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News 15 Aug 17

Charlottesville Nationalist Leader Inspired by Romanian Fascism

A leader of the white nationalists whose rally turned violent in the US city of Charlottesville was inspired by Romania’s fascist movement, which killed tens of thousands in pogroms and the Holocaust.

Ana Maria Touma
Matthew Heimbach wears a Romanian fascist T-shirt at court in Charlottesville on Monday. Photo: Steve Helber/AP.

An organiser of Saturday’s white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville has been making headlines in Romania after he wore a shirt portraying a Romanian interwar fascist leader to a court hearing on Monday.

Matthew Heimbach, 26, leader of the Indiana-based Traditionalist Worker party and co-founder of the Traditionalist Youth Network, wore a T-shirt with a picture of Romanian Corneliu Zelea Condreanu, leader of the fascist Legion of Saint Michael the Archangel and the Iron Guard political party.

The party was behind several pogroms that killed tens of thousands of Romanian Jews in the late 1930s and during the Holocaust.

Heimbach is well-known among American white nationalists after standing trial for shoving a protester at a Donald Trump rally in Kentucky in 2016.

He was one of Saturday’s organisers of the rally in Charlottesville which saw white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members clashing with anti-fascist protesters, one of whom was killed by a driver who ploughed into the crowd.

Heimbach then wore the Romanian fascist T-shirt to the court in Charlottesville when the driver appeared at a hearing.

The shirt did not attract the attention of US media, but Romanians immediately spotted the familiar face of Corneliu Zelea Condreanu and the image spread on social media.

Heimbach is a declared admirer of the Romanian fascist and says he is connected with people who share his views not only in Romania, but in several countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

In an interview published in July 2016 after the Republican National Convention where he showed up with fellow white nationalists to support Donald Trump, Heimbach said he looked up to “Corneliu Codreanu of the Iron Guard [of Romania]. Jose Antonio of the Spanish Falange. Sir Oswald Mosley of the BUF [British Union of Fascists]. Léon Degrelle of the [Belgian] Rexist Party”.

He also said he admired “the Baathists, Bashar al-Assad, formerly Saddam, Colonel Qaddafi”.

According to the Traditionalist Youth Network website, which Heimbach runs, he is well connected with Eastern European and Balkan fascist movements.

He met and learned from the Golden Dawn in Greece, and attended an international Orthodox nationalist meeting in Saint Petersburg in Russia.

His website also features an advertisement for an English translation of a book by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, ‘For my Legionnaires’, which features a foreword by notorious neo-Nazi writer and activist Kerry Bolton.

Heimbach has published a summary of it on the website, marking the qualities that make a ‘good white nationalist’ according to Codreanu’s teachings - physical fitness, going to church, praying and fasting.

“I do not identify as a neo-Nazi. I consider my biggest spiritual inspiration to be the Legion of St Michael the Archangel,” Heimbach also said in an interview published in 2015.

“When I went to Romania with my wife, when I got to talk to some old timers who remember the Legion, I saw humble and loving Orthodox Christians who were willing to suffer torture for decades in prison,” he added.

The Legion of Archangel Michael was founded in the 1920s, when university students formed anti-Semitic groups which carried out Romania’s first pogrom in 1927, in the western city of Oradea, in Transylvania.

In the mid-1930s, the Fascist Iron Guard party, the political arm of the Legion, claimed responsibility for the assassination of several Jewish figures.

In June 1941, Romanian and German army officers, supported by Iron Guard police, rounded up Jews in the eastern city of Iasi and in Bucharest, destroyed synagogues and houses and killed 13,000 people.

Codreanu, nicknamed ‘the Captain’ by his fellow Legionnaires, was assassinated in 1938 together with 13 fellow party members, at the order of Romanian King Charles II.

The Legion is still active in Romania, and has a website, but hasn’t requested permission to stage a public event since 2013.

Heimbach started making headlines in 2012 after founding a White Student Union at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, and again in 2014 when he joined the Eastern Orthodox Church but was excommunicated for promoting racism and fascism.

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