Romanian pogrom showed Nazis 'how to do mass murder'

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Romanian pogrom showed Nazis 'how to do mass murder'

Romanian pogrom showed Nazis 'how to do mass murder'
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Romania has marked the 70th anniversary of one of the worst pogroms of the Holocaust.

Up to 15,000 Jews in the city of Iasi – a third of the total – were murdered within the space of a few days in 1941.

Ceremonies have been held at Jewish cemeteries in the presence of a handful of survivors who were decorated as honorary citizens of the city.

The mass graves in the hills surrounding Iasi are reminders of the massacre.

“The Iasi pogrom is a turning point because Romanian authorities, with some participation from the German authorities, killed Jews on the streets of the city, in front of their neighbours and friends,” said Paul Shapiro from the US Holocaust memorial museum.

“This sent a strong message to the Nazis and to other perpetrators who were just figuring out at that time how to commit mass murder,” he added.

Beforehand, Iasi’s Jewish community numbered some 45,000, half the city’s population.

But Romania under Ion Antonescu was an ally of Nazi Germany. In late June 1941, the dictator ordered Iasi’s military chief to “cleanse” the city of its Jews.

Police and soldiers led the pogrom, willingly supported by mobs who knew they would not be held to account.

Thousands of Jews were forced out of their homes and executed in the streets. Thousands of others were stuffed into “death trains”, bound for southern Romania. Most died during the journey.

Seventy years on, Romania’s President Traian Basescu said his compatriots needed to take responsibility for their “serious mistakes of the past”.