Unveiling New Memorial, Romania Acknowledges Role in Holocaust

Memorial comes with message from Romania that they are facing up to their role in the Holocaust after decades of denial.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

Romania unveiled a new Holocaust memorial in Bucharest on Thursday, saying the nation was now facing up to its role in the killing of Jews and Gypsies during World War Two after decades of official denial.

In a somber ceremony on a busy thoroughfare in the capital, President Traian Basescu commemorated over the estimated quarter of a million victims of Romanian authorities allied to the Nazis.

"The Romanian state and Romanian society reaffirm their decision to assume the blame for the past and to uncover the historic memory in the spirit of truth," Basescu said.

A wartime ally of Adolf Hitler and later a Soviet satellite, Romania has started to come to terms with its role in the extermination of Jews only in recent years, admitting for the first time in 2003 that it took part.

According to a 2004 report by a commission headed by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed by Romanian civilian and military authorities in Romania and areas it controlled during the war.

Many of them were slaughtered in pogroms such as the 1941 killing of almost 15,000 Jews in the northern city of Iasi, or murdered in labor camps or on death trains. The commission also found out that 25,000 Gypsies were deported from Romanian-controlled territory and at least 11,000 died.

After Romania switched sides in 1944, communist regimes did little to uncover the killings while nationalist governments after 1989 kept them under wraps.

"It was a manipulation of history," said Radu Ioanid, historian from Washington's Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Ioanid's research on the history of Romanian Jews has unveiled schemes by Bucharest governments to demand payment in cash and goods from Israel in exchange for allowing the emigration of Jews to the Jewish state in the 1950s and 60s.

Romania was home to 750,000 Jews before the war, but only 10,000 remain today.

Sensitivity to the Holocaust and the knowledge of the issue has at times been patchy. Earlier this year a mayor of seaside city of Constanta grabbed newspaper headlines when he appeared in a World War Two German army uniform at a fashion show.

"It is very good this Memorial of the Holocaust was built, but I had no idea that the Romanian authorities were actually involved in the events," said Anica Nicolae, a 48-year-old laboratory technician from Bucharest.



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott