Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Roland Clark's "Holy Legionary Youth"

Roland Clark is Assistant Professor of Modern European History at Eastern Connecticut State University. He is the translator of The Holy Trinity: In the Beginning there was Love by Dumitru St─âniloae.

Clark applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Holy Legionary Youth: Fascist Activism in Interwar Romania, and reported the following:
The book is about the lives of rank and file activists in the Legion of the Archangel Michael. The largest and longest surviving fascist movement in interwar Europe, the Legion terrorized Jews and law-abiding Romanians alike. Appropriately, page 99 is headed “Paramilitary Death Teams.” Legionaries organized a paramilitary wing of their movement they called the Iron Guard in 1930. A sympathetic newspaper called the Iron Guard battalions “fighters for people and law, the bravest and most passionate members of the Legion of the Archangel Michael ... organized into disciplined ranks as in the military.” Members of the Iron Guard risked their lives in clashes with the police, fought with other fascist groups, and went on long, grueling propaganda marches.

Things changed when legionaries contested their first national election in December 1933. A pro-legionary journalist described the election campaign as “war in peacetime.” Violence was common in Romanian elections during the interwar period. Two candidates had died in the elections of July 1932, and the child of another candidate was killed when a bomb blew up the family car. Already sore from police attacks on legionary propagandists in the past, this time they swore that “when legionaries are struck, they [will] strike back.” In August 1933 legionaries organized themselves into “death teams” whose members promised to die for the legionary cause if need be. This was not an empty promise. In November gendarmes shot and killed a legionary student while he was putting up election posters, and then police laid siege to the Legion’s headquarters for several days, shooting another young legionary in the process while he was trying to throw bread up to his embattled friends. Other members of the paramilitary death teams engaged in high speed chases with the police or fought pitched battles with the authorities in isolated villages.

The heady events of page 99 makes Holy Legionary Youth sound like a violent book, and I am sad to say that it is. These were not peaceful times and the Legion was not a safe movement to belong to. The book also deals with more peaceful topics like legionary newspapers, artworks, music, and voluntary work camps, but the paramilitary death teams remind us that legionaries were first and foremost fighters, who were not afraid to break the law – and other people’s heads – if they thought it might help their cause.
Learn more about Holy Legionary Youth at the Cornell University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Holy Legionary Youth.

--Marshal Zeringue