What is the Holocaust? Terminology
The beginning of the Holocaust
The Jew extermination policy in Europe
What is Holocaust? Terminology
The Holocaust – Shoah is both a policy and a systematic action, organized by the state, of persecution and extermination of the European Jews by the Nazis and their allies, and it took place between 1933 and 1945. The Jews were the main victims of this extermination program. The term “Holocaust” is originally greek and it means “sacrifice by incineration”, presuming that originally it was a religious sacrifice, it didn't reflect reality. Others terms for the European Jews extermination are the Hebrew term “hurban” – destruction and “Shoah” – total catastrophe, the second one fitting better with the proportions of the human catastrophe. The gypsies use the term “porajmos” which means devour.
The Jews matters in Germany and Europe degraded when Austria and Czechoslovakia were annexed and a part of Poland was occupied by the Nazi Germany. The first phase of the Holocaust began with defining the Jews as a different race and through racial laws. After this phase, Jew properties were confiscated, the Jews were isolated in special neighborhoods, called Jewries, followed by the deportation and in the end the extermination – “the final solution” found by Hitler. The Nazi regime killed also other groups of people – gypsies, members or people that shared the same views with that of the communist party, soviets war prisoners, homosexuals, polish people, handicapped people, Jehovah's witnesses, union members and separatists of any kind.
The beginning of the Holocaust
You could fairly say that the Holocaust began once with the first measures which the Nazis took against the Jews .The first measure was the boycott of the Jews stores on the 1 st of April 1933 . Then the racial laws were stated and the Jews were no longer considered citizens. Once Austria and a part of Czechoslovakia (the southern area) were occupied, the anti-Jew measures applied to the Jews living in these areas as well. Between 1937 and 1939, the Nazi regime applied the most intensive policy of deportation and expulsion of the Jews from the territories it controlled. The most dramatic phases of the Holocaust started when the World War II began (on the 1 st of September, 1939 ) followed by the war against URSS (on the 22 nd of June, 1941 ).
In many cities occupied by the Germans, Jewries were set up, over-populated residential areas, where all the Jews from the surroundings were forced to live. They had no means to live and were not allowed to leave the Jewry, which led to death by starvation, frost and diseases. The most important Jewries were the ones in Warsaw , Krakow , Vilnius , Lods, Minsk . The decision to deport the Jews from the Jewry from Warsaw led to the most important Jew revolt against the Nazis. The revolt began on the 19 th of April and was defeated in May 1943 by the German SS officers. 7000 Jews were killed during the battle and 30000 were deported to the extermination camp in Treblinka.
The Jew extermination policy in Europe
The extermination of the European Jews was planned and organized during the Conference held at Wannsee (20 th of January, 1942), conference organized at the express demand of Adolf Hitler. Here the leaders established, with cynicism, the extermination of all the European Jews as a “final solution to the Jew problem” in Europe (Endlösung der Judenfrage).
The plan was applied in several ways: massacres sustained by the German army, fast executions and deportation towards extermination encampments (Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka), concentration camps (Maidanek, Auschwitz ) and work camps ( Bergen-Belsen , Buchenwald , Dachau , Mauthausen, Saschsenhausen, Theresienstadt).
The Auschwitz complex contained 3 Nazi concentration and extermination camps. Auschwitz I, the initial encampment, which served as an administrative center for the whole complex, was inaugurated on the 20 th of May, 1940 , built on top of an old Polish and Austro-Hungarian barracks. It had a gas chamber which was used from 1941 until 1942, and then it was transformed into an anti aerial shelter. Auschwitz II (Birkenau), was an extermination camp where more than one million Jews were killed in the gas chambers. Auschwitz III (Monowitz) was a work camp.
The Nazis program of physical extermination of the Jews led to catastrophic effects, 6 millions Jews were murdered, 3 millions of which were Polish Jews. Beside the Jews , 500000 gypsies also died. Guilty for the application of the “final solution” are the people that ordered the crimes: the Nazis leaders, the people that executed these orders –the ,,S.S.” troops, the gendarmerie, the police , the Einsatzgruppen units (4 mobile units – A, B, C and D) which had the mission of executing the Jews behind the lines), the collaborationists among the local population but also those that provided the means for the accomplishment of the orders – the railroad clerks, who programmed and organized the railroad transports, the enthusiastic clerks who applied the discriminative anti-Jews measures. There is also an aspect that mustn't be neglected: the attitude of the civil German population and the one from the countries Germany occupied or controlled, the so-called “silent witnesses”, who assisted at the Jew's tragedy but did nothing.
After the Nazis Germany and its allies lost the war, a lawsuit was initiated with the purpose of punishing the war criminals and the ones that had thought, planned and made possible “The Final Solution”. The trial was held at the Tribunal of Nurnberg which functioned between 1945- 1949. In the main trial Goering, Ribbentop, Keitel, Rosenberg, Jodl were sentenced to death, among others. Life sentenced were Hess, Funk, Raeder. Other Nazis were sentenced to 10-20 years in prison.
ROMANIAN CITIZENS – “FAIR OF NATIONS”
Romanian actions of solidarity toward the Jews
The lawyer Traian Popovici (1892-1946) was a great personality of the political life in Romania and Bucovina . During the second world war, he became Mayer of Cernauti. As Mayer he refused the discrimination policy (the wearing of the yellow star) and the extermination of Jews. He didn't follow the order of creating a Jewry and, later, he refused to deport any Jew from Cernauti. ,,As Mayer, I protest against the act of deportation”, he declared, saving in this way over 20000 Jews from dying. In this effort he was supported by the Mother Queen Helen and by the High Priest of Bucovina, Tit Simedrea. In 1989, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem accorded the title of “Fair among nations” to Traian Popovici.
The ,,Death train” that left from Iasi , arrived in the morning of July the 3 rd 1941 at Roman. Here it was faced by the Red Cross nurses, who intended to assist the Jews and give them some tea and food. The soldiers who were accompanying the train prohibited any person from getting close to the train. Then the Red Cross president, Viorica Agarici, sat on the railroad to prevent the train from leaving and to assist the victims in the wagons.
By hazard, the Mother Queen Helen was visiting Roman at the time. She talked on the phone with general Ion Antonescu, and the Red Cross could open the wagons and to treat the Jews. In the train the sight was horrifying: living and dead mixed were lying in their own faeces.
At Sabauani the wagons were opened, the dead were buried and the sick received medical treatment. Viorica Agarici played the most important role in saving the Jews from the “Death Train” Iasi-Calarasi. But without the help of the civil and military medical authorities, this thing wouldn't have been possible. For her acts of bravery, Viorica Agarici also received the title of ,,Fair among nations” and on the ,,Fair Road” in Yad Vashem a tree was planted in her memory.
After she tried to convince many Romanian personalities to stop the deportation of the Jews, the Queen Mother Helen talked directly to Ion Antonescu, forcing him to agree on letting the Jews that hadn't already been deported from Cernauti to remain temporary in the city. In 1942 the queen sent a consistent help to the deported Jews, help that saved the lives of thousands of Jews from Transnistria. The Mother Queen contributed also to the return, in 1943 and 1944, of thousands of Jew survivors and orphan children from Transnistria. For these accomplishments the Mother Queen Helen also received the title of “Fair among nations” accorded by the Israel state.
The Yad Vashem Institute, in Jerusalem , was created in 1953, with the purpose of honoring the memory of the victims and of the heroes of Holocaust. Another objective of the Yad Vashem Institute is to pay tribute to the “Fair among nations”, non-jew people who risked their lives to save Jews. The total number of the people who were awarded this title is 20205, from which 60 are from Romania .
Solidarity actions with the Jews were initiated by a large number of Romanian intellectuals, political figures or artists.
According to the decree published on the 8 th of September 1940, all Jews were to be eliminated from the Romanian theatres. Despite of this, numerous theatre directors didn't respect this law: Constantin Tanase kept paying N. Stroe to perform; Sica Alexandrescu the director of the Comedy Theatre , saved Leny Caler from deportation; Lucia Sturdza- Bulandra, the ,,Queen Mary” Theatre directrice received a severe warning because she refused to fire the Jews artists that worked there; Liviu Rebreanu, the National Theatre director, also refused to fire the actress Leny Caler. Teodor Musatescu agreed that Elly Roman and Henry Malineanu would use his name for signing the melodies they has composed.
In 1941, Serban Flondor, supplied the Jews from the Storojinet Jewry with food, and, with the help of official from C.F.R. he sent Jew families to Bucharest by train.
A special case is that of the agronomist Vasiliu, farm manager at Alexandrovska, who, on Christmas' Eve offered a package of bread and fruit to the deported Jews. He also stood for a Jew who was beaten by a lieutenant and for his action he was sent on the front from where he never came back. Another farm manager from Transistria, the economist Vucol Dornesc was alerted that 120 Jews were to be shot and he saved them by motivating that he needed someone that could work the field. Even more, Vucol Dornescu often went to Bucharest to get letters and packages for the deported Jews.
The engineer Constantin Paunescu, assistant director at C.F.R., put wagons to disposition for the transport of packages for the Jews deported at Moghilev. On the 14 th of March 1944, 370 Jews who had been working at the railroad towards Odessa were saved from the concentration camp of Trichati by a Romanian division led by a sergeant.
The contemporaneous anti-Semitism
Forms of manifestation
The Denial of the Holocaust
Forms of manifestation
The publishing of the statements regarding the Holocaust didn't make the anti-Semitism to disappear. Even though the global public opinion is aware of the extermination policy from 1933-1945, this thing didn't reduced anti-Semitism, but it even grew in intensity in some countries.
After the second world war several currents emerge : The negativists and the revisionists who deny or reduce the proportions of Holocaust. The negativists prefer to be regarded as revisionists, but the term isn't precise because to revision means to reexamine the history according to new discoveries.
The negativists lanced the term of a ,,Holocaust Industry” and they sustain that several groups are exploiting the Jews tragedy to follow their political and economical goals, and that the claims of the Holocaust's victims are unfair. Some of the main books that deny the Holocaust were Artur Butz's - Regarding the so-called Jews extermination (1976) and Richard Harwood's – Did 6 million Jews really die? (1985).In 1979 in the United Stated of America was founded the ,,Institute for the revision of the history” with a specialized section dedicated to destroying the myth of the Holocaust.
The Denial of the Holocaust
The negativists claim that the denial of the Holocaust is part of the ,,universal right of the freedom of expression”, the 10 th article of the European Convention for the Human Rights, which guarantees the freedom of speech. The public opinion and the political authorities from the democracies have promptly reacted to the tentative of mystification and the efforts of blocking the truth. Seven European countries, among whom were France, Germany and Romania have laws that establish that the denial of the Holocaust is illegal. Despite those laws many negativists have initiated trials for proving what is improvable – that the Holocaust didn't take place or that it didn't affect the Jews that much.
The modern negativism can be classified in many categories : 1) The integral negativists (those that claim that the Holocaust didn't happen in reality, that it's only an invention); 2) The selective negativists (those that claim that the Holocaust existed only in the Nazi Germany and in the territories Germany conquered due only to the German authorities; 3) The negation by comparison (those that reduce the proportions of the Holocaust comparing it with other genocides in human history).
The negativists (excepting the integral negativists) don't deny that the Jews have been persecuted during the 3 rd Reich, that the Jews didn't have any civil rights, that they were forced to live inside Jewries and that they have been deported. They don't deny that there were concentration camps and that there were crematoriums inside those concentration camps. The negativists sustain that, inside those extermination camps, the Jews died of diseases and of different reasons. They deny the existence of an extermination policy of the Jews.
Those who deny the Holocaust claim that there aren't any signs proving the existence of it: a) no written order of Hitler's regarding the policy of extermination had been found; b) the Nazis didn't use gas chambers to kill Jews – they were used for disinfection; c) the number of 6 millions Jews dead is greatly exaggerated; d) that the photos and the movies were produced after the second world war by the propaganda machine of the Allies; e) that the blame thrown on Germany was justified by the intention of easing the constitution of a Jewish state in Palestine; f) that all proof regarding the Holocaust are counterfeited and bad interpreted on purpose.
After the publishing of ,,Denying the Holocaust” by D. Lipstadt (1988), in which the author brought serious accusations to the negativists which falsify evidence and present bad interpretations regarding the Holocaust, a famous lawsuit took place. In Great Britain, the author was sued by the people she had accused of anti-Semitism and negativism. In 2002 , she won the trial and was found innocent.
In what regards Romania, until 1989, the Holocaust was ignored despite that the regime had a critical attitude towards the right side regimes (the authority regime and the Antonescu's regime) and towards the right side organization (The Legion of the Michael Archangel ). The right side current, nationalistic and anti-Semitic was thought to be “foreign to the Romanian nations”. The political and military alliance with Germany was explained by the treason of the occidental powers who had thrown Romania ,,in the arms of Germany ”. The Jewish victims were forgotten and kept secret. This thing proves that the Romanian historiography was politically controlled and that it tried to reduce the proportion of the crimes committed on the Romanian territory or on any territory Romania administrated and to deny the participation of Romania in the Holocaust.
Nowadays we can find two different attitudes in Romania regarding the Holocaust: those that deny or reduce the Holocaust and those that present the events in the light of the historical truth. Unfortunately, even nowadays manifestations of anti-Semitism and negativism have not disappeared completely from the Romanian society.