Jewish tombstones dating from Roman times have been found in the present day territory of Romania. The first wave of immigrants settled in the principality of Walachia in the 1300's. Shortly thereafter, Jews settled in Moldavia. After centuries of struggle, the two principalities were united in 1859, at which time the Jewish population was about 130,000 (3% of the total population). Jews in Romania were subject to severe discrimination and an almost total denial of political rights. In 1900, a mass emigration of Jews began. Up to World War I, almost 70,000 Jews left the country, and the Jewish population declined from 266,652 (4.5% of the population) to 239,967 (3.3% of the population).
Growing social and political tensions in the 1920's and 30's, led to increasing anti-Semitism. This was accelerated with Hitler's rise to power. After the expansion of Romania as a result of the war, the Jewish population of enlarged Romania was about 796,000 (5% of the total population). Many of the added territories were stripped from Romania in 1940 as the result of German pressure. During the first few months of the war with Russia, half of the 320,000 Jews living in Bessarabia, Bukovina and Dorohoi were murdered by the Germans and Romanian allies. With the defeat of the Germans and Romanians at Stalingrad, the attitude of the Romanian government improved. It is estimated that 43% of the Jewish population under Romanian rule during the war were murdered and 57% survived.
According to a World Jewish Congress study, there were about 428,000 Jews in Romania after the end of the war. Ten years later, the Jewish population had been reduced to about a third of this number. At the end of the 1960's, the Jewish population was less than 100,000. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, about 300,000 Romanian Jews have emigrated there. According to a 1992 government yearbook, the Jewish population was about 9,000.
Encyclopedia Judaica, CD-Rom Edition, Keter Publishing
Copyright © 1998-2000 Edward Victor