The interviews of the USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive are a major resource shedding light on a less well known area of European history, the Holocaust in Romania.
As many as 5,264 interviewees discuss their experiences in Romania before, during, and after World War II. In total, 3,893 interviewees were born in cities in Romania but emigrated, or did not return, after the war. The USC Shoah Foundation conducted 146 interviews in Romania and 129 interviews in the Romanian language.
The Romanian collection can be subdivided into three groups: survivors from Transylvania, the north western region occupied by Hungary during the war; those from the north eastern provinces Bessarabia and Bukovina who were expelled into southern Ukraine (Transnistria); and those from the Regat or "rump" Romania.
The largest part of the Romanian collection includes the 1,803 interviewees who were born in the provinces of Crisana Maramures and Transylvania, an area that had been part of Austria-Hungary until 1918. The majority of the Jewish survivors from these areas fell under Hungarian occupation in 1940. Most were deported to local ghettos and subsequently to Auschwitz in 1944. Others, usually male survivors, were sent to work in the forced labor companies of the Hungarian army.
Some 1,357 interviewees were born in the Romanian interwar provinces of Bessarabia and Bukovina, which were annexed by the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940. One year later, in summer 1941, the German and Romanian armies occupied the area and deported most of the Jewish population to Transnistria, the area of south-western Ukraine between the rivers Dniester and Bug that the Romanians occupied until 1944. There, they were kept in often appalling conditions in ghettos, camps, and colonies, and were subject to mass execution, forced labor, and disease. Some managed to avoid deportation and remained in the ghetto in Cernauti (Czernowitz/Chernovtsy).
The 733 interviewees who were born in the Regat, the Old Kingdom area which remained Romania before, during, and after World War II, had very different wartime experiences. The Holocaust history of this region is less well known. While most Jews in the Regat mostly avoided the excesses of the Holocaust, they faced poor treatment at home. A small number of work camps (Cobadin, Craiova, Osmancea, Targu-Jiu) and ghettos (Ismail, Bacau) are discussed. In more than 100 testimonies, interviewees talk about their compulsory involvement in forced labor groups under the auspices of the Romanian army. The archive includes survivors of the Jassy (Iasi) pogrom, the largest massacre of Jews conducted on Romanian soil.
A few survivors talk about life in and around the cities Bazargic and Silistra, which were occupied by Bulgaria during the war.
Of the interviews conducted in Romania, 140 were with Jewish survivors and 6 with Sinti and Roma survivors. The Romanian-language interviews include 125 Jewish survivors, 3 Sinti and Roma survivors, and 1 rescuer.
Selected Indexing Terms
attitudes toward Romania and/or Romanians
Hungarian annexation of Northern Transylvania (August 1940)
Iron Guard members
Iron Guard Rebellion (January 21-23, 1941)
Jewish National Fund
Partidul Comunist Român
Romanian armed forces
Romanian camp guards
Romanian camp personnel
Romanian civilian laborers
Romanian forced labor civilian supervisors
Romanian forced labor groups
Romanian ghetto guards
Romanian ghetto inhabitants
Romanian government officials
Romanian invasion of the Soviet Union (June 23, 1941)
Romanian labor servicemen
Romanian occupation conditions
Romanian police and security forces
Romanian political police
Romanian prison guards
Romanian prisoner functionaries
Romanian prisoners of war
Rosen, Moses David
Transnistrian Jewish children rescue
Zirelson, Judah Leib
Ancel, Jean. The History of the Holocaust in Romania, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press; Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2011.
Ancel, Jean. Transnistria, 1941-1942: the Romanian Mass Murder Campaigns, Tel Aviv: Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center, Tel Aviv University, 2003.
Ioanid, Radu. The Holocaust in Romania: the Destruction of Jews and Gypsies under the Antonescu Regime, 1940-1944, Chicago, Ill.: Ivan R. Dee, 2000.