Romania’s adviser on the Holocaust, Alexandru Muraru, on Thursday praised recent legislation that makes study of the Holocaust compulsory in Romanian schools.
Until now, it has been an optional subject and few students have chosen to learn about it.
On Monday, the Senate voted 107-13 to make it compulsory learning. President Klaus Iohannis needs to sign off on the legislation.
In the 2018-2019 school year when it first became an option, about 1,850 students took classes. Some 2,200 took classes the next year from 73 classes across Romania.
Last year, there were only 1,650 students learning about the slaughter and deportation of Jews and Roma, he said, citing education ministry figures.
There is widespread ignorance about the Holocaust and Romania’s role in the atrocities. Mr Muraru’s job, which was created in January is to raise public awareness about the issue as well as the history of communism.
He said that the ‘history of Jews and the Holocaust” would now be mandatory learning, in his Facebook post.
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 during World War II.
Some 135,000 Jews living under Hungarian control in northern Transylvania were also killed in the Holocaust. Most surviving Jews emigrated to Israel under communism. There are about 3,000 Jews in Romania today.
More students are curious about studying the country’s more recent communist history, but numbers have dwindled. Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown during the 1989 revolution when the country started its journey to democracy.
In 2018, there were more than 6,000 students studying the history of communism. The next year, 5,320 took it as an optional subject. Last year, 5,040 pupils took classes.