Friday, October 2, 2015

The Iron Guard and the Sanctity of Death

"A Legionnaire loves death, for his blood shall cement the future Legionary Romania." 
- Corneliu Codreanu, Nest Leader's Manual
Codreanu believed of the nation that it is composed not only of living, breathing men, but also of the departed dead, their bones and decaying flesh, graves, and tombs. The dead were as much members of the nation as the living; the Romanian nation a kingdom of the dead and living. Death was a sacred event, honored in hymns, songs, and ceremonies.

Codreanu, killed in 1938, did not live to see the "Legionary State"; his
body, and that of members of the Decemviri and Nicadori Iron Guard
death squads, was exhumed and ritually buried in 1940.

A death hymn recited by the youth wing of the Romanian Iron Guard:

Moartea, numai moartea legionară
Ne este cea mai scumpă nuntă dintre nunţi,
Pentru sfânta cruce, pentru ţară
Înfrângem codrii şi supunem munţi;
Nu-i temniţă să ne-nspăimânte,
Nici chin, nici viforul duşman;
De cădem cu toţi, izbiţi în frunte,
Ni-i dragă moartea pentru Căpitan!

Death, only a Legionnaire's death
Is our dearest wedding of weddings,
For the Holy Cross, for the country
We defeat forests and conquer mountains;
No prison can frighten us,
Nor any torture, or enemy storm;
If we all fall, hit in the forehead,
Death for the Captain is dear to us!

The following is from the Wikipedia entry on the Iron Guard's "death squads":
It was during the Legionnaire-dominated Students' Congress of April 3-5, 1936, held at Târgu Mureş, that the death squads were officially established. However, writing in The Nest Leader's Manual, which appeared in May 1933, Codreanu taught: "A Legionnaire loves death, for his blood shall cement the future Legionary Romania". In 1927, at the Guard's very creation, its members swore to be "strong by severing all ties connecting us with mundane things..., by serving the cause of the Romanian nation and the cause of the Cross". By claiming to renounce material wealth and invoking the Cross, the Legionnaires were channeling Christ: they believed they would die for the nation as he had died to redeem mankind. Vasile Marin, who made important contributions to Legionnaire doctrine, amplified on this notion when he praised the Nicadori in 1934: "Three young students have committed an act in the service of a great cause. You all know what that act was. Their sacrifice was inspired by a great idea. It was done in the name of a great idea. They performed this act, and now they are paying the price".
Codreanu's belief that the nation was composed of the living and the dead remained central to the Legionaries' worldview well after, and likely partly due to, Codreanu's death.
Furthermore, Legionnaires were animated by the idea that the nation included both the dead and the living, with its heroes providing assistance to the latter when invoked. This element of their ideology involved an authentic mystique of the idea of dying for one's nation, as those killed in the course of their duties automatically became heroes who could continue to support their living comrades' undertakings. This enthusiasm for death motivated Moţa, who went to Spain to die for Romania so that (as he believed) his country would be redeemed in God's eyes, as well as in the death-exalting literature produced by that segment of the intellectual élite which had proved receptive to Legionary ideas: Mircea Eliade, Radu Gyr, Constantin Noica...