BUCHAREST, Romania (JTA) — Watchdog groups in Romania have criticized the Bucharest City Council administrative unit for refusing to remove a statue honoring Mircea Vulcanescu, who served as finance minister in the country’s pro-Nazi government during World War II.
On Wednesday, the 2nd sector of the city council rejected the resolution to remove the monument from the Romanian capital’s St. Stephen’s Park. The resolution, which attracted the attention of the country, was put forward by a councilor from the center-right Liberal National Party and was not adopted because the majority of council members abstained.
Antonio Andrusceac, a lawmaker from the far-right and nationalist Alliance for the Union of Romania, took part in the vote and accused the Elie Wiesel Institute for Holocaust Research, a public institution that has long advocated the removal of monuments in Romania. honoring Nazi figures and collaborators – “rewriting Romania’s history and destroying the religion of its heroes and martyrs.”
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The Wiesel Institute views the refusal to accept the petition as a violation of a law passed by the Romanian parliament in 2002 and revised in 2015, which makes it illegal to honor those guilty of crimes against humanity.
The Wiesel Institute, which protects the Vulcanescu bust, said in a statement on Wednesday that it also contradicts Romania’s 2021 national strategy to combat anti-Semitism.
“As long as the war criminals who were members of the Antonescu government continue to be treated as exemplary citizens by the authorities, this public policy remains only on paper,” the Wiesel Institute said in a statement.
Maximilian Marco Katz, director of the Center for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism in Bucharest, also criticized the council’s vote.
“During World War II, Mircea Vulcanescu was part of Marshal Antonescu’s government, which legislated and implemented the measures that resulted in the anti-Semitic law and the Romanian Holocaust,” he said. Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Ion Antonescu, who was the prime minister of Romania in the early 1940s, was on Adolf Hitler’s side during the war. Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
Katz recalled that Vulcanescu was found guilty of collaboration with Nazi Germany in 1946 by postwar communist authorities and sentenced to eight years in prison in 1952 until his death. overburdening the Jews and confiscating their goods.
Vulcanescu’s daughter, Maria, asked for her father’s pardon, citing the violation of due process that characterized post-war communist trials. But the Bucharest Court of Appeal rejected his legal claim in 2019.
According to the court’s decision, Katz said Vulcanescu remains a “war criminal” because all those who opposed or abstained from removing the monument “deliberately acted” against Romanian law under which he was convicted of war crimes in 2002. .
Mircea Vulcanescu’s legacy as both an intellectual and a senior civil servant has repeatedly been at the center of controversy since the fall of communism in 1989.
A number of historians and intellectuals, including nationalist groups defending the memory of the victims of communism and certain activists, deny his role in the persecution of Jews and have signed several petitions in his defense. His defenders say that he openly protested some of the anti-Semitic measures of the Antonescu regime and even tried to reduce their impact.