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Gabriel Andreescu

13 December 2013

I. Status of the research on the relationship between anti-Semitism and the Romanian
Orthodox Church

There are several studies today that are dedicated specifically to the issue of the relationship
between anti-Semitism and the Romanian Orthodox Church: Paul Shapiro, "Faith, Murder,
Resurrection. The Iron Guard and the Romanian Orthodox Church”, in anti-Semitism, Christian
Ambivalence and the Holocaust, Kevin Spicer (ed), Indiana University Press 2007; Oana Pană,
“Ortodoxia românească şi atitudinea sa faţă de evrei” ("Romanian Orthodoxy and its attitude
toward Jews"), Holocaust. Studii şi cercetări, Vol. II, Nr. 1 (3) /2010, pp. 113-133; Gina Pană,
„Biserica Ortodoxa Română şi mişcarea legionară: clarificări şi ambiguităţi" ("The Romanian
Orthodox Church and the Legionary Movement: clarifications and ambiguities"), Holocaust.
Studii şi cercetări, Vol. III, Nr. 4 /2011, 142-167.
To this we can add several articles from a “secondary bibliography” – like “Alexandru Voicu,
„Relația controversată a Bisericii Ortodoxe Române cu Mișcarea Legionară”, ("The questionable
relationship of the Romanian Orthodox Church with the Legionary Movement") Historia.1

Other published works, although discussing a different topic, include observations relevant to the
relationship between anti-Semitism and the Romanian Orthodox Church, or the ROC doctrine
that connects the church to chauvinistic nationalism: Leon Volovici, ldeologia naţionalistă şi
problema evreiască, (Nationalistic ideology and the Jewish problem) Humanitas,
Bucureşti,1995; Armin Heinen, Legiunea Arhanghelului – o contribuţie la problema fascismului
mondial, (The Legion of the Archangel - a contribution to the issue of world fascism)
Humanitas, 1999; Florin Muller, Metamorfoze ale politicului românesc, 1938-1944,

(Metamorphoses of Romanian politics, 1938-1944) Ed. Universității din București, București,
2005; Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu, Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania,
Oxford University Press, New York, 2007; Cristian Romocea, Church and State: Religious
Nationalism and State Identification in Post-Communist Romania, Continuum Religious Studies,
New York, 2011.

Information on the subject may also be found in a series of studies on the situation of the Jewish
minority between the World Wars and the Holocaust: from Matatias Carp's pioneering work
"Cartea neagră. Fapte şi documente. Suferinţele evreilor din România: 1940-1944" ("Black
Book. Facts and documents. The suffering of the Jews in Romania: 1940-1944), vol. I şi II
(SAR, Bucureşti, 1946 şi “Dacia Traiana”, Bucureşti, 1947, 1948), to the Final Report of the
International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, Polirom, Iaşi, 2005.

The third category of texts are those that promote and theorize anti-Semitism while invoking the
ROC as a source of legitimization. Among them: Hie Imbrescu, Biserica şi Mişcarea Legionară,
(The Church and the Legionary Movement) Ed. Cartea Româneasca. Bucureşti, 1940; Flor
Strejnicu, Creştinismul Mişcării Legionare (The Christianity of the Legionary Movement) Ed.
Imago, Sibiu, 2000 (second edition); Gheorghe Racoveanu, Mișcarea legionară și biserica (The
Legionary Movement and the church), Ed. Samizdat, București, 2002 (second edition). Other
volumes are relevant because of the status of their authors: Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea
prăpastiei (On the edge of the chasm) 21-23 ianuarie 1941, Scripta, Bucureşti, 1992; Preot
Stefan Palaghiţă, Garda de Fier. Spre Reînvierea României (The Iron Guard. Toward a Rebirth
of Romania) Buenos Aires, Ed. Autorului, 1951 ş.a.

The manner in which works by authors affiliated to the Orthodox Church, or writing in ROC
sponsored journals, treat and generally conceal the anti-Semitism of the ROC is itself of interest:
e.g. Brînduşa Costache, Mircea Costache, Doru Costache „Problema evreiască în România
modernă: Atitudinea Bisericii Ortodoxe Române” ("The Jewish problem in modern Romania: the
attitude of the Romanian Orthodox Church"), TABOR, Revista lunară de cultură şi spiritualitate
românească editată de Mitropolia Clujului, Albei, Crişanei şi Maramureşului. (Cultural and

Spiritual Monthly edited by the Metropolitan of Cluj, Alba, Crişana and Maramureş)2.

I also identified documents relevant to the research of the relationship between anti-Semitism
and the Romanian Orthodox Church in the National Archives of Bucharest (A1) and in the
CNSAS Archive (A2).

II. The main results of the research done so far
a) The framework for the evolution of ROC anti-Semitism up to the Holocaust
ROC anti-Semitism is traditional, stemming from Church dogma itself. In the ‘30s the Orthodox
anti-Semitism manifested itself in the context of the development of nationalism in Europe. In
Romania, anti-Semitism became a political capital for some organizations and, in time, a state
policy – found in anti-Semitic legislation and leading eventually to the genocide of the Jews in
Transnistria. I think it is necessary to look at the background in which Romanian anti-Semitism
developed separately, according to the different periods in history, in order to be able to
understand the behavior of the ROC in all its anti-Semitic manifestations.
In attempting to separate the different “eras” of anti-Semitism, a major difficulty arises from the
manner in which we define the Holocaust. The Holocaust, as presented by the Jewish people’s
living memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, is defined as the sum total of all anti-Jewish
actions carried out by the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945: from stripping the German Jews
of their legal and economic status in the ‘30s; segregation and starvation in the various occupied
countries; the murder of close to six million Jews in Europe.3 The United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum has the same approach: “The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic,
state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime
and its collaborators."4 In Romania, the final Report and the studies in the journal Holocoaust.
Studii şi cercetări (“The Holocaust. Studies and research”) use the same definition of the
Holocaust. Therefore, defining the Holocaust as the totality of actions of discrimination,


segregation and starvation, and murder of Jews, between 1933 and 1945, has the status of a
However, this definition blends together ethically and legally distinct phenomena:
discrimination, repression, murder and genocide against Jews. The implicit assumption that the
genocide was the certain result of the repressive actions against Jews is not supported by events
preceding the Holocaust. In this analysis I will use the term „Holocaust” (or „Shoah”) as
synonym to „the genocide of Jews”, and I will separate the period of society-level „antiSemitism” from that of State-endorsed anti-Semitism. Further research is needed into defending
this claim.
b) How coherent, stable, and aggressive was the ROC anti-Semitism?
Many researchers into the relationship between anti-Semitism and the ROC see a connection
between the Church anti-Semitism and its links with anti-Semitic political movements („Totul
pentru Ţară”, the Iron Guard, the Legionary movement). This perspective sees the Church as a
second-hand actor: „The priests were attracted to the Legionary movement, believed it
represented a true religion and not a political movement …”5; "the Church and its people didn’t
escape the nefarious influence of former Legionaries”6; “Lacking a firm opposition from the
Church, Cuza’s campaign spreading religious anti-Semitism continued unchallenged”7 etc. These
statements suggest that between the World Wars the ROC was at the back of the line of
organizations with criminal anti-Semitic characters. One form of this interpretation is that the
ROC was responsible through inaction. I will document as part of this research the consistency
with which the image of the ROC is turned into that of a second-hand political actor.
This perspective rests in part on the contradictory signals coming over time from the ROC
official statements. Following the assassination of prime-minister I.G. Duca, on January 31st
1933, the Patriarch Miron Cristea and the Holy Synod stated that the Legionary movement as a
Alexandru Voicu, „Relația controversată a Bisericii Ortodoxe Române cu Mișcarea Legionară”, Historia
Apud. Gina Pană, „Biserica Ortodoxa Română şi mişcarea legionară: clarificări şi ambiguităţi", Holocaust. Studii
şi cercetări, Vol. III, Nr. 4 /2011, p. 144.
Oana Pană, “Ortodoxia românească şi atitudinea sa faţă de evrei”, Holocaust. Studii şi cercetări, Vol. II, Nr. 1
(3)/2010, p. 116.

whole was not responsible for this crime; the responsibility rested entirely with the perpetrators
and some foreign, anarchic influences8. In 1937, over 200 priests, among them a Metropolitan
and 2 bishops, participate in the funerals of Legionaries Ion Moța and Vasile Marin. In this case
we can say that the ROC completely embraced militant anti-Semitism. On the other hand, in
1939, after the murder of Armand Călinescu (at the time president of the Council of Ministers),
Patriarch Nicodim released a pastoral letter in which he blames the murderers and invokes divine
punishment for all crimes.
Another difficulty in analyzing events comes from the propensity of the Patriarchy and the ROC
leaders to select, among the many relevant events, only those that suggest a moderate, or even
anti-anti-Semitic, attitude. Hence, TABOR, a monthly on Romanian culture and spirituality
published by the Metropolitan of Cluj, Alba, Crişana and Maramureş,9 discusses the position of
ROC leaders regarding the Decree-Law no. 71110, which amends the law on denominations by
forbidding the baptism of Jews by the Churches. The Apostolic Nuncio invoked the provisions of
the 1927 Concordat, and convinced the Council of Ministers and Ion Antonescu to exempt Jews
converted to Catholicism from being deported to Transnistria. Brînduşa Costache, Mircea
Costache and Doru Costache stress that the Romanian Patriarchy “protested against the
preferential treatment shown to the Catholic Church, and the annulment of the right of Churches
to convert non-Christians” and sent the Minister of Culture, I. Petrovici, a message requesting
that religious life be respected. The Metropolitan of Transilvania, Nicolae Bălan, protested
officially, on April 2nd 1941, against “the illegitimate intervention in the life of the Church”.11
As part of this research I will analyze the relationship between the fundamental, stable elements
of ROC anti-Semitism manifestations and its opportunistic elements.

O explicaţie poate fi conspiraţia împotriva lui I.G. Duca, care a mers până la cea mai înaltă poziţie din stat, regele
Carol al II-lea, ceea ce înseamnă că relaţia BOR cu statul a motivat prioritar acţiunile sale.
Some political and cultural personalities belong to the magazine board: Petre Guran, Andrei Marga, Basarab
Nicolescu, Toader Paleologu, Aurel Sasu, Mihai Şora, Bogdan Tătaru-Cazaban ş.a.
Monitorul Oficial 21 March 1941.
Brînduşa Costache, Mircea Costache, Doru Costache, „Problema evreiască în România modernă: Atitudinea
Bisericii Ortodoxe Române”, TABOR, Revista lunară de cultură şi spiritualitate românească editată de Mitropolia
Clujului, Albei, Crişanei şi Maramureşului (

c) The Role of ROC dogma
c1) Anti-Semitism and other hostile attitudes towards different churches and beliefs
Research shows that ROC dogma is the source of not only anti-Semitism but also other hostile
behaviors towards alternative churches and beliefs. The fundamental argument was expressed by
Dumitru Stăniloaie, "the most important Romanian Orthodox theologian of the twentieth
century"12, and even today is assumed ad-literam: “Orthodoxy is the only authentic
representation of heaven on earth."13
For the ROC, while Protestantism and Catholicism are inferior to Orthodoxy, the other religious
movements are real dangers. Dumitru Stăniloaie welcomed the measures taken by the legionary
government to remove from public office and to prohibit all sects: "...masonry and sects on the
other hand were like worms consuming the body of our State, bringing apathy into souls and
decay of our national unity, pouring the winning corrosive over the love of nation. Between all of
them there is a connection, all of them were united by the malicious conspiracy to lead this
nation to the grave."14
In the life of the Romanian Orthodox Church, such assumptions are not solely abstract notions.
They motivated the ROC to achieve, through the State, the banning of other religious or spiritual
movements. The 1937 ROC Synod denounced the Freemasons thus: „Crass materialism and
opportunism in all actions is the necessary conclusion stemming from Freemason precepts. The
Freemason lodges gather together Jews and Christians and Freemasonry states that only those
part of its lodges know the truth and rise above other people. This means that Christianity
confers no advantage in knowing the truth and achieving salvation. The Church cannot watch
unmoved as the mortal enemies of Christ are seen as superior to Christians in their knowledge of
the highest truths and in their chances of achieving salvation”.15


Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu, Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania, Oxford University Press, New
York, 2007, p. 45.
Dumitru Stăniloaie, “Ortodoxia şi viaţa socială” (1940), in Stăniloaie, 109.
Dumitru Stăniloaie , “Restaurarea românismului în destinul său istoric” (1940), in Stăniloaie, 114-115.
The ROC never retracted this statement.

At this time, I think one important research track is the study of the correlation between ROC
anti-Semitism and other actions of the Church against religious minorities.
c2. The ROC nationalism involves chauvinism and anti-Semitism
With ROC anti-Semitism, the connection between orthodoxy and nationalism is of particular
relevance. According to the dogma: "a People is an irreducible ontological space. It is the
ultimate specific unit of humanity. It is the basis of explaining individuality and the medium of
living. Humanity does not exist as a continuum or a uniform dis-continuum. God's creation can
be found in no other place but in the expression of ethnic communities."16 As a consequence,
Christianity, which in the Romanian context is Orthodoxy, is "a necessary path towards
nationalism, and nationalism, in turn, is a necessary path to Christianity."17
The importance of the nationalistic dimension can be discerned in the attitude of the ROC
towards the Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic (RCUR). The November 1937
General Report of the "Agru" Central Committee referred to the campaign launched by the ROC
against Greek-Catholics as such: "An intense and tireless propaganda on behalf of Orthodoxy has
monopolized Romanian nationalism. Moreover, an equally continuous, and often heated, campaign
has depicted the United Church as a national danger, a foreign object in the body of the nation.
Nothing was spared in spreading this idea. Facts are reversed, evidence is distorted. Our leaders are
attacked in unworthy ways. History is falsified with amazing boldness. The city of Blaj and its
schools, the great teachers who awakened the Romanian soul and turned the people of serfs of yore
into a nation aware, no longer exist; Clain, Şincai and Maior were <alienated from the core of the
nation> (...) Orthodox publications put forward this message of hatred and enmity in all its
forms. Large organizations, created for other goals, like the For, the Romanian anti-revisionist
League, the Association of Romanian Clergy, put themselves in the service of this false ideal of
pure negationism. Access to important media outlets, like The Universe, is possible through them.
Furthermore, the state powers themselves are continually exposed to these temptations."18

Dumitru Stăniloaie, “Biserica românească” (1942), in Dumitru Stăniloaie, Naţiune şi creştinism, Bucureşti: Elion,
2004), 145-146.
Dumitru Stăniloaie ,“Creştinism şi naţionalism” (1940), in Stăniloaie, 117-118.
The November 1937 General Congress in Satu Mare (Buletinul AGRU Bucureşti, nr. 8-9, iulie-august 2002.)

The ROC’s historic dream to annihilate the RCUR was achieved after the Soviet occupation of
Romania. Its aspirations matched the anti-religious and anti-Western policy of the communist
power in Moscow. Greek-Catholic churches were banned throughout the Soviet Union and its
Orthodox allies, such as Romania and Ukraine.19 It is to be expected that a comparison between
the role of ROC nationalism in the Church’s campaign against the RCUR, and Jewish leaders
respectively, will shed some light on the nuances of the ROC anti-Semitism.
c3) The relationship between the State and the ROC; its role in changes of positions of ROC
clergy regarding fascist forces
A main argument is that Orthodox churches always saw the collaboration with the ruler as a form
of protection against danger. This attitude mirrored the interest of secular powers in using the
Orthodox churches for the purpose of strengthening control over the uneducated population, and
maintaining order in the community.20 The State-Church relationship was even used to forge
relations with the regional neighbors.21 The concept use by the ROC to legitimize the rulerChurch partnership is the “symphony” between the secular powers and the Orthodox Church.22
A detailed investigation of the relationship between Church and State is needed for the `30s and
2nd World War periods. Researchers have noted a change, over time, of the position of the ROC
towards far right movements. To cite a radical and over-simplifying statement by Alexandru
Voicu on the complex ties between ROC and the Iron Guard: “the Romanian Orthodox Church
was relatively equivalent – ideologically and politically – with the [Legionary] movement when
the latter answered the wishes of the political power and of the Romanian society. When the
Guard lost the support of all but a minority, the attitude of the Church changed to one of radical

Gabriel Andreescu, „The Romanian Church United with Rome (Greek-Catholic) under Pressure: The ROC’S Bad
Behaviour as Good Politics”, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, vol. 11, issue 32 (Summer 2012).
Cristian Romocea, Church and State: Religious Nationalism and State Identification in Post-Communist Romania,
Continuum Religious Studies, New York, 2011, p. 77.
Gabriel Andreescu, „International Relations and Orthodoxy in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe” in International
Studies no. 4, 1998, pp. 3-35.
Oliver Gillet, Religion et nationalisme. L’ideologie de l’Eglise Orthodoxe Roumaine sous le regime communiste,
1997. The book is seen as a necessary reference on the relationship of the ROC with the Communist regime but was
received, as would be expected, very critically by Church theologians (see Prof. Dr. Alexandru Dutu, “Ortodoxie şi
laicitate”, Almanah Bisericesc, Arhiepiscopia Bucureştilor, 1999, pag. 65-69).

hostility”.23 This raises the question of whether such a change was the result of rethinking the
Church’s attitude toward the „Jewish problem”, or of opportunism.
I see no clear indications that certain changes in the attitude of the ROC stemmed from a
reevaluation of the treatment of Jews through an ethical or dogmatic perspective. The
declarations purporting an ethical motivation behind the ROC’s disavowal of legionary crimes
have an obvious rhetorical style, belied by the ROC’s long-time anti-Semitic campaign. While
the ROC did criticize the legionary rebellion of 1940, it did not, as far as I am aware, apologize
for its own support of Romanian anti-Semitic movements. The change in attitude appears instead
to adhere to the traditional manner of the ROC towards state powers, in connection with the
Church’s old view of its place in the history of the Romanian people. Other investigations are
however necessary in order to confirm or refute this claim.
III. Documentation activity during the writing of this Research Report
The main questions raised by the review of studies on the relationship between anti-Semitism
and the Romanian Orthodox Church have already inspired several hypotheses worth researching.
At this point in the development of the Research Report I work on two topics meant to direct
future investigations: (a) structuring the history of anti-Semitism between 1918 and 1944 into
three distinct stages, and (b) clarifying the relationship between the ROC, as an autonomous antiSemitic organization, and other anti-Semitic actors like political movements or intellectual elites
(partnership, competition, unilateral or mutual support etc.).
(a) The need to separate the history of anti-Semitism between 1918 and 1944 into three distinct
and conceptually relevant stages
It is unclear to what extent the ROC leadership was able to stay independent during the legionary
government and the Antonescu government. The Antonescu government took steps against the
orthodox clergy that had participated in the legionary rebellion. 218 priests were identified as
having participated in the skirmishes against the army and were arrested by order of Marshal Ion

Alexandru Voicu, „Relația controversată a Bisericii Ortodoxe Române cu Mișcarea Legionară”, Historia

Antonescu.24 The scope of the involvement of orthodox priests in active fighting, as legionaries,
is suggested by the following Communiqué of the Council of Ministers on February 1941:
”Neither the Church nor its people escaped the nefarious influence of false legionaries. 218
priests are under investigation for taking part in the rebellion, leaving the cross and the altar of
peace to fight with the weapon of murder and terror against their own flock. Many had active
positions within the legionary movement, incompatible with their pastoral position and mission.
These lying servants of the Lord went as far as to make arms and munitions deposits out of their
places of worship."25
While discipline within the Church is much more severe than within other organizations, it is not
possible however to completely control the behavior of the clergy. Schisms may appear,
especially in such turbulent circumstances, and some sources confirm this was the case. While
the Patriarch Nicodim was congratulating Marshal Antonescu for defeating the legionary
rebellion, and was promising to pray that God would give the latter „the power to succeed in
bringing about the salvation of the country and the Romanian people”26, the lower clergy
continued to support the Legion in various ways even after January 1941.27

(b) The relationship between the ROC, as an autonomous anti-Semitic organization, and other
anti-Semitic political actors: anti-Semitic political organizations, the anti-Semitic intellectuality
A fundamental theme in this investigation is the extent to which we can separate the ROC, as an
autonomous organism, from the other anti-Semitic social forces, incomplete as this separation
may be. Mainly, I am interested in the relationship with far right parties and the pro-legionary
intellectuality. Priests were directly involved with political parties. According to research into the
archives of the Ministry of the Interior conducted by Gina Pană, in the 1937 elections, out of 103
candidates of the party "Totul pentru Țară", 33 were priests – around a third, a considerable
percentage. 55 priests had leadership positions within the Legion.28

Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prăpastiei, 21-23 ianuarie 1941, vol. II, 1941, p. 163.
Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prăpastiei. 21-23 ianuarie 1941, vol. II, 1941, p. 102.
Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prăpastiei, 21-23 ianuarie 1941, vol. II, 1941p. 163.
Gina Pană, „Biserica Ortodoxa Română şi mişcarea legionară: clarificări şi ambiguităţi", Holocaust. Studii şi
cercetări, Vol. III, Nr. 4 /2011, p. 143.

Legionary priests kept in touch with the orthodoxist intellectuality, and the latter kept in touch
with the ROC leadership. While a lot has been written on the orthodox nationalism of a part of
the intellectual elite, the involvement of the Church, as an institution, in the anti-Semitic drift of
the orthodoxist intellectuality is still unclear. Things are more straightforward in the case of
intellectuals getting degrees in theology, who were used as sources of authority by priests and
theologians, and who were financed by the Church.

A representative example from the first group is Nichifor Crainic. The case of Nae Ionescu is
somewhat different – he received a degree from the Department of Letters and Philosophy of the
University of Bucharest and promoted, in the magazine Cuvântul, secular cultural personalities –
Mircea Vulcănescu, Mihail Sebastian, Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, etc. Some studies suggest
more complex causal relationships. Roland Clark points out that most Romanian nationalists
were atheists prior to the First World War, but state-sponsored nation-building allowed
individuals such as Nichifor Crainic to introduce religious nationalism into the public sphere.
The early career of Crainic shows why Orthodox Christianity became a central element of
Romanian ultra-nationalism during the 1920s.29. A lot has been written on the anti-Semitic
attitudes of several important intellectuals between the World Wars, but their relationship with
the ROC has to be better conceptualized30.

Research in archives I have so far gained access to
A1. Documents in National Archives Bucharest, partially studied
Jewish communities in Romania
League for Cultural Unity of All
League against terror
Ministry of Religious
Denominations and Arts documents





Roland Clark, “Orthodoxy and nation-building: Nichifor Crainic and religious nationalism in 1920s Romania”,

Nationalities Papers, 2012, 1–19.

The reference study on this topic is Zigu Ornea, Tradiționalism și modernitate în deceniul al treilea, Ed.
Eminescu, Bucureşti, 1980. By the same author, see also Anii treizeci. Extrema dreaptă românească, Ed. Fundaţiei
culturale române, Bucureşti, 1996.

Ministry of Religious
Denominations and Arts –
Student Organizations and
Associations Collection
Democratic Jewish







A2. The collections most relevant to the topic, part of the CNSAS Archives, to be studied
Notes of the Siguranţa –
orthodox denomination
Lists of candidates
Informant notes and press
Telegraful român - lists
Reports – orthodox youth
Oastea Domnului
Cultul Patriei
Declarations, tables
Orthodox Women
Romanian Women








3, 4, 5
2, 3
1, 2