Romania’s president has signed into law legislation that punishes Holocaust denial and the promotion of the fascist Legionnaires’ Movement with prison sentences of up to three years.
“The legislation shows that Romania is taking Holocaust seriously,” Marco Katz, director of The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, told Hamodia. “If people see that, they might start asking what it is all about and it will increase sensitivity.”
Mr. Katz, who was instrumental in advancing the legislation, said that there is a “trend” in the country to portray Romania’s Holocaust-era leader, Marshal Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard as national heroes. He also said that, while Holocaust denial is not “mainstream,” that there is a prominent movement to ignore the large role that Romanian citizens played in genocide.
“Many will say, ‘Yes Jews were killed but not here, we tried to protect Jews,’” he said. “We wanted to have the ability to prosecute those who are trying to revive the image.”
President Klaus Iohannis signed the amendments to existing legislation, approved by Parliament last month.
The legislation also bans fascist, racist or xenophobic organizations and symbols, and promoting people guilty of crimes against humanity by up to three years in prison.
Romania’s legionnaires regime took an active role in exterminating Jews and Roma (Gypsies) between 1940 and 1944. About 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma were killed during the pro-fascist Antonescu’s regime.
Romania has a few right-wing fringe groups such as Noua Dreapta, or New Right, which could be affected by the new law. Noua Dreapta’s followers support Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the leader of the 1930s ultra-nationalist Iron Guard movement, which was active in Romania from 1927 to 1941. Mr. Katz said that he hoped this law would prevent Noua Draepta from becoming recognized as an official political party.
While the legislation was welcomed by Jewish and Holocaust remembrance groups, some expressed concerns about whether it would translate into action.
“Words are one thing, but implementation is another,” Efraim Zuroff, director of European affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Hamodia.
Katz echoed this concern saying that “judges, prosecutors, and police” needed to be sensitized to the issue. He said that “without proper education, the law will just be another flag for Romania to run up the poll and show off what they are doing.”
(With reporting from Associated Press)