Railroad officials expected transports of 2,000 Jews to leave every two days for Bełz˙ec, the death camp closest to Romania’s border. 2 But Antonescu wavered by the fall. In part, Romania could not appear subservient to Berlin at a time when Hungary, Romania’s chief rival within the German-led alliance, had not delivered its own Jews. Romanian officials increasingly worried that in the eyes of the world, Hungary would look more deserving of the divided and bitterly disputed region of Transylvania because it had not yet handed over its Jews there. 3
But there were other reasons as well. In 1942, German-language newspapers in Romania noted that Romania’s Jews would be resettled. Readers assumed that resettlements would be in Transnistria, the dreadfulness of which was known. “The rumors that reach us from Transnistria,” wrote Emil Dorian in June 1942, “are horrifying. . . . A graveyard from which an agonized voice rises. . . .” 4 Leading Romanian Jews desperately lobbied Romanian officials. Romania’s chief rabbi, Alexandru S¸afran, spoke to the Swedish, Swiss, and Turkish ministers, and to the papal nuncio Andreas Cassulo, who until this time worried only for converts. All intervened with Antonescu, as did Queen Mother Elena, the mother of King Michael. Romanian intellectuals also asked publicly how far Romania would go to please the Germans.