National Socialist Party (Romania)
|Founded||March 25, 1932|
|Dissolved||July 5, 1934|
|Succeeded by||German People's Party|
|Paramilitary wing||Pavăza de Oțel|
|Regional wings||National Socialist Self-Help Movement of the Germans in Romania (NSDR)
National Movement for Renewal of the Germans of Romania (NEDR)
|National affiliation||National-Christian Defense League (1932, 1933)|
|Colours||Black, White, Red|
The National Socialist Party (formally Nationalist-Socialist Party of Romania; Romanian: Partidul Național-Socialist din România, PNSR) or Steel Testudo (Pavăza de Oțel) was a mimetic Nazi political party, active in Romania during the early 1930s. It was led by Colonel Ștefan Tătărescu, the brother of Gheorghe Tătărescu (twice Prime Minister of Romania during that interval), and existed around the newspaper Crez Nou. One of several far-right factions competing unsuccessfully against the Iron Guard for support, the group made little headway, and existed at times as a satellite of the National-Christian Defense League.
The PNSR proposed a program of corporatism and statism, promising a basic income, full employment, and limits on capitalist profits. It was anticommunist generally, and in particular anti-Soviet, circulating the theory of Jewish Bolshevism while describing its own program as the alternative, "positive", socialism. The party also claimed for itself the banner of Christianity, which it associated with calls for social reorganization and the expulsion or segregation of Romanian Jews. Its Germanophilia and antisemitism were supplemented by shows of support for the policies of King Carol II.
The PNSR' ideological stance, exotic in its Romanian context, found favor in Nazi Germany, notably from Alfred Rosenberg. Overall, the PNSR failed in its bid to establish a pan-fascist alliance in Romania, and, despite being nativist, functioned as a magnet for Transylvanian Saxons, Bessarabia Germans, and Russian émigrés. Tătărescu was received officially by his German patrons, who also provided the PNSR with funds, but eventually dropped by them for his unpopularity and alleged corruption. In late 1933, under the antifascist Prime Minister Ion G. Duca, the party was repressed.
Tătărescu exercised some influence over his brother's government in 1934, helping to steer the country away from its traditional alliances, but failed in his attempt to obtain arms deals for Germany. Disavowed by both its Nazi backers and Gheorghe Tătărescu, the party moderated its stances, then disappeared from the political scene in July 1934. Its Saxon chapter, under Fritz Fabritius, reemerged as the German People's Party the following year.
Tătărescu, a retired colonel of the Romanian Air Force, former military attache to Berlin, and author of patriotic plays, had made his start in politics with the left-wing Peasants' Party. He first explored the idea of creating a Romanian version of the German Nazi Party (NSDAP) during early 1932, but his interest in fascism dated back to at least 1928. In 1929, he was a high-ranking member of the "League of National Defense" (Liga Apărarea Națională), afterward serving as its president. The Colonel also became an affiliate of the mainstream National Liberal Party (PNL), which was also where his brother Gheorghe made his political career. He left that party in June 1930, to join the right-wing-dissident Georgist Liberals, who supported the political program of Romanian King Carol II. In his speeches of the period, the Colonel criticized the PNL for having failed to recognize Carol's legitimacy, and supported the Georgist promise of a "clampdown on anarchy". He took part in the party's Ploiești congress, and became one of the leaders of the Georgist section in Putna County. Serving in the Senate after the June 1931 election, he issued calls against the price gouging of bread.
Whilst the National-Christian Defense League (LANC) had developed a direct relationship with Nazi agents, the formation of a specific Nazi party in Romania soon followed. This was consecrated on March 25, 1932, with the publication of leaflet called "Program of the Romanian National-Socialists"—unsigned, but attributed to Col. Tătărescu. It urged for modifying the 1923 Constitution to enshrine "the absolute power of the Romanian people, namely those of Romanian blood". Demanding Jewish quotas and nationalization, it allowed non-Romanian Christians their civil rights, except for holding political office, and proposed corporatism instead of the parliamentary regime. The leaflet was headlined by the Nazi flag, defaced with the slogan România Românilor ("Romania for the Romanians").
The PNSR emerged around Tătărescu's weekly, Crez Nou ("New Credo"), which closely emulated German political newspapers and only ran 500 copies per issue. It shared title with a propaganda book, in which Tătărescu outlined his Nazi plan for Romania. In addition to being Nazi, Tătărescu's group was monarchist, expressing strong support for Carol II. As noted by historian Francisco Veiga, this was the "only concession to Romanianness" of an otherwise mimetic party, reflected in its choice of a party logo: an eagle adapted from Nazi symbolism, clutching the swastika, but donning the Steel Crown of Romania.
Tătărescu's party was only a minor contestant in the July 1932 election. Initially forming a cartel with the LANC and running under its swastika logo, the PNSR split during the campaign and ran on its own lists, used a horizontal tetragram icon (𝌆). The success of the NSDAP in the concurrent federal election in republican Germany increased interest in their ideology in Romania. On the Romanian right, there followed a "Naziphiliac epidemic" and "adaptation to the more efficient model". Nevertheless, the PNSR, LANC, and other such groups found it hard to compete with the Iron Guard, which experienced a steady growth in membership and support. As Veiga notes, the Guard was "authentic" when compared to the PNSR and the National Romanian Fascio, which were "coarse copies", and PNSR membership remained "minuscule".
The PNSR's constitutive congress was held at Chișinău, in Bessarabia, on September 24. Its main resolution was to create a paramilitary wing for peasant recruits, called Pavăza de Oțel ("Steel Testudo"). Modeled on the Sturmabteilung, its units were tasked with putting pressures on the communities by overseeing commercial transactions and "ensure that no Jew is appointed a clerk of the state." In the "Great Congress" held in October at Tighina, the Colonel announced an immediate "boycott of Jewish goods" and the planned expulsion of non-native Jews "before May 1, 1934". PNSR personnel took it upon itself to compile lists of Jews to be deported, with the party calling for the restriction of political rights for all Jews and renewing calls for Jewish quotas. The congress motion also included a call for Romanian elites to renounce their Freemasonry membership, and for Romanian servants to leave Jewish families. Economic demands were supplemented by a denunciation of the gold standard, to be replaced by a "national-wealth" standard. It was also in Tighina that Tătărescu expressed his desire of combining the Guard, LANC, and PNSR into a super-party which would be able to compete against the greater liberal groups. From October 1, he had styled himself "Supreme commander of the Romanian national-socialist and fascist movement". The Iron Guard had ridiculed Tătărescu, but finally approached him for talks, sending delegates to the PNSR congress.
Naziphile enthusiasm fell in Romania within weeks of the Tighina congress, as the NSDAP registered significant losses in the November election. For a while in early 1933, Tătărescu rejoined the LANC, by then a "purely Nazi organization", becoming its "military chief" and organizer of its Lăncieri units. In March, Tătărescu and Fabritius had assembled a think-tank of Germanophiles, the "Romanian–German Cultural Institute". Its board also included Rudolf Brandsch, Hans Otto Roth, Gheorghe Tașcă, and Alexandru Tzigara-Samurcaș. These figures, joined by Protoiereus Ieremia Cecan, reestablished the PNSR and Crez Nou in May of the same year; later, the Nazi envoy Friedrich Weber also enlisted.
Berlin contacts and expansion
Also in May 1933, Tătărescu stated his commitment to Germany, writing that the Germans of Romania were his party's natural allies, "the avant-garde of the great national revolution that is currently taking place up North". The German spirit, he argued, would do away with "the fictitious parliamentarian regime" and "dime-a-dozen politicians". Also then, the PNSR outlined its other "cardinal beliefs": "You as an individual can accomplish nothing; the organized nation can obtain everything. Neither slaves to the capitalists; nor a herd of cattle under a Bolshevik tyranny. The Romanian as a master of his home and a brother to all, in Christian spirit." The party now rejected economic theory in favor of pragmatic and radical solutions to the Great Depression, arguing that "decisive men [of state]" were required. It cited as examples Mustafa Kemal and Benito Mussolini.
Tătărescu's German loyalty, reaffirmed at a new party conference, was partly rewarded: the Reich Press Office maintained preferential links with Tătărescu, Octavian Goga, and with the Nazified Saxon leader Fritz Fabritius, noting that they stood for more ideologically complex movements. It regarded the Guard and the LANC as "exclusively antisemitic". After the NSDAP's seizure of power, Alfred Rosenberg, head of its foreign political office, promoted and financially supported the PNSR, inviting Tătărescu to attend a meeting with Adolf Hitler in autumn 1933.
The party soon built a base in Saxon Transylvania, mainly among affiliates of the German Party (to which Brandsch and Roth belonged). It also had a regional Romanian newspaper, Svastica Ardealului ("Transylvania's Swastika"), published by Ion Cleja. This wing had stronger chapters in Sălaj and Bihor, respectively led by Cleja and lawyer Ciprian Hubic, and was joined by Mihail Kreutzer, who claimed to represent the Satu Mare Swabians. The PNSR organized Romanian sections in other areas of the country—including Oltenia, where the PNSR called on the landowner Theo Martinescu-Asău.
Another powerful wing was in Bessarabia and the Budjak, which housed the Russian émigré and Bessarabian German communities. The Chișinău congress failed to recruit from the Iron Guard, but cemented PNSR affiliations from ethnic minority groups: V. Leidenius represented the Russians (whom the PNSR pledged to help in their fight "against the Soviet regime and ideology"), and Arthur Fink the Germans. Prominent Bessarabian members included Cecan (the regional honorary president), lawyer Mihai Ioan Georgescu Zinca and German community leader Hans Enlesn. Two local Russian-language newspapers affiliated with the cause: Cecan's Telegraf ("The Telegraph") and Leidenius' Voskresenie ("Resurrection").
In neighboring Bukovina, the PNSR chapter, which put out Svastica Bucovinei ("Bukovina's Swastika"), was led by Cicerone Manole and Captain Runtz. Also in Bukovina, the PNSR advertised its sympathy for the Ukrainian minority and the Ukrainian people at large. Crez Nou denounced the Holodomor as a "diabolical" and "Judeo-Russian" conspiracy, concluding that: "our superior national interest dictates that we should assist in the liberation of the Ukrainian people." Many members of the Ukrainian National Party joined the local Nazi movement, believing that Germany would support an independent "Greater Ukraine". They did not affiliate with the PNSR sections, but rather directly with the Fabritius faction.
|Notable figures of the PNSR|
Tătărescu ultimately went on a diplomatic tour of Nazi Germany, which included being interviewed by the Völkischer Beobachter and visiting Sonnenburg concentration camp. The encounter with Hitler took place in Berlin on September 15, 1933. Tătărescu informed Hitler about the activities of the PNSR and discussed with other NSDAP officials methods of antisemitic action. The meeting was also encouraged by the Romanian Minister Foreign Affairs, Nicolae Titulescu. At the time, the latter was trying to move Romania away from its alliance with France and the Little Entente, but asked Hitler to provide Romania with guarantees; Hitler refused to present any, identifying Titulescu as on obstacle of German re-armament. While in Germany, Tătărescu also spoke for Breslau Radio, describing his meeting with Hitler in enthusiastic terms. The broadcast was covered at home by the center-left Dreptatea, which described the PNSR fan base as "people of no consequence and no social use, no precise ethnicity, no honest employment, and in general nobodies with no sort of training". The paper also called Tătărescu a "gadabout", and insisted that "our salvation can only be found at home, not in Rome, Berlin, or Nanking".
Tătărescu's public appeal for 250,000 Reichsmark in funds was poorly received in Berlin, and he was asked to preserve secrecy. Ambassador von der Schulenburg specified that funding the PNSR up-front "would be regarded as an unjustified intrusion in Romania's internal affairs." He recommended prioritizing the LANC dissident Nichifor Crainic as a more profitable and less conspicuous alternative. In Schulenburg's ideal scenario, Tătărescu and Crainic were to form an alliance. For his part, the Colonel offered to distribute the funds for his printing office by putting out Crainic's Calendarul and Goga's Țara Noastră.
National-Socialist, Fascist and Christian party
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|Fascism in Romania|
Although the preferred acronym continued to be PNSR, the group became primarily known as "National-Socialist Christian Party", or, occasionally, as the "Nazi Christian-Fascist party". Its symbols also included the Romanian tricolor defaced with the swastika. Its ceremonials included honoring images of King Carol with what the party itself termed a "fascist salute". Crez Nou, previously called "organ of the National-Socialist Party of Romania", became "organ of the National-Socialist, Fascist and Christian Movement of Romania", and finally, on November 10, 1933, "organ of the Romanian National-Socialist, Fascist and Christian Steel Testudo". The latter became its official name, shortened to "Steel Testudo", with the publication of a new party program. Calling itself "a lay army for the affirmation of Christianity", it demanded a new social and economic order reflecting "brotherly cooperation" and "Christ's teachings", and, more generically, a culture of "manly spiritualism" that looked back to the days the Zalmoxis. The "demoniac" enemies of Christ were identified as being Judaism, Marxism, and Freemasonry.
In this new avatar, the party was again supportive of corporatism and guilds, which would have replaced parliament as the source of representation and legislation. Crez Nou claimed that a "corporatist system", supported by the entire "national and Christian right", would "ensure the consolidation and real prosperity of the whole Romanian nation, with no difference of class and with the assurance of social justice." Speaking at the regional Testudo gathering in Carei, on October 29, Tătărescu defined his economics as "positive, active, anticommunist and anti-Masonic socialism, reclaiming the people's right to work and bread for all". The party program announced its respect for private property, but imposed a basic income model, and argued that property "must serve a useful function in the community"—proposing to overtax "profiteers" and to punish tax evaders, spies and "saboteurs" with the death penalty. To encourage the emergence of a local industry, it promised the full electrification of Romania.
The Testudo also reiterated the proposal to expel from the country those Jewish families who were supposedly foreign, and also urged segregation against native Jews; at the same time, it argued for "brotherly and permanent collaboration" with the local Germans. PNSR antisemitism was by then becoming internationally famous: in a January 1934 piece, The Sydney Morning Herald noted that "the National Socialist Group under the leadership of Stephan Tataresco" was one of the four "powerful anti-Semitic organisations in Rumania." The other three were the LANC, the Iron Guard, and remnants of the Black Hundreds. The Testudo also continued to claim that there was a "Judeo-Marxist left", which intended to "enslave all Romanian intellectuals, workers and ploughmen". It claimed that this category included the radical Romanian Communist Party and the moderate Social Democratic and United Socialist parties. In return, the National Antifascist Committee (a front for the Communist Party) denounced the PNSR as a symptom of the "brown plague".
During the Tighina gatherings, the PNSR complained of being harassed by Pan Halippa, the Minister for Bessarabia, and suggested that Halippa himself was manipulated by "the heads of Judaic communities". Eventually, the arrival to power of a PNL cabinet, headed by Ion G. Duca, meant a clampdown on Nazi activity. In November 1933, while organizing a new PNSR congress in Chișinău, Tătărescu was seized by the local police and escorted back to Bucharest. Late that month, the government also outlawed Fabritius' own autonomous organization, the National Socialist Self-Help Movement of the Germans in Romania (NSDR), forcing it to reemerge as the National Movement for Renewal of the Germans of Romania (NEDR).
By then, Tătărescu's brother Gheorghe was emerging as a favorite of Carol II, and took over as premier following Duca's killing by the Guard. He himself supported the "young liberals" faction, a brand of social liberalism with statist leanings, and was inclined toward making use of "extreme nationalism". For a while in 1934, he and the king hoped to appease and coax the Guard into submission. As a Nazi agent of influence, Col. Tătărescu is credited with having created the conflict between his brother the Prime Minister and Titulescu, resulting in a shift toward Germany, and away from "democratic countries." He persuaded the cabinet to sign arms deals with Germany, but Titulescu fought the decision—he managed to obtain from the king himself approval to sign contracts in liberal countries, as well as a clampdown on the Iron Guard.
Clampdown and aftermath
In April, the government also clamped down on the Steel Testudo, having discovered that the Colonel was laundering his German sponsorship through a contract with IG Farben, in complicity with Artur Adolf Konradi. This incident made it hard for the NSDAP to maintain contacts with Tătărescu, who was being threatened by the authorities. German supporters also realized that the Guard had returned to ridiculing the Testudo, and withdrew their backing entirely. On July 5, the Tătărescu government outlawed the Saxon and Bessarabian chapters of the PNSR, which, overseen by Fabritius, were apparently the last functioning bodies in the party.
On February 7, 1935, news came out that Tătărescu had (re)launched the Nazi Party and was putting out manifestos in Romanian and German. As reported by the European press, the Premier greatly disapproved of this action. During the subsequent scandal, the Colonel denied that he had anything to do with the relaunch, and described the manifestos as forgeries. Over the following months, his party no longer active, Tătărescu again expressed his support for Jewish quotas, as proposed by the nationalist ideologue Alexandru Vaida-Voevod. Although he had earlier denounced Vaida as a "plutocratic and demagogic centrist", in early March 1935, he signed a cooperation agreement with Vaida's supporters within the National Peasants' Party, who soon after established the Romanian Front.
Tătărescu urged his brother's cabinet to make these principles into an official policy, but also expressed his rejection of racial antisemitism: "I am not an enemy of the Jews. I am only against those Jews who came from Galicia and from Russia". The Romanian Nazi cell was still putting out a new political newspaper, Veghea ("The Vigil"), published by Tătărescu and a professional journalist, Mănescu. According to one account, reporting Mănescu's own stories, this enterprise was financed by the Jewish breadmakers Sever and Max Herdan, who hoped to tone down its antisemitism. The group disappeared a while after, with Mănescu fully unemployed by September 1937.
By then, the former Saxon affiliates of the PNSR had split into two groups: a radical German People's Party, in practice led by Fabritius; and a moderate Front of German Unity, led by Roth. They were challenged by a dissident wing, founded by Waldemar Gust and Alfred Bonfert from remnants of NEDR units. In the early stages of World War II, deemed a moderate by Hitler and the VoMi, Fabritius was removed from his positions in the Saxon community. Meanwhile, most Bessarabian Nazis had switched their allegiance toward the Iron Guard. Stranded in Soviet territory following the occupation of Bessarabia, Cecan was imprisoned by the NKVD. He was shot by his captors during the Soviet retreat of 1941.
According to one report, the sociologist Mihai Ralea was trying to establish a new PNSR under Conducător Ion Antonescu, who had aligned Romania with the Axis Powers. By that moment, Ștefan Tătărescu had retired from national politics, managing the cooperatives in Vâlcea County. Reportedly, his penchant for corruption angered Antonescu, who ordered his extrajudicial arrest in an internment camp. Following the Soviet occupation of Romania, Roth and Brandsch reunited in an effort to protect the Germans against the policy of deportation. They were both arrested in 1948, and died while in custody. Returning to politics as a National Peasantist, Tașcă died in Sighet prison in 1951. The Colonel and all of his three brothers were also imprisoned by the postwar communist regime: General Alexandru Tătărescu died in confinement in 1951; Gheorghe died shortly after being released, in 1955. Freed in 1957, Ștefan survived until 1970.
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- Tineretul Pavezei de Oțel, "Introducere în programul Pavezei de Oțel național-socialiste, fasciste și creștine din România", in Crez Nou, Nr. 10/1933, p. 1
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- Georgescu (2010), p. 66
- Veiga, pp. 212, 247–248
- Heinen, pp. 242–243
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- Crabbé, pp. 90–91
- Crabbé, p. 90
- Panu, pp. 190, 193. See also Georgescu (2010), pp. 66–67
- "Diversas notas europeas. El nacional socialismo en Rumania", in La Vanguardia, February 8, 1935, p. 28
- "Nouvelles de la semaine", in L'Européen, No. 275, February 15, 1935, p. 2
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- Tatarescu Kin Denies Enmity for All Jews, Jewish Telegraphic Agency release, February 13, 1935
- Nicolae Brînzeu, Jurnalul unui preot bătrân, pp. 271–271. Timișoara: Eurostampa, 2011. ISBN 978-606-569-311-1
- Panu, pp. 83–84, 139, 193–197
- Georgescu (2010), pp. 66–67; Panu, pp. 19, 84, 139–142, 193–194
- Georgescu (2010), pp. 57, 68–69
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- Ernst Henri, Hitler over Europe. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1934. OCLC 1690698
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- Stanley G. Payne, A History of Fascism, 1914—1945. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-299-14874-4
- Francisco Veiga, Istoria Gărzii de Fier, 1919–1941: Mistica ultranaționalismului. Bucharest: Humanitas, 1993. ISBN 973-28-0392-4