Following much criticism from Romanian Jews, communications minister Dan Sova said Friday that statements he made in March about Romanian persecution of Jews, were “completely wrong.” According to Romanian media outlets, Sova said he had now learned the truth, apologized to the victims and expressed his desire to organize a study about the Shoah in cooperation with the Elie Wiesel Institute in Bucharest.
“My claims in a television program about the Holocaust in Romania were completely wrong,” said Sova. “Currently, I have confidence, supported by historical information, that there were about 250,000 victims of persecution among the Jewish community in Romania.”
The appointment of the Romanian lawmaker, who had denied his countrymen’s complicity in the Holocaust, to a ministerial post on Monday raised concern among Romanian Jews.
In an interview for the Romanian B1 television network on Monday, Aurel Vainer, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania, said that Sova’s appointment made him “want to wear a black armband” as a sign of mourning.
In March, Sova was filmed saying that Romanians never participated in the persecution of Jews. The Social Democrat lawmaker added that only 24 Jews, not thousands, had died during the violent Iasi pogrom, which he attributed to the German army.
Historians say some 15,000 Jews from Iasi were murdered in the streets or asphyxiated in “death trains” in June and July of 1941. Some 250,000 Romanian Jews were murdered by 1945. Romania has a Jewish population of slightly over 6,000, according to the European Jewish Congress.
Sova’s promotion “raises questions” in light of his past statements, Vainer said. “It is hard to accept that a young, educated man would claim the Holocaust never happened in Romania,” added Vainer, himself a Romanian lawmaker.
Vainer also said that Sova’s promotion “did not send the correct message to young people.”
“It is imperative that Mr. Sova make a full and clear public apology for the comments he made in March denying the Holocaust,” said Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman. “A public apology by Mr. Sova and his proactive engagement in reforming the law prohibiting fascist and racist organizations will make clear to all that he and the Romanian government are committed to fighting anti-Semitism.”
In a letter to Prime Minister Victor Ponta, the ADL urged the government to have Sova make “a more substantial and lasting impact by moving from words to deeds” by reforming the law against fascist and racist organizations, the use of their symbols, the glorification of their leaders, and Holocaust denial to enable more effective prosecutions.
After Sova made the comments, he was removed from his role as spokesperson for the Social Democratic Party and sent on a three-day study tour to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.