Transilvania lovita de tren

Precum o armata care practica exercitii de razboi, presa din Anglia nu rezista tentatiei de a publica zilnic ceva negativ despre romani, bulgari si est europeni.

Ziare precum Daily Mail , The Sun, Daily Express si deseori Daily Telegraph, au pornit o campanie anti-romani extrema. In unele zile, o stire ca un roman a furat ceva, devine prima pagina chiar daca sunt stiri mult mai importante.

Romanii o cauta cu lumanarea

Recent TV3 a difuzat o colinda de Craciun in care evreii devin lemne de foc. Se presupune ca e o colinda compusa in perioada interbelica (intervalul de 21 de ani intre cele doua razboaie mondiale,1918-1939).

Folosind cuvinte vechi din Transilvania, greu de inteles, TVR3 a crezut ca difuzeaza o colinda si nu un cantec care incita la ura.

Mai greu de inteles este ca o institutie publica ca TVR Romania sa faca asemenea greseli.

Romanian Jews’ Twist of Fate

Romania’s decision to send a high level representative to Sharon’s funeral has equal historical resonance to the Czech representation, but with a different message. Romania’s historic relationship with the Jews is complicated. Romania has a long tradition of virulent anti-Semitism, yet a large Jewish population resided there and for a time flourished.

Romanians suffered greatly in World War I. In the turmoil that followed, native fascist groups emerged and gave full vent to the anti-Jewish sentiments common among elements of the population.

With the rise of National Socialism in Germany, these fascist groups gained traction. In 1940, when General Ion Antonescu assumed power, he brought the most significant fascist group, the Iron Guard into the government. In January, 1941, Iron Guard legionaires carried out a horrific pogrom in Bucharest slaughtering 125 Jews, including children. Fearing the stability of the state was being undermined, Antonescu violently suppressed the Iron Guard. But the campaign against the Jews continued. In July, a more devastating pogrom in Iasi took the lives of up to 15,000 Jews.

In 1941, Romania signed on as a full partner with Nazi Germany, and participated in the attack on the Soviet Union. In the territory overrun by Romanian troops, Jews were hunted, rounded up and either massacred or allowed to perish in camps lacking food or shelter. In the death camps of Transnistria and Bessarabia more than 300,000 Jews perished. In Odessa, in response to the assassination of a Romanian general, the Romanian army went on a rampage and slaughtered every remaining Jew they could find in the city.

But, in a twist of fate, the situation for the Jews of Old Romania (the traditional borders of Romania that exclude annexed territories of Northern Transylvania and Bessarabia) soon improved. The pogroms of 1941 represented the apogee of anti-Jewish violence in Old Romania. For complex reasons, for the remainder of the war the Antonescu government protected the Jews of Old Rumania, even as they continued to massacre Jews in captured territories.

As a result the Jews of Old Romania survived in greater numbers than anywhere else where Nazi influence prevailed. Ironically, this was due to the fact that the Romanian government, as a voluntary participant in Germany’s war of aggression against the Soviet Union, did not elicit direct German control. The fate of the Jews residing in Romania was left in the hands of the Romanian authorities, who became increasingly uncertain of German victory and worried about their own fate.

The battle of Stalingrad proved to be a turning point. The Soviet counter-offensive in November 1942 that eventually encircled and destroyed the German Sixth Army, first punched through and obliterated two Romanian armies. The magnitude of Romanian losses, more than 100,000 troops killed or missing in just a couple of weeks, jolted Romanian political leaders and caused them to reconsider their unqualified support for the Nazi regime and its policies. For the remainder of the war, the Romanian government played a devious middle game, maintaining its alliance with Nazi Germany, but putting out feelers to the West and greased by bribes, extending some protection to Jews there.

On June 21, 1944, the Soviet Union launched the largest offensive of the war, Operation Bagration, directed at Germany’s most powerful army concentration. In just over three weeks of intense combat, nearly half a million German troops perished or disappeared into Soviet prison camps. As the Germans fell back and attempted to re-form their lines, the Soviet forces crossed into eastern Europe and in late August, invaded Romania. In a week, the Romanian army capitulated, switched sides and began attacking the retreating Germans. For the surviving Jews of Romania, the nightmare was over.

After the war ended, in Eastern Europe, within the borders of Romania remained the largest number of Jews. 428,312 survivors were registered in 1946. Over the next few years, most immigrated to Israel, so that Romanian Jewry contributed the single largest flow of immigrants to the nascent state of Israel from 1948-1950.

As a result of this extensive Jewish emigration from Romania to Israel, the Romanian government, both under Communist rule and since, maintained a relationship with Israel. During the Cold War, Romania was the only East-bloc nation to not break off relations with the State of Israel. It served as a link between Israel and the rest of the East-bloc. In the 1980s, the hard-line Communist regime even initiated trade relations with the Jewish state.

Since the fall of the Communist regime in Romania, relations between the two countries have grown closer. A crash in 2010 of an Israeli helicopter revealed the extent of this cooperation. The Romanian government was allowing the Israeli air force to train in Romania.

But twenty five years after the fall of Communism, Romania remains an economically struggling country. As Israel has prospered, a flow of Romanians (non-Jews) have sought work in Israel. Several were victims of Palestinian terrorism during the Second Intifada.

The establishment of the Jewish state fundamentally transformed the historic relationship of Romania and Romanians with the Jews. Although Jews were prominent in the professions and as successful merchants, this did not endear them to the Romanian people. Jews were viewed with suspicion, and subject to the violent whims of turbulent Romanian society. But with the establishment of Israel, a more normal relationship has developed between two sovereign peoples based on respect and shared interests. One might even posit, as Herzl had envisioned.

The unique historical relationships the Jewish people and the State of Israel has with the Czech republic and the Republic of Romania was reflected in the decisions by these two eastern European states to send high level representations to the funeral of Ariel Sharon. Israelis and friends of Israel should be reminded that the present and future are shaped by history and the funeral of a controversial, but patriotic figure is a good time to take notes.

Katerina Capkova, p. 34, “Czech, Germans, Jews: National identity and the Jews of Bohemia”, published by Berghahn books, 2005