Romania makes Holocaust education compulsory in all high schools

BUCHAREST, Romania (JTA) — Romania’s Senate has passed a law that requires all high schools and vocational schools in the country to teach a specific subject on the history of the Holocaust and the Jewish people.

The law adopted on Monday stipulates that the course will be taught from 2023. Its content will be decided by the country’s Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania.

In the words of Jewish lawmaker Silviu Vexler, who championed the law, the initiative aims to “combat intolerance and extremism” among young people.

The center-right National Liberal Party and the Social Democrats voted in favor of the law, along with the centrist alliance USR PLUS and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania.

The law, which was previously passed by Romania’s lower house, was backed by 107 senators, while 13 lawmakers voted against and one abstained.

He was opposed by the right-wing populist Alliance for the Union of Romanians, or AUR, a nationalist party that won 9% of the vote when it debuted in last December’s general election and is now the fourth-largest party. of the country’s legislature.

AUR lawmaker Claudiu Tarziu called the law unnecessary because he claimed Romania had not experienced a single “serious anti-Semitic case” in the past 20 years. Tarziu said the law “contradicts” Romanian and European laws as well as “common sense”, as it discriminates against “our fellow citizens who belong to other minorities”.

According to official statistics included in a report by the Elie Wiesel Institute, a total of 27 anti-Semitic incidents were reported to authorities in 2020. A number of Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized in recent years.

Romanian Jewish actress Maia Morgenstern – who made international headlines for her role as the Virgin Mary in Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ – received death threats last March from an individual who said he would “throw her in a gas chamber”. Anti-Semitic messages are also prevalent in the nationalist fringe press, both online and in print, and historical interpretations of the Holocaust that downplay Romania’s role have been touted by local historians and university professors.

According to the Elie Wiesel Institute, between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were murdered in Romanian-administered territories during World War II.

Helen D. Jessen