A Brief Summary of the History of the Holocaust in Romania  
  A satellite of Nazi Germany, successive Romanian governments curtailed Jewish rights, robbed Jews of their property and deprived numerous Jews of the Romanian citizenship. These policies, which were implemented starting in late 1937 by the government established by Octavian Goga (National Peasants Party) and Alexandru Cuza (League of National Christian Defense), were continued by the dictatorship founded by King Carol II in February 1938.

In late June 1940, the Soviet Union forced Romania to surrender Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina and the retreating Romanian troops and local villagers carried out widespread violence against the Jews. Thus on June 30, 1940, 200 Jews were murdered in Dorohoi, hundreds more were killed in villages on both sides of the new border and approximately ten thousand Jews were murdered in a large-scale pogrom in Iasi. On August 8, 1940 the Romanian government passed the “Statute of the Jews” which cancelled the citizenship of most Jews and prohibited mixed marriages.

On September 4, 1940, General Ion Antonescu took over power and invited the fascist Iron Guard, headed by Horia Sima, to join his government which launched a campaign of terror and intimidation against the Jews in an effort to exclude them from the country’s economic and commercial life. Antonescu shortly thereafter expelled the Iron Guard from his government, but their rebellion on January 21-23, 1941 was accompanied by anti-Jewish riots in which 127 Jews were brutally murdered. Following the expulsion of the Legionnaires, Antonescu continued his anti-Jewish policies which were legislated into law and which were applied by, among others, a National Romanization Center, which implemented all the anti-Jewish laws and supervised the expulsion overnight of tens of thousands of Jews from their homes.

The outbreak of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union led to an escalation of anti-Jewish measures in Romania. The Antonescu regime regarded the war as an opportunity to solve the Jewish question and began by expelling 40,000 Jews from towns and villages and confiscating their property. This was followed by the initiation of a campaign to mass murder the Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovina. In its first phase, Romanian and German army units assisted by Einsatzgruppe D and local Ukrainians murdered 160,000 Jews, and on September 15, 1941 Antonescu ordered the expulsion to Transnistria of the 150,000 survivors. In the course of the expulsion, tens of thousands of Jews were murdered by their Romanian escorts or died of hunger and disease. While under Romanian control, the area of Transnistria became a site for the mass murder of Jews, 90,000 of whom perished during the years 1941-1944. The Romanian army and gendarmerie also participated in the liquidation of tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews, which they justified by accusing the Jews of collaboration with the Soviet occupation in 1940-1941.

The Romanian government initially had agreed to the deportation to death camps in Poland of the remaining Jewish population, but as time went by, Antonescu realized that that Germany might lose the war, and that it had no intention of returning Northern Transylvania to Romania. These two factors combined with increased German demands for Romanian troops to fight on the Eastern front and for oil and food supplies, ultimately convinced the Romanians to refuse the Nazis’ demands to deport Romania’s Jews to the Belzec death camp. (Efforts by the local Jewish community, headed by Dr. Wilhelm Felderman, which enlisted the support of some prominent Romanians, also played a significant role.) As a result, the Jews living in the Regat and Southern Transylvania were spared from mass annihilation.

After rejecting the Nazis’ demands to implement the Final Solution, the Romanian government became convinced that helping the Jews would enhance Romania’s image in the eyes of the Allies and help the country obtain a better postwar settlement. Yet despite this understanding, the anti-Jewish discriminatory policies of the Antonescu regime remained in force, and the pauperization and economic exploitation of Romanian Jewry continued throughout the war years.

In all, a total of 420,000 Jews who were living in Romania in 1939 are estimated to have been murdered during the Holocaust. This figure includes the Jews killed in Bessarabia and Bukovina in the summer of 1941; those who died during the expulsion to Transnistria or in that area; those murdered in the pogroms in Iasi and other locations; the Jews of northern Transylvania deported to Auschwitz by the Hungarians.