Metaphorical Soldiers

Sandulescu’s article about the Romanian Legionary Movement raises the question of fascism as a cultural revolution. Besides its political ideas, fascism seems to have aesthetic matters intertwined with it, whether it appears in photography, or in the physical features that should represent an ethnic nation, as we saw last week. In fact, fascism appears to be more than a political label, but an ideal to strive towards, a revolution to be a part of, and more concretely, a reaction to a country’s economic problems, a series of everyday gestures that are inscribed into a political current seemingly on the same level than an architectural or literature style, that blends decisions for the well-being of citizens and metaphorical higher purpose calling.

Romanian fascism, best represented by the Legionary Movement, draws on Italian fascism and German Nazism. Sandulescu identify similarities between them such as the presence of a charismatic leader that can lead and inspire people, and give them a sense of duty that is interpreted as almost divine. In Romania’s case, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the Movement’s leader, resemble Hitler in the anecdotal fact that he wrote a Romanian version of Mein Kampf, Pentru legionari (For my Legionaries), or that he also had a strong anti-Semitist opinion, blaming the Jews for the poor economic state of Romania.

But more broadly, he too was able to (or at least worked in order to) instill into is followers a feeling of belonging, sacrifice and loyalty to the national cause. He wished for a new Romania, a national unity that could be achieved through fascism and the new archetype man that it could create. This new man finds an equal in the man depicted by Kühne in his article about what it meant to be a man in the German Nazi society and army. Sandulescu recounts the vocabulary used in the Legionary Movement in the lexical field of soldier and battles with a divine mission, as the name Iron Guard or Legion of the Archangel (for divisions of the Movement) inspire. Similarly, the ideal man Germans aspired to be had superhuman like qualities.

In the Legionary Movement as well as in the Nazi army, the comradeship was highly regarded, and even fondly remembered by some veterans. The fascist new societies were to be devoid of classes, which was the goal of bringing people together, regardless of their background. It is interesting to note that this goal of unity was fostered in both countries. In Germany it happened by training soldiers to leave no one behind and to help each other… and to participate in war atrocities. In Romania, work camps were used to create solidarity between participants, by mobilizing them into working together towards the new Romania, which, according to an article by author Raul Carstocea, consisted mostly of building infrastructures. It appears that the metaphorical divine mission of German soldiers and Romanian new men was not exactly as glamorous as it was presented to them.

Works cited:

Carstocea, Raul. “Building a Fascist Romania: Voluntary Work Camps as Mobilisation Strategies of the Legionary Movement in Interwar Romania.” Fascism, 6, no. 2 (December 2017): 163-195.

Kühne, Thomas. “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European HistoryVol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Sandulescu, Valentin. “Fascism and Its Quest for the ‘New Man’: The Case of the Romanian Legionary Movement.” Studia Hebraica 4 (2004): 349-61.

2 Replies to “Metaphorical Soldiers”

  1. Thank you for the insightful blog post related to a really interesting topic, Romanian fascism.My question is as follows. Do you believe that many of the civilian supporters of the fascist governments whether in Germany, Italy or Romania did not actually support the vehement antisemitism, scapegoating, or discrimination of its minority citizens? Rather, they simply ‘went along’ with said rhetoric as they believed it was the only way for their nations to regain economic, political, and global dominance in the world post WW1 ( like in the case of Nazi Germany).

  2. Hi! I think that it is more probable that most people did not have a particular hate for minorities, but sadly when the elite identified them as the culprit for the problems in the society, it was easier to go along, especially in a fascist context where the importance and integrity of the nation is put forward. That the minorities would undermine it then made more sense.

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