Interview with Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice-president of B”nai B”rith International

“We agreed on some major steps. What remains to be done is implementing them.”


- “Mr. Mariaschin, in the previous issue of our newspaper you declared that you had agreed on some major steps during your meeting with Ion Iliescu last week. What exactly are these steps?”
- “We talked about three aspects, by means of which it is possible to avoid future negative interpretations of Romania”s position on the issue of the Jewish sufferings, as unfortunately was the case on two recent occasions. The first step is about establishing an international commission bringing together, as we hope it will, the best historians on the issues of Romania and of the Holocaust. Its mission will be to record in an unequivocal scientific material the importance of the murdering of thousands of Jews on the Romanian territory during World War II. During the past 6 years, such commissions have functioned or are about to submit their reports in more than 20 countries. Their activity has shown that, in many cases, it is not about debates and arguments, but about a necessary reconciliation with the past and about filling blank pages of history. We know that we have historians capable of getting involved in such an activity, in Romania, the US and Israel. I am telling you this on my way back to Bucharest, after having visited Iasi and its Jewish cemetery where there were buried the victims of the 1941 pogrom (which lasted four days, from June 29 until July 2). The elderly living in the city remember this event because they lived through it.”



- “So this would be the first step…”


- “A second step would be to create a unified educational program for the public schools, that would teach about the Holocaust and about the way in which this tragedy occurred not only in other European countries, but also in Romania. Such a program should also include training courses for the teachers who are supposed to deliver the courses in schools. The expected visit of the Romanian minister of education to Israel would be a good opportunity for such a program to be drafted. The Yad Vashem Institute (which has important training programs for the teachers) and the US Holocaust Museum are among the resources whose support can be counted on. Moreover, there are two generations of Romanians who did not have the opportunity to come across authentic (not to mention complete) information regarding those who were killed during the Holocaust. It is not about figures. Does anyone know how many physicians, engineers, composers, writers, craftsmen, workers, artists, farmers and how much civilization produced over six hundred years of Jewish existence in Romania were destroyed during the Holocaust?


- “What would a third step be like?”


- “Establishing a Holocaust day. Cultural events, visits to places of recollection, public meetings, programs for school children could be organized in relation to such a day, on a national or local scale.


- “Your organization, B”nai B”rith, is financing a project entitled “The Romanian Jewish Heritage”


- “That is correct. The main sponsor of the project is USAID, through the “World Learning” Foundation. Our partner is the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania. Of the 800.000 Jews that were living in Romania at the beginning of the 1940″s, about half were killed during the Holocaust. As we all know, a numerous Romanian-Jewish Diaspora exists nowadays in Israel, the US and Canada. They are in search of their family roots, in search of the cities and the towns where their predecessors were born (many of whom disappeared without any trace). We want to offer this Diaspora access to the archives, to facilitate their access to Jewish circuits in Romania, thus stimulating tourism. At the same time, we want to help other minority groups in Romania to trace their roots. You can convince yourselves of the goals of this project by accessing the website www.romanianjewish.org.


- “In other words, B”nai B”rith is not an organization that we only hear of when it has something to criticize?”


- “On the contrary. Although our primary goal is to watch, together with other major Jewish organizations, that the rights and the dignity of the Jews and our culture are respected anywhere in the world, we also militate for restoring truth, for peace and for mutual respect.”


- “Mr. Mariaschin, thank you.”


( from Romania Libera, August 4th, 2003 )