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Anti-Semitism in Romania

By 1910 the only other country in Europe besides Russia in which a legalized anti-Semitism existed was Rumania. The conditions were very similar to those which obtained in Russia, wilh the important difference that Rumania was a constitutional country, and that the Jewish persecutions were the work of the elected deputies of the nation. Like the Bourgeois Gentilhomme who wrote prose all his life without knowing it, the Rumanians practised the nationalist doctrines of the Hegelian anti-Semites unconsciously long before they were formulated in Germany.

In the old days of Turkish domination the lot of the Romanian Jews was not conspicuously unhappy. It was only when ihe nation began to be emancipated, and the struggle in the East assumed the form of a crusade against Islam that the Jews were persecuted. Rumanian politicians preached a nationalism limited exclusively to indigenous Christians, and ihcy were strongly supported by all who felt the commercial competition of the Jews. Thus, although ihe Jews had been settled in ihe land for many centuries, they were by law declared aliens. This was done in defiance of the treaty of Paris of 1856 and the convention of 1858 which declared all Rumanians to be equal before the law.

Under the influence of this distinction ihe Jews became persecuted, and sanguinary riots were of frequent occurrence. The realization of a Jewish question led to legislation imposing disabilties on the Jews. In 1878 the Congress of Berlin agreed to recognize the independence of Rumania on condition that all religious disabilities were removed. Rumania agreed lo this condilion, but ultimately persuaded ihe powers to allow her to carry out the emancipation of the Jews gradually. Persecutions, however, continued, and in 1902 they led to a great exodus of Jews.

The 1902 despatch of John Hay, then Secretary of State in President Roosevelt's Cabinet, to the Powers signatory to the Treaty of Berlin of 1878 noted "The condition of a large class of the inhabitants of Rumania has for many years been a source of grave concern to the United States. I refer to the Rumanian Jews, numbering some 400,000. Long ago, while the Danubian principalities labored under oppressive conditions which only war and a general action of the European powers sufficed to end, the persecution of the indigenous Jews under Turkish rule called forth in 1872 the strong remonstrance of the United States. ... With the iapse of time these just prescriptions have been rendered nugatory in great part, as regards the native Jews, by the legislation and municipal regulations of Rumania. Starting from the arbitrary and controvertible premise that the native Jews of Rumania domicilled there for centuries are " aliens not subject to foreign protection," the ability of the Jews to earn even the scanty means of existence that suffice for a frugal race has been constricted by degrees, until nearly every opportunity to win a livelihood is denied, and until the helpless poverty of the Jew has constrained an exodus of such proportions as to cause general concern. The Jews are prohibited from owning land, or even from cultivating it as common laborers. They are debarred from residing in the rural districts. Many branches of petty trade and manual production are closed to them in the overcrowded cities where they are forced to dwell and engage, against fearful odds, in the desperate struggle for existence. Even as ordinary artisans or hired laborers they may only find employ ment in the proportion of one " unprotected alien " to two "Rumanians" under any one employer. In short, by the cumulative effect of successive restrictions, the Jews of Rumania have become reduced to a state of wretched misery. ... many of the inhabitants of Rumania are being forced, by artificially adverse discriminations, to quit their native country ;that the hospitable asylum offered by this country is almost the only refuge left to them; that they come hither unfitted, by the conditions of their exile, to take part in the new life of this land under circumstances either profitable to themselves or beneficial to the community, and that they are objects of charity from the outset and for a long time - the right of remonstrance against the acts of the Rumanian government is clearly established in favor of this government. Whether consciously and of purpose or not. these helpless people, burdened and spurned by their native land, are forced by the sovereign power of Rumania upon the charity of the United States."

The United States addressed a strong remonstrance to the Rumanian government, but the condition of the Jews was in no way improved. Their emancipation was in 1908 as far off as ever, and ther disabilities heavier than those of their brethren in Russia. For this state of things the example of the anti-Semiles in Germany, Russia, Austria and France was largely to blame, since it had justified the intolerance of the Romanians. Owing, also, to the fact that of late years Rumania had become a sort of annex of the Triple Alliance, it was found impossible to induce the signatories of the treaty of Berlin to take action to compel the state to fullfill its obligations under that treaty.

After the Great War the Rumanian attitude regarding the Jews was simply this: at Berlin they had offered to grant full citizenship to Jews if Russia would take a similar obligation. It would be sheer madness automatically to give citizenship to immigrants and children of immigrants so long as Russia continued to oppress the Jews. In a few years Rumania would have been swamped. In 1917, when the old regime disappeared in Russia, citizenship was voted to native Jews of Rumania. They were already enfranchised; a renewal of the Berlin stipulations and making a new compact with the powers were unnecessary. Rumania did not intend to give the powers a weapon for interfering in her internal affairs. As for the minorities in the new territories', the Rumania position was that they were amply protected already by the provisions in the acts of union that had been presented to the peace conference. What further pledges were necessary, and why should Rumania put her head into the noose of signing an annex with the big powers which would enable them to find a pretext at any time to blackmail Rumania for economic concessions by stirring up trouble?

By royal decree on 28 May, 1919, all Jews of Rumania were emancipated and given every right of citizenship.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:05:13 ZULU