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The Origins and Onset of the Romanian Holocaust

Henry Eaton

Publication Year: 2013

The first mass killings of the Romanian Holocaust in late June to early July 1941 brutally claimed thousands of victims and marked the beginning of the government's plan to "cleanse the land" of Jews. Moreover, of all the Third Reich's allies, only Romania undertook its genocide campaign without the intervention of Himmler's SS. In The Origins and Onset of the Romanian Holocaust, author Henry Eaton traces the historical path to this tragedy by examining both Romania's antisemitic history and looking at the initial mass killings in detail. First, Eaton traces the roots of the Romanian government's decision to exterminate Jews in Romania and in its annexed areas through its long and often violent antisemitic past. While the decision to target the Jews might have been ordered by dictator Ion Antonescu and his top civil and military officials, Eaton argues that it found its basis in an entrenched cultural abuse of Jews dating back to the nineteenth century. In the second section, Eaton analyzes the Romanian government's first killing operations: the execution of 311 Jewish men, women, and children at Stânca Rosnovanu by men of the Romanian 6th Cavalry Regiment; the great pogrom in the city of Iasi triggered by agents of the government's intelligence service; and the two "death trains" in which some 2,700 pogrom survivors perished in freight cars turned into ovens by the summer heat. In the final chapters, Eaton examines the victims and perpetrators in detail and addresses the possible German connections to the killings. The Origins and Onset of the Romanian Holocaust persuasively challenges the idea that Romania's adoption of murder as state policy was due to outside pressure. Eaton's volume will be illuminating reading for Holocaust studies scholars and readers interested in World War II history.

Published by: Wayne State University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

The Romanian Holocaust began in late June 1941. On the twenty-seventh of that month officers and soldiers of the Romanian 6th Cavalry Regiment executed 311 Jews (men, women, and children) at a place called Stânca Rosnovanu in northeastern Romania. Next evening, June 28, in the nearby city of Iaşi, the government’s intelligence service, ...

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pp. 1-8

This is a brief study of the origins of the Romanian Holocaust and the first mass killings of Jews by Romanian authorities. It addresses two questions. First, why did the Antonescu government set out to exterminate Jews, those who lived in Romania and those in areas annexed by Romania during the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II? ...

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1. Iaşi

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pp. 9-16

Elie Wiesel spoke at the National Theater in Iaşi in late June 1991, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the pogrom and death trains. As he began, a woman sitting in the front row shouted out that he lied. Wiesel paused for a moment while she was escorted out of the building and then calmly went on speaking. ...

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2. Unification and the Jewish Question

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pp. 17-28

The creation of Romania was advanced in 1859 when parliaments in the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia each elected Alexandru I. Cuza its prince. Independence came with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1877 and recognition of statehood by European powers was conferred in the 1878 Treaty of Berlin. ...

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3. Romanian Jews

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pp. 29-42

Jews have lived in the region now called Romania for centuries. Some were there before and others came during and following the Roman conquest of the early second century: from the Jewish Khazar state centered on the lower Volga from the eighth to the late tenth centuries and after being expelled from Hungary in 1367 and Spain in 1492. ...

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4. Fascism and Antisemitism in the 1930s

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pp. 43-54

Between the world wars public institutions to which Romanian Jews had appealed for relief from persecution or support in their struggle for political rights declined or disappeared, or, like the government, church, law courts, and press had become united against them. Beneficial influences from the west, which had brought some advantages to Romanian Jews in the past, ...

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5. The Rumble of Violence

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pp. 55-70

For Romanian Jews the turn of the century was a time of deepening economic hardships and unsettling news from abroad. In nearby Russia the nineteenth century went out and twentieth came in on waves of violence that swept across the Pale of Settlement leaving many Jews murdered and much property destroyed: ...

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6. War and the Mass Execution at Stânca Rosnovanu

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pp. 71-80

Max Gaer, a trade-school graduate and active Zionist, born in Iaşi in 1911, recalled the spring of 1941 as a time of growing tensions in the Jewish community. Engineer Moşe Herşcovici recalled that in the months before the war “we were soon afraid to go out on the streets, especially after the retreat of troops from Bessarabia, ...

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7. Duminica ceea (That Sunday)

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pp. 81-94

Saturday, June 28, signs of trouble in Iași: Aron Stievel, part owner of a textile factory with an office on Stradă Stefancel Mare, described the Sabbath morning as “heavy with silence.” Ordinarily he would have gone to the factory in order to pay workers but decided to have two of his Christian employees take and distribute the money. ...

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8. Trenurile mortuare (The Death Trains)

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pp. 95-110

Arrangements to carry out General Antonescu’s late Saturday night order that all Jews be deported from Iaşi began to be carried out Sunday afternoon when killing in the chestură courtyard was most intense.1 Around 2:00 p.m. Prefect (district commander of gendarmes) Colonel Captaru was informed, “on behalf of Gen. Stavrescu,” ..

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9. Victims

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pp. 111-120

The burial of Jews murdered in the Iaşi pogrom began Sunday morning June 29. Vlad Marievici, the city’s sanitation chief, on his way to work that morning counted nine cadavers lying in the streets. Because of the continuing violence he decided to keep his workers idle for the time being. ...

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10. Perpetrators

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pp. 121-138

In 1990 I asked Dr. Caufman, at the time president of the Jewish community in Iaşi, to help me set up interviews with survivors of the pogrom. He graciously accepted but warned me that each survivor would give a different account of what happened. True enough. ...

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11. The German Connection

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pp. 139-148

In 1939–40 Romania became a main trading partner of Germany, joined the German-Italian-Japan pact (November 1940), and began inviting German military missions into the country to build up its defenses against the Soviet Union.1 On their side German leaders, though they did not anticipate much in the way of military support from Romania ...

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pp. 149-156

Adrian Radu-Cernea (Zwieback) was one of only five Jews admitted to the University of Iaşi for the 1939 fall term, and he was one of the few Jews who not only escaped from the chestură courtyard when the shooting began but was not recaptured and returned to the ongoing massacre. ...


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pp. 157-174


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pp. 175-178


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pp. 179-192

Back Cover

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p. 206-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780814338568
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814338728

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 7
Publication Year: 2013

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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Persecutions -- Romania.
  • Jews -- Romania -- Iași -- History -- 20th century.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Romania.
  • Antisemitism -- Romania -- History -- 20th century.
  • Romania -- Ethnic relations.
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