The assassination of IG Duca.  How Romania's most modest prime minister was shot down by bullets

The assassination of IG Duca. How Romania's most modest prime minister was shot down by bullets

Ion Gheorghe Duca was assassinated on the Sinaia station platform in 1933, at the command of the legionnaires. The prime minister was put to the ground by 5 bullets fired by the assassins who had traveled in the same train with him. On the day of his death, the modest liberal prime minister wore a shirt patched to his shoulder.

Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Duca was convinced that the duty to the country is higher than life. “I don’t care what will happen to my person. I owed it to save the country to do what I did. I am aware that I have fulfilled my duty. Maybe I will perish. But what does it matter? It’s the risk of the task of governing,” said the prime minister who took the historic decision to abolish the Iron Guard.

His political career began and ended in the National Liberal Party. He joined the PNL in 1907 and ran for a deputy position at the age of 28. At the age of 31, he became Minister of Public Instruction, being part of Prime Minister Ionel Brătianu’s cabinet. He was, in turn, the Minister of Agriculture, of Foreign Affairs, vice-president of the General Assembly of the League of Nations, minister of the Interior. He was elected president of the National Liberal Party, after the death of Vintilă Brătianu, on December 28, 1930, when he was 51 years old.

Prime Minister IG Duca and the PNL were the winners of the last snap election, but Duca was assassinated by legionnaires on December 30, 1933, the very day after the polls ended jpeg

He was one of the fiercest opponents of the return to the country of Prince Carol II, who went into exile with Elena Lupescu. When, in 1930, Prince Carol II returned to the country, the position of the PNL president, I. Gh. Duca, was a vehement one. “Better to cut off my right hand than to collaborate with this adventurer!”, were the famous words spoken by the Duke to the prince.

Although he vehemently opposed the restoration of Carol, Duca would become, following some compromises imposed by the agitated domestic and international political scene, prime minister in the government appointed by Carol II in 1933. On December 9, 1933, the Government The Duke decides to abolish the Iron Guard. “The “Archangel Michael” group, today the “Iron Guard” is and remains dissolved. The meeting places of the members of these groups will be closed, and the archives and any correspondence will be removed by the respective authorities, wherever they are found”, noted the document approved by the Duca Government, by which the legionnaires were forbidden the right to participate in the elections that they were getting closer. All the lists of candidates submitted for the legislative elections in the name and with the sign of the “Iron Guard” grouping were declared null. On December 20, 1933, as expected, the PNL would win the elections with 51%. Duca had become the largest enemy of the legionnaires and was expecting an assassination attempt.

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On December 28, Prime Minister Duca was invited by Carol to an audience in Sinaia to discuss the dismissal of the governor of the National Bank. In the morning of December 29, Duca leaves by train for Sinaia.

the funeral of IG Duca jpg jpeg

Along with him, in the train without government security, it is said that the three assassins, whom the press would christen “the Nicadors”, would have traveled as well. The meeting with Carol II lasted about two hours. The Prime Minister was to return to Bucharest, also by train, in the evening of the same day. All this time, the assassin legionnaires waited for him on the station platform where they were going to shoot him. When he returned to the station to take the train to Bucharest, five bullets knocked him to the ground on the dark platform.

The assassins first threw a grenade that injured two of the prime minister’s companions. The incident in which Duca lost his life was reported in the media of the time as follows: “While IG Duca was passing through the aisle to go out on the platform, where he was awaited by a group of demonstrators, Mr. Vlahide proposed to him to turn around and to pass through the station master’s office, in order to avoid the crowd. The former prime minister, however, did not accept and crossed the platform, where death was waiting for him”, wrote “Adeverul”, from December 31, 1933.

The scene of the assassination was described in the press as follows:

“At one point, (Constantinescu, one of the assassins) hearing someone say “Mr. President”, he quickly turned around and saw himself face to face with the prime minister. Then, he grabbed his shoulder with one hand, and with the other he discharged the bullets; one in the temple, and three others – because Duca had protected his head – in the back of the head”.

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The first killer was caught immediately after the incident. “The killer had taken her on the run towards the railway line. But the detective Petre Petre had started after him, who managed to get hold of him. Seeing himself caught, the assassin fired another bullet at the agent, wounding him in the hand. However, the detective kept his composure and did not let the criminal go. Then others jumped in to help, the criminal was arrested”, writes “Adeverul” from December 31, 1933.

“In the prime minister’s pocket, some insignificant papers, a French coin of five parals and 80 lei were found. Duca wanted to return to Bucharest with class III”, reports “Adeverul” from December 1933 about the assassination of Duca.

On the day of his death, the modest liberal prime minister wore a shirt patched to his shoulder. The lifeless body of the prime minister was deposited in Peleş, before being taken to Bucharest.


Nicolae Constantinescu was the first murderer caught by the police. “The criminal was immediately transported to one of the station’s rooms. Here he was briefly questioned. The appearance of the assassin is terrible. A narrow forehead, the eyes pulled out of the sockets, the prominence of the cheekbones give the impression of a dull, dark mind. No brighter ray is reflected from the features of the cheek. He is cynical in his answers. He does not immediately regret the deed. On the contrary, he seems proud. Asked why he committed the crime, he uses a series of justifications from the vocabulary of the Iron Guard. He states that he will not divulge any of the orders he has received. He is convinced that the two accomplices will surrender, because that was their agreement”, the daily newspaper from 1933 notes.

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The accomplice Ion Caranica was caught in Comarnic, on the train he was trying to take to return to Bucharest, and the other “nicador”, Doru Belimace, was found on another train going to the capital.

“Nicadorii” was the name the press gave to the three assassins after an acronym formed from the initial letters of their names. Asked who ordered the assassination of the prime minister, the three took everything upon themselves:

“No one. We among ourselves took this decision on our own initiative. The reason is that Duca was a freemason and sold to foreigners. The policy adopted by him recently is the policy of international freemasonry, which led to the abolition of the Iron Guards in Romania. I recognize the good Romanian qualities of the prime minister and a capable man, but since he was sold to foreigners, we decided to suppress him”

Martial law

After the assassination, martial law was declared in Romania and thousands of legionnaires were arrested. The leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, who was supposed to have instigated the murder, was not caught. However, other leaders of the Guard were arrested, including General Zizi Cantacuzino, nicknamed the Border Guard. The trial of the Nicadors took place at the Bucharest War Council in April 1934.

The three claimed that they were the only perpetrators of the crime and acted on their own initiative. The Nicadors were sentenced to life imprisonment, while the leaders of the Iron Guard were released. They did not get to serve their punishment, being assassinated, five years later, together with other legionary leaders, on the night of November 29 to 30, under the pretext of an escape attempt.

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