mihai panu. the ideology traps

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The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and AntiSemitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period «The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and AntiSemitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period» by Mihai A. Panu Source: Holocaust. Study and Research (Holocaust. Studii şi cercetări), issue: 1(5) / 2012, pages: 201218, on www.ceeol.com .

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Mihai Panu. the Ideology Traps


  • TheIdeologyTraps:NationalSocialismandAntiSemitismintheBanatRegionintheInterwarPeriod




  • The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and Anti-Semitismin the Banat Region in the Interwar Period



    The manifestations of political radicalism in the Romanian interwar society represented acomplex and manifold phenomenon. Regions having an evident multicultural profile suchas Banat experienced a rapid deterioration of the inter-societal relationships as a result ofcontinuous ideological indoctrination and propaganda. This paper attempts to analyze theconcrete manifestations of two strong interlinked phenomena, National Socialism and anti-Semitism, by investigating the related social attitudes. In this respect, the archive documentsand press will be used as main documentation sources.

    Keywords: National Socialism, anti-Semitism, Banat, propaganda.


    Systemic changes that marked the history of the 20th century generatednumerous political and social imbalances in Europe. The reconfiguration of powerrelationships that entailed a new architecture of security and a reshaping ofinterethnic relations were favorable conditions for the socio-political radicalismand pathologies of the state in Europe, culminating in manifest conflicts of rareintensity. The primacy of ideology was the common denominator of all thesesystemic imbalances to a great extent, so that European political radicalisms,regardless of their profile, rooted in the ideology of vindictive social attitudes andsaving utopias. The ideological factor had been a historical constant in Europe inthe last century. From this point of view, the totalitarian pair represented by NationalSocialism and Bolshevism were nothing but the ideological expression of theerosion of European democracy and modern nation-state pathologies.

    A macro-analysis of the political regimes and the state as the main actor onthe international scene would be limited and inconclusive for a proper understand -ing of the conditions under which the totalitarian virus contaminated the Europeansocieties in the last century. The present paper aims to analyze the emergence anddevelopment of political European radicalisms in the 20th century, not only in terms


  • of structural elements and their taxonomy, but also by exploring ways of expressionin local contexts. Thus, the main objective of this paper is to highlight the hypostasisof the Nazi propaganda (the main totalitarian vector) and the impact of NationalSocialism on the interwar German minority in the Banat region.

    The phenomenon of radicalization of the political system in the interwaryears in Romania overlapped with the external influences of German NationalSocialism and generated an intricate conceptual picture. This overview will serveto analyze how the societal profile of the Banat region has led to a change in identitythrough gradual exposure to Nazi ideology. The investigation of predispositionsand concrete manifestations of Nazism in Banat lies at the center of this research,using mainly two sources:

    the press, especially the German media, which presented a true picture ofthe society and current ideology of the time, in many cases; the ideology presentedby the press is relevant due to many scientific publications that came out andworked as press organs for different political organizations, some of which werestrongly ideologically affiliated;

    the reports and notes existing in the archives of the Police Inspectorateof the Timi-Torontal county, which have plenty of detailed descriptions of theorganizations, people, meetings, or events directly linked to National Socialism.

    Besides its methodological advantages, the investigation of such issues hasan implicit demystifying character. The history of Banat should not be uncondi -tionally characterized by a tolerance hidden under the label of multicultural tolerance,but should rather reveal the episodes marked by intolerance and interethnic tensions,in order to provide a realistic societal profile of this region. From the historicalperspective, the identity of the Banat region is not defined by the harmonization ofdifferences, but rather by the emphasis of contrasts.

    After the Great Union of 1918, the Banat region suffered a major identitychange which entailed a forced resetting of interethnic relationships. Exposed tosystemic imbalances in Europe, the society in Banat had to face unusual pheno -mena: the radicalization of the interethnic dialogue, the relationships (especiallythe ones between the minorities) with the newly created state, the problem ofpolitical representation, the rise of the nationalist movement and, last but not least,the European geopolitical context with direct implications for the German ethnicsin Romania.

    National Socialism and the German Ethnics in Banat

    The profile of the heterogeneous ethno-cultural societies had constantly beencharacterized by the existence of cleavages, either visible or latent. The emergenceof bureaucratic rationality represented by the nation-state had not guaranteed the

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    absence of social antagonism based on group identity, despite some attempts andpartial successes to configure the supranational society. Nationalism and exacer -bated ethnicity (primarily seen as a politicized social action) had widely affected theEuropean society, the Romanian space included.

    In Banat, the tradition of plural identities was gradually, but occasionallyreplaced by the logic of ethno-cultural exclusiveness and the blaming of some targetgroups. As for the German ethnics, such signs had been traced very early, whichshowed their significant responsiveness to the geopolitical changes of that period.1

    Moreover, the reasons for ethno-cultural antagonism could be identified in the earlyyears after the Great Union took place, while the target (represented by the Jews)of the German ethnics discursive manifestations was largely a clue to future events:In Banat, in 1923, there was an open conflict between the students organizationsand the National Council of the Banat Swabians about the affiliation of the Jewishstudents. The excuse was a recommendation letter written for a Jewish student bythe Council. Students of German origin outside Germany would have differentbenefits if they enrolled for a German or Austrian university. Other foreign studentsdid not have such advantages.2 The example above illustrated the mechanisms ofinternalizing similarities and differences, which brought about the emergence ofsocial cleavages. In this case, the group identity perceived as strong ethno-culturalexclusivity (only German ethnics were entitled to some benefits to study) wascreated by emphasizing the opposition to the Jewish student who was perceived asan intruder. Moreover, the support of the National Council of Swabian Germansgiven to the student was a serious break of what Fredrik Barth called culturalboundary/limit of an ethnic groups identity. As Barth said, the existence of atradition of dialogue and interaction between different ethnic groups was not apledge or a method to remove differences between these groups or a condition forthe disappearance of social cleavages: Cultural differences can persist despite inter-ethnic contact and interdependence.3

    The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period

    1 It is worth mentioning that the radicalization of socio-political life in the interwar period did not referonly to the German ethnics. Other ethnic groups contributed to the worsening of the interethnicrelationships. Proto-fascist tendencies were noticed in the Romanian community, too. In Banat, a casein point was the early and permanent activity of the National Christian Defense League (L.A.N.C.)and its main press organ, entitled Svastica Banatului (The Banat Swastika).2 Hildrun Glass, Zerbrochene Nachbarschaft: Das deutsch-judische Verhltnis in Rumnien (1918-1938), Mnchen, Oldenbourg, 1996, p. 311. (Im Banat kam es 1923 zu einem offenen Konfliktzwischen den Studentenverbnden und dem Deutsch-Schwbischen Volksrat ber die frage derZugehrigkeit von Studenten judischer Herkunft. Anla dafr war ein Empfehlungsschreiben desVolksrates fr einen Studenten judischer Abstammung. Auslandsdeutschen Studenten wurden andeutschen und sterreichischen Universitten verschiedene vergnstigungen eingerumt, die anderenauslndischen Studenten nicht gewhrt wurden.)3 Fredrik Barth, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. The Social Organization of Culture Difference, Oslo,Universitetsforlaget, 1969, p. 10.

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    With the rise of nationalist movements and the deterioration of the Europeangeopolitical climate, the intra-societal relationships became tense. The Germanethnics in Romania distrusted the relationships with the Romanian state and themajority of the Romanian ethnics, in general. Often, as shown in certain documentsissued by the Romanian authorities, these relationships were continuously deterio -rated: As regards the attitude of the German element in Romania towards themajority, it has been and continues to be hostile4. The mechanisms of self-repre -sentation and an exacerbated group consciousness became societal marks in Banatin the interwar period, while the German minority was exposed to a threat hard toavoid: the trap of the national-socialist ideology.

    The hypostases of Nazism in Banat were diverse and complex at the sametime. The peoples exposure to ideological elements, together with a strong distrustof German ethnics in the Romanian state structures5, had influenced the way publicopinion perceived National Socialism, which prompted various forms of ideologicaladherence among the Banat Swabians. Nazi propaganda had good results, as wecould easily see in the attitude of the population. Some reports and notes of theRomanian authorities of that time highlighted such aspects precisely:


    Iecea Mare Police Station No. 12, August 15th, 1940The German population within the area of this police station does not want tomaintain good relationships with the local authorities because of the German demon -strations in the village of Lenauheim on August 18th, 1940. They overtly wear Naziuniforms and swastikas; they refuse to pay state and local taxes, saying they will notpay anything to the Romanian state, as they belong to the Reich and not to Romania.The agent in charge complained that he was thrown out of their yards on the groundsof their belonging to the Reich as they had nothing to do with the Romanian Stateto pay taxes. In Iecea Mic, on August 22nd, Dr. Hoffman, who was sent by theGerman community in Timioara, came to examine the German residents who couldbe part of the National Guard that would be established by the NAF (ArbeitsfrontNational Organization) and would distribute weapons and ammunition. Eighteenindividuals came for the medical examination; they were found healthy and wereassigned a mission. []This information is reliable and checked.Chief of the Iecea Mare Police StationGendarme Sergeant I. Bdoiu

    4 Archives of the National Council for the Studying of the Securitate Files, File no. 9676, Vol. 3, p. 23.5 The Romanian Germans were not so well politically represented in the interwar period; there wasalso an ambiguous legal framework regarding the states relationships with the national minoritiesand it lacked any minority law.6 General Directorate of the State Archives, Timi Branch, Fund of the General Directorate of theTimi Police, File no. 11, Inventory 1196, p. 23.

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    The attitude of the German population in Banat could not be analyzedwithout taking into consideration the socio-political context of interwar Romaniaand should be understood in light of the dominant ideological factors of the period.For Greater Romania and especially for the ruling political class, the adherence ofa part of the German population to National Socialism was largely a failure, simplybecause the interwar Romanian state failed to win the loyalty of all its citizens. Itwas an essential feature of citizenship, in other words, the warranty of the legitimaterelationship between a ruler and the ruled, for a nation-state to win the loyalty ofthe society that created it.

    It is worth mentioning the favorable attitude of the young people towardsNational Socialism. The young showed an increased responsiveness to Nazi ideol -ogy, while they were easy victims of propaganda at the same time. The Nazi youthorganizations in Romania were certain about the determination their future membersshowed and, at the same time, used in order to motivate their choice to adhere. Hereis a document issued by the chief of the andra gendarmerie station, Timi-Torontalcounty, highlighting the importance for the young Germans to adhere to and financethe organization they wanted to join:

    No. 1177

    September 8th, 1940To the Police of the Timi-Torontal countyI have the honor to inform you that 14 young Germans were found gathered in thehouse of a man called Riesz Ion, who is the leader of the Nazi organization in Uihei,at 10:10 p.m. in the evening of September 6th, 1940. A sum of 588 lei was found onthe table, as well as a notebook with the money given to the organization weekly byeach member.We are waiting for new orders.Chief of the Police Station[Signature follows.]

    The establishment of pro-Nazi organizations in Romania and their develop -ment by subscribing new members became a priority for Germans. Recruitmentwas often made by high officials who came directly from Germany to convince theGerman ethnics in Banat to serve the interests of the Third Reich. A note from thepolice chief in Varia, Timi-Torontal county, informed about such aspects:

    Note8 no. 17August 17th, 1940Briefing: On August 11th, 1940, a German civilian came to the German House inVaria; he was a medical officer with the rank of major coming from Germany and

    The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period

    7 General Directorate of the State Archives, Timi Branch, Fund of the General Directorate of theTimi Police, File no. 11, Inventory 1196, p. 4.8 Ibidem, p. 18.

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    all young Germans in Varia, dressed up in Swabian uniforms, were expecting himin front of the house. [] Orders were sent that they should all be present to themeeting in Lenauheim village on August 18th, 1940; those who would like to bevolunteers in Germany were not to be sent to war or to the paratroopers school.They were to be given special assignments in the territories occupied by Germany. The leader of the youngsters, Burger Iacob, had to make arrangements to send alarge number of young people to the meeting in Lenauheim on August 18th, 1940 []Chief of the Varia Police Station[Signature follows.]

    Thus, in 1940, the effects of propaganda and national-socialist indoctrinationcould be clearly seen in the population behavior. Many German ethnics had declaredtheir loyalty directly to the Third Reich; others did not recognize the authority ofthe Romanian state institutions anymore, refusing to pay their taxes. Nazi propagandawas publicly made without fear of repercussions. Therefore, people could buy flagsand other Nazi symbols and wear them in public unreservedly in Timioara, in thesummer of 1940. In August 1940, a note of the police mentioned the following:

    Note no. 109

    August, 25th, 1940Chevereul Mare Police StationTopic: Nazi PropagandaWe are informed that trader Reinert Oskar from Bacova who gave the Nazi flag toRichter Ioan in Bacova, bought the flag from Frank and Seihnalm fabric store inIosefin, Timioara; the trader saw tens of other flags for sale there and Richter Ioanborrowed and carried his flag on the back; thus, the flag belongs to Reinert Oskar.Chief of the Chevereul Mare Police Station[Signature follows.]

    Meetings at various events became a perfect moment for a great part of theGerman ethnics to present their ideological beliefs. Nazism became a publicphenomenon, made obvious in parades, sports competitions, songs, and culturalmeetings. Ideology made public was one of the climaxes of Nazism in Banat. Thedimensions of this phenomenon concerned and displeased certain representativesof the Romanian authorities at the same time; faced with such events, the authoritiespointed to the lack of clear regulations against elements of Nazi propaganda.

    In August 1940, the police chief of Periam, Timi-Torontal county, describedan event full of ideological elements: the feast organized for the birthday of poetNikolaus Lenau:

    9 General Directorate of the State Archives, Timi Branch, Fund of the General Directorate of theTimi Police, File no. 11, Inventory 1196, p. 26.

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    Note no. 2110

    August 18th, 1940Lovrin Police StationOn August 18th, 1940, young and old Germans came from everywhere by specialtrains from Timioara and Arad, wearing Nazi uniforms, to celebrate a Germanholiday, namely the birthday of the poet Lenau, in Ciacazis Lenauheim.On their way back to the Lovrin railway station, they all shouted Heil accompaniedby the gesture of greeting while the trains were leaving the station. Those going toTomnatic and Neru got off the trains, went to the Virsz restaurant in front of thestation and sang German songs marching against England and the UK.The commander of the 13th regiment in Clrai asked me to interfere and stop theirsinging, but I informed him that there was no order regarding the German songs.When the trains arrived at the station, they got on and started singing again, withoutany other incident.Sent to the police of Timi county, Periam Police StationChief of the Police Station[Signature follows.]

    The events that involved the German ethnics in Banat, especially in the thirdand fourth decades of the last century, showed the adherence of the majority toNational Socialism and a significant deterioration of the interethnic relationships.We mainly refer to the relationships between Romanians and Germans, who hadbecome increasingly tense because of the pro-Nazi activity of the German ethnics(marches, slogans, songs, symbols in sight etc.). These actions were looked intowith suspicion and sometimes feared by the Romanians in Banat; the interests of theGerman minority were seen as serving the Third Reich, not Romania. A policereport from Ciacova, Timi county, presented the suspicion and the fears of theRomanian population directed towards their German fellow citizens:

    Special Note11

    Ciacova Police StationNo.18, September 1st, 1940The German population in Ciacova have set a room at 300 meters from the policestation. There, they learn national German songs. Girls, boys, and old people takepart in these meetings. They wear uniforms: white socks, black pants, and whiteshirts. On September 1st, 1940, at 6 a.m., they marched and sang in the village streets,going towards the sports arena. After lunch the same day, from 3 to 8 p.m., theymarched in columns singing German national songs.Here are some opinions of the Romanian people: The Germans want to take over;

    The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period

    10 General Directorate of the State Archives, Timi Branch, Fund of the General Directorate of theTimi Police, File no. 11, Inventory 1196, p. 39.11 Ibidem, p. 43.

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    Today the Germans sing their joy when we are in mourning, when we cry in ourhomes and on the street corners watching them; Who are they doing this for? Is it for Romania? We know what they want, we see them, but we will not let them be.This is the mood of the Romanian population in this village. Generally speaking,the Romanians are very nervous about the rights of the German minority who onlyseek to disturb; they have nothing to do with culture, sports etc. as they say.We have taken measures to monitor the population and prevent any violent act onboth sides.Chief of the Ciacova Police StationGendarme Sergeant Trziu Ioan

    The suspicions and discontent expressed by the Romanian population werejustified in some cases. Besides the turmoil and propaganda which the Germanethnics in Banat were involved in, there was a potential danger that they would losecontrol and cause ethnic conflicts. One such example was providing weapons tothe Nazi micro-organizations in Banat. In a document dated August 30th, 1940,classified as special registration, the following was written:

    Timi-Torontal Police Station12

    Jimbolia Police StationSpecial RegistrationNote no.14, August 30th, 1940On August 29th, 1940, the patrol service in Jimbolia concluded the following:Before having something to eat, a number of 41 Germans, part of the trainingprogram for instructors in the National German Guard in Jimbolia, marched towardsGrabai, on the road from Jimbolia to Grabai, then they returned to the village. Theymarched in formation and sang German patriotic songs. [] This group of theGerman Guard preparing for individual instruction with guns, has four guns, threeof which are Flobert guns and one is a German air gun; they say they got them forpractice from the management center of the German Group in Timioara. They donot have permits and declare they have received them from Germany. As soon as thistraining center for the National German Guard was established in Jimbolia, the localsports arena became a place of meeting for a group of 35-40 young German girls,who do physical exercise in uniforms, receive instructions and sing various Germanpatriotic songs under the supervision of Catherine Exner, a clerk from the Unionhat factory in Jimbolia.We have found that they greet each other using the Nazi salute both inside the groupof the German Guard and the group of girls; they stretch forward their right handhorizontally with the palm facing down.This information is reliable and checked.

    12 General Directorate of the State Archives, Timi Branch, Fund of the General Directorate of theTimi Police, File no. 11, Inventory 1196, p. 49.

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    Their supervision is permanent.Waiting for further orders.Chief of the Jimbolia Police StationGendarme Sergeant Creu Ioan

    The problem with the Nazi paramilitary micro-organizations in Banat wasa complex one. Actually, the organizations were established following the Germanmodel (youth and girls organizations etc.); they had a good hierarchical structureand, perhaps most importantly, they received weapons from Nazi Germany. A casein point was the Nauff organization found in Caran, Timi county, whose activityhad been described in police reports:


    No.10, August 28th, 1940The German population in Carani gets together in a sacrificial organization calledNauff each day. This organization is said to be supplied with weapons by theGerman community in Timioara just like real guards, but the weapons are sent bythe German leaders, not the Romanian ones.This information is checked.Chief of the Police Station[Signature follows.]

    Micro-organizations such as Nauff were created and supported by theGermans. They reproduced to a smaller scale the Nazi organizational model aimedat integrating the Nazi ideology and mobilizing the German population. The attitudeof the Romanian authorities (the police stations and gendarmeries across the Timi-Torontal county, as reflected in archives) was limited to ascertaining the events,showing the inability of the Romanian state to effectively approach such events(anti-Romanian to the core) organized mainly by Germany.


    Crpini Police StationNo.19, August 24th, 1940The Nazi youngsters have not obeyed all rules and orders lately; they meet wheneverthey want, they wear uniforms, they form paramilitary groups and drill. The oldrefuse to pay taxes on account of their belonging to the Reich.The information is reliable.Reported to: the Police of the Timi-Torontal countyChief of the Crpini Police StationSergeant Mrzan Ioan

    The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period

    13 General Directorate of the State Archives, Timi Branch, Fund of the General Directorate of theTimi Police, File no. 11, Inventory 1196, p. 52.14 Ibidem, p. 90.

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    The anti-Romanian attitude and contempt for the Romanian authorities wereobvious. A document issued by the Crpini Police Station (Timi-Torontal county)on August 24th, 1940, resentfully mentioned that the Nazi movement had beengrowing unexpectedly. The German ethnics in Banat started to practice a form ofcivic disobedience by ignoring the laws of the Romanian state or by refusing topay taxes to the authorities; furthermore, they considered themselves legal citizensof the Third Reich.

    The effects of the propaganda and systematic indoctrination of the Germanpopulation in Banat could be seen in the most unlikely places and the most unusualforms. Nazi symbols became widely spread and accepted. The ideological factorwas integrated into the peoples daily life, as the Romanian authorities noticed.

    Thus, the following were described on August 17th, 1940, in a note issued bythe Sclaz police station (Timi county):


    Special RegistrationNo.15, August 17th, 1940Sclaz Police StationThe impudence of the German people following the recent international events isbecoming more and more evident and hostile towards the Romanian State. Thus,Ioan Kuhn from Sclaz, known as one of Hitlers most active supporters, hasrecently built a house and printed a swastika and number 40 which refers to theconstruction year on the frontispiece of his house, between figures 1 and 9. Abovethe entrance of the rooms, he has written two letters H.H., which means Heil Hitler.This information is reliable.Chief of the Sclaz Police StationSergeant Filip Theodor

    The case reported above was not only about the impudence of the Germanpopulation, as the police chief said, but rather about the genuine ideologicalconviction and adhesion. The Nazi symbols on the walls of the house reflected, asI said before, two important aspects: on the one hand, the degree of indoctrinationof the population (the direct effect of the Nazi propaganda); on the other hand, thefailure of the Romanian state to successfully manage the problem of the Germanminority in the interwar period. Actually, there were two problems: on the one hand,the delay in issuing a law on the minorities and the type of political representationof the Germans (aspects discussed in the next section of the paper) and, on the otherhand, the institutionalization of National Socialism in Romania and the resentmentamong the German ethnics brought about by the policy of Romanianization.16

    15 General Directorate of the State Archives, Timi Branch, Fund of the General Directorate of theTimi Police, File no. 11, Inventory 1196, p. 93.16 Ortfried Kotzian, Das Schulwesen der Deutschen in Rumnien im Spannungsfeld zwischenVolksgruppe und Staat, Univ. Diss. Augsburg, 1983, p. 297.

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    The national-socialist political organizations in Banat had been set up for along time, so that the adhesion of the Banat Swabians to the Nazi ideology was notdone overnight, but rather gradually, especially during the last decade before war.

    For example, in Timioara and other places in Banat, in the autumn of 1932,the organization called Nationalsozialistische Selbsthilfebewegung der Deutschenin Rumnien (National-Socialist Self-Help Movement of the Germans in Romania)was actively trying to convince as many supporters as possible to join in.17 Theblend of internal and external factors contributed to the gradual indoctrination ofmore and more Swabians in Banat in the spirit of National Socialism.

    The ideological component of the public discourse:

    Hypostases of Nazi propaganda in the German media in Banat

    The interwar period was marked by political mobilization and social activismfor the Germans in Romania. As soon as Greater Romania was established, withouta minority law (although there was one established by the international treaty toprotect minorities starting with December 9th, 1919)18, the Germans tried to bepolitically represented in the new state. Despite some successes, the German politi -cal organizations and their representatives could not influence the decision-makingprocess at central level. Methods such as the representation of all Germans inRomania by one party or different electoral alliances set with certain Romanianparties (for example, the one with National Peasants Party on November 21st, 1928,in Cluj)19 guaranteed some political participation of the Germans, but, on the whole,they were under-represented. Moreover, the negative attitude of the Romanianpublic opinion towards the performance of some German politicians generated aclimate of distrust and resentment among the German minority. For example, theGerman publication Banater Tagblatt reacted to the views expressed in the centralmedia in an article entitled Brandsch questioned by the Bucharest media: Themedia in Bucharest, the Epoca newspaper more precisely, commented on ministerBrandschs statements. Minister Brandsch is said to have declared that the VersaillesTreaty has brought about the actual global crisis, in an assembly in Aradul Nou.20

    The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period

    17 Johann Bhm, Nationalsozialistische Indoktrination der Deutschen in Rumnien 1932-1944,Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang Verlag, 2008, p. 23.18 Cf. Hans Christian Maner, Parlamentarismul n Romnia 1930-1940 (Parliamentarism in Romania1930-1940), Bucharest, Encyclopedic Publishing House, 2004, p. 305.19 Cf. Florin Mueller, Elite parlamentare i dinamic electoral n Romnia 1919-1937 (Parlia -mentary Elites and Electoral Dynamics in Romania 1919-1937), Bucharest, Publishing House of theBucharest University, 2009, p. 194.20 Banater Tagblatt, Brandsch im Kreuzfeuer der Bukarester Presse, August 23rd, 1931, year 13,no. 67, p. 1 (Die Bukarester Presse insbesondere aber die Epoca richtet gegen Minister Brandschdie allerheftigsten Angriffe. Brandsch, so behaupten die Bukarester Bltter, soll in der Neuarader

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    The problems caused by the lack of a minority law, the political under-representation, and the attitude of the public opinion towards the so-called Germanquestion in Romania were not new. If the case of Banat, there was a general dis -content with the politics of the Romanian authorities regarding the German ethnics.In an article entitled What is there to learn from elections, written in DerLandbote, the (anonymous) author was quite sharp claiming that the policy towardsthe German ethnics was totally wrong in Banat: We believe that the currentelections convinced us and proved that the policy in Banat was wrong and needs tobe changed21. The German community in interwar Romania had to deal with thelack of constructive integration in the national public sphere, in addition to issuesof political under-representation; there were two types of shortcomings, both causedby the mechanisms of identity construction: the problem of political fragmentationand the problem of the living space.

    The introduction of these two problems in the public discourse of the Germanminority in Banat marked the beginning of ideological determinism. The systemconfiguration undoubtedly played a paramount role in the process; we could eventalk about some internal biases in the general socio-political context, that resultedin an ideology trap mentioned in a previous section.

    The problem of political fragmentation emerged as the German ethnicsneeded to form a unified political community in Romania. The problem of politicalfragmentation was brought into discussion in an article entitled The Germangroups in the contemporary Romanian state, published in February 1938 in DerLandbote: The Germans are divided into several political groups in our countrysuch as the Peoples Community, the German Party, the German Front in Banat,the Germans in Bistria and the surrounding area. Moreover, some Germans havejoined the Romanian political parties.22 Political fragmentation and, hence, theneed for legitimate political unity marked the German public discourse in interwarBanat and facilitated the success of national-socialist propaganda to some extent,which deliberately exploited the discontent of the Germans in Banat, offering themthe long-term alternative of a monolithic political unity in the Reich. Furthermore,one of the key-elements of the public discourse of the German ethnics in Banat

    Versammlung, den Versailler Friedensvertrag als die Ursache der heutigen Weltkrise bezeichnethaben.)21 Der Landbote, Die Lehre von den Wahlen, December 26th, 1937, year 66, no. 52, p. 1 (Wir sinddavon berzeugt, da die jetzigen Wahlen endgltig die berzeugung und den Beweis lieferten, dahier im Banat die bis jetzt befolgte Politik den Deutschen gegenber, eine verfehlte war, die grundlichund rasch abgendert werden muss.)22 Der Landbote, Die deutschen Gruppen im heutigen rumnischen Staat, February 6th, 1938, year67, no. 6, p. 1 (Das Deutschtum ist in unserem Lande politisch in zahlreichen Gruppen geteilt. Esbesteht die sogenannte Volksgemeinschaft, die Deutsche Volkspartei, die Deutsche Front im Banat, dieBodenstndigen in Bistritz und Umgebung und auerdem hat jede der bestehenden rumnischenParteien eine gewisse Zahl deutscher Volksgenossen in ihren Reihen.)

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    related to the living space problem. Seen as part of the identity of the Swabians inBanat, space was linked to National Socialism, as they were both based on the sameideological trap, namely the need for Lebensraum (living space): The phrasepeople without space applies to our situation, too23.

    Contrary to what might be expected, common ideas were found in bothideology, and the public discourse, which highly influenced the German ethnics inBanat. Many of these political orientations and social attitudes were not directlyinfluenced by the German geopolitics. Fundamental biases had already existed inBanat.

    The image of the Jews in the German mass-media in Banat

    The Jewish problem was central to the public discourse of the Germanethnics in Banat. The hostile attitude towards this ethno-cultural group could benoticed in the first years after the Great Union and started with overt attacks againstthem for various reasons (as we showed in a previous section). The case of theJewish student who received a recommendation from the Council of GermanSwabians showed how the mechanisms of self-representation (essentially exclu -sivis tic) worked for the German community in Banat. But this was not the onlyexample. The German press in Banat or at least a significant part of it leda permanent campaign of blaming and offending the Jews, which made it similarto the authentic national-socialist propaganda to a great extent. Blaming a certainethno-cultural group had at least two major objectives. The first objective was tobuild what we might call building the image of the external enemy, in order toachieve a high degree of solidarity and reinforce the group identity. Second, blamingthe Jews symbolized a collective denunciation. The reason for denunciation was, ina nutshell, the need to know the truth about the economic, political, and socialconditions, which were totally unacceptable. Thus, blaming became a means todisclose evil and easily give explanations. Generally speaking, these propagandatechniques were believed to speak the truth and the explanatory-accusing mannerwas legitimate. In an article entitled Real Findings: The Jews in Romania,published in Der Landbote on June 6th, 1937, the author who signed the article withthe initial L. (probably Peter Loris) described the Jewish problem and, at the sametime, offered an insight of the national-socialist propaganda:

    Before December 9th, 1919, the Jews were not considered Romanian citizens, butRomanian residents, benefiting from all civil rights, but having no political rights.Then, the Jews enjoyed new regulations. These new rules guaranteed the right to

    The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period

    23 Banater Tagblatt, Schafft Raum fr unser Volk, December 6th, 1931, year 97, no. 13, p. 1 (DerAusdruck Volk ohne Raum ist auch auf unsere Verhltnisse gemnzt.)

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    Romanian citizenship to all Jews who lived in Romania []. Today, the number ofJews in Romania is approximately 2 million, which is about 10 percent of the entirepopulation. The Romanian tragedy is defined by the appearance of Jews in keymoments for the political and cultural development of the country. [] At that time,the Jews occupied important positions on which they are currently developing. Theywere mainly involved in the economic area. The Jews are now bankers, but for howlong? They target important jobs in the national and cultural areas at all costs, andthey all have a unique leverage, which is more powerful than everything: i.e., money.[] Finally, the Jews are believed to have inhabited only cities and economiccenters, thereby they occupy strategic positions.24

    The article above had the purpose and the impact of a collective denunciation.The image of the Jews was discursively depicted as that of the enemy of the entirenation. In interwar Romania, anti-Semitism manifested itself in various ways, todifferent extents in diverse communities. Thus, in Banat, due to its authentic multi -cultural heritage, the anti-Semitic attitudes were displayed at group level, beingdirectly influenced by the configuration of the national political system and externalideological factors. On the social level, the perception and image of the Jews wereclosely related to the way they were presented in the political discourse. Anyradicalization of the political regimes entailed similar movements on a social level.The way politics influenced social life and viceversa was a complex phenomenon,but the correlation between the two was certainly authentic, especially in the contextof authoritarian or totalitarian deviations. In interwar Banat, two important factorsplayed an important role in shaping the way Jews were perceived: the external factor(represented by the geopolitical configuration of Europe at that time) and theinternal factor (represented by the emergence and development of local nationalistmovements). That part of the Banat German media that embraced anti-Semitismshould necessarily be analyzed in terms of internal and external factors. This partof the media reflected local or national realities (be it politics, economy, societyetc.), but reality was always depicted from the nationalist-socialist point of view,

    24 Der Landbote, Wahre Feststellungen: Die Juden in Rumnien, Autor L, June 6th, 1937, year 66,no. 23, p. 1 (Der Jude war bis zum 9 Dezember 1919 nicht rumnischer Staatsbrger, sondern nurStaatsangehriger mit allen zivilen aber ohne politischen Rechten. Erst das obige Datum brachte frdas Judentum grundlegend gnstige Sonderbestimmungen. Die Bestimmungen gaben allen Juden,die auf rumnischen Gebiet wohnten, das Recht auf die rumnische Staatsbrgerschaft. [] Mankann die Zahl der Juden im heutigen Rumnien mit etwa zwei Millionen beziffern, was 10 Prozentder Gesamtbevlkerung enspricht. Die Tragik des Rumnentums liegt nun darin, dass die judischenMassen im entscheidenden Augenblick der politischen und kulturellen Entwicklung des Landes, insrumnische Leben eintrat. [] Damals eroberte das Judentum die Stellungen auf denen es heuteweiterbaut. Sie lagen vornehmlich auf wirtschaftlichem Gebiet. Der Jude ist heute noch nur Geldmann,aber wie lange noch? Er strebt schon mit allen Krften nach der Schlsselstellung auf allen Gebietendes staatlichen, vlkischen und kulturellen Lebens und er verfgt hierbei ber eine einzigartigeOrganisation die besser und mchtiger ist wie alle andere: die des Geldes. [] Schliesslich sei nochbetont, da das Judentum sich ausschliesslich in den Stdten und Wirtschaftszentren konzentriet undsich so eine Schlsselstellung von besonderer Reichweite geschaffen.)

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    having a powerful propagandistic message. The Jewish problem in the interwarperiod was the starting point for the continuous blaming and stigmatization of thisminority. Some press organs often affiliated with political organizations becamereal vectors of anti-Semitism in the Romanian society. Such publications mighthave interpreted public information from state institutions and, then, presented themin an exaggerated, disturbing, and denigrating manner for certain undesirable ethnicgroups such as the Jews. The public opinion could therefore be easily summonedand manipulated by these mechanisms of presenting distorted and de-contextualizedinformation. The case of the Jewish minority was harshly presented in the Germannationalist media in Banat: As one can see from previous government measures,the Jews should be active only in the private economy and in accordance to somenumeric criteria, while occupying public positions should be prohibited for them.25

    The same fierce anti-Semitism could be observed in the attitudes towardsthe phenomenon of political representation of the Jews. Starting from the allegedomnipresence of the Jews in the most influential lines of work of the Romanianstate, the anti-Semitic propaganda highlighted the need to isolate this group notonly outside the country or outside public institutions (as evidenced by the quoteabove), but also outside the party system, thereby denying them the right to politicalrepresentation. Furthermore, the decision of the Romanian Orthodox Church wasmade public and confirmed its adhesion to the new ideology of the country; thechurch decided not to be against any political activities which involved the Jews.In an article published in the Banater Deutsche Zeitung on December 4th, 1940,the following was stated: The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Churchin collaboration with the Minister of Religious Affairs, Prof. Brileanu, submitteda memorandum of 30 pages on the organization of the church to the government.According to some semi-official sources, the Jewish question was mentioned in thememorandum. Thus, the Romanian Orthodox Church had already stated it wouldnot oppose the governments actions against the Jews baptized during the last 30years.26 The Jewish problem (as it was presented by propaganda) asked for harshmeasures, while the Jews who had already been baptized were becoming part of theproblem involuntarily.

    The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period

    25 Der Landbote, Ein Volk in Notwehr, January 30th, 1938, year 67, no. 3, p. 1 (Wie aus denbisherigen Manahmen der Regierung ersichtlich ist, will man die Juden nur nach ihrer Zahl in derPrivatwirtschaft belassen, whrend ihnen die ffentlichen Stellen versagt werden. Die bodenstndigenknnen im Lande verbleiben, die seit dem Kriege eingewanderten aber werden des Landes verwiesen.)26 Banater Deutsche Zeitung, December 4th, 1940, year. 22, no. 274, p. 5 (Der heilige Synod derrumnisch-orthodoxen Kirche hat in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Kultusminister Prof. Brileanu derRegierung ein 30 Seiten langes Memorandum berreicht, das sich auf die Organisationsform derKirche bezieht. Wie aus einer halbamtlichen Verlautbarung hervorgeht, wurde dabei auch dieJudenfrage behandelt. Dem Vernehmen nach, soll sich die rumnisch-orthodoxe Kirche bereit erklrthaben, die Regierung in der Gesetzgebung gegen die in den letzten 30 Jahren getauften Juden inkeinerlei Weise zu behindern.)

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    The German press in Banat, being affiliated to nationalist movements, con -stantly forwarded the exclusive idea of a nation. Anti-Semitism, ethnic exclusivism,the political leaders considered ideal defenders of national identity and the pro -motion of a nationalized political system without external elements and especiallywithout Jews, were all essential to the propaganda in the media in Banat: It maybe an evidence of political sense or denial of political identity the fact that the greatleader of the Romanian Front, Dr. Alexandru Vaida-Voevod, recognized that theinterests of the Romanian state were above the interests of his own party anddecided to support the Liberal Party in elections; the King himself instructed themto create a new government. This was the right decision, since the majority of theJews seceded from the Liberal Party. This did not happen because the two partiessigned an agreement, but rather because the Jews ought not be part of a nationalizedLiberal Party.27 According to the views of the far-right politicians, a system ofpolitical parties that served the interests of the nation could be made up only of thenationalized parties, without any foreign elements.

    The German press in Banat partially showed symptoms of social and politicalextremism, but it was sometimes confused about the relationship between anationalized Romanian state (a kind of Romania of the Romanians) and the statusof the German minority as part of this state. Was there a parallel political project ofthe Germans in interwar Romania? Was this consistent with the image of nation -alized Romania or caused by the European pan-Germanism? These were somedifficult, but necessary aspects to be analyzed for a proper understanding of therelationships between the Germans in Romania and the Romanian state, on the onehand, and national-socialist Germany, on the other hand.

    The Germans in interwar Romania constantly campaigned for better politicalrepresentation. Their legitimate motivation came from the confidence this ethnicgroup had in their potential to get involved in civic and political life. Although thepolitical representation of the minorities was deficient in Greater Romania, theEuropean geopolitical configuration was favorable for the Germans to achieve suchgoals. The political activism of the German minority was supported by the Romanianstate and included simultaneously, even if not always explicitly, the project of pan-Germanism presented by formulas such as the unity of Germans everywhere.The idea of an active German Front not only in Romania took shape; its purpose

    27 Der Landbote, Dr. Vaida und der Wahlpakt. Staats- und Volksinteressen vor Partei- oder Eigen -interessen, W. Thierry, December 5th, 1937, year 66, no. 49, p. 1 (Es zeugt nun von groem politi -schen Scharfblick, aber noch mehr von politischer Selbstverleugnung, da der groe Staatsmann undFhrer der Rumnischen Front, dr. Alexander Vaida-Voevod, es erkannt hat da er die Interessenseiner Partei den Landesinteressen unterordnen muss und da daher seine Partei bei den Wahlen dieLiberale Partei, die vom Knig mit der Regierungsbildung betraut wurde, untersttzen muss. Dadies der richtige Weg ist, beweist am besten der massenhafte Austritt der Juden aus der LiberalenPartei. Nicht deshalb weil diese Partei mit der Rumnischen Front einen Wahlpakt geschlossen hat,sondern weil sie in einer nationalisierten Liberalen Partei nichts mehr zu suchen haben.)

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    was to promote and strengthen the ethno-cultural identity of the Germans acrossEurope: Given the new movement of the German people, we should also gatherour forces to achieve the actual unity of the Germans everywhere with the help ofthe German Front. We support this project with enthusiasm and are certain about itssuccess. Only the unity of all of us can build something great and eternal. Let thepowerful German Front be created!28

    The objective was to create an efficient means for mobilizing the Germancommunities by establishing a German Front. The unity of the Germans was theideological catchphrase of the national-socialists. Such ideas would spread rapidlyamong the population and were promoted systematically by the media: The GermanFront needs to have a fighting strategy aimed at transforming our nation and achiev -ing German unity. Thus, our people would be able to serve their purpose. This iswhy the German Front is created.29 The great project of uniting the Germanseverywhere was motivating and gave them real hopes. The political mobilization ofthe Germans was a purpose of constant propaganda. Their ethno-cultural awakeningwas mainly done through activating their patriotism for the country and culturewhich they felt tied to: Germany. Love of the people and country were crucial forpromoting what we called the interwar German project. For the Germans inRomania, the power of example became a means to raise consciousness and awakethe interest in political action: The mechanism was set in motion and would notbe stopped, because what Dr. Muth, Dr. Hans Roth, Fritz Fabritius, and Dr. Kochdid, other Germans who love their people and country would do. We are lookingforward to it!30 The idea that the German project, once initiated, could no longerbe stopped by anyone, boosted confidence and mobilized the population to a greaterextent. The gradual radicalization of the Romanian society in the interwar periodwas a complex phenomenon fueled, as we said in a previous section, on the onehand, by the internal framework of Greater Romania and, on the other hand, by theEuropean geopolitical configuration.

    The Ideology Traps: National Socialism and Anti-Semitism in the Banat Region in the Interwar Period

    28 Der Landbote, Ein parteiloser Deutscher, Deutsche Einheit-Deutsche Front!, June 9th, 1935, year64, no. 23, p. 1 (In Anbetracht der neuen Bewegung unseres deutschen Volkes wird gerade unsereBewegung die Vorarbeiten zu einer Zusammenfassung des Gesamtdeutschtums resp. der DeutshenFront leisten mssen, die wir gerne auf uns nehmen und mit grten Einsatzbereitchaft zum Siegeverhelfen wollen. [] Denn nur durch vereinte Kraft ist es mglih etwas Groes und Bleibendes zushaffen. Es entstehe die festgefgte Deutsche Front.)29 Der Landbote, Einheitlihe Volksgemeinschaft durch die Deutsche Front, June 23rd, 1935, year64, no. 25, p. 1 (Die Deutsche Front soll eine Kampffront bilden, die die Bekehrung unseres Volkesbezweckt und die Einheit des Deutschtums anstrebt, damit unser Volk seine Aufgaben und Pflichtenstets gerecht werden knne. Darum in die Deutsche Front.)30 Der Landbote, Jedem deutschen Volkgenosse seine Volksgemeinschaft, December 20th, 1936,year 65, no. 51, p. 1 (Der Stein ist im Rollen und wird sich nicht aufhalten lassen, denn was einemdr. Muth, dr. Hans Roth, Fritz Fabritius und dr. Koch gelungen und erlaubt ist, wird doch noch anderendeutschen Mnnern, die ihr Volkstum und Heimat lieben, ebenfalls glcken und gebilligt werden. Wirsind gespannt!)

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    The societal profile in Banat is a complex one, with a very special history. Inthe interwar period, the image of Banat was created from a sequence of hypostasesand socio-political processes which had a common denominator, structurally andfunctionally speaking: the use of the dominant ethno-cultural groups in building asocio-political profile. These mechanisms of socio-political and self-representationled to cleavages in the interwar Banat society. The use of hybrid, multi-identitycategories (a middle class composed of members of different ethno-cultural groups),was rare and eventually became completely insignificant. Although the Banat regionhad a tradition of multiple representations, the characteristic of the interwar periodwas the representation based only on the primacy of ethnicity.

    Ethnicity is a complex, poly-semantic and still fiercely debated upon conceptin literature, but its relevance for this analysis is given by its political implications.Therefore, the use of this concept in the analysis of the societal profile in Banat inthe interwar period will take into consideration the following meaning: ethnicity ispoliticized social action. The political factor is very important in the analysis ofsocietal processes, especially when dealing with cleavages. The political dimensionof the concept of ethnicity therefore fits the Banat societal profile very well andhas the advantage of pointing out the dynamism of self-representation mechanismsand the circumstances generating social cleavages: Ethnicity is [] politicizedsocial action, a process whereby elements of real, actual, lived cultural differencesare politicized in the context of intensive group interaction31.

    The formation of national identities in multicultural spaces has always beensubject to the concept of ethnicity more or less. From this point of view, nationalidentity is the result of harmonizing ethno-cultural sub-national elements and groupidentities, i.e., of taming ethnicity. The composite character of the Romanian nationidentity and, hence, the need to tame ethnicity is related to an essential balancedideology to build the nation, which requires the synchronization of two diametri -cally opposed processes: the heritage of plural identities and the identity homo -genization process compulsory for the government of the newly established state.The idea of building a national identity through the forced harmo nization andidentity homogenization of society mainly applies to the state of affairs in GreaterRomania. In the case of Banat, which has always had a complex societal profile, thestrategy of synchronizing the heritage of plural identities with supra-ethnic homo -genized elements may have worked at a superficial level, but the Banat identity,the mechanisms of self-representation of different ethno-cultural groups, and theirinteraction have been significantly marked by the logic and determinism of ethnicity.

    (Translated from Romanian by Iuliana Milea)

    31 Sinia Maleevi, Identity as Ideology. Understanding Ethnicity and Nationalism, Palgrave Mac -millan, New York, 2006, p. 26.