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The Prison Notes of Corneliu Codreanu: What Stands in the End?

Corneliu Codreanu and the Legionary Movement

Of all the nationalist leaders of the early 20th century, Corneliu Codreanu is probably one of the least known amongst people of the West. Born at the turn of the century in Romania in 1899, Codreanu became a prominent figure in nationalist politics from a young age. He was an Orthodox Christian of deep conviction with a natural love for his people, determined to direct his life towards the defense of his country against the Jewish and communist threat that had poisoned Romanian life, not unlike many other countries in Europe at the time. A charismatic leader and talented organizer, he would eventually found The Legion of the Archangel Michael (later to be known as the Iron Guard), a movement that encompassed both a patriotic national spirit as well as a reverent devotion to Jesus Christ and the Orthodox Christian life. 

Though fascism is generally used as a sort of umbrella term for the various nationalist movements and governments of the early 20th century, it is at times necessary to recognize the distinctive features of each movement as well as the vision of their respective leaders.

Corneliu Codreanu gave a brief but enlightening appraisal of the separate but related phenomenons in an interview shortly before his arrest in 1938 (included in his book The Prison Notes), addressing where his movement stood in the political and spiritual line up, which due to its significance I will quote in full for this introduction:

In each living being three aspects may be distinguished, that of the body as form, that of vital forces, and that of the spirit, Similarly, each political movement which seeks to bring renovation, despite being a unitary whole, may lay greater emphasis of what corresponds to a particular one of these aspects, without of course ignoring the other two, depending on the heritage, tradition and particular qualities of its stock. Fascism (Italian), I believe, stresses ‘form’ above all, in the sense of that informing power that shapes states and civilizations, in line with its Roman legacy. What stands out in National Socialism is the more biological element, the myth of blood and race, which corresponds to the ‘vital’ part of each being. The Iron Guard instead wishes to take the purely spiritual and religious aspect as the starting point for its work.

This single quote from Codreanu offers a great starting point for the subject of this article and the nature of the book it will be covering. The book The Prison Notes is a collection of Codreanu’s last writings and diary kept during his 3 months in prison before his murder at the hands of the Romanian state shortly after sentencing. Within the notes lies not the political strategies and aspirations of an ambitious politician, but the trials and tribulations of a body and soul faced with utter defeat, betrayal and suffering proceeded by a gruesome death.

As with much of my writing, my goal is to draw on the wisdom of this historical account in order to show the parallels with our modern world as well as to shine a light on something these men had in this turbulent time period that is quickly slipping away from us today: a transcendent  spiritual reality left standing in the end.

The Promise of Consequences

I am truly alone.

I recall: I spent two other Easters in prison, in Focsani in 1925 and in Galata in 1929.

Never, however, was I so sad, so racked by so much pain, crushed by so many thoughts. 

I take my missal and set myself to read. I pray to God for everyone. For my wife, so tried and afflicted; for my mother, whom the Husi police have surely visited once again and terrified; for my father, whom God only knows in which cell he is passing this night; finally, too, I pray for my brothers, who are in the same situation as me.

Above is from the entry of “Holy Easter, 24 April 1938”, five days after Codreanu’s incarceration in the military prison of Jilava, “an old fort of the Bucharest belt”, for what was originally a charge of slander, snowballing into charges of treason and sedition amongst other accusations. He would go on to spend three months in Jilava before being sentenced to 10 years of hard labour, transferred to the Doftana Prison where within months he would meet his end at the hands of Gendarmerie (national police force), his body charred with acid and buried under seven tons of concrete.

Codreanu’s tragic end was not merely the result of despotic injustice, but the culmination of a life spent incrementally building parallel power within Romania. With a goal centered on the rebuilding of individual men at a physical and spiritual level, the Legionary movement would eventually grow to such a force that its power and influence would threaten the authority of the established state by its mere existence.  

In Codreanu’s semi-autobiographical work For My Legionnaires, he describes in detail his journey from a young law student at the University of Iasi to the supreme Captain of one million Romanians. This was a journey fraught with hardship and adversity, a sustained battle with both government corruption and the organized threat of Jewish influence which was wielded through their monopoly over institutional power within Romania, most notably the press which orchestrated constant attacks and smear campaigns.

For My Legionnaires covers the various political exploits of Codreanu and of the other Romanian nationalist forces that ebbed and flowed throughout the 1920s, a work of both historical importance as well as political theory. Though For My Legionnaires also deals with the promise of consequences when speaking or acting in defense of an ideal, The Prison Notes lays bare the ultimate price one may pay for engaging the enemy in spiritual and ideological warfare. 

In the post-Covid era, it is becoming increasingly obvious to even the newly initiated that the rampant abuse of power and bending of the law was not at all the knee jerk reaction of well-intentioned and petty politicians responding to a collective threat, but the preliminary groundwork laid to redefine the acceptable course of action in reforming our nations into their final forms as post-national states.

This of course does not end with the ever more obvious top-down dictation from a false authority with no moral foundation for its edicts, but is also reliant on the opening of our borders to all the populations of the world. This great replacement is by no means trivial or one dimensional, it serves multiple purposes at once and its destructive nature cannot be overstated. The more outnumbered our people become, the less empathy will be had for those of us who face the brute force of the supposed authorities. This is particularly clear when you take into account the demoralization and self-hate campaign directed against our people as well as the programming of our replacements to unconditionally detest us. This is all obvious, and I’m sure a little redundant, to those of us with eyes to see and a knowledge of the prevalent political agenda that arguably stretches back much farther than the post-war era.

What can be taken away from Codreanu’s notes from Jilava is a stark reminder of where each and every dissident of the modern West may find themselves if they resolve to publicly oppose the agenda of our current global regime. Ideas of court challenges, of “charter rights”, of any sort of blind justice are quickly evaporating, though not at a fast enough rate as far as I can tell. There are still far too many on the broad expanse of the political right who believe this situation can be resolved through some sort of simple litigation or legislation. Any victory on our part will come not through the validation of our words and actions by this system, but through steadfast determination to speak the truth no matter the cost and with those costs expected.

In order to be physically, mentally, and spiritually prepared for what fate may await us in the future, one must ask himself what price he is willing pay for making a public defense of the truth. In this day and age, just as in ages past, there is no longer a promise of a fair defense and honest day in court where we are protected by laws that apply evenly and without prejudice. There will soon remain only the promise of consequences, the severity of which are increasing by the day and can be better comprehended by taking in the accounts of suffering experienced by men like Corneliu Codreanu.

Through the cracks in the planks, through the mattress and the blanket, comes a cold draft from the paving stones which penetrates my clothes and reaches within my weakened sides. I turn onto my right side and bring my knees up to my chin. My hips are hurting me. I feel as if a large abscess is oozing pus. I cannot rest on one side for more than five minutes. But on the other side it is also painful.

I think of Catalina, my little girl, and her way of sleeping, her little fingers in her mouth, dreaming of Father Christmas who brings her toys.

The Supremacy of the Soul

For sixty days, I have not exchanged a word with anyone, because nobody is allowed to speak with me. And, moreover, I am attacked in my moral person, accused of treason, declared a stateless person, as not being Romanian either by my father or mother, denounced as an enemy of the state, overwhelmed with blows and with my hands tied behind my back. To speak the truth, without the possibility of defense. 

My heart tightened at the thought of the suffering, the humiliations, the brutalities endured by my loved ones, my family and my comrades, and I felt one of the three threads which links a Christian to God break – Hope! Everything became black before my eyes. I felt suffocated. 

But I succeeded in renewing it, this thread, through struggling day after day. How? By reading the four Gospels. When I had finished them, I felt that I once again had these three threads and that they were perfect: Faith, Hope, and Charity.

The elevation of the spiritual component of man over his base material needs, wants, and desires is a resounding theme in the works of many of our nationalist heroes of the past. The Burning Souls by Leon Degrelle echoes similar themes and conclusions as are found in Condreanu’s prison notes, another poetic and soul stirring work of art which I have covered in the past. Though the 20th century was indeed filled with the most barbaric and satanic forms and manifestations of materialist ideologies, this has also allowed for a stark contrast to be witnessed between our Judeo-communist adversaries and the virtuous Christian-nationalist heroes of continental Europe. 

As was partly addressed in our introduction, the defining element of Codreanu’s Legionary movement was the rejection of political success as the ultimate goal and aim of the Legionary life. Though his movement grew to upwards of one million men, success was both doubtful and improbable, particularly at the outset, with the entirety of the Jewish press aligned against it and with the rampant corruption in all levels of public life. The true message and mantra was the embrace of Christian struggle, of just and honourable deeds in service of God and country. Codreanu was concerned not so much with a changing of the world but with a changing of the hearts of his men, instilling them with a sense honour, duty and true Christian asceticism.

The flag of the Legionnaires represented the white cross of the faith behind the black bars of prison, a fate which every Legionnaire must accept as a possible reality. The design of the flag itself proved to be prophetic as this was the fate of a large majority of Legionnaires, most notably Valeriu Gafencu, whose martyrdom is addressed at length in The Saint of the Prisons by Monk Moise, another heart wrenching but spiritually inspiring account of a man unjustly tortured and persecuted but who embraced his suffering and in turn elevated himself to God.  

The message and example expressed by Codreanu is very relatable to the current reality we face in our day. As we struggle to find a political path forward, some sort of unifying ethos to rally our people together, it is of prime importance to ask ourselves: for what would we give up our comforts, our livelihoods, our freedom, and our lives? When faced with ultimate material and political destruction, what would stand in the end as eternal and uncompromising?

These are questions that are often treated as accessory in modern nationalist politics, until untimely consequences become our fate and we are forced to find answers to these questions when it is far too late. Modern nationalist slogans like “Folk Over Faith” betray the flaws and holes in a political resistance that is lacking a foundational spiritual element required not only to unite nations at a level higher than biological similarity, but also to properly prepare men for their potential fate should they find themselves turned over to the kind of injustice as was experienced by Corneliu Codreanu and his fellow Legionnaires.

If our struggle is merely political and worldly in nature, what will give us strength and conviction if we find ourselves lying on the cold damp floors of prison as was the reality for Codreanu and thousands of his comrades? One might be inclined to answer “We made these sacrifices for our families, took on the burden so that they wouldn’t have to.” A noble cause, though it will give us little comfort if our families are entombed within the same walls, or within another prison hundreds of miles away. Another answer may be “We gave all for our people, for the nation and its legacy”. An equally honourable justification, though it is often at the hands of their own people and nations that great men and heroes of the past have met their end, betrayed by the fickle nature of the mob and the contemptible nature of the bureaucrat.

What the persecution and martyrdom of Corneliu Codreanu displays to us in the modern world is that if all our worldly aspirations are stripped away, when political destruction is assured, our nations subverted and countries destroyed, our faith in a higher order and in Christ’s conquering of this world can sustain us in the end through all hardship and persecution.

This faith offers us not just a hope of salvation but an iron will to take on a struggle for truth, to sacrifice for a higher ideal, to give ourselves over the consequences of this world knowing all victory is assured in the next. This is a faith all men naturally struggle to find as our physical and spiritual natures battle to find their balance, a faith that for Corneliu Codreanu was not truly found until all hope in this world was stripped from him and he lay in his cell with only the hand of God on his shoulder to comfort him.

I say “only”, not merely, as the hand of God is the only thing that truly transcends both pleasure and suffering, victory and defeat, as well as life and death. The hand of God that knows all the sufferings and afflictions of men, as he took them on himself in the flesh.

I see how they beat Him, how they strike him in the face during the interrogation to which, that night, the Pharisees, the doctors and the important men of those days subject him.

I see how they seek to confound Him by all kinds of questions. And He is silent and looks directly at each of those who surround Him. He looks them straight in the eye: will He perhaps find a friend amongst them? In such situations, a man clings to eyes redolent with friendship. A warm, friendly, understanding look gives him hope and strength. 

Nothing! Everywhere the eyes of wildcats, full of hatred, perfidity and the desire to torment.

Then, I see Him, afflicted, lower His eyes to the ground.

The Choices We Have

The tragic but legendary fate of Corneliu Codreanu offers a vivid glimpse of the ultimate price one may pay for faith and conviction, for unyielding opposition to the corruption of this world in both material and spiritual matters. There is a certain detachment from reality in the modern world even amongst many of those who consider themselves informed and aware of the destructive predicament we currently find ourselves in. A detachment from the reality that in a world ruled by evil, any sincere opposition will be met with full force and persecution. We reside and operate within a system that is completely corrupted and fundamentally antagonistic to all that is true and just. This is the reality.

Faced with this reality we are left with only a few options of how respond. The first would be to proactively join this system and become one of the many sucklers on the teat of a rising tyranny, a choice that no doubt could provide all the luxuries, fame, and financial rewards that are bestowed on the traitors and the servants of our enemies. 

This is the path chosen by all those who occupy our present governments, both on the right and left, who role play positions of opposition and equally act out a drama of authority, an authority they hold neither in this life as servants of Jews nor in the next when they will come face to face with the ultimate Authority.

The same can be said of the vast majority of media personalities, also of both left and right, who water down their principles and messages to a level that permits them to become millionaires through the forking of their tongues. Presenting themselves as the voice of their respective “people”, they suck up the financial rewards of validating a corrupted system while secretly supporting the maintenance of its existence which guarantees their worldly luxuries and the preservation of their self-glorified status. 

Funeral procession of coffins of Corneliu Codreanu and his companions, going through the streets of Bucharest.

The second choice would be to remain quiet but not actively participate in the program of destruction. This path was highlighted by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his famous 1974 essay Live Not By Lies as the bare bones minimum level of virtuous action to be taken against an oppressive and godless state. If one does not have the ability or knowledge to speak out in truth, virtue can still be practiced through the refusal to speak lies. Countless examples of this virtuous passive resistance can be found throughout the history the Orthodox Christians that suffered under the weight of communism in the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries like Codreanu’s Romania.

In fact, at its highest level of practice this path transcends all others as it can lead to a full unification with God as seen through the examples of modern saints. A common criticism levied at Christianity is its non-violent nature, its emphasis on Faith, Hope and Charity that is taken as weakness in the modern day. But it is precisely this faith in the Eternal Judge of all matters who overcame death itself that gave many the courage and strength to endure hardships and persecutions without fear or delusion of material reward. By living in this truth they resigned to live not by lies, come what may, let Christ be the judge.

The third and final choice available for men today is to speak out boldly and defiantly in both defense of our people and in opposition to our enemies. This is the path less trodden as it undeniably makes one a target while also requiring a certain disposition for conflict. It also offers few material rewards, there is little money to be made in speaking the truth, no fame that you won’t one day curse, no punishment considered too severe should the opportunity present itself to those in power to make a horrific example of you.

The story of Corneliu Codreanu is one of the more notable historic examples in recent history that illustrates the price one must be willing to pay when he takes this path. Should we find ourselves meeting a similar fate, we can take comfort from our faith. Faith in what stands in the end.

We are taken up with an love the victories over other men, and not the victories over Satan and sin.

All the great men of yesterday and today: Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, etc., were taken up above all by these victories. 

The Legionary Movement is an exception, in concerning itself also, however insufficiently, with the Christian victory in man for his salvation. Yet not enough! The responsibility of a leader is vast.He must not flatter his troops with earthly victories, without preparing them at the same time for the decisive struggle, from which the soul of each person can emerge crowned with an eternal victory or a total defeat.

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