After the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement of August 1939 assigned Bessarabia to the Soviet sphere of interest, the Kingdom of Romania was pressured by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, in the summer and autumn of 1940, into handing over disputed territories to the Soviet Union (Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and Dorohoi), Hungary (Northern Transylvania) and Bulgaria (Southern Dobruja). King Carol II was forced to abdicate in July 1940. In his place, General Ion Antonescu formed a government with the far-right Iron Guard party, proclaiming the National Legionary State. It lasted until January 1941, when Antonescu suppressed the Iron Guard. On 20 November 1940, Romania officially joined the Axis alliance. Romania participated in the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Subsequently, Romania regained Northern Bukovina and Bessarabia and also administered its own zone of occupation on Soviet territory in Transnistria. The Antonescu regime was overthrown in the summer of 1944, as Soviet troops began entering the country from the East. Romania declared war on Germany in late August and went on to fight alongside the Red Army.

On the eve of the Second World War, Romania had a total population of about 19 million people. Approximately 760,000 of them were Jews, forming the third largest Jewish population in Europe after Poland and the Soviet Union. In the summer and autumn of 1940, the annexation of Romanian territory by the Soviet Union, Hungary and Bulgaria reduced the Jewish population of Romania to 342,000. Long before the Antonescu coup, antisemitism had been growing in Romania, especially in the eastern territories. The situation worsened with the rise of popular far-right movements and political parties like the Iron Guard, with murderous pogroms in 1940 and 1941 exacerbating the situation. The new Antonescu dictatorship implemented a policy of “Romanianisation”, discriminating against other groups and especially against the Jews. On 27 June 1941, in the city of Iasi, about 13,000 Jews were killed in a pogrom planned by Romanian authorities as well as during the subsequent deportations. In the summer of 1941, Romanian and German units, including Einsatzgruppe D, killed tens of thousands of Jews in Bukovina, Bessarabia and Dorohoi (territories regained from the Soviet Union). Antonescu ordered the banishment of the approximately 150,000 remaining Jews to Transnistria. Thousands died on the way. In September 1943, only approximately 50,000 were still alive in the ‘colonies’, ghettos and concentration camps (Pechora and Vapniarka) there. Most of the Ukrainian Jews native to Transnistria were killed by Romanian units between October 1941 and March 1942. In the summer of 1942, Antonescu began to back away from his extermination policy and mass deportations to Belzec were cancelled. While emigration was now emphasised, no significant opportunities materialised during the course of the war. Between 165,000 and 200,000 Romanian Jews were murdered or died during the Holocaust in Romania and the territories under its control. Additionally, 135,000 Jews from Northern Transylvania, who were under Hungarian rule between 1940 and 1944, perished.

Archival Situation

The former State Archives of Romania were under a Soviet organisational model until 1996 when they became the National Archives of Romania, organised by the Ministry of the Interior and Administrative Reform. There are now 42 regional branches, one in each county of Romania and one in Bucharest, with documents specifically related to the city. Parts of the Second World War Romanian archives were captured by the former Soviet Union. There are also private archives.

Apart from the National Archives and its regional branches, key archives for Holocaust research include the Archives of the Ministry of the Interior, the Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry in Bucharest and Pitesti, the Archives of the Jewish Community as well as the Archives of the Center for the Study of Jewish History of Romania.

EHRI Research (Summary)

In Romania, EHRI was able to identify 19 archival institutions which are relevant for Holocaust research, including the National Archives of Romania (Arhivele National ale României, formerly known as the Romanian State Archives), the Romanian Ministry of National Defence and the Center for the Study of the History of Romanian Jews (Centrului Pentru Studiul Istoriei Evreilor Din Romania, CSIER). However, EHRI has yet to survey and describe their collections.

Outside of Romania, EHRI was able to identify vast Holocaust-relevant collections at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which holds numerous selected records from various Romanian archives, institutions, organisations and individuals pertaining to the Holocaust period. They contain important source material produced by central government bodies, military and civilian authorities. Furthermore, Yad Vashem possesses important Holocaust-relevant material on Romania, such as the Wilhelm Filderman Archive: Chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, 1924-1947, and the Romanian Collection, which contains documentation on the fate of Romanian Jews during the Holocaust period. Due to Romania’s expansion into Soviet territory during the Second World War, vast collections of Holocaust-relevant sources regarding Romania could also be identified in Ukraine, especially at the State Archives of the Odessa and Mykolaiv Oblasts.