(JTA) — The Holocaust never happened in Romania, a Romanian professor from a German university told a scientific forum in Bucharest.
"In Romania there was persecution against Jews, 20,000 Jews died, but this is not a Holocaust," Vladimir Iliescu said during a recent address organized by the Romanian Academy, an association of scholars that was established in 1866.
Iliescu was registered in the staff directory of the history department of RWTH Aachen, a university in western Germany, but his name has since been removed from the university’s website.
Iliescu made the statement during the launching of a book on the communist regime in Romania, according to Ziare.com, a Romanian news website. Interviewed on film directly after the speech by Mihai Rapcea, a Romanian lawyer, Iliescu repeated his denial that the Holocaust happened in Romania.
In an audio recording of Iliescu’s address, he is heard saying, "The Holocaust in Romania is a huge lie. The Holocaust happened in Germany and Hungary, since only from these countries Jews were sent to Auschwitz. However, all the Jews who were deported to Transylvania by Marshal Antonescu returned home and lived an almost normal life.”
Romania, an ally of Nazi Germany from 1940 to 1944, had a Jewish population of about 757,000 before World War II, when “extreme anti-Semitic tendencies escalated,” according to Yad Vashem. The Israeli Holocaust museum’s website says that Romanian and German troops murdered 380,000-400,000 Jews in areas controlled by Romania during the rule of Ion Antonescu.
The Romanian Academy has issued a statement distancing itself from Iliescu’s statement, which it said was not planned.
“The Romanian Academy totally dissociates itself from Mr. Vladimir Iliescu, and rejects and regrets that the statements were made in its auspices,” the forum said in a statement published last week following complaints by scholars and civil society organizations.
In October, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, denied on national television that the Holocaust happened in Romania. Earlier last year, Dan Sova, a politician who was later appointed a government minister, said Romanians never persecuted Jews — a statement he has since retracted.