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Yehuda Bauer: My Brother's Keeper

A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 1929-1939

[Holocaust preparations in Europe and resistance without solution of the situation]

The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1974

Transcription with subtitles by Michael Palomino (2007)



Chapter 5. Prelude of the Holocaust
[B. Destruction of the Jewish existence in Romania 1929-1939]

5.13. Romania [Codreanu - Tartarescu - Goga]

[Since 1919 and since 1929: Romanian development is like in Poland]

The situation of the Jews in Eastern Europe outside Poland was similar to that of the Jews inside Poland. Romania was moving in the same direction as Poland, as far as both the general and the Jewish situations were concerned.

[The economy of Romania was cut from the markets in Middle Europe in 1919 when the Austrian empire was cut into peaces. So there were no developments possible, and added with the nationalism the minority of the Jews was blamed for the bad economy, as in Poland...]

[Codreanu - Tartarescu - Goga]

The Romanian Fascist movement known as the Iron Guard was growing stronger. Under its leader, Corneliu Zelea-Codreanu, it embarked on a campaign of (p.209)

violence that led to the assassination of a Liberal party prime minister by an Iron Guard member in December 1933. From that moment on, Romanian democracy, never very strong, was in constant decline.

Until 1937 the Liberals, under Tartarescu, were in power, but their policy became more and more rightist and anti-Semitic under the pressure of a right-wing opposition group that came under the influence of a Fascist leader, Octavian Goga. A prop of the regime against a rightist takeover was King Carol, though he also aspired to dictatorial rule and had in fact attempted - unsuccessfully - to gain absolute power in May 1934.

The fact that his mistress, Madame Lupescu, was of Jewish descent increased anti-Semitic tendencies because of the almost universal distaste with which the king's extramarital adventure was regarded. Despite all this, a semblance of parliamentary democracy was maintained until December 1937, when the defeat of the Liberals brought about a sharp turn to the Right and the ascent of Goga to power.

[Jews in Romania: Figures]

The number of Jews living in Romania was a matter of dispute. Romanian sources tended to exaggerate their estimates in order to prove the supposedly inordinate influence of the Jewish population in the country. In fact, the census of 1930 showed that there were 728,000 Jews in Romania. An investigation into Jewish citizenship in 1939 showed that there were 662,244 Jews. Even if we assume that some Jews managed to escape a census that was intended to deprive them of their citizenship,

(End note 70: New York Times, 11/26/39 [26 November 1939])

there could not have been many more than 700,000 Jews in Romania in that year. The figure of 760,000 usually mentioned in Jewish sources represented the absolute maximum and was probably an overestimate.

[Supplement: The number of Jews in Romania in general is dependent from the size of the country. Before 1919 Romania is little, in 1920 Romania becomes a big state with Transylvania and Bessarabia, in 1941 a part of Transylvania is added to Hungary, and 1945 Romania becomes a medium size with Transylvania, but without Bessarabia. And there is a little border difference with Bulgaria about a landscape at the Danube delta].

[Structure of the Jewish communities in Romania - poverty in Transylvania, Bucovina and Bessarabia]

The Jewish communities throughout the country differed considerably from one another. While the Jews in Bucharest and in some parts of Walachia, Moldavia, and central Transylvania were at least partly westernized and had abandoned the religious way of life, others were living well within the sphere of strict Orthodoxy. In northern Transylvania, around Satu-Mare, Máramarossziget, and Brasov, there lived a poverty-stricken Jewish population clamoring (p.210)

for the kind of help JDC could provide.

[Supplement: It can be assumed - it would be only logic - that the Jews in Hungarian Transylvania had been cut from their connections to Hungary, so the market for their products was lost. The same impoverishment happened with the Germans there, can be assumed].

In Bessarabia, and to a certain extent in Bucovina too, a similar situation existed. In Bessarabia there was a fairly large Jewish agricultural population (about 40,000 persons), whose primitive methods of cultivation exposed it only too often to threats of starvation in years of drought.

In Romania, as in Poland, JDC was able to increase its allocations as the 1930s progressed. Of the sums available, about one-third was spent to feed children in hunger-stricken districts and to maintain summer camps, because Kahn believed that such camps constituted a primary reconstructive task.