Home » Books published » Vladimir Solonari, Purificarea națiunii: dislocări forțate de populație și epurări etnice în România lui Ion Antonescu, 1940-1944. Iaşi: Polirom, 2015.

Vladimir Solonari, Purificarea națiunii: dislocări forțate de populație și epurări etnice în România lui Ion Antonescu, 1940-1944. Iaşi: Polirom, 2015.

In Purifying the Nation Vladimir Solonari shows that the persecution of Jews and Roma by the Antonescu regime had its roots in traditional Romanian ethnic nationalism that long preceded the 1940s. This ethnic nationalism was not completely compatible with national socialist German racism and its revolutionary agenda, but the Nazis’ emphasis on “biology” as the only “scientific” foundation of modern society resonated with Romanian radical nationalists who had long suspected all national minorities of disloyalty to the Romanian nation and who considered an ethnically pure state the only “natural” form of modern societal organization. Solonari follows the way in which the policy of “ethnic purification” was pursued during the war and explains why the treatment applied to different minorities was vastly dissimilar. He devotes about a third of the book to the analysis of this policy in two eastern provinces, Bessarabia and Bukovina, where “ethnic purification,” in the first place against Jews, was carried out with extraordinary brutality and without regard to any legal and moral constraints. He explains that these provinces were singled out by the regime as “models” for post-war Romania, which had to be ethnically cleansed and reeducated in the spirit of the “New Europe.” Solonari also shows how and why the deportation of the nomadic Roma as well as Roma with criminal records was part of the campaign of ethnic purification. The book is the fruit of years-long research in the archival collections of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, which holds copies of documents from Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, and Russia, as well as archives in Bucharest, Romania. It also reflects numerous recent publications of archival documents, memoirs, diaries, and other documents from the period. 

What people are saying about it:

“Solonari shows how in the southern border zone with Bulgaria, Bessarabia, and above all in the occupied southern Ukraine, the Romanian leadership shunted people around and massacred them with an energy that left even Germans astonished.” (Mark Mazower, Times Literary Supplement)

Purifying the Nation makes a major contribution to the literature on ethnic cleansing during World War II. … The Antonescu government consisted of personalities from a range of parties, not just the military. Antonescu himself and the number two man in his government, Mihai Antonescu, had been pro-western before becoming “realists” and seizing the Hitlerian moment in order to purify Romania and reclaim territories taken by the Soviets in 1940. Solonari’s argument is thus aimed at the Romanian right and public opinion more broadly, and not just at “Marshall Antonescu.” (Irina Livezeanu, Slavic Review)

“Carefully researched and exhaustively documented, Purifying the Nation is a fine piece of scholarship and an invaluable contribution to our knowledge of this dark period.” (Peter Sherwood, Holocaust and Genocide Studies)

“Vladimir Solonari’s book about Romania from the late 1930s to 1944 is a very major addition to the scholarship on the subject.” (Daniel Chirot, Journal of Modern History)

Solonari’s book “is by far the best account of genocide and ethnic cleansing under the Antonescu regime.” (Stanley G. Payne, The International History Review)

“Solonari’s work is exciting to read and his thesis is vigorously argued. The material is well organized into chapters, with a good narrative and excellent illustrations…” (Alex Drace-Francis, European History Quarterly)

“The conclusion of this book [that the Romanian program of ethnic purification had its roots in Romania’s own interwar radical nationalist thought rather than in Nazi doctrine] is memorable and worth our careful and honest reflection.” (Cristian Pătrășconiu, Revista 22, 1 September 2015).

“Vladimir Solonari’s book is more than a history of the Holocaust in Romania. This book makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the way the modern Romanian nation was built in relation to its ethnic minorities…. It is a call to remember, and it is addressed not only to erudite professional historians but to all of us. Let’s listen to it with the attention and seriousness it deserves.” (Petru Negură, Observator cultural, May 13, 2016).