Antisemitism, rasism, xenofobie

XIXth Century Romanian Intellectual
Anti-Semitism in a Comparative Perspective

[Central European University]

The article investigates the differences and similarities between Romanian intellectual anti-Semitism and well-known theories of race during the XIXth century. It argues that Romanian anti-Semitism was not infused with theories of race, but based on attacks on the Jewish culture. It finds that, unlike in the case of racists, Romanian anti-Semites envisioned assimilation as a way to get rid of the „Jewish” threat. The article argues that it is the absence of assimilation in the case of Romanian Jews which precluded the development of racial anti-Semitism. The article tries to improve the conceptualization of anti-Semitism by distinguishing racism from other streams of thought.

Keywords: anti-semitism; Holocaust; Jews; Iorga; Eminescu

L’article analyse les différences et les similarités entre l’antisémitisme intellectuel roumain avant-guerre et les théories raciales du XXe siècle. Comme principal argument, cet article soutient que l’antisémitisme intellectuel roumain n’est pas fondé sur les théories raciales du XXe siècle, mais sur une forme de refus de la culture juive. A la différence des racistes biologistes, les antisémites roumains considéraient l’assimilation et non l’extermination comme une solution à la « menace juive ». L’article soutient aussi que l’absence de l’assimilation dans le cas des Juifs roumains a eu comme effet l’inhibition du développement de l’antisémitisme raciste. La principale contribution de l’article consiste dans la conceptualisation de l’antisémitisme qui distingue le racisme biologique d’autres formes de la pensée antisémite.

Mots clés: antisémitisme, Holocauste, Juifs, Iorga, Eminescu


In the post-Holocaust world, a vast amount of research has been focused on the origins, means, methods, reasons, and arguments of Nazi anti-Semitism. Due to the centrality of Germany in the Holocaust, the research on anti-Semitism has focused on Germany and has neglected, to some extent, the pan-European phenomenon which was XIXth century anti-Semitism. Romania occupies a particularly marginal position in Western research because of its isolation during the communist period, as well as because of its refusal to admit the existence of the Romanian Holocaust and to fund and encourage research on this topic until 2004. The western bibliography on the Iron Guard is rather small as compared to that on Nazism while the one dealing with the pre-World War I period is even smaller. Actually, most analyses of pre-World War I Romanian anti-Semitism can be found as prefaces to histories of interwar Romania and the Iron Guard. Moreover, only a small number of people, many times personal witnesses and victims of the events in question, have taken up the study of Romanian anti-Semitism. This study seeks to redress such a problem.

In addition to fact that the bibliography on this field is rather small, very little of it is analytic, providing causes and explanations. Most of the literature is descriptive, discussing similar authors and problems, but rarely attempting conceptualizations, explanations and comparisons. Comparatively analyzing Romanian intellectual anti-Semitism could shed answers on several questions and contradictions. William O. Oldson begins his book by stating one of them: if Romania was, as Hannah Arendt calls it, „the most anti-Semitic country in pre-war Europe” how come that its genocide was also associated with the survival of half of the Jewish community in Romania1?

How come that Romania bluntly refused to participate in the execution of the Final Solution, just after it had deported hundreds of thousands of Jews to the far-off territories of Transnistria?2 Dennis Deletant notes the same contradiction when claiming that, to Marshall Antonescu, Jews were not a racial threat, but unpatriotic and unassimilated inhabitants. Deletant also points to the survival of the assimilated Walachian and Transylvanian Jewish communities.3

Secondly, a comparative investigation of Romanian anti-Semitism could also shed light on another debate still fresh in Western scholarship. An approach related to the intentionalist perspective on the Final Solution sees anti-Semitism in Germany as an „eternal hatred” surviving from pre-Christian times, and forming the backbone of the new, racist anti-Semitism of the Nazis4. In this view, there is some similarity or at least compatibility between the anti-Semitism practiced as a „cultural code”5 in the XIXth century and the Nazi form of biological racism. Conversely, the other point of view argues for the novelty of the Nazi anti-Semitism, in view of its biological racism.6 A comparison between well-known XIXth century biological racists and the thinkers of a society which is known to have practiced anti-Semitism as a „cultural code” would shed some light on the argument of compatibility. If there is any similarity between the two, then the adepts of the continuity thesis could argue that there is indeed a continuity between XIXth century anti-Semitism and its Nazi variant.

Thirdly, by examining XIXth century intellectual Romanian anti-Semitism in a comparative perspective, one could focus on aspects relating to its causes and the causes of anti-Semitism in general. Authors seem to point to different factors. William Oldson and Leon Volovici focus extensively on political causes by showing the negative impact on the Romanian intellectuals of the Berlin Congress of 1878 and the humiliation which they felt at being forced by the Western Powers to emancipate the Jews. 7 Other authors stress the importance of economic dislocation during the processes of modernization coupled with the absence of a native middle class.8 Yet another argument focuses on the lack of assimilation of the Ostjuden, in the midst of a society gripped by romantic nationalism.9 The comparative examination could illuminate readers by observing the accusations which Romanian anti-Semites brought against Jews and discovering which were more frequent.

This article will investigate the particular specificities of Romanian anti-Semitism during the XIXth century. The paper will argue that Romanian anti-Semitism was based on attacks related to the Jewish culture rather than biological anti-Semitism. While the racial strand of anti-Semitism is a product of modernity, economic and religious anti-Semitism argued from a cultural perspective are remnants of a past in which two societies live separately and perceive each other as foreign.

Firstly, such an argument would support the idea that cultural anti-Semitism did not envision mass murder, but assimilation and deportation of those seen as unwilling to assimilate. It would explain why Romanian anti-Semitism was „providential” in the death of so many and the survival of so many others.10 Secondly, it would support the thesis that Nazi anti-Semitism was essentially different from anything before or after. While many similarities can be gleamed between the Romanian anti-Semitism and that of persons such as Karl Lueger, the comparison with Gobineau and Chamberlain will reveal large differences. Finally, the argument that Romanian anti-Semitism was based on culture will support an argument which claims that it is a product of the absence of assimilation.

This article seeks to contribute to a better conceptual distinction between racial anti-Semitism and cultural anti-Semitism. The first is the ideology which attributes the „evil of Jews” to biological nature, while the second attacks Jews by focusing on religion and culture. In order to establish this conceptual distinction, the research will focus on the reasons for which the Jew is evil in the anti-Semite’s mind. They can be cultural, in the case in which the Jew has a choice, to assimilate and abandon Jewishness and biological, when evil is inherent. Thus, in this text, the term cultural anti-Semitism will be used to denote a type of anti-Semitism in which the Jew thinks „the wrong way” because of his religion and cultural universe. Racial anti-Semitism will denote the type of argument in which the Jew is evil because of his blood inheritance.

The methodology of this study will be a comparative analysis of different anti-Semitic authors, focusing on understanding their arguments and placing them in both their intellectual and their social context. In order to do this, historical literature will allow us to compare the situations in several societies, which vary in their degree of modernization and Jewish assimilation. The period of study has been chosen because it represents the explosion of intellectual anti-Semitism at both a European and a Romanian level. The time-frame is set between two very important moments: the first one is the Emancipation of Jews done by the French Revolutionary Assembly on the 27th of September 1791 and the second is the eruption the First World War and the rise of the radical ideologies. These are the end limits of an interval of time in which intellectual and pseudoscientific/racial anti-Semitism appeared. During this time, the West saw the emancipation of Jews (immediate in France and gradual in Prussia and Austria), the „march out of the ghetto” and their gradual assimilation. The spread of the ideas of equality of rights to the mass of the population, as well as to most elites and the decrease of the role of religion in the life of both Christians and Jews led to the extinction of the religious anti-Semitism as a force in Western society.

For the purposes of this paper, the term „West” will include countries in which the Jews were emancipated (granted political and civil rights) in the early and mid-XIXth century and by the turn of the XXth had undergone a process of assimilation (adopted norms and customs of mainstream society). France and Germany, the two countries which had the most progressive Jewish legislation by the 1870s will be discussed. Conversely, in Romania (especially Moldavia), traditional Judaism continued to survive and assimilation was refused by both the authorities and by the Jews themselves. Jews continued to live as an alien element, wearing traditional clothing and living according to traditional community rules, and, at the same time, suffered persecution from the authorities by being expelled, deported or arrested.

The case studies on which the research is based have been carefully selected: on the one hand, the two main theoreticians of XIXth century racism, J.A. Gobineau and H.S. Chamberlain, on the other three towering representatives of Romanian nationalist thought, M. Eminescu, Nicolae Iorga and A.C. Cuza. In the first case, H.S. Chamberlain was deeply admired by the Nazis, was visited by Hitler and Alfred Rosenberg entitled his book The Myth of the XXth Century as a response to his Foundations of the XIXth century. In the second case, the influence of Iorga and Eminescu on Romanian thought is impossible to understate. Thus, these choices are highly representative of the strands of thought which they illustrate.

The situation of Jews in Romania and the West during the XIXth century

The West –The Emancipation and its effects

During the post-Emancipation period, Jews in Western Europe have to deal with the consequences of assimilation. Jewish individuals begin to enter the professions and to establish a social position. Religion is treated as a private matter so church and synagogue attendance drops dramatically. Even conversion is not anymore seen as an act of betrayal by many secularized Jews, but a „ticket into the modern society”11. The community-centered life of traditional society breaks down and a new, individual-centered way of living emerges. Jews in Western Europe had to adapt in just one generation, as compared to the rest of the European societies which did it in several12. Thus, in a very short time, Jews become indistinguishable from their fellow citizens.

In France, emancipation occurs immediately and in full. Anti-Semitism is rejected in the name of freedom and equality for all citizens. The Damascus affair, an oriental complication of the French foreign policy in which the French government sees it as more expedient to blame some oriental Jews, or at least to tolerate such accusations, of a ritual killing leads to the resignation of the prime-minister which had thrown such accusations. Therefore, France comes out as the most liberal country in its Jewish policy13. Anti-Semitism disappears as public policy and from the minds of most people („Decent people, Jews and non-Jews alike, did not attribute much weight to the so-called Jewish Question”)14.

According to Eugen Weber, modern anti-Semitism emerges in late XIXth century France, after the arrival of unassimilated Eastern Jews, chased by Russian pogroms. This phenomenon leads anti-Semites to lump together assimilated Jews with their unassimilated brethren.15 France is the birthplace of the new form of anti-Semitism also according to Paul Johnson. Johnson stresses the pseudo-scientific stratum of anti-Semitism, which is given by such authors as Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, Ernest Renan and Edouard Drumont16.

The German lands present a much more interesting case, offering anti-Semitism derived out of a biologized form of the cult of the Germanic race and of romantic German nationalism. Leon Poliakov views German romanticism and particularism, the opposite of French messianic universalism as the „root of evil”17. In Germany, emancipation is gradual and is initiated under French occupation, to be completed only in 1871 by the German Empire. However, in the militarist Germany, its sanctum sanctorum, the officer corps, is not accessible to Jews.18

Richard Wagner stands out as the most prominent anti-Semite in mid XIXth century Germany. From the cultural protégé of a rich Jew, Wagner turns pan-germanist and elaborates powerful works denouncing Judaism in music and glorifying the Aryan race19. His view is that assimilated Jews are the most evil of them all because they integrated themselves into a certain society and destroy it by destroying its art. According to Wagner, art needs to be emancipated from the Jewish dominance. He follows his own advice in his works such as the Ring of the Nibelung or Parsifal, which all deal with Germanic mythology, seen as the true embodiment and spiritual guide of the German people.

Romania and the Absence of Emancipation

Romania regulates anti-Semitism after the adoption, despite the protests of the Great Powers and the Universal Israelite Alliance, of article 7 of the 1866 constitution, which forbade any non-Christians from acquiring political rights. During the 1866-1879 period a series of expulsions of Jews from villages are undertaken, ordered by Ion Bratianu in 1866 and by Mihail Kogalniceanu in 186920.

Analyzing popular Romanian anti-Semitism, Carol Iancu notes the predominance of the xenophobic and the economic factors, combined with the religious one. Religious anti-Semitism had as a main factor the attack on traditional Judaism, still harbored by most Romanian Jews and denoted by such acts as the profanation of holy Jewish books, refusal to build synagogues and especially the perpetuation of humiliating forms of oath-taking.21 Economic anti-Semitism is based on the perception that Jews form an exploiting class, destroying the backbone of the nation by introducing capitalism and creating a middle class between the large landowners and the peasants, a class that destroys the unity of the nation and leads to its impoverishment by taking away an undeserved part of the national income22. In 1866, a petition against Jews claims that they have taken up the commerce, industry and artisan shops. Bratianu accuses them of monopolizing commerce in order to destroy the Romanian nation23.

Unlike their Western counterparts, Romanian Jews were clearly distinguishable by their manners of speaking and dressing. Their black robe, beard and specific hair arrangement, made Marcel Emerit, not an anti-Semite by far but a progressive Frenchman, see them as an invasion of dirty, humpbacked foreigners24. This conspicuous difference allowed the formulation by the Romanian officials of a type of anti-Semitism, related to the „quality” of the Jews, justifying the lack of emancipation by pointing to poverty and lack of assimilation25.

It is on this backdrop that Romania takes part in the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish war. At its end, it is forced to remove article 7 of the constitution, granting political rights to Jews. This crucial moment is seen by many in the intelligentsia as an impermissible interference by the Great Powers in the internal affairs of the young state26. In order to do what they desire, but at the same time, please the Great Powers, the Romanians adopt naturalization on an individual basis, and link it to complicated bureaucratic procedures. This makes C.A. Rosetti to admit that the Romanians had managed to solve the problem without submitting to the spirit of the Berlin Treaty27.

Anti-Semitic Arguments: cultural and biological

This paper defines two categories under which writings and writers will be grouped. The first will be named „cultural anti-Semitism” and the second will be termed „biologic anti-Semitism”. These categories have been developed based on the different types of arguments that anti-Semitic literature uses in order to justify the perniciousness of Jews. It will be argued that under the first label, the „guilt” is something subjective, pertaining to a culture or a religion but which can be changed in the individual person by conversion and assimilation. The second category, postulates an objective guilt which is inherent in the nature of a race and which cannot be changed.

Cultural anti-Semitism is a strain of thinking which sees the „guilt” of Jews in their culture, of religious or social inspiration. Such a belief starts from the premise that it is „nurture” rather than „nature” which mostly influences the individual and that the nurture of the Jew makes him evil. According to such writings, Jewish culture would nurture a disdain of „healthy” work, a desire to live off the products of others, an intended isolation and hatred of non-Jews. As a result, Jews are accused of engaging in intentionally unfair business practices in regard to non-Jews and fair practices in regard to other Jews.

The other strand of thinking, biologic anti-Semitism is a combination of anti-Semitism and biological determinism.The first element is the restatement of classical attacks on Jews. These include the evil of their religion, which is materialistic and not metaphysic, precluding thus true salvation, their economic behavior and their weak biological traits that make them effeminate and unable to fight. The justification that is attached to such beliefs is not anymore cultural-the evil enters „the blood”28.

Biological determinism can be understood as the doctrine which claims that it is the biological traits that determine moral and intellectual qualities, or, that at least, these are in a close relationship. In this paradigm, moral and intellectual traits depend on „nature” rather than culture-they are unchangeable by individual striving and will. Moreover, outward appearance can be a clear indicator of the inner qualities or defects: black skin color can signify low intelligence and a hooked nose a predisposition to trickery, manipulation and deceit in financial occupations. Another premise of biological determinism is that moral and intellectual as well as physical traits are inherited and common to all individuals of the same „race.” Finally, races are defined not only by biological characteristics, but predominantly by their moral ones.

Gobineau and Chamberlain

 J.A. de Gobineau

J.A. de Gobineau begins his book, An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races by claiming that the violent death of civilizations is due to a common cause. He attacks the classical theories which claimed that civilizations fall because of fallen morals, luxury, decay of religious ideas, bad government institutions or vice. He contradicts ancient authors that had attempted to use these factors to explain the fall of the Roman Empire29.

After having rejected these claims, he defines degeneration as the dilution of the racial principle out of which a certain nation had arisen. Racial degeneration is the true cause of the decay of civilizations, Gobineau claims. The degenerated man lacks the same blood as the original one, is not as strong or moral due to the mix of heterogeneous elements in his blood30.Because asuperior people, at the same time, needs to expand and to subject inferior peoples and to mix with its new subjects, degeneration is unavoidable31. Gobineau argues for the inequality of the human races by pointing to the absence of great men or scientific inventions among such civilizations as the Huron Indians or the aborigines of Australia, or the absence of free and superior political institutions among such peoples32. He views political institutions and technological progress as another result of the moral characteristics inherent in the blood of the race.

The next section of the book is dedicated by Gobineau to explaining the natural or racial origins of the decay of the human civilizations. He begins by supporting the idea that humans originate from the same ancestor. According to him, the original races have separated from times immemorial due to large differences in climate or natural conditions present in those periods. Then, he claims that these convulsions of the planet have disappeared today, thus precluding any natural modification in the conformation of the human races and making their distinctions permanent33. Eventually, Gobineau tries to reconcile racism with the religious belief in a common origin of mankind by rhetorical devices. In the absence of more scientific arguments, he is forced to recur to speculation and myth in a hyperbolic form:

„In this situation, the atmospheric conditions were making themselves felt due to the general lack of equilibrium. The struggle between Earth, Fire and Water brought about quick variations of the humidity, drought, heat and cold and the exhalations of a still moving soil exercised upon beings an effect impossible to resist […] This nature, so well endowed, exercised on itself and in human being changes so powerful that today they have become impossible”34.

Finally, based on biblical genealogy, Gobineau arrives at the definition of the three original races. Whites are the descendants of both Japhet and Sem (thus allowing Jews closer to the superior race) and blacks are the descendents of Ham. However, Gobineau cannot explain what the „Yellows” are in this scheme35. Then, Gobineau claims that these „secondary” races do not exist in pure form and that the present-day „tertiary” races are sub-types of the original principle. Eventually, by mixing, a „quaternary” category will be created there will be a homogenization of all peoples.

Gobineau first argues for the inequality of these races in beauty, strength, intelligence and then he creates the hierarchy of races. He places blacks at the end of the scale, blaming them for being closest to animals, simply powerful in sensations but not intelligence, eating everything, and being instable emotionally. The yellow race is predisposed to apathy, endowed with weak desires and a tendency to mediocrity and imitation. The whites are energetic, practical, intelligent, more powerful and better able to endure hardship, much more idealistic and lovers of freedom36. Jews belong in the end to the white race, but with some black elements, thus allowing them a place never to be seen again in other racist authors.

H.S. Chamberlain

H.S. Chamberlain’s immense book, The Foundations of the XIXth Century is a monumental work, haunted by the specter of a gigantic duel of civilizations between the two pure races left in history: the Teutons or Germanics and the Jews. The first are metaphysical and intelligent, the second a racial monstrosity, barren intellectually and dominated solely by will. It is much more optimistic about the final triumph of the Germanics and owes very much to Social Darwinism, developed in the 50 years since Gobineau37.

Chamberlain starts by describing the importance of Race as the key principle of explanation in history. He defines races based on a mix of craniology and physiognomy: a race is the grouping of individuals with the same physical and moral characteristics. Race is the key to explaining everything from Greek poetry to the decay of Rome. Then, Chamberlain derives the Five Cardinal Laws of Race-the principle by which a superior race is born: the presence of excellent material at the origin, the maintenance of a pure race by inbreeding, the acceptance of limited mixing with other good races, the presence of artificial selection and the rejection of mixing with degenerate or alien races38. Nation-states, according to Chamberlain, allow the maintenance of pure races, as they comprise individuals of only one race and lead to the formation of the race’s elite, while multinational empires promote the mixing of races39 .

The next chapter is dedicated to the entrance of the Jews into the history of the West. Chmaberlain begins by accusing the Jews of maintaining themselves pure while destroying the purity of Indo-Europeans by infiltrating them40.The alien character of the Jews and the difference in their moral character from the Indo-Europeans is revealed by the fact that Jews simply cannot understand the revelation of Christ. Christ is, according to Chamberlain, a Savior who suffers and Christianity is a metaphysical religion. However, Jewish nature is purely materialistic. In Chamberlain’s view, this led Jews to become such great financiers during the ages and to determine princes who needed their money to keep them around41.

Next, Chamberlain delineates the history of the Jew: The Jew was formed by the mix of a Semitic tribe, the Syrians inhabiting Palestine during Biblical times and the Aryan Amorites. Chamberlain claims that after a disastrous conquest of Palestine, only a small portion of the inhabitants survived and these, led by a priestly caste, created a pure race by organized inbreeding inscribed as religious law42. The low moral character of the Jew is taken from his Bedouin-Semitic ancestor and his „Jewish nose” from the Hittite Syrians43. Finally, any good that might have come into the Jewish blood is derived from the Aryan Amorites. The Amorites were a brave people but, because of their own divisions and love of war, allowed the Israelites to conquer them during the reign of David. This bravery was then passed on to the Jews.

Chamberlain maintains that, conscious that their existence is a sin against the race, the Jews decided to maintain themselves a pure race. This was accomplished by falsifying their own history and by inscribing a religious duty to reject breeding with other races. The mix with other races would have led the Jews to the unavoidable destruction which is the characteristic of the mongrel races44.

When detailing the moral characteristics of the Jew, Chamberlain describes the original Semite as unable to comprehend anything deep, scientific or religious. There is only selfishness and inability to transcend the Ego in both Semitic religion and art. Moreover, there is no concept of individual freedom, but only subjection to the group, no tolerance but only a predominance of the Will. The Will is the absolute quality of the Jew, which determines all others: it precludes the existence of imagination and thus creates a religion based on absolute obedience to a law which is a contract-like relation to God. Fables rich in symbolical content are turned into simple narratives, much in contrast to the Christian religion, made up of mystery, symbolism, faith and inner revelation45.

Opposite to the Jew stands the Teuton or the Germanic. It is the other true pure race, who twice saved Europe from racelessness: firstly teutons destroyed the Roman Empire and then accomplished the Reformation46. Chamberlain purports to draw the picture of the Teuton. He is distinguished by a desire for individual freedom and by loyalty. The Teuton selects his own masters and is loyal to them to the death. The Teuton has a tendency to the ideal, as delineated by Kant’s moral philosophy, but also to practical inventions such as the invention of the railway or the steam engine47. In a few words, all the desirable moral characters belong to the Teuton, the creator of Reformed Christianity, of metaphysics and of science, contrasted to the Jew, who is barren, has a purely materialistic religion and makes nothing but money.

Romanian Anti-Semitism: Eminescu, Iorga and Cuza

Mihai Eminescu

Mihai Eminescu attacks Jews because he believes that the capitalist economy, which the Jews are the carriers of, will eventually bring the ultimate destruction of the Romanian peasantry48. Eminescu argues that, in Romania, ethnic Romanian must predominate in all sectors and minorities can be accepted only if they do not predominate anywhere. Only this way, Eminescu claims, all sections of the society can be infused and guided according to the interest of the Romanians. In his articles Usury (Uzura) and The Effects of Usury in Romania (Efectele Uzurii in Romania), Eminescu develops the idea that, however, Jews predominate in trade and act as intermediaries between peasants and the urban classes49. Due to the peasants’ lack of education and their inability to commercialize their products, Jews extract an unworked profit out of activities such as usury (the flow of money into the villages) and the sale of agricultural products in the cities and of alcoholic beverages into the villages50. The economic „transmission belt” between the villages and the cities is made up of an alien element, which refuses assimilation and does not act in accordance with the interests of the Romanian nation as a whole.

Only the complete assimilation and dispersion of Jews in multiple sectors of the economy can allow the nation to survive and prosper51. The best way to assimilate is, according to Eminescu, to give up Yiddish and particular dressing habits52. However, although he demands assimilation, Eminescu strongly opposes the possibility of a massive granting of rights to Jews. In two articles in Timpul, published in the period around the Berlin congress, one in 1876 and another in 1879, Eminescu strongly opposes any massive granting of rights to Jews. He uses the following argument: Jews are by necessity parasites and granting rights to 600.000 Jews would force the 700.000 Romanian peasants to produce enough food to feed them also. In such a situation, there would be a „Jew at the table of each Romanian peasant”53.

Nicolae Iorga

Iorga starts from the same romantic-nationalistic premise: the interests of the nation can be expressed only by ethnic Romanians. According to Iorga, in a country that has people of different ethnicities, there should be a dominance of the majority. National minorities, those that have taken part in the struggles of the Romanian people and have created a distinct culture have the right to have this culture protected. However, the protection extends only as long as the minorities don’t act politically, admit the predominance of the majority and are loyal to the Romanian state. However, due to the Jews’ lack of national culture and predominance in the area of trade, they do not deserve the status of a national minority54. However, as long as they don’t threaten the exclusive Romanian control in any sector Iorga Jews can be accepted55. For Iorga, the Jewish problem is a mostly an economic one and can be remedied by spreading Jews around in the economy, turning them to physical labor and thus defending the life of the nation56.

Once again, as in many other authors, Iorga’s practical conclusion out of this argumentation is that Romanians must take over their own economy and build the economic component of their national state by themselves. Romanians must eliminate the predominance of Jews in this sector. Due to the Jewish inability and unwillingness to assimilate, even after being granted political rights in 1878, and even a possible conscious organization with the stated goal of colonizing Romania, the Jews cannot represent the interest of the collective Romanian nation. Therefore the economy cannot be left out of predominantly Romanian hands57.

In another one of Iorga’s works Istoria evreilor in Tarile noastre,(History of the Jews in Our Lands) one can follow the same argument as in Iudaica. Jews came in Romania from two different sources: the Sephardic, or Spanish Jews, came as merchants starting the XVIth and XVIIth centuries. They came from the Ottoman Empire, where they resided after their expulsion from Spain and fulfilled important finance-related functions at the courts of the Romanian princes58. The most important example that Iorga quotes is the presence of many Jewish money lenders in the group of creditors that Michael the Brave slaughtered59. With the increase of the influence of the Ottoman Empire, the influence of the Jewish moneylenders increases also, and the apogee is reached in the Phanariote period60. To exemplify this, Iorga shows that around 1663, Jews are observed as innkeepers in the Romanian villages and that during the time of Constantin Brancoveanu, the Synagogue in Bucharest was built61. However, these Sephardic Jews are very few and end up assimilating in the more developed society of Walachia.

According to Iorga, the influx of the „bad Jews” starts from the north, from Poland and Galitia. These become pests for the villages, they sell drinks to destroy the peasants, use credits, fake testimonies and forged documents. Jews take advantage of their influence around the court to get to be recognized as a guild in Moldavia62. One important impulse given to this migratory flux is the annexation of Galitia by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It leads to their expulsion and their relocation to Romania. The Austrian occupation of the Romanian lands during the Napoleonic wars and the help given by the Jewish international agency only aid the „invasion”. Moreover, the granting of privileges to some Jews only determines them to bring more of their fellows63.

The last stage in Iorga’s imagined Jewish plan to colonize Romania takes place after the defeat of the 1821 revolution, when Jews take over the financial assets of those formerly loyal to Tudor Vladimirescu. Taking advantage of their economic and demographic powers, the Jews „surround” the Mitropolie of Iasi by taking over the abandoned Greek schools and setting up their commercial sites64. Despite the favorable intentions of the 1848 revolutionaries and of Al.I. Cuza, the Jews refuse to assimilate and serve the Romanian nation. For example, according to Iorga, Al.I. Cuza’s law which allowed the Jews to become citizens in case of special merits was undermined from the beginning, as Jews refused to have special merits65. Thus, the anti-Semitic measures, such as those of Kogalniceanu and Bratianu were justified as a measure of national self-defense against the economic Jewish peril66.

By reading this work, one can see Iorga’s distinction between the „good” assimilated Walachian Jews and the „bad” unassimilated Moldavian one. What one can deduce from here is Iorga’s belief that assimilation is possible. Radu Ioanid quotes another example to support Iorga’s belief in the possibility assimilation: „I urge the Jews to abandon Zionism and Maccabeism, to give up the two-homeland system and to find their way into the Romanian soul, a road which is not closed to them, as long as they don’t close it”67. However, in Iorga’s view it is important that the Jewish community offer itself up for assimilation before the Romanians can grant them anything, rather than the normal process, which occurred in the West, of emancipation as a prelude to assimilation.


The most famous Romanian anti-Semite before the emergence of fascism and the mentor of C.Z. Codreanu was A.C.Cuza, a professor of political economy at Iasi. Cuza founded, together with Iorga the „Nationalist Democratic Party” and edited the newspaper „The Romanian Nation”. After Iorga’s 1922 break with him, Cuza continues his virulent anti-Semitic attacks and founds together with N.C. Paulescu, another fierce anti-Semite the „National Christian Union”. They edit the newspaper „The National Defense.” Cuza’s last party is the famous LANC-Liga Apararii National Crestine, „The League for the National-Christian Defense” (the place for the start of Codreanu’s political career). Cuza also participated in the late 30s in the last government before the royal dictatorship, the government which established the anti-Semitic legislation and took away the citizenship of the Jews. The pre- World War I phase of Cuza’s Anti-Semitism is strongly focused on the idea of the Jew as an economic and ethnic threat68.

One of Cuza’s most famous works is his attempt of scientific contribution to the field of political economy, called Despre poporatie. Cuza starts his excursus from the Malthusian theory of limited resources and Darwin’s idea that populations tend to reproduce until they reach the limit of the resources available. These resources have an absolute limit: the limit of the planet or of space and a relative limit: what the population can produce at the time with the available technological means. The increase of the relative limit by technological innovation or innovation in the sphere of social organization is what is generally called progress69.

Cuza starts to analyze the rise and fall of nations and claims that individuals must procure by means of sustenance in a way that avoids two extremes: one the one hand the over-exhaustion of their forces by working too much for a nourishment lower than the energy consumed to get it and, on the other hand, the atrophy caused by insufficient work for food70. This makes agriculture, the profession which requires most physical effort, the most noble and healthy of all professions, and the one which produces the best people71. Then, Cuza likens nations to individuals. He claims that, like an individual must exercise all its organs, a society must exercise all its classes by their struggle against each other. As long as the struggle is kept within the nation, all is fine and the nation can survive and prosper72. Cuza’s comparison between a nation and an individual and between classes and organs is the key to linking the Malthusian theory with the theory of nationality.

Cuza argues that the insertion of a parasitic people in the middle of the nation leads to a struggle which this time has negative effects: the destruction of the healthy element of society, the peasant class. This has, as a final effect, the eventual extinction of the nation by the withering away of the other organs73. Therefore, the only possible solution is the expulsion of any foreign bodies out of a healthy nation and the full social harmony between the lower classes and the upper classes. In order for the ruling class, which is the one entrusted with the direction of the nation, to truly represent its interest, it must be in direct rather than mediated contact with the healthy element of the nation, the peasantry. Thus, Cuza attacks the practice of using Jewish rentiers as middlemen between the Romanian landowners and the Romanian peasants. The peasantry is also important for renewing the urban classes, which cannot survive by themselves but need a fresh infusion of people at regular intervals74. Cuza’s conclusion is that civilizations have risen and fallen through the destruction of their peasant classes and his practical proposal is the elimination of any foreign elements from the body of the nation75.

In Nationalitatea in arta, Cuza discusses national artistic production. He starts from claiming that art is the product of the nation and belongs to it. Only nations that can produce culture are worthy of being called nations76. Then, he explains that whatever an individual creates is determined by his or her national make-up, being the expression of the national soul as much as that of the individual. The nation is to be understood here as not just the community of individuals, but also the natural environment and the language as a living entity77.

Jews are, according to Cuza, culturally sterile because their unique culture is determined solely by their religion. They miss the link to a natural landscape of a fatherland and to a national language. Yiddish is, in Cuza’s view, a mix of other languages, but not a natural language capable of creating and nourishing a culture. Heinrich Heine is the best example of Jewish sterility, as his poetry, although expressed in German only shames that language. However Goethe, a real German can truly express the German soul. Cuza concludes that the practical results of his study are: the necessity to promote nationality in schools, the necessity of eliminating from the economy the Jews, which cut the link between the peasants-the keepers of the Romanian soul- and the artists and leaders, the expulsion of the Jews from the national territory and the promotion of national culture at all costs78.


By the comparative examination of Romanian and Western intellectual anti-Semitism, the paper has brought evidence to support the argument that Romanian intellectual anti-Semitism in the XIXth century was based on attacks against the Jewish culture. As can be seen from the writings of Iorga and Eminescu, assimilation is the key to integration in the Romanian mainstream. What had to be destroyed was Jewish culture, especially the culture of the poor and unassimilated Moldavian Jews and not the Jews themselves. On the other hand, the theories of Chamberlain could lead to nothing but complete expulsion or extermination. His emphasis on the Jews as a racial monstrosity and intrinsic enemies of the superior Teutons leave little doubt to his solution to the „race question”. Even the most virulent Romanian anti-Semite of all, A.C. Cuza did not envision mass murder. His arguments, at best, demand expulsion and confiscation of assets, as well as the famous numerus clausus. On the contrary, Chamberlain’s view of a permanent struggle of races must conclude with the total victory of one.

The article also argued that the lack of assimilation was the key variable to understanding the specificities of Romanian anti-Semitism. Only without assimilation, the distinction between „good” (assimilated) Jews and „bad” (unassimilated) Jews can exist. It is not surprising that Iorga, Cuza and Eminescu all came from Moldova, where Jewish poverty and lack of assimilation was at is peak. Conversely, where the unassimilated Jews have disappeared can racial anti-Semitism flourish. Both Gobineau and Chamberlain came from societies where Jews were virtually indistinguishable from others.

Romanian cultural anti-Semitism was the justification for the deportation and murder of between 280 000 and 380 000 Jews79. Most of the victims were Jews from Bessarabia and Transnistria. Conversely, most of the Jewish Community in the Old Regat survived. This article has argued that it was in the XIXth century when the ideas which led to the drama of the XXth were crystallized. By focusing on XIXth century intellectual arguments, the article offered a possible explanation of the contradictions of the events in the XXth.


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CHAMBERLAIN Houston Stewart, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, New York, John Lane Company, 1911.
CUZA A.C., Despre Poporaţie: statistică, teoria, politica ei. Studiu Economic Politic. Bucureşti, Imprimeriile „Independenţa”, 1929.
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IANCU Carol, Evreii Din Romania, 1866 -1919: De La Excludere La Emancipare, translated by Carol Litman, Bucureşti, Hasefer, 1996.
International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, Final Report, Iaşi, Polirom, 2005.
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IORGA Nicolae, Istoria Evreilor Din Ţerile Noastre, Bucureşti, Socec, 1913.
IORGA Nicolae, Iudaica, Bucureşti, Bucovina, 1914.
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1 William O. Oldson, A Providential anti-Semitism: Nationalism and Polity in Nineteenth Century Romania, Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society v. 193, Philadelphia, American Philosophical Society, 1991, pp. 2–3.
2 Oldson, op cit, p. 4.
3 Dennis Deletant, „The Holocaust in Transnistria: An Overview in the Light of Recent Research,” in Moldova, Bessarabia, Transnistria, Occasional Papers in Romanian Studies, ed. Rebecca Haynes, London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, 2003, p 143–161.
4 William W. Hagen, „Before the ‘Final Solution’: Toward a Comparative Analysis of Political Anti-Semitism in Interwar Germany and Poland,” The Journal of Modern History , 68, no. 2, June 1, 1996, pp. 351–381.
5 Shulamit Volkov, Germans, Jews, and Antisemites: Trials in Emancipation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 106–118.
6 Hagen, „Before the ‘Final Solution’, op. cit ”, p. 362.
7 Oldson, A Providential anti-Semitism, op. cit, p. 9.
8 Nicholas M. Nagy-Talavera, The Green Shirts and the Others: a History of Fascism in Hungary and Rumania, Hoover Institution Publications 85, Stanford, Calif, Hoover Institution Press, 1970, p. 50.
9 Ibid., p. 52.
10 Oldson, A Providential anti-Semitism , op. cit, p. 10.
11 Paul Johnson, O Istorie a Evreilor, trad.. Irina Horea, Bucureşti, Hasefer, 2001, p, 150.
12 Fritz Richard Stern, Dreams and Delusions: The Drama of German History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 101.
13 Leon Poliakov, Istoria Antisemitismului, trad. Lelia Balus, vol. 3 Bucureşti, Hasefer, 1999,p. 349.
14 Schmuel Almog, „Theorizing About Antisemitism, the Holocaust and Modernity,” The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, accessed February 15, 2013,
15 Eugen Joseph Weber, France, Fin de Siecle, Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1986, pp. 130–140.
16 Johnson, O Istorie a Evreilor, op cit, pp. 300–302.
17 Poliakov, Istoria Antisemitismului, op. cit 3:373 ; George L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich New York, Schocken Books, 1981.
18 Jacques Le Rider, Modernitatea Vieneza Si Crizele Identitatii, trad. Magda Jeanrenaud Iasi: Editura Universitatii „Al. I. Cuza,” 1995, p. 211.
19 Poliakov, Istoria Antisemitismului, op cit. 3, p. 487.
20 Carol Iancu, Evreii Din Romania, 1866 -1919: De La Excludere La Emancipare, trans. Carol Litman, Bucuresti, Hasefer, 1996, p. 71.
21 Ibid., p. 125.
22 Ibid., p. 128.
23 Ibid., p. 130.
24 C. Iancu, Evreii Din Romania, op. cit., p. 114.
25 Oldson, A Providential anti-Semitism, op. cit.¸p.139.
26 Ibid., p. 41.
27 Ibid., p. 90.
28 Neil Gregor (ed), Nazism, New York, Oxford University Press, Oxford Readers, 2000, pp. 279–283.
29 Joseph Arthur compte de Gobineau, Eseu Asupra Inegalitatii Raselor Umane, trans. Andreea Năstase, Bucureşti, Incitatus, 1995, pp. 12–19.
30 Ibid., p. 27.
31 Ibid., pp. 29–32.
32 Gobineau, Eseu Asupra Inegalitatii Raselor Umane, op cit., pp. 40–45.
33 Ibid., p. 100.
34 Ibid., p101.
35 Ibid., p 107.
36 Gobineau, Eseu Asupra Inegalitatii Raselor Umane, op. cit, p. 148.
37 Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, op cit., p. 63.
38 Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, New York, John Lane Company, 1911, pp. 280–284.
39 Ibid., p.295.
40 Ibid., p. 332.
41 Ibid., pp. 340–350.
42 Ibid., pp. 358–360.
43 Ibid., pp. 370–375.
44 Chamberlain, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, op. cit, 390–392.
45 Ibid., pp. 400–422.
46 Ibid., p. 512.
47 Chamberlain, Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, op. cit, pp. 539–552.
48 Leon Volovici, Nationalist Ideology and Antisemitism: The Case of Romanian Intellectuals in the 1930s, 1st ed, Studies in Antisemitism Oxford, England: Published for the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, HebrewUniversity of Jerusalem by Pergamon Press, 1991, pp. 12–13.
49 Dumitru Murăraşu, Nationalismul Lui Eminescu, Bucureşti, Pacifica, 1994, p. 110.
50 Ibid.
51 Murăraşu, Naţionalismul lui Eminescu, p. 111.
52 Joachim-Peter Storfa, Scrierile Politice Ale Lui Mihai Eminescu, trans. Maria Sass, Bucureşti, Paideia, 2003,p. 64.
53 Ibid., p. 65.
54 William O. Oldson, The Historical and Nationalistic Thought of Nicolae Iorga, East European Monographs no. 5 Boulder [Colo.], East European quarterly, 1973, p. 85.
55 Ibid., p. 85
56 Ibid., p.87.
57 Nicolae Iorga, Iudaica, Bucureşti, Bucovina, 1914, pp. 12–17.
58 Nicolae Iorga, Istoria Evreilor Din Terile Noastre, Bucureşti, Socec, 1913, pp. 4–5.
59 Ibid., p. 7.
60 Iorga, Istoria Evreilor, op. cit, p. 11.
61 Ibid.
62 Ibid., pp.14–17.
63 Ibid., pp. 15–20.
64 Ibid., pp. 20–25.
65 Iorga, Istoria Evreilor, op. cit., p. 36.
66 Ibid., pp. 38–41.
67 Radu Ioanid, „Nicolae Iorga and Fascism,” Journal of Contemporary History, 27, n° 3, July 1, 1992, pp. 467–492.
68 Volovici, Nationalist Ideology and Antisemitism, op. cit, p. 23.
69 A.C. Cuza, Despre Poporatie: Statistica, Teoria, Politica Ei, Studiu Economic Politic Bucuresti, Imprimeriile „Independenta”, 1929, pp.410–417.
70 Ibid., pp. 440–441.
71 Ibid.
72 Ibid., p. 443.
73 Cuza, Despre Poporatie, op. cit. pp. 450–51.
74 Ibid., p. 447.
75 Ibid., p. 449.
76 A.C. Cuza, Naţionalitatea în Artă: Principii, Fapte, Concluzii, Bucureşti, Institut de Arte Grafice şi Editura, 1908, p. 5.
77 Cuza, Despre Poporaţie, op. cit., pp. 10–12.
78 Ibid., pp. 17, 26, 100, 131.
79 International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, Final Report, Iaşi, Polirom, 2005, p. 388.


VALENTIN STOIAN este doctorand în cadrul Universității Central Europene din Budapesta, Ungaria. A absolvit masterul de științe politice al aceleiași universități și licența în științe politice la Universitatea din Bucuresti. A publicat în CEU Political Science Journal și în Holocaust: Studii si Cercetări.




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