Gift of Diamonds is a novel. As such, Mica’s story is a literary creation of fiction. Her recollection of Fascism as well as her experiences under Communism and her reflections about Terrorism, are based on political events. But I have used the historical reality as a novelist would – to enhance the storyline. To achieve this, I have taken liberties under the guise of “poetic license” with time and place as I present a literary fresco of Romania’s second half of the 20th century. The history is the “backdrop curtain” of my novel, not center stage.
I have creatively used Mengele, Ceausescu, Antonescu, Arafat, Gaddafi, along with Romanian history, to create suspense and to place obstacles in front of my main protagonist, Mica, as she voyages toward freedom.
As a literary author, I have also wrestled with the contradictions and ambiguities of this period of history.
Over the years, I have tried to fetter through the information from eminent historians to determine what is accurate, what is true, what is myth. This endeavor has been as challenging to me as writing the fictional story.
In Gift of Diamonds, I narrate events about three real people with whom I have taken liberties for literary purposes: Dr. Josef Mengele, German Nazi physician at Auschwitz and war criminal; General Ion Antonescu, leader of Romania from 1940-1944; and Nicolae Ceausescu, Dictator and President of Romania from 1965-1989.
- Dr. Mengele, while working at Auschwitz (1943-45), did not get involved in diamonds or gold. His objective as physician at the concentration camp was to experiment on inmates whom he did not consider human beings and to document his findings as Genetic theories. He was obsessed to create the master race, the Aryan race. He saw himself as a scientist, a geneticist, a physician, and Auschwitz was his human testing ground. In this Hell devoid of morals and ethics, there were no judgmental eyes to restrict his experiments, no foreign press to stop him.
- General Ion Antonescu was the military dictator during Romania’s Fascist period from 1940-1944.
- In 1930, Romania had a population of 750,000 Jews; in 1945, 400,00 remained. Antonescu was the uncontested ruler and he, not the Germans, gave orders that Jews in Bessarabia, Bukovina, Ukraine, and Moldova should be eliminated, either by torture, deportation or murder. Yet, under his regime, 400,000 Jews survived the War. Most of them were from Bucharest, the capital. He opposed Hitler twice to implement mass deportation of Bucharest Jews and did not oblige them to wear yellow stars or live in ghettos.
- The question is why this lenient policy toward the Bucharest Jews? Was it because Antonescu realized that Germany would eventually lose the War? He did experience defeat at the Eastern Front when he allied Romanian troops with the German Army to invade Russia from the Ukraine. His troops marched all the way to Stalingrad with the German Army. He saw the tides of war change. Is this why he “protected” the Bucharest Jews? To use them as future collateral? As a bargaining chip? To have them bare witness so he would receive leniency in a post-War trial? Was he playing the game of War from both sides?
- On the other hand, he willingly allied himself with Hitler, sharing many anti-Semitic beliefs. Did he do this because he wanted to get back territories that Russia had annexed? Was he a Nationalist, a military hero who had entered the War because he was a rabid anti-Communist? Or was Germany his “calling card” to protect his country from future Soviet control? The Russians were Romania’s main enemy. The Americans and British were far away and Antonescu couldn’t count on them. Did he ally his country with Germany because he was afraid that Germany had thousands of troops at his front door, and would conquer Romania as they did with their neighbors?
- Some critics claim that Antonescu was a General but also a businessman. Did he keep the Bucharest Jews safe because he was waiting to receive money from President Roosevelt and the Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau? Was there a deal that consisted of a price for each Romanian Jew that would be alive at the end of the War? Yet, Roosevelt stalled to pay Romania for their Jews; Morgenthau promised that the money would come. And Roosevelt continued to procrastinate and did nothing to set up an independent Agency to allocate funds. It was not until January 1944 that Roosevelt created the War Refugee Board. At this point, the Allies were winning, King Mihai of Romania had taken power with Russia’s help, and Antonescu could not collect his money for the Bucharest Jews he had protected.
- Rumors and myths abound that Antonescu kept waiting “to sell” the Bucharest Jews. Opponents question, to whom? The British, who controlled Palestine pre-Israeli Statehood, did not want to allot more visas than the regulated quota per year allowed. The Americans were using stalling tactics. And who besides the U.S. and Israel would have bought the Jews? The wealthy International Jewry who supported Raul Wallenberg in Hungary? The United Jewish Agency?
- After the war, with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, we do see an open-market of selling Jews to leave Romania and emigrate. The Romanian communist government made millions of dollars in cash from this human trade as well as acquisitions of thousands of apartments and coveted jobs.
- As we analyze the historical period of Fascism in Romania, we see clear evidence that the Holocaust in Romania had its seeds from much earlier periods of their history than Germany’s Third Reich. Romania had their own anti-Semitic pogroms and murders, independent of German rule.
- This period of Romanian history was a complex time and the questions still plague me as I wrestle with the truth.
- Both Antonescu and Mengele used World War II to satisfy their personal ambitions and solidify their reputation as “Supermen.” In my historical novel, I have depicted them as evil forces figuratively and symbolically.
- Henry Jacober, Hungarian born, lived in London and made a lot of money and became a Lord, worked with the Israeil Mossad. In the late 1950’s, he began working with Gheorghiu-Dej (the dictator before Ceausescu) for the Israeli government, who wanted to get Romanian Holocaust survivors out of Romania and into Israel to populate the new country.
- He began his business deals by building for Romania, a chicken farm, free of charge, if the Romanian government would allow 500 Jewish families to leave for Israel. Jacober understood that the Romanian government liked chickens more than Jews.
- In 1965, when Gheorghiu-Dej died and Ceausescu came into power, Romania owned thousands of chicken, pig, turkey and sheep farms with slaughterhouses, storehouses, packaging plants and fleets of Mercedes trucks and cars to transport the meat. Everything paid for by Henry Jacober on behalf of the Israeli government and the United Jewish Appeal.
- When Ceasuescu learned about these transactions, he was furious. Not because he was losing his Jews, but that the deals were just bringing in chickens and pigs. He wanted CASH, cold dollars. And so, the Israeli government with Henry Jacober as middleman, has paid the Romanian government between $2,000 and $25,000 per Jew depending on their education and importance, for visas to Israel. Under Jacober’s dealings, more than 230,000 Romanian Jews have left. Ceausescu received millions of dollars for this business as well as abandoned apartments with furniture and art and vacated jobs from the Jews who were sold.
- But the trunk-loads of cash and the overseas accounts were not enough for Comrade Ceausescu. The communist leader wanted machine guns, weapons, ammunitions, and war tanks. And when Ceausescu received these, he copied them and made dozens more, selling them to his friends and America’s enemies: Gaddafi and Arafat. And who knows who else?
- I have also taken liberties with creating the “backdrop” of Communism:
- Nicolae Ceausescu, the communist dictator of Romania from 1965-1989 did not come into power through a coup d’état or revolution, or in Transylvania, or in my imaginary town, Orad, as I depict in my novel. He was nominated and elected by the Romanian Communist Party after the death of Gheorghiu-Dej, the previous dictator.
- There are historical events in my novel that did take place in reality with Ceausescu and his business partners, but I have altered the places, dates and events for literary purposes. In reality, Ceausescu did work closely in a symbiotic Machiavellian system with Arafat, Gaddafi, Sadam Hussein, Ali Bhutto, and Kim Jung II, the “Great Leader” of North Korea. Ceausescu was at the center of all these characters as they made billions of dollars from nuclear arms, terrorism, biological warfare, synthetic diamonds, and the sale of human beings.
- All their business deals and atrocities that I narrate in my novel are accurate. Only the dates and sequence of events have been altered to better fit the chronology within the fictional storyline.
- I have used Romania’s dictatorial regimes of Fascism and Communism to create an atmosphere of deceit and evil that poisoned all Romanians during these years. One form of totalitarian government led to another. These were times of secret police, informers, fear, lies, double-crossing, dehumanization, shredding of documents, the destruction of the human soul. What we know today about these times is still masked with inconsistencies and ambiguities.
- In the Fact/Fiction section I have included some photos of Ceausescu’s regime of 24 years when he was at the peak of power and negotiated unclassified business deals and negotiations with other leaders of the world. All these photos I have found on Googles Image from Public Domain. I believe a picture is worth a 1,000 words.
- Gift of Diamonds is a novel and my aim is to use Romania’s history because of my personal interest in the country and my love for the people. Romanians are vibrant, talented people, and despite their difficult history they will make their mark in the future. I am proud that my beloved Mica, with her multi-faceted character, her love for life and her élan vital, was born in this fascinating country.
Sándor Déki Lakatos–The Lark