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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .


The Destruction of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews During the Antonescu Era
Edited by Randoph L. Braham

(New York: Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies/City University of New York, 1997). Distributed by Columbia University Press.
413pp. Hb.: 48.00; ISBN 0-88033-380-4.



As the title indicates, The Destruction of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews During the Antonescu Era (ed. Randoph L. Braham) is firstly about the tragedy that befell some 420,000 Jews living on Romanian soil in 1939 during the reign of the Legionary State (1940-1944). It also tells the story of the murder of tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews in areas under Romanian occupation from the fall of 1941 to the spring of 1944.

An outgrowth of a 1996 international scholars conference held in Washington, D.C., this collection of essays is, on another level, about the re-surfacing of the demons of the past in post-communist Eastern Europe. Divided into four sections ("Setting the Stage," "The Drive Against the Jews", "The Foreign Factor "and "Notes and History Cleansing"), the book necessarily deals with two of these- extreme nationalism and antisemitism.

Namely, in Romania they have been inextricably intertwined with the campaign to rehabilitate the country wartime pro-Nazi dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu. Part of this process has been the construction of the myth that he and his colleagues in the Legionary state leadership actually played a key role in saving its own and foreign Jews who sought refuge on its territory from destruction.

From the start, however, it is made clear that nothing could be farther from the truth. At every stage of its development Antonescu was the principal actor in framing and implementing wartime persecution of the Jews. Take for example Lya Benjamin's essay, " Anti-Semitism as Reflected in the Records of the Council of Ministers, 1940-1944: An Analytical Overview." At a Cabinet Council meeting of November 13, 1941 on the infamous deportation of the Jews of the Bukovina and Bessarabia to the Transnistria region between the Bug and Dniester Rivers, she cites his, having remarked: "The Jews must not be spared... Don't think they will not take revenge when given the opportunity. But, in order to leave no one to take revenge, I shall finish them first" (Braham, p.11). No less compelling are the accounts of the Marshal's involvement in the Jassy Massacre of June 29-30, 1941 by Radu Florian or the 1941-42 liquidation of the Kishinev ghetto by Paul A. Shapiro.

Apart from the repetition and sometime lack in continuity one often encounters in conference volumes, Randolph Braham of the City University of New York has once again helped advance our knowledge of the role of Germany's allies in the destruction of European Jewry. One can only hope that his authors' findings will make their way back to Romania and lend support to the courageous efforts of those scholars and writers who are endeavoring to set their country's historical record straight.


Michael A. Riff, Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies at Ramapo College - New Jersey



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