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East European Perspectives: December 7, 2000

7 December 2000, Volume 2, Number 22
Who 'Brought' Communism To Romania And Who 'Destroyed' It? (A)

The core idea of anti-Semitism of all times -- and all the more of its extreme forms in the 20th century -- is that the Jews are the cause of all the misfortunes endured by the peoples among whom they settled throughout history. In Romania -- as well as in other East European countries with which this article does not deal -- this fundamental idea acquired a strange form in the second half of the century: the Jews were considered to be the only ones responsible, or at least largely responsible, for the establishment of the communist regime at the end of World War II, but also, more recently, to be "guilty" of destroying that regime.

In our days, these two accusations are put together and circulated mainly by the representatives and descendants of the quite strange political-ideological blend of national communism, in which the extreme left and the extreme right, once bitter enemies, joined each other. Their rationale -- if a series of completely irrational ideas might be called a rationale -- can be summed up by the following assertions:

-- "Cominternist" communism established in Romania after 1944 was BAD because of its international, and therefore anti-national, character (not because it was dictatorial-totalitarian)

-- Jews are responsible for the establishment of communism; they acted as agents of a foreign power, the Soviet Union (which, in turn, acted "in collusion with the great Western powers," for it is allegedly a well-established fact that the Americans "sold us to the Russians.")

-- however, national communism, initiated in Romania by late Romanian Communist Party (PCR) leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej (who died in 1965), and exacerbated by executed (1989) dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was GOOD precisely because of its national character, and for its "independence" from the Russians, regardless of its dictatorial nature, the economic bankruptcy it brought about, and the misery that it plunged its own people into; it was "good" because it applied the ethnocratic principle -- the rule of the ethnic majority over the national minorities -- and because it conducted a policy of social and national homogenization, a.s.o.

-- the Jews have staged the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime, planned the killing of the dictatorial couple (Nicolae and his wife, Elena), once more acting in the service of external powers, this time the United States and its Western allies, in turn dominated by "international capital," which is itself mastered by the Jews, as it is allegedly, again, well-known.

In fact, everything can be reduced to Hitler's delirious formula of the "Jewish-Bolshevist-plutocratic" conspiracy. Jews are guilty for Bolshevism and capitalism alike, they have invented and established both, regardless of the irreconcilable opposition between the two systems. Similarly, Jews are nowadays said to be the main agents of the process of "globalization," acting against the independence of nations. This variant of the revived anti-Semitism is just another form of anti-Western postures and of opposition to modernization.

The problem of Jewish participation in the establishment of communism in Romania -- as well as in other Central and East-European countries -- is a real one, and I have dealt with it separately elsewhere (Roth, 1999, chapter 8). But who has actually "imported" communism into Romania? It was literally "brought" from outside. But is was not established by the Jews or by foreigners in general, but rather by the Soviet troops, during their victorious offensive launched against the countries of the fascist Axis and its allies, acting -- and this fact must by no means be overlooked -- in coalition with the great Western democratic powers. The gradual establishment of totalitarian communism was the outcome of actions by communist parties in each of those countries, under the monolithic leadership of the Soviet power center, and the Jews were indeed overrepresented in those parties in Romania and elsewhere.


Sociologically speaking, the notion of overrepresentation used here indicates that a certain category of the population is present in a given field of activity in greater percentage than its presence in the population as a whole. Therefore, the overrepresentation of Jews in the communist movement means neither that the majority of Jews were communists, nor that the majority of communists were Jewish; rather, it means that the percentage of Jews in the communist party was larger than their percentage in the country's total population, or, conversely, that there was a greater percentage of communists among Jews than among other ethnic groups.

Before taking a closer look at the phenomenon, one must remember that Jews were for a long time repeatedly accused -- and not without a reason -- of overrepresentation in several fields of social activity: economy, science, the arts, as well as politics. Using the overrepresentation of Jews in any field as an anti-Semitic argument is, however, based on a generalization which defies logic. The fact that some Jews were communists, even if one subscribes to the fact that Jews were overrepresented in the PCR at a certain moment in its history, cannot change the no less irrefutable fact that one dealt with small numbers, when these are compared to the non-communist majority of the Jewish population.

Similarly, Jews were charged in the same generalizing terms with having introduced capitalism in Romania and of having been the promoters of those modernizing influences that undermined, as it were, the traditional, pre-modern way of life of the Romanian ethnic majority and exposed the country to the "ill-fated" Western way of life. Again, it is true that there was Jewish overrepresentation in commercial and industrial activities in Romania in the interwar period, as indeed one finds such overrepresentation in many other countries of the region; however, the Jews were far from being the only group, or the majority, in these professional spheres. To mention just two examples of overrepresentation in the economic field: 29-30 percent of the great processing industry units in Romania in the 1930s had Jewish ownership (Rosen, 1993, p. 241), while the percentage of the Jewish population in the Romanian population as a whole stood only around 4 percent. This overrepresentation was even greater in the capital at the end of 1938: 1,300 industrial enterprises were owned by Jews, representing 38 percent of all industrial enterprises of this type in the city, while Bucharest's Jewish population was 100,000 out of a million inhabitants. (Rosen, 1993, p. 242). But this invites another question: granted that the Jews were thus overcontributing to the country's capitalist development, were they serving the national interest (hand in hand with their own), or were they undermining the interests of the Romanian people?

As in many other countries, there had long been a real overrepresentation of Jews in intellectual activities. Not that the majority of intellectuals were Jews or that the majority of Jews would be intellectuals, but the percentage of intellectuals within the Jewish population has always been greater than among other ethnic groups. For example, the 1992 census in Romania shows that the percentage of Jews with a high school education is 34.5 while it is 5.1 percent for the population as a whole (Recensamantul, 1994, Vol. 1, pp. 884-887). This phenomenon has historic causes, the detailing of which would not fit into this article's economy. Briefly, it is linked to the occupations that were forbidden to the Jews for centuries, as well as to the traditional absence of illiteracy among them, which has religious reasons. Interestingly, however, the Jews are blamed for this overrepresentation, considered to be additional proof of their general culpability: they become intellectuals, "fleeing from work" and allegedly choose professions that allow them to "live an easy life." Here too, anti-Semitism resorts to its double logic: Jews are said to have an inclination towards intellectual careers because of their alleged laziness, whereas when members of the ethnic majority group dedicate themselves to scholarly activities, they do so out of a display of purely patriotic spirit.

In all the cases, the orientation of Jews towards one or the other (capitalist, communist) movement or a specific career is judged through the lens of certain -- evidently negative -- characteristics, typical of their supposedly inborn and invariable psychic structure. Diversity in orientation and political attitudes, the multiplicity of value options and the large span of professions opted for, defies holistic, falsely generalizing judgements, but this does not seem to bother the anti-Semites. Neither are they interested in the social-historical causes of Jewish overrepresentation. Overrepresentation -- in these, but also other areas of human activity such as the humanities, medicine, music, political life in general, and the leftist movements, including communism, in particular, is neither the expression of a malefic, domineering attitude as the anti-Semites assert, nor is it an expression of intellectual superiority as Jewish nationalists maintain, being rather the outcome of a long chain of social causality that cannot be analyzed here in detail. Essentially, one deals here with the natural quest for emancipation (and assimilation) of the Jewish people, a tendency long suppressed by discrimination, persecution, and interdictions.

There is one more aspect concerning Jewish overrepresentation: approximately 60 million people died in World War II, 6 million of whom were Jews, that is, 10 percent of all the war's victims. The remaining victims are divided between all European peoples and other, non-European nations who participated in the war. Those 6 million Jews represented 70 percent of the whole European Jewish population; no other people, including the belligerents that suffered the greatest losses, have had to sacrifice more than 10 percent of their whole population.


The roots of the situation with which we are dealing with must undoubtedly be traced to the interwar period. Romanian historian Dinu C. Giurescu provides the following data regarding the ethnic composition of the PCR in 1933: from a total of 1,665 members, 26.8 percent were Hungarian, 22.65 ethnic Romanians, 18.22 Jews, 10.27 Russians and Ukrainians, 8.45 percent Bulgarians, and 13.93 other nationalities (Giurescu, 1997, p. 8). As one can see, there was a clear overrepresentation of national minorities, indicating a reaction against the official policy of ethnic supremacy. However, the figure of 22.65 percent ethnic Romanians is by no means negligible: the leading PCR elite that came to power after 1944 (Gheorghiu-Dej, Lucretiu Patrascanu, Chivu Stoica, Constantin Parvulescu, Gheorghe Apostol, Nicolae Ceausescu, and many others) was mainly recruited from these Romanian "illegalists." The Jews (18.22 percent) were the third most numerous group, and evidently this was an overrepresentation in relation to their 4 percent proportion in the population as a whole. Other minority groups -- Hungarians, Russians and Ukrainians, and Bulgarians, were also overrepresented in the PCR, but communists were in the minority within each ethnic minority group.

At the end of the war, Romania's Jewish population was reduced to approximately half or less of its numbers in the interwar period. In a total population of approximately 20 million, Jews now made up approximately 1.5-2 percent. At the end of August 1944, when the PCR ceased to be illegal, it had no more than 1,000 members, according to the unanimous estimation of researchers. In other words, the party had lost more than one third of its 1933 estimated membership. Undoubtedly, one encountered -- once more -- Jewish overrepresentation in the party. However, even if one ventures that fully one-half of the 1,000 communist party members were Jewish -- which surely was not the case -- the ratio of Jewish communists would be between 0.12 and 0.16 percent of Romania's postwar Jewish population.

One lacks precise data on the ethnic composition of the PCR in August or September 1944. However, I have data concerning the situation in Cluj where the concentration of communists, including Jewish communists, was greater than in the rest of the country. Of a total of 1,000 "illegalists" in the country, 377 came from Cluj county, of whom 248 were Hungarian, 69 Jewish, and 60 ethnic Romanians (Tirau, 1995, p. 33); therefore, the Jews represented 18.5 percent -- a considerable, but certainly not an overwhelming overrepresentation.

According to statistics published in several Cluj dailies in August 1990 (taken from the files of the former PCR Regional Committee, regarding the social and ethnic PCR composition sometime in 1945), the party's ethnic composition in the country at that -- rather imprecise -- time was as follows: 288 Romanians (10 percent), 2,490 Hungarians (84 percent), 195 Jews (6 percent), and eight Germans. What do these figures mean? They show, first of all, that the number of Jewish party members had increased considerably (trebled) since August 1944. Second, hand-in-hand with the overall increase in the total number of party members, the proportion of Jews had DECREASED -- from 18.5 to 6 percent. Third, these figures show that there was still Jewish overrepresentation: 6 percent, as compared to the 1.5-2 percent in the population as a whole. Is it reasonable, then, to assume that the 6 percent played a decisive role in relation to the remaining 94 percent? And let us stress once again: the bulk of the Jewish population did not belong to those 6 percent.

The number of PCR members increased vertiginously after the Petru Groza government came to power (6 March 1945), and especially over the next two years. According to Daniel Barbu, there were 710,000 PCR members in 1947 -- a 710-fold increase over August 1944, and at the same time the most spectacular increase among all countries with "Popular Democratic" regimes (Barbu, 1998, p. 190). Thus, the PCR also gained a solid majority of Romanians all over the country, including in Transylvania and Cluj county. In the following years, this Romanian preponderance in the PCR would be consolidated. On 31 December 1970, in the party there were 89.11 percent ethnic Romanians (as compared to the 87.66 percent in the country's population), 8.21 percent Hungarians, .22 percent Germans, and 1.46 percent "others," with Jews being included in this last category (Catanus and Neacsu, 1998, p. 165.)

The party tried to "improve" its ethnic composition constantly and insistently. It did not accept members by chance, but regulated the enrollment of new members from the very beginning, through central orders, creating the desired "class" structure, and at the same time attracting mainly members of the ethnic majority. It made use of all the means at the disposal of a governing party and a totalitarian regime in which the party membership card was the key to all careers. There was also an established quota of desirable and permissible admissions to the party in terms of ethnic groups. The Communist Party did everything to legitimize itself as the party of the ethnic majority, the Romanians.

Let us consider the final result of this effort: at the XIVth PCR Congress in November 1989, one month before it went into historic oblivion, the PCR announced that 92 percent of its 3,800,000 members were ethnic Romanians, 6.53 percent Hungarian, 0.51 percent German, and the rest was made up other "other nationalities." This remaining 0.96 percent included Jews, Armenians, Serbs, Turks, a.s.o. It is clear that the final representation of all national minorities -- including Jews -- was lower than in the first postwar years and considerably lower in the case of the Jews. However, there was still overrepresentation of Jews in the PCR, because the Jewish population of the country had, in the meantime, been drastically reduced to less than 20,000 due to emigration.


In addition to pointing out Jewish overrepresentation in the PCR, anti-Semites also argue that their proportion -- as well as that of other ethnic minorities -- in the central, mid-level, and local party leadership had been "too large." One cannot deny the accuracy of the contention, applied to a certain time period. Romanian historian Lucian Boia speaks of "...quite a large number of Jews and other non-Romanians in the political, propaganda and repression apparatus in the Stalinist epoch" (Boia, 1997, p. 205). However, the question is: WHEN did this happen, WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS ONE IS TALKING ABOUT, and HOW SIGNIFICANT was that Jewish presence in the party's leadership?

As to the proportions: the initial troika of the PCR leadership was made up of Gheorghiu-Dej, Ana Pauker, and Vasile Luca -- an ethnic Romanian, a Jew, and a Hungarian. One out of three was an enormous overrepresentation. Nevertheless, when there are only three individuals, statistical proportions are really insignificant; it is the simple presence of two members of the minority in the highest power structure that the ethnic majority is likely to consider injurious. In the PCR's Political Bureau, overrepresentation was smaller, since Gheorghiu-Dej, Constantin Parvulescu, Lucretiu Patrascanu, Gheorghe Apostol, and others were all Romanians. Romanian historian Gheorghe Buzatu (1998, p. 7), who is in his own way a champion in arguing that the party was dominated by Jews, quotes Vladimir Lesakov, a representative of the Cominform, who disapprovingly ascertained in August 1947 that there were only nine Romanians out of 20 high-level PCR leaders, the other eight being Jews and three of them Hungarians. Anyway, most of the leadership members were Romanians at that time. After Lesakov's intervention, which was rather convenient for Gheorghiu-Dej and his friends, the proportion slowly but surely changed towards an absolute supremacy of the ethnic majority.

Another historian, Ioan Chiper, rightly remarks that the energetic, radical Romanianization at rank-and-file level was registered at a much earlier stage at party and state leadership level (as it has been noted above, by 1947, the proportion of ethnic groups within the PCR was already reflecting their approximate weight in the population at large). It must, however, be noted that this change occurred first at the level of the PCR's local and intermediary leaderships and only later at the level of the so-called "central organs" (Chiper, 1998, p. 35). Regional and local PCR leadership provide interesting data. In Cluj in May 1945, the PCR's County Bureau was made up of two Hungarians, two Jews, and one Romanian, while in November the same bureau had a total of 29 members, of which 15 were Romanian, 12 Hungarian, one Jewish, and one Polish (Tirau, 1995, pp. 29, 32). Proportions had thus radically changed within a few months and the number of Jews was reduced to half.

After 1989, several newspapers published lists of Jewish "party activists" of different ranks. The lists generally included 200-300 names, many of them well-known. But nobody saw fit to publish the names of the thousands of "professional" party activists who belonged to the ethnic majority.

After the early 1948 foundation of the Romanian Workers' Party (as the former PCR was called until 1965) through the suppression and assimilation of the Social-Democratic Party, the drive of Romanianization became more powerful. "The PMR (Romanian Workers' Party) proved to be a Romanian party in which minorities were really minorities. More than 75 percent of party 'activists' were Romanians (15,771). The Jews, who even now are considered by many to have been predominant in the Stalinist communist parties, were 8.42 percent of the party 'active;' 1,767 Jews were members of the leadership of the PMR. Hungarians, who were more dynamic, made up 13.39 percent (2,811) of that 'active,' while other nationalities in that body were something above 3 percent," according to historian Florin Muller (1995, p. 19). Of course, those 8.42 percent still add up to a considerable overrepresentation, one that was larger than that of Hungarians.

"It is therefore the conquering agent, the Soviet Union and its agents recruited from the local network of the Comintern (a few Romanians and many Jews, Hungarians, etc.) that is guilty for the imprisonment of intellectuals and those 80,000 peasants arrested in such a short period as 1950-1953, not the Romanian people," claims sociologist Ilie Badescu (1997, p. 31). I perfectly agree with the last four words -- but the rest of the statement is a deliberate mystification. The crimes were committed in-line with orders descending from the party leadership in which Romanians were in a majority at the time. The author rightly speaks against the notion of a "diffuse (collective) culpability" of the Romanian people; however, he does not hesitate to mention the COLLECTIVE culpability of ethnic minorities, mainly Jews. Guilt in this case and in similar cases must be individual, it is the guilt of those who ordered the crimes committed or committed those crimes themselves. Between 1950 and 1953, not only minorities made up the highest level of party leadership. Ioan Chiper published two tables which clearly show that on 13 December 1951 the percentage representation of Romanians was ensured in all administrative divisions (regions) of the country, at local, departmental, town, and central-regional level; at the same time, in the Central Committee of the PMR there was still an overrepresentation of national minorities' members, mainly Hungarians and Jews; the radical change at this level occurred after the 1952 removal from the national leadership level of the so-called group of "right-wing deviationists" headed by Ana Pauker and Vasile Luca (Chiper, 1998, pp. 36-37, 39). According to data published by other authors, the ethnic composition of full and "alternate" members of the Central Committee of the PCR in February 1971 was as follows: Romanians -- 88.07 percent, Hungarians -- 7.38 percent, Germans -- 2.10 percent, and "others" 2.45 percent (Catanus and Neacsu, 1998, p. 171). The Jews are not even mentioned separately, they represent a fraction of the category of "others" which also includes Serbs, Ukrainians, Turks, a.s.o.

It can thus be concluded that after 23 August 1944 the communist power center adopted a policy of Romanianizing its own apparatus on all levels. This policy implied the replacement in waves of Jewish "activists" with members of the ethnic majority. As already mentioned, this line intensified after the removal of Ana Pauker and Vasile Luca from the PCR leadership and again towards the end of the leadership of Gheorghiu-Dej (after the Soviet army left Romania and the PCR strove to gain independence from Moscow). This policy continued with a new swing in a frenzy of zeal under Nicolae Ceausescu. "In the time of N. Ceausescu, the communist elite was selected according to the criteria of national-communist exigencies. Thus, Romanian ethnic origin, working class or peasant descent, a clean political 'file' (without any compulsory 'underground' past) were the basic criteria in the severe selection of the new elite and its successive groups," according to Mihail E. Ionescu (1997, p. 7). Now the criteria of selection were an ethnic Romanian origin first and foremost and a "healthy" social origin in the second place; the "underground past" disappeared altogether as a recruitment criterion. Ceausescu's quotas for minorities, just like those for women, intellectuals, etc., were rigorously controlled and imposed by the center during all sorts of sham elections for party or state organs. The quotas for minorities grew smaller and smaller, those for Jews tending towards zero.

Successive "purges," whose aim was to serve regime legitimization via the increasingly powerful assertion of its national character often resorted to pretexts that could easily fit into PCR ideology and cadre policy: the "unhealthy social origin" of the majority of Jewish nomenclature members, their family ties to members of the former grand bourgeoisie or small bourgeoisie and with people who emigrated from the country, were among the instruments most often used to serve the purpose.

(This subchapter will continue in the next issue of "East European Perspectives.")

The author is a professor of sociology at Babes-Bolyai Cluj University, Romania.


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Badescu, I., 1997, "Frontiera kominternului: Dizidenta si rezistenta," (The Comintern" Frontier: Dissidence and Resistance") in "Noua Revista Romana" (Bucharest), no. 5-6 (May-June), 28-34.

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