(JTA) — The mayoral candidacy of a Bucharest politician who said local Jews lied for money about the number of their brethren killed in the Holocaust “presents a concern,” a Romanian watchdog group on anti-Semitism said.
Marian Munteanu of the National Liberal Party, Romania’s second largest, made the accusation in a press statement he co-signed in 1994, when he was part of the Christian-nationalist Movement for Romania organization.
Jewish groups put the number of Romanians killed in the Holocaust at 420,000 to “obtain illicit moneys from Romanian people through disinformation and manipulation of public opinion, with the complicity of treacherous elements who infiltrated the Romanian institutional structures,” the statement read, the online edition of Evenimentul Zilei reported last week.
The Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of Holocaust warned that Munteanu “presents a concern” not only because of his nationalist rhetoric and “statements minimizing or denying” the Holocaust, but also for “misrepresenting” reality today, according to the Agerpres news website.
The institute cited an April 13 statement by Munteanu, who in criticizing legislation from last year that proscribes anti-Semitic speech and Holocaust denial, said the law itself was anti-Semitic because it singles out Jews.
In Romania, he said, “there is hardly anti-Semitism, rather xenophobia. We are all philo-Semites because we are Christians.”
Romania, where Jews were killed during World War II by troops loyal to Ion Antonescu, Adolf Hitler’s ally, has seen numerous cases of Holocaust denial, including in academia and government.
In 2012, a politician who denied that Jews had suffered in Romania during the Holocaust was appointed to a ministerial post despite protests by Jewish groups. The politician, Dan Sova, later apologized and said his statement was the result of ignorance.
A few months later, a Romanian member of the European Parliament denied the Holocaust on television. The following year, a prominent historian said it was a “huge lie” that large numbers of Jews were killed in areas under Romanian control during the Holocaust, leading to his firing from a teaching post at a German university.
Also that year, a Romanian state television channel was fined for broadcasting a Christmas carol celebrating the burning of Jews.