After 1948, the 370,000 Jews of Romania who survived the Holocaust became one of the main sources of immigration for the new state of Israel as almost all left their homeland to settle in Palestine and Israel. Romania's decision to allow its Jews to leave was baldly practical: Israel paid for them, and Romania wanted influence in the Middle East. For its part, Israel was rescuing a community threatened by economic and cultural extinction and at the same time strengthening itself with a massive infusion of new immigrants.
Radu Ioanid traces the secret history of the longest and most expensive ransom arrangement in recent times, a hidden exchange that lasted until the fall of the Communist regime. Including a wealth of recently declassified documents from the archives of the Romanian secret police, this updated edition follows Israel’s long and expensive ransom arrangement with Communist Romania. Ioanid uncovers the elaborate mechanisms that made it successful for decades, the shadowy figures responsible, and the secret channels of communication and payment. As suspenseful as a Cold-War thriller, his book tells the full, startling story of an unprecedented slave trade.
Radu Ioanid was born and grew up in Bucharest. He studied at the University of Bucharest; at the University of Cluj, where he received a PhD; and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, where he received a doctorate in history. He was vice-president of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania headed by Elie Wiesel in 2003/2004. He has been a Starkoff Fellow at the American Jewish Archives and director of the International Archival Program at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is now Romania’s ambassador to Israel. His books include The Holocaust in Romania and Le Pogrom de Jassy.
This extraordinary book blew the cover off the secret of a shameful deal that ended up, perversely, in freedom for Jews in Romania, including myself. In 1965, my mother and I were bought by the state of Israel from Ceausescu’s Romania for about $3,000 each. In other words, Israel bought our freedom from the misery of his dictatorship. When the ransom was paid, ethnic Romanian Jews were robbed by the state of all their possessions and allowed to leave the country. The details of this affair are carefully and deeply researched in Radu Ioanid’s splendidly written account of that spectacular Cold War drama. I learned from this book how my fate was decided early in the 1960s in one of the few countries under Soviet control and am both grateful and saddened for those who had to fight decades longer, in the USSR and elsewhere, for the right to travel freely. This book reads like a thriller, but it is journalism at its best.