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.
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
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
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.
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