If you ask a high police official in Rumania for his opinion on the activities of that notorious political party which calls itself the Iron Guard he will probably tell you that the party has been dissolved and that therefore he knows nothing about it.
But meanwhile the Iron Guard is guilty of many acts which deserve, even if they do not receive, the attention of the police. For example, about two months ago some forty Guardists, wearing their blue uniforms and the swastika, took possession of a train during four hours of its journey from Ploesti to the north.
They attacked all Jewish travelers, taking their money and beating them. Most of the Christian Rumanians were indignant, especially an inspector general of the railways, who telephoned for police and gendarmes to await the train at a certain station, and the Guardists, being informed of this, got off at the previous station and disappeared.
POLICE PREVENT LIBEL ON JEWS
Some time ago in the province of Bessarabia the police did note a success. They noticed a midnight procession, going ostensibly to bury a man who had been murdered by Jews. The police asked for his name and other questions. The replies were unsatisfactory, they opened the coffin and found in it a number of stones.
Codreanu, chief of the Iron Guard, is fond of operating in the night, particularly on a moonlit one, when he is wont to ride into a village seated on a white horse and followed by an impressive bodyguard. Then perhaps he will deliver a speech, in the course of which he makes as many promises as Hitler, and the simple Moldavia# peasants have not yet been disillusioned. It is they, with the numerous unemployed ex-students, who are Codreanu’s chief adherents.
There are various other points of resemblance between Codreanu and Hitler, for the Rumanian leader is also a fine moborator. He was born about thirty-one years ago in the neighboring country of Ukrainia. His original name was Zelinsky; his father was a humble person, a watchman on a railway line. Codreanu has become an arch-patriot of Rumania, in opposition to all the “straini,” the non-Rumanians who dwell in the country, such as the large Hungarian minority in Transylvania.
KING’S BROTHER AIDS GUARDISTS
He would never permit things that the tolerant Rumanian authorities have hitherto allowed, such as a large crucifix which, at some distance from Cluj, the Transylvanian capital, stands on a main road and is painted in red, white, and green, the Hungarian national colors.
Codreanu’s program includes anti-Semitic legislation, but for the moment he is not emphasizing this because of Mme. Lupescu. The King’s attitude toward the Iron Guard has not been obvious; what he probably desires is not to turn its members into enemies. He has therefore given them more license than is to the taste of many of his subjects.
And Prince Nicholas, his brother, has given the Iron Guard a considerable piece of ground on his mountain estate at Rareau. There it has constructed a large building where it has collected a supply of arms and where its members undergo a sort of military training. The government, asked why these are not halted, replies that it is child’s play.
POLITICAL PARTIES FEAR CODREANU
But neither of the two chief political partiesâ€”the Liberals, who are not in office, and the National Peasantsâ€”will allow the Iron Guard to grasp the reins of power. They will not underestimate the potency of this dissolved party as the Social Democrats in Germany underestimated Hitler. The other political parties in Rumania are to each other somewhat as dogs are to cats, but in the end they are in agreement, if only for reasons of self-preservation, in their attitude toward the Iron Guard, that party in which are included, among the peasants, so many desperadoes.
Codreanu himself falls under this category, for he is capable of brutality and devoid of scruples. He was severely criticized by members of the Iron Guard a while ago because he failed to assist a group of ten students who, out of a hundred arrested ones, had been sentenced for misdemeanors.
PARTY MEMBERS ATTEMPT ASSASSINATION
Thereupon a certain Stilescu rallied some of his friends around him and Codreanu was condemned to death. They were, however, unable to find him. Subsequently Codreanu resolved to slay Stilescu, and would presumably have carried out his intention if his colleague had not chanced to be in prison. When he is liberated the situation should become interesting. But it would be too much to hope that the rival factions devour each other.
One may say that the Iron Guard makes a good deal of noise, but at present is of not much importance. It received some sympathy from the people when Dr. Vaida, of the National Peasants, declared it illegal two days before the nomination of candidates for a general election. This was regarded as being too much in the nature of a trick, and a dirty one at that.
But the truth was that extremely subversive plans and documents had been discovered. It will be remembered that the Iron Guard assassinated Mr. Duca, the Liberal Prime Minister who succeeded Vaida. This alienated from them many thousands of their fellow-countrymen.
GERMAN NAZIS BEHIND GUARD
What the Minister of the Interior could have done to thwart them is being accomplished by public opinion. A large party in Rumania cannot be suppressed, but the Minister is powerful when it comes to the smaller ones. The possibilities will be understood if we repeat a sentence that many a Minister of the Interior has used: “My dear fellow, please don’t stand in that constituency. I have a friend to get in there. So would you mind going somewhere else?”
It may or may not be a fact that the Iron Guard is receiving financial support from the German Nazis. Otherwise it would be difficult to account for the funds which it undoubtedly possesses. The argument of those, such as the German government, who say that Germany has no money to spare for anything abroad will not hold water, seeing that farm after farm is being bought in Southern Denmark and German colonists are being settled there.
The Iron Guard, anyhow, is in such close communion with the Nazis that its accession to power would entirely change the direction of Rumania’s foreign politics. It would be disastrous for Rumania, as it would involve the breaking up of the peace treaties and the revision of the present European frontiers, which is the last thing that a sensible Rumanian should desire.
LEADERSHIP OF LAND HIGHLY IMPROBABLE
So far as one can judge, it is improbable that the Iron Guard will ever have in its reckless hands the destinies of Rumania. Its members will continue to assassinate themselves and other people; some of their leaders, such as Robu in Bokovina, will remain a general nuisance.
He was once the lowliest servant in a Jewish household; now, in possession of party funds, he looks upon himself as being above the law. But the sagacity of the Rumanian people and the self-interest of the two great political parties will prove, one imagines, unsurmountable obstacles in the path of the Iron Guard.