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


“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


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.


“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”


Lunch Break

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

Moderated by: Leon Volovici


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



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


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


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)


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)


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)


Concert with instrumental formation “Klezmeri” Conductor Bogdan Lifsin

Wednesday 11 December 2002

Documentary movies


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).