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Anti-semitic and Holocaust-denying topics in the Romanian media.


This paper will be looking at the main anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying topics in the Romanian media during 2007. The axiological premise of this assessment is that in a modern society, freedom of expression is not unlimited. According to J.S. Mill, individual freedom should be used in such a way so as not to damage or limit somebody else's freedom (1994: 17). Thus, in some European countries, especially where the tragedy of the Holocaust and of the Fascist experience were more obtrusive, public manifestations of Holocaust denial were forbidden by law. One of the reasons was that in the period between the two world wars, xenophobic, nationalist and anti-Semitic right-wing radicalism easily succeeded to transform its discriminating message into physical extermination on ethnic and racial grounds. The reaction of civil society, democratic political parties and public opinion leaders against this policy was minor, if at all. Wherever fascist movements or political parties came to power, anti-Semitism became state policy.

In 2002, Romania joined the states that committee themselves to an active policy that discourages the use of Holocaust-denying and pro-fascist symbols. Austria, Germany, France and Spain have specific legal provisions that make Holocaust-denial a crime. In France, the Gayssot Law (July 13, 1990) brings some technical changes to the French criminal legal code, by adding art. 24 bis to the Law of mass-media freedom (1881). This article creates sanctions for those who publicly deny the existence of crimes against humanity, as defined in art. 6 of the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (2). The Austrian law is also a completion of an older legal provision. Art.3 par.h of the The law for banning Nazi or Fascist signs and organizations (1947) states that

[...] whoever denies the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity, or describes them as bluntly inoffensive, approves them or tries to justify them in a written work, on radio or by other means of public communication, or by another means that makes one publicly accessible to many people, will be punished.

Romania, Law 107/2006 reinforced the provisions initially stated by Governmental Order 31/2002, on banning fascist, racist or xenophobic organizations and symbols, as well as the promotion of the memory of persons found guilty of having committed crimes against peace and humanity. The law emerged in the context of a Romanian political scene where political actors and private persons were making efforts to rehabilitate Ion Antonescu using the myth of the hero who saved his country or of the one who symbolically reunited the split parts of his country. Before the Order was issued, from 1990 to 2001, six statues and monuments in Ion Antonescu's memory erected (T. Friling et al. 2005:364). Moreover, in the public area of media communication and culture, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial were and still are present, some of them even having inciting connotations (3). Another aspect is the Internet promotion of webpages that are dedicated to the mythology of the Legionary Movement. Without necessarily being exclusively anti-Semitic, these messages promote nationalism, mysticism, authoritarianism and order, seen as opposing the values of the so called destabilizing democracy (4).

Bearing in mind the Romanian context, this work is structured on two main directions of assessment and interpretation. First it will try to identify the main subject matters and media expressions of support for spreading anti-Semitic or Holocaust-denying messages. Second, it will look at the dynamics of the anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying discourse in the Romanian media from 2000 to 2007.

Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism: two subject-matters of the public message

Apart from the content of a particular message, we find there are at least two other factors which influence public opinion. The channel of communication is one of them, while the author is the other. For both, the successful reception of a message is enhanced by fame, credibility, the "package" of the resources that spread the message, its frequency, and so on. As a result, it is probable that an anti-Semitic or Holocaust-denying message will enjoy a more favorable reception if its author if the media channel that delivers it is better known and has a better market position.

Methodology, theoretical assumptions and working definitions of anti-semitism

This work employes qualitative data collected out of the main national newspapers, such as Adevarul, Atac, Cotidianul, Cronica Romana, Curentul, Gardianul, Gandul, Evenimentul Zilei, Jurnalul National, Romania Libera, Tricolorul, Ziua, as well as of periodical magazines (Aldine, the cultural supplement of Romania Libera, Lumea, Obiectiv Legionar Puncte Cardinale, Romania Mare) and websites (AlterMedia, HotNews, Noua Arhiva Romaneasca, Permanente, Rost). Reference to local or regional media outlets is simply peripheral, since this work is not intended to assess this category of media outlets.

This study is centered on two themes of symbolic communication: anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Both categories of messages express the same negative feelings towards Jewish people. A large part of the existing literature claddifies Holocaust denial as a new expression of antiSemitism or of Judeo-phobia (P Novick, 1999, Pierre-Andre Taguieff, 2002, M. Wieviorka, 2005). In the interpretation of the public discourse on Holocaust, we used the interpretative scale proposed by M. Shafir, according to which Holocaust-denying messages can be classified into: full denial, deflective (with the variants "it's the fault of the Germans", the blaming of "peripheral people" or "oblivion" of the main culprits, the Jews are to be blamed), selective denial and trivialization by comparison (M. Shafir, 2002).

The concept of anti-Semitism has multiple meanings. After the end of World War II, in 1946, J.P Sartre published an essay book dedicated to this social phenomenon. Interested in defining antiSemitism, the French philosopher recalled the liberal vision according to which "all tastes are found in nature, all opinions are allowed" (J.P Sartre, 2005, p. 9). If anti-Semitism were a simple opinion, it would have legitimacy to exist (J.P Sartre, 2005, p. 9). Thus, it could enjoy a public area of expression. However, Sartre finally reaches the conclusion that such messages, which bestow an imaginary blame on identifiable persons, do not have the features of opinions. On the contrary, they belong to the doctrinal discourse. "I refuse to call "opinion" a doctrine whose clear purpose is the stripping of rights or the extermination of a certain person" (J.P. Sarte, 2005, p. 11).

In order to underline the difference between classical doctrines (liberalism, socialism, conservatism) and anti-Semitism, the philosopher introduces an extra criterion, that of the message's universality. He notices that, for anti-Semitism, the Jew is not the expression of a human ideal, but a person which can be identified in society after a series of features. This way, his or her role is to incite. Thus, "the Jew being vexed by the anti-Semite is no longer an abstract being, only defined by his or her position, as in administrative law, or by his situation or actions, as in the Legal Code. He is a JEW, the son of a Jew, identifiable by his it her physical appearance, clothes and, nonetheless, his or her character. Anti-Semitism is not part of the category of messages under the protection of the Right to Free Expression" (J.P Sartre, 2005, p. 11-12). It is an ideology where "passion", emotions and irrationality, all have an important part in the construction of the message.

For the purpose of this analysis we will employ the definition of anti-Semitism as provided by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC, 2004, p. 12): "any attitude/action that is hostile towards Jews perceived as "Jews" or "because they are Jews" (5). This sentence puts forward, on the basis of the anti-Semitic literature from Nazi Germany, seven stereotypes for the identification of anti-Semitism. Sentences in which the Jew appears as: (1) liar, dishonest, shrewd; (2) alien, having a different nature from others; (3) hostile, irreconcilable, agitator; (4) radesman, a symbol of capitalism; (5) corrupt; (6) holder of power and influence, conspirator; (7) author of deicide (having killed Jesus).

This perspective also has its critics. Kenneth S. Stern in Anti-Semitism Today. How it is the Same, How it is different, and how to fight it, considered that stereotypes are derived from anti-Semitism, and not a feature of it (Kenneth S. Stern, 2006:98). As a result, EUMC formulated a new definition of anti-Semitism in 2005. This time, the organization planed to elaborate "a practical guide for the identification of incidents, for gathering information and for supporting the implementation and application of legislation about anti-Semitism". Under these circumstances, anti-Semitism was defined as

[...] a certain perception about the Jews, which can be expressed as hatred for the Jews. Verbal and physical displays of anti-Semitism are focused against Jewish individuals, non-Jews or/and against their properties, against Jewish communal institutions and religious buildings.

Among other things, EUMC's framework qualifies as anti-Semitic public displays the support or justification of violence against Jewish people on behalf of a radical ideology or accusing Jewish people of being guilty for real or imaginary abominable deeds EMUC equals Holocaust denial to a form of anti-Semitic display.

In our view, Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are not the same things. As Michael Shafir mentions, though anti-Semitism is for sure one of the causes of Holocaust denial, it could not be the only one, and definitely not always the main one. Shafir is right to mention that "Holocaust denial is a reflection of a self-defense mechanism that cannot at all be limited to anti-Semites or to those who are trying to use denial as a political tool" (2003). Many times in historiography or in mass media messages, the deflective or selective Holocaust denial is stimulated by radical nationalism. This ideology is much more visible in many of the texts that circulated after 1990, their purpose being to promote the image of an impeccable, powerful Romania, whose failures are always caused by foreigners. From this perspective, Holocaust denial in Romania is more than a type of anti-Semitism or Judeo-phobia.

Holocaust denial

In most cases, the European Holocaust is associated with the image of Nazi Germany and is reflected in the media as such. In its June 2111 edition Ziua publishes two articles, one on anti-Semitism and the other on the tragedy of the Jews in the period of the Second World War. The second article, signed by Camelia Ciobanu (C Ciobanu, 09.21.2007), takes on a rather ironic and sarcastic approach to the difference between the life of criminals and the tragedy of the Holocaust's victims' last days (6) (for example Auschwitz is "the famous concentration camp").

The viewpoints on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust of the Jewish people in Romania are so contradictory, that Ziua succeeded to host the dispute between two such views. Thus, the article, "Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Eighty Years Since the Beginning of the Legionary Movement", is a polemic on the legionary anti-Semitism. The article is an answer by Tesu Solomovici, to a letter addressed to the editors by Aurel Vainer, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania. In the letter he asked for the newspaper to mention, "as a continuation to the article, [...],that Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the main creator and promoter of the legionary ideology, also introduced into the Romanian political life, acts such as murder, urges to hate and violence and an aggressive anti-Semitism, as means of fight for the conquest of power" (T Solomovici, 09.21. 2007).

Much of the legitimacy of anti-Jewish messages in Romanian media was drawn from foreign literature. As Michael Shafir shows, most of the "arguments" from Holocaust-denying messages are generally adopted from Western Holocaust-denying literature (M. Shafir, 2003). Most cited are Norman Finkelstein and Roger Garaudy. These are taken as landmarks around which the message of doubt is built, combined with the so-called guilt of the Jews for their own extermination. For example, Adrian Botez, following Garaudy's texts, qualifies the existence of the Holocaust as "extremely problematic and having left extremely many question marks" (A. Botez, 2007).

The responsibility for the atrocities is passed off to the Jewish people themselves. He makes a distinction between two situations: a) "the great Jewish bankers who made the most pure racial standpoints and negotiated with Hitler the surrender of the Jewish "second class" citizens, so that the New Zion would not be hindered by "the slime bags" of such a noble, "chosen" people" (A. Botez, 2007); b) Hitler himself was the son of Rothschild, the Jewish magnate. The following quote describes the construction of Jewish guilt arguments:

Only the Rothschilds are the great defenders of the Jewish people, while Hitler slaughtered this people, together with the Roma, communists and all those who opposed to him or he wanted to get rid of. The Rothschilds are Jewish, so they would never do such a thing! Really ... According to researchers and informed people, Hitler was not only supported by the Rothschilds, he was a Rothschild, as well. This revelation is in perfect compliance with the Rothschilds' actions and those of the other genealogic lines of the Illuminati from Germany, who brought Hitler to power, accepting his dictatorship over this nation. (D. Icke, 2007).

However, most of the times, the responsibility of Nazi Germany and its collaborators for the persecution and systematic annihilation of the European Jewish Community is acknowledged. On the other hand, in some cases, the discourse is quite ambiguous. One of the most firm and vocal authors of Holocaust denying works, when discussing Romania's responsibility for more than 250,000 killed Jews, acknowledges the extermination of the European Jewish people, but stumbles in the so-called problem of numbers.

"In fact, I don't know of anybody, any author, professional or amateur historian, or any of their texts, which mentions that the Holocaust, the genocide against the Jews, did not exist. As far as my quotes from the "Holocaust-denying" literature are concerned, as those works are labeled, their content only denied the dimensions given to the Holocaust: six million Jews ... But they do not deny the Jewish tragedy proper--we can also call it a Holocaust, as it was lived during those times. I repeat, I never met authors and texts, books that deny the suffering and persecutions suffered by the Jews in the period 1939-1945" (I. Coja, 03.07.2007)

The particular features of the Romanian case is always questioned. In other words, they reject, in various ways, the responsibility of the Antonescu Government or the participation of members of their own nation in the implementation of discriminating and exterminating measures, thus expressing a selective denial. I. Coja does not abandon the propagandistic race of denial, using expressions such as "the so-called Holocaust", while C.V. Tudor's Tricolorul includes an unsigned article called "There was no Holocaust in Romania!" (7).

When the policies and violence against the Jewish community are in fact acknowledged, the strategy is to use minimizing distortions: the number of victims is lower than claimed, the purpose of the repressive measures was just and the responsibility for having initiated and implemented those measures is someone else's.ln Romania, this deflective Holocaust denial transfers the responsibility of the crimes committed by Antonescu's regime to either the Germans (I. Coja, July 13, 2007, I. T Popescu, 2007), or the Anglo-Saxons, since

"the allied armies [...] played a role and used biologic and bacteriologic warfare, arms which were forbidden by the international community, being directly responsible for the ravage of the exanthematic typhus suffered by the civilian population and the enemy fighters! ... One cannot stop, but make a connection between this piece of information (or hypothesis!) and the well-known typhus disease because of which so many Jews died in Transnistria! Of course, their number matters, but the causes of their death matter just as much, when one finds out, in fact, who condemned them to death and executed them! It was not the Romanians, let me state this again! Thousands of Jews and non-Jews, including their guards, also died in Auschwitz, having been killed by the same exanthematic typhus, imported from over the Ocean ..." (Ion Coja, March 2007);

or the Jewish people in general and the communist Jews in particular.

The Iasi Pogrom is the best "example". A great number of Jewish people were living at the time in the city (50% of the population). Despite historical documents Romania Mare claims to discover false causes of mass murder:

"I am not an anti-Jew. On the contrary, I have a special respect for this Biblical people, which gave so many values to humanity ... I do not deny the Pogrom ... It is very important to keep in mind that, among the Jews from Iasi, there were also many hard-line communists, many of whom had run away in the Russian territories. Also, let us remember that, in the Russian planes which were hit and fell to the ground, Jewish pilots and parachutists who had been born in Iasi were captured, and they bombarded the town with the precision of knowledgeable people. Keep in mind that the gendarmes, as well as the soldiers and civilians found and arrested Jews which were signaling with flashlights or flares during the night bombings ... Of course, it was enough for just a few hundreds, of the more than 51,000 Jews that lived at the time in Iasi, to commit such acts of terrorism and treason, so as to lead to an answer of the army and even to the revolt of the civilian population" C. Bazgan, 07.20.2007);

Natural causes are also invoked as a cause of Holocaust. Panic, the dog-days, the bad hygiene, were unintentional causes of the Holocaust. For the Noua Arhiva Romanesca magazine, there is no doubt there was no Holocaust in Romania. One of their issues states that "we are close to the day when mankind will admit that there was no Holocaust in the territories controlled by the Romanian Government during the war". The death of the Jewish people during the events in Iasi, at the end of June 1941, was not caused by the Pogrom, but by their psychosis when the authorities wanted to save them. The text transforms "death trains" into "saving trains". Fearing that the Germans could continue the reprisals, the Romanian Government ordered for the Jews to be taken to shelter, out of the capital city of Moldova. They were to be urgently evacuated by train. The panic caused by their urgent evacuation, the clashes with some of the evacuated people, the rush inside the train cars and the heat of the summer days lead to their death, especially in the case of those who had a weak heart." (I. T Popescu, 9/2007).

Praising the perpetrator

As opposed to the Holocaust denial spread in Western public communication, Romanian media messages are mainly doubled by a combination of extremist nationalism and idolatry for Antonescu.

The connection and juxtaposition of the myth "of the marshall who saved the nation" and that of "Judeo-bolshevism" leads to serious distortions in the interpretation of history. Thus, Antonescu did not persecute the Jews, but tried to protect them.

"[...] meaning that, while Romanians were freezing to death at Stalingrad or as prisoners in Siberia or Vorkuta, the Jews were taken out to clean the snow on Victoriei Avenue".

In the same context, the victims from Transnistria cannot be explained only by exanthematic typus which, in its turn, is considered to be caused by the ""dirt" which the Jews from the ghetto used to live in", especially since the Romanian authorities did their best to provide humanly proper conditions for survival, but limited to their possibilities at the timer: "a la guerre comme a la guerre" . Their deportation to Transnistria is interpreted as temporary, and the selection of the deportees is said to have been made on political grounds--only the communist Jews. They give credit to the idea that Antonescu wanted all the Jewish people to emigrate to Palestine (I. Coja, October 8, 2007) while the Marshall protected the Jews more than anybody else (N.D. Petniceanu, July 20, 2007, Vasile Gruian, July 15, 2007, M Buracu, December 12, 2007).

Praising the perpetrator

As opposed to the Holocaust denial spread in Western public communication, Romanian media messages are mainly doubled by a combination of extremist nationalism and idolatry for Antonescu. The connection and juxtaposition of the myth "of the marshall who saved the nation" and that of "Judeo-bolshevism" leads to serious distortions in the interpretation of history. Thus, Antonescu did not persecute the Jews, but tried to protect them.

"[...] meaning that, while Romanians were freezing to death at Stalingrad or as prisoners in Siberia or Vorkuta, the Jews were taken out to clean the snow on Victoriei Avenue".

In the same context, the victims from Transnistria cannot be explained only by exanthematic typus which, in its turn, is considered to be caused by the ""dirt" which the Jews from the ghetto used to live in", especially since the Romanian authorities did their best to provide humanly proper conditions for survival, but limited to their possibilities at the timer: "a la guerre comme a la guerre" . Their deportation to Transnistria is interpreted as temporary, and the selection of the deportees is said to have been made on political grounds--only the communist Jews. They give credit to the idea that Antonescu wanted all the Jewish people to emigrate to Palestine (I. Coja, October 8, 2007) while the Marshall protected the Jews more than anybody else (N.D. Petniceanu, July 20, 2007, Vasile Gruian, July 15, 2007, M Buracu, December 12, 2007). The climax of this Holocaust-denying rave is hosted by Romania Mare, which informs us that Antonescu encouraged the soldiers to marry Jewish women, so as to save them from the German's genocide.

"In a discreet manner, Ion Antonescu, as top military leader, had given a verbal order (not written, so as not to give proof to Hitler's SS) for the Romanian soldiers, wherever was required by the situation and was possible, to marry, at least only on paper, young Jewish women, so that, by changing their name, after getting married, they would be saved from the German executioners. In this way, several Romanians married not just on paper, but did so effectively" (N.D. Petniceanu, July 20, 2007).

Another expression of selective Holocaust denial is the acknowledgement of only the tragedy of the Jews from Basarabia and Bukovina. This acknowledgement is conditioned, since the causes of the massacres were said to be no others but the Jews. As underlined each time by P Goma, what happened starting from July 1941 is nothing else but the natural answer of the Romanian authorities in front of the aggressively anti-Romanian displays of the Jewish people in the summer of 1940, when these territories were ceded to the USSR. "Eye for an eye" is the author's solution for rewriting history.

Other historians also support the idea of the Holocaust as deserved sanction. For example, out of the interview with Dinu Giurescu, published in Ziua by Tesu Solomovici, the "inventor" of the minimizing formula "the asymmetric Holocaust", we learn that the same anti-Romanian reactions of the Jews from Basarabia and Bucovina led to pogroms and the deportation of the Jews by the Romanian authorities. Moreover, according to D. Giurescu, the Jewish people from those territories were communists, thus, the anti-Jewish actions of Antonescu's regime were understandable (A. Florian, January, 2008). This academician seems to find the explanation of Antonescu's anti-Jewish massacres in one of his resolutions from 1941. More precisely, it is

"a resolution that the Marshall wrote on a memo submitted by the Federation of Jewish Unions, dated October 19, 1941: "I committed myself to the Jews from the Old Kingdom. I am keeping my commitments. But I have made no commitment towards the Jews from the new territories (Bassarabia and Northern Bukovina). Most of them were beasts. The really guilty ones cannot be found, all of them. They are many, under cover. I am sorry for the honest people. There are some of them too ..."" (D. Giurescu, November 3, 2007).

For Antonescu's supporters, the most powerful argument is the refusal of the Romanian authorities to deport the Jews from the Old Kingdom and Southern Transylvania to the Nazi camps from Poland. In order to consolidate this attitude within public conscience, Antonescu's decision is often presented in opposition to Horthy's, which led to the deportation of Hungarian Jewish people to Auschwitz in 1944. Moreover, while the Hungarian authorities were organizing the deportation of the Jewish communities from Northern Transylvania, Romanian people allowed Jews from that area to move to the territories controlled by Romania (V Roman, 2007). Such comparisons are however biased. They do not take into consideration two historical aspects: the Holocaust of the Jews from Romania and from the territories that were controlled in the period 1941-1944 and the factors that made Antonescu's Government to quit, not to refuse, the plan to deport the Jews from the Old Kingdom in Belzec, in the fall of 1942.

Many times, selective Holocaust denial underlines respect for the victims, independently of their number. This procedure is a simple stylistic device. Finally, everything is reduced to a matter of mathematic details: if "it is morally compulsory to acknowledge the killing of 20-30,000 Jews in personal disputes, local conflicts, or military repressions", "from the statistical point of view, there is a huge difference from the few thousands, the tens of thousands of Jews which were killed during the war, to the half of million people claimed by the supporters of the Holocaust theory in Romania" (M. Buracu, December 12, 2007).

Discrediting or contesting the authority and competence of the authors who specialized in this field.

Holocaust denying messages are not meant to be part of the academic circuit of debated ideas. Since they lack scientific arguments, their discourse is intended to discredit the credibility of the authors which develop a rational endeavor, based on the interpretation and evaluation of primary sources. Presenting Antonescu as a savior is proper to those who plan to rewrite recent history in compliance to scientific evidence. They were not only called "holocaustologues", but were also accused of having initiated a project meant to fake history by a "horrible campaign of defamation led against the Romanian nation (9)" (I.T Popescu, 2007).

In this context, three discursive practices are used for devaluating or minimizing rational research: (a) the insinuation that researchers were using only their own interpretative model, which was presumably built on the selective assessment of sources or which even lacked a scientific basis; (b) ambiguity, which places Holocaust studies face to face with Holocaust-denying productions, while the author of the message leaves the impression that his or her attitude is presumably neutral. Dan Stanca, for example, when he quoted J. Ancel and P Goma found the truth to be somewhere in the middle.

"Paul Goma had not gathered his thoughts and memories, yet, in the volume called 'The Red Week, nor did such acknowledged Jewish historians as I. Ancel and Lya Benjamin write those works that we learned about later on. Of course, both parties exaggerate. Once historical facts take place, they lose their clarity and get into a certain area of subjectivity that distorts them and sends them to the future generation in a form that is incorrect, most of the times. Probably this is the case as well" (D. Stanca, November 23, 2007) (10) It is probably true, but only as far as Goma's memory is concerned. Ancel works as a historian, and not as a writer who recalls his memories.

The third argument is that (c) researchers are hiding certain documents. Alter Media excels here by V Zarnescu to whom

"the whole propaganda about the pretended Holocaust committed by Romania against the Jews is practically annihilated! Thus, as Israel steals documents in order to steal the proofs, it means that it is all a typical lie of the kikes, in order to extort money from the Romanians--and from others. This was proven, in fact, by N. Finkelstein" (11)

Also, there is a supposed destruction of archival funds or faking testimonies which could be in favor of Antonescu's regime (e.g. Mihail Sebastian) (12).

Exploitation of the Holocaust by the Jewish people

Many of the radical articles that were assessed in this study, which use a very aggressive discourse, adapt arguments from Western Holocaust-denying literature (AIterMedia, August 14, 2007) to the Romanian case. They apply denigrating labels to the literature that focuses on the Romanian Holocaust, being considered unreliable, "a large-scale international fraud, guided by the World Jewish Council" (13). In this logic, the study of Jewish history during the Second World War is only the expression of a direct interest in money or connecting the destiny of the country to "world finances". Acknowledging Romanian Holocaust would thus mean to "economically enslave Romania and to empty the budget of this unlucky nation for a few decades (Mihai Buracu, December 12, 2007).

A new reason for the emergence of anti-Semitism arises: the implosion of communism. The study of the Holocaust is meant to shift the public's attention away from communism and the crimes of this political system, which was allegedly brought to Romanian by Judeo-communists. The Holocaust propaganda would equal hiding "communism and the crimes behind it". In other words,

"when you have such a tragic historical past, which brings money and strengthens your position in the society, it is only natural to restlessly defend this strange world of the Holocaust" (Viorel Patrichi, March 2007).

This fake competition between the Gulag and the Holocaust was also supported by representatives of the intellectual elite who unjustifiably feared that the symbol of the Holocaust could have monopolized the cultural area, thus minimizing anti-communist rhetoric (14).

Revision of the "de-fascization" process in Romania after 1944

As far as this discourse topic is concerned, our study makes a distinction between two types of media messages. On one hand, restoring the legitimacy of the ideology and activity of the Legionary Movement, and on the other, legally rehabilitating Antonescu's Government and its members.

Entire publications and Internet pages are dedicated or claim to belong to the Legionary Movement. The Legionary Objective (Obiectiv legionar), The Legionary Word (Cuvantul legionar), webpages such as The Legionary Movement (Miscarea Legionara), the New Right Association (Noua Dreapta), all promote legionary symbols and ideology. Apart from these specialized publications, the Legionary Movement enjoys a positive image in other publications as well. The harmfulness of such messages is not strictly dependent upon possible anti-Semitic opinions, but upon the fact that they promote political and cultural values which are contrary to democracy.

Some intellectuals have an attitude of shading or minimizing the ideological values that were shared by intellectuals who symbolically supported the Legionary Movement in the inter-war period. Many times, Mircea Eliade's Fascist orientation is called an act of "skidding". For example, high rank members of the scientific community, such as Eugen Simion, former president of the Romanian Academy, give credit to people like Vintila Horia saying that he was not among the ones who publicly supported the Legionary Movement through his writings. In one of his articles he states that:

"For more than 50 years, an idea was spread that Vintila Horia was a legionary man and that he wrote abominable articles in the media of the time. It is from Marilena Rotaru's book that I found out about Vintila Horia's firm acknowledgement that he was and remains a man of the right ("the cultural right", he says, not the political right), but he mentions that he never was a partisan of the far-right. It is time we believed him ...", suggests the academician (Eugen Simion, April 28, May 5, 2007).

However, one should bear in mind that Vintila Horia was the head editor of several legionary magazines, such as Porunca Vremii, Sfarma Piatra or Gandirea, and he published several articles in favor of Mussolini, Hitler and Antonescu (15).

Every year, there are public religious commemorations of legionary heroes. The use of Christian Orthodox mystics is meant to assert the idea that the legionary death is surpassing the sphere of the contingent and gets into the "transcendent sphere of the destiny of the Romanian nation". Thus, it becomes "a supreme sacrifice for the belief in Christ" (Adrian Cerhat, January-February, 2007). For example, Ion Mota and Vasile Marin, volunteer legionaries in Franco's army, who died in the Spanish Civil War are commemorated every year as real martyrs of the nation (Bogdan Munteanu, January-February 2007, AlterMedia, January 15, 2007, Mircea Nicolau, January 2007, Radu Popescu, January 2007, Florin Dobrescu, January 2007, losif Niculescu, January 2007, Florin Niculescu, May 2007). The association of the legionaries with the Orthodox Church is thus meant to "sanitize" its ideology and political movement, to rehabilitate it in front of public opinion (Mihai Chioveanu, 2007, p. 560). The attempt to legally rehabilitate the members of the Antonescu Government was widely presented in the Romanian media (Liliana Nastase, Ionel Stoical, February 19, 2007, lonel Stoica, May 5, 2007, V Alexandru, February 26, 2007, Andrei Ghiuciusca, August 7, 2007, Ziua, February 20, 2007, Libertatea, February 20, 2007, Tricolorul, February 26, 2007, Cronica Romana, March 2, 2007, George Daniel Ripa, March 2, 2007, Rost, March 2007).

The process of legal review was open by Sorin Serban Alexianu, the son of the former governor of Transnistria, Gheorghe Alexianu, sentenced and judged within the Antonescu group in 1946. At the end of 2006, the Court of Appeal decided to acquit Gheorghe Alexianu, Ion Antonescu, Horia Sima and other members of the government, but only for the accusation of crimes against peace. The Court maintained the sentences for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Such a legal initiative entails some questions related to the institutional capability of the justice system to decide on matters or reactions that are part of history. Naturally, the work methods of a judge and those of a historian, respectively, are just as different as the purpose of their activity (16). Most of the media simply provided the pieces of information, but underlined the Marshall's role, as a hero and patriot, in gaining back Romania's territorial integrity. On the contrary, in Chisinau, there were critical reactions about the possibility of Antonescu's rehabilitation, even if partially Gardianul, January 27, 2007).

Since there is no debate about the implications of such a development, there can be a confusion of areas. Strictly from the legal point of view, the non-final decision of acquittal refers only to the accusation of crimes against peace. The Court rejected the demand of rehabilitation related to war crimes and crimes against humanity, as it was considered groundless. This technical distinction is hard to be sent efficiently to the public opinion. Moreover, as Julie Trappe mentions, "it is not that easy to dissociate war actions from racial policies. Even if this is a partial rehabilitation of Alexianu, Antonescu, etc, meaning, in fact, a minimization of the Holocaust" (Julie Trappe, 2007), after the confusion created in the legal, historic and educational areas, the rehabilitation was rejected once and for all (Gardianul, May 7, 2008).

Since there is no debate about the implications of such a development, there can be a confusion of areas. Strictly from the legal point of view, the non-final decision of acquittal refers only to the accusation of crimes against peace. The Court rejected the demand of rehabilitation related to war crimes and crimes against humanity, as it was considered groundless. This technical distinction is hard to be sent efficiently to the public opinion. Moreover, as Julie Trappe mentions, "it is not that easy to dissociate war actions from racial policies. Even if this is a partial rehabilitation of Alexianu, Antonescu, etc, meaning, in fact, a minimization of the Holocaust" (Julie Trappe, 2007), after the confusion created in the legal, historic and educational areas, the rehabilitation was rejected once and for all (Gardianul, May 7, 2008).

Anticommunism and fascism--a rehabilitation of the Romanian far-right in the terms of its anticommunist fight

The collapse of the communist regime after 1989 created the premises for assuming and re-evaluating Romania's recent past. Many academic and public disputes followed, which means that the rational review of recent History mixed was with various individual or collective memories. The choice on what and how to resubmit for interpretation led to what Michael Shafir calls the clash of competitive memories (M. Shafir, 2007, 2008). After listing the main mechanisms that lead to a selective memory bias, M. Shafir pleads for assuming the norm "of acknowledging the other" as a premise for the dialogue of memories. The next step is that of liberating the interpretation of history from certain biases and preconceptions. In rewriting Romania's recent history, believes Shafir, "a good start would probably be to clarify certain concepts. Otherwise, I'm afraid we are still locked in the area of myths and legends" (M. Shafir, 2007, p. 101). Within this framework, the intellectual dispute Holocaust vs. Gulag remains a competition of mythologies.

As Tony Judt mentions, in Eastern Europe, "there are too many memories, too many pasts that people cling to, using them as a weapon against somebody else's past" (Tony Judt, 2003, p. 387). This risk is even greater during the transition from a series of non-democratic political systems to democracy. The weight of totalitarian pasts makes it possible for executioners to become victims and vice versa, making it legitimate for the new democracy to consider possible rehabilitation moral. Thus, part of far-right's rehabilitation was based on its fight against communism. Regardless of the methods of rehabilitation used, the purpose was to obtain a respectable, moral, exemplary image of the representatives of a far-right political movement. What this argument intentionally omits is the fact that legionaries' opposition to communism was, in fact, a clash between two non-democratic political projects.

A common feature of the people who take on this type of rehabilitation is the fact that they belong to or support the legionary policy while promoting their status of victim of communist reprisals. Even if they acknowledge their political affiliation in many articles, they highlight their status of communism victim. The implications of the legionary commitment are never reconsidered in the reconstruction of their biographies. Tony Judt speaks of

"the temptation to combat the memory of communism by reversing it". In other words, they reconsidered "all anti-communists which had been discredited until then [the fall of communism], including the fascists. The nationalist writers of the 1930's are fashionable once again. Post-communist parliaments voted motions that honored Marshall Antonescu in Romania or his homologues in the Balkans and Central Europe. Once denounced as being nationalists, fascists or Nazi collaborators, statues were now erected in their honor, for their heroism during the war (the Romanian Parliament even kept a moment of recollection in Antonescu's memory)" (Tony Judt, 2008, pp. 750-751).

Given this situation when values and principles mix, when only simple logic is applied, according to which the ones who were bad yesterday are good today, and the other way around, the media avalanche of attempts to rehabilitate legionary leaders or members of Antonescu's Government entail symbols that are at least disturbing for the new generation, for whom recent history is just a written page.

The World Jewish Conspiracy

This discursive model develops the scenario of a world Jewish plot, with a special focus on the Romanian case. According to this type of message, the purpose of Zionist imperialism is to "establish a cosmopolite, planetary state under the leadership of a small number of plutocrats". The Jewish elite would exert its authority on political, social, economic, and cultural systems (Ovidiu Lapusneanu, August 7, 2007). Since this plutocracy has been exerting its influence from the oldest times "in 2007 the situation is unchanged and the Great Israelite Finance is leading the world" (Adrian Botez, 2007, Viorel Roman, June 15, 2007). The conspiracy theories that focus on the world political role of the Jewry follow three main defining directions considered necessary for conquering and dominating a country: its position in the system of international relations, eliminating religion and Christian institutions and destroying national political leaders which have a patriotic and heroic-saving potential.

Due to its geo-strategic and natural resources Romania is a preferred target for Jewish people, who were "in front and/or behind all those who could decide the fate of the world, they say" (Ovidiu Lapusneanu, August 8, 2007). One of the ultimate objectives of the Zionist organizations, starting with those who control the world finances is the "de-Christianization of the population" (D. Zavoianu, February 28, 2007; Informatia Aradului, March 1, 2 and 5, 2007). Since the "Orthodox Church is the only one that kept unaltered the teaching of the primary Church until today" (Ovidiu Lapusneanu, August 7, 2007), the interest for destroying the true religion is obvious.

This period of transition to modernization is seen as a decay caused by the market and democracy, and it could be "the finalization of two centuries of fight sustained by the international Jewry" (Ovidiu Lapusneanu, August 7, 2007). Symbolic sentences such as the one cited above always express regret for the disappearance of non-democratic political leaders. The death of dictators such as Ion Antonescu, Nicolae Ceausescu or the murder of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu are explained by the intervention of the occult world leadership, whose hierarchy is composed of the Universal Israelite Alliance and the Francmasonry. Sometimes the arguments have a minimal credibility and they are the result of an anti-Semitism supported by all means, for which the logic of the discourse has no importance whatsoever. This way, the "Jews are fed up with the weather from Israel", and, as a result, they will come to Romania. Accepting one million Jews is considered a prerequisite for the country to join the European Union (Ion Coja, January 26, 2007).


After 1989, the evolution anti-Semitic or Holocaust-denying topics was anything but smooth. As shown in my essay, the assessment of such symbolic displays entails the marking of several vectors: the topics of the messages, authors, media outlets, etc. Such realities can hardly be assessed quantitatively, entailing quality assessments. As a result, the few pieces of information that could sketch a general image of the Holocaust-denying or anti-Semitic symbols over a period of time point out certain characteristics of the messages that carry them their lifespan, stability or longevity of their authors.

This article drew primarily on surveys of publications with extremist subject-matters (17).

Most of the communication channels have a very good coverage: a) dailies: Tricolorul, Natiunea (a weekly publication now), and Ziua, have existed for more than ten years, while others, such as Atac la persoana no longer exist; b) periodicals: Romania Mare, Puncte cardianle, Permanente, Rost, Romania Libera-Aldine a cultural supplement; for the 1990's, Europa, Political, Noua dreapta, Gazeta de Vest, for the period after 2000 Obiectiv legionar, Cuvant legionar, Lumea.

The main anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying topics and clichEs are constantly repeated repeat. Some publications, for example the Lumea Magazine, are remarkable for the promotion of subject matters that belong to the new anti-Semitism, i.e. a global critic against the State of Israel, perceived as the main destabilizing political actor in the area of the Middle East (Pierre Stambul, 2007; Seth Ackerman, 2007; Corneliu Florea, 2007).

The newly adopted legislation that forbids organizations and symbols which support fascism, racism xenophobia, the promotion of the memory of persons who were found guilty of crimes against peace and humanity, as well the promotion of Holocaust denial (Law 107/2006 for the approval and modification of Government Emergency Order no. 31/2002) did not lead to important changes, i.e. a decrease of the loudness or simply the halt of Holocaust-denying messages from being spread (Gina Pana, August 2004). Of the cases that were signaled to public institutions as being an infringement of the Government Order, none was solved so as to admit that something against the law took place.

The apparition of the Final Report of the International Committee for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania (November 2004), supported by the presidency and by the government, lead to a development in the public acknowledgement of Holocaust-denying messages, even though it was not very widely publicized (William Totok, June-July 2005). The public area for communicating messages that question the responsibility of Antonescu's regime or the suffering of the Jews from Romania is now smaller. Even though Holocaust denial was not eliminated from public life after 2004, the media display went through a change of stress. On one hand, the scale/frequency of the messages were reduced while on the other, more articles about the Holocaust were published (18).

Practically, the mainstream message is that indirect denial or minimization of the Holocaust from Romania disappeared. After 2004, a few radical Holocaust deniers, some of them highly related to Antonescu's glorification, became more vocal and repetitive. They succeeded to get more opportunities to express their points of view in the communication channels (19). Also, some publications use editorial policies in which the nostalgic extremist message (nationalist, anti-Semitic or Holocaust-denying) mixes with the democratic discourse (for ex. Ziua, Romania Libera--Aldine). This editorial policy makes it possible, most of the times, for the publication not to consider itself involved in anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying opinions or attitudes. Thus, they try to save the publication, to keep a civic-democratic aura and to transfer responsibility for antiSemitism only to the authors of the articles.


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Ion Coja, October 8, 2007, ""The Ambiguous Holocaust" or how correct is Norman Manes?", AlterMedia

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V. Alexandru, February 26, 2007, "Rejudged", Atac

Claudia Ciobanu, March 2, 2007, "Russia considers Antonescu to be a war criminal", Cotidianul

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January 27, 2007, "The Republic of Moldova Criticizes the Partial Rehabilitation of General Ion Antonescu", Gardianul

May 7, 2008 , "The Rehabilitation of Marshall Antonescu Rejected Once and For All", Gardianul Gandul

Ionut Baias, July 23, 2007, "Father Ilie Lacatusu--His Deep, Never-ending Prayer", HotNews

Ionut Baias, July 25, 2007, "Valeriu Gafencu--"God Had Given Him the Charm of All-Comprising Beauty, HotNews

Cezarina Barzoi, lonut Baias, July 30, 2007, "From Ciolacu the Brigand to Father Nectarie", HotNews

Ionut Baias, Costel Condurache, August 8, 2007, "Dumitru Bordeianu--From Disavowal of God to Resurection", HotNews

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Ionut Baias, October 8, 2007, "Spiru Blanaru--Hero and Martyr of Anti-communist Resistance", HotNews

D. Zavoianu, February 28, 2007, "The Enemies of Christianity", Informatia Aradului

March 1, 2 and 5, 2007 "Cassandra's Vissions", Informatia Aradului

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By Alexandru Florian (1)

(1) Alexandru Florian is the Executive Director of the Elie Wiesel Romanian National Institute for the Study of Holocaust. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Political Science from the Romanian Academy--Institute of Social Theory (1998) with a thesis on modernity and transition in Romania. Currently, he is a professor of Political Science at "Dimitrie Cantemir" University in Bucharest.

(2) Part of the Addenda of the London Agreements signed in August 8, 1945. The articles states "the killing, extermination, slavery, deportation and any inhumane act committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecution on political, racial or religious grounds, independently on whether these acts or persecutions were or a violation of the internal laws of the country or not, or whether they were committed as a result of a crime that the Tribunal was entitled to deal with or connect to that crime" should be punished.

(3) See G. Voicu (200, 2003), T. Friling et al. (2005, p. 339-387). Ion Coja's message is very strong, "There was no Holocaust in Romania! Open Letter to Mr. Traian Basescu", in Greater Romania Magazine (Romania Mare), no. 855, December 1, 2006, where he foresees: "Be happy of the news that we bring. There was no holocaust at all in Romania! It didn't even visit us! No holocaust, no genocide, no pogrom! It didn't happen in Antonescu's time or at any other occasion! We missed them all! Who knows, maybe we shall make this holocaust some other time, properly, all legal! With witnesses, documents and surely with victims, why not?! Everything by the book!"

(4) See web pages such as:,,,, pages. prodigy net,, etc.

(5) EUMC was founded in 1998 as an independent organism of the European Union and its purpose is to survey racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic phenomena and displays. From 2007, EUMC became FRA (The Fundamental Rights Agency). Thus, after consultations with various Jewish organizations and researchers in this field, EUMC elaborated a working definition of anti-Semitism in 2005.

(6) "Taken in the summer and autumn of 1944, when the gas chambers were used at maximum capacity and the Zyklon B gas killed about 6,000 prisoners per day, the photos depict the carefree life style of the SS officers. They are having fun, relax in the company of young women and receive visits. Nothing of their attitude seem to be connected to Hitler's gruesome "death factory", where 1.1 million prisoners were killed, most of them Jewish".

(7) See in Tricolorul, (June 7, 2007), Ion Coja, (June 25, 2007); other expressions of selective Holocaust denial, Mihai Buracu, (December 12, 2007), Andrei Vartic, (February 26, 2007).

(8) See Ion Coja, (March, 2007). The same linguistic obsessions that are used instead of arguments in order to rehabilitate Ion Antonescu can be read in the work of Ion Toma Popescu, (2007).

(9) Also see Tricolorul, (June 7, 2007), AlterMedia, (February 16, 2007). It is worth mentioning that the pejorative term of "holocaustologues" was first used by Paul Goma, being later taken over by all those who want to discredit the rational research of the tragedy of European Jews; Ion Coja, (October 8, 2007), where writer Norman Manea is told that he presumably does not provide a correct interpretation to documents.

(10.) Also see Viorel Roman, (February 23 2007).

(11) Ion Coja, (June 25, 2007), where he claims that Israeli secret services presumably hid W. Filderman's Memoirs; Also see Vasile Zarnescu, (September 20, 2007).

(12) Coja, (June 25, 2007), where he expresses his certitude that M. Sebastian's Diary was forged.

(13) Vasile Zarnescu, (September 20, 2007); Also see Tricolorul, (May 22, 2007), Viorel Patrichi, (March, 2007), Ion Toma Popescu, (2007), Tom A. Peter, (October 292,007

(14) We remind, for the sake of the example, G. Liiceanu's attempt in 1997, when Mihail Sebastian's Diary from 1935 to 1944 was edited, to equal his hardships during the communist regime to those of the Jews during the Holocaust (M. Shafir, 2002).

(15) About the fascist works published by Vintila Horia, see Alexandru Laszlo, (2009).

(16) For the difference between the legal and historic discourse, see Eric Conan, Henry Rousso, 2001, pp 243-244.

(17) For this, see George Voicu, 2000; 2003; The Center for Monitoring and Fighting Anti-Semitism in Romania, Anti-Semitism in Romania. Report (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005); Michael Shafir, 2002; William Totok, June-July 2005; A. Florian, C. Gusu, 2007.

(18) For this, see lonut Dulamita, March 22, 2007; lonel Dancu, February 6, 2007; Adrian Goflanca, October 3, 2007; June 29, 2007; October 17, 2007; Mircea Marian, August 11, 2007; Viorel Ilisoi, October 23 2007.

(19) Ion Coja, C.V. Tudor and P. Goma are all following the same trend of overstating selective Holocaust Denial and repeating the same topics until saturation
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Author:Florian, Alexandru
Publication:Romanian Journal of Political Science
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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