The Dynamics of Mass Murder.
Grasping the Twisted Decision-Making Process behind the Romanian Holocaust

[The University of Bucharest]

During the Second World War, the Romanian government turned ethnic cleansing into a top priority. Mass killing, ghettoization, and brutal deportations were accepted as effective means to achieve ultra-nationalistic and redemptive ends. My paper aims to delineate the reasons and motivations that might facilitate the understanding of the twisted decision-making process, and the strategic logic of the perpetrators. Describing how as to understand what and why it happened, I will focus on the goals centered process and it’s dynamic, aiming to pinpoint whose role is pivotal in the process that generated the Romanian Holocaust, and what is deliberate in the anti-Jewish policy of the Antonescu government.

Keywords: Holocaust; ethnic cleansing; anti-Semitism; deportation; mass-murder


With the early ‘flush of victory’ against USSR, and the cover provided by Hitler’s ‘war of annihilation’ in the East, Ion Antonescu and his regime turned ethnic cleansing into a top priority policy1. Mesmerized by the promise of a Jew free Romania, with other ethnic and religious minorities targeted as well, the government accepted mass killing, ghettoization, and brutal deportations as effective means to achieve ultra-nationalistic and ‘redemptive’ ends. However, with late 1942 and the ‘pallor of defeat’, at a time the Nazi continent wide Holocaust was in full swing, Bucharest decided to reject the International Final Solution proposed by Berlin. Plans to deport the Romanian Jews to Poland were unexpectedly abandoned, and further evacuations to Transnistria halted. All of a sudden, Romanian decision makers (re)turned to emigration, a long-abandoned by that time Nazi policy, presenting it as the only acceptable solution to the Jewish Question2. No secret was made out of their intention to continue the ethnic cleansing operations by more civilized means, and with more profitable ends: ransoming Jews, containing German protests, signaling the allies that Romania undertook a different path3. The shift came too late, at a time Romania stood on the verge of genocide.

My chief interest with this paper is to delineate reasons and motivations that might facilitate the understanding of the twisted and paradoxical decision-making process, and the strategic logic of the Romanian perpetrators. Thus, I will focus on the goals centered process and it’s dynamic, often contradictory, mixing views, local conditions, zealous initiatives from below, and vested (self) interests that had to be protected from others4. Describing how as to understand what and why it happened, I will try to pinpoint whose role is pivotal in the process that generated the Romanian Holocaust, and what is deliberate in the anti-Jewish policy of the Antonescu government.

The long lasting anti-Semitic tradition and hate5 and ethnic-cleansing as an ideological core constituency will help me point out that Antonescu’s regime was not simply a puppet, acting on external pressure. The Nazi’s offered some incentives, and to some extend instigated the crime and backed the Romanians as agents of the mass-murder campaign. However the Romanian ‘willing executioners’ followed their own path, developed and later implemented their own project, in most respects independently from the Nazi one. The German presence and overwhelming political and military role favored and facilitated the Romanian actions who, on their turn, gave a new impulse to the German policies6.

My hypothesis is that the initial collaboration was made possible by a minimal consensus: Jews would have to disappear. What was not clear, degenerating into a clash of visions, policies, and actions was: where?, when?, and how?; they will disappear. To the Romanians, and to the Germans, ethnic cleansing was a common vision and goal. All means were render acceptable, from legislation to emigration, ghettos, terror, mass murder and evacuation to the East. The common set of policies which made the German-Romanian cooperation possible included the effort to secure and pacify the conquered territories, the destruction of bolshevism, and the cleansing of the land by means of evacuation to a destination yet to be determined in the East with the conclusion of the war. Nazi instigation, supervision, and back-up were minimal at the beginning, and became increasingly intrusive only when they had to protect their priorities from the Romanians who, as long as the abstract idea of an exit, meaning reservation for the deportees, was provided, stood in line. When the Nazis moved from cleansing to genocide, without announcing their partners, signs of Romanian uneasiness appeared. It took a long time, and a serie of genocidal acts for the Romanians to understand what is going on. Pushing east, against the wall of Nazi colonies in Ukraine, the Romanians generated a jammed traffic with only one way out. The Nazis had a solution at hand to the too many problems generated by the Romanians: deporta,tion of Romanian Jews to Poland, and death.

With late 1941, the impression left by the Romanian speeded killings and deportations was that all barriers have been removed, with the Antonescu government anxious to settle the Jewish Question in a matter of months, and not with the victorious conclusion of war against USSR, as it was initially envisioned and (most probably) discussed in Berlin7. With Odessa, one of the greatest massacres in the entire Holocaust, Romanian mass killings turned genocidal8, reaching a pick with Golta and Berezovka only to slow down thereafter. Moreover, the perspective changed dramatically once the Romanian government turned to the Jews of Regat, Transylvania and Banat.

Long before the war on USSR unfolded, the Jewish minority, an ‘enemy population’ to the mind of right wing Romanian authoritarians and fascists, had to be watched, controlled, deprived of civil and political rights and propriety, and whenever possible forced into emigration or simply thrown over the borders of Romania. By 1940, overseas emigration, as well as a territorial solution, the mass resettlement of Jews in a non European land, were not new, nor Nazi inspired solutions to those that gradually turned Romanian anti-Semitism into a component of the nation’s morphology9.

From 1938 to 1940, with the collapse of the democratic system, Romania introduced several, progressively more severe anti-Semitic legislations10. The worst was yet to come with September 1940, and the advent in power of an authoritarian and nationalistic general, Ion Antonescu, backed by the fascist Iron Guard11. Within months, the Romanian government came to the conclusion that, one way or another, the Jewish Question has to be solved12. The ideal „Romania for the Romanians” was reiterated, and so was „ethnic purification”13. The cleansing policy, which had to be progressive and methodical,14 not to exceed confiscation of Jewish rural proprieties, concentration in urban areas, emigration whenever possible15, gradually brought the Romanian state next to Nazi Germany and paved the way to the Holocaust, turning Romania by 1941 into a country of pogroms, mass killings, ghettos, and brutal deportations16.

With the attack on USSR Antonescu seized the opportunity to articulate a strong rationale for his policy behind the display of a vengeful, bellicose, and xenophobic ideology. The fact that he knew before, with March, about the Nazi plan to invade USSR, as well as, with June, of the Nazi intention to exterminate the political commissars and Soviet Jews in Aktionen, is to strength the argument. The Romanians were made aware on the future developments of the cleansing operations, and the method: sparking pogroms, mass shouting on the spot of suspected elements, concentration of Jews in rural area to urban zones, finally evacuation to the East, to forced labor camps and/or the Polar wastes of Russia. The outline was clear, the goal also. Jews were to disappear. When, where, and how were details to be worked out in time by the underlings. The problem for the Romanians was the scarce time to prepare the operations and the absence of previous experience of how to conduct it systematically. The consequences were terrible, turning the brutal evacuations into an invitation to genocide17.

Before the war started, Jews from Moldavian villages were deported to towns and camps in South Romania18. The police operation to remove the Jews away from the front line was designed to secure the area and instigate civilians and the military altogether19. Rampant anti-Semitism, part of the final preparations for the invasion of USSR was to facilitate ethnic cleansing by means of deportation and mass killing. The entire ”Judeo-Bolshevik population” was to be evacuated, and all Jewish males were considered suspects, an thus subjected to summary investigations and execution by shooting20. The Iasi pogrom was the last test and first operation of the cleansing campaign, with the initiative and coordination for the mass slaughter going to the Romanians. The toll of death exceeded 10,000 victims, with the ”shame of 1940 washed in the blood of the Jewish plague”21. On July 4, 1941 Ion Antonescu disapproved the methods, the violence, the massacres and lootings by civilians and soldiers, but not the ends. From that moment all initiatives to cleanse Romania of Jews were to rest with the government22. Deportation, ghettoization, extermination were officially turned into state organized and sponsored policy23. Days latter, on July 8, Mihai Antonescu did the same, informing his ministers that ethnic cleansing became a state matter and governmental venture: ”You must be merciless […] I do not know when, after how many centuries, the Romanian nation will again enjoy this total freedom of action, with the possibility for ethnic purification and national revision. This is the hour when we are masters on our territory. Let it be used! […] If needed be, shoot with machine guns, and I say that there is no law”. In one sentence both the impunity of law and thought were lifted, with the official further suggesting that initiatives and zeal from the underlings are welcomed24. From that moment the balance of power shifted from center to the periphery.

The Romanian troops entering in Bessarabia and Bukovina and acting as an Iron Broom, cleansing villages and towns by massacres, caused 25.000 deaths in less than one month. Taking advantage of the cover provided by war, the government, the army and police high command made no attempt to put an end to the killings. Violence against the Jewish enemy population was, to them, righteous and meant to further strength the combat spirit of an army fighting not against civilians but soviet agents and partisans. The strategy was simple and efficient: first offer satisfaction to the mob and vengeful army, allowing them to kill and loot, second deport the survivors to the Dniester banks, crossing them into Ukraine, with the Germans to evacuate them further East.

Moving to war, the much too optimistic and opportunistic Romanian government also moved to ethnic cleansing, killing and pushing tens of thousand of Jews to the Dniester25, against a wall made of German army and police units, and with Antonescu protesting that the German administration in Ukraine is sending them back, thus working against the principles announced by the Führer in early meetings26. At first glance the Romanian cleansing pattern looks incoherent with its criminal orders from above, violent impulses from below, and the climate of unmitigated violence generated by the attack on USSR, which released most of the destructive energies. Yet, it is not that different from the situation on the German front, where it was often for the Wehrmacht, and not the SS, nor the order police, to give the first blows27. Moreover, the entire operation was meant not simply to solve the Jewish question, but part of a more general plan of ethnic resettlement, Romanianization, and homogenization28. The rest has to do with convenience, fear, revenge, dispossession, and is part of a more general story of political use of violence that often ends in purification and destruction of entire groups.

Before the invasion in USSR, the Romanians elaborated a plan based on the concept of cleansing the ground of communists, saboteurs, and Slavic elements (Ukrainian intelligentsia) by police methods29. Jews were also to be identified and removed, first communist agents and sympathizers. Bessarabia and Bukovina were to be systematically cleansed by incited pogroms, police mass shooting, deportations and ghettoization. What no one predicted in Bucharest, yet constantly instigated, was the uncontrolled escalation of killings in the field30. Practical rationalization was rapidly downplayed by ideological bias, and looting. To the unchecked ordinary men systematic annihilation was not logistically difficult, morally questionable, and politically dangerous. Moving too far, too quickly, eroding discipline and taboos to the last, Romanian units were part of the mass murder in a „tacit division of labor” with the Nazis31. Pogroms were incited in rural areas, backed by the idea of collective defense, ethnic and political cleansing, bitter anti-Semitism, revenge, and plunder. Some army commanders took the initiative in the absence of specific orders from above, and moved to mass-murder once they realized that no specific preparations are needed in advance, with the killing squads being often ad-hoc selected and assembled. Local collaborators were also recruited32. Unlike the army, the gendarmes had a more precise mission, and benefited from a better logistic of mass murder. Often, the units were made up of men that served in the two provinces before 1940, were more disciplined killers, and knew better who the local anti-Semites were33. Yet, even in their case, the pattern was not uniform, depending a lot on initiative, interpretation of imprecise orders, and the level of enthusiasm. The presence, in several instances, of Einsatzgruppen D members also mattered, turning the killings more systematic and focused, and setting an example of increasingly harsher treatment of Jews that exceeded the initial logic of the commissar order, and moved towards a racial approach34

The green light for the Romanian massive deportation of Jews to the East came with October, as planned; the second wave of deportation was better organized as to make looting more profitable for the state, but no less brutal, with Antonescu admitting it latter when saying to his cabinet „only I know how many of them died on route”35. By that time, with late August, the Romanians also had at hand a territory where to take their Jews, Transnistria. Meanwhile, Antonescu, worried by the initial massacres that exceeded in number and brutality the original plan, accepted the creation of temporary ghettos and transit camps in Bessarabia. What he continued to refuse to understand was the fact that for the Germans Transnistria was but Romania’s dumping ground36. Consequently, he accepted to turn the region into a huge concentration camp, yet only in preparation for further expulsion to the East. As he put it at the time, the Jewish question was to be solved soon, with the remaining 40,000 Bessarabian and Bukovinian Jews to be tossed over the Dniester, and when possible beyond the Urals37.

By late 1941, the Romanian ethnic cleansing operations in Bessarabia and North Bukovina were rapidly coming to an end38. The Romanians, speeding the deportations from the very beginning of the campaign, forcing the Dniester and than the Bug, did not realized that the Germans were not just unable and unprepared to cope with their expediency, but also shifted to a more radical solution. Operating unsystematically, disregarding protests and persuasions from their allies to slow down the actions39, the Romanian government aimed to cleanse its eastern territories in an overnight process. Room had to be made, the „Bolshevik” Jews expelled, as other undesirables were staying in line, the Jews of South Transylvania, Banat, and Regat, the Roma, some religious minorities, and so on. Having Transnistria, a poisonous gift for Romania’s participation in the war, the government in Bucharest was still hoping to expel the Jews to Russia. In August 1941 Mihai Antonescu informed the Romanian cabinet on his previous discussions with several Nazi officials concerning the implementation of an „international solution” to the Jewish Question, meaning evacuation to the East. Up to December 1941 Ion Antonescu continued to believe that the issue is discussed in Berlin: „The Germans want to bring the Yids from Europe to Russia and settle them in certain areas, but there is still time before this plan is carried out”40.

Hitler’s gift for Antonescu, Transnistria was accepted for good reasons: territorial expansion, colonization, strengthening Romanianness in the East41. What the Romanians did not realized when signing the Tighina accord was that, except for Hitler, the rest of the Nazi leaders were rather unhappy, and imposed some limits, giving the Romanians the right to temporarily hold it and turn the region into a confined space for looting, exploiting force labor, dropping and smoothly executing Jews, Roma, and others42. Unfortunately, the much too blind, depth, and stubborn Romanians refused to understand what the Germans were doing in the vicinity of Transnistria with September 1941, rounding up 5000 Jews in Nikolayev for resettlement, only to liquidate them and thus make room for German colonist. The fact is that they accepted it, soon doing the same in Odessa, crushing bolshevism and liquidating Jews, and latter in other counties of Transnistria, in Golta and in Berezovka, Vapniarka and Peciora43. In some cases, the killings were performed by the Germans, but the structural circumstances facilitating and requesting a radical solution on the spot were the deliberate product of Romanian government and agencies44. Pushing the Jews West to East, to the Dniester and than the Bug, the Romanians were constantly generating problems: storage, famine, diseases45. Evacuation to the frontier in the absence of minimal preparations had a snow-ball effect. With the exits closed by the German administration, the Romanians were forced to create temporary camps to dump the unwanted46. Soon they had to accept mass killing to eliminate threats and make room, for the sake of keeping the time table of cleansing47. The jammed traffic had to be fluidized before moving to the Jews of Regat and South Transylvania, Roma and others48.

With December 1941, to May 1942, Transnistria was not just a dumping ground but also a kingdom of death, and a bureaucratic nightmare to last49. The disaster was generated by the Romanians. Antonescu new about the situation and the inevitable solution, and concluded: „let those die in there…I can not do anything for them anymore”. Death was not ordered directly but suggested, as in other instances, with the central and local administration of Transnistria accepting it. Mass murder became once more the price to be paid for the purification to succeed50. The Jews in Moghilev (55.000) and other camps west of the Smerinka-Odessa railway were still alive, with the SD considering their presence only 35 km away from Vinitza an unacceptable „security” threat51. No matter the massacres of 1941 and the killings in Odessa, Golta, and Berezovka, the Romanians were once more turned by the Nazis into not suitably efficient perpetrators in carrying out the final solution, thus to be continuously pressured to follow the (new) German approach. Why were the Germans complaining might seem unclear. The Romanian civil administration worked with them and hardly opposed the SS hunting operation in Transnistria, sometimes even providing the Todt with workers. It rather looks like Himmler and his Vo Mi being displeased with having a dumping ground in the vicinity. The successful operation of colonizing ethnic Germans  (90.000 Volkdeutsche) near the Bug, strengthening Germandom while killing Jews with the Selbstschutz (self defense police squads made of ethnic Germans) as to secure the area, gave them impetus and made them wonder why not expanding Himmler’s kingdom52. Taking Transnistria back from the Romanians, at least east to the Smerinka-Odessa railway, was one good solution. The argument was, as before, that Romanians are unable to organize and reconstruct the area, as they were unable even to meet the German standards when it comes to the anti-Jewish measures in the name of progress. Moreover, sending more Romanian Jews and Roma to Transnistria, with the Germans to dispose them, would have hindered the reconstruction of Ukraine. Transnistria under the Romanian administration, with its improvised policies, turned into an everlasting disaster, made them wonder if a reconsideration of the Tighina accord is not necessary and helpful53. At the same time Berlin made another offer to Bucharest. The new solution was to put the Romanians’ priorities in order, and secure the interest of the German civil administration and colons that were by now reconstructing Ukraine.

To avoid the perpetuation of the disaster, soon after the extermination of the Jews in Berezovka and the overcrowded camps of Golta was over, realizing that the Romanians were anxious to turn to the Jews of the Old Kingdom, Banat, and Southern Transylvania, deporting them to a still overcrowded Transnistria as to „make room for Romanian refugees”54, the Berlin decision makers figured out that it would be easy to convince the two Antonescu to accept a new plan: the deportation of Romanian Jews to the Lublin area. By the end of July 1942 the two parts reached an agreement to start the deportation with September 10. The rest was but a matter of technicalities and formalities to be latter on settled by bureaucrats55. Once the decision has been taken, there were no reasons for the German part to doubt that the Romanians would change their mind. Yet, unexpectedly, on October 13, 1942, the Romanian government decided to halt deportations56.

What the Romanians did not understood was the lack of logic of Berlin, insisting on deportation of Romanian Jews to Poland, at the same time rejecting any evacuation of Jews in Transnistria over the Bug57. Mihai Antonescu raised this issue during his meeting with Hitler, Rosenberg, and Ribbentrop in Vinitza in September 1942. By November 1942 he informed Richter that he is personally against any act of barbarity, criticizing the abuses and crimes of the past, denying the responsibility of the government, deflecting it toward the lower echelons of Romanian executioners in Transnistria and the local German Police58. No less anti-Semitic when it came to economic reforms and emigration, and only 16 months after the terrible massacres in Bessarabia and Bukovina, the man advocating ethnic cleansing by mass killing and expulsion, turned his logic up side down, introducing to an exasperated German expert and adviser no less than seven major reasons for the Romanian government to halt deportations and depart the German plan59.

The decision of the Romanian government to create its own national agency in charge with Jewish affairs rather than accepting Nazi (SS) nominees to deal with, the clumsiness, opportunism and corruption of the Romanian bureaucracy, Ion Antonescu’s studied independence, Radu Lecca’s visit to Berlin from august 1942 that went badly wrong, the high-powered lobbying from the Apostolic Nuncio, the Swiss and the US ambassadors, and Queen Mother Helena, the interventions of some Jewish leaders, Romanian politicians and heads of the Romanian Orthodox Church, international pressures, the evolution of the war on the Eastern front, Romania’s attempts to desert the Axis and prepare the grounds for a less catastrophic peace with the Western allies and so on; are altogether issues that are equally significant and helpful in understanding the process that ultimately led to Romania’s disengagement from the Nazi Final Solution.

One major explanation for the Romanian shift and rift would be that the killings were gradually turning geopolitically disadvantageous. The Western allies let Bucharest know from the very beginning that they disliked and were disgusted by any form of radical anti-Semitic measures and policy, with the Romanians paying attention and becoming ‘sensitive’ only after Stalingrad60. At the beginning of the war against USSR, the situation looked totally different to their eyes due the alliance with an undefeated, even inexpugnable Germany, which left them with the impression of being military powerful and politically untouchable, turning them arrogant enough to remove any barrier and totally disregard potential consequences. That sufficed to make possible the display of lethal violence by a regime aiming to ethnically cleanse the nation.

Another explanation would be that what worked in the case of Bessarabia and Bukovina did not for the rest of the Romanian provinces, as the government divided its strategy in time and geography over the means to do it. In the East, Romanian army and gendarmerie fought and exterminated the enemy, the „Bolshevik Jew”, winning the war and cleansing the land thus going hand in hand. Killing in the east was for the Romanians righteous, by no means a matter of keeping balance between pleasing the Germans and achieving their own goals. The full commitment was ideologically justified and fueled by hatred of Jews, communism, and USSR altogether, and pushed as far as to limit the flexibility toward Western allies, even when it became obvious that Germany was loosing the war. In Regat, South Transylvania and Banat a different strategy was needed, as Jews were in the eyes of both the authorities and the domestic population not only culturally different, but also less dangerous, less poor, and more integrated than the Jews in the East. Hungarian Jews were perceived as disloyal and as a ‘fifth column’ of the neighboring country, but far less dangerous than the Russian, ‘Bolshevik Jews’. Ion Antonescu himself stated in different moments that the Regat, Transylvania and Banat Jews will not suffer unless proven as communists or sympathizers of Romania’s enemies, England and USA included61. He also promised since 1941 that, in principle, the government would protect all Jews who were Romanian citizens before 191462. However, those suspected as hostile to Romanian army and people were to be deported as well, with the government alone to decide over who, when, and on what charges is ‘guilty’ or not. Moreover, protection was but temporary, with the fate of all Romanian Jews to be decided later, with the conclusion of the war, and as part and by means of an „international…equitable solution to the Jewish question”63. Far from being saved, protected, trusted, the Jews were simply tolerated as long as they accepted to entirely submit to the state and the regime64.

On September 22, 1942, Mihai Antonescu met Hitler, Ribbentrop, and German army commanders in Vinnitsa, Hitler’s new headquarter in Ukraine, at a conference organized to analyze the situation on the Eastern front, but not only. As usually, Hitler asked for more but refused to offer something, from military equipment to political satisfaction – in the case of Romania, his promise to return North Transylvania with the victorious end of the war. The issue of deporting the Jews to Poland was also touched, with Ribbentrop intervening for the first time since the beginning of the negotiation, insisting that Romania should keep its promises, and with Mihai Antonescu not refusing him openly65. Days latter, a somewhat irritated and panicked Ribbentrop asked Martin Luther to pressure Germany’s south east European allied and satellite countries to deliver their Jews, „to accelerate as much as possible the evacuation” of the „proven” arch-enemies that „incite against us and have to be considered responsible for sabotage acts and assassination attempts”66. Difficult to say whether Ribbentrop’s (re)action was determined by an already predictable at the time Romanian defection. What stays unquestionable is the fact that in less than two months Nazi officials will have good reasons to fear Romania’s disengagement from the Final Solution.

On October 10, an order issuing from the Marshall’s cabinet instructed the Ministry of Interior to start deportations from Banat and South Transylvania. All of a sudden, days after, Antonescu reconsidered his position, and decided to halt the action. Formally, the reason to „postpone” deportation for the spring of 1943 was to avoid the difficulties of the rainy season, and winter67. Soon, it became obvious that the Romanians decided to leave the German path and „Rosenberg’s arguments”, as the civilized world was „keeping an eye on Romania, protesting against the maltreatment, deportations, and killings”68.

Driven by opportunism and not just ideology, Romanians realized by late 1942, early 1943 that they were „passengers on a sinking boat”69. After Stalingrad, loosing hope forever, they reconsidered their position, and made it that way as to let the Germans know that they changed their mind. Documented or not, many interventions, persuasions, briberies, and pressures, coming from Jewish leaders and Organizations, the Vatican, USA, Romanian politicians, the Red Cross and so on; also contributed to the developments that finally made the Romanian disengagement with the Final Solution possible70. Rather useless at the beginning, all those efforts turned fruitful at the end. If not for more, they were at least ‘corrosive’, gradually shattering the confidence of the Romanians in the almightiness of Germany, and therefore forcing them to partially reconsider their position and policy. Not being that stupid as not to realize that the Germans are no longer supportive toward emigration, the Romanians were bright enough as to turn it into an alternative, and a perfect excuse for not deporting the Jews of Regat, Banat, and Transylvania to Poland. In fact, as the Romanians put it, they were not protecting or saving the Jews, nor were they defecting the German Final Solution, but simply going back to the original plans as the could not cope with the hasty dynamic of Nazi policy. The Nazis could not do much, though they protested and on several occasions opposed and even attempted to jeopardize the Romanians unworkable plans. Nonetheless, to the very end they hopped that the Romanians will return to radical measures71.

The horrendous mass killings of 1941 that together with Transnistria make the core of the Romanian Holocaust represented for the Antonescu regime components of an instrumental ethnic cleansing policy. It is rather difficult to claim that the Romanians intended to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Romania. Moreover, with the passage of time, a physical solution to the Jewish question turned impractical, not only geopolitically, but also financially, as it was permanent. Vested interest made the Romanians reconsider their policy, thus going from emotional to more rational perpetrators. For most of the Romanian decision–makers the Jews were unwanted, an active enemy at most, but not a metahistorical one72. True, Ion Antonescu’s permanent frustration with conventional military and political strategy might have had sparked further deportations and killings at any time, especially in 1944. Yet, the other decision-makers no longer endorsed his visions. Some shred of compassion with the victims is not to be totally ignored, as total extermination might have represented a psychological barrier they could not cross, as many others. Like the Slovaks, the Romanians might have seen the deportation as a huge operation that would „shove off (the Jews) to the East never to be seen again”73, rejecting extermination when they had to take the substantial risk of alienating western allies and incite further intervention, both domestic and international. Thus, instead of escalating and radicalizing the anti-Jewish measures, like in Germany74, the circumstances and stakes of late 1942 to mid 1944 mild the Romanian ones.

The unpredicted developments and responses of the Romanian government toward Nazi plans were not logical and natural. As a consequence of the fierce anti-Semitism of the prewar period some of the most shocking anti-Jewish crimes were possible in 1941, with the latter shift to less barbaric means, but without giving up hate, made possible by traditional pragmatism, opportunism, and corruption, which altogether tempered the Romanian government and made it opt for a more cautious path. Hard to choose the appropriate word and say that Romanians halted, deferred, deserted, disengaged from the Final solution and thus „saved” half of their Jews. May be Raul Hilberg was right when saying that by freezing – not accidentally – the deportations, they fell short in reaching German standards75.  A less compulsive and more compromising with late 1942 policy indicates that the Final Solution was not a fundamental issue for the Romanian government, nonetheless that the price to be finally paid did mattered for Bucharest. As a result, the Romanian government did not save Jews; it only limited the number of victims, sparing their lives for an undermined period of time.


ACHIM, Viorel, IORDACHI, Constantin (coordonatori), Romania si Transnistria: Problema Holocaustului, Bucureşti, Curtea Veche, 2004.
ANCEL, Jean (coordonator), Documents Concerning the Fate of Romanian Jewry during the Holocaust, vol. I-IX, New York-Jerusalem, 1985-1986.
BENJAMIN, Lya (coordonator), Evreii din România între ani 1940-1944. vol. I-IV, Bucureşti, Hassefer, 1993-1998.
BENJAMIN, Lya (coordinator), Documente. Comisia internaţională pentru studierea Holocaustului în România, Iaşi, Polirom, 2005.
BROWNING, Cristopher, The Origins of the Final Solution. The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942, Lincoln, Jerusalem, University of Nebraska Press, Yad Vashem, 2004.
BURLEICH, Michael, The Third Reich, A New History, London, Pan Books, 2001.
DELETANT, Denis, Aliatul uitat al lui Hitler. Ion Antonescu şi regimul său, 1940-1944, traducere de Delia Răzdolescu, Bucureşti, Humanitas, 2008.
FRIEDLANDER, Saul, The Years of Extermination, New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.
FRILING, Tuvia, IOANID, Radu, IONESCU, Mihail (coordonatori), Final Report. International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, Iaşi, Polirom, 2005.
GELLATELY, Robert, KIERNAN, Ben (coordonatori), The Specter of Genocide. Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
GILBERT, Martin, Auschwitz and the Allies, London, Pimlico, 2001.
GIURESCU, Dinu C., România în al doilea război mondial, , Bucureşti, Editura ALL, 1999.
HEINEN, Armin, România, Holocaustul şi logica violenţei, traducere de Ioana Rostoş, Iaşi, Editura Universităţii „Al.I.Cuza”, 2011.
HILBERG, Raul, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders. The Jewish catastrophe, 1933-1945, New York, HarperCollins Publisher, 1992.
HILLGRUBER, Andreas, Hitler, Regele Carol şi Mareşalul Antonescu. Relaţiile germano-române. 1938-1944, traducere de Stelian Neagoe, Bucureşti, Humanitas, 1994.
HÖHNE, Heinz, The Order of the Death’s Head. The Story of Hitler’s SS, London, Penguin Books, 2000.
IOANID, Radu, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu, , Bucureşti, Editura Hasefer, 1998.
IONESCU, Mihail, ROTMAN, Liviu, (coordonatori.), The Holocaust and Romania. History and Contemporary Significance, Bucureşti, Editura Semne, 2003.
LOWER, Wendy, Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine, The University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
MANN, Michael, The Dark Side of Democracy. Explaining Ethnic Cleansing, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005.
MARRUS, Michael R. (coordonator),  The Nazi Holocaust, vol. 2, London, Meckler, 1989.
PAXTON, Robert, The Anatomy of Fascism, London, Penguin Books, 2005.
SOLONARI, Vladimir, Purifying the Nation: Population Exchange and Ethnic Cleansing in Nazi Allied Romania,Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.



1 For a thorough analysis on ethnic cleansing policy in Romania see Vladimir Solonari, Purifying the Nation: Population Exchange and Ethnic Cleansing in Nazi Allied Romania (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).
2 Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007), 450-451. See also Lya Benjamin ed., Evreii din România între ani 1940-1944. vol. III, 1940-1942: Perioada unei mari restrişti, partea a II-a (Bucuresti: Hassefer, 1997), doc. 556, 273-274.
3 Andreas Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol şi Mareşalul Antonescu. Relaţiile germano-române. 1938-1944, traducere de  Stelian Neagoe (Bucureşti: Humanitas, 1994), 283-284.
4 See in this sense Armin Heinen, România, Holocaustul şi logica violenţei, traducere de Ioana Rostoş (Iaşi: Editura Universităţii „Al.I.Cuza”, 2011). Heinen offers us a thorough analysis of the different types of violence that altogether explain the apparently unpredictable dynamic of the Romanian Holocaust.
5 See Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (London: Penguin Books, 2005), 20, 79, 97.
6 See Cristopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution. The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939-March 1942 (Lincoln, Jerusalem: University of Nebraska Press, Yad Vashem, 2004), 275-277.
7 Robert Gellately, „The Third Reich, the Holocaust, and Visions of Serial Genocide”, în Robert Gellately, Ben Kiernan (coordonatori), The Specter of Genocide. Mass Murder in Historical Perspective (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 250.
8 Michael Mann, The Dark Side of Democracy. Explaining Ethnic Cleansing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 305
9 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, Mihail Ionescu (coordonatori), Final Report. International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania (Iaşi: Polirom, 2005), 28, 102.
10 Browning, The Origins, 210-212.
11 Frilling, Final, 50-54.
12 Lya Benjamin, Legislaţia anti-evreiască (Bucureşti: Hasefer, 1993), 51-54.
13 ANIC, Fond PCM, dosar 327/1940, file 31-32.
14 ANIC, fond PCM, CM, dosar 1770/1940, vol. 2, file 783-784.
15 Lya Benjamin, Documente. Comisia internaţională pentru studierea Holocaustului în România (Iaşi: Polirom, 2005), 111-112.
16 Friedlander, The Years, 329-330. Also Martin Gilbert, Auschwitz and the Allies (London: Pimlico, 2001), 22-25, 36-38, 75-80.
17 Jean Ancel, ”Archival Sources concerning the Holocaust in Romania”, în Mihail Ionescu, Liviu Rotman (coordonatori), The Holocaust and Romania. History and Contemporary Significance (Bucureşti: Editura Semne, 2003), 62-63.
18 Friling, Final, 118.
19 Benjamin, Documente, 186-188.
20 Jean Ancel, Documents Concerning the Fate of Romanian Jewry during the Holocaust, ( New York, Jerusalem, 1985-1986, vol. II, 1.
21 Benjamin, Legislaţia, 155.
22 Michael Burleich, The Third Reich, A New History (London: Pan Books, 2001), 620-621.
23 Ancel, Documents, 79-80.
24 Benjamin, Documente, 204-208.
25 Solonari, Purifying, 190-191.
26 Ancel, ”Archival”, 72.
27 Jurgen Matthaus, „Operation Barbarossa and the Onset of the Holocaust”, în Browning, The Origins, 258-259.
28 See Viorel Achim, Constantin Iordachi, România şi Transnistria: Problema Holocaustului (Bucureşti: Curtea Veche, 2004), 55.
29 Friling, Final, 63.
30 Friling, Final, 127-129.
31 Matthaus, „Operation”, 267-276.
32 Solonari, Purifying, 170-173, 193.
33 Solonari, Purifying, 173-174.
34 Solonari, Purifying, 175-190.
35 Ancel, ”Archival”, 84.
36 Denis Deletant, Aliatul uitat al lui Hitler. Ion Antonescu si regimul sau, 1940-1944, traducere de Delia Răzdolescu (Bucureşti: Humanitas, 2008), 166-169.
37 Ancel, ”Archival”, 74-77.
38 Ancel, ”Archival”, 93-98.
39 Mann, The Dark, 304-305; Ancel, Documents, 293.
40 Friling, Final, 64-67.
41 Solonari, Purifying, 204-205.
42 Browning, The Origins, 296.
43 Dora Litani, „The Destruction of the Jews of Odessa in the light of Rumanian Documents”, în Michael R. Marrus (coordonator),  The Nazi Holocaust, vol. 2, (London: Meckler, 1989), 484-503.
44 Frilling, Final, 141 and the following.
45 Frilling, Final, 133-134. Also Ancel, ”Archival”, 83-85.
46 Solonari, Purifying, 200-204.
47 Deletant, Aliatul, 192-197.
48 Deletant, Aliatul, 202-210.
49 Ancel,”Archival”, 86 and the following. Also Deletant, Aliatul, 185.
50 Ancel, ”Archival”, 85-93.
51 Wendy Lower, Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine (The University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 153
52 Lower, Nazi, 172-173.
53 Hilberg, The Destruction, 683-685.
54 Friling, Final, 168.
55 Friling, Final, 169.
56 Friling, Final, 170.
57 Hilberg, The Destruction, 696.
58 Friedlander, The Years, 450-451. See also Benjamin, Perioada, 273-274.
59 Radu Ioanid, Evreii sub regimul Antonescu, Bucureşti: Hasefer, 1998), 336-337.
60 Ioanid, Evreii,306-307.
61 Hillgruber, Hitler, 283.
62 Dinu C. Giurescu, România în al doilea război mondial (Bucureşti, Editura ALL, 1999), 144.
63 Benjamin, Perioada, 126-127.
64 Benjamin, Perioada, 126-127, 175-176.
65 Friling, Final, 170-171.
66 Quoted in Friedlander, The Years, 450.
67 Friedlander, The Years, 336.
68 ASB, Fond PCM, dosar 473, vol. II, file 854-869.
69 Heinz Höhne, The Order of the Death’s Head. The Story of Hitler’s SS (London: Penguin Books, 2000),396.
70 Ioanid, Evreii, 335-337.
71 Hillgruber, Hitler, 282-286.
72 Friedlander, The Years, xvii –xx.
73 Browning, The Origins, 379; also Friedlander, The Years, 450, 452, 537.
74 Browning, The Origins, 426-427.
75 Raul Hilberg, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders. The Jewish catastrophe, 1933-1945 (New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 1992), 77-84.


MIHAI CHIOVEANU – Doctor în istorie al Universităţii ”Al.I.Cuza” din Iaşi (2005) și master în istorie al Central European University din Budapest (1999). În prezent este conferenţiar universitar la Facultatea de Știinţe Politice, Universitatea din București. Din 2004 este membru al delegaţiei României la Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. Este autorul lucrării Feţele fascismului. Politică, ideologie şi scrisul istoric în secolul XX, Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, Bucureşti, 2005 și a numeroase alte articole și studii pe holocaust și fascism publicate în publicaţii academice precum Studia Politica, The Romanian Political Science Review, Studia Hebraica, Sfera Politicii, Xenopoliana. Domeniile de cercetare acoperă fascismul European, Holocaustul și studiile pe genocide, politica Orientului Mijlociu.




Sfera Politicii