The Silent Holocaust: Romania and Its Jews

The Silent Holocaust: Romania and Its Jews

The Silent Holocaust: Romania and Its Jews

The Silent Holocaust: Romania and Its Jews


Appearing as they do in countless books and films, symbols of hatred such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, and the Warsaw and Vilna ghettos penetrate our consciousness, memory, and history. However, in the case of Romania, our knowledge is scant. In 1939, the Jewish population of Romania exceeded 750,000: the third largest concentration of Jews in all of Europe. By 1944, some 400,000 had disappeared. Another 150,000 Ukrainian Jews died at the hands of Romanian soldiers. In the quest for a "final solution" Romania proved to be Hitler's most enthusiastic ally. Butnaru provides the first English-language account of the war against Romania's Jewish population.


The writer who has agreed to preface this disturbing reminder is a son of the Jewish people. He was horn in Romania. The Carpathian mountains filled my childhood with fear and excitement; in their shadow I dreamed of adventure. Their presence can still be felt in most of my work. Though Yiddish was my mother tongue and "Lashon kodesh" the language of my prayers, Romanian was the vehicle I used to penetrate the outside world. I sang its songs, tried to memorize its grammar and saw in its vocabulary, as in all others, an enchanted window to culture and civilization.

Thus it is with a true sense of nostalgic melancholy that I look back at my childhood in Romania. Naturally, it used to be disrupted by occasional incidents. Jewish children were not spared by antisemites. The word "Zhidan" (Kike)--that sounded like a curse--was not limited to the fanatic mobs; it was shouted in the street, whispered in the train, heard in the street, in city-parks, in government offices and in school courtyards, too. Christian children followed the example of their elders and insulted and attacked Jewish children. And I wasn't even surprised. I felt: that's how things are, that's how they have been for centuries; why should they stop now.

They didn't. Still, Jews fared better in Romania than in what later became Hungary. Hungary's Fascist government handed over its Jews to Eichmann; Romania's didn't. But it did send many of them to Transnistria where they lived and died in terror and isolation.

How can a Jew, a Romanian-born Jew think of that period and not feel overcome by sadness?

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