This article focuses on the transfer of the Nazi legal and ideological model to East Central Europe and its subsequent adoption, modification and fusion with local legal-political practices. To illustrate this process, we explore the evolution of the anti-Semitic policy of the Antonescu regime in Romania (1940–1944) from an under-researched perspective: the activity of the Nazi ‘advisors on the Jewish Question’ dispatched to Bucharest. Based on a wide range of published and unpublished archival sources, we attempt to provide answers to the following questions: To what extent did the Third Reich shape Romania’s anti-Semitic polices during the Second World War? What was the role played by the Nazi advisors in this process? In answering these questions, special attention is devoted to the activity of the Hauptsturmführer ss Gustav Richter, who served as Berater für Juden und Arisierungsfragen [advisor to the Jewish and Aryanization questions] in the German Legation in Bucharest from 1st of April 1941 until 23 August 1944. We argue that, by evaluating the work of the Nazi experts in Bucharest, we can better grasp the immediate as well as the longer-term objectives followed by the Third Reich in Romania on the ‘Jewish Question,’ and the evolution of this issue within the context of the Romanian-German diplomatic relations and political interactions. By taking into account a variety of internal and external factors and by reconstructing the complicated web of political and bureaucratic interactions that led to the crystallization of General Ion Antonescu’s policy towards the Jews, we are able to provide a richer and more nuanced analysis of German-Romanian relations during the Second World War.
* The authors would like to thank Sven Reichardt, K.K. Patel, and the two anonymous reviewers of Fascism. Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies for their valuable suggestions on earlier drafts.
The First World War inaugurated a new stage in the process of globalization, marked by the further ‘expansion’ of the Westphalian system of states, an increasing role assigned to the emerging international law and to new supra-national institutions, most notably the League of Nations, and the spread of novel transnational mass political ideologies, such as Bolshevism and fascism. By and large, however, works on globalization, in general, and on forms of European continental or regional integration, in particular, have focused preponderantly on the rise of the new liberal international order under the terms of the Paris Peace Treaties. At the same time, alternative illiberal visions for the reorganization of Europe harbored by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany and partially implemented during the Second World War have received limited attention. More recently, new works on the wartime history of the continent pointed out that the experiment of the Nazi Neuordnung Europas [New Order] was ‘crucial to the development of Europe during the twentieth century.’1 The Nazi European domination did not simply consist of a temporary military hegemony and harsh economic exploitation of the occupied territories but also of transnational experiments in social engineering based on policies of resettlements, ethnic cleansing, deportation and extermination, with deep and long-lasting societal consequences.
Reorganized during the Second World War as a mosaic of occupational regimes, semi-independent protectorates and satellite states, East Central Europe was pivotal to the implementation of the Nazi ideological project, since it provided the Third Reich a vast terrain of territorial expansion and social-political experimentation. The successful establishment of the Nazi Neuordnung Europas in East Central Europe as a hierarchically-structured racial world ruled by ‘the Aryans’ depended not only on the German military hegemony but also on the transfer of the Nazi legal and political ‘expertise’ and of the Nazi ‘science’ to organize and ‘legitimize’ state-sponsored campaigns of ethnic cleansing. Much has been written about ‘Hitler’s professors,’ the development of the Nazi science and the way it informed the decision-making process in the Third Reich;2 yet we know considerably less about the process of transfer of this type of ‘racial expertise’ to the German satellite countries and its practical implementation. What were the mechanisms through which the Nazi ‘New Order’ was implemented? Can one speak of a comprehensive Nazi political ‘model,’ disseminated through a well-orchestrated policy of legal and institutional transfers? Who were the mediators of these transfers? How was the Nazi model adapted to local conditions in Germany’s wartime allied or occupied countries?
Although these questions are key to understanding the status of East Central Europe during the Second World War, they have been only partially tackled by historians. A majority of the existing works on the topic has approached the relationship between Nazi Germany and its satellite countries using the tools of diplomatic history. Often, such perspectives treat states as unitary, rational, and neatly-differentiated units; they also tend to divorce the study of foreign policy from the complicated web of domestic actors and policy constraints and to ignore the larger regional or international contexts of decision-making processes in favor of the narrower angle of bilateral relations. They also tend to assume a linear and unilateral process of political transfers from ‘core’ countries to ‘peripheral’ ones, denying local agents in ‘developing’ countries any capacity of ideological autonomy and institutional creativity. This tendency is particularly manifest in the treatment of the relationship between Nazi Germany and its satellite states in East Central Europe, the latter being indiscriminately called ‘puppet states,’ a metaphor meant to suggest – in a misleading manner – their total lack of political initiative or autonomy. In this article, to account for the transfer of the Nazi legal and political model to East Central Europe and its subsequent adoption, modification and even partial rejection, we employ the social constructivist theory in international relations, which posits that the foreign policy of a given state is concomitantly shaped by 1) processes of social interaction between domestic actors and state agencies, 2) its interaction with other states and supra-national organizations, and 3) the prevailing international law and norms.3 From this perspective, we regard the decision-making process on the ‘Jewish Question’ as a heterogeneous outcome of a complex set of interactions at societal-, state-, and interstate-levels. On the one hand, anti-Jewish policies in Nazi Germany were shaped by Referat iv b4 of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt [rsha; Reich Main Head Office] – the nsdap’s main security organization entrusted with the strategic mission to fight all ‘enemies of the Reich,’ which combined the Sicherheitsdienst [sd; The ss Intelligence Service] and the Sicherheitspolizei [SiPo; Security Police] – in collaboration with various other offices, from police agencies to the German Foreign Office. On the other hand, in Nazi satellite countries during the Second World War, the ‘Jewish Question’ was a domestic as well as a foreign policy matter, shaped internally by the agenda of anti-Semitic forces and their interaction with other interest-groups in society, and externally by the respective states’ relationship to Nazi Germany, their confrontation with enemy states, and the political elites’ perception of the military evolution of the war and their country’s prospects at the future peace conference.
To account for the interplay between these various actors and agencies, we employ recent transnational approaches which stem from the traditions of comparative history but go – in many ways – beyond it, such as the history of transfers, shared and entangled histories, and histoire croisée.4 In exploring political, legal and institutional transfers, influences and entanglements, these approaches refocus the analytical emphasis from neatly isolated units of comparison to multiple forms of interaction among evolving units or dynamic networks. These new approaches enable scholars to explore the exportation of political practices and institutions to foreign countries and their adaptation to a new environment in the receiving country through appropriation and acculturation. They also highlight the importance of international interpersonal contacts involved in the process of transfer, the role played by individual or collective mediators, and the impact of media in the process of transmission.5 By way of this methodology, we argue that the Nazification of East Central Europe exhibited a complex case of mixed mimetic, coercive, and normative institutional isomorphism,6 triggered by the desire of the local states to uplift their international status in the alternative New European Order in-the-making, by joining the Nazi-led military coalition and adopting the Nazi legal-political model. That process was mimetic because it involved a conscious and often voluntary imitation of ‘successful’ Nazi political prototypes, coupled with a desire to integrate into the new European fascist order, on ‘advantageous’ terms. It was coercive because the New Order was implemented by Nazi Germany by military means, involving indirect control or direct occupation. Finally, it was ‘normative’ because institutional change in the region was dependent on new international rules, behavioral norms, and technological resources produced in Nazi Germany, and it involved Nazi advisors deployed to local or central state agencies as a method of transferring ‘expertise’ and gaining prestige through Nazi-style ‘professionalization.’
To illustrate this process, the current article focuses on the activity of the Nazi experts on the ‘Jewish Question’ in Bucharest and its impact on the inter-state relationship between Romania and Nazi Germany, 1940–1944. Romania exhibits a peculiar case in Nazi Germany’s relation to East Central Europe and the implementation of die Endlösung der Judenfrage [Final Solution to the Jewish Question], on several counts.7 First, as a pillar of the Paris peace system in the region, Romania was one of the last countries to succumb to Nazi Germany’s political pressure, doing so only reluctantly in late 1939, after the French and British security guarantees proved ineffective. Moreover, it was only in November 1940, after the collapse of Carol ii’s royal dictatorship and the proclamation of the National Legionary State by the General – later Marshal, from August 22, 1941 – Ion Antonescu on 14 September, that Romania formally adhered to the Tripartite Pact of the Axis Powers. Even then, the transfer and implementation of the Nazi legal-political model in Romania was marked by numerous ambiguities. On the one hand, Romania fully integrated into the Nazi Neuordnung Europas, joining the war against Soviet Union and subordinating its economy to Nazi Germany’s needs and war effort. On the other hand, Romania was among the few countries in East Central Europe who managed to avoid a full German occupation, preserved its distinct statehood and internal autonomy, and was adamant to promote its own ‘solutions’ to the perceived urgent political questions of the day, such as the ‘Jewish Question.’
Second, General Antonescu’s policy towards the Jews underwent radical shifts during his four years of rule (1940–1944). During the first two years of his regime, Antonescu adopted an ample anti-Semitic legislation, deported to the Trans-Dniester Region (Transnistria in Romanian) the Jews from Bukovina and Bessarabia (two provinces just freed from Soviet occupation), and he even preliminary agreed to collaborate with Germany in implementing the Final Solution, by sending Romania’s Jews to Nazi extermination camps. Beginning in Fall 1942, with the aggravating military situation on the Eastern front, Antonescu eventually renounced his plan of deporting the Jews from the Banat and Southern Transylvania to Nazi camps. Overall, Romania’s Jewish policy was marked by an underlying contrast: in Bessarabia, Bukovina, and in the Ukrainian provinces serving as battlefields on the Eastern front, Romania conducted an anti-Semitic campaign which resulted in the death of between 280,000 to 380,000 Jews.8 At the same time, despite considerable German pressure, Romania’s Jews from the Old Kingdom and Southern Transylvania were not deported to Nazi death camps, with the result that circa 375,000 Jews survived the war,9 the largest compact Jewish population to do so in East Central Europe.
How can one account for these contradictory policies? By and large, the interpretation of the ‘Romanian chapter’ of the Holocaust has been marked by a dichotomy between functionalist historiographical perspectives, which in this case credit external, foreign-policy factors, primarily Nazi Germany’s political-military pressure, with having had the leading role in the course of events, and intentionalist interpretations which underscore internal factors in the extermination of Jews in Romania, highlighting the intention and premeditation of the Romanian authorities in deporting and partially exterminating the country’s Jews and Gypsies.10 We argue that these apparent contradictions in Antonescu regime’s anti-Jewish policies challenge scholars to surpass a sharp dichotomy between functionalist and intentionalist interpretations and to instead come up with a more nuanced and sophisticated framework of analysis with which to bridge the artificial separation between ideology and political practice on the one hand, and to account for multiple forms of military, political-diplomatic, and bureaucratic entanglements between Nazi Germany and Antonescu’s Romania, on the other. We also posit that, in order to fully grasp the peculiar evolution of Antonescu regime’s policies, scholars need to explore multiple channels of exchange and interaction among various Nazi and Romanian poles of power and state agencies, such as the relationship between Hitler and Antonescu;11 the exchanges between the foreign ministers in the two countries and their networks of embassies or legations and consulates; ss police attachés in Romania and their non-dissimulated support for the Iron Guard; the activity of the German ethnic group in Romania; and the role played by the Nazi advisors in various policy fields as carriers of Nazi ‘expertise’ and mediators of the Romanian-German relations.
Based on a wide range of published and unpublished archival sources, we explore the evolution of the anti-Semitic policy of the Antonescu regime since September 1940 until the collapse of that regime in August 1944, from an under-researched perspective: the activity of the Nazi ‘experts’ on the ‘Jewish Question’ dispatched to Bucharest.12 In March 1941, at the express request of the Romanian government, a group of German experts working under the auspices of the rsha arrived in Romania’s capital, with the task of advising the Antonescu government in various fields. Their dispatch to Bucharest coincided with the accreditation of two other advisors with similar duties to the German diplomatic missions in Bratislava and Zagreb.13 The accreditation of Nazi advisors in Romania, Slovakia and Croatia, even if it was done at the specific requests of the respective governments, revealed the Third Reich’s intention to engage more actively in the implementation of the German model on the ‘Jewish question’ in its ally countries in East Central Europe. Moreover, although the initial mandate entrusted by the rsha to these advisors on the ‘Jewish Question’ was limited in time and only aimed at the harmonization of the anti-Semitic legislation in Romania, Slovakia, and Croatia with the ‘superior’ Nazi legislation, after the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 the mission of the Nazi advisors was not only prolonged but also extended. Consequently, the advisors to the German Legations in Bucharest, Bratislava and Zagreb became genuine spearheads of the Nazi offensive to deport the Jews from these countries and implement the ‘Final Solution.’
We attempt to provide answers to the following questions: To what extent did the Third Reich shape Romania’s anti-Semitic polices during the Second World War? What was the role played by the Nazi advisors in this process? In answering these questions, special attention is devoted to the activity of the Hauptsturmführer ss Gustav Richter, who was the Berater für Juden und Arisierungsfragen [advisor to the Jewish and Aryanization questions] in the German Legation in Bucharest from 1st of April 1941 until 23 August 1944 (and from 29 December 1943 ss Polizeiattaché). In his first capacity, Richter played a paramount role in the negotiations between the Third Reich and Romania on the ‘Jewish Question,’ especially from April to August 1941. He was also actively involved in updating Romania’s anti-Semitic legislation in line with the German ‘model’ and in the preparation for the implementation of the Final Solution to the Jewish Question in Romania. To this end, in 1942, in agreement with the Romanian authorities, Richter advanced a concrete plan for the deportations of Jews from the Old Kingdom and southern Transylvania to death camps set up in occupied Polish territories. When these plans failed due to internal and external opposition, Richter’s influence on Romania’s anti-Semitic policies diminished considerably, his activity in the period 1943–1944 being aimed in particular at stopping the emigration of Jews from Romania to Palestine.
We argue that, by evaluating the work of the Nazi advisors on the ‘Jewish Question,’ we can better grasp the immediate as well as the longer-term objectives followed by the Third Reich in Romania concerning the ‘Jewish Question,’ and the evolution of this issue within the context of the Romanian-German diplomatic relations and political interactions. Richter’s work, in particular, reveals the extent to which the Antonescu regime responded to German demands and the degree to which the Nazi model was applied to the treatment of the Romanian Jews. It is hoped that, by taking into account a variety of internal and external factors and by reconstructing the complicated web of political and bureaucratic entanglements that led to the crystallization of Ion Antonescu’s policy towards the Jews, we are able to provide a rich and more nuanced picture of German-Romanian relations during the Second World War.
The ‘Jewish Question’ in Romania and German-Romanian Political-Diplomatic Interactions: A Historical Overview
The ‘Jewish Question’ in modern Romania had a peculiar evolution, different, in many ways, from that of Germany. Romania was the last country in Europe to emancipate its Jewish population (1918–1919).14 In contrast, in the German Confederation the process of Jewish emancipation was completed by 1869, Bismarckian Germany acting subsequently as an advocate of Jewish emancipation worldwide. Governmental Jewish policies in the two countries interacted with each other at several critical juncture-points, colliding in 1878 and 1918, but converging – in markedly different circumstances – in 1940–1944. At the first two juncture-points, Germany acted as the most powerful foreign supporter of the emancipation of Romania’s Jews; its firm interventions in Romania’s domestic treatment of the Jews failed, however, to produce decisive results. In 1940, the Jewish policies of Romania and Nazi Germany converged, but on an anti-Semitic platform; both countries reversed the emancipation of Jews and implemented a full-fledged system of discrimination, deportation and extermination, with Nazi Germany providing both the political impetus and the model for such policies.
The presence of Jews on the territory of present-day Romania is attested since antiquity, yet they settled in greater number on the territory of the two Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia starting in the sixteenth century, when they formed organized communities. Under the Old Regime in the Principalities, the attitude toward the Jews was that of ‘hostile tolerance’ that characterized the Byzantine legal tradition in dealing with the Jews.15 Thus, Jewish communities enjoyed religious liberty, internal autonomy, and paid taxation according to a contract they negotiated either directly with the ruler or with the estate owner on which they settled. At the same time, Jews were excluded from marring Christians and from substantive civil or economic rights, such as the right to buy landed estates. The creation of the Romanian modern nation-state through the 1859 union of Moldavia and Wallachia radically altered the legal status of Jews. Adopted in 1864, the new modern Civil Code transformed all non-Christians into foreigners and demanded them to undergo a ten-year long process of naturalization in order to become full citizens. Two years later, a new constitution adopted in 1866 further worsened the status of Jews by permanently excluding non-Christians from access to naturalization (art. 7), regardless if they were residents or aliens, thus transforming Romania’s Jewish population in perpetual heimatlos.16
The denaturalization of Jews was triggered by a process of ‘securitization’ of the ‘Jewish Question.’17 Beginning with the second quarter of the nineteenth century, a substantial immigration of Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazic Jews from the Tsarist ‘Pale of Settlements’ raised the proportion of Jews in Moldavia to 10.5% in 1899, as compared to a ratio of only 1.8% Jews in Wallachia, and a national average of 4.5%.18 Anti-emancipation politicians portrayed the immigration of foreign Jews into Northern Moldavia as a genuine ‘invasion.’ In the long run, this situation generated widespread anti-Semitic prejudices, skilfully instrumentalized by Romanian socio-political elites, who perceived the emergence of a numerous and active Jewish bourgeoisie as a major challenge to their socio-economic and political dominance. In this context, the Jews were portrayed as a ‘danger’ to the nation and accused of being ‘socially inassimilable’ and of lacking national loyalty.19
The exclusion of Jews from citizenship rights in Romania generated a strong international reaction. In the 1860s, the main animator of this campaign of solidarity was the Alliance Israélite Universelle, a European-wide organization based in Paris. In the 1870s, the campaign’s center of gravity moved to Berlin, revolving around the ‘Berlin Committee for Rumanian Jews,’ founded by Bismarck’s close collaborator, Baron Gerson von Bleichröder.20 The conjoint lobbying activities of these organizations succeeded in placing the issue of religious equality on the diplomatic agenda of the Great Powers’ Congress of Berlin (June-July 1878): to impose this principle, Article 44 of the Treaty of Berlin conditioned Romania’s independence on granting full political equality to its religious minorities. Apparently complying with the Treaty’s stipulations, in 1879 the Romanian parliament removed the adherence to the Christian faith as a pre-condition of access to naturalization. Yet, in order to deliberately avoid a collective emancipation of the Jewish population, the amendment to the Constitution allowed only an individual naturalization of Jews by the Parliament. This solution did not satisfy the Great Powers, who –led by Germany – continued to exercise a strong diplomatic pressure for a more favourable legal solution to the issue, as a precondition for the recognition of Romania’s independence. Ultimately, however, the cause of Romania’s Jews was sacrificed in favor of economic and geopolitical interests. On February 2, 1880, after arduous negotiations, the Romanian government redeemed the railway investments of the German Strasbourg consortium in Romania (thus bringing the infamous ‘Strasbourg affair’ to an end).21 In exchange, prompted by Germany, the Great Powers soon released a diplomatic note recognizing Romania’s independence.22
Consequently, despite the apparent liberalization of naturalization policies in 1879, the restrictive stipulations of the Constitution of Romania de facto excluded non-Christian permanent residents from citizenship. Given the lengthy and complex naturalization procedures, only a small number of naturalizations were passed in the following decades: by 1899, only 10,146 Jewish residents managed to acquire Romanian citizenship (including 3,357 Jews living in the newly-annexted province of Dobrudja), while 256,504 Jews were still non-citizen permanent residents.23 To exclude them from substantive rights, over 250 laws passed by the parliament between 1866 and 1914 established a direct relationship between citizenship and the exercise of basic civil rights and economic activities, which were declared exclusive ‘privileges’ of Romanian citizens.
During the First World War, the full emancipation of the Romanian Jews was imposed – yet again – by the diplomatic intervention of the Great Powers, having Germany at the forefront. Thus, at Germany’s insistence, the separate peace treaty signed by Romania with the Central Powers in May 1918, stipulated, in Articles 27 and 28, the simplification of the process of naturalization of Romanian Jews. These stipulations were further consecrated by ‘The Law for the Naturalization of Foreigners Born in the Country’ adopted by the Romanian Parliament on August 25, 1918.24 However, this law was only in force for several weeks, so that the second German intervention in favor of the Romanian Jews failed to produce practical results. On November 10, Romania denounced the separate peace concluded with the Central Powers, abolished all laws passed by the Parliament under German occupation, and re-entered the war as ally of the Entente.
Keen to provide his own, domestic solution to the ‘Jewish Question’ prior to the Paris Peace Conference, on December 28, 1918 the Prime Minister of Romania Ion I. C. Brătianu issued a new decree granting access to fast naturalization to Jewish permanent residents who either fought in the Romanian army, or were born in the country and had not benefited from foreign protection, as well as to their family or descendants.25 The Minority Convention included in the treaty between Romania and Austria concluded on September 10, 1919 at Saint Germain en Laye took additional steps toward the civil and political emancipation of Jews in Romania, placing them under a regime of international protection. Corroborated with the stipulations of the Peace Treaties, the 1923 Constitution of Romania and the new 1924 Citizenship Law completed the full civil and political emancipation of Jews.
In the interwar period, the arduously-won citizenship emancipation of Jews was continuously challenged by anti-Semitic parties, such as the Liga Apărării Național Creștine [lanc; League of National Christian Defense] led by A.C. Cuza, and the fascist Legiunea Arhanghelului Mihail [Legion of Archangel Michael, or Iron Guard] led by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. These organizations discriminated openly between Romanian citizens ‘by blood’ and ‘by papers,’ and attempted to exclude the latter from substantive socio-economic, educational, and political rights.26 In education, lanc and the Legion militated for a policy of numerus clausus, but only as a ‘transitory solution, until the time will come for the implementaiton of the true solution: numerus nullus,’ leading to the total elimination of Jews from universities.27 As for society at large, the Legion, the more radical organization among the two, demanded firm ‘State or governmental [anti-Jewish] measures, of public force,’ in order to prepare ‘the radical redemption which will be facilitated by this preparation.’28 An ‘Informative Memoir on the relations between Romanians and Kikes in Romania,’ signed by the leadership of the Legion and published in 1928, advanced plans of ethnic purification through the deportation of Jews, meant to ‘remove the un-natural existence of Kikes in the midsts of other nations, by granting them a distinct territory on which they should be forced to live, work, defend, and create their own civilization.’29 In 1933, the Legionary ideologue Mihai Polihroniade went as far as to propose actions of ‘de-Semitisation’ of cities and of ‘forced de-parasitation,’ openly claiming that ‘those Jews who arrived after 1914 should be pure and simply eliminated.’30 The anti-Semitic and xenophobic discourse of the Legion did not leave any ambiguity concerning the fate of the Jews in a would-be Legionary state. Until that time, the Legionaries proclaimed a state of permanent war ‘between the authochtonous Romanians and the invading Kikes,’ marked by the use of violence against the Jews.31
Despite their political offensive, until 1938 far-right parties proved unable to dismantle the political order established by the 1923 Constitution, their calls for numerous clauses being rejected. The denaturalization of the Romanian Jews and their exclusion from rights was initiated in 1938, being facilitated by the erosion of electoral support for the leading bourgeois-democratic parties manifest in the outcome of the November 1937 elections. The inconclusive electoral results led to a crisis of the parliamentary political regime, skillfully instrumentalized by the authoritarian-minded king Carol II (ruled 1930–1940). In order to force the collapse of the multi-party parliamentary system, on December 28, 1937 Carol ii brought to power the anti-Semitic Partidul Național Creștin [National Christian Party] – a fusion of lanc with the National Agrarian Party and led by A. C. Cuza and Octavian Goga – despite it having won only ten per cent of the total number of votes at national level. On January 22, 1938, the new government led by Goga passed a decree demanding the revision of all entries in the registries of nationality made in the period 1918–1924.32 The anti-Jewish character of the decree was evident, since it set into question the legal status of the Jews living in all historical provinces of Romania. Following the implementation of the decree, 225,222 persons or 36.5% of Romania’s Jewish population lost their citizenship and became stateless; an additional number of 44,848 could not be located in local registries and were declared stateless as well.33
Although similar calls for the revocation of the citizenship of Jews (and the revision of citizenship of all post-1918 immigrants) existed in the twenty-five-point program of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (nsdap) since 1920, it should be noted that Romania’s first anti-Jewish citizenship law was not directly inspired by the Nazi ‘model’ on institutionalizing the ‘blood law,’ but was rather an attempt to return to the country’s pre-World War i discriminatory anti-Jewish policy. The Nazi ideology and political model were officially invoked as an explicit model for Romania during the last stage of Carol ii’s royal dictatorship (1938–1940), at a time when Nazi Germany was imposing its political and military hegemony over Europe. Thus, on June 22, 1940 – the day of France’s capitulation – Carol ii took steps toward establishing a fascist-like regime in Romania, in a hope that he will thus rescue his rule by meeting, at last, Nazi political expectations of Romania. To this end, the King renamed the existing Frontul Renașterii Naționale [Front of the National Rebirth] to Partidul Națiunii [The Party of the Nation], and reorganized it as ‘a unique and totalitarian party.’34 This political change was not a simple cosmetic reshuffle, but marked Carol ii’s personal regime drive toward Nazi-inspired totalitarianism. It is symptomatic in this respect that the source of inspiration for the new charter of the Party of the Nation was the statute of the nsdap, a copy of which was requested from the German Legation in Bucharest by the king’s advisors.35
An important part of Romania’s deliberate political rapprochement toward Nazi Germany was the adoption of anti-Semitic legislation and its elevation to the rank of official state policy. On August 8, 1940, responding to Nazi Germany’s growing political pressure with another act of captatio benevolentiæ, the Romanian government passed Decrees no. 2560 and 2651 which annulled the post-1918 emancipation of Jews in Romania and reactivated some of the anti-Jewish regulations which functioned in late nineteenth century. The decrees stripped the entire Jewish population of substantive political and civic rights, such as the right to settle in the countryside and buy rural properties, access to state positions, and the right to marry Christians. The decrees differentiated among several categories of Jews, favoring the Jews who had been emancipated by the Parliament, either individually or collectively, for fighting in the Romanian army, but discriminating against the Jews emancipated under the 1919 Minority Convention. Although the adoption of these decrees was triggered by the Nazi pressure and was evidently shaped by the example of the Nazi legislation, Romania’s anti-Semite legislation was not a carbon copy of the Nazi ‘model’ on institutionalizing the ‘blood law:’ in fact, much of its wording, declared aims, and legal categories were specific to the legal and institutional history of Romanian citizenship and the circumstances of post-1918 emancipation of Jews.
In the new political context, there were attempts, however, to merge Romania’s tradition of anti-Jewish policies and anti-Semitic doctrines with the Nazi racial political model. One of the first attempts in this respect was made by Eugen Petit, an Honorific Councilor of the High Court of Cassation, in two articles published July 28 and September 15, 1940 in the leading journal Dreptul [The Law].36 In the first article, Petit argued that ‘the notion of ethnic origin is the foundation of all totalitarian political regimes based first of all on the blood and ethnic origin of a people.’37 To legitimize the adoption of discriminative laws against non-Romanians, mostly Jews, Petit erroneously argued that the principle of bloodline had already been introduced, for the first time, in the 1938 Constitution of Romania which served as basis of Carol ii’s royal dictatorship, which in his (erroneous) view advanced an ethnic legal definition of the nation. In the second article published after the proclamation of National-Legionary State, Petit took a more radical position, arguing for the implementation of a legal distinction between Arians and non-Arians. He defined the former as ‘the populations originating from the great Indo-European family living in the region of the river Oxus (Amu-Daria) from Turkestan,’ made up of ‘Celts, Greeks, Latins, Slavs and Germans.’ These peoples ‘share a common origin and are sisters, having the same character of sociability and capacity of adaptation to civilization, regardless of the country in which they settled during history.’38 Quoting Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Petit stated that non-Aryans are ‘enemies of the human gene, corruptors of the good taste and healthy mores; their bacillus, disruptive of civilization, leads directly to the dissolution of the humankind.’39 In the Romanian context, Petit related Hitler’s racial theory with A. C. Cuza’s ‘theory of nationality,’ thus deliberately merging local and foreign anti-Semitic streams of thought in a new synthesis.40
These ideological innovations, and the new anti-Semitic decrees adopted in August 1940, generated numerous juridical controversies, Romania’s leading jurists taking upon themselves the self-defeating task of providing clear criteria for the legal definition of Jews, and of spelling out their status and its far-reaching juridical consequences for the Romanian jurisprudence. The anti-Jewish policy inaugurated by the Goga government and amplified during king Carol ii’s royal dictatorship was to be pursued systematically and with full vigor by the Antonescu regime.
The Conflict between General Antonescu and the Legion of Archangel Michael: The Role of the ss Police Attachés
The abdication of king Carol ii and the establishment of the National Legionary State on September 14, 1940 set the Romanian-German relations on a new basis, enhancing the political role played by German representatives in Romania. Particularly important in the evolution of the bilateral relations was the activity of the sd and ss police attachés to the German Legation in Bucharest. Although, by the nature of their function, these attachés conducted, first and foremost, intelligence and counter-espionage tasks, their activities had, nevertheless, a strong impact on Romania’s political life, and thus deserves special treatment.
The first attachés with security tasks were appointed to the diplomatic missions of the German Reich in the second half of 1939. On July 31, 1939, there were four such envoys of the Security Police: in Belgrade ss Hauptsturmführer Kriminalkommissar Hans Helm; in Rome ss Hauptsturmführer Kriminalkommissar Herbert Kappler; in Madrid ss Hauptsturmführer Kriminalkommissar Paul Winzer; and in Tokyo ss Hauptsturmführer Kriminalkommissar Franz Huber.41 The process was further amplified by Joachim von Ribbentrop’s decision, dated October 26, 1939, to grant rsha the opportunity to attach its representatives, under diplomatic cover, to the German diplomatic missions, under the title of Sonderbeauftragten der Sicherheitspolizei [Special Envoy of the Security Police], later changed into ss Polizeiattachés [ss police attachés].42 In Romania, the first envoy of the Security Police at the German Legation in Bucharest was ss Obersturmführer Kriminalkommissar Kurt Geißler, nominated in mid-1940, together with three additional attachés in Bratislava (ss Hauptsturmführer Kriminalkommissar Franz Goltz), Sofia (ss Sturmbannführer Friedrich Panzinger), and Shanghai (ss-Hauptsturmführer Kriminalkommissar Gerhard Kahner).43 The office responsible for matters related to police attachés within the rsha was Referat iv d 5 (counter-espionage).44
Reportedly, the appointment of a police attaché in Bucharest followed the express request of Romanian authorities during Carol ii’s regime of royal dictatorship. Thus, on July 6, 1940, the head of the rsha, ss Gruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich informed the Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop of the demand formulated by the Romanian Poliţia de Siguranţă [Secret Police] to further deepen the cooperation with German police in counter espionage matters by having a German criminologist delegated to Bucharest.45 Heydrich proposed Geißler for the post; confirmed by the Foreign Office, the latter took over his position in mid-July 1940, accompanied by a team of assistants made up of Obersturmführer ss Kriminalkommissar Hans Koenen, Kriminalsekretär Fritz Drees and Kanzleiangestellte Liselotte Freitag. Geißler’s appointment was part of an ongoing attempt of the rsha to consolidate its foreign policy influence, by setting up information networks that operated independently of the German diplomatic missions abroad. To the same end, in Spring 1940, ss Untersturmführer Otto Albrecht von Bolschwing had already been appointed an sd representative in Romania46 under the official cover of Legation attaché.47
The importance of the sd representatives and ss police attachés in Romania was greatly enhanced upon the proclamation of the National-Legionary State on September 14, 1940. Until that time, the Romanian secret service had worked mainly with the Abwehr, while the sd had only a decorative role in the counter-sabotage actions undertaking by Germany on Romanian territory.48 In that context, the relations between Mihail Moruzov, the head of the Romanian Serviciul Secret de Informații [ssi; Secret Information Service], and the sd and ss representatives in Romania were cold, if not tense, the former being – in the opinion of Eugen Cristescu – ‘viewed unfavorably by Geißler.’49 The removal of the anti-Legionary Mihail Moruzov from the leadership of the ssi and, most importantly, the establishment of the Legionary Police – with Nazi support and expertise50 – facilitated the expansion of the influence exercised by sd and ss in Romania. Although there is evidence that the Legionary Movement intended, at a certain point, to cooperate with the Abwehr, its main partners remained, nevertheless, the sd and the ss.51
The political involvement of the sd and ss attachés in Romania’s political life further increased in late 1940, at a time when the conflict between General Ion Antonescu and the Legion of Archangel Michael aggravated considerably, setting the two sides on a collision course. The power conflict between the two parts was well known in Berlin. The avalanche of alarming information received by the Nazi leadership via multiple diplomatic, military, and intelligence channels about the chaos and disorganization that characterized the National-Legionary State led gradually to a growing skepticism within Nazi circles about the viability of the ad-hoc ruling alliance between Antonescu and the Legion. Yet, Nazi leadership did not have a unitary position on this conflict. By and large, two opposing views can be distinguished: A first one, prevalent mostly within the Wehrmacht and the German Foreign Office, regarded Antonescu as the main guarantor of political stability in Romania, and a most valuable ally of Berlin in the prospective invasion of Soviet Union (the Barbarossa operation). A second one, present mainly within the nsdap and the ss, backed the Legionary Movement in its bid for full power, due to the ideological affinities between the Romanian Legionarism and German National Socialism (on a generic fascist platform), and their conviction that the Iron Guard was Germany’s only genuine ally in Romania. These opposing positions were also linked with the ongoing rivalry between the Abwehr and the rsha, both parts trying to find useful local allies for increasing their own influence in Romania.
Due to divergent perceptions and rival institutional interests, Nazi diplomatic and intelligence agencies gave different and, at times, even conflicting signals to the two parts in conflict, the Legion and General Antonescu.52 With Himmler and Heydrich’s approval, sd and the rsha collaborated closely with the Legion, going as far as to intermediate, via the sd representative von Bolschwing and the ss Police attaché Geißler, illegal deliveries of weaponry to the Legionaries.53 Moreover, various witness accounts claimed that the ss police attaché Geißler approved Iron Guard’s plans to assassinate the former Romanian state dignitaries who were arrested and detailed at Jilava prison, carried out at the end of November 1940.54 General Ion Antonescu became fully informed of the support the Legion received from the sd and the rsha, an investigation of the November assassinations carried out by Romanian authorities proving unequivocally that the weapons used by Legionary execution squad were illegally provided by the sd.55 Despite Antonescu’s protests, von Bolschwing and Geißler continued to support the Legion. This backing fueled the Legion’s illusion that it would be able to prevail in its struggle against Antonescu, triggering the Legionary rebellion of January 21–23, 1941, aimed at conquering full power in the state. Faced with a choice, Hitler decided to back General Antonescu, giving him free hand in ousting the Legion from power. As in other countries in the region, the Third Reich thus promoted a Realpolitik agenda in Romania, subordinating its ideological affinities to urgent and more concrete economic and military needs. Paradoxically, it was precisely the revolutionary nature of the Legion and the societal upheaval its chaotic policies generated that eventually led Berlin to back General Antonescu in the power dispute in Romania, the Third Reich opting, once again, for the ‘conservative’ over the ‘revolutionary’ political pole within the larger ‘family of authoritarians.’56 In view of the active support granted by the sd and ss police attachés to the Legion, enabling its rebellion, in March 1941 General Ion Antonescu solicited their recall from Romania.57 The post of ss police attaché would remain vacant until the appointment of ss Standartenführer Horst Böhme in September 1942.
Emulating the Nazi Model: Nazi ‘Experts’ and the ‘Jewish Question’ in Romania, 1940–1941
Only the enemies of truth can believe that General Antonescu will deter from the path of the creative forces of the Romanian nation and the attachment of our nation to the new spirit of the time and from the making of the future status-quo of South-Eastern Europe. This new state will be based on Romanian primacy in all areas and will draw on our agrarian and peasant structure. The national and the social will be the cornerstones [of the new state]. We will accomplish without hesitation all the reforms necessary to remove … foreign influences, in order to safeguard our national destiny. The whole struggle of the great revolution of the German National Socialist and the Fascist achievements shall serve as grounds to graft, on our Romanian experience and needs, the fruit of this organization of nations, as a foundation for a new world.58
This statement was soon followed by an express request of the Romanian government59 to German authorities to dispatch to Romania a group of ‘experts’ to act as advisors to the Antonescu government in various fields.60 In response, in March 1941, a German delegation arrived in Bucharest, made up of ‘special emissaries of the Reich and Himmler,’61 such as: Karl Hoffmann, an rsha delegate and later police attaché to the German Legation in Sofia; Karl Pflaumer, an expert who served as advisor in administration; Hauptsturmführer ss Gustav Richter, an rsha delegate appointed ‘advisor on the Jewish and Aryanization questions’ at the German Legation in Bucharest; and Eitzen (an official on which we do not have additional data).62
The meeting between the German delegation and the Romanian authorities and the subsequent activity of the Nazi experts dispatched to Romania was to have far reaching consequences for the evolution of the ‘Jewish Question’ in Romania. Gustav Richter, in particular, was to play a central role in this respect. Richter was born on November 19, 1912, in Stadtprozelten. After graduating high school, he joined the Hitlerjugend from April 16, 1932 to March 11, 1933. In May 1933, he became a member of the nsdap, in November 1933, an ss member, while in March 1934 Richter joined the sd and operated successively as a Referent within the sd Abschnitt Pfalz, the Ludwigshafen Abwehrstelle, with the main task of combating the ideological enemies of National Socialism, especially the Freemasons. From August 1939 he worked in the sd-Leitabschnitt Stuttgart, and then became a permanent deputy of the head of the Außenstelle Dijon, France, until his transfer to the legation in Bucharest, Romania.63
Richter’s first evaluation of the state of the ‘Jewish Question’ in Romania, as revealed by a report submitted to the German Plenipotentiary Minister Manfred Freiherr von Killinger in early May 1941, was very critical. In line with the tasks assigned to him by the rsha, Richter identified two priorities of his mission in Bucharest: the modeling of the Romanian anti-Semitic legislation on the Nazi ‘standards;’ and the creation of appropriate institutions and resources necessary to solve the ‘Jewish Question’ in Romania in an ‘organized’ manner, in line with the Nazi model.64 The first step in this direction was the creation, on May 3, 1941, at Richter’s suggestion, of the Subsecretariatul pentru Problemele Românizării, Colonizării şi Inventarului [Under-Secretariat for Romanianization, Colonization, and Inventory] within the Ministry of National Economy. In the continuation of these efforts, on May 12, 1941, Richter agreed with General Eugen Zwiedeneck (who served as head of the Under-Secretariat for Romanianization from May 3 to December 6, 1941) on the implementation of a comprehensive program on the ‘Jewish Question’ made up of the following points: (1) All bills proposed under the jurisdiction of the Under-Secretariat for the Romanization were to be submitted in advance to Richter, before being sent to General Antonescu; (2) The adoption of a new law stipulating the abolition of all existing Jewish organizations (with the exception of religious communities) and the banning of their open or masked activity, the freezing of their bank accounts and their confiscation and transfer to a new Central Jewish Organization; (3) the establishment of the Centrala Evreilor [Jewish Central Agency] as the only body authorized to represent the interests of the Jews in relation to the Romanian authorities; and (4) the creation of a so-called fond de evacuare or Aussiedlungsfond [evacuation fund], which was to ‘constitute the financial basis for the evacuation of Jews from Romania.’65
Evaluating the work of the German delegation of advisors dispatched to Bucharest in March 1941, in particular Richter’s laborious activity, the Israeli scholar Jean Ancel argued that ‘the ground was laid for the Final Solution in Romania.’ Ancel also noted that the term ‘Final Solution’ was first explicitly used by Richter with reference to the Romanian Jews, at the time when the Nazi leadership had not yet employed the term or formulated a comprehensive policy for the extermination of the European Jewry.66 Despite this ‘spectacular’ start, the Romanian-German cooperation on the ‘Jewish Question’ was soon undermined by the rivalry between various Nazi agencies active in Romania. Thus, despite an initial positive assessment of Richter’s activity by Nazi Germany’s Plenipotentiary Minister at Bucharest, Baron Manfred von Killinger,67 the relations between the two Nazi officials were cold, if not tense, most surely as a consequence of the strained relations between Killinger and the ss. Killinger regarded with great reluctance Berlin’s decision to accredit in Bucharest an advisor on the Jewish problem who came from the ranks of the ss.68 In his turn, Richter frequently tried to create artificial difficulties in the German Minister Plenipotentiary’s work.69 This tension generated the ‘Richter affair,’ an episode which illustrates the intense rivalries between the various services of the Third Reich active in Romania.
In early August 1941, Reinhard Heydrich decided unilaterally, without explanation or prior warning, to recall both Gustav Richter and the advisor for the Jewish problem in Bratislava, Dieter Wisliceny. In response, under pressure from the Romanian government, Killinger was forced to request, via the Under-Secretary of State Martin Luther, Richter’s return to Bucharest. In a telegraph sent to the German Foreign Office on August 7, 1941, he argued for the return of the Nazi advisor in the following way: ‘As in Romania the questions of Aryanization and Romanianization have entered a decisive stage and the most important laws of Aryanization and Romaninization are prepared, it is essential that ss Hauptsturmführer Gustav Richter be provided by the ss and sent back to Bucharest. A request in this regard by the Deputy Prime Minister [Mihai] Antonescu to the ss Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler is on its way to Berlin in the form of a letter.’70 Although the unexpected recall of Richter and Wisliceny by the rsha must have surely irritated Martin Luther, he nevertheless issued on August 8, 1941, the second day after receiving Killinger’s telegram, a servile letter to be sent immediately to Heydrich. Without consulting in advance with the Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop or the State Secretary Baron Ernst von Weizsäcker, Luther stated that the German Foreign Office supported ‘most warmly’ the requests of the legations in Bratislava and Bucharest concerning the two advisors on the ‘Jewish Question’: ‘The activity of the Counselors on Aryanization as in fact that of all advisors accredited to legations for other fields of activity proved so far very effective and valuable in terms of foreign policy. The termination or suspension of this activity would seriously endanger this success.’71
In its response to Luther, dated August 23, 1941, Heydrich rejected the Foreign Office’s request to allow the two advisors to return. Regarding Richter, Heydrich considered that his return to Bucharest was not ‘acceptable or necessary’ in view of the political situation existing in Romania: ‘The Romanian Government – to the extent I was informed about this – has not adopted a unified approach to the Jewish Question. As I could see even during my activity as a fighter pilot in Bessarabia and Ukraine, the behavior of the Romanians in the territories recently occupied in the East again brought out a strong attitude of friendship towards the Jews.’ Heydrich’s conclusion was unequivocal: ‘In these circumstances, the work of an advisor on Aryanization in Bucharest is negative from the outset.’72 The answer given by the head of the rsha to the request of the Foreign Ministry was notified by a telegraph sent by Luther to the Legation in Bucharest on August 27, 1941. He also solicited the opinion of the Minister Plenipotentiary on the accusations against the Romanian government advanced by Heydrich. In a telegram sent to Berlin on September 1, 1941, Killinger firmly rejected the allegations made by Heydrich, showing that ‘it was exactly the behavior of the Romanians in the occupied eastern territories which demonstrate that there can be no question of an attitude of friendship towards the Jews.’73 In support of his assertion, Killinger invoked the measures taken by the Antonescu regime on the ‘Jewish Question’ which, in his view, contradicted the opinion expressed by Heydrich:
- 1.The Romanian government’s effort to prevent the entry of Jews in Ukraine in Bessarabia, as this would counter the government’s anti-Semitic policy;
- 2.Repeated attempts by the Vice-President of the Council of Ministers [Mihai Antonescu] to bring back to Romania, as soon as possible, ss Hauptsturmführer Gustav Richter, because he [Mihai Antonescu] attributes great importance to his activity;
- 3.The acceptance by the Romanian government of the bills presented by Councilor Richter;
- 4.Retaliatory measures by the Romanian government against those Jews who helped enemy propaganda [in spreading and sustaining] the assertion that the Jews living on Romania’s borders are exposed to unprecedented persecution;
- 5.Among other things, the elimination of approximately 4,000 Jews in Iași;
- 6.The American Legation gathers material on the treatment of Jews in Romania and it passes it on to America;
- 7.The greatest concentration of Jews from the Old Kingdom for forced labor in the recently occupied territories in the east. To this end Antonescu [Mihai] ordered the concentration of 60,000 Jews to build roads.74
I think Heydrich does not want to make anyone available and is looking for justification. I recommend that he turns his attention to the Jewish question in Hungary, a country which today claims that, following the inhuman acts committed against the Jews, the Romanians should not be allowed rights over a cultural region such as Transylvania. It is necessary to dispatch there [in Romania] an apt advisor on the Jewish and Aryanization questions, to replace Richter. I solicit to renounce the call for this advisor addressed to the ss Reichsführer to prevent troubles.76
This quote confirms that the real reason behind Richter’s recall by the rsha were the tensions between the ss and Killinger, in general, and the hostility between the latter and Richter, in particular. Christopher R. Browning deemed that, by recalling the advisor on the ‘Jewish Question’ from Bucharest, Heydrich aimed at strengthening its position in relation to Killinger.77 It is also possible that, in the fight between the rsha and the German Foreign Office, Heydrich’s attempted to finally remove Killinger from the top of the German legation in Bucharest and to thus reduce the influence of the diplomatic apparatus and especially of Foreign Minister Ribbentrop on local affairs. This hypothesis seems to be supported by Richter’s testimony, in which he says that during his stay in Berlin he learned from well informed sources in the Auswärtiges Amt that his recall and that of Dieter Wisliceny were determined by misunderstandings between the Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and Heydrich.78 Another, less plausible hypothesis, was advanced by Martin Broszat, who argued that, despite the harsh anti-Semitic measures implemented by Antonescu in 1941, the rsha regarded the Romanian government’s attitude on the ‘Jewish Question’ as too ‘moderate.’ By recalling Richter, the rsha attempted to prompt the ‘radicalization’ of this attitude.79
After several arguments between the Foreign Office and the rsha, and following a new request of the German Legation in Bucharest,80 at the end of September 1941 rsha accepted Richter’s return to Romania, due to resume his work on October 10, 1941.81 According to a note prepared by Luther on August 21, 1942, the mission entrusted to Richter by rsha changed substantially as compared to that commissioned in the first part of his mandate. Initially, the main objective was the alignment of Romania’s anti-Semitic legislation to the Nazi ‘standard.’ On his return, Richter received from the rsha a more precise but at the same time a more complex task: the preparation, in collaboration with the Romanian authorities, of the implementation of the Final Solution in Romania.82
Toward the Final Solution? The Anti-Soviet War and the Radicalization of anti-Semitic Policies in Romania, 1941–1942
Following the outbreak of the German-Soviet war in June 1941, Antonescu’s anti-Semitic policies escalated, being marked by the massacres committed against the Jewish population by the Romanian authorities (the army, the gendarmerie and the police) in Iași, Bessarabia, Bukovina, and by the deportation of the Jewish population of these provinces in the camps and ghettos in Transnistria in the autumn of 1941. In addition, the Antonescu regime took the first steps, at its own initiative, toward the implementation of the Nazi model to the ‘Jewish Question’ in the Old Kingdom, Southern Transylvania and the Banat.83 Although during 1941 and the first half of 1942 the Jews in these regions received a much better treatment than their co-religionists in Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transnistria, their fate became uncertain in the summer of 1942.
The escalation of Antonescu’s anti-Semitic policies mirrored the radicalization of the anti-Jewish policies of Nazi Germany. It should be noted that, despite propagandistic declarations, until that time, Romania’s anti-Semitic policy had not been shaped in a decisive manner by the dynamics of its relationship with the German Reich. Although the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, stated unambiguously in autumn 1940 that ‘the Jewish Question is the fundamental problem of Romania. One in every ten citizens is a Jew,’84 the issue was not placed on the agenda of the Romanian-German summit meetings. The reason for this relative lack of direct involvement lies in the evolution of Germany’s own policy on the ‘Jewish Question.’ From September 1940 to the end of 1941, the Third Reich did not pay a particular attention to the implementation of anti-Jewish measures in allied states, and did not exercise systematic pressure to force them to do so. Instead, between the defeat of France (June 1940) and the onset of operation Barbarossa (June 1941) on the top on the agenda was the so-called ‘Madagascar Plan.’ Prepared shortly after the victorious campaign in France by the German Foreign Office in cooperation with the rsha, the plan aimed at the collection and deportation of all Jews from the territories controlled by the Reich in Europe to the island of Madagascar. This plan was abandoned by Berlin in the first half of 1941, following Germany’s defeat in the Battle of Britain, British maritime superiority making impossible its implementation. It was mainly after the break-out of the Soviet-German conflict that Nazi Germany’s policy on the ‘Jewish Question’ experienced a radical turn, marked by the decision adopted on January 20, 1942, at the Wannsee Conference, to implement the ‘Final Solution,’ meaning the physical extermination of the Jews.
Signals concerning the preparation by the German authorities of a ‘Final Solution’ to the ‘Jewish Question’ at European level reached Romanian authorities at the end of 1941: on December 16, 1941, Marshal Antonescu declared that ‘This issue is treated in Berlin. The Germans want to bring all Kikes [jidanii] from Europe to Russia and to settle them in a particular region. But until the execution [of this plan] there is time.’85 On January 23, 1942, a few days after the Wannsee Conference, Richter demanded, in a conversation with the Deputy Prime Minister Mihai Antonescu, that Romania stops the emigration of Jews from Romania, which – even if small-scale – was nevertheless allowed to continue at the time, ‘in view of the final settlement of the Jewish Question issue in Europe in the near future.’86 Richter thus hinted that Berlin is prepared not only to resolve the ‘Jewish Question’ in Europe but also, indirectly, that the German decision-making bodies sought the inclusion of Romania’s Jews in their plans. Indeed, at the Wannsee conference Romania was formally mentioned among those states from which the Jews were to be deported, the statistics presented by Adolf Eichmann on that occasion mentioning the figure of 342,000 for Romania (Bessarabia included).87 Although Mihai Antonescu formally agreed with Richter’s request,88 Romania did not halt the emigration of Jews. On the contrary, Romanian vessels with Jewish refugees continued to leave for Palestine from Romanian ports – via Turkey – almost until the end of the Antonescu regime.89 According to Richter, the Jewish emigration to Palestine continued because it represented ‘an inexhaustible source of money’ for Romania.90
Concerning the Final Solution, according to Heydrich’s presentation at the Wannsee Conference, the burden for its implementation in the states occupied by Nazi Germany or under its influence was to be placed on the German Foreign Office, on the Security Police and the sd counselors on the ‘Jewish Question.’ In Romania, an important role in this direction was assigned to Radu Lecca, ‘the Romanian government’s representative for the Jewish Question.’91 In fact, the negotiations with the Romanian side were led by Richter, as advisor on the ‘Jewish Question.’ If, upon his coming to Romania in March 1941, Richter acted in an efficient but discreet manner, in the first half of 1942 he took a more aggressive attitude. In April 1942, Richter published in Bukarester Tageblatt – the official newspaper of the German Legation in Bucharest – an article titled ‘Judische Fata Morgana’ in which he argued that, at the Reich’s initiative, the ‘Jewish Question’ would be solved within a European-wide framework and that ‘the Jews in Romania should not cherish false hopes that they will be able to avoid this development or even sabotage it.’92 The warning released by Richter would not remain without consequences, as he was actively involved in the ongoing negotiations with the Romanian government for the deportation of Jews in the summer and autumn of 1942.
According to Richter’s account, at the end of May 1942 he discussed with Mihai Antonescu and Radu Lecca several issues concerning the ‘Jewish Question’ in Romania. During these discussions, Antonescu asked Richter if the information he received about the deportation of Jews from Slovakia to the east are real. Following Richter’s confirmation, Mihai Antonescu stated that ‘the Romanian government would gladly get rid of Jews, as well,’ primarily of those in the Banat.93 Reportedly, Richter replied that if the Romanian authorities want to follow the example of Slovakia, he will submit a report to the higher instances in Berlin and recommended Antonescu to simultaneously address a verbal note to the German Legation in Bucharest, a course of action approved by the Deputy Prime Minister Antonescu. Since by the time Richter was summoned by Eichmann at the end of July 1942 in Berlin for consultations, Mihai Antonescu’s verbal note had not been received by the Legation, Richter inquired – through Lecca – to determine if the Romanian government maintained its plan on the deportation of Jews from Romania. As a result, the day before his departure to Berlin on July 22, 1942, Richter was convened by Mihai Antonescu at the seat of the Council of Ministers and was given a letter which conveyed the agreement of the Romanian government, including that of Marshal Ion Antonescu, for the deportation of the Jews from southern Transylvania and Banat.94 The letter has not been preserved in the German archives, but its content was revealed by Richter in his interrogation during his Soviet captivity: ‘Even though after our conversation I do not think a written confirmation is needed, I hereby let you know, however, that the Romanian government agrees with the evacuation of Jews from the Turda, Timisoara, Cluj and Hunedoara counties, to the extent to which your services are able to start immediately the evacuation of these Jews. This is the Marshal’s desire, as well.’95 Richter’s testimony is confirmed by a telegram sent by Killinger on August 12, 1942, reporting to Auswärtiges Amt that ‘In a letter to the counsel for the Jewish Question on 22 July 1942, deputy prime minister Mihai Antonescu said he agrees with the evacuation of Jews from Romania and the immediate shipment of Jews from Arad, Timiş and Turda. In his letter, Mihai Antonescu states that this is also the Marshal’s desire.’96
How to account for this decision of Marshal Ion Antonescu and the Deputy Prime Minister Mihai Antonescu to allow the implementation of the Final Solution to the ‘Jewish Question’ in Romania? Commenting on this issue, Christopher Browning argued that this was only a tactical move meant to reassure the Germans, but that the Romanian government did not intend, in fact, to honor the commitment expressed by Mihai Antonescu in his letter to Richter on July 22, 1942. To back his conclusion, Browning invoked the information received via different channels by the Legation advisor Franz Rademacher in the German Foreign Office.97 We believe Antonescu genuinely considered the possibility of deporting all of Romania’s Jews to Nazi concentration camps; this decision was facilitated by the political and military context of the summer of 1942, which seemed to offer ‘optimal’ conditions for the fulfillment of a maximalist agenda on ethnic homogenization. Although in 1941 the German offensive was stopped before Moscow, policy-makers in Germany and Romania had no doubts that 1942 would bring a full victory on the Eastern Front. The initial deployment of the 1942 summer campaign seemed to justify this optimistic forecast, as the German offensive advanced inexorably eastward, without encountering serious resistance. Impressed by the Wehrmacht’s victories and convinced that Germany won the war, at least on the Eastern Front, Marshal Antonescu abandoned his previous political line on the ‘Jewish Question’ in the Old Kingdom, southern Transylvania and Banat, and decided to ‘take advantage’ of the favorable political-military context and deport the Jews in order to ‘solve’ that question once and for all. The preparatory actions taken by the Romanian government during this period demonstrate that Marshall Antonescu truly took into account the deportation of all Jews from Romania. Thus, on July 10, 1942, Antonescu’s Military Cabinet sent a note to the Ministry of the Interior which conveyed the following decisions of Marshal Ion Antonescu: ‘1. - To establish statistics of the Jews who are currently in Transylvania. 2. - In order to make room, provide shelter and accommodate the refugees from Northern Transylvania, to study the possibility of deporting to Bug all the Jews of Transylvania, except: those intellectuals essential for our needs (doctors, engineers, etc.) and the industrialists required for conducting various enterprises.’98 These statistics were to be submitted immediately to the Military Cabinet for the Marshal’s consideration.
Even if the document indicates Transnistria as the destination of deportation, we believe that we are dealing basically with the same plan on the deportation of the Jews. It is possible that Marshal Antonescu initially considered deportation to Transnistria, but that later – after Richter’s intervention – opted for another destination, namely the General Government. On July 26, 1942 the Gestapo’s chief ss Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller sent a letter to Martin Luther communicating that ‘it is previewed that, starting approximately on the date of 9.10.1942, Romania’s Jews will be deported to the east in special trains.’99 In fact, the Romanian Jews – with the exception of those coming from England, usa, Mexico, the allied and neutral states – were not to be deported to the east but to the General Government, specifically in the Lublin district, where ‘the Jews apt for work will be asked to work, while the other Jews will undergo special treatment.’100 The meaning of the term ‘special treatment’ is not difficult to infer. Following the formal consent of the German Foreign Office on the inclusion of Romanian Jews into the Final Solution,101 on August 19, 1942, Lecca and Richter went to Berlin to hold talks with German decision-makers on the deportation of Romanian Jews.102
In his memoirs, Lecca states that during his stay in Berlin, he was received by ss Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, Obergruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and other Nazi officials and that, as a result of these talks he obtained the postponement of the Jews’ deportation from Romania.103 These assertions are refuted by German archival documents. In fact, the only German officer with whom Lecca discussed in Berlin was the legation councilor Rademacher. According to Richter’s testimony, Lecca also met Adolf Eichmann, the rsha’s Referent on Jewish affairs, concerning the deportation of Jews from Romania. Following Lecca’s comments on the difficulty of accomplishing the deportation – because of transportation problems – Eichmann assured him that the means of transport will be provided by the German Railways, and asked Lecca to prepare the deportation and to communicate to him the starting date.104 Despite the talks held in Berlin, the manner in which German authorities treated Lecca ‘upset him,’ leading Killinger to ask the German Foreign Office that ‘when important personalities such as the ministerial director Lecca come to Berlin, they are not to be handled in a manner that could disturb the good relations between Romania and Germany.’105 However, after Lecca’s return from Berlin, Romanian-German negotiations on the deportation of Romanian Jews continued. On August 27, 1942, the German Legation in Bucharest sent a verbal note to the Romanian government stating that the German part considered the preliminary talks on the deportation of the Romanian Jews as complete and required the submission of an official document delineating the Romanian government’s position on the issue.106
Shortly after that, in September 1942, Richter and Lecca developed two versions of the plan to deport the Jews of Romania. The plan elaborated by Lecca, dated September 11, 1942, and submitted to Mihai Antonescu provided for the deportation of the entire Jewish population of Romania, with few exceptions (these included the Jews married to ethnic Romanians, the Jews baptized in the Greek Orthodox or Catholic religion before August 9, 1940, the Jews subject to foreign powers, the Jews needed for the national economy, those exempted from forced labor, the Jews over the age of sixty-five years, pharmacists, doctors, engineers, chemists, those with higher education, decorated Jews, former war volunteers, disabled, widows and war orphans, etc.).107 The version proposed by Richter on September 15, 1942 reiterated broadly the provisions of Lecca’s plan – a significant hint about a previous agreement between the two on these plans – and provided for concrete ways to meet the deportations. The deportation was to be carried out in daily transports of 2,000 people each. The Jews were to lose their Romanian citizenship upon crossing the border, while the deportation costs were to be covered entirely by the Jewish Central Agency in Romania.108 The plans aimed at the deportation of Jews from Romania thus reached their final stage in September 1942, leaving aside only their practical implementation.
Aryanization or Romanianization? Tensions over the Confiscation of Jewish Property between the German Ethnic Group, Nazi Advisors and the Romanian State
The anti-Semitic policies of the Antonescu regime did not simply consist of the legal discrimination, marginalization and deportation of the Jews, but also of the confiscation and redistribution of their wealth. We now turn, therefore, to a discussion of the changing status of Jewish properties in Romania during this period. In Nazi Germany, the process of property confiscation was euphemistically called ‘Aryanization;’ in Romania, it was defined as ‘Romanian-ization’.109 Far from being a simple semantic change, this terminological difference signaled a major adjustment in the scope of these policies: a main concern of the Romanian government during the implementation of the campaign of Romanianization was to minimize the takeover of the expropriated Jewish property by non-Romanians (including here members of ethnic minorities of ‘Aryan’ origin), and to instead completely transfer these properties to the ownership of ethnic Romanians. As Mihai Antonescu pointed out, the ‘work leading to the national purification of property’ did not only mean the ‘removal of foreigners, but their substitution with the Romanian element.’110 To this end, on May 3, 1941, the Romanian government created Centrul Național de Românizare [The National Center for Romanianization] as an organ meant to turn the expropriation of Jewish property into a great constructive and educational reform, empowering Romanian owners.
The implementation of the policy of Romanianization led to grave political tensions with another collective actor which shaped the inter-state relations between Romania and Nazi Germany: the Deutsche Volksgruppe in Rumänien [German Ethnic Group in Romania]. This organization was established in Autumn 1940 with the tasks of Nazifying the German minority in Romania and of mobilizing it in support of the political and military goals of the Third Reich in the area.111 To this end, following express Nazi demands, the German Ethnic Group in Romania was granted a quasi-complete monopoly over political and educational activities within the German community,112 and an extensive autonomy in relation to Romanian authorities. The appointed leader – Volksgruppenführer – of the German Ethnic Group was Andreas Schmidt, a radical politician who amassed a great political influence in Germany but also in Romania, due to his total commitment to the Nazi ideology but also to his extensive political connections with the nsdap, facilitated also by his marriage to the daughter of Gruppenführer ss Gottlob Berger – a close collaborator of the feared head of the ss, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. Overall, while being completely subordinated politically to the nsdap, and fully in the service of the Third Reich’s objectives in Romania, the German Ethnic Group acted as a genuine state within a state. Although Romanian authorities placed the Germans in the category of privileged minorities (together with the Italians),113 the German Ethnic Group’s anomalous legal position generated numerous conflicts with the Romanian authorities, especially over issues concerning the expropriation of Jewish properties.
Thus, in a memorandum sent on August 18, 1942 to the German Foreign Office, the leadership of the German Ethnic Group complained that, in the two years that passed since the initiation of the policy (1940–1942), Romanian authorities de facto transformed the process of Aryanization into Romanianization: as a consequence, ethnic Romanians had almost exclusive access to former Jewish enterprises, at the expense of ethnic Germans.114 Upon the proclamation of the National-Legionary State on September 14, 1940, due to ‘political, ideological, and partly personal reasons,’ the Iron Guard became ‘the driving force of Romanianization.’115 In regions populated by ethnic Germans, the German Ethnic Group was accepted, nevertheless, as equal partner in the process of property transfer, mostly on the basis of ad-hoc agreements reached with the local branches of the Iron Guard.116 In this period, a number of eighty companies were taken over by ethnic Germans, making up 61.53% of the total number of companies acquired by ethnic Germans in Romania until August 1942.117 This policy changed after the demise of the Iron Guard in January 1941: upon the establishment of the National Center of Romanianization and the Under-Secretariat for Romanianization, Colonization, and Inventory of the Ministry of National Economy in May 1941, the possibility of acquiring other commercial and industrial companies by members of the German Ethnic Group, ‘was practically discontinued.’118 The responsibility for this policy was attributed mainly to Titus Dragoş, the Under-Secretary of State for Romanianization in the period December 6, 1941-November 6, 1943, and a close collaborator of Deputy Prime Minister Mihai Antonescu. The equal participation of the German Ethnic Group to the process of Aryanization was discussed by Andreas Schmidt with Mihai Antonescu in June, and addressed again in a memorandom sent by the German Ethnic Group to the latter in July 1942, both without palpable results.119 Since the policy of Romanianization had just entered a new phase, targeting the confiscation and redistribution of the Jewish urban and rural landed properties, the German Ethnic Group applead to the German Foreign Office for urgent support to reach their economic goals concerning these types of property, as well.
The memorandum revealed underlying political tensions between the German Ethnic Group and the Nazi advisors in Romania, who – as shown above – worked closely with the Romanian government on the elaboration and implementation of Romanianization policies, and were thus approving of its outcomes. The memorandum criticized Richter, in particular, for employing incomplete statistics to minimize the German Ethnic Group’s greviances, directly accusing him of supporting the position of the Romanian government in the conflict.120 For this reason, the relations between the German Ethnic Group and the Nazi advisors activating at the German Legation in Bucharest were cold, Schmidt filing numerous complaints against them to the ss leadership.
These tensions became manifest again in autumn 1943, when, in the context of growing German suspicions that Antonescu was inclined to sign a separate armistice with the Allied Powers, the ss Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger (Andreas Schmidt’s father-in-law), ordered –with the prior approval of ss Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler – to secretly arm the German Ethnic Group in Romania with two hundred hunting guns in order to enable their self-defense in cases of Romania army’s defection. A number of weapons were directly distributed to ethnic Germans who held permits for possessing hunting weapons, while the rest was stored in the basement of a house located on Carmen Sylva Street, in Brasov.121 The news about this secret action soon reached the German Legation in Bucharest: ss Oberscharführer Mathias Liebhart – a close associate of Schmidt – provided Richter with full information about the secret weapons, who on his turn informed Killinger.122 The Romanian authorities also learned about the illegal arming of the German Ethnic Group. Marshal Antonescu protested against the illegal activities undertaken by representatives of sd in Romania to Heinrich Himmler during a visit he carried out in Germany in March 1944.123 Fearing that this potential incident might seriously affect the collaboraton between Bucharest and Berlin,124 on March 30, 1944, Killinger ordered the seizure of the weapons and their handover to the air military attaché in Bucharest, Lieutenant General Alfred Gerstenberg.125 This action was bitterly criticized by Berger and Schmidt who, in their reports to Himmler, accused Richter and Killinger of duplicity and requested their punishment.126
From Deportations to Emigration: Shifts and Turns in Romania’s anti-Semitic Policy, 1942–1944
After a steady radicalization course, which culminated, in the autumn of 1942, in the deportation agreement between Romania and Nazi Germany, the anti-Semitic policy of the Antonescu regime suffered gradual but significant changes, due to a combination of internal and external factors that had to do mainly with anti-deportation interventions of various centers of influence in Romanian society, on the one hand, and with the unfavorable military situation on the front, on the other. The defeat of the German-Romanian army in the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943, in particular, was to accelerate the turning point in Antonescu regime’s policy on the ‘Jewish Question,’ as the Marshal realized that the Third Reich greatly diminished its chances of tilting the balance in its favor on the eastern front. In this context, Marshal Antonescu believed that ‘altering’ Romania’s policy on the ‘Jewish Question’ could bring him valuable political capital, since it could facilitate his negotiations with the allies to exit the war, and would assure Romania a more favorable position than that of defeated Germany at the future peace conference.
Aware of the growing hesitations of the Romanian authorities in fully collaborating for the implementation of the Final Solution in Romania, in parallel with the deportation negotiations, Nazi Germany kept high the pressure on Romanian authorities for a final breakthrough on the ‘Jewish Question.’ A major step in this direction was the appointment of ss Oberführer Horst Böhme – former Chief of Security Police and of sd for the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia – as ss police attaché at the German Legation in Bucharest. Böhme’s appointment had been proposed by the chief of the rsha, Reinhard Heydrich in May 23, 1942.127 By this move, Heydrich – in agreement with ss Reichsführer Himmler – aimed to recover the ss influence in Bucharest, lost after the failure of the Legionary rebellion in favor of Killinger and the Auswärtiges Amt. Another reason behind this proposal was the growing ss dissatisfaction with Richter’s inefficient cooperation with the Romanian authorities. As Böhme had been involved in the deportation of Jews in the Protectorate, he arguably had the necessary ‘experience’ to push for a similar radical course of the ‘Jewish Question’ in Romania. His nomination was resented, however, both by German diplomats in Bucharest and by Romanian authorities, due to his reputation of fanaticism – further enhanced in the meantime by the leading role he played in the June 1942 massacre of Lidice – but also to his non-dissimulated commitment to the rsha’s agenda, fully revealed by his statement that in Bucharest he was ‘to enhance Himmler’s heritage.’128 In a letter dated June 16, 1942, councilor Hermann von Ritgen, head of the Political Intelligence Service of the German Legation in Bucharest,129 warned Deputy Prime Minister Mihai Antonescu that the prospective new attaché ‘was until now the right hand of Heydrich in Prague. He is accustomed to the working methods used in the Protectorate.’130 Böhme’s appointment was received with great concerns by Killinger, as well, a reputable enemy of the ss who fought hard against the discretionary powers of ss police attachés. According to Lecca, ‘when he [Killinger] learned of this appointment, he told me that hard times will come for the Jewish Central Agency.’ Likewise, advisor Richter, ‘who in the meantime was tamer,’ was ‘very worried by the arrival of this Chief.’131
After many bureaucratic tribulations surrounding his confirmation, Böhme officially started his activity as ss police attaché on September 7, 1942. Soon upon his arrival in Bucharest, Böhme made it fully clear that the state of the ‘Jewish Question’ in Romania was far from meeting Berlin’s expectations. Thus, on October 1, 1942 Böhme stated that ‘in Romania there is still much to be done in this direction. He and advisor Richter will study the measures that ought to be taken and they are ready to cooperate with the Romanian authorities on this issue. This [cooperation] would pose the advantage of easing the settlement of the Jewish Question in a European framework.’ Böhme pledged that ‘he will study thoroughly the Jewish Question in Romania, and will expose his views and conclusions in a report to Himmler.’132 Böhme’s menacing tone is further confirmed by Lecca, who revealed in his memoires that Böhme virulently criticized Killinger, accusing him of ‘an intolerable weak attitude toward the Jews and the Romanian Government.’ Böhme also threatened Richter, avowing he will make sure the latter ‘returns to reality.’133
However, Böhme served in Bucharest only until January 5, 1943, and was not able to bring about a breakthrough in the implementation of the Final Solution in Romania. On the contrary, societal interventions in favor of Jews and the deteriorating military situation on the eastern front led to Marshal Antonescu’s decision to suspend the implementation of the deportation plans. The first rumors concerning the preparations made in Berlin and Bucharest for the deportation of Romanian Jews to Germany reached the Romanian society via the statements made by Lecca on August 7, 1942 in a press conference with representatives of the German press in Romania,134 and the article published in Bukarester Tageblatt suggestively titled ‘Rumänien wird judenrein.’135 Although censored by the official press, this news spread via rumors and created panic in the Jewish community triggering a series of societal reactions against the planned deportation. In two reports dated October 5 and November 26, 1942, on the state of the plans to deport the Jews from Romania, Richter highlighted the interventions to Marshal Ion Antonescu and Mihai Antonescu against the deportation of the Jews undertaken by the leaders of the democratic opposition such as Iuliu Maniu – the president of the National Peasant Party, Constantin I. C. Brătianu – the president of National Liberal Party, by the Royal House, Nicolae Bălan – the Orthodox Metropolitan of Transylvania, Baron Francis Neumann, etc.136 In addition, a memo written by Wilhelm Filderman on September 22, 1942 drew attention to the unfavorable economic but also political, domestic, and international consequences for Romania which could result from the deportation of Jews (Filderman also referred, subtly, to Hungary’s refusal to deport its Jews, which could weigh heavily in the Romanian-Hungarian dispute on Transylvania).137 In the international realm, in late September 1942, the u.s. government sent the Romanian government via the Swiss Legation in Bucharest, a firm verbal note requesting it to stop Jewish deportations under the threat of recourse to retaliation against Romanian citizens on u.s. soil.138
The second major factor of change was the military situation on the eastern front. If during the summer 1942 Germany seemed to prevail, as of September 1942 the German war machine began to stagnate, and this development influenced the position of the Romanian government on the ‘Jewish Question.’ Co-joint, societal interventions in favor of Jews and the deteriorating military situation on the eastern front led to Marshal Antonescu’s decision to suspend the deportation plans. Thus, on October 8, 1942, Mihai Antonescu informed Killinger that ‘Marshal Antonescu’s opinion is that the current situation is too delicate to allow an action in force against the Jews.’139 This position was confirmed, later in the month, by Marshall Antonescu who declared that ‘the deportation of the Jews of Transylvania is only studied. Its realization is delayed. The action will start only when the appropriate time will come. Until then, the Ministry of Interior will prepare the deportation in the smallest details, on the basis of the indications given by Mr. Mihai Antonescu.’140 Commenting on the deferral of the deportation of Jews, Richter argued that the Jews to be deported were mostly of Hungarian culture, their pro-Hungarian attitude being the main reason why the Romanian authorities wanted to deport them. Killinger, who shared this view, decided therefore not to take any action in this regard.141
In early December 1942, at the time when Soviet forces consolidated their positions around Stalingrad, the Marshal finally gave up his plan to deport Romania’s Jews, opting instead for their emigration to Palestine as a solution to the ‘Jewish Question.’ The ‘new course’ in Romania’s Jewish policy was officially announced by Antonescu to Berlin in the first half of December 1942. On December 12, 1942, Killinger reported to Auswärtiges Amt the Romanian government’s plan to allow the emigration to Palestine of a number of 75,000 to 80,000 Jews. Thus, said Killinger, ‘Marshal Antonescu wanted to kill two flies with one blow. On the one hand, he wants to obtain the sixteen billion that are very necessary for him, on the other hand, he wants to get rid in an astute manner of the Jews who cause him difficulties in his internal policy. He rejects a radical solution to the ‘Jewish Question for those Jews who are certainly proven not to be Bolsheviks.’142 As expected, Antonescu’s plan – which was not only meant to allow Jewish emigration, but also to show the Allies that Romania was not an obedient satellite of the Third Reich – was challenged strongly by Nazi political leaders who denounced it as ‘an unacceptable partial solution, whose implementation should be prevented by all means.’143 Despite repeated interventions undertaken by Berlin to the Romanian authorities to prohibit the emigration of Jews and to re-launch the application of the Final Solution, Bucharest resisted the German pressure. Moreover, in March 1943, the Romanian government notified the Third Reich that the Jewish emigration to Palestine is ‘the only solution and final solution to the Jewish Question in Romania.’144 Consequently, during the years 1943–1944 a relatively large number of Jews left Romania for Palestine, via Turkey.145 Reportedly, this policy prompted Killinger to angrily claim in 1944, in a moment of exasperation, that ‘Romania has become a new land of promise for the Jews.’146
Not only that Antonescu halted the deportation of Jews, approved the repatriation of certain categories of Jews from Transnistria, and allowed the out-migration of Jews from Romania, but the government provided, retrospectively, a different rendering of the regime’s Jewish policy, by claiming that Romania’s more ‘permissive’ approach on the issue – as compared to the Nazi model – characterized in fact the earlier period, as well. Deputy Prime Minister Mihai Antonescu’s report on a meeting he had with Gustav Richter on February 1st, 1944 – in the former’s new capacity of ss Polizeiattaché that Richter cumulated since December 29, 1943 – is highly illustrative in this respect: ‘I know that at the beginning of his stay [in Romania] in 1941, when the German theses in Jewish matters were extremely advanced, he [Richter] had enough understanding when I exposed to him the Romanian point of view, which was against acts of terror and only in favor of emigration, and he helped me in this direction.’147 The archival evidence on Richter’s early activity and collaboration with the Romanian authorities, uncovered in this article, exposes Mihai Antonescu’s claim as an overstatement, pointing instead to a loose convergence of general views between Romania and Nazi Germany on the ‘Jewish Question,’ evident also in the Romanian authorities’ deliberate emulation of the Nazi model. Yet, in the new political context generated by the heavy military defeats suffered by Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front, and in the anticipation of a – most likely – Allied-led peace conference, the Romanian authorities attempted to obscure their systematic anti-Semitic policy and its fatal consequences for the Romanian Jews. This tactical but tardive and incomplete policy change could not rescue the fate of the Antonescu regime, the Marshall being ousted from power on August 23, 1944. Nevertheless, the regime’s deliberately misleading presentation of its track-record on the ‘Jewish Question’ was to be reproduced, over time, by revisionist historiography in the late socialist and post-socialist periods, who – taking Antonescu’s propaganda at face value – attempted to minimize the regime’s anti-Jewish record and to portray Romania as a safe heaven for Jews in Central Europe during the Second World War.
The Nazi domination of East Central Europe during the Second World War is a peculiar episode in the Great Powers’ involvement in the region. Nazi Germany’s military hegemony enabled it to radically alter the region’s political and territorial status-quo, redrawing borders, temporarily suppressing inter-state conflicts through arbitration and dictates, and establishing puppet political regimes. There were limits, however, to Nazi Germany’s ability to reshape East Central Europe’s configuration. First, the Nazi domination was short-lived and was exercised during a state of continuous war. Although most countries in the region were firmly caught in the Nazi geopolitical power-game and forced to cooperate, Germany’s regional domination remained nevertheless under-institutionalised, the fate of the Nazi ‘New Order’ depending overwhelmingly on Germany’s ability to win the war.148 Second, although the fascist ideology and practice gained a position of domination in European politics, fascist movements and regimes could never become fully integrated politically, certainly not in the same way communist parties and regimes were coordinated from Moscow in the interwar and postwar periods. Their unity – formally institutionalized in the Tripartite Pact of the Axis Powers – was undermined by the German-Italian geopolitical rivalry, on the one hand, and by numerous nationalist conflicts that marred the transnational collaboration of various fascist movements and regimes, on the other hand. In fact, aware of the potential internal and external complications posed by the establishment of fellow fascist regimes (some of which could undermine Germany’s geopolitical plans for the region), the Nazis did not fully support fascist parties to gain power in neighboring countries, doing so only when they had no other viable alternatives (see the demise of the Iron Guard in Romania in favor of Antonescu, the Nazi refusal to cooperate with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, or the late advent to power of the Arrow Cross in Hungary, in October 1944, well after the Nazi occupation of the country in March that year).
Equally important, beyond a sum of fascist ‘trappings’ widely employed at the time by authoritarian regimes in Europe, there was no clear-cut German political model that could be exported to the region. The Nazi take-over, known as the process of synchronization or Gleichschaltung, was in many ways parasitic on the structures of the Weimer republic. The organization of the Nazi party-state was heavily dependent on Hitler’s charisma and could not be easily emulated elsewhere. Finally, Nazi dictatorship resembled a policracy made up of several pillars of power vying for the Führer’s attention rather than a well-functioning, fully-centralized pyramid of power.149 The competition among these pillars of powers and the resulting lack of full coordination affected also the coherence of Nazi Germany’s foreign policy in East Central Europe, marked by numerous political shifts and turns and conflicting messages. As this article illustrates, one can speak at times of several competing foreign policy agendas, promoted by the German Foreign Office and the ss.
In retrospect, it becomes evident that the ‘Nazi model’ was not based on a well-defined social-political organization to be emulated in the allied or occupied countries, but on the implementation of the Final Solution, which – given its wide societal implications – was meant to generate a genuine demographic and social-political ‘revolution.’ Although the Nazi New Order was built on certain tenets of the doctrine of Europeanism, arguing for the establishment of a new European order that would correct the alleged injustice of the Paris Peace Treaties, the Nazi European vision was essentially founded on a racial ideology, having anti-Semitism at its core. East European states ‘worked toward the Führer’150 on the ‘Jewish Question’ in order to gain internal legitimacy and external support. In most countries, the Nazi anti-Semitic campaign created a window of opportunity for the local fascist, radical right or conservative movements to fulfill their anti-Jewish desiderata; in others, the ‘Jewish Question’ was subordinated to ‘more pressing’ minority issues. The voluntary or forceful adoption of the Nazi model thus had its limitation, as states in the region continued to pursue, to the extent possible in the given context, their own political agenda and national goals, informed by local ideological references. When the Nazi military hegemony gave signs of loosening its grip on the region, these countries did not shy away from departing from the Nazi model, trying instead to secure separate deals with the Allied powers, and even employing the language of minority rights and liberal behavioral norms that would secure them favorable post-war territorial arrangements.
Romanian-German relations are a case in point about the efficiency as well as the limits of the Nazi domination of East Central Europe. In 1940–1941, Romanian authorities took the initiative of emulating the German model on the ‘Jewish Question’ and of joining the Axis’ military alliance. The German model became especially important after January 1941, as the elimination of the Legion deprived the Antonescu regime of its political basis, forcing him to capitalize more heavily on Nazi Germany’s support. Moreover, trapped in a zero-sum game competition with Hungary over Transylvania, Romania also started a mimetic competition with its neighbor for German attention, acting as one of Nazi Germany’s most voluntary allies, with the aim of regaining the lost province. It was in this context that the Antonescu regime deported to Transnistria the Jews from Bassarabia and Bukovina, provinces temporarily occupied by Soviet Union, conducted anti-Jewish atrocities on the Eastern Front, in cooperation with German troops, and started preparations for the deportation of all Jews from Romania, even from those provinces which had not been directly affected by war. Germany’s military drawbacks on the Eastern front and Antonescu’s realization of its eventual defeat stopped or even reversed some of these policies. At that point, despite considerable German pressure, Antonescu proved reluctant to embrace the Nazi model on the Final Solution to the full by deporting Romania’s Jews to Nazi concentration camps.
The political impact of the Nazi advisors in Romania is symptomatic for the evolution of the Romanian-German wartime relations. According to Antonescu’s own recollection made on November 13, 1941, during a meeting of the Council of Ministers, the dispatch of the Nazi advisors was done at Hitler’s initiative, who reportedly urged Antonescu to avoid potential policy mistakes in building his regime by ‘taking advantage of our [Nazi] school and experience.’151 The Nazi advisors played an important role in 1941–1942, when they managed to shape policies in various fields. There is evidence that Antonescu met them periodically and monitored their activity. Pflaumer and Langer, in particular, were praised by Antonescu for their role in devising a new administrative regime in Bessarabia and Bukovina. The General was, nevertheless, keen to emphasize that the Nazi advisors had only a consultative and not a decision-making capacity, stating unambiguously that ‘I do not recognize them as officials.’152 Reacting to attempts of a more direct involvement of the Nazi advisors in the decision-making process – which, reportedly, were promoted by the Nazi agricultural expert Fachmann who invoked a supposed bilateral convention between Romania and Germany on the matter – Antonescu instructed his government that ‘we listen to their advices, but they have no role to play in the administration, in one way or another. These are thus my instructions concerning the employment of [Nazi] experts.’153 On the German side, Killinger also commended the activity of the Nazi advisors in Romania, even if he periodically clashed with them due to the advisors’ reluctance to subordinate their activity to the German Legation in Bucharest. The influence of the Nazi advisors receded, however, after 1942. The evolution of Richter’s career, in particular, is illustrative in this respect, since it followed the course of Antonescu regime’s anti-Semitic policy. At the beginning of his activity (1941–1942), and as long as Antonescu was determined to fully emulate the Nazi model of solving the ‘Jewish Question,’ Richter’s influence was visible; after Antonescu changed the course of anti-Semitic policy, at the end of 1942, Richter gradually lost his influence over the Romanian government’s policy.
On the basis of this case study, it can be concluded that, despite the unequal power relations between the two countries, Romanian-German relations were not a ‘one-way street,’ marked by the unilateral imposition of the German model to Romanian realities. The story of the Romanian-German wartime relations cannot be fully written from a functionalist perspective; moreover, foreign policy considerations can only be understood by taking into account the complex web of actions and counter-actions of various political actors, their ideological considerations and political goals within the larger wartime international context.
Paul DiMaggio and Walter Powell‘The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,’ American Sociological Review 48 (1983) esp. 149–150; and Paul Colomy ‘Neofunctionalism and Neoinstitutionalism: Human Agency and Interest in Institutional Change’ Sociological Forum 13 no. 2 (1998): 265–300.
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, Paul DiMaggio and Walter Powell ‘The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,’ 48 (1983), esp. 149–150; and Paul Colomy, ‘Neofunctionalism and Neoinstitutionalism: Human Agency and Interest in Institutional Change,’ Sociological Forum13, no. 2 (1998): 265–300.
See Constantin Iordachi‘The Unyielding Boundaries of Citizenship: The Emancipation of “Non-Citizens” in Romania, 1866–1918,’ European Review of History 8 no. 2 (2001): 157–186.
Andrei Pippidi‘The Mirror and Behind It: The Image of the Jews in the Romanian Society,’ Shvut: Jewish Problems in Eastern Europe 16 (1992): 73–83.
Eugen Petit‘Originea etnică (i),’ Dreptul [The Law] lxviii (28 July 1940) 18 117–119; and ‘Originea etnică (ii)’ Dreptul lxviii (15 Sept. 1940) 20 133–135.
See Hildegard von Kotze‘Hitlers Sicherheitsdienst im Ausland,’ in Die Politische Meinung 8 (1963) 77–80; Heinz Höhne Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf: Die Geschichte der ss(Gütersloh : Sigbert Mohn1967) 262; Michael Wildt Generation des Unbedingten: Das Führungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes (Hamburg: Hamburger 2003) 647.
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See)| false , Hildegard von Kotze ‘Hitlers Sicherheitsdienst im Ausland,’in 8 (1963), 77–80; Heinz Höhne,( Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf: Die Geschichte der ss Gütersloh: Sigbert Mohn, 1967), 262; Michael Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten: Das Führungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes(Hamburg: Hamburger, 2003), 647.
Walter HagenDie geheime Front: Organisation Personen und Aktionen des deutschen Geheimdienstes (Linz-Wien: Nibelungen Verlag1950) 285–286; Armin Heinen Legiunea ‘Arhanghelul Mihai’: Mişcare socială şi organizaţie politică: Contribuţie la problema fascismului internaţional (Bucharest: Humanitas 1999) 421.
HagenDie geheime Front289–292; Simion Regimul politic din România 287–294; Hillgruber Hitler Regele Carol şi Mareşalul Antonescu 158; Lecca Eu i-am salvat 139–146 149–154 156–157; Troncotă Eugen Cristescu 6 146 208 318 330 345 367–370 398; Heinen Legiunea ‘Arhanghelul Mihail’ 434–435; Witte Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 121; Heinz Höhne Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf 267–268; Cristian Scarlat ed. Diplomaţi germani la Bucureşti 1937–1944: Din memoriile dr. Rolf Pusch ataşat de legaţie şi dr. Gerhard Stelzer consilier de legaţie (Bucharest: All Educational 2001) 141–144.
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, , Hagen 289–292; Simion, Regimul politic din România, 287–294; Hillgruber, Hitler, Regele Carol şi Mareşalul Antonescu, 158; Lecca, Eu i-am salvat, 139–146, 149–154, 156–157; Troncotă, Eugen Cristescu, 6, 146, 208, 318, 330, 345, 367–370, 398; Heinen, Legiunea ‘Arhanghelul Mihail,’434–435; Witte, Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers, 121; Heinz Höhne, Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf, 267–268; Cristian Scarlat, ed., Diplomaţi germani la Bucureşti 1937–1944: Din memoriile dr. Rolf Pusch, ataşat de legaţie, şi dr. Gerhard Stelzer consilier de legaţie(Bucharest: All Educational, 2001), 141–144.
Cited in Lya Benjamin‘Studiu introductiv,’ in Evreii din România între anii 1940–1944 vol. 1: Legislaţia antievreiascăed. Lya Benjamin (Bucharest: Hasefer 1993) xxxvi (English translation by Constantin Iordachi).
After leaving Romania in 1944Richter was arrested and transported to the Soviet Union. Released from captivity on October 13 1955 Richter returned to Germany. In 1981 he was set to trial and in 1982 sentenced to four years imprisonment. To reconstruct Richter’s career we have used Richter’s ss officer file the documentation of the lawsuit filed against him by West German authorities and secondary literature on the topic. On Richter’s life and activity see bb Berlin Documenter Center sso Akte Gustav Richter; Bundesarchiv Ludwigsburg 505 ar-z 16/61. Urteil lg Frankenthal - 141 Js 92131/76 vom 11.01.1982; and amae fund 14/Reprezentanţi-Germania R 24-file Gustav Richter/-consilier pentru chestiunile evreieşti-ataşat de poliţie.
See ‘Decretul-lege no. 1216pentru înființarea Centrului Național de Românizare May 3 1941’ (modified by Decree no. 2816 issued on October 10 1941 and Decree no. 692 on March 6 1942) in Codul de Românizare ed. Nicolae D. Ghimpa et al. (Bucharest: Editura Ziarului Universul 1942) 30–43 64–82 102.
Jürgen RohwerDie Versenkung der jüdischen Flüchtlingstransporter Struma und Mefkure im Schwarzen Meer (Februar 1942 August 1944) (Frankfurt am Main: Bernard und Graefe1965); Calafeteanu Emigrarea populaţiei evreieşti.