The Minister in Rumania (Gunther) to the Secretary of State

No. 234

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch No. 156 of January 27, 1938, enclosing a translation of a decree issued on January 20th last by the National Christian and Peasant Union Government, headed by Octavian Goga, providing for the revision of the citizenship of all Jews residing in Rumania and to transmit herewith a resume in translation (full text in Rumanian is also attached) of a second decree issued on March 8, 1938,13 under the new Rumanian Constitution regulating the same question. The object of this decree is the same as that of the preceding one, namely to deprive all Jews of citizenship rights obtained fraudulently. It is, however, less drastic in its application as the provisions regarding native born Jews have been formulated with greater care and more time is allowed for the presentation of documentary proofs and for appeal.

The revision applies to all Jews except those who were naturalized by law or decree or were granted political rights as inhabitants of the Dobrudja.

Mayors throughout the country will be required to display lists of all Jews in their districts. All persons who professed the Hebrew faith on December 1, 1918, even if later they abandoned it, are to be regarded as Jews. All Jews from the new provinces who can prove that they were natives of Bucovina, Transylvania, or the Banat, as Austro-Hungarian subjects, or of Bessarabia as Russian subjects, in [Page 682]1918 will be considered to be Rumanian nationals unless they opted for another nationality, or renounced their Rumanian nationality. In the Old Kingdom, Jews living in Rumania, born in the country or of parents settled there, Jews who have complied with the recruiting law, Jews mobilized during the 1913 and subsequent campaigns, and widows and legitimate children of Jews killed in the 1913 and later wars will be considered to be Rumanian nationals.

Among other things, the exercise of the right to vote in a foreign State or civil or military service for another State without the Rumanian Government’s permission will be regarded as “opting” for another nationality.

Those Jews whose names figure in the mayors’ notices are required within 50 days to lay the proofs of their Rumanian nationality before tribunals. There will be a right of appeal and the 50-day term may be extended for another 20 days if necessary. Jews failing to bring proof of their Rumanian nationality will automatically lose it.

Since the promulgation of the new Constitution the plight of the Jews has ameliorated. While it can not be said that anti-Semitism has abated, its expression is more controlled and there have been none of the excesses either in speech or incident so prevalent during the Goga regime. The objective of the Government has not changed but it is realized that a more rational, a more legal approach to the problem must be made. With the abolition of political parties and the elimination of the constant strife to which their activities led, there has been an effort, at least on the surface, to unite the native born Jewish element in the nationalist movement for a greater Rumania.

Almost simultaneously with the appearance of this new decree there was published an open letter from the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church and Prime Minister of the present National Union Government to the Chief Rabbi of Rumania asking him to set aside Sunday, March 13th, in all the Synagogues and other places of Jewish worship in his jurisdiction as a day of prayer for peace and tranquillity among all Rumanians, for fidelity to the Fatherland and the Throne. To this appeal, Dr. Niemirower, Chief Rabbi, replied in terms of brotherly agreement and such services were held in all synagogues as well as all churches of the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and other rites. In these services prayers were also held for the release of the faithful from all oaths except those of a legal character (i. e. oaths of allegiance to political organizations such as the Iron Guard), there being left but one oath to the State and the Crown. (Copies of the two letters are annexed.14)

The Patriarch’s action came as a surprise, constituting as it does such a complete “volte face” from the attitude of the Crown and Government [Page 683]towards the Jews less than a month before. It has been well received and taken as a token of a sincere desire on the part of the King for peaceful relations among all his subjects. Certainly the action was taken with his knowledge and consent, but whether at his instigation is not known. I am reliably informed that the idea originated with the Archbishop of Canterbury who maintains very close and cordial relations with the Patriarch. This may be true in view of the great interest taken by the British Government in the Jewish question here and its informal intervention in the matter during the Goga Government, although the British Minister professes no knowledge of it. In any case, it was well designed to secure for King Carol a more cordial reception upon his State visit to England which has now been postponed because of events unforeseen at that time.

Before the German annexation of Austria,15 and more insistently since, there have been rumors of a rearrangement of the present cabinet which obviously can not be of long duration as at present constituted. In this new alignment it is thought that Vaida Voevod16 will become Prime Minister and that a place will be found for ex-Prime Minister Goga, probably as Minister without portfolio. Goga’s pro-German sympathies, as well as his personal friendship with Hitler, are well known (Goga happened to be in Vienna at the time of the Anschluss and at Hitler’s personal request was given a room with balcony at the Grand Hotel to witness the triumphant entry and celebration) and it is said that by his inclusion in the Cabinet the King would secure a valuable bridge to Germany in case of necessity in the rapidly shifting Central European scene. Others maintain, and with their conclusions I am in agreement, that Carol will not make any such cabinet shifts in the near future until he is more certain of the trend in European politics as it would obviously not be to his advantage to appear to veer too quickly from his old friends in the Anglo-French group for uncertain benefits to be obtained from the Rome–Berlin axis.

However, the possibility of the entry of Goga into the Government in any capacity is the outstanding cause for alarm among the Jews at present. I believe their fear is unwarranted as I think the King has learned from the reckless experiment with the Cuza–Goga anti-Semitic policies that such an attitude brings internal unrest to the country, both political and economic, as well as strained relations abroad at a time when calm is essential and that he will deal with the Jewish problem firmly but along rational legal lines.

Respectfully yours,

Franklin Mott Gunther
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See vol. i, pp. 384 ff.
  4. Rumanian Minister without Portfolio.