When discussing the implementation of the “Final Solution” and its stages of development, is important to note that it was not only German and Austrian governmental agencies who took an active part in the persecution of Jews. The Dutch bureaucracy and the French Police, as well as the local Hungarian Gendarmerie, were responsible for the roundups of Jews; Slovakia actually paid Nazi Germany for the removal of its Jews to murder sites. In other places, Nazi occupations or influence urged many of the local populations to harm Jews such as in the Baltic countries, Ukraine and Romania. In some places, local population and state organizations participated directly or indirectly in the mass murders, in others they “just” supported its existence.
In one way or the other, too many European societies served Nazi genocidal goals by too many means. Nevertheless, at the same place and at the same time, some individuals, as well as some local and statewide organizations, enabled Jews to escape death. Many did it for money or other means of profit, but others did not. Teachers, nursemaids, farmers, diplomats; educated people as well as illiterate individuals; communists and clergy - risked their lives and saved Jews. Though the cases of rescue and support must not be forgotten, instances of collaboration were significantly more widespread. Let’s examine this by focusing on two countries which were both allied with Germany during the war - Hungary and Romania.
The impact of antisemitism on the behavior of what we can call the perpetrators and the bystanders in at least two specific nations, two specific countries - Romania and Hungary, is very interesting from the point of view of the long-range impact of antisemitism and its impact during the Holocaust. In the case of Romania and Hungary we have to remember that both countries were allies, in one form or another, of Nazi Germany. They were wartime allies of Nazi Germany. In both countries, the ideology of the fascist totalitarian, extreme right-wing antisemtic ideology was very strong.
In both cases of specific countries that we have been discussing - Romania and Hungary - we see that during the Holocaust in the case of Hungary in 1944, when the Hungarian authorities rounded up within six weeks more than 400,000 of Hungary’s Jews and handed them over to the Nazis for extermination. We see it was not only the Hungarian authorities from a bureaucratic process, the Gendarmerie, the Hungarian Gendarmerie and they had the police, but we can see the active cooperation, unfortunately, of many of the local peoples.
Of course we could also speak of people who were hiding Jews, helping Jews, but we’re focusing now on the negative aspects and collaboration and, without doubt, that the propaganda of the Arrow Cross, Hungarian fascist movement, its impact and the extremist right-wing movements between the two world wars was seen here in Romania. Especially the deportations in the north of the country, in Bukovina and Bessarabia, can be seen very clearly in the 40s, especially also in the major pogram in Iași in late June, 1941, when with active participation of local people, almost 15,000 Jews were killed, were massacred. The impact of
antisemitism in both countries can be seen in the following terms: One is of course the long-range impact of antisemitic education propaganda for years. In the case of both countries, we have historical roots of antisemitism in those national, nationalist movements both in Hungary and in Romania. But if we focus on the interwar period, we can see the impact of antisemitic legislation, especially in Hungary - the law of numerus clausus, of restricting the number of Jews from 1920 to higher education on their specific place in the National spectrum of how many, what part of the population are Jews restricting to the number of Jews. We can see this in the emergence of extremist, neo-fascist, fascist movements in both countries.
We see the emergence of antisemitic media - especially press, books - in those countries. Now the major question that we’re asking in such cases is how immune a society became for at least 20 years, especially in the interwar period and of course even before, how immune a society became towards the Jews, the fate of the Jews, when the Holocaust came and the Jewish neighbors were taken away in both countries in different forms, in different periods but the phenomenon was the same; both in Hungary and in Romania how immune these societies became because of the 20 years of antisemitic propaganda, education, political movements and their impact on society and we think that the impact was very large.
In other words, if we try to assess the passivity of the Hungarian population and not only passivity but even the active participation of Hungarians - not only the Hungarian regime itself but we’re speaking about the masses of people - in the taking away, deportation of the Jews. I think that we can be sure that the 20 years of antisemitic legislations, antisemitic propaganda in Hungary from 1938 a series of antisemitic laws, which by 1944 excluded Jews from society, had a major impact. The same can be said about Romania. It was not only the impact of the fascist Iron Guard movement. There were several other fascist movements, based either on the Nazi ideology or local…
a combination of Nazi ideology, racist ideology, with local nationalist xenophobic elements. We see the same type of behavior also in Romania. In other words, when we are trying to assess the behavior of groups of people, of let’s call them “neighbors,” during the Holocaust, it’s not enough to assess or try to evaluate their behavior during those specific times but we have to take into consideration the impact, long-range impact of the antisemitic virus which entered those societies, unfortunately, as we can see, very successfully.