(JTA) — Ukrainian Jewish leaders said Romania was unfit to head a Holocaust remembrance forum because it has not done enough to come to grips with its own Holocaust-era culpability.
“Romania’s actions prove it is not ready to assume responsibility for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust, when Romanian troops acted as an occupying force in large parts of Ukraine under orders from the country’s pro-Nazi leadership,” Oleksandr Feldman, a Ukrainian lawmaker and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, told JTA.
Feldman was reacting to reports that Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean was interested in having Romania head the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, in 2016. Canada currently heads the alliance.
Ukrainian Jewish Committee Secretary Eduard Dolinsky said that Romania’s embassy in Ukraine has rejected invitations by his organization to discuss ways to jointly commemorate the murder of Jews by Romanian troops.
“We are looking for recognition, apologies and common actions towards preserving the memory of the victims,” Dolinsky said. One possibility, he added, is for Romania to participate in the planned construction of Kiev’s first Jewish museum.
But the Romanian bid is supported in principle by Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international affairs and personal representative on combating anti-Semitism for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — an intergovernmental agency with 57 member states known by the acronym OSCE.
“There may be additional issues to tackle, but Romania has taken some important steps toward coming to grips with its Holocaust-era record,” Baker said.
He noted the 2005 establishment of the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of Holocaust in Romania and the 2004 designation of a national Holocaust remembrance day on Oct. 9 — the day that Romanian authorities began deporting Jews to their deaths 72 years ago.
Approximately 380,000 Jews were murdered in Romania-controlled areas during the Holocaust, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.