Holocaust memorial inaugurated in Romania

12th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The memorial designed by Romanian sculptor Peter Jacobi consists of an austere concrete structure, a column bearing the inscription "Remember" in Hebrew, a star of David and a wheel, symbolizing the Roma community, itself a victim of persecutions and deportation during World War II.

Bucharest -- A monument dedicated to the memory of Holocaust victims in Romania was inaugurated last week in Bucharest, in the presence of survivors and government officials.

The memorial designed by Romanian sculptor Peter Jacobi consists of an austere concrete structure, a column bearing the inscription "Remember" in Hebrew, a star of David and a wheel, symbolizing the Roma community, itself a victim of persecutions and deportation during World War II.

"By inaugurating this memorial, Romania reaffirms its determination to assume its past," President Traian Basescu said during the ceremony.

"The responsibility for the abuses and crimes targeting the Jewish and the Roma communities between 1940 and 1944 lies with Marshal Ion Antonescu and all those who condoned them," he added.

Romania had long denied it had played a part in the Holocaust, but in 2003 an international commission of historians was set up under Romanian-born Nobel Peace prize winner Elie Wiesel, to examine this gloomy period of the country's past.

The commission established some that 270,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed between 1940 and 1944 in territories under Romanian administration, when Bucharest was allied to Nazi Germany.

About 25,000 members of the Roma gypsy community were also deported to the Transdniester region, now in Moldova, and half of them died, the commission said.

During Thursday's ceremony, Liviu Beris, a Holocaust survivor, spoke about the "death trains" in which hundreds of Jews died of asphyxia, the summary executions and the "extermination policy" carried out by dictator Antonescu's pro-Nazi regime.

Dumitru Tranca, a Holocaust survivor of Roma origin, recalled the deportation of thousands of gypsy families, who were decimated by diseases, malnutrition and exhaustion.

"It was a terrible tragedy for the Roma," he said.

Elie Wiesel, who was not present, sent a message paying homage to the "courage" of the Romanian authorities who recognized the "persecutions, the murders and the pogroms" perpetrated during the war.

"This monument is one of the expressions of this recognition. This brings great honour to your nation," he said.

AFP/Expatica

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