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Head of 'Elie Wiesel' Institute: No one can guarantee anti-Semitism won't become again manifest in Romania

alexandru florian

No one can guarantee that anti-Semitism won't become manifest again in Romania, director of the "Elie Wiesel" Institute, Alexandru Florian, said at an event organised on Tuesday in remembrance of the January 21 - 23, 1941 pogrom in Bucharest.

With regard to anti-Semitism in Romania, Florian said that "there are no violent manifestations," but cautioned that "we must not rejoice (...), as no one can guarantee that anti-Semitism won't become manifest in Romania again."

Alexandru Florian cited research works showing that in Romania there is a latent anti-Semitism, which shows especially in communication, in hate messages and that a certain segment of the population embraces such a message.

He went on to say that, according to a recent survey conducted by the 'Elie Wiesel' Institute, only 36 percent of the Romanian citizens acknowledge the existence of the Holocaust in Romania. Moreover, when national responsibility for these atrocities was addressed, "the Romanian citizens still point the finger at Hitler and Nazi Germany."

"There is still room for much more, for carrying out educational policies to educate both the younger generation (....), but also Romania's civil servants. Neither the public institutions, nor the local administration, the prevention institutions, the prosecutors' offices or the police respond in an appropriate way when they have to enforce the legislation regarding the denial of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism in Romania or the cult of war criminals. We need a generation of civil servants who assume history," added Florian.

The remembrance event took place at the Great Synagogue in Bucharest and brought together Holocaust survivors, leaders of the Jewish community in Romania and ambassadors. Tribute was paid to the victims of the pogrom at the outdoor monument near the synagogue, then inside.

Speaking in front of the Great Synagogue, the president of the Jewish Community of Bucharest, Paul Schwartz, recalled that this had been the site of the Bucharest pogrom, an area within a one-kilometer radius from the synagogue, and that he is a living witness of history.

In his turn, the president of the Federation of the Romanian Jewish Communities, Aurel Vainer, said that the people who were inside the Great Synagogue when the violence broke out in January 1941 were saved by a "deep-to-the-marrow Christian cleaning lady" who implored the legionary terrorists who had come to destroy and kill those present in the synagogue to spare their lives. "She succeeded through the power of faith," Vainer said.

Iancu Tucherman, a survivor of the Iasi pogrom, spoke about the future and confessed that while the German ambassador in the '40s had contributed to his deportation, the present-day German ambassador in Bucharest attended his birthday celebration.

"One ambassador paved my way to death, and another ambassador paves the way towards understanding among people," he emphasized.

US ambassador in Bucharest Adrian Zuckerman said that the future Holocaust Museum "will have a strong impact on future generations and will provide them the right tools for understanding the past."

"We will help Romania become a European and global leader in arts, science and industry and reiterate its leading role as regards religious freedom and human rights. We cannot go back, we must only go forward," said the American diplomat.

Russian ambassador in Bucharest, Valery Kuzmin, brought to mind that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the "victory of the anti-Hitler coalition". "We must treat the memory of this event with utmost respect," he said.

The deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Israel in Bucharest, Tania Berg-Rafaeli, spoke about everyone's responsibility in fighting intolerance.

In the same context, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the head of the Romanian delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Victor Micula, spoke about the world after the Second World War.

A pogrom broke out during the January 1941 Legionnaires' rebellion, in which 120 Jews were killed. After the legionnaires were removed from power, the anti-Semitic policy continued even more intensely, the 'Elie Wiesel' Institute shows. During the rebellion, the legionnaires in Bucharest arrested several thousand Jews who were taken from their homes, from synagogues, Jewish institutions and from the street, were investigated, mistreated and tortured. 90 of the Jews subjected to torture were loaded in trucks, taken to the Jilava forest, stripped naked and shot in the head. A gang of legionnaires took 15 Jews from the torture center of the Capital's Police Prefecture to the slaughterhouse and shot them in the back of the head. Several Jewish bodies were hung in the slaughterhouse by the hooks used for cattle, the cited source said.

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