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Source: StudiaHebraica(StudiaHebraica),issue:8/2008,pages:136169,


Mihai Chioveanu

ABSTRACT The aim of the present study is to provide an adequate explanation for Romanias gradual shift from total commitment to, to outright defiance of, the Nazi Final Solution. My chief interest is with delineating the reasons and motivations behind the Romanian Governments decision not to hand over half of its Jews to the Nazis. Issues that are equally significant and helpful in understanding the process which ultimately led to Romanias Disengagement from the Nazi Final Solution, most, if not all, of them already considered and sometimes reconsidered by other historians, will be analyzed in a wider, European context, as the dynamic of the Final Solution at large, the Nazi perspective on the events, their plans, expectation and so on; might help us understand some inner developments of Romanias semi-independent genocide.

During the Second World War, as a direct result of an intentional, state sponsored and organized policy of ethnic-cleansing, between 250,000 and 320,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jewish civilians died at the hands of the authoritarian and semi-reactionary with certain fascist features, and backed for a short period of time by a fascist party regime of Marshal Ion Antonescu1. Yet, half of the Romanian Jews survived the Holocaust within the borders of the country which ran Germany a close second in massacring Jews2. Intrigued by this paradox, many Holocaust students accepted the challenge, and embarked upon the effort to explain it3. Still, six decades after the events, but few of them succeeded to grasp the set of elements that altogether might provide an adequate explanation for Romanias gradual shift from total

See Michael Mann, Fascists, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, p. 293. See also, Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2007, p. 70. 2 Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, A New History, Pan Books, London, 2001, pp. 658659. 3 See Martin Gilbert, Holocaust. A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1985, p. 637, Robert S. Wistrich, Hitler and the Holocaust, A Modern Library Chronicles Book, New York, 2003, p. 157, Laurence Rees, Auschwitz. A New History, PublicAffairs, New York, 2005, p. 210.


commitment to, to outright defiance of, the Nazi Final Solution4. Not surprisingly, before and after 1989, Romanian historians focused on the Romanian governments efforts to resist and foil the German Final Solution in as much as to resiliently claim that, unlike in other European countries, in Romania, Jews were protected by Ion Antonescu and his regime and thus saved. The emigration policy, which was never totally abandoned by the government, the absence of gas chambers on Romanias territory, and the fact that most Romanian Jews in the Old Kingdom, Southern Transylvania and Banat, around 300,000 souls, did not reach the death factories in Poland, were blatantly turned into irrefutable arguments of Holocaust denial in Romania5. The aim of the present paper is to focus on, interpret, and explain the inconsistencies of the Romanian anti-Semitic policy during the Holocaust, so as to point out that Antonescus regime was not simply a puppet, and one of Hitlers willing executioners, as it is often portrayed. The final goal is to indicate that the Romanians followed their own path, developed and implemented their own genocidal project, somewhat independently from Nazi Germany, whose presence and overwhelming role in Eastern Europe in the 1940 was only to favor, and in some respects facilitate, the Romanian actions6. When addressing death delivered my main focus is on the 19411942 cleansing campaign of the frustrated and unrestrained dictatorship of Ion Antonescu, which turned to the armed forces, the police, and the gendarmerie as professional practitioners of violence to enforce his ideal vision of nation and society, and implement his Politics of Salvation. My aim is to indicate that ethniccleansing was triggered not only by hyper-nationalism and ardent, violent antiSemitism, but also by the Romanian governments determination, and opportunity, especially with the advent of war against the USSR, to vent righteous anger on the weak, thus adding the cleansing of the ground to the (sense of) magnitude of an otherwise failed domestic policy, and uncertain and much too costly military victory against the external enemy. In this sense I will not follow the entire process whereby hundred of thousands of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews perished of starvation and plagues, or
See Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Quandrangle, Chicago, 1961, pp. 682702, Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu [The Jews under the Antonescu Regime], Hasefer, Bucharest, 1998, pp. 325339, Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report. International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, Polirom, Iai, 2005, pp. 168172. 5 Bela Vago, The Destruction of Romanian Jewry in Romanian Historiography, in Yisrael Gutman, Gideon Greif eds., The Historiography of the Holocaust Period, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1988, pp. 405406, 411, 415. See also Gheorghe Zaharia, Nicolae Copoiu, The Situation of the Jews of Romania, 19381944, as reflected in Romanian Historiography, in Ibidem., p. 427. 6 Cristopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution. The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939 March 1942, University of Nebraska Press, Yad Vashem, Lincoln, Jerusalem, 2004, pp. 275277. Saul Frielander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., pp. 166, 169, 225.


in nocturnal death marches, sealed wagons, public executions, and mass killing operations, which often turned into a carnage that exhausts the reader7. Instead, I will try to find an explanation for the paroxysmal violence of the mid 1940-late 1941 period, and for the perpetrators enthusiasm, manifested on so many levels. The huge number of Jewish victims in the first stages of the war, due to the fascist military violence of the Romanian mass killings in savage massacres that do not resemble the later bureaucratic murder8, and the striking cruelty of the less structured in its brutality (when compared to the Nazi one) Romanian process of destruction of the Jews, a process in which not one community was spared, pinpoints the existence of one factor, other than anti-Semitism and ethnic-cleansing, which plays an important role in the equation of the Romanian Holocaust9. Moving to death postponed, my chief interest is with delineating the reasons and motivations behind the decision of the Romanian government not to hand over half of the Jews to the Nazis. Contrary to what others might think, I consider that understanding the decision-making process, and the strategic logic of the perpetrators, is no less essential than the final outcome, the fortuitous (in many respects) survival of the already targeted victims10. The major risk of not doing so would be to continue with the somewhat simplistic, intentionalist approach that reduces everything to Ion Antonescus personality, and to credit the Romanian dictator alone with the merit of having halted the deportation, thus saving the Romanian Jews (Antonescu himself stated, during his 1946 trial, that it was thanks to him that the Romanian Jews were still alive)11. Though aware of the importance of the lower-level perpetrators, the level where genocide actually takes place, I nevertheless decided not to focus on the entire chain of command, but solely on the higher-level perpetrators. Genocide students consider this level to be far more important, since here is where blueprints are drawn, serial mass killing outlined, and genocidal mentality shaped, sometimes

7 For an excellent and accurate account of the crimes perpetrated by the Romanians during the Holocaust see Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu, idem. 8 Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy. Explaining Ethnic Cleansing, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005, pp. 305306. 9 Radu Ioanid, The Sword of the Archangel: Fascist Ideology in Romania, Boulder, New York, 1990, p. 207. See also Lucy Dawidowicz, Rzboiul mpotriva evreilor. 19331945 [The War against the Jews. 19331945], Romanian transl. by C. Paac, Hasefer, Bucureti, 1999, p. 348; Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol i Marealul Antonescu. Relaiile germano-romne. 19381944 [Hitler, King Carol and Marshal Antonescu. The German-Romanian Relations. 1938 1944], Romanian transl. by S. Neagoe, Humanitas, Bucharest, 1994, p. 280. 10 See Dinu C. Giurescu, Romnia n al doilea rzboi mondial [Romania during World War II], ALL, Bucharest, 1999, p. 146. 11 Sorin Alexandrescu, Paradoxul romn [The Romanian Paradox], Univers, Bucharest, 1998, pp. 155156.


only to be later filtered down12. In other words, the top decision-makers are the ones that can gear, or conversely stop, the machinery of destruction. The decision of the Romanian government to create its own national agency in charge with Jewish affairs rather than accepting that Nazi (SS) nominees deal with the matter; the clumsiness, opportunism and corruption of the Romanian bureaucracy; Ion Antonescus studied independence; Radu Leccas visit to Berlin in August 1942 that went badly wrong; the powerful lobbying of the Apostolic Nuncio, the Swiss and the US ambassadors, and Queen Mother Elena; the interventions of some Jewish leaders, Romanian politicians and heads of the Romanian Orthodox Church; the international pressures; the evolution of the war on the Eastern front; Romanias attempts to desert the Axis and prepare the grounds for an advantageous, less catastrophic peace with the Western allies and so on are altogether issues that are equally significant and helpful in understanding the process that ultimately led to Romanias disengagement from the Nazi Final Solution. Most, if not all, of them have been already considered and sometimes reconsidered by other historians, overestimated or, conversely, underestimated. In an attempt not to double other scholars efforts, even though I realize it is not very likely that I shall be entirely successful in my enterprise, I will try to place and analyze the above-mentioned factors in a wider, European context. The dynamic of the Final Solution at large, the Nazi perspective on the events, their plans, expectations, and so on, might help understand some inner developments of Romanias semi-independent genocide. The Romanian rabid anti-Semitism, an aspect that was over-researched13, will be briefly addressed in the following paragraphs, only inasmuch as to point out that, already a tradition and a major component of Romanian political culture by the time Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard came to power, though turned into state policy only in the 1930s, and even then rather unsuccessfully, it can offer but limited explanations when, and if, analyzed separately. Starting with the 1920s, first the Christian National Defense League (LANC) and then the Iron Guard turned Romanian anti-Semitism into a radical and eliminationist notion. Both A.C. Cuza and the legionnaires portrayed the Jewish minority as criminal and dangerous, parasitic and immoral, exploiting the Romanian proletarian nation, disloyal to the state, and therefore an enemy population that had to be watched, controlled, deprived of civil and political rights and propriety, and, whenever
Robert Gellately, The Third Reich, the Holocaust, and Visions of Serial Genocide, in Robert Gellately, Ben Kiernan (eds.), The Specter of Genocide. Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2006, p. 254. 13 See Leon Volovici, Nationalist Ideology and Antisemitism. The Case of Romanian Intellectuals in the 1930s, Pergamon Press, New York, 1991; also Carol Iancu, Evreii din Romnia (19191938). De la emancipare la marginalizare, [The Jews of Romania 19191938. From Emancipation to Marginalization], Hasefer, Bucharest, 2000.


possible, forced into emigration, or simply tossed across Romanias borders. The only, in fact essential, difference between the two major anti-Semitic parties was that, unlike Cuzas adepts, C. Z. Codreanu and his legionnaires always depicted the struggle against the Jews as a life and death matter, as a war that had to be carried out not only by legal means, as at stake was the very survival of the nation14. Constantly reiterated by the radicals, this type of ideas and messages were mimetically imported by other politicians and parties, which turned the Jewish Question into the most important issue in Romanian society. Consequently, banning the Jews was considered to be increasingly righteous, and a means to save the country. Yet, most of the politicians of the time remained quite moderate in their anti-Semitic endeavor, sticking to the law and stressing the idea that all proposed solutions to the Jewish Question had to be civilized15. The situation changed drastically between 1938 and 1940, with the collapse of the democratic system, and values. With the gap between declarations and intentions, then state policy, hastily bridged, Romania introduced several, progressively more severe anti-Semitic legislations, which constantly deteriorated the Jews condition16. But the worst was yet to come in September 1940, when Carol IIs political miscalculations facilitated the advent in power of an authoritarian and nationalistic general, Ion Antonescu, backed by a fascist party and militia, the Iron Guard. Within months, this uninspired political maneuver, aiming to divert the public opinions attention in a desperate attempt to secure the position of the king and his entourage, the infamous camarilla, while giving satisfaction to a furious and frustrated population and army, who was anti-Semitic and thus ready to turn the Jews responsible not only for the territorial loses at the hands of the Soviets but for all of Romanias failures after 1920, was to generate a ravaging outburst of violence that would radically change the political landscape in Romania, and seal the fate of the Romanian Jews17. Unlike the legionnaires, Antonescu was not mystical and revolutionary; his vision of politics was rather limited and more pragmatic. His nationalism was
14 Programul Ligii Apr rii Naionale Cretine [Program of the Christian National Defense League], in Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents Concerning the Fate of Romanian Jewry during the Holocaust, vol. I, New York-Jerusalem, 19851986, doc. 10, p. 118; Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, Discurs parlamentar (21 decembrie 1931) [Parliamentary Speech, December 21, 1931], in Lya Benjmin (ed.), Documente. Comisia internaional pentru studierea Holocaustului n Romnia [Documents. The International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania], Polirom, Iai, 2005, p. 54. 15 Carol II, Declaraie de Pres [Press Statement], Universul, January 13, 1938. 16 Christopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, op. cit., pp 210212. As Browning put it a proper anti-Semitic stance from Romania was a way to improve the relation with Germany, deteriorated after Codreanus assassination. Romanian oil was not enough, nor the fact that Romania left the League of Nations. Nuremberg inspired legislation was introduced, increasing Romanias dependency on Germany and generating a wave of spiraling anti-Semitism of a new type. 17 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., pp. 5054.


more primitive, less elaborated than the legionary one, but by no means less extreme18. His idea to cleanse the Romanian territories of the alien oppressor, strengthen the borders, and achieve national purity was reactive, rather than part of a broader, proactive, modernizing vision of the nation19. Antonescu was nothing but a nationalist who could, and had to, harness radical populism, in particular antiSemitism, and xenophobia at large. Nevertheless, his anger and extensive use of violence, itself righteous and motivated by a fierce desire to change things for the better, were, at least when it came to the initial declarations, not marked by an irrational and arbitrary pursuit of revenge, which would lead, like in the case of the legionnaires, to unwanted consequences and unsatisfactory results20. Still, within the context generated by the war, the ultimate expression of human anger21, with Romania sided by Nazi Germany in its holly war against the USSR, the regime and its politics, marked by perpetual and ubiquitous paranoia, turned increasingly punitive, and finally gave up rational and controlled anger. An authoritarian leader, whose popularity and legitimacy was based on plebiscites, domestic order management, prestige given by sound victories on the front, and a broad populist appeal supported by an irritable rejection of the old, corrupted, political system, Antonescu assumed autocratic powers on the ground of national emergency and against the political parties, the royal dictatorship, and even his insurgent fascist children when necessary. When it comes to the fate of the Jews and his means to solve the Jewish question, the fact that Antonescu was not a revolutionary fascist, but an authoritarian, semi-reactionary, politician, makes little difference. As the war fueled the political imagery of the regime with the external and internal threat represented by Judeo-bolshevism, and Jews as agents, saboteurs, and finally an enemy population, Antonescu turned his anger into legitimate politics. Ethnic cleansing became a priority, thus giving Antonescu primacy over the civilian establishment and securing the interest of the army, the professional practitioners of violence. By that time there was no need for the Antonescus regime to ponder, as everything was already in place: an ideology shaped by a century of anti-Semitic thinking, the creation of an ethnocratic state as a political goal, regardless of the costs and repercussions, and a propaganda that motivated the perpetrators and demonized the victims, thus turning them fit for destruction22. During the first six months of 1940, Romania lost several provinces at the hands of the neighboring countries. The Romanian nation felt humiliated and
Ion Antonescu, quoted in Michael Mann, Fascists, op. cit., p. 290. Michael Mann, Fascists, op. cit., pp. 294295. 20 Ion Antonescu was looking for a long term, legal, official, and coordinated revenge. For the legionnaires instant revenge was a priority, meant to give them the sense of holding power, being unrestricted, and a first and immediate confirmation of their political victory over the enemies. 21 Peter Calvert, Autocracy, Anger and the Politics of Salvation, op. cit., p. 5. 22 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., pp. 114, 132.
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betrayed, the Romanian army felt frustrated; distrusted, Carol IIs dictatorship, as well as the political parties and politicians, were held accountable and blamed for the collapse; finally, the ethnic minorities were regarded as disloyal to the state and therefore enemy populations. In Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, more than in other cases, the Jewish population was accused, based on a long lasting political myth, of helping the Red Army, acting as Bolshevik agents, propagating communist ideas, attacking the Romanian army, and terrorizing the Romanian population23. This image was powerful enough to later motivate and justify the anti-Semitic policy of the Antonescu regime, and the atrocities perpetrated by the Romanian army, gendarmerie, and sometimes civilians, from 1941 onward. A closer look into the events suggests that in 1940, and later on 1941, the Romanian authorities overreacted, turning the accusations into a rationale for the mass killing and deportation of the Moldavian, Bessarabian and Bukovinian Jews24. For some of the anti-Semites, the events of June 1940 were but a confirmation of their fears and, consequently, of the justness of the anti-Jewish struggle, providing them with an opportunity to voice their anger and anti-Semitic hate. Following the same logic, Ion Antonescu was to reply, in a public letter to Wilhelm Fildermann of October 1941, that the killing and deportation of the Jews to Transnistria were the Romanian response to the Jewish hate, and to the suffering caused by the Jews to the Romanians in June 1940. This time, past events were recalled to justify present deeds, namely ethnic cleansing25. However, the text leaves the reader with a strong sense of a simulated anger, which turned betrayal, grievance, and national reassertion into a perfect cover and strong motivation for the horrific treatment applied to the Jews26. In other words, this indicates that the attack on the USSR provided Antonescu with the opportunity not so much to trample down the cringing shades of yesterdays dishonor, but to articulate, behind the display of a vengeful, bellicose, and xenophobic ideology, a strong rationale for his genocidal policy. The fact that Antonescu knew months in advance about the Nazi plan to invade the USSR, as well as about their intention to exterminate the Soviet Jews and political commissars, in Aktionen, is but to strength the argument. The Romanians were made aware of the future developments of their partners extermination plan, and had the time to plan their own war of extermination27. In June 1940, during the withdrawal of the Romanian troops from Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to Moldova, numerous but scattered deadly
George Voicu, The Notion of Judeo-Bolshevism in Romanian wartime Press, Studia Hebraica, no. 4, Bucharest University Press, 2004, pp. 5964. 24 Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., pp. 610, 613614. 25 Ibidem, pp. 625626. 26 Ion Antonescu, quoted in Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., pp. 226227. 27 Jean Ancel, Archival Sources concerning the Holocaust in Romania, op. cit., pp. 6263.


assaults on the Jews by civilians and soldiers, and one massacre the Dorohoi pogrom, which was generated by panic, frustration, therapeutic violence, lack of discipline, and a recrudescence of anti-Semitism took place in the Old Kingdom. For fear of disorders, panic, and anarchy, the Romanian civil and military authorities made efforts to stop the violence, isolate the aggressors, reorganize military units, and reestablish control and order, so as to diminish the side effects of the deep crisis. Still, protecting the Jewish population was no priority28, and some local authorities even issued express orders to custom officers not to allow any Bessarabian Jew to cross the border into Romania, as they were Soviet agents29. The attitude of the authorities thus triggered even more anti-Semitism, and spread anger and hate toward the Jews30. Moreover, most of the military reports insisted on the fact that the communists attacking the army and the authorities in Bessarabia were Jewish; such reports often included references to alleged Jewish groups mobilized by the Red Army to harass the Romanian army, loot, kill, terrorize the population and the authorities, desecrate the Romanian national symbols, and so on31. Other reports mentioned the great number of Romanian Jews trying to cross the border into the Soviet Union, thus indicating their hostility toward the Romanian state32. The authorities were soon to embrace the explanation that all the attacks and acts of revenge against the Jews in Romania were totally justified by the hostile attitude of the Bessarabian Jews33. Later on they even came to the conclusion that they had to solve, one way or another, the Jewish question, as if there were no other critical issues, ranging from domestic to international policy, army equipment and discipline, and so on, to explain the crisis. The government started working on a new, radical version of We the People, taking the Nazi antiSemitic legislation as both a juridical and political role model, in pursuit of a yet not transcendental, but definitely cleansing, nation-statism, by means of law34. The ideal Romania for the Romanians was reiterated, and so was ethnic purification, with the deprivation of rights, emigration, and population border

Mihai Stoenescu, Armata, Marealul i Evreii [The Army, the Marshal and the Jews], RAO, Bucharest, 1998, pp. 141142. 29 AMR, fond Microfilms, reel 1078, c 0572. 30 Though a significant number of civilians, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Romanian, dissatisfied with the corruption, abuses and bad treatment by the Romanian authorities in Bessarabia since 1918 welcomed the arrival of the Soviets, it was mainly for the Jews to be held responsible and demonized. See Irina Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania, op. cit., pp. 112, 122-123, 149; also Mihai Stoenescu, Armata, Marealul i Evreii, op. cit., pp. 6667. 31 MapN Archive, fond MStM, file 941, p. 558. 32 AMR, fond 948, file 941, pp. 217226. 33 ANIC, fond PCM, file 482/1940, p. 18. 34 Lya Benjamin, Legislaia anti-evreiasc [The Anti-Jewish Legislation], Hasefer, Bucharest, 1993, doc. 4, pp. 5154.



exchanges as civilized means to achieve it35. This time, unlike on other occasions, clichs such as the Jew as a Communist agent, the Jew as a disloyal character, the Jew as an enemy, and so on, were the product of the intelligence services, meant to intoxicate the state and army leadership. The media, which circulated terrific, often fictional, stories by soldiers and Romanian refugees, launched a virulent anti-Semitic campaign that ultimately generated a real psychosis, while the desperate efforts of the authorities to play it down by means of censorship lingered unsuccessful36. The legionnaires, banned at the time, and the Nazis, had a rather insignificant contribution. The new government, headed by Ion Antonescu, installed on September 6, 1940 by the king, as a desperate measure to secure his position, did not radically depart from this type of approach toward the Jewish question, at least not in the first months. Its resolution to the Jewish Question, vital to the Romanian people, excluded, at least in theory and declarations, any violent means: it had to be progressive and methodical, so as not to jeopardize the existing economic order, and offend the dignity and morality of the Romanians37. With Antonescu in favor of state authority and law as pillars of the new Romanian Order, the legitimate and just liberation from the yoke of foreign exploiters was not to exceed confiscation of Jewish rural proprieties, concentration of Jews in urban areas, and emigration whenever possible38. This type of legalist attitude and tactics rendered the legionnaires angry and frustrated, as to them, like to some of the local authorities and civilians infected with the fascist virus39, there was no need for a protective legal framework of the Jews, which was only going to haze and postpone the Romanianization process (confiscation of Jewish propriety and its attribution to Romanian nationals), the isolation, pauperization, and eventual emigration of Jews from a land where they had no future. The legionnaires were looking for rapid results, and thus favored swift and violent, arbitrary methods40. Traces of the future conflict between Antonescu and the legionnaires are visible even in respect to the two conflicting approaches toward the Jewish question of the fascist, respectively authoritarian, camp. The differences were so visible that the leaders of the Jewish community regarded Antonescu, as an authoritarian and moral man, as they put it, as a protector of the law. As such they begged him not to follow the fascist path and turn the Jewish question into a political diversion and springboard. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Antonescu did once the
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ANIC, Fond PCM, file 327/1940, pp. 3132. Lya Benjamin (ed.), Documente. Comisia internaional, op. cit., pp. 7374, 7879. 37 ANIC, fond PCM, CM, file 1770/1940, vol. 2, pp. 783784. 38 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Documente. Comisia internaional, op. cit., pp. 111112. 39 Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents, op. cit., vol. I, doc. 121, pp. 528530. 40 Lya Benjamin, Legislaia anti-evreiasc, op. cit., doc. 16, pp. 7478.


legionnaires were defeated. Only his approach was sectional, not all Jews being, like in the eyes of the legionnaires, equally dangerous, and therefore to be equally subjected to purges. In the case of Antonescu, it was chiefly for the Bolshevik-Jew catchy theme to make his special interest, soon to turn into a monomaniacal obsession. As official documents indicate, on several occasions Ion Antonescu and the legionary minister of the interior, General Petrovicescu, discussed the situation and activity of communists in Romania, of which 90% are kikes, and proposed solutions to put an end to the threat: expulsion for the Hungarians, Bulgarians, Russians, and concentration camps for the Jews41. However, not only the Jewish Bolshevik agents were targeted, but the entire Romanian Jewish population, as if they were all working against the Romanian state, and particularly the Bessarabian Jews, who were allegedly crossing the border in organized groups to make propaganda in favor of the USSR and against Romania, thus inciting the Romanian population to turn against the authorities42. That was, according to numerous official reports, to explain the defiant and pro-soviet attitude of Jews in Moldova in general, and Iai in particular, despite the very same populations deep fear of potential armed retaliation for present and past attitude and participation in anti-Romanian actions. Consequently, following the implacable logic of we do not know who are the guilty, so they are all guilty, Antonescu, one of the Grand Simplificateurs of his time, continued to take advantage of 1940 events echo. The fabricated presence of a shrewd and cruel Jewish enemy within and outside the borders of Romania offered a rationale for his future policies43. Within months, the Romanian army, in many cases the same military units that had left the province in the summer of 1940, entered Bessarabia in a set up, foul state of mind, motivated by hate, anger and revenge, by now convinced that the Jew was the Romanians mortal enemy. Meanwhile, unhappy with the long preparations and delays, the impatient legionnaires continued to attack the Jewish population, loot, destroy, and kill, soon reaching the conclusion that a massive strike against the Jewish peril and its allies and protectors, Antonescu and his oligarchic regime included, was needed44. In January 1941, in less then three days, more than 120 Jews were slaughtered in unimaginable ways. Synagogues were burnt down and Jewish stores devastated in a bloody pogrom45. Antonescu had the power and the means to stop, if not to prevent, the
Marcel-Dumitru Ciuc, Aurelian Teodorescu, Bogdan Florin Popovici (eds.), Stenogramele consiliului de minitri n perioada guvernrii Antonescu [Records of the Council of Ministers during the Antonescu Government], vol. I, Romanian National Archives, Bucharest, 1997, pp. 366, 601, 628, 687. 42 MapN archive, file 155, pp. 162172. 43 Mihai Stoenescu, Armata, Marealul i Evreii, op. cit., p. 95. 44 Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., pp. 610611. 45 Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., p. 672.


pogrom, but no reason. For him, the legionary assault on the Jews was an opportunity to demonize his radical and rebellious partners on the one hand, and a perfect litmus test for his future actions on the other, indicating to what degree the civil population would support similar strikes, or turn into indifferent and/or intimidated, and thus reduced to silence, bystanders46. Moreover, his victory over the rebels, which was to put an end to the reign of terror, was to shed a new light on the government, state institutions and army, creating a positive image and generating a degree of confidence that they all desperately needed after the failure of 1940. Lastly, anger and personal feelings also played an important role. No matter how much he disliked the legionary gangsterism, Antonescu had no reason, and could not find one, to protect the Jews, who had so harmed Romania in the past. As he blatantly put it: I will not sacrifice Romanian lives (of officers and soldiers) to protect the kikes47. Crushed by Antonescu and his army48, the legionnaires missed the chance to implement their political vision and program. Yet, as individuals, they were allowed to further display their hate toward the generic Jew, the Bolshevik-Jew, the diabolic Jewish conspiracy against civilization and culture, to instigate and indoctrinate the population and the army rank and file, and take part in the massacres, this time as soldiers and civilians, and not as members of a fascist party and militia49. One way or the other, they legitimized the policy and actions of Antonescu who, in his turn, sponsored their newspapers. War propaganda relied heavily on former legionnaire and pro-legionnaire publications when it came to the holly war against Bolshevism and the Jew, the eternal enemy with myriad faces (agent, exploiter, disloyal, terrorist, spy, saboteur and so on and so forth)50. With the legionnaires defeated and the Iron Guard banned, the situation of the Jews did not change for the better, as many might have hoped, at least not in the long run. Except for street violence and random terror, the semi-reactionary Antonescu regime was not that different from the fascist one. Romanianization continued and was justified as part of the process of national rebirth and purification, and anger was turned progressively into a political motivation as Antonescus discourses and policies included more and more references to Jewish saboteurs, Jewish communists, an enemy population siding with Romanias
Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., p. 611. Pe marginea prpastiei. 21-23 ianuarie 1941 [On the Edge of the Precipice. January 21-23, 1941], vol. 12, Scripta, Bucharest, 1992, pp. 126, 138, 149, 154. 48 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., p. 110. The rebellion was a failed attempt of the Iron Guard to conquer the state and its institutions. The legionary terror generated repulsion in the army, police and gendarmerie. 49 Radu Ioanid, The Sword of the Archangel, op. cit., pp. 7475. 50 Aurel Popoviciu, Un popor de dumani, trdtori i spioni care n-au iubit niciodat pe romni [An Enemy, Treacherous and Spy People Who Have Never Loved the Romanians], Curentul, year XIV, no. 4809, July 7, 1941.
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external enemies, whether the USSR or Hungary. Fewer and fewer Jews were trusted by the authorities and considered loyal, and not even they were desirable on a long run51. Before the war had broken out, Jews from Moldavian villages were deported to towns and camps in Southern Romania52. The effort to remove the Jewish population away from the front line, otherwise irrational, non-realistic, logic-less, indicating the monomaniacal obsession with the Jewish peril53, was designed not so much to secure the area, but to incite the population and the army, reminding them that the Jews were a disloyal and suspected enemy population54. The final preparations for the invasion of the USSR were to trigger a rampant anti-Semitism, which was to facilitate ethnic cleansing by means of deportation and mass killing. Official military reports indicate that by that time the myth of the Bolshevik-Jew was already at work, and anger a strong political motivation: the entire Judeo-Bolshevik population was to be evacuated. All Jewish males were considered suspects, and thus subjected to summary investigations and execution by shooting55. When the war broke out, and Einsatzgruppe D was sent to the front, in Iai, they were to rapidly discover they arrived amid genocide already well underway56. Though imprecise, as the German special killing squads were in fact already there at the beginning of the pogrom, and took part in it, Michael Burleichs account makes its point. The initiative and coordination for the mass slaughter in Iai goes to the Romanians. The pogrom, carried out by Romanian state institutions, in a frontier city with over 50% Jewish population, hotbed of radical and rabid anti-Semitism where from June 1940 to June 1941 Jews had been under continuous attack from legionnaires and Bessarabian refugees, ended up in more than 10,000 victims. Due to the preexistence of a great aversion toward the Jews, which the authorities were aware of, there was no need for Antonescu to issue any specific orders before, but only to later justify the deeds in an official communicate. Communist Jews were (made) responsible for the events
Lya Benjamin, Problema evreiasc [The Jewish Question], Hasefer, Bucharest, doc. 71, pp. 190191. 52 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., p. 118. 53 As Eugen Cristescu, the chief of the Romanian intelligence, put it, it would have sufficed to closely watch and control an already terrorized and terrified population. See Mihai Stoenescu, Armata, Marealul i Evreii, op. cit., p. 235. 54 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Documente. Comisia internaional, op. cit., pp. 186188. The deportation was for the government a pre-emptive strike meant to remove a hostile population away from the front line. Any attempt from the Jews to disobey the orders was punished by shooting. The police had the task to identify all potential instigators and Soviet agents among 16 to 60 year old Jewish males, and send them to camps. 55 Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents, op. cit., vol. II, doc. 1, p. 1. 56 Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., p. 629.


in Iai, with 500 Bolshevik-Jews having been executed for their crimes57. Propaganda did the rest, announcing that the Bolshevik kike was wiped out from the city of Stephen the Holy and Great58. No matter what the Iai Jews might or would have done in June 1941, their fate was sealed long before. But the peak of one long year of abuses, arrests, beatings, persecutions, hate speech, and so on, the pogrom was the final test before launching the ethnic cleansing operations in Bessarabia and Bukovina. The local authorities, encouraged to keep the order by all means, the Romanian army, no longer victimized by the state propaganda, but presented in the aftermath of the pogrom as heroic, with its pride retrieved and the shame of 1940 washed in the blood of the Jewish plague, lastly the civilians, who were to act patriotically by indicating to the police all the suspects and strangers, under penalty of death59, were tested one more time. In a special order, issued on July 4, 1941, Ion Antonescu disapproved of the methods, violence, massacres and lootings by civilians and soldiers, but not of the ends. From that moment on, all initiatives to cleanse Romania of Jews and thus fulfill the expectations of the Romanian people rested with the government60. Deportation, ghettoization, extermination were officially turned into state organized and sponsored policy61. Rather hard to believe that in the case of the Iai pogrom the government and the local authorities were not in, or at some point lost, control, and that made possible the unrestrained outburst of sweeping anti-Semitic violence62. A further look into the events suggests that in fact the authorities reiterated and further fueled the psychosis of 1940, and later allowed the army, gendarmerie, police, and civilians have their own struggle, and revenge, against the Jewish enemy. Yet, this time, anger was triggered by both past events and present deadlocks, as the Jewish population was held responsible for the slow advance of the Romanian army into the Soviet territory the pogrom took place on the June 28-30, 1941, one week after the troops had entered Bessarabia, with poor military results63. On July 8, 1941, prime-Minister Mihai Antonescu delivered a speech to the cabinet, deriding the soapy vaporous philosophical humanitarianism of the traditionalists when it came to the Jewish Question. He further informed his ministers that, from that moment on, ethnic cleansing would become a state matter and governmental venture, thus moving beyond riots, random terror, and

57 58

MapN archive, fond 948, file 2410, p. 372. Soldatul, no. 2, July 1, 1941. 59 Lya Benjamin, Legislaia anti-evreiasc, op. cit., doc. 42, p. 155. 60 Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., pp. 620621. 61 Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents, op. cit., vol. X, doc. 23, pp. 79-80. 62 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., p. 122. 63 Radu Ioanid, The Sword of the Archangel, op. cit., p. 204.


pogroms64. The very same ideas were exposed within days, on July 12, 1941, by the prime-Minister, at a meeting with the civil administration of Bessarabia and Bukovina organized by the ministry of the interior, where he informed his interlocutors of the necessity for, and meaning of, a new concept: cleansing the ground65. As a result, Hell on Earth was unleashed, with the Romanian troops entering Bessarabia and Bukovina and acting as an Iron Broom, cleansing villages and towns by massacres, causing 25,000 deaths in less than one month66. As the memoirs of Traian Popovici, former mayor of Cernowitz, indicate, the Romanian troops seized the opportunity to release their long accumulated anger and hate, treating the Jews as an enemy population, in an obvious attempt to achieve the political goal of the government, the physical destruction of the Jews67. A huge number of Bessarabian and Bukovinan Jews died in the first days and weeks of the invasion, but most of them thereafter, towards the end of 1942. In some cases the entire population of one village was killed on the spot, in other cases only the community notables, often Rabbis and well-to-do, middle class, Jews, who were by no means communists. Like in Iai, in most instances there was no need for exact orders from above: the central authorities preferred to let anger and thirst for revenge put things in motion, rather than reestablish order within days 68. Yet, nothing was accidental: everything was carefully orchestrated by the authorities. Plans were designed for the removal of the Jews from the liberated territories by organized teams that had to act before the troops arrival69. The strategy was simple and efficient: first offer satisfaction to the mob and vengeful army, allowing them to kill and loot, second deport the survivors to the camps in Transnistria, or simply toss them across the Bug70. According to General Constantin Vasiliu, mass killing on the spot was favored, indicating that cleansing the ground meant what it said71. No attempts were ever made by the government or army officers to put an end to the killings; on the contrary, violence against the Jewish enemy population was righteous and designed to further strengthen the combat spirit of an army fighting not against civilians, but against Soviet agents and partisans72. Blaming the Jews not only for the events of
Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., p. 620. Mihai Antonescu, Pentru Basarabia i Bucovina. ndrumri date administraiei desrobitoare, [For Bessarabia and Bukovina. Instructions to the Liberating Administration], Bucharest, 1941, pp. 6061. 66 Radu Ioanid, The Sword of the Archangel, op. cit., p. 212. 67 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Documente. Comisia internaional, op. cit., pp. 571592. 68 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., p. 130. 69 MapN archive, fond Armata IV, reel 781, pp. 145146. 70 Radu Ioanid, The Sword of the Archangel, op. cit., pp. 214215. 71 Constantin Vasiliu, quoted in Jean Ancel, Archival Sources concerning the Holocaust in Romania, op. cit., p. 67. 72 Mihai Stoenescu, Armata, Marealul i Evreii, op. cit., p. 290.
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1940, but for all the evils of Soviet occupation, accusing them of acting as communist agents and collaborators, demonizing them when depicting the destroyed churches and the mass graves of the 200,000 Romanians killed by the Soviets73, the authorities kept the killing machine oiled and ready for brutal and swift, spontaneous and disorganized, dispersed and capricious, massacres that are unique in the history of the Holocaust, the result of an odd mixture of destructive spirit and opportunism 74. The Jewish population was aware of, though not responsible for, all the horrors undertaken by the Soviets and circulated by the Romanian propaganda, as were they also aware of the Romanian revenge drive, which made them flee by the thousands to the USSR, only to be later captured and executed by the Romanians and the Germans, in Odessa. The harbor city of Odessa in Crimea, which was never part of Romania, was conquered by the Romanian army following a long and grim siege that ended in heavy losses, exceeding 70,000 people. That was to make Romanians enter the city in a foul frame of mind75, with reprisals starting before Antonescu had issued any orders76. The Conductor [Leader] (Antonescu) was only later to legitimize and justify the terrible massacre perpetrated by the army against Jewish civilians, and not simply in terms of retaliation for the bomb attack on the Romanian military headquarters. In a letter to Fildermann he stressed the direct or indirect guilt and responsibility of the entire Jewish population, who, acting as Bolshevik commissars, agents, and collaborators, had pushed the Russians troops into a senseless massacre against the Romanians77. This time, anger played a more important role than ethnic cleansing, with the retaliations resulting in 19,000 Jews killed in Odessa proper, and 40,000 others killed in Dalnic, in the city outskirts. Most of them were Jewish refugees from Bessarabia, and thus, one way or the other, targeted for extermination78. By the time the Romanian army had reached and conquered Odessa at the end of August beginning of September 1941, under the impact of the events, failures, losses, dissatisfactions, and continuous demonization of the Jewish people, Antonescu was already in the logic and line of his former partners, the legionnaires: the Jew was Satan, and the war but a life and death struggle against him 79. The war against the Jews was no longer a matter of tactics or profit, but survival. Moreover, with Antonescu coming closer and closer to Hitlers vision:
Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., p. 280; see also Mihai Stoenescu, Armata, Marealul i Evreii, op. cit., pp. 290, 302. 74 Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., pp. 668669. 75 Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., pp. 622623. 76 Ibidem, p. 626. 77 Ion Antonescu, quoted in Ibidem, p. 625. 78 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Documente. Comisia internaional, op. cit., p. 282. 79 Idem, Problema evreiasc, op. cit., doc. 109, pp. 298299.


At the end of this struggle we will cleanse the world of them, or become the slaves of the Jewish Beast, the fate of the Moldavian, Bukovinan and Bessarabian Jews was sealed forever. All of them were to be deported to Transnistria80, a dumping ground for ethnic undesirables, mainly Jews but also Roma81, which turned into a trap for the Romanian administration, whose first intention was to push the Jews and Roma across the Bug, and abandon them at the hands of the Germans. Unprepared as they were, the Romanians turned the deportation to the camps into a death sentence. Tens of thousands died there of typhus and starvation, in mass killings, whether preventive or simple outbursts of therapeutic violence, executed by the Romanians alone or together with German police and the Ukrainians, or at the hands of the SS and the Todt82. Some of the episodes were as horrible and cruel as to leave the fortuitous eyewitness with the impression that he was re-living scenes from the legionary rebellion, this time with the slaughter performed under the patronage of the state and army, and not of the Green Beast83. Few returned, from 1943 onward, mainly orphans, with Antonescu bitterly opposing the solution, seeing it as unacceptable and unpopular, dangerous and catastrophic84. In late 1941, the Romanian ethnic cleansing operations in Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, a combination of random and selective mass killings and deportations to Transnistria, were rapidly coming to an end85. The Romanians were speeding the deportations, without realizing that the Germans were unable and unprepared to cope with the situation. At one point the Germans had no other solution but to ask the Romanians to operate more systematically, and slow down their actions86. Shortly thereafter, with the Romanians having in mind a Jewish Question solved by an overnight process, anxious to turn to the Jews of Old Kingdom, Banat, and Southern Transylvania, so as to make room for Romanian refugees87, and with Transnistria overcrowded and a bureaucratic nightmare, it was not difficult for the Germans to convince the two Antonescus to accept a new plan: deportation to the Lublin area. By the end of July 1942, the two parties had reached an agreement to start the deportations on September 10. The rest was but a matter of technicalities and formalities, to be later on taken care of by the bureaucrats Radu Leccas visit to Berlin was designed to settle the final
Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents, op. cit., vol. II, doc. 31, pp. 5758. Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., p. 657. 82 Radu Ioanid, The Sword of the Archangel, op. cit., p. 218. 83 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Documente. Comisia internaional, op. cit., p. 301. 84 ANIC, Fond PCM, file 166/1940, pp. 7475. 85 Jean Ancel, Archival Sources concerning the Holocaust in Romania, op. cit., pp. 9398. 86 Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy, op. cit., pp. 304305, Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents, op. cit., doc. 148, p. 293. 87 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., p. 168.
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arrangements88. Once the decision had been taken, with no opposition in Bucharest (or in Berlin), there were no reasons for the Germans to fear, or at least doubt, that the Romanians would change their mind. The only, otherwise small, but not insignificant, problems underlined in the case of Romania were the high level of widespread corruption, and the way Romanians defined Jewishness: in terms of religion rather than race. As for the rest, in Romania, like in Slovakia and Croatia, and unlike in Hungary, there was no need to send an adviser (and expert) on the Jewish Question89. Some of the Nazis were so trustful that they rushed to publicly announce that Romania would soon (read 1943) be free of Jews, thus setting, once more, an example for other countries to follow90. Yet, unexpectedly, on October 13, 1942, the Romanian government decided to halt the deportations, without making any public announcement of the decision91. The Germans were to find out only later about their allys position reversal. Still, Romanians stood on the Nazi side in the genocidal mire, and huge proportions of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews perished at the hands of the Romanian government. Ion Antonescu knew from Hitler himself, and from the very beginning, that the Job was tough and dirty. Yet, he decided to give up human feelings and compassion. There was little or no need for any form of German participation in the cleansing of the ground, as violence was triggered by the long lasting local anti-Semitism, backed by anger, bigotry, opportunism, materialism, careerism and military discipline. With Odessa, one of the greatest massacres in the entire Holocaust, Romanian mass killings turned genocidal92, reaching a peak, only to slow down thereafter. Moreover, the perspective changed dramatically once the Romanian government turned to the Jews of the Old Kingdom, Transylvania and Banat. One major explanation for the Romanian shift and rift would be that the killings were gradually turning geopolitically disadvantageous. The Western allies had let Bucharest know from the very beginning that they were disgusted by any form of radical anti-Semitic measures and policy, but it was only after Stalingrad that the Romanians started paying attention and becoming more sensitive93. At the beginning of the war against the USSR, the situation had looked totally different: their alliance to an undefeated, even inexpugnable Germany, had given them the impression of military power and a politically untouchable status, which turned them arrogant enough to
Ibidem, p. 169. Gerhard Schoenberner (ed.), The Wannsee Conference and the Genocide of the European Jews, Gedenkstatte Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz, Berlin, 2002, pp. 107108, doc. 7,8,9. 90 Rumanien wird Judenrein and Judenaussiedlung, in Bukarester Tageblatt, August 8, 1942. 91 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., p. 170. 92 Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy, op. cit., p. 305. 93 Ibidem, pp. 306307.
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remove any barrier and totally disregard potential consequences. That sufficed to make possible the display of lethal violence by a regime aiming to ethnically cleanse the nation. Another explanation would be that what worked in the case of Bessarabia and Bukovina did not work for the other Romanian provinces, as the government divided its strategy on the means to do it in terms of time and geography. In the East, the Romanian army and gendarmerie fought and exterminated the enemy, the Bolshevik Jew: winning the war and cleansing the land thus went hand in hand. Killing in the east was righteous for the Romanians, by no means a simple matter of keeping the balance between pleasing the Germans and achieving their own goals. The full commitment was ideologically justified and fueled by the hatred of Jews, communism, and the USSR, and pushed so far as to limit the flexibility toward Western allies, even when it became obvious that Germany was loosing the war. In the Old Kingdom, Transylvania, and Banat, a different strategy was needed, as in the eyes of both the authorities and the local population Jews were not only culturally different, but also less dangerous, less poor, and more integrated than the Jews in the East. Hungarian Jews were perceived as disloyal, and a fifth column of the neighboring country, but far less dangerous than the Russian, Bolshevik Jews. Ion Antonescu himself stated in different moments that the Old Kingdom, Transylvania and Banat Jews would not suffer, meaning would not be deported, unless proven to be communists or sympathizers of Romanias enemies, England and the USA included94. He also promised as of 1941 that, in principle, the government would protect all Jews who had had Romanian citizenship prior to 191495. However, those suspected to be hostile to the Romanian army and people were to be deported as well, with the government alone to decide over who, when, and of what charges he/she was guilty. Moreover, protection was but temporary, with the fate of all Romanian Jews to be decided later, at the conclusion of the war, as part and by means of an international equitable solution to the Jewish question96. Far from being saved, protected, trusted, the Jews were simply tolerated as long as they accepted to entirely submit to the state and the regime97. At the time, from February to October 1942, deportation to both Poland and Transnistria were not totally and forever eliminated from the agenda, at least some personal agendas. The invasion of Russia took many of the leaders of the Third Reich from plans of expulsion and commensurate population decimation as the central
Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., p. 283. Dinu C. Giurescu, Romnia n al doilea rzboi mondial, op. cit., p. 144. 96 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Evreii din Romnia ntre ani 19401944, vol. III, 19401942: Perioada unei mari restriti, [The Romanian Jews during 19401944, vol. 3, 19401942: A Time of Great Oppression], part II, Hassefer, Bucharest, 1997, pp. 126127, doc 428. 97 Ibidem, pp. 126127, 175176, doc. 428, 469.
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vision and solution for a Europe free of Jews to systematic total extermination98. Previous short and long term plans for the settlement of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe after the conclusion of peace, including the overseas evacuation and the creation of reservations on a territory in the East yet to be determined99, were rapidly abandoned. The Nazi demographic engineering, fanciful but impossible to carry out, was to be replaced by a new policy100. Sometime between July and October 1941 Nazi anti-Semitic policy shifted from emigration and expulsion to physical extermination101. By November 1941 Chelmno and Belzec were already operational, and the plan even announced to the press, though it was not quite clear if the comprehensive program of deportation to the General Government also meant physical extermination. By early 1942, with the Final Solution in full swing, most Nazi pencil pushers and expertocrats, even the stuffy old Foreign Ministry, departed from previous plans of forced emigration and relocation, and began thinking of the unthinkable as something that could and had to be achieved102. Yet, despite the Wannsee Conference making clear the method, priorities, coordination, tasks, jurisdictions, and so on103, and the experts on Jewish matters in all agencies embarking on the new policy, there were still many who did not grasp it, or at least did not know exactly whether the start was real or false104. Moreover, some top Nazis resisted the Final Solution and rebelled against the Fuehrer, cautiously feeling their way and with
Robert Gellately, The Third Reich, the Holocaust, and Visions of Serial Genocide, op. cit., pp. 255256, 258. From 1939 the Nazis initiated the fanciful General Plan East, developed in five stages, and revised three times, turning demographic engineering into a major radical operation. The plan proved technically unworkable, and turned into an invitation to serial genocide. By November 1941 the RSHA drafted a version that called for resettlement of no less than 31 millions from all West areas to the East, with the undesirables" to be replaced by 10 million ethnic Germans. By April 1942 the Reich ministry for occupied Eastern Area was in charge with the implementation of this plan, which is, most probably, the plan Mihai Antonescu referred to latter on, when emphasizing the lack of logic from part of the Nazis who opposed deportation to Transnistria and evacuation of Jews over the Bug. 99 Ibidem, p. 247. 100 Christopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, op. cit., pp. 102106. 101 Ibidem, p. 424. Emigration was forbidden by October, on orders issued by Heinrich Muller, the head of the Gestapo. It was during the same month, or even before, that the first deportations from Berlin, Vienna, Prague and the overcrowded ghettos of Poland started. 102 Robert Gellately, The Third Reich, the Holocaust, and Visions of Serial Genocide, op. cit., p. 256. 103 Christopher Browning, The Decision Concerning the Final Solution, in Franois Furet ed., Unanswered Questions. Nazi Germany and the Genocide of the Jews, Schocken Books, New York, 1989, p. 112. 104 Ibidem, pp. 105, 118. In October the pieces were falling together and the decision was confirmed. The plan was signaled since July, but the organized anarchy and Byzantine style of the government that cultivated uncertainty delayed the initiation of the Final Solution for months.


not little cynical double-dealing105. Considerable room for criticism, initiatives, and limited opposition to policies sanctioned by Hitler was still possible when, and if, backed by other recognized needs and priorities such as the war effort, shortages of labor force, strengthening or preservation of alliances and so on. Few were able to comprehend the new vision, panoramic and radicalized, and consequently postpone the idea of, and vested interests with, Germanizing the conquered territories in the East for the next decade, and consolidate the process after generations, as for them the resettlement of ethnic Germans was equally important to solving the Jewish Question106. The polycratic nature of the weak dictatorship of consensus107, marked by conflicting policies and personalities, generating paralysis and indecision for a short while108, doubled by the fact that the factories of death were not all ready and working at full capacity, and the supply system was not running properly yet109, was but to slow the process in the first months of 1942. When it came to extracting the Jews from allied and satellite countries, which was no easy task in some cases, with agreements to be reached and sensibilities not to be hurt, other delays occurred. One major explanation lies in that the SS and the Foreign Office were competing rather than working together, getting into a conflict generated by the SS attempts to fully control the operations, and the diplomats efforts to preserve their jurisdiction110. Second, the Other Jews were not a priority for the Germans from the very beginning: the Jews from the Altreich, Austria, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, then Wartegau, were initially targeted for evacuation in the General Government. Furthermore, the Roma and Sinti, and the Poles, were to follow, with the Nazis never to fall short of victims. Therefore, no rush was needed when it came to other countries and territories, at least not at an early stage111.
Heinz Hhne, The Order of the Deaths Head. The Story of Hitlers SS, Penguin Books, London, 2000, pp. 398399. 106 Christopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, op. cit., pp. 108109. 107 Robert Gellately, The Third Reich, the Holocaust, and Visions of Serial Genocide, op. cit., p. 241. 108 Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., p. 336. Facing opposition from the government on various issues concerning the German, but not East European, Jews Hitler had to force the Reichstags hand and impose a second Enabling Act in April 1942, granting him unlimited powers, placing the Fuhrers principles above the law. 109 Ibidem, pp. 490492. From a logistical point of view, the deportations were a constant factor of stress, at least until 1943; they gave headaches to the Nazis, who never had enough trains, nor exactly when they needed them, as the Reihsbahn was failing to provide sufficient freight cars, since there were always other priorities. See also Raul Hilberg, The Bureaucracy of Annihilation, in Franois Furet ed., Unanswered Questions, op. cit., pp. 123125. 110 Heinz Hhne, The Order of the Deaths Head, op. cit., p. 281. 111 Christopher Browning, The Decision Concerning the Final Solution, op. cit., pp. 114115.


As for Romania, from a present day perspective, one can say that the Nazis missed the moment. However, at the time, they had no reason to worry, as Romania was doing even more than expected, setting an example for others in terms of willingness to rapidly deal with its Jews. By late 1941 the impression left by the Romanians speeded killings and deportations was that all barriers had been removed, with the Antonescu government anxious to settle the Jewish Question in a matter of months, and not at the victorious conclusion of the war against the USSR, as initially envisioned in Berlin112. Nevertheless, Romanian Jews were not included in the first wave of deportations because of the existing inner conflicts within Nazi circles of decision makers. In spite of Franz Rademachers efforts, who went beyond compliance to have the deportations approved by the Romanians, Undersecretary of state Martin Luther, his immediate superior, could only send Adolf Eichmann the Romanian governments positive answer on January 10, 1942113. From a Nazi perspective this was not too late, as the deportation and extermination of Romanian Jews only became a priority as of August 1942, when they were included on Himmlers agenda114. Meanwhile, Romania was placed in the same group of countries as Slovakia and Croatia, with Slovakia turned by the Nazis wishful thinking into a role model115. Manfred Von Killinger and Franz Rademacher were sent to Romania to continue the fruitful work they had started in Slovakia, where they had prepared the ground for deportations up to the point where they could give RSHA the green light, with the Slovak government to be consulted out of courtesy116. By October 1942, Bucharest was crowded with German experts and advisers to the Romanian government, some German Police officers included, all pushy and open to collaboration, ready to give direct help to the Romanian government117. As Gustav Richters detailed reports indicate, a lot of paperwork had been done in advance by both Nazis and Romanian agencies, so as to speed things up and insure the success of the planned deportations118. As time went by and no train left Romania for Poland, the Germans started to put more and more pressure on the Romanians, and later on even threatened them. Met with
112 Robert Gellately, The Third Reich, the Holocaust, and Visions of Serial Genocide, op. cit., p. 250. 113 Christopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, op. cit., pp. 379380. 114 Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., pp. 480. 483. 115 Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., p. 281. Also Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., p. 373. The Slovak scenario was to be followed in Romania and other countries. 116 Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., pp. 637, 643. 117 Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents, op. cit., vol. IX, pp. 461463. For the Order Police and its role as one of the main instruments in the implementation of the Final Solution see Raul Hilberg, The Bureaucracy of Annihilation, op. cit., pp. 124126. 118 Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents, op. cit., vol. IV, p. 197202.


increasing opposition by some members of the Romanian government and administration, at least the Bucharest based experts and diplomats could do nothing but watch, write reports to Berlin, protest, and eventually turn more and more frustrated, with each and every failed attempt to take over control and physically deport the Romanian Jews to the Lublin area. Romania was no occupied or satellite country, but an ally, which forced many of them to be prudent, since too much pressure on the Romanians to hand over their Jews might have jeopardized the military alliance and Romanias economic contributions to the war effort. Killingers briefings with Mihai Antonescu, and the reports sent to Berlin by SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Richter, point to the fact that they were both aware and concerned with the evolution of the Jewish Question in Romania, and with the interventions of some Romanians in favor of the Jews. However, all they could do was threaten that the time would come when the saboteurs would have to pay the bill119. Not even top diplomats in Berlin, such as Luther, could do more than attempt to persuade the Romanians that a radical change of their policy toward the Jews would not improve Romanias image worldwide, but only indicate a crack in the Axis, and weakness on the part of Bucharest leaders120. As for the SS, Himmler, Heydrich, Muller, Eichmann, all had their hands tied, as they could only work on details, but not make decisions on German Grand Policy and high diplomacy. It was the Fuhrers job to come up with the broad brushstrokes and final decisions, as he was the only one who had a panoramic view, and the only one who could operate at the top level of Antonescu, Horthy, Tiso, Petain and others, issuing authorizations concerning the politically extremely sensitive operation of extracting the Jews from other countries121. As Helen Feins study points out, direct German rule and SS control over deportations counted more than anything else in the implementation of the Final Solution122. A comparison between the cases of Romania and Bulgaria on the one hand and Slovakia and Hungary on the other would be more than sufficient, illustrative and illuminating. However, the SS never succeeded in getting more than agreements from the Romanian government, though as of June 1941 they repeatedly attempted to take control and entirely coordinate the operations the selective mass killings and deportations from Bessarabia and Bukovina respectively123. The Romanians refused to surrender their prerogatives, and SS plots and interference in Romanias domestic policy were utterly rejected. Pride
Lya Benjamin (ed.), Perioada unei mari restriti, part II, op. cit., pp. 2645 doc. 548. They went as far as to make their threats public, writing articles on the Romanian slaves of the Jews. See Judenknechte, in Bukarester Tageblatt, October 11, 1942. 120 Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., p. 283. 121 Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., pp. 630631. 122 Helen Fein, Accounting for Genocide, Free Press, New York, 1979. 123 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., p. 64.


was one factor; Ion Antonescus distrust of the black tunics another. The Romanian Conduc tor [Leader] preferred to rely on the Foreign Office for the simple reason that German diplomatic interventions had liberated him from prison in 1940, and later on, in January 1941, German diplomacy had bet their money on him, while the SS had supported the fascist, legionary coup124. From that moment on Antonescu had had but contempt for the SS, suspecting them of cooperation with his legionnaire enemies, so as to jeopardize his position125. The only person who had the means and skills to intervene in favor of the SS, like in Hungary, where he had changed Horthy with a puppet regime willing to finally tackle the Jewish question, was Hitler126. Yet, Hitler preferred to continue trying to persuade Antonescu, and lived with the impression that he was successful in his efforts, as the Jews were the archenemy that ultimately had to be destroyed127. Consequently, Romania was not occupied, though the plan to do so in case of an eventual defection existed. There were even good reasons for Hitler to order it, especially as of April 1943, when he informed Antonescu about tentative approaches by Romanian ministries to the Western allies, complaining about, and disapproving of, the Romanian mild anti-Semitic measures128. Coming from Hitler, not to put iron in the glove could only mean he was convinced the glove was itself made of iron. As a matter of fact, Antonescus loyalty to, and support of, the Romanian army were never doubted by Hitler, not even after he had refused to offer the Romanians some satisfaction by returning Northern Transylvania to Romania. Antonescu was not only an ally, but also an accomplice, the only foreign statesman whom Hitler had been ready to inform in advance about the attack on the USSR, and the annihilation war to be carried out there, as the Romanian army had to be broadly put into the picture. Hitler possibly felt that no harsher terms were needed when it came to the Romanian Jews, in the hope that the episode of June-October 1941, when Antonescu had unleashed his thirsting for revenge troops, allowing for horrifying massacres in order to offer satisfaction to the Romanian people and army, would genuinely repeat itself129. Before the deportation of the Romanian Jews to Poland (Lublin area) took shape, Romanians had implemented, somewhat independently, other, similar plans. In July 1941 the Romanian government had thought of deporting all the
Heinz Hhne, The Order of the Deaths Head, op. cit., pp. 289290. Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., pp. 6263. See also Lya Benjamin (ed.), Perioada unei mari restriti, part II, op. cit., pp 2425, 29, doc. 359, 364. 126 Ian Kershaw, Hitler. 1936-1945: Nemesis, vol. 2, Penguin Books, London, 2000, pp. 627628. Also Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., p. 405. 127 Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., p. 636. On August 5, 1944, Hitler made a last attempt to persuade Antonescu to change his mind and deport the Romanian Jews. 128 Ian Kershaw, Hitler, op. cit., pp. 582583. 129 Ibidem, pp. 383384.
125 124


Jews from Bessarabia, Bukovina, and other counties of Moldova to Transnistria. Bolshevik Jews and many others from the Old Kingdom, Transylvania and Banat were to be deported soon thereafter as well. No preparations were made, as deportation was to be only temporary; Transnistria was seen as a simple dumping ground, with the Jews to be shortly evacuated (pushed, tossed, as the perpetrators put it) over the Bug River, into the USSR130. Speeding the process on their own, they did not realize that, with the advent of the Barbarossa plan, Hitler, Himmler, and Rosenberg turned Russia into a fated land of German expansion, where no expulsion of Jews was to be allowed, and where the existing Jewish population was to be exterminated131. Uninformed as they were, they could not grasp the logic of the Germans, who pushed back the Jews deported to Moghilev in July, shooting 12,000 out of 25,000. With Transnistria conquered and turned into a territory under Romanian administration, Romanians continued to deport the undesirables there, still hoping to later expel them to Russia. In August 1941, Mihai Antonescu informed the Romanian cabinet of his previous discussions with several Nazi officials rather third echelon experts, probably Richter, than high-ranking officials, as he put it concerning the implementation of an international solution to the Jewish Question, meaning the evacuation to the East. Until December 1941, Ion Antonescu continued to think that the question of the Yids is being discussed in Berlin. The Germans want to bring the Yids from Europe to Russia and settle them in certain areas, but there is still time before this plan is carried out132. This was no Romanian dreadful imagination at work, only wishful thinking based on a former Nazi plan from 1939-1940. The Romanians knew about it since June 1940, when the Ion Gigurtu cabinet had expressed its intention to collaborate with the Germans and solve the Jewish Question by means of evacuation and relocation to the East, where a reservation for the European Jews was to be created133. However, by mid 1941, the plan was already outdated as a new vision emerged from within the Third Reich leadership, which brought the Romanian policy of ethnic cleansing somewhat to a deadlock134. To find a way out, Romanians had to be persuaded to give up expediency, halt deportations, renounce their plans, and accept the new German solution and method instead135. With Ion Antonescu determined to move forward and deport all Romanian Jews to Transnistria, resiliently stating that nothing was going to stop him, at national
Jean Ancel, Archival Sources concerning the Holocaust in Romania, op. cit., p. 98. Christopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, op. cit., p. 109. 132 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., pp. 6467. 133 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Problema evreiasc n stenogramele Consiliului de minitri [The Jewish Question in the Records of the Council of Ministers], Hassefer, Bucharest, 1996, p 365, doc 126. 134 Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., pp. 280281. 135 Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., pp. 678686.
131 130


or European level, from doing so, German experts working as advisers to the Romanian government had to make sustained efforts to convince the Romanian Conductors henchmen to deport the Jews from the Old Kingdom and Transylvania to Poland136. In late 1941, Radu Lecca and Gustav Richter convinced Mihai Antonescu to create Centrala, a new agency meant to help the Romanian government coordinate and control of Jewish activities, organize forced labor, and collect contributions for the war effort137. In March 1942, Franz Rademacher tested, once more, the Romanian governments readiness to deport its Jews, with some promising results. Romanian Jews living outside Romania, in European countries under German control, were abandoned at the hands of the Nazis138. With Romania soon to be included in the continental wide Final Solution, the Nazis wanted to make sure they were not going to meet with resistance. During the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, this was one of the main issues to be discussed, with Martin Luther, Undersecretary of state at the Foreign Office, ensuring Heydrich that the path was cleared in South Eastern Europe, with none of the governments there to create any problems to the RSHA when it would come to deporting their Jews139. In the case of Romania, previous attitudes and developments indicated but willingness and openness from the authorities to collaborate with the Germans. By that time, the Romanians had already deported more than half of their Jews, with Mihai Antonescu personally writing to Himmler, asking him to send his expert, Gustav Richter, whose expertise had proven essential, back to Romania140. True, the Romanians were not ready to fully give up their prerogatives and jurisdiction, as they were still longing for a Romanian solution, in some respects different from the German one141. To Heydrich and his always suspicious RSHA, this was a sound indicator of the Romanian governments reluctance, even opposition to the new policy. To Killinger, who informed the Foreign Office in September 1941 that Heydrichs report was inaccurate, as the Romanians proved to be radical, it was simply a matter of time, and preparations142. By November 1941, even Killinger, the troubleshooter, was to inform Berlin that the Romanians were somewhat double-crossing them, that the only to be trusted in Bucharest was Ion Antonescu, as the rest of the Romanian politicians and bourgeoisie were rather anti-German143.
136 137

Jean Ancel, Archival Sources concerning the Holocaust in Romania, op. cit., pp. 9899. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., p. 689. 138 Christopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, op. cit., p. 379. 139 Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu.., op. cit., pp. 325326. 140 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Perioada unei mari restriti, part I, op. cit., p. 383, doc. 274. 141 Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu.., op. cit., pp. 3267. 142 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Perioada unei mari restriti, part II, op. cit., pp. 78, doc. 343. 143 Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu.., op. cit., p. 328.


In July 1942 doubts vanished once again, when Mihai Antonescu issued an order coming directly from Ion Antonescu: the Jews of Banat and Southern Transylvania were soon to be deported to Poland. Moreover, German and Romanian agencies were to carry it out together144. Gustav Richter rushed to let his superiors in Berlin know that he had accomplished his mission. By July 26, Heydrich, and even Eichmann, were informed that the preparations had started, and that, following the Slovak scenario, deportations would begin on September 10, 1942145. Able-bodied Jews were to be deported to forced labor, loosing Romanian citizenship and assets once they crossed the border146. Some German officials, such as Martin Luther, were still displeased with the Romanian governments general attitude, and the too many categories of Jews exempted from deportation. Yet, the proposed strategy was not to put further pressure on the Romanians who, in principle were going in line with the German plan. Instead, Radu Lecca was to be invited to Berlin to work with the Nazi bureaucrats on the last details147. In the meantime, several German and Romanian German newspapers publicly announced the inevitable deportation of the Romanian Jews, while the Romanian press refrained from doing so148. What made the difference between the Romanian and the German attitude remains somewhat unclear. Further developments suggest that for the Romanian government the success of the entire operation was conditioned on secrecy more than on anything else. At the same time, the Nazis had to propagandistically advertise each and every military, political, diplomatic and ideological success of the regime, to let the domestic population back home know that Germany was not alone, that trustworthy allies were fighting on its side, and so on and so forth. Finally, a certain dosage of typical Nazi arrogance, in this particular case at least Gustav Richters, is not to be eluded. Invited to Berlin in August to sort out the details, Radu Lecca, the head of the Romanian Jewish Commissariat, was brusquely treated by Foreign Ministry officials, who thought they were discussing details with an oily rag rather than making decisions with a ships officer149. Franz Rademacher, the Foreign Offices expert on Jewish matters, and Luthers direct subordinate, was the only official who took the time to talk to Lecca. This time it was not only for arrogance and infatuation to ruin the Nazi plans. The existing conflict between the RSHA and the Foreign Office150, as well as the fact that Martin Luther had
Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., p. 282. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., p. 692. 146 Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., p. 282, also Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu., op. cit., pp. 328329. 147 Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., p. 693. 148 Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu, op. cit., pp. 32930. 149 Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, op. cit., p. 659. 150 Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., p. 282, nota 51.
145 144


clumsily missed to inform his superiors on the issues discussed at Wannsee going with the wind, a perfect opportunist and careerist, Luther wanted but to secure a personal jurisdiction and thus improve his position within the ministry , offended not only Lecca, but also Ion Antonescu. For the Romanian Conductor the way his envoy was treated in Berlin was indicative for the German general perception of Romania as a second rate ally and easy to handle executant (and executioner), and not an equal partner. For Antonescu, a vainglorious military and authoritarian politician with a studied independence, suspicious toward, and annoyed by, any Nazi plot, intrusion, and pressure, this incident might have made the difference between deporting the Jews of the Old Kingdom, Banat and Transylvania to Poland or not151. Anyhow, his decision to halt the operation was not a matter of humanistic self-reflection over his deeds and their terrifying outcomes. After Leccas return from Berlin, the general attitude of the Romanian government changed, but the diplomatic incident is not enough to explain this change152. The Germans, first the Bucharest legation, then Berlin, continued to hope and push, as long as to their mind the negotiations with the Romanians were concluded. Conversely, and somewhat unexpectedly, Romanian officials started claiming that the deportations had to be postponed, the plans studied and worked in further details, and the operation launched when the time would come153. For someone familiarized with the back and forth oscillation of Romanian policy, and with the deportations starting, only to be stopped shortly thereafter, the situation must have been unpleasant, but not desperate. Fortunately for the targeted victims, the Germans did not realize that, by late 1942, the Romanians had gradually turned disappointed, loosing their enthusiasm and initial exuberance154. Contradictions and even conflicts between cabinet members and decision makers soon sparked, as some realized that they had to be more cautious. The fact that the secret of the deportations to Lublin was out only days after the discussions between Mihai Antonescu and the Nazi officials, with rumors spreading fast the information apparently transpired from the Centrala and from Romanian Railways clerks , and generating a wave of interventions and protests, was one good reason to be careful. On September 29, 1942, Mihai Antonescu informed his close associates that the Jews had found out the secret, proving how deeply infiltrated and dangerous they could be, spreading lies and creating panic; local authorities in Banat were frightened at the time that German refugees would be brought instead155. However, the plans to deport the Jews, hundreds of
151 152

Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu, op. cit., p. 338. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., pp. 694695. 153 AMAE, Fond 33, file 17, p. 100. 154 Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., p. 695. 155 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Problema evreiasc, op. cit., p. 441, doc 145.


thousands of them, with one hundred thousand in Bucharest alone, were not abandoned, as they were still the envisaged solution to some pressing problems such as making room for Romanians, whether refugees or not. Initiatives coming from bureaucrats working at both the central and local level were to reach Leccas office, who, far from rejecting or opposing any, assured them that according to state policy all Jews that are not useful to Romanian economy are to be evacuated to Poland156. The only problem, at the time, was generated by the cabinets indecision whether to deport the Jews, who were too many and too dangerous for public order and state security, to Poland or to Transnistria157. On September 22, 1942, Mihai Antonescu met with Hitler, Ribbentrop, and German army commanders in Vinnytsa, Hitlers new headquarter in Ukraine, at a conference organized to analyze the situation on the Eastern front, but not only. As usual, Hitler asked for more, but refused to offer anything, from military equipment to political satisfaction in the case of Romania, this referred to his promise to return Northern Transylvania after winning the war. The issue of the Jewish deportations to Poland was also touched. In his first intervention during the negotiations, Ribbentrop insisted that Romania should keep its promises. Antonescu did not openly oppose him158. In some respects, it looked like the German Foreign Minister had just found out about Hitlers plans and wishes for sure, but I would say, too late159. Days latter, a somewhat irritated and panicstricken Ribbentrop asked Luther to pressure Germanys south east European allied and satellite countries to deliver their Jews, to accelerate as much as possible the evacuation of the proven archenemies that incite against us and have to be considered responsible for sabotage acts and assassination attempts160. Difficult to say whether Ribbentrops (re)action was determined by an already predictable at the time Romanian defection. What is unquestionable is the fact that in less than two months Nazi officials would have good reasons to fear Romanias disengagement from the Final Solution.
Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents, op. cit., vol. IV, p. 276. AMStM., RSEM.900, C1224. 158 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (eds.), Final Report, op. cit., pp. 170171. 159 Christopher Browning, The Decision Concerning the Final Solution, op. cit., pp. 101 102, 117. Before that moment, Ribbentrop had not considered necessary to put pressure on the Romanians in regard to the Jewish question. Luther did not inform Ribbentrop on the Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution in an attempt to secure a better position. Piqued by the SS intrusion and encroachment of his ministry jurisdiction, he gave orders to his subordinates not to pressure Germanys allies with regard to the deportations. This is also to explain why it was only from late 1942 early 1943 that he got personally involved with this particular issue. This was no unusual situation considering the inner rivalry of the Third Reich, with chieftains fighting to expand their private empires, anticipating and pursuing what they thought to be Hitlers desires, sometimes erroneously, and with Hitler trying not to antagonize nor alienate any of them, not even the ones he considered incompetent, Ribbentrop included. 160 Quoted in Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., p. 450.
157 156


On September 26, 1942, the Germans organized a conference in Berlin to discuss with the Romanian counterparts technical issues related to the transportation of the Romanian Jews to Poland161. Though officially invited to attend the conference, most probably long in advance, the Romanian railways experts didnt know anything about it, and asked the Romanian Ministry of the Interior, and later Radu Lecca, for details, only to receive no clear answer in due time162. The official response reached them only later, on November 4, informing that Ion Antonescu had decided on October 13 to halt the deportations163. Meanwhile, the conference took place, as scheduled, in the absence of the Romanians. The Germans decided on their own, offending the Romanians once more, that 250,000 Romanian Jews were to be deported to Belzec at a pace of 2,000 every other day164. There were nonetheless good reasons for the Germans to do so, as they already knew that they could, and should, not rely too much on Romanian bureaucracy, but solely on Ion Antonescu. On October 10, an order issued from the Marshalls cabinet instructed the Ministry of the Interior to start the deportations from Banat and Southern Transylvania. All of a sudden, the very next day, Antonescu reconsidered his position, and decided to halt the action. Formally, the reason to postpone the deportation for the spring of 1943 was to avoid the difficulties of the rainy season, and winter165. Unofficially, some direct interventions, from prominent Jewish leaders to General Picki Vasiliu, the conflict between Vasiliu and Lecca, with Vasiliu attempting to put the head of the Romanian Jewish Commissariat in a bad light and reduce his influence, counted more than any logistical concern166. Soon, it became obvious that the Romanians had decided to leave the German path and Rosenbergs arguments, as the civilized world was keeping an eye on Romania, protesting against the maltreatment, deportations, and killings167. By late October 1942, with the situation already tense, Mihai Antonescu told Gustav Richter that he did not understand Berlins lack of logic in insisting that Romanian Jews be deported to Poland, but at the same time rejecting the evacuation of the Jews in Transnistria over the Bug168. In less than a month,
Jean Ancel (ed.), Documents, op. cit., vol. IV, p. 250. ASB, Fond PCM, file 342/1942. 163 Dinu C. Giurescu, Romnia n al doilea rzboi mondial, op. cit., p. 144. 164 Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu, op. cit., p. 335. 165 Ibidem, p. 336. 166 Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., p. 450. See also Lya Benjamin (ed.), Perioada unei mari restristi, part II, p. 260, doc. 544. On September 29, Lecca also sent a reply to the directors of the Romanian Railways assuring them that Marshal had ordered the evacuation of all Jews, and that the Ministry of the Interior was working on the details under Mihai Antonescus direct supervision and coordination. 167 ASB, Fond PCM, file 473, vol. II, pp. 854869. 168 Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., p. 696.
162 161


during another talk, Mihai Antonescu went as far as to let Richter know that he was personally against any act of barbarity, criticizing the abuses and crimes of the past, denying the responsibility of the government, deflecting it toward the lower echelons of Romanian Executioners in Transnistria and the local German Police169. No less anti-Semitic when it came to economic reforms and emigration, and only 16 months after the terrible massacres in Bessarabia and Bukovina, the man advocating ethnic cleansing by mass killing and expulsion turned his logic upside down, introducing to an exasperated German expert and adviser no less than seven major reasons for the Romanian government to halt deportations and depart the German plan170. Driven by opportunism more than ideology, by late 1942 early 1943 the Romanians realized that they were passengers on a sinking boat171. After Stalingrad, loosing hope forever, they reconsidered their position, and let the Germans know that they had changed their mind. By January 1943, a report written by Heinrich Muller was so pessimistic that Himmler became convinced nothing more could be done in Romania, and decided to recall Gustav Richter172. In late 1943, Radu Lecca stepped down from his position, thereafter working as a second rank clerk for the Ministry of National Labor173. In the spring of 1944 German anti-Semitic propaganda was no longer accepted by the Romanian government, who went as far as to banish the activity of German experts sent to Bucharest to reinvigorate it174. Last but not least, the commission in charge with deportations was working on the repatriation of the Jews from Transnistria175. Documented or not, many (though one might say not enough) interventions, persuasions, briberies, and pressures, coming from Jewish leaders and Organizations, the Vatican, the USA, Romanian politicians, the Red Cross and so on, also contributed to the developments that finally made the Romanian disengagement with the Final Solution possible176. Most, but not all, personalities and organizations aiming to stop the dreadful machinery are mentioned in a special report requested by Ion Antonescu in late January 1944177. This is not the first report of that kind, which points to the relevance of all the efforts briefly mentioned above. At the beginning of the killings and deportations, SSI and other state agencies and institutions had informed the government on repeated attempts
Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., pp. 450451. See also Lya Benjamin (ed.), Perioada unei mari restristi, part II, pp. 273274, doc. 556. 170 Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu, op. cit., pp. 336337. 171 Heinz Hhne, The Order of the Deaths Head, op. cit., p. 396. 172 Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, op. cit., p. 697. 173 Ibidem, p. 673. 174 Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., p. 285. 175 Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu, op. cit., p. 339. 176 Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu, op. cit., pp. 335337. 177 ASB, Fond PCM, Cabinet, file 163/1940, pp. 8793.


by others to soften the radical anti-Semitic policy178. For what reason did Antonescu ask for suck a report in early 1944 we might never find out. On the one hand it seems that the Romanian leader wanted to know who the saboteurs of his policy were, let the Germans know about it, and thus come up with an explanation for failing their expectations. On the other hand it could have been a desperate effort to cover his back, to let the Western allies know that he, Ion Antonescu, took into consideration the interventions and halted the actions. Too late for some 300 thousands souls, and for Romania, whose leader had shouted years before, after the first interventions: let the Americans come and judge me! Rather useless in the beginning, all those efforts turned fruitful in the end. If nothing more, they were at least corrosive, and gradually shattered the Romanians confidence in the German almightiness, forcing them to partially reconsider their position and policy. With most of the cabinet members not turning less anti-Semitic towards the end of the war, and with the Nazis pressing for the deportation of Jews to Poland, emigration to Palestine and deportation and relocation to the East, Transnistria in this case, both faint echoes of long abandoned German plans, are illustrative in this sense. Realizing that the Germans were no longer supportive of the outdated old-new approaches to the Jewish Question, the Romanians were bright enough to turn them into alternatives, and a perfect excuse for not deporting the Jews of the Old Kingdom, Banat, and Transylvania to Poland. In fact, as the Romanians put it, they were not protecting or saving the Jews, nor were they defecting the German Final Solution, but simply going back to the original plans as they could not cope with the hasty dynamic of Nazi policy. In other words, ethnic cleansing operations continued by other means, with the government making even some profit out of it in some cases, at the same time signaling to the allies that Romania took a different path. The Nazis could not do much, though they protested and on several occasions opposed and even attempted to jeopardize the Romanians unworkable plans. Nonetheless, they hoped to the very end that the Romanians would return to radical measures179. Until 1944, the Germans opposed Jewish emigration from Romania, and made efforts to stop it by all means and at all levels. However, as they could not reach Ion Antonescu, all they got were Mihai Antonescus promises that the issue would be reconsidered180. The German governments interventions, the threats, the long list of ideological (racial principles), political and military arguments, could not determine the Romanians to halt the emigration181, which went rather slow, as the Romanian government refused any direct involvement in the
Lya Benjamin (ed.), Perioada unei mari restriti, part II, op. cit., pp. 6970, doc. 383. Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol, op. cit., pp. 282286. 180 Lya Benjamin (ed.), Bilanul tragediei renaterea speranei, op. cit., pp. 387388, doc. 350. 181 AMAE, Fond 33, vol. 17, pp. 102107.
179 178


operations coordination, and refrained from providing the Red Cross and the Jewish Organizations with means of transport. Facing criticism from the Western allies, protests and threats from the Germans and corruption from his own bureaucracy, Ion Antonescu decided in late May 1944 to halt the emigration until the state would be able to organize it on serious grounds182. Considering the rather small number of Jews who left Romania to reach Palestine after a long and unsafe voyage, one can only conclude that emigration did not matter much in saving the Romanian Jews. It only served to deceive the allies, and as an excellent excuse for parting with the German solution. Paradoxical as it might seem, the very existence of Transnistria as an alternative space were the Romanians could deport their Jews, as well as other categories of undesirables, also endangered the Nazi plans. From mid 1941 until late 1942, Romanians did not give up the idea of evacuating the Jews under their control to this region. Nothing was organized in advance, as from there the deportees were to be later pushed over the Bug, into Russia183. German local and central authorities panicked, protested, and opposed the Romanians, from the highest to the lowest level of command, by such means as diplomatic pressures and negotiations but also by killings and plundering expeditions of the local German Police in Transnistria, which was under Romanian administration, with the Romanians not knowing how to react, and thousands of Jews massacred in the spring of 1942184. In many respects Transnistria was but the outcome of a deadlock in the Romanian ethnic cleansing oriented policy, generated by the lack of communication between the Germans and the Romanians, and therefore by a clash of two visions. Later on, when convenient, to prove their independence in refusing to deport their Jews to Poland, the Romanians could turn to their dumping ground, their General Government. With time passing, and Romania deserting the Nazi Final Solution, Transnistria also served to deceive the Germans. A Romania free of Jews and other ethnic and religious minorities was for Ion Antonescu and his regime a major political aspiration and a historical legacy for the future generations of Romanians. As a result, starting with June 1941, the Romanian government, backed by state institutions and agencies, implemented an ethnic cleansing policy that took them, step by step, from selective mass killing to ghettoization, deportations, evacuations, and finally emigration, a former, longabandoned by that time, Nazi strategy185. Some three hundred thousands
Lya Benjamin (ed.), Bilanul tragediei renaterea speranei, op. cit., pp. 395397, doc. 357, 358. 183 Idem (ed.), Perioada unei mari restriti, part II, op. cit., pp. 202203, doc. 490. 184 AMAE, Problem 33, vol. 15, p. 58, also AN, Fond PCM, file 104/1942, p. 306. 185 Radu Ioanid, The Sword of the Archangel, op. cit., p. 226. Also Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol i Marealul Antonescu, op. cit., p. 283.


Romanian and Ukrainian Jews died along the road, with yet another three hundred thousands surviving the war as Romanias government decided at a certain moment to fail its allys standards and radical policy, and disengage from the Final Solution, a decision that was motivated less by humanitarianism and more by domestic and international protests and interventions, massive bribe, and a rapidly changing military and political situation186. The horrendous mass killings of 1941, which together with Transnistria made the core of the Romanian Holocaust, were for the Antonescu regime components of an instrumental ethnic cleansing policy. Though a powerful political tool, mass killing was never turned by the Romanians into an end in itself, except for the case of Odessa. It is rather difficult to claim that the Romanians intended to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Romania at large. Their goals were rather limited, at least when it came to the Old Kingdom, Transylvania and Banat: to force the Jews to submit, give up their assets, contribute to the war effort with huge amounts of money, accept forced labor and, if need be, to deport them. Moreover, with the passage of time, a physical solution to the Jewish question turned impractical, not only geopolitically, but also financially, as it was permanent. In other words, and by all means, it was bad business. Vested interest made the Romanians reconsider their policy, turning them from emotional to more rational perpetrators. For most of the Romanian decision-makers the Jews were unwanted, an active enemy at most, but not a meta-historical one. True, Ion Antonescus permanent frustration with conventional military and political strategy might have sparked further deportations and killings at any time, especially in 1944. Yet, in spite of the many deadlocks, the other decision-makers did not support his attempts to turn to anger as a mobilizing factor. Some shred of compassion with the victims is not to be totally ignored, as total extermination might have represented a psychological barrier they could not cross, as many others. Like the Slovaks, the Romanians might have seen the deportation as a huge operation that would shove off (the Jews) to the East, never to be seen again187, rejecting extermination when they had to take the substantial risk of alienating western allies and inciting further intervention, both domestic and international. Thus, instead of escalating and radicalizing the anti-Jewish measures, like in Germany188, the circumstances and stakes of late 1942 to mid 1944 made the Romanian ones milder. The greed and clumsiness of Romanian bureaucrats only oiled the shifting mechanism, with vice playing a more important role than virtue in saving half of the Jews of Romania. The unpredicted developments and responses of the Romanian government to the Nazi plans were not logical and natural. As a consequence of
Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., p. 349. Christopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, op. cit., p. 379, also Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination, op. cit., pp. 450, 452, 537. 188 Christopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, op. cit., pp. 426427.
187 186


the fierce anti-Semitism of the prewar period some of the most shocking antiJewish crimes were possible in 1941, with a later shift to less barbaric means, without giving up hate, made possible by traditional pragmatism, opportunism, and corruption, which altogether tempered the Romanian government and made it opt for a more cautious path189. Hard to choose the appropriate word: did Romanians halt, defer, desert, disengage from the Final solution and thus saved half of their Jews? Hilberg may have been right in saying that by freezing by no means accidentally the deportations, they fell short of reaching the German standards190. A less compulsive and more compromising late 1942 policy indicates that the Final Solution was not a fundamental issue for the Romanian government, but the price to be finally paid did matter for Bucharest. As a result, it can be said that the Romanian government did not save Jews; it only limited the number of victims, sparing their lives for an undermined period of time.

Mihai Chioveanu is Lecturer in Fascism, Genocide, and Middle Eastern Politics with the Department of Political Science and teaches Contemporary Jewish History with the Goldstein Goren Center for Hebrew Studies at the University of Bucharest.

Bela Vago, The Reactions to the Nazi Anti-Jewish Policy in East-Central Europe and in the Balkans, in Franois FURET (ed.), Unanswered Questions. Nazi Germany and the Genocide of the Jews, Schocken Books, New York, 1989, pp. 227233. 190 Raul Hilberg, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, op. cit., pp. 7784.