Paranoia and increasing anti-Semitism during the Interwar period

Unfortunately the Brasov town hall documents are not as efficiently indexed during the interwar period, plus index books from a number of years are missing. Nevertheless, the disorienting effects of the sudden change of government (Austro-Hungarian to Romanian) are clearly discernible from the documents that are available. The Romanian state had effectively doubled its territory and population in the wake of World War I. Complicating matters was the fact that the new territories contained considerable minority populations, whereas the Old Kingdom (Regat) had been primarily ethnically Romanian. For an exhaustive look at the Romanian government’s efforts to nationalize the new minority populations, see Irina Livezeanu’s seminal book on the topic, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building, and Ethnic Struggle, 1918–1930.

The government’s paranoia regarding all things Jewish-related comes through loud and clear in the handful of documents which are accessibly indexed in the town hall archives. There are “confidential” requests from higher authorities for the names of rabbis and number of synagogues in Brasov as well as new legislation prescribing how rabbis may be chosen. There is a 1921 note stating, among other things, that Jews from Yugoslavia and Hungary, “well-known to be in league with Bolsheviks, unable to settle anywhere, and ill-received in all countries,” are trying to get passports for Romania, as they were born in the newly acquired territories (document 1, above). Another dispatch (1921) from higher authorities announces the impending visit of British Zionist fundraisers to Brasov. It instructs the Brasov municipal authorities to allow the fundraisers to carry out their work without hindrance, but also to maintain close supervision on the Zionists’ activities and prepare a report of the same for the higher authorities (doc. 2).

Another document (doc. 3, also from 1921) sets out the new national (secular) holidays (Independence Day, royal birthdays) and instructs the town hall to inform the synagogue [communities] that the holidays be observed with a religious service and that no other holiday observances are allowed. This dispatch was also sent to other religious communities and presumably the other “holidays” which were forbidden referred to similarly secular holidays formerly celebrated under Austro-Hungarian rule – not religious holidays.

Gradual and subtle changes in the wording of government decisions signify the increasing anti-Semitism during the interwar period. A file from 1936 contains several documents curbing the period during which the kosher butchers were allowed to slaughter (7:00-9:00 am) in order to “prevent visitors to the slaughterhouse from witnessing the disgusting spectacle presented by the ritual slaughtering” (doc. 4).