- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Romanian Holocaust

The U.S. ambassador to Romania yesterday applauded the steps the government has taken to confront anti-Semitism and admit Romania’s guilt in one of the worst massacres of Jews during World War II.

However, Ambassador Nicholas Taubman added, Romania must do much more to counter hate speech and denounce Holocaust deniers, whether they be in the universities or in politics.

Mr. Taubman, with Romanian Foreign Minister Razvan Ungureanu, spoke at a ceremony to mark the pogrom against Romanian Jews in June 1941 in the city of Iasi, where at least 10,000 died.

“We have come here this morning to remember one of the most heinous events of the Holocaust in Romania,” Mr. Taubman said. “Sixty-five years ago today, the streets of Iasi were filled with the sounds of breaking glass, gunshots, screams and then the crying and sobbing of thousands of people as they were herded from their homes and sent toward unspeakable horrors.”

Independent studies have estimated that Romania’s wartime government killed 280,000 to 380,000 Jews.

One report commissioned by the current government two years ago said, “Of all the allies of Nazi Germany, Romania bears responsibility for the deaths of more Jews than any country other than Germany itself.”

Mr. Taubman praised Romania for its “tremendous strides in breaking a nearly 60-year silence over the true history of the Holocaust.” Ion Iliescu was the first Romanian president to confront his country’s legacy when he addressed parliament in 2004.

“This shameful chapter in our recent past … must be neither forgotten nor minimized,” he said.

Mr. Taubman noted that the government created the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, designated a National Holocaust Remembrance Day and reformed the high school curriculum to tell the truth about Romania’s wartime crimes.

“I urge that this effort be expanded, including in universities, where tragically some history professors continue to deny that the Holocaust occurred here,” Mr. Taubman said.

He urged that Romania be on guard continually against racism and anti-Semitism.

“We cannot turn our backs when crowds of football fans brazenly use hate-inspired racial and ethnic epithets against opposing teams or violently attack peaceful marches by minority groups,” he said.

“We cannot stay silent when some in the media report half-truths about the Holocaust or appear to glorify war criminals. … Nor can we stand by when there remain individuals on the national political scene who continue to advocate anti-Semitism, xenophobia and bigotry.”

Belgian review

Fighting organized crime in Europe has been one of Belgium’s top priorities during its chairmanship of the continent’s main human rights and security commission, Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht told a congressional panel yesterday.

Halfway through its yearlong stewardship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Belgium has promoted programs to train police and judges among efforts to reduce crime in the 56-nation confederation.

“We hope we can bring more coherence between the numerous OSCE activities in the field and give more substance and backbone to these activities,” he told the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the congressional sister organization to the OSCE.

Mr. De Gucht also reported on Belgium’s efforts to pursue bureaucratic reform in the organization, which was founded in 1975 to promote human rights in Europe.

“I believe there is undoubtedly room for improving the efficiency of the organization,” he said. “However, I doubt there is reason to profoundly alter the nature of the organization or to tamper with the delicate balance of power within the organization itself.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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