The Iron Guard (Romanian: Garda de Fier) was a Romanian militant revolutionary fascist movement and political party founded in 1927 by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu as the Legion of the Archangel Michael (Legiunea Arhanghelul Mihail) or the Legionary Movement (Mișcarea Legionară).[27] It was strongly anti-democratic, anti-capitalist, anti-communist, and anti-Semitic. It differed from other European far-right movements of the period due to its spiritual basis, as the Iron Guard was deeply imbued with Romanian Orthodox Christian mysticism.

Iron Guard
Garda de Fier
Also known asLegionary Movement
LeaderCorneliu Zelea Codreanu
Horia Sima[1]
FoundationMarch 1930; 94 years ago (March 1930)[2]
Dissolved23 January 1941; 83 years ago (23 January 1941)
Split fromNational-Christian Defense League
HeadquartersGreen House, Bucureștii Noi[3]
Political positionFar-right
Notable attacksKilling of I. Gh. Duca
Killing of Armand Călinescu
1941 Rebellion and Pogrom
SizeIncrease 272,000 (late 1937 est.)[19]
Part ofLegion of the Archangel Michael
Everything for the Country
Totul pentru Țară
PresidentGheorghe Cantacuzino[a][20]
Gheorghe Clime[b]
Founded1934; 90 years ago (1934)
Banned23 January 1941; 83 years ago (23 January 1941)
Preceded byGruparea Corneliu Zelea Codreanu[c][21]
Youth wingFrăția de Cruce [ro][24]
Paramilitary wingIron Guard
Labour wingCorpul Muncitorilor Legionari
Political positionFar-right
ReligionRomanian Orthodox Christianity
International affiliationFascist International Congress (observer)[25]
Colours  Black   White   Green
Senate (1937)
4 / 113
Chamber of Deputies (1937)
66 / 387
Election symbol

  1. ^ (1934–1937)
  2. ^ (1937–1938)
  3. ^ (1931–1932)

In March 1930, Codreanu formed the Iron Guard as a paramilitary branch of the Legion, which in 1935 changed its official name to the "Totul pentru Țară" party—literally, "Everything for the Country". It existed into the early part of the Second World War, during which time it came to power. Members were called Legionnaires or, outside of the movement, "Greenshirts" because of the predominantly green uniforms they wore.[28]

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, following the Legionnaires' rebellion, Antonescu used the army to suppress the movement, destroying the organization; its commander, Horia Sima, along with other leaders, escaped to Germany.



The "Legion of the Archangel Michael" (Romanian: Legiunea Arhangelul Mihail, lit.'The Archangel Michael Legion') was founded by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu on 24 June 1927 and led by him until his assassination in 1938. Despite various changes of the (intermittently banned) organization's name, members of the movement were widely referred to as "legionnaires" (sometimes "legionaries"; Romanian: legionarii) and the organization as the "Legion" or the "Legionary Movement".

In March 1930, Codreanu formed the "Iron Guard" (Romanian: Garda de Fier) as a paramilitary political branch of the Legion; this name eventually came to refer to the Legion itself.[9] From June 1935 onwards, the organization used the name "Totul pentru Țară", literally meaning "Everything for the Country", in electoral contexts.[29]



Founding and rise


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 (Liga Apărării Național Creștine, LANC), and founded the Legion of the Archangel Michael.[30]

The Legion differed from other fascist movements in that it had its mass base among the peasantry and students, rather than amongst 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.[31] Even before the worldwide Great Depression, Romanian universities were producing far more graduates than the number of available jobs and the Great Depression in Romania had further drastically limited the opportunities for employment by the intelligentsia, who turned to the Iron Guard out of frustration.[31] 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.[31] The national 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.[31] The Romanian-born Israeli historian Jean Ancel wrote that from the mid-19th century onward, that Romanian intelligentsia had a "schizophrenic attitude towards the West and its values".[32]

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 onward, 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 antisemitic views about Romania's Jewish minority.[32] Despite their antisemitism, 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.[33]

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.[31] 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."[31]

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.[34] 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 skillful 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.

The Iron Guard was purposely anti-Semitic, promoting the idea that "Rabbinical aggression against the Christian world"—which manifested through Freemasonry, Freudianism, homosexuality, atheism, Marxism, Bolshevism, and the civil war in Spain"—were undermining society.[35]

The Vaida-Voevod government[disputeddiscuss] outlawed the Iron Guard in January 1931.[36][37] On 10 December 1933, the Romanian Liberal Prime Minister Ion Duca banned the Iron Guard.[38] After a brief period of arrests, beatings, torture and even killings (18 members of the Legionary Movement were killed by the police force), Iron Guard members retaliated on 29 December 1933, by assassinating Duca on the platform of Sinaia railway station.[39]

Struggle for power

Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the founder of the Iron Guard

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 and initiated a royal dictatorship.

Codreanu advised the Legion to accept the new regime. However, Interior Minister Armand Călinescu did not trust Codreanu and ordered him arrested on 16 April. Realizing that the government was looking for an excuse to have him executed, Codreanu ordered the Legion's acting commander, Horia Sima, to take no action unless there was evidence that he was in immediate danger. However, Sima, who was known for his violent streak, launched a wave of terrorist activity in autumn. Codreanu got wind of this and ordered the violence to end.[40]

The order came too late. On the night of 29–30 November 1938, Codreanu and several other legionnaires were strangled to death by their Gendarmerie escort, 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 Călinescu. 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.[41]

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.[41] Further rounds of mutual carnage ensued, with the government massacring over 300 Legionnaires nationwide in reprisal.[42]

Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and Iron Guard members in 1937

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 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 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 Moța-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.[43] 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.[44] The British historian Rebecca Haynes has argued that financial and organizational support from the SS was an important factor in Sima's rise.[44]

Sima's ascendancy


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 French surrender to Germany and the British 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, and became even more so after France fell in May 1940. Sima and several other legionnaires who had taken refuge in Germany began slipping back into Romania. A month after the fall of France, Carol restructured his regime's single party, the National Renaissance Front, into the more overtly totalitarian "Party of the Nation," and invited a number of legionnaires to take part in the restructured government. On 4 July, Sima and two other leading legionnaires joined the government of Ion Gigurtu. However, they resigned after only a month due to mounting pressure for Carol to abdicate.[40]

The Second Vienna Award, which forced Romania to cede much of northern Transylvania to Hungary, angered Romanians of all political shades and all but destroyed Carol politically. Despite this, a legionnaire coup on 3 September failed.[40]

Electoral history


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 compete in 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 Percentage Assembly Senate Position Aftermath
1927 10,761 0.4%
0 / 387
0 / 113
 8th  Extra-parliamentary opposition to PNL government (1927–1928)
1928 did not compete
0 / 387
0 / 110
Extra-parliamentary opposition to PNȚ government (1928–1931)
Extra-parliamentary opposition to PND minority government (1931)
1931 30,783 1.1%
0 / 387
0 / 113
 12th  Extra-parliamentary opposition to PND minority government (1931–1932)
Extra-parliamentary opposition to PNȚ government (1932)
1932 70,674 2.4%
5 / 387
0 / 113
 9th  Opposition to PNȚ government (1932–1933)
1933 party banned
0 / 387
0 / 108
Extra-parliamentary opposition to PNL government (1933–1937)
1937 478,378 15.8%
66 / 387
4 / 113
(as TpȚ)
Supporting PNC minority government (1937–1938)
parliament suspended Extra-parliamentary opposition to Miron Cristea's monarchist government (1938–1939)
1939 party banned
0 / 258
0 / 88
Extra-parliamentary opposition to FRN monarchist government (1939–1940)
parliament suspended LAM government (1940–1941)

In power


More or less out of desperation, King Carol II named General (later Marshal) Ion Antonescu as prime minister, partly because of the general's close ties with the Legion. Unknown to Carol, however, Antonescu had secretly reached an agreement with other political figures to force out the king.[40] Amid popular outrage at the Second Vienna Award, Carol's position became untenable, and he was forced to abdicate in favour of his son Michael, who quickly confirmed Antonescu's dictatorial powers and granted him the title of Conducător (leader) of Romania.

Although Antonescu was an archnationalist and authoritarian, his first preference was to form a government of national unity, in which all parties would have accepted him as dictator. However, with the exception of the Legion, the other parties at least wanted to maintain the appearance of parliamentary rule. The Legion, in contrast, fully supported Antonescu's vision of an ultranationalist and authoritarian regime. With this in mind, Antonescu formed an alliance with the Legion on 15 September. As part of the deal, Romania was proclaimed a "National Legionary State," with the Legion as the country's only legal party. Antonescu became the Legion's honorary leader. Sima became deputy premier, and four other legionnaires joined Sima in the cabinet.[40] The Iron Guard was the only Fascist movement outside Germany and Italy to come to power without foreign assistance.[45][46]

Once in power, from 14 September 1940 until 21 January 1941, the Legion ratcheted up the level of already harsh anti-Semitic legislation and pursued, with impunity, a campaign of pogroms and political assassinations. On 27 November 1940 more than 60 former dignitaries or officials were executed in Jilava prison while awaiting trial. The following day, historian and former prime minister Nicolae Iorga and economic theorist Virgil Madgearu were assassinated; assassination attempts were made on former prime ministers and Carol supporters Constantin Argetoianu, Guță Tătărescu and Ion Gigurtu, but they 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 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.[47] Included in their small arms was the MP28/II submachine-gun supplied by Himmler's SD.[48] 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.[49] The Malaxa factory had been licence-producing these French armored vehicles since mid-1939,[50] and aside from the two such machines, the factory also supplied the Legion with machine guns and rifles.[51] For transport, the Legion possessed almost 200 trucks in Bucharest alone.[52]

Failure and destruction


Once in power, Sima and Antonescu quarreled bitterly. According to historian Stanley G. Payne, Antonescu intended to create a situation analogous to that of Francisco Franco's regime in Spain, in which the Legion would be subordinated to the state. He demanded that Sima cede overall leadership of the Legion to him, but Sima refused.[40]

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 Sima's demands and was alarmed by the Iron Guard's death squads. He decided to bide his time until he had a chance to destroy the Legion once and for all. 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.[53] 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.[54][40]

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 hanged the Jews from meat hooks, then mutilated and killed them in a vicious parody of kosher slaughtering practices.[55][56] 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".[54] Gunther wrote he was especially shocked that one of the Jewish victims hanging on the meat hooks was a 5-year-old girl.[54] Sima and other legionnaires were helped by the Germans to escape to Germany.

During the rebellion and pogrom, the Iron Guard killed 125 Jews, while 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.[57] 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; Antonescu was as virulently anti-Semitic as the Guard. 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.[58]

Between 1944 and 1947 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 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.[59] 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 socialist government.[59]




1940 stamp bearing the symbol of the "Iron Guard" over a white cross that stood for one of its humanitarian ventures

Historian Stanley G. Payne writes in his study of Fascism, "The Legion was arguably the most unusual mass movement of interwar Europe."[60] It was distinguished among other contemporaneous European fascist movements with respect to its understanding of nationalism, which was indelibly tied to religion. 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 nationalist 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."[61][60] 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 preservation instinct for the sake of the country.[60]

Like many other fascist movements, the Legion called for a revolutionary "new man", though this was not defined in physical terms, as with the Nazis, but was aimed at recreating and purifying oneself to bring the whole nation closer to God.

One of the qualities of this new man was 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'".[61]

The Legion lacked a well-developed and consistent economic policy, though it generally promoted the idea of a communal or national economy, rejecting capitalism as overly materialistic.[60]

The movement considered its main enemies to be the present political leadership and the Jews.



Members wore dark green uniforms, which symbolized renewal, and accounted for them being occasionally referenced as "Greenshirts" (Cămășile verzi). Like fascist counterparts in Italy, Spain, and Germany, legionnaires greeted each other using the Roman salute.

The main symbol of 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 Legion developed a cult of martyrdom and self-sacrifice, best exemplified by the action group, Echipa morții, or "Death Squad". Codreanu claimed the name was chosen because members were ready to accept death while campaigning for the organization.[62][n 3] 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.

The Iron Guard and gender


According to a 1933 police report, 8% of the Iron Guard's members were women, while a police report from 1938 placed the figure at 11%.[63] Part of the reason for the overwhelming male membership of the Iron Guard was that a disproportionate number of legionnaires were university students and very few women went to university in Romania during the inter-war period.[64] In the Romanian language, plurals are attached to most nouns that have either a masculine or feminine form.[65] Words in English that are gender-neutral, such as "youth" or "member", are used in Romanian to refer either to Romanian men or Romanian women, young men or young women, and male members or female members.[65] The Iron Guard almost always used the masculine plural forms in their writings and speeches, which may perhaps suggest that they had a male audience in mind, although in Romanian, like most languages, the masculine plural is also used for mixed-gender groups.[65]

The Iron Guard explained that the problem of poverty in Romania was due to the Jews' ongoing colonization of Romania, which prevented Christian Romanians from getting ahead economically.[64] 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 to the middle class. The Iron Guard claimed that this Jewish "colonization" was due to most Romanian men lacking the masculine courage to protect their interests.[66] 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.[66] Notably, the term Cantacuzino used was the masculine sterilitate rather than the feminine stearpă.[67][disputeddiscuss] 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.[67] Beyond that, the Legion's obsession with violence and self-sacrifice were both subjects that were traditionally considered to be masculine in Romania.[citation needed]



The name Garda de Fier is also used by a small nationalist group active in the post-communist Romania.

There are several contemporary far-right organizations in Romania, such as Pentru Patrie (For the Motherland) and Noua Dreaptă (The New Right), the latter considering itself heir to the Iron Guard's political philosophy, including personality cult centered on Corneliu Codreanu; however, the group uses the Celtic cross, which is not associated with legionarism.

Legionary architecture


Through their summer work camps, the Legionnaires performed volunteer work involving the construction and reparation of roads, bridges, churches and schools in rural areas.[68][69] One notable construction of the Iron Guard is the "Green House" (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.[70][3] 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.[61]

Public commemoration

The "Monument of the anti-Communist fighters" in Deva, commemorating a member of the Iron Guard (Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu)
A bust of Mircea Eliade

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 include:

  • Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the leader of the Iron Guard, has a roadside cross a few miles from Bucharest, near Buftea. It was built on the spot where he was executed in 1938. The site serves as a current destination for neo-Legionaries, who regularly gather there to commemorate Codreanu. Occasionally, members of right-wing extremist parties from outside Romania (such as Germany, Sweden and Italy) also attend these ceremonies. In 2012, the Elie Wiesel Institute notified the Romanian general prosecutor about the monument, claiming that two symbols displayed at the site – the logo of the Iron Guard and a photograph of Codreanu – were illegal. The prosecutor decided that the memorial did not violate the law, because Codreanu had not been convicted for crimes against peace or crimes against humanity, and because the symbols displayed are not propaganda. Finally, the prosecutor referred to a legal exception which stated that the public use of such symbols is allowed if it serves an educational, academic or artistic purpose. However, the prosecutor also established that the flagpole and fence did not have a construction permit, so they were removed. The cross itself was left in its place.[71][72][73][74]
  • Radu Gyr was a commander and ideologue of the Iron Guard who was convicted of war crimes. The Wiesel Institute requested the renaming of Radu Gyr Street in Cluj-Napoca. As of December 2017, the street had not been renamed.[75]
  • Valeriu Gafencu was a Legionary who was active during the Legionary Rebellion. He is now an honorary citizen of the town of Târgu Ocna.[76]
  • Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu was one of the main leaders of the Romanian anti-communist resistance movement, but prior to that he was a member of the Iron Guard. He now has a monument in his memory in Deva, plus a foundation that bears his name. The neo-Legionary "Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu" Foundation is active in promoting the memory of the Iron Guard, such as when it organized a symposium dedicated to Gogu Puiu, a prominent Iron Guard leader, in January 2016. A motion-picture about Ogoranu's life, Portrait of the Fighter as a Young Man, was produced in 2010.[77]
  • Ion Moța and Vasile Marin were two Legionaries who were killed during the Spanish Civil War on 13 January 1937 while fighting on Franco's side. At Majadahonda, the site of their deaths, a monument was built in their honor.[78][79][80]
  • Mihail Manoilescu was an economist and politician, Governor of the National Bank of Romania between June and November 1931. In 1937, he joined the Iron Guard when he ran as a senator on the list of the Totul pentru Țară, an organization established by the Iron Guard. He succeeded in becoming senator following the election. His views corresponded to a large extent with the ideology of the Iron Guard. In 1948, he was detained at the Sighet Prison where he died in 1950. He never faced trial, and thus he was never convicted.[81] On 14 April 2016, the National Bank of Romania issued a set of commemorative coins in the honor of three former bank governors. Manoilescu, who led the bank for several months in 1931, was among them. Manoilescu's inclusion drew strong protests from the Wiesel Institute, on the grounds of Manoilescu's advocacy of Fascist ideology and antisemitism before World War II. In spite of the criticism, the Bank did not withdraw the coin.[82][83]
  • Historian Mircea Eliade was perhaps the most well-known person to have been a member of the Iron Guard. As with Manoilescu, his membership was the result of his joining the Totul pentru Țară.[84] Eliade is currently honored by various means, ranging from stamps to busts.

Iron Guard in other countries


The defunct American neo-Nazi Traditionalist Workers Party of the Nationalist Front took influence from Corneliu Zelia Codreanu for their ideology. 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 deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.[85] The Archangel Michael's Cross was among the symbols emblazoned on the firearms used by Brenton Tarrant during the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings[86] and by Payton S. Gendron during the 2022 Buffalo shooting.[87]

During a 2018 interview with alt-right Mormon blogger Ayla Stewart, the Canadian white nationalist Faith Goldy recommended Codreanu's book For My Legionaries—which explicitly called for the extermination of the Jews—calling it "very, very, very, very spot on, given a lot of what the movement is talking about right now";[88] she later said she no longer endorsed the book.[88]

The Iron Guard symbol was also spotted at Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee when the building was burned deliberately.[89]

See also



  1. ^ The Iron Guard synthesized Orthodox christianity with revolutionary nationalism and were heavily inspired by the writings of Nichifor Crainic.[4][5][6]
  2. ^ The Romanian Iron Guard espoused anti-capitalist, anti-banking and anti-bourgeois rhetoric, combined with anti-communism and a religious form of anti-Semitism.[16][17] The Iron Guard saw both capitalism and communism as being Jewish creations that served to divide the nation, and accused Jews of being "the enemies of the Christian nation."[18]
  3. ^ Members of the first "Death Squad" were: Ion Dumitrescu-Borșa (a Christian Orthodox priest), Sterie Ciumetti, Petre Țocu, Tache Savin, Traian Clime, Iosif Bozântan, Nicolae Constantinescu


  1. ^ Clark, Roland (2015-06-05). Holy Legionary Youth. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. pp. 221-228. doi:10.7591/9780801456343. ISBN 9780801456343.
  2. ^ In March 1930, Codreanu formed the "Iron Guard" as an armed wing of the Legion.
  3. ^ a b ""Casa Verde" din Bucureşti construită de legionari". FRUNŢI SPRE CER. August 24, 2013. Archived from the original on November 29, 2021. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  4. ^ Clark, Roland (2012). "Nationalism and orthodoxy: Nichifor Crainic and the political culture of the extreme right in 1930s Romania". Nationalities Papers. 40 (1). Cambridge University Press (CUP): 107–126. doi:10.1080/00905992.2011.633076. ISSN 0090-5992. S2CID 153813255. The institute only lasted one year, but allowed Crainic to advance ideas such as anti-Masonry, anti-Semitism, and biological racism within an LANC-approved forum (Crainic, Ortodoxie 147).
  5. ^ Caraiani, Ovidiu (2003). "Identities and Rights in Romanian Political Discourse". Polish Sociological Review (142). Polskie Towarzystwo Socjologiczne (Polish Sociological Association): 161–169. ISSN 1231-1413. JSTOR 41274855. Nae Ionescu considered ethnicity as "the formula of today's Romanian nationalism," while for Nichifor Crainic the "biological homogeneousness," the "historical identity" and the "blood and the soil" were the defining elements of the "ethnocratic state."
  6. ^ Wedekind, Michael (2010). "The mathematization of the human being: anthropology and ethno-politics in Romania during the late 1930s and early 1940s". New Zealand Slavonic Journal. 44. Australia and New Zealand Slavists’ Association: 27–67. ISSN 0028-8683. JSTOR 41759355. A prominent proponent of the concept of 'ethnic homogeneity' was the chauvinistic, xenophobic and pro-Nazi writer, politician, poet and professor of Theology Nichifor Crainic (1889-1972), author of "Orthodoxy and Ethnocracy" (Ortodoxie și etnocrație), published in 1938.
  7. ^ Zelinka, Elisabeta (2009). "Xenophobia, anti-Semitism and feminist activism in eastern Europe: a case study of Romania". In Huggan, Graham; Law, Ian (eds.). Racism postcolonialism Europe. Postcolonialism Across the Disciplines. Vol. 6. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-84631-562-6. OCLC 865564960. Archived from the original on 2024-03-05. Retrieved 2024-03-03. The Iron Guard was the ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic, fascist movement and political party in Romania.
  8. ^ Payne, Stanley G. (2017-02-21). "Why Romania's Fascist Movement Was Unusually Morbid—Even for Fascists". Slate Magazine. Archived from the original on 2023-12-11. Retrieved 2024-03-03. A Unique Death Cult: How the Romanian Iron Guard blended nationalistic violence with Christian martyrdom to spread a singularly morbid fascist movement. [...] As in some other Eastern European countries, there had developed strong currents of populism that espoused a kind of peasant nationalism, equally opposed to liberalism, conservatism, and Marxist socialism.
  9. ^ a b "Iron Guard | Romanian organization | Britannica". 24 May 2023. Archived from the original on 27 June 2022. Retrieved 23 June 2022.
    "[...] it was committed to the “Christian and racial” renovation of Romania and fed on anti-Semitism and mystical nationalism. [...]"
  10. ^ Iordachi, Constantin (2023). The Fascist Faith of the Legion "Archangel Michael" in Romania, 1927–41 Martyrdom and National Purification Archived 2023-02-13 at the Wayback Machine. Routledge. ISBN 978-1138624559.
  11. ^ "Rădăcinile intelectuale ale legionarismului" [The intellectual roots of legionaryism]. Historia (in Romanian). 2018-08-28. Archived from the original on 2023-12-04. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  12. ^ Tăpălagă, Dan (2020-12-21). "AUR și Mișcarea Legionară. Cât de valabilă este comparația între cele două partide" [AUR and the Legionary Movement. How valid is the comparison between the two parties]. (in Romanian). Archived from the original on 2021-10-19. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  13. ^ Iordachi, Constantin (2006). "Charisma, Religion, and Ideology: Romania's Interwar Legion of the Archangel Michael". In Lampe, John; Mazower, Mark (eds.). Ideologies and National Identities. Central European University Press. pp. 19–53. ISBN 978-963-9241-82-4. OCLC 945782879. Archived from the original on 2024-03-03. Retrieved 2024-03-03 – via OpenEdition Books.
  14. ^ Roberts, Jason; Glăjar, Sergio (2022-02-22). "The Legionary Phenomenon: A Romanian Fascist Manifesto". Archived from the original on 2023-03-31. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  15. ^ Teodorescu, Bogdan; Sultănescu, Dan (2022). "Mişcarea Legionară, între istorie și percepții actuale. Amestec de fascism și atitudini populiste" [The Legionary Movement, between history and current perceptions. Mixture of fascism and populist attitudes]. Polis. Journal of Political Science. X (3 (37)). Editura Institutul European: 65–80. ISSN 1221-9762. OCLC 9627670651. Archived from the original on 2023-02-13. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  16. ^ Mann 2004, p. 268-269.
  17. ^ Crampton, R.J. (1994). Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. London, England; New York: Routledge. p. 165.
  18. ^ Mann 2004, p. 270.
  19. ^ Săndulescu, p. 267
  20. ^ Predescu, Lucian: Enciclopedia Cugetarea, Enciclopedia României - Material românesc. Oameni și înfăptuiri, p. 959, Editura Cugetarea – Georgescu Delafras, București, 1940.
  21. ^ Radu-Dan Vlad: Procesele lui Corneliu Zelea Codreanu (1923-1934), Vol. I. Editura Miha Valahie. Bukarest 2013. ISBN 978-606-8304-49-6. S. 157.
  22. ^ Sandu-Dediu, Valentina (2016). "Murky Times and Ideologised Music in the Romania of 1938-1944". Musicology Today: Journal of the National University of Music Bucharest. 7 (27): 193–214. ISSN 2286-4717. Archived from the original on 2023-12-09. Retrieved 2023-12-09.
  23. ^ "Front page". Buna Vestire. 14 October 1940. p. 1.
  24. ^ Ianolides, John: Return to Christ - document for a new world , pp. 35-36
  25. ^ Payne, Stanley G. "Fascist Italy and Spain, 1922–1945". Spain and the Mediterranean Since 1898, Raanan Rein, ed. p. 105. London, 1999
  26. ^ von Nohlen, Dieter (2010). Elections in Europe: A data handbook. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos. pp. 1610–1611. ISBN 9783832956097.
  27. ^ Payne, Stanley G. (1995). A History of Fascism, 1914–1945. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 394. ISBN 9780299148706.
  28. ^ For "greenshirts" see, for example, R. G. Waldeck, Athene Palace, University of Chicago Press eBook (2013), ISBN 022608647X, p. 182. Originally published 1942.
  29. ^ "Totul pentru Țară" is translated as "Everything for the Fatherland" in "Collier's Encyclopedia" material that is now incorporated into "Encarta" as a sidebar (1938: Rumania Archived 2009-08-31 at the Wayback Machine) and in the "Encyclopædia Britannica" article Iron Guard Archived 2006-06-03 at the Wayback Machine; the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania uses "Everything for the Motherland" in the English-language version of its November 11, 2004 Final Report Archived 2006-01-29 at the Wayback Machine (PDF). (All retrieved 6 Dec 2005.).
  30. ^ Ioanid, "The Sacralised Politics of the Romanian Iron Guard."
  31. ^ a b c d e f Crampton, Richard Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century-And After, London: Routledge, 1997 p. 115.
  32. ^ a b Ancel, Jean "Antonescu and the Jews", pp. 463–479, from The Holocaust and History The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed and the Reexamined edited by Michael Berenbaum and Abraham Peck, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999, p. 463.
  33. ^ Ancel, Jean "Antonescu and the Jews" pp. 463–479 from The Holocaust and History The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed and the Reexamined edited by Michael Berenbaum and Abraham Peck, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999 p. 464.
  34. ^ Crampton, Richard Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century – And After, London: Routledge, 1997 p. 114.
  35. ^ Volovici, Nationalist Ideology, p. 98, citing N. Crainic, Ortodoxie și etnocrație, pp. 162–164
  36. ^ Savu, pp. 62–63.
  37. ^ Veiga, p. 191.
  38. ^ Rubin & Rubin, p.30
  39. ^ Ornea p. 298
  40. ^ a b c d e f g Payne, Stanley G. (1996). A History of Fascism, 1914–1945. Routledge. ISBN 0203501322.
  41. ^ a b Haynes, Rebecca (1993). "German Historians and the Romanian National Legionary State 1940-41". The Slavonic and East European Review. 71 (4): 676–683. JSTOR 4211380.
  42. ^ Iordachi, p. 39.
  43. ^ Iordachi, p. 39
  44. ^ a b Haynes, Rebecca "German Historians and the Romanian National Legionary State 1940–41" pp. 676–683 from The Slavonic and East European Review Volume 71, Issue # 4, October 1993 p. 681.
  45. ^ Gallagher, Tom (January 27, 2005). Theft of a Nation: Romania Since Communism. Hurst. ISBN 9781850657163. Archived from the original on March 5, 2024. Retrieved January 29, 2023 – via Google Books.
  46. ^ Deletant, D. (April 12, 2006). Hitler's Forgotten Ally: Ion Antonescu and his Regime, Romania 1940-1944. Springer. ISBN 9780230502093. Archived from the original on March 5, 2024. Retrieved January 29, 2023 – via Google Books.
  47. ^ Henry Robinson Luce, Time Inc., 1941, Time, Volume 37, p. 29
  48. ^ Axworthy, Mark (1991). The Romanian Army of World War II. Osprey Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 9781855321694.
  49. ^ Auswärtiges Amt, H.M. Stationery Office, 1961, Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945: The aftermath of Munich, Oct. 1938 – March 1939, p. 1179
  50. ^ Ronald L. Tarnstrom, Trogen Books, 1998, Balkan Battles, p. 341
  51. ^ Charles Higham, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1985, American Swastika, p. 223
  52. ^ Roland Clark, Cornell University Press, 2015, Holy Legionary Youth: Fascist Activism in Interwar Romania, p. 232
  53. ^ Hitchins, Kevin (1994) Rumania, 1866–1947 pp.457–469
  54. ^ a b c Simpson, Christopher Blowback America's Recruitment of Nazis and its Effects on the Cold War, New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988 p. 255.
  55. ^ Holocaust Encyclopedia Archived 2007-03-12 at the Wayback Machine.
  56. ^ "New Order," Time magazine, Feb. 10, 1941.
  57. ^ Ioanid, Radu "The Holocaust in Romania: The Iasi Pogrom of June 1941" pp. 119–148 from Contemporary European History, Volume 2, Issue # 2, July 1993 p. 124
  58. ^ Ioanid, Radu "The Holocaust in Romania: The Iasi Pogrom of June 1941" pp. 119–148 from Contemporary European History, Volume 2, Issue # 2, July 1993 p. 130
  59. ^ a b Behr, Edward Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite, New York: Villard Books, 1991 p. 111.
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  64. ^ a b Bucur, Maria "Romania" pp. 57–78 from Women, Gender and Fascism in Europe, 1919–1945 edited by Kevin Passmore, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003 p. 70.
  65. ^ a b c Bucur, Maria "Romania", pp. 57–78, from Women, Gender and Fascism in Europe, 1919–1945 edited by Kevin Passmore, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003, p. 66.
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  67. ^ a b Bucur, Maria "Romania" pp. 57–78 from Women, Gender and Fascism in Europe, 1919–1945 edited by Kevin Passmore, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003 pp. 67–68.
  68. ^ Judith Keene, A&C Black, 2007, Fighting For Franco: International Volunteers in Nationalist Spain During the Spanish Civil War, p. 220
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  • Ioanid, Radu. The Sword of the Archangel, (Columbia University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-88033-189-5).
  • Iordachi, Constantin. "Charisma, Religion, and Ideology: Romania's Interwar Legion of the Archangel Michael", in John R. Lampe, Mark Mazower (eds.), Ideologies and National Identities: The Case of Twentieth-century Southeastern Europe, Central European University Press, Budapest, 2004
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Primary sources


In German

  • Heinen, Armin. Die Legion "Erzengel Michael" in Rumänien, (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1986, ISBN 978-3-486-53101-5) – one of the major historical contributions to the study of the Romanian Iron Guard.
  • Totok, William. "Rechtsradikalismus und Revisionismus in Rumänien" (I–VII), in: Halbjahresschrift für südosteuropäische Geschichte Literatur und Politik, 13–16 (2001–2004).
  • Facing the Past. Information on the Holocaust in Romania, including the role of the Iron Guard, from a report commissioned and accepted by the Romanian government.
  • Clogg, Richard (October 8, 2005). "An untold footnote to World War II". Kathimerini. Archived from the original on December 29, 2010. Retrieved December 23, 2005. An aborted 1945 mission of the Aromanian Iron Guardists in Greece.