|“||Legionary life is beautiful, not because of riches, partying or the acquisition of luxury, but because of the noble comradeship which binds all Legionaries in a sacred brotherhood of struggle.||„|
|~ Corneliu Zelea Codreanu|
The Iron Guard (Garda de Fier, also Legion of the Archangel Michael and The Legionnaires Movement) was a fascist movement, paramilitary organization and political party active in Romania in the 20th Century. The group was brought into government by Romanian dictator Ion Antonescu in 1940 after he ascended to power, making it a part of the National Legionary State, and, by extension, the Axis Powers. However, after Antonescu began stripping away the Iron Guard's privileges, they rebelled in what is known as the Legionnaire's Rebellion. After the rebellion's failure, Antonescu banned the Iron Guard, and ordered the Romanian army to forcibly disband it, resulting in the arrest of 9, 000 members, although several important members, including leader Horia Sima, managed to escape with help from Nazi Party.
Fighting for power
The Iron Guard were founded in 1927 by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. They quickly became mainstream, as the Great Depression caused many Romanians to lose their jobs, and the Iron Guard were able to convince them that the Jews were to blame, and that the elite who dominated Romania had ruined the country. The Iron Guard was banned in January 1931, and then again by the next government in 1933. After a period of brutal beating, torture and outright murder inflicted on their members by the government, the Iron Guard retaliated by assassinating Prime Minister Ion Duca.
After King Carol II dissolved the government and established a dictatorship, Codreanu advised the Iron Guard to accept the regime, but was still arrested on the orders of Armand Călinescu, leaving in charge Horia Sima, who initiated a series of terrorist activity. In retaliation, Codreanu was murdered by his guards in prison, resulting in the Iron Guard taking revenge by killing Călinescu. Following a leadership struggle, Sima accrued power due to backing from the German Schutzstaffel and Gottlob Berger.
Rise to power
After Nazi Germany invaded Poland, King Carol was forced to abdicate after appointing Ion Antonescu as Prime Minister, later made Head of State by Carol's successor. As the Iron Guard supported Antonescu's fascist, ultranationalist ideology, Antonescu forged an alliance with them, forming the National Legionary State with the Iron Guard as the only legal party.
Once in power, the Iron Guard ratcheted up the anti-semetic legislation in the country and orchestrated a series of pogroms and political assassinations. They also assisted the Axis Powers during World War II, committing many war crimes, and assisted in the extermination of the Jews.
During the short-lived reign of the National Legionary State, Antonescu planned to model the Romanian government after Francisco Franco's government in Spain, and to that end demanded that Sima cede control of the Iron Guard over to him. Sima refused, and was accused by Antonescu of using the Iron Guard's death squads to try and usurp power from him. After getting approval from Adolf Hitler to deal with the Iron Guard, Antonescu had his troops disband them. The Iron Guard fought back, and attempted to rebel, but were easily defeated after three days of violence. During the brief war, the Iron Guard initiated the Bucharest Pogrom, during which 125 Jewish civilians were slaughtered. 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.
After the Iron Guard were crushed in the rebellion, Antonescu forcibly disbanded them and banned them from re-forming. Many members of the Iron Guard were imprisoned or executed afterwards, however with German help Sima and several others managed to escape.
Today, the Iron Guard are greatly admired by the far right in Romania, who continue to commemorate them.