28 June 2011
Romania has commemorated the 70th anniversary of one of the worst massacres of World War II in which an estimated 15,000 Jews were murdered. "We are here today next to the Iaşi synagogue, the oldest in Romania. We are inaugurating an obelisk which is a monument to remember the thousands of Jews slaughtered here at the end of June 1941", the president of the Iasi Jewish community, Abraham Ghiltan, said. A third of the 45,000 Jews living in Iasi at the time were brutally murdered on the streets and gassed in ‘death trains’ between 28 June and 6 July 1941, according to historians. The Romanian pro-Nazi regime of dictator Ion Antonescu gave the order for the massacre, with the complicity of German troops.
"This is one of the most infuriating massacres of the Second World War", Paul Shapiro, director of the Center for Advanced Studies at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC told the audience. "The Iasi pogrom is very important in the history of the Holocaust. It is a mass killing that takes place in the view of the public. So this established for the Romanians and for the Germans as well the fact that it was possible to murder people in front of their neighbors", Shapiro told the news agency AFP in an interview.
Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were murdered or died during the Holocaust on Romanian-controlled territory, according to an international commission of historians headed by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, a Romanian-born Jew who survived the Shoah.
During World War II, from 1939 to 1944, Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany, and echoed its anti-Semitic policies. During 1941 and 1942, 32 laws, 31 decree-laws, and 17 government resolutions, all sharply anti-Semitic, were published in Romania's Official Journal. Romania also joined Germany in the invasion of the Soviet Union. On 27 June 1941, Antonescu telephoned the commander of the Iaşi garrison, telling him to "cleanse Iaşi of its Jewish population."
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