Nae Ionescu (Romanian: [ˈna.e joˈnesku], born Nicolae C. Ionescu; 16 June [O.S. 4 June] 1890 – 15 March 1940) was a Romanian philosopher, logician, mathematician, professor, and journalist. Near the end of his career, he became known for his antisemitism and devotion to far right politics, in the years leading up to World War II.
Born in Brăila, Ionescu studied Letters at the University of Bucharest until 1912. Upon graduation, he was appointed teacher at the Matei Basarab High School in Bucharest. When World War I began, he traveled to Germany for additional studies at the University of Göttingen. Romania's entry into the war on the Entente side side prevented him from returning, but he was awarded a doctorate in philosophy in 1919 from the University of Munich. His thesis was entitled Die Logistik als Versuch einer neuen Begründung der Mathematik ("Formal logic as an attempt at a new foundation of mathematics").
His life's work had a profound effect on a generation of Romanian thinkers, first for his studies on comparative religion, philosophy, and mysticism, but later for his nationalist and far right sentiment. Some of the figures he influenced include Constantin Noica, Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, Haig Acterian, Jeni Acterian, Mihail Sebastian, Mircea Vulcănescu, and Petre Țuțea. The existentialist and partly mystical school of thought Ionescu introduced bore the name Trăirism. Trăirism intersected at several points with the ideology of the Iron Guard; the connection became even more direct when many of its adherents also publicly associated with the latter.
Ionescu himself was more reserved in his dealings with the Guard. He was the editor of the highly influential newspaper Cuvântul, which had long backed King Carol II - the major rival of the Guard. However, Ionescu moved away from the monarchy due to Carol's inner circle. Ionescu's antisemitism was a decisive factor in his switching of allegiances: Jewish writer Mihail Sebastian's Journal depicts the interval during which Ionescu's virulence grew, as well as the reasons that were animating his large following.
Mihail Sebastian incident
During the period when Sebastian and Ionescu were still on speaking terms, the latter had agreed to write the preface of Sebastian's book De două mii de ani... ("It's been two thousand years..."). Ionescu's introduction shocked Sebastian, who "loved and admired Ionescu", as it included several overtly antisemitic statements. Mircea Eliade recalls the incident in his autobiography:
"Judah suffers because it must suffer," Nae had written. And he explained why: the Jews had refused to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Messiah. This suffering in history reflected, in a certain sense, the destiny of the Hebrew people who, precisely because they had rejected Christianity, could not be saved. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.
Eliade notes that this incident marked a profound departure for Ionescu, who in the late 1920s had suggested to Eliade, who was then his student, that he had been tempted "to give up both journalism and politics and devote myself entirely to Hebraic studies". Sebastian, though dejected by the incident, opted to keep Ionescu's introduction in the book.
After Carol's crackdown on the Iron Guard, Nae Ionescu and his disciples were rounded up and imprisoned at a makeshift camp in Miercurea-Ciuc. The experience took a toll on his fragile health, and he died soon thereafter. Some close sources indicated that he was assassinated by poisoning due to his involvement with the Iron Guard.
- Eliade, Mircea. Mircea Eliade. 1990, page 283.
- Eliade, Mircea. Mircea Eliade. 1990, page 285.
- Sebastian y el mentor diabólico, by Ignacio Vidal-Folch. El País, 07.11.2009 (Spanish).