The roots of anti-Semitism in Romania , as in most of Eastern Europe , stretch deeply into history. Exercising their limited authority under the Ottoman Empire , sixteenth-century princes of the Romanian Lands already were decreeing restrictions on the Jews as a non-Christian people with nebulous and often suspect external loyalties. But the Jewish community was typically permitted a great deal of cultural autonomy, and its members were allowed to pursue their livelihoods with a minimum of official interference until the mid-nineteenth century. Only then did the status of the Jews become a significant political question, a matter that gained importance with each passing decade during the second half of that century. Modernization brought a movement toward emancipation and secularization, but each step in the direction of the Jews’ true integration into Romanian society seemed to trigger a reactionary response. These responses constituted part of a countermovement away from the intellectual and political trends emanating from the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the general evolution of Western Europe and America . Collectively they created the milieu that spawned the radical nationalist and xenophobic movements that would one day unite in the fascist parties that came to power in the 1930s, enacting their anti-Semitic programs as law.
PREFASCIST ANTI-SEMITIC LEGISLATION
The first anti-Jewish juridical measures were taken in Moldavia and Walachia during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Still, anti-Semitic measures were sporadic, as were measures in which Jews were also intended or collateral victims of Romanian anti-Turkish sentiment; these facts argue against any perception of sustained, ruler-inspired persecution in these territories during the late Middle Ages. Since the Ottoman empire was rather tolerant toward Jews, indigenous princes generally complied with that policy. The same applies to the vacillating attitude of the reigning princes of the eighteenth century, some of whom promoted discriminatory measures while others protected the Jewish population.
The legislation of the nineteenth century evolved under the banner of ethnic and religious discrimination. The few demonstrations of goodwill toward Jews, and especially the granting of civil rights, ran against the tenacity of widespread indigenous anti-Semitism.
The â€œOrganic Regulationâ€ of 1831, the first â€œconstitutionâ€ of Romania , required each Jew to register with local authorities and to specify his occupation so that â€œthose Jews who [cannot] demonstrate their usefulness [could] be expelledâ€¦â€
Although the revolutionaries of 1848 in Moldavia and Walachia had requested the emancipation of the Jews, and in spite of the goodwill expressed toward the Jews by Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the nineteenth century brought a new phase in the evolution of anti-Jewish measures. The growing number of such laws and regulations indicated that this attitude was becoming a fundamental purpose of state policy.
In 1866 the abdication of Alexandru Ioan Cuza and the beginning of the reign of the Hohenzollern-Siegmaringen family constituted a major setback for those who favored emancipation of the Jews, Prince Carol I being himself an anti-Semite. Interior Minister Ion Bratianu, a former revolutionary of 1848, inaugurated a systematic anti-Jewish policy in the spring of 1867. Bratianu’s circulars anticipated the mass expulsions of Jews from the countryside, and [even] expulsions from the country as a whole were strictly enforced by local officials.â€ In March 1868 draft legislation was presented to the Chamber of Deputies as part of a plan to eliminate Jews from most forms of economic activity in the villages. In July 1869, after the French government protested, Kogalniceanu replied that he refused to consider Jews full Romanians; on December 16, I. Codreanu, a deputy from Bîrlad, spoke in a similar vein before Parliament, denouncing the â€œbehaviorâ€ of Romanian Jews and the aid they received from the â€œUniversal Israelite Alliance.â€
At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, the nations of Europe recognized the independence of Romania but required the country to consider all citizens, including Jews, equal under the law. Article 44 of the Treaty of Berlin stipulated that religion might not be used to exclude anyone from â€œthe enjoyment of civil and political rights, access to public employment, [elevation to] ranks and honors, or the exercise of specific . . . professions.â€ But in January 1879, Parliament revised Article 7 of the 1866 constitution, which had made it impossible for Jews to become Romanians (unless they converted); now an individual petition and parliamentary vote were required for naturalization, a requirement that remained on the books until 1919.
After 1879 the government’s course vacillated, anti-Semitic in spirit even if punctuated by occasional democratic gestures. Important political figures such as Mihail Kogalniceanu and Ion Bratianu maintained before Parliament and abroad that Jews were the enemies of Romania . Parliament itself provided the venue for numerous anti-Semitic declarations. The attitudes they reflected helped ensure, for example, that between 1866 and 1904 only 2,000 Jews would be naturalized. Jewish veterans of the 1877 War of Independence received citizenship, but they numbered a mere 888. Anti-Semitic discrimination eventually barred Jews from jobs in the railroads, the customs service, the state salt and tobacco monopolies, and the stock market.
The most dramatic form of discrimination in the rural areas was a series of expulsions that dislocated thousands of Jewish families during the last third of the centuryâ€”more often in Moldavia than in Walachia , and more often after 1885. While both local and central authorities initiated these expulsions, community councils generally did so only at the prompting of the prefectures or the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
In 1889, Kogalniceanu, concretizing plans conceived earlier, drafted nine circulars to hasten the departure of Jews from the countryside, under conditions permitting widespread abuse and robbery. During the latter years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, anti-Semitism and poverty also combined to prompt the mass emigration of Jews from Romania . Between 1899 and 1904, fifty thousand Jews left, and by the start of World War I, ninety thousand Romanian Jews had emigrated.
For those Jews who remained, discrimination in the fields of medicine and health was also significant. Jews might open a pharmacy only if no Romanian was competing for the license. Only Romanians could serve as primary-care physicians at the district level. The health law of April 3, 1886 , made Romanian citizenship a requirement for all jobs in sanitary services. Although the same law made medical care free for poor Romanians, it stipulated that â€œforeigners can be admitted for treatment in those hospitals [only] for a fee; the number of beds occupied by foreigners can never exceed 10 percent of the total in the hospital in question.â€ On June 25, 1892 , the Monitorul Oficial (Official Monitor) announced that Jews would no longer be admitted to hospitals in Moldavia .
The Primary Education Law and the Secondary and Higher Education Law, both passed in 1893 and amended several times over the next decade, made education free only for the â€œsons of Romanians.â€ â€œForeignersâ€ might enroll, but only to the extent that space was available, and they had to pay tuition. Lyceums and especially universities nurtured powerful centers of anti-Semitic propaganda in the nineteenth century. The universities at Iasi and Bucharest supplied the cadres for early anti-Semitic organizations and, after World War I, the core of the first fascist organizations.
The anti-Semitic tradition in the Romanian army took root in the nineteenth century. In 1868, military service became compulsory for all males in Romania , with the exception of foreigners; since Jews were generally treated as foreigners, this meant that the army might lose a supply of manpower and cannon fodder. An 1876 law on recruitment therefore stipulated that all male residents must serve; in other words, only citizens of other nations might avoid service. Jews thus became subject to the draft despite the fact that they were not citizens but â€œstateless foreigners,â€ as the law defined them, or mere â€œinhabitants of the country.â€ Within the army Jewish soldiers were often mistreated, and persecution drove some to suicide.
This was the state of affairs as the Balkans sank into an era of violence that began nearly two years before World War I engulfed the West. In Romania some thirteen thousand Jews were mobilized in 1913 to fight in the Second Balkan War; but, despite valiant efforts on their behalf by prominent intellectuals and political leaders, even those who served were refused citizenship. At the height of World War I, Romanian security measures further encouraged discrimination when the 1915 Law for Monitoring Foreigners brought the deportation of hundreds of Jewish families from border areas of Moldavia to district capitals, where they could be kept under closer watch. Yet 23,000 Jews served in the Romanian forces, sacrificing 882 dead and 735 wounded; 825 earned decorations for valor. All the while, anti-Semitism continued to thrive in the armed forces.
This state of affairs found reflection in Liviu Rebreanu’s short story â€œItic Strul, Deserter.â€ Yet, reality was sometimes more tragic than fiction. The Supreme General Staff unleashed an anti-Semitic campaign leading to the execution of a number of Jewish soldiers accused of spying. A lunatic wave of denunciation of the Jews followed the banning of communication in the Yiddish language in September 1916. One study noted that â€œentire families were taken to police stationsâ€ and that â€œanywhere from eleven to twelve thousand Jews were arrested in Moldavia .â€ While most of these â€œsuspectsâ€ went free after a brief detention, their jailors robbed, flogged, or otherwise abused many of the rest.
The end of World War I brought temporary refuge from this kind of persecution, especially because the settlement dictated by the Western powers reflected the intent to foster democratic government throughout the Continent. Although some were encouraged by these measures, those Jews who, exasperated by the abiding anti-Semitism of government and masses alike, had abandoned Romania for the West or for Palestine would be the happy ones. Nearly 100,000 of them, more than one-third of the community, left between 1899 and 1914. Those who later would read in the reforms of 1918 and 1919 the prospect of a genuine and lasting liberalization were doomed to disappointment and tribulation.
On December 29, 1918 , Romania abolished the humiliating requirement of parliamentary confirmation for a Jew to become a citizen: proof of birth in the country, and that the individual was not a citizen of another, would henceforth suffice. Even these requirements were waived for those who had fought for the country since 1913; only persons sentenced for treason, desertion, or spying were ineligible. Still, though the law of December 1918 represented an important step toward emancipation, it contained a de jure form of discrimination, ostensibly against â€œminoritiesâ€ outside Walachia and Moldavia . A law of May 22, 1919 , supplemented the earlier law by reaffirming that Jews from Moldavia and Walachia were entitled to Romanian citizenship but spelling out the corollary that those from Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina were not.
Under the St. Germain treaty signed on December 9, 1919 , by the Allied powers and Romania , the country agreed to safeguard minorities in its territory, acknowledging that â€œall Romanian citizens are equal before the law and enjoy the same civil and political rights no matter what their language, race, or religion.â€ The new constitution of March 1923 granted Jews and other minorities full citizenship; Article 56 of the Citizenship Law of 1924 extended Romanian citizenship to all inhabitants of Bessarabia, Bukovina, Transylvania, Banat, Crisana, Maramures, and Satu Mare who had been born there of resident parents.
In a sense the period between 1923 and 1938 represented a golden age of human rights in Romania . But storm clouds began to gather in the mid-1930s, with movements led by such groups as the Christian National Defense League, the Iron Guard, and other political parties that raised â€œthe Jewish question,â€ brandished anti-Semitic slogans, and agitated for a revision of the status of the non-Christian minority. The legal underpinnings of tolerance would not long survive the arrival in power of the radical anti-Semitic rightâ€”represented by the minority Goga-Cuza cabinet of the National Christian partyâ€”in December 1937.
After the end of World War I, the demographic composition of Greater Romania changed dramatically. From an ethnically largely homogeneous entity, Romania now found that 30 percent of its inhabitants were ethnic minorities, of whom the Jews represented animportant fraction. According to the 1930 census, Bessarabia had 207,000 Jews, or 7.2 percent o f its population; Transylvania had 193,000 Jews, or 3.5 percent of its population; and Bukovina had 93,000 Jews, or 10.9 percent of its population.
The Jewish political scene in Romania was extremely complex due to the existence of diverse communities such as those from Regat, Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transylvania . But no matter how diverse the Romanian Jews were, no matter how their strategies for survival differed, one common danger confronted them all: anti-Semitism. Widespread, violent, and common, anti-Semitism was by far the largest threat to Romanian Jews.
Common as anti-Semitism was in many Romanian political parties, only two of them used violence when dealing with the Jewish problem. The first was the aforementioned Christian National Defense League (Liga Apararii National Crestine [LANC]) created in 1923 by Professor Alexandru C. Cuza, which advocated a strictly enforced numerus nullus (no Jewish representation, participation, or membership) and the revocation of the citizenship of Jews. LANC, which can be described as a â€œconstitutionalâ€ fascist party, used the swastika as a political symbol long before Hitler did. More radical in the ways in which it proposed the solving of the Jewish problem was the second party, a splinter of LANC, the Iron Guard, first known as the League of the Archangel Michael, led by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Members of both LANC and the Iron Guard were involved in many anti-Semitic incidents in the 1920s. These incidentsâ€”destruction of synagogues, burning of Jewish homes, beatings of Jewsâ€”were unfortunately only a prelude to the suffering Romanian Jewry would undergo during World War II.
Anti-Semitic politicians fueled the rising hate against the Jews. For example, on July 14, 1926 , A. C. Cuza declared: â€œIt is monstrous that the constitution should speak of the rights of the Jews. The solution ought to be to eliminate the Jews by law. The first step ought to be to exclude them from the army. Leases of forests granted to Jews should be canceled. All land held by Jews should be expropriated. Likewise, all town houses owned by Jews should be confiscated. I would introduce a numerus clausus (proportional Jewish representation, participation, and membership) in the schools.â€ Attacks against the Jews were not only verbal. Anti-Semitic students staged numerous violent demonstrations during which many Jews were severely beaten and Jewish houses and shops were vandalized and devastated. Personal attacks were frequent as well, as on August 9, 1926, when a number of Jews were attacked at the railway station in Adjud; after being severely beaten, the victims were thrown off the train. Sometimes the incidents had more tragic results.
LANC merged with Goga’s National Agrarian party, creating the National Christian party. At the very end of 1937, Goga ascended to the position of prime minister in an administration that became known in Romanian history as the Goga-Cuza government. This government would enact heavy anti-Semitic legislation. Numerus clausus was to become a fact, and approximately 200,000 Jews would be stripped of their citizenship.
On January 21, 1938 , King Carol II and Goga, also president of the Council of Ministers, signed a decree mandating the â€œreviewâ€ of the citizenship of Romanian Jews. Minister of Justice Radulescu-Mehedinti cited as the government’s motivation the â€œJewish invasionâ€ after the unification of the principalities in 1859. In interviews granted to A. L. Easterman of the British Daily Herald, Carol and Goga claimed that 250,000 or even 500,000 Jews were â€œillegals.â€ But if Carol II denied any plan to expel them, Goga spoke of them as â€œ500,000 vagrantsâ€ not to be considered Romanian citizens.
Goga proposed to deport those half million Jews to Madagascar, and he was seconded by his colleague Istrate Micescu, minister of foreign affairs in the Goga-Cuza government, who opined, â€œit is urgent that we sweep up our courtyard because it serves no purpose to tolerate this garbage.â€
In spite of Goga’s racist comments, Carol II and Goga’s Decree No. 169 did not establish legal discrimination based solely on racial criteria: geography, other conditions of birth, and the obligation to possess specific legal documents were also determinants. But if the decree was not strictly racist, it was nonetheless fascist in intent; it embodied the government’s own anti-Semitic values, and it was calculated to steal the ground out from under the feet of its political competitor on the right, Codreanu’s Iron Guard, by demonstrating before the public that the Goga-Cuza administration too could be counted upon to â€œrestrictâ€ the Jews. To cite another example of the politics of the time, the constitutional law adopted on February 27, 1938, defined membership in the Romanian nation by blood, legally distinguishing between Romanians â€œby raceâ€ and Romanians â€œby residence.â€
In the spring of 1940, Carol tried to co-opt the other radical anti-Semites by bringing the Legionnaires into his government of royal dictatorship, and during the summer that government adopted a markedly fascist direction. But try as Carol did throughout the entire period from January 1938 to September 1940, he failed to beat the Legionnaires at their own game.
FASCIST ANTI-SEMITIC LEGISLATION
Definition of the â€œJewâ€
On August 8, 1940 , Carol II approved Law No. 2650, which defined who was to be considered a Jew and delimited three categories of them; it also specified the degree of legal discrimination to which each was to be subjected. The executive decree was signed by Prime Minister Ion Gigurtu and Minister of Justice Ion V. Gruia. A corollary law forbade marriages between Romanians â€œby bloodâ€ and Jews. Though antedating the actual fascist government, these laws constituted additional confirmation of the fascist tendencies that characterized the late royal dictatorship.
From mid-1940 to early 1942, a large number of laws and regulations with strong anti-Semitic intent issued from the Romanian government. Specifically, the law of August 8, 1940 , defined the following as Jews:
a. persons professing the â€œMosaicâ€ faith;
b. persons born to parents practicing the Mosaic faith;
c. persons converted to Christianity, though born to unconverted Jewish parents;
d. Christians born to a Christian mother and a Jewish father who had not been baptized;
e. persons born illegitimately to a Jewish mother;
f. women included in the above subsections, even though married to Christians, if they embraced Christianity less than one year from the establishment of the â€œParty of the Nationâ€ (June 22, 1939); and
g. Jews â€œby bloodâ€ even if atheists.
The Romanian law further categorized Jews as follows: (a) a broad group consisting of those who had settled in Romania after December 30, 1918; (b) a much smaller group consisting of those naturalized before 1918, including those who had served in Romania’s wars, the descendants of those individuals, and those naturalized pursuant to the absorption of Dobruja in 1913; and finally (c) all others. Jews in all three categories were barred from adopting Romanian names; none might buy rural property; and any who educated their Christian children in a spirit contrary to â€œreligious or national principlesâ€ risked revocation of parental authority. If, on the date of the decree, Jews belonging to the second category were not yet government employees, they could neither enter state employment nor take up military service; those in the first and third categories could
in no case work as civil servants, attorneys, merchants in rural districts, purveyors of alcoholic beverages, soldiers, editors, members of national sports associations, or housekeeping personnel in public institutions. The decree stipulated imprisonment of anywhere from one month to two years for violators.
The same decree gave obvious preference to Jews or their descendants who had been naturalized as participants in the 1877 War of Independence and to those naturalized individually by parliamentary vote. The number of such persons was small, no more than two thousand. Combatants in the Second Balkan War and World War I (decorated or not) also received preference. This law constituted a return to nineteenth-century anti-Semitic dicta that put into doubt the citizenship of most Romanian Jews. As the minister of justice acknowledged, this classification constituted a transitional step to a future system. Indeed, twenty-seven days after the passage of the decree, Romania transformed itself into a â€œ National Legionnaire State .â€
Despite numerous references to â€œbiological criteriaâ€ in defining the nation, Romanian law continued to define Jewishness on the religious basis set out in the August 8, 1940 , decree. However, these criteria evolved further under the successor Antonescu governments.
Under Antonescu (then prime minister), the statutory decree of October 5, 1940, defined Jews as â€œall those both of whose parents, or only one of them, [were Jewish], regardless of whether they or their parents were baptized, . . . whether they are Romanian citizens, or whether they have their residence within the territory of our country.â€ This definition found subsequent confirmation in numerous anti-Semitic laws, including the October 14, 1940 , decree concerning access to education. That year and the next, other laws dealing with the medical and military professions reflected similar definitions.
The system of law gave expression to the religious criteria upon which fascist legislation was inconsistently based, swerving to the racial definition and back again. A December 17, 1941 , decree mandating a census of those â€œwith Jewish bloodâ€ required registration at the Central Jewish Office ( Centrala Evreilor ) for all persons having one or two Jewish parents or two Jewish grandparents. Individuals having a single Jewish grandparent did not need to register with the Central Jewish Office, but they nonetheless had to make a declaration to the police, a requirement that was dropped in 1942. The same ambivalence is revealed in the fact that a Jew born to Jewish parents who had converted to Christianity and who had himself been baptized was nevertheless considered Jewish for tax purposesâ€”but Christian regarding his military obligation!
The 1940 anti-Semitic laws of the Gigurtu government under Carol II thus formed the precedent for lawmakers in the subsequent fascist regimes. And unlike the situation in Germany , conversion to Christianity continued to be considered valid by the Romanian fascists, as long as it had taken place prior to August 9, 1940 . Despite the hostility between Antonescu and Carol II, an undeniable continuity characterized the two governments’ anti-Jewish legislation.
In 1943, Antonescu legally emancipated a number of fully ethnic but â€œintegratedâ€ or â€œmeritoriousâ€ Jews from their inferior status. Such exceptions, however, could have no effect on the great mass of the Jewish population, whose lives were inescapably circumscribed by anti-Semitic legislation. Still, as we shall see below, it was often not the law per se, but geographical and other factors, that determined life or death.
In Ion Antonescu conception that would guide Romania ‘s anti-Jewish economic legislation, Jews formed the greatest obstacle to expansion of the Romanian economy. Antonescu promised to solve the problem by replacing Jews with Romanians.
Because the alliance between Antonescu and the Iron Guard lasted only a few months, this â€œeconomic programâ€ was carried out both with and without Legionnaire cooperation. The process of expropriation was termed â€œRomanizationâ€ (similar to Aryanization) by the corporatist economist Mihail Manoilescu. Since the first two cases could be equated, the term â€œRomanizationâ€ came to mean that enterprises based both on foreign capital and on Jewish capital would be transferred to â€œRomanianâ€ ownership. In Manoilescu’s words, â€œwe will make no distinction between foreigners and domestic Jews.â€ At the same time, this â€œtheoreticalâ€ approach distinguished between â€œJewishâ€ and â€œRomanianâ€ capital strictly on the basis of ethnic criteria.
In fact, Romanization was the economic expression of state anti-Semitism. The intent was to establish a â€œRomanian national bourgeoisieâ€ and to cleanse the economy by removing non-native elements, the Jews above all.
During the first stage of Romanization, from September 1940 to January 1941, this â€œeconomicâ€ initiative proceeded chaotically, often taking the form of simple plundering. Legionnaires forced many Jews to sell their businesses for modest sums or simply took them over without any compensation at all. Ultimately, the Legionnaire expropriations caused severe economic disruption and elicited the discontent of Antonescu, who, for all his anti-Semitism, believed in adherence to the law.
In the cities a purge of Jewish civil servants had begun even before the inauguration of the â€œNational Legionnaireâ€ government in September 1940. From August 6 to September 3, nine ministries in Bucharest dismissed a total of 609 Jewish employees. On September 13, immediately after the fascist consolidation of power, the Iron Guard established â€œcommissars of Romanizationâ€ with great power over the manufacturing sector; often corrupt, more often inept, these figures caused significant damage to the economy in only a few months. As a result, on January 18, 1941, they were removed by order of Antonescu. And on November 16, 1940, Law No. 825 ordered all enterprises of any nature whatsoever to fire salaried (i.e., white-collar or professional) Jews, excepting only certain veterans and their descendants, and providing for only two weeks to three months of severance pay, depending on seniority. Under this law, only the Council of Ministers retained the right to grant dispensations to certain public works where skilled Jews were essential.
Further decrees restricted surviving Jewish business activities in late 1940 and early 1941. The government prohibited Jews from engaging in the sale of products included in the state monopoly while the Ministry of Labor required Jewish-owned grocery stores to remain closed on Sundays so they might not take away business that otherwise would go to Romanian shops the other six days of the week. And on March 25, 1941, Jewish stockholders in Romanian companies were required to register their names on all bearer bonds.
While expropriations could be carried out with some degree of efficiency, the same was not true of the replacement of Jews in the workforce. Although most Jews were fired in 1943, thousands continued to work for Romanian firms, which were forced to seek every possible sort of waiver and approval because the Jews’ skills remained irreplaceable; 58 even a â€œRomanizedâ€ economy could not do without their services.
Another key component of the fascists’ anti-Semitic legislation was Jewish forced labor. As early as December 5, 1940, the government decreed that Jews were obligated to work in the public interest under the Ministry of National Defense or for other state ministries (such as the Labor Ministry) and institutions in cooperation with the Defense Ministry. Organization of Jewish labor was assigned to the so-called recruitment circles. During their employment Jews fell under military supervision and law. The youngest (eighteen to twenty) and oldest (forty-one to fifty-one) of those imprisoned enjoyed the privilege of working in their cities of residence; those aged in between could be assigned to the so-called external detachments. Severe sanctions threatened anyone who tried to evade these coercive measures.:
f. For minor infractions (delay in answering roll call, indiscipline): corporal punishment.
g. Deportation to Transnistria, fatigue duty, or transfer to ghettos with family awaited those who: repeated infractions mentioned under point f; worked carelessly, evaded work through fraud or bribery, were absent at roll calls, or suspended work without permission; failed to advise the recruitment circle of changes in residence; or cultivated close relations with Romanians.
Ultimately, exploitation of Jewish forced labor fell to the Supreme General Staff of the army, pursuant to Antonescu’s Order No. 5295. The army had the right to use women between the ages of eighteen and forty as laundresses, seamstresses, and even office workers. Though only adults were obligated under the law, minors were widely employed. Students were obligated to perform labor from the age of sixteen. Such youths were used to remove snow, perform agricultural labor, or dig out victims of Allied bombings.
The forced laborers’ housing typically was unsanitary, often in railroad cars, shacks, and barns. They endured hunger and cold, and lacked proper clothing and medical attention. All Jews in the internment camps had to perform â€œhard labor.â€ In cases of flight, one out of every ten remaining prisoners would be shot. Those not meeting expectations would suffer deprivation of rations and be barred from receiving food packages. Only toward the end of the war were these draconian regulations sometimes ameliorated as, increasingly convinced of the likelihood of Allied victory, the slave masters grew more willing to countenance evasionâ€”when the appropriate â€œspecial taxesâ€ or bribes were forthcoming.
Military Status of the Jews
The military status of Romanian Jews under fascists translated, as we have seen, into the organization of Jewish forced labor under military jurisdiction and the levying of additional taxes. The December 5, 1940, decree that forced Jews to labor â€œin the civic interestâ€ in accordance with the needs of the state also abolished the military obligation of Jewish males. Those Jews physically incapable of labor service were required to pay a military tax. The modest number of Jewish officers and noncoms still on active duty at the time of the decree were retired, but they were allowed to receive benefits only if they had served at least ten years.
On January 20, 1941, yet another decree increased the military taxes. Even Jews mobilized for labor in various enterprises now were obligated to pay; only those on forced labor projects and retired officers were exempted. Physicians, pharmacists, engineers, and architects conscripted by the armed forces enjoyed better conditionsâ€”for a while.
The Health-Care Professions
On November 15, 1940 , â€œJewishâ€ doctors and other health-care providers, regardless of what religion they practiced or the nationality of their spouses, were excluded from the National Association of Physicians. Jewish physicians were segregated in their own professional associations, based on their specializations, and permitted to care only for Jewish patients. But to join even these associations a doctor was required to have been a citizen living in Romania prior to June 1, 1919. Each such individual was obliged to wear a badge identifying him as a Jewish physician.
In addition to limiting Jews’ medical practice, their role in medical science was also restricted: Jews were henceforth forbidden to join medical-scientific societies, and they were even barred from publishing in scientific journals.
Members of the College of Physicians were, as a rule, allowed to provide care â€œonly to Christian Romanian or Aryan ethnic patients and to Turkish patientsâ€; Jewish patients could receive attention only in emergencies.
On October 3, 1940, a new law prohibited the granting of pharmacy licenses to Jews and forbade them from opening drug warehouses or medicinal products laboratories. Clearly these regulations brought disarray to the practice of medicine in Romania , but the great irony is that fascist medical legislation claimed the goals of preserving and improving the health of the ethnic Romanian population.
On August 29, 1940 , near the end of the reign of Carol II, the Ministry of National Education, Religion, and the Arts regulated the place of Jews in elementary, secondary, and higher education. Even in Jewish schools, the Romanian language had to be taught, and history and geography had henceforth to be taught by Romanian schoolteachers specially appointed by the ministry. A numerus clausus strictly limited Jewish students to no more than 6 percent of any single gymnasium class. Jewish students might be admitted into Romanian classrooms only to fill vacant seats, and they had to pay special taxes. The presence of Jews was likewise limited to 6 percent in higher, professional, and technical education.
A new decree of October 11, 1940 , changed the numerus clausus in higher education to a numerus nullus: Jews could no longer be teachers or serve as administrators in either state-run or private schools serving the Romanian or other Christian communities, nor could they enroll as students therein. In extraordinary cases the Ministry of National Education, Religion, and the Arts had the right to suspend these rules when employees and students were born to Jewish fathers who had converted and Christian mothers of non-Jewish ethnic origin, provided they themselves had been baptized in the Christian religion before the age of two; certain categories of veterans and their descendants were also excluded.
But even this was not enough: the fascists eliminated the exceptions one month later. Segregated Jewish schools continued to exist, and the system of school apartheid was capped with a prohibition against books written by Jewish authors in public libraries, lists of which were posted there and in bookstores.
Other Anti-Semitic Legal Measures
During the autumn of 1940, dozens of professional, social, and other associations expelled Jewish members; these included the bar associations, the journalists’ and writers’ unions, the Society of Architects, the Romanian Opera, even the deaf-mute association. Professional and social discrimination went hand in hand with ministerial orders that essentially outlawed the recognition of Jews as human beings.
On September 9, 1940 , the Ministry of National Education, Religion, and the Arts ruled that synagogues might remain open only with its special approval. In early 1941, Minister Radu Rosetti proposed a ban on conversions of Jews to other religions, for â€œthe ethnic being of our people must be protected against mixture with Jewish blood.â€ By August 26, 1941 , the Ministry of Internal Affairs had prohibited Jews access to beaches. Then, less than two weeks later, on September 8, the Ministry of National Education, Religion, and the Arts further required that theaters and opera companies relieve all Jewish personnel of their posts. Jewish theaters and theater companies existed, to be sure, but they could not present the works of Romanian authors and they could present other plays only in the Romanian language. A decree of November 20, 1941, â€œRomanizedâ€ movie companies, movie theaters, and travel and tourism agencies. Meanwhile, local administrative agencies prohibited Jews from owning motorcycles and even bicycles.
Some regulations reflectedâ€”or, rather, fosteredâ€”the notion that security considerations necessitated restrictions on the Jews. Thus a decree of May 7, 1941, forced Jews to turn in their radios to the police. The minister of the interior justified this action to Antonescu by stating that â€œJews possessing radios are receiving propaganda news contrary to the general interests of the country, which they then spread, thereby continually inciting the population.â€
Needless to say, the deprivation of rights left the Jews open to systematic plunder. The state claimed the lion’s share: discriminatory tax measures soon touched real estate, enterprises, and liquid capital alike. It is not surprising that the extortion was backed by the threat of violence: evasion would bring up to ten years in jail, not to mention a fine of 100,000 to 500,000 lei. Two months later Jews disabled in World War I from 1916 to 1918 were exempted, but early the next year the government, as if reluctant to be seen as conciliatory, stipulated that the remaining Jews who could not afford the tax in kind would have to pay the exchange value in cash.
These were hard times for all, and the government sought to guarantee that the most miserable gentile Romanian suffered less than the happiest Jew. Restrictions on the supply of food to Jews constituted an early step in this direction. Jews were permitted to buy bread, but the purchase of pastries was forbidden them. Beginning on August 14, 1942, Jews had to pay a higher price for bread, which they might purchase only with specially marked ration cards. Local administrative measures added to the Jews’ humiliation, as illustrated by the edict of March 25, 1942, by which the military prefect of Botosani District prohibited farmers from selling their produce to Jewish homes or shops and barred Jews from buying at market or from shopping outside the hours of 10:00 a.m. and noon. The mayor of the town of Roman actually prohibited outright the sale of bread to Jews. In other districts as well, similar measures were taken.
Within such a climate why include a â€œnonpeopleâ€ in the nation’s census? Thus, by a statutory decree of December 17, 1940 , Romanian Jews were to be counted separately, based upon their registration with local police departments. Decree No. 1257 of April 30, 1942 , would later exempt Jews who had converted to Christianity before August 9, 1940 , if they had only one Jewish parentâ€”strange proof that somewhere under the surface the regime still wavered in its definitions and its intentions.
Wearing the yellow (occasionally black) starâ€”that ultimate symbol of dehumanizationâ€”was never systematically required of the Jews of Old Romania but only of those living in Transnistria and certain departments of Moldavia, Bessarabia, and Bukovina. During the summer and fall of 1941, it had seemed, however, that no Romanian Jew would be able to avoid donning the star. Immediately after the declaration of war against the USSR on June 22, and following the Iasi pogrom, Jews were obliged to wear the yellow star in some communities of Moldavia . In a memorandum sent on July 15, 1941 , to Mihai Antonescu, a distant relation to Ion and vice president of the Council of Ministers, Wilhelm Filderman, president of the UER, demanded that this â€œillegalâ€ measure be rescinded. One of the ironies of history is that Filderman and Antonescu were former schoolmates, a fact that gave Filderman a tentative line of communication to the government. Scarcely two weeks had passed, therefore, when Deputy Minister of the Interior Popescu received Filderman; during their August 2, 1941 , discussion Filderman was promised flexibility in the interpretation of the law. His disappointment must have been all the more bitter, then, when the measure remained in force. Worse still, during an August 27 meeting with Popescu, Filderman learned that â€œthe yellow star would probably be extended to the entire country.â€ One week later, an order (No. 8368) from the National General Inspectorate of the Police stated that the entire Romanian Jewish population would be required to wear a 6-centimeter black star on a white background contained within an 8.5-centimeter square. Baptized Jews would not be obliged to wear this badge. The Bucharest Prefecture of Police issued the same order in its municipal jurisdiction on September 5, 1941.
On September 8, Filderman obtained a meeting with Antonescu himself, who, in a good mood, received him and Dr. Nicolae Lupu (a National Peasant party leader who facilitated the meeting, was a politician on good terms with Antonescu, and was sympathetic to the plight of the Jews); the leader agreed to order Mihai Antonescu â€œto cancel the wearing of the badge throughout the country.â€ Indeed, on September 10, the prefect of police in the capital, N. Radu, sent a written message to the president of the Sephardic Jewish Community stating that following a decision of Marshal Antonescu, Jews would not be required to wear any distinguishing badge. As things settled down German diplomats could not refrain from protesting the cancellation of the order for all Romanian Jews, which they did in the pages of the official Bukarester Tageblatt (Bucharest Daily) of December 2, 1941, asserting that the yellow star should be essential in the â€œNew Orderâ€; their words produced little effect.
In areas where persecution of the Jews was stronger, however, the yellow star was indeed enforced. For example, as late as February 26, 1943 , General Corneliu Calotescu, military governor of Bukovina issued an edict reinstating the requirement that Jews wear the star. Violation of the order was to be punishable by internment in a labor camp. On August 18, 1943 , the fascist newspaper Porunca Vremii (Commandment of the Epoch) proposed the introduction of the Star of David in all of Romania as a distinguishing mark for Jews, citing as the model the measure adopted in Bukovina.
Filderman’s persistence had become one of the factors leading to the dissolution of the Union of Jewish Communities of Romania and its replacement by the Central Jewish Office, or Centrala Evreilor. This Judenrat, a government-controlled institution to facilitate the persecution of the Jews, grew out of consultations in October 1941 between Mihai Antonescu and his subordinate Radu Lecca, director of the Office for Jewish Problems. 100 Lecca acted as the governmental official in charge of the Jewish population until 1943, when some of the responsibility was transferred to the Ministry of Labor. Until then Lecca oversaw the new administrative and economic agency established by the law that Marshal Antonescu had signed into effect on December 16, 1941 . The Centrala was responsible for, among other things, the following:
â€¢ exclusive representation of the interests of Romanian Jewry and administration of the assets of the former Union of Romanian Jews;
â€¢ â€œreeducationâ€ and organization of Jews for â€œwork and tradesâ€;
â€¢ preparations for Jewish â€œemigrationâ€;
â€¢ organization of cultural activities, schools, a newspaper, and self-help;
â€¢ organization of Jewish â€œwork projectsâ€ and other forms of mobilized labor;
â€¢ provision of data required for â€œRomanizationâ€;
â€¢ creation and updating of files on all Romanian Jews, including issuance of photo identity cards that Jews had to carry on their persons;
â€¢ receipt of all petitions by Jews; and
â€¢ general oversight of the legal system governing the Jews.
The Central Jewish Office thus became one of the two main venues through which the course of the Holocaust in Romania played out. The other (and more important) means was the series of government actionsâ€”sometimes opening the door to mass anarchyâ€”by which Romanian fascists sought to carry out the elimination of Jews from their country. Later, when the tide of war reversed, these two venues were also the most significant in terms of the attempts to retrace steps in an inglorious administrative retreat from genocide, thereby permitting the survival of a large portion of Romanian Jewry.