President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday said that Romania carried the “terrible guilt of assassinating its own Jewish and Roma citizens” in a message on the Holocaust Memorial Day where he warned about a resurgence of anti-Semitism.
The president called the killing of millions including six million Jews “the blackest death toll of history which left a wound that has never healed.”
Holocaust Memorial Day is marked on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. This year, however, its scope has been widened to include all victims of genocide.
The Elie Wiesel International Committee for the Study of the Holocaust published a report in 2004 saying that Romanian authorities were responsible for the deaths of 280,000 to 380,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma from 1940 to 1944.
In 2004, a commission of international Holocaust experts concluded that “Romania bears responsibility for the deaths of more Jews than any country other than Germany itself.”
Mr Iohannis said Romania was “weighed down by the heavy burden for its responsibility for the terrible guilt of having assassinated its own Jewish and Roma citizens.”
The president paid homage to those who “perished knowing hell on earth, fed by hatred, and by the few survivors who, unwavering in their uprightness in the face of death and, motivated by the hope of freedom, managed to stay alive so they could teach the painful lessons about the concentration camps.”
He reaffirmed „our commitment to honor the memory and to not forget… the memory of all those whose right to exist was cruelly snatched (from them), children, elderly people and woman whose memory is forever woven in the fiber of our history.”
“Future generations must know the truth and comprehend the dimension of the atrocities of those years.”
„Just as then, hate is being spread even now…societies have a growing tendency of radicalization…. Some public figures cultivate and sow the seeds of hatred, intolerance and lies, and ignore the Holocaust and glorify criminals, downplaying what victims suffered.”
Nazi-allied World War II leader, Marshal Ion Antonescu under whose administration Jews and Roma were killed and deported, has streets named after him in Romania including the Black Sea port of Constanta, Decembrie, Bechet and Marasesti according to the Forward.
In his message, the Romanian president warned of the danger of a resurgence „in xenophobic and anti-Semitic attitudes (which) is greater today than it was yesterday and we should be alarmed.”
“Europe is facing major dangers- extremism, populism, and anti-Semitism which are fed by ignorance and indifference,” he said.
He called on the government to adopt a national strategy to prevent the spread of anti-Semitism , radicalization and hate mongering.
A Bucharest court is expected to deliver a verdict on February 2 in the case of a former Romanian intelligence officer who is charged with denying the Holocaust.
If former colonel Vasile Zarnescu is convicted, it would be first time a court has convicted someone for Holocaust denial in Romania
he former officer, who worked for the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), wrote a book called “The Holocaust-the diabolical Bogeyman- the extortion of money in the name of the Holocaust money,” in 2015 in which he asserts that the killing of six million Jews is “the biggest fraud in the history of the universe.”