Romania Jewish Museum Vandalized

By Peter Barabas, Associated Press, Thursday 28 December 2000

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP)—Two men who said they were looking for “soap made of human fat,” smashed windows and beat a guard at a Jewish History museum in Romania on Thursday.

The men entered the museum at 8:30 a.m. and said they wanted to visit the exhibition, said Sorin Iulian, the secretary-general of the federation of Jewish communities.

The men asked museum guide Beatrice Stambler, 78, “Where is the soap made of human fat? Is there any Auschwitz soap?” Then they punched security guard Virgil Grecu, 63, in the face and choked him.

The attackers smashed windows and threw objects before fleeing. Stambler and Grecu were in shock for several hours, and the guard's throat was bruised. There were no other witnesses.

Iulian called the attack “an unprecedented act of hooliganism, with anti-Semitic tones.”

“Until last summer, we did exhibit a case of soap made of human grease in the Nazi concentration camps,” Iulian said, but he added that it was withdrawn amid doubts about its authenticity.

The claim that Nazis made soap from the bodies of Jews is something Holocaust scholars have never proved or disproved. Historians have documented many Nazi atrocities, including the fact that Jews were killed in gas chambers and their hair and gold fillings were removed for industrial use, but many consider the soap claim a rumor.

Investigators are working to identify the men, Iulian said.

About 800,000 Jews lived in Romania before World War II, but half of them perished under the regime of Marshal Ion Antonescu, which was allied with Nazi Germany. Others died after being deported to the former Soviet Union.

Just 12,000 Jews, most of them elderly, now live in Romania. The museum, which is over 100 years old, was once a synagogue.