Yet another statue of World War II fascist dictator Ion Antonescu has been dedicated in Romania, the World Jewish Congress has reported.
The latest bust of Antonescu was unveiled last week in the Romanian town of Piatra-Neamt, at a ceremony attended by local officials and war veterans.
Jews in Romania and outside the country, fearful of renewed anti-Semitism in the country, are concerned about signs that the dictator’s reputation is being rehabilitated.
During Antonescu’s rule form 1940 to 1944, more than 25,000 Jews died in territories controlled by Romania. Antonescu was executed in Romania as a war criminal in 1946.
In October 1993, Romanian’s first official statue of Antonescu was erected in the town of Slobozia, financed in part by local Romanian police. Local government officials and a member of the Romanian Cabinet were present at that dedication too.
Nicolae Vulbashin, political counselor at the Romanian Embassy in Washington, said that Romanian President Ion Iliescu has condemned the erection of these statues.
“The government did not support the erection of busts or such things,” Vulbashin said.
The president and other leaders have tried to distance the government from the rehabilitation of Antonescu, although some government officials have been present at the dedications of both statues.
At the same time, government officials have tried to explain Antonescu as a patriotic hero for Romanians.
Rabbi Andrew Baker, head of European affairs for the American Jewish Committee in Washington, registered a complaint about the new tribute to Antonescu with the Romanian ambassador to Washington, Mihai Horia Bodez.
Baker said he had not yet received a response to his letter, which was sent last week.
Baker said, “We have raised the issue here and last year in a visit to Romania, regarding the tributes to Antonescu and to the general revisionism that has taken place.
“Since previous responses have been to both sanitize Antonescu as a patriotic figure and to dismiss the government’s culpability, I don’t think we are going to find a dramatically different response in this case,” he said.
Last year, before the first official statue of Antonescu was erected, Alfred Moses, then president of the American Jewish Committee, spoke directly to the Romanian president about it and was assured at that time that it would not be put up.
But the statue was erected nonetheless.
In the interim, Moses has been named U.S. ambassador to Romania, and is expected to be sworn in to that post next week at a ceremony in Washington.