Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Filderman, Wilhelm

(1882–1963), lawyer and communal leader. Wilhelm Filderman is considered by many to have been Romanian Jewry’s foremost leader between 1919 and 1947, as he headed virtually every major non-Zionist Romanian Jewish organization. After World War I, he represented the Union of Native-Born Jews at the Paris Peace Conference in the campaign for Romanian Jewry’s civil rights, leaving his mark on the final draft of the Romanian Minorities Treaty. From 1923 until 1947 he served as chair of the Union of Romanian Jews and the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, which included communities in the territories that had been added to Romania in the peace settlement. He also represented the union in the Romanian parliament.

Though not a Zionist, Filderman worked tirelessly for the Jewish National Fund, was on the executive at the Jewish Agency, and visited Palestine in 1926. He stood at the forefront of the battle against the increasingly violent antisemitic wave that swept greater Romania in the 1920s, a wave that regarded him as a symbol of Romanian Jewry to be silenced. Filderman fought to preserve Jewish civil rights and to end discrimination and hostile behavior toward Jews in the political, economic, educational, and religious areas. He also campaigned on behalf of Jewish refugees from neighboring states who fled to Romania fearing pogroms or Nazi rule.

Filderman steadfastly maintained his position as the leader of Romanian Jewry even during the most dangerous periods of its physical existence under the Goga–Cuza government, the National Legionary State, and the regime of General Ion Antonescu. During that time, in which Jews were subjected to increasing violence, their rights rescinded and property expropriated, Filderman headed the clandestine apparatus that assisted Romanian Jews and Transnistrian exiles, remaining in constant contact with international Jewish organizations and the American Joint Distribution Committee. He did all he could to save Bessarabian and Bucovinian Jewry from genocide, to little avail. In June 1943 he was deported to Transnistria after opposing a government-imposed special tax upon the Jews, but diplomatic pressure secured his release after three months.

In late 1941, the Federation of Jewish Communities was dismantled and replaced by a Judenrat in preparation for the anticipated deportation of Romanian Jewry to Poland. Although Filderman no longer held an official position, he intervened with opposition leaders and convinced them that handing Romanian Jews over to the Nazis would harm Romanian interests once the war ended. His efforts were partly responsible for the indefinite suspension of deportation plans.

After the Soviet army conquered Romania in August 1944, Filderman returned to his previous positions, leading the struggle to reclaim Jewish property. He succeeded in preventing Jewish youth from being conscripted into the Romanian army, which was known for its antisemitism, but he refused to support the Communist Party or to join the affiliated Democratic Jewish Committee and was arrested for a short time in 1945. In January 1948, after being vilified and intimidated by Romanian authorities and Jewish Communists, he escaped to Paris, where he spent the rest of his life.

Suggested Reading

Wilhelm Filderman, Memoirs and Diaries, vol. 1, ed. Jean Ancel (Jerusalem, 2004); S. Schafferman, Dr. W. Filderman, 50 de ani din istoria judaismului român, Editura autorului (Tel Aviv, 1986).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 559, Leo Fischer, Papers, 1918-1950s.



Translated from Hebrew by David Fachler