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 into handing over disputed territories to the Soviet Union (Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and Dorohoi), Hungary (Northern Transylvania) and Bulgaria (Southern Dobruja) in the summer and autumn of 1940. 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 an Iron Guard coup and forced them out of government. 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 in 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 that same year 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, which meant Romania had 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 Antonescu’s coup, antisemitism had been on the rise 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 ethno-religious 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 Romania 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 canceled. While emigration was now emphasized, no significant opportunities materialized 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.
The former State Archives of Romania were under a Soviet organizational model until 1996 when they became the National Archives of Romania, reorganized 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.
EHRI Research (Summary)
In Romania, EHRI has so far identified over 45 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) and the branch archives; the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Historical Military Archives; the ‘Elie Wiesel’ National Institute for the Study of Holocaust in Romania; the Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies; and the Center for the Study of the History of Romanian Jews. EHRI has surveyed and identified important Holocaust related collections stored by the National Archives of Romania, Historical Military Archives, the ‘Elie Wiesel’ Institute and the Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
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, organizations 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, and in Moldova.
EHRI Research (Extensive)
A. EHRI approach to Romania: Pre-existing research and available archival guides
In the case of Romania, EHRI could rely on a number of pre-existing works. They are specifically devoted to the Holocaust in Romania, and also to the Holocaust in Bessarabia and Transnistria. These works include the following monographs: Lya Benjamin (ed.), Evreii din România între anii 1940-1944 (The Jews in Romania between 1940-1944), 4 vols. (Bucharest: Hasefer, 1993); Alexandru Florian (ed.), Munca obligatory a evreilor din România (1940-1944) Documente (The Forced Work of Jews in Romania, 1940-1944, Documents) (Bucharest: Polirom, 2013); Matatias Carp, Cartea Neagră (The Black Book) (Bucharest: Diogene, 1996); Jean Ancel, Documents Concerning the Fate of the Romanian Jewry during the Holocaust, 12 vols. (New York: Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, 1986); Jean Ancel, Transnistria, 1941-1942, 3 vols. (Tel Aviv: The Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center, 2003); Radu Ioanid, The Holocaust in Romania: The Destruction of Jews and Gypsies Under the Antonescu Regime, 1940-1944 (Ivan R. Dee, 2008); Dennis Deletant, Hitler's Forgotten Ally: Ion Antonescu and his Regime, Romania 1940-1944 (Springer, 2006); Diana Dumitru, The State, Antisemitism, and Collaboration in the Holocaust: The Borderlands of Romania and the Soviet Union (Cambridge University Press, 2016); Vladimir Solonari, Purifying the Nation: Population Exchange and Ethnic Cleansing in Nazi-Allied Romania (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). EHRI has also relied on third parties that had previously carried out survey and copying work, such as the USHMM and Yad Vashem.
B. Characteristics of Romania's archival system
Romania has a centralized archival system with the National Archives of Romania (Arhivele Naţionale ale României, NAR) in charge of the State archival system. The state archives are made up of one major archive in Bucharest and multiple county branch archives. Several other state archives have their own archival system and collections. These include the Military Archives, the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Access to data in the NAR benefited from a protocol signed between NAR and the EHRI partner in Romania, the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of Holocaust in Romania. Access to data in the Military Archives was done via the Elie Wiesel Institute archival database.
C. EHRI identification and description results on Romania
C.I. In Romania
In Romania, EHRI has identified several archival institutions which hold documents on Romania, Bessarabia and Transnistria. For these institutions, EHRI has made over 1,000 Holocaust-relevant archival descriptions available. In the NAR, EHRI identified documents on actions of the Jewish Central Office in Romania, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Work, Health and Social Protection, Presidency of the Council of Ministers. These collections cover administrative, political and judicial orders, decisions, reports, issued by Romanian authorities related to administration in Romania, Bessarabia and Transnistria. In the Military Archives, EHRI identified documents concerning military decisions mainly covering the Romanian governorate in Transnistria.
C.II. In other countries
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 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, and in Moldova.