In response to:
Razing Romania from the January 19, 1989 issue
To the Editors:
I read with satisfaction and sympathy the letter on “Razing Romania” in your issue of January 19. I very much hope that it will contribute to arousing American opinion against the serious violation of human rights planned by the Ceausescu regime. The undersigned eminent scholars, however, seem to have missed a very important point—as have, by the way, most European commentators on the issue who mainly treat it in terms of cultural heritage and ethnic identity.
To destroy the traditional culture of Romania’s peasantry and the ethnic identity of its national minorities by bulldozing their houses, churches and cemeteries is a horrendous undertaking indeed. Just as it is outrageous to force old people to change their domicile for the last few years of their lives. But the immediate consequence of “systematisation” will be to deprive the rural population of the last traces of economic independence. This is without doubt the foremost aim of the program. The peasant family in a village-home with a garden still can grow some fruit and vegetables, raise pigs or at least poultry. Moved to concrete blocks of apartments they lose these means of subsistence and are left at the mercy of the state distribution system while their production comes under complete control. This certainly will make it easier to turn them into submissive slaves. But it also will not fail to aggravate Romania’s chronic food shortage, already bordering on general starvation as told by the fugitives who cross over to Hungary by thousands, often risking torture and death if caught by Romanian sentries.
June 29, 1989