Romanian political figure praises antisemitic fascist leader on primetime TV

Calin Georgescu, a Romanian political candidate praised an antisemitic 1930s fascist leader during a primetime TV interview, reports the JTA.

Calin Georgescu, a political hopeful who could become honorary president of the country’s fourth-largest political party, praised the leader of a 1930s fascist extremist group, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, and the pro-Nazi dictator, Ion Antonescu, during a Monday evening TV interview with the Antena 3 news channel.

Georgescu said Codreanu “fought for the morality of the human being,” and he referred to pro-Nazi dictator Antonescu, under whose rule at least 280,000 Jews were killed, as a “martyr.”

Codreanu was the leader of the fiercely antisemitic Legionnaire Movement until his execution in 1938. The group advocated extreme ethnic and religious nationalism, which involved political murders and acts of terrorism. Two years after its founder’s death, the movement entered the government of Romania’s pro-Nazi dictator Ion Antonescu. In January 1941, the Legionnaire Movement rose against Antonescu. More than 120 Jews were killed during the rebellion, and several synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed. The events are known today as the Bucharest Pogrom.

Georgescu’s interview marked the first time in years that a prominent political figure openly defended Codreanu’s record on a mainstream Romanian television channel. His comment drew strong condemnation from the Romanian Jewish community and civil society.

Georgescu was nominated to be honorary president of the right-wing populist party, the Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR). The party’s co-chair George Simion said that Georgescu’s comments do not represent the AUR’s official position on the matter, which cannot be other than the law (referring to the Romanian law passed in 2002 that criminalizes Holocaust denial.

In a recent TV interview, Simion said that his party was planning a meeting with officials from former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party for April, presenting that as proof that AUR bears no prejudice against Jews. However, Likud’s foreign affairs director and spokesman Eli Hazan has instructed his party’s members to avoid any contact with AUR: “This party is antisemitic.”