Romania in World War II

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Following the outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939, the Kingdom of Romania under King Carol II officially adopted a position of neutrality. However, the rapidly changing situation in Europe during 1940, as well as domestic political upheaval, undermined this stance. Fascist political forces such as the Iron Guard rose in popularity and power, urging an alliance with Nazi Germany and its allies. As the military fortunes of Romania's two main guarantors of territorial integrity—France and Britain—crumbled in the Fall of France, the government of Romania turned to Germany in hopes of a similar guarantee, unaware that the then dominant European power had already granted its consent to Soviet territorial claims in a secret protocol of 1939's Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Kingdom of Romania kingdom in Southeastern Europe between 1881 and 1947

The Kingdom of Romania was a constitutional monarchy at the crossroads of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It existed from 1881, when prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was crowned as King Carol I of Romania, until 1947, when King Michael I of Romania abdicated and the Romanian parliament proclaimed Romania a socialist republic.

Iron Guard political party

The Iron Guard is the name most commonly given to a far-right movement and political party in Romania in the period from 1927 into the early part of World War II. Founded by Corneliu Codreanu, it is also known as the Legion of the Archangel Michael or the Legionnaire movement. The Iron Guard was ultra-nationalist, antisemitic, Magyarophobic, antiziganist, anti-communist, anti-capitalist and promoted Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Its members were called "Greenshirts" because of the predominantly green uniforms they wore.

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In summer 1940 a series of territorial disputes were diplomatically resolved unfavorably to Romania, resulting in the loss of most of the territory gained in the wake of World War I. This caused the popularity of Romania's government to plummet, further reinforcing the fascist and military factions, who eventually staged a coup that turned the country into a dictatorship under Mareșal Ion Antonescu. The new regime firmly set the country on a course towards the Axis camp, officially joining the Axis powers on 23 November 1940. As a member of the Axis, Romania joined the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, providing equipment and oil to Nazi Germany as well as committing more troops to the Eastern Front than all the other allies of Germany combined. Romanian forces played a large role during fighting in Ukraine, Bessarabia, Stalingrad and elsewhere. Romanian troops were responsible for the persecution and massacre of up to 260,000 Jews in Romanian-controlled territories, though most Jews living within Romania survived the harsh conditions. [1] According to historian and author Mark Axworthy, the second Axis army in Europe, arguably, belonged to Romania, though, this is disputed since many would agree that this position goes to the Italian army. [2]

Fascism Form of radical, right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism

Fascism is a form of radical, right-wing, authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy, which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I before it spread to other European countries. Opposed to liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism, fascism is placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum.

Mareșal (Marshal) is the highest rank in the Army of Romania, the Romanian Armed Forces. It is the equivalent of a Field Marshal in other countries.

Ion Antonescu prime minister and conducător of Romania during World War II

Ion Antonescu was a Romanian soldier and authoritarian politician who, as the Prime Minister and Conducător during most of World War II, presided over two successive wartime dictatorships. After the war, he was convicted of war crimes and executed.

After the tide of war turned against the Axis, Romania was bombed by the Allies from 1943 onwards and invaded by advancing Soviet armies in 1944. With popular support for Romania's participation in the war faltering and German-Romanian fronts collapsing under the Soviet onslaught, King Michael of Romania led a coup d'état that deposed the Antonescu regime and put Romania on the side of the Allies for the remainder of the war. Despite this late association with the winning side, Greater Romania was largely dismantled, losing territory to Bulgaria and the Soviet Union, but regaining Northern Transylvania from Hungary.

The bombing of Romania in World War II comprised two series of events: until August 1944, Allied operations, and, following the overthrow of Ion Antonescu's dictatorship, operations by Nazi Germany.

Battle of Romania

The Battle of Romania in World War II comprised several operations in or around Romania in 1944, as part of the Eastern Front, in which the Soviet Army defeated Axis forces in the area, Romania changed sides, and Soviet and Romanian forces drove the Germans back into Hungary.

King Michaels Coup

King Michael's Coup was a coup d'état led by King Michael I of Romania during World War II on 23 August 1944. With the support of several political parties, the king removed the government of Ion Antonescu, which had aligned Romania with Nazi Germany, after the Axis front in northeastern Romania collapsed in the face of a successful Soviet offensive. The Romanian Army declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Soviet Red Army on the Moldavian front, an event viewed as decisive in the Allied advances against the Axis powers in the European theatre of World War II. The coup was supported by the Romanian Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, the National Liberal Party, and the National Peasants' Party who had coalesced into the National Democratic Block in June 1944.

Background

Ethnic map of Greater Romania according to the 1930 census. Sizeable ethnic minorities put Romania at odds with Hungary, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union throughout the interwar period. Romania 1930 ethnic map EN.png
Ethnic map of Greater Romania according to the 1930 census. Sizeable ethnic minorities put Romania at odds with Hungary, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union throughout the interwar period.

In the aftermath of World War I, Romania, which fought with the Entente against the Central Powers, had greatly expanded its territory, incorporating the regions of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina, largely as a result of the vacuum created by the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires. This led to the achievement of the long-standing nationalist goal of creating a Greater Romania, a national state that would incorporate all ethnic Romanians. However, the newly gained territories also included significant Hungarian, German, Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Russian minorities, which put Romania at odds with several of her neighbors. [3] This occasionally led to violent conflict, as exemplified by the Hungarian–Romanian War and the Tatarbunary uprising. To contain Hungarian irredentism, Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia established the Little Entente in 1921. That same year Romania and Poland concluded a defensive alliance against the emergent Soviet Union, and in 1934 the Balkan Entente was formed with Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey, which were suspicious of Bulgaria. [4]

Transylvania Historical region of Romania

Transylvania is a historical region which is located in central Romania. Bound on the east and south by its natural borders, the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended westward to the Apuseni Mountains. The term sometimes encompasses not only Transylvania proper, but also parts of the historical regions of Crișana and Maramureș, and occasionally the Romanian part of Banat.

Bessarabia

Bessarabia is a historical region in Eastern Europe, bounded by the Dniester river on the east and the Prut river on the west. Today Bessarabia is mostly part of modern-day Moldova, with the Ukrainian Budjak region covering the southern coastal region and part of the Ukrainian Chernivtsi Oblast covering a small area in the north.

Bukovina Historical region

Bukovina is a historical region, variously described as in Central or Eastern Europe. The region is located on the northern slopes of the central Eastern Carpathians and the adjoining plains, today divided between Romania and Ukraine.

Since the late 19th century Romania had been a relatively democratic constitutional monarchy with a pro-Western outlook, but the country faced increasing turmoil in the 1930s as a result of the Great Depression and the rise of fascist and other far-right movements such as the Iron Guard, which advocated revolutionary terrorism against the state. Under the pretext of stabilizing the country, the increasingly autocratic King Carol II proclaimed a "royal dictatorship" in 1938. The new regime featured corporatist policies that often resembled those of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. [5] In parallel with these internal developments, economic pressures and a weak Franco-British response to Hitler's aggressive foreign policy caused Romania to start drifting away from the Western Allies and closer to the Axis. [4]

A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the sovereign exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution. Constitutional monarchy differs from absolute monarchy in that constitutional monarchs are bound to exercise their powers and authorities within the limits prescribed within an established legal framework. Constitutional monarchies range from countries such as Morocco, where the constitution grants substantial discretionary powers to the sovereign, to countries such as Japan and Sweden where the monarch retains no formal authorities.

Great Depression 20th-century worldwide economic depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, beginning in the United States. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations; in most countries it started in 1929 and lasted until the late-1930s. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. In the 21st century, the Great Depression is commonly used as an example of how intensely the world's economy can decline.

On 13 April 1939 France and the United Kingdom had pledged to guarantee the independence of the Kingdom of Romania. Negotiations with the Soviet Union concerning a similar guarantee collapsed when Romania refused to allow the Red Army to cross its frontiers. [1] [6]

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

On 23 August 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Among other things, this recognized the Soviet "interest" in Bessarabia (which had been ruled by the Russian Empire from 1812–1918). This Soviet interest was combined with a clear indication that there was an explicit lack of any German interest in the area.

Eight days later Nazi Germany invaded the Second Polish Republic. Expecting military aid from Britain and France, Poland chose not to execute its alliance with Romania in order to be able to use the Romanian Bridgehead. Romania officially remained neutral and, under pressure from the Soviet Union and Germany, interned the fleeing Polish government after its members had crossed the Polish–Romanian border on 17 September, forcing them to relegate their authority to what became the Polish government-in-exile. [7] After the assassination of Prime Minister Armand Călinescu on 21 September King Carol II tried to maintain neutrality for several months longer, but the surrender of the Third French Republic and the retreat of British forces from continental Europe rendered the assurances that both countries had made to Romania meaningless. [1]

Romania after the territorial losses of 1940. The recovery of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina was the catalyst for Romania's entry into the war on Germany's side. PerdidasTerritorialesRumanas1940-ro.svg
Romania after the territorial losses of 1940. The recovery of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina was the catalyst for Romania's entry into the war on Germany's side.

In 1940 Romania's territorial gains made following World War I were largely undone. In July, after a Soviet ultimatum, Romania agreed to give up Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (the Soviets also annexed the city of Hertsa, which was not stated in the ultimatum). Two-thirds of Bessarabia were combined with a small part of the Soviet Union to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. The rest (northern Bukovina, the northern half of Hotin county and Budjak) was apportioned to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Shortly thereafter, on 30 August, under the Second Vienna Award, Germany and Italy mediated a compromise between Romania and the Kingdom of Hungary: Hungary received a region referred to as "Northern Transylvania", while "Southern Transylvania" remained part of Romania. Hungary had lost Transylvania after World War I in the Treaty of Trianon. On 7 September, under the Treaty of Craiova, Southern Dobruja (which Bulgaria had lost after the Romanian invasion during the Second Balkan War in 1913), was ceded to Bulgaria under pressure from Germany. Despite the relatively recent acquisition of these territories, they were inhabited by a majority of Romanian speaking people (except Southern Dobruja), so the Romanians had seen them as historically belonging to Romania, and the fact that so much land was lost without a fight shattered the underpinnings of King Carol's power.

On 4 July Ion Gigurtu formed the first Romanian government to include an Iron Guardist minister, Horia Sima. Sima was a particularly virulent anti-Semite who had become the nominal leader of the movement after the death of Corneliu Codreanu. He was one of the few prominent far-right leaders to survive the bloody infighting and government suppression of the preceding years.

Antonescu comes to power

Antonescu and Adolf Hitler at the Fuhrerbau in Munich (June 1941). Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B03212, Munchen, Staatsbesuch Jon Antonescu bei Hitler.jpg
Antonescu and Adolf Hitler at the Führerbau in Munich (June 1941).

In the immediate wake of the loss of Northern Transylvania, on 4 September the Iron Guard (led by Horia Sima) and General (later Marshal) Ion Antonescu united to form the "National Legionary State", which forced the abdication of Carol II in favor of his 19-year-old son Michael. Carol and his mistress Magda Lupescu went into exile, and Romania, despite the unfavorable outcome of recent territorial disputes, leaned strongly toward the Axis. As part of the deal, the Iron Guard became the sole legal party in Romania. Antonescu became the Iron Guard's honorary leader, while Sima became deputy premier.

In power, the Iron Guard stiffened the already harsh anti-Semitic legislation, enacted legislation directed against minority businessmen, tempered at times by the willingness of officials to take bribes, and wreaked vengeance upon its enemies. On 8 October German troops began crossing into Romania. They soon numbered over 500,000.

On 23 November Romania joined the Axis powers. On 27 November, 64 former dignitaries or officials were executed by the Iron Guard in Jilava prison while awaiting trial (see Jilava Massacre ). Later that day, historian and former prime minister Nicolae Iorga and economist Virgil Madgearu, a former government minister, were assassinated.

The cohabitation between the Iron Guard and Antonescu was never an easy one. On 20 January 1941, the Iron Guard attempted a coup, combined with a pogrom against the Jews of Bucharest. Within four days, Antonescu had successfully suppressed the coup. The Iron Guard was forced out of the government. Sima and many other legionnaires took refuge in Germany; others were imprisoned. Antonescu abolished the National Legionary State, in its stead declaring Romania a "National and Social State."

The war on the Eastern Front

Romania annexed Transnistria, the area between the Dniester and Southern Bug, in July 1941 (1941 ethnic map). RECENSAMANT 1941 JUDETE.png
Romania annexed Transnistria, the area between the Dniester and Southern Bug, in July 1941 (1941 ethnic map).
1941 stamp depicting a Romanian and a German soldier in reference to the two countries' common participation in Operation Barbarossa. The text below reads "the holy war against Bolshevism". Razboiul Sfant Contra Bolsevismului (1941 stamp).svg
1941 stamp depicting a Romanian and a German soldier in reference to the two countries' common participation in Operation Barbarossa. The text below reads "the holy war against Bolshevism".

On 22 June 1941, German armies with Romanian support attacked the Soviet Union. German and Romanian units conquered Bessarabia, Odessa, and Sevastopol, then marched eastward across the Russian steppes toward Stalingrad. Romania welcomed the war because they were allies with Germany. In a morbid competition with Hungary to curry Hitler's favor and hoping to regain northern Transylvania, Romania mustered more combat troops for the Nazi war effort than all of Germany's other allies combined. Hitler rewarded Romania's loyalty by returning Bessarabia and northern Bukovina and by allowing Romania to annex Soviet lands immediately east of the Dniester, including Odessa. Romanian jingoes in Odessa even distributed a geography showing that the Dacians had inhabited most of southern Russia. [1] [8] After recovering Bessarabia and Bukovina (Operation München), Romanian units fought side by side with the Germans onward to Odessa, Sevastopol, Stalingrad and the Caucasus. The total number of troops involved on the Eastern Front with the Romanian Third Army and the Romanian Fourth Army was second only to that of Nazi Germany itself. The Romanian Army had a total of 686,258 men under arms in the summer of 1941 and a total of 1,224,691 men in the summer of 1944. [9] The number of Romanian troops sent to fight in the Soviet Union exceeded that of all of Germany's other allies combined. A Country Study by the U.S. Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress attributes this to a "morbid competition with Hungary to curry Hitler's favor... [in hope of]... regaining northern Transylvania." [1]

Bessarabia and the Northern Bukovina were now fully re-incorporated into the Romanian state after they had been occupied by the USSR a year earlier. As a substitute for Northern Transylvania, which had been given to Hungary following the Second Vienna Award, Hitler persuaded Antonescu in August 1941 to also take control of the Transnistria territory between the Dniester and the Southern Bug, which would also include Odessa after its eventual fall in October 1941. Although the Romanian administration set up a civil government, the Transnistria Governorate, the Romanian state had not yet formally incorporated Transnistria into its administrative framework by the time it was retaken by Soviet troops in early 1944.

Romanian armies advanced far into the Soviet Union during 1941 and 1942 before being involved in the disaster at the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–43. Petre Dumitrescu, one of Romania's most important generals, was commander of the Third Army at Stalingrad. In November 1942, the German Sixth Army was briefly put at Dumitrescu's disposal during a German attempt to relieve the Third Army following the devastating Soviet Operation Uranus.

Prior to the Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad, the Antonescu government considered a war with Hungary over Transylvania an inevitability after the expected victory over the Soviet Union. [1] Although it was an ally of Germany, Romania's turning to the Allied side in August 1944 was rewarded by returning Northern Transylvania, which had been granted to Hungary in 1940 after the Second Vienna Award.

War comes to Romania

Air raids

American B-24 Liberator flying over a burning oil refinery at Ploiesti, as part of Operation Tidal Wave on 1 August 1943. Due to its role as a major supplier of oil to the Axis, Romania was a prime target of Allied strategic bombing in 1943 and 1944. Operation Tidal Wave in 1943.jpg
American B-24 Liberator flying over a burning oil refinery at Ploiești, as part of Operation Tidal Wave on 1 August 1943. Due to its role as a major supplier of oil to the Axis, Romania was a prime target of Allied strategic bombing in 1943 and 1944.

Throughout the Antonescu years, Romania supplied Nazi Germany and the Axis armies with oil, grain, and industrial products. [1] Also, numerous train stations in the country, such as Gara de Nord in Bucharest, served as transit points for troops departing for the Eastern Front. Consequently, by 1943 Romania became a target of Allied aerial bombardment. One of the most notable air bombardments was Operation Tidal Wave — the attack on the oil fields of Ploiești on 1 August 1943. Bucharest was subjected to intense Allied bombardment on 4 and 15 April 1944, and the Luftwaffe itself bombed the city on 24 and 25 August after the country switched sides.

Ground offensive

In February 1943, with the decisive Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad, it was growing clear that the tide of the war was turning against the Axis powers.

By 1944, the Romanian economy was in tatters because of the expenses of the war, and destructive Allied air bombing throughout Romania, including the capital, Bucharest. In addition, most of the products sent to Germany – such as oil, grain, and equipment – were provided without monetary compensation, as Germany refused to pay. As a result of these uncompensated exports, inflation in Romania skyrocketed. This caused widespread discontent among the Romanian population, even among those who had once enthusiastically supported the Germans and the war, and an angry relationship between Romania and Germany. [1]

Beginning in December 1943, the Soviet Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive pushed Axis forces all the way back to the Dniester by April 1944. In April–May 1944, the Romanian forces led by General Mihai Racovițǎ, together with elements of the German Eighth Army were responsible for defending northern Romania and took part in the Battles of Târgu Frumos, which David Glantz considered to be an initial Soviet attempt to invade Romania, supposedly held back by Axis defensive lines in northern Romania. The Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, launched on 20 August 1944, resulted in a quick and decisive Soviet breakthrough, collapsing the German-Romanian front in the region. Soviet forces captured Târgu Frumos and Iași on 21 August and Chișinău on 24 August 1944.

The Holocaust

See also Responsibility for the Holocaust (Romania), Antonescu and the Holocaust , Porajmos#Persecution in other Axis countries .
Sephardic Temple in Bucharest after it was plundered and set on fire in 1941 Templul evreilor spanioli din Bucuresti.jpg
Sephardic Temple in Bucharest after it was plundered and set on fire in 1941

According to an international commission report released by the Romanian government in 2004, between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews were murdered or died in various forms on Romanian soil, in the war zones of Bessarabia, Bukovina, and in the occupied Soviet territories under Romanian's control (Transnistria Governorate). Of the 25,000 Romani deported, who were deported to concentration camps in Transnistria, 11,000 died. [10]

Though much of the killing was committed in the war zone by Romanian and German troops, there were also substantial persecutions behind the front line. During the Iaşi pogrom of June 1941, over 13,000 Jews were massacred or killed slowly in trains traveling back and forth across the countryside.

Half of the estimated 270,000 to 320,000 Jews living in Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Dorohoi County in Romania were murdered or died between June 1941 and the spring of 1944, of which between 45,000 and 60,000 Jews were killed in Bessarabia and Bukovina by Romanian and German troops, within months of the entry of the country into the war during 1941. Even after the initial killings, Jews in Moldavia, Bukovina and Bessarabia were subject to frequent pogroms, and were concentrated into ghettos from which they were sent to Transnistria, including camps built and run by the Romanian authorities.

Romanian soldiers and gendarmes also worked with the Einsatzkommandos , German killing squads, tasked with massacring Jews and Roma in conquered territories, the local Ukrainian militia, and the SS squads of local Ukrainian Germans (Sonderkommando Russland and Selbstschutz). Romanian troops were in large part responsible for the Odessa massacre, in which from October 18, 1941, until mid-March 1942, Romanian soldiers in Odessa, aided by gendarmes and police, killed up to 25,000 Jews and deported more than 35,000. [10]

The number of deaths in all areas is not certain, but the lowest respectable estimates run to about 250,000 Jews and 11,000 Romani in these eastern regions.

Nonetheless, most Jews living within the pre-Barbarossa borders survived the war, although they were subject to a wide range of harsh conditions, including forced labor, financial penalties, and discriminatory laws. Jewish property was nationalized.

The report commissioned and accepted by the Romanian government in 2004 on the Holocaust concluded: [10]

Of all the allies of Nazi Germany, Romania bears responsibility for the deaths of more Jews than any country other than Germany itself. The murders committed in Iasi, Odessa, Bogdanovka, Domanovka, and Peciora, for example, were among the most hideous murders committed against Jews anywhere during the Holocaust. Romania committed genocide against the Jews. The survival of Jews in some parts of the country does not alter this reality.

The royal coup

King Michael I of Romania led the coup that put Romania on the Allied side. Mihai.jpg
King Michael I of Romania led the coup that put Romania on the Allied side.

On 23 August 1944, with the Red Army penetrating German defenses during the Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, King Michael I of Romania led a successful coup against the Axis with support from opposition politicians and most of the army. Michael I, who was initially considered to be not much more than a figurehead, was able to successfully depose the Antonescu dictatorship. The King then offered a non-confrontational retreat to German ambassador Manfred von Killinger. But the Germans considered the coup "reversible" and attempted to turn the situation around by military force. The Romanian First, Second (forming), and what little was left of the Third and the Fourth Armies (one corps) were under orders from the King to defend Romania against any German attacks. King Michael offered to put the Romanian Army, which at that point had a strength of nearly 1,000,000 men, [11] on the side of the Allies. Surprisingly, with the Red Army occupying parts of Romania, Stalin immediately recognized the king and the restoration of the conservative Romanian monarchy. [12]

This resulted in a split of the country between those who still supported Germany and its armies and those who supported the new government, the latter often forming partisan groups and gradually gaining the most support. To the Germans the situation was very precarious as Romanian units had been integrated in the Axis defensive lines: not knowing which units were still loyal to the Axis cause and which ones joined the Soviets or discontinued fighting altogether, defensive lines could suddenly collapse.

In a radio broadcast to the Romanian nation and army on the night of 23 August King Michael issued a cease-fire, [13] proclaimed Romania's loyalty to the Allies, announced the acceptance of an armistice (to be signed on September 12) [14] offered by Great Britain, the United States, and the USSR, and declared war on Germany. [15] The coup accelerated the Red Army's advance into Romania, but did not avert a rapid Soviet occupation and capture of about 130,000 Romanian soldiers, who were transported to the Soviet Union, where many perished in prison camps. The armistice was signed three weeks later on 12 September 1944, on terms virtually dictated by the Soviet Union. [13] Under the terms of the armistice, Romania announced its unconditional surrender [16] to the USSR and was placed under occupation of the Allied forces with the Soviet Union as their representative, in control of media, communication, post, and civil administration behind the front. [13] Some attribute the postponement of a formal Allied recognition of the de facto change of orientation until 12 September (the date the armistice was signed in Moscow) to the complexities of the negotiations between the USSR and UK. [17]

Nicolae Ceausescu and others welcome the Red Army as it enters Bucharest on 30 August 1944 1944soviet1.png
Nicolae Ceausescu and others welcome the Red Army as it enters Bucharest on 30 August 1944

During the Moscow Conference in October 1944 Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, proposed an agreement to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on how to split up Eastern Europe into spheres of influence after the war. The Soviet Union was offered a 90% share of influence in Romania. [18]

The Armistice Agreement of 12 September stipulated in Article 18 that "An Allied Control Commission will be established which will undertake until the conclusion of peace the regulation of and control over the execution of the present terms under the general direction and orders of the Allied (Soviet) High Command, acting on behalf of the Allied Powers. The Annex to Article 18 made clear that "The Romanian Government and their organs shall fulfil all instructions of the Allied Control Commission arising out of the Armistice Agreement." The Agreement also stipulated that the Allied Control Commission would have its seat in Bucharest. In line with Article 14 of the Armistice Agreement, two Romanian People's Tribunals were set up to try suspected war criminals. [19]

Campaign against the Axis

Romanian operations against the Axis WWII Southern Central Europe 1944-1945.png
Romanian operations against the Axis

As the country declared war on Germany on the night of 23 August 1944, border clashes between Hungarian and Romanian troops erupted almost immediately. On 24 August, German troops attempted to seize Bucharest and suppress Michael's coup, but were repelled by the city's defenses, which received some support from the United States Air Force.[ citation needed ] Other Wehrmacht units in the country suffered severe losses: remnants of the Sixth Army retreating west of the Prut River were cut off and destroyed by the Red Army, which was now advancing at an even greater speed, while Romanian units attacked German garrisons at the Ploiești oilfields, forcing them to retreat to Hungary. The Romanian Army captured over 50,000 German prisoners around this time, who were later surrendered to the Soviets. [20]

In early September, Soviet and Romanian forces entered Transylvania and captured the towns of Brașov and Sibiu while advancing toward the Mureș River. Their main objective was Cluj (Cluj-Napoca), a city regarded as the historical capital of Transylvania. However, the Second Hungarian Army was present in the region, and together with the Eighth German Army engaged the Allied forces on 5 September in what was to become the Battle of Turda, which lasted until 8 October and resulted in heavy casualties for both sides. [21] Also around this time, the Hungarian Army carried out its last independent offensive action of the war, penetrating Arad County in western Romania. Despite initial success, a number of ad-hoc Romanian cadet battalions managed to stop the Hungarian advance at the Battle of Păuliș, and soon a combined Romanian-Soviet counterattack overwhelmed the Hungarians, who gave ground and evacuated Arad itself on 21 September. [22]

The Romanian Army ended the war fighting against the Wehrmacht alongside the Red Army in Transylvania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Austria and Czechoslovakia, from August 1944 until the end of the war in Europe. In May 1945, the First and Fourth armies took part in the Prague Offensive. The Romanian Army incurred heavy casualties fighting Nazi Germany. Of some 538,000 Romanian soldiers who fought against the Axis in 1944–45, some 167,000 were killed, wounded or went missing. [23]

CountryBeginningEndPersonnelCasualties
(KIA, WIA, MIA)
Mountains crossedRivers crossedLiberated villagesFrom which townsLosses
of the enemy
Romania 1944-08-231945-05-12>275,000 (538,000)58,3303,83131167,000 KIA, WIA
Materiel
Yugoslavia
Hungary1944-10-081945-01-15210,00042,700341,2371421,045 POW
9,700 KIA
? WIA
Materiel
Czechoslovakia 1944-12-181945-05-12248,43066,4951041,7223122,803 KIA, WIA, POW
Austria1945–04-101945-05-122,000100714,000 KIA, WIA, POW
Materiel
TOTAL1944-08-231945-05-12538,536169,82220123,82153117,798 POW
18,731 KIA
LEGEND: KIA = Killed in Action; MIA = Missing in Action; WIA = Wounded in Action; POW = Prisoners of war. [24] [25] [26]

Aftermath

Map of Romania after World War II indicating lost territories. Romania WWII.png
Map of Romania after World War II indicating lost territories.

Under the 1947 Treaty of Paris, [27] the Allies did not acknowledge Romania as a co-belligerent nation but instead applied the term "ally of Hitlerite Germany" to all recipients of the treaty's stipulations. Like Finland, Romania had to pay $300 million to the Soviet Union as war reparations. However, the treaty specifically recognized that Romania switched sides on 24 August 1944, and therefore "acted in the interests of all the United Nations". As a reward, Northern Transylvania was, once again, recognized as an integral part of Romania, but the border with the USSR was fixed at its state on January 1941, restoring the pre-Barbarossa status quo (with one exception). Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Eastern territories became part of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.

In Romania proper, Soviet occupation following World War II facilitated the rise of the Communist Party as the main political force, leading ultimately to the forced abdication of the King and the establishment of a single-party people's republic in 1947.

Major battles and campaigns

This is a list of battles and other combat operations in World War II in which Romanian forces took part.

BattleDateLocationRomania and its alliesEnemiesIssue
Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina 28 June – 3 July 1940 Romania Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Legionnaires' rebellion and Bucharest pogrom 21–23 January 1941 Romania Flag of Romania.svg  Romanian government Flag of the Legionary Movement.png Iron Guard Victory
As part of the Axis (1941–1944)
Operation Barbarossa 22 June – 5 December 1941 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Raid on Constanța 26 June 1941 Romania Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Victory
Operation München 2–26 July 1941 Romania Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Victory
Battle of Uman 15 July – 8 August 1941 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Victory
Siege of Odessa 8 August – 16 October 1941 Soviet Union Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Victory
Battle of the Sea of Azov September 1941 – August 1942 Soviet Union Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Victory
Siege of Sevastopol 30 October 1941 – 4 July 1942 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Victory
Battle of Rostov 21 – 27 November 1941 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Second Battle of Kharkov 12 – 28 May 1942 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Victory
Case Blue 28 June – 24 November 1942 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Battle of the Caucasus 25 July 1942 – 12 May 1944 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Battle of Stalingrad 23 August 1942 – 2 February 1943 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Operation Uranus 19 – 23 November 1942 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Operation Winter Storm 12 – 23 December 1942 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Operation Little Saturn 12 December 1942 – 18 February 1943 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Operation Tidal Wave 1 August 1943 Romania Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States Victory
Donbass Strategic Offensive 13 August – 22 September 1943 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Battle of the Dnieper 24 August – 23 December 1943 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Kerch-Eltigen Operation November 1943 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Dnieper-Carpathian Offensive 24 December 1943 – 14 April 1944 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Uman–Botoșani Offensive 5 March – 17 April 1944 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
First Jassy–Kishinev Offensive 8 April – 6 June 1944 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Victory
Crimean Offensive 8 April – 12 May 1944 Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Lublin-Brest Offensive 18 July – 2 August 1944 Belarus/Poland Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Defeat
Jassy–Kishinev Offensive (First phase)20–23 August 1944 Romania Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Switched sides
As part of the Allies (1944–1945)
Jassy–Kishinev Offensive (Second phase)23–29 August 1944 Romania Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
aerial support:
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Victory
Battle of Turda 5 September – 8 October 1944 Romania Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Victory
Battle of Păuliș 14–19 September 1944 Romania Flag of Romania.svg  Romania Flag of Hungary (1915-1918, 1919-1946).svg  Hungary Victory
Battle of Debrecen 6–29 October 1944 Hungary Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Victory
Budapest Offensive 29 October 1944 – 13 February 1945 Hungary Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Victory
Siege of Budapest 29 December 1944 – 13 February 1945 Hungary Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Victory
Bratislava–Brno Offensive 25 March – 5 May 1945 Czechoslovakia Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany Victory
Prague Offensive 6–11 May 1945 Czechoslovakia Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union Naval Ensign of Russia.svg Russian Liberation Army Victory

Romanian armament during World War II

Modern non-self-propelled weapons

The list below displays the modern (designed and built after the end of World War I) infantry weapons and artillery pieces used by the Romanian Army during World War II.

Tanks

The list below comprises the models and numbers of Romanian Army tanks of all types in service as of 19 July 1944: [61]

A Romanian TACAM T-60 during the National Day parade, 10 May 1943. TACAM T-60.jpg
A Romanian TACAM T-60 during the National Day parade, 10 May 1943.
The Maresal tank destroyer (prototype M-05), the best-known Romanian-built armored vehicle of the war (although it never entered service as only prototypes were made). Maresal tank destroyer.jpg
The Mareşal tank destroyer (prototype M-05), the best-known Romanian-built armored vehicle of the war (although it never entered service as only prototypes were made).
NameTypeCountry of OriginQuantity
FT-17 Light tankFlag of France (1794-1958).svg  France 62
R-1 TanketteFlag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 14
R-35 Light tankFlag of France (1794-1958).svg  France 30
R-35/45 Tank destroyerFlag of Romania.svg  Romania 30
R-2 Light tankFlag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia 44
T-38 Light tankFlag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany 19
T-3 Medium tankFlag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany 2
T-4 Medium tankFlag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany 81
TACAM T-60 Tank destroyerFlag of Romania.svg  Romania 34
TACAM R-2 Tank destroyerFlag of Romania.svg  Romania 20
TAs Assault gunFlag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany 60
STZ TanketteFlag of Romania.svg  Romania 34

Air force

See also

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Jassy–Kishinev Offensive military offensive

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Siege of Odessa (1941) siege

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Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina

The Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina from June 28 – July 4, 1940, of the Romanian regions of northern Bukovina and Hertza, and of Bessarabia, a region under Romanian administration since Russian Civil War times. These regions, with a total area of 50,762 km2 (19,599 sq mi) and a population of 3,776,309 inhabitants, were subsequently incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Romanian armies in the Battle of Stalingrad

Two Romanian armies, the Third and the Fourth, were involved in the Battle of Stalingrad, helping to protect the northern and southern flanks respectively of the German 6th Army as it tried to conquer the city of Stalingrad, defended by the Soviet Red Army in mid to late 1942. Overpowered and poorly equipped, these forces were unable to stop the Soviet November offensive, which punched through both flanks and left the 6th Army encircled in Stalingrad. The Romanians suffered enormous losses, which effectively ended their offensive capability on the Eastern Front for the remainder of the war.

43M Zrínyi assault gun

Zrínyi was a Hungarian assault gun of the World War II period.

The Orița is a 9×19mm Parabellum submachine gun that was manufactured in Romania during World War II and for several years afterwards. It was named for Captain Marin Orița, who is credited in Romania with its design. The mass production was made by CMC Uzinele Metallurgice Copșa Mică together with Cugir arms factory. The first version, Model 1941, entered operational service with the Romanian Army in 1943. Two later improved models were the Model 1948, with a fixed wooden stock, and the rare paratrooper Model 1949, with a folding metal stock. It remained in service with the Romanian Army until it was replaced in the 1960s by the more powerful Pistol Mitralieră model 1963/1965, a Romanian version of the AK-47 assault rifle. The Orița remained in service with the Romanian paramilitaries until the 1970s.

Arms industry in Romania

Before 1989, Romania was among the top ten arms exporters in the world, however its arms industry declined considerably during the 1990s. Exports fell from roughly $1 billion before 1989 to about $43 million in 2006, and the number of employees also fell from 220,000 in 1990 to 20,000 in 2009. Sales to the Romanian Armed Forces have plunged after Romania's accession to NATO in 2004, as factories continue to produce Warsaw Pact-caliber weapons and ammunition, which are incompatible with their Western counterparts. There have also been criticisms related to the quality of Romania's military products, due to the obsolescence of factory equipment and production methods. The Cugir weapons plant, for example, still uses some machinery dated from 1890.

Operation München

Operation München was the Romanian codename of a joint German-Romanian offensive during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in World War II, with the primary objective of recapturing Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and Hertsa, ceded by Romania to the Soviet Union a year before. The Operation concluded successfully after 24 days of fighting. Axis formations involved included the Third Romanian Army, the Fourth Romanian Army, and the Wehrmacht Eleventh Army. The invasion was followed by a genocide against the Jewish population of Bessarabia.

Vickers Model 1931

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TACAM R-1 was a small tank destroyer for use by Romania during World War II. It was designed on 22 November 1943 at the request of the Romanian General Staff. Fourteen AH-IV tankettes were to be rearmed with soviet 45 mm AT guns. Although this vehicle was designed to be used only for security duties, the project was cancelled because it was eventually regarded as a waste of badly needed resources.

TACAM T-38

TACAM T-38 was a Romanian tank destroyer design for use in World War II. In 1943, forty captured Soviet 76.2 mm field guns were in storage to rearm the T-38 tanks used by the Romanian Army. The tank destroyer would have resembled the German Marder III. Because the TACAM R-2 project was never completed, the project was cancelled after King Michael's Coup.

R-3 was a proposed Romanian tank design for use in World War II. It was basically a variant of the Czechoslovak S-II-c tank prototype which was going to be built in Romania because of the repeated acquisition failures. Because of political reasons and the limited industrial capacities of both Škoda Works and the Romanian industry, the design never entered production.

Events from the year 1941 in Romania.

Croatian–Romanian–Slovak friendship proclamation

During World War II, a joint friendship proclamation was created between the Kingdom of Romania, the Independent State of Croatia and the State of Slovakia against any further Hungarian expansion. Ion Antonescu, the Marshal of Romania, engaged in some intra-Axis diplomacy and created the alliance in May 1942. The union was similar to the interbellic Little Entente.

Southern Transylvania was a region of the Kingdom of Romania between 1940 and 1944, during World War II. The region of Transylvania, belonging entirely to Romania when the war started in 1939, was split in 1940 between Romania and Hungary, with the latter taking Northern Transylvania in the aftermath of the Second Vienna Award.

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Further reading

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates  public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/ .

Military and political history

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