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Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Romania is for the first time holding a Holocaust commemoration day for the hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews who were murdered during World War II.
The Romanian government denied that a Holocaust took place on its territory until last year, when its stand led to a diplomatic row with Israel.
The commemorations included a special session of parliament and a ceremony at Bucharest's main synagogue.
Many of Romania's Jews and members of other minorities, including gypsies, died in death camps located in the Transdniester region, now part of neighbouring Moldova. Others were killed in pogroms - in Bucharest and other towns - or in death trains.
The Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust says that about 420,000 of Romania's 750,000-strong Jewish community died - including 100,000 deported to Auschwitz from areas of the country then under Hungarian rule.
The deportations were ordered by Romania's wartime leader, Marshal Ion Antonescu, on 9 October 1941.
Holocaust Day would have been marked this year on 9 October, but it was moved to the 12th, to avoid clashing with a Jewish holiday.
During Romania's communist era, the public was told that Germans were the sole perpetrators of the Holocaust.
Antonescu was regarded as a war criminal who merely followed Hitler's orders.
However, he was held up as a hero by some Romanian nationalists after the country gained independence, because he fought a Soviet invasion in 1940.
Last year's row with Israel came after the government suggested there was no Holocaust within Romania's borders.
It later backed down, saying that administrations between 1940 and 1945 were "guilty of serious war crimes".
A committee, headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, was set up to study the Romanian Holocaust and publish its conclusions. Its report is expected soon.
About 6,000 Jews now live in the country.
Posted by Iulia Rasoiu : 10/13/2004 09:27:00 am
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