BUCHAREST, Romania – BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's central bank has issued a special coin commemorating a prime minister and religious leader who stripped Jews of their citizenship before World War II. The move prompted protest Monday from Romanian Jews as well as a director at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Radu Ioanid, who runs the museum's international archives, said he was "shocked" by the bank's decision to mint the coin depicting late Patriarch Miron Cristea, who led the Romanian Orthodox Church from 1925 to 1939 and was prime minister from 1938-1939.
The patriarch was responsible for revising the citizenship law, stripping about 225,000 Jews — or 37 percent of the Jewish population — of their Romanian citizenship, Ioanid said.
"I can't understand how the patriarch managed to pass through the filter," said Robert Schwartz, representative for Romanian Jews in the city of Cluj. "It is known there are black stains connected to his attitude towards the Jews." Schwartz said there were other Romanians, such as the patriarch's contemporary Queen Maria, who had done much for Jews and should have been honored.
National Bank of Romania spokesman Mugur Stet said the coin was part of a collectors' series of five silver-minted coins memorializing the five patriarchs who have headed the Romanian Orthodox Church since 1925.
Some 300,000 Jews and Gypsies were killed in Romania during the Holocaust. Today, the country has only 6,000 Jews.