In the first half of the 1940s, Romania and Germany were allies. In spite of this alliance, there were differences between them in regard to the way they treated Jewish communities
In the first half of the 1940s, Romania and Germany were allies. They were allies both on the frontline and in terms of anti-Semitic policies. In spite of this alliance, there were differences between them in regard to the way they treated Jewish communities
Germany applied a policy of gradual annihilation of Jews, which became more and more radical after 1942. It culminated in the so-called “final solution”, with Jews getting deported and killed on a massive scale in the death camps in what is now Poland. Romania's anti-Semitic policy was inconsistent, starting with a radical attitude, but ending with a refusal to deport Jews to the camps.
Historian Ottmar Trașcă, with the “George Baritiu” History Institute of Cluj, outlined for us the relationship between Romania and Germany in terms of the Jewish issue in the first half of the 1940s. Ottmar Trașcă recalled that Romania was consistently anti-Semitic throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s.
In its race policy, the Antonescu regime had the full benefit of consultation with the Germans: “During the nationalist Legionnaire governing in 1940, the Antonescu regime initially adopted a policy of Romanization, and continued with this policy after the downfall of that government in January 1941. Starting in March1941, Romania had a counselor for Jewish issues, SS Captain Gustav Richter, working at the German Legation in Bucharest. What was his initial mission? He had arrived upon request from the Antonescu government, along with counselors for various other issues. His mission was to harmonize Romanian and German anti-Semitic policies. Later on, starting in the autumn of 1941, and especially in 1942, he was supposed to prepare the application of the final solution in Romania. Gustav Richter had a decisive role in all the anti-Semitic laws passed in 1941- 1942.”
Romania and Germany collaborated closely in killing off Jews in Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, Transdnestr and Odessa.
Ottmar Trașcă looked into the German military archives, where he researched the collaboration between the Germans and the Romanians: “Once war broke out between the Germans and the Soviets, the Jewish matter entered a new stage. Now we have cooperation with the German mobile extermination units, the so-called Einsatzgruppen, on Romanian territories, Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and Transdnestr. There were 4 Einsatzgruppen that trailed German and Romanian operative units on the southern flank. Einsatzgruppe D was led by Col. Otto Olendorf, and their crimes were shocking, they assassinated over 90,000 people. When I looked at the daily reports sent to Berlin, they referred often to collaboration with the Romanian authorities. They very often said that they had 'very good collaboration with the army, gendarmes and police. The way in which the Romanian authorities and the Antonescu regime treated the Jews in Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and Transdnestr was met with stupor by the German leadership, even by Adolph Hitler. On August 19, 1941, Hitler told Goebbels that ‘in the Jewish matter, a man like Antonescu acts more radically than we have so far’. Such an appreciative statement made by Hitler tells a lot.”
In June, 1942, the Romanian Government agreed to the deportation of the Romanian Jews abroad. Thus, 5 thousand Jews were deported to Auschwitz, most of them from France. Nevertheless, Antonescu’s attitude would soon change.
Ottmar Trasca: “The situation changes in 1942. We know that in August 1942 the Antonescu government gave its approval for the deportation of all Jews from Romania, starting with the ones in the counties of Timis, Turda and Arad. Why didn’t they get deported after all? First, there were the interventions of Wilhelm Filderman, that were very well constructed and motivated. Filderman used in his argumentation a very sensitive issue for Antonescu, namely, Transylvania. Filderman asked what the use was for deporting the Jews from Romania as long as Hungary did not do the same. The deportation of the Jews would have been to Romania’s disadvantage in the competition between Romania and Hungary over Transylvania. Hungary had not deported any Jews and had rejected all requests in this respect. So Filderman’s argument proved efficient. There were also the interventions of Baron Francisc Neumann, those of Iuliu Maniu, and of the Queen Mother Elena. Also, there was a firm American diplomatic note dated October 1942, conveyed through the Swiss Legation in Romania, in which the US Government threatened with reprisals against Romanian citizens in America unless deportations ceased. And, above all, there was Stalingrad, which was decisive for Antonescu’s change in attitude. Antonescu was pragmatic and he understood, at least after Stalingrad, that Germany lost the war. Instead of deporting Romanian Jews to the death camps in Poland, as from December 1942 Antonescu had a change in the policies he pursued and agreed to the Jews’ emigration to Palestine.”
Romania and Germany cooperated in the Jewish extinction policy in WW II. In spite of the fact that the two countries had divergent opinions over the final solution, Romania is responsible for the deportation of the Jews.