Three dictatorships have left their mark on Romania in the past 80 years. Two of them – the authoritarian regime of King Carol II (1938-1940) and Communism (1948-1989) – are consistently covered in textbooks used to teach history in Romanian high schools. But the third dictatorship – that of Marshall Ion Antonescu (1940-1944), when the country allied with Nazi Germany – benefits of little exposure and is treated unevenly, although it encompasses one of the most dreadful events in Romanian recent history – the nation’s involvement in the Holocaust. An investigative effort undertaken by two Dela0.ro reporters follows the causes and explanations of this phenomenon, uncovering some unpleasant institutional facts and a few administrative blunders at the top of Romania’s Ministry of Education.
The two men are sitting comfortably in their leather armchairs. The younger of the two tackles the other, breaking the silence in an unusually serene voice: “You directed an entire film about Antonescu – “The Mirror” – and the word “Jew” is mentioned only one time throughout. There are no Jews in your film about Antonescu!”
The camera zooms in on the face of the elder, who lets his arms fall completely beside the armrests of the chair. A frown appears on the wrinkled face and the petrol-blue suit he is wearing creases at the shrug of his shoulders.
“It wasn’t my goal”, he replies with disarming sincerity, before his counterpart hands him a copy of the Wiesel Report, the official document that establishes Romania’s contribution to the Holocaust. His hands clenched on the document, the elder remarks mistrustfully: “The highest number of Jews was killed by us? I don’t know why, but I somehow doubt it”. Again, the silence falls heavily, as if it were stuck between the two men.
The above scene has made it into the final cut version of the documentary film “Odessa” by Florin Iepan, a Romanian director from the city of Timisoara who fantasises about starting a national discussion on the country’s fascist past. The elder being questioned about the way in which he chose to portray Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu is probably the most important domestic film maker of the past few decades. His name is Sergiu Nicolaescu, millions of Romanians have seen his films and a large share of these viewers have understood history as it was seen through the camera lens of director Nicolaescu.
A question becomes unavoidable: the “I don’t know why” superfluously uttered by Nicolaescu in support of his ungrounded scepticism, could it be shared by a larger category of Romanians, viewers of his films and products of a school system in which factual information about the Holocaust in Romania is either incomplete or totally incorrect?
- Officially, the Romanian Government accepted the recommendations of the Wiesel Report back in 2004. Some of them were related to education and the way the Holocaust should be taught in schools. More than eight years down the line, high school textbooks still include obvious errors.
- In 2006, Marshall Ion Antonescu – the dictator that ruled Romania between 1940 and 1944 – was voted sixth in the top of Great Romanians, a TV competition run by the National Television, during which he received almost 30.000 votes.
- At the end of 2010, a national survey on how Romanians view the genocide of Jews during World War II showed that more than three quarters of the respondents believe the Holocaust happened in Germany and the Germans are to blame for such crimes on Romanian territory.
Although these facts seem unconnected, they could actually be part of the same vicious cycle, pertaining to a precarious educational system that has changed little despite Romania’s formal recognition of taking part in the Holocaust.
Eight years after adopting the recommendations of the Wiesel Report, why do the high school history books describe the years 1940-1944 in much the same way as those prior to 2004?
How can it be justified that text books treating the topic of Holocaust unequally have all received the seal of approval from Ministry of Education evaluators?
Why does the current curriculum recommend that topics connected to Ion Antonescu’s dictatorship be discussed in chapters that are not relevant to the historic impact of the regime, dismissing ethnic cleansing as a side effect, when in reality genocide policies defined the nature and ambitions of the Marshall’s regime?
Why is it that the overwhelming majority of these text books completely leave out the anti-Semitism of inter-war Romanian society, the pogroms of Iasi, Bucharest or Dorohoi, the “ death trains”, the deportations in Transnistria or the 1941 Odessa mass killings?
Ultimately, how can one label an educational system that creates graduates who lack the fundamental facts for a truthful evaluation of the dramatic actions taken by Romania between 1940 and 1944?
These are just some of the questions raised in an investigative effort that included the studying of history text books available to high school students, a look into the institutional route that a text book proposal follows before it is certified by the Ministry of Education, but also several interviews with curriculum experts and Education Ministers who have held the office long enough in the past eight years to make an impact. That is, either to change or ignore the way the Holocaust in Romania is taught to high school students.
Of the five Ministers we have approached for comments on the topic – Mircea Miclea, Mihail Hardau, Cristian Adomnitei, Ecaterina Andronescu and Daniel Funeriu – only two responded to the questions addressed by Dela0.ro. During the preliminary phone conversations all expressed interest in the matter and stated their willingness to explain the profound discrepancies between the formal commitments of the Romanian Government and the educational realities within.
Afterwards, some either refused to take the repeated calls made or dismissed the “innuendo questions, typical of an interrogation” and refused to comment. All five Ministers headed at some point the process of curriculum development, influencing the way in which the most repressive regime in Romanian history is portrayed in high school text books.
A Tragic Summing-up
Approximately 300.000 Jews killed. This is the outcome of the genocide that Romanian authorities perpetrated against Jews during the rule of Marshall Ion Antonescu. The cultural, economical and political discrimination, all policies set up by Romanian authorities starting with 1937, received the finishing stroke during Antonescu’s regime, through ghettoization, deportation, mass execution and pogroms.
In the summer of 1941, the violence used by Romanian authorities against Jews in the town of Iasi was of such extent that historian Paul Shapiro thinks the pogrom might have actually been a case study for Nazi Germany itself. Never before had a state conducted mass executions right in the middle of one of its biggest cities, under civilian eyes, without seeing any need of concealing it from the population. 13.000 Jews were killed in three days.
A larger genocide action followed: the massacre of Odessa, in October 1941. Over 30,000 Jews were executed on Antonescu’s orders, after the Romanian War Commandment was blown up in the Ukrainian city. The authorities in Bucharest concluded that Jews were to blame for the incident and ordered the brutal execution of thousands.
The extermination process continued with Transnistria, the “ethnic dump” of Romania. According to the Wiesel Report, between 105.000 and 120.000 Jews deported from Romania and 12.000 Roma were killed in concentration camps set up there. On top of this, one must add over 100.000 of local Ukrainian Jews who were victims of the Romanian Army’s crossing over the river Nistru.
“A Compulsory Starting Point”
November 2004, Bucharest, Cotroceni Palace. In the presence of Romanian President Ion Iliescu, US Ambassador Jack Dyer Crouch and Israel’s diplomatic representatives in Romania, Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel delivers the Report which underlines the country’s World War II involvement in the genocide against the Jewish population.
Officially, the Holocaust ceases to be considered unrelated to Romanian history, a crime for which Germany alone is to be held accountable. There is enough historic evidence, starting with a simple fact: Nazi Germany never controlled territories under Romanian administration during World War II. President Ion Iliescu, who had previously denied the very existence of the Holocaust in Romania, solemnly declares that the state he heads takes responsibility for the atrocities and crimes perpetrated against the Jewish population.
Satisfied with the Report, which he describes as “balanced and objective”, Iliescu underlines that it is a “compulsory starting point” in re-assessing Romania’s recent history. Officially, the Government recognizes the recommendations of the Wiesel Report regarding the education on the Holocaust and takes on the task of correcting the factual errors in high school text books. This cannot be done without revising the history curriculum, in order to include real references and set the general framework for the events to be treated accurately.
The Wiesel Report “demands that the Ministry of Education create a work group in collaboration with the Committee experts and the appropriate international institutions, with the aim of revising, correcting and developing a suitable curriculum and a text book on the Holocaust, based on the findings of the Committee, by June 2006”.
The only commitment the Ministry delivered on was the publishing of an optional text book on the subject, although, according to information obtained by Dela0.ro, the development of the appropriate curriculum on the topic and the actual printing of the text book were results of individual endeavours, outside any institutional effort. The Ministry does not have statistical data to indicate the level of usage of the Holocaust text book, whose “optional” character means that it is up to high school history teachers to decide whether to use it or not.
How many students bought the text book and how many professors teach the alternative course are questions left without answers. Beyond doubt is one thing, though: the only information on the Holocaust that can be taken into consideration when asking what Romanian high school students are taught about the country’s involvement in the genocide is that written in the compulsory text books.
“According to Indications”. The Story of a Recognised Holocaust
May 2005, Brussels. The Romanian Minister of Education Mircea Miclea participates as an active observer at a meeting held by the Council for Education, Culture and Youth of the European Union. Romania is not yet a member of the EU (editor’s note: it will become one in 2007), but one particular topic on the agenda generates interest for the country’s Education overseers – “Let’s learn from the past: using historic events like the Holocaust in the fight against anti-Semitism and racism”.
Mircea Miclea is the first minister of Education that had to deal with the recommendations of the Wiesel Report acknowledged by the Government of Romania in December 2004. During his time in office, between December 2004 and November 2005, Miclea signed documents that assumed the Ministry’s task to amend the History curriculum. According to those papers, chapters on the Holocaust in Romania were to be included in text books.
From a certain point of view, Miclea is the minister who has accomplished the most on the factual revision and the correct reflection of Marshall Antonescu’s historic legacy in high school text books. On the other hand, the effects of his decisions as a minister are minimal today: neither the Antonescu regime, nor the Holocaust in Romania have dedicated chapters and both are treated superficially, as sub-themes, part of broader subjects related to “Minorities” or “European Dictatorships”.
Mircea Miclea explained for Dela0.ro that blame should not go solely to the Ministry, but also to the body of historians, who are still much divided on the topic of the Holocaust in Romania.
“The documents that I have signed made it possible to include even minor changes to the text books, as they are now. I think it was the maximum possible during my time in office, which was too short to make the introduction of new text books possible. It is regrettable that ministers who followed did not pay adequate attention to the matter. However, I do believe that the inertia is not only at ministerial level, but also at the level of the community of historians. Even within this community there are quite a few dissensions. To me personally, this is the explanation for the rise of such History graduates as Dan Sova” (editor’s note: Dan Sova is a prominent member of the Social-Democratic Party in power and a History & Law graduate; in the spring of 2012, during a TV talk-show, he denied any Romanian involvement in the Holocaust, declaring that all the crimes against Jews on Romanian territory were committed by the Germans)
Mircea Miclea, Ex Minister of Education
The heritage that Mircea Miclea left – namely, the 2006 curriculum – is a hesitant falling in line with the recommendations of the Wiesel Report. According to the History curriculum in use, the chapter “People, Society and the World of Ideas” should include topics such as ethnic diversity, national minorities, ideologies and political practices of XX century Romania and Europe. Another chapter, “The State and Politics”, should approach subjects such as Great Romania, the role of the state from World War I to the Schumann Plan, Stalinism and National – Communism.
Although in terms of repression and amplitude of political measures the power ambitions of Antonescu’s regime surpass those of Romanian Communism, it is only the latter that benefits of a special chapter in the curriculum. Moreover, even though genocide practices clearly define a period in Romanian state policy, the authors of the curriculum did not find the arguments to include the topic in a separate section. The only reference to the Holocaust in Romania in the 2006 curriculum has a methodological nature:
“The chapter ‘The Twentieth Century – Between Democracy and Totalitarianism; Ideologies and Political Practices in Romania and Europe’ should approach the ideas, political practices and the figures that embodied them; from human rights to state terrorism against its own citizens, to Gulag and the Holocaust.”
(The 2006 School Curriculum)
The 2009 curriculum, which takes on the steps of the previous one, doesn’t do justice to the topic either.
Doru Dumiterscu, Chief History Inspector within the Ministry of Education, is one of the experts heading the Commission responsible for the development of high school history curriculum.
Asked by Dela0.ro, Dumitrescu confirmed that there was no specialised work group set up, nor were members of the Elie Wiesel Commission contacted to participate in the curriculum’s revision. This happened because the Ministry considered satisfactory the process of adjusting curriculums already in place “as per the indications” of the Report.
According to the definition drawn up by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the Shoah is “the persecution and systematic annihilation, organised by the state, of the population of European Jews by Nazi Germany, its allies and collaborators between 1933 and 1945.”
Although this definition, adopted by the Elie Wiesel Commission, leaves very little room for interpretation with regards to the involvement of the Romania state in the genocide, the topic is included in the country’s history text books in a chapter named “People, Society and the World of Ideas”, under sub-sections referring to ethnic diversity in Romania and national minorities.
The main chapter describing how Romania went from constitutional monarchy to totalitarian regimes in the XX century, named “The State and Politics”, does not include any specific reference to the Holocaust. The Ministry’s chief history inspector Doru Dumitrescu explained the deficiency with a hazy argument: “The issue of the Holocaust is included in both chapters, although it is not mentioned specifically.”
The Ministry designed history curriculum is, however, wholly optional: Dumitrescu’s statements for Dela0.ro have indicated that the subject in question “may or may not be included in text books, depending on authors’ inclinations”. In Romania, for every compulsory field of study there are several alternative text book options, products of different publishing houses that need the Ministry’s approval before making their way on the educational market. After that, each history teacher has the liberty to choose the text book he or she finds best.
Given the way the curriculum is designed, it easily allows the validation of text books that touch the general topics, no matter how superficially. Doru Dumitrescu delivered the same murky justification: “The first chapter can touch on a series of subjects – the general situation of minorities following World War I, their evolution, the political, social and cultural solutions devised by the Romanian state for minorities and so on, with the Holocaust as an independent historic fact to be included in a secondary field of knowledge. But this is just a suggestion…”
An Ignored Dictatorship
How does a text book developed “as per the recommendations of the Wiesel Report” look like? In some cases, in doesn’t have a face at all. For example, the period between 1938 and 1945 is completely eliminated from ninth grade Romanian history text books.
In one of the text books, published by Humanitas in 2011, the authors talk about political parties in inter-war Romania and briefly touch on the topic of Archangel Michael’s Legion (the first form of institutionalized fascism in the country, also known as the Iron Guard). The story of the Legion is condensed in a few lines and refers to its formation and defining ideas, among which “the need to put an end to Jewish domination”. After 1939, the text book skips straight to “Communist Romania”.
A second text book, published by Sigma in 2006, is a bit more generous with Holocaust information, as it includes in a chapter named “Types of Government and Non-Democratic Regimes” an analysis of Fascism, referring to the Legionary Movement as well (editor’s note: the Movement followed on the steps of the Iron Guard, holding power for a couple of months at the end of 1940, along with Ion Antonescu, before the Marshall assumed total control of the state apparatus).
Sigma’s text book also has a few lines on Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, a mythical figure of the Romanian far-right, killed in 1938 in a conspiracy orchestrated by King Carol II, who feared the growing popularity of the Iron Guard. Nevertheless, Ion Antonescu does not benefit of the same treatment from Sigma’s authors – his name is mentioned only once in a case study which states: “the instauration of the Antonescu regime did not improve the situation for political parties”.
Despite the fact that Sigma’s text book develops at length the subject of Totalitarianism – it includes a comparison between Communism and Fascism, the Gulag and Auschwitz, introduces the concept of extermination and quotes some paragraphs from Hitler’s Mein Kampf regarding Jews – there is no factual information about the involvement of Romanian authorities in the genocide perpetrated against the country’s Jewish population.
The fact that Antonescu’s regime does not benefit of a special chapter in history text books, like Communism does, is not seen as being a problem at the top of the Ministry of Education. The situation, indicated chief inspector Dumitrescu, is rescued by “a few brief references” to the Marshal’s regime, which are considered to do justice to the subject.
What Doru Dumitrescu is not saying is that these references do not touch on the extermination policy implemented by Ion Antonescu and the Romanian authorities. It seems as if the efforts that go into avoiding the discussion are the key points in developing the high school history curriculum.
There is, however, one text book for 9th grade students (in the Romanian educational system, high school begins in the 9th grade and lasts for four years; Romanian history is teached in the first and the last years of high school), distributed by Niculescu publishing house, that goes beyond 1938 and dedicates a whole section to the Holocaust in a chapter about “International Relations”:
“Unfortunately, even in Romania, the Antonescu regime took measures against the Jews. After the pogroms in Iasi, Bucharest or Dorohoi, the Jews were deported to Transnistria, in horrendous conditions, with an estimated total of approximately 280000 victims, both Romanian and Ukrainian Jews. 25000 Roma people were also victims of deportation (…) In Romania, the Holocaust is celebrated annually, on October 9th.”
(History Text Book, 9th Grade, Niculescu Publishing House, 2011)
Aesthetics without Content and A WikiLeaks Cable
March 2005, Bucharest. The US Special Envoy for Holocaust related issues, Edward O’Donnel, engages in discussions with several people about the improvements achieved in Holocaust education by the Romanian authorities, after the country has formally acknowledged its contribution in the genocide.
Liliana Popescu, representing the Ministry of Education, and Secretary of State Joszef Koto deliver a brief presentation on recent evolutions. They both manifest enthusiasm regarding Romania’s acceptance as a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
IHRA is a trans-governmental organisation established in 1998, with the purpose of developing educational programmes on the Holocaust (editor’s note: presently, the organisation has 31 member states; Romania is a member since 2004). The two hope that because of this membership it will be possible to improve the history curriculum and raise the number of training courses for history teachers.
The future projects look extremely positive – revised text books, including special sections on the history of Jews and the Holocaust in Romania, due to be implemented in 2006. Liliana Popescu reminds Edward O’Donnel of the progress the Ministry has made in organising training courses on the Holocaust, validated not only by the Ministry, but also by experts at the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. Moreover, Liliana Popescu mentions that hundreds of teachers have already participated in training courses, both in Romania and abroad.
The Ministry’s 2005 plans remain simple intentions in 2013. An eloquent example is the text book published in 2011 by the former state-owned Communist era publishing house in charge of printing manuals – Editura Didactica si Pedagogica (EDP). Its history text book is a testament to the fact that the myths of communist history are very much present in Romanian high school classrooms. Here is a excerpt from the chapter entitled “People, Society and the World of Ideas”:
“Although our people always proved to be tolerant and welcoming, some political and cultural figures promoted anti-Semitism and xenophobia (A.C. Cuza, the Iron Guard). Likewise, some minority leaders, aiding the revisionist intentions of neighbouring countries, acted towards dismantling Great Romania.”
(History, 9th Grade, Editura Didactica si Pedagogica, 2011)
In the chapter “The State and Politics” of the same text book, it is mentioned that Marshall Antonescu comes to power in 1940 and governs Romania with the Legionary Movement, until 1941. The pogroms that took place in Bucharest, Dorohoi or Iasi and the anti-Semitic legislation implemented are left out. The Holocaust is mentioned only in connection to Nazi Germany, who bears sole responsibility for the killing of Jews:
“There were crimes against humanity committed by infringing Human Rights. As a direct result of these practices, the effects were: World War II broke out, German death camps were set up, the Holocaust by Nazis against Jews and the genocide against other peoples – Russians, Serbians, Polish – started.”
(History, 9th Grade, Editura Didactica si Pedagogica, 2011)
In a third chapter, “Romania and International Relations”, the text book published by EDP notes that the country was vaguely involved in the extermination process: “The territory between the Nistru and the Bug was used for the deportation of Jews and Gypsies, one of the negative aspects of Romania’s participation in the Second World War.“
The “brief references” Chief Inspector Doru Dumitrescu was talking about, superficially scattered in three different chapters, are – according to the curriculum and the text books validation norms elaborated by the Ministry of Education – sufficient so that the history manual published by EDP rest on the scribbled wood desks of Romania’s Facebook generation.
Doru Dumitrescu maintained that this is where the “teacher-factor” comes in – he is “the specialist who can approach a certain set of issues or another, based on a series of conditions and psycho-pedagogical requirements.” Only one thing is mandatory: “to teach all the fields of competencies included in the curriculum and to go through it rhythmically and in its entirety.” To put in plainly: it is the teacher’s decision if, when and how the Holocaust in Romania is discussed.
A Hundred Specialists
How many teachers are prepared to discuss about the Holocaust or decide if it is useful to sustain an in-depth debate on Romania’s involvement? The National Institute for the Study of Holocaust in Romania has been organising for the past five years a training course for high school humanities teachers. Recently, the license for the course, given by the Ministry of Education, was extended.
According to Alexandru Florian, the President of the Institute, roughly 100 teachers graduated the accredited training course.
The slow pace of the process of teacher specialisation contradicts the plans mapped out by those responsible in the Ministry of Education. According to the only collaboration protocol signed between the Ministry of Education, the Wiesel Institute and the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in March 2008, the Ministry committed to subsidize educational activities implemented in partnership with the two organisations.
These activities were to be financed “according to available funds”. However, in the Ministry, no one knows if such funds were ever available.
A Matter of Luck
In the absence of a “specialised teacher” and a decent curriculum, the student has the possibility of learning about the Holocaust if he or she gets lucky. Lucky enough, for instance, to be studying history using Corint’s 2008 text book.
It’s the only 12th grade text book that dedicates a distinct sub-section to the Holocaust in Romania, striving to comprise all the important moments – the anti-Semitism of the Legionary Movement, Marshall Ion Antonescu’s regime, the “Romanising “ process and its implications, the discriminative measures taken against Jews, the isolation of the Jewish population, the pogroms, the concentration camps, the Odessa massacre.
Even though it does not contain a dedicated section on the Holocaust in Romania, the text book published by Gymnasium house offers some basic information in order to be able to start an ample discussion on the phenomenon. The references to anti-Semitism, the Legionary Movement and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu are completed by numbers and unequivocal phrasing:
“The dictatorship of Ion Antonescu promoted an extremely harsh anti-Semitic policy. There were pogrom activities during the Legionary rebellion and in Iasi as well. In 1941 he ordered the deportation to Transnistria (…) The number of victims is situated between 250000 – 400000.”
(History, 12th Grade, Gymnasium publishing house, 2007)
On the other hand, another text book approved by the Ministry of Education, that of Corvin publishing house, describes the Holocaust as a gentle process that has ended in Romania with an uncertain number of victims.
“The measures taken against Jews prior to the attack on the Soviet Union were primarily of an economic nature, excepting those activities committed by the Legionary Movement against particular people. The deportation of Jews began only after regaining Bessarabia and North Bucovina.”
(History, 12th Grade, Corvin publishing, 2007)
Epilogue. Two Lecture Recommendations
April 2013, Bucharest. Mihail Hardau succeeded Mircea Miclea at the top of the Ministry of Education, being in charge from the end of 2005 until April 2007. Hardau has today his own curiosities – not many about the way in which the only military dictatorship in Romanian history is being discussed in history text books.
The ex-Minister admitted for Dela0.ro that the changes to the text books are “not significant”. However, he didn’t consider this to be a problem, as “there were other activities on the subject of the Holocaust”. Mihail Hardau does not see the poor treatment of the subject in history text books as a potential source of malcontent. The real problem is that in today’s manuals “certain topics that I consider more important than the Holocaust have been treated superficially.” He didn’t comment on which are those “certain topics”.
“Ask for information at the Ministry!” – this is the advice that Mihail Hardau gives to those who ask questions about his performance as head of the institution responsible, amongst others, for the development of a curriculum. True to the principle that there are other means of information, the ex-minister made two lecture recommendations: Knowing the History of Hazars and Two Hundred Years Together by Aleksandr Soljenitin.
Mircea Miclea and Mihail Hardau were the only ex-ministers who responded the call to comment on their management of the Ministry in regard to the national history curriculum and the resulting available text books.
Although initially interested in the subject, former social-democratic minister Ecaterina Andronescu asked for the questions to be sent by email, promising a swift reply. For some reason or another, Mrs. Andronescu did not respond to any of the subsequent emails, messages or phone calls.
The questions put forward by Dela0.ro determined another ex-minister of Education, the liberal Cristian Adomnitei, to take a seat at the writing desk, where he realised at some point that the subject’s trickiness should be treated with suspicion. “I began writing to you, but then I pressed the Delete button”, Cristian Adomnitei said in a phone conversation with Dela0.ro, explaining that the questions asked were “typical for an interrogation” and they hid “an agenda”.
One question in particular bothered Adomnitei: he was asked to classify an “educational system that produces high school and History graduates such as Mr. Dan Sova”. Eventually, Cristian Adomnitei “took the liberty of not answering”.
The minister that held the office for the longest amount of time after 2004, the democrat-liberal Daniel Funeriu, also manifested interest at first, promising that he will provide “point-by-point replies”. Almost a month later, when the article was published, Daniel Funeriu’s views on the subject still hadn’t reached Dela0.ro’s email address.
“This is the Situation”
“The institutional state of affairs” at the Ministry is one more obstacle in trying to determine the criteria used to authorize history text books. The National Centre for Curriculum and Evaluation in Pre-University Education (NCCEPE), which is sub-ordinated to the Ministry, is the authority that decides what text books are available to Romanian high school students.
At the Centre, our questions were first met with a blend of courtesy and unawareness: no one was able to take responsibility for the approval of the text books in use, because the institution “was only created after 2009”. The Centre’s advice was to contact Liliana Preoteasa, General Director within the Ministry of Education.
Mrs. Preoteasa also declined any particular accountability and pointed in the direction of Doru Dumitrescu, Chief History Inspector. When asked to explain why the Ministry’s institutions have approved history text books with clearly divergent views on the Holocaust in Romania, Dumitrescu said that he knows less about the process of evaluating text books.
As the procedure “doesn’t fall within his competencies”, Dumitrescu recommended going back to the starting point: The National Centre for Curriculum and Evaluation.
At the Centre, unawareness was still there, but courtesy turned into irritation. If no one in the present institutional structure can offer information about the way history text books were evaluated, can the Centre provide someone from the previous ministerial body, whose attributions were taken on by the NCCEPE in 2009? “None of the members of that body (editor’s note: the National Council for Evaluation and Distribution of Text Books, in charge until 2007) work for the Ministry any longer.”
After multiple phone calls made to several departments and instances of authority within the Ministry of Education, reality came to terms with itself. The vicious circle was nothing more than bureaucratic genuineness.
“No one is trying to give you the run-around”, someone in NCCEPE tried to explain. “You must understand, the institutional circumstances are as such…”