The Ori­gins and Onset of the Roman­ian Holocaust

Hen­ry Eaton
  • Review
By – June 23, 2014

This slim vol­ume, based on exten­sive research into the pub­lished lit­er­a­ture and archival sources in sev­er­al lan­guages, is a focused, detailed account of the shock­ing­ly bru­tal, prim­i­tive, cyn­i­cal tor­ture and mas­sacre of thou­sands of Jews in the north­ern Roman­ian city of Iasi (Yas in Yid­dish) in the last days of June 1941. The Iasi Pogrom claimed hun­dreds, per­haps thou­sands, of vic­tims butchered in a Roman­ian police precinct’s court­yard and in dozens of sealed box cars wan­der­ing the rails in the burn­ing sum­mer heat in the days pre­ced­ing the joint Roma­n­ian-Ger­man inva­sion of Sovi­et Ukraine in the first week of July 1941. This was about two weeks after the start of the gen­er­al Ger­man assault on the Sovi­et Union that brought the Ein­satzgup­pen or mobile killing units that cut a bloody swath through the Jews caught on Sovi­et territory. 

Despite Roman­ian efforts for decades to hush up the sto­ry of the Iasi Pogrom and the mass killings by blam­ing the Ger­mans, the evi­dence clear­ly shows that most of the Jews killed in Roma­nia and in Roman­ian-occu­pied regions of south­ern Ukraine were the vic­tims of Roman­ian sol­diers, police, and civil­ians, and not the Germans. 

While there are oth­er, larg­er works on the Holo­caust in Roma­nia, Hen­ry Eaton pro­vides an acces­si­ble, clear, and sen­si­tive account based on archival doc­u­ments, pub­lished works, and the tes­ti­mo­ny of sur­viv­ing perpe­trators, wit­ness­es, and vic­tims. The author dra­mat­i­cal­ly demon­strates how Roman­ian offi­cials sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly lied and fal­si­fied docu­ments to cov­er up the hor­ren­dous reality. 

The book includes a con­cise intro­duc­tion and overview into the benight­ed cul­tur­al pat­terns and social and polit­i­cal his­to­ry since the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry that paved the way for such bar­bar­ic treat­ment of Jews who were unfor­tu­nate enough to live in Roma­nia in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. This book is clear, shock­ing, and illu­mi­na­tive of a lit­tle-known cor­ner of the cat­a­stro­phe that took the lives of hun­dreds of thou­sands of Roman­ian and Ukrain­ian Jews under Roman­ian rule. 

Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, maps, notes, photographs.

Relat­ed Content:

Robert Moses Shapiro teach­es mod­ern Jew­ish his­to­ry, Holo­caust stud­ies, and Yid­dish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture at Brook­lyn Col­lege of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. His most recent book is The War­saw Ghet­to Oyneg Shabes-Ringel­blum Archive: Cat­a­log and Guide (Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press in asso­ci­a­tion with the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Library and the Jew­ish His­tor­i­cal Insti­tute in War­saw, 2009). He is cur­rent­ly engaged in trans­lat­ing Pol­ish and Yid­dish diaries from the Łódź ghet­to and the Yid­dish Son­derkom­man­do doc­u­ments found buried in the ash pits at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Discussion Questions