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2019 Nr 4


How to compromise research on the Holocaust.

An analysis of the book Holocaust Public Memory in Postcommunist Romania, published by Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2018[1]



1. Introduction


The following analysis was prompted by the publishing in 2018 by Indiana University Press of a book compiling research on the Holocaust - Public Memory in Poscommunist Romania. With the exception of the Swiss historian Simon Geissbűhler, all authors are employees or collaborators of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute in Bucharest, a Romanian public institution dedicated to the research of the Romanian Holocaust and the promotion of its memory, including through educational policy. The book shows the development (stadiul cercetărilor) of research on the memory of the Holocaust in Romania under the aegis of the Institute, the paradigms promoted within it, its deontological standards, the interaction of the Institute researchers with the international literature. Given the sensitivity of the topic, I went beyond strictly commenting on the articles in the book. I argue that the research is based on very limited empirical investigations, and the treatment of themes is militant, at the expense of academic requirements.

The articles chosen for the first part of the volume, Competing Memories and Historical Obfuscation, are: “Introductory Remarks”; Ethnocentric Mindscapes and Mnemonic Myopia” by Ana Bărbulescu; “Postcommunist Romania's Leading`s Intellectuals and the Holocaust” by George Voicu; “Law, Justice, and Holocaust Memory in Romania” by Alexandru Climescu; „Romania: Neither `Fleishig` nor `Milschig`: A Comparative Study” by Michael Shafir; ”Wanting-Not-to-Know” about the Holocaust in Romania” by Simon Geissbűhler. The articles chosen for the second part, National Heroes, Outstanding Intellectuals, or Holocaust Perpetrators, are: “Mircea Vulcănescu, a Controversial Case: Outstanding Intellectual or War Criminal?” by Alexandru Florian; “Ion Antonescu's Image in Postcommunist Historiography” by Marius Cazan; ”Rethinking Perpetrators, Bystanders, Helpers/Rescuers” by Adina Babeș.

The book is the first Ca și „fotografie de grup”, volumul este prima prezentare de ansamblu a preocupărilor Institutului și a nivelului cercetărilor sale.[2] Although its target readers are American and Western researchers, some parts of the texts are obscure to that public. The names of cultural figures, well-known at home but not abroad, are listed without explanatory notes. The biggest surprise is the inclusion in the Indiana University Press book of personal a unor bătălii personale, of the editor and one of the authors with weight within the community of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute. The American publishing house has therefore allowed itself to be used as part of compromising acțiuni.

2. The Articles

In the introduction entitled ”Memory under Construction: Introductory Remarks, Alexandru Florian, the book editor, outlines the contributions of his colleagues. I want to highlight one thesis of his Observations:

The following studies explain the ways in which this matrix that brings together ethnocentrism, nationalism, and anticommunism (subl.m.) manifests itself in diverse spaces of public communication, overshadowing the memory of the Holocaust, including the mnemonic narrative proposed by the intellec­tual elite active in radical commentary on Ceauşescu's regime, where one easily finds an antisemitic tone, the nationalist historiography that pro­motes the myth of Ion Antonescu as a saving hero… (p. xxi).

According to Alexandru Florian, the articles in the book „explain” the overshadowing of the Holocaust as a result of the immoral collaboration of ethnocentrism, nationalism and anticommunism. There are indeed some articles that find correlations between the low level/limited recognition of the Holocaust and Romanian nationalism, some pointing to the statements of nationalists that are also anticommunists (a fairly common combination) and some refer to groups of intellectuals who ask that the two 20th century totalitarianisms be treated symmetrically. None of the articles provide proof that generic anticommunism – the ethical, intellectual, ideological or political position of criticizing the communist concepts and criminal regimes – diminishes, by its very nature, the tragedy of the Holocaust. By listing anticommunism as a source of anti-Semitism, Florian expresses an anti-anticommunism attitude.

In Romania, a country that has suffered the tragedy of communism and where the latter has devastated private and public life until its last moments at the end of 1989, anti-anticommunism is considered an indecent attitude among the cultural elites. It is actively promoted only by former members of the communist elite or the security forces, or by political opportunists like the Socialist Alternative Party;[3] and, at a higher level of analysis, by leftist cultural groups like CriticAtac.[4] Otherwise, “acceptable” criticisms refer to „primitive anticommunism”,[5] „primitive and aggressive anticommunism”,[6] „showy mass media anticommunism”,[7] „extremist and vengeful anticommunism”[8] or other versions of oversimplified or excessive anticommunist discourse. Some of the activity of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute in Bucharest amounts to an anti-anticommunist policy. In its publications in the Romanian language, the president of the Institute, Alexandru Florian, has preferred to invoke the excessive versions of the attitude he condemns, like „visceral anticommunism”.[9] The “Elie Wiesel” Institute’s association with the anti-anticommunist ideology violates its status as a public institution. Romanian communism has been officially indicted as an „illegitimate and criminal”[10] ideology, therefore attempts to discredit the opposition to these crimes challenge the position of the Romanian state.[11]

The article authored by Ana Bărbulescu, ”Ethnocentric Mindscapes and Mnemonic Myopia”, proposes one explanation for the lack of recognition of the Holocaust by a large section of the Romanian population. This state is surprising given that for an entire decade important texts on the subject have been published and official messages of support have been repeatedly offered. The author attempted „to identify and reconstruct the social processes that explain how mnemonic myopia operates” and hence discover ”why is it difficult for Romanian society to acknowledge the Holocaust of the Roma­nian Jew.”[12] According to Ana Bărbulescu, ”the Holocaust is presented in a distorted manner in order to remain consonant with the generic image ascribed to the Romanian people.”[13] I quote: ”Given this dialectical relationship that exists between social identity  and collective memory, between what a community assumes it represents and the ways it remembers its past, I consider the identity narrative ascribed to the Romanian people as the main factor in understanding the mnemonic myopia of Romanian society with regard to the Holocaust.” The pillars of this identity narrative are, according to the author, the history textbooks published in postcommunist Romania and the history books (sintezele istoriografice) published after 1989 by four well-known Romanian historians: Florin Constantiniu, Neagu Djuvara, Dinu C. Giurescu, and Ioan Aurel Pop.

The author shows that the textbooks construct the identity narrative of the Romanian people in terms of ethnicity: common origins, historical continuity, stable and coherent identity.[14] But these characteristics are embraced by Romanians as well as by other groups defined by a common language and genealogy.[15] The lack of interest Romanians show towards the tragedy of other human communities is more likely a reflection of their separation from the rules and values that define modern political communities: the values of civic engagement, of rights and dignity of minorities, of humanism. Only more extensive cultural research – that of course includes history education as an important component – could answer the question of why is it difficult for Romanian society to acknowledge the Holocaust of the Roma­nian Jews?

The article ”Ethnocentric Mindscapes and Mnemonic Myopia” offers only simple explanations and bare bone arguments in answer to complex questions. I will highlight only two examples:

Within the mnemonic space specific to Romanian society, there are three possible approaches to Jewish suffering during the Second World War: one could consider the war a national catastrophe, and consequently regard the Jews as victims belonging to the Romanian people; one could dissociate from the actions of the Romanian authorities of the time and regard the Jews as victims of the Romanian state; or one could regard the Jews as victims of others.[16]

It seems obvious that the collective memory of Romanian society allows for more than the three approaches to Jewish suffering during the Second World War listed by Ana Bărbulescu. One could consider the war to be a national catastrophe and see it as a common catastrophe of the Romanians, Jews, Hungarians (etc.) within Romanian territory. Or one could dissociate from the actions of the Romanian authorities of the time to regard the Jews as victims of the Romanian state while highlighting the more general suffering – even if it is not comparable to the horror of the Holocaust in Transnistria. Jews can be seen as both victims of Nazi Germany and of the Antonescu regime – as they indeed are. I listed three other possible approaches but more could be added.

And the second example:

Consequently, if the Jews cannot be remembered as victims of the Romanian state, or, because they are Romanian citizens, as Romanian victims of the war, only one solution remains: to account for them as victims of some other group. Therefore, consistent with the ethnic narrative of the Romanian identity, Romanian society externalizes this dangerous memory outside its borders, making the Germans responsible for the deaths of the Jews.[17]

To consider the Germans responsible for the deaths of Jews in Transnistria is only one of the possible approaches that are consistent with the assumptions of the author. More unjust explanations exist that embrace the myths of the common origin, historical continuity and coherent identity. For negationists, the Jews are not victims at all because the Holocaust didn’t happen. For justificationists, the Jews were communists and hence enemies of Romania and of people – and hence not victims. The most terrible are those who deny the victimhood of Jews because they, the Jews, don’t matter.

These approaches highlight the feebleness of simple explanations to complex social circumstances. This feebleness starts with the statement: „there is only one possibility…”.


In his article Law, Justice, and Holocaust Memory in Romania”, Alexandru Climescu compiles a list of legal proceedings that he considers relevant to the manner in which the Romanian state treats the memory of the Holocaust: the extraordinary appeals of the convictions of Ion Antonescu and of other members of Antonescu`s government, fascist ideologists, and military personnel involved in the extermination of Jews, and the journalists who have been supporting Nazism and fascism. Two of them, Radu Dinulescu, chief of the Second Section in the General Staff of the Romanian Army, and his assistant, Gheorghe Petrescu, had been convicted for crimes including the deportations of Jews from Bukovina and Bessarabia.[18] In 1998 and 1999 the Supreme Court of Romania acquitted both.

I quote:

The acquittals of Holocaust perpetrators represented a legal operation performed on the past in order to redress what was seen as an abuse and to grant the anticommunist narrative a legal acknowledgement [emphasis added] This became obvious in 1997, when the General Prosecutor' attempt to acquit members of Antonescu's cabinet provoked an intellectual debate and established historians supported this legal endeavor." On the contrary, the enforcement of Ordinance 31/2002[19] should have been an operation performed on the pres­ent, in order to establish a different narrative about the traumatic fascist past.[20]

The distress at the acquittal of the two men responsible for deportations is understandable, given that their responsibility is indisputable. At the time, the acquittal of Radu Dinulescu and Gheorghe Petrescu was mostly ignored by the media. One cannot talk about a public debate regarding this event. With a few exceptions, the case was followed only by researchers of the Holocaust and the Jewish community.

Some media attention was bestowed on the acquittal of the journalists sent in front of the People’s Court on 30 May 1945 under the accusation of „war crimes” and as „authors of the disaster facing the country”.[21] Climescu’s article treats all these cases the same way, as if they were of a similar nature. Ion Antonescu, those who organized the deportations of Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina, and fascist journalists are according to the author responsible for crimes of equal weight. But there are differences even among the journalists, because the situation of Nichifor Crainic, General Secretary at the Ministry for Religious Denominations during the legionary regime and Minister of Propaganda during the military dictatorship of Ion Antonescu, is not similar to that of Pamfil Șeicaru, who was never more than a journalist.

The author seems uninterested in the requirements of the act of justice itself, ignoring the most interesting parts of the 1945 trials and the retrials through the extraordinary appeal procedure. Moreover, Alexandru Climescu states that „the acquital of the creators of the Holocaust” was meant ”to grant the anticommunist narrative [emphasis added] a legal acknowledgement”. This statement implies, following the example of the president of the Institute that employs Alexandru Climescu, that the „anticommunist narrative” legitimizes the acquittal of war criminals like Radu Dinulescu and Gheorghe Petrescu. This allegation is false. It confirms that the „Elie Wiesel” Institute has adopted an anti-anticommunist, reductionist and stigmatizing paradigm.

Alexandru Climescu has also investigated [v1] the implementation of OUG no. 31/2002 in the first 3 years following its adoption. During that period, the Prosecutor's Office had initiated criminal inves­tigations of violations of Emergency Ordinance in 302 cases.[22] Thirteen of these cases were brought to trial, while the prosecutor dropped charges or dismissed the com­plaints for the rest of them.[23] There is no analysis of the legal issues raised by Emergency Ordinance 31/2002.


Simon Geissbűhler conducts an empirical investigation: how many websites of villages and town where atrocities took place mention these events? The topic also has a practical dimension since, according to the author: ”We do not need to build many new, costly, and architecturally sophisticated memorials. In many cases the memorials already exist: the Jewish cemeteries, the synagogues and the mass graves. They are powerful and real…”[24] The results of his investigation are analyzed in the article ”Wanting-Not-to-Know” about the Holocaust in Romania”.

In search of the relevant nuances, Simon Geissbűhler distances himself from some common positions (like the distinction between knowing and not-knowing, remem­bering and forgetting, and remembered and forgotten) that he finds simplistic. ”There are many shades of gray between these respective extremities”, states the author, arguing for the relevance in the Romanian context of Paul Ricoeur’s concept of "wanting- not-to-know": ”Wanting­ not-to-know is a devious form of forgetting, `a semi-passive, semi-active be­havior,` as it is seen, for example, in forgetting by avoidance. It is motivated by "an obscure will not to inform oneself."[25] Here is his final statement:

While Romania remains a laggard with regard to dealing with the past, there are positive developments, also in comparison with other Eastern European countries. International research and pressure increased and broader education in schools and universities, the educational efforts of civil society and some state institutions, and Romania's presidency of the IHRA are factors that will in the medium and long term undermine the widespread attitude of wanting-not-to-know. In this context, especially the Romanian presidency of the IHRA (2016-2017) could be a catalyst for change. The organization, even though it has it weaknesses is an agent of Holocaust memory.'?[26]


Marius Cazan also conducted an empirical research described in “Ion Antonescu's Image in Postcommunist Historiography”. To track the historiographical production, Cazan used the Historical Bibliography of Romania, an inventory of Romanian historical literature that has been published since the 1970s under the coordination of the Cluj branch of the Romanian Academy. Based on this selection, for the period 1990 to 2010, he indexed 194 titles: 63 monographs, collections of documents, or collected volumes, and 131 studies or academic articles[27]. Based on this selection of texts, Cazan discusses the portrait of Antonescu as it is reflected in the texts of historians that are a reference, according to the author, in the Romanian postcommunist society.

”My selection is certainly subjective,” admits the author, reminding at the same time that there is no ”objective tool to determine which historians the general public perceives as opinion makers.”[28] One of those on Cazan’s list is Gheorghe Buzatu, well-known national-communist historian, active in the rehabilitation of Ion Antonescu. The fact that Buzatu became a senator for the extremist “Greater Romania” Party and has supported negationists positions should put him from the start among the less credible public voices. The article also mentions Alex Mihai Stoenescu, an amateur writer of historical books, known as a mouthpiece for the former Securitate, whose collaborator he had been before 1989. Both are well-known pro-Antonescu propagandists and both have enjoyed a certain following among the masses. It is an open question whether Buzatu and Stoenescu can be considered relevant to Romanian historiography.

About Dinu Giurescu, a prominent historian and member of the Romanian Academy, Marius Cazan states: Here, Giurescu's mention of Antonescu's refusal to send the Jews of Romania to Nazi camps, without mention of the fact that his refusal had a mercantile motivation, gives Antonescu undeserved credit.”[29]

Here is the author’s interpretation of the positions of Lucian Boia, a historian with an important role in challenging the nationalist spirit rampant in Romanian historiography:

Boia's polemical spirit is conveyed to his readers through narrative constructs that are quite relativistic. On Antonescu, the most obvious example is the following: "We talked about Marshal Antonescu, whether he killed or saved Jews. The answer is again typical of the equivocal condition of Romanian culture, mentality, and attitude. Yes, Marshal Antonescu saved Jews, and yes, Marshal Antonescu sent Jews to their deaths. We do not know what to take from this, but, again, this is the Romanian area, imprecise by definition. Was there a Holocaust in Romania? There was a Holocaust in Romania. There was no Holocaust in Romania. Both statements can be supported and, after all, we have to consider them together.”[30]

Cazan comments: ”This manner of settling the issue serves those who deny Antonescu's and Romania's re­sponsibility in the Holocaust better than it serves the need to understand the Holocaust.”[31]

The manner in which the author treats the „Antonescu case in Romanian historiography” creates a feeling that historians are expected to bring a prosecutorial attitude to their work, in an area characterized by complexity and concerned with minute distinctions. Did Ion Antonescu stop the deportations of Jews to Transnistria out of a „mercantile motivation”, a concern for his fate when he was losing the war? It is a hypothesis worth investigating, not easily argued, and most importantly one not yet settled. Unlikely, given the militaristic-heroic culture of Antonescu. The deportations were stopped at the beginning of October 1942, when the Axis troops were still on the offensive at Stalingrad; experiencing great losses, but moving forward. The Soviet offensive only started on 19 November. There are documents that suggest Antonescu believed until the last hour in a German victory. The possibility of a „ mercantile motivation” cannot be excluded, but it needs conclusive proof.

The fact that Ion Antonescu stopped the deportation of Jews in the fall of 1942 doesn’t diminish his great responsibility for the Holocaust in Transnistria. His status as the main author of monstrous crimes doesn’t though imply that his motivation in stopping the deportations must have been mercantile. The historical research that treats the great criminals as pure demons – the typical example being that of Adolf  Hitler – has been criticized convincingly.[32]


Adina Babeș (”Rethinking Perpetrators, Bystanders, Helpers/Rescuers”) interviewed a focus grup of 22 students to identify their opinion regarding the Romanian Holocaustul. Among the results of her research, one is consistent with the results of a survey published in 2015: the majority opinion is that ”the general perceptions of the Holocaust in Romania as reflected in the sur­vey published in 2015: the Holocaust took place mostly in Germany and less so in Romania and Adolf Hitler was more responsible than Ion Antonescu for the Holocaust in Romania.”[33] Adinei Babeș comments: ”Diluting or passing on the responsibility for the Holocaust that took place in Romania or in territories under Romanian administration from the Romanian authorities to the German ones is an integral part of the contemporary discourse on the Holocaust in Romania.[34]


The article by Alexandru Florian, “Mircea Vulcănescu, a Controversial Case: Outstanding Intellectual or War Criminal?”, starts with a strange analogy: ”After twenty-five years of transition, Romania has only fragments of highways, only partial transport corridors to connect it to the long awaited Occident. The situation of public memory of the Holocaust in Romania is similar: it resembles an unfinished highway. In public, private and state.”[35] The proposed analogy is a literary device that doesn’t require verification. Other statements can be though evaluated. Here is a generalizing one:

Following this line of thought}[v2]  criticizing the memory of Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, Mircea Vulcănescu, Vintilă Horia, Nichifor Crainic, or Mihail Manoilescu is considered a sacrilege, an act of lèse majesté. From that moment on, public dialogue is impossible. According to their supporters having been an anticommunist automatically grants them an aura of respectability and makes memory a fully reputable pub­lic memory.[36]

The manner in which the men listed above were judged prior to 1989 and right after the Revolution showed a lack of knowledge and an inclination toward mythologization – an expected outcome of the confinement of Romanian society at the time. These men were part of the cultural conscience through the direct communication between the older and the younger generations, through forbidden books that were handed from one intellectual to another, finally through some solid anchors like the Western cultural broadcasts and in particular those of radio Free Europe. Only after the fall of communism information and new voices and real research regarding the cultural personalities from the period between the World Wars finally became available. Since then the knowledge regarding Mircea Eliade. Emil Cioran, ...., Mihail Manoilescu has become considerably richer. There exists a diversity of opinion in the form of a market of ideas. Therefore generalizing slogans that argue that criticism ”is considered a sacrilege” and their anticommunist status makes them respectable are completely false.[37] A Romanian reader would not be fooled by such statements, but for a foreign reader that relies on the credibility of the publisher Indiana Press University, Florian’s statements are a veritable trap. Their extreme simplification hides a much more complex cultural reality.[38]

Alexandru Florian’s article is not as much a study of the „Mircea Vulcănescu case” as a war against anticommunism. In România, the subject of the trials that sent cultural personalities from the interwar period to communist prisons, where many of them died, was naturally of interest to public opinion. It mattered that those sent behind bars had a tragic fate, it mattered that the act of justice was at the time lacking the most elementary guarantees of fairness, the sentences also made an impression because they were sometimes absurd. The public debates around the decisions taken by the People’s Courts were sometimes affected by ideologies and other times nuanced, taking into account the differences between the situations, as the courts themselves should have done at the time. According to Florian however, the arguments for retrial are ”fueled by nationalism and anticommunism. Anticommunism seems to be the main motivation for the reinvention and obsessive promotion of the memory of those convicted of war crimes”.[39]

There is of course a community of people who view any criticism toward the men listed as a sacrilege, and their anticommunism overwhelms all other criteria. To say that such people and their anticommunism define Romanian cultural life today is an incorrect generalization.

The effort to challenge historical justice creates collateral damage in transitional justice, which is called a ”so-called transitional justice”, and is described as ”rather an attempt at moral rehabilitation than real justice.”[40] În reality, transitional justice, which includes judicial and non-judicial measures implemented in order to redress legacies of human rights abuses, is a widespread phenomenon with a mature doctrine. It is not limited to postcommunist countries. Those interested can read an extensive literature on transitional justice in South Africa, in Rwanda, in many other African countries and in South American states. An uninformed Alexandru Florin characterizes it as ”the strongest expression of the rejection of Holo­caust  memory” because it ”disseminate[s] a revisionist public memory of persons who were convicted of war crimes after the Second World War”.[41] In his ideological war, Florian misses on important concepts, denies some of the facts.[42]

3.      Trivializing communist crimes by denying the analogy

The current executive president of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute treats the memory of the communist past as an obstacle for the memory of the Holocaust. Two other articles in the volume Holocaust Public Memory in Poscommunist Romania push forward this thesis at a different informational and intellectual level.

The article by Professor George Voicu, Postcommunist Romania's Leading`s Intellectuals and the Holocaust” is one of the most articulate texts in the volume. It summarizes texts published starting in the ‘90s regarding the opinions of some Romanian intellectuals on collective memory.

A first question about George Voicu’s research: how exhaustive and significant is the opinion-makers category included in his analysis? In the title, George Voicu refers to ”leading intellectuals” and later adds the characterization ”the most influential intellectuals”. These erms are hardly operation. Why isn’t historian Lucian Boia, who published texts with a vast cultural impact, an intellectual leader? Why isn’t literary critic Ion Bogdan Lefter included, when he has created three well-known cultural journals and he has an important influence in academic and artistic world? Or Andrei Pippidi, respected historian, who has written significant texts in the ‘90s press regarding the interwar period? Neither has studied the Holocaust academically, but they each have a relevant background much superior to that of the intellectuals chosen for the analysis.[43] The voice of a historian with substantial writings on the history of Jews in Romania like Lucian Nastasă-Kovacs should be recognized as holding more epistemic authority than the voice of a VIP intellectual.[44]

George Voicu is aware of this issues and offers an answer: „their social perception”:

Therefore, one can identify several personalities who in recent decades have acquired considerable social prestige, which has made them influen­tial, both socially and politically. From this perspective, the intellectual triumvirate Andrei Pleşu-Gabriel Liiceanu-Horia-Roman Patapievici al­ready enjoys a privileged place on the Romanian cultural map of the last quarter of a century. In addition to these philosophers, there is also a host of writers, led by Nicolae Manolescu, the literary critic and historian who is also the resident of the Romanian Writers' Union. Various groups of intellectuals who emigrated from Romania during the communist period also enjoy a special place in this circle, such as the Parisian group, with Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca at the forefront (who, while both no longer among us, continue to influence through their works the public opinion in the country), and the American group, with Vladimir Tismăneanu as the most visible intellectual figure. Certainly, there are others, but Romanian public intellectuals remain an elitist club, small in numbers.[45]

To highlight the relevance of his selection, George Voicu points to the set of professionals from the cultural world that gravitate around this central core and the access of the latter to resources and means of amplifying their social impact:

There is one more aspect that deserves closer inspection: while this club is very exclusivist, it attracts many "satellites" who gravitate in orbits at vari­ous distances from the center. They tend to align themselves to the positions of the established intellectual figures, just as iron filings align to a magnet, especially in the political and social matters deemed sensitive. Because the top intellectuals of contemporary Romanian culture are perceived not only as epistemic authorities but also as possessors of important resources and as reliable launching pads, the considerable number of kindred spirits is under­standable. Among this host of intellectuals orbiting the nucleus, some have established profiles (such as Gheorghe Grigurcu and Mircea Mihăieş), other are at the beginning of their careers, eager to ingratiate themselves with the top Romanian public intellectuals. All in all, most of those who publish at the Humanitas publishing house, in magazines such as Revista 22 (Magazine 22) and România literară (Literary Romania), or in other peri­odicals under the patronage of the Romanian Writers' Union such as Acolada (The Accolade) and Orizont (The Horizon), in Dilema veche (The Old Dilemma), and sometimes even in some of the daily newspapers such as Evenimentul zilei (The Story of the Day), and on various electronic platforms (contributors.ro or inliniedreapta.net, for example), most of these authors usually (with some exceptions) serve "the cause" of those considered to be the leading public intellectuals.[46]

The author’s arguments offer all the necessary support to his selection.[47] George Voicu is interested in the fact that throughout the over twenty-five years of debates about communism the „postcommunist Romania's Leading Intellectuals” have been uncontrollably attracted to drawing analogies with the Holocaust.[48] Every time, argues Voicu, the debate arrived at the conclusion that communist crimes have been at least as serious, and are yet dismissed or forgiven. As an example, Voicu quotes a thoroughly debated text by Gabriel Liiceanu, who is at the top of the list of „the most influential intellectuals”:

Is it really that hard to understand that you must first deal with tile evil that you knew, which disrupted your life, hijacked your history, and whose consequences you cannot escape even after a decade since its exit from the stage? And that only through an analogy with this one you can understand all the shapes of evil, and you can open up towards a suffering that you would have otherwise found harder to understand? My way to Shoah goes through the trauma of communism, and precisely for this reason I can look at any Jew - with his fears, hatred, and memory of the suffering of his people - as a brother of mine. Is it that much to expect a symmetrical treatment?[49]

Voicu criticizes this point of view that he summarizes as follows: ”…according to the opinion makers there are no such particularities, given that between the two totalitarianisms there is a perfect `symmetry`; that is, the crimes of the communism necessarily and exclusively mirrored the Holocaust, and vice versa”, and ”only one category of victims is cultivated.”[50] The culpability of the Romanian intellectuals' plea to place the two series of crimes on equal foot­ing is strengthened by their self-glorifying rhetorical form to depict themselves as having the courage to defy a dogma.[51] Monica Lovinescu, who played a major role in establishing the landmarks of this debate, mentioned her tireless and courageous fight to brake the taboo of the uniqueness of the Shoah, promising that she will continue to do so.

George Voicu falsifies the meaning of the quoted paragraph. The latter doesn’t state that there are no particularities, and the invoked symmetry doesn’t imply a „ necessary and exclusive mirror image of the two tragedies”. There is a self-glorifying rhetoric within Liiceanu’s text but it is minor and, more importantly, irrelevant to the issues of the ethics and the politics of memory in this context.[52]

The surprise, dislike and frustration raised in George Voicu by the „pretentions” of the leading intellectuals of postcommunist Romania are curious given the larger context of the debates. Such approaches to the memory of the two Great Tragedies, that the “Elie Wiesel” Institute collaborator treats with such feelings of superiority, are repeated almost to a word during international meetings and have become public policies in former communist countries. Are Romanian intellectuals more radical critics of the asymmetry than Alain Beçanson when talking about „the contrast between the amnesia concerning communism and the hypermnesia concerning Nazism?”[53]

With reference to his own research into Polish wartime history, Norman Davies tells that he discovered a strong sense of the inbuilt bias when reading Western writers. I quote: ”One quickly learned that the Soviet Union had invaded and occupied one half of Poland in September 1939, just as Germany had invaded and occupied the other half. Yet Western historians continued to write exclusively about 'the Nazi invasion of Poland'. The Soviet zone of occupation was simply not regarded as a zone of occupation. Nazi propaganda on such matters was dismissed out of hand. Soviet propaganda was not questioned. One knew that mass deportations and murders were carried out by the Soviet occupiers, alongside other atrocities perpetrated by the Germans. Yet, increasingly, Western awareness focused on the Holocaust alone. One read about thousands of villages razed to the ground, and of their massacred inhabitants. Yet the only one that Western commentators could ever name was Lidice, in Bohemia. One learned about colossal operations, like Barbarossa and Bagration, and of colossal tragedies like the Siege of Leningrad and the Warsaw Rising. And one saw how these events were always consigned to a separate emotional compartment. Somehow they did not form part of 'our war'.”[54]

A vast literature dedicated to the asymmetry in the treatment of the memory of the two totalitarian regimes focuses on the Baltic States. Norman Davis also has something to say about the complexity of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian context in which these tragedies took place:

“It is hard for Westerners to grasp, but from the view-point of Tallinn, Riga, or Vilnius, the growing possibility of a Nazi advance felt like blessed liberation from Liberation. … In the Baltic States, in Byelorussia, and Ukraine they were cheered as liberators. German soldiers were greeted by local peasants offering the traditional welcome of bread and salt. … In … Europe that was successively occupied both by Soviets and by Nazis, the element of choice was largely absent. Both totalitarian regimes sought to enforce obedience through outright terror. For most ordinary civilians, the prospect of serving the Soviets posed the same moral dilemmas as serving the fascists. The only course of principled action for patriots and democrats was the suicidal one of trying to oppose Hitler and Stalin simultaneously.”[55]

The reaction of the inhabitants to the arrival of German troops was the result of their experience during the Soviet occupation between 1940 and 1941. Only in Latvia, „During a single night – 14 June 1941 – over 15.000 people were deported […] to the Gulag. The total number of deaths caused by the deportations and the massacres during the first year of Soviet occupation was estimated to be 35.000”.[56]

The collaborators of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute also ignore the historical injustice that after the Revolution, in Romania, former communists and former agents of the secret police gained power. This situation naturally changed the agenda and the priorities of public debates from 1990 until today.

One last observation regarding the article “Postcommunist Romania's Leading`s Intellectuals and the Holocaust”. As an argument for the lack of empathy of „the most influential Romanian intellectuals” towards the victims of the Holocauast, expressed according to the author through the choice to consider the Jewish genocide and communist crimes to be morally equivalent, George Voicu states that:

Moreover, it is nearly impossible to find among the Jewish intellectuals who have distinguished themselves in the study of the Holocaust (even among those who do not have Romanian origins) anyone who is unsympathetic to the mem­ory of the victims of communism. In the straightforward words of Yehuda Bauer (a prominent Israeli researcher of the Holocaust) `one certainly should remember the victims of the Soviet regime and there is very justification for designating special memorial and events to do so`.[57] M. Bauer is the honor­ary president of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (with thirty-one member states including Romania) and his statements carry heavyweight in term of what the Holocaust meant not only for Jews but for all mankind. It is easy to spot the diversion when some voices claim that those who keep the memory of the Holocaust alive are opposed to the memory of the victims of communism.[58]

Voicu doesn’t mention the rest of the quote, although it is relevant to the manner in which Yehuda Bauer treats the mem­ory of the victims of communism:

If today, East Europeans can enjoy membership in the European Union, it is due to the fact that they were oppressed and ruled, for 45 years, by [Soviets] but not by the Nazis. They had to get rid of the Nazis first, to begin their tortuous, difficult road of opposition to the Soviets. The Red Army enabled them to do that, though the price was very heavy indeed: 45 years of Soviet oppression. That is the paradox. In the end the East Europeans won, deservedly so. But let us not change history because of that.” [59]  

According to Bauer, the descendants of the tens of millions of Europeans killed by communist regimes (out of the 80-100 million victims) and the tens of millions whose lives were destroyed by the Soviet occupation should thank the Soviets.[60]

The surprising part of Yehuda Bauer’s attitude is how he ignores the behavior of the Soviet leadership towards the Jews during the war. The fact that the Germans were killing Jews didn’t have any influence on Stalin’s politics.[61] In January 1940, Eichmann proposed that the communist autocrat welcome two million Jews to occupied Poland. Timothy Snyder points out that the request to welcome the Jews was one of the few Nazi requests that [Stalin] denied during his alliance with Hitler.[62] The fact that the Red Army offensive all the way to Berlin saved millions of Jews was just a collateral consequence. From a Stalinist point of view the murder of Jews mattered little, although its political exploitation mattered.


The article by Michael Shafir, „Romania: Neither « Fleishig » nor « Milschig »: A Comparative Study”, the only one that also considers what is happening with the memory of the Holocaust in other former communist states, has a recognizable polemic tone. An important part of the article is dedicated to summarizing manifestations of the Ion Antonescu cult during the ‘90s and listing the steps taken to institutionalize the memory of the Holocaust in Romania: the pressure put by the United States on Romanian authorities during the accession to NATO, the adoption of OUG no. 31/2002, the establishment of the “Elie Wiesel” Commission, the adoption of the Final Report of the Commission. Among the events that went against this evolution, Shafir lists the difficulties encountered by the legal procedures against far right organizations, ”the Prison Saints” phenomenon supported by the new director of the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Regime Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile,[63] the creation of the new neo-legionary organization “Grupul pentru România” of Marian Munteanu, the extensive public debate around Law 217/2015 to amend Ordinance 31/2002.

The summary, useful to any Romanian researcher, is sometimes marred by inaccurate analogies. Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu, a marginal supporter of the Legionary Movement and an anticommunist,[64] is lumped together with Herberts Cuckurs, the "Butcher of Riga", assassinated by operatives of Mossad for his leading role in the atrocities that were committed in the Riga ghetto on 30 November 1941. And another „analogy”:

…”symbolic history”, is to replace real history and play the role of communist ”socialist realism,” only in reverse: if  for Stalin and Andrei Zhdanov the ”typical hero in typical circumstances” existed in a fictitious present, Antal (and now Duda) placed him in an almost fictitious past.[65]

Many would find an analogy between the pair Stalin and Zhdanov, on one side, and the pair József Antall and Andrzej Duda, on the other side, to be bizzare.

Michael Shafir treats equally levity the history of the Polish people and the memory of the Holocaust in Poland. He thinks the Poles have no reason to feel offended by Jan Gross’ statement that Poland is „a country whose citizens might have killed more Jews than Nazis during the Second World War”. With reference to the policy of the Polish president Andrzej Duda to honor the Polish Righteous among the Nations, Shafir adds: ”honorable, but few in number.” And a few lines later: ”The Poles are well known to see themselves as the eternally victimized `Christ of Nations`…”.[66]

Let’s put Michael Shafir ironic attitude toward the Polish collective memory in context. The largest Righteous among the Nations group is the Polish one: 6.992. The only groups with over a thousand Righteous are Dutch (5.778), French (4.099), Ukrainian (2.634) and Belgian (1.751)[67]. The Polish Zionist movement received massive support from the interwar Polish governments[68].

During the Second World War, the number of Polish deaths was larger, proportionally, than that of any other county involved: out of 35 million people (in 1939), Poland lost 6.5 million (664,000 dead on the battlefields, 90% civilians). Around 25% of Polish scientists were killed, 25% of the Catholic clergy, 20% of the primary teachers. 200.000 Polish children were deported to Germany. 75% of them never came back.[69] The horrors of the Second World War were superimposed over a historical trauma that may explain the ethno-cultural and religious dominance, and the bloodline based definition of „Polishness” in place of a definition based on civic and territorial landmarks.[70]


The author of the article „Romania: Neither « Fleishig » nor « Milschig »: A Comparative Study” analyzes the national experiences regarding the memory of the Holocaust and in particular the parallel between Nazism and Communism, through several well-established concepts:   Holocaust obfuscation, Competitive Martyrdom and  Double Genocide theory. The latter ”theory”, emphasized in his text, is explained in the following terms:

In a nutshell, the Double Genocide theory places the Gulag and its local derivates on par with the Holocaust. In its more be­nign form, it calls for "symmetry" in condemning the two atrocities of the last century, which it casts as equally repulsive, and for a similar "symmetry" in punishing those guilty for them.[71]

Here are some explanations regarding the context:

The Double Genocide theory was first advanced in the Baltic states (to be more precise, in Lithuania) soon after the fall of communism. Lithuania was also the first state to grant Double Genocide institutional recognition, by passing legislation that prohibits the denial of both Nazi and communist "genocides" in 2010. It was followed in the same year by similar legislation in Hungary. The denial of communist crimes was also introduced in the pe­nal codes (albeit in different forms) in Latvia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Moldova, and Ukraine.[72]

            Michael Shafir supports Dovid Katz’ pseudotheory (”Double Genocide theory”)[73] which exploits a real error: in the Baltic States the crimes against humanity and genocide were lumped together without considering the specificity of the latter. The Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights in Vilnius was named at its opening in 1992 the Museum of Genocide Victims, although it dealt exclusively with Soviet crimes.[74] The Law on responsibility for the genocide against the Lithuanian people adopted on 9 April 1992 stated that the genocide included the „murder, torture and deportation of Lithuanian inhabitants during the occupation and annexation of Lithuana by Nazi Germany and the USSR”. In Latvia, amendments to the criminal law from 1993 included under the legal definition of genocide crimes against social classes. In Estonia, amendments to the criminal law from 1994 extended the definition of genocide (which protects communities defined by their nationality, ethnicity, race and religion) to crimes against political and social groups. The indictments that brought in front of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian courts a dozen former agents involved in the Soviet repression after the annexation of these countries in 1940, accused them of genocide. Treating these criminals as perpetrators of a “genocide” violates the definition established in international law.[75]   

Dovid Katz criticizes justifiably the use of the term “genocide” in the Baltic States in a manner inconsistent with the letter of International Law. The confusion created by the incorrect use of a fundamental concept in International Criminal Law has created a discourse and sometimes legal problem.[76] But the issue of the moral equivalence of the Holocaust and communist crimes, or of the denial of communist crimes and of genocides, is an ethical one. Assigning the label of the „double genocide” to legislation and practices specific to the Baltic States is irrelevant to the theme of the treatment of equivalence and negationism issues. But Katz states that the error in terminology represents a form of negationism (of the Holocaust), represents ”the deadliest form of denial”,[77] uses ”Orwellian Eurospeak” of the "equal evaluation of totalitarian regimes”[78], is the creation of ”ultranationalists”, who ”are neither skinheads nor toughs”, on the contrary, ”the elites are suave, silver-tongued, charming and highly educated, especially about history”.[79]

Katz’ epithets are not expressions of a judgment; they are not linked to his assumptions. Naming some crimes against humanity a „genocide” does not lead to the consequences listed by Katz. In his article, Michael Shafir promotes Katz’ concepts and attitudes in his interpretation of the issue of the memory of the Holocaust in Romania.

The fact that the Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide doesn’t protect political groups is a major shortcoming of this International Criminal Law instrument. The number of acts aiming to annihilate political groups has been since 1945 four times larger than the number of genocides.[80] The definition of the crime of genocide answered the wish of the Soviet delegation from 1948 to have free rein to terrorize on political grounds. In addition to the international horror created by the discovery of the extent of the abhorrent crimes against the Jews. Consequently, ”the inception and subsequent defining of genocide—a crime prevalent in all periods of history—in the 1940s was influenced primarily by a single historical event”. Theoreticians like David Shea Bettwy think that this ”raises questions at the present time regarding the definition of genocide, given the prevalence of widespread atrocities in our contemporary world. Indeed, the travaux préparatoires of the Genocide Convention confirm that the drafters used the events of the Jewish Holocaust as guidance in devising the legal definition.”[81]

Grave compromising of research deontology

In his introductory text, Alexandru Florian states:

„Temele 'legii antilegionare' din perspectiva eticii memoriei" by Gabriel Andreescu, a human rights activist, surveys the various reactions to the law. It is a biased and polemical work critical of the law, in which the author argues in favor of ”ethnicisation” of the ethics of memory.[82]

Alexandru Florian has certainly read my study about the issues of the ethics of memory, because he sent me a letter regarding that text. A subchapter of the study was published in Noua Revistă de Drepturile Omului under the title „O etică umanistă a memoriei” (“A humanist ethics of memory”). In it I talked about „types of insensitivity that result from the ethnicisation of the ethics of memory”, I stated that „the ethnicization of the ethics and politics of memory is contrary to the steps taken by the international doctrine on the treatment of the communist past”, I mentioned the „former Marxists and researchers interested in the ethnicization of the ethics of memory” and I advocated for „a humanist ethics and politics of memory” that opposes the „ethnicization and ideologization of the ethics and politics of memory”.

Throughout and in detail, I advocated a humanist approach to the ethics of memory in opposition to the ethniciste and ideologic approaches that I was criticizing. Yet Alexandru Florian states the exact opposite and discredits my statements through a willful misreading of them. He didn’t do this is a text published in Romania, where the falsity would be immediately identified, but in English, through a prestigious American publishing house.


Florian is not alone in his attempts at defamation. Several statements by Michael Shafir are about me and constitute an attack ad personam. I quote only a few:

One of Condurache's edited volumes is extensively cited in article published by Professor Gabriel Andreescu, who joined the attack against [Alexandru] Florian, making personal family allegations for which he was forced to apol­ogize when threatened with a lawsuit.[83]


Nonetheless, Andreescu republished the same article in the Bucharest weekly Contemporanul[84] soon after, replacing the original attacks ad personam with others, seeking to demonstrate that Florian, "who determines the policy of the Elie Wiesel Institute, pro­moted under[v3]  the former regime Lenin's ideas, nourished the Nicolae Ceauşescu cult, and was an active supporter of communist ideology." The references were an obvious effort to discredit the Institute through "guilt by association." In fact, very few social science or history author; had a chance to see their work published if they declined to introduce quotes such as those mentioned by Andreescu.[85]


Though [the aesthetician, philosopher, and former minister of culture and for­eign affairs Andrei] Pleşu and Andreescu are known personal adversaries, they were on the same "wavelength" vis-a-vis the amended leg­islation.[86] In the spirit of Double Genocide and Holocaust obfuscation, Pleşu called for ”symmetry” in addressing legally the two totalitarian legacies and claimed that tribunals that had sentenced wartimes had been under communist influence”.[87]


As in other former communist countries, there is a predom­inant sentiment in Romania that the trauma of communist rule is neglected by the West, which imposed on the new postcommunist regimes a mem­ory that is not their own. Sometimes (in Andreescu's, but not Pleşu's case) the implication is that this imposition is instrumentalized by the Jews.[88] 

Michael Shafir suggests that the exhaustive review I wrote about the book by Cezarina Condurache Eroii anticomunişti şi sfinţii închisorilor reincriminaţi prin legea 217/2015,[89] had the purpose of promoting and supporting her hostility towards Alexandru Florian. The fallaciousness of this suggestion is verifiable.[90]

The phrase ”making personal family allegations [regarding Alexandru Florian] for which he was forced to apol­ogize when threatened with a lawsuit” includes two dishonorable fabrications.[91] I never discussed the private life of members of the Florian family. Shafir misrepresents the fact that several times I pointed to the communist past of the director of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute as being incompatible with the status of official evaluator of the standards of the ethics of memory. In the article mentioned I attributed several pro-communist paragraphs to Florian although he hadn’t written them.[92] The confusion is easily explainable: the author of the book from which the paragraphs were selected has the same first and last name as him and was part, like Alexandru Florian, of the communist propaganda apparatus. I, of course, expressed my regret and fixed the mistake, including by broadcasting the errata. The quotes were changed but the general thrust of my argument didn’t change because Alexandru Florian wrote a variation of the same ideas published by his namesake. To eliminate any ambiguity, I will quote the paragraphs in error (only slightly shortened for space):

Finally, Alexandru Florian, the person leading the policy of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute, promoted during the previous regime the ideas of Lenin[93], contributed to the cult of personality of Nicolae Ceaușescu and was an active supporter of the communist ideology, the Romanian Communist Party and the communist regime. During the dark ‘80s, director Alexandru Florian was doing propaganda for the “wise” theses of Nicolae Ceaușescu, often quoted in his writing[94]. All the platitudes of the regime can be found in his writings, treated as a guide to thought and action, expressed in the well-known manner of the activists, like: „The Programme of the Romanian Communist Party, starting from the main processes that characterize our country, indicates the means of accelerating and guiding these processes […][95]; “our party’s documents” underline the need to elaborate “a vast program of theoretical, ideological, analysis activity, in the spirit of the materialist-dialectic conception, of all internal and international phenomena, to be able to arrive at all the relevant conclusions for further activity”[96].

One of the main thesis of the two books published by Alexandru Florian before 1989 is that of the superiority of our society over democracies. While „The structural unity of capitalism is limited by the antagonistic character of its contradictions […]”[97], in socialism „the political integration manifests itself through the unity of action of the social classes and groups. The uni­ty is characterized by the leading role of the working class under the leadership of the communist party”[98]. In capitalism[v4] , „Man turns from an alienated economic agent, with limited opportunities for social expression, into an active, self-aware force of economic, social-political and cultural life”[99]. […] Socialist democracy ensures in fact the opportunity for the people to participate in leading society, in deciding its own destiny, in creating the future it wishes”[100]

The issue of fascism, today a topic of great interest to the director of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute, can also be found. But in the following terms:

The Romanian Communist Party was the only political force able to offer a democratic, social and political alternative to the Antonescu dictatorship. The working class, organized and led by the communist party, advocated tirelessly against the fascist dictatorship and for the separation of Romania from the Axis Powers …”[101].

Shafir excuses Florian since „very few social science or history authors had a chance to see their work published if they declined to introduce quotes such as those mentioned”. Not only are there social sciences books that were published at the time without following the platitudes of Marxism-Leninism, but the quoted paragraphs are not „propaganda quotes” put in the book in order to save the “work”. Alexandru Florian’s books are in their entirety a piece of communist propaganda. For the Romanian reader, those who were adults during communism, the falsification is too obvious to be used by the author. But it can be “sold” to American/Anglo-Saxon readers.

My reference to Alexandru Florian’s past as a communist propagandist is motivated by the same principles that lead Michael Shafir to condemn the inclusion of authors with legionary sympathies within institutions of the Romanian state.[102] Discussing the situation within the “Elie Wiesel” Institute doesn’t discredit the Institute, doesn’t create „guilt by association”. The Institute is discredited by the choice of a former agent of the communist propaganda apparatus as its leader. This choice has important negative consequences on the reputation and the activity of this institution. The volume published by Indiana University Press is a part of the campaign conducted in its name against anticommunism. Such a campaign was to be expected given that the Honor Board and the Scientific Board of the Institute include a former officer of the communist political police, one of its collaborators, an important member of the communist nomenclatura indicted for crimes against humanity and other former communist activists. The legitimate and official purpose of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute is to broaden the knowledge and understanding of the tragedy of the Holocaust for which Romanian authorities were responsible beginning in 1940. Given the history of its main decision-makers, the most visible activity of the Institute has become the trivialization of communist crimes and the denigration of those promoting their memory – including myself.


It came as a surprise that Michael Shafir refers in this “scientific” volume to private matters like the “personal adversity” between former Minister Andrei Pleșu and myself. Those interested in the memory of the Holocaust are introduced to topics that they would probably prefer to avoid. The statement is also wrong – the rebukes Andrei Pleșu and I leveled at each other through the press were always strictly about issues of public interests. In our personal life our interactions are cordial.

Finally, the idea that „the Jews instrumentalise the imposition of a memory that is not theirs” is not mine. Michael Shafir should have provided at least one example. Otherwise it is only a slanderous statement. The problem is that Shafir and Florian present their opinions as representative of the thinking of the entire Jewish community. But Jews have diverse and nuanced opinions about the memory of the 20th century as do all people.


The paragraphs above will be seen as a harsh criticism of the volume published by Indiana University Press. The collaborators of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute repeat in their writings published in Romania and in this ethnicized and ideologized statements without addressing current trends in academia and the international doctrine on the treatment of totalitarian crimes.[103] They deny the issue and the relevance of „political genocide” while ignoring the academic literature that asks for more ethics and more pragmatism from international law. I referred above to the research of David Shea Bettwy. I add now another of his arguments that discusses the logic of international law:

A direct criminal prohibition on political genocide is the natural consequence of recognizing and protecting the human rights implicated by the offence [the infringement of right to life]. It is illogical for international law to protect the political rights of individuals to organize in groups in the first place (rights to assemble, to form political par­ties, to communicate ideas to one another, etc.) but not to treat the physical and biological destruction of the political groups arising out of that collective political activity as a criminal offence. Collective political rights are meaningful only if individuals are not subject to physical or biological destruction for exercising […] political beliefs in concert with others.”[104]

The criticism towards the theses supported by “the leading intellectuals of postcommunist Romania” have been repeated over the past couple of decades. Mainly, their appeal that communist crimes receive a “symmetrical” treatment to that given Nazi crimes is a target of criticism. Those accused ask for a moral equivalence of the two totalitarianisms that have bloodied the 20th century. For this they are treated as provincial thinkers whose interest in the ethics of memory are outside the international debate.[105] But the position of  ”the most influential intellectuals” (George Voicu’s phrasing) is now the doctrine of European organizations. The Resolution of the European Parliament at the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe (2005), Resolution 1481 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (The need to condam internationally the crimes committed by communist totalitarian regimes - 2006), the Declaration of the European Parliament on proclaiming 23 August as the European Day for commemorating the victims of Stalinism and Nazism (2008), the Resolution of the European Parliament on the European conscience and totalitarianism (2009), the Vilnius Declaration of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE (2009) insist on the symmetry and the moral equivalence.[106]

The theoreticians of the relationship between the memory of Nazi crimes and of communist crimes anchored their judgments to the new legal realities within their countries. In Romania, the Criminal Code in force treats equally the responsibility for crimes against humanity (in particular those politically motivated) and the responsibility for genocide.[107]

It is illogical and illegitimate for persons in public office to launch attacks against some intellectuals because the latter support the criminal norms in their society. Maybe in the ‘90s the positions of the anti-anticommunists made some sense. In 2018 they are, to quote one of those involved in the debate, „încremenite în proiect”.


It is possible that the reviewers of Indiana University Press recommended publishing the collective work of the collaborators of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute because of the complexity of the subject, the specificity of national contexts, and the plurality of perspectives. The fact that in such a sensitive and important area nobody can be the arbiter of “professional standards” may explain the lowering of professional requirements.

One has to ask however if the reviewers missed the personal attacks incompatible with the standards of an academic publisher. The style of some of the allegations should have prompted an attempt to verify them. The publication of this volume compromises not only Alexandru Florian and Michael Shafir but also the publisher who offered a platform for attacks contrary to professional deontology and lacking fair play.


* Prof. univ. Universitatea de Vest, Timișoara E-mail: editor.csi@gmail.com Received on 20 September 2019.

[1] Alexandru Florian (ed.),  Holocaust Public Memory in Poscommunist Romania, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 2018,  ISBN 978-0-253-03271-3, 291 pages

[2] There are, of course, other books dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust in Romania that include articles written by Romanian authors, which are part of the same professional community – see Valentina Glajar, Jeanine Teodorescu (eds.), Local History, Transnational Memory in the Romanian Holocaust, Palgrave Macmillan US, 2011. In their case we cannot say they “represent” the activity of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute.

[3] For public statements regarding anti-communism, see http://www.socialistul.ro/subiecte/partidul-alternativa-socialista/.

[4] For the „group for social, intellectual and political criticism” CriticAtac, anti-communism represents an ideological dead-end (see http://www.criticatac.ro/despre-noi/ - accessed 1 September 2019).

[5] The phrase „primitive anti-communism” has been used to mean several things, including as a way to discredit social-democratic policies (see the speech by MP Mihai Dumitriu of PSD during the Chamber of Deputies meeting on 15 April 2008 - (http://www.cdep.ro/pls/steno/steno.stenograma?ids=6480&sir=&sep=and&idv=4493&idl=1&prn=1).

[7] Claude Karnoouh, „Anticomunismul – boala capitalismului senil” (“Anti-communism – the disease of a senile capitalism”), CriticAtac, 25 August 2010 (https://www.criticatac.ro/anticomunismul-%E2%80%93-boala-capitalismului-senil/ - accessed on 14 September 2019).

[8] Dumitru Popescu, Spaţiile dintre negru şi alb: dialog printre gratii, (“The spaces between black and white: a dialog across prison bars”) Biblioteca Bucureştilor, Bucureşti 2011.

[9] Alexandru Florian, ”The Perception of the Holocaust in Historiography and in the Romanian Media,” in Valentina Glajar, Jeanine Teodorescu (eds.), Local History, Transnational Memory in the Romanian Holocaust, Palgrave Macmillan US, 2011, 19-45.

[10] See the Political Declaration of President Traian Băsescu on 18 December 2006, following the adoption of the Final Report of the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania (https://www.presidency.ro/ro/media/discursuri/discursul-presedintelui-romaniei-traian-basescu-br-prilejuit-de-prezentarea-raportului-br-comisiei-prezidentiale-pentru-analiza-dictaturii-comuniste-din-romania-br-bucuresti-18-decembrie-2006 - accessed on 24 September 2019). 

[11] Crimes against humanity, along genocide/Holocaust, are among the four imprescriptible international crimes.

[12] Ana Bărbulescu, Ethnocentric Mindscapes and Mnemonic Myopia”…, p. 5.

[13] Ibidem.

[14] Idem., p. 25.

[15] As real or imaginary as this may be.

[16] Idem, p.  29.

[17] Idem, p. 32.

[18] The ferocity of this crime led some researchers to refer to Dinulescu as ”the Eichmann of Romania.”

[19] This refers to the Emergency Ordinance no. 31 from 13 March 2002 on prohibiting organizations, symbols and acts with fascist, legionary, racist or xenophobic character and prohibiting the worship of those guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

[20] Alexandru Climescu, “Law, Justice, and Holocaust Memory in Romania”, …, p. 89

[21] The trial started in the presence of the accused Ionel Dumitrescu (Dimitrescu), Romulus Dianu, Romulus Seişeanu, Ilie Rădulescu, Ilie Popescu-Prundeni, Alexandru Hodoş, Radu Demetrescu-Gyr; were absent: Pamfil  Şeicaru, Stelian Popescu, Grigore Manoilescu, Gabriel Bălănescu, Pan M. Vizirescu, Aurel Cosma and Dobre Ion (Nichifor Crainic).

[22] Initiated ex officio or based on complaints.

[23] The case that drew the widest public attention was the trial of Grigore Opriţă from 2003 to 2005; he was charged for nationalist-chauvinistic propaganda, the dissemination, selling, making and possession – for the purpose of dissemination – of fascist, racist and xenophobic symbols. He was sentenced to 5 years of prison.

[24] Simon Geissbűhler, ”Wanting-Not-to-Know” about the Holocaust in Romania” …, p. 165.

[25] Idem., p. 154.

[26] Idem., p. 165.

[27] Marius Cazan, “Ion Antonescu's Image in Postcommunist Historiography”…, p. 217.

[28] Idem., p. 220.

[29] Idem., p. 227.

[30] Idem., p. 231.

[31] Ibidem.

[32] See, among other, John Lukacs’ statement: „Hitler was not a simple case. The popular image of his character and life is one of a narrow-minded fanatic: that is incorrect, imprecise and incomplete. He was filled with hatred rather than narrow-minded: two inclinations that are not the same (first of all, because hate sharpens the mind while narrowness darkens and limits it). By describing him as crazy or even psychotic, we absolve him of his responsibility for what he had done and ordered and stated. This interpretation delivers us from the obligation to think over Hitler’s case, by swiping it under the rug. This is not to be done. There are still unsettled questions, questions to be debated, regarding Hitler (John Lukacs, The Legacy of the Second World War, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2010, p. 86).

[33] Adina Babeș, ”Rethinking Perpetrators, Bystanders, Helpers/Rescuers”, …., p. 277.

[34] Ibidem.

[35] Alexandru Florian, “Mircea Vulcănescu, a Controversial Case: Outstanding Intellectual or War Criminal?”, …, p. 175.

[36] Ibidem., p. 179.

[37] The release by the Romanian National Bank of a commemorative coin depicting Mihail Manoilescu was based entirely on his academic credentials. Manoilescu is an example of a personality whose memory has nothing to do with his status as an anticommunist.

[38] I will mention only three substantive books each regarding the first three men of culture listed by Florian. Regarding Mircea Eliade: Florin Turcanu, Mircea Eliade; Prizonierul istoriei, Humanitas, București, 2006 (French edition, 2003);  Mihaela Gligor and Liviu Bordaș (eds.), Postlegomena la Felix Culpa. Mircea Eliade, evreii și antisemitismul, Presa Universitară Clujeană, Cluj, 2013; Moshe Idel, Mircea Eliade. De la magie la mit, Polirom, Iași, 2014. Regarding Emil Cioran: Ion VarticCioran naiv și sentimental, Ed. Biblioteca Apostrof, Cluj, 2000; Marta Petreu, Un trecut deocheat sau Schimbarea la față a României, Ed. Institutului Cultural Român, București, 2004; Mircea A. DiaconuCui i-e frică de Emil Cioran?, Editura Cartea Românească, București, 2008. Regarding Mircea Vulcănescu: *** Nae Ionescu și discipolii săi în arhiva securității vol.5: Mircea Vulcănescu, editura Eikon, București, 2013;  Ionuț Butoi, Mircea Vulcănescu. O microistorie a interbelicului românesc,  Editura Eikon, București, 2015; Ionuț Butoi, Canonizare, demitizare și realism științific. Studii despre Mircea Vulcănescu, Editura Eikon, București, 2017.

[39] Alexandru Florian, “Mircea Vulcănescu, a Controversial Case …”, p. 183.

[40] Ibidem.

[41] Idem., p. 181.

[42] Just one example: Alexandru Florian states that one of the researchers specialized on Mircea Vulcănescu, Ionuţ Butoi, offers a rosy picture of reality (Mircea Vulcănescu, o microistorie a interbelicului românesc, p. 274). I quote: „According to Ionuț Butoi, it is possible that when Antonescu asked Vulcănescu to join his government, the latter asked for some thinking time and only agreed after a while" (p. 192). Florian comments: „Butoi offers a romanticized version, based on the journal of Vulcănescu’s wife, of the moment when the latter accepted the governmental post. It is to be assumed that the family held a meeting and his ten years old daughter asked him not to accept the position”. Vulcănescu also mentions this “thinking time” during his inquest (CNSAS Archives, Alexandru Marcu et al., DP 000232, vol. 10, f. 121). Two separate sources that appear authentic: a “statement during inquest” and a “journal” state the same thing. Florian was aware of the “thinking time” detail from the files in the CNSAS Archives also, because he cites Vulcănescu’s statements that can be found there. Nonetheless, a researcher may have doubts regarding the validity of some documents, in which case he would eliminate them from among his working materials. But it goes against professional standards to deny the statements, to sow distrust in them – as the director of the “Elie Wiesel” Institute does – without offering other sources and other arguments.

[43] I find it relevant in this context that no Romanian man of culture wrote on the responsibility of Romanian society for the Holocaust some equivalent to the works of Ernst Jaspers, „Conștiința culpei” (“A conscience of culpability” – exista un Karl Jaspers care a scris “The Question of German Guilt”?!? Nu gasesc Ernst) or the text by István Bibó, „Problema evreiască în Ungaria după 1944” (“The Jewish issue in Hungary after 1944”). István Bibó’s text has not been published in Romanian.

[44] Among others, Lucian Nastasă-Kovacs is the author or coordinator of the volumes Evreii din România. Mărturii documentare (1945-1965), (“Jews in Romania: documentary evidence 1945-1965”) Centrul pentru Resurse și Diversitate Etnoculturală, Cluj, 2003 (coord.); Pogromul itinerant sau decembrie antisemit – Oradea, 1927, (“The itinerant pogrom or an anti-Semitic December – Oradea 1927”) Edit. Curtea Veche, București, 2014; Antisemitismul universitar în România (1919-1939). Mărturii documentare, (“Academic anti-Semitism in Romania 1919-1939. Documentary evidence”) Edit. ISPMN/Kriterion, Cluj, 2011.

[45] George Voicu, “Postcommunist Romania's Leading`s Intellectuals and the Holocaust”, … p. 42.

[46] Idem, p. 43.

[47] The selection ignores one aspect of the complexity of the politics of memory, that the collective memory reflects not only the consensus of different approaches but also their diversity, and the latter determines the pace of change.

[48] Idem, p. 45.

[49] Ibidem, Gabriel Liiceanu, Ușa interzisă, (p. 257) translated by Alexandru Voicu.

[50] Idem, p. 51. In more detail: ”Within these approaches according to the strategy adopted by these intellectuals, but also to the conclusions they reach, this study detected two main attitudes. The first, and by far the more prevalent in the public discourse equates the crimes of communism to the Holocaust following a strictly equalizing logic whereby the conclusion is always the same: the Holocaust and the Gulag are ostensibly alike, as there is nothing that essentially sets them apart. In the opinion of these intellectuals} the two totalitar­ian ideologies that inspired the two series of crimes are almost identical in nature (even with regard to antisemitism and racism).

However, this martyrological equalization, while very prevalent, does not satisfy all of the aforementioned intellectuals. For some - though notably fewer - the Gulag hangs heavier in the balance of horrors than the Holo­caust. The value judgment that "absolute evil" can be found in communism is supported by pointing to the supposedly more pronounced evilness of  this ideology (relative to fascism), or more commonly, to statistics that in­dicate that the criminal record of fascism pale in comparison to that of communism.

These two attitudes usually go hand in hand with a strong sense of frustration that the memory of the two types of victims is allegedly one­ sided, that the Gulag does not have the place it deserves in the conscious­ ness of posterity. Finally, the research highlights the distortions of the concept of the Holocaust as a consequence of these parallel-competitive approaches.” (Ibidem, p. 65).

[51] Idem, p. 47.

[52] The full of vanity rhetoric of the text was pointed out by other commentators. In Observator Cultural, Ovidiu Șimonca mentioned an „dislikable egocentrism” (Ovidiu Șimonca, „Ce ar fi de înţeles, domnule Liiceanu?”, Observator Cultural nr. 698, 6.11.2013).

[53]Alain Beçanson, A Century of Horrors. Communism, Nazism, and the Uniqueness of the Shoah, ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 2007, p. xiv.

[54] Norman Davies, No simple. Victory. World War II in Europe, 1939-1945, Viking, New York, 2006, p. 13.

[55] V. N. Davis, Europe: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 1033.

[56] V. R.J. Misiunas and R. Taagepera, The Baltic States: Years of dependence, 1940 – 1980, Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983, p. 41.

[57] Yehuda Bauer, "Remembering the Holocaust Accurately," The Jerusalem Post, January 26, 2014.

[58] Idem, p. 64.

[59] Yehuda Bauer, "Remembering the Holocaust Accurately"….

[60] Such a request is in no way different from the position of Ion Antonescu apologists who state that Jews should thank the former Romanian military dictator for not sending to the death camps created by Germany over 300.000 Jews living in Romania.

[61] Timothy Snyder, Pămantul negru: Holocaustul ca istorie și avertisment, Humanitas, București, p. 261.

[62] Idem, p. 134.

[63] The theologian Radu Preda, who was close to the former Metropolitan Valeriu Anania and was favored by the former Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

[64] Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu joined the Legionary Movement as a pupil and was not involved in its criminal activity. He is famous for leading the Partisan Group Carpatin Făgărășan, and being able to escape capture by the political police for 21 years after the Group was dismantled. 

[65] Idem., p. 132. This refers to József Antall, the president of the Hungarian Democratic Forum who won the first free elections in postcommunist Hungary in 1990, and Andrzej Sebastian Duda, president of Poland from 2015.

[66] Ibidem.

[67] 66 Romanians became Polish Righteous among the Nations. In neighboring countries: Ungaria – 867, Serbia – 139, Bulgaria – 20.

[68] See Timothy Snyder, Pămantul negru: Holocaustul ca istorie și avertisment ..., pp. 119-124.

[69] Witold J. Lukaszewski, „Polish Losses in World War II” - http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~sarmatia/498/losses.html (accessed 25 September 2019).

[70] ”The defining trauma: 1791, the vast kingdom of Poland was partitioned and devoured whole in 1795 by the Prussian, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Poland's sovereignty, its Golden Age, and its democracy came to a definitive close: Poles were plunged into feudal rule under three different autocrats for over six generations. Thus, Polish identity in the nineteenth century developed along ethnocultural and bloodlines instead of' along civic and territorial lines. Instead of separation of church and state, religion was the sole consis­tent carrier of the national of the national ethos” (Anamaria Orla-Bukowska, ”New Threads on an Old Loom: National Memory and Social Identity in Postwar and Post-Communist Poland,” in Richard Ned Lebow, Wulf Kansteiner, and Claudio Fogu, The Memory of Politics in Postwar Europe, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2006, p. 179).

[71] Michael Shafir, „Romania: Neither « Fleishig » nor « Milschig »: A Comparative Study” …,  p.  104.

[72] Idem., p. 105.

[73] Dovid Katz defines the „double genocid” as the motion that „there were two equal holocausts, Soviet and Nazi” (Dovid Katz, ”Understanding ‘Double Genocide’: a lethal new threat to Holocaust memory and honesty” - http://defendinghistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Dovid-Katz-on-Double-Genocide-20111.pdf.)

[74] According to International Criminal Law, Soviet crimes are crimes against humanity.

[75] See among others, Vello Pettai, Eva-Clarita Pettai, Transitional and Retrospective Justice in the Baltic States, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2015.

[76] Since then the situation has changed. In 1999, the Estonian Supreme Court decided to separate genocide and crimes against humanity in order to harmonize Estonian legislation with international norms. In the trial of former security agent Vytautas Vasiliauskas against Lithuania, the Court in Strasbourg decided that the interpretation given by the Lithuanian Constitutional Court to the crime of genocide disagrees with International Criminal Law. The decision in favor of Vytautas Vasiliauskas was split: 9 for and 8 against (Eva-Clarita Pettai , ”Prosecuting Soviet genocide: comparing the politics of criminal justice in the Baltic states”, European Politics and Society, Vol. 18, issue 1, 2016, pp. 52-65).

[77] Dovid Katz, ”'Double Genocide' has become the deadliest form of denial”, January 22, 2015 - https://www.thejc.com/comment/analysis/double-genocide-has-become-the-deadliest-form-of-denial-1.64725.

[78] Dovid Katz, “Why is the US silent on 'double genocide'?”, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 21 December 2010 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/dec/21/double-genocide-baltic-us-europe).

[79] Dovid Katz, Dovid Katz, ”Understanding ‘Double Genocide’: a lethal new threat to Holocaust memory and honesty” - http://defendinghistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Dovid-Katz-on-Double-Genocide-20111.pdf. p. 6.

[80] Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr, ”Toward Empirical Theory of Genocides and Politicides. Identification and Measurement of Cases since 1945”, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Sep., 1988), pp. 359-371.

[81] David Shea Bettwy, ”The Genocide Convention and Unprotected Groups…”, p. 168.

[82] Alexandru Florian, ”Memory under Construction…”, p. xxx, note 10. Florian is referring to my article: Gabriel Andreescu „Temele « legii antilegionare »”din perspectiva eticii memoriei”, Noua Revistă de Drepturile Omului nr. 4, 2015, pp. 3-44.

[83] Michael Shafir, p. 109.

[84] Contemporanul is actually a monthly.

[85] Idem., p. 137 – note 53.

[86] The statement is only half true. My analysis was a “technical” one, in legal terms, while Andrei Pleșu’s was a value statement.

[87] Idem., p. 114.

[88] Ibidem.

[89] Cezarina Condurache (coord.), Eroii anticomunişti şi sfinţii închisorilor reincriminaţi prin legea 217/2015, Editura Evdomikos, Fundaţia Profesor George Banu, Bucureşti, 2015.

[90] In my article I pointed to the ideological leanings of the book: „Cezarina Condurache, the book coordonator, has „legionary leanings and has selected opinions regarding the law from this angle...” (Gabriel Andreescu, „Temele « legii antilegionare »...” ..., p. 8).

[91] The phrasing is meant to associate me with an embarrassing situations.

[92] There were also two factual errors that didn’t have and couldn’t have polemical value.

[93] One of the quotes regarding Lenin: „Showing the meaning given to the fact that the values of political conscience are «brought from the outside » Lenin further underlines: «political conscience can only be brought to the worker from the outside, that is outside of the economic struggle, from outside of the sphere of worker-employer relations " » […] It is a specialized activity within the sphere of social and historical praxis, through which the values, ideas and norms that structure the revolutionary conscience of the working class are embraced by the differet categories of the proletariate” (Alexandru R. Florian, Cunoaștere și acțiune socială, Editura Politică, 1987, p. 131).

[94] One of many quotes: „To this point, the General Se­cretary of the party underlined at the 13th Congress of the R.C.P. that, « in the entire ideological activity, in the party system of education, it is necessary to ensure the study of the Marxist-Leninist philosophy, of the main works of Marx, Engels and Lenin, as well as of other contemporary theoretical works »” (Alexandru R. Florian, Cunoaștere și acțiune socială…, p. 10).

[95] Alexandru R. Florian, Procesul integrării sociale, Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică, 1983, pp. 15-16.

[96] Alexandru R. Florian, Cunoaștere și acțiune socială…, pp. 66- 67

[97] Alexandru Florian, Procesul integrării sociale…, p. 36.

[98] Alexandru Florian, Procesul integrării sociale…, p. 41.

[99] Alexandru R. Florian, Cunoaștere și acțiune socială…, p. 125.

[100] Alexandru R. Florian, Cunoaștere și acțiune socială…, pp. 41-42

[101] Alexandru R. Florian, Cunoaștere și acțiune socială…, p. 145.

[102] See Michael Shafir’s harsh comment, in his article, regarding the appointment of journalist Elisabeta Stănciulescu to the Council of Administration of Public Television. Shafir was motivated by the journalist’s enthusiasm regarding legionary personalities like the poet Radu Gyr, the philosopher Nae Ionescu and the leaders Moța and Marin (volunteers in the Spanish Civil War in the ‘30s). But Elisabeta Stănciulescu was (only) responsible for expressing publicly her sympathy for legionary personalities. She was not an educator paid to indoctrinate students into a criminal ideology, as Alexandru Florian had been.

[103] See in particular Gabriel Andreescu, Diana Botău, Măriuca Oana Constantin, Doctrina internațională a tratării trecutului comunist. Culegere și comentarii, C.H.Beck, Bucureşti, 2016.

[104] David L. Nersessian, Genocide and Political Groups, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 191.

[105] It is true that “ the leading intellectuals” do not follow the academic literature and hence are not familiar with the specialized language of the development of the ethics of memory on the European continent.

[106] For details see Gabriel Andreescu, Diana Botău, Măriuca Oana Constantin, Doctrina internațională a tratării trecutului comunist. Culegere și comentarii (The International Doctrine on Dealing with the Communism Past. Documents and Comments), C.H.Beck, Bucureşti, 2016.

[107] Article 439 of the Romanian Criminal Code on the crimes of genocide and against humanity regard „the persecution of a group or fixed community, by denying them fundamental human rights or by restricting severely the exercise of such rights, for political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious reasons…” (paragraph 1, j), and sanctions equally such acts “as part of an organized regime of systematic oppression and domination of a racial group by another (paragraph 2). 

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