27 January 2021

Holocaust in Romania - International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

January 27th marks the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on November 1st 2005 during its 42nd plenary session. 

World War Two was a bitter struggle between the Axis armies (primarily Nazi Germany and Japan) and the armies of the Allied forces (mainly Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States). Civilians not only suffered from collateral damage, they became the targets of military operations and murder actions intentionally directed against them. However, one civilian group in particular was targeted for mass, systematic and complete annihilation; the Nazis named this policy “the Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. While this policy was not fully completed, the Nazis, along with many collaborators, did succeed in murdering some six million Jews in what has come to be known as the Holocaust. 


Romania, an ally of Nazi Germany from 1940 to 1944, had a Jewish population of about 757,000 before World War II. In June 1941, in the weeks following the invasion of the USSR by Nazi Germany and the Romanian army (under the dictatorship of Ion Antonescu), the Romanian army, with the partial cooperation of Einsatzgruppe D and some of the local population, massacred 100,000-120,000 of the Jewish population of Bessarabia and North Bukovina (areas annexed by the USSR from Romania in June 1940). The slaughter was carried out on the orders of Marshal Ion Antonescu, the fascist dictator of Romania. Similar massacres were carried out by the Romanian army in Western Ukraine and especially in the city of Odessa. Prior to this, Romanian soldiers, police and civilians slaughtered 15,000 Jews in the city of Iasi and carried out pogroms against the Jews of other cities in Romanian territory. The Iasi pogrom was the beginning of the application of the policy of extermination of the Jewish population by the Antonescu regime. In total, more than 13,000 Jews were killed during the Pogrom in Iasi. The Holocaust of the Romanian Jews continued with the deportation and extermination in Transnistria of an important part of the Romanian Jews.

Roundup of Jews during the Iasi Pogrom (Yadvashem.org)

In Summer-Autumn 1941, on the orders of the Romanian authorities, survivors of the massacre in Bessarabia and North Bukovina together with Jews from South Bukovina and the Dorohoi region (which were part of Romania) were brutally deported to the ghettoes and death camps of Transnistria in West Ukraine, a largely unsettled area between the Dniester and Bug rivers that Nazi Germany had ceded to Romania in return for its participation in the war against the Soviet Union. From the time of their deportation to Transnistria until their liberation by the Red Army in March 1944, 120,000 of the deportees perished as a result of murder, hypothermia, starvation and epidemics. This in addition to the tens of thousands of the local Jews in Transnistria who were victims of the Romanian invasion. In total, 380,000 – 400,000 Jews, including the Jews of Transnistria, were murdered in Romanian-controlled areas under the dictatorship of Antonescu. 

“There is something unprecedented, frightening about the Holocaust of the Jewish people: for the first time in the bloodstained history of human race, a decision developed, in a modern state in the midst of a civilized continent, to track down, register, mark, isolate from their surroundings, dispossess, humiliate, concentrate, transport and murder every single person of an ethnic group as defined not by them, but by the perpetrators; not just in the country where this genocidal motivation arose, not just on the continent its planners first wished to control, but ultimately everywhere on earth, and for purely ideological reasons.” (Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Yad Vashem and the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education).


GEYC has been expanding its activities in the field of remembrance and human rights for the past couple of years;  in the frame of EDYS 2016, Alexandru Climescu, Researcher at the “Elie Wiesel” National Institute for the Study of Holocaust in Romania (INSHR-EW) had an insightful intervention on combating hate speech in an effective way by learning from the past. In his speech, he focused on how we can act, interact and react, sharing stories in order to prevent such tragedies from happening again. “If you don't speak, hate wins.” was one of the key messages he transmitted to the audience. 

At the end of the same year, Gabriel Brezoiu, Manager at GEYC, had a strategic meeting with INSHR-EW representatives, discussing ways in which both entities could collaborate, in order to raise the awareness among young people.

Ms Ekaterina Garbatova (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation) is closing the Remembrance Seminar on...

Posted by GEYC on Friday, 21 December 2018

In 2019, we joined a Europe for Citizens project called “50+30: from WW2 to the end of communism”, through which we aim to pay tribute to those who sacrificed themselves for our well-being, not only through re-education of youth but also through remembrance. The latter is particularly important in acting against the rise of populism, and hate speech, which could generate a climate comparable to the one that has preceded WW2.

We have organized a memorial walk in Bucharest in November 2019, talking about crucial moments during the Romanian 1989 revolution, but also about different aspects of life during communism, not forgetting to pass by the Holocaust Memorial in Bucharest, to remember the Romanian Jews who were deported and killed during World War 2. 

Under the framework of the Europe for Citizens project "5030 Remember: from WW2 to the end of communism", we have designed a survey that is meant to help us measure the extent to which young people understand historical facts and their importance. 

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Sturm und Klang ensemble will perform live at the museum. Experience music by European composers impacted by Nazi violence and the Shoah in their bodies and minds, and discover a new piece created especially for the occasion. Learn about the way the Holocaust and its memory feature in the museum's permanent exhibition and contribute to shaping its narrative, during an introductory talk by Blandine Smilansky from the Events and Learning Team. Concert programme: 
  • Pavel Haas - Seven Songs, op.18 
  • Hans Krása - Drei Lieder Adrien Tsilogiannis - Où est la plaie? (création, 2020) 
  • Viktor Ullmann - Drei jiddische Lieder, op. 53 
  • Arnold Schoenberg - Sérénade, op.24

The Holocaust happened in a world similar to ours. It stands as a warning about man’s capacity, despite the trappings of civilization, to commit wholesale murder in the name of an ideology. Today, when the memory of the Holocaust is slowly beginning to fade, as its last survivors and storytellers are passing away, it is more important than ever to educate the young generation on what radicalization, intolerance and xenofobia can lead to. This is the generation that has the moral responsibility of keeping the memory alive. 


Institutul National pentru Studierea Holocaustului din Romania “Elie Wiesel”, Pogromul de la Iasi, 28-30 iunie: prologul Holocaustului din Romania, Polirom, 2006. 

Avraham Milgram, Robert Rozett (edit.), The Holocaust Frequently Asked Questions, Jerusalem, 2005. 

Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, https://www.yadvashem.org/

In March 2013 we celebrated GEYC13 Anniversary