The Ran­som of the Jews: The Sto­ry of the Extra­or­di­nary Secret Bar­gain Between Roma­nia and Israel

Radu Ioanid
  • Review
By – August 15, 2012
Pidy­on she­vuy­im, obtain­ing the release of cap­tives, has been an imper­a­tive for Jews since Abra­ham mount­ed up to res­cue his nephew, Lot. The Ran­som of the Jews is a con­cise chron­i­cle of the rel­a­tive­ly unknown rela­tion­ship between the Jew­ish State of Israel and the cor­rupt Com­mu­nist regime of Roma­nia that result­ed in the emi­gra­tion of more than a quar­ter-mil­lion Jews in exchange for pay­ment amount­ing to hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars dur­ing the half­cen­tu­ry after the Holo­caust. Writ­ten by a Jew­ish native of Roma­nia who is now a dis­tin­guished schol­ar asso­ci­at­ed with the Unit­ed States Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Muse­um, this book tells a remark­able sto­ry of both venal­i­ty and hero­ism con­duct­ed under a clan­des­tine cloak that is now exten­sive­ly doc­u­ment­ed in the source notes. 

Some minor defects in the book are the lack of a bib­li­og­ra­phy, the pecu­liar tran­scrip­tion of the Hebrew word Aliyah as Alyah, and the mis­tak­en char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the Amer­i­can Howard M. Sachar as an Israeli” historian. 

This book tells an excit­ing sto­ry of dar­ing, stead­fast com­mit­ment to the res­cue of entrapped Jews, and play­ing on the greed of Com­mu­nist rulers. The book’s fore­word is by Roman­ian-born Elie Wiesel and its after­word by Ion M. Pacepa, a high-rank­ing defec­tor to the West who had worked close­ly with the dic­ta­tor Ceausescu.
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.

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