The Commemoration of the Pogrom in Bucharest

In a symbolic way, Jews (leaders of the Federation and members of the Bucharest community), as well as non-Jews (Vincentiu Ploiesteanu, vicar of the Christian Orthodox Patriarchy, representatives of other cults, Ovidiu Grecea, prefect of the Capital, representatives of the City Hall, members of the Parliament, diplomats), gathered in a common battlefront against the current wave of anti-Semitism whose magnitude has probably been unprecedented since the end of the Second World War.

Six candles were lit to the memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust and prayers for the peace and prosperity of Romania and of Israel were recited by Great Rabbi Menachem Hacohen (in Romanian – by Ghidu Bruchmaier). The music (the Coral Temple’s Choir was conducted by Maximilian Kertesz, and “El Male Rahamim” was performed by prime-cantor Iosif Adler) and the words (the “Al Domi” Psalm was uttered by Rabbi Abraham Ehrenfeld, while A. Finti and Maia Morgenstern recited the poems “To Those Who Survived” and “Ballad for Anne Frank”) brought tears in the eyes of the old and of the young alike; tears of remembrance that make the souls of the martyrs survive in us.

Rodica Radian Gordon – Israeli ambassador to Romania

The pogrom in January 1941 – a part of the Holocaust of the Romanian Jews.

[...] The pogrom against the Jews of Bucharest was the result of the legionary leaders’ planning and organization, not a spontaneous murderous outburst, nor the exploitation of a state of anarchy. In fact, the fate of the Romanian Jews during the short period of the national-legionary regime depended on Antonescu and the Legionaries, on the relationships between them and on their fight for power. Murder and torture were a manifestation of the sadistic instincts of the Legionaries – and what the shocking thing is that there were also female Legionaries who committed such atrocities. Scores of Jews perished by torture, others were thrown from the upper floors of the police building. Many were shot to death by a legionary squad. Execution was the ultimate step in the range of tortures. [...] The horrible killings in the slaughterhouse were the most terrible crimes. [...] The toll of the Bucharest pogrom and of the Holocaust of the Romanian Jews – of which the pogrom was only a part – also proves other things. Not only is the extermination of a people immoral – this goes without saying; but acknowledging the atrocities that were committed is vital for the moral existence of each individual and of the society as a whole. [...]

Academy member Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici

“As a scholar [...], as a Romanian, I feel the need to apologize to you for what my fellow-countrymen did to you.”

[...] I lived through these events [...], they were part of a general conspiracy. In fact, one year later, Himmler would formulate the doctrine of the “final solution”. [...] The pogrom was a prelude to this “final solution”, one of the bleakest conceptions, theories that have ever emerged in the history of mankind [...]. This self-indictment is not a prosecutor’s indictment. It’s prophylactic therapy. Naturally, as a scholar, as an aristocrat of this country, as a Romanian, I personally feel the need to apologize to you (like I did on other occasions) for what my fellow-countrymen did to you!”

Prof. Itzhak Ben Zvi Gutman

“A deeply imprinted feeling”

[...] Not event today, after 63 years, do I have the spiritual strength to describe what I went through during those days; it is a feeling that was deeply imprinted in the heart, the mind, the memory of the 10-year-old boy that I was back then, and I cannot share it with anyone. My brothers, Iancu and Iosef, were killed. I went to their funeral and I grieved together with my parents, my sister and brother, with many of their friends, relatives, co-workers. My mother did not recover after this horrible blow and, after a long agony that tormented her physically and morally, passed away and went to rest at the “Filantropia” (“Philanthropy”) Cemetery, alongside with Iancu and Iosif. Jews were also killed at the Bucharest slaughterhouse; among others, my father’s close friend, industrialist Bernard Kaufman, was taken there together with his son Jacques. They were beaten and hacked with slaughterhouse knives. [...]

Victor Opaschi, councilor of the Presidency

“Nothing can and should justify, falsify or deny a tragic reality”

[...] On the occasion of the 60th commemoration of the legionary rebellion – when president Ion Iliescu was present at the Coral Temple for the third time – he drew attention on the fact that one must never forget what that “frenzy” of intolerance and anti-Semitism (as writer Marin Preda called it) meant in the history of the 20th century [...]. This is why, animated by the desire to achieve a co-operation between the experts – especially historians – from Romania, Israel, the US and other countries, the president took the initiative of constituting an international commission to analyze in depth and professionally the consequences of the Holocaust in Romania. This commission enters the framework of our country’s efforts to promote tolerance, to combat any form of xenophobia and anti-Semitism, and to take responsibility for its past, with both its positive and negative aspects. Today’s youth must have knowledge of the history in order to be safe from the poison of racial hatred, of intolerance and anti-Semitism. Hatred is born out of ignorance, out of the political-oriented manipulation of the fear of the unknown, of difference, of strangers. The youth must be told that the strength of a culture and of a civilization lies in its diversity, in the integration of its composing parts, not in exclusion and segregation [...]. The past, with both its positive and negative sides, must not be forgotten. At the same time, let us not turn the past into an obstacle before the future or an instrument of extremist manipulation that could lead to the repetition of some tragedies that marked us all, Romanians and Jews alike [...].