Romania mass graves 311.
(photo credit: AP Photo/ Evenimentul Zilei Daily, Vlad Stoicescu)
BUCHAREST, Romania — A Holocaust-era mass grave containing the bodies of an estimated 100 Jews killed by Romanian troops has been discovered in a forest, researchers said Friday, offering further evidence of the country's involvement in wartime crimes.
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The find in a forest near the town of Popricani, about 350 kilometers (220 kilometers) northeast of Bucharest, contains the bodies of men, women and children who were shot in 1941, the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania said in a statement.
On Friday, riot police sealed off the area, not allowing anyone near the site, local reporters told The Associated Press.
The find offers evidence of pogroms against Jews in the region, scholars say, campaigns that were long minimized in a country whose official history taught that Germans were the sole perpetrators of the Holocaust.
Sketchy reports about the possibility of a mass grave in the forest began to appear in 2002, and local authorities began an investigation, which was suspended in the fall after nothing was found. Experts resumed the investigation at the site and began interviewing witnesses again in 2009, according to Romanian historian Adrian Cioflanca.
About 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma, or Gypsies, were killed during the
pro-fascist regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, who was prime
minister from 1940 to 1944 and executed by the communists in 1946. About
6,000 Jews live in Romania today.
Historians have documented
several pogroms in Romania during World War II, including one in June
1941 in the northeastern city of Iasi, where up to 12,000 people are
believed to have died as Romanian and German soldiers swept from house
to house, killing Jews.
Those who did not die were systematically
beaten, put in cattle wagons in stifling heat and taken to a small
town, where what happened to them would be concealed. Of the 120 people
on the train, just 24 survived.
Romania's role in the Holocaust
remains a sensitive and highly charged topic. During communist times,
the country largely ignored the involvement of Romania's leaders in
In 2004, after a dispute with Israel over
comments about the Holocaust, then-President Ion Iliescu assembled an
international panel led by Nobel-prize winner Elie Wiesel to investigate
the Holocaust in Romania.