Holocaust, that, while part of the broader German-European Holocaust, remained at the same time a specifically Romanian story. As in Germany, the immediate background to Romania's Holocaust tapped archaic antisemitic traditions and was crafted by militant agitation of antisemitic parties, itself followed by State legislation and then compounded by wartime circumstances. Bloody mob violence was the result, but now drawing in government elements, the riots took on the character of a social enterprise and thus invited takeover by the State. This transition phase, when mass robbery and mass murder evolved from a societal to a governmental enterprise, took place in the months immediately preceding and immediately following Romania's entrance into the war. The tempering of the Romanian-German diplomatic alliance into one of wartime fraternity augured more deliberate and more systematic ill for Romania's Jews. Finally, during this time, the Antonescu regime became more directly involved in encouraging the violence, though still more in the sense of indirect inspiration. Soon, however, it would openly take things over.4

A report from the German Einsatzgruppe (mobile killing squad) D of 21 July, 1941 expressed shock, not at the Romanian killers' ferocity, but at their negligence regarding the postmortem cleanup:

The Romanians take action against Jews without any preconceived plan. There would be nothing to criticize about the many executions of Jews had their technical preparation and their manner of execution not been inadequate. But the Romanians leave the bodies of those who are executed where they fall, without burying them. The Einsatzgruppe has enjoined the Romanian police to be orderly from that standpoint.5

The American historian Raul Hilberg described characteristic aspects of the Holocaust in Romania:

Opportunism was practiced in Romania not only on a national basis but also in personal relations….However, what was true of personal opportunism in Romania was true also of personal involvement in killings. Repeatedly the Romanians threw themselves into Aktionen. Witnesses and survivors testifying to the manner in which the Romanians conducted their killing operations speak of scenes unduplicated in Axis Europe…. In examining the Romanian bureaucratic apparatus, one is therefore left with the impression of an unreliable machine that did not properly respond to command and that acted in unpredictable ways, sometimes balking, sometimes running away with itself. That spurting action, unplanned and uneven, sporadic and erratic, was the outcome of an opportunism that was mixed with destructiveness, a lethargy periodically interrupted by outbursts of violence. The product of this mixture was a record of anti-Jewish actions that is decidedly unique.6

The Romanian policy toward the Jews - including mass deportations to Transnistria - only changed with Germany's declining fortunes at the end of 1942.7 Antonescu decided to postpone the deportation of the Jewish population of the Regat (old Romania) to German death camps in occupied Poland, thus sparing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews. Still, estimates of the total number killed by Romanians range from 280,000 to 420,000.8 Returning survivors were often met with hostility and it is believed that hundreds of Romanian Jews were murdered after 1944.9

After the war, with the imposition of communism in Romania, almost no official acknowledgment of Romania's role in the Final Solution was forthcoming.10

A Delayed Confrontation

In the mid-1990s, throughout the continent, Europeans began to confront their wartime history. A process of historical introspection produced a new, often troubling self-image, and above all the sudden discovery that the "historical" narrative on which two generations were raised was actually an amalgam of myths and facts. Most realized that the level of local collaboration with German occupying authorities, or the popular support accorded native fascist regimes, was far greater than had been generally believed.

Conversely, in most instances and despite its disproportionate emphasis in history books, resistance was a marginal phenomenon. With these revelations came accounts of the despoliation of Jewish communities by local people and institutions in German-occupied countries. In this regard, particularly scrutinized were the cases of France, Norway, and the Netherlands.

This process was especially pronounced in certain postcommunist countries, in which some historians, finally free of the constraints of successive party interpretations of history, debunked the prevailing interpretations. For the most part, during the communist period, these societies had not been compelled to face the less savory aspects of their wartime past, especially regarding their relations with their Jewish minorities. In all of them, the story of the "popular antifascist resistance" became deeply embedded in the national history. Researchers were hostage to the prevailing ideology, which was itself often mercurial, so much so that it was once observed that the hardest thing to predict in communism was the past. However, where Jews were concerned there was usually silence. But suddenly communism was dead, though this did not mean it was fully buried or that its worldview could not be reincarnated in other forms.11

Nevertheless, in many instances the findings of researchers, unfettered by censorship, revealed that local populations were active in the destruction and plundering of the Jewish population, either by aiding the Germans or by orchestrating the killings themselves. Although such findings did not endear these authors to much of society, the most brave and honest of them persevered.

Romania's Continuing Denial

This process of historical review had another side to it. Present to varying degrees in all the postcommunist states, especially those (or secessionist parts of them) that had allied themselves with Nazi Germany, was the tendency to glorify local fascist or authoritarian regimes that were complicit in attacking the local Jews.12

This was especially pronounced in Romania. Even after the Ceausescu regime13 was overthrown at the end of 1989, Romanians were loath to confront the country's recent past. Until very recently, the post- Ceausescu Romanian "party line" underwent no significant revision that was broadly reflected in the country's historical narrative. If anything, the nationalist interpretation of Romanian history, which had been gaining strength under Ceausescu, intensified. Until 2003, the official Romanian line was outright denial of any Romanian complicity in the destruction of Jews, or even that the Holocaust had affected Romanian Jewry.

During Ceausescu's reign, "history" was carefully crafted to absolve Romanians of any guilt and place blame for the murder of Romanian Jews - to the extent that it was even acknowledged - exclusively on Germans, Hungarians, or simply "fascists."14 Every schoolchild was taught about the heroic "antifascist resistance" and, in particular, about the "national antifascist, anti-imperialist insurrection of August 1944." The campaigns in which the Romanian military fought after the country's volte face were portrayed as a glorious page in the nation's history, but nothing was taught about its operations before that time, or about its role in the destruction of Romanian Jewry, or of Jews in Soviet territory under Romanian military occupation.

Since the 1989 revolution the country's wartime leader, Ion Antonescu, whom the communist regime hanged for war crimes in 1946, was often depicted as the savior of Romanian Jewry. Because of the fascist dictator's policies after 1942, Romania, it is often claimed, was a sort of oasis for European Jews. The very presence of a relatively large Jewish community in Romania in the postwar years was seen as evidence of this.

Although pogroms (notably in Iasi) and the dispatch of death trains were occasionally, grudgingly acknowledged, Jews were now blamed for their own deaths. Romanian Jews, it was often said, had suffered because of their supposed procommunist sympathies. Indeed, the accusers were often former communist functionaries who had been reincarnated as Romanian nationalists. Romanian communism under Ceausescu was, to be sure, strongly infused with nationalism, and subsequently Romania was mostly ruled by former intimates of Ceausescu. No Walsa or Havel appeared either before or after the collapse.

None of this was a fringe phenomenon. In 1997, when then-President Emil Constantinescu wrote a bold letter to the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, the late Prof. Nicolae Cajal, acknowledging Romania's role in the destruction of Romanian Jews and calling for expiation, he was subjected to a barrage of criticism. The attacks came not merely from the extreme-Right Romania Mare party but also, and unexpectedly, from leading intellectuals and stalwarts of Romanian liberalism.15

False History

Thus, if until the fall of communism Romania's policy was one of amnesia and amnesty, afterward it became one of total exoneration. At the end of 1989, the Romanian Right - avowedly anticommunist but with many former Communist Party hacks, Securitate men, and Ceausescu hagiographers in its ranks began to openly glorify Antonescu and his regime. Suddenly the nationalist dictator who had waged a "holy war against Bolshevism" became an emblematic hero, subject of a personality cult.

"Historians" with a nationalist bent were especially drawn by his ideas of Romania as a great country that had resisted communist demoralization, invading the Soviet Union to regain lost territory and occupy additional areas, and they idealized his resistance to "decadent" and "Western" (i.e., "Jewish") influences. Streets were named for him and monuments, including in Romanian Orthodox churches, erected in his honor. Despite international protests and contrary to Romania's own legislation against glorifying war criminals, this personality cult continues, though abating somewhat in recent years.16

Some foreign philo-Romanian historians have also been involved in this process. One of the most steadfast whitewashers was an American, Kurt Treptow, who in the early 1990s settled in Iasi and eventually became director of the Romanian Culture Institute there. Treptow kept company with "scholars" whose revisionist tendencies and enmity toward Jews were no secret. Among them was the Iasi "historian" Gheorghe Buzatu, a Ceausescu hagiographer and persistent apologist for the Antonescu regime, and a Romania Mare legislator since 2000.17 Another supporter of the official Romanian history was the American Larry Watts, author of a book called Romanian Cassandra: Ion Antonescu.18

As for Treptow, his public activities were finally discredited when he was revealed to be a longtime pedophile and child pornographer, preying on impoverished children in Iasi.19

Political scientist Michael Shafir of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague, a veteran observer of Romanian affairs, aptly labeled the failure to acknowledge guilt in Romania and elsewhere in East Central Europe as "deflective negationism."20 In Romania, he identified another phenomenon at work as well: "Selective negationism…does not deny the Holocaust as having taken place elsewhere, but excludes any participation of members of one's own nation in the perpetration. Nowhere in post-Communist East Central Europe - to the best knowledge of this author - is selective negationism so blatant as in Romania."21

Romania's then-president Ion Iliescu expressed this starkly in 2003. Asked to clarify a Romanian government declaration that "within the borders of Romania between 1940 and 1945 there was no Holocaust," he asserted: "The Holocaust was not unique to the Jewish population in Europe. Many others, including Poles, died in the same way…. Jews and Communists were treated equally…. However it is impossible to accuse the Romanian people and the Romanian society of this [massacre of Jews]."22

Two years earlier, at a ceremony in the Bucharest Choral Synagogue for the sixtieth anniversary of the January 1941 pogrom in that city, Iliescu declared that Romania had not contributed to the history of the persecution of Jews, and that it was "unjustified to attribute to Romania an artificially inflated number of [Jewish] victims for the sake of media impact."23 That same year, in another speech, he said Romanian society had "developed an immune system against inter-ethnic hatred, intolerance, xenophobia, extremism, antisemitism and racism."24

Iliescu was parroting the official version of events that had been propagated in Ceausescu's time and outlasted him. In private conversations with the Romanian ambassadors to Israel and Ukraine, respectively, in 1998, this author was assured that there had been no Holocaust in Romania and that the "few" Jews killed were communist agents or agitators.

Ongoing Distortions of the Record

In 1996, Washington was the setting for an International Scholars' Conference on the Fate of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews under the Antonescu Regime. The American historian Randolph Braham, who has written extensively on the Holocaust in Hungary and Romania, presented a paper that described Romania's Holocaust historiography:

  1. Generally minimizes or distorts the antisemitic policies and anti-Jewish laws that were adopted by successive Romanian governments, beginning with those initiated by the Goga-Cuza regime in late 1937 and culminating in those enforced during the Antonescu era (1940-44);
  2. Virtually ignores or rationalizes Romania's role as an Axis ally that provided the second-largest army in the war against the Soviet Union - an army that was largely destroyed at Stalingrad - and emphasizes the country's contribution to the Allied war effort after August 23, 1944, when Romania switched sides;
  3. Fails to acknowledge the murder of close to 270,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews by units of the Romanian army and gendarmes in parts of Moldavia, Bukovina, Bessarabia and Transnistria;
  4. Focuses on the opportunistic "moderate" anti-Jewish policies the Antonescu government pursued since the end of 1942, and especially after the crushing defeat of the Romanian army at Stalingrad emphasizing its refusal to go along with Germany's program in Old Romania and Southern Transylvania;
  5. Fails to acknowledge or adequately deal with the fact that in Old Romania and Southern Transylvania close to 10 percent of the Jewish inhabitants were killed primarily by Romanians loyal to the Iron Guard and Marshal Antonescu, and takes no note of the fact that the survivors, grateful as they were for having escaped with their lives, were deprived of their livelihood as well as their civil rights and liberties;
  6. Contrasts the country's "humanitarian" wartime record with Hungary's "barbarism," identifying Romania's record with that of Bulgaria and Denmark;
  7. Lays ultimate responsibility for some of the admitted anti-Jewish excesses in Romania proper on the Germans and "a few misguided and over-zealous" Iron Guardists;
  8. Rationalizes the mass murder of the Romanian Jews of Bukovina and Bessarabia as actions of self-defense against Judeo-Bolsheviks and Soviet collaborators; and
  9. Emphasizes and exploits the tragedy of the Jews in Hungarian-ruled Northern Transylvania as an integral part of a calculated political campaign against Hungary and Hungarians.25

These themes have persisted since 1996, and President Iliescu added two new ones. The first is that there was no singularity to the Holocaust. In his view, the sufferings of Jews in Europe were no worse than those of Poles and Romanian communists, implying that too much fuss is made about the Shoah.26 Second, Iliescu suggests that in requesting the return of their property seized during the Antonescu regime, Jews aim to rob honest and impoverished Romanians: "I don't think that we should make a connection between [the Holocaust and Jewish property plundered by Romanians]. After all, that is liable to generate sentiments not of a positive nature toward the Jewish population….Is it worth continuing to skin those who are living in distress today….And just in order to compensate others? I don't find that appropriate."27

Signs of a Change?

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2003, as a result of an international outcry, Romania eventually agreed to convene an international commission to examine the country's wartime history.28 The Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, which was chaired by Elie Wiesel, released a report in November 2004 that unequivocally points to Romanian culpability. It declares: "Of all the allies of Nazi Germany, Romania bears responsibility for the deaths of more Jews than any country other than Germany itself."29 The report recognizes the isolated examples of Romanian individuals and institutions who have struggled to correct the record, and whose influence on the general population has been marginal thus far.

Iliescu praised the commission's findings and was himself praised in Jewish circles for convening it and accepting the results. However, in one of his last acts as president, he conferred the state's prize for Faithful Service on Holocaust-denier Buzatu. He also awarded the state's highest decoration, the Order of the Star of Romania, to Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the Romania Mare leader long known for his virulent anti-Semitism.30 It was a fitting end to the Iliescu regime, one that epitomized its clumsy attempts to comply with international pressure while pandering to Romanian nationalist sentiment seemingly oblivious to the evident contradictions in such a policy.

Subsequently, a new government has come to power and there is some room for optimism. The new president, Traian Basescu, has pledged to right former wrongs and thus far his public pronouncements have been positive.

Still, it is not clear whether the findings of the Commission on the Holocaust in Romania will give rise to a new national narrative. A real change in Romanian attitudes would take generations. In keeping with the commission's recommendation, the subject of the Holocaust has been introduced into the school curriculum. An examination of the curriculum, however, reveals not only inconsistencies but also a tendency to omit the fact that Romanians were responsible for the murder of their Jewish neighbors.

It is the Foreign Ministry under Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu31 that has been most active in heightening awareness of Romania's role in the Holocaust. The question, however, is whether this new stance is mainly for foreign consumption. As Ioanid said in an interview:

For some time the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania was in the forefront of trying to help to do something beyond the short-term commemorative events…. Probably because they understand better the impact outside Romania on the country's image, and the consequences of not dealing with such an issue. But I have to say that we are quite disappointed by the fact that the Ministry of Education, which should be in the forefront of such an issue, is lagging way, way behind. I'm wondering if this is not a relic of the past because my understanding is that the leadership of this ministry is committed to doing something about Holocaust education, but once you go to the second and third level in the bureaucracy of the ministry, you find quite powerful forces that are doing their best to slow down the process.32

There are, on the other hand, encouraging signs. In several universities, notably Bucharest, Cluj, and Iasi, courses have been instituted that focus on teaching the Holocaust and Jewish history. Yad Vashem has also played host to Romanian educators and young political activists who have participated in special courses on the Holocaust and the Romanian role in it. On the recommendation of the international commission, a state-sponsored Romanian institute for Holocaust studies has also been established. Most significantly, a number of important books on the subject have been published in Romania, including a translation of the major work by Jean Ancel.33 Denial is still, of course, widespread, but at least there is finally a serious effort underway to set the record straight.34

Much depends on the attitude of those in power and their will to bring about a change. As Orwell wrote: "Those who control the past control the future. Those who control the present control the past."

* * *


* An abridged version of this article was presented at the JCPA session at the Fourteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem in August 2005. Portions of this text previously appeared as "Where Memory Is a Curse and Amnesia a Blessing: A Journey through Romania's Holocaust Narrative," WJC Institute Policy Study, No. 27, Jerusalem, 2004. The author expresses his gratitude to Dr. Yosef Govrin, former Israeli ambassador to Romania, and Dr. Rafi Vago of Tel Aviv University for their many helpful suggestions.

1. Kurt Suckert.

2. Curzio Malaparte, Kaputt (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1946), 412-13. Strictly speaking, Malaparte's book cannot be seen as a memoir, because of its author's literary aspirations and the artistic license he took with some of his accounts.

3. Robert L. Wolff, The Balkans in Our Time, rev. ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), 117.

4. Radu Ioanid, The Holocaust in Romania (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000), 108-09.

5. Henry Monneray, La Persecution des Juifs dans les Pays de l'Est (Paris: Editions du Centre, 1949), 291 [French], quoted in Ioanid, Holocaust in Romania, 108.

6. Raul Hillberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985), 759-60.

7. In northern Transylvania, however, which came under Hungarian rule in 1940, the deportation of the Jewish population took place in 1944, when it was all but certain that Germany would lose the war.

8. Jean Ancel put the figure as high as 420,000 in his Toldot Ha-Shoah: Romania (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2002), 1402 [Hebrew]. According to the Final Report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania (see n. 31), "between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were murdered or died during the Holocaust in Romania and the territories under its control," 2.

9. Jean Ancel, "The Return of the Survivors from Transnistria," in David Bankier, ed., The Jews Are Coming Back (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2005), 241.

10. A notable exception was the work of the country's communist minister of justice, Lucretiu Patrascanu, Problemele de baza ale Romaniei [Basic Problems of Romania], published in Bucharest in 1944 and revised in 1946. The book included a strong indictment of the role of the Romanian state in the destruction of Romanian Jewry. Patrascanu, a non-Jew, later ran afoul of the communist regime and was executed in 1954. After his posthumous rehabilitation in 1969, his works were republished but without the chapter in the above book titled "The Systematic Annihilation of the Jews under the Antonescu Regime."

11. Nowhere was this introspection more pronounced than in Polish society, much of which was shocked to learn - conditioned as they were to perceive themselves as victims rather than perpetrators - of the massacre at Jedwabne and similar killings nearby. However, Romanian society received no such "shock therapy" and whatever progress has been made has been sporadic and mainly prompted by external intervention. There has been no debate like the one that has occurred in Poland. See Laurence Weinbaum, "The Struggle for Memory in Poland: Auschwitz, Jedwabne and Beyond," WJC Policy Study, No. 22, Jerusalem, 2001.

12. This was especially so in Croatia, Hungary, and Slovakia, which were all responsible to a great degree for the destruction of their Jewish populations. A similar phenomenon occurred in Ukraine and the Baltic states, with the local population either orchestrating or complicit in the destruction of Jews.

13. The Ceaucescu regime was widely acknowledged to be the most repressive in Eastern Europe.

14. An example is Mihai Fatu and Mircea Musat, eds., Horthyist-Fascist Terror in Northwestern Romania September 1940-October 1944 (Bucharest [no publisher stated], 1986), which stresses the crimes committed by Hungarians. The book opens with a characteristic quote by Ceaucescu: "After the First World War, fascism seized political power in Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria and eventually, in the thirties, also in Germany and Spain, while the Japanese militarist regime was established in Asia. By its aggressive, warlike policies, fascism was an increasing threat to the peoples' liberty and independence, to world peace and security." The blatant omission of all mention of the Antonescu regime at home is typical of the attempt to whitewash history.

15. Yosef Govrin, "Transnistria and the Holocaust in Romanian Historiography," Jews in Eastern Europe, Vol. 3, No. 43 (2000): 45; Michael Shafir, "Between Denial and 'Comparative Trivialization': Holocaust Negationism in Post Communist East-Central Europe," Acta: Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism, No. 19 (2002), 70.

16. Nearly all the streets named for Antonescu have since been renamed.

17. According to Buzatu, documents from Antonescu's archives would "very clearly" show that the pogrom at the end of June 1941 "did not start from antisemitic or racial prejudice . . . that no one asked for the execution of the Jewish people except all the guilty people." But the guilty ones, the historian says explicitly, are to be found within "the Jewish population of Jassy," among which there were "some persons who either fired at the Romanian troops or signaled to Soviet planes [from] some areas in Jassy." Quoted in Victor Eskanasy, "Historiographers against the Antonescu Myth," in Randolph Braham, ed., The Destruction of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews during the Antonescu Era (Boulder: Social Sciences Monographs, 1997), 286.

18. Larry L. Watts, O Casandra a Romaniei: Ion Antonescu si lupta pentru reforma: 1918-1941 (Bucharest: Editura Fundatiei Culturale Romane, 1994) [Romanian].

19. The Romanian press reported that Treptow's connections in high places served to mitigate his sentence. In the spring of 2004, another public controversy erupted when it was revealed that the then U.S. ambassador to Romania Michael Guest had worked to secure Treptow an appointment on the board of the Fulbright Commission in Romania.

20. Shafir, "Between Denial and 'Comparative Trivialization,'" 23.

21. Ibid. , 52.

22. Haaretz, Grig Davidovitch, 25 July 2003. His information minister Vasile Dincu made even more forceful statements in the same vein.

23. Realitatea Evreiasca, 16 January/15 February 2001[Romanian]. For an analysis of these remarks, see I. [Yosef] Govrin, "Presedintele Iliescu si pogromul evreilor din Bucahresti," Viatra Noasta, 15 June 2001.

24. Haaretz, 25 July 2003.

25. Randolph Braham, "The Exculpatory History of Romanian Nationalists: The Exploitation of the Holocaust for Political Ends," in Destruction of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews, 49-50.

26. In fact, only Jewish communists were killed in Romania, while the non-Jews were imprisoned.

27. According to a statistical abstract published by the Romanian Section of the World Jewish Congress in 1945, Jews were dispossessed of 40,758 buildings, 42,320 hectares of farmlands, 68,644 hectares of woodlands, and 2,062 hectares of vineyards. The Jews also lost 265 mills and 115 sawmills. Populatia Evreasca in Cifre: Memento Statistic (Bucharest: World Jewish Congress, Romanian Section, 1945), 118-19 [Romanian].

28. Half the members of the commission were Romanians, half foreigners. The Romanian side was led by Gen. Mihai Ionescu, head of the Military History and Research Institute in Bucharest. The foreign group was led by Radu Ioanid of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

29. Final Report of the Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, presented to President Ion Iliescu, Bucharest, 11 November 2004, 7.

30. In recent years Vadim Tudor has attempted, with the aid of an Israeli media adviser, to distance himself from anti-Semitism and even to repackage himself and his party as friendly to Jews. To that end he has engaged in activities that drew considerable media attention, including sponsorship of a bust of Yitzhak Rabin in Brasov and a personal visit to the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp - though not to the sites of the Romanian killing fields. However, given Tudor's long record of anti-Jewish activity including Holocaust denial, Jewish circles have viewed his efforts with skepticism and even disdain.

31. Ungureanu is a well-known scholar of Jewish history in Romania. On a visit to Israel in July 2005, he spoke at the Hebrew University and declared: Nowadays, we have a moral duty to strive even more to make the future generations understand the dimension of systematic crimes perpetrated against peoples and to turn the lessons learned from the past into means to prevent discriminatory action from ever happening again. "Facing History: Romania and the Holocaust," Romanian Information Centre, Brussels, www.crib.maero/index.php?lang=en&id=5463 (viewed August 2005).

32. Interview with Paul Shapiro and Radu Ioanid, Holocaust Studies, "Vivid: Romania through International Eyes," /pages72.holocaust72.htm (viewed December 2005).

33. Ancel, Toldot Ha-Shoah.

34. Ongoing developments are reported on the website of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism of Tel Aviv University at

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Dr. Laurence Weinbaum is director of research at the Institute of the World Jewish Congress in Jerusalem and adjunct lecturer in history at the College of Judea and Samaria. He is a frequent visitor to Romania.

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs