Vladimir Solonari. 2010. Purifying the Nation: Population Exchange and Ethnic Cleansing in Nazi-Allied Romania

Article excerpt

Vladimir Solonari. 2010. Purifying the Nation: Population Exchange and Ethnic Cleansing in Nazi-Allied Romania. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009. Hardcover, 451 pp. ISBN 0801894085. CDN$75.00.

In September 1940, Romanian King Carol II abdicated his throne and handed power over to Marshal Ion Antonescu, who pursued policies that Antonescu hoped would lead to an "ethnically pure" Romania. As Romania entered the war against Russia alongside the Nazis in 1940, the provinces of Bukovina and Bessarbia became the "proving ground" for the ethnic cleansing that Antonescu hoped to effect within all of Romania at some opportune moment following the war. Romania's part in the Holocaust largely played out here, with Romanian soldiers working alongside Nazi death squads to murder thousands of Jews and deport thousands more.

In Purifying the Nation, an extensive study of Romania's role in the Holocaust, historian Vladimir Solonari argues that Romania was not a Nazi puppet state pressured into conducting the mass murder and deportation of its Jews, but instead a partner that pursued such policies of its own accord. Moreover, persecution of ethnic minorities (especially Jews) was not an unpopular policy of the Antonescu regime; it was supported by the majority of the Romanian intelligentsia, who also supported the alliance with Hitler. Additionally, the general populace preferred to remain ignorant of what was happening to the Jews.

By providing a brief history of Romania and Romanian nationalism from before the First World War into the inter-war period, Solonari shows how racism and the idea of an "ethnically pure" Romania existed before the Nazis rose to power in Germany. Solonari provides portraits of Romanian eugenicists such as Iuliu Moldovan and his disciples. Moldovan and his students admired the Nazis, but they did not subscribe part and parcel to Nazi racial ideology because Romanians believed they were descended from Roman legionaries and Dacian women and were thus a "mixed" race. Since "racial purity" was of chief importance in Nazi doctrine, the Romanian eugenicists modified it to serve their own agenda. Ovidiu Comsia, a Moldovan disciple and member of the nationalist Iron Guard, replaced the Nazi "race" idea with the Romanian concept of neam, or "ethnicity"; hence the Antonescu regime's desire to create a country composed entirely of"ethnically pure" Romanians. Solonari also provides a brief history of the Romanian army's pre-existing anti-Semitism and how its leaders rationalized the mass killings. …


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