In the ’40s, cartoonist Albert Poch was banished from the family house by the Minister for Justice of the Antonescu government. Minister’s descendants now summon him to evacuate his workshop house from Bucharest. Albert Poch, a famous Romanian cartoonist, lived at the age of 11 a drama that most have seen only in movies.
Raised in Babadag, Tulcea county, he was forced to flee home during the persecution of Jews in Romania, started on July 9th1941.
The Holocaust left him without his uncle and without his aunt. Among those who were involved in these crucial events is the former Minister for Justice in the Antonescu government, Constantin Cotty-Stoicescu.
After nearly 70 years, Albert Poch is again on the brink to remain homeless after Constantin Cotty-Stoicescu ‘s successors received back a building that belonged to the former Minister. The cartoonist has an apartment in this residential building. “Restitution is illegal”, Poch said, adding that the former justice minister is a war criminal, so his successors do not have the legal right to restitution.
„Because of former minister I lost a part of the family, the parents’ home and I was homeless in the winter of 1941. Stoicescu argued adoption of the Hitler’s law to settle the Hebrew problem, meaning extermination, thus concluding that: we would liquidate all of them, we do not escape none. Here I quote from transcripts of meetings of the Antonescu government,” says Albert Poch today.
He lived without knowing, in a house built by Stoicescu
In the ’50s, Albert Poch was a young cartoonist illustrator, collaborator of the „Nettle”magazine. „I was living with my family on Vasile Lascar Street. I decided to move with my wife in a more spacious apartment, to stay all together. We were about eight people. My wife, her brother with his wife and our parents, „recalls Albert Poch.
He filed a notice to former ICRAL (Enterprise Construction, Repair and Housing Administration) to share accommodation. „A military major presented himself to me and he told me that he needs my house for a general, and for that in turn he gives me an apartment in 68Ştirbei Voda Street,” says Albert Poch. The cartoonist had no curiosity to know who raise the building, he could find that it was owned by Constantin Cotty-Stoicescu.
A few years after the fall of communism, by 1995-1996, he was told by the authorities to buy his home. Until then, he paid a monthly rent to the state, according to the law. „I sold my car and with the few savings we had, we raised $ 10,000, the apartment’s price at the time,” said Albert Poch.
„I could not allow to be left homeless again by the same man”
Although it escaped the first wave restitution of properties abusively confiscated by the former communist regime, the property of Prince Ştirbei Street was requested after year 2000 to refund under Law 10/2001 from Romania.
Requests for restitution were made in years 2002-2004. „When I first heard the claim, I was somewhat reconciled. The Hebrew community could provide me a home, plus I’m a member of the Artists Union, which allows me to have a home from the state with a room to be my workshop, ” Albert Poch told us.
But the apartment was asked for restitution by Rodica Macry and Lavinia Burculeţ, descendants of Constantin Cotty-Stoicescu. „When I heard that restitution would be made to the successors of Stoicescu I felt I was going insane. My family has suffered from his anti-Jewish actions. I have lost relatives in the camps of deportation. I could not allow now to be left homeless by the same man. Especially since, in my opinion, he is a war criminal and all his possessions were confiscated by the state and therefore not entitled to restitution, ” he tells us.
Former Minister descendants
Heirs, distant relatives
Following trial demand restitution of the property on Prince Ştirbei Street it showed that only the apartment on the second floor, the one of Albert Poch, will be returned. That’s because the rest of the apartments were sold by Stoicescu during his lifetime.
Suspicious requests for restitution
Heirs (Rodica Macry and Lavinia Burculeţ) obtained favourable decisions in all instances – fund and two appeals, and now they want to take possession of the apartment. Rodica Macry is considered the successor of Ion Stoicescu, which is a distant cousin of Ana Stoicescu – the sister of Constantin Cotty-Stoicescu. „Rodica Macry began to make reasonable efforts to take possession of this building almost ten years ago. She is seriously ill and she can not talk to anyone,” said Vlad Macri to us, relative to the heir.
Lavinia is the successor of Constantine Burculeţ (deceased), cousin of Profira Stoicescu, which in turn was a cousin of Constantin Cotty-Stoicescu . Lavinia Burculeţ is a child, and the claim was made in her name, by Aurora Vicas, the mother of Lavinia. Vicas Aurora refused to provide us details on this topic.
„A. Poch is wrong”
„I understand Albert Poch, but Stoicescu Constantin-Cotty is not considered a war criminal before the Romanian law. The Former minister died prior to being prosecuted in court and being accused of war crimes. There is no file in court in this sense, „said Elena Ciurezu, the lawyer representing the heirs of Constantine Cotty Stoicescu.
WHO IS ALBERT POCH
Cartoonist’s secret plan
Albert Poch, 81 years, is an acclaimed artist, illustrator and cartoonist, a member of Artists Union of Romania. He has exhibited in art salons in the country and abroad, received an award for best cartoon releases in 1969 and worked for many years in the humor magazine „Nettle.”
After a life dedicated to cartoons, Poch’s secret plan to donate his home to the state after his death „to become a small museum of paintings and satirical graphics” is likely to fail. “I remain with the hideous perception of the denial of anti-semitic Holocaust, ignored with guilt by the Romanian Justice. It’s an anti-national victory against the Romanian state „he says.
“Death not preclude measures”
Romanian laws prevent the return of goods to survivors of war criminals, says Radu Ioanid, director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C.
Thus, by Government Decision no. 250/2007, establishing the rules for applying Law 10/2001, legislation for retrocessions in Romania: „It is not unfair takeover and therefore not subject of law the following categories of cases: (…) confiscation of property as a result of committing crimes against humanity or war crimes committed between September 1940 – 9 May 1945. These are people guilty of war crimes, camp guards and others falling within the provisions of Law no. 312/1945.”
At the same time, Law 312 / 1945 indicates, Article 9, paragraph 2: „With the indictment, all goods of the accused are hit by the unavailability. Termination of criminal offenses by death of the accused, occurred after the start of research, does not preclude taking measures and the unavailability of his goods. The criminal investigation and trial will follow against the heirs, for confiscation of property by the state as compensation.”
Cotty-Stoicescu case, similar to those of Hitler and Himmler
Although Constantin Cotty-Stoicescu was part of the Antonescu government, totally condemned for war crimes, the Justice Minister has not been charged in court because he committed suicide before trial. The case is similar to those of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, commander of the forces of „SS” Nazi army.
Radu Ioanid: „He was part of Antonescu’s team”
International Archival Programs Division Director in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC, Radu Ioanid thinks that the Minister of Justice of the Antonescu government can be considered a war criminal because he was part of an executive convicted of such offenses.
„Constantin Stoicescu, Antonescu’s Justice Minister (February 1941-August 1942) is not the first war criminal who dies before his trial: the case is similar to those of Heinrich Himmler and Robert Ley (Neo – Nazi chief and chief of German Labour Front). Constantin Cotty-Stoicescu was Justice Minister in a government that remains convicted of crimes against humanity. He was part of Antonescu’s team during the repressive period that included massacres and mass scale deportations of Jewish population, „explained Radu Ioanid.
According to history, Stoicescu was directly involved in the interpretation and enforcement of racial anti-Semitism in Romania. „In the Council of Ministers meeting of 12 March 1941, he said in connection with the” definition of the Jew”: ” I gave the definition that is in the project of Mr. Secretary of State Colonization, which I think is the broader definition, and we might say: it’s a Hebrew, in the meaning of this law, everyone who has a parent or grandparent Jew. With that it’s done. We cleaned them all ‘”, says Ioanid.
There it’s no exact number of Jews killed in Romania during the Holocaust. It is estimated that around 250,000 were affected, being executed or deported.
Replies from lawyers
„Cotty-Stoicescu shot himself in the head before being trialed , as did Hitler. However, Hitler is considered a war criminal. The same rules had to apply to the case of former state’s Justice Minister”, said Ion Costei, the lawyer of the cartoonist.
„Mr Costei can support whatever he wants. The reality is that there is no case sent to court where Constantin Cotty-Stoicescu is accused of war crimes,” replied Elena Ciurezu, the lawyer of Cotty-Stoicescu‘s heirs.
How was it possible to escape Stoicescu’s war crimes charges? Military prosecutors of the time forgot to start prosecution against him after former Minister committed suicide. Because he was dead, he was not named among the members of the Antonescu government for being accused of war crimes. „his name wasn’t found among those that were accusedafter year 1945as forming part of the Antonescu government, „said Alexandru Florian, executive director of the National Institute for Holocaust Studies in Romania” Elie Wiesel „.
How Hitler died
On April 30th, 1945, during the battle for the conquest of Berlin, Hitler committed suicide by swallowing a capsule of cyanide and then shooting himself. His body and that of Eva Braun were deposited in a bomb crater, sprayed with gasoline and then set fire to them in order not to get into the hands of Russian generals.