When Romania Traded Jews for Pigs

For decades the government in Romania allowed local Jews to emigrate in return for animals, cars and weapons. A new book by that country's ambassador to Israel reveals the secret documents behind the transactions that netted Bucharest hundreds of millions of dollars

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Romanian immigrants arriving in Carmiel, in 1964. .
Romanian immigrants arriving in Carmiel, in 1964. .
Yossi Melman head
Yossi Melman head

On May 30, 1958, a Romanian intelligence officer who was posted under diplomatic cover to his country’s embassy in London, sent a message marked “Top Secret” to headquarters in Bucharest. “The Field Office advises that, for 1,080 [British] pounds, it bought 11 pigs.” The agent asked how to ship them, as there were no direct London-Bucharest flights. The next day, Lt. Maj. Ioan Dragut, from headquarters in the Romanian capital, replied: The agency suggests that he charter a plane for £800 “to ship the pigs.” Furthermore, “measures should be taken to ensure pigs reach destination in good condition,” the intelligence agent wrote.

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