A Romanian politician praised an antisemitic 1930s fascist leader during a primetime TV interview, drawing sharp condemnation from Jewish and other groups.
Speaking on Antena 3 news channel, Calin Georgescu said Corneliu Zelea Codreanu “fought for the morality of the human being.” An interviewer had asked Georgescu why he put Codreanu on a list of national “heroes” in a 2020 Facebook video that garnered over 700,000 views.
Codreanu led the fiercely antisemitic Legionnaire Movement until his execution in 1938. The group espoused an extreme version of ethnic and religious nationalism that 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.
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.
Georgescu also referred to Antonescu, under whose rule at least 280,000 Jews were killed, as a “martyr.”
The comments have drawn a storm of condemnation from the Jewish community and civil society in Romania, which has been warning for several months of the return of antisemitic discourse to the public sphere.