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Esettanulmny 6

Gabriel Andreescu :
Relationships between the Romanian Orthodox Church and anti-Semitism before the

I did an analysis of the role played by the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) in the evolution of
anti-Semitism and its manifestations, from the creation of Greater Romania (1919) to the genocide
of Jews (the Holocaust), using previous research and archives367. Anti-Semitism is a component of
the more general national-orthodox anti-democratic drift. This research provides a conceptual
framework needed in order to take full advantage of the data on anti-Semitism in Romania between
the World Wars. I use the term Holocaust to have a different meaning than that established in
doctrine368; I distinguish between societal anti-Semitism and institutionalized anti-Semitism; I
concentrate on the study of the sources of anti-Semitism and differentiate between actant
resources and passive resources. I identified four stages of anti-Semitism between the World Wars.
The Romanian Orthodox Church was both a passive resource and an actant resource throughout the
different stages of anti-Semitism until the Holocaust. The relationship of the ROC with antiSemitism took different forms for the church as an institution, for the clergy and for the
heterogeneous community of the faithful. ROC anti-Semitism was only one component of Orthodox
nationalism a body of ideas and practices, hostile towards other religious communities and, more
generally, hostile towards any form of otherness that could affect the ideal of a homogenous
orthodox nation.
The Romanian State and the Romanian Orthodox Church have been in a constant dispute over who
has the authority within Romanian society. However, throughout this period, the State dominated
the Church because of the ROCs dependence on the material resources provided by the state and as
a result of the state institutional power. During the second part of the 30s, the ROC succeeded in
pushing some of its objectives into the governmental agenda. Even so, the state had the advantage
over the church. The relationships between church leadership, the orthodox clergy and the
community of the faithful were influenced by this asymmetry of power. The result was a rift within
the Orthodox Church between its hierarchy and the clergy. The main conflict was triggered by the
involvement of the clergy in politics. The Orthodox clergy entered the political arena and
represented an important resource for nationalist-Orthodoxist political movements. In critical
situations, the hierarchy was forced to condemn the actions of the clergy and the political
involvement of its members.
In my research I stress that at the beginning of the 20s, contrary to the opinion of some others 369,
the Romanian state was evolving towards modernity. The foundational laws of the time, starting
with the Constitution of 1923 and continuing with the 1928 Law on religious denominations,

The study stems from looking at previous works in conjecture with two archives: the CNSAS archive, which holds
the files of the Securitate (including the files of the former State Security, between 1922 and 1945) and the National
Archive. The ROC did not allow access to its own archives.
This corresponds to the concept of genocide (against Jews) as defined by the Convention on the Prevention

and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.


I am thinking also of the Final Report of the International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania.


assume that Romania is a secular state. There was a conflict between the modernism of the majority
of the political elites and the traditional culture and ideological resources of the largest part of the
population. Entrepreneurs of these latter resources created a constant pressure on the state, and
changed little by little the political ethos of the Romanian state.
Research on anti-Semitism in Romania is done in the context of the adoption of a framework
doctrine for this phenomenon, in the form of the Final Report of the International Commission for
the Study of the Holocaust in Romania (2004). That is why I repeatedly highlight where our
contribution deviates from the theses of the Final Report.

A. Concepts used in analyzing the four stages of anti-Semitism in Romania, 1918-1944

The Holocaust
The term anti-Semitism is used to refer to language, ideas, attitudes and practices that are hostile
toward Jews. We separate anti-Semitic manifestations in Romania between the World Wars into
four stages, and use the term Holocaust in its narrow sense to refer to the genocide of Jews. The
Holocaust, as presented by the Jewish peoples 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, including: stripping the German Jews of their legal and economic status in the 1930s`;
segregation and starvation in the various occupied countries; the murder of close to six million Jews
in Europe.370 The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has the same approach if in
somewhat different terms: The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored
persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its
collaborators."371 In Romania, the Final report and the studies in the journal Holocaust. Studies and
research use the same definition. Therefore, defining the Holocaust as the sum of actions, between
1933 and 1945, towards the discrimination, segregation and starvation, and murder of Jews became
a part of the doctrine on anti-Semitism.
This definition mixes together acts of very different ethical and legal status: discrimination,
repression, murder and genocide against Jews. The choice to do so stems from the assumption that
the genocide of Jews was a necessary result of the repressive acts preceding it. We think it would be
wrong to say this assumption is supported by the evidence. Here, we will use the term Holocaust
(or Shoah) to mean the genocide of Jews, as defined by the Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in
part, the Jewish community. Hence, the Romanian Holocaust starts with the Jassy pogrom of June
27, 1941, and lasts until 1943.
During the fourth stage of the Holocaust the Jews from Basarabia and Transnistria were
exterminated, through massacres or the living conditions imposed on them in the labor camps in
Transnistria. The Final Report estimates that between 280,000 and 370,000 Jews were killed.
Romanias contribution to the tragedy of European Jews also has several contradictory elements.
Marshall Ion Antonescu, the leader of Romania at the time, refused to hand over to the Germans
around 350,000 Jews living in the Old Kingdom, and thus they survived the Second World War
During the war, the Antonescu government allowed some Jews from Poland and Hungary to transit
Romania in order to save themselves by boarding ships on the Black Sea or moving into Bulgaria.

371 - accessed on 15 May, 2014. accessed on 15 May.


Societal anti-Semitism, institutional anti-Semitism and the four stages

From September 1920, when Corneliu Zelea Codreanu managed to persuade the first student
congress in Greater Romania, in Cluj, to decide to expel Jews from student organizations, and until
the formation of the national legionary government on September 14th 1940, a powerful, grassroots
anti-Semitic movement developed and was structured within the larger society, with separate
resources and in opposition to the values of the state. We call this societal anti-Semitism.
Between the formation of Greater Romania (1919) and until the National Christian Party came to
power in 1937 (the Goga government), state authorities supported the principles of the democratic
state based on the equality of citizens. During the 20s the foundational laws of the modernization
of the Romanian state were passed: the 1923 Constitution, which granted citizenship to Jews (up to
that point inhabitants of inferior legal status372) and stated that all are equal independent of ethnic or
religious identity; and the 1928 Law on religious denominations.373 But the pressure created by the
anti-Semitism of extremist organizations and parties managed to erode those constitutional
principles during the `30s. On December 29th, 1933, the Prime Minister Ion G. Duca, who jailed
thousands of Iron Guard members, was shot to death by a legionnaire squad.
Starting in 1934, the Ttrscu government adopted several laws imposing a quota for Romanian
ethnics within economic institutions, laws that mainly affected the Jewish community. However,
between 1919 and 1937, the state was a counterweight to the escalating anti-Semitic plans and
actions. The Romanian society was still at a stage of societal anti-Semitism.
The naming of Octavian Goga, a known, anti-Semitic, politician and cultural personality, as Prime
Minister, on December 29th, 1937, was the result of growing anti-Semitic pressure, but also an
attempt to stop the political rise of the Iron Guard, a more anti-Semitic and threatening entity. Using
decrees, the Goga government closed newspapers that were viewed as dominated by Jews, stopped
the aid provided by the state to Jewish institutions, and cancelled liquor licenses. Decree no. 169/22
January 1938 for amending the citizenship of Jews led to a loss of citizenship for 252.222 Jews.
However, the measures implemented by the Goga government were judged insufficient by the
Romanian society. The result was political and social instability. This is the context in which, on
February 11th, 1938, the king declared the Constitution invalid, dissolved political parties and
installed on February 20th, 1938, the royal dictatorship.
King Carols Constitution included ambiguous provisions that could be used against Jews. The
Miron Cristea government (created on February 13th, 1938) further amended the citizenship of
Jews. No new anti-Semitic laws were adopted, but administrative decisions and rules were used to
further the marginalization of the Jewish population. From December 1937 to September 14th, 1940,
Romania was at a stage of institutional anti-Semitism, i.e., of adopting anti-Semitic measures at the
level of the state.
The ideology of the 1937-1940 governments was explicitly nationalistic, anti-Semitism was a
component of state nationalism, but the governments had to face nonetheless the violent antiSemitism of the Iron Guard. Prime Minister Armand Clinescu was assassinated in September 1939
because of his anti-legionnaires measures. The government arrested many members of the Iron
Guard, which was already banned, and attempted to repress its activity.

According to art. 7 of the 1866 Constitution, The Romanian citizenship is obtained, kept and lost according to the
rules stated by civil laws. Only Christian foreigners may obtain Romanian citizenship.
Although the National Liberal Party and the National Peasant Party were responsible for the adoption of the two
fundamental laws, the Final Report calls them at most indifferent to the situation of the Jewish minority (Final
Report, p. 20).


The institutionalized Anti-Semite anarchism during the National-Legionary State

The legionnaires rise to power and the formation of the national-legionary government on
September 14th, 1940 changed dramatically the situation of Jews in Romania. They were left
defenseless against people who hated them or just wanted to steal their property, whether people on
the street or public servants. Given the particularities of this stage, extremely violent but not of
genocidal proportions, we call it the institutionalized anti-Semite anarchism. This apparent
oxymoron stresses the organized destabilization (by the national-legionary state) of the system of
protection of Jewish citizens the exact opposite of the states duty to its citizens. As a result, the
Jews became pray to anarchist acts that went well beyond previous anti-Semitic actions, in number
and intensity, but also qualitatively. Their assets were taken from them374, they lost residence and
freedom to move rights, and children were killed375. Many disappeared never to be found again376.
It was a time for paybacks377. The victims were beaten378, and then forced to give away houses and
shops, they were blindfolded and told they will be killed. The perpetrators became completely
dehumanized, and the local authorities remained passive379. When it got involved following
requests for intervention, the central government didnt punish the guilty.380
This stage lasted until Marshall Ion Antonescus victory against the legionary rebellion, on
February 14th, 1941.

B. The Romanian Orthodox Church as a passive resource of chauvinism and anti-Semitism

The passive resources of anti-Semitism consist of the language, attitudes and ideas that feed antiSemitism, a potential at the level of orthodox thought. It is passive because a transformation of
language, attitudes and ideas into active anti-Semitism depends on opportunities and context. The
Church is one of the best examples of the major consequences that can stem from slight differences
in interpretation of the same text381. A particular verse may be given an exclusivist interpretation by
chance, to later become a popular argument for anti-Semitism. The potential anti-Semitism of the
orthodox thought was also taken advantage of through local and popular interpretations of dogma
and traditions that are sometimes contrary to the canonic interpretation.

Notice by the Jewish Community of Rmnicu Vlcea from December 30 th, 1940: all Jewish merchants were closed
down. The merchandise was taken by the legionnaires, and we received 10% of its real value (many of the parishioners
left the city (Ibidem, f. 24).
Notice through which the parents announce the 16 years old son of the Gelber family was picked up by legionnaires
and taken to the Police, and then the hospital, where he died of intoxication (Ibidem, ff. 92-94).
Notice on November 24th, 1940: Dr. H. Fisher, the president of the Jewish Community of Piatra Neam was picked
up by legionnaires and was never seen again. His 17 years old daughter went to the Legionary Police and was never
seen again (Ibidem, f. 17).
On November 13th, 1940, Cohu Eugen was surrounded by 15 legionnaires and 6 policemen and taken to City Hall.
He was arrested and beaten repeatedly until he signed a confession admitting he had said bad things about the
legionnaires. He had been reported by D. Grozea, who had been sued many years before by the shop where Cohu
Eugen worked for not paying (Jewish Community in Romania Archive, 21/1940, ff. 8-9).
Notice to the fact that in Clrai-Ialomia, on the night of November 23rd, 1940, all the Jews were taken to a cave at
the Legion were they were beaten until morning. The attempt to run Jews out of the cities (43 Jews were badly beaten)
belong to the Legionary Police (Ibidem, ff. 98-99).
Notice from December 29th, 1940, to the Union of Jewish Communities in the Old Kingdom: several Jews in Trgu
Neam report that during the investigation by the Police and General State Security Commissariat superhuman efforts
were made to not write down the names of those that had beaten, mockingly cut our hair, took our money or
houses (Ibidem, f. 51).
Letter from a group of merchants addressed to Marshall Ion Antonescu (December 6 th, 1940). Armed legionnaires
brought in young people who were taken into shops and put their names over the owners. This lasted until December
7th, 1940, when, following the energetic response of the authorities, these young people were taken out of the shops,
their signs were removed and order was reestablished (Ibidem, f. 11).
The Old or the New Testament have been interpreted very differently and have generated very different behaviors
depending on epoch and denomination.


The use of Christian dogma to support murder and violence is not unique to Orthodox antiSemitism in Romania, where the violent, aggressive and oppressive phobia against Jews bears a
"national-Christian" stamp and its every action, no matter how unchristian or antichristian, is
defined and made "sacred" by divine offices with priests in vestments.382 Other versions of
European anti-Semitism in the 30s invoke Christianity: in Hungary, anti-Semitic students pose as
Crusaders; in Poland, the clergy supports and sometimes leads the anti-Semitic movement, even
though the latter is purely chauvinistic; in Austria, the systematic removal of Jews from public life
and away from their means of support is done in the name of social Christianity, with the
unconditional support of the church, and in England, the leader of the fascists emphatically declared
yesterday: Israel hates Jesus, hence it hates us too 383.
The essential attribute of ROC-fueled anti-Semitism is its association with a nationalistic vision.
The relationship Orthodoxism-nationalism is described by Dumitru Stniloaie, "the most important
Romanian Orthodox theologian of the twentieth century" 384, thus: "a people is an irreducible
ontological space. It is the ultimate specific unit of humanity. It is the basis of explaining
individually and the medium of living. Humanity does not exist as a continuum or a uniform
discontinuum. God's creation can be found in no other place but in the expression of ethnic
communities."385 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 towards
ROC dogma is at the same time a source of anti-Semitism and of acts hostile towards other
churches and faiths. The positive fervor for Orthodoxy is transformed into a thesis of uniqueness:
Orthodoxy is the only authentic representation of heaven on earth."387 Theological thought is
transformed into an exclusivist, patronizing or hostile view of other beliefs and identities. While, for
the ROC, Protestantism and Catholicism are inferior to Orthodoxy, the other religious movements
are real dangers. Dumitru Stniloaie welcomed the measures taken by the legionary government to
remove Masons from public office and 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."388
Theological thought is a good example of a passive resource: one that incites or legitimizes actions
when the right societal circumstances appear. The extreme violence of the theological language in
the quote above should be noticed: "masonry and sects on the other hand were like worms
consuming the body of our State. This type of aggressiveness was also present in the
communications of the executive bodies of the ROC in the 30s. The public statements move the
conceptual framework towards an active role in public life. Just like Stniloaie, the 1937 ROC
Synod condemned the Freemasonry in extremely harsh terms: Stark materialism and opportunism
in all actions are the necessary conclusion of Freemason premises. Freemason lodges gather
together Jews and Christians and the Freemasonry states that only those gathered in its lodges
know the truth and rise above other people. This means that Christianity doesnt confer any
advantage in knowing the truth and achieving the salvation of its members. The Church cannot

A. L. Zissu, Logos, Israel, Biserica. Viciile organice ale bisericii i criza omenirii cretine, Tipografia Moderna,
Bucureti, 1937, p. 4.
Idem, p. 5.
Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu, Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania, Oxford University Press, New
York, 2007, p. 45.
Dumitru Stniloaie, Biserica romneasc (1942), in Dumitru Stniloaie, Naiune i cretinism) Bucureti: Elion,
2004), 145-146.
Dumitru Stniloaie ,Cretinism i naionalism (1940), in Stniloaie, 117-118.
Dumitru Stniloaie, Ortodoxia i viaa social (1940), in Stniloaie, 109.
Dumitru Stniloaie , Restaurarea romnismului n destinul su istoric (1940), in Stniloaie, 114-115.


watch unmoved how Jesus mortal enemies are thought to be above Christians in regard to knowing
the highest truths and to salvation.389
Although this paragraph is concerned with freemasons, the views regarding Jews are also apparent.
They are the mortal enemies of Jesus. Such anti-freemason and anti-Semitic messages nourish the
clergy and the faithful. But the orthodox nationalism is the cause of which anti-Semitism is just a
result. That is why the hostile opinions, the propaganda and the actions of the ROC between the
World Wars were mainly directed at religious organizations that were perceived as a threat to the
Churchs dominant role. The Church that was closest dogmatically to the ROC the Romanian
Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic (RCUR) was also the one which bore the brunt of the
ROC attacks. The November 1937 General Report of the "Agru" Central Committee referred to the
campaign launched by the ROC against Greek-Catholics in these terms: "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
made of the people of serfs of yore a nation aware, no longer exist; Clain, incai 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."390
These quotes are relevant to more than the issue of anti-Semitism, because they show how
Orthodox nationalism worked as a passive resource not only through its ideas, but also through its
intense opposition to otherness. The ROC was both a School in Hostility and a School in Ideals of
Exclusivity. Much of the previous research underestimates the place of the ROC in the anti-Semitic
movement between the World Wars because researchers have concentrated on institutional
positions and on the highest levels of the hierarchy. But most often the passive resources fueled
processes at the grassroots level. Therefore the best proofs for the role of Orthodoxist dogma and
attitudes in creating anti-Semites are the testimonies of clergy that became legionnaires and were
involved in anti-Semitic violence.
We will highlight one case study. Priest Ilie Imbrescu joined the legionary movement because he
was interested in nationalism, in a doctrinal and academic sense, because it was deep and
strengthened in his soul, since childhood, under the influence of the education in his family 391. His
father had been a nationalist fighter against the oppressive Hungarian domination.392 Imbrescu
studied Theology in Cernui, where he joined the Student Center of Cernui, and became at
one point the president of the student movement. In his mind, nationalism and Ortodoxism, through
history and education, were two sides of the same coin. Initially, he looked up to Professor A.C.
Cuza, at the time president of the National Christian Defense League and thought to be the father of
Romanian Christian nationalism. During a discussion on February 4th, 1930, Ilie Imbrescu asked the
latter a question regarding the Old Testament. A.C. Cuza rejected the Old Testament and stated that
Jesus was not from the body of a Jew 393. Faced with such major dogmatic errors, the theologianto-be looked toward other sources.


The ROC has never reversed its position.

The November 1937 General Congress in Satu Mare (Buletinul AGRU Bucureti, nr. 8-9, July-August 2002.)
The legionary priest wrote his testimony in the detention camp near Miercurea-Ciuc. He sent his book of testimonies
from there, on December 7th, 1938, to Metropolitan Nicodim Munteanu, at the time ad-interim President of the ROC
The Imbrescu family was from Banat (p. 20).
Ibidem, p. 21..


In this context of personal searches, he met Zelea Codreanu and read The Nest Leader's
Manual394, and in 1933 became a legionnaire because the meetings of these nests convinced me
that the legionary movement walks on the path of the old Orthodox-nationalist law 395. Reading
Ilie Imbrescus book of testimonies, we can find out how a priest searches for and finds in the Holy
Book arguments for murder: Therefore,, do I support murder? This is a question whose answer
requires the Priest to have the courage to not be hypocritical! Because God stops murder, but
punishes folly dreadfully! Jesus said to his disciples: Things that cause people to sin are bound to
come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2 It would be better for him to be thrown
into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to
sin. (Luca 17, 1-2)396.
The case of Ilie Imbrescu highlights perfectly the connection between nationalism, Ortodoxism and
dogma, and the manner in which their components, as passive resources, were transformed by
circumstances and contexts into violent anti-Semitic actions. His case is similar to those of tens of
thousands of priests who supported anti-Semitism and to those of many Orthodox faithful taught
that Jews are Jesus mortal enemies, that the Jewish people is an intruder on the "orthodox land"
and that to be Romanian is to be Orthodox, and who turned those ideas into political practice.

C. The Romanian Orthodox Church as an actant resource for anti-Semitism

The ROC as an actant resource for anti-Semitism encompasses the set of orthodox actants, social
actors that engaged in anti-Semitic acts because they saw them as arising from their Orthodox faith,
or that placed their anti-Semitic acts under an Orthodox banner. This set includes the church as an
institution, orthodox foundations and associations, the clergy and the heterogeneous community of
the faithful. The orthodox actants were an important segment of Romanian society between the
World Wars. Their behavior was often in conflict with the place reserved at the time by the state for
religious actors.

C1. The attitude of the Romanian state toward religion and the Churches
Mainstream studies on interwar anti-Semitism focus on documenting instances of anti-Semitism.
This focus leads to paradoxical phenomena: the borders separating social actors are blurred, and the
number of relevant actors and their role is underestimated. An ample study like the Final Report of
the International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania gives the ROC more of a
supporting role in the evolution of anti-Semitism, limiting it to the anti-Semitic statements of some
clergy and members of the ROC hierarchy.
Our evaluation diverges most from the results of the Final Report in the role it assigns to state
authorities between the World Wars and in particular during the stage of societal anti-Semitism.
The authors of the Final Report state that the period between the Wars continues the history of antiSemitism on the same lines on which it was built in the 19th century. The 1937 movement towards
an institutionalized anti-Semitism is not, then, a change in the nature of the latter, but just a new
phase in its evolution397. The political elites leading Greater Romania, the leaders of the National
Liberal Party and the National Peasant Party were at most indifferent toward the situation of the
Jewish minority in the country398. Anti-Semitism, according to the Final Report, permeated the
entire social body of Romania between the World Wars.
The Nest Leader's Manual collects Corneliu Zelea Codreanu's ideological teachings.
Ibidem, p. 55.
Ibidem, p. 60.
Final Report, p. 11.
Final Report, p. 20.


This perspective cannot explain however the emancipation in terms of citizenship rights of the
Jewish community in the 20s or its widespread integration within the economic and cultural system
of the State. The emancipation of the Jews was a force oriented toward modernization. During the
second half of the 30s, in the international context of the rise of European fascism, the actors for
modernity gave up in the face of the anti-modernization tendencies of the grassroots.
The modernizing actions of the State in the 20s
The 1923 Constitution confers full right to Jews. The fundamental law was written under pressure
from the Powers that had recognized the new borders of Greater Romania and went against many
voices at the national level. But the support of the Romanian state in 1923 was not purely formal, as
was demonstrated by the Law of religious denominations adopted in 1928. The explanatory
memorandum of the law argues that
In defining the relationship between the state and religious denominations our draft follows
the principle of equal protection established by art. 22 of the Constitution. No differentiation
is being made between one denomination and another. All are equal and all receive the same
support and protection, because all have the same civilizing purpose and because all
correspond to the spiritual needs of a smaller or bigger part of the population of the country.
[] Paragraph f of the draft talks about the Mosaic denomination, without addressing
specifically the different branches in which it was divided by historical circumstances. By
using the general term of Mosaic denomination we do not mean to prevent its organization
according to the differences in rituals that exist. Every branch shall have the freedom to
organize itself independently, according to the implementation rules of this law. Of course, in
this division of the Mosaic denomination into branches only those that have achieved a
distinct and recognized character during the historical development of the denomination shall
be taken into account.399
It is relevant that during prior parliamentary debate the main concern of the Mosaic denomination,
represented by Rabbi I. Niemirover, was that too much freedom of conscience may affect the
functioning of the denomination at a collective level. In particular, there was suspicion toward the
ease of changing religious identity:
The freedom of conscience is the basis of this law. In regard to some paragraphs that deal
with changing religious denominations, the freedom of conscience was the guide of the
legislator. Moves from one denomination to another cannot be seen positively by priests. I am
not talking about moving from one denomination to a related one, but of moving from one
denomination to another that is very different from the initial faith. The freedom of
denominations must also be limited in some situations, and it was well said that no religious
requirement can be used as a pretext for not doing ones duty to the State. On the other hand
the State is also required to respect as much as possible, in order to preserve the order of the
State, the religious and ritual options of every denomination.400
The Ministry of Religious Denominations took this grievance into account401.
*** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N.
Russu Ardealeanu, p. 22.
*** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N. Russu
Ardealeanu, p. 132.
According to Rabbi I. Niemirover: If provisions are made such that every locality may only have one [religious]
community, it is clear that the rights of the Spanish communities in the Kingdom and the separatist Orthodox
communities in Ardeal would not be in any way violated. If such measures to organize a single community in each
locality are not taken, there is a danger that our denomination will be pulverized through the formation of sects.


The parliamentary debates instigated by the Constitution and later by the Law of Religious
Denominations show the inclination toward modernity of historical party leaders and the
bureaucracy they had created, made apparent through legislation. Other motivations, like the
promises made at the international level and economic interests, may be seen in many ways. But
everything points to a push by the institutions of the state towards democracy.

The relationship between the State and the ROC

The political regime created by the 1923 Constitution acknowledged the Orthodox religion as
dominant, but the differentiation of denominations was viewed from a democratic perspective. The
preamble for the 1928 Law on Religious Denominations talked about a secular state, based on
religious freedom, a fact that was noticed and highlighted by the leaders of different religious
The State was the administrator of this freedom and held the instruments that allowed it to limit the
abuses of the denominations. Religious freedom and the protection of all denominations were
guaranteed, and enhanced by the provision that religious beliefs cannot stop anybody from gaining
and exercising civil and political rights. At the same time, art. 2 also stated that religious beliefs
cannot exempt anybody from obeying the law.402
This hierarchical relationship also affected the ROC. Some researchers insist on the privileged
relationship between the ROC and the state, while ignoring the other side of the coin: the states
control over the ROC. This preoccupation with the role of the state is apparent in the legislation,
among other things in the conditions imposed on the clergy and those who work for denominations:
We establish in art. 8 of the draft the following three requirements for members of the
clergy, of the leadership and for public servants at any level of the denominations. That is: a)
they must be Romanian citizens, b) they must enjoy all civil and political rights and c) they
must not have been found guilty through a final decision for crimes against morality, against
State security and in general for any criminal act.403
The Romanian state recognized the right of denominations to create, administer and control cultural
and charitable institutions, but imposed some rules:
The study of history, Romanian language and literature and the Constitution of the country is
required in these establishments, and they will be taught according to a curriculum established
by the same authority, with the consent however of the Ministries of Religious Denomination
and of Education, such that they do not prevent the specialized theological training and are
compatible with the moral religious character of these establishments.404
A key provision, meant to preserve the authority of the state over religious denominations, was the
prohibition of political involvement for members of the clergy, which included a ban of
denominational political organizations. These were the arguments of the Minister for Religious

(Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N. Russu
Ardealeanu, p. 134).
See art. 2, art. 7, par. 1 ant art. 22 of the Law for Religious Denominations (Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare.
Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 2).
Preamble to the Law for Religious Denominations: *** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie
parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 19.
Preamble to the Law for Religious Denominations: *** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie
parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N. Russu Ardealeanu, p. 19.


Denominations and the Arts, Alexandru Lepdatu, in his support for the draft-law on religious
Art. 4 prohibits the creation of denominational political organizations and the debate of
political issues within church institutions and bodies. We thought this provision was
necessary because, while religious beliefs are and remain a part of every citizens conscience,
in a State like ours, of secular tradition and character, it is dangerous, we believe, for them to
be used as a basis for political fights, in the same way in which it is dangerous when the latter,
the political fights, permeate the life of religious institutions and bodies. This is true also
because the denominations are, essentially, religious organizations with ideal purposes, and
hence must keep themselves within this sphere and not get involved in issues that are not in
accordance with their mission. Militant politics must be completely excluded from the internal
life of denominations, because it may disturb the inner peace they have a duty to propagate
and sustain.405
The government and its minister assumed the secular character of the state and the danger of mixing
religion and politics and turned them into general principles for the functioning of the state. In the
meantime, the Orthodox clergy moved in the opposite direction, not just getting involved in politics
but supporting precisely those movements that challenged public authorities. The 1937 antidemocratic drift and the move towards an institutionalized anti-Semitism were accompanied by a
new symbolic position of the ROC. During the Goga government, the Minister for Religious
Denominations and Arts, Ioan Lupa, defined the role of the ROC within the new government in a
manner completely contrary to the spirit of the Constitution:
We want to lay as the basis of the Romanian state the spiritual principles of Christianity. We
want the National Church to be considered as the supreme representative of the force which
generates a moral life ( ... ). We want a fighting clergy that is an essential part of the
organization of the State, according to Romanian tradition and the ethical requirements of a
sound national edifice.406
The Constitution that established the bases of the authoritarian regime of Carol the Second 407 also
granted the status of dominant church to the Orthodox Church, with authority in the canonic and
spiritual spheres. Patriarch Miron Cristea was named Prime Minister a second time (March 30 th,
1938 February 1st, 1939). Nicolae Colan, a bishop of Vad, Feleac and Cluj and member of the
government, described in his statement to the King his aspiration for a close relationship between
church and state: Your Highness same trust called me to lead the Department for Religious
Denominations and the Arts. To be the connection between denominations, the dominant Church in
particular, and the state. To promote the realization of the commandment: Give to Caesar what
belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.408

*** Biserica noastr i cultele minoritare. Marea discuie parlamentar n jurul Legii cutelor, Introduction N.
Russu Ardealeanu, p. 2.
Letter on December 31st, 1937 addressed by the Minister to the Patriarch (Costel Coaj, Relaia stat-biseric n
perioada 1938-1948. Cazul Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne, Princeps Edit, Iai , 2008, p. 18).
It is worth highlighting an analysis by Armin Heinen, according to which the dictatorship of Carol the Second is not
a totalitarian dictatorship or despotism since political figures are co-opted in the Crown Council, parties were allowed to
exist even if only outside the law , and media censorship allowed the expression of a multitude of points of view (see
Armin Heinen, Legiunea Arhanghelului Mihail ". O contribuie la problema fascismului internaional, Humanitas,
Bucureti 1999).
Costel Coaj, Relaia stat-biseric n perioada 1938-1948. Cazul Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne, Princeps Edit, Iai ,
2008, p. 20.


Later, Marshall Ion Antonescu called Christianity a factor of equilibrium for the Romanian nation.
The leader of the state expected the Orthodox Church to promote Christian teachings and values as
an essential component of the process of national purification.409
But those dictators that proclaimed the high place held by the Orthodox Church within the state
were also the ones that demanded from it the highest level of obedience. Carol the Second elevated
to the level of constitutional principle the interdiction against priests of any religious denomination
to use their spiritual authority in the interest of political causes, in their own spaces or through
public office. Political propaganda is forbidden in places of worship or during religious ceremonies.
Any political organization built on religious grounds was banned.410
This was the language used by the Ministry for National Education, Religious Denominations and
the Arts on February 1941, after the suppression of the legionary rebellion:
It is strictly forbidden for members of the clergy of any denomination, category or hierarchic
level to register with, join or pay contributions to any party or political organization, or to
participate in any political movement or manifestation. They may be active in nationalcultural or welfare organizations that are so registered according to the law for legal entities
but may not hold a salaried position.411
As the leader of the state, Ion Antonescu stressed on different occasions the submission of the
Church to the authority of the state:
The Church that always asks for the support of the State must integrate into the State order.
Otherwise, the Church is the first example of anarchy. The State fails under such
circumstances. The Church receives money from the State. The State sacrifices for the benefit
of the Church, it is its duty, because it is in the interest of the state and its subjects412
Marshall Ion Antonescu also punished severely those priests that questioned the authority of the
State, among other things sending hundreds of priests involved in the legionary rebellion to prison.

The confrontation between the State and societal anti-Semitism

At the same time that modernization projects were implemented in Romania, a current contrary to
Western values and the direction chosen by public institutions developed. Its main roots were the
nationalism inspired by the creation of Greater Romania, very present in Transylvania, and
Orthodoxism, present mainly in the Kingdom. The nationalist movements and organizations, and
the Orthodoxist and anti-Semitic political organizations, that appeared one after the other in the 20s
were in conflict with the state, which led to a spiral of violence that marred the entire interwar
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the figure best known for using assassination in politics, founded in 1922
the Association of Christian Students. In the 20s, the Orthodoxist movement spread among
university students (the 1922 movement413), and became organized in the universities from the
major towns in Romania. The General Student Congress in Craiova, on December 2nd, 1929,
Costel Coaj, Relaia stat-biseric n perioada 1938-1948. Cazul Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne, Princeps Edit, Iai ,
2008, p. 30.
Article 8 of the Constitution.
Decision no. 9349 on February 15th, 1941.
Costel Coaj, Relaia stat-biseric n perioada 1938-1948. Cazul Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne, Princeps Edit, Iai ,
2008, p. 41.
Preot Ilie I. Imbrescu, Biserica i Micarea Legionar, Ed. Cartea Romneasc, Bucureti, 1940, p. 20.


adopted the charter of the National Union of Romanian Christian Students, which equated the
Romanian identity and the Christian identity, the beginning of an evolution toward the thesis
Romanian = Orthodox, and the related Romanian = anti-Semite Orthodox. According to one of
the participants:
From this congress on in particular, it became more and more common and significant to use
the term: Romanian-Christian student for a higher purpose, to finally establish the fact
that Romanian nationalism allows a single outcome: either we are faithful to death to the
religion that will make us victors by the will of the One that gave Romanian nationalism so
many heroes and martyrs, or our decade-long rebellion and battle is futile.414
In the case of the student organizations and other organizations created on the basis of an Orthodox
perspective, nationalism and Christianity (Orthodoxism) are indivisible. For example, according to
its charter, the organization The Orthodox Youth (registered with the Chiinu Court) has as its
purpose the unification of all youths under the banner of the defense of Christianity against
foreignness and the devastating socialist and anarchist movements.415 Such an objective would
have been as relevant under the name of The Nationalist Youth.
The intense collaboration between nationalist and Orthodoxist organizations in the 20s and 30s
shows that the partners see each other as sides of the same coin. As an example: on May 20 th,
1935, the Association of the clergy Assistance (Orthodoxist) thanked the Worship of the
Motherland organization (nationalist) for its support;416 on March 30th, 1936, a professor in the
School of Theology, Marin Ionescu (an Orthodox priest) took part in the board meeting of the
Worship of the Motherland organization etc. The leader of the Orthodox Society of Romanian
Women (Orthodoxist), Alexandrina Cantacuzino, tried to make the organization available to the
Everything for the Fatherland party (an extremist nationalist party).
The quote above also points to the close ties between civic and political organizations that embrace
nationalist-Orthodoxism. The authorities were aware of these ties and pressured the organizations
believed to be a threat to public order. Minister Petre Andrei proposed replacing the Board of the
Orthodox Society of Romanian Women because the president of the society has close ties to
political organizations that are a danger to public peace and the general security of the Romanian
state .417 The organization Worship of the Motherland created in 1926 for the purpose of
promoting the national ideal, was banned in 1932 by the Council of Ministers.418 A report by State
Security from 1936 described it as:
an organization that uses as part of its manifestations the street and aggression against
authorities. Public meetings of this organization attempt to gather all the nationalist student
associations and even political groups, as a forum for censuring our public life. [] The
members of the organization, through their status as: university professors, former magistrates
and generals, in all their meetings, marches and processions, ignore the requests of the
authorities and through their presence and attitude attempt to intimidate the representatives of
the authorities and even those of the military.419
Everything for the Fatherland was the latest name of the party created by Corneliu Zelea
Codreanu in 1930, the Legion of the Archangel Michael420. Previously, in 1923, Codreanu
Preot Ilie I. Imbrescu, Biserica i Micarea Legionar, Ed. Cartea Romneasc, Bucureti, 1940, p. 42.
CNSAS Archive, Documents, Societatea Tinerimea Ortodox, D 11672, f. 8.
CNSAS Archive, Documents, Asociaia Cultul Patriei, D 015861, vol. 1, p. 88.
CNSAS Archive, Documents, D 012706, Societatea ortodox a femeilor romne, f. 19.
The decision was taken after activists of the organization kidnapped a policeman and took him to Army Corps C.
The High Court of Cassation and Justice reinstate the organization in March 1933.
CNSAS Archive, Documents Asociaia Cultul Patriei, D 015861, vol. 1, pp. 40-41.
As a Christian activist, he shot in 1924 a police commissioner, but was acquitted for reasons of self-defense.


founded together with A. C. Cuza, a theoretician of anti-Semitism, the National-Christian Defense

League. Corneliu Zelea Codreanus use of Christian symbols in party names would stop here, but
the name changes (the Legionary Movement, the Iron Guard - the paramilitary political branch
of the Legion -, and after June 1935, Everything for the Fatherland), motivated by obstacles set
against the partys participation in elections, did not affect the Orthodoxist character of the party.
The Romanian Orthodox Church, as an institution, at the highest levels of the hierarchy, never
assisted the murderous political program of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. But Codreanus case is a
textbook example of how Romanian Orthodoxism acted as an anti-Semitic passive resource that
fueled the anti-Semitic actant resources. The family, school and university education of Zelea
Codreanu were both militantly nationalist and militantly Orthodox, an embodiment of Orthodoxist
dogma: Christianity is the path towards nationalism, and nationalism is the path to Christianity 421.
The plans for moral and spiritual renewal of Romanian society as stated by many representatives of
the ROC and by the Legionary Movement were equivalent 422. The Orthodox religious elements in
legionary thinking and public appearances, and the intense religiosity of the members and leaders of
the movement, were a significant part of their political and electoral capital. These facts prove the
central role played by Orthodoxism in anti-Semitic activism between the World Wars. The
conceptualization: anti-Semitic passive resource anti-Semite actant resources captures and gives
definition to this role. It is an answer to a tendency in the research on the relationship ROC-antiSemitism to underestimate the effect of the Romanian Orthodox Church on interwar antiSemitism423.
The nationalist-Orthodoxist ideology and activity of civic and political organizations that had a
grave effect on democracy in the `30 continued to be a component of the anti-democratic
mobilization. The societal anti-Semitism was just a component of the societal anti-democratic
movement that created a conflict between the state elites and conservative forces. In the war
between legionnaires and state authorities, violent means were used by both sides, in an
increasingly destabilizing spiral. The legionnaires murdered two Prime Ministers (Ion Gh. Duca on
December 30th, 1933, and Armand Clinescu, on September 21st, 1939), Nicolae Iorga and other
cultural and political personalities. On the other side, the authorities killed Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
and some members of Iron Guard death squads while moving them from one prison to another, on
November 30th, 1938. In the fall of the same year, hundreds of legionnaires were executed without a
trial after the discovery of a plot against Armand Clinescu, at the time Minister of Interior. After
Clinescus murder, the ten assassins were shot in broad daylight, and their bodies were left in the
street for several days, under a banner reading: "From now on, this shall be the fate of those who
betray the country."
These events show that the confrontation between the authorities and the extremist organizations
took the most violent forms, and the authorities themselves sometimes chose to use murder in the
Codreanu was a volunteer fighter in World War I at 16. When the president of the University of Iai decided to start
the school year without a religious ceremony, Codreanu barricaded himself inside the building.
Marius Turda, Fascismul clerical n Romnia, in Mirel Bnic, Biserica Ortodox Romn, stat i societate n
anii `30, Polirom, 2007, p. 13.
The perspective that the ROC as a second-hand actor has different expressions: The priests were attracted to the
Legionary movement, believed it represented a true religion and not a political movement (Alexandru Voicu,
Relaia controversat a Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne cu Micarea Legionar, Historia; "the Church and its people didnt escape the nefarious influence of former Legionaries (Apud. Gina Pan,
Biserica Ortodoxa Romn i micarea legionar: clarificri i ambiguiti", Holocaust. Studii i cercetri, Vol. III, Nr.
4 /2011, p. 144.); Lacking a firm opposition from the Church, Cuzas campaign spreading religious anti-Semitism
continued unchallenged (Oana Pan, Ortodoxia romneasc i atitudinea sa fa de evrei, Holocaust. Studii i
cercetri, Vol. II, Nr. 1 (3)/2010, p. 116.); The Romanian Orthodoxy resisted the temptation of legionarism (Mirel
Bnic, Biserica Ortodox Romn, stat i societate n anii `30, Polirom, 2007, p. 245), 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. Another variant of this interpretation is that the ROC was responsible through inaction.


place of law. This behavior bespeaks the low quality of Romanian democracy between the Wars.
But it does not negate the modernizing project to which the political elites heading the state aspired
until the second half of the 30s. The Romanian society didnt have enough time to create a bridge
between the forward-looking elites and a population characterized by religiosity and nationalism.
To ignore the modernizing tendencies that were part of the Greater Romania project between 1919
and 1937, including the emancipation of Jews, is to underestimate the negative role of those
components of interwar Romanian society that sabotaged the modernization project. Among them a
central role was held by Orthodoxism.

The institutional and operational authority of the State over the ROC
Guiding and coordinating the relationship between the State and religious denominations. A main
theme in the literature on the ROC is that the Orthodox Churches always saw the collaboration with
the ruler as a form of protection against danger. This attitude was the mirror-image of the interest of
secular powers in using the Orthodox Churches to strengthen their control over an uneducated
population, and maintain order in the community424. The State-Church relationship was even useful
in forging good relations with regional neighbors.425 The concept used by the ROC to legitimize the
partnership between the ruler and the Church is the symphony between the secular powers and
the Orthodox Church.426
Research shows that the theses above need to be expanded and qualified. I have already pointed out
that during the period between the World Wars the Orthodox actants were in an open conflict with
the modernizing Romanian state. At the same time, the ROC hierarchy was forced to cooperate in
order to defend its interests, because the Ministry for Religious Denominations and the Art, through
its Department for Religious Minorities created in 1920 (Ministry for Public Education and
Religious Denominations after August 2nd, 1929; Ministry for National Education, Religious
Denominations and the Arts from March 20th, 1940), had vast authority over guiding and
coordinating the relationships between the state and the denominations: the right to control and
supervise the activities of the Churches; proposals for promoting, transferring, giving leave and
retiring the Church personnel; as well as enforcing all legal provisions and rules related to religious
denominations. This explains why the Church personnel tried to solve their problems by appealing
to the good will of high level public servants. Hundreds of papers document the nature of the
requests and interventions.
Some requests sent by members of the ROC hierarchy to members of the government discuss
religious policy. In a letter addressed to Marshall Ion Antonescu it is stated: There appears to be an
evil genie in the Ministry of National Culture. The Church often feels its hostile breath. Recently we
felt its baleful presence in the attempt to remove Religion from among secondary school
subjects.427. A large number of complaints addressed to state authorities denounced the activity of
non-mainstream religious denominations, the financial assistance given to Greek-Catholics, the
advantages enjoyed by Roman-Catholics, etc. In other cases, the authorities got involved in internal
issues of the ROC, taking a role that should have belonged to the Church. On June 13th, 1940, the
General Department of the Police told the Minister of Religious Denominations and the Arts that

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 Easter and South-Eastern Europe in International
Studies no. 4, 1998, p. 3-35.
Oliver Gillet, Religion et nationalisme. Lideologie de lEglise Orthodoxe Roumaine sous le regime communiste,
1997. The book is considered required reading on the subject of the relationship between the ROC and the Communist
regime but, as expected, was highly criticized by Church theologians (see Prof. Dr. Alexandru Dutu, Ortodoxie i
laicitate, Almanah Bisericesc, Arhiepiscopia Bucuretilor, 1999, p. 65-69).
Notice from the Archepiscopy of Alba Iulia and Sibiu on 9.09.1941, CNSAS Archive, Issues with the Orthodox
denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 77.


counties in Dobrogea did not have any secret committees whose members swore to no longer
recognize the authority of the bishop428.
Economic Control. Economic interests created a major dependency of the ROC hierarchy on the
secular powers. State institutions had the power to make decisions in many situations. For example,
in order to collect money for the Church, an authorization was required from the Ministry of Labor,
Health and Welfare, and the Capital Police checked the running of this activity429.
There were many interventions regarding filling available positions. The Government of Basarabia
nominated P.S. Efrem Tighineanul as Archbishop of Chiinu. His recommendations: The best of
results in fighting against religious sects, religious sects are getting smaller and smaller in the
Chiinului Eparchy430. Other times there were complaints regarding financial issues. Gherontie,
Bishop of Tomis, accused Minister I. Petrovici of requiring his resignation in private and
suspending his salary and those of another 100 priests who wrote a letter in his support431.
The Secretary General for Religious Denominations and the Arts, prof. Aurel Popa, complained that
although the Diocese of Ungro-Vlahiei owns a candle factory that can bring in an income of at
least 10.000.000 lei, and 200 ha of arable land and 500 ha of forests, the Patriarch still thinks it is
acceptable to request money from the Ministry. He also reported the illegal ordination of priests
in unpaid positions by the Diocese in order to save the individuals from military service432.
Financial audits found constant irregularities. Money was received or charged without justification;
there were expenditures that could have been avoided, and overblown repair expenditures on
contracts awarded without bidding433. The ordination of priests was often done for the purpose of
avoiding military service434.
These are just a few instances of a general trend.
The Control exercised by the courts. The use of brute force by the authorities in order to secure
public peace doesnt mean that the state lacked modern institutions. There is a lot of evidence for
the professionalism of the court system. Decisions like the one released by the High Court of
Cassation and Justice in March 1933, which reinstated the Worship of the Motherland
organization after it was banned in 1932 by the Council of Ministers, also point to the independence
of judges. The Archives highlight the chasm between the thinking of magistrates in key public
positions and the popular mentality. A relevant and well-documented example is the activity against
members of non-dominant religious denominations. Their harassment was the joint work of the
Orthodox priest and the local police. Usually the priest was told about the activity of the
denomination by members of his church, then went to the policeman and together they took the
guilty person into custody. Sometimes, the policemen went to the ROC representatives. The
indictment and the trial came next.
Often, the final result was an acquittal, and the reasoning for the decisions is surprisingly modern.
Four defendants, Jehovah Witnesses that had spread publicly Rule of Peace books, were acquitted


CNSAS Archive, Documents, Clergy Issues in the Old Kingdom, D 008927, f. 17.
See notice from March 1st, 1941, which authorizes an extension for money collection by the Costescu Parish in order
to cover expenses related to the rebuilding of the church. (CNSAS Archive, Issues File, D 000057 f. 134).
Notice from December 29th, 1943 (CNSAS Archive, Issues with the Orthodox denomination 1937-1947, D 006910,
vol. 4, f. 40).
CNSAS Archive, Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 58.
CNSAS Archive, Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 154.
Report from February 1943, financial audit office of the Archepiscopy of Bucharest (CNSAS Archive, Issues with
the Orthodox denomination 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 85).
CNSAS Archive, Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 93.


because there was no unrest that could lead to a danger to public safety. 435 The Bli County
Court acquitted I.E.S., who was taken into custody by a police patrol for selling booklets critical of
the Orthodox Church, because the booklets didnt include propaganda or criticisms that could incite
disobedience or disdain towards the dominant religion or other religions436.
The Soroca County Court had to consider the guilt of several Jehovah Witnesses indicted by the
Chief of Police after the latter had searched their homes and found booklets. His first step had been
to submit them to the Bli Diocese. The bishop looked over them and concluded that the
denomination was a danger to the dominant Church and the State. The judges decided that the texts
support love towards others, belief in God and Jesus, but also criticize other things that characterize
Romanian society. But this didnt suggest an involvement of the Jehovah Witnesses in acts that are
a danger to the security of the State, as stated by the law for controlling crimes against public peace,
which was the basis for the indictment437.
As a last case study, the Decision of March 3rd, 1937, in the trial against B.I.A for disseminating
booklets that may induce hatred, unrest against other denominations. He was found not guilty
because the texts do not intend to foment unrest, but to criticize a religious, economic and social
status quo, criticism that often, even in more serious forms, is disseminated by political parties
which are nonetheless not sanctioned, because it is considered that they intend to improve the
situation and not to produce unrest that may endanger the state order438. This kind of judicial
reasoning would be a reason for pride for any European court in the 21st century.
The cases we mentioned prove the heterogeneity of Romanian society in the 30s, and the presence
of professional bodies capable of ensuring the functioning of a modern political community. At the
same time, they highlight the realities at the local level: the Orthodox priests and policemen policed
their fiefdom from an exclusivist perspective. The nationalist-Orthodoxist attitude discernable in the
court cases included a healthy dose of anti-Semitism.

C2. The involvement of the clergy in anti-Semitic politics

The highest levels of ROC hierarchy and anti-Semitism
The ROC hierarchy was a staunch supporter of Orthodox nationalism through the interwar period. It
condemned any form of religious otherness, which implied in many cases a condemnation of ethnic
otherness. The highest levels of the Orthodox hierarchy expressed their anti-Semitism, which took
the extreme form of supporting the banishment of Jews from Greater Romania. This is clearly stated
by Patriarch Miron Cristea: You want to cry out of pity for the poor Romanian people, whose bone
marrow is sucked out by the Jew. To not react against Jews, is to walk us to our destruction. []
You have enough qualities and options, to search for and find somewhere a place, a land, a country,
a motherland not yet inhabited. Live, help yourselves, defend yourselves, and exploit each other;
but not us and other peoples, whose abundance you seize through your ethnic and Talmudic


Decision by the High Court of Cassation and Justice on May 24th, 1935 (CNSAS Archive, Documents, The structure
and functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Hostile acts 1934-1938, D 000074, vol. 35, f. 2, 2v.).
CNSAS Archive, Documents, The structure and functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Hostile acts 19341938, D 000074, vol. 35, f. 1.
Decision no. 3094 of September 30th, 1937 (CNSAS Archive, Documents, The structure and functioning of the
Romanian Orthodox Church. Hostile acts 1934-1938, D 000074, vol. 35, f. 3).
CNSAS Archive, Documents, The structure and functioning of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Hostile acts 19341938, D 000074, vol. 35, f. 18, 18v.
In the Curentul newspaper, August 19th, 1937.


An indirect but visible form of anti-Semitism was the support for extremist anti-Semites. 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 whole was not responsible for this
crime; the responsibility rested entirely with the perpetrators, and some foreign, anarchic influences.
Such a statement, following an act of such seriousness as the assassination of a Prime Minister,
highlights the fact that the ROC hierarchy was sensitive to the power plays at the highest levels of
power. The disputes between the Royal Family and the Government allowed the ROC leadership to
express its view with more sincerity440.
The most eloquent proof of the co-operation between the Orthodox hierarchy and the members of
the Iron Guard was the procession occasioned by the funerals of the Iron Guard leaders Moa and
Marin, in February 1937. During the procession tens of clerics officiated, and the main divine
service was celebrated by over 200 priests led by the Metropolitan of Ardeal, Nicolae Blan, and by
other bishops441. To place a Metropolitan at the head of the procession and to have such numbers of
clergy participate means that the ROC leadership fully supported legionary leaders.
Although he was the leader of the ROC during the rise of anti-Semitism, including the increase in
the number of violent attacks against Jews (1925 1939), Patriarch Miron Cristea never took a
stand against anti-Semitism.
The ROC leadership was not able to openly support the Legion during times of stronger State
leadership. During the royal dictatorship, after the assassination of Prime Minister Armand
Clinescu, Patriarch Nicodim released a statement in which he blamed the legionary assassins and
invoked Gods punishment for every crime. He showed the same level of obedience during the Ion
Antonescu government. The Patriarch Nicodim congratulated Marshal Antonescu for defeating the
legionary rebellion, and promised to pray that God would give Antonescu the power to succeed in
bringing about the salvation of the country and the Romanian people442. The lower clergy however
continued to support the Legion in various ways even after January 1941.443
Regarding the ROCs position on saving Jews by baptizing them, two documents describe it
unequivocally. In the first, the Patriarch agreed to a 1941 Decree than bans Jews from joining the
Orthodox Church, because [t]his ban was adopted by the State in the national interest, to protect
the ethnic nature of our Romanian nation from mixing with Jewish blood...444 On the other hand
the Patriarch was incensed that the Roman-Catholic Church continued to baptize Jews, who have
flourishing economic positions in the Capital as it is well known, and thus the number of Catholics
in Bucharest was increasing. He demanded that the arrangement with the Papacy be denounced
and the Roman-Catholic Church lose all its advantages and support445.


Some sources say that the assassination of Prime Minister Duca was desired by King Carol the Second himself.
Since the ROC leadership has traditionally had access to the antechambers of power, this statement may point to the
kings acceptance of murder (Florin inca, Din istoria Poliiei Romne, Tipografia RCR Print,

Bucureti, 2006, p. 333).

Gabriel Catalan, "Legiune i slujitorii Domnului" (The Iron-Guard and the ministers of God, Dosarele istoriei
(History Files) no. 9, 2000, p. 29-32.
Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prpastiei, 21-23 ianuarie 1941, vol. 2, 1941, p. 163.
Notice on March 2nd, 1942 (Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, f. 47). On the
other hand, The Metropolitan of Transylvania, Nicolae Blan, officially protested in April 2 nd, 1941, against the Decree,
which was an illegal intervention in the life of the Church (Brndua Costache, Mircea Costache, Doru Costache
Problema evreiasc n Romnia modern: Atitudinea Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne, TABOR, Romanian cultural and
spiritual monthly edited by the Diocese of Cluj, Alba, Criana and Maramure -
Notice on 27.02.1942 (Issues with the Orthodox denomination File 1937-1947, D 006910, vol. 4, ff. 44-45).


There were some members of the hierarchy who were uneasy with the tragedy of the deportation of
Jews to Transnistria. The Final Report mentions the Metropolitan of Ardeal, Nicolae Blan, as one
of those responsible for the refusal to deport the Jews from South Ardeal, Moldova and Muntenia to
Nazi camps in Poland446.

The involvement of the clergy in politics

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. Divisions may appear, especially
in turbulent circumstances. Although the 1928 Law for Religious Denominations forbade the
involvement of priests in politics, this was still an open issue among the clergy. There were many
voices that expressed, in religious journals, their wish for a role for the ROC in public life: our
clergy has not only the right but a holy duty to participate in the political life of the state, while
preserving its freedom and independence.447
Beyond the principled positions, there were specific situations that pushed the clergy into politics
and the search for new opportunities. One factor was the marked increase in the number of
Theology graduates entering a limited religious job market. According to Victor. N. Popescu:
After the war, the number of seminaries was increased significantly, and so the number of
graduates ready to enter priesthood outpaced the number of available parishes. The years
between 1922 and 1933 were a period with a high production of seminary and theology
graduates [ ... ]. The vacant positions were still taken by the old members of the profession,
even though they already had much on their plates. Therefore, at the graduation of those
studying at the new theology schools, the positions were already taken and defended, such
that some had too much and others had nothing. Those who had a parish forced those without
to be subservient. The situation is absolutely unfair and immoral.448
The Iron Guard and other parties were interested in winning the support of the clergy, whose
influence over a mostly rural population was well-known.449 From time immemorial, the priests had
all been in politics450 in order to gain certain advantages. But not for the purpose of achieving
through the party a Christian or religious ideology. The priest-politician type still abundant in our
old parties has always been detested451, said a supporter of nationalist-Orthodoxism. The
legionnaires seemed to offer a way to reconcile the personal and the spiritual interest. There were
calls for the clergys energetic intervention and guiding, through its words, of the vote of the
masses toward those parties that guarantee the defense of the vital interests of the country and the
Orthodox Church!".452 The latent anti-Semitism453 of some priests had the opportunity to meet the
official one of some parties:
In later years, the Church has been sought and courted, as the last source of renewal from the
disaster coming over the world. After the political parties made whatever they wanted out of
the Church instead of what they could have , now new political groups have an
increasingly specific attitude towards the Church. The religious issues hold a place of honor
under the leadership of Mr Goga, the Iron Guard of Corneliu Codreanu, the Lance-bearers
party of Mr Cuza.454

Final Report, p. 216.

Veniamin, Preoimea n viaa public, Telegraful Romn (organ naional-bisericesc), Sibiu, 15 Decembrie 1928.
Victor N. Popescu, "Biserica i omajul", Viitorul, Iai, no. 3, February 1932. Apud Bnic p. 139.
Bnic, p. 154.
I. G. Savin, Preoimea i actualele alegeri, Viitorul, Iai no. 12, 1932.
Bnic, p. 152.
Gh. Coman, Biserica i partidele politice, Viitorul, Iai no. 8, April 1933 (apud. Bnic, p. 156).


In the most extreme case, an argument was made for an identity of feeling between the Church and
the Legion: the Iron Guard didnt practice a Christianity that was different from that of the
Orthodox Church. Its manner of living and practicing the Orthodox faith is not directed against the
Church, because it is its submissive and obedient daughter.455
The priests promoted the Legionary Movement among their parishioners and some became its
activists. According to research into the archives of the Ministry of the Interior conducted by Gina
Pan, in the 1937 elections, out of 103 candidates of the party "Everything for the Fatherland", 33
were priests around a third, a considerable percentage. 55 priests had leadership positions within
the Legion.456 Some of the legionary priests were among the Movements most fanatical activists.
Alexandru Rzmeri, a Romanian Orthodox priest, proposed a plan to expel the Jews entirely from
cities and deport them into forced labor camps in the country. Attempts to escape the camps were to
be punished by death.457
The involvement of priests in the violent activity of the Legionary Movement is demonstrated by
the measures taken by the Antonescu government 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 Antonescu458. The scope of the
involvement of orthodox priests in active fighting, as legionaries, is suggested by the following
Communiqu 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."459

It was possible to discern the role of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the interwar anti-Semitic
phenomenon after undertaking a conceptual reorganization that starts with a criticism of the
definition of Holocaust as established in doctrine, as the sum of actions, between 1933 and 1945,
towards the discrimination, segregation and starvation, and murder of Jews. This definition,
dominant in Romanian and international research on the issue, blends genocide, the crime of
crimes, and anti-Semitic acts, serious but of a different nature. In Romanian context, this definition
conceals the separation of anti-Semitism into four distinct periods: the periods of societal antiSemitism, institutional anti-Semitism, institutionalized anti-Semitic anarchism and the Holocaust
(defined here as the genocide of Jews, starting with the Jassy pogrom of June 27th, 1941, and
lasting until 1943).
The institutionalized anti-Semitic anarchism phenomenon is, in our opinion, a particular case of
anti-Semitism. The decision of the authorities of the National-Legionary State to leave the Jewish
communities defenseless (between September 14th, 1940 and February 14th, 1941) within a social
Priest Victor Moise, Garda de Fier i credina strmoeasc, Editura Majadahonda, Bucureti, 1994, p. 12, apud.
Mirel Bnic, p. 158.
Gina Pan, Biserica Ortodoxa Romn i micarea legionar: clarificri i ambiguiti", Holocaust. Studii i
cercetri, Vol. 3, Nr. 4 /2011, p. 143.
Alexandru Rzmeri, Cum s ne aprm de evrei Un plan de eliminare total (Turnu Severin, Tipografia
Minerva, 1938), pp.65-69.
Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prpastiei, 21-23 ianuarie 1941, vol. II, 1941, p. 163.
Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prpastiei. 21-23 ianuarie 1941, vol. II, 1941, p. 102.


medium dominated by hate of Jews and aspirations to benefit from their property led to systematic
inhumane acts, that happened across the country over a period of months in an atmosphere of terror.
Individual Jews were the victims, but Jews as a group were also targeted. What happened during the
National-Legionary State was more than the sum of the thefts, beatings, and individual crimes.
None of the current terms: discrimination, segregation, repression, massacres, pogroms, adequately
describes the nuances of the phenomenon.
By dividing anti-Semitism into four periods we highlight the central role held by the confrontation
between state authorities and the interwar promoters of anti-Semitism in the development of events.
The political elites leading Greater Romania from 1919 on had a modernization plan for the country
that included the emancipation of Jews. On the other hand, a part of the population, a large
proportion of which was rural, was dominated by nationalist and Orthodoxist traditions with antiSemitic content. In the democratic context after World War I, the supporters of nationalistOrthodoxist traditions created a vast network of organizations, movements and political parties that
attacked the principles defined by the 1923 Constitution. The confrontation between the state and
the multilayered nationalistic-Orthodoxist opposition led to violent conflicts throughout the
interwar period. In 1937, for the first time, the nationalist-Orthodoxist movement managed to
include a part of its agenda into state policies. Nonetheless, between 1937 and the fall of 1940, the
institutions of the state had to fight against the conservative mainstream that clamored for a more
radical anti-Semitic policy than the governments. The stress put by many studies about interwar
Romanian anti-Semitism, and the Final Report, on the breadth and the continuity of anti-Semitism
underestimated the role of the competition between the forces of modernity and the societal antidemocratic movement during the years between the World Wars.
I was able to describe comprehensively the role of the ROC in the competition between the
modernization project and anti-Semitic national-Orthodoxism by discussing resources and
differentiating between anti-Semitic actant resources and passive resources. As a passive resource,
Orthodoxy fueled, through Orthodox dogma, language, attitudes and ideas, the interwar antiSemitism. As actant resources, the church as an institution, the clergy, the heterogeneous
community of the faithful and their various forms of organization, participated in various degrees to
anti-Semitic activities.
The contribution of the ROC to interwar anti-Semitism was determined by the relationship of
dependence between state authorities and the Church. The State was able to control the ROC
through its prerogatives in religious matters, the resources it provided to the Church, and the
institutions with relevant responsibilities, like the courts. This created tension within the ROC, and
eventually led to chaotic behavior uncharacteristic of religious communities. The hierarchy of the
church most often abetted the authorities of the state, which pushed many dissenting priests, and
Orthodoxist organizations and foundations, into a conflict with the ROC hierarchy. One
phenomenon that the ROC lost control of was the involvement of priests in politics.
The inner tensions, segregations and inconsistencies of the ROC led some researchers to believe
that the role of the ROC in interwar anti-Semitism manifestations, through dogma and activism,
was secondary. We disagree: in its double role as a passive resource and multiple actant resource,
Orthodoxy played a central role in the development and support of interwar anti-Semitism.
At the same time, there is a difference between the ROC and the main political forces that fought
the democratic state and won with the creation of the National-Legionary State and the rise of the
Ion Antonescu regime. In the case of the Legionary Movement and other extremist organizations,
anti-Semitism was the central theme of their programs. In the case of the ROC, anti-Semitism was
just a secondary component, because the purpose of the ROC was to create a homogenous Orthodox
state that banished any other types of religious identity. The energy expended against Roman-


Catholics, Greek-Catholics and other religious denominations appears to exceed that expended on
anti-Semitic goals.

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 Pan,
Ortodoxia romneasc i atitudinea sa fa de evrei ("Romanian Orthodoxy and its attitude toward
Jews"), Holocaust. Studii i cercetri, Vol. II, Nr. 1 (3) /2010, pp. 113-133; Gina Pan, Biserica
Ortodoxa Romn i micarea legionar: clarificri i ambiguiti" ("The Romanian Orthodox
Church and the Legionary Movement: clarifications and ambiguities"), Holocaust. Studii i
cercetri, Vol. III, Nr. 4 /2011, 142-167.
To this we can add several articles from a secondary bibliography like Alexandru Voicu,
Relaia controversat a Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne cu Micarea Legionar, ("The questionable
relationship of the Romanian Orthodox Church with the Legionary Movement") Historia.460
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. Among the long list with this type of books I
notice: Leon Volovici, ldeologia naionalist i problema evreiasc, (Nationalistic ideology and the
Jewish problem) Humanitas, Bucureti,1995; Armin Heinen, Legiunea Arhanghelului o
contribuie la problema fascismului mondial, (The Legion of the Archangel - a contribution to the
issue of world fascism) Humanitas, 1999; Florin Muller, Metamorfoze ale politicului romnesc,
1938-1944, (Metamorphoses of Romanian politics, 1938-1944) Ed. Universitii din Bucureti,
Bucureti, 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 neagr. Fapte i documente. Suferinele evreilor din Romnia: 1940-1944" ("Black Book.
Facts and documents. The suffering of the Jews in Romania: 1940-1944), vol. I i II (SAR,
Bucureti, 1946 i Dacia Traiana, Bucureti, 1947, 1948), to the Final Report of the International
Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, Polirom, Iai, 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 i Micarea Legionar,
(The Church and the Legionary Movement) Ed. Cartea Romneasca. Bucureti, 1940; Flor
Strejnicu, Cretinismul Micrii Legionare (The Christianity of the Legionary Movement) Ed.
Imago, Sibiu, 2000 (second edition); Gheorghe Racoveanu, Micarea legionar i biserica (The
Legionary Movement and the church), Ed. Samizdat, Bucureti, 2002 (second edition). Other
volumes are relevant because of the status of their authors: Ion Antonescu, Pe marginea prpastiei


(On the edge of the chasm) 21-23 ianuarie 1941, Scripta, Bucureti, 1992; Preot Stefan Palaghi,
Garda de Fier. Spre Renvierea Romniei (The Iron Guard. Toward a Rebirth of Romania) Buenos
Aires, Ed. Autorului, 1951 .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. Brndua Costache, Mircea Costache, Doru Costache Problema evreiasc n Romnia
modern: Atitudinea Bisericii Ortodoxe Romne ("The Jewish problem in modern Romania: the
attitude of the Romanian Orthodox Church"), TABOR, Revista lunar de cultur i spiritualitate
romneasc editat de Mitropolia Clujului, Albei, Crianei i Maramureului. (Cultural and
Spiritual Monthly edited by the Metropolitan of Cluj, Alba, Criana and Maramure)461.
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).

Research in archives
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 2719
Arts - documents
Ministry of Religious Denominations and 2720
Arts documents
Student Organizations and Associations 2860
Democratic Jewish Organizations


A2. The collections most relevant to the topic, part of the CNSAS Archives, to be studied
Notes of the Sigurana orthodox 2308
Lists of candidates
Informant notes and press articles 2313





Telegraful romn - lists

Reports orthodox youth
Oastea Domnului
Cultul Patriei
Declarations, tables
Orthodox Women
Romanian Women

3, 4, 5
2, 3
1, 2