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Holocaust Commemorations Get Unwelcome Reception in Romania

Romanian Jews are beginning to feel their non-Jewish countrymen would like them to end public commemorations of Holocaust-related events.

Two such occasions this year received sparse media coverage and, where notice was take, the reaction was ambiguous if not outright cynical.

In July, the Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities, marking the 50th anniversary of the Iasi pogrom, held a memorial for the 400,000 Romanian Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Immediately afterward, nationalistic journalists took issue with Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen for not making clear enough that one-third of the Jews, those in northern Transylvania, were the victims of Hungarian fascists.

Those protests were accompanied by quibbling over just how many did die, which trivialized the enormity of the crime and diminished the guilt of the perpetrators.

To Jews here, that represented a last desperate effort by a relatively few people who refuse to acknowledge that there was a Holocaust in Romania, that Romanian fascists as well as German Nazis were responsible for it and that the younger generation of Romanians should be told what happened.

On Nov. 25, in Cluj — a city recalled by Jews as Klausenberg — six representatives of the Hungarian minority bloc in Romania’s Parliament begged forgiveness for the crimes committed against Jews in Transylvania in the spring of 1944, when the province was ruled by Hungary.

At that time, 166,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz, of whom 130,000 perished.

CYNICAL MEDIA COVERAGE

The appeal for forgiveness to Rabbi Rosen was made by Domokos Gheza, president of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, the Hungarian faction in Parliament.

In a poignant scene, six of the members of Parliament knelt on the street in front of the Memorial Temple for the Deported, as the synagogue in Cluj is called.

Among those present was Laszlo Tokes, the Hungarian Reformed Church bishop who played a leading role in the 1989 revolution.

Rosen recalled that on May 18, 1944, when the deportations of tens of thousands of Jews began and Cluj was occupied by the Gestapo and the army of Hungary’s fascist dictator, Admiral Horthy, the Roman Catholic bishop, Marton Aaron, spoke out fearlessly in defense of the Jews.

President Ion Iliescu of Romania sent greetings to the participants in the memorial. The Jewish Federation and the Hungarian Democratic Unions sent written statements on the event to ROM, the Romanian news agency.

But few newspapers published or commented on them. An independent newspaper, The Truth, dismissed the memorial ceremony as sheer propaganda for the coming elections.

The newspaper of the National Salvation Front, Romania’s governing party, published a picture of the six parliamentarians on their knees over the caption, “They Should Only Calm Down.”

Television coverage was better. The event was reported on the main evening newscast and an extensive report was given in the weekly Hungarian-language broadcast.

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