02 March 2014

Hitler's Forgotten Ally - Ion Antonescu and His Regime, Romania 1940-1944

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"For most Western scholars, the Marshal is a war criminal, held responsible for the deaths of between 250,000 and 290,000 Jews and between 10,000 and 20,000 Romas. [...] For many Romanians, Antonescu is a national hero, a brave patriot who preserved Romania as a sovereign state during the war." Dennis Deletant doesn't resolve the ambiguity of "Hitler's Forgotten Ally", but his book is an excellent contribution to track the development of Antisemitism in Romania, to comprehend Ion Antonescu's rise and fall and to learn on the tragic fate of the Jews during the Romanian Holocaust. Even the Royal Family and several Romanian politicians - not too many - were horrified by the brutality of the Romanian anti-Jewish measures:

"Through these methods, unfamiliar in civilized countries, and totally alien to the spiritual structure of the Romanian people in this province, which has been brought up over the last 150 years to respect the law and in the most profound public morality [...] the Romanians have been condemned to witness how hundreds and thousands of Jews, most of them personal acquaintances alongside whom they had lived their whole lives, were led through the streets of Cernauti on Sunday mornings, while the church bells were ringing the summons to the holy mass, in convoys flanked by armed police and soldiers, carrying on their backs their entire fortune, calling out and shouting in their pitiful desperation [...]"

This quotation (see p. 161-165) comes from a memorandum dated July 14, 1942, addressed to the Romanian government erroneously attributed by Dennis Deletant to Traian Popovici. As a matter of fact, this enlightening memorandum is an act of resistance, drafted by Dori Popovici, Traian Popovici's uncle. Despite small inaccurancies, Dennis Deletant's book is a most worthwhile reading.

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