The Nizkor Project

50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

The Return to Romania and Communism

On March 14, 1944, Marshal Antonescu finally decided to allow the return of the remaining deportees from Transnistria. However, the Soviet offensive advanced speedily, crossed the River Bug, and occupied northern Transnistria, on March 20. A few days later, all the territories of Transnistria were freed.

After liberation, many deportees proceeded to return to Romania, mostly on foot. On the way, they were often right behind the front lines. Others were too run down and had to wait a while longer, hoping that some means of transportation would later be found.

At the end of March 1944, the Soviets closed the border to Romania. Consequently, several thousand deportees were stranded in Bessarabia. Only after a series of lengthy negotiations between General Vinogradov, the Commander of the Russian army in Romania, and the Romanian authorities did the Soviets agree to reopen the border. At that time, approximately 7,000 survivors re-entered Romania through the border point at Ungheni.

In April 1944, the Soviet Armies recaptured northern Bucovina and Bessarabia. Many young Jewish survivors of army age were recruited into the Soviet forces. In order to help the war effort, this time on the side of the Soviets, many Jews were taken to the interior of the Soviet Union, and forced to work in the coalmines of Arhangelsk, Briansk, Dombas, etc. Many of these men were never heard of after the war.

The Holocaust in Romanian destroyed more than one-half of the Jewish population, as well as their energetic institutions, and their vibrant religious and cultural life. Only a shadow of their former vigour remained after the war, dwindling even further during the time of the Communist regime.

*    *    *   

On August 23, 1944, Romania joined the Allied Forces, and King Mihai I ordered the arrest of Antonescu and his chief ministers.

Between August and December 1944, the head of the Romanian government was General C. Sanatescu, Chief of the Royal Court. He was succeeded by General N. Radescu, (December 1944 to March 1945). In February 1945, General Radescu gave an official speech, during which he openly stated his anti-Soviet and anti- Communist convictions. Following this speech, the Soviet Prosecutor, A. Vasinski, one of the closest collaborators of Joseph Stalin, was immediately dispatched to Romania. Vasinski requested that King Mihai dismiss General Radescu from his post, and replace him with Petru Groza, the President of the Ploughmen's Front, a left-wing agrarian party.

Having set out to increase their sphere of influence, the Soviets exerted tremendous influence on Romania to install a pro-Soviet government. They promised to return northern Transylvania to Romania, should a Communist government be installed. Thus, Petru Groza became the Prime Minister of Romania on March 6, 1945. He was the principal facilitator in the rise to power of the Communist Party and in the establishment of the new dictatorship under Soviet control.

In 1945, the Communist Party disbanded the Central Jewish Bureau and replaced it with the Democratic Jewish Committee (CDE). This political re-organization had disastrous consequences on the Jewish community, since it facilitated the assimilation of a large number of Jews into the Communist propaganda machine.

When the Communist dictatorship was established, Chief Rabbi Dr. Alexander Safran and Dr. W. Filderman were labelled "anti- Communist agents". Following a series of threats by Communist representatives, both were forced to leave Romania in 1947.

Dr. Moses Rosen became the Chief Rabbi of Romania. Although his actions were often ambiguous, he was instrumental in rebuilding some of the Jewish institutions, to the extent to which it was possible to do so under Communist rule. He facilitated the emigration of many thousands of Jews who settled in Israel and other parts of the world.

In 1946, Ion Antonescu and Mihai Antonescu, former Minister of External Affairs, were tried by a Bucharest People's Court, sentenced to death as war criminals, and executed.

"It is significant that General Corneliu Calotescu, the Governor of Bucovina, and the sinister Colonel Modest Isopescu, both of whom had been sentenced to death for crimes they had committed directly or for orders that they gave, had their sentences commuted by the Groza government to forced labour for life, in 1946. Nothing has been heard of them since!"<50>

On December 30, 1947, King Mihai abdicated in response to Communist pressures, and the Parliament proclaimed the People's Republic of Romania.

The Communist Party was called The Romanian Workers' Party between 1948 and 1965. It became the main political power in the country, and, in 1965, it was renamed the Romanian Communist Party, headed by G. Gheorghiu-Dej (1945 - 1965).

Gheorghiu-Dej was succeeded in 1965, by Nicolae Ceausescu [Cheaushescu] as the head of the Communist Party. Ceausescu, a megalomaniac who thrived on a personality cult, intensified the brutal suffocation of human rights, individual freedoms and democracy. Ceausescu maintained his position until 1989, when he, and his wife Elena, were executed in a political coup. That officially ended the period of Communist dictatorship.

While Ceausescu had never openly expressed anti- Semitism as a part of his ideology, he purged Jews from the most influential positions in all fields of endeavour.

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