President Klaus Iohannis sent on Monday a message on the occasion of the commemoration of the 79th anniversary of the Iasi pogrom, stressing that remembrance of the violent events back then is also a firm commitment to fighting the extremist tendencies of today.
“79 years ago, a bloody event left a profound imprint on our past and will continue to cast a shadow on our history and keep our consciences alert. One of the most terrible World War II pogroms took place in Iasi, where acts of unimaginable cruelty brought the local community the sad reputation of having abdicated the fundamental values of humanity. Jews were hunted down, assaulted and murdered, including in the courtyard of the local Quaestor’s Office, and all this extreme violence ushered in the herding of Jews on freight trains bound for deportation. Thousands of souls – many of them children and elderly – were killed in the scorching summer heat by suffocation and dehydration in the ‘death trains’. Up to 13,000 Romanian Jews perished during this mass murder. Plenty of sources and evidence prove today that the genocide was premeditated. The effort to understand the past is always a warning as well,” said the head of the state in the message conveyed by presidential advisor Andrei Muraru during the commemorative events organized in Iasi.
The President goes on to say that in 1941 crime was raised to the rank of virtue, and the institutions that should have protected the Jewish population have acted precisely towards liquidating their own citizens.
“No matter how many books will be written, no matter how many films will be made and no matter how much the Iasi pogrom will be talked about, this will never be enough for us to understand how such a massacre has been possible at the heart of Iasi and why no one has stood up to defend the Romanian Jews. Our thoughts go to all the innocent who were exterminated in Iasi, almost eight decades ago, in the name of a heinous ideology,” Iohannis wrote.
The President emphasizes that “remembering these cruel acts is a necessary act for keeping the memory of the disappeared alive in our consciousness, but also a firm commitment to fighting the extremist tendencies that threaten the social peace of today’s European society.”
“Romania changes every day, but the memory of the facts of the past must always abide. Whereas until not long ago it was fair to say that there was almost nothing to remind us of the Iasi pogrom right here, in the city of the pogrom, things are completely different now. Monuments, memorial plaques, squares and, soon, even a Pogrom Museum – which could be a real center of knowledge and training – are sites that preserve and honor the memory of the Holocaust in the fight against oblivion. It is a reason of pride for the local and central authorities, who understood the need to give voice to the memory of the innocent victims,” he adds.
The head of the state also points out that hatred currently comes under the guise of insidious populist tactics that allow anti-Semitism, xenophobia and intolerance go ignored because they do not look so strident.
“Today, hatred can hide in sordid comments on social networks or virtual platform forums. Let’s not make the mistake of hurriedly passing by without noticing the acts of discrimination and extremism and consider that they remain only on the periphery of society. Let us not unknowingly become silent witnesses to the relativization of the Holocaust, to casting ambiguity on the purpose of the genocide, to the exoneration of the Romanian authorities of that time, to the heroization of the criminals,” Iohannis cautions.
He warns that “extremism is amplified by manipulation and ignorance generated by a lack of inclusive quality education.”
“Even if today we live in a society deeply attached to the values of democracy and rule of law, where respect for human rights is fundamental, we are still lagging behind in enforcing legislation for sanctioning anti-Semitic allegations, Holocaust denial, xenophobic slippages, racist or anti-diversity rhetoric. In the face of such dangers, the pillars of a healthy society remain law and education in the spirit of tolerance, solidarity and fundamental rights. Understanding these phenomena is our chance not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” Iohannis writes.
The President reiterates the Romanian state’s firm commitment to combating anti-Semitism, hatred and racism, as well as to discouraging any attempts to deny and falsify the history of the Holocaust by whitewashing those guilty of war crimes and genocide.
“Relying on the lesson of history, the future depends on each of us! For a tomorrow to exist, we are bound to defend and promote democratic values, to continue together along the European road to peace and prosperity the foundation of which we lay today. May the memory of the victims remain forever in our hearts!,” concludes President Iohannis.