Max Ausnit was one of Romania's greatest industrialists in the inter-war period. The jewel in the crown of his holdings was Uzinele Metalurgice Titan Nadrag Calan which included a steel mill at Ferdinand, now known as the Otelu Rosu which, along with numerous subsidiaries such as Magazinele Unite, and Socomet, employed about 10,000 people. It was coveted by King Carol II for his personal wealth and, on trumped up charges - as Marshal Antonescu admits below - Max Ausnit was unjustly imprisoned by the King for his refusal to transfer ownership of the company to the King's personal holdings. After the forced abdication of Carol II, Antonescu sought to coerce the still wrongly imprisoned Ausnit to transfer ownership in Titan Nadrag Calan to the State, making a point, set forth below, that this was different than Carol's coercive acts because it was in the interests of the State. Antonescu entered into "negotiations" with Ausnit to force him to turn over Titan Nadrag Calan in return for his freedom. The German Ambassador, Manfred Freiherr von Killinger, notified Berlin of these "negotiations" and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop personally cabled Bucharest stating that under no circumstances should Ausnit be allowed to leave the country. Below are the minutes of a meeting of Antonescu's Provisioning Council where the Romanian leadership plots to steal Titan Nadrag Calan from the "kike" Ausnit:
THE PROVISIONING COUNCIL
Tuesday, 2nd of December 1941
Discussions topics are: the gathering of cereals; the rationalizing of the consumption of wheat; providing the markets with food products; cleaning the Capital and cemeteries; the guarantee of Germany for the Romanian Bank for the needs of the Germans in our country; gathering clothing from the Jews for the purpose of dressing the students; the Auschnitt case etc.
Wednesday, 4th of December 1941
The meeting was opened at 11.30, under the presidency of Marshal Ion Antonescu, the Head of the State. The following took part in the meeting: Professor Mihai Antonescu, vice-president of the Council; General D. Popescu, Minister of the Interior; General I. Sichitiu, The Minister of Agriculture and of the Domains; I. Marinescu, Minister of National Economy; A. Pana, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Domains; General C. Constantin, Undersecretary of State of Army and Civil Population Provisioning; General C. Florescu, Mayor of Bucharest; Al. Ottulescu, the Governor of the National Bank; Gh. Minescu, General Director of I.N.C.O.O.P.; C. Sireteanu, Director of Army Provisioning.
Marshal I. Antonescu: The first issue on the agenda is the gathering of cereals.
Marshal I. Antonescu: We can also complete phase three of the expropriation, through the National Bank. I have asked since long ago for this matter to be dealt with. We have money blocked in London, which we cannot use now. But this money from London belongs to the National Bank. And, then, we could begin to make it Romanian, in this way.
I believe that the value of all the Jewish goodwill in Romania represents about one hundred billion lei. We have dollars and gold worth 16 billion lei in London. With this amount we can buy goods for triple the value in Romania. Hence, we could buy 40-50 billion worth of goodwill. Thus, we also have to take this possibility into account.
M. Antonescu: Let us take it into account, having in mind the experience of the Germans, so as, through agreements with certain groups of Jewish representatives, to obtain this capital outflow and this exchange between the Jewish capital in the country and those blocked, without paralyzing the economic activity, I mean by substituting the Romanian element...
Marshal I. Antonescu: This is the key to the problem.
M. Antonescu: ...linking this obligation of payment with dollars and foreign currencies, to the right of the beneficiary to continue functioning in the enterprise, until the arrival of a Romanian entrepreneur.
Marshal I. Antonescu: If I had been sure that I could complete this third stage without destabilizing the State, I would have started with it instead of the rural goods or with the shabby houses of the Jews from Dudesti and Vacaresti, because this is no Romanian-making.
M. Antonescu: I have a third issue: it is the Auschnitt issue, for which I would like a final decision to be made, especially since the Governor of the National Bank is here.
As you all recall, we have begun the discussions with Auschnitt's representatives as early as last autumn, bringing it in the attention of the Government that Auschnitt was pursued by the former King and by those associated with the King at that time.
Marshal I. Antonescu: Auschnitt didn't want to assign his assets to the King. We are doing the same thing as [King] Carol, but in the interest of the State.
M. Antonescu: In an attempt to show that he didn't want to become rich by using his assets to the detriment of the State - at least under this regime - Auschnitt offered to assign, at first, 40% of the shares held in Titan-Nadrag-Calan, stressing that he didn't own the majority of the capital, as it was divided among many foreign holders.
Following many discussions, Auschnitt offered to assign 51% of the shares, by selling a part of the C.E.P.I. shares, so as to give 51% to the State.
The Romanian State has no other obligation towards Auschnitt than to allow - as to any other petty criminal - the reconsideration of his case, because, in the meanwhile, through a reconsideration of the commercial rights between Resita, Titan-Nadrag-Calan and Auschnitt, it would appear that the reasons for which Auschnitt was condemned do not constitute fraud, that the transfers between Resita, Titan-Nadrag-Calan and Auschnitt personally are not frauds committed either by Resita, nor by the company Titan-Nadrag-Calan, nor does it breach the rules of the Commercial Code, which would involve Auschnitt's legal responsibility, but is a pretext in order to take the majority of the shares from Auschnitt, which he didn't want to assign.
As the matter concerns an enrichment of the Romanian State, which doesn't give anything in return, having the conviction that, truly, in the proceedings of Auschnitt with Resita and the others, there were direct interferences, which even the General Prosecutor himself, through reckless imprudence...
Marshal I. Antonescu: Through intentional imprudence.
M. Antonescu: ...admitted before the Court of Cassation, in Auschnitt's second appeal, in order to show the judges how significant the interest in condemning Auschnitt is, in any case, having the belief that there was no impartial sentencing, having in mind, on the other hand, the belief that the Romanian State has to use all occasions in order to gain what it has lost in ten years of negligent management and turpitude, I believe that it is in the interest of the Romanian State to seek to gain these 51% which Auschnitt offers and to create for him, if our courts allow it, the possibility to request the reconsideration of his case.
If you share this point of view, I believe we should intervene at the National Bank in order to obtain the authorization of the formal operation that are necessary for a the shares that belonged to C.E.P.I. to be bought by Auschnitt, of course, with all the necessary guarantees, so that this assignment of shares and the completion of the operation can be made at the same time with the donation made to the Romanian State, so as, through these shares, with those that Auschnitt already owns, the State could take possession of the 51%, namely the majority of the shares of the Titan-Nadrag-Calan company.
Marshal, Ministers, Governor, I draw your attention to the fact that the "Mannesmann" Group has bought, from abroad, I don't know through what means, a stock of shares of the Titan-Nadrag-Calan company, and this morning Mr. Orghidan showed to me a letter in which the "Mannesmann" Group asked him to register the transfer of shares in the register of the company and Mr. Orghidan let me know that the operation has not yet been approved by the Ministry of National Economy, so I draw your attention to this new case of participation. [Mannesmann AG was a German corporation with headquarters in Dusseldorf that produced seamless steel tubes.]
Marshal I. Antonescu: The operation won't be approved before we get the 51%.
M. Antonescu: That is why I raised this issue for your attention. Please do not approve the operation - although it is only stock representing three or four percent - until the donation to the Romanian State is made.
Marshal I. Antonescu: This is the answer I gave a long time ago: we must act with Auschnitt in the same phases as we have done with Malaxa. Hold fast when you have it. First Mr. Auschnitt should give what is certain.
For the time being, I pulled him out of Saint Vincent and I have sent him to Brasov prison, because there he used to meet with the representatives of the "Mannesmann" Group and of other groups. I have sent him to prison so as he can see how it is.
Al. Ottulescu: Well done, Marshal.
M. Antonescu: I gave this order two weeks ago.
Marshal I. Antonescu: The [Auschnitt] trial was a depravity of the former regime. We are using it against this individual the same way as against Malaxa, but we are using it to reimburse the State, not to transfer the shares to our personal property or to that of our families or our party. Hence, let us take from this gentleman what is convinced.
Secondly, for the remaining shares up to 51%, I kindly ask the National Bank to perform the operations as quickly as possible. I have mentioned this issue to you before, Mr. Ottulescu.
Thirdly, if Auschnitt finishes all these formalities fast and makes the donation towards the State, his case can be reviewed. If he lengthens the operations too much, it won't be reconsidered.
Al. Ottulescu: Mr. Demetrescu, who took care of this matter, told me he wanted to make transfers of some receivables, which Mr. Demetrescu considered fictitious.
We are completing the operation, but not based on fictitious things. What is not true, we cannot do.
Marshal I. Antonescu: Once a kike, always a kike.
Al. Ottulescu: I haven't checked personally but this is what Mr. Demetrescu said.
M. Antonescu: For the Romanian State it is not fictitious if we obtain the majority of the Titan-Nadrag shares.
Al. Ottulescu: But for this matter I have to perform the transfers of receivables. Mr. Demetrescu says that he wants to make transfers of fictitious receivables.
We agree, Marshal, but only for real and legal actions.
Marshal I. Antonescu: For the time being, let's take from Auschnitt what he has offered first, 40%. Let's sign an agreement for the 40%.
M. Antonescu: I draw your attention, Governor and Ministers, to the fact that Mr. Auschnitt has only a few months left in jail. If we don't use this time, we will lose the 51%.
Al. Ottulescu: This is what Mr. Demetrescu says. And he knows better.
Marshal I. Antonescu: He knows a bit better than I would have known if I were in his position.
Al. Ottulescu: He is honest.
Marshal I. Antonescu: I am also honest. But he has subordinates that give him interested advice. This is the whole problem. We, the leaders, are all honest - and also many of the ministers, who are blamed without being guilty, were honest, but they were the victims of those that I have mentioned earlier. So Mr. Demetrescu shouldn't try to pass as a banker and give his opinion, because he had no money from his father.
This matter shall not be delayed.
The meeting was closed at 13.47.
Shorthand writers: D. Fierascu, A. Ionescu
The Directorate of the Central National Historical Archives, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers fund, The Ion Antonescu Cabinet, dossier 489 (ex 484)/1941, pages 259-331.
The similarities are, sadly, striking. The former Romanian government's concern for the Ausnit family's human rights was non-existent while its pecuniary interest in grabbing 85% of what belonged to the family was its only concern - not dissimilar from Marshal Antonescu and his government that wanted the same factory and gave no thought at all about compensating the "kike" for its confiscation.
As we noted in our April 2012 issue, the final straw in a long series of abusive acts by past Romanian administrations was the proposed draft law to confiscate 85% of the property rights of thousands of victims of Romanian communism and fascism in total disregard of Romania's constitutional provisions prohibiting such acts and in violation of Protocol One of the European Convention of Human Rights to which Romania is a signatory and which recognizes property rights as human rights. There are legitimate issues with respect to how restitution should proceed in Romania, but permissible limitations on restitution rights are never to the value of the right itself, but to the method by which compensation might be obtained and a reasonable time in which to pay it or deliver it. No civilized system of law condones the willful appropriation of a person's property without fair, equitable and just compensation as a justifiable limitation on property rights - and Romania is no exception. Just as the Romanian government cannot take back a building that was restituted to the family from whom it was stolen without paying its fair value, so it cannot confiscate another family's right to receive a different building in restitution by payment of a mere pittance of its true value.
Reasonable limitations on the delivery of future restitution awards - not on their actual value - can be contemplated. Below are several alternatives which all contemplate the continuation of in-kind restitution:
- Creation of a second Property Fund. This could be done quite quickly, since it would be created through a Government Decision. The assets of such fund would consist of shares that the Government owns in listed companies.
- Granting compensation in the form of shares in listed companies in which the state maintains an interest.
- Payment through state bonds with a face value that reflects the actual value of a bond payable at a future date.
- The grant of compensation through state-owned land, subject to proper evaluation.
- Payment of cash in installments would be acceptable if made over a reasonable period of time and, obviously, with no cap. The installments must be subject to interest and inflation.
- With the exception of claims that have already been evaluated, claimants awaiting cash compensation could be provided with the choice of taking a capped amount of money immediately or delayed payment of the full amount, not to exceed 7 years, in equal installments plus interest at the prime rate and subject to inflation.
Whether the proposed draft law and the bureaucratic lies that have generated a decade long ordeal for the Ausnit's were done out of greed, indolence, sheer prejudice, or a combination of all, the result of Romania's conduct for the family is tantamount to yet another confiscation of the property of Max Ausnit. One grossly shameful chapter in Romania's war against the Ausnit's resonates once again today in the inexcusable acts of persons entrusted by Romania to protect the rights of citizens and restitution claimants.
The article was published based upon approval of:
Rubin Meyer Doru & Trandafir
SOCIETATE CIVILA DE AVOCATI / LAWYERS PROFESSIONAL CORPORATION
IN ASOCIERE CU / AFFILIATED WITH HERZFELD & RUBIN, P.C.