Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of Romania's ultra nationalist "Romane Mare" movement: "I believe that antisemitism originates from envy towards Jews," Tudor's writings prove his point.

One of Romania's few remaining synagogues. 400,000 Jews were deported to Nazi death camps during the brief period when the ultra nationalist"Iron Guard" held power in World War II

"His Blood Upon Your Children"

By Daniela Humoreanu

Corneliu Vadim Tudor, who heads the extreme nationalist party, "Romane Mare" (Greater Romania) is one of Romania’s most charismatic political leaders. He is keen on projecting an image of generosity and closeness to the people He regularly provides hot meals for the poor—a practice that he calls "The Christian Supper". He is also known for driving his jeep around Bucharest and feeding stray dogs. But Tudor’s generosity doesn’t exstend to everyone. His magazine, also named "Romane Mare," regularly prints violent attacks against Romany Gypsies and Jews. Although Tudor’s publication is very popular and regularly sells out, the issue of anti-semitism is a sensitive one. Before World War II, Romania had a population of several hundred thousand Jews. More than 400,000 were deported to death camps under the regime of the Romania’s so-called "Iron Guard." Today, Romania’s Jewish population has been reduced to a few thousand.
Although Romania turned against the Nazis before the end of the war, the impression created by Romania’s brief anti-semitic frenzy lingered on. (Daniela Humoreanu, is deputy editor of Objectiv. She is also Jewish--Ed)

I interviewed Corneliu Vadim Tudor at his party headquarters in Bucharest. He is elegant and charming, and there is no question that he has a magnetic personality. In front of an audience of fellow party members, he smiled and told me that his opinions about Jews come from his study of the Bible. There are no less than four Bibles in his parents’ house. During our 50-minute conversation, Tudor’s attitude towards Jews seemed almost reasonable, although his glance kept gliding past me and he never looked me directly in the eyes. He told me that his parents taught him never to pick a fight with the Jews. "I believe that antisemitism originates from envy towards Jews," He explained. "There are people who are mentally blocked and cannot express themselves and because they sense that they are handicapped in comparison with the Jewish way of doing things, they simply hate their guts." But Tudor puts himself in a different category. "God has prevented me from hating Jews," he says. "I believe that all those who hate the people of Israel have been punished by God. Take Hitler for example. He had all the political, geostrategical, military and economical conditions to rule, maybe not for the 1000 years he expected the Reich to last but at least for 100 years. Well, he was in power for only 12 years and then he fell. Who could have punish him in such a way? Only God!"

In Corneliu Vadim Tudor’s opinion, Romanians never persecuted Jews. On the contrary, Tudor insists, Romanians protected and saved Jews. Of course, Tudor admits, there have been some "regretable pogroms" – not a Holocaust, exactly. "But you cannot take those out of context," Tudor contends. "Those who were punished, were punished for being bolshevic agents. Most of them were bolshevics. The Americans fried’ the Rosenbergs on the electric chair, Tudor maintains, because they were working for Moscow, not because they were Jews. But Tudor insists that he thinks that it is regretable that people have died, even though "there was no genocide, no Holocaust."
Tudor insists that he has been catalogued as an antisemite by his political enemies because they could find nothing else to pick on. But, he maintains, these are false images fostered by the false friends of Romania, inside and outside the country. Tudor is very convincing and I find myself almost agreeing with him. When the interview is over, I shake his hand with respect and admiration and, for the first time in the seven years that I have been working as a journalist, I address a Romanian party leader as "Mr president." I accept the three books he has autographed for me with genuine gratitude. I feel like a young peasant girl, proud to have touched a leader. I can hardly wait to dip into their pages. That evening I leaf through a book called "A Journal of the Revolution, from Christmas to Easter." A photograph of Tudor handing a book of his poetry to Pope John Paul II is on its cover. The Orthodox Romanian Patriarch, His BeatitudeTeoctist, stand next to the Pope. When I turn page 329, I get a shock. I quote Tudor’s words: "Everything that happens to me is because I dared to contradict the disolution politics of some of the Jews. I stuck my fist in Satan’s throat and now I am facing the consequences. Now I begin to understand why most Romanian and Foreign Politicians and intellectuals are paralysed with fear of the Jews, why when they are in public they never dare to say out loud what they really think, but they whisper it at home. Jews are like warts on a man’s body. Ideally, a man should learn to live with them. But when the warts grow so big that they darken the man’s eyesight, or prevent him from speaking or using his hands and legs and the man decides to have the warts removed, it’s too late because these cancer cells have by that time spread throughout his body, and in a short time the man will die. This is what happened to all those who confront Jews or do not comply when they demand this or that. With few exceptions, these brave man lose everything, even their lives."
Of course, the first question that comes to my mind is: "How does Corneliu Vadim Tudor feel about the defeat of Hitler, given the views he expressed to me earlier." I find the answer on page 392: "Today, 45 years since that dramatic change in our National Destiny, we see a remake: the Hungarians, the Gipsy and the Jews have gotten all the power."

Another perspective on Romanian antisemitism, comes from Senator George Pruteanu (also an ultra nationalist). As Pruteanu sees it, there may be some residual quantities of antisemitism in areas that still have old fashioned views, but the phenomenon is insignificant from a political or sociological point of view. Among the active working classes there is little antisemitic sentiment largely because there are not many Jews left in Romania. "Antisemitism," Pruteanu suggests, "would be pointless". Pruteanu attributes the charges that he is antisemitic to the same unfriendly circles that Tudor dismissed, only Pruteanu thinks that the criticisms charging antisemitism come mostly from abroad, and have a lot to do with Romania’s antisemtic reputation in the past.

The argument that antisemitism has vanished because because there aren’t many Jews left in Romania is also invoked by Tudor Ionescu. Ionescu is president of the Christian Forum New Right, an association that adheres to the values of the World War II-era Iron Guard, also known as the Legionaires. Ionescu contends that the Jewish problem ceased to exist once the majority of the remaining Jews migrated to Israel. "Now we have the gipsies," he says, "but the answer to that problem lies within that ethnic group. They need responsible leaders." Ionescu defines his forum as Christian Orthodox and says their actions are based on the Christian-Orthodox moral code. The average age is 23, and the group includes priests and students from the faculty of theology." To quote Ionescu, "the legionary movement is the political expression of the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC)."
Ionescu chooses his words carefully, and he is sensitive to journalistic traps. His adversity, he explains, is towards Israel, which he considers a terrorist state. He has nothing against Jews. "In order to exist, the state of Israel has capitalised on the suffering of the Holocaust," he contends. Israel was developped with money from Germany, from Austria, and from Romania, too… "It is money that we don’t have, but we are going to borrow and we are going to pay." There is no question that Jews were repressed, or that there were deportations, Ionescu says, but hundreds of thousands of Romanians were also deported. These things happened and and that fact cannot be contested. But it is immoral to consider one group’s suffering to be absolute and then to minimize the other’s." Romanians are not antisemitic, he says.

A young member of the Jewish Community in Cluj, who asked to remain anonymous, feels that deeply rooted stereotypes are largely responsible for residual Romanian anti-Semitism. "These stereotypes are quite old and they are embedded in the Christian Church, which continues them consciously or not," she says. "Add to this the notion that Jews ‘rule the world’ and that they have powerful positions in politics and the economy." As a sociologist she sees Romanian society’s transition and the precarious economy as augmenting dormant anti-Semitism. And there are also anti-Semitic books that deny the Holocaust and that are so well written that if you didn’t know history, you might actually believe. "Nearly my whole family died in Auschwitz," she says. "There was only one survivor in my household. If you didn’t know how things were, you might be tempted to believe that it didn’t happen. It is easier to accept negative information, something bad about someone than information that says something good." I ask her if the Jews have something in particular, something that might stir reaction to the others. "I don’t think there is anything different about the Jews," she says. "They are involved in all aspects of life in this country, be it cultural or scientific. There is nothing special about that. Among the members of the Jewish community in Romania there are many scientists and artists, but this is far from being a community that could take over the country."
She says she is not afraid to live in Romania and she has never been afraid to tell anyone that she is Jewish, but each case of desecrating a synagogue or profaning a Jewish graveyard, each swastika drawn childishly on the walls or on fences, gives older Jews’ heartache. They lived the years of persecution by the Legionaires during World War II. When they gather, they whisper: "Is Romania in 2003 creating the environment for a takeover by the extremists, the nationalists and the anti-Semites? The same question is present in the minds of the young who instead of growing up with children’s tales of fairies and charming princes, had the nightmare of their grandparents’ memories of the concentration camps in Transnistria, and of being forced to wear a Yellow star of David.

And the traditions of anti-Semitism date back further than that. In the nineteenth century, the Jewish community of Bucovina, which had grown peacefully along with the province, was subjected to the Calimachi Code of 1816, in Iasi, Moldavia, which made it illegal for Jews to buy land. In Bucharest, in the same year, another discriminatory law, the Caragea Code stated that only Christians could own land, slaves and property. The Statute of the Jew was reduced to that of "Non-Christian foreigner." The law made anti-Semitism legal in the Romanian Provinces, and the Jewish Guild became a "separate nation with no rights". It took the Constitution of 1923 to reestablish civil and political rights for the Jews. That lasted until the "Monitorul Oficial" of August 9, 1940, published arguments for the regulation of the legal status of Jews in Romania. The arguments where presented by the Minister of Justice, Ion Gruia, who announced that henceforth, Jews were not to have public functions, own rural estates, or participate in the political activity of the country. They could not become career officers, lawyers, public notaries, experts, merchants, retailers. They could not take Romanian names.
When the Legionnaires of the Iron Guard seized power, they introduced two additional laws: on October 5th 1940, a decree regarding the expropriation of Jewish rural properties was passed, and on November 16th, a decree stipulated the progressive dismissal of Jews working in shops and in private companies. In order to transform these decrees in to reality, and "office of assimilation" was created. When the Legionnaires seized power, thousands of Jews were killed. Marshal Ion Antonescu issued the law for urban real estate expropriation on March 27, 1941. Although life was not easy, the Jews from Bucovina did not migrate. In Suceava for example, out of the 10.575 inhabitants, 3,232 were Jews. 3000 more lived at the outskirts of the city. They were craftsmen and traders or workers in industrial factories. In 1941, an "official order" was issued stating that the Supreme Commander of the Army had decided to evict the entire Jewish population in Suceava – the districts of Burdujeni and Itcani. The Jewish population was invited to get ready to go. "Today, October 9th 1941," the order stated," the Jews will leave by train." In 1941, on October 9 and October 11, 3,638 Jews were evicted to Transnistria. The total number of Jews deported from Suceava was 7000.

People left in silence without knowing what awaited them. Soil Petrariu, the chief of the Jewish Community in Suceava, recalls: "I often awake from the nightmare of the pogroms of those days. I dream of the deportations to Transnistria. Who can calculate the value of the tears of a son who watched his mother dying in his arms? It happened to me in the summer of 1942, when I was deported to Transnistria. 22 Jews – men and women, young and old were gathered from many villages in Zaharesti and shot on Major Valeriu Carp’s orders. Then they were buried in a common grave. What was their crime? This happened in July 1940. In the fall of 1941 the Jews from Suceava were deported from Transnistria and only 2000 of them came back. What was their crime? The rest died of hunger, froze to death or just passed away because of the terrible conditions they were forced to live."

Joger Kalman, was another victim of those terrible times. When he was 6 he was deported from Campulung Moldovenesc to Transnistria, together with his mother and grandmother. The rest of his family was living in Ardeal. His sister Lucy, his father Jacob and his grandparents, all the other relatives were deported to Auschwitz. The only one who returned was his father’s brother. "Those were the times," he recalls. "Whoever was helping us was in fact risking his own life". This is the only comment that Joger Kalman would make. Says Soil Petrariu,"Many Jews owe their lives to people with different ethnic backgrounds and religions. We do not blame the Romanians or the others who were not Jews in Suceava. We have lived together in peace and harmony. We forgive the few that have committed atrocities in the years of the Holocaust. But this doesn’t mean we are allowed to forget. One cannot forget something like this. The pain is too intense."
Today in Suceava there are 114 Jews left. 20 of them are the survivors of the deportations. All the others have lost brothers and sisters, parents and relatives to the hell of the pogrom. They avoid blaming anyone for what happened, but they remember every detail. They can tell you precisely, every day and hour of the nightmare of those years. The last case of a synagogue desecration in Falticeni, Suceava, took place in 2001 and shook the local Jewish community. The swastikas and the anti-Semitic inscriptions scrawled in black on the inner walls of the synagogue worried many Jews who still remember the years of the pogroms.

A young priest from Saint Basil Church in Bucharest indicates that at least for some of the priests in the Orthodox Church, the old ideas die hard. The young priest explains that the legionnaires used the Orthodox dogma – The Iron Guard was also called the Legion of Michael, the Archangel – and many priests were pleased by that. As for the Jews, the priest considers that by crucifying Jesus, the people of Israel condemned themselves: "His blood upon our heads and upon our children" he quotes from the Scriptures. "The general conclusion," he says, "is that they are paying for their sins even now, after 2000 years. Compared to other peoples, look how much they have suffered and they still are. They have lost spiritual supremacy by not receiving Christ, but they have gained financial supremacy. They rule the world. The antichrist will be born out of a Jewish immoral woman and he will be crowned in a great temple in Jerusalem. They have already brought the granite stones for this temple from America," the young priest says. "This temple will be greater than Solomon’s, and in this temple they will crown the Antichrist. The Jews believe that he will be their Messiah. He will give the impression that he wants to raise the Jewish people against the other peoples and the Jews will believe him. He will reign for three and a half years and many bad things will happen. People will cry for help and the Antichrist will seem to be the right person to help them. And then the End of the World will come."

The youthful priest believes that the only true religion is Orthodox Christianity, and that both Jews and Muslims as well as Protestants "conspire against "Orthodox Christianity." The unification of the Catholic and the Orthodox Church will be a powerful strike against Muslims." The priest says that the Church is not anti-Semitic, but tolerant. "We don’t hate anybody. Our Church looks with love upon all men on Earth, because Christ is for everyone. He came for our Redemption. We pray for everybody, including Jews, but we do not use the name of their ethnic group because they don’t have the same belief as we do. But we pray that they all come to our Christ’s Church. Some of them have received Christ and have become Christians. Those who haven’t yet, will become Christians too. Before the end of the world, Elijah and Enoch, the prophets, will make Jesus known to the Jews. Christ has given us the Path: the one true religion: Orthodox Christianity." The priest who said these words is 40 years old and he has been a minister for 13 years.
His message reaches hundreds of believers every Sunday. If enough others share his beliefs, the Jewish survivors of Sucaeva may have reason to be concerned.
(Dana Humoreanu)

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