Pro-Nazi bust of government official stays in place in Romania

Bucharest’s city council votes against removing the bust displayed in a park in the country’s capital honouring Romania’s pro-Nazi finance minister of the Second World War government.

Romanian watchdogs blasted an administrative unit of Bucharest’s city council for refusing to remove a bust honouring Mircea Vulcanescu, who served as a finance minister in the country’s pro-Nazi government during World War II, reports The Jerusalem Post.

On January 4, part of the Bucharest city council voted down a resolution to remove the monument from Saint Stefan park in the Romanian capital. The resolution was initiated by a local councillor from the centre-right National Liberal Party and has attracted national attention. The initiative failed to be adopted since the majority of councillors abstained.

The Wiesel Institute claims that the refusal to adopt the motion is in violation of a law adopted by the Romanian parliament in 2002 and revised in 2015, which made glorifying figures guilty of crimes against humanity illegal. The preservation of the pro-Nazi bust also contradicts a national strategy to fight antisemitism adopted by Romania in 2021.

Head of the Bucharest-based Centre for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, Maximilian Marco Katz, criticised the council’s vote in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: „During WWII, Mircea Vulcanescu was part of Marshal Antonescu’s government that legislated and implemented antisemitic legislation and measures that resulted in the Romanian Holocaust.”

Ion Antonescu, Romania’s prime minister in the early 1940s, sided with Adolf Hitler during the war, which resulted in the killing of around 280,000-380,000 Romanian Jews in the Holocaust.

„Katz recalled that, in 1946, Vulcanescu was sentenced to 8 years in prison by post-war communist authorities, which found him guilty of collaborating with Nazi Germany and imprisoned him until his death in 1952. Vulcanescu had taken part in the adoption of legislation to overtax Jews and strip them of property,” writes The Jerusalem Post.

„All those who opposed or abstained” from the motion to remove the monument „acted knowingly against” Romania’s 2002 law aimed at figures found guilty of war crimes, said Katz.

„During the war, Vulcanescu was the country’s finance minister. He collaborated with Nazi Germany and was responsible for adopting legislation to overtax Jews and strip them of property. Sadly, some of the council want to rewrite and distort history. This refusal to acknowledge the dark history of Romania’s fascist past is another strong reminder of the need for Romania to continue to work with WJRO to resolve ongoing issues of Holocaust-era restitution and memory,” World Jewish Restitution Organization COO Mark Weitzman said in a statement.