Prime Minister Florin Citu on Saturday lamented widespread ignorance about the tragic history of the Holocaust when Romanian authorities were responsible for deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Roma.
In his statement to mark National Holocaust Remembrance Day, he also voiced concern about the rise of a far-right party which promotes an anti-Semitic message.
On 9 October, 1941, the Nazi-allied government began to deport Romanian Jews to Tran-Dniester in the Soviet Union. In 2004, Romania’s government chose that date to commemorate the victims.
“It’s 80 years since the deportations to Bukovina (former Soviet Union). It’s time to understand that we need to own up to our past. Keeping the memory of victims alive is (our) profound duty.”
Ignorance about the Holocaust is widespread in Romania. It is taught as an optional subject in schools, and many are unaware about Romania’s role in the Nazi mass extermination of Jews, Roma and others.
“Romania has a fundamental moral duty to keep alive for evermore the memory of victims. (It must) offer support to their descendants and the survivors, the last witnesses of the Holocaust in Romania,” he said.
Turning to the current political scene, the premier said he was „disgusted to see extremist parties in Romania’s Parliament,” he said referring to the new right-wing Alliance for the Unity of Romanians, which is the fourth largest party in Parliament.
As well as being anti-mask, anti-vax and homophobic, it has been criticized for anti-Semitic outbursts.
The premier mentioned a protest last week that the party organized where “the symbols of Holocaust victims were “trivialized.” He said the Holocaust was being „relativized to the point of denial.”
Elie Wiesel International Committee
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.
The prime minister added that authorities had a “duty to remove ignorance, forgetfulness, and disinterest of these tragic events that happened in our history,”
He said the Holocaust in Romania happened as “state institutions were used against their own citizens. Anti-Semitism and hate speech was cultivated ”along with a passive attitude to abuse and crimes. This contributed to the greatest tragedy ever seen by humanity.”
He called for Romanian institutions to cooperate and coordinate more closely and for more Holocaust education.
To this end, he named a special representative to combat anti-Semitism, Alexandru Muraru, at the beginning of the year.
The government adopted a two-year national strategy to in May to prevent and fight anti-Semitism, xenophobia and hate speech.
A new inter-ministerial committee which includes non-governmental groups, will teach youngsters about the danger of anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
Dreams and hopes
“We must remember their dreams and hopes and the role the Jewish community played in developing Romania.”
“The memory of the victims will never disappear! It lives on through us!” he said ending on an emotional note.