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Moldovan Students Set to Learn More About the Holocaust

Critics say that teaching on the subject has been far too little, partly because of the sensitivity of discussing the atrocities committed by the Romanian fascist state.

9 August 2017

Critics say that teaching on the subject has been far too little, partly because of the sensitivity of discussing the atrocities committed by the Romanian fascist state.

 

The upcoming school year should bring more prominence to Holocaust studies in Moldovan schools. A partnership agreement signed by Lilia Pogolsa, deputy minister of education, and Alexandr Bilinkis, the president of the Jewish Community in Moldova, last month lays out a collaboration “to elaborate and implement programs for studying the Holocaust in schools, with the aim of combating anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and interethnic hatred.” The activities mentioned in the agreement are the elaboration of a curriculum for an elective subject covering the Holocaust, training teaching staff on how to address the topic, and organizing extra-curricular activities related to the Holocaust. The partnership covers a timeframe of five years. 

 

Up until now, history textbooks for secondary schools have only devoted a page and a half to the Holocaust in Moldova, The Times of Israel writes, while high schools have devoted a day to the topic in the 9th grade, and another day in the 12th grade, according to Irina Sihova, the curator of Moldova’s Jewish Heritage Museum.

 

Still, the agreement does not guarantee that more time will be devoted to the study of the Holocaust.

 

“We signed an agreement with the Jewish community on the measures we will take together to integrate the Holocaust in the educational process,” said Corina Lungu, a senior consultant at the Ministry of Education in charge of secondary education, according to The Times of Israel. “We will teach about the Holocaust the same way that we teach all historical events. I wouldn’t say that we need to pay ‘more attention’ to the Holocaust. We have a curriculum and every subject has a few hours.”

 

Moldova has had difficulties coming to terms with its World War II history, which includes atrocities committed by the Romanian army against Jews and gypsies. At the beginning of the war, the country was part of Romania, then-ruled by a fascist regime; in accordance with a secret protocol of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, Romania was forced to give the territory to the Soviet Union. Romania regained the lost lands briefly, only to lose them again to the Soviet Union after the war.

 

In the town of Edinet, northern Moldova, a synagogue with a tragic past has been up for sale for 65,000 euros ($75,000), according to The Times of Israel. Its Moldovan owner had said “he wasn’t aware of its history,” which includes the execution of 90 members of the local Jewish community on its premises during the war. The house and courtyard, which were used by a textile manufacturer while Moldova was part of the Soviet Union, are now rented out to a car junkyard.

While Edinet had a Jewish population of 10,000 at the end of the 19th century, the most recent Moldovan census in 2014 showed that the local Jewish community only had 17 members.

 

 

  • Holocaust remembrance has been a thorny issue for Moldova’s neighbors, as well. Florin Iepan’s Odessa, a documentary which focuses on the World War II massacre of Odessa Jews by Nazi-allied Romanian troops, received a mixed reception in Romania in 2013. According to the film, 22,500 Jews were killed, but historians Alex Mihai Stoenescu and Manuel Stanescu said the correct numbers are probably “on the scale of hundreds or a couple of thousand.”

 

  • More recently, a worrying trend has emerged in Moldova as well as Belarus. Holocaust memorials and monuments in the two Eastern European countries have been increasingly adorned with Christian crosses, despite the fact that, in many cases, most of the victims were Jewish, a practice that has been criticized for being “disrespectful and historically inaccurate,” The Times of Israel writes

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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