Romania's most vicious anti-Semitic and ultra-nationalist politician, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, is trying hard to persuade people that he has changed his ways. For most journalists and political pundits in Romania, this self-proclaimed Damascene conversion looks like just another political farce from someone with unrivaled histrionic gifts.
If Tudor were a mere political clown, the question of whether or not he still hates Jews would not matter. But Tudor is a political power to be reckoned with. As parliamentary and presidential elections loom, everyone wants to figure out just what he is up to.
Tudor was ex-dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's court poet. He supported the Securitate (Romania's communist-era secret police) and praised Ceausescu's patriotism. When communism collapsed, he blamed every shortcoming in the reform process on "foreigners" - meaning the West, Romania's ethnic Hungarian minority, and especially the Jews. Indeed, he developed a cult for Marshall Ion Antonescu, Romania's dictator between 1940-1944 and Hitler's ally, who was responsible of ordering the massacre of about 200,000 Jews. The violence of Tudor's rhetoric, directed against everybody who opposed him, rose to heights not seen since the Fascist era.
In 1990, Tudor set up a weekly magazine through which he incited vicious and reactionary campaigns. Soon after he founded the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party (PRM), as well as a so-called "national treason list," on which almost every notable political and cultural figure had his or her place. He threatened (or promised) that criminals would be herded into stadiums and machine-gunned should he come to power.