[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Romania holds first Holocaust Day
Adrian Nastase (left) and Ion Iliescu (centre)
Ion Iliescu (centre) said Romania's wartime leaders took part 'with zeal'
Romania is for the first time holding a Holocaust commemoration day for the hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews who were murdered during World War II.

The Romanian government denied that a Holocaust took place on its territory until last year, when its stand led to a diplomatic row with Israel.

The commemorations included a special session of parliament and a ceremony at Bucharest's main synagogue.

President Ion Iliescu said young generations had to know the truth.

Such a tragedy must not be repeated, and for this the young generations need to know and understand the entire truth
President Ion Iliescu
Many of Romania's Jews and members of other minorities, including gypsies, died in death camps located in the Transdniester region, now part of neighbouring Moldova.

Others were killed in pogroms - in Bucharest and other towns - or in death trains.

The Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust says that about 420,000 of Romania's 750,000-strong Jewish community died - including 100,000 deported to Auschwitz from areas of the country then under Hungarian rule.

Communist-era teaching

The deportations were ordered by Romania's wartime leader, Marshal Ion Antonescu, on 9 October 1941.

Holocaust Day would have been marked this year on 9 October, but it was moved to the 12th, to avoid clashing with a Jewish holiday.

Memorial at Bucharest's main synagogue
Romania denied any Holocaust on its territory until last year
"The horrible tragedy of the Holocaust was possible due to the complicity of leaders of the state's institutions ... those who executed, often with a lot of zeal, the orders of Marshal Antonescu," Mr Iliescu told Tuesday's joint session of the two houses of parliament.

"Such a tragedy must not be repeated."

During Romania's communist era, the public was told that Germans were the sole perpetrators of the Holocaust.

Antonescu was regarded as a war criminal who merely followed Hitler's orders.

However, he was held up as a hero by some Romanian nationalists after the country gained independence, because he fought a Soviet invasion in 1940.

Historical re-think

Last year's row with Israel came after the government suggested there was no Holocaust within Romania's borders.

It later backed down, saying that administrations between 1940 and 1945 were "guilty of serious war crimes".

A committee, headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, was set up to study the Romanian Holocaust and publish its conclusions.

Its report is expected soon.

"Neglecting the truth for 60 years was a tragedy. Finally the government recognises there was a Holocaust in this country," the Chief Rabbi of Romania, Menachem Hacohen, said on Monday.

About 6,000 Jews now live in the country.

Romanian Nobel winner returns home
29 Jul 02  |  Media reports
Country profile: Romania
29 May 03  |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific