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Romanian Leader Promises Rabbi Jews Can Count on Protection

Romanian Jews can count on their government to protect them from rising manifestations of anti-Semitism, President Ion Iliescu has assured Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen.

Rosen, who has been threatened personally, was received by Iliescu to discuss the worsening situation, according to a report on the meeting the World Jewish Congress had from Bucharest.

The chief rabbi asked bluntly whether the country’s remaining 18,000 Jews could hope to continue their lives in Romania, where about 800,000 Jews lived before World War II.

Jewish fears peaked last month when the Romanian Parliament officially honored the memory of pro-Nazi dictator Ion Antonescu on the 45th anniversary of his execution for war crimes, which included the deportation of at least 250,000 Jews to Nazi death camps.

The presumably democratically elected body which replaced Nicolae Ceausescu’s Communist dictatorship rose for a minute of silence in memory of Antonescu on May 1.

Anti-Semitism is endemic to Romania, and its latest manifestations seem to have permeated all levels of society.

Observers attribute its resurgence to nationalism and xenophobia, which have intensified in proportion to the severity of the economic and social disruptions caused by the sudden overthrow of the Communist regime in December 1989.

Iliescu and Prime Minister Petre Roman, whose father was Jewish, denounced the rehabilitation of Antonescu, But their statements were all but swamped in the media by praise for the fascist leader of a half-century ago.

The president told Rosen that his statement appeared in only two newspapers and had been misinterpreted by both.

Romanian Jews will mark the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust on July 1 and 2 The ceremonies will be attended by, among others, Israel’s minister of education and culture, Zevulun Hammer, and Nobel Peace laureate Eli Wiesel, whose place of birth, Sighet, is in Romania.

The U.S. government will be represented by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Schifter.

Rosen has been invited to Kishinev for July 3 to July 4 for a memorial to the 150,000 Jews killed by Antonescu’s army in Bessarabia.

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