The Fate of Romanian Jewry under Fascism and Communism

March 20 2023

In her recent book Les Exportés (“The Exported”), the French writer Sonia Devillers tells the story of her Romanian Jewish grandparents’ experiences in the Holocaust, and what awaited them after survival. Danny Trom writes in his review:

Devillers’ story plunges us into the world of her maternal grandparents, that of the upwardly mobile Jewish bourgeoisie of pre-war Bucharest: cultivated, polyglot, music-loving, a family of artists, entrepreneurs, academics, Jews in spite of their efforts to be the least Jewish they could be—but nevertheless reluctant to change their name [lest they break with Jewishness completely]. The rise of Romanian fascism in the interwar period, which was profoundly anti-Semitic, followed by a pro-Nazi [regime during World War II], made the record of the Shoah in its Romanian form open to all sorts of manipulations after the war.

By the greatest of coincidences, because the Romanian government, an early ally of Nazi Germany, sensed that the Third Reich could fail and switched in extremis to the side of the Allies, the Jewish population of Bucharest, unlike that of the Romanian provinces, was in the end not deported, even though the “evacuation” plans, [a euphemism for mass slaughter], drawn up by the Romanian government were ready. Sonia Devillers’ family escaped.

A large portion of the country’s Jews survived as a result, despite the fact that the Romanian fascist regime participated in the extermination of the Jews to a greater extent than any other of Hitler’s allies. Thus, Trom observes, post-war, now-Communist Romania had more Jews than any other country in Eastern Europe save te Soviet Union. Despite being loyal Communists themselves, Devillers’ grandparents were deemed guilty of the crime of “cosmopolitanism.” But by 1962, the rulers of this impoverished dictatorship discovered they could hold its Jews ransom, and exchange them for such goods as pigs.

Read more at K.

More about: Anti-Semitism, Communism, East European Jewry, Holocaust, Romania

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount