Romania’s president warns about the rise of antisemitism during the COVID-19 pandemic

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has warned about the rise of antisemitism and threats that undermine democracy during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking on Romania’s National Holocaust Commemoration Day, the president said that the pandemic had “provoked not only a health crisis but a crisis of trust, caused by the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories and messages of hate…of manipulation and an exacerbation of antisemitism.”

“There is no greater risk to a weakening of democracy than to passively accept all the ills of the contemporary world,” Mr. Iohannis said in a message posted on the presidential website.

The president rebuked what he called “grotesque campaigns to rehabilitate sinister public form the ‘dark past’… (public figures) who through their ideas and deeds had mocked and assassinated their fellow men.”

“Those who want to wipe out the Holocaust from history as well as those who want to exonerate and blame criminals are accomplices to this dreadful evil. We will never cease to condemn those that foment hate and commit crimes.”

Up to 380,000 Jews were killed in Romanian-controlled territories during World War II and 11,000 Roma, according to Yad Vashem — The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

However, he gave a positive example of the mayor of the then-Romanian city of Cernauti, now in Ukraine, Traian Popovici who saved thousands of Jews from deportation during World War II when Romania was allied to Nazi Germany.

The mayor witnessed deportations in October 1941. “I realized they had started the wheel of their misfortune,” Traian Popovici said at the time.

Traian Popovici was considered a light in the era of darkness,” the statement said.

His open opposition sprung from “a desire to help those near to me, to go against the tide, to be against it, to be the master of my own will, to face those in power, in a word to be a man.”

Under the pro-Nazi rule of Marshal Ion Antonescu, 120,000 Jews were deported to Trans-Dniester in the Soviet Union.

They were forced to “leave their homes, robbed, tortured, and decimated by bullets, disease, cold and hunger. On their way, and when they reached Trans-Dniester, tens of thousands died. It was a genocide of unimaginable proportions.”

“We pay homage to the victims of the Holocaust, and honor the survivors and condemn … these atrocities which forever mutilated our history,” the statement said,”

“In the name of all Romanians, I loudly say that we will never forget the innocent victims and we commit ourselves to never allow a tragedy like this to ever happen again.”

“The history of any nation is a collection of light and darkness. It depends on us to show future generations that Romania can’t change its history, but the lessons of history have changed Romania for the better.”

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