What happened in Rumania was not genocide

Rumania under Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu, writes Dalrymple, was

a Balkan North Korea, spared somewhat by its corruption, inefficiency and disorganisation.

Dalrymple is ashamed to say that when he heard that the couple had been tried and shot,

my heart leapt with joy. It took a little while for a reaction to set in. Their trial was perfunctory, to say the least, and grossly unfair. No one should be taken out into a courtyard and shot like stray dogs, least of all by people who, until only a few days before, would have fawned upon the condemned and obeyed their every order. As is so often the way with very bad people, the Ceaușescus achieved some slight dignity in the face of death. My initial reaction taught me that I was not immune from the evil of political passion.

The charge of genocide against the Ceaușescus did, however, appal Dalrymple straight away.

They were quite bad enough without having to accuse them of the most abominable of crimes. Rumanian behaviour in Trans-Dniestr and Odessa during the war had been incomparably worse than anything done by the Ceaușescu régime. True, the Ceaușescus were guilty of genocide in the narrowly juridical sense that they sold practically all Rumania’s remaining Jews to Israel and the Saxons to Germany, in the latter case ending a six-century-old cultural tradition: but the juridical sense makes no moral sense, because selling people for money, not even into slavery, is a far cry from exterminating them. One might as well draw no distinction between robbery and murder.

Dalrymple points out that the murder of the Ceaușescus

was more like getting rid of the evidence than an act of justice. Ceaușescu was the kind of man whose greatest intellectual asset was probably a filing-cabinet memory for all that his associates had done. A real trial in which he had been allowed a defence would have been a festival of tu quoque pronounced against his accusers.

It is the achievement of totalitarian régimes such as that of the Ceaușescus that

no one emerges both alive and innocent, which is one of the reasons why the effects of such régimes last at least a generation or two.

It would take three generations to overcome the legacy, the Rumanian historian Andre Pippidi told Dalrymple in Bucharest three months after the overthrow.

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