Sfarmă-Piatră


Sfarmă-Piatră

"Sfarmă-Piatră" (literally "Stone-Crusher" or "Rock-Breaker", named after one of the "Uriaşi" characters in Romanian folklore; IPA2|'sfar.mə 'pja.trə) was an antisemitic daily, monthly and later weekly newspaper, published in Romania during the late 1930s and early 1940s. One in a series of publications founded by Nichifor Crainic (better known as the head of "Gândirea" magazine), with support from "Universul" editor-in-chief Stelian Popescu, it attempted regroup competing fascist and pro-fascist movements around Crainic's views of "ethnocracy". The editorial staff comprised a group of far right intellectuals; alongside the editor-in-chief Alexandru Gregorian, they included Ovidiu Papadima, Vintilă Horia, Dan Botta, Dragoş Protopopescu, Toma Vlădescu, and Pan M. Vizirescu. [Ornea, p.245, 439] It notably hosted contributions by writers Ioan Alexandru Brătescu-Voineşti and Radu Gyr.

Noted for its contemptuous style of journalism and its recourse to violent language, "Sfarmă-Piatră" launched press campaigns against various figures who advocated left-wing or centrist positions, as well as against prominent members of the Jewish-Romanian community. Among the targets of its attacks were Foreign Minister Nicolae Titulescu (an advocate of international cooperation and the League of Nations), mainstream politicians such as Constantin Argetoianu and Constantin Stere, and the well-known writers Tudor Arghezi, Mihail Sebastian, Eugen Lovinescu and Mihail Sadoveanu. The publication was involved in a lengthy conflict with democratic newspapers such as "Adevărul" and "Dimineaţa", as well as with two rival voices on the far right—the National Christian Party (PNC) of Octavian Goga and A. C. Cuza, and Mihail Manoilescu's "Buna Vestire".

Initially adverse King Carol II and attempting a rapprochement with the fascist Iron Guard, it came to support Carol's National Renaissance Front after 1938, and, during World War II, switched its position, offering backing to the Guard's National Legionary regime and finally to that of "Conducător" Ion Antonescu.

History

Beginnings

The paper was a successor to Nichifor Crainic's daily "Calendarul", which had been closed down by the authorities in December 1933, just after the assassination of Premier Ion G. Duca by the Iron Guard's "Nicadori" death squad. Together with his collaborator Protopopescu, with "Cuvântul" journalist Nae Ionescu, and other far right supporters in the press, Crainic was arrested on charges of having morally instigated the killing. They were tried over the following months, but were eventually acquitted. [Ornea, p.244-245] During the affair, Crainic and the others made public statements dissociating themselves from the Iron Guard and its leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, which contrasted with their support for the movement before and after that date. [Ornea, p.245] By then, "Calendarul" 's editor was also ending his brief association with the PNC. This signaled the beginning of a rivalry among the radical right-wing groups, which would also reflect on Crainic's stance toward Alexandru Vaida-Voevod (whose fascist party, the Romanian Front, was to merge with the PNC soon after). [Ornea, p.245-246, 255-258]

Crainic attempted to revive "Calendarul", but his attempts were frustrated by successive executives down to 1938. [Ornea, p.245] "Sfarmă-Piatră" saw print on November 14, 1935, after Crainic received funding from Stelian Popescu. [Ornea, p.245] In its first issue, it proclaimed its commitment to nationalism, and launched an appeal to "obliterate the rookeries that the naive take for temples and the con artists claim are eternal", stating that its goal was to fight "the freckled dragons". [Ornea, p.245]

According to literary historian Z. Ornea, the journal was noted for making use of "the violent, sneering, vulgar and unsubstantial lampoon". [Ornea, p.245] Noting the heavy use of demeaning epithets, literary critic Ruxandra Cesereanu describes the journal and its partners on the far right as engaged in "besmirching writers and public figures",ro icon Ruxandra Cesereanu, [http://www.observatorcultural.ro/informatiiarticol.phtml?xid=926 "Zavistia. Imaginarul lingvistic violent al extremei drepte româneşti"] , in "Observator Cultural", Nr. 109, March-April 2002] while political analyst Michael Shafir notes it was "viciously antisemitic".Michael Shafir, [http://web.ceu.hu/jewishstudies/yb03/16shafir.pdf "Varieties of Antisemitism in Post-Communist East Central Europe. Motivations and Political Discourse"] , in the Central European University's " [http://web.ceu.hu/jewishstudies/yearbook.htm Jewish Studies Yearbook] ", 2003, p.182]

"Sfarmă-Piatră" constantly popularized the claim that Romania was subject to a Jewish invasion, and featured many articles in which Jews who took Romanian names were referred to under their original ones, in what was an attempt to have them branded and marginalized. ["Final Report", p.184] It also maintained a climate of hatred against Jews in high position, claiming that King Carol's "camarilla" was a sign of Jewish domination over the country, and, in particular, issuing attacks against Carol's mistress, Elena Lupescu, who was of part-Jewish origin. [Ornea, p.398] From the moment of its creation, "Sfarmă-Piatră" published regular pieces against the rival journals "Adevărul" and "Dimineaţa", and attempted to maintain close links with other ultra-nationalist journals ("Porunca Vremii", "Vremea", "Curentul"). [Ornea, p.245, 246]

From early on, the periodical made a point of attacking politicians of the establishment, and in particular members of the National Peasants' Party (PNŢ): alongside Argetoianu, Titulescu and Stere, its journalists wrote against Vaida-Voevod and Victor Iamandi. [Ornea, p.245] In particular, "Sfarmă-Piatră" attacked several politicians and intellectuals (Sadoveanu, Argetoianu, Vaida-Voevod) for their association with Freemasonry. [Ornea, p.245] Through Crainic's articles, "Sfarmă-Piatră" also issued occasional praise for Titulescu, commending him for standing up to Hungary's revisionist designs in respect to Transylvania, and depicted him standing in front of the Chamber of Deputies as if dressed "in the fiery cape of Romanian consciousness."ro icon Valeriu Râpeanu, [http://www.curierulnational.ro/Specializat/2003-01-11/%E2%80%9CGloria+lui+internationala+era+mandria+nationala%E2%80%9D "Nichifor Crainic despre Nicolae Titulescu: 'Gloria lui internaţională era mândria naţională' "] , in "Curierul Naţional", January 11, 2003] Similar praise for the Foreign Minister was contributed to the newspaper by Dragoş Protopopescu.

"Sfarmă-Piatră", modernism and traditionalism

A regular feature of "Sfarmă-Piatră" was constituted by its claims to save Romanian culture and to expose the dangers posed by modernism and the avant-garde, as well as the negative impact the older left-wing cultural trend known as Poporanism. In 1936, an essayist named Septimiu Bucur contributed a piece in which he claimed that Romania lacked a school of literary criticism after the late 19th century demise of "Junimea". In particular, he argued against the Popranists Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea (a Jewish immigrant whom he described as "alienated" from Romanian realities) and Garabet Ibrăileanu (whose outlook he rejected for being akin to regionalism). [Ornea, p.438-439] Bucur then focused on Eugen Lovinescu, who, as editor of "Sburătorul", had abandoned his conservative position to support an explicitly urban form of modernism, marked by the imprint of Impressionism. He accused the modernist doyen of having introduced "a plant with poisoned juices" to Romania, and accused him of being partly responsible for "the recent invasion of kike foreigners". [Ornea, p.438-439]

A year later, Ovidiu Papadima wrote an article specifically targeting Lovinescu. Announcing that "the era of unforgiving judgments is approaching", Papadima accused Lovinescu of having engineered "our spiritual decay" through "the invasion of modernism", which, he claimed, replicated the supposed intrusion of "foreign capital" in the economic field, [Ornea, p.439] and brought along "the rapacious claws of the Judaic spirit." [Ornea, p.439] Ridiculing Lovinescu as "a desk sociologist" with "the temperament of a subdued ruminant", and alleging that his education was supposed to make him a natural adversary of "modernist dares", Papadima claimed that the "Sburătorul" leader was being manipulated by Jews, who fed his ambition of leading a cultural movement. [Ornea, p.439] Among the Jewish writer on whom he focused his allegations were Benjamin Fondane, Camil Baltazar, Ilarie Voronca and Felix Aderca. [Ornea, p.439] Another article mockingly referred to the critic as "Oegen Lovinescu", and to his colleague Pompiliu Constantinescu as "Fonfăilă Constantinescu" (from "fonf", "person who speaks through the nose"). [Ornea, p.441] The campaign against Lovinescu, a common feature of the far right press, also saw "Sfarmă-Piatră" printing articles and essays in which he was denounced as "histrionic" and "the falsifier of Romanian culture". [Ornea, p.439]

Criticism of Sadoveanu became regular in the radical right-wing press in 1936, when the novelist decided to accept leadership of the twin newspapers "Adevărul" and "Dimineaţa". Sadoveanu, a traditionalist with links to the Poporanist trend, celebrated for his historical novels, antagonized the publications by thus explicitly stating his commitment to democracy. [Ornea, p.459] Among many others, the journalist Alexandru Gregorian denounced Sadoveanu for "betrayal", in a "Sfarmă-Piatră" article titled "M. Sadoveanu. Împărat" ("M. Sadoveanu. Emperor"). [Ornea, p.463] Gregorian described his target as a victim of Jewish manipulation, exercised by the Jewish entrepreneur Breuer, and, emphasizing Sadoveanu's prominent status within Romanian Freemasonry, alleged that he was worshiping both the Great Architect of the Universe and "Ucigă-l toaca" (the latter being a popular Romanian-language name for the devil, translating as "Let him be killed by the semantron"). [Ornea, p.463] Comparing the two newspapers to a "ghetto", he sarcastically depicted Mihail Sadoveanu as "the aurochs of Moldavia" ("see Coat of arms of Moldavia"), "standing circumcised in the Breuers' office [at "Adevărul" 's headquarters] on Sărindar Street." [Ornea, p.463] In particular, Alexandru Gregorian focused on Sadoveanu's obesity, and concluded that he was "a cadaver". [Ornea, p.463] Crainic himself voiced the accusation of "treason", and his article for the journal urged young people to view Sadoveanu as the equal of Ieremia Golia, a 16th century Moldavian boyar who changed his allegiances between Moldavian rulers, and who was one of the central characters in Sadoveanu's own fiction works. [Ornea, p.464]

Condemning "pornography"

In 1936-1937, Papadima and Vintilă Horia used "Sfarmă-Piatră" to denounce those writers who, in their view, had authored pornographic texts. Papadima thus contributed an article attacking the prose of Mircea Eliade, a young modernist author who would later rally with the far right. He focused on Eliade's "Domnişoara Christina", which contained a dream-like sequence in which an adult seems to have a sexual encounter with a 10 year old girl, describing the writing as evidence of "pathology" and concluding that it was "inverted tripe." [Ornea, p.446-447] Another one of Papadima's articles depicted Eliade as "deliciously ridiculous at times", and accused of him descarding the position of "an honest worker" in order to claim leadership of "a phenomenon". [Ornea, p.179] In part, Papadima's claims were responsible for the early 1937 official decision to have Eliade stripped of his teaching position at the University of Bucharest. [Ornea, p.452]

Like "Gândirea" and other publications from the same ideological field, "Sfarmă-Piatră" issued strong criticism of Tudor Arghezi, whose work bridged the gap between modernism and traditionalism. The controversy centered on Arghezi's volume "Flori de mucigai" ("Mildew Flowers"): after publishing an article in which he declared himself dissatisfied with the newly-found experimental focus in Arghezi's literature, Horia returned with a piece denouncing the older writer for his "willing adhesion to pornography" and "treason" of the traditionalist guidelines. [Ornea, p.447-448] Describing Arghezi's style as "bloated and muddy", [Ornea, p.448] he stressed: " [when it comes to Arghezi,] no insult is too much, no curse word is at fault." [Ornea, p.448]

In April 1938, Papadima signed a congratulatory article addressed to the justice system, and provoked by a tribunal's decision to have the avant-garde writer Geo Bogza imprisoned for a number of frankly erotic poems. [Ornea, p.451] On the occasion, he appealed to the authorities to arrest and try other writers whom, he claimed, were also guilty of this offense: Aderca, H. Bonciu, and Max Blecher. [Ornea, p.451] The text referred to the former two under their Jewish names (respectively, Froim Aderca and Haimovici Bonciu), which neither was using in their literary career. [Ornea, p.451]

Early rivalries within the far right

One of the campaigns launched by "Sfarmă-Piatră" involved attacks on the National Christian Party's policies. In an article of October 1936, Crainic claimed that, early in the 1930s, he had been offered leadership of Cuza's National-Christian Defense League from the hand of its aging leader. He described is conflict with Goga as one of the latter's maneuvers to ensure unquestioned rule over the newly-founded PNC (which had resulted from a 1935 fusion between the League and Goga's National Agrarian Party). [Ornea, p.246, 257-262]

Ornea describes this attitude as being Crainic's attempt to counter his relative isolation, and create himself a "political footing" from which to campaign in favor of his new views on "the ethnocratic state". [Ornea, p.246, 250, 258-262] It was through "Sfarmă-Piatră" that Crainic introduced this concept to the Romanian public, claiming that it stood for "the first and only serious basis from which one may begin to discuss and accomplish the unification of [Romania's] nationalist movement". [Ornea, p.246] Writing for the newspaper in 1937, the editor complained that Cuza and his group were attempting to have antisemitism turned into a state policy only through democratic means, to which he opposed a totalitarian method: "And then how can Cuzism be democratic, if it is antisemitic? The 'eliminations' of kikes through democracy? But what reasonable political thinker could conceive of such an aberration, other than Mr. A. C. Cuza?" [Ornea, p.262] The same year, after his program was attacked by corporatist ideologue Mihail Manoilescu in his magazine "Buna Vestire", which functioned as a platform for the Iron Guard, Crainic contributed a "Sfarmă-Piatră" editorial which stated his deep disappointment. [Ornea, p.263] Although, at the same time, he spoke out against the potential perception of this goal as "the chromatic imitation" of the established Nazi German and Italian fascist regimes, the newspaper regularly published ample praises of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. [Ornea, p.246, 252] In one article of this series, Crainic himself referred to Mussolini as "one of the greatest educators of mankind". [Ornea, p.246]

Nichifor Crainic subsequently attempted to unify the far right around himself, but his efforts were to prove largely fruitless. Early on, he addressed the Iron Guard, and in particular its youngest members. Ornea notes that this was effort hampered in mid-1936, when, as a Romanian Orthodox theologian, Crainic authored a message deploring the assassination of Mihai Stelescu, a Guard dissident and leader of the "Crusade of Romanianism", whose killing was most likely carried out on Codreanu's orders. [Ornea, p.246, 248] However, during the same year, "Sfarmă-Piatră" hosted an essay by Dan Botta which, according to historian of religion Andrei Oişteanu, was an illustration of the Iron Guard's own doctrine of self-sacrifice and political violence.ro icon Andrei Oişteanu, [http://www.observatorcultural.ro/informatiiarticol.phtml?xid=4078 "Mircea Eliade, între ortodoxism şi zalmoxism"] , in "Observator Cultural", Nr. 127, July-August 2002] Alluding to the folk legend about Meşterul Manole, who gave his wife's life in return for completion of the Argeş Monastery, Botta wrote: "Death implies a sacrifice. The deceased ktitors on whose bones a country was founded are the heroic dead. [...] How beautiful does this meaning of death-foundation in the Argeş Monastery ballad! How all-encompassing its teaching! [...] Let us learn to die!"

Preferring to praise Mussolini more than Hitler, and standing for a fascist fraternity of Latin peoples, Crainic was also circumspect when it came to Codreanu's stated admiration for Nazism. [Ornea, p.252] Believeing that such an attitude best suited "Nordic" peoples, Crainic stated: "the Romanian would err profoundly if he were to deny the virtues of our Latinism." [Ornea, p.252] At the time, Toma Vlădescu parted with "Sfarmă-Piatră" and, as contributor to "Buna Vestire", wrote pieces attacking his former mentor. [Ornea, p.246, 263] One of them read proclaimed Crainic "a cadaver" which produced "stench", recommending "drowning [him] in a little bit of salubrious ink." [Ornea, p.263] By then, "Sfarmă-Piatră" 's allies at "Vremea" also took distance from Crainic and rallied with Codreanu, accusing the former of displaying "amok" and "megalomania". [Ornea, p.263]

Just before the 1937 election, when the Iron Guard, the PNC and other far right parties competed against each other, Crainic opposed the factionalism and called for a unified bloc against the left. [Ornea, p.246-247] As the elections provided a uniquely indecisive result and King Carol II nominated Goga's party (the fourth-running) to form the new cabinet, Crainic switched his backing to the PNC, whose racial discrimination measures against Jews it welcomed. [Ornea, p.247] "Sfarmă-Piatră" continued to oscillate for the following two months, as the PNC and its paramilitary wing, the "Lăncieri", came into open conflict with Codreanu's movement. In January 1938, Crainic's column celebrated the Iron Guard, referring to its Legionaries as the real victor in the previous suffrage (where they had come in third), praising them for their youth and supposedly universal social appeal, and claiming that they stood for his ideal to unify the nationalist camp. [Ornea, p.247] His piece included the verdict: "It is a phenomenon that nothing will be able to stop any longer." [Ornea, p.247]

Less than a month later, as King Carol decided to end his partnership with the PNC and to depose Premier Goga, in what Ornea characterized as an "opportunistic" move, "Sfarmă-Piatră" claimed that the cabinet had proven itself "noisy, superficial and utterly unprepared". [Ornea, p.247] Crainic's argument again had at its core his own views on ethnocracy, and he was in effect deploring Goga's failure to adopt the program as his own. [Ornea, p.247] Soon after, when Carol instituted his own authoritarian regime around the new Premier Miron Cristea, in a series of moves that was to lead to the establishment of an anti-Iron Guard monopoly-party named National Renaissance Front, Crainic expressed the hope that ethnocracy was to be the authorities' ideal. According to Ornea, this statement, published by "Sfarmă-Piatră", showed that its author "understood nothing from the course of political life." [Ornea, p.247]

1938 decline and support for King Carol

In February-June 1938, Crainic was absent from among "Sfarmă-Piatră" 's staff, dedicating himself entirely to his work as editor of "Porunca Vremii". [Ornea, p.247-248] Upon his return, the magazine was struggling, being faced with both financial difficulties and the censorship enforced by Carol's new regime. [Ornea, p.248] Between that date and October 1938, it published a series of special issues dedicated to various reactionary figures on the public stage (writer Ioan Alexandru Brătescu-Voineşti, physician and antisemitic agitator Nicolae Paulescu), as well as to various episodes in the history of Romania (the rule of Wallachian Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu and events of the World War I Battle of Romania). [Ornea, p.248] Z. Ornea, who describes this series as "rather insipid", credits them with having contributed to a commercial failure, which in turn made "Sfarmă-Piatră" appear as a monthly magazine up until October 1938. [Ornea, p.248] Among the main features of that period were two feuilletons: one was a Romanian-language translation of Hitler's "Mein Kampf", the other was "Germanofobia" (Romanian for "Germanophobia"), a political study authored by Brătescu-Voineşti. [Ornea, p.248]

In January 1939, after the government decapitated the Iron Guard and had Codreanu killed, and as the latter embarked on a widespread campaign of political violence, Crainic threw his support behind the authorities. At the time, he began condemning the weapon of political assassination, again in use under the Guard's new leader Horia Sima, and, in an article for "Sfarmă-Piatră", claimed to have always done so. [Ornea, p.248-249, 379] He also argued that his previous writings all stood as evidence that he had deplored the Guard's course of action, and stated that the "new generation" had disappointed him early on. [Ornea, p.248] Ornea, who rejects the notion that any such evidence can be found, proposes that Crainic was merely attempting to rescue his magazine from being branded a pro-Iron Guard venue. [Ornea, p.248-249] Although Crainic offered praise to the National Renaissance Front and the 1938 Constitution, which had introduced fascist-inspired corporatism, the periodical was shut down on March 5, 1939. [Ornea, p.249]

Again a newspaper, "Sfarmă-Piatră" reemerged on December 22 of the same year, when it continued to support Carol and his dictatorship. [Ornea, p.249] A long series of eulogies for the monarch followed, some of them being signed by poet Radu Gyr, a former Iron Guard activist who had just returned from a concentration camp in Miercurea Ciuc. [Ornea, p.249] One of Gyr's articles for the paper condemned the Iron Guard as "hooligans", and proposed a new guideline for the far right: "The king summons incandescent nationalism [...] The king summons the youth. These are the sacred hooligan ideas of yesterday, presently turned into a light-bearing standard." [Ornea, p.249]

World War II, end and legacy

In late 1940, after Carol's regime succumbed to the loss of Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and Northern Transylvania ("see Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, Second Vienna Award"), and the Iron Guard again reemerged, sharing power with "Conducător" Ion Antonescu to generate a "National Legionary State". "Sfarmă-Piatră" again switched its allegiance, proclaiming Antonescu to be a leader dressed "in the armor of predestination", and depicting him one of the great European leaders, alongside Hitler, Mussolini, Portuguese "Estado Novo" founder António de Oliveira Salazar and the "Caudillo" of Nationalist Spain, Francisco Franco. [Ornea, p.249] Soon after, it saluted the Iron Guard as "the first organic form of the modern Romanian state." [Ornea, p.250] Led by Gregorian, the publication was a weekly and again a daily, and carried the subtitle "Săptamânal de luptă şi doctrină românească" ("Weekly of Romanian combat and doctrine", later changed to "Ziar de informaţie şi luptă românească", "Newspaper of Romanian information and combat").

The magazine continued to be published after the January 1941 Legionary Rebellion, which ended the partnership between Sima and Antonescu and brought the latter to an uncontested position of power. It subsequently became a venue for disseminating the official guidelines, repressive in general and antisemitic in particular ("see Romania during World War II, Holocaust in Romania"). ["Final Report", p.92, 96; Voicu, p.216, 230] It thus began spreading the theory of Judeo-Bolshevism, particularly after Romania joined in the German-led attack on the Soviet Union. ["Final Report", p.96] It also offered ample praise to the new wave of antisemitic measures enforced by the Antonescu executive. In July 1941, a month after the Iaşi pogrom, it published an article signed by V. Beneş, which described in detail the "Antijudaic and antimasonic policy" of the Mihai Antonescu executive, rendering an interview the Premier had granted to the press in the Kingdom of Italy. [Voicu, p.230] Leizer Finchelstein, the Jewish employee of a newsstand in Iaşi and a survivor of the pogrom, recalled that authorities had explicitly asked him to distribute and display "Sfarmă-Piatră" and "Porunca Vremii" in the months before the violence erupted. [Cioflâncă, p.248]

The publication was disestablished later in the war, and, following the start of Soviet presence in Romania, Crainic was tried for his responsibility in instigating racial violence, serving years in prison under the communist regime, before being partly rehabilitated and assigned to the staff of "Glasul Patriei" (a magazine publishing propaganda for the Romanian diaspora, and overseen by Romania's secret police, the Securitate).ro icon Ioan Stanomir, [http://www.romaniaculturala.ro/articol.php?cod=6883&categorie= "Memorie, exil şi istorie"] , in "Idei în Dialog", Nr. 8 (11)/August 2005] A similar road was taken by Radu Gyr, who joined Crainic at "Glasul Patriei" after having himself spent time in communist jails.

A decade after the Romanian Revolution of 1989, the emergence of neo-fascism and the creation of small Iron Guard-inspired groups brought the creation of an online newspaper of the same name. According to Michael Shafir, its circulation as of 2003 was "probably minuscule".

Notes

References

* [http://www.inshr-ew.ro/pdf/Final_Report.pdf "Final Report"] of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, Polirom, Iaşi, 2004. ISBN 973-681-989-2
*Z. Ornea, "Anii treizeci. Extrema dreaptă românească", Editura Fundaţiei Culturale Române, Bucharest, 1995. ISBN 973-9155-43-X
*ro icon George Voicu (ed.), [http://www.inshr-ew.ro/pdf/ro_pogrom_Iasi.pdf "Pogromul de la Iaşi (28-30 iunie 1941) - Prologul Holocaustului din România"] , Polirom, Iaşi, 2006. ISBN 973-46-0497-X:
**George Voicu, "Tragedia evreilor ieşeni în presa epocii: parafraza mediatică a versiunii oficiale", p.215-233
**Adrian Cioflâncă, "Mărturia lui Leizer Finchelstein, supravieţuitor al celui de-al doilea 'tren al morţii' ", p.247-255


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