1939: Six assassins of Armand Calinescu

1 comment September 21st, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1939, Romanian Prime Minister Armand Calinescu was gunned down on a Bucharest street in an ambush by the Iron Guard. (Romanian link)

Before the day was out, six of members of the hit squad were lined up and machine-gunned on the very same spot.

Armand Calinescu

Calinescu was a conservative politician trying to fight off the rising fascist movement in his country — that aforesaid Iron Guard — and preferred to keep Romania in politic neutrality and friendly with England and France rather than hitching its fate to Nazi Germany.

This entailed an increasingly acrimonious struggle throughout the 1930s against the fascists. Calinescu once called the Guard “an association of assassins,” and the prospect of taking a bullet from them can’t have been far from his mind. Calinescu’s fingerprints were all over press closures, pre-emptive arrests, and still worse offenses to outrage the far right. After years in the cabinet working hand-in-glove with the hated-by-fascists King Carol II, Calinescu finally became Prime Minister in March of 1939. Carol hoped he could be the bulwark against a Legionary takeover.

If by his enemies ye may know a man, know that Calinescu was taken seriously enough for a multilateral meeting between representatives of the Iron Guard, fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany in order to make the arrangements for his murder. But Calinescu would probably have just as soon have preferred his life to this tribute of his foes.

Upon news of the assassination, Calinescu’s place was immediately filled by Gen. Gheorghe Argesanu, whose one week as head of government was distinguished by a ruthless crackdown on his country’s homegrown terrorists.* The very next day’s British papers, in the same stories reporting the assassination, carried news “of an exemplary punishment” delivered within hours: “Last night, under the glare of powerful arc lamps, the murderers were publicly executed by machine-gun on the spot where the crime had been committed.” (London Times, September 22, 1939)

Nor was that the last exemplar.

The Times reported on September 25th that the ensuing days had seen “more than 300 former Iron Guards were shot” all around the country, including many “in the open street as a public example, on the pattern of the machine-gun executions in public at the scene of the crime.”

The “example” did not have the intended effect: in the span of another year, a fascist-aligned government had control of Bucharest and King Carol had hightailed it to Mexico, never to return.

* The Iron Guard would pay back Argesanu a year later by killing him during the Jilava massacre of its political prisoners.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Crime,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Mass Executions,Murder,No Formal Charge,Notable for their Victims,Power,Public Executions,Romania,Shot,Summary Executions,Terrorists,Treason

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1799: Constantine Hangerli, tax man

Add comment February 18th, 2012 Headsman

On this date* in 1799, Constantine Hangerli was deposed from his post as Prince of Wallachia by a Moorish executioner.

A veritable watchword for bad times, Hangerli was one of a clutch of disposable puppet rulers situated on the Wallachian throne by the Ottomans around the turn of the 19th century.

As had often before been the case, Wallachia was sorely pressed at this time by the cumulative exactions of its native boyars, the Ottoman Porte, and the plunder taken by the expeditions of rising Bosnian warlord Osman Pasvan Oglu.

Our man is famous, in particular, for the “Hangerli winter” of 1798, just after his elevation — when a confiscatory tax regime seized most of the countryside’s lifestock. Hangerli had a message for the generally currency-poor common man who objected to the much-despised per-head duty on cattle.

Pay the taxes, and you won’t be killed.

Hangerli’s real problem this year wasn’t the unmourned misery of his overtaxed serfs, but the Ottoman commander sent to rein in the Bosnians. Pasvan Oglu whipped that expedition, and its general Hussein Kucuk turned up at Hangerli’s doorstep late in 1798.**

Since it was dangerous for Ottoman generals to lose, Kucuk evidently arrived intending to put some blame on Hangerli — or at least, Hangerli thought that was the case. Secret dispatches from both parties to Istanbul ensued.

Whoever it was who schemed first, Kucuk schemed best. Selim III (later to die of palace scheming himself) decreed Hangerli’s immediate execution and dispatched a kapucu, one of the frightening envoy-executioners (two different men, in this case) who carried such decrees to their victims.

* I believe this may be per the Old Style/Julian date still in use in the Orthodox world.

** Having executed Rigas Feraios in Belgrade en route.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Beheaded,Borderline "Executions",Death Penalty,Execution,Heads of State,History,Nobility,Occupation and Colonialism,Ottoman Empire,Politicians,Power,Romania,Strangled,Summary Executions

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1971: Ion Rimaru, the Vampire of Bucharest

1 comment October 23rd, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1971, Romania’s most notorious serial killer was dragged to the stake at Jilava Prison — fighting all the way, and shrieking “Call my father, so he can see what’s happening to me! Make him come! He’s the only guilty one!” — and shot to death for a rape-murder spree that had terrorized Bucharest for more than a year.

Ion Rîmaru (or Ion Râmaru), an emotionally stunted, sexually perverted veterinary school dropout, began in 1970 preying on lone women perambulating the Romanian capital late at night.

Though a number of Rimaru’s targets escaped with their lives,* his attacks were noted for their bestial ferocity: biting into, perhaps cannibalizing, his victims’ sex organs; necrophiliac rapes; blood-drinking (hence the nickname). Authorities loathe to cop to a serial killer were initially tight-lipped about the monster in their midst, only heightening public terror, until a very visible May 1971 dragnet finally caught the Vampire.

Though he surely met someone’s definition of nuts, his attempt to claim insanity at trial was a predictable nonstarter, leading to this day’s scene on the execution grounds. Rimaru actually got himself turned all the way round, and took the firing squad’s barrage in his back. Unseemly, all in all.

But all that carrying on about his father? Evidently it was more than just unresolved Oedipal stuff.

The next year, his father fatally “fell” (read: was pushed by police) from a train. Forensic evidence taken from the body of Florea Rîmaru (Romanian link) implicated the Vampire’s dad in four unsolved 1944 murders in wartime Bucharest.

* His infamous spree’s official tally was four killed, plus six attempted murders, five rapes, one attempted rape, one robbery and three thefts. (Romanian source)

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Infamous,Murder,Popular Culture,Rape,Romania,Serial Killers,Shot

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1962: Gheorghe Arsenescu, Romanian partisan

Add comment May 29th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1962, partisan Gheorghe Arsenescu was put to death at Bucharest’s Jilava Prison.

Arsenescu was a leader and co-founder of one of Romania’s several bands of anti-communist resistance units. Arsenescu’s Haiducii Muscelului — the Muscel Outlaws — were a band of 30 to 40 in the Carpathian fooothills who scarcely posed a serious threat to the Romanian state, but who nevertheless managed to elude capture for nine solid years in the 1950’s.

(More about the Haiducii in this Romanian pdf.)

Arsenescu was finally nabbed in 1960, a few months after his former comrades Toma and Petre Arnautoiu had themselves been executed. According to Revolution and Resistance in Eastern Europe, Arsenescu’s wife and father were also given long prison sentences for aiding him.

This band was perhaps most especially notable for one of its members who not only survived capture, but outlived the Communist regime: Elisabeta Rizea.

Crippled by torture, Rizea became a potent symbol in post-Communist Romania of the resistance of Arsenescu and others.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Guerrillas,History,Martyrs,Popular Culture,Power,Revolutionaries,Romania,Shot,Soldiers,Torture,Treason

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1989: Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu

8 comments December 25th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1989, 71-year-old dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were condemned by a secret military tribunal and immediately shot in Targoviste as Communism in Romania suddenly, stunningly collapsed.

The last of the Revolutions of 1989 that toppled Communism through much of Eastern Europe in a matter of weeks left the indelible image of the man who had dominated Romanian politics since the mid-60’s bewildered as a party-summoned mass rally at Bucharest’s Revolution Square turned against him.

It was to be Ceausescu’s last public address. Within a day, the country had slipped from his control; before week’s end, he would face a firing squad with “The Internationale” on his lips at the conclusion of a drumhead trial.

In a confused political situation — the police who intercepted Ceausescu and his wife held them for several hours, attempting to divine which way the winds were blowing before handing them over to the mutinous army — Romanian state television would soon broadcast footage of the trial and the first couple’s corpses (though not the execution itself).

Caution: This video contains graphic footage

Immediately afterwards, Romania abolished the death penalty. Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu remain the last people executed in that country.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Crimes Against Humanity,Death Penalty,Execution,Heads of State,History,Infamous,Mature Content,Milestones,Politicians,Power,Romania,Shot,Summary Executions,Theft,Treason,Women

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