A Brief Illustrated History of Romanians
Bucharest: Humanitas, 2014
I recently came across a very pleasant read in the form of Neagu Djuvara’s A Brief Illustrated History of Romanians. The book is in fact a series of transcribed lectures meant to introduce young Romanians (or, in translation, the curious foreigner) to the broad sweep of Romanian history. In this, at least for me, I found the book supremely useful, being a brisk read with helpful pictures.
There is the usual fare of ancient history (the mysterious Dacians), of often brutal medieval intrigue and warfare (including Vlad the Impaler, famous for turning Turks into literal kebabs and being the inspiration behind the vampire Dracula), and the emergence of the modern nation-state. Most interesting to me however were the politically incorrect aspects of Romanian history, particular Djuvara’s account of Freemasons and Jews.
Djuvara is perhaps Romania’s most prominent establishment historian today, still active at the ripe old age of 99. He fought against the Soviet Union in the Romanian army during Operation Barbarossa, was exiled by the postwar communists, and studied history under the Jewish intellectual Raymond Aron in Paris.
Djuvara is thus a liberal-conservative self-styled patriot and an erudite, old-fashioned historian. His history is refreshingly traditional in this respect. He is pro-Jew, pro-Gypsy, anti-Hitler, and anti-Iron Guard, but he can’t help being politically incorrect nonetheless. A first reason is that he has a strong sense of the importance of ethnic and national identity: He wants his young audience to feel Romanian, to understand what that means, as this is key for Romania to achieve consciousness and agency. A second reason is that he cannot, living in the Balkans, ignore demographic realities (as the unfortunate Serbs of Kosovo learned). He considers the current migrant crisis to be “an invasion of barbarians.”
Perhaps the most striking thing in Djuvara’s narrative for a well-thinking Westerner is the massive role played by Freemasons in the emergence and consolidation of the Romanian nation-state.
After the withdrawal of the Roman Empire, Romania had a millennium of chaos, mostly under the rule of Turkic tribes. Then the Romanian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia were founded, but these too fell under Ottoman domination. Modern Romania emerged in a rough neighborhood, surrounded by the Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman empires. (Djuvara assures us that Austrian, i.e. German, rule was the best.)
Modern Romanian nationalism however rose in the nineteenth century with the emergence of a Western-oriented bourgeoisie, many of which had been educated in Paris, and which was inspired by the Enlightenment ideal of the nation. The spread of literacy and a newspaper-reading elite led Romanian-speakers to a common consciousness and aspiration to nationhood.
A striking characteristic of modern Romania, as throughout history, was insecurity. After the French Revolution, the Romanian principalities’ borders were always changing (Bucovina to Austria, Bessarabia to Russia . . .), while the principalities themselves were under various level of formal dependence upon Turkey or Russia.
The Romanian elite sought to remedy this by creating a sovereign Romanian nation-state. This was gradually achieved through a step-by-step process of unification, consolidation, and independence from the 1860s onward. Each major step was not achieved primarily through triumph in war – although that played a role with a relatively bloodless victory in the 1877-78 War of Independence and 220,000 dead fighting for the Entente in the First World War – but rather the consent of the great powers.
Every time, success or failure depended on foreign support: The abortive 1848 Revolution against Russia and Turkey, the 1859 Union of the Principalities (Wallachia and Moldavia elected the same prince), the 1866 election of a Hohenzollern Prussian officer as monarch (Carol I), the actual international recognition of Romania’s sovereignty after the 1877 War of Independence, and finally the approval of Greater Romania existence by the Versailles negotiators in 1919-20 following the annexation of Transylvania and Bessarabia).
Thus, Romania’s rise to nation-statehood reflected in large part the influence of bourgeois and liberal Romanian diaspora networks in Western capitals (they were particularly successful in receiving support from Napoleon III). Djuvara’s claims about Freemasonry make sense if one considers them simply the occult edge (private clubs) of the liberal elites ruling the West. These clubs were particularly powerful in France, where they emerged to destroy the entrenched power of the aristocracy and the Catholic Church, but persist to this day as some the country’s most powerful media-political networks. Djuvara reports:
Our young men studying in France or the Western countries could not have been drawn towards the conservatives – far less concerned with to principalities they considered to be Turkish provinces – but the liberals, eager to spread their ideas of democracy and liberty to the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe, captivated these young Romanians. This, in turn, prompted most of them to join Masonic lodges. [. . .]
Since the archives of Freemasonry were opened to the public, we have had proof that almost all those young men who had studied in Paris were recruited into Masonic lodges and returned to our country as Freemasons, and it was their efforts that brought about the Revolution of 1848, as well as the 1859 Union of Principalities. (247-49)
Alexandru Ioan Cuza, a boyar nobleman and military officer who was elected as the first prince of both Wallachia and Bessarabia, was in Djuvara’s telling a mere figurehead and political non-entity:
It has never actually been proven that Cuza was a Freemason. But one thing is certain: almost all those young unionists who put his candidature forward and voted for him were Freemasons, so it would be fair to say that Cuza was a creation of the Freemasons, at least at the beginning. And as we shall see later on, they would also be responsible for his downfall, a mere seven years later. (260-261)
This new regime would quickly move to destroy the economic independence of the Orthodox Church by seizing its (very substantial) lands.
Djuvara essentially credits the Right-wing critique of Freemasonry as undermining traditional values in alliance with Jews:
[L]ater on, Freemasonry degenerated into a sort of clique based on mutual support and the accumulation of power; leftist extremists largely took over the organisation (especially in France) and a great many Jews, eager to break the ostracisation that had plagued them for centuries, joined in. Some of them, having arrived in our country, tried to force the principalities into immediately granting Romanian citizenship to all Jews who had settled there after 1830, particularly in Moldavia. This resulted in a negative backlash against Freemasonry; Romanian intellectuals were now more reticent and felt that they were being pressured into a direction that no longer served the national interest of the day, as they saw it. (249)
Djuvara is rather less categorical on Jews, but here too what he writes is interesting. The traditional Romanian position is that Jews are not Romanian, they are a separate nation, and they are therefore not entitled to Romanian citizenship. The foreign powers on which Romania depended to become independent, however, themselves featured Jews who were strongly pushing for philo-Semitic legislation worldwide. Djuvara writes:
Adolphe Crémieux (1796-1880) Freemason[, Jew,] and president of the Universal Israelite Alliance [a Jewish lobbying organization], as well as minister of justice in the French government. In June 1866 he made a visit to Bucharest, where he addressed the members of the government and Prince Carol, requesting the emancipation of Romanian Jews. One week later, a clause that excluded the Jews from obtaining Romanian citizenship was added to the project of the Constitution. (249)
The pressure was also on at the Congress of Berlin in 1877, where it was hoped Romania’s independence would be recognized by the great powers after the Romanians had succeeded in alliance with Russia in evicting the Turks. Djuvara writes:
[A]t the behest of Chancellor Bismarck, who was on very good terms with a great Jewish banker in Germany [probably Gerson von Bleichröder], the great powers demanded that Romanian citizenship be granted en masse to the entire Jewish population in the country, in return for recognising independence. [Romanian Prime Minister Ion] Brătianu and [Romanian Foreign Minister Mihail] Kogălniceanu did not accept this condition, as they felt the large numbers of Jewish immigrants, who had settled in Moldavia recently, had not been sufficiently assimilated and who, they thought, would have hampered the development of the local Romanian bourgeoisie were they to receive equal rights (I mentioned earlier what the Hungarian policy had been on the matter and wonder if it would not have been wiser for us to do the same). Our representatives did not yield, however, and only accepted that Jews be naturalised on an individual, case-by-case basis. (276)
Djuvara is unsurprisingly rather embarrassed and apologetic about the Romanian founding fathers’ conclusion that Jews were not members of their nation. He explains:
Since there had been no bourgeoisie to speak of in the Principalities, our reaction was like that of a seashell closing its plates. We spoke Romanian, they spoke Yiddish, and for decades their integration progressed at a very slow pace. This led to a feeling among many Romanians that they were a foreign body in their country. Hungarians, on the other hand, were clever enough to assimilate the Jews by granting them citizenship. [. . .] The consequences of these different approaches can be felt to this day. Although during World War II Hungary surrendered its Jews to be exterminated in Nazi gas chambers, on the whole, the international Jews community sympathises more with Hungary than with Romania. (255-56)
The final statement is extremely telling: In effect, Djuvara is noting that Romania to this day is harassed and defamed by foreign Jewish organizations, especially in the United States and France, demanding admissions of collective guilt, reparations, anti-nationalist censorship legislation, and so on (more on this below).
Romanian Anti-Semitism, the Iron Guard, & Marshal Antonescu
Would granting citizenship to Romanian Jews have created harmonious Jewish-gentile relations in the country? Were Romanian leaders’ fears about their bourgeoisie failing to develop due to nepotistic Jewish competition well-founded? Comparison with other countries in the region is instructive. Consider Professor Kevin MacDonald’s summary of The Jewish Century by Yuri Slezkine, a Jewish professor at the University of California, Berkeley:
It is no stretch at all, however, to show that Jews have achieved a preeminent position in Europe and America, and Slezkine provides us with statistics of Jewish domination only dimly hinted at in the following examples from Europe in the late nineteenth century to the rise of National Socialism. Austria: All but one bank in fin de siècle Vienna was administered by Jews, and Jews constituted 70% of the stock exchange council; Hungary: between 50 and 90 percent of all industry was controlled by Jewish banking families, and 71% of the most wealthy taxpayers were Jews; Germany: Jews were overrepresented among the economic elite by a factor of 33. Similar massive overrepresentation was also to be found in educational attainment and among professionals (e.g., Jews constituted 62% of the lawyers in Vienna in 1900, 25% in Prussia in 1925, 34% in Poland, and 51% in Hungary). Indeed, “the universities, ‘free’ professions, salons, coffeehouses, concert halls, and art galleries in Berlin, Vienna, and Budapest became so heavily Jewish that liberalism and Jewishness became almost indistinguishable” (p. 63).
Slezkine documents the well-known fact that, as Moritz Goldstein famously noted in 1912, “We Jews administer the spiritual possessions of Germany.”
I unfortunately do not have similar data on Jews in Romania, but my impression is that the partial exclusion of Romanian Jews was not successful in stemming Jewish prominence in business, culture, and left-wing politics.
Romania’s political elite and intelligentsia remained profoundly anti-Semitic well into the twentieth century. Figures that are to this day considered Romanian heroes were more often than not anti-Semitic. These included the great historian and politician Nicolae Iorga, who is still featured on the 1 leu currency bill, or Petre Țuțea, a beloved philosopher and dissident persecuted by the postwar communist regime.
Romanian anti-Semitism’s grievances against Jews are very similar to those found elsewhere across Europe and America: that Jews were a foreign group and tended to consider themselves as such (as evidenced by the popularity of Zionism among Romanian Jews); a trend of nepotistic Jewish networks replacing gentile economic, legal, and cultural elites; exploitation of Romanian peasants (e.g., spreading alcoholism); that Jews tended to undermine national cohesion; and that Jews had a leading role in spreading communist totalitarianism.
Of course, there were forces opposed to Freemasonry, Jews, and communism in Romania. The most prominent of these was the Legion of Saint Michael the Archangel, otherwise known as the Iron Guard, led by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. Codreanu, also known as Căpitanul (“the Captain”), and the Guard are noteworthy in that to this day they are perhaps the only fascist movement able to rival Adolf Hitler and National Socialism in inspiring fascination. The Guard promised to “eradicate the poisonous cosmopolitan influence of the Jews and Freemasons” (317).
Support for the Iron Guard, though not as common as anti-Semitism, was widespread among many members of the Romanian elite and in particular young intellectuals. These included Petre Țuțea, Emil Cioran (who would become famous in Paris as an ostensible prophet of nihilism), and Mircea Eliade (later famous in America and France as a historian of religions).
In Djuvara’s account, the Guard, while they were led by Codreanu, do not come off looking too bad. The Legionnaires assassinated their enemies, but only after their supposed “democratic rights” under the Romanian Constitution had been denied. Djuvara writes that during a trial:
Codreanu took out his revolver and assassinated the prefect. In truth, the prefect had severely mistreated him and several students he had arrested (the use of entirely despicable and reprehensible interrogation methods such as beatings and torture did exist before the communist era, but on an infinitely smaller scale). (316)
The Guard also assassinated a “liberal” prime minister in 1936 after he had banned them from participating in elections.
Codreanu was however murdered by the King Carol II’s regime, which was eventually replaced by that of Marshal Ion Victor Antonescu, “a bold, resilient and honest man,” says Djuvara (328). The Romanian nation-state – initially founded as Masonic and liberal project, hostile to the Church and burdensome for the peasantry – thus ironically became a force for the Right.
Romania would be Germany’s most important ally during the titanic struggle with the Soviet Union. At the start of Operation Barbarossa, even the young Djuvara was excited:
I too was on the front line – from day one. We were all young and full of enthusiasm at the thought of erasing the shame of the previous year [being forced to cede territory to the Soviet Union] and regaining Bessarabia and Bukovina. With the German army alongside, we thought it would be an easy war to win [. . .]. (331-32)
Djuvara is of course apologetic about Romania’s “involvement in the holocaust.” He writes:
[U]nder the pretext that the Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovina had generally favoured Soviet occupation and even engaged in criminal acts against the Romanian army, Antonescu decided to deport all the Jewish population of those provinces across the river Dniester. [. . .]
This terrible tragedy is a crime now attributed not only to Antonescu and his government, but also to our entire nation. I, for one, swear I had not the slightest knowledge of this atrocity at the time. (331-32)
In short, Djuvara complains that Jewish groups demand recognition of collective responsibility concerning Romania and the holocaust, whereas their own group is naturally collectively blameless in all things, being only a collection of individuals (when it suits them).
Jews & Communism in Romania
Hitler and Antonescu failed to destroy the Soviet Union, and their nations were overwhelmed by Red soldiers and Allied bombs. About half a million Romanians died during the war, including over 160,000 soldiers who fell fighting for the Allies after Romania switched sides against the Axis on August 23, 1944. The “democratic allies” however reneged on their promises to protect Romania from communist totalitarianism. Instead, under the protection of the Red Army, the Romanian Communist Party engaged in mass murder of the old Romanian elite and established one of Central Europe’s worst communist dictatorships.
Numerous prominent Romanian communists were Jews. These included Max Goldstein, who was famous for repeatedly trying to murder Romanian politicians in bomb attacks, notably killing the minister of justice and two senators in December 1920. His accomplices were Gelber Moscovici, Leon Lichtblau, and Saul Ozias. The Romanian Communist Party was led during most of the Second World War by the Transylvanian Jew Ştefan Foriş. The murderous postwar communist dictatorship itself was set up under the leadership of Ana Pauker (born Hannah Rabinsohn).
Slezkine writes of postwar Central Europe:
All three regimes [Poland, Romania, Hungary] resembled the Soviet Union of the 1920s insofar as they combined the ruling core of the old Communist underground, which was heavily Jewish, with a large pool of upwardly mobile Jewish professionals, who were, on average, the most trustworthy among the educated and the most educated among the trustworthy.
Bear in mind that Jews are supposed to have made up less than 4 percent of the Romanian population even prior to the Second World War. The Wiesel Commission, led by Jewish fiction writer Elie Wiesel and charged by Romania’s last communist president with ascertaining Romanian guilt in the Shoah, later claimed that about half of Romanian Jews were killed during the war.
Members of an ethnic group representing perhaps 2 percent of the population then played a leading role in the mass murder of Romanians and the establishment of a decades-long debilitating totalitarian dictatorship. One cannot imagine gentile “civil rights groups” harassing and cajoling the prime minister of Israel to issue an official apology and admission of collective guilt (or even mere regret) for his people’s massively disproportionate role in these crimes against a European nation. No, any goy who should note this fact is liable to be accused by Jewish groups of “anti-Semitism” and of engaging in “Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy theories.”
To this day, the details of interwar Romanian history (especially the Iron Guard) and the establishment of the communist dictatorship appear to be shrouded in mystery. Romania was an extremely anti-communist and even anti-Semitic country up to 1944. The imposition of communism then required extremely violent measures, though the casualties are difficult to ascertain. Djuvara writes:
A great part of our intellectual and political elite was wiped out in prisons, sent to the labour camps along the infamous Danube-Black Sea Canal [. . .] or forced into exile. The regime imposed a system of terror that is hard to imagine for anyone who did not live through it. People thought one thing and said another. To use a psychiatric term, it was a kind of national schizophrenia that lasted for 45 years. [. . .]
[T]he upper classes were systematically destroyed (affecting not only the intellectual elite, but anyone who was better off, even in rural areas) following Lenin’s precepts; tens of thousands died in prisons, along the Canal or were deported [. . .]. (339-40)
Romania remains deeply scarred by this trauma to this day. In Djuvara’s telling, after a millennium of chaos following the collapse of the Roman Empire, after centuries of Turkish domination, Romania had, from the 1860s to the 1940s, been on a truly positive trajectory of national and cultural development. This movement, with Romania finally being allowed to be a full part of European civilization, was cruelly broken by communism.
Today, Romania remains a very Right-wing society. The motorways are covered with nationalist slogans such as Basarabia e România (urging union of former Soviet Moldova with Romania) or Antonescu este eroul național (Antonescu is the national hero). Romanians openly complain about Jewish activism, such as a recent campaign to remove Petre Țuțea from street names because of his youthful fascism and anti-Semitism. It is not uncommon for Romanians to note with alarm that it is easier to open a mosque than a church in France, that France is being Islamized by her nihilism, and that more generally Western Europeans are insane for allowing themselves to be replaced by Afro-Islamic settlers. Codreanu’s books still feature prominently in some Romanian bookstores and stickers featuring Căpitanul can be seen in parts of Bucharest. I believe a Putin, an Orbán, or a Kaczyński, to not say something more radical, would sit extremely well with the majority of Romanians.
Unfortunately, the Romanian elite is, by all accounts, completely corrupt, but this also the reflection of a society which has itself become corrupt and incapable of trust (Djuvara attributes this to the psycho-social damage caused by a particularly vicious and stunted form of communism). The Romanian ruling class does not so much rule as pander to foreign powers.
A particularly shocking example of this was legislation passed last summer banning “holocaust denial” and advocacy of the Iron Guard with three year prison sentences. Even mainstream Romanian intellectuals were alarmed, wondering if the vague legislation and the regime’s notorious arbitrariness might not mean that even reading Cioran and Eliade could be illegal. The leading promoter of the law was, naturally, the “Elie Wiesel National Institute for Studying the Holocaust in Romania.”
Thus in Romania today one cannot be persecuted for advocating the communism which murdered the nations’ ruling and intellectual elite en masse and ruined the country for half a century, but – at the instigation of a Jewish “memorial” organization – one is persecuted for speaking positively of the nationalists who precisely sought to prevent this. And this is despite the fact that the Iron Guard was anyway eliminated before most of the Jewish deaths during the Second World War.
Romania, like many Central European governments, is notorious for pandering to the United States of America. In the early 2000s, Romania agreed to host CIA black sites where suspects in the “War on Terror” were held illegally and possibly tortured, hoping this would strengthen their bid for NATO membership. One of the public parks in Bucharest has a “Monument of American Heroes” thanking the United States for its participation in the Second World War. I can just imagine the inaugural speech:
Why, yes, thank you America! Thank you for arming the Soviet hordes! Thank you for bombing the Ploiești oil fields and much of our other cities into rubble! And thank you for peacefully handing over our country to the communists after the war so they could butcher the best of our people and wreck our nation with half a century of tyranny!
Disgusting! Almost as bad the Germans, whose government almost every day thanks America for firebombing their cities and enabling the mass rape of their grandmothers.
I cannot make sense of Djuvara’s liberal politics, speaking positively of American hegemony, all the while lamenting the Muslim invasion of Europe, apparently not seeing how the blank-slatist lie has been spread, above all, from the Ivy League universities and the Hollywood film studios, backed with American dollars and American bombs. But I nonetheless appreciated parts of the conclusion of his book, published in 2002:
My hope lies in our integration in the great European community [. . .]. This does not mean we should naïvely idealise the West. But the genius of every people lies in its ability to combine its own heritage with the integration into a wider ensemble. (343)
1. Neagu Djuvara, A Brief Illustrated History of Romanians (Bucharest: Humanitas, 2014).
2. I discuss Raymond Aron, a subtle thinker of modernity, at length in Guillaume Durocher, “The Jew as Citizen: Raymond Aron & Civic Nationalism,” North American New Right, November 5, 2014. https://counter-currents.com/2014/11/the-jew-as-citizen-part-1/
3. Crémieux was more successful in French Algeria, where he managed during the chaos of the Franco-Prussian War to grant French citizenship to Sephardic Jews, in contrast with Algerian Muslims.
4. Kevin MacDonald, “Stalin’s Willing Executioners: Jews as a Hostile Elite in the USSR,” The Occidental Quarterly, fall 2005, vol. 4, no. 3, p. 73. http://www.kevinmacdonald.net/slezkinerev.pdf
5. Iorga had a bitter relationship with Iron Guard leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, both eventually being murdered (Codreanu killed by the royal dictatorship and Iorga then assassinated by members of the Iron Guard, who blamed him for Codreanu’s death). Both Iorga and Codreanu had earlier in their careers had close ties with the father of Romanian anti-Semitism, Alexandru C. Cuza, who had founded the Universal Anti-Semitic Alliance in Bucharest in 1895.
6. Cioran and Eliade strike me as figures who “slipped through the cracks” of the postwar West, who managed to attain a certain prominence despite persecution of people with ideas outside the liberal-communist consensus (similar figures could include Tintin creator Hergé and French science fiction writer René Barjavel). Besides his support for the Iron Guard, Eliade had written a book praising António de Oliveira Salazar’s traditionalist Catholic dictatorship in Portugal. Eliade’s journals suggests that, at least immediately after the war, he aimed to infiltrate Western academia as a Right-wing entryist. Indeed his entire postwar œuvre strikes me as a kind of apology for religiosity in general against the reigning liberal nihilism, including the basically religious psychology which underpinned support for both the Iron Guard and National Socialism. Djuvara says the Guard operated in “an atmosphere of religious mysticism” (317) and a PhD thesis could be written (if this has not already been done) on the religious aspects of National Socialism.
7. Possibly a relative of France’s current European commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, who is charged with enforcing the European Union’s budget rules and ensuring member states repay their debts, with interest of course.
8. More examples of communist Jews in Romania can be found by searching “Romanian communist” in the Jewish geneological database JewAge: http://www.jewage.org/
9. Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century (Princeton University Press, 2004), 314.
10. Actually, while the communist tyranny no doubt massively intensified misgovernment in the country, the problem of Romanian corruption appears to have much deeper roots. Hitler, speaking in 1941, was deeply impressed by the “incorruptible” Antonescu, but said of his subjects:
I may say that there was nothing in Romania, including the officers, that couldn’t be bought. I’m not even alluding to the venality of the women, who are ready to prostitute themselves to gain promotion for a husband or father. It’s true that the pay of all these servants of the state was ridiculously stingy.
Martin Bormann, Hitler’s Table Talk (Ostara Publications, 2012), 28.
11. Anecdotally, I have met a Romanian TV journalist who was a Freemason (French-affiliated) and whose wife had worked recording Romanian Jewish holocaust testimonies for Stephen Spielberg. (Spielberg insisted he keep all the recordings, presumably to ensure message control, as many holocaust eyewitness accounts have proven to be notoriously unreliable.)
12. “Roumanie : peut-on encore lire Cioran ou Éliade ?,” Agence-France Presse, August 8, 2015. http://www.lepoint.fr/roumanie-peut-on-encore-lire-cioran-ou-eliade-09-08-2015-1955714_19.php
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