Category Archives: Ceaușescu, Nicolae

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.

The Danube of Thought’s visit to Pyongyang

Dalrymple points out that Nicolae Ceaușescu was

a great admirer and would-be imitator of Kim Il-sung. I cannot recommend highly enough the film of the Danube of Thought’s visit to Pyongyang. It is both terrible and hilarious, especially the dancing.

High academic merit of the Mother of the Romanian Nation

In the time of Ceaușescu, Elena‘s great work was widely available, even when most other commodities were in short supply

Dance of the dictators

Men with notebooks standing behind leaders and taking down their precious words are, writes Dalrymple,

a constant of communist iconography. Someone like Nicolae Ceaușescu had only to step into a turnip field for him to become the greatest expert on growing turnips. Usually the leader was dressed in some kind of pseudo-proletarian costume, with or without a specially-tailored cloth cap.

Ceaușescu, Dalrymple notes,

was much influenced by Kim Il-sung. There is a wonderful film of Kim’s state visit to Rumania in 1975 in which Kim dances with Rumanian pseudo-peasants in colorful national costume. How communist dictators loved folk-dancing!

Postcards from Stafford

Dalrymple writes that Stafford, the county town of Staffordshire in the English Midlands, is

one of the many English market towns that used to be beautiful. A few years of bureaucratic town planning have destroyed centuries of harmonious construction. Nicolae Ceaușescu could hardly have done worse.

New library

Old library

Staffordshire County Asylum

One of New York’s premier diving spots

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 20.08.29

The diving boards

The new Whitney Museum, writes Dalrymple, is the

perfect place from which to commit suicide, with what look like large diving boards emerging from the top of the building, leading straight to the ground far below. Looking up at them, one can almost hear in one’s mind’s ear the terrible sound of the bodies as they land on the ground below.

There are also, he notes,

The industrial chimneys

The industrial chimneys

some — for now — silvery industrial chimneys, leading presumably from the incinerators so necessary for the disposal of rubbishy art.

He points out that the structure (cost: $422m) illustrates on the one hand the egotism and cack-handedness of the architect Renzo Piano and his kind, and on the other the

complete loss of judgment and taste

The façade, as charming as it is elegant

The torture chambers

of modern patrons.

The façade, which is practically without windows,

looks as if it could be the central torture chambers of the secret police, from which one half expects the screams of the tortured to emerge. Certainly, it is a façade for those with something to hide: perhaps appropriately so, given the state of so much modern art.

HQ of the secret police

Headquarters of the secret police

A monument to the vanity and aesthetic incompetence of celebrity architects

If the building were not

a tragic lost opportunity (how often do architects have the chance to build an art gallery at such cost?), it would be comic. It is as if struck already by an earthquake and in a half-collapsed state. It is a tribute to the imagination of the architect that something so expensive should be made to look so cheap.

A building that would truly have gladdened their hearts

New York at last has a building that would truly have gladdened their hearts

 

Postcards from Worcester

Let cruise missiles rain down on the Giffard Hotel

'Everyone would have his favourite building that merits destruction by cruise missile. Mine is the Giffard Hotel [now the Travelodge] in Worcester, a concrete-clad building to gladden the heart of the Ceausescus or Le Corbusier (the latter being far worse than the former, of course, because his influence was worldwide rather than confined to a single country), right in the precincts of the city’s magnificent cathedral'

‘Everyone,’ writes Dalrymple, ‘has his favourite building that merits destruction by cruise missile. Mine is the Giffard Hotel in Worcester, a concrete-clad building to gladden the heart of the Ceauşescus or Le Corbusier (the latter being far worse than the former, of course, because his influence was worldwide rather than confined to a single country), right in the precincts of the city’s magnificent cathedral’

Giffard Hotel: 'No single building has ever done more than this to ruin an ancient townscape once and for all, beyond possibility, while it still stands, of repair; and an acquaintance of mine remembered the elegant eighteenth-century building that was demolished to make space for it, the wonderful wooden panelling of the drawing and dining rooms being thrown into the street as so much rubbish (where my acquaintance recuperated it for nothing). No building, for purely architectural reasons, ever merited bombardment more'

Dalrymple writes of the hotel (now a Travelodge): ‘No single building has ever done more than this to ruin an ancient townscape once and for all, beyond possibility, while it still stands, of repair; and an acquaintance of mine remembered the elegant 18th-century building that was demolished to make space for it, the wonderful wooden panelling of the drawing and dining rooms being thrown into the street as so much rubbish (where my acquaintance recuperated it for nothing). No building, for purely architectural reasons, ever merited bombardment more’