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.