Files from the Whispered History of Romanians (11)

The assassinations of

Corneliu Zelea Codreanu,

of “decemviri” and “nicadori”

have been made

  under the protection of

the Romanian Orthodox Church

and other 242 legionnaire leaders

under the protection of

the Romanian Army


The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army are two basic institutions of Romania, they enjoying, generally, a lot of trust among the population. and the one who brings touches, even he has right, risk being accused of lack of patriotism.

However, when the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army intervened in politics, even leading governments through their representatives, high priests, respectively, senior officers, there were many deviations from the state of law.

In this regard, revealing to me are two events in the interwar period, period of flourishing of Romania, namely, the events of the night between November 28 and 29, 1938, under the government of Patriarch Miron Cristea (2) (n.a. President of the Council of Ministers, in the period March 30, 1938 – 31 January 1939), and on the night of September 21 to 22, 1939, under General Gheorghe Argeşanu (n.n President of the Council of Ministers in the period September 21 – 28 1939).

In the first case, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, nicknamed Captain, together with “nicadori” (n.a. the legionnaires Nicolae Constantinescu, Ion Carinca and Doru Belimace) and “decemviri” (n.a. the legionnaires Ion Atanasiu, Gavrila Bogdan Iosif Bozantan Ion Caratanase, Stefan Curca, Stefan Georgescu, Ion Pele, Grigore Ion State, Ion Trandafir şi Radu and Vlad) were executed because, according to official motivation, they would have tried to escape.

Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, born on September 13, 1899, in Husi, with the name Corneliu Zielinski, a high military school graduate and studies in law, had a fulminant political ascent, in which nationalism, orthodoxy, anti-communism, anti-Semitism and the cult of death played a leading role.

On May 20, 1922, he founded the Association of Christian Students, replacing, in the same time, the Law Students Association, whose president he arrived. At the beginning of the academic year 1922/1923, finding that it will no more take religious service, he was barricaded in an amphitheater. Shortly afterwards, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was expelled from the faculty. Being a very good knowledge of the German language from Eliza, his mother, born Brauner, of German origin, he went to Germany, where he tried to continue his studies in law, but also to start a business. Thus he got to know the activity out of commun, theatrical, of parade, of Adolf Hitler, newly member of the Executive Committee of the German National – Socialist Labour Party (n.a. in German, “Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei”), also known by the abbreviation Nazi Party, from the first and the sixthe syllable. Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was so impressed by agitation and the uniform of Brown ShirtS, an informal name of Battalions of Assault in Germany that much later, at the wedding on June 14, 1925, with Elena Ilinoiu, at which came to assist over 80,000 people, the brides wore on their heads a crown with a swastika.

On March 4, 1923, was set up the National – Christian Defence League, as president being elected Alexandru C. Cuza, and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was responsible for organizing the party at national level. The nationalist and anti-Semitic orientatiom of party had the opportunity to express after March 23, 1923, when was amended the Article 7 of the Constitution, meaning that Jews in Romania can receive Romanian citizenship automatically. Then Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was one of the main agitators among students and organizers of street demonstrations, followed by clashes with police

Subsequently, on June 24, 1927, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, dissatisfied, it seems, because he failed to be elected with the National – Christian Defence League, he took off from the party and founded the Legion of the Archangel Mihai, also called Legionnaire Movement as a paramilitary organization, inspired by the model of Battalions of Assault in Germany (n.a. “Sturmabteilung” with the acronym S.A.) and Protection Squadron in Germany (n.a. in German, “Schutzstaffel”, with the acronym S.S., which was a sort of praetorian guard for Adolf Hitler).

In 1929, for electoral reasons, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu founded the party Iron Guard, as a “fence against the expansion of communism”. On January 11, 1931, Iron Guard was dissolved by the government of George G. Mironescu (2) (n.a. governed in the period October 10, 1930 – April 17, 1931), with Ion Mihalache as Minister of Internal Affairs. Following a trial, the party’s ban was lifted and at the partial elections of August 31, 1931, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu became deputy in Neamt. In this mandate, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was noticed by the attitude taken against the Law of Agricol Conversion, in which was proposed halving the landowners’ debts to banks, he stating that, if peasants had an average debt of about 30,000 lei, other “peasants” had debts of millions of lei, as for example, Constantin Argetoianu, with a debt of 80,000,000 lei, or Nicolae Titulescu, and he with a great debt, of 20,000,000 lei, money borrowed not only for agricol spending. Although all these inequities, the law was approved.

On March 17, 1932 it was again dissolved the Iron Guard by the government of Nicolae Iorga (n.a. governed between April 8, 1931 – June 5, 1932). Again, on December 10, 1933, the Iron Guard was dissolved by the government of Ion Gheorghe Duca (n.a. governed during  November 14 –  December 29, 1933).

In the same year, on December 29, as reprisal, Ion Gheorghe Duca was assassinated by the “nicadori”, who surrendered to authorities and were arrested.

Four years later, on July 16, 1936, the  “decemviri” assassinated their colleague of party, Mihai Stelescu, who was desconspirat that he planned the assassination of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and then, after being pardoned by the Senate of Legionnaire Movement, he began to criticize harshly the same Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. As “nicadori”, “decemviri”  surrendered to authorities.

As an aside, it is to note that long before, on October 24, 1924, and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was charged with murder, when he shot deadly Mihai Manciu, prefect of Iasi. On May 25, 1925, after sentencing trial, which took place in Turnu Severin, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was acquitted on grounds of self-defense, which brought him a great notoriety throughout the country.

On the night of November 29 to 30, 1938, the 14 legionnaires, the Captain, the “nicadori”, and zhe “decemviri”  were transferred from Ramnicu Sarat to Jilava. On the road they were executed by the accompanying gendarmes. At Jilava, their bodies were thrown into a mass grave and covered with lime and earth.

These horrible assassinations were planned and executed by the Patriarch Miron Cristea government (2), that is under the protection of the prelate with the highest function of the Romanian Church. It is an unfortunate example of meddling in politics of the Romanian Orthodox Church. It is revealing in this regard and the declaration of Patriarch Miron Cristea, on February 27, 1938, during the first term of government (n.a. the President of the Council of Ministers, in the period February 11 – March 29, 1938), on the occasion of the promulgation of the new constitution, through which the king not only reigned but also governed: “Today was destroyed the hydra with 29 electing heads (n.a. the number of parties), who antagonized no avail all, to the detriment of the whole country”.

It is obvious that the blame for the executions of 14 legionnaires did not belong only to Patriarch Miron Cristea, but also to Armand Calinescu, Minister of Internal Affairs and, for the most part, to King Carol II, which according to the new constitution was the “head of state”.

It should be added that King Carol II decided the assassination of 14 legionnaires, considered by him as the main political opponents, after the visit he did on November 24, 1938 to Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgaden. Then he was threatened with annihilation (n.a. in German, “Verninchtung”), because he refused the recommendations coming from the “Führer”, among which, the worst for Romanian king, to bring to the government the Iron Guard.

The fact that the referendum on February 24, 1938, of the 4,303,064 voters registered to vote, the new constitution was accepted by 4,297,221 voters, showed a certain appetite for dictatorship of Romanians from that time, which was explained by Emil Cioran thus: “Democracy did not make from the eternal stupid crowd an active factor of history (…) the “ahistoric” (n.a. “ahistoric” is a term introduced by Pamfil Seicaru, meaning somebody who does not draw lessons from the history) crowd had only one ideal: the loss of (unnecessary) freedom. The crowd does not want to judge, others to do it and to take the responsability and, from fear of anarchy, the crowd delights of terror”.

In the second case, 242 leaders of the Legionnaire Movement were assassinated, about 90 percent of legionnaire elite. The corpses of the assassinated were displayed in the streets, to be seen by the public.

This horrible, impermissible reaction in a state of law, was triggered by the assassination of Armand Calinescu, on September 21, 1939 by a group of legionnaires, led by Miti Dumitrescu, formed of Ion Ionescu Ovidiu Isaia, Ion Moldoveanu, Gheorghe Paraschivescu, Cezar Popescu, Traian Popescu, Marin Stanciulescu and Ion Vasiliu.

Armand Calinescu, at the moment of the assassination, was President of the Council of Ministers (n.a. President of the Council of Ministers in the period March 7 – September 21, 1939), cumulating and the position of minister at National Defence.

On the same day, September 21, 1939, King Carol II appointed General Gheorghe Argesanu as President of the Council of Ministers, who stayed in office only a week until September 28.

The assassins of Armand Calinescu were caught and brought even at the scene of crime, at the road cross between Cotroceni Bridge and the street Barbu Stirbei, where they were shot and their corpses were left a few days at sight. Another 147 legionnaire leaders were shot, about three in each of 52 counties (n.a. Greater Romania had 71 counties), whose corpses, in the same way, were some days left in plain sight. Also, 95 legionnaires were executed in detention.

It is obvious that the blame for the executions of 242 legionnaires did not belong only to General Gheorghe Argesanu, but and to another general, Gabriel Marinescu, Minister of Internal Affairs, as well as in the case of the assassinations on the night of November 29 to 30, 1938, in the most part, to King Carol II, who, according to the new constitution, was, as I yet mentioned, the “head of state”.

The two nights, between November 28 and 29, 1938, under the Patriarch Miron Cristea government (2), and between September 21 and 22, 1939, under the General Gheorghe Argesanu government, constituted the blackest pages in the history of 22 years of Greater Romania.

Each of them threw one big black stain on the reputation of Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army, especially since they, at the time, did not take an attitude against these crimes.

Therefore, about the involvement of Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army in these horrible crimes without trials, did not speak at all during the “dejisto – ceausist” communist regime, to protect only the Romanian Army, which was used by Nicolae Ceausescu in criminal purposes, in repression of demonstrations, as for example, in Timisoara, demonstrations began on December 17, 1989, when were shot 59 martyrs of the revolution.

In the period after 1989 it is speaking very little or not at all, especially from officials about the involvement of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army in the horrible crimes during Carol’s dictatorship, not to decrease the public confidence in the two institutions.

But if you do not tell the truth about the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army, that they, sometimes through their representatives, were used as institutions of criminal oppression, we will not draw appropriate lessons in history, we will be prepared in order to avoid repeating history .


Doru Ciucescu


The text is part from the volume in course of translation “Files from the Whispering History of Romanians”

(The translation from Romanian and the adaptation are realized by the author himself)