Holocaust Survivors' Network --iSurvived.org

August 9, 2004
Last chance campaign against Nazi criminals


By Laura Chiriac,
Agence France-Presse

BUCHAREST--The haunting faces stare from the walls of bus shelters, reminding Romanians that this is the last chance to denounce Nazi war criminals responsible for the murder of Jews in World War II.

Romania's role in the Holocaust was swept under the carpet during 42 years of communism and played down by the government as recently as a year ago. Now it is hard to miss.

In launching a "last chance" campaign, and offering rewards up to $10,000 (8,300 euros) for information about war criminals, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is seeking to tell Romanians about their ignored history.

One poster recalling the fate of the thousands of Jews killed in a pogrom in the northern town of Iasi in June 1941 shows a baby in the arms of his father. The caption reads: "Gustav Segal died thinking of his family. His history is that of all the Jews massacred at Iasi in 1941."

"I had no idea that such massacres were carried out in Romania," said Anca, a 16-year-old student. "At school, in the history books, there is not a single chapter that makes any reference to the pogrom at Iasi."

A middle-aged woman, Iliana Rodica, said such a publicity campaign would have been impossible a few years ago.

"The time has at last come for this country to reconcile itself with a past that it has long been denied," she said.

"I don't know if this campaign will have any results, but at least it will wake up consciences because terrible crimes have been perpetrated against the Jews and young people don't even know about it."

The last chance campaign was launched last September after the government and President Ion Iliescu caused an uproar by rejecting Romania's responsibility for the annihilation of the Jews during World War II and by minimizing the Holocaust.

After Israel demanded clarification, the government acknowledged the responsibility of the wartime regime led by Ion Antonescu for the deaths of some 250,000 Jews between 1940 and 1944.

The government has set up an international expert commission under Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel to study the history of the Holocaust as it occurred in Romania.

It has also established an annual national day of commemoration on October 9, and at last requires schools to teach about the Holocaust.

Sebastian Iancu, a 40-year-old engineer, said hunting down surviving Nazis was all very well, but the task should have been started years ago.

"It was communism, by seeking to hide everything, that distorted reality," he said. "But certainly, it is never too later too late to do justice."

Copyright ©2004 Agence France-Presse