“Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity's common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
After years of oscillation, indecision and controversial statements, in 2003 the Romanian authorities set up the Elie Wiesel International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania. The Commission’s final report on the sensitive matter of Romania's wartime history and recommendations for the future were all endorsed by the Romanian government in November 2004. As a result, Romania became a full member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (then the ITF) at the second annual plenary meeting held under the Italian chairmanship in Trieste in December 2004.
At the Manchester IHRA Plenary, in December 2014, ten years after joining this organization, Romania was entrusted with taking over the 2016 IHRA Chairmanship.
Romania’s decision to take over the IHRA Chairmanship is an expression of the country’s coming to terms with its wartime history, Romania has its own share of direct involvement in perpetrating such crimes, and took responsibility for that based on the 2004 Wiesel Report.
In recent years, Romania has made significant efforts in both the legislative and institutional framework to combat antisemitism and any manifestations of racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and intolerance. The newest piece of legislation that was adopted by the Romanian Government is Law no. 217/2015 on amending the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 31/2002, thus enforcing the existing provisions on prohibiting organizations and symbols with fascist, racist or xenophobic character and the promotion of persons guilty of crimes against peace and humanity.
The main amendments brought by this Law refer to: prohibiting the legionary organizations and symbols and worship of persons guilty of crimes of genocide and war crimes. Article no. 2 is supplemented by two new lines e) and f) where the Legionary Movement and the Holocaust in Romania are defined. According to article no. 6 of the new law, the public denial, contradiction, approval, justification, minimizing by any means of the Holocaust or its effects is punished with imprisonment from 6 months to 3 years. Holocaust denial refers to refuting Romania's role in exterminating Jews and Roma between 1940 and 1944. About 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma were killed during the pro-fascist regime of Dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu.
Regional international initiatives
Recognizing the particular importance of combating antisemitism in all its forms, Romania has expressed its readiness to play a major regional role in raising awareness on its revival in Europe. As such, Romania took an active part in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Conferences on Combating Anti-Semitism organized in Vienna (2003), Berlin (2004) and Cordoba (2005), supporting the inclusion of non-discrimination and promotion of mutual respect and understanding as priorities on the OSCE agenda. In June 2007, Romania hosted a follow-up to the Cordoba conference, with a wider agenda, on Combating Discrimination and Promoting Mutual Respect and Understanding. As further proof of its commitment to this important matter, from 17-18 September 2008, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a regional conference on combating antisemitism. Organized in cooperation with the ‘Elie Wiesel’ National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania and the National Defense College, this Bucharest-based event addressed some of the main issues related to the role that both governmental and non-governmental bodies should play in combating antisemitism.
Delegations from 25 countries and representatives of international Jewish and cultural institutions as well as international organizations participated in the conference, including: OSCE, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, American Jewish Committee, B'nai B'rith International, World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Community Centre.
Following the Romanian government’s endorsement of the conclusions and recommendations of the Final Report issued by the Elise Wiesel International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania in 2004, important academic and non-academic works were published on the subject of the Holocaust and new institutional structures with the specific purpose of studying Jewish history and Holocaust-related topics were set up. The primary and secondary school curricula, which had already included the study of the Holocaust since 1998, were also updated in keeping with the Report’s findings.
Holocaust education was first introduced in Romania in 1998 as a mandatory subject within the wider frame of courses on World War Two. The textbooks published between 1998 and 2003 included accurate information on European Jewish History and the Holocaust, but very scarce and mostly misleading data on its Romanian chapter. As of 2004, the syllabus and textbooks were for the most part been revised in keeping with the recommendations of the Wiesel Commission's Final Report.
Teacher training sessions in Holocaust education have been provided to teachers by the Babes Bolyai University of Cluj Napoca as of 2001, the University of Bucharest (in cooperation with IDEE Association) as of 2002, the Teachers' Association of Bacau as of 2004 and the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania as of 2008, most of them with the logistic support of various international organizations (Yad Vashem, USHMM, Memorial de la Shoah, etc).
As of 2005, the Ministry of Education and Research, in cooperation with the non-governmental sector and international organizations, has been constantly organizing and sponsoring various Holocaust-related events, and has devised a National Programme for teacher training in Holocaust education. It currently organizes group visits to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, as well as introductory sessions for participants, and supports the training carried out by the Universities of Cluj Napoca and Bucharest.
The Holocaust is commemorated on October 9 in all Romanian schools in various ways: through presentations of publications on the Holocaust (books, CDs / DVDs), musical performances, meetings with Holocaust survivors or listening to recorded tapes of testimony, unveiling of, or laying wreaths at Holocaust related monuments, photography exhibitions, drawings or posters made by students on the Holocaust and Jewish culture, visits to memorials, synagogues, museums and Jewish cemeteries.
Click here for a list of activities that took places in some schools of Romania on the occasion of the National Holocaust Remembrance Day on 9 October 2015 (in Romanian).
Besides the international Holocaust-related teaching materials translated into Romanian, the Ministry of Education and Research has also endorsed didactic materials such as: the books and film produced by the Romanian Jewish Holocaust Survivors' Association, the documentary on the genocide of the Roma and teacher guide of the Association for Civic Education and Dialogue, the website created by IDEE Association, the materials published by the Universities of Bucharest and Cluj Napoca and publications provided by Roma organizations.
Continuous training seminars were organized by Yad Vashem between 2013-2015 for history teachers from Romania. These activities are supported by the provisions laid down in the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Ministry of Education of Romania and Yad Vashem on 24 June 2014.
The Romanian Minister of Education met with Mr. Mario Silva, Chairman of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (September 25, 2013) and Rabbi Andrew Baker, special envoy of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (October 4, 2013). A Protocol was signed in October 2013, between the Ministry of National Education, the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, the Memorial Library and Art Collection of Second World War Society (New York) and the Association for Eastern Europe Studies for the organization of the national school competition “The Memory of the Holocaust” in the school year 2013-2014.
Remembrance in Romania is a sign of respect and solidarity with the suffering of those who experienced the Holocaust and all its horrors. At the same time, the commemoration of the Holocaust is a moment of reflection and serves as a permanent warning that any form of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia can mark the destiny of a nation. A democratic society must acknowledge its history, with the mistakes of the past, in order to never repeat them. Photo credit: Powerful Pictures @Powerful_Pics
The Romanian National Holocaust Remembrance Day is on October 9. The day is dedicated to the commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust and particularly to the reflection on Romania's role in it. The date was chosen based on its significance for the Romanian chapter of the Holocaust: it marks the beginning of the Jewish deportation from Romania to Transnistria in 1942. The Holocaust Remembrance Day in Romania was established by Government Decision no.672 of May 5, 2004, based on a proposal of the International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, led by Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel. The first National Holocaust Remembrance Day was held in 2004. In this way Romania declared its “commitment to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity's common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice”, which is in fact the basic ideal expressed in the declaration adopted by the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust.
9 October is marked every year by extraordinary parliamentary sessions with Presidential and Ministerial addresses, round tables, conferences, exhibitions, encounters with survivors, open lessons, national contests organized by schools, documentaries on radio and TV channels and articles published by the media.
Lately, more and more civil society organizations are becoming more involved, alongside the public institutions, in these events, such as Tikvah.
Representatives of the central and local authorities attend, too, the commemorative events organized by the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania in Bucharest and the local Jewish communities in various localities throughout the country. They lay wreaths at mass graves in Jewish cemeteries or at the synagogues, where there are monuments in memory of the Jews deported to the death camps.
The President of Romania, H.E. Klaus Werner Iohannis, participates at the national ceremony of wreath laying on the occasion of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, on 9 October 2015. The speech that he delivered can be found here.
Holocaust and Jewish History Museum in Bucharest
On 29 September 2016 the Mayor of Bucharest, Mrs. Gabriela Firea, announced that the General Council of the Romanian capital had approved the creation of a Holocaust and Jewish History Museum. The new museum will be administered by the National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania `Elie Wiesel`.
Photo credit: Romanian Presidential Administration
Inauguration of the Holocaust Memorial in Bucharest, October 8, 2009
The Romanian Holocaust Memorial, designed by Peter Jacobi, was inaugurated in Bucharest on 8 October 2009, one day in advance of the national Holocaust Remembrance Day. Details about the Memorial can be found here.
Academic research on the Holocaust in Romania is carried out at the Babes Bolyai University in Cluj Napoca (The Institute of Judaism and Jewish History Dr. Moshe Carmilly), the Goldstein Goren Center for Hebrew Studies and the Goldstein Goren Center for Israeli Studies at the University of Bucharest, the Alexander Safran Center for Jewish History and Hebrew Studies at the University of Iasi, and occasionally at the National School of Political and Administrative Studies and the National Defense College. Likewise, affiliated with the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Romania, it functions the Center for the Study of the History of the Jews in Romania.
Furthermore, in keeping with the recommendations of the Wiesel Commission, in 2004 the Romanian authorities set up the “Elie Wiesel” National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, whose main activities consist of (a) identifying, archiving, researching and publishing documents related to the Holocaust of Romanian Jews, (b) elaborating on and publishing in-depth studies and surveys on the topic, (c) implementing Holocaust-related educational programs and (d) promoting representative works on Holocaust history.
In 2015, Romania celebrated 10 years of the “Elie Wiesel” National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania
Current research topics include: forced labor in World War II Romania, the history of Romanian literary anti-Semitism, the Gulag-Holocaust competitive martyrology in Romania, antisemitic manifestations and Holocaust denial in Romanian mass-media, Jewish cultural resistance during World War II. The “Elie Wiesel ” National Institute also organizes monthly seminars, as well as an international annual conference on Holocaust-related topics and has recently launched a joint project with Yad Vashem for the registration of the Holocaust victims' names.
Interdisciplinary and transnational cooperation of the researchers is another issue of concern among the Romanian researchers and this was addressed during the International Conference on South-Eastern Holocaust, which took place in Bucharest, on May 25-26th, 2015.
Investigations finalized in 2014 the case of the mass grave discovered in Popricani, Iasi
On 27 November 2010, the Romanian authorities were officially notified by a group of researchers about the discovery of a mass grave in which 36 victims had been buried (among whom 12 children and 9 women). in the village of Popricani, county of Iasi, A case file was opened with the Prosecutor’s Office in Iasi, which then relinquished competence in favor of the Military Prosecutor’s Office in Iasi.
Investigations were then carried out by the Iasi Military Prosecutor’s Office in relation to the events that had occurred 70 years before. These included the hearing of witnesses from Popricani, archival research in the military archives and the archives administered by the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives, the administration of DNA evidence, as well as forensic and technical reports.
In February 2012, the Military Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Bucharest Court of Appeal took over the inquiry, as the investigations had established that it was a case of genocide.
The final verdict on these investigations was made in April 2014 by the aforementioned Military Prosecutor’s Office. It officially established the responsibility of the Romanian Army in the genocide committed in 1941, in the forest of Popricani, against 36 victims of Jewish ethnicity. After the final verdict was communicated, the “Elie Wiesel” National Institute organized a press conference in which researchers involved in this project were invited to speak about their work. (see photo)