Romanians blame their economic frustrations on minority Jews, Gypsies

October 24, 1993|By Dusko Doder | Dusko Doder,Contributing Writer

BUCHAREST, Romania -- Jews and Gypsies have become the new outcasts of Romania, blamed in a hysterical new propaganda campaign for its problems. Vigilante groups have lynched Gypsies and burned down their houses.

The new atmosphere has brought echoes of the vitriolic nationalism that was the hallmark of Romania's quasi-fascist governments of the late 1930s and early 1940s. It comes only four years after the revolution that overthrew Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and won sympathy throughout the world.

"What is significant is not that these things are being said, but rather that not a single voice has been raised to condemn this vicious campaign," one veteran Western diplomatic observer said.

Economy desperate

The rise of anti-Semitism seems rooted in the desperate state of Romania's economy, which is plagued by high unemployment, escalating inflation and widespread poverty. Looking for scapegoats, people chose the Jews.

There are 30,000 Jews among Romania's 23 million people, according to officials. Jewish leaders say the figure is 9,500. Before World War II, in which Romania first sided with Nazi Germany, 376,000 Jews lived there.

"Romania is, in my opinion, long under siege and in disastrous internal conditions for which its Jewish governance is solely responsible," argued Vadim Tudor, president of the Great Romania Party, last year, setting the tone of the current campaign. None of the country's leaders is Jewish. His vice president, Radu Theodoru, called the Jews "the lowest scum."

Anti-Semitism rampant

Since then, openly anti-Semitic and racist articles have become a steady diet for readers of newspapers, including the most popular weekly, Romania Mare.

Jewish doctors are blamed for the death of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Mr. Ceausescu's predecessor. Jews are portrayed as agents for Israel, France, Germany, Italy and the CIA "plotting the destruction of Romania by means of the so-called democratic organization."

One newspaper (Crisana Plus) this month even published "The Secret Protocols of Zion," the notorious Russian anti-Semitic forgery alleging a Jewish plot to control the world. Hitler's "Mein Kampf" was an instant best seller when published earlier this year.

Book openly biased

The symbol of government ambivalence is the new director of Romanian Television, Paul Everik, who last year published on openly anti-Semitic book, "The Reactionary," in which he argued that Romania's Jews "cannot be regarded as a minority" because they are a part of a worldwide "occult power" whose "unseen tentacles are sneaking everywhere, leading the culture of the entire world even though they are keeping a low profile."

Mr. Everik contends the United States is controlled by an international Jewish conspiracy and that "today the United States is living off their money."

"Unlike their national state Israel, the international Jewish network has grown indestructible; it dominates world politics, has a decisive influence on the balance of forces, and is apt to wreck an economy or ensure the recovery of certain nations," Mr. Everik continues.

Gypsies also targeted

Along with constant pressures on the Jews, nationalists are waging a campaign of intimidation and violence against Romania's Gypsies. Officially there are 420,000 Gypsies, but their actual number, including those assimilated into the mainstream, is believed to be close to 2 million.

The pro-government newspaper Curierul National recently carried an article offering the solution to the Gypsy problem: "They all should be hanged."

Three Gypsies were murdered last month and scores of Gypsy homes were burned down in the Transylvanian village of Hadareni. The London-based human rights organization Amnesty International charged that police collaborated with the mob, then prevented about 170 Gypsies who fled from returning to their homes.

Two of the victims had been handcuffed by the police before they were beaten to death, the human rights group said.

No public outcry

There has been no public outcry against these pogroms.

Instead, the Romanian news media have given widespread publicity to various vigilante groups with such names as "Fight the Gypsies" or "Marshal Antonescu's Paramilitary Commandoes" after the World War II fascist leader.

"I think the situation is serious and is getting worse with each day," Vasile Ionescu, a Ministry of Culture official in charge of minority issues, said in response to questions asked by foreign journalists.

But he added, "Too much publicity of these extremist groups will foment more hostility against the Gypsies."

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