Romania and the Holocaust
1944 special travel-permit for a Jew.
When one tries to learn about the Holocaust in Europe, there is a clear distinction that has to be made between Axis satellites and states that were entirely dependent on the support from Germany, the occupied territories under the latter and independent states that were not under occupational control. This can be clearly seen when we venture into the historical role and part of Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania in the war and the atrocities that were committed by those three allies.
Romania’s case was different and unique. It was one of the few countries that did not have SS troops roam freely inside its borders hunting down Jews and it had an independent say, in some ways, when it came to its old traditional borders and the Jews residing in them (the country’s oil fields and production put it in a good position where it could apply leverage on its ally in the west).
Marshal Ion Antonescu was the country’s military dictator from the time joining forces with Hitler in 1940 up to his toppling by the Romanian King Michael I on August 23rd 1944, on the eve of the Red Army invasion and occupation.
Though the country has always held anti-Semitic tendencies and sentiments, those were radicalized immensely during the war: up to 1939 the country had over 700,000 Jews, whereas over 300,000 were systematically murdered during the war, with the killings reaching their peak between 1941-1942 following the German invasion into the Soviet Union in June of 1941 (close to 600,000 Romanian soldiers were sent to fight alongside the Wehrmacht during Operation Barbarossa), and with territories that were annexed by its Romanian ally the same year: Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina (placed in South-Western Ukraine) and Transnistria: land that the Soviet Union acquired in 1940 and fell under German or Romanian control, part of the extermination of its Jewish population was committed jointly by the Romanian army and the notorious German death squad unit Einsatzgruppe D (added also an image of a special SS field-unit issued Ausweis for a German ethnic Romanian from 1942 and of a partial dog-tag that belonged to a member of the Einsatzgruppe). One of the earliest massacres was the Iași pogrom.
The authority’s unwillingness to deal with its own Jewish population was not because of their deep affections or sudden overwhelming moral change of heart: the events of 1942, consisting of practical fear of the economical collapse of the country should the Jews be deported to their deaths in occupied Poland and of the events that took place that year and in 1943: the sudden realization that Nazi Germany could lose the war and the harsh reprisals that would be awaiting anyone that contributed to war crimes that were perpetrated during the war: Romania, as the other Axis states, would begin to look for ways to reach the Western Allies and hopefully to reach peace agreements with them.
During the early stages of the war, Romania’s government, the National Legionary State (period of September 6, 1940 to January 23, 1941), issued 80 anti-Jewish decrees and the 1940 Ion Gigurtu cabinet used a very similar set of rules, close to the 1935 German Nuremberg Laws.
The document in this article comes from a set of papers that belonged to a Jewish individual from the former Romanian city of Cernăuți: he obtained his pre-WWI doctorate degree from the University of Cernăuți, acting Finance Secretary of the Region of Bucovina during and after World War One. The document was issued by the Government Province of Bucovina, signed by Governor-General Corneliu Calotescu on March 1st 1943 with special movement visa issued by the Bureau for Jewish Affairs (with regards to efforts to assist the local population, we can see the case of the Chilean Chargé d’Affaires in Bucharest from 1941 to 1943 was Consul Samuel Del Campo, who saved many Polish Jews living in the country from deportation to their certain death at Transnistria by issuing them special Chilean Protection Certificates stating that they were under protection of the Government in Santiago – I added also an image of a passport bearing his signature inside).
The document was issued to Dr. Leo Neuberger allowing him travel on route from Cernăuți to Bucharest and return back, valid for only 2 single journeys, according to telegraphic communication No.7055 dating from February 18th 1943; and also with a border-transit permit issued by the Turkish consular section in Bucharest 1944, which he used when entering Turkey on his journey to British Palestine.
Like most Axis states, 1943 was a stunning wake-up call, a turning point with regards to their support of the war on Germany’s side: the defeats of 1942 culminating with the destruction of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad demonstrated not only to them but to the whole world that tide has shifted and it was the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany and all who dared to follow her. From this point onwards, all would scramble hard to abandon the sinking ship and try to find refuge at the shores of the winning allied side.
We must not forget, though all Axis sides participated in their own way to the destruction of their Jewish population during the war, still, when it comes to Bulgaria and Romania, these 2 countries Jewish citizens suffered the least and nearly all of them were forcibly immigrated to the State of Israel after 1948.
Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.