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The Ransom of the Jews: The Story of the Extraordinary Secret Bargain Between Romania and Israelby Radu Ioanid
Synopses & Reviews
After 1948, the 370,000 surviving Jews of Romania became one of the main sources of immigration for the new state of Israel. With the exception of a period in the early 1950s, almost all Romanian Jews left their homeland in several waves to settle in Palestine and Israel. Behind Romania's decision to allow its Jews to leave were practical economic and political reasons: Israel paid for them, and Romania wanted influence in the Middle East. The trade satisfied both states and is still considered a highly confidential matter. In The Ransom of the Jews, Radu Ioanid of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum traces the intriguing story of this secret exchange. Drawing upon restricted archival records and interviews with agents and others directly involved in the operation, he describes how Israel not without second thoughts traded cash, agricultural products, and sometimes political influence to ensure the emigration of Jews from Romania. The price was $2,000 to $3,300 per head, and also involved trade and loan considerations. This privileged relationship between the two countries allowed Israel after 1967 to maintain in Bucharest its only embassy in the East European Communist bloc. It also permitted Nicolae Ceausescu, the anti-Semitic Romanian president, to emerge as a mediator in the Middle East peace process, in which he hoped to use Israel to improve his own relations with the United States. In 1978, during the Jimmy Carter administration, Mr. Ioanid reveals, Washington learned of the sale of Romanian Jews to Israel but turned its eyes for reasons ostensibly related to its policies toward the Soviet Union. In all, some 235,000 Jews emigrated from Romania to Israel under the agreement, which ended with the fall of the Ceausescu regime.
"Ioanid (The Holocaust in Romania) sheds light on an extraordinary, little-known and shameful episode that explains some mysteries of international affairs, such as why Romania was the only Soviet bloc country to maintain relations with Israel after the Six-Day War. Drawing on interviews and on highly classified Romanian documents, Ioanid relates how Romania in the 1950s and '60s demanded payments in cash and goods from Israel in exchange for the emigration of Romanian Jews to the Jewish state. A historian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Ioanid places these events in the context of a cash-starved Romania, turning away from Russia and eager for Western trade, oil-drilling equipment and agricultural goods. In the late 1960s, the human trade allowed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his family to build their private bank accounts. 'Jews, Germans, and oil are our best export commodities,' the dictator said in the mid-1970s. He insisted the payments per Jew be determined by his or her 'education, profession, employment, and family status.' Ioanid carefully follows all the ups and downs in negotiations and relations between Israel and Romania, and the impact of protests from Arab countries and Western demands for human rights. Ioanid does a service in reporting on this sordid tale of exploitation and the trade in human beings." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Romanian native Ioanid, director of international archival programs at The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., tells how the Israeli government paid the Romanian government to let some 370,000 Jews immigrate to Israel after 1948. Drawing on restricted archival records and interviews with agents and other directly involved, he traces how Israel traded cash, agricultural products, and sometimes political influence for settlers to flesh the new country. He also explains how the deal benefited both countries during subsequent decades.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
After 1948, the 370,000 surviving Jews of Romania became one of the main sources of immigration for the new state of Israel. Behind Romania's decision to allow its Jews to leave were practical economic and political reasons: Israel paid for them, and Romania wanted influence in the Middle East. The trade satisfied both states and is still considered a highly confidential matter. In The Ransom of the Jews, Radu Ioanid of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum traces the intriguing story of this secret exchange.
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