Romanian historians struggle against Holocaust deniers

A group of Romanian historians and researchers combat ignorance and Holocaust denial, as they reveal documents and testimonies implicating the Romanian army in the massacres of Jews in 1941. 

Ana Maria Luca
Ana Maria Luca NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Romanian historians struggle against
 Holocaust deniers - NewsMavens
Plaque on the wall of the Odessa-Sortuvalna railway station, commemorating the Holocaust. Yuri Kvach/Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

On June 13, in the Center for the Study of the History of the Jews in Romania (CSIER), historians Adrian Cioflâncă and Florin Stan revealed undeniable evidence of  Romania's involvement in the massacre of Jews at the "Odessa Massacre -- History, Memory, Representation" conference. They are part of a group of young researchers and journalists who, for the past few years, have been unearthing documents from the archives of the former communist political police, the Securitate, containing proof of massacres committed by the Romanian army during WWII.

Romania has a problem with anti-Semitism that often shows up on social media as part of a nationalist campaign to rehabilitate Romanian fascists from World War II who contributed to the Holocaust.

Most worrying, however, is that many times Romanians have no reaction to this discourse because they simply don’t know that during WWII, the Romanian army was involved in massacres in Bessarabia (today’s Moldova, Transnistria and Ukraine).  

Although the Communist regime tried many Romanian army officers for killings and massacres during the Holocaust, the state propaganda before 1989 omitted these trials completely from history books and only blamed German Nazis for the crimes.

Anti-Semitic incidents and displays are not as common in Bucharest as in other European capitals, especially since Romania adopted laws that criminalize anti-Semitism. But when they do occur, most cases are treated as “isolated vandalism” and are soon forgotten. Making sure these terrible acts are not forgotten is crucial for education and understanding in Romania and across Europe.

Details from the story:

  • The siege of the Black Sea port of Odessa by Romanian and German troops lasted from August 8 to October 16, 1941. Romania was at the time an ally of Nazi Germany and was run by a Fascist regime of Marshal Ion Antonescu.
  • Tens of thousands of Jews were killed and thrown in mass graves during October 22-October 24, 1941, after 67 Romanian troops were killed when the Soviets detonated a bomb at the Romanian army  headquarters.
  • Over 22,000 bodies of jews were found in mass graves across Odessa, including 5,000-10,000 who were locked in barracks and burned alive in Dalnic.
  • There is no doubt that the Romanian troops committed a massacre in Odessa, because there are documents and written orders of Antonescu to the Romanian army commanders, the historian says. However, negationists insist that there is no official number of victims.
  • Many Romanian officers were tried in the 1950s by the Romanian communist regime for the killings, but the trials were corrupt which later led to the negation of the crimes themselves.
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