Romania has refused to withdraw a commemorative coin depicting a former head of the Orthodox Church, which has drawn criticism from Jewish organizations who cite anti-Semitic actions before World War II.
The head of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum had said he was shocked by the central bank's decision to issue a coin depicting late patriarch Miron Cristea, who was also briefly prime minister in 1938-39.
The museum said Cristea was responsible for giving the green light to strip about 225,000 Jews, or about one third of Romania's pre-war Jewish population, of Romanian citizenship.
It asked the central bank to withdraw the coin, which the central bank said was part of a collector issue of five coins depicting the Black Sea state's five patriarchs.
"Miron Cristea's featuring ... should not be related to his short activity as Romania's prime minister," the bank said in a statement to present findings of an internal commission to study the case.
"But is rather a natural part of the group of Patriarchs ... in a chronological order that may not be subject to dispute."
Jewish groups 'shocked and disappointed'
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum said the central bank's refusal was "insensitive" to the memory of Holocaust victims.
The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the decision and urged President Traian Basescu Friday to ensure that information about the anti-Semitic actions of Miron Cristea is included with each coin.
The museum in Washington, DC, said Cristea's tenure as Romania's premier from 1938 to 1939 "marked the opening of a systematic campaign of anti-Semitic persecution by successive Romania governments that resulted in the devastation of the Romanian Jewish community during the Holocaust."
"We are shocked and disappointed that the National Bank of Romania has decided to honor Miron Cristea, even after consideration of his anti-Semitic actions and statements," Anti-Defamation League director Abraham H. Foxman said.
Some 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma, or Gypsies, were killed during the pro-fascist regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, who was prime minister from 1940 to 1944 and executed by the Communists in 1946.
Only about 6,000 Jews live in Romania today.
Holocaust Museum Director Sara Bloomfield called the bank's decision "misguided" and "insensitive to the memory of the victims, and inconsistent with the progress Romania has made in acknowledging its past."
Today, anti-Semitic activities are illegal in Romania.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report
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