Emanuel Grec

Dissertationsprojekt: Henchmen to Killers: War Criminals and Perpetrators in Romania's Postwar Trials (1945-1948)

My research deals with the ways in which perpetrators and war criminals were presented in war crimes trials in Romania between 1945 and 1948. I look at how the public prosecutors constructed the accusations and at the way in which they changed according to the nature of defendants. In this sense, accusations against ordinary administrative and military staff could have followed one pattern, while those against military personnel could have followed another. Furthermore, accusations against war criminals that had been considered ideologues substantiality different from case to case. I argue that a certain heterodoxy was present in creating an accusatory framework in Romania’s immediate postwar trials, one that is not simply a reflection of each of the defendant’s status. Rather, I look at the possibility that these postwar trials created new categories of accusations from the pool of accused defendants, depending on circumstance, each of the defendant’s personality and role in social and political mechanism, as well as the character of their victims. The new governments that came to power after Romania’s August 1944 switch of allegiance had to deal with the issue of maintaining fully functioning executive and judicial systems while also prosecuting those considered responsible for Romania’s role in genocide policies across Eastern Europe in Romanian-occupied territories. This was not easy as, like other cases in Eastern Europe, one needed to maintain the capability of delivering justice, even that of a political nature. The environment of Soviet influence which led to the communist takeover of Romania complicates the question of “How was justice served?”. Rather, I look at “What did justice mean?” insofar as understanding the mechanisms that were endemic to the political situation of Romania after 1944 can help scholars better separate war crime trials from the show trials of the 1950s and 60’. This confusion in analysis has led to a historiographical debacle in understanding justice in a totalitarian context in Romania.
Some of my main questions for research are: In which way have postwar trials in Romania been organized? How accusations in these trials can lead to a stratification/classification of perpetrators? Were individual war criminals tried differently for the same accusations than collective war criminal groups? Was antisemitism present in trials? Was it politically used in any way? Have the trials taken into consideration the reason for perpetration/collaboration? Was there a link between the large number of accused that did not go to court and the development of accusations leveled against perpetrators? Were there mitigating circumstances found by the courts in some cases? How did witnesses and survivors influence these situations?
While my intention is not to offer a complete and overall view of all trials in Romania’s postwar years (that would be a quixotic endeavor), I hope to shed light on the peculiarities of Romania’s postwar investigations and trials inasmuch as showing how can we better understand both the general and specific features of Romania’s situation in the postwar years. I would thus like to transcend the intentionalist and functionalist divide, especially since Romania’s case can be a paradigmatic case of both approaches being used. A reflection of this is present in a study of postwar trials.



Research interests:

- 20th-century Romanian history
- The Holocaust in Eastern Europe
- Postwar investigations of Nazi crimes and trials in Romania
- Romanian-Jewish history
- Soviet influence in Romania after 1944
- Romanian communist historiography on war crimes in Europe after WWII



Born on June 14, 1991, in Arad, Romania.
2010 - Graduated from Moise Nicoară High School, Arad, Romania.
2010 - 2013 – B.A. in History and International Relations, “Vasile Goldiș” Western University of Arad.
2014 - 2016 – M.A. in Comparative History, Central European University, Budapest.
2018 - Fellow at Paideia – The European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden, Stockholm.
2019 - M.A. in Jewish Civilizations – Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Heidelberg.
From 2019 - PhD student in History, University of Heidelberg, PhD Project: “From ordinary henchmen to ideological killers: War criminals and perpetrators in Romania’s postwar trials”, Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Tanja Penter. Funded by Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk, Academic scholarship.

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Letzte Änderung: 03.03.2020
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