Iron Guard

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IRON GUARD , right-wing, antisemitic movement and party in Romania. In 1927 nationalist students, headed by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, founded the Legion of Archangel Michael, which fostered the Iron Guard mass movement in 1930 and merged with it. The Iron Guard became a political party with a Christian-nationalist and totalitarian platform combining elements of fascism, Nazism, and Christian-Orthodox mysticism and symbolism. The Iron Guard press, Buna Vestire ("The Annunciation"), and the press under its influence, Porunca Vremii ("The Command of Our Times"), instigated antisemitism in the vein of Der Stuermer. The Iron Guard held conferences and student rallies that were often accompanied by anti-Jewish riots in which synagogues and Jewish newspapers and shops were destroyed, as in Oradea-Mare and Cluj (1927), and in Timişoara (1938). In the mid-1930s, the Iron Guard, known as Totul pentru Ţarǎ ("All for the Fatherland"), became the third largest party in Romania; but it was temporarily dissolved in 1938 by King Carol. On the eve of the dissolution of Greater Romania, the Iron Guard, reconciled for the time being with King Carol, carried out mass slaughters of Jews, especially in Moldavia (June–September 1940). On September 6, the Iron Guard proclaimed a National-Legionary State under joint rule with Ion *Antonescu. Anti-Jewish legislation was enacted to eliminate the Jews of Romania from economic, political, and cultural life. The final goal of Iron Guard policy was the deportation of the Jews (see *Romania, Holocaust).

A struggle for hegemony led to the Legionnaire rebellion in Jan. 19–20, 1941, in which 120 Jews were killed in Bucharest and some 30 in the countryside (notably in *Ploieşti and *Constanţa). The rebellion was quashed by Antonescu; Horia *Sima and other leaders of the rebellion fled the country. Following the outbreak of war against the Soviet Union (June 1941) the German forces and Antonescu's police, joined by Iron Guard elements, committed anti-Jewish outrages, including the *Jassy pogrom (June 29, 1941) and "death train," and other such attacks in Moldavia with thousands of victims. The Romanian anti-Nazi coup of August 1944 put an end to the Iron Guard in Romania, and the Germans set up in December 1944 a Legionnaire government-in-exile in Vienna led by Sima. For more than 25 years after the liquidation of the Iron Guard, Legionnaire emigrant groups were still in existence in some western countries, and post-Communist Romania.


E. Weber, "The Man of the Archangel," in: G.L. Mosse (ed.), International Fascism (1979); Z. Barbu, in: S.J. Woolf (ed.), Fascism in Europe (1981); A.Heinen, Die Legion " Erzengel Michael" in Rumänien (1986); F. Veiga, La mistica del ultranacionalismo. Historia de la Guardia de Hierro (1989); R. Ioanid, The Sword of the Archangel: Fascist Ideology in Romania (1990); L.Volovici, Nationalist Ideology and Antisemitism (1991).

[Bela Adalbert Vago]