The Iron Guard (Romanian: Garda de fier pronounced [ˈɡarda de ˈfjer] (listen)) is the name most commonly given to a fascist movement and political party in Romania founded in 1927 by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu as the Legion of the Archangel Michael (Legiunea Arhanghelului Mihail) or the Legionnaire movement (Mișcarea Legionară). The League was ultra-nationalist, antisemitic, antiziganist, anti-communist, anti-capitalist and promoted Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In March 1930 Codreanu formed the "Iron Guard" as a paramilitary political branch of the Legion, and in 1935, the Legion changed its official name to the "Totul pentru Ţară" party (literally "Everything For the Country" Party). It existed into the early part of World War II. Its members were called "Greenshirts" because of the predominantly green uniforms they wore.
When Marshal Ion Antonescu came to power in September 1940, he brought the Iron Guard into the government, creating the National Legionary State. In January 1941, however, following the Legionnaires' rebellion, Antonescu used the army to suppress the movement, destroying the organization, but its then commander, Horia Sima, and some other leaders escaped to Germany.
Garda de fier
|President||Corneliu Zelea Codreanu|
|Founded||24 July 1927|
|Dissolved||23 January 1941 (suppressed)|
|Split from||National-Christian Defense League|
|Headquarters||Bucharest, Kingdom of Romania|
|Paramilitary wing||Corpul Muncitoresc Legionar|
Founded by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu on 24 June 1927, as the "Legion of the Archangel Michael", and led by him until his assassination in 1938, followers of the movement continued to be widely referred to as "legionnaires" (sometimes "legionaries"; Romanian: legionarii) and led to the organization of the "Legion" or the "Legionary Movement", despite various changes of the (intermittently banned) organization's name. In March 1930, Codreanu formed the "Iron Guard" ("Garda de Fier") as a paramilitary political branch of the Legion; this name eventually came to refer to the Legion itself. Later, in June 1935, the Legion changed its official name to the "Totul pentru Ţară" party, literally "Everything For the Country" Party, but commonly translated as "Everything for the Fatherland" or occasionally "Everything for the Motherland".
The name of the League appears to have been inspired by the Black Hundreds, an anti-semitic group in the Russian Empire (particularly the regions bordering Romania) who often used the name of the archangel.
In 1927, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu left the number two position (under A.C. Cuza) in the Romanian political party known as the National-Christian Defense League (NCDL), and founded the Legion of the Archangel Michael.
The Legion differed from other fascist movements in that it had its mass base among the peasantry and students, rather than among military veterans. However, the legionnaires shared the general fascist "respect for the war veterans". Romania had a very large intelligentsia relative to the general population with 2.0 university students per one thousand of the population compared to 1.7 per one thousand of the population in far wealthier Germany, while Bucharest had more lawyers in the 1930s than did the much larger city of Paris. Even before the Great Depression, Romanian universities were producing far more graduates than the number of available jobs and the Great Depression had further drastically limited the opportunities for employment by the intelligentsia, who turned to the Iron Guard out of frustration. Many Orthodox Romanians, having obtained a university degree, which they expected to be their ticket to the middle class, were enraged to find that the jobs they were hoping for did not exist, and came to embrace the Legion's message that it was the Jews who were blocking them from finding the middle-class employment they wanted.
Beyond that, Romania had traditionally been dominated by a Francophile elite, who preferred to speak French over Romanian in private and who claimed that their policies were leading Romania to the West with the National Liberal Party, in particular, maintaining that their economic policies were going to industrialize Romania. The Great Depression seemed to show the literal bankruptcy of these policies and many of the younger Romanian intelligentsia, especially university students, were attracted by the Iron Guard's glorification of "Romanian genius" and its leaders who boasted that they were proud to speak Romanian. The Romanian-born Israeli historian Jean Ancel wrote from the mid-19th century onward, that Romanian intelligentsia had a "schizophrenic attitude towards the West and its values".
Romania had been a strongly Francophile country starting in 1859 when the United Principalities came into being, giving Romania effective independence from the Ottoman Empire (an event largely made possible by French diplomacy which pressured the Ottomans on behalf of the Romanians), and from that time onwards, most of the Romanian intelligentsia professed themselves believers in French ideas about the universal appeal of democracy, freedom and human rights, while at the same time holding anti-semitic views about Romania's Jewish minority. Despite their anti-Semitism, most of the Romanian intelligentsia believed that France was not only Romania's "Latin sister", but also a "big Latin sister" that would guide its "little Latin sister" Romania along the correct path. Ancel wrote that Codreanu was the first significant Romanian to reject not only the prevailing Francophilia of the intelligentsia, but also the entire framework of universal democratic values, which Codreanu claimed were "Jewish inventions" designed to destroy Romania.
In contrast to the traditional idea that Romania would follow the path of its "Latin sister" France, Codreanu promoted a xenophobic, exclusive ultra-nationalism, where Romania would follow its own path and rejected the French ideas about universal values and human rights. In a marked departure from the traditional ideas held by the elite about making Romania into the modernized and Westernized "France of Eastern Europe", the Legion demanded a return to the traditional Eastern Orthodox values of the past and glorified Romania's peasant culture and folk customs as the living embodiment of "Romanian genius."
The leaders of the Iron Guard often wore traditional peasant costumes with crucifixes and bags of Romanian soil around their necks to emphasise their commitment to authentic Romanian folk values, in marked contrast to Romania's Francophile elite who preferred to dress in the style of the latest fashions of Paris. The fact that many members of Romania's elite were often corrupt and that very little of the vast sums of money generated by Romania's oil found its way into the pockets of ordinary people, further enhanced the appeal of the Legion who denounced the entire elite as irredeemably corrupt.
With Codreanu as a charismatic leader, the Legion was known for skilful propaganda, including a very capable use of spectacle. Utilizing marches, religious processions, patriotic and partisan hymns and anthems, along with volunteer work and charitable campaigns in rural areas, in support of anti-communism, the League presented itself as an alternative to corrupt parties. Initially, the Iron Guard hoped to encompass any political faction, regardless of its position on the political spectrum, that wished to combat the rise of communism in the USSR.
Unlike other fascist movements of the time, the Iron Guard was purposely anti-semitic, promoting the idea that "Rabbinical aggression against the Christian world" in "unexpected 'protean forms': Freemasonry, Freudianism, homosexuality, atheism, Marxism, Bolshevism, and the civil war in Spain", were undermining society.
The Vaida-Voevod government outlawed the Iron Guard in January 1931. On 10 December 1933, the Romanian Liberal Prime Minister Ion Duca banned the Iron Guard. After a brief period of arrests, beatings, torture and even killings (twelve members of the Legionary Movement were murdered by the police force), Iron Guard members retaliated on 29 December 1933, by assassinating Duca on the platform of Sinaia railway station.
In the 1937 parliamentary elections the Legion came in third with 15.5% of the vote, behind the National Liberal and the National Peasant Parties. King Carol II strongly opposed the Legion's political aims and successfully kept them out of government until he himself was forced to abdicate in 1940. During this period, the Legion was generally on the receiving end of persecution. On 10 February 1938, the king dissolved the government, to become a royal dictator.
Codreanu was arrested and imprisoned in April 1938, and ultimately strangled to death along with several other legionnaires by their Gendarmerie escort on the night of 29–30 November 1938, purportedly during an attempt to escape from prison. It is generally agreed that there was no such escape attempt, and that Codreanu and the others were killed on the king's orders, probably in reaction to the 24 November 1938 murder by legionnaires of a relative (some sources say a "friend") of Armand Călinescu, then Minister of the Interior in the king's cabinet. In the aftermath of Carol's decision to crush the Iron Guard, many members of the Legion fled into exile in Germany, where they received both material and financial support from the NSDAP, especially from the SS and Alfred Rosenberg's Foreign Political Office.
For much of the interwar period, Romania was in the French sphere of influence, and in 1926 Romania signed a treaty of alliance with France. Following the Remilitarization of the Rhineland in March 1936, Carol started to move away from the traditional alliance with France as the fear grew within Romania that the French would do nothing in the event of German aggression in Eastern Europe, but Carol's regime was still regarded as essentially pro-French. From the German viewpoint, the Iron Guard was regarded as far preferable to King Carol. The royal dictatorship lasted just over one year. On 7 March 1939, a new government was formed with Călinescu as prime minister; on 21 September 1939, he, in turn was assassinated by legionnaires avenging Codreanu. Călinescu favored a foreign policy where Romania would maintain a pro-Allied neutrality in World War II, and as such, the SS had a hand in organizing Călinescu's assassination. Further rounds of mutual carnage ensued.
In addition to the conflict with the king, an internal battle for power ensued in the wake of Codreanu's death. Waves of repression almost completely eliminated the Legion's original leadership by 1939, promoting second-rank members to the forefront. According to a secret report filed by the Hungarian political secretary in Bucharest in late 1940, three main factions existed: the group gathered around Horia Sima, a dynamic local leader from the Banat, which was the most pragmatic and least Orthodox in its orientation; the group composed of Codreanu's father, Ion Zelea Codreanu, and his brothers (who despised Sima); and the Moţa-Marin group, which wanted to strengthen the movement's religious character.
After a long period of confusion, Sima, representing the Legion's less radical wing, overcame all competition and assumed leadership, being recognised as such on 6 September 1940 by the Legionary Forum, a body created at his initiative. On 28 September the elder Codreanu stormed the Legion headquarters in Bucharest (the Green House) in an unsuccessful attempt to install himself as leader. Sima was close to SS Volksgruppenführer Andreas Schmidt, a volksdeutsch (ethnic German) from Romania, and through him become close to Schmidt's father-in-law, the powerful Gottlob Berger who headed the SS Main Office in Berlin. The British historian Rebecca Haynes has argued that financial and organizational support from the SS was an important factor in Sima's rise.
In the first months of World War II, Romania was officially neutral. However the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939, initially a secret document, stipulated, among other things, Soviet "interest" in Bessarabia. After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany on 1 September, joined by the Soviet Union on 17 September, Romania granted refuge to members of Poland's fleeing government and military. Even after the assassination of Călinescu on 21 September, King Carol tried to maintain neutrality, but the later surrender by France and Britain's retreat from Europe rendered them unable to fulfil their assurances to Romania. A lean toward the Axis powers was probably inevitable.
This political alignment was obviously favourable to the surviving legionnaires. Ion Gigurtu's government, formed 4 July 1940, was the first to include a Legion member, but by the time the movement achieved any formal power, most of its leadership was already dead: Horia Sima, a strong anti-Semite who had become the nominal leader of the movement after Codreanu's murder, was one of the few prominent legionnaires to survive the carnage of the preceding years.
At the 1927 and the 1931 elections the movement stood for the Chamber of Deputies as Legion of the Archangel Michael. In 1932 it stood as the Codreanu Group, winning five of the 387 seats. It did not contest the 1928 election and was banned in 1933. At the 1937 election it stood as Everything for the Country Party, winning 66 of the 387 seats. At the 1939 election, all opposition parties were banned.
|Election||Votes||Seats||Rank||Government||Leader of the|
0 / 387
|8th||in opposition||Corneliu Zelea Codreanu|
0 / 387
|12th||in opposition||Corneliu Zelea Codreanu|
5 / 387
|9th||in opposition||Corneliu Zelea Codreanu|
66 / 387
|3rd||in opposition||Corneliu Zelea Codreanu|
On September 4, 1940, the Legion formed a tense alliance with General (later Marshal) Ion Antonescu. Using popular outrage at Romania being forced to return a large block of land as a result of the Second Vienna Award, the alliance forced the abdication of Carol II in favour of his son Michael, and leaned even more strongly toward the Axis. (Romania would formally join the Axis in June 1941.) Romania was proclaimed a "National Legionary State", with the Legion as the country's only legal party. As part of the deal, Antonescu was named the Legion's honorary leader, while Sima became deputy premier.
Once in power, from September 14, 1940 until January 21, 1941, the Legion ratcheted up the level of already harsh anti-Semitic legislation and pursued, with impunity, a campaign of pogroms and of political assassinations. On the 27th November 1940 more than 60 former dignitaries or officials were executed in Jilava prison while awaiting trial; historian and former prime minister Nicolae Iorga and economic theorist Virgil Madgearu, also a former government minister, were assassinated the following day. Assassination attempts on the lives of former Prime Ministers and Carol supporters Constantin Argetoianu, Guță Tătărescu and Ion Gigurtu were also carried out, but failed, as these politicians were freed from the hands of the Legionary police and put under military protection.
As a paramilitary force, the Iron Guard had no shortage of firearms while it was in power. At the start of 1941, in Bucharest alone, the Legionnaires had 5,000 guns (rifles, revolvers and machine guns) as well as numerous hand grenades. The Legion also possessed a small, mostly symbolic armored force of four vehicles: two police armored cars and two Renault UE Chenillettes from the Malaxa factory. The Malaxa factory had been licence-producing these French armored vehicles since mid-1939, and aside from the two such machines, the factory also supplied the Legion with machine guns and rifles. For transport, the Legion possessed almost 200 trucks in Bucharest alone.
Once in power Sima and Antonescu quarreled bitterly. Sima demanded that the government follow the 'legionary spirit', and all major offices be held by legionaries. Other groups were to be dissolved. Economic policy, said Sima, should be coordinated closely with Germany. Antonescu rejected the demands and was alarmed by the Iron Guard's death squads. On 14 January 1941, after securing approval in person from Hitler, and with support of the Romanian army and other political leaders, Antonescu moved in. The Guard started a last-ditch coup attempt but in a three-day civil war, Antonescu won decisively with support from the Romanian and German armies. During the run-up to the coup attempt, different factions of the German government backed different sides in Romania with the SS supporting the Iron Guard while the military and the Auswärtiges Amt supported General Antonescu. Baron Otto von Bolschwing of the SS who was stationed at the German embassy in Bucharest played a major role in smuggling arms for the Iron Guard.
During the crisis members of the Iron Guard instigated a deadly pogrom in Bucharest. Particularly gruesome was the murder of dozens of Jewish civilians in the Bucharest slaughterhouse. The perpetrators hung the Jews from meat hooks, then mutilated and killed them in a vicious parody of kosher slaughtering practices. The American ambassador to Romania Franklin Mott Gunther who toured the meat-packing plant where the Jews were slaughtered with the placards reading "Kosher meat" on them reported back to Washington: "Sixty Jewish corpses were discovered on the hooks used for carcasses. They were all skinned....and the quantity of blood about was evidence that they had been skinned alive". Gunther wrote he was especially shocked that one of the Jewish victims hanging on the meat hooks was a 5-year-old girl. Sima and other legionnaires were helped by the Germans to escape to Germany.
During the rebellion and pogrom, the Iron Guard killed 125 Jews and 30 soldiers died in the confrontation with the rebels. Following it, the Iron Guard movement was banned and 9,000 of its members were imprisoned. On 22 June 1941, the Iron Guards imprisoned in Iași since January by the Antonescu regime were released from prison and organized and armed by the police as part of the preparations for the Iași pogrom. When it came to killing Jews, the Antonescu regime and the Iron Guard were capable of finding common ground despite the failed coup in January 1941. When the pogrom began in Iași on 27 June 1941, the Iron Guards armed with crow-bars and knives played a prominent role in leading the mobs that slaughtered Jews on the streets of Iași in one of the bloodiest pogroms ever in Europe.
In the period between 1944–47 Romania had a coalition government in which the Communists played a leading, but not yet dominant role. Journalist Edward Behr claimed that in early 1947, a secret agreement was signed by the leaders of the exiled Iron Guard in displaced persons (DP) camps in Germany and Austria and the Romanian Communist Party, under which the all of the Iron Guards in the DP camps except for those accused of the murder of Communists could return home to Romania in exchange for which the former Iron Guards would work as thugs to terrorize the anti-communist opposition as part of the plans for the ultimate Communist take-over of Romania. Behr further claimed that in the months after the "non-aggression pact" between the Communists and the Legion, thousands of Iron Guards returned to Romania where they played a prominent role working for the Interior Ministry in breaking opposition to the emerging Communist dictatorship.
Historian Stanley G. Payne writes in his study of Fascism, "The Legion was arguably the most unusual mass movement of interwar Europe." The Legion contrasted with most other European fascist movements of the period, especially when talking about its understanding of nationalism, which it believed should never be separated from the faith that people were born into. According to Ioanid, the Legion "willingly inserted strong elements of Orthodox Christianity into its political ideology to the point of becoming one of the rare modern European political movements with a religious ideological structure."
The movement's leader, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, was a religious patriot who aimed at a spiritual resurrection for the nation, writing the movement was a "spiritual school...[which] strikes to transform and revolutionise the Romanian soul" According to Codreanu's philosophy, human life was a sinful, violent political war, which would ultimately be transcended by the spiritual nation. In this schema, the Legionnaire might have to perform actions beyond the simple will to fight, suppressing the preserving instinct for the sake of the country. Like many other fascist movements, the Legion called for a revolutionary "new man". However, this new man was very different in conception. The Legion didn't want a physical superhuman like the Nazis did. Instead, they wanted to recreate and purify the way of thinking in order to bring the whole nation closer to God.
One of the qualities of this new man was to be selflessness, Codreanu wrote "When a politician enters a party the first question that he puts is 'what can I gain from this?...when a legionary enters the Legion he says 'For myself I want nothing'"
As for economics, there was no straightforward program, but the Legion generally promoted the idea of a communal or national economy, rejecting capitalism as overly materialistic. The movement considered its main enemies to be the present political leadership and the Jews."
Its members wore dark green uniforms (meant as a symbol of renewal, and the origin of the occasional reference to them as the "Greenshirts" – "Cămășile verzi"), and greeted each other using the Roman salute. The main symbol used by the Iron Guard was a triple cross (a variant of the triple parted and fretted one), standing for prison bars (as a badge of martyrdom), and sometimes referred to as the "Archangel Michael Cross" ("Crucea Arhanghelului Mihail").
The mysticism of the Legion led to a cult of martyrdom and self-sacrifice. They had an action squad that was called Echipa morții, or "Death Squad". Iron Guard leader Zelea Codreanu claimed the name was chosen because members were ready to accept death while campaigning for the organization. The members of the first "Death Squad" were: Ion Dumitrescu-Borșa (who was a Christian Orthodox priest), Sterie Ciumetti, Petre Țocu, Tache Savin, Traian Clime, Iosif Bozântan, Nicolae Constantinescu. A chapter of the Legion was called a cuib, or "nest," and was arranged around the virtues of discipline, work, silence, education, mutual aid, and honor.
According to a 1933 police report, 8% of the Iron Guard's members were women while a police report from 1938 stated that 11% of the Guards were women. Part of the reason for the overwhelming male membership of the Iron Guard was that a disproportionate number of the Iron Guards were university students and very few women went to university in Romania during the inter-war period. In the Romanian language there are plurals attached to most nouns that have either a masculine or feminine form. Thus words in English like Romanian, youth or member that are gender-neutral are used in Romanian to refer either to Romanian men or Romanian women, young men or young women, and male members or female members. The Iron Guards almost always used the masculine plurals in their writings and speeches, which may perhaps suggest that they had a male audience in mind, although in most languages the masculine plural is also used for mixed-gender groups (with the expectation of male/masculine dominance within any mixed-gender group, a mark of gender bias then, but not specific to the Iron Guard in this instance).
The Iron Guard explained that the problem of poverty in Romania was due to the Jews' ongoing colonization of Romania, and thereby prevented Christian Romanians from getting ahead economically. The solution to this perceived problem was to drive the Jews out of Romania, which the Iron Guard claimed would finally allow Eastern Orthodox Romanians to rise up to the middle class.
As to why Romania had been allegedly "colonized" by the Jews, the Iron Guard's answer was that most Romanian men were simply not manly enough to protect their interests. In strikingly sexualized language, the Iron Guards argued that most Romanian men had been "emasculated" and were suffering from "sterility", which one Iron Guard Alexandru Cantacuzino called the "plague of the present" in a 1937 essay. Again, the term Cantacuzino used was the masculine sterilitate rather than the feminine stearpǎ. The Iron Guards constantly spoke in viscerally sexualized rhetoric of the need to create a "new man" who would be "virile" and "strong", and end the "emasculation" of Romanian men. Beyond that, the Legion's obsession with violence and self-sacrifice were both subjects that were traditionally considered to be male subjects in Romania.
Codreanu paid little attention to women's concerns. In his 123-page long book The Booklet of the Nest Chief, Codreanu wrote only two paragraphs dealing with the role of women in his party, and he recommended that a woman Legionnaire be a good wife and mother, attend church, and learn how to master cooking and sewing.
The name "Garda de Fier" is also used by a small, Romanian nationalist group, active in the post-communist era.
There are also other contemporary far-right organizations in Romania, such as Pentru Patrie (For the Motherland) and Noua Dreaptă (The New Right). Considering itself the heir of the Iron Guard's political philosophy, Noua Dreaptă embraces legionnairism and has a personality cult for Corneliu Codreanu but they also use the celtic cross, which is not associated with legionnairism.
Through their summer work camps, the Legionnaires performed volunteer work involving the construction and reparation of roads, bridges, churches and schools in rural areas. One notable construction of the Iron Guard is the "Green House" (Romanian: Casa Verde). Built in the Romanian architectural style, this building on the outskirts of 1930s Bucharest served as the Legion's headquarters and home to Codreanu. The intention of these camps was to cultivate athleticism, discipline, sense of community and elimination of certain societal divisions. Horia Sima stated that the camps "destroyed class prejudice" by bringing together those from different classes. The attendees were not allowed to leave the camp except for emergencies and in their free time were to read literature. Following completion of camp time a diploma was received.
The Iron Guard is currently commemorated in Romania and elsewhere through permanent public displays (monuments and street names) as well as public distinctions (such as posthumous honorary citizenship) dedicated to some of its members. A few such examples are listed below:
The defunct American neo-Nazi Traditionalist Workers Party of the Nationalist Front took influence from Corneilu Zelia Codreanu for their ideology and the group's leader Matthew Heimbach (a Catholic convert to Orthodox Christianity) was photographed wearing a T-shirt promoting Codreanu and the Iron Guard's Archangel Michael's Cross symbol in the aftermath of the Charlottesville riots on 11–12 August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Canadian white nationalist Faith J. Goldy read Codreanu's book For My Legionaries which explicitly called for the extermination of the Jews during an interview with alt-right Mormon blogger Ayla Stewart (aka "Wife With a Purpose") Goldy called the book "It's very, very, very, very spot on given a lot of what the movement is talking about right now" though she would clarify later in an interview she no longer endorsed the book. The Archangel Michael's Cross of the group was emblazoned on one of the firearms used by the Christchurch mosque shootings suspect who killed 50 and injured 50 more.
Armand Călinescu (4 June 1893 – 21 September 1939) was a Romanian economist and politician, who served as 39th Prime Minister from March 1939 until his assassination six months later. He was a staunch opponent of the fascist Iron Guard and may have been the real power behind the throne during the dictatorship of King Carol II. He survived several assassination attempts but was finally killed by members of the Iron Guard with German assistance.Constantin Petrovicescu
Constantin Petrovicescu (Romanian pronunciation: [konstanˈtin petroviˈt͡ʃesku]; October 22, 1883 – September 8, 1949) was a Romanian soldier and politician, who served as Interior Minister from September 14, 1940 to January 21, 1941 during the National Legionary State.
A sympathizer and secret member of the fascist Iron Guard movement, he was also the royal commissioner involved in the 1934 acquittal of Guard leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Petrovicescu was assigned his ministerial position by Codreanu's successor Horia Sima, serving as one of the main Iron Guardists in the conflicted cabinet headed by Ion Antonescu. In this capacity, he helped Sima obtain control of an armed structure, and, taking the party's side during the Legionnaires' rebellion of 1941, helped organize it in combat against Antonescu.
Captured and tried, Petrovicescu spent the longer part of World War II in confinement or house arrest. He was retried for war crimes two years after the King Michael Coup, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in Aiud prison almost two years after a Romanian communist regime had been established.Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu (Romanian pronunciation: [korˈneliu ˈzele̯a koˈdre̯anu] (listen); born Corneliu Zelinski; September 13, 1899 – November 30, 1938), commonly known as Corneliu Codreanu, was a Romanian politician who was the founder and charismatic leader of the Iron Guard (also known as the Legionnaire movement), an ultranationalistic, antisemitic, Magyarophobic, and anti-gypsy organization active throughout most of the interwar period. Generally seen as the main variety of local fascism, and noted for its Romanian Orthodox-inspired revolutionary message, the Iron Guard grew into an important actor on the Romanian political stage, coming into conflict with the political establishment and democratic forces. The Legionnaires traditionally referred to Codreanu as Căpitanul ("The Captain"), and he held absolute authority over the organization until his death.
Codreanu, who began his career in the wake of World War I as an anticommunist and antisemitic agitator associated with A. C. Cuza and Constantin Pancu, was a co-founder of the National-Christian Defense League and assassin of the Iaşi Police prefect Constantin Manciu. Codreanu left Cuza to found a succession of far-right movements, rallying around him a growing segment of the country's intelligentsia and peasant population, and inciting pogroms in various parts of Greater Romania. Outlawed by successive Romanian cabinets on several occasions, his Legion assumed different names and survived in the underground, during which time Codreanu formally delegated leadership to Gheorghe Cantacuzino-Grănicerul. Following Codreanu's instructions, the Legion carried out assassinations of politicians it viewed as corrupt, including Prime Minister Ion G. Duca and his former associate Mihai Stelescu. Simultaneously, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu advocated Romania's adherence to a military and political alliance with Nazi Germany.
He registered his main electoral success during the 1937 suffrage, but was blocked out of power by King Carol II, who came to favor rival fascist alternatives around the National Christian Party and the National Renaissance Front. The rivalry between Codreanu and, on the other side, Carol and moderate politicians like Nicolae Iorga ended with Codreanu's imprisonment at Jilava and eventual assassination at the hands of the Gendarmerie. He was succeeded as leader by Horia Sima. In 1940, under the National Legionary State proclaimed by the Iron Guard, his killing served as the basis for violent retribution.
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu's views influenced the modern far-right. Groups claiming him as a forerunner include Noua Dreaptă and other Romanian successors of the Iron Guard, the International Third Position, and various neofascist organizations in Italy and other parts of Europe.Corpul Muncitoresc Legionar
Corpul Muncitoresc Legionar or Corpul Muncitorilor Legionari (CML, the Legionary Worker Corps or Legionary Workers' Corps) was a fascist association of workers in Romania, created inside the Iron Guard (which was originally known as the Legionary Movement) and having a rigid hierarchical structure. From its creation until September 1940, the CML was led by Gheorghe Clime; afterwards, the position was filled by Dumitru Groza, who oversaw the Corps during the period when the Iron Guard was in power — the National Legionary State —, and involved it in the 1941 Rebellion and Pogrom. The CML had its headquarters in Bucharest, on Calea Călăraşilor.Together with the Iron Guard, it was outlawed by Conducător Ion Antonescu during the Rebellion, and dissolved itself. In time, the group formed around Dumitru Groza was drawn into collaboration with Antonescu, and later refused to become involved in talks with the Romanian Communist Party over the possibility of a political truce.Crusade of Romanianism
The Crusade of Romanianism (Romanian: Cruciada Românismului, also known as Vulturii Albi, "White Eagles", or Steliștii, "Stelists") was an eclectic far-right movement in Romania, founded in 1934 by Mihai Stelescu. It originated as a dissident faction of the Iron Guard, Romania's main fascist movement, and was virulently critical of Guard leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Stelescu reinterpreted nationalist ideology through the lens of anticapitalism and "humane" antisemitism, appropriating some ideas from communism and Italian fascism. The Crusade was famously associated with Panait Istrati, world-renowned novelist and dissident communist, who added into the mix of "Romanianism" some elements of libertarian socialism.
The Stelists oscillated between maverick independence and electoral alliances with more prestigious nationalist parties. The Crusade was a minor party, whose decision of publicly settling scores with the Iron Guard proved fatal. In the summer of 1936, Stelescu was murdered by an Iron Guard death squad, and his party only survived for one more year. Its caretakers during that final period were journalist Alexandru Talex and General Nicolae Rădescu.Cuvântul
Cuvântul (Romanian pronunciation: [kuˈvɨntul], meaning "The Word") was a daily newspaper, published by philosopher Nae Ionescu in Bucharest, Romania, from 1926 to 1934, and again in 1938. It was primarily noted for progressively adopting a far right and fascist agenda, and for supporting, during the 1930s, the revolutionary fascist Iron Guard.Gheorghe Argeșanu
Gheorghe Argeşanu (28 February 1883 – 26/27 November 1940) was a Romanian cavalry general and politician who served as a Prime Minister of Romania for about a week in 1939 (21 September-28 September).Horia Sima
Horia Sima (3 July 1907 – 25 May 1993) was a Romanian fascist politician. After 1938, he was the second and last leader of the fascist para-military movement known as the Iron Guard.Ion G. Duca
Ion Gheorghe Duca (Romanian pronunciation: [iˈon ˈduka] (listen); 20 December 1879 – 29 December 1933) was Romanian politician and the Prime Minister of Romania from 14 November to 29 December 1933, when he was assassinated for his efforts to suppress the fascist Iron Guard movement.Iron Guard death squads
During the 1930s, three notable death squads emerged from Romania's Iron Guard: the Nicadori, the Decemviri and the Răzbunători. Motivated by a combination of fascist political ideology and religious-nationalist mysticism, they carried out several high-level political assassinations in the inter-war period.Kingdom of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania (Romanian: Regatul României) was a constitutional monarchy that existed in Romania from 26 March 1881 with the crowning of prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen as King Carol I, until 1947 with the abdication of King Michael I of Romania, and the Romanian parliament proclaiming Romania a socialist republic.
From 1859 to 1877, Romania evolved from a personal union of two vassal principalities (Moldavia and Wallachia) under a single prince to an autonomous principality with a Hohenzollern monarchy. The country gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire during the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War (known locally as the Romanian War of Independence), when it also received Northern Dobruja in exchange for the southern part of Bessarabia. The kingdom's territory during the reign of King Carol I, between 14 March (O.S.) (27 March (N.S.)) 1881 and 27 September (O.S.) (10 October (N.S.)) 1914 is sometimes referred as the Romanian Old Kingdom, to distinguish it from "Greater Romania", which included the provinces that became part of the state after World War I (Bessarabia, Banat, Bukovina, and Transylvania).
With the exception of the southern halves of Bukovina and Transylvania, these territories were ceded to neighboring countries in 1940, under the pressure of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Following a disastrous World War II campaign on the side of the Axis powers and name change (Legionary Romania), Romania joined the Allies in 1944, recovering Northern Transylvania. The influence of the neighboring Soviet Union and the policies followed by Communist-dominated coalition governments ultimately led to the abolition of the monarchy, with Romania becoming a People's Republic on the last day of 1947.Legionnaires' rebellion and Bucharest pogrom
The Legionnaires' rebellion and the Bucharest pogrom occurred in Bucharest, Romania, between 21–23 January 1941. As the privileges of the Iron Guard paramilitary organization were being cut off gradually by the Conducător Ion Antonescu, its members, also known as the Legionnaires, revolted. During the rebellion and pogrom the Iron Guard killed 125 Jews, and 30 soldiers died in the confrontation with the rebels. Following this, the Iron Guard movement was banned and 9,000 of its members were imprisoned.Lăncieri
The Lăncieri ("Lancers", Romanian pronunciation: [lən.tʃi'erʲ]) were a Romanian fascist paramilitary movement initially attached to the National-Christian Defense League, and following the merger on 16 July 1935 of the NCDL and the National Agrarian Party to form the National Christian Party, the Lăncieri became associated with the merged party.
Members of the group adopted a blue shirt uniform and contributed to the country's political street battles in the 1920s and 1930s, and were noted in the 1920s for their attacks on that party's main target, the Jews, as well as general disruption of university life. Following the merger that formed the National Christian Party, the Lăncieri continued their wild ways, rivalling the Iron Guard (with whom they frequently clashed) in their violence and mayhem. Between 1935 and 1937, the Lăncieri carried out more terrorist actions and pogroms throughout Romania than the Iron Guard.The 1937 general election campaign in particular was marred by clashes between the two fascist groups and not even the intervention of Alfred Rosenberg could unite the warring factions. Clashes between the two groups would continue, although the Lăncieri owed much of their organisation to the Iron Guard and indeed their continuing existence was as much an attempt to attract interest away from that group.Michel Sturdza
Prince Mihail R. Sturdza (August 28, 1886 – February 5, 1980) Romanian nobleman and diplomat. He was a descendant of the wealthy and influential Sturdza family of Romanian landowners, politicians and boyars. Played a brief role in Romanian interwar politics.
Mihail Sturdza, originally a conservative and nationalist, was a member of the Iron Guard and developed strong fascist and antisemitic convictions. As a supporter of the leader of the Iron Guard Horia Sima, he was a brief period (September 14, 1940 - January 26, 1941) Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania during the so-called National Legionary State after the abdication of King Carol II.
After several diplomatic posts (e.g. in Vienna, Budapest and in Washington as chargé d'affaires) Sturdza was in 1929 appointed as minister plenipotentiary for Latvia, Estonia and Finland, in Riga. In that capacity he acted in 1932 as Romania's representative in the negotiations with Soviet Russia about a non-aggression agreement. The negotiations failed, due to the Soviet demand to discuss and annex the disputed territory of Bessarabia, which was apart of Romania.
Sturdza was from 1938 Romanian ambassador in Denmark. He was supposedly involved in the assassination of Romania's Prime Minister Armand Călinescu on 21 September 1939. It seems that the action was carried out with German approval and assistance.
As Foreign Minister Sturdza attended with the German minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim von Ribbentrop the signature on November 23, 1940 of the Tripartite Pact with nazi-Germany between Adolf Hitler and the Romanian head of government General Ion Antonescu. In December 1940 Sturdza obtained the replacement of the German ambassador Wilhelm Fabricius with Manfred Freiherr von Killinger, perceived as more sympathetic to the Iron Guard. After the clash between the Iron Guard and General Ion Antonescu in January 1941 (see Legionary Rebellion), which was won by the latter, Sturdza had to resign. Antonescu took over leadership of the ministry, with the compliant diplomat Constantin Greceanu as his right hand.
After the defeat of the Iron Guard in January 1940 Sturdza followed party leader Horia Sima into exile; first in Sofia, Bulgaria and afterward in Germany and Denmark. Sturdza became again Minister of Foreign Affairs in a Romanian pro-Nazi puppet government in Vienna from 10 December 1944 until the end of World War II.
After WW II Sturdza fled first to Denmark, where he stayed till 1947. Afterward he found refuge in Spain and later in USA, where he kept strong ties with other members of the Iron Guard in exile. He wrote several publications about the history of his native country and international affairs. In later years he was involved in rightwing organisations. In 1968 he published his memoirs, which took approval in rightwing circles for the cold war- and anti-communist points of view.Mihail Manoilescu
Mihail Manoilescu (Romanian pronunciation: [mihaˈil mano.iˈlesku]; December 9, 1891 – December 30, 1950) was a Romanian journalist, engineer, economist, politician and memoirist, who served as Foreign Minister of Romania during the summer of 1940. An active promoter of and contributor to fascist ideology and anti-Semitic sentiment, he was a financial backer of the Iron Guard in the late 1930s. His corporatist ideas influenced economic policy in several countries during the 1930s, particularly in Brazil.National Fascist Movement
The National Fascist Movement (Romanian: Mișcarea Națională Fascistă, MNF) was a Romanian political movement formed in 1923 by the merger of the National Romanian Fascia and the National Italo-Romanian Cultural and Economic Movement.
With its roots in an avowedly pro-Italian group, the MNF also became close supporters of the Italian model of Fascism - although the movement also admired the methods of Action Française. The movement did not enjoy the success that it had hoped for, largely because of its attachment to foreign influences, and it was ultimately superseded by the Iron Guard, which offered a more domestic form of fascism.National Legionary State
The National Legionary State was a totalitarian fascist regime which governed Romania for five months, from 14 September 1940 until its official dissolution on 14 February 1941. The regime was led by General Ion Antonescu in partnership with the Iron Guard, an ultra-nationalist, antisemitic, antiziganist, anti-communist, anti-capitalist and pro-Eastern Orthodox party. Though the Iron Guard had been in the Romanian Government since 28 June 1940, on 14 September it achieved dominance, leading to the proclamation of the National Legionary State.
On 27 September 1940, Romania withdrew from the Balkan Pact. On 8 October, German troops began crossing into Romania, and soon numbered over 500,000. On 23 November Romania formally joined the Axis powers. On 27 November, 64 former dignitaries or officials were executed by the Iron Guard in the Jilava Massacre. The already harsh anti-Semitic legislation was expanded, included the expropriation of Jewish-owned rural property on 4 October, followed by forests on 17 November, and finally by river transport on 4 December.On 20 January 1941, the Iron Guard attempted a coup, combined with a pogrom against the Jews of Bucharest. Within four days, Antonescu had successfully suppressed the coup, and the Iron Guard was forced out of the government. Sima and many other Legionnaires took refuge in Germany, while others were imprisoned. Antonescu formally abolished the National Legionary State on 14 February 1941.National Renaissance Front
The National Renaissance Front (Romanian: Frontul Renașterii Naționale, FRN; also translated as Front of National Regeneration, Front of National Rebirth, Front of National Resurrection, or Front of National Renaissance) was a Romanian political party created by King Carol II in 1938 as the single monopoly party of government following his decision to ban all other political parties and suspend the 1923 Constitution, and the passing of the 1938 Constitution of Romania. It was the party of Prime Ministers Armand Călinescu, Gheorghe Argeșanu, Constantin Argetoianu, Gheorghe Tătărescu and Ion Gigurtu, whose regimes were associated with corporatism and antisemitism. Largely reflecting Carol's own political choices, the FRN was the last of several attempts to counter the popularity of the fascist and antisemitic Iron Guard. In mid-1940, Carol reorganized the FRN into the more radical Party of the Nation (Partidul Națiunii or Partidul Națiunei, PN), designed as a "totalitarian unity party". It effectively ceased to function the following year when the Parliament of Romania was dissolved.Relationship between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Iron Guard
The relationship between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Iron Guard was one of ambivalence: while the Romanian Orthodox Church supported much of the fascist organization's ideology, it did not outright support the movement. Nevertheless, many individual Orthodox clerics supported the Iron Guard and spread their propaganda.
The Orthodox Church promoted its own version of nationalism which highlighted the role of Orthodoxy in preserving the Romanian identity. Starting with the 1920s, Orthodoxy became entangled with fascist politics and antisemitism: the most popular Orthodox theologian at the time, Nichifor Crainic, advocated in his magazine Gândirea a mix of Orthodoxy and nationalism, while philosopher Nae Ionescu argued that Orthodoxy is inseparable from the Romanian identity.
Historical political parties in Romania (1856–1947)
|Social democratic, socialist, |
|Fascist, corporatist, |
and far right