The sins of our fathers: Through Romania’s past, Darkly, with Der Spiegel and Al Jazeera

Two of the darker moments from Romania’s history are featured in recent news articles; war crimes and the massacre of Jews during World War II and the Communist Era Securitate secret police. German news service Der Spiegel reports on Florin Iepan’s documentary in which he confronts Romanian leaders about the country’s part in the Holocaust and the lack of official recognition of the crimes committed. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera news service looks at the end of Communism and describes a lack of transparency and accountability for crimes committed by the authorities before 1989 that have never been tried or punished.

In his documentary, Florin Iepan confronts Romania’s leaders over their reluctance to acknowledge the country’s role in the Holocaust and the war crimes committed. During the film, he confronts leaders past and present with 87 year old Michail Zaslawski, reportedly the sole survivor of a massacre by Romanian soldiers of 23,000 Jews in Odessa, the Ukraine, in 1941, when the country was allied with the Nazis.

Florin says the subject is still taboo amongst Romania’s leaders and even many academics and describes being “appalled” that Romanian war time tyrant Ion Antonescu, Nazi ally and fascist leader, who was executed in 1946 for war crimes, was voted number six on the list of great Romanians by the public in a TVR show. Ion Antonescu was touted as a Romanian hero after the end of communism. Astonishingly in 1991, parliament held a minute’s silence for him and although the practice later stopped, roads, streets and squares and public spaces were named after the Romanian tyrant.

The second story looks at the end of Communism and what is described as essentially a continuation of the previous administration minus the Ceausescus. The Al Jazeera article features interviews with some fascinating figures from the time, including the army officer who was told to prepare the prosecution’s case against Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. Now a retired general, Dan Voinea told Al Jazeera that the hurried trial and execution saved many involved in the feared Securitate from having their crimes uncovered.

Al Jazeera also talked to a retired senior Securitate figure, who now lives happily near Timisoara, has clearly done pretty well since the end of Communism and is certainly not hiding his role in shame. The article also features quotes from researchers studying Securitate records and attempting to uncover the truth about those detained, tortured and killed by what is described as Europe’s most brutal Communist Era regime.

Read Romania’s Forgotten Holocaust from Der Spiegel.

Read Romania: Lifting the lid from Al Jazeera.

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