International Symposium: “Jewish identity and antisemitism in Central and South Eastern Europe”

Between 9 and 11 December 2002, under the patronage of the Bucharest branch of the Goethe Inter Nationes Institute, the International Symposium was a success.

Partners of the symposium were the Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities , the “Goldstein-Goren” Hebrew Studies Center, Bucharest University and Bucharest History Museum. Media partners: “22 Magazine”, “Dilemma”, “The Cultural Observer”, “The Jewish Reality”, TVR, and Reality TV.

The symposium also had the support of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, the New Europe College, the Czech Institute, the Slovac Embassy, the Visual Art Foundation and Antena1 TV. Among the participants: Polirom publishing house , Hasefer publishing house, Humanitas publishing house, Editorial group Universalia and the International Center for the Study of Antisemitism “Vidal Sasoon” (Jerusalem)

The Symposium’s Argument:

A Polish intellectual bitterly joked:” In Poland there live more Buddhists than Jews; yet, there is no «Buddhist problem» but there is a big «Jewish problem».” The situation is similar in Romania, as well as in another post-communist countries: the small Jewish community is continuously decreasing, but there is a high interest for “Jewish issues”.This is also because, during the communist regime, most problems related to the Jewish community were a “taboo” subject, according to the principle: “We do not speak about it, therefore, it does not exist”. An open discussion, even with contentious aspects concerning jewish identity and antisemitism in yesterday’s and today’s Central and Eastern Europe is – I believe- welcomed. Historians, statesmen, sociologists, publishers, teachers, and civil society representatives now have a free stand for a debate having this delicate theme as a subject, seldom with grave, and sometimes explosive accents. (Andrei Oisteanu, Project Consultant)

The following was the program of the symposium:

Monday, 9 th December 2002

9:00-9:30 Opening presentation

Introduction, presentation of the participants, seminary briefing intentions
Heidegert Hoesch, Director, Goethe Inter Nationes Institute Bucharest
Andrei Oisteanu, project consultant, Hebrew Studies Center, Bucharest University
Nicolae Cajal, President, The Federation of Romanian Jewish
Communities, Andrei Plesu, Rector, New Europe College, Bucharest

Session I:
History and Jewish Identity in Romania.”Landmarks of a life”

Moderator: Andrei Oisteanu

9:30-11

“He does not have our permission to sit among you” Anthropological notes representing Romanian-Jewish intercommunities relations in Moldavia during the first half XIX century.

Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, Special deputy coordinator, European South-Eastern Cooperation Initiative, Bucharest, Lecturer, History “Al.I.Cuza” University, Iasi.

Jewish Identity in Romanian Jewish historiography (1854-1944)

Lya Benjamin, researcher, The Center for the Study of Jewish History, Bucharest.

Jewish Education in Transilvania. A historic perspective.

Ladislau Gyemant, Director, The Jewish History Institute “Dr. Moshe Carmilly”, “Babes-Bolyai” University, Cluj-Napoca

11-11:30

Book release, edited by Polirom, Iasi

Smaranda Vultur (coordinator) “Saved Memory. Jewish population from Banat, yesterday and today”,

“A Third Europe” Collection.Presentators: Smaranda Vultur and Andrei Pippidi.

11:30-13:30

“The Jewish Problem” seen by Jewish people and Romanians in 1945.

Andrei Pippidi, Director, Romanian Institute for the Recent History, Bucharest.

Jewish people during the post-Ceausescu Romania: centrality and phobia.

Leon Volovici, Research Director, International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University from Jerusalem

The Jewish-Romanian cultural patrimony. Between disparition and survival.

Dorel Dorian, Deputy, The Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities, Editor-in-chief, “The Jewish Reality”

Discussions

13:30-15:00
Lunch Break

Session II:
Jewish Identity Coordinates in Central and Eastern European Culture

Moderated by: Leon Volovici

15:00-18:30

Between music and politics.Two destinies: Hermann Scherchen and Clara Haskil

Victor Eskenasy, political analyst, Radio Free Europe, Prague

First Hebrew theater in the world (Iasi, 1876) Avram Goldfaden, musical precursor.

Radu Gabrea, stage manager, Radio and TV Romanian Company

Painter: Leon Koen from Belgrade. Comprehension obstacles.

Nicola Suica, art historian, Art University, Belgrade

Historic character of Jewish identity and Jewish artistic creation of the last two centuries in Romania (Amelia Pavel, art historian, Bucharest).

Jewish people during the inter-war Romania avantgarde: European resonances and interferences (Michael Finkenthal, professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Jewish spirit and cutural, scientific and political revolutions of XX th century, Iosif Berman Andrei Cornea , Lecturer, The Hebrew Study Center, Bucharest University

Discussions

18:30-19:00

Opening of photo exhibition

“Images and truth in the beginning of the XX-th century”, Iosif Berman (1892-1941)

Vin d’ Honneur

Tuesday, 10 December 2002

Session III:
Antisemitism and Holocaust. Testimonies, studies, documents

Moderator: Michael Shafir

9:30-11

Denial of the Holocaust: causes and effects of processing historic reality refusal

Wolfgang Benz, Director, the Center for the Research of Antisemitism, Technical University, Berlin

Jewish people from South Transilvania and Banat during the Holocaust years

Victor Neumann, professor, West University, Timisoara

Closed windows. Jewish population deportation and witnesses indifference.

Magdalena Boiangiu, Editor-in-chief assistant, “Dilemma” Magazine, Bucharest

11-11:45

Book release, Polirom, Iasi

Michael Shafir, ” Between denial and triviality, a comparative approach. Denying the Holocaust in post-communist countries from Central and Eastern Europe.

Presented by: Michael Shafir and Andrei Pippidi

Jan T.Gross, “Neighbours.Crossing out the jewish community in Jedwabne, Poland, “A Third Europe” collection (Presented by: Michael Shafir)

11:45-13:30

Writing on the wall. The Jewish Community from Bulgaria, past and future

Ema Muresan, Vice president, “Shalom” Organization, Bulgaria

The Anatomy of Antisemitism during the communist Romania

Liviu Rotman, Director, The Diaspora Research Institute (Tel Aviv University), Co-director, Hebrew Studies Center (Bucharest University)

Discussions

13:30-15:00
Lunch Pause

Session IV:
Antisemitism and Holocaust, a part of yesterday’s and today’s public discourse

Moderated by: Liviu Rotman

15:00-19:30 (with lunch break between 17:00-17:15)

“From Wagner to Hitler”- The impact of Richard Wagner’s antisemitism in the German culture and politics. (Gottfried Wagner, musician, Germany)

Selective denial in Romania: a comparative approach

Michael Shafir, political analyst for Central and South -Eastern Europe, Radio Free Europe, Prague

Slovak historiography of the Holocaust from ’90

Eduard Niznansky, professor, Komensky University, Bratislava

Jewish issue and the Holocaust appearance in Romanian school books (1998-2002)

Felicia Waldman, Hebrew Studies Center, Bucharest University

Approach on antisemitism and Holocaust education in the Czech Republic (after 1989) (Marie Zahradnikova, Cultural and Educational Center, The Prague Jewish Museum)

Antisemitism in Romania and Government Ordinance no. 31/2002

Alexandru Florian, Scientific Director, Social-Democratic Institute “Ovidiu Sincai”, Bucharest

Discussions with participants through all symposium sections (moderators: Liviu Rotman and Andrei Oisteanu)

19:30-20:00

Concert with instrumental formation “Klezmeri” Conductor Bogdan Lifsin

Wednesday 11 December 2002

SessionV:
Documentary movies

10:00-13:30

Movies produced by Alexandru Solomon (The Visual Arts Foundation)


- The man with a thousand eyes (film about the photographer Iosif Berman)

- Duo for Panocel and Petronom (film about writers: Paul Celan and Petru Solomon)

- The Zurich Chronicle (film about the contribution of the Jewish writers and artists to the foundation of dadaism movement)

Film by Radu Gabrea (Script: Stelian Tanase)
Struma : a film produced with the support of Antena 1 television).

Racial Discrimination – sanctioned by the Radio and Television Channels

This article has been published on 20 th of February 2003 – “The Guardian”.

Instigations to anti-Semitism, racial, religious or sexual discriminations, serious and repeated violations of both the presumption of innocence and of the right to a personal image, are all cases for which the National Council of the Audio-Visual (C.N.A) can cancel the license of any Radio or Television Channel, was decided, yesterday, at the end of the discussions between the Members of the Culture Commission of the Chamber of Deputies and the representatives of the C.N.A . The audio-visual license can also be cancelled in cases of national security endangerment or incitement to social disorder . ” This decision is not a censorship act, but a limitation of some rights in order to prevent the violation of other rights.” declared the government-appointed C.N.A representative, Dan Grigore. At the initiative of the Vice-President of the Culture Commission, Marton Arpad, the the deputies voted the modification of the Audio-Visual Law in favor of the introduction of this new article. However, the article is endowed with the enumeration of several acts which can bring grave prejudices to the public interest and which are less serious than the license cancellation: the suspension of the license only for a period of a time (from three days to one month), or between one month and three months. As an argument for this decision, there is explained why such sanctions were adopted, referring to the OTV Television Channel, which “aroused suspicious ideas, and a decision that has been interpreted as a political act of obedience of a voice from the audio-visual council.” (The Guardian – I.Moldoveanu – February 20, 2003)

Letter from B’nai B’rith International to Prime Minister Adrian Nastase

H.E. Adrian Nastase

Office of the Prime Minister

Bucharest, Romania

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

We were profoundly distressed to read today the statement by your Public Information Ministry, which denies that the Holocaust ever occurred on Romanian soil.

Over the past several years, country after country in Europe has investigated its past, as it relates to the Holocaust. These historical investigations have led not only to statements of contrition and admissions of culpability, but positive steps to bring some measure of justice and closure in response to the horrific events that led to the near total destruction of European Jewry.

Over the past several years, B’nai B’rith has been engaged in this important dialogue with members of the Romanian government. It was our belief, and I’m sure the belief at the ministries with which we’ve worked, that some progress was being made in taking responsibility for history.

To deny the humiliation, degradation and ultimate murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews in Romania during the years 1940-45 not only flies in the face of historical fact, it sets back strenuous efforts to educate new generations of Romanians about the past and to learn lessons from it.

We call on you to immediately, unequivocally and publicly reject the Public Information Ministry’s statement of denial. Nothing less than Romania’s credibility as a newly-integrated member of the family of European democracies is at stake.

Sincerely,
Joel S. Kaplan
President

Daniel S. Mariaschin
Executive Vice President

Antisemitism and policy

By Alexandru Florian


In March, 2002, the Government of Romania emitted the Emergency Ordinance no. 31/2002 “which refers to the prohibition of the fascist, racist or xenophobe organizations or symbols and to the promotion of the cult of persons who are guilty of crimes against peace and humanity”. After 1989, this is the first legal decision of Romania’s Government having the objective is to protect the society from manifestations against democracy values. The Ordinance has two objectives. First, to eliminate from the public life the cult of Marshal Ion Antonescu, leader of the totalitar regime during 1940-1944, sentenced to death and executed in 1946 as a war murderer, responsible for the killing of at least 250 thousand Jews on Romania, Basarabia, Bucovina and Transnistria. Secondly, the prohibition of both antisemite manifestations and of the denial of the Holocaust.


After several months from this legal power act, the monitorization/screening of the Romanian political and civic life related to the relevant aspects mentioned in the Ordinance, offers the opportunity to characterize a contradictory situation.


The most rapid positive effects which may have occured as a result of the Ordinance were represented by the action of the central and local administration. Thus, the busts of the dictator Ion Antonescu which were on the domain or on the perimeter of the public institutions began to fall down one by one.
In the middle of August 2002, prime minister Adrian Nastase announced that there were identified 25 thoroughfares all over the country named “Ion Antonescu”.
Ten names of those thoroughfares were changed as a result of local councils decisions.


On the other hand, anonymous antisemitism, the radical or the maninstream one, continued to be present as the state institutions were indifferent and as the contrareaction of the civil society was absent. Here are some examples:


“Curentul” newspaper from 7th August publishes “the mayor from Flamanzi village wants Antonescu in front of the City Hall”. The mayor, a member of the National Liberal Party, declared: “even 10 years from now on, I shall have the same ideas, I shall sustain the same statement. We should built a golden bust for Antonescu, and every day we should kiss it…” On the night of 12-13 October , on the walls of the Jewish Theater from Bucharest there were wrote down infamous words, reminding of the Auschwitz extermination camp. On October 15, a TV channel informed about the presence of antisemitic slogans written on a block of apartments from Cluj. In a short period of time after the Executive published the Ordinance, on the premises of the Government there is organized a gallery with portraits of past prime ministers. The portrait of Ion Antonescu is also exposed. Within Jilava prison’s yard, where Antonescu was executed, there is still a monument built after 1990 to his memory. In the hall of the entrance of Iulia Hasdeu high-school from Bucharest there is a plaque which reminds that on the inauguration day of this building (in 1942) participated King Mihai, the leader of the state, Ion Antonescu and Ion Petrovici , the Ministry of National Cults and Culture.


Once it got into the Parliament, the Emergency Ordinance aroused so many discontents that not even today it succeeded in passing through the law commission. The process stopped at the definition of the Holocaust chapter. Was there or it was not a Holocaust in Romania? The members of the Parliament could not decide upon this issue.


The Vice president of the Senate, on behalf of The Greater Romania Party is Gheorghe Buzatu. Professor Gh.Buzatu, however, is both the president of Marshal Ion Antonescu’s League and one of the historians who actively participated to the development of Ion Antonescu’s cult. He is also one of the representatives of the negationism in the Romanian historiography of the Holocaust. As the president of Marshal Ion Antonescu League, he launched the initiative for the statue from the yard of Constantin and Elena Church in Bucharest. The apparition of the Emergency Ordinance did not produce any modification to his position in Romania’s Senate or to the existence of the civic association that he still leads.


The most aggressive and primitive antisemitic attacks were consumed in July and September. They were uttered by C. V. Tudor, the leader of The Greater Romania Party and were made public both by the main official representative of the Party, the weekly magazine “Greater Romania” and by TV channel OTV. Some of these messages were read from the Romania’s Senate tribune without any contrareactions from any person present at the meeting at that time. Beyond the vulgar words addressed to Jewish ethnic persons, C. V. Tudor has the skills of any right-extremist leader, mastering most of the antisemitic principles.


The rough antisemitism represented by C. V. Tudor, and The Greater Romania Party in political life can be found in the cultural antisemitism of Paul Goma. Paradoxically, as the social and political trajectories of these two men were opposite during the communist regime, Paul Goma publishes within the two numbers of “Vatra” Magazine, 3-4 and 5-6 /2002, a text of such aggressive antisemitism, and full with hatred, just as Vadim’s discourses. Paul Goma proves himself to be a radical negationist. The analysis of his gregare negationism is revealed in the article were I find impossible not to notice the similar manners of Vadim and Goma through which Elie Wiesel is defamed. Paul Goma not only assumes the negationist’s characteristic slogans and by this making a new approach to Vadim’s message, but he even manages to assume themes from the actual antisemitism of islamic fundamentalism accusing the Israelite population of being the murderer of Palestinian people. The text of Paul Goma, belongs by message and expression to radical antisemitism. I do not believe that there exists in the production of the cultural post-communist Romanian elite any writings that could be compared with the tireless hatred of this former dissident.


A typical mainstream of antisemitism is also offered by the literary critic N. Manolescu whose tendency is towards relativism and hues that dilute the consistency of its discourse, reaching a point were he considers that M. Eliade “just flirted with the legionarism” (Literary Romania, 22, May, 1998) and does not find any fascist aspect “in Mrs. Zamfir tablet about Maurice Papon” (Literary Romania, 12, August, 1998). Obsessively preoccupied with the opinion that the evil of the communism was bigger than the evil of the fascism, paradoxically, as Vadim and Goma, he defends the Garaudy negationism of ” Founding myths of Israelite politics”.


For Manolescu, Garaudy is the most convenient witness to demonstrate that Jews do not accept beside the Holocaust, any other genocide. For this reason, the literary critic found the saving explanation : the gulag does not have its proper place in history. The actualization of this attitude was caused by an apparition of an article within “Literary Romania”, in the autumn of 2002, where the author underlines the gravity of the antisemitism of the extremist leader C.V. Tudor. The fact that each face of the antisemitism has its own public should is also, undeniable.


The Emergency Ordinance, naturally, can not change mentalities. But this document represents a possible instrument, along with other similar acts, favoring both the construction of a civic, democratic, tolerant society and the opening for dialogue and also assumption of own history. However, if there will not be a political will in order to finalize the legislative step, to improve the content of its stipulations and to transform it into a law, the Emergency Ordinance no.31/2002 will remain the expression of a circumstantial action. For the moment, its principal effect is just one of political record.

Holocaust – An attempt of definition

By Andrei Oisteanu

Pogrome, genocide, Shoah


As six decades from the massacre of the Jews from Iasi (1941) passed away, the so-called League for fighting against the Anti-Romanian Attitude (leaded by Ion Coja, I,C. Dragan etc) organized in Bucharest a discussion with the purpose of denying the existence of the massacre where several thousands of Jews died. I attended “incognito” this discussion under some circumstances that I mentioned with another occasion (“22″ magazine, no.656/2002). To the discontent of the organizers, one of the lecturers (who was an eye witness to the events) made the mistake to admit that “several hundreds of Jews were killed”, adding (immediately) that what happened was not a pogrome.
“Starting with what number of dead persons is it considered to be a pogrome?” I asked. Indeed, how can we define the pogrome, the genocide, the Holocaust?
The massacre suffered by the Jews during the second World War is called genocide, ethnocide, martirdom, Shoah , Holocaust.

The term “genocide” defines the deliberate and systematic extermination of a population of a community with ethnical identity and, by semantic extension, with political or religious identity. This term is often used, even generating the name for a new academical research branch:”genocide studies”.

The biblical terms Shoah and Holocaust were used by the Jews even since the beginning of the ’40 years for defining the massacre they were exposed to. Shoah (read shoa’) is an Hebrew word – meaning “catastrophe”, “disaster”, “total destruction”. This term appears twice in the Old Testament:” You will not fear (…) of the calamity of the outlaws ” (Proverbs, III, 25; see Isaiia, X, 3)

In the Bible they speak of the “customs of the different sacrifices” (“Exodus”, XIX, Levitic, VI). Among these customs there can be found the “total burning sacrifice” where in its processes, all the parts of the animal sacrificed were burned: “To burn all the ram on the pyre, as this means to burn for God” (“Exodus”, XIX, 18). Another type of sacrifices are when only a part of the animal is burned on the pyre or where a part of the sacrifice is consumed by the executioner: “To take the chest of the ram, (…) and this will be your share”(“Exodus”, XIX, 26). The translator of the Bible for the Greek language – Helen Jews from Alexandria, in the II century A.C. – had equalised the phrase “total burning” through the Greek term “holo” (total) + “causton” (“burning”).

Evidently, the term Holocaust – brought in the ’60′s by the American intellectual society – initially was used in a figurative manner to designate the massacre to which the European Jews were exposed between the ’30s and the ’40s. However, there are a few commentators who, deliberately interpret the term in a literal sense. A confusing mistake, sometimes voluntarily made. One can accentuate the first part of the collocation (“burning”) sustaining that the term Holocaust is referring to the burning of the bodies in the crematories. As on the territory of Romania such crematories did not exist nor in the territories administrated by the Romanians, the conclusion resulted is that “in Romania there was no Holocaust”.One can accentuate the second part of the collocation (“totally”) outlining the point of view that the Holocaust was the “total” extermination of the Jews. And as the community of the Jews from the Great Romania was not totally destructed, the conclusion is the same.

The terminology of the executioners

As complex as it is, the Holocaust phenomenon can be reduced to a three terms equation: executioners, victims, and eyewitnesses (perpetrators, victims and bystanders, according to Raul Hilberg). If the Shoah and the Holocaust are terms rather used by the victims and the “genocide” and “ethnocide” are more likely used by the eyewitnesses, it is interesting what is the terminology used by the executioners. Evidently, it is the word “Endlosung (“the final solution”), however, the Nazi preferred other term, apparently less offensive:Vernichtung. This term, also was misunderstood and differently translated and by considering its semantic root (nichts), it can not be equalised with any other word but “annihilation” (semantic root:”nihil”) or “destruction” (semantic root:”nothing”). For example, in the proceedings of the sinister Conference from Wannsee (20 th of January 1942) there were established the technical details for the “annihilation” (Vernichtung) of “over 11 millions of Jews”- according to Adolf Hitler’s will.

Some Romanian representatives of anti-semitism proved themselves to be “in sync”. For example, in 1913 (!), Mr. Nicolae Paulescu presented “the most facile and convenient way to get rid of the Jews” – the mass killing with toxic substances:” to exterminate them as the bed bug are killed”. In 1928, A.C. Cuza- the mentor of C. Z. Codreanu – also proposed the “final solution”.”The only possible solution of the Jewish issue is to eliminate them”. In 1941, the leaders of Romania opted for the usage of the “ethnic purification” term. “The Satan is the Jew” was writing Ion Antonescu, from Odessa to the Council of the Ministers. “It is a battle of life and death. Either we win and the world will be purified, either they win (the Jews) and we will become their slaves” .” Let us use this historic moment – declared, on his turn Mihai Antonescu, – to clean the Romanian land and our nation (…). If necessary, use the machine gun”

Emergency Ordinance no.31/2002

In order to gain the good will of the Occident before the Prague NATO summit, the Romanian Govern published in March 2002 an Emergency Ordinance which refers to the prohibition of the fascist, racist or xenophobic organizations or symbols and of the promotion of the cult of persons who are guilty of crimes against peace and humanity”. The 6-th article stipulates “the prison penalty from 6 months to 5 years” for the act of public denial of the Holocaust or one of its effects”. Similar settlements are also in operation in countries like Gemany and France. On the 2-nd article, the legislator defined the terms used within the Ordinance (“organization with a fascist racist or xenophobic character”, “fascist, racist or xenophobic symbols” and “person who is guilty of crimes against peace and humanity”) in order to designate the penal sanctioned acts. It is curios that the legislator did not consider necessary also to define the term Holocaust. Or, under these circumstances, the legal application of the 6-th article can generate arbitrary exonerations and abusive accusations.

Observing this deficiency, the Culture Commission of the Senate published, in May 2002, a definition of the term Holocaust, perhaps with the view of including it in the body text of the law at the moment of its discussion in the Parliament (event currently delayed indefinitely in order to prevent the occidental offices to learn about the opinions of many Members of the Parliament related to such sensitive issues as the Romanian Holocaust or the cult of Antonescu). The definition of the Holocaust given by the Commission of Culture is: “the systematic mass extermination of the European Jews in the Nazis concentration camps during the second World War” Although, apparently it seems correctly formulated, the subject brings into disscution several aspects which I shall also approach.

Confusions and questions

From the Ordinance it is not clear whether only “the public denial”of the Holocaust as an historic phenomenon is considered an offence, or the denial of the participation of the Romanian authorities to the Holocaust is included too. This aspect is relevant because most of the Romanian negationists do not contest as much the general idea of the Holocaust as they oppose the idea of the Holocaust under the Romanian authorities (“selective denial” as it is called by Michael Schafir in his last book)

It is questioned whether the 6-th article of the Ordinance (which sanctions the denial of the Holocaust) has to refer exclusively to the Jewish population, or other minorities which were decimated (for example, gypsies) should be included too. If the term Holocaust is considered to refer exclusively to Jews, there must be found a formula of prohibition of the denial of the genocide of the gypsies (even if it was of a smaller extension). It is a law by which the racist and xenophobic manifestations are meant to be sanctioned by the Penal Code and it would be abnormal that through it, to allow the denial of the genocide in the gypsies case, and to prohibite only the denial of the Jews genocide (according to the principle “what it is not prohibited is allowed”)

The definition of the Senatorial Commission is referring to the murder of the Jews only in the “extermination camps”. However, for a Holocaust concept definition, not only this aspect should be considered but any other form of opression leading to killing practiced by the authorities, as it happened in Romania during the 1940-1944: the deportations in Transnistria (where the usual “extermination camps” did not exist), the massacres from certain cities (Dorohoi, Bucuresti, Iasi, Odessa), the “death trains” etc.
The definition is including the aspect of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis , but not by their allies, even the Romanians (“the cuzists”, the legionars, the Antonescian authorities etc). The “extermination camps” are mentioned but the “antonescian extermination camps” (where the deported Jews died, as a result of a brutal extermination regime of starvation, cold, diseases, exhaust etc), the massacres where the Romanian army participated (Dorohoi, Odessa) or the Romanian police or constabulary (Iasi, “the death trains”) or the legionary police (Bucharest) etc.

Instead of conclusions

Based on the existence of this negligent definition concept, the conclusion is easy to infer: even if there is admitted that the Romanian authorities did expose the Jews to a rougher regime (“a la guerre comme a la guerre”, cynically says I.Coja), it can not be affirmed that on the territory of Romania there was a Holocaust, because the exterminations camps did not exist. Therefore, by the formulation of the definition itself, the Senators from the Commission of Culture could be accused of the denial of the Holocaust from Romania and in this way, of the violation of the provosion of the 6-th article of the Ordinance no.31/2002.
The atypical situation of Romania is speculated by the negationists. With some exceptions, the Jews were massacred, on one side, on the territories which at that time were not under the Romanian administration – but they are at the present – (the Northern Transilvania) and, on the other side, on territories which were at that time under the Romanian administration – but they are not at the present (Basarabia, Northern Bucovina, Transnistria, Odessa)

Finally, as the Gulag, the Holocaust is a complex phenomenon having political, juridic, social and moral implications. In my opinion, this term does not cover from the semantic point of view, just the “extermination of the Jews” but the measures that proceeded , prepared it too: law discrimination, the loss of the civil rights, the dismissal from the job functions, the property confiscations, the forced emigration, the yellow star stigmatization, the “ghettoization”, the deportation to extermination camps … These measures were also used in Romania between 1938-1944, and one way or another they should appear in the frames of a concept definition of the Holocaust, near the massacres made by the Nazis – shooting, hanging, asphyxia, burning alive, gass, starvation, cold, diseases – from which only the gass method was missing from the antonescian regime.

Multiculturalism, interethnic dialogue and the preservation of the cultural heritage – between theory and practice

By Felicia Waldman

Romania remains a fascinating place. This is proven- once again – by the competition that has been taking place of late between the ascent of an overt nationalism (visible in the latest polls, but also by mere sight), and the growing number of events dedicated to interethnic dialogue.



Given these circumstances, a sensible question arises: what difference can another seminar make? The answer is to be found in the international conference entitled “Minorities, cultural heritage, contemporary Romanian civilization”, organized by the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with B’nai B’rith International and the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania (FJCR).

The event took place on October 21 and 22, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Bucharest, and was financially supported by the US Government (through USAID and World Learning), the Romanian Government, the Civic Education Project Romania Organization and the “Goldstein Goren” Center for Hebrew Studies of the University of Bucharest.

Far from being a singular event, the conference is actually a part of a larger program that focuses on the Romanian Jewish Heritage. Initiated at the beginning of the millennium, the project was officially launched at the end of 2002, thanks to a generous allocation granted to B’nai B’rith International by the US Government, within the framework of the Program for Durable Romanian-American Partnerships of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The funds were administered by the World Learning.

The project, which enjoys the partnership of the FJCR, has some extremely generous objectives. These include: the creation of a digital community archive on the Internet (with both general data- history, religion, literature-, and information about individuals, families, communities that will allow the visitors to trace their genealogy and roots), a thorough documentation on the so-called Jewish trails in Romania (potential tourist circuits encompassing places that concern the history of the Romanian Jews and destined to those who want to know more about the Jewish heritage), improving the interethnic communication and the mutual knowledge among the minority groups, and raising awareness on the role played by the minorities in a multiethnic, democratic and diversified civil society.

Dedicated to the promotion of the cultural values of the ethnic minority groups in contemporary Romania, the conference was a good opportunity for an exchange of ideas concerning the ways of preserving, sharing and perceiving one’s own culture in relation to the culture of the others. Reflecting on the dynamics of the minority-majority relationship, but also on the relations between minority groups and even amid the same group, the reports presented by the 21 speakers brought useful information on the successes and failures, the support and the obstacles encountered in preserving the cultural heritage of various minority groups.

The conference was composed of three sections: “Multiculturalism and interethnic dialogue”, “Successful projects for the preservation of the cultural heritage” and “The Jewish heritage: lessons lived, lessons learned”. The intention was to give the participants the opportunity to learn form the experience (both positive and negative) of others. Thus, apart from the presentation of some patterns of action, emphasis was also laid on debating the reasons why there is a current need for projects concerning the preservation of the cultural heritage of some communities which disappeared (obviously, we are referring to the Jews and the Gypsies that were deported under Antonescu’s regime).

The conference was honored by the presence of the ambassador of the State of Israel to Bucharest, Mrs. Rodica Radian-Gordon, and by a series of other diplomats representing the US and various European countries (Austria, the Slovak Republic, the Russian Federation) and even the European Commission.

The event was greeted by: the minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mircea Geoana, who spoke about the importance of the interethnic dialogue in general and of the Romanian Jewish Heritage Project in particular, which he is familiar with and has continually supported; the US ambassador, Mr. Michael Guest, who underlined the importance of confronting one’s past and of preserving the cultural heritage of the minorities; Mr. Dan Mariaschin, vice-president of B’nai B’rith International; Mr. Sorin Iulian, representative of the FJCR, speaking on behalf of Academy member Nicolae Cajal (unable to attend the proceedings himself, unfortunately); the last two underlined the relevance of the project and of the conference for Romania.

The speeches had various topics, thus proving the multitude of points of view that can be applied when talking about interethnic relationships. Historian Jeremy Cohen, manager of the “Goldstein Goren” Diaspora Research Institute of the University of Tel Aviv, spoke about “Jews, their Diaspora and the minority experience”, providing an overall vision of the phenomenon. George Voicu brought the topic down to the Romanian scale in his interesting lecture on “Gala Galaction and the Jewish heritage”. Andrei Oisteanu analyzed, with his well-known preoccupation for imagery, “The Romanians’ tolerance to minorities- between myth and reality”, showing how this was reflected in literature and press in the recent history.

Michael Shafir’s “From the goy-Jew to the Jew-goy” was an unusual and exciting lecture, a real autobiography, analytical and exemplary, which was warmly and vividly welcomed by the participants (around 100).
Slightly changing the perspective, William Totok set the background for a comparison with the situation of other nationalities, speaking about “The Germans of Romania between Nazism and Stalinism”. Miklos Bakk, lecturer at the “Babes-Bolyai” University in Cluj, carried on this comparison from a multicultural point of view, tackling “Political strategies of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania and the multicultural model in Romania”.

The section “Successful projects for the preservation of the cultural heritage” took the step from theory to practice. Peter Eckstein Kovacs opened the way with some necessary clarifications regarding “Governmental structures involved in the issues of national minorities. Past and present.” In the latter half of the day, Magdalena Andreescu described the “Together” project of the Romanian Peasant’s Museum, a project which is, by definition, multicultural and interethnic. Speaking about “The Armenians’ presence in Romania for a thousand years- a model of ethnic co-existence”, Varujan Vosganian amazed the audience pointing out the less known (or utterly unknown) Armenian origins of some Romanian personalities of the last two centuries. Speaking about “Regenerative and mimetic actions in preserving the identity of national minorities”, with specific reference to the Slovaks, Andrei Ioan Stefanco proved how a literary talent stands out in any circumstance. “The digital photo of a burning candle”, presented by Stefan Maier, project manager for the Romanian Jewish Heritage, and Delia Grigore’s touching lecture on “Roma people of Romania: the emergence of a stigmatized identity” closed the day, not before the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions and to debate the things they had heard.

The last section of the conference was dedicated to the Jewish cultural heritage from the perspective of the lessons lived and learned. The day was opened by Lya Benjamin and Harry Kuller from the Center for the Study of the History of the Jews, belonging to FJCR; the former spoke about “The significance of the Coral Temple in the Jewish cultural heritage” and the latter about “The Jewish cultural heritage, essence and form”, also describing briefly the information that will soon be available in the afore-mentioned digital archive.

Two exceptional interventions followed. Under the title “The Holocaust in Romania and its consequences through photographic images”, Radu Ioanid impressed the audience with a series of photographs from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, each of them telling a whole story- the orphans in Transnistria, the destroyed communities in Bessarabia and Bucovina and more. Paul Shapiro, from the same museum, proved that one needn’t be of Romanian origin and needn’t live here in order to understand (and to present in the local language!) the evolution of the intellectual and cultural anti-Semitism that made the Holocaust possible in Romania.

Ruth Glasberg Gold, a miraculous survivor of a long train of unimaginable experiences that culminated in Transnistria (where she became an orphan at the age of 11), told her story, that was edited in an internationally renowned book, now available in Romanian (“The Time of Dried Tears”, Hasefer, 2003).
In the last part of the conference, deputy Dorel Dorian made some pertinent considerations on “The Jewish cultural heritage between preservation, reevaluation and re-launching”, while Liviu Rotman, from the University of Tel Aviv, spoke about “Managing historical memory”. A new illustrated reminder of the events of the Holocaust in Bessarabia was presented by Victor Eskenasy (Radio “Free Europe”). In the end, Alexandru Florian, manager for Romania of the Romanian Jewish Heritage Project, underlined the cross-field character of this enterprise, reiterating its objectives.

The conference ended with a stormy debate between the speakers and the numerous audience. The proceedings were recorded and will be published, probably at the beginning of next year.
Apart from the novelty of some pieces of information, images and approaches, this new international conference was special because it managed to bring “together” and to facilitate the sharing of totally different minority experiences, from which we can all learn, imitating the successes and avoiding the mistakes.

The Romanian Jewish Community calls for supporting the entrance of Romania in EU

The Romanian Jewish Community calls for supporting
the entrance of Romania in EU



The European Jewish Congress
adopted the
support resolution at the request
Mr. Aurel
Vainer, the President of the
Federation of
the Romanian Jewish Communities
( FCER) and
member in the Romanian Parliament
as representative
of the Jewish Community.


Mr Aurel Vainer participated at the meeting of the EJC General Assembly as the representative of Romania.

Hopping that the Romanian authorities will
ensure the implementation of measures required
for effectively combat and reduce negative
phenomena still present within the Romanian
society, MCA Romania joins the call issued
by EJC and by Mr Aurel Vainer for supporting
the accession of Romania into the European
Union in January 2007.


View the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the European Jew­ish Congress on February 19th, 2006

Fast forward or the life of a scholar

By Felicia Waldman

Have you ever wondered how the life of a scholar looks like? Many of us think in a rather envious way about the fame (and – why not admit it? – the privileges) enjoyed by the internationally renowned researchers. But how do they actually lead their life? Is it any easier for them? Or, to put it more bluntly: what is the price of fame?

Continue reading

Statement by H. E. Ambassador Mihnea Motoc

Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations,

on Behalf of H. E. Mr. Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania,

at The 28th Special Session of the UN General Assembly,

marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps




Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Secretary General, Ministers,
Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives


I stand before you today, speaking on behalf of the Government of Romania
and voicing feelings coming from my compatriots, to say our sorrow, and to
pay our profound respect to the memory of so many people who, most of them
simply because they were Jews, suffered and lost their lives at the Nazi
concentration camps.


Today is a day of remembrance for the victims, and a day when we say our
gratitude to soldiers who made the nightmare and the evil of the
concentration camps come to an end. We recall the liberation of
Auschwitz-Birkenau, a milestone in the tearing down of the entire network of
death camps.


It is right to honor this day at the UN, it is right to hold this special
session of our General Assembly. We need to remember the past, we need to
hold on to its lessons, and to seek thereupon guidance for the times to
come.


Romania upheld all the way this remembrance at the UN. Romanians remember
too the years of Nazi terror, the times of an ideology that produced the
infamous camps. Many Romanian Jews perished there. As the world was learning
the full extent of the horror, Romanians too realized the full depth of the
tragedy that befell on fellow citizens.


Coming out of the long shadow of totalitarianism and reintegrating the
community of democratic nations, Romanians took upon a long, painful journey
of recovering their memories and confronting the whole truth of those
dramatic years. Today, we in Romania do believe that it is our duty to know
and not to forget.


We believe there are responsibilities we need to acknowledge and assume, we
believe we have to take a critical appraisal of history, so that the past as
it happened is not forgotten, and we can reconstruct ourselves as part of
constructing our future.


The Romanian experience with its own Jewish community during World War II,
the fact that fellow citizens have been victims of the Holocaust, should
not, and can not, be neither forgotten, nor belittled. The tragedy unfolded
against the background of dramatic events for the country and the nation.
Romania knew then times of profound turbulence. A radical change took place
in the country’s political regime, bringing to power, following a coup
d’Etat, a pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic party, the Legionnaire
Movement.


In conjunction with several organizations of Holocaust survivors, and the
Federation of Jewish Communities from Romania, our Government established
the “Holocaust Day” in Romania, to pay a pious homage to all those that
suffered from discriminatory anti-Semitic and racist policies promoted by
the Romanian State in the middle of the twentieth century, in a turbulent
moment of our own national history. By paying homage to the dead or
deported, to those obliged to leave the country, to those dispossessed of
their belongings, of their rights and liberties guaranteed by the
Constitution and treated as inferior human beings, we take, every year, on
the 9th of October, a test of conscience. We thereby try to understand the
causes and the consequences of ignoring the core values and traditions of
tolerance of our own people.


The Jewish population in Romania was then subjected to crimes. The most
important chapter of the Romanian participation to Holocaust relates to the
deportations of Jews from parts of Romanian territory to the concentration
camp located in Transnistria, a territory situated between the rivers
Dnestre and Bug under Romanian administration during World War II. The
history of crimes against Jews comprises other dark pages, among which the
Iasi pogrom of June 1941.


Moreover, the Government decided to assign the task of disclosing all the
relevant facts regarding the Romanian participation to Holocaust to an
international committee of specialists in history, chaired by Professor Elie
Wiesel. The report recently issued by this Committee will set the basis for
any future investigation of this horrendous phenomenon, as well as for
disseminating information to the public opinion, especially the young
generations. The Ministry of Education and Research included in school
curricula an optional course on the Holocaust, and the Holocaust in Romania.


These measures are part of a broader program promoting knowledge and
understanding of our past and of events related to the Holocaust. It
comprises adoption of legislation forbidding fascist, racist, xenophobic and
anti-Semitic symbols and organizations, and the cult of personalities
bearing responsibility for crimes against humanity.


Romania has now a longstanding commitment to come to terms with its own
past, and an established record of international cooperation in researching
the Holocaust. Last December, Romania became a member of ITF – the Task
Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and
Research. Romania will continue to implement programs for scientific
research on the Holocaust, education for tolerance, protection of the Jewish
cultural patrimony, in a process that brings together governmental action
initiatives from the civil society.


Coming to terms with one’s own past, with all the good and the evil there is
to it, is an exercise in honesty and democratic conscience. Condemning
perpetrators of the crimes, we should not forget that even under the harsh
political and military conditions of that time, many well known as well as
many unknown Romanians have risked their freedom, even their lives, to save
their Jewish fellow citizens from death. Some of these Romanians who stood
up are nowadays recognized by the Israeli State as “Righteous among the
Nations”.


The Holocaust has a particular significance and observance today. It must
not repeat itself. For that we must make sure the generations to come will
still be able to learn and understand the whole truth. As Elie Wiesel
recalled, “never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which
has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times
sealed… Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my
soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even
if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never. ”


That is why today’s commemoration of the liberation of the Nazi death camps
is so important. It is important that this day of remembrance is observed at
the UN, allowing a renewed message for the global community to capitalize on
what we had achieved as human kind during these last six decades and make
sure that such atrocities and tragedies never ever happen again. We are
today reminded in a very powerful way of the need to brace ourselves further
and fight more resolutely racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. These
scourges can never be addressed lightly.


This day must be for all of us a moment of recollection and reflection, a
good time to meditate upon totalitarianism and its tragic outcomes, upon
community ties and the values of human solidarity, upon the ways to ensure
that democracy, legality and respect for fundamental liberties and rights of
all human beings will always prevail.


Thank you.