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Romanian Leader Says Nationalists Reviving Iron Guard Leader’s Image

Romanian Prime Minister Peter Roman told American Jewish leaders here Wedesday that while his government will not assist attempts by Romanian nationalists to resuscitate the image of a wartime fascist leader, the efforts are legitimate.

Romanian nationalists are working to rehabilitate the historical image of Gen. Ion Antonescu, whom they consider a hero for his efforts to fend off the communists, who took power in Romania in 1948.

Antonescu, leader of the Iron Guard, enacted anti-Semitic legislation and massacred Romanian Jews soon after coming to power through a bloodless coup in September 1940.

“Official rehabilitation is out of the question,” said Roman, whose father was Jewish. But he added that “attempts to rehabilitate Antonescu are related to his actions against the Soviet menace, and that is true.”

“Antonescu had a bad attitude toward Jews during the first moments of power,” but “later he proved to be much more tolerant,” Roman told members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“As you know, the Jewish community in Romania did not suffer deportation. Only those who remained in northern Transylvania were deported,” he said.

Roman “guaranteed that the government will not be part of giving Antonescu official here’s status,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said after the prime minister’s appearance.

“If Romania is moving toward democracy, we can’t expect (the government) to take an active role in stopping nationalist groups from printing books and literature” about Antonescu, Foxman said.

The prime minister was joined at the meeting by Romania’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Arel Draguls Munteanu, who is Jewish.

Munteanu told the Jewish leaders that Romania will vote to rescind the 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution denigrating Zionism as a form of racism when the matter comes up for vote again at the United Nations.

He also said he is working to convince other nations to do the same.

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