The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Holocaust

The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Holocaust

The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Holocaust

The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Holocaust

Synopsis

In 1930, about 750,000 Jews called Romania home. At the end of World War II, approximately half of them survived. Only recently, after the fall of Communism, have details of the history of the Holocaust in Romania come to light. Ion Popa explores this history by scrutinizing the role of the Romanian Orthodox Church from 1938 to the present day. Popa unveils and questions whitewashing myths that concealed the Church's role in supporting official antisemitic policies of the Romanian government. He analyzes the Church's relationship with the Jewish community in Romania and Judaism in general, as well as with the state of Israel, and discusses the extent to which the Church recognizes its part in the persecution and destruction of Romanian Jews. Popa's highly original analysis illuminates how the Church responded to accusations regarding its involvement in the Holocaust, the part it played in buttressing the wall of Holocaust denial, and how Holocaust memory has been shaped in Romania today.

Excerpt

In the summer of 2010, a scandal arose when the Romanian Central Bank decided to issue five special coins celebrating the five patriarchs of the Romanian Orthodox Church. the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), in Washington, dc, and the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania (Institutul Naţional pentru Studierea Holocaustului din România, Elie Wiesel— INSHREW), in Bucharest, protested the decision because it meant commemorating Patriarch Miron Cristea, whose term as prime minister of Romania (1938–1939) “marked the opening of a systematic campaign of anti- Semitic persecution by successive Romanian governments that resulted in the devastation of the Romanian Jewish community during the Holocaust.” Despite this criticism, the National Bank of Romania (NBR) went ahead and issued the coins. This scandal came six years after the Romanian government publicly acknowledged the Romanian involvement in the Holocaust, and it was one of the very few instances in which the Romanian Orthodox Church was publicly condemned for its anti- Semitism and, indirectly, for its role in the final destruction of Romanian Jewry.

In order to avoid a serious analysis of its actions during the Holocaust, starting in 1990 the Church adapted its public language to suit various audiences. in its relations with the Jewish community, Holocaust- related organizations, and the state of Israel, it promoted a narrative that denied it ever behaved negatively toward Jews. At the same time it endorsed rightwing anti- Semites and encouraged Orthodox nationalism, reminiscent of . . .

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