22 October 2003
Today, the President of Romania, Ion Iliescu, will formally announce the establishment of an international commission to examine the history of the Holocaust in Romania. The Commission’s tasks are to establish the facts regarding the systematic murder of Romanian Jews during the Holocaust and to disseminate its findings in Romania and abroad. The Commission is chaired by Nobel Peace Laureate and Vice Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Prof. Elie Wiesel.
Among the participants in the ceremony will be Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev and Dr. Jean Ancel. Dr.Ancel is the author of comprehensive research on the Holocaust in Romania and the pogrom at Yassi published by Yad Vashem. These works are now being published in Romanian, in order to ease their accessibility in Romania.
Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev said:
“I congratulate the President of Romania on his courageous decision to confront Romania’s past. This is a vital step in the development process of the country’s democratic society, and a positive step in strengthening the ties between the Romanian Jewish community in Israel and abroad, and Romania. The fact that Prof. Wiesel is heading the Commission gives it special weight and historical significance”.
The Romanian Government has committed to adopt the findings of the Commission, which will be submitted in 2005. The Commission’s working group consists of recognized historians from Yad Vashem and other institutions, as well as public figures from Israel, Romania, the United States, Germany, and France. The Israeli members of the working group include Dr. Ancel, State Archivist Prof. Tuvia Friling, Dr. Leon Volovici, Dr. Raphael Vago, and Dr. Michael Shafir.
Shalev initiated the idea for the Commission in a letter to President Iliescu on July 27. This followed remarks made by Iliescu in an interview in which he stated that “the Holocaust was not unique to the Jewish population in Europe. Many others died in the same way,” and that also related to earlier remarks made by the Romanian government stating “within the borders of Romania between 1940 and 1945 there was no Holocaust.” Shalev’s letter received wide international support, and Iliescu immediately committed to the establishment of the Commission.
The Romanian government has pledged to disseminate the Commission’s findings to the Romanian public. It will publish them in Romanian and English; inform the public of them through the media, conferences for different target groups and decision-makers; create a website where the material will be available in Romanian and English; and disseminate knowledge about the Holocaust in Romania’s educational system via teacher training programs and the creation of educational materials. The Commission will also issue an analysis of current trends of Holocaust-denial in Romania and recommendations on ways to combat them.