Romania MP sent to learn about Shoah

By Petru Clej, March 8, 2012
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The man tipped to be the future prime minister of Romania has sent his chief spokesman to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington to brush up on Jewish history after he downplayed the Shoah in a television interview.

The leader of the main opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD), Victor Ponta, suspended Senator Dan Sova following a public outcry over a TV interview in which he said that a pogrom in the city of Iasi in June 1941 resulted in only 23 or 24 Jewish casualties.

During the interview, Mr Sova added that the Romanian pro-Fascist government had no involvement in the massacre and that it was carried out only by German soldiers.

Mr Ponta said he had sent Mr Sova to Washington to personally see the evidence for the massacre at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

"I told him he will not be acting as PSD spokesman until he leaves for Washington, to see for himself what I saw myself, what happened in Romania with the Jews who were killed in Romania, Transnistria and elsewhere," Mr Ponta said.

In June and July of 1941, Jews were massacred in Iasi by the German army and Romanian police. Survivors were then herded onto cattle trucks and transported for days on "Death Trains", where many died of hunger, thirst and exhaustion. The official toll is put at over 3,000, although some historians believe the figure to be higher.

Polls place the Social Liberal Union - the PSD's coalition - a long way ahead in the polls, making Mr Ponta a strong contender for prime minister in parliamentary elections this autumn.

Last updated: 1:32pm, March 8 2012