The Iasi Pogrom, June-July 1941

A Photo Documentary from the Holocaust in Romania

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Radu Ioanid
  • Bloomington, IN: 
    Indiana University Press
    , September
     2017.
     200 pages.
     $40.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9780253025838.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

The present volume is the English translation of a 2014 photo album with the same title to which Radu Florian from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum added a narration substantially derived from one of his earlier books on the Holocaust in Romania. After the late Elie Wiesel’s foreword and an introduction by Florian, Radu Ioanid provides seventeen pages of narration, introducing the reader to the Iași pogrom, a genocide involving some 10,000 Romanian Jews in the country’s eastern region of Moldova. The volume also contains hundreds of black and white photos from eye witnesses to the tragedy, similar to the photographs one can see in history books about Auschwitz and other WWII German concentration camps.

The Iași Pogrom of late June and early July 1941 was not the first such pogrom of WWII in Romania; there was an earlier one in Bucharest in January 1941, in which over 100 Jews were killed. The Iași Pogrom was an early manifestation of the Holocaust in Romania, occurring only days after the country’s wartime leader, Marshal Ion Antonescu, ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union (part of the Axis Operation Barbarossa) on June 22, 1941, and about seven months before the Wannsee Conference of Berlin (January 1942) that decided upon the Final Solution for Europe’s “Jewish question.” Following the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, Romania had lost significant parts of its post-WWI territory to neighboring Hungary and to the Soviet Union. The city of Iași is the birthplace of Romanian fascism and there were many fascists and sympathizers with the Nazis in the city at the time of the pogrom. Antonescu was a Hitler ally who wanted to recover Bessarabia from the Soviet Union and Transylvania from neighboring Hungary on the condition of supporting Hitler in his war against the Soviet Union. The pogrom was ordered verbally by telephone from Bucharest by Marshal Ion Antonescu himself under the pretext that Romania’s Jews were Bolsheviks and Soviet sympathizers and that in Iași they shot at the advancing Romanian and German armies. The Jews of Iași were executed by soldiers, local police, and Romanians who were eager to get rid of their Jewish population and seize their property and businesses. However, the ultimate responsibility rests with Marshal Antonescu and his government.

The photographs that were put together in the volume from various archives illustrate the tragedy that unfolded for Iași’s Jewish population. This tragedy was to be repeated in other parts of Romania throughout WWII. It is now documented that some 350,000-400,000 Jews lost their lives in the territories still controlled by Romania’s war-time dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu. The photographs depict various gatherings of Jews who were driven to places where they would be shot, bodies of Jews strewn on the street with onlookers watching them from a distance but not daring to remove them; two Romanian death trains that transported Jews with no precise destination in conditions worse than for cattle in order to cause their death; piles of bodies taken down from the death trains at various locations; mutilated bodies; and other images of unimaginable tragedy that Romanians inflicted on the city’s Jewish population. Each photograph is accompanied by brief explanations, including eye-witness accounts from those who survived. This was a full-blown Romanian-ordered genocide that constituted the prelude to the future genocides that took place in the territories controlled by Romania in WWII.

Romania was in denial about the Holocaust having taken place on its territory until 2004 when the country’s President Ion Iliescu officially recognized it based on a comprehensive report produced by a commission under the leadership of Elie Wiesel. The present volume is an excellent illustration of one specific event belonging to the Holocaust. It can successfully be used to teach about the Holocaust in Romania and I recommend it strongly to anyone interested in learning more.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Lucian Turcescu is Professor of Theological Studies at Concordia University in Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

Date of Review: 
March 13, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Radu Ioanid is director of the International Archival Programs Division of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is the author of The Sword of the Archangel: Fascist Ideology in Romania, as well as The Holocaust in Romania: The Destruction of Jews and Gypsies under the Antonescu Regime, 1940–1944.

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