Dead Nation (Tara Moarta) Director Radu Jude
Dead Nation (Tara Moarta) Director Radu Jude

Romania's bad conscience

HOLOCAUST: A doctor's diary reveals the troubling story of how Romania treated the Jews during World War II.

Published: 2020-03-25
Dead Nation (Tara Moarta)

Radu Jude (Romania)

"There are three ways to greet a Jew: Mr. Dirty Jew, your Dirty Jew, and go to Hell, your Dirty Jew," wrote the Romanian Jew and Doctor Emil Dorian in his diary in the spring of 1940. This bitter joke pervaded among ordinary people in Bucharest and reflected the situation of the Romanian Jews at that time.

Dorian's diary is the starting point for the documentary Dead Nation from Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude. The director has made a thought-provoking documentary in a minimalist visual style. The entire film is based on photographs taken in a photo studio in Romania in the 1930s-1940s. The photographs almost never function as illustrations for the diary texts, but rather form an ironic counterpoint.

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The photographs are portraits of smiling Romanians in traditional folk costumes, pictures from family events, of church leaders, soldiers and solemn celebrations. They appear at the same time as a narrative voice describing how the persecution of the Jews escalated, with Dorian's diary notes intertwined with radio news and patriotic songs. The photographs and diary excerpts span a decade, until 1946.

Jude's juxtaposition implies that the Romanians had a finger in the game regarding the ill-treatment of the Jews during the Holocaust. It is startling to see a film from a Romanian filmmaker who effortlessly criticizes his own homeland at a time when many regional authorities are trying to launder participation and participation during the Holocaust.


Poland has recently passed laws that make it punishable to imply that the nation has been responsible for Holocaust-related crimes, and similar laws have been passed in Ukraine. This is criticized as an attempt to conceal the cooperation between the Nazis and the citizens of these countries.

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Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary have also introduced a policy aimed at denying their involvement. In Romania's case, a country that has the dubious "honor" of having killed more Jews than any other Nazi-allied country (estimated at 300 people), it's positive that Jade has been able to make the film seemingly without interference.

Dorian's notes tell of rising Romanian anti-Semitism that reached a dangerous level long before the country supported the Nazis.

It is startling to see a filmmaker who effortlessly criticizes his own
homeland in the time of many…

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