Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Dangerous Proximity: The Civilian Complicity during the Holocaust in Romania's Borderlands, 1941-1944
by Poliec, Mihai I., Ph.D., Clark University, 2018, 236; 10844819
Abstract (Summary)

A Dangerous Proximity examines the role played by the civil society in the state-sponsored persecution of the Jews in Bukovina and Bessarabia, after Romania joined the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, in the summer of 1941. It seeks to establish different patterns of civilian complicity and discuss their significance in the context of the genocide implemented by the Romanian military authorities against the Jews living in the borderlands. My dissertation illuminates the background of the civilian accomplices, their context of involvement and the motivational forces underlying their actions.

Integrating survivor testimonies, witness accounts and perpetrator viewpoints is the methodological cornerstone of my dissertation. The evidence I present and analyze was generated during my archival research and comes from war crimes trials, oral history testimonies, official correspondence exchanged between private petitioners or denouncers and the authorities, as well as survivor memoirs.

The various collections of documents I examined at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum revealed the magnitude of the cooperation between the local population and the military authorities in Bukovina and Bessarabia. The actions of Christian locals were murderous as well as undermining or destructive in non-physical ways. People from different walks of life became involved from the very beginning of the re-annexation until late after the deportations concluded.

The complete destruction of Jewish life in Bukovina and Bessarabia after July 1941 was not informed by vertical, top-down enforcement of policy or recourse to coercive measures but facilitated by the horizontal cooperation between the military establishment and the civil society. Throughout Bukovina and Bessarabia, various Christian locals assisted the Romanian and German authorities in the search for Jews, escorted and guarded them, but also participated in their plunder and murder. They denounced the Jews who were in hiding, those exempted from deportation and petitioned the authorities against Jewish specialists brought back from Transnistria. Civilian authorities used their power to expedite the physical removal of the Jews from the two regions and to extort the victims. The civilian perpetrators differed in their gender, age, ethnic identity or occupation. The victims did as well. Both Jewish men and women, young and old, poor and rich were subjected to betrayal, torture, plunder, sexual violence and murder by their Christian neighbors. Eliminating the Jews socio-economically and physically was regarded by some as a test of loyalty to the government who put them in positions of authority. For those who were morally corrupt, it served as an opportunity for personal advancement or enrichment. However, for many it was an attitude rooted in personal conviction.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kuhne, Thomas
Commitee: Ioanid, Radu, Solonari, Vladimir
School: Clark University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 79/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Holocaust Studies
Keywords: Bessarabia, Bukovina, Collaboration, Eastern Europe, Holocaust, Romania
Publication Number: 10844819
ISBN: 9780438272316
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