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.