The National Bank of Romania is again receiving criticism for issuing
a coin with with what the U.S. government calls anti-Semitic tones.
The United States Embassy in Bucharest issued a statement May 13 criticizing the National Bank of
Romania’s decision to honor former interwar National Bank governor
Mihail Manoilescu through the release of 2016 coins bearing his image.
The statement was on behalf of American ambassador to Romania Hans G. Klemm.
The bank on April 15 issued three commemorative coins honoring three past
bank governors, including Manoilescu. The copper 1-lei coin, silver
10-lei coin and gold 100-lei coin all show busts of the three historic
leaders on their reverse.
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According to the embassy, Manoilescu was “an active promoter of and
contributor to fascist ideology and anti-Semitic sentiment in Romania,
which ultimately led to the country’s darkest period.”
The bank fired back, noting in a May 13 statement
that the coins are part of a larger coin program that began in 2015 to
showcase the history of the National Bank of Romania and the prominent
figures who held office as governor over the years.
The bank statement said, “This issue is dedicated to the activity of
three central bank governors and marks the anniversary of a
significant number of years since their birth — 175 years since the
birth of Ion I. Câmpineanu, 140 years since the birth of Ion Lapedatu,
and 125 years since the birth of Mihail Manoilescu. The three
governors held office at different historical times.”
While the U.S. Embassy acknowledged Romania’s right to celebrate the
traditions of its institutions, the statement from the embassy added,
“These celebrations should not include images of people who have been
condemned by history and, through honoring them, validate them. Doing
so runs counter to Romania’s establishment of democratic institutions,
its embrace of the rule of law, and its protection of fundamental
Manoilescu’s inclusion in the set was based solely on his
performance as governor of the NBR during the height of the Great
Depression, the bank said, and Romanian commemorative coins are “by no
means and under no circumstances, intended to hurt anybody’s feelings,
and all the less so to stain the memory of any community or convey
messages that may be construed as offending, xenophobic or discriminating.”
The bank promised to take steps and create procedures to “avoid any
unfortunate situations in the future,” but this is the second time
since 2010 that a commemorative coin from Romania has been criticized for honoring someone with an
In 2010, Radu Ioanid, the international archives director at the
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, called for a coin honoring
Patriarch Miron Cristea to be withdrawn.
The coin bearing Cristea’s image was part of a collectors’ series of five coins showing the
patriarchs of Romania.
During his tenure as prime minister in 1938 and 1939, Cristea
stripped citizenship from 37 percent of the nation’s Jewish residents,
affecting more than 225,000 people.
The United States Ambassador to Romania said the
bank stoked anti-Semitism with the earlier coin, but the bank said the
coin was only intended to celebrate the anniversary of the Romanian
Despite significant criticism, the bank steadfastly refused to withdraw the Cristea coin.