Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Grant T. Harward's "Romania’s Holy War"

Grant T. Harward is a US Army Medical Department Historian, a former Fulbright Scholar, and a former Research Fellow at the Mandel Center of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Romania's Holy War: Soldiers, Motivation, and the Holocaust, and reported the following:
Opening to page 99 in Romania’s Holy War drops the browser into the unfolding Iaşi Pogrom late Saturday night on 28 June 1941, less than a week after the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Romanian and German patrols reported being fired upon. The patrols shot back and searched homes but never found any snipers. German patrols reported casualties; it took days for the Romanian authorities to confirm that this was false. At 11 p.m. General [Ion] Antonescu [the dictator of Romania] phoned [Colonel Constantin] Lupu [the Iaşi garrison commander], ordering him to restore order and deport all Jewish men in the city at once. Soon afterward, two Romanian columns passing through Iaşi on the way to the front reported being fired at by snipers. By 3 a.m. soldiers across the city were grabbing Jews from buildings they thought were the sources of fire and summarily executing them. A report recorded three hundred dead and fifty wounded during the night. As the sun rose, civilians joined soldiers, turning reprisals into a pogrom. “That Sunday,” as locals subsequently referred to 29 June, soldiers, gendarmes, civilians, and some Germans killed thousands of Jews, mostly men, but women and children too…. City authorities believed Jewish communists and “very weak Romanian communist elements” had attacked to hinder troop movements by purposefully triggering a pogrom to spread disorder, so commanders made feeble attempts to restore order…. People from all walks of life, laborers to tax collectors, guided troops to Jewish neighbors and encouraged their execution. Romanians who shielded Jews were accused of being “sold to the kikes” and sometimes murdered, like an engineer shot by an officer shouting, “Die you dog, with the Jews you’re protecting.”
After days of Soviet air raids and dark rumors of Jews signaling enemy pilots, order collapsed as the pogrom spiraled out of control in the city just ten miles from the front where Axis and Soviet forces were locked in combat.

The Page 99 Test works as advertised in this case. The Iaşi Pogrom remains the most controversial event of the Holocaust in Romania, even though the Odessa Massacre four months later resulted in even more victims, because Iaşi is still within Romania’s borders (unlike most of the rest of the killing fields where Romanian soldiers and gendarmes committed mass murder of Jews that became part of Moldova and Ukraine) and Romanian civilians of all types perpetrated violence against Jewish neighbors after Romanian soldiers, and some German troops, initiated mass reprisals against supposed Jewish communist fifth columnists. Consequently, it would have been difficult to choose a better page to open to for the browser to obtain a good idea about the whole book.

Page 99 in Romania’s Holy War illustrates many of my main arguments. It shows how interrelated military operations and genocidal actions were on the eastern front, requiring the integration of military history and Holocaust history to get a full picture of the Romanian Army. Additionally, the Romanian Army’s central role in triggering popular antisemitic violence is made manifest. Finally, it demonstrates that the atrocities committed by Romanian soldiers against Jews were as much the result of bottom-up initiatives by soldiers as from the top-down orders from leaders. The myth of Judeo-Bolshevism that pervaded Romanian society, and thus also the ranks of the army, so they believed the enemy was not only the Red Army without but the Jewish community within Romania. Far from being reluctant, unideological allies of Nazi Germany, Romanian soldiers were highly motivated by nationalism, religion, antisemitism, and anticommunism to fight the Red Army and commit atrocities against Jews.

The views and information presented are those of Dr. Harward and do not represent the official position of the U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Defense, or U.S. Government.
Follow Grant T. Harward on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue