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Holocaust and the Second World War Working Group

The working group brings together a diverse body of scholars who work to break down the artificial barrier between Romania’s Holocaust history and military history to gain a better perspective of the era and its complexities.

Active members

Cioflanca, Adrian

Clark, Roland

Cragg, Bronwyn

Deletant, Dennis

Drace-Francis, Alex

Dumitru, Diana (convenor)

Goldenshteyn, Maksim

Grec, Emanuel

Harward, Grant (convenor)

Ionescu, Stefan

Levick, Carmen

Livezeanu, Irina

Solonari, Vladimir

Suveica, Svetlana

Other members

Ciobanu, Monica

Hershcovitz, Sylvia

Ploscariu, Iemima

Stefan, Olga

Stoica, Cristina

Waldman, Felicia


Virtual Meeting, Saturday, 4 November 2023.

The working group invited Răzvan Bolba to speak about Romanian Military Archeology (RMA), a non-governmental organization dedicated to searching for and exhibiting artifacts unearthed from the 20th century battlefields in Romania. He spoke about the formation and goals of RMA. He answered questions about laws regarding metal detecting and archeology in the country. For more details about RMA, see: https://militaryarcheology.ro/

Virtual Meeting, Saturday, 9 September 2023.

Dallas Michelbacher spoke to the working group about Romania’s treatment of Soviet prisoners of war (POWs) on the eastern front. He framed the subject in a comparative context to Nazi Germany. He contents that far fewer Soviet POWs died in Romanian captivity than in German captivity because the Antonescu regime planned from the start to use them as labor. Finally, he raised questions about what still needs to be discovered, especially the Romanian Army and the commissar order. The slides of the presentation are available to other SRS members upon request. 

Virtual Meeting, Saturday, 17 June 2023.

The working group invited Olga Stefan, a curator, researcher, art journalist, and documentary filmmaker, to present on some of her recent research. She showed her short documentary Vapniarka: The Camp of Death (2022) and then shared her paper “Art of the Holocaust in Romania: Vapniarka as a Case Study.” Her work emphasizes that the Jews being held in this camp were not exclusively or even primarily political prisoners (communists, socialists, Zionists, etc.), but the Romanian communist regime perpetuated this view. Her documentary and paper examine some of the Jewish artists who were deported to Vapniarka where they produced art based on their experiences. She also shows how these artworks were soon displayed in public following the royal coup of 23 August 1944 that resulted in Romania abandoning the Axis and joining the Allies. The exhibits labeled the art as “anti-fascist” and then later “militant” as the attitudes of the communist authorities evolved. The working group had an engaging discussion about these subjects and others. 

Virtual Meeting, Saturday, 4 February 2023.

As part of the 80th anniversary of the capitulation of Axis forces captured in the Stalingrad pocket, the working group organized a roundtable on the memory of the turning point of the Second World War in Romania, Italy, and Hungary. Grant Harward reviewed how Romanian soldiers were celebrated, forgotten, and now honored again. Nicolò Da Lio spoke about how anti-Fascist, Conservative, and right-wing groups addressed Italian soldiers over time. Unfortunately, Ákos Fóris could not talk on Hungarian soldiers because of a power outage and storm, but he sent a copy of his paper focused on wartime cover-up and communist show trial. Slides of all three presentations are available to those who are interested.

Virtual Meeting, Saturday, 15 October 2022.

The working group gathered for a film “night” to watch Amintiri de pe Frontul de Est (Memories from the Eastern Front). This is a 30-minute documentary about the Romanian Army and the Holocaust that was written and directed by Radu Jude and Adrian Cioflâncă. The film consists of photographs with captions of soldiers on the front from an album created by a Romanian cavalry regiment to remember its part in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR, in 1941. Intercut is text taken from documents recording atrocities against Jews committed by Romanian soldiers during the advance. The film is silent, lacking even a musical score, which compels the audience to focus on the images and text. Following the viewing, Adrian discussed and took questions from the working group about the short documentary.

Virtual Meeting, Saturday, 14 May 2022.

The working group introduced themselves. Members spoke briefly about their current research projects including: post-war Jewish responses (including revenge) to the Holocaust in Moldova, a comparative history of Axis and Soviet armies at Staligrad, environmental approaches to war, political history of interwar Romania, fascist Iron Guard exiles and their impact on the Romanian diaspora community in Canada, memory politics and war crimes trials post-war, humanitarian aid for Jews in Transnistria, neo-Protestants in interwar Romania, Soviet Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Transnistria, and wartime cultural history. Clearly, this shows a dynamic future for Romania-focused research into the Holocaust and the Second World War. Grant Harward reviewed the historiography of the Holocaust and the Second World War from wartime reportage to communist censorship and finally to post-communist controversies. Diana Dumitru then spoke on nine emerging paths in Holocaust Studies that offer new approaches and methodologies to studying the Holocaust in Romania. Finally, the working group discussed options for future working group meetings.