The book aims to shed light on Romania’s role in the Holocaust.

Bucharest, Romania (AP) — Maksim Goldenshteyn tells his deceased grandmother how to sneak out of a Jewish ghetto and retrieve her favorite doll left behind as a four-year-old child during World War II. Tell the story that was told to. Later that day, her family was forcibly expelled from their home in occupied Soviet Ukraine.

“She knew she could pass a local Ukrainian girl because she had thin hair and blue eyes, even at that age,” said Goldenshteyn. “She wore a kerchief and slipped off her ghetto.”

This is one of the stories that Seattle-born Goldenshteyn tells in his book. So they rememberCombining intimate family memoirs with lively historical research, Transnistoria is a territory of southern Ukraine under occupation dominated by Romania, a close ally of Nazi Germany for most of the war. Talking about the Holocaust.

In the area where about 150 camps and ghettos were operated, a lesser-known but similarly ominous chapter of the Holocaust was performed, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were brutalized, exploited and exploited. I was killed.

Many died of hunger. Some succumbed to illness and exposure. Some were executed.

The 33-year-old Goldenshteyn, whose family emigrated to the United States as a refugee from the former Soviet Union in 1992, says he heard a fragment of the family’s past while growing, linking it to one of the darkest chapters of mankind. It never happened.

“They didn’t really match the image of the Holocaust that I thought was representative,” he said. Ten years ago, his mother told him the story. “I was shocked at first,” he said.

Impressed by what he learned, Goldenshteyn embarked on a decade-long journey to study some of the Holocaust that he feels are mostly overlooked.

His starting point was to interview his grandfather Motl Braverman at his Seattle home over a series of weekends. Braverman, who died in 2015, was suffering from adolescence with his family in a remote Pechera extermination camp, which became known to many prisoners as the “rope of death.”

He cut out the central figure in the book. “My grandfather talked to a particular separation, as if to correlate someone else’s experience,” writes Goldenshteyn. “Later, he assured me that the surviving death camp was never far from his heart.”

Awareness of Romania’s role in the Holocaust at home and abroad is far less than that of the Nazis. However, in Romania’s territory under the military dictatorship of Ion Antonescu, 280,000 to 380,000 Jews and about 12,000 Roma were killed during the war. Communism over the next few decades, like the Soviet Union, almost erased the memory of the Holocaust.

“I don’t think many people understand that Romania was Germany’s major ally in the east,” said Golden Stein, who said that the communist era of Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu was for Romanians. He added that it became a “more familiar history of trauma.”

A late 2021 survey by the Romanian National Holocaust Institute “Elie Wiesel” showed that 40% of respondents were not interested in the Holocaust. Almost two-thirds of the 32% who agreed that the Holocaust took place in Romania misidentified the deportation of Jews to “Nazi German-controlled camps.”

Northwestern University historian and Holocaust expert Stephen Christian Ionesk said most Romanians “think it’s the responsibility of Nazi Germany.”

“Many Romanians think there is still a problem in accepting that the Antonescu administration and the Romanian authorities are … involved in the Holocaust,” he said. “In the mass slaughter, deportation, and disposal of Jews in occupied territories such as Romania and Transnistria.”

To raise public awareness, Romanian lawmakers passed a bill last fall to add Holocaust education to the national school curriculum. This is a move that has been praised by many. However, it faced controversy in January when the Far-Right Alliance for Romanian Unification, which holds parliamentary seats, called it a “minor topic” and an “idealistic experiment.”

David Salanga, Israel’s ambassador to Romania, strongly condemned the party’s comments online, saying such statements are “complete evidence of non-responsibility or ignorance.” ..

Mr Goldenstein said Romanian authorities believed that Romanian authorities had made progress in recent years in recognizing the country’s role in the Holocaust, and were plagued by party comments but encouraged by diplomatic reactions.

“It’s important for a country with a dark past to confront it,” said Goldenshteyn, the father of two small children. “Because it is impossible to draw a path forward without knowing where you were. There is not enough knowledge of what happened during the Holocaust in Eastern Europe.”

In late January, at the Holocaust Memorial event at the Romanian capital Bucharest’s choral synagogue, President Klaus Iohannis said that the pandemic “amplifies the toxicity of anti-semitic attacks” and “conspiracy theory and false information.” He said he warned against it.

“Let’s keep an eye on these real dangers, which are often cleverly hidden behind the claim of freedom of expression,” Iohannis said.

At the Pechera camp, where a wooden sign stating “Death camp” was displayed at the gate, there was a feeling of hunger and cases of cannibalism were reported. Adolescent Motl Braverman evaded the guards, followed a dangerously long road below freezing, and returned with a small amount of food to save his family. He will later help others escape from the camp and head for the relatively safe ghetto.

Goldenshteyn said that the biggest influence on his grandfather was that “his story was never verified” because of the taboo about the discussion about the Holocaust. “So they remember” tells the story, and it’s about human courage and kindness as much as about the fallen indifference to human suffering.

“I think the strength of this book is the combination of this personal family story and historical research. It will be interesting not only to small scholars, but also to the general public,” said Ionescu. I am. “There is much that has not yet been revealed about Romania’s participation in the Holocaust, especially this territory of Transnistria.”

Goldenshteyn wrote in the prologue of his book that he avoided listening to recordings of their interview five years ago after his grandfather died. And when he finally did a press play in 2017, he heard the words of his deceased grandfather.

“You should write this so that everyone will not forget it,” said his grandfather. “So they remember.”