24 August 2010
Romania's National Bank has decided not to withdraw a new coin commemorating the late Miron Cristea, a former Romanian prime minister and Orthodox Church leader during the 1920s and 1930s. As prime minister from 1938 to 1939, Cristea stripped about one-third of Romanian Jews of their citizenship. Many of them were later deported to the Nazi death camps. Prior to becoming prime minister Cristea served as patriarch of the Romanian church, from 1925 to 1939. The controversial coin is part of a set commemorating the five patriarchs who have led the church since 1925.
“You are honoring the prime minister of a totalitarian regime who persecuted the Jews through denaturalization and anti-Semitic incitements,” wrote B’nai B’rith International's executive vice-president, Dan Mariaschin, and Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international Jewish affairs, in a letter to the governor of the central bank, Mugur Isarescu. “Your actions are in clear contradiction not only with the Final Report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania which was endorsed by two Romanian heads of state but also with the progress that Romania made in acknowledging its tragic past,” the letter stated.
The US ambassador in Bucharest, Mark H. Gitenstein, added his voice to the criticism last week, saying he was "very disappointed” by the decision to issue the coin.
Radu Ioanid, director of the International Archival Program at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, had asked at the end of July that the coin be withdrawn from circulation, saying the minting of the coin will contradict a law prohibiting the promotion of racist or xenophobic personalities and organizations. Romania’s National Bank then promised an investigation, but persisted with the idea.
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