Kontakt / contact     Hauptseite / page
            principale / pagina principal / home     zurück / retour / indietro / atrás / back
zurück / retour / indietro / atrás / backprevious     nextnext

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]

[5.16. Nationalism - anti-Semitism - discrimination - Goga laws 1938]

[Nationalism in Romania presses against the minorities]

However, it was mainly the Romanian middle class and landowners who benefited, while the rising tide of nationalism prevented most minority group members from participating in this economic improvement. These minorities, about 4.5 mio. people in a nation of 18 mio. [Germans, Hungarians, Russians, Jews, Ukrainians etc.], were not treated equally by the government. Hungarians and Germans, who were a majority among the 4.5 mio. were treated better than the rest - Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Russians, Gypsies, and Jews. The usual reasons for anti-Semitism were aggravated in Romania. Small trade was, in crucial areas, in Jewish hands - 48.3 % of Romanian Jews engaged in trade -

(End note 76: R50: Situation of the Jews in Eastern Europe; report for June 1938; 32.8 % of the Jews were engaged in industry, 4.1 % in agriculture, and 2.7 % in the professions).

and the economic competition grew by leaps and bounds. The Jews were the least protected of the ethnic minorities and could be dealt with impunity by economic competitors.

[Since 1935: Anti-Semitic laws and laws against minorities in Romania - Jewish small businesses are going down]

It is therefore not surprising that openly anti-Semitic measures (p.213)

were taken even by the Liberal regime. By late 1935 decrees had already been published limiting the employment of non-Romanians in industry. In late 1936 and early 1937 a series of government decrees said that at least 50 % of the employees in all industrial or trade establishments must be ethnically Romanian. As the Jews were the only minority among whom trade and industry formed a major part of the occupational structure, the decrees were clearly aimed at them.

Worse, the Romanian National Bank instructed all its branches not to rediscount bills of businesses belonging to members of ethnic minorities. Merchants, artisans, and mercantile employees had to pass examinations like the Polish ones or be deprived of their occupations. Apprentices - in a country where the majority of artisans were Jewish - would have to have seven years of Romanian elementary schooling in the future.

(End note 77:
-- R48, report from Romania, 1/19/37 [19 January 1937];
-- R16, Kahn report, 11/19/35 [19 November 1935])

[The Romanians and the minorities have to help each other to fulfill the new laws]

The results were a swift deterioration in the Jewish economic position. One after another, Jewish banks outside the JDC kassa system were failing. Jewish masters had to accept non-Jewish apprentices for training, both to satisfy the quota for Romanian employees and also because there simply were not enough Jewish apprentices to qualify under the new regulations.

[Since 1935: Discrimination in professions against Jews in Romania]
Unofficial but effective ostracism operated in the professions too. In 1935 and 1936 no Jewish lawyers were accepted by the Romanian bar; the number of newly accepted Jewish medical students dropped from 66 in 1934 to five in 1935 and to none in 1936. In 1937 four Jewish students were accepted by the medical school, but were prevented by force from attending classes.

(End note 78: Ibid.
[-- R48, report from Romania, 1/19/37 [19 January 1937];
-- R16, Kahn report, 11/19/35 [19 November 1935])

[18th Dec 1937: Romania: The right extreme Goga government - "Christian" maids' law etc.]

It was against this background that the extreme rightist government of Octavian Goga came to power on December 18, 1937. The rumors that began to spread among the Jewish population were only too well-founded. The New York Times reported on January 20, 1938, that Goga wanted to expel 500,000 Jews, that another luminary of the government, Cuza, had said that there would be no expropriation of Jewish property "at present", and that no Christian maids under 45 would be allowed to work in Jewish homes - this latter statement had been taken straight out of the Nazi Nuremberg laws. (p.214)

[22th Jan 1938: Romania: Law about citizenship brings Jewish communities in big trouble]

On January 22 [1938] a law was passed forcing Jews to submit to a "revision" of citizenship. This was to completed by February 12 in so-called Old Romania (that is, Moldavia and Walachia) and in the rest of the country 50 days later.

Jews had never bothered to establish their residence by documentation. The peace treaty [of 1919] had laid down that people habitually residing in the territories acquired by Romania after World War I would automatically become Romanian citizens.

Owing to their lack of documentation to establish habitual residence, the anti-Semitism rampant in courts of justice, their limited knowledge of Romanian culture and language, and the ridiculously short time in which to correct all this, there was pessimism and even panic in Jewish circles. Dr. Wilhelm Filderman, a lawyer and the head of the Romanian Jewish community, who also was JDC's most trusted contact in Romania, estimated that 80 % of the Jews in "New" Romania would be deprived of their citizenship.

At a meeting in France between Filderman and representatives of JDC, ICA, and the Reconstruction Foundation, the conclusion was reached that the coming Romanian elections on March 2, 1938, would be of "vastly greater importance than the hopeless task of mitigating the effects of an anti-Semitic victory." The situation of the Jews in Romania was judged to be a "disaster, even worse than (that) which befell the Jews in Germany."

(End note 79: R48, Nathan Katz to Hyman, 2/2/38 [2 February 1938])

[10th Feb 1938: Dismissal of the Goga government - king's government follows]

However, the new decrees were too much even for many of Romania's rightist politicians, including the king. Early in February a juridical committee of the Romanian parliament found the anti-Jewish decrees unconstitutional, and the Goga government resigned on February 10. It had been in power for less than six weeks, but the damage it did was incalculable. In its stead the king established a coalition of Right and Center, with the patriarch Miron Cristea as prime minister. It was in a real sense the king's government that now took over.

[More anti-Semitic laws from Goga government]

The openly anti-Semitic course gave way to a more subtle approach. New decrees were enacted regulating such things as the renovation of shops, requiring state examinations for previously qualified doctors and druggists, forbidding the transfer abroad of (p.215)

funds for the support students who were not of Romanian descent, requiring proof of Romanian citizenship for any foreign transaction, and the like.

(End note 80:
-- 48-Gen. & Emerg. Romania, general, 1938-39, 4/28/38 [28 April 1938];
-- report of Kahn and Schweitzer on meetings in Bucharest)

This was followed by the mass cancellation of the licenses of Jewish petty traders. All big industrial companies were told to name Christian directors. Worst of all, although the summary procedure of depriving Jews of their Romanian national status was abolished, the principle of a revision of citizenship was maintained and the threat of denationalization remained.

Kahn fully expected that 150,000 Jews would lose their Romanian citizenship. Most of them would then have no way of earning a living, and there would be a tendency for them to emigrate under government pressure. Yet there seemed to be no alternative to supporting the king, because the most vocal opposition to his rule came from the pro-Nazi Iron Guard.