Jews in Romania protest pardon of WWII leader

Two Romanian Jewish organizations on Thursday protested a recent court ruling that cleared the country's wartime pro-Nazi leader, Ion Antonescu of charges of starting a war against the Soviet Union. "In those times Ion Antonescu was a faithful ally of Hitler, carried on a war which produced great damage to humanity, with the loss of millions and millions of lives," the Federation of Jewish Communities and the Romanian Association of Jewish Victims of the Holocaust said in a statement. The Appeals Court in Bucharest said in a ruling last month that Romania's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 was justified as self-defense because the neighboring country had occupied parts of Romania a year earlier. The court said, however, that Antonescu was guilty of other charges from his original trial in 1946, including war crimes and deporting hundreds of thousands of people to death camps. He was executed that year, along with several Cabinet members. The Jewish groups fear the ruling could hurt recent efforts by Romania to come to terms with its role in the Holocaust. It "can generate extremist attitudes and actions in our country, with negative effects in the national and international political climate," the statement said. Antonescu was arrested in 1944 by King Michael, and Romania switched sides until the end of the war in 1945. Russia has also protested the ruling.