This past academic year we had the great privilege of hosting Ionela Dasclutu as she did research on a grant from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was an active participant in many of the events at the Strochlitz institute, and we were proud to feature in her our seminar about Holocaust denial and modern antisemitism where she spoke about her home country of Romania. Since she has left us, Ionela has written a blog post about her experience at the University of Haifa, and her passion for the field of Holocaust Studies.
“The journey of finding myself at the University of Haifa
Eight months ago I started the journey that changed my life. I came to Israel as a result of obtaining a Research scholarship from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the University of Haifa. I came all alone, not knowing anyone, with questions and my own insecurities. I knew the topic I wanted to research (The fate of Jewish children during the Romanian Holocaust) and much more (a future PhD), but was I good enough for it?
Now in Romania, I look back at all the wonderful experiences and I long for coming back to the place that made it all possible, the University of Haifa.
My interest in the Romanian Holocaust
More than six years ago, in my first day of college I bought the book ”The Jassy Pogrom” written by the most prominent historian in the Romanian Holocaust, Jean Ancel. In the pages of this book is a picture of a Jewish family who has been shot on a street in Jassy, there is a little girl lying dead in blood. Why? What could this girl have done in order to suffer such a terrible fate? I looked at it and then read the official explanation for the actions of the Romanian authorities: the murdered Jews had to pay for being communists and for collaborating with the enemy. I looked again at the picture, at that little girl and wondered where is the logic in all this? A probably 3-4 years old girl being a communist and collaborating with the Russian army? This was the moment when I decided that yes, this will be my field of interest and yes, I should stop looking for a logical explanation. But I was not ready, not back then, for all the amount of hate I was going to endure for choosing this topic. Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial beat with passion in the heart of many university professors in Romania but I kept going on even if they told me:”You will never have a future for choosing this subject!”
My BA thesis dealt with ”The Literature of the Romanian Holocaust Survivors”, and because of experiencing Holocaust denial, I decided to include a chapter about it in my thesis.
In June 2013 I graduated my MA in Jewish Culture and Civilization at the University of Bucharest with the thesis ”The Romanian-Jewish Child between 1930 – 1940” coordinated by our wonderful professor Dr. Felicia Waldman who always supported me in my research.
It`s all about the people that surround you
…and the way they make you want to become a better version of yourself day by day. This is the most important lesson that I learned during these last eight months while I conducted my research in the archive of The Strochlitz Institute for Holocaust Research under the supervision of Prof. Arieh Kochavi (to whom I am very grateful) and by attending some courses of The Weiss-Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies, University of Haifa.
All this time I was surrounded with people who inspired me, who challenged, understood, supported, encouraged me and from whom I learned my true value. I am talking here about members of the Institute, professors, guest speakers, Holocaust survivors and last but not least, about my colleagues from the MA program. Interacting with each one of them meant a lesson to me, they are all hard working and passionate people when it comes to studying, researching and making a contribution to the field of Holocaust studies. I think that all these wonderful people helped me gain different perspectives and enriched my knowledge in this field and I want to thank them all for allowing me to be a part of this precious experience. I also think that anyone who wants to be a student in this MA program or do research at the Institute should know that they won`t learn just by attending classes, reading books and documents, but also from these interactions and from interning and volunteering with Holocaust survivors. Aside from all these, you will never be alone as long as there is Dr. Yael Granot-Bein, you will always find advice and help every time you need it. She might be the one who will help you shape your future, as she did with me. Thank you!
I would also like to thank Haifa Hillel for organizing events that connect students with Holocaust survivors because this is how I met Manya, a talented lady who survived the Romanian Holocaust and whom I cannot wait to meet again soon.
I have learned a lot from interning for Yad Vashem, The Righteous Among the Nations Department and for the Ghetto Fighters` House Museum, Archives Department. First of all I had to get used with the idea that it is really happening to me, working with experts in the field in the most important Holocaust museums in Israel. In both places I met amazing people who did their best to make me feel comfortable and made my experience there unforgettable. At Yad Vashem I worked on the files of Romanians asking for recognition as Righteous and also I learned about the process of recognition (thank you Irena Steinfeldt and Gili Diamant). I had to deal with stories which described the brave actions of some people in extremely dangerous situations but I also had to deal with selfishness and hypocrisy of some other people. At the Ghetto Fighters` House Museum (thank you Anat Bratman-Elhalel), amongst other documents, I had the opportunity to see and translate the diary of the director of the Djurin ghetto orphanage. This played an important role in choosing my PhD topic: ”Jewish orphans in Transnistria during the Holocaust: History and Memory”. Also, I would like to take this chance to thank my future PhD coordinators: Dr. Sara Bender and Dr. Joanna Beata Michlic for their support and constructive critiques. “