DESPITE THE FACT that Romanian anti-Semitism found its most visible and concrete manifestations in the sphere of legislation during the late 1930s and that systematic, state-sponsored violence would not be organized until 1941, widespread popular anti-Semitic violence in the months after the conflict with the Soviet Union in 1941 signaled that a new phase had arrived in the story of the Romanian Holocaust. The timing of these events reflected not only the more general drift in a Central and Eastern Europe dominated by Nazi Germany, but the specifics of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the USSR and Germany , which permitted the Soviets to occupy territories belonging to Romania . Many Jews regarded the Soviets as potentially better suzerains than the Romanians, while others remained indifferent to them or even hostile. But Romanian nationalists exploited anti-Semitic stereotypes to portray the Jewish community as a whole as a pro-Communist fifth column. Other resentments of the Jews as a capitalist element in a predominantly peasant-worker environment, fanned by unscrupulous fascist publicists, came to the surface. Coupled with the opportunism of criminal and semi-criminal elements eager for plunder, these emotions spilled over into bloody mob violence against Jewish communities in some parts of the country. The government largely stood aside from these events, though on paper at least it disapproved of public lawlessness. Still, in some cases participation of soldiers and police officers pointed toward the possibility of deliberate state involvement in the future.
MASSACRES DURING THE SUMMER OF 1940
During the spring and summer of 1940, the Romanian fascist movement expanded at an accelerated pace. By coming to an agreement with the Iron Guard, Carol II hoped to save his throne and compensate for certain failures of his foreign policy. On June 22, Carol founded his Party of the Nation and transformed Romania , in official terminology, from a â€œcorporateâ€ to a â€œtotalitarianâ€ state. The Iron Guard and its new leader, Horia Sima, played a considerable role in this national party.
Also in June 1940, less than a year after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the USSR issued an ultimatum demanding that Romania cede Bessarabia and Bukovina . The forced cession of these provinces, along with a number of communities in Dorohoi District in July, was a heavy blow to Romanian prestige and triggered severe reactions in the country’s internal political life. In the face of this Soviet aggression Carol made an overture to Nazi Germany by appointing as prime minister a pro-Nazi industrialist, Hermann Goering’s friend Ion Gigurtu, and as foreign minister an equally pro-German corporatist theoretician, Mihail Manoilescu.
The Soviets imposed humiliating conditions upon their capitalist neighbor. The Romanian forces were given three days to withdraw, but the Soviets did not respect even this term, entering the country and undertaking their first arrests before June 29. It infuriated Romanian nationalists that many Ukrainians happily greeted reunification with their long-lost cousins and that Jews were pleased with the downfall of the anti-Semitic regime. Whatever the perceptions of the Romanians, however, the great majority of Jews were fearful of the anticipated Stalinist changes; but Communists and other leftists were enthusiastic. Inside their truncated state Romanians sought scapegoats, and who might better fulfill this role than those whom nationalists had traditionally branded traitors and spies?
Jacques Truelle, ambassador of France, reported a picture at variance with that of Romania’s fascists: â€œwhile numerous incidents did occur during the evacuation of Bessarabia and Bukovina in 1940, it is a fact that the Jews were not the only participants, but that all of the Romanian scum in these provinces, as well as the Ukrainian, Russian, and other minorities, joined . . . in insulting the Romanian regiments withdrawing without a fight.â€ But the notion of the Jewish Communist, saboteur, and enemy of the Romanian people now began to appear more frequently in popular propaganda and official reports.
Massacres attended the Romanian withdrawal. The killings typically were carried out by soldiers but sometimes by Romanian or Ukrainian mobs. The ugliest of them accompanied the withdrawal from Bukovina , the first taking place in the community of Milcoreni (in Dorohoi District). Following orders by an officer named Goilav, soldiers seized and abused the family of Sloime Weiner, including his son, User, and his daughters, Roza Weiner and Fani Zekler (the latter carrying an infant). Leading this group to the Tureatca Forest , the soldiers also caught a lame shoemaker named Moscovici, his wife, and their two children, as well as the wife of Isac Moscovici (apparently unrelated to the shoemaker) and their two young daughters. The mob made all of them line up in front of a ditch and then proceeded to shoot them. Isac Moscovici fell into the soldiers’ hands shortly thereafter, to be beaten so badly that he died on the way to the hospital.
Other victims fell too. On June 30, soldiers from the Romanian Sixteenth Infantry Regiment under Valeriu Carp killed eight people in the village of Ciudei , including Moise Schachter; Dr. Conrad Kreis; the Hessman brothers; Herman Gross; and the latter’s wife, daughter, and grandson. Kreis was savagely tortured and his body dismembered. Marius Mircu, a Jewish reporter, later explained the incident as revenge for the participation of Kreis and certain others (â€œthe leaders of the Communist organizationâ€ of Ciudei) in a delegation greeting the Soviets. Carp ordered the four he considered guilty to be bound hand and foot, and after breaking their legs, he and his men â€œsmashed their skulls, tied them to trees, and dismembered them with bayonettes.â€ On that same day in Suceava a group of eighteen soldiers under a lieutenant broke into the home of the Jew Suhar Lax de Costina. After torturing him they tied him to a horse’s tail to be dragged for almost three kilometers to the edge of the village, where his bullet-riddled corpse was later found in the woods.
July 1, 1940 , found Commander Carp and his men in action again, this time in the environs of nearby Zaharesti. The men gathered thirty-six Jews from surrounding villages, some whose names have been traced: Leon Hamer, Leib Stekel, Ira Lupovici, Nuta Druckman, Moise Haller, Bartfeld, Herr, and the Edelsteins, mother and daughter. A witness recalled that they were tortured horribly: â€œSome of them had their tongues torn out, their ears and fingers cut off. Afterward, they were lined up around a pit, shot, and thrown in.â€ Carp forced two of the Jews to take part in the firing squad; we can identify one of these as Fredi Dermer from Suceava. In January 1941, surviving Jews exhumed the corpses and gave them a Jewish burial in the Suceava cemetery.
Also on July 1, 1940 , in Serbauti (Suceava District) the chief of police, Adjutant Bujica, and his friend, the farmer Hapinciu, murdered Smil Gheller, his wife, Sally, and Leib Ellenboghen with a revolver and threw the bodies into a stream. Their remains were retrieved early in 1941 and given a proper burial, also in Suceava. In his standard compilation, Cartea neagra¨ (The Black Book), Matatias Carp records numerous crimes committed in early July 1940.
Numerous killings took place in July on the trains, especially in Moldavia . Jewish travelers, especially Jewish soldiers, were shot and their bodies left in the fields. Some died under torture; others were permanently disabled. Many were thrown from moving trains; other victims were buried along the rail line in unmarked graves. On July 2, for example, Leon Cohn, a hairdresser from Bucharest on his way to service in the Twenty-ninth Infantry Regiment, was thrown from the train in Vaculesti along with three Jewish friends; farmers buried their bodies, and the local mayor filled out their death certificates weeks later.
The largest massacres took place in the towns of Galati and Dorohoi. Near the Galati train station on June 30, a unit of the Romanian army cut down at least four hundred Jews attempting to flee to the USSR. The July 3 issue of the newspaper Timpul (The Times) confirmed another anti-Semitic outrage involving an undetermined number of Jewish dead and wounded in Galati that also took place on June 30.
During its withdrawal from Bukovina the Twenty-ninth Infantry encountered Soviet troops. A Romanian officer, Captain Boros, and a Jewish soldier, Iancu Solomon, died in the clash. Solomon’s funeral was to be held July 1 in Dorohoi. An honor guard composed of ten Jewish soldiers, including Sergeant Emil Bercovici and under the command of a Christian noncommissioned officer, was dispatched to the cemetery. As the coffin was being lowered into the grave, rifle shots rang out. The Romanians in charge ordered the soldiers to leave the cemetery. Several civilian Jews hid in the mortuary chapel. At the cemetery gate another platoon disarmed the Jewish soldiers and shot them. Bercovici’s body was positioned near a machine gun, and the troublemakers convinced the mob that had gathered that â€œthe Jewsâ€ had opened fire on the retreating Romanian soldiers. Before long the rioters had massacred another forty Jews, including four children, all neighbors. All of the victims, with the exception of a ninety-four-year-old man who was struck at the base of the skull, were shot.
The pogrom continued in the city after local residents had marked the houses of the gentiles with painted crosses. Soldiers invaded the homes of Jews, raping, pillaging, and murdering. A Jewish survivor injured in the incident at the cemetery, Sulimovici, was saved by a police sergeant. At the hospital he found thirty other injured Jews. Many other Jews found refuge through the efforts of Lieutenant Isacescu, Captain Stino, Lieutenant Colonel Marino, Colonel Ilasievici, and General Sanatescu.
According to several sources, the Dorohoi pogrom resulted in two hundred deaths. In 109 cases the murderers can be identified as soldiers and peasants; in three cases, policemen and townsmen. We have no information regarding the other killers.
The pogroms in the district of Dorohoi do not appear to have resulted from orders of central military or civilian authorities but, rather, from uncoordinated local military initiatives and from anti-Semitic agitation, in the atmosphere of wartime catastrophe. Chaos was the milieu in which reinvigorated anti-Semitism thrived. In July and August anti-Semites expelled Jewish families from the rural areas of Moldavia . All Jews from the districts of Dranceni and Raducaneni, for example, were evacuated to Husi; in that town 120 were arrested before being interned in specially established camps.
LIFE AND DEATH UNDER THE IRON GUARD,
SEPTEMBER 6, 1940â€“JANUARY 21, 1941
On September 6, 1940 , the Iron Guard and Marshal Antonescu forced King Carol II to abdicate, blaming him for the loss of Bessarabia, Bukovina, and northern Transylvania . Equally hated by the Iron Guard and Antonescu, Carol came to serve as the scapegoat for the failures of the Romanian political class. Following the abdication the Iron Guard proclaimed Romania a â€œ National Legionnaire State â€; to the new king, Michael I, they allotted a merely symbolic role. Antonescu took over leadership of the government as president of the Council of Ministers, gaining the title of â€œConducator.â€ Horia Sima, leader of the Iron Guard, became vice president of the Council of Ministers, making him the second highest-ranked man in Romania .
The change in government led to a new wave of anti-Semitic excesses. The exclusion of Jews from the remaining professional associations that had continued to tolerate them and the graffiti that marked Jewish businesses in the provinces were the least of those measures. And yet on September 14, 1940 , the same day that he named the Legionnaire cabinet, Marshal Antonescu met with Wilhelm Filderman, the renowned Jewish leader. Antonescu apologized for â€œromantic incidentsâ€ perpetrated by â€œexploited young men,â€ agreed to overturn such irresponsible decisions as the â€œabolitionâ€ of Judaism, and even â€œorderedâ€ an end to the painting of the word â€œJewishâ€ on stores and businesses. Antonescu wrote to the UER that if the Jews did not â€œundermine the government,â€ the community had nothing to fear. Strangely, Filderman’s visit was only the first of a series of meetings and other communications with Antonescu, one of the paradoxes of the Romanian Holocaust: Hitler would hardly have received representatives of German Jewry or overturned anti-Jewish measures.
But whatever Antonescu’s gestures of moderation, at the grassroots level all hell broke loose. Between September 26 and 30, 1940, Legionnaire police arrested hundreds of Jews in Buzau, Arad, and Iasi, holding some of these people for several days, torturing some, and robbing many. Anti-Semitic activists organized boycotts of Jewish stores, while petty officials closed synagogues in Bucharest and the provinces. Legionnaires and policemen carried out the looting while the soldiers maintained orderâ€”had the mob gotten in on the act, there would have been less for the authorities to destroy. Ringleaders of one mob tortured Rabbi Moses Iosif Rubin in order to extract a confession to the effect that he had used his synagogue to hide dynamite intended for sabotage. They then dragged him through the town, between sentinels aiming revolvers at his head, and finally harnessed him and his sons to one of the carts transporting the goods that had been stolen from him.
Elsewhere too mobs plundered Jewish stores and manhandled their owners. Officials, neighbors, or ugly crowds expelled many Jews from their homes or confiscated their businesses. Petty officials and greedy competitors took over manufacturing enterprises owned by Jews, and even the pathetic possessions of itinerant peddlers were looted.
Filderman sent several memoranda regarding the ongoing anti-Semitic persecutions that had occurred throughout October to Ion Antonescu; to the ministers of internal affairs, justice, and labor; to the director of the State Bureau of Investigation; to the mayor of Bucharest; and to the presiding judge of the Court of Appeals. F ilderman’s diligent efforts proved fruitless: Antonescu was prepared to protect neither the property nor the lives of Romanian Jews at that time.
November 1940 saw the first Jewish deaths at the hands of the â€œNational Legionnaireâ€ government. On November 2, in Bucharest , the Legionnaire police arrested Lucian Rosen, aged fifteen, charging that he had posted Communist handbills. Dragging him to the prefecture, the policemen savagely beat him with a metal object, strangled him, threw him from a sixth-floor window, and finally shot him. On November 22, Legionnaire police arrested the merchant Solomon Klein and discovered 1.5 million lei on his person. The next day his corpse was returned to his familyâ€”minus the moneyâ€”with the explanation that he had thrown himself out a fourth-floor window at police headquarters. On November 23, Teodor Gerber, sixteen years old, was arrested; two days later his lifeless body was returned to his parents.
On November 10, 1940 , Legionnaire police in Ploiesti burst into the synagogue at 4 Municipal Street to arrest sixty Jews in the middle of services, charging that the ostensible worshippers had come for a Communist meeting. The police took the Jews to headquarters, where they abused and beat them. On the fourteenth of the month Horia Sima ordered them freed. The Ploiesti police, however, refused to comply. On November 27, in defiance of a renewed release order, they took eleven of their captives to a secret location where they were murdered; their bullet-riddled bodies were found in ditches on the outskirts of town the next day.
The Iron Guard didn’t reserve its hatred exclusively for the Jews. On November 26 and 27, 1940, sixty-three Romanian politicians, senior military officers, and policemen accused of complicity in the arrest and execution of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu were executed by Legionnaires in Jilava Prison near Bucharest. Among the victims were former Bucharest prefect Gabriel Marinescu, Generals Gheorghe Argeseanu and Ion Bengliu, and former head of the intelligence services Mihail Morusov. Also on November 27, 1940, Nicolae Iorga, former prime minister, preeminent historian, politician of the right, father of â€œRomanism,â€ xenophobe, and anti-Semite, was assassinated, as was the economist and prominent National Peasant party member Virgil Madgearu. Former prime ministers Constantin Argetoianu, Gheorghe Tatarescu (saved by Alexandru Riosanu), and Gheorghe Gigurtu (saved by Sima) and former ministers Mihail Ghelmegeanu and Nicolae Marinescu nearly shared the same fate. These assassinations and attempted assassinations sent shock waves through the Romanian political class: no one was safe, anyone could be arbitrarily executed. Where each feared for his life, who would oppose the Iron Guard over a matter so â€œtrivialâ€ as the persecution of a few Jidani ?
Whatever misgivings any Romanians may have entertained, Nazi Germany was enthusiastic. The Legionnaire movement received an especially positive evaluation from the SS for these crimes. As Heinrich Himmler wrote to Sima in early December:
During the initial period of [our] takeover, our enemies were [also] found guilty and shot by the movement, outside the scope of the national justice system. . . . In the case of the Legionnaires who avenged the death of their dear captain [and] innumerable comrades, this kind of action is just, since it could never be carried out under the legal system, which is hindered by judicial provisions and will always be subordinate to their formalities. I send you my best wishes, to you and the Legionnaire movement, which has demonstrated so much self-denial on behalf of your fatherland.
Whatever image Antonescu was trying to project during the audiences with Filderman, perhaps his real attitude toward violenceâ€”even against Romaniansâ€”came out in other statements. The victims of the Jilava murders, Antonescu learned, had been shot repeatedly: 587 separate bullet wounds were found on the bodies of thirteen victims; others had died from blows to the skull with heavy, sharpened objects (perhaps axes); and still others had died from stab wounds. Upon hearing of the savagery of the killings, Antonescu remarked to General Petroviceanu: â€œI am not sorry about what happened to them, since they caused so much damage to our country.â€ Ironically, even though there had been no love lost between Antonescu and the Legionnaires’ victims (Iorga in particular had been close to Carol II, Antonescu’s sworn enemy), Antonescu understood that the assassinations could be exploited one day to discredit the Legionnaire movement, which he did, in fact, do following the abortive â€œLegionnaire Rebellion,â€ the attempted Iron Guard coup d’état, shortly thereafter. For the time being, however, immunity for the Jilava murderers served as a green light inviting the Legionnaires to yet more audacious mayhem.
Between September 6, 1940 , and January 22, 1941 , anti-Semites murdered eleven Jews in Ploiesti and three in Bucharest . Physical abuse and robbery accompanied each other, though the sadistic pleasure the bullies derived from torturing a captive apparently was often an end in itself. On November 6, 1940 , Legionnaires in Bucharest arrested and beat one hundred Jews at the Iron Guard Center at 1 Traian Street . They then escorted them in columns to Legionnaire headquarters on Roma Street , where they continued to abuse them from noon until midnight ; the victims were then released. That same day another group of thugs dragged thirty more Jews to police headquarters, where they were brutally beaten. Hundreds of other Jews in Bucharest underwent similar treatment on November 10.
Anti-Semitic brutes, officials, and mobs forced Jews to perform humiliating labor. On December 12, the police commissioner of Tîrgoviste ordered the town’s Jews, regardless of age, social status, or education, to clean mud from the streets. 39 Similar episodes took place in Braila, Buzau, Constanta, and Petrosani. In other towns and communes the members of the Jewish community were forced to perform labor that included cleaning floors, sweeping streets, constructing roads, and even performed labor on private properties.
Eager to criticize Iron Guard â€œlawlessness,â€ Ion Antonescu expressed indignation about some of these departures from good order at the January 11, 1941, meeting of the Council of Ministers. Nothing the Conducator said or did restrained the outrages of the winter of 1940â€“1941. The members of the Iron Guard drew their symbol on the heads of their victims; they expropriated their property; they expelled Jews from towns. In their zeal to do harm to the Jews the anti-Semites thought little of the harm their actions might cause the majority population.
The expropriations had another unanticipated effect. Besides destroying a large number of businesses and impairing the national economy, as both Marshal Antonescu and even representatives of Germany acknowledged, these seizures sometimes led to a strengthening of ethnic German capital in Romania . The liberal leader Constantin I. C. Bratianu pointed out this situation to Ion Antonescu in a December 18, 1940 , letter in which he argued that â€œthe liquidation of Jewish businessesâ€ for which Romanian buyers could not be found and the â€œterrorâ€ fomented by anti-Semitic youth opened broad new opportunities for the German minority to expand its role in the economy. â€œInstead of nationalization, we are experiencing â€˜denationalization.’â€ Ethnic Germans benefited from the support of Germany ‘s foreign investment banks and proved themselves quite capable of exerting influence on the Legionnaires to help them take over Jewish firms.
The targets of expropriation and plunder varied greatly: schools, synagogues, even cemeteries were not exempt; above all, commercial and industrial firms attracted â€œpurchasers,â€ with preference going to stores, hotels, and restaurants. Money, jewels, and furs were popular items, and therefore their enthusiasts â€œRomanizedâ€ many a private home. Interested neighbors â€œbought,â€ â€œappropriated,â€ or â€œconfiscatedâ€ cattle, sheep, horses, timber, firewood, radios, and grain.
On December 9, 1940 , the Union of Jewish Communities of Romania submitted a twenty-six-page appeal to Marshal Antonescu, summarizing the arrests, physical abuse, expropriations, and murders thirty-nine Jewish communities had experienced during the preceding months. Antonescu replied by ordering Minister of the Interior Constantin Petrovicescu, a Legionnaire, to open an investigation. But even though this interchange took place a month before the antagonism between Antonescu and the Iron Guard came to a head, his action does suggest the strain that had come to suffuse their relations by year’s end.
That a crisis was brewing between Antonescu and the Guard seems further indicated by the fact that his previous order went unheeded. This was, of course, only one source of the friction between the Conducator and the Guard, but it did contribute to the crisis that soon broke out. One should not overstate the importance of differences on the Jewish question: as late as January 10, 1941, Antonescu reproached the minister of the interior for not having interned illegal Jewish immigrants responsible for engaging in commerce, promoting communism, and other alleged misdeeds. But Antonescu did represent a different brand ofâ€”or, rather, an approach toâ€”anti-Semitism, one slightly less virulent and slightly more considered than that of the Iron Guard. Despite this, other considerations moved Antonescu to countenance, if not urge, far more horrible outrages against the Jews.
THE LEGIONNAIRE REBELLION AND THE BUCHAREST POGROM,
JANUARY 21â€“23, 1941
On January 10, at the last meeting of the Council of Ministers attended by Legionnaires, Antonescu expressed his concern over the economic disruption caused by the Iron Guard’s anti-Semitic excesses, which, for him, were emblematic of that organization’s general irresponsible radicalism.
Under the guise of Romanization, the Legionnaires had exploited the state apparatusâ€”the police in particularâ€”for purposes of outright robbery. Most businesses that â€œpassed into the handsâ€ of Legionnaires had quickly fallen into ruin. On a national scale this had produced a dire impact. Antonescu, an army officer who represented what Barrington Moore has called â€œthe honorable fascism of the clerks,â€ did want the economic dispossession of the Jews and their physical removal, but he had considered this the end result to be realized only gradually and lawfully. In this he had the tacit agreement of his German friends, who needed a well-functioning Romanian economy to support their anticipated war effort against the USSR .
Berlin had not failed to note the strained relations between the Legionnaires and Antonescu. As early as November 23, 1940 , German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop had warned his Legionnaire counterpart, Mihail Sturdza, not to allow ideological fervor to jeopardize the requirements of the military. Antonescu was aware of these conversations and sought to demonstrate his de facto leadership power over the Iron Guard by forbidding Sturdza from trying to directly influence Hitler. Instead, he himself visited the Führer on January 14, 1941 , winning him over, as an observer recalled, to his own position.
In a still less veiled reference to his purge of the Brownshirts in the â€œNight of the Long Knives,â€ Hitler told Antonescu, â€œYou have to get rid of . . . fanatical militants who think that, by destroying everything, they are doing their duty.â€ After Antonescu’s return from Germany the tension between him and the Iron Guard had intensified; some Legionnaires now began to demand his recall and the establishment of a â€œpureâ€ Legionnaire government led by Horia Sima.
The murder of a German air force commander, Doering, in Bucharest , probably by an agent of the British Intelligence Service, was used by both sides as a pretext to start hostilities. On January 20, 1941 , Antonescu dismissed Minister of Internal Affairs Petrovicescu, who was close to the Iron Guard, ostensibly for having failed to protect Doering. Antonescu also dismissed Alexandru Ghika, director of the police forces, and Constantin Maimuca, director of another department at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Guard replied by refusing to accept these dismissals and proceeding to arm its followers. The Legionnaires barricaded the Criminal Investigation Bureau floor at the Bucharest Prefecture of Police, its central headquarters on Roma Street , and the police barracks. By the evening of January 21, the mutiny had spread throughout the country. At first German Ambassador Wilhelm Fabricius tried to mediate, seeking to persuade the Guard to acknowledge Antonescu’s authority. Indeed, agents of the SD and the SS in Bucharest initially threw their support behind the rebels; subsequently, they sought to protect the Legionnaires from Antonescu’s wrath and helped hundreds escape to Germany . Whatever the Germans’ original confusion, however, and despite whatever cross-purposes may have been at work, Hitler’s personal order to put German troops at Antonescu’s disposal soon reestablished German unity of purpose and tipped the balance in the Conducator’s favor.
Suppression of the rebellion cost the Romanian army twenty-one dead and fifty-three wounded. In the country as a whole 374 persons reportedly died and 380 were woundedâ€”Jews, Guardists, soldiersâ€”but these figures may be low. Of equal or greater significance were the repressions carried out afterward. What happened to the Legionnaires after the rebellion? Rank-and-file members not involved were left alone, though Legionnaire activities henceforth came under close secret police surveillance. Some leaders found protection from German diplomats or security personnel, who smuggled them out of the country. Many other rank and file and some of the involved leaders surrendered; the army interned them at first, sending them to the front at the beginning of the war against the USSR .
In all 9,352 Legionnaires were arrested for participation in the rebellion, nearly half of them in Bucharest . Of these, 2,980 had been tried by August 1941, 1,842 receiving jail terms. Their grants of protection to the rebels had so compromised the SS and SD in Antonescu’s eyes that officially they had to withdraw all their representatives from Romania.
The Legionnaire groups that sought refuge in Germany continued to trouble Romanian-German relations. There is no reason why Hitler might not have kept them as a possible Trojan horse for insertion at a later date, though his first impulse seems to have been to offer their heads to Antonescu as a gesture of support: Hitler wanted to cement the relationship as he contemplated the impending invasion of the Soviet Union .
From the start Legionnaire propaganda named the Jews as instigators of their conflict with Antonescu. As such, one flier of a Legionnaire student organization demanded the â€œreplacementâ€ of all â€œJewish-oriented personsâ€ in the government. The Legionnaire press organ, Cuvîntul (Word), stressed the centrality of â€œall of the Jidani and bandits in our countryâ€ as targets in their planned coup. Dumitru Grozea cursed the â€œMasonic hydraâ€ that showed its strength through government officials who had â€œsold out to the Jews.â€ Elsewhere, Cuvîntul Nostru (Our Word) editorialized that the need to exorcise the â€œJudeo-Masonic plotâ€ demanded the union of army and Guard, arguing that â€œif someone has to be shot, let [it not be] our own. . . . We have other targets.â€
Such propagandaâ€”indeed, the entire political show of the five-month Legionnaire governmentâ€”constituted a tremendous incitement to pogroms. In the chaos caused by the struggle between the Iron Guard and Antonescu, many saw the moment for the â€œGreat Pogrom.â€ In Bucharest alone at least 120 Jews would pay with their lives for this perception; The Romanian chargé d’affaires in Washington, D.C., Brutus Coste, acknowledged a figure of 118 in a conversation with Ray Atherton, head of the European Division of the State Department, but apologetically blamed â€œirresponsible, marginal elements.â€ Raul Hilberg cites German and American sources on the Bucharest pogrom in support of figures of 630 dead and 400 disappeared. Most likely, these sources exaggerate the numbers: the Jewish community of Bucharest was, after all, in a better position to compile evidence regarding the number of victims; this was the source for the figures cited in Carp’s book in 1946.
Most of the murders during the three-day rebellion took place in Jilava Forest , the rest at the slaughterhouse at the intersection of the roads of Fundeni and Pantelimon, in Bucharestii Noi District, and in the streets and houses of various residential districts. On January 21, the Legionnaires gathered about two hundred Jews into the basement of their headquarters. The fascists did not forget to take all of the victims’ valuables before they set upon the Jews. They next drove the Jews in the basement up to the attic under a rain of blows with truncheons and iron bars. The Legionnaires then beat them with a bullwhip and copper rods on the face, palms, buttocks, and soles of the feet in a room especially set aside for that purpose. Prisoners were finally made to drink from the basin in which Rabbi Gutman had been permitted to wash the blood from his head.
The next morning the prisoners were divided into two groups. The fortunate ones were taken to Straulesti, on the outskirts of Bucharest , where they were beaten for two more days, had rifle shots aimed just above their heads, and then underwent a last robbery; they were then released to walk home in tatters. Other Legionnaires trucked the second group of more than ninety Jews via Giurgiu Road to Jilava Forest , where they shot most of them, generally one to three times, mainly in the head. Some of those in the first truck were dispatched near the bridge over the Sabar River , after which the murderers stole the gold teeth, clothes, and shoes from the eighty-six corpses that they left lying under the trees.
Some of the victims, wounded only, managed to escape, including Rabbi Gutman. After the murderers left, Gutman took the road to Bucharest , upon which he met two Romanian gendarmes, who for some reason let him pursue his journey; German soldiers, however, detained him, taking him to the Jilava town hall, where seven Jews, some of them wounded, were already being held. That evening all were once again taken to the forest and shot, but once again the rabbi miraculously survived. Two Legionnaires stealing clothes from the dead discovered the survivor, considered whether to shoot him, but then decided to return him to the town hall, where he was merely beaten, had his hair and beard torn out, and was informed that he would be shot anyway. However, the gendarmes freed him. One of them even accompanied him back to the forest to identify the bodies of two of his sons.
Additionally, thirteen Jews were murdered at the Bucharest slaughterhouse, but two escaped, critically but not mortally wounded. Those killed included Millo Beiler and the Rauch brothers, disemboweled, their intestines hung like neckties on other corpses, which were displayed on meat hooks and labeled â€œKosher meat.â€
Many Jews met their deaths in their own homes. For example, several members of the Frînghieru family, including four children, were murdered in their house at 15 Intrarea Colentina. Two other children who were in bed at the time, Aron and Haia, miraculously survived, even though several bullets were fired at them. The bullet aimed to kill little Rodriques Honores Brickman of 9 Mihai Voda Street, however, did not go astray.
Severe beatings and other forms of humiliation usually preceded the murders, and indeed it was the physical abuse that constituted the favored medium by which the Legionnaires and their friends expressed their aptitudes. Many Jews were abused at the Bucharest Prefecture of Police, about three hundred at the Malbin synagogue, and a number of others at the headquarters of the Union of Jewish Communities and the Fifteenth Police Precinct on Matei Basarab Street . The women were, by and large, released after physical abuse, which explains the small number of women’s names that appears on the lists of murder victims.
The goings-on at the police precinct may perhaps be taken as typical of the episodes of mass physical abuse. There two police commissioners (Legionnaires, of course) supervised a team of 40 workers from the Parcomet plant who volunteered to beat 150 captives between early evening on January 21 and early afternoon on January 23. Guests from other Legionnaire centers came to observe, occasionally getting in a few good licks of their own. One of the diversions the revelers most enjoyed was inventing charges, â€œconvictingâ€ their prisoners, and then administering them fifty or a hundred lashes with a bullwhip. As usual, the pogromists had helped themselves to whatever valuables their victims happened to have on their persons, and after the beatings they sheared their victims’ hair with hedge cutters.
Six synagogues were vandalized and looted in Bucharest : the Sephardic synagogue on Negru-Voda Street , Congregation Beth Hornidras Vechiu at 78 Calea Mosilor, Congregation Podul Mogosoaia on Atena Street , the synagogue on St. Vineri Street , â€œFraternaâ€ synagogue of 3 Mamulari Street , and â€œSinagoga Mareâ€ at 11 Dr. Beck Street . Four were set ablaze, two of these totally destroyed in the flames.
In all, the anti-Semitic rioting directly touched at least 1,360 Jews.
In his postwar Spanish emigration Horia Sima admitted that â€œthese Jews became the victims of uncontrolled . . . elements at the periphery of the Legionnaire movement . . . while the heads of the Legionnaire units were busy containing the rebellion of Marshal Antonescu.â€ Nevertheless, the Iron Guard leader argued that the number of victims among the Jewish population of the capital â€œmust be attributed to the risk this people brought on itselfâ€ when it â€œplotted to trigger an internal conflictâ€: the recent mayhem should be accounted to the Jews’ leaders and only to â€œperipheral elementsâ€ of the Legionnaire movement. 93
The five months between the Legionnaire Rebellion and Romania ‘s entry into World War II brought Romanian Jews a hiatus of relative physical safety. Nevertheless, Jews still died as a consequence of their ethnicity.
From late June 1940 to the end of May 1941, more than 600 Jews were slaughtered in Romania . The overwhelming responsibility for the murders, robberies, and other abuses must be borne by military personnel and policemen, the latter often Legionnaires, though these galvanized a more diffuseâ€”but much broaderâ€”popular malice. Still, it is important to bear in mind that there was no systematic and centralized plan for these massacres; in 1940 and early 1941, the state had not formulated such a plan.