The Romanian Iron Guard
Background: Jews on the Romanian lands face Romanian Nationalism
The Jewish population in the
The situation of the freshly-independent(from 1877) Romania was quite dangerous: Extreme Northern Moldavia(Bukovina) had been occupied by Austria-Hungary, Transylvania had the same status, Bessarabia(Eastern Moldavia) had been occupied in 1812 by the Russians, and following the Independence War of 1877, the Russians had extended further South, taking the Southeastern Moldavia till the Danube.
The small kingdom could not afford any international troubles, so the
ruling class had tried to maintain internal stability at any costs. They had to
play a dangerous game between
The Jewish question had been settled after WWI, when almost all Jews in
The future Leaders enter scene
After the reunification of 1918, the dominant doctrine in
A disciple of Cuza was Corneliu
Zelea Codreanu(1899-1938). Born in Jassy/Iasi,
in a family of Polish heritage (his father's real name was Iohan
Antec Zelinsky, later
changed to Ion Zelea Codreanu), the boy had been baptized after St. Cornelius, whose
anniversary was on September 13th, his birthday. Codreanu
had graduated from high school in 1919, during the turmoils
of reunification, Communist agitation and Romanian intervention in Communist
Hungary. The same year, he and a few friends had held a meeting, and agreed to
form a militia nucleus in the event of a Russian Communist invasion. In 1925, Codreanu, graduate in Law from the Jassy/Iasi
State University, had established a small political nucleus asking for an
In 1927, Codreanu established the Legion of the Archangel Michael, political-cultural movement, whose aims were:
- strong opposition to Communism in all foorms;
- emphasis on traditional Romanian values and Orthodox Christianity;
- limitation of the power of Jews, who werre totally dominant in all liberal professions (doctors, lawyers, professors, officials etc);
- unification of the Romanian people arounnd the nationalist ideals.
The leader's title was "the Captain", while the members were known as Legionnaires.
The majority of the Romanian inter-war intellectuals had been attracted
by the Legion's ideals: Mircea Eliade(1907-1986), Emil Cioran, Constantin Noica etc. Some are known in the West, some are not. The
most brilliant of them might have been Nicolae C.
"Nae" Ionescu(1891-1940), one of the smartest and most cultured Romanian
philosophers. Born in 1891 in
The Great Depression and beyond
During the 1929-1933 Great Depression, the Romanian economy, cronically undercapitalized and based mainly on
agriculture, suffered horribly. The vast majority of the farmers were on the
edge of disaster, and in cities the unemployed were rioting(somehow
like in Argentine today). The government tried desperately to maintain the
order, using also violent methods. On
On November 22, a Legionnaire was shot dead by the Police while stricking electoral posters. Six days later, another Legionnaire was shot dead.
December 29: a Legionnaire released from the prison was shot dead.
The next day, December 30, the Legionnaires replied. Three of them had shot the Prime Minister Duca in Sinaia Railroad Station. The same day, a new Legionnaire had been shot in retaliation, followed by another on
The Black Years: 1935-1940
During 1935-1938, the Government had apparently suppressed the Legion.
The Captain and another top members had tried to
publicize their movement outside
Professor Nae Ionescu
had been the force that supported them all the time. His classes attracted not
only the regular students, but also common people wanting to widen their
cultural horizon. During the 1930s, there was some financial support from
Hitler's Government. The same time marked Hitler's repeated attempts to gain an
In 1938, King Carol II, an accomplished Anglophile, had routed the leaders of the democratic parties amd established a personal one-pary dictatorship. The same time, he began a fierce anti-Legion campaign. Many governments had been changed by the King in just two years, but it was obvious that none of them could lead efficiently, nor could gain popular support.
The same year, the King's men had mounted a conspiracy to put the much-too-popular Codreanu behind bars. One of the members of the conspiracy was Nicolae Iorga, famous Romanian historian, Freemason, and a former friend of Coreanu's father. The Professor had used an insulting letter Codreanu had sent to him, and sued him. At the Legions' Green House, the Police discovered, during the trial, documents allowing the court to sentence the Legionnaires for anti-State activity to ten years in prison.
In November 1938, the King had attended a meeting with Hitler at Berghof. Hitler asked the King to put the Iron Guard in power. Carol's answer was swift: he ordered the execution of the Legion's leaders. Codreanu and thirteen other Legionnaires had been shot by the prison guards, under the charge of trying to escape.
During 1939, the Legion, led by the new chief, a man named Horia Sima, endured countless abuses. Hundreds of them had been beaten by the Police, tortured and persecuted. They retaliated by shooting Prime Minister Armand Calinescu. His death was paid with reprisals that took the life of more than 300 Legionnaires.
The Legion and the Jews
I would wish to blow up here a few myths:
- There were no anti-Jewish attacks from tthe Legionnaires; the Captain had friendly relationships with the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Alexandre Safran, who became after WWII Chief Rabbi of Geneva; his testimony was among the facts that helped the Legion to not be deemed a "criminal organization";
- The biggest enemy the Legion had among tthe Romanian citizens was the King's mistress, Elena Lupescu; this lady, although born Orthodox from an Orthodox-baptized Jew father, was still Jewess according to the Three-Generations rule, and an open enemy of Germany; she had a tremendous influence over Carol II;
- The Captain had proposed to the Chief Raabbi to encourage the immigration of the Jews after they will gain power; the Rabbi had simulated to agree.
1940 - the worst year for
In 1940, more dreadful events for Romania had happened:
- Bessarabia wass occupied by the Soviets alongside with Northern Bukovina;
- Northwestern Transylvania was granted byy Hitler to Hungary, in the Vienna Award, as a revenge for the Romanian hostility in the 1930s;
- Romania's main ally, France, was gone; <
In such conditions, Carol II appointed Prime Minister the General Ion Antonescu, on September 4th; The General asked the King to
abdicate and to give the crown to Crown Prince Michael, on September 6th. The
same day, the General associated the Legion into power, proclaiming
Why did the General this thing, against his own interests? Well, I'll make a supposition: he was a renowned Anglophile, and so a potential enemy to Hitler, who asked him to prove his loyalty to the Reich. So the General had to swallow the bitter pill.
During the winter 1940-1941, there were many underground fights for power between the General and the Legionnaires, who wanted full power.
In January 1941, Antonescu had talked with
Hitler, who informed him about the plans to attack the
110 dead Jews
During the rebellion, there were found 110 dead Jews in
After the rebellion, all Legionnaires had been driven out of the
offices, their businesses confiscated, and the men firstly imprisoned, then
sent to the front in the summer offensive, to the most dangerous sectors. Most
of them had perished, except for a few who had flown to
Some of the surviving Legionnaires had mounted a Resistance movement against the Soviet troops after 1944. Those who did survive the combat actions and the Communist prisons, were released in the 1960s. A few of them, in their 80s, are still alive.