A Spotlight On: Standing Together Against Genocide – Romania in World War II

This month’s talk takes us back to World War II. Following the attack on the Soviet Union, the Romanian government, led by Ion Antonescu, embarked on a genocide of the Jews and Roma in territories under Romanian control.

During World War II, following the attack on the Soviet Union, the Romanian government led by Ion Antonescu, an ally of Nazi Germany, embarked on a genocide of the Jews and Roma in territories under Romanian control. A less known instance of the Holocaust, the deportations came in the wake of sustained attempts carried out by different political regimes in Romania starting from 1938 to marginalise and persecute Romanian Jews, radicalising a division within Romanian society that had deep roots in the 19th century.

While the deportations and mass murder of Jews and Roma continued until 1942, sustained pressures from a number of individuals and organisations, in Romania and abroad, led to a momentous decision by Antonescu to put an end to the deportations, consent to the return of surviving deportees from the concentration camps, and allow emigration to Palestine. Furthermore, they also contributed significantly to his refusal to deport the remaining Romanian Jews to Nazi extermination camps, despite mounting German demands and threats. Although they were not the only factor behind this decision, which was also based on strategic military calculations and opportunism, there is no doubt that these sustained efforts of standing together against genocide played a major role in putting an end to mass murder.

Eventually, more than 400,000 Jews survived in wartime Romania as a consequence of this reversal, rendering this one of the rare cases in history when a genocide was brought to an end not through force or military intervention, but as a result of the peaceful efforts undertaken by a very diverse group of individuals and institutions, national and international.

Dr Raul Carstocea
Originally from Romania, Dr Raul Carstocea witnessed the fall of the Iron Curtain as a child and experienced regime change, becoming an adult as the once-divided Europe was coming ever closer together. He left Romania in 1997 for university studies, which have taken him through Bulgaria, Italy, and Hungary, to the United Kingdom, where he got a PhD in History at University College London in 2011.

Having lived and worked in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany, he describes himself as a ‘Europeanist’ not only by training and profession, but also by experience and by vocation. A specialist in East European history, he is committed to integrating its ‘story’ into the mainstream of European historiography, just as he believes that the process of European integration, initially imagined as a path to peace on an all-too-conflicted continent, is still the key to peace in the 21st century. He is currently Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Leicester and part of its Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

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