Ion Antonescu
prime minister and conduc%C4%83tor (Leader) of Romania during World War II
Ion Antonescu
Ion Victor Antonescu was a Romanian soldier, authoritarian politician, and convicted war criminal. The Prime Minister and Conducător during most of World War II, he presided over two successive wartime dictatorships.
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Today in History: Tuesday, August 23 - Little Falls Evening Times
Google News - over 5 years
In 1944, Romanian prime minister Ion Antonescu was dismissed by King Michael, paving the way for Romania to abandon the Axis in favor of the Allies. In 1960, Broadway librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, 65, died in Doylestown, Pa
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Years Ago - Youngstown Vindicator
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1944: Romanian Prime Minister Ion Antonescu is dismissed by King Michael, paving the way for Romania to abandon the Axis in favor of the Allies. 1973: A bank robbery-turned-hostage-taking begins in Stockholm, Sweden; the four hostages end up
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Regele, Mareşalul şi Preşedintele - ZIUA VECHE
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Cu „umbra” Mareşalului Ion Antonescu, regretatul colonel George Magherescu, am discutat o singură dată, într-un timp dilatat de uimirea mea. Cu Preşedintele actual al României am dat mâna, la Carei, en passant, când mi-a plăcut – acesta este adevărul
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What is your basic nature? - Abbotsford Times
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I've since learned these men - including Nazi sympathizer Ion Antonescu - were convicted of war crimes in a court similar to the Nuremberg Trials, used in Germany following the Second World War. They were part of the Holocaust and presided over the
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A Mass Grave, 70 Years Later - New York Times
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Just days before the dictator Ion Antonescu's henchmen murdered my grandfather, experts on the Holocaust say, his next in command, Mihai Antonescu, advised top officials about the coming deportation of Jews. The ministers, he said,
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Jewish group: Romanian word is anti-Semitic - The Associated Press
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"The word must show the real sense, that it is pejorative, that it is racist for both Jews and Gypsies." Some 280000 Jews and 11000 Roma were killed during the Second World War regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu
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Will Russia Hike Romanian Energy Prices Following WW2 Comments? - TheStreet.com
Google News - over 5 years
In a televised interview, Basescu said he agreed with Marshal Ion Antonescu, who declared war on the Soviet Union in 1941, adding that he would have done the same, Gandul newspaper reported. It's a tough call... but it doesn't have to be
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President of Romania: "Justifies his country's decision to join the war ... - Center for Research on Globalization
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In a TV show on June 22, President Basescu said he would have done the same as Marshal Ion Antonescu did during the war, when joining Germany in invading the Soviet Union. “We had an ally and we had a territory to recover (en Moldova)
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Already tense Romanian-Russian relations endure a further strain. - Southeast European Times
Google News - over 5 years
In a televised interview, Basescu said he agreed with Marshal Ion Antonescu, who declared war on the Soviet Union in 1941. The president added that he would have done the same. "Russia is outraged by Romanian President Traian Basescu's recent remarks
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Russia and Romania get into fight over Hitler's 'deeds' - Pravda
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It was a pure act of aggression on the part of the then de facto leader of Romania, Marshal Ion Antonescu, which is recognized by all agreements signed after World War Two. As the lost party, the Romanians lost all these lands
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Romania commemorates Iasi pogrom - Ynetnews
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At the Iasi Synagogue, Romania's oldest, mourners inaugurated an obelisk as a monument to thousands killed on the orders of the then pro-Nazi regime led by Ion Antonescu, with the complicity of German troops. Early Hitler letter on Jews unveiled in NYC
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Russia fury at 1941 war backing - Belfast Telegraph
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The order to attack Soviet troops was given by the pro-fascist dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement it is "outraged" at Mr Basescu's comments, which attempt to "justify the fascist aggression" and "desecrate the
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Romanian pogrom showed Nazis 'how to do mass murder' - euronews
Google News - over 5 years
But Romania under Ion Antonescu was an ally of Nazi Germany. In late June 1941, the dictator ordered Iasi's military chief to “cleanse” the city of its Jews. Police and soldiers led the pogrom, willingly supported by mobs who knew they would not be
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President launches attack on ex-king, accuses him of responsiblity for ... - Washington Post
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regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu — prime minister from 1940 to 1944, during World War II — he should also be considered responsible for the death of some 280000 Jews and 11000 Gypsies. In 1944, when Romania was allied with Hitler's fascists,
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Ion Antonescu
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1946
    Age 63
    His 1946 trial was notably attended and documented by George Călinescu in a series of articles for Națiunea journal.
    More Details Hide Details Political humor of the 1940s preserved distinct images of the Romanian leader. Romanian jokes circulated under Antonescu's rule ridiculed his adoption of the title Marshal of Romania, viewing it as a self-promotion and dubbing him the "Auto-Marshal". During the war, Soviet agitprop portrayed Antonescu and the other secondary Axis leaders as villains and servile dog-like creatures, representations notably present in musical theater and puppetry shows, as well as in press cartoons. Marin Preda's 1975 novel Delirul displays the Ceaușescu regime's ambiguous relationship with Antonescu. Critics John Neubauer and Marcel Cornis-Pope remark that the novel is "admittedly not Preda's best work", and discuss his "complex representation" of Antonescu as "an essentially flawed but active leader who tried to negotiate some maneuvering room between the demands of Germany and the threats of the Soviet Union whose failure led to the dismantling of Romania's fragile democratic system." The book sought Antonescu's rehabilitation for his attitudes on the Bessarabia-Northern Bukovina issue, but did not include any mention of his antisemitic policies, of which Preda himself may have been ignorant. An international scandal followed, once negative comments on the book were published by the Soviet magazine Literaturnaya Gazeta. Although an outspoken nationalist, Eugen Barbu produced a satirical image of Antonescu in his own 1975 novel, Incognito, which was described by Deletant as "character assassination".
    During the rigged general election of 1946 and for years after Ion Antonescu's execution, the Romanian Communist Party and its allies began using the implications of his trial as an abusive means of compromising some of their political opponents.
    More Details Hide Details One such early example was Iuliu Maniu, by then one of the country's prominent anti-communists, who was accused of being a fascist and an Antonescu sympathizer, mainly for having shaken his hand during the trial. The enlistment of ethnic Germans into Nazi German units, as approved by Antonescu, was used as a pretext for a Soviet-led expulsion of Germans from Romania. On similar grounds, the Soviet occupation forces organized the capture of certain Romanian citizens, as well as the return of war refugees from Romania proper into Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. Both the arrestees and the returnees were often deported deeper into the Soviet Union. As part of its deteriorating relationship with Romanian Roman Catholics, and urged on by the Soviets, the communist cabinet of Petru Groza also deemed Apostolic Nuncio Andrea Cassulo a collaborator of Antonescu and a persona non grata, based on transcripts of the Cassulo-Antonescu conversations. It also used such allegations to pressure several Greek-Catholic clergymen into accepting union with the Romanian Orthodox Church.
    A common assessment ranks Antonescu's Romania as second only to Nazi Germany in its antisemitic extermination policies. According to separate works by historians Dennis Deletant and Adrian Cioroianu, the flaws of Antonescu's 1946 trial notwithstanding, his responsibility for war crimes was such that he would have been equally likely to be found guilty and executed in a Western Allied jurisdiction.
    More Details Hide Details The often singular brutality of Romanian-organized massacres was a special topic of reflection for Jewish Holocaust escapee and American political theorist Hannah Arendt, as discussed in her 1963 work Eichmann in Jerusalem. Official Romanian estimates made in 2003 by the Wiesel Commission mention that between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews were killed by Romanian authorities under Antonescu's rule. The Transnistria deportations account for 150,000 to 170,000 individual expulsions of Jews from Romania proper, of whom some 90,000–120,000 never returned. According to Romanian-born Israeli historian Jean Ancel, the Transnistria deportations from other areas account for around 145,000 deaths, while the number of local Transnistrian Jews killed could be as high as 280,000. More conservative estimates for the latter number mention some 130,000–180,000 victims. Other overall estimates speak of 200,000 to over 300,000 Jews purposefully killed as a result of Romania's action. According to historians Antony Polonsky and Joanna B. Michlic: "none of these massacres was carried out by the Germans, although latter certainly encouraged such actions and, in some cases, may have coordinated them." The Romani deportations affected some 25,000 people, at least 11,000 of whom died in Transnistria.
    At his 1946 trial, Antonescu claimed that Transnistria had been occupied to prevent Romania being caught in a "pincer" between Germany's Drang nach Osten and the Volksdeutsch communities to the east, while denying charges of having exploited the region for Romania's benefit.
    More Details Hide Details Romanian historian Lucian Boia believes that Ion Antonescu may have nevertheless had expansionist goals to the east, and that he implicitly understood Operation Barbarossa as a tool for containing Slavic peoples. Similar verdicts are provided by other researchers. Another Romanian historian, Ottmar Trașcă, argues that Antonescu did not wish to annex the region "at least until the end of the war", but notes that Antonescu's own statements make reference to its incorporation in the event of a victory. In addition to early annexation plans to the Southern Bug (reportedly confessed to Bossy in June 1941), the Conducător is known to have presented his ministers with designs for the region's colonization. The motivation he cited was alleged malnutrition among Romanian peasants, to which he added: "I'll take this population, I'll lead it into Transnistria, where I shall give it all the land it requires". Several nationalists sympathetic to Antonescu acclaimed the extension of Romanian rule into Transnistria, which they understood as permanent.
    Together with his co-defendants Mihai Antonescu, Alexianu and Vasiliu, the former Conducător was executed by a military firing squad on June 1, 1946.
    More Details Hide Details Ion Antonescu's supporters circulated false rumors that regular soldiers had refused to fire at their commander, and that the squad was mostly composed of Jewish policemen. Another apologetic claim insists that he himself ordered the squad to shoot, but footage of the event has proven it false. It is however attested that he refused a blindfold and raised his hat in salute once the order was given. The execution site, some distance away from the locality of Jilava and the prison fort, was known as Valea Piersicilor ("Valley of the Peach Trees"). His final written statement was a letter to his wife, urging her to withdraw into a convent, while stating the belief that posterity would reconsider his deeds and accusing Romanians of being "ungrateful". Antonescu's policies were motivated, in large part, by ethnic nationalism. A firm believer in the restoration of Greater Romania as the union of lands inhabited by ethnic Romanians, he never reconciled himself to Hungary's incorporation of Northern Transylvania. Although Hungary and Romania were technically allied through the Axis system, their relationship was always tense, and marked by serious diplomatic incidents. The Romanian leader kept contacts with representatives of ethnic Romanian communities directly affected by the Second Vienna Award, including Transylvanian Greek-Catholic clergy. Another aspect of Antonescu's nationalist policies was evidenced after the Balkans Campaign. Antonescu's Romania did not partake in the military action, but laid a claim to the territories in eastern Vojvodina (western Banat) and the Timok Valley, home to a sizable Romanian community.
    In May 1946, Ion Antonescu was prosecuted at the first in a series of People's Tribunals, on charges of war crimes, crimes against the peace and treason.
    More Details Hide Details The tribunals had first been proposed by the PNȚ, and was compatible with the Nuremberg Trials in Allied-occupied Germany. The Romanian legislative framework was drafted by coup participant Pătrășcanu, a PCR member who had been granted leadership of the Justice Ministry. Despite the idea having earned support from several sides of the political spectrum, the procedures were politicized in a sense favorable to the PCR and the Soviet Union, and posed a legal problem for being based on ex post facto decisions. The first such local trial took place in 1945, resulting in the sentencing of Iosif Iacobici, Nicolae Macici, Constantin Trestioreanu and other military commanders directly involved in planning or carrying out the Odessa massacre. Antonescu was represented by Constantin Paraschivescu-Bălăceanu and Titus Stoica, two public defenders whom he had first consulted with a day before the procedures were initiated. The prosecution team, led by Vasile Stoican, and the panel of judges, presided over by Alexandru Voitinovici, were infiltrated by PCR supporters. Both consistently failed to admit that Antonescu's foreign policies were overall dictated by Romania's positioning between Germany and the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, and although references to the mass murders formed just 23% of the indictment and corpus of evidence (ranking below charges of anti-Soviet aggression), the procedures also included Antonescu's admission of and self-exculpating take on war crimes, including the deportations to Transnistria. They also evidence his awareness of the Odessa massacre, accompanied by his claim that few of the deaths were his direct responsibility.
    He was returned to Bucharest in spring 1946 and held in Jilava prison.
    More Details Hide Details He was subsequently interrogated by prosecutor Avram Bunaciu, to whom he complained about the conditions of his detainment, contrasting them with those in Moscow, while explaining that he was a vegetarian and demanding a special diet.
    Speaking in 1946, Antonescu claimed to have followed the pro-German path in continuation of earlier policies, and for fear of a Nazi protectorate in Romania.
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  • 1943
    Age 60
    While tolerating contacts between Maniu and the Allies, Antonescu arrested the clandestine British envoys to Romania, thus putting a stop to the 1943 Operation Autonomous.
    More Details Hide Details In parallel, his relationship with Queen Mother Helen and Michael rapidly deteriorated after he began advising the royal family on how to conduct its affairs. Dissent from Antonescu's policies sometimes came from inside his own camp. Both the officer corps and the General Staff were divided on the issue of war beyond the Dniester, although it is possible that the majority agreed it would bring Northern Transylvania back to Romania. A prominent case was that of Iosif Iacobici, the Chief of the Romanian General Staff, whose objection to the massive transfer of Romanian troops to the Eastern Front resulted in his demotion and replacement with Ilie Șteflea (January 1942). Șteflea issued similar calls, and Antonescu's eventually agreed to preserve a home army just before the Battle of Stalingrad. Various other military men extended their protection to persecuted Jews. Overall, Antonescu met significant challenges in exercising control over the politicized sectors in the armed forces.
    The loss of two entire Romanian armies who all either killed or captured by the Soviets produced a major crisis in German-Romanian relations in the winter of 1943 with many people in the Romanian government for the first time questioning the wisdom of fighting on the side of the Axis.
    More Details Hide Details Outside of the elites, by 1943 the continuing heavy losses on the Eastern Front, anger at the contempt which the Wehrmacht treated their Romanian allies and declining living standards within Romania made the war unpopular with the Romanian people, and consequently the Conducător himself. The American historian Gerhard Weinberg wrote that: "The string of broken German promises of equipment and support, the disregard of warnings about Soviet offensive preparations, the unfriendly treatment of retreating Romanian units by German officers and soldiers and the general German tendency to blame their own miscalculations and disasters on their allies all combined to produce a real crisis in German-Romanian relations." For part of that interval, the Marshal had withdrawn from public life, owing to an unknown affliction, which is variously rumored to have been a mental breakdown, a foodborne illness or a symptom of the syphilis he had contracted earlier in life. He is known to have been suffering from digestive problems, treating himself with food prepared by Marlene von Exner, an Austrian-born dietitian who moved into Hitler's service after 1943.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1942
    Age 59
    In August 1942, Antonescu had worked out plans with the SS for deporting all of the Jews of the Regat or the "Old Kingdom" to the German-run death camps in Poland, but then cancelled the deportation.
    More Details Hide Details The principle reasons for his change of mind were signs of disapproval from court circles, an warning from the American government passed on by the Swiss ambassador that he would prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity after the Allies had won if the deportation went ahead, and most importantly because Hitler would not undo the Second Vienna Award and return northern Transylvania to Romania. Antonescu saw the deportation of the Jews of the Regat as the pro quid quo for the return of Transylvania and unable to obtain satisfactory promises from the German Ambassador Baron Manfred von Killinger that Romania would be rewarded with the return of Transylvania in exchange for handing over its Jews, Antonescu cancelled the deportation until the Germans would make him a better offer. According to Oldson, by the final stage of the war Romania rejected "all extreme measures against Jews who could not be proven to be communists." The planned transports to Palestine, the prospect of which irritated Nazi German observers, implied a hope that the Allies' focus would shift away from the regime's previous guilt and, at the same time, looked forward to payments to be made in exchange for each person saved. The contrary implications of Romanian nationalism, manifested as reluctance to obey German commands and discomfort with drastic change in general, are occasionally offered as further explanations of the phenomenon. While reflecting upon the issue of emigration to Palestine, Antonescu also yielded to pleas of Jewish community leaders, and allowed safe passage through Romania for various Northern Transylvanian Jews fleeing the Holocaust in Hungary.
    By summer 1942, German representatives in Romania obtained Antonescu's approval to deport the remaining Jewish population to extermination camps in occupied Poland.
    More Details Hide Details Among those involved on the German side were mass murderer Adolf Eichmann and his aide Gustav Richter, while the Romanian side was represented by Jewish Affairs Commissioner Lecca (reporting to Antonescu himself). Richter directed Lecca in setting up the Central Jewish Office, which he assumed would function as a Judenrat to streamline extermination policies. According to such plans, only some 17,000 Jews, labeled useful to Romania's economy, were to be exempt. The transports had already been announced to the Romanian Railways by autumn 1942, but the government eventually decided to postpone these measures indefinitely as was done with most other deportations to Transnistria. Antonescu's new orders on the matter were brought up in his conversations with Hitler at Schloss Klessheim, where both leaders show themselves aware of the fate awaiting Jewish deportees to Poland. By then, German authorities charged with applying the Final Solution in Eastern Europe completely abandoned their plans with respect to Romania.
    In one such instance, he reversed his own 1942 decision to impose the wearing of yellow badges, which nevertheless remained in use everywhere outside the Old Kingdom and, in theory, to any Romanian Jews elsewhere in Axis-controlled Europe.
    More Details Hide Details Assessing these contradictions, commentators also mention the effect of Allied promises to prosecute those responsible for genocide throughout Europe. In the late stages of the war, Antonescu was attempting to shift all blame for crimes from his regime while accusing Jews of "bringing destruction upon themselves". The regime permitted non-deported Romanian Jews and American charities to send humanitarian aid into Transnistrian camps, a measure it took an interest in enforcing in late 1942. Deportations of Jews ceased altogether in October of the same year. A common explanation historians propose for this reassessment of policies is the change in Germany's fortunes on the Eastern Front, with mention that Antonescu was considering using the Jewish population as an asset in his dealings with the Western Allies. It nevertheless took the regime more than a year to allow more selective Jewish returns from Transnistria, including some 2,000 orphans. After Transnistria's 1944 evacuation, Antonescu himself advocated the creation of new camps in Bessarabia. In conversations with his cabinet, the Conducător angrily maintained that surviving Jews were better off than Romanian soldiers.
    Also in the summer of 1942, Ion Antonescu became a perpetrator of the Porajmos, or Holocaust-related crimes against the Romani people, when he ordered the Transnistrian deportation of Romanian Romani from the Old Kingdom, transited through camps and resettled in inhumane conditions near the Southern Bug.
    More Details Hide Details They were joined there by 2,000 conscientious objectors of the Inochentist church, a millennialist denomination. As Antonescu admitted during his trial, he personally supervised these operations, giving special orders to the Gendarmerie commanders. In theory, the measures taken against Romani people were supposed to affect only nomads and those with a criminal record created or updated recently, but arbitrary exceptions were immediately made to this rule, in particular by using the vague notion of "undesirable" to define some members of sedentary communities. The central authorities noted differences in the criteria applied locally, and intervened to prevent or sanction under-deportation and, in some cases, over-deportation. Antonescu and Constantin Vasiliu had been made aware of the problems Transnistria faced in feeding its own population, but ignored them when deciding in favor of expulsion. With most of their property confiscated, the Romani men, women and children were only allowed to carry hand luggage, on which they were supposed to survive winter. Famine and disease ensued from criminal negligence, Romani survival being largely dependent on occasional government handouts, the locals' charity, stealing and an underground economy. Once caught, escapees who made their way back into Romania were returned by the central authorities, even as local authorities were objecting.
  • 1941
    Age 58
    Economic exploitation was institutionalized in late 1941-early 1942, with the creation of a Central Jewish Office.
    More Details Hide Details Supervised by Commissioner Radu Lecca and formally led by the Jewish intellectuals Nandor Gingold and Henric Streitman, it collected funds which were in part redirected toward Maria Antonescu's charities. Small numbers of Romanian Jews left independently for the Palestine as early as 1941, but British opposition to Zionist plans made their transfer perilous (one notorious example of this being the MV Struma). On a personal level, Antonescu's encouragement of crimes alternated with periods when he gave in to the pleas of Jewish community leader Wilhelm Filderman.
    In April 1941, he let his ministers know that he was considering letting "the mob" deal with the Jews, "and after the slaughter, I will restore order."
    More Details Hide Details Lucian Boia notes that the Romanian leader was indeed motivated by antisemitic beliefs, but that these need to be contextualized in order to understand what separates Antonescu from Hitler in terms of radicalism. However, various other researchers assess that, by aligning himself with Hitler before and during Operation Barbarossa, Antonescu implicitly agreed with his thoughts on the "Jewish Question", choosing racial over religious antisemitism. According to Harvey, the Iași pogrom made the Germans "evidently willing to accept that organized Christianity in Romania was very different from what it was in Germany".
    As far I am concerned, 100 may die, 1, 000 may die, all of them may die" Between 21-24 and 28–31 December 1941, Romanian gendarmes and Ukrainian auxiliaries killed about 70, 000 Jews at the Bogdanovca camp; the massacre was Antonescu's way of dealing a typhus epidemic that had broken out among the Jews of Transistria owing to the poor living conditions that had been forced to endure.
    More Details Hide Details The last wave of Jewish deportations, occurring in June 1942, came mainly from the Cernăuți area in Northern Bukovina.
    At a Cabinet meeting on 16 December 1941 to discuss the fate of the Jews of Transnistria, Antonescu stated: "The question of the Yids is being discussed in Berlin.
    More Details Hide Details The Germans want to bring the Yids from Europe to Russia and settle them in certain areas, but there is still time before this plan is carried out. Meanwhile, what should we do? Shall we wait for a decision in Berlin? Shall we wait for a decision that concerns us? Shall we ensure their safety? Pack them into catacombs! Throw them into the Black Sea!
    On 11 November 1941, Antonescu sent Filderman a second letter stating no Jews would be allowed to live in the "liberated territories" and as for the Jews of the Regat: "We decided to defend our Romanian rights because our all-too-tolerant past was taken advantage of by the Jews and facilitated the abuse of our rights by foreigners, particularly the Jews We are determined to put an end to this situation.
    More Details Hide Details We cannot afford to put in jeopardy the existence of our nation because of several hundred thousand Jews, or in order to salvage some principle of humane democracy that has not been understood properly." The deportees' remaining property was nationalized, confiscated or left available for plunder. With its own Jewish population confined and subjected to extermination, Transnistria became infamous in short time, especially so for its three main concentration camps: Peciora, Akhmechetka, Bogdanovka, Domanovka and Obodovka. Manned by Romanian Gendarmes and local Ukrainian auxiliaries who acted with the consent of central authorities, Transnistrian localities became the sites of mass executions, particularly after the administrators became worried about the spread of typhus from the camps and into the surrounding region.
    On 11 October 1941, the chief of the Federation of Jewish Communities, Wilhelm Filderman issued a public letter to Antonescu asking him to stop the deportations, writing: "This is death, death for no reason except that they are Jews."
    More Details Hide Details Antonescu replied to Filderman in a long letter explaining that because the entire Jewish community of Bessarabia had allegedly collaborated with the Soviets during the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia, his policies were a justified act of revenge.
    In late August 1941 in Tighina Antonescu called a secret conference attended by himself, the governors of Bessarabia and Bukovina and the governor-designate of Transnistria to discuss his plans regarding the Jews in those regions.
    More Details Hide Details Many deaths followed, as the direct results of starvation and exhaustion, while the local German troops carried out selective shootings. The survivors were sent back over the river, and the German commanders expressed irritation over the methods applied by their counterparts. Romanian authorities subsequently introduced ghettos or transit camps. After the annexation of Transnistria, there ensued a systematic deportation of Jews from Bessarabia, with additional transports of Jews from the Old Kingdom (especially Moldavia-proper). Based on an assignment Antonescu handed down to General Ioan Topor, the decision involved specific quotas, and the transports, most of which were carried out by foot, involved random murders. In conjunction with Antonescu's expansionist ambitions, it is possible that the ultimate destination for the survivors, once circumstances permitted it, was further east than the Southern Bug.
    In stages between August and October 1941, he instituted civilian administration of Transnistria under Governor Gheorghe Alexianu, whose status he made equivalent to that of a cabinet minister.
    More Details Hide Details Similar measures were taken in Bukovina and Bessarabia (under Governors Corneliu Calotescu and Gheorghe Voiculescu, respectively). Antonescu strictly relied on the chain of command, and his direct orders to the Army overrode civilian hierarchies. This system allowed room for endemic political corruption and administrative confusion. The Romanian leader also tolerated a gradual loss of authority over the German communities in Romania, in particular the Transylvanian Saxon and Banat Swabian groups, in agreement with Hitler's views on the Volksdeutsche. This trend was initiated by Saxon Nazi activist Andreas Schmidt in cooperation with the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, resulting in de facto self-governance under a Nazi system which was also replicated among the 130,000 Black Sea Germans of Transnistria. Many young German Romanian men opted to join the Schutzstaffel as early as 1940 and, in 1943, an accord between Antonescu and Hitler automatically sent ethnic Germans of recruitable age into the Wehrmacht.
    In 1941, he disestablished participative government in localities and counties, replacing it with a corporatist structure appointed by prefects whom he named.
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    Accordingly, Antonescu formally outlawed all political forces in February 1941, codifying penal labor as punishment for most public forms of political expression.
    More Details Hide Details In Deletant's assessment, his regenerative program was more declarative than factual, and contradicted by Antonescu's own decision to allow the informal existence of some opposition forces. At the same time, some historians believe his monopolizing of power in the name of a German alliance turned Romania into either a "puppet state" of Hitler or one of Germany's "satellite" governments. However, Deletant notes: "Romania retained her sovereignty throughout the period of the alliance Nazi Germany. Antonescu had, of course, his own country's interests uppermost in his mind, but in following Hitler, he served the Nazi cause." He describes Romania's contribution to the war as that of "a principal ally of Germany", as opposed to a "minor Axis satellite." Although he assigned an unimportant role to King Michael, Antonescu took steps to increase the monarchy's prestige, personally inviting Carol's estranged wife, Queen Mother Helen, to return home. However, his preferred military structures functioned in cooperation with a bureaucracy inherited from the National Renaissance Front. According to historian of fascism Philip Morgan: "Antonescu probably wanted to create, or perpetuate, something like Carol's front organization." Much of his permanent support base comprised former National Christian Party members, to the point where he was seen as successor to Octavian Goga. While maintaining a decorative replacement for Parliament—known as Adunarea Obștească Plebiscitară a Națiunii Române ("The General Plebiscitary Assembly of the Romanian Nation") and convoked only twice— he took charge of hierarchical appointments, and personally drafted new administrative projects.
    After a February 1941 inspection, Antonescu singled out Bucharest's Romani community for alleged offenses committed during the blackout, and called on his ministers to present him with solutions.
    More Details Hide Details Initially, he contemplated sending all Romani people he considered undesirable to the inhospitable Bărăgan Plain, to join the ranks of a local community of manual laborers. In 1942, he commissioned the Romanian Central Institute for Statistics to compile a report on Romani demography, which, in its edited form, provided scientifically racist conclusions, warning the Conducător about alleged Romani-Romanian miscegenation in rural Romania. In doing so, Antonescu offered some credit to a marginal and pseudoscientific trend in Romanian sociology, which, basing itself on eugenic theories, recommended the marginalization, deportation or compulsory sterilization of the Romani people, whose numeric presence it usually exaggerated. Among those who signed the report was demographer Sabin Manuilă, who saw the Romani presence as a major racial problem. The exact effect of the report's claims on Antonescu is uncertain. There is a historiographic dispute about whether Ion Antonescu's regime was fascist or more generically right-wing authoritarian, itself integrated within a larger debate about the aspects and limits of fascism. Israeli historian of fascism Zeev Sternhell describes Antonescu, alongside his European counterparts Pierre-Étienne Flandin, Francisco Franco, Miklós Horthy, François de La Rocque, Philippe Pétain and Italian King Victor Emmanuel III, as a "conservative", noting that all of them "were not deceived by a fascist propaganda trying to place them in the same category the fascist movements." A similar verdict is provided by German historian of Europe Hagen Schulze, who views Horthy, Franco and the Romanian leader alongside Portugal's Estado Novo theorist António de Oliveira Salazar and Second Polish Republic founder Józef Piłsudski, as rulers of "either purely military dictatorships, or else authoritarian governments run by civilian politicians", and thus a category apart from the leaders of "Fascist states."
    However, as early as February 1941, Antonescu was also contemplating the ghettoization of all Jewish Romanians, as an early step toward their expulsion.
    More Details Hide Details In this context, Antonescu frequently depicted Jews as a disease or a poison. After the Battle of Stalingrad, he encouraged the army commanders to resist the counteroffensive, as otherwise the Soviets "will bring Bolshevism to the country, wipe out the entire leadership stratum, impose the Jews on us, and deport masses of our people." Ion Antonescu's antiziganism manifested itself as the claim that some or all Romani people, specifically nomadic ones, were given to criminal behavior. The regime did not act consistently on this belief: in various cases, those deported had close relatives drafted into the Romanian Army. Although racist slogans targeting Romani people had been popularized by the Iron Guard, it was only under Antonescu's unchallenged rule that solving the "Gypsy problem" became official policy and antiziganist measures were enforced.
    In a summer 1941 address to his ministers, Antonescu stated: "The Satan is the Jew.
    More Details Hide Details Ours is a battle of life and death. Either we win and the world will be purified, either they win and we will become their slaves." At around the same time, he envisaged the ethnic cleansing ("cleaning out") of Jews from the eastern Romanian-held territories.
    In the fall of 1941, Antonescu planned to deport all of the Jews of the Regat, southern Bukovina and southern Transylvania into Transnistria as the prelude to killing them, but this operation was vetoed by Germany, who complained that Antonescu had not finished killing the Jews of Transistria yet.
    More Details Hide Details This veto was largely motivated by bureaucratic politics, namely if Antonescu exterminated all of the Jews of Romania himself, there would be nothing for the SS and the Auswärtiges Amt to do. Killinger informed Antonescu that Germany would reduce its supplies of arms if Antonescu went ahead with his plans to deport the Jews of the Regat into Transnistria and told him he would be better off deporting the Jews to the death camps in Poland that the Germans were already busy building. Since Romania had almost no arms industry of its own and was almost entirely dependent upon weapons from Germany to fight the war, Antonescu had little choice, but to comply with Killinger's request. The Romanian Army's inferior arms, insufficient armor and lack of training had been major concerns for the German commanders since before the start of the operation. One of the earliest major obstacles Antonescu encountered on the Eastern Front was the resistance of Odessa, a Soviet port on the Black Sea. Refusing any German assistance, he ordered the Romanian Army to maintain a two-month siege on heavily fortified and well-defended positions. The ill-equipped 4th Army suffered losses of some 100,000 men. Antonescu's popularity again rose in October, when the fall of Odessa was celebrated triumphantly with a parade through Bucharest's Arcul de Triumf, and when many Romanians reportedly believed the war was as good as won. In Odessa itself, the aftermath included a large-scale massacre of the Jewish population, ordered by the Marshal as retaliation for a bombing which killed a number of Romanian officers and soldiers (General Ioan Glogojeanu among them).
    Much to Antonescu's intense fury, the Red Army were able to halt the Romanian offensive on Odessa and 24 September 1941 Antonescu had to reluctantly ask for the help of the Wehrmacht with the drive on Odessa.
    More Details Hide Details On 16 October 1941 Odessa fell to the German-Romanian forces. The Romanian losses had been so heavy that the area around Odessa was known to the Romanian Army as the Vale of Tears. Antonescu's anti-Semitism was sharpened by the Odessa fighting as he was convinced that the only reason why the Red Army had fought so fiercely around Odessa was that the average Russian soldier had been terrorized by bloodthirsty Jewish commissars into fighting hard. When Wilhelm Filderman wrote a letter to Antonescu complaining about the murder of Jews in Odessa, Antonescu wrote back: "Your Jews, who have become Soviet commissars, are driving Soviet soldiers in the Odessa region into a futile bloodbath, through horrendous terror techniques as the Russian prisoners themselves have admitted, simply to cause us heavy losses". Antonescu ended his letter with the claim that Russian Jewish commissars had savagely tortured Romanian POWs and that the entire Jewish community of Romania, Filderman included were morally responsible for all of the losses and sufferings of the Romanians around Odessa.
    The accord over Transnistria's administration, signed in Tighina, also placed areas between the Dniester and the Dnieper under Romanian military occupation, while granting control over all resources to Germany. In September 1941, Antonescu ordered Romanian forces to take Odessa, a prize he badly wanted for reasons of prestige.
    More Details Hide Details Russians had traditionally been seen in Romania as brutal aggressors, and for Romanian forces to take a major Soviet city and one of the largest Black Sea ports like Odessa would be a sign of how far Romania had been "regenerated" under Antonescu's leadership.
    On 18 June 1941, Antonescu gave orders to his generals about "cleansing the ground" of Jews when Romanian forces entered Bessarabia and Bukovina.
    More Details Hide Details Right from the start, Antonescu proclaimed the war against the Soviet Union to be a "holy war", a "crusade" in the name of Eastern Orthodox faith and the Romanian race against the forces of "Judo-Bolshevism". The propaganda of the Antonescu regime demonized everything Jewish as Antonescu believed that Communism was invented by the Jews, and all of the Soviet leaders were really Jews. Reflecting Antonescu's anti-Slavic feelings, despite the fact that the war was billed as a "crusade" in defense of Orthodoxy against "Judeo-Bolshevism", the war was not presented as a struggle to liberate the Orthodox Russians and Ukrainians from Communism; instead rule by "Judeo-Bolshevism" was portrayed as something brought about the innate moral inferiority of the Slavs, who thus needed to be ruled by the Germans and the Romanians. The Romanian force engaged formed a General Antonescu Army Group under the effective command of German general Eugen Ritter von Schobert. Romania's campaign on the Eastern Front began without a formal declaration of war, and was consecrated by Antonescu's statement: "Soldiers, I order you, cross the Prut River" (in reference to the Bessarabian border between Romania and post-1940 Soviet territory). A few days after this, a large-scale pogrom was carried out in Iași with Antonescu's agreement; thousands of Jews were killed in the bloody Iași pogrom. Antonescu had followed a generation of younger right-wing Romanian intellectuals led by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu who in the 1920s-30s had rejected the traditional Francophila of the Romanian elites and their adherence to Western notions of universal democratic values and human rights.
    During his summit with Hitler in June 1941, Antonescu told the Führer that he believed it was necessary to "once and for all" eliminate Russia as a power because the Russians was the most powerful Slavic nation and that as a Latin people, the Romanians had an inborn hatred of all Slavs and Jews.
    More Details Hide Details Antonescu went on to tell Hitler: "Because of its racial qualities, Romania can continue to play its role as an anti-Slavic buffer for the benefit of Germany." Ancel wrote that Romanian anti-Slavic racism differed from the German variety in that the Romanians had traditionally feared the Slavic peoples whereas the Germans had traditionally held the Slavic peoples in contempt. In Antonescu's mind, the Romanians as a Latin people had attained a level of civilization that the Slavs were nowhere as close to, but theoretically the Slavic Russians and Ukrainians might be able to reach under Romanian auspices, through Antonescu's remarks to Hitler that "We must fight this race resolutely" (i.e. the Slavs) together with the need for "colonization" of Transnistria suggested that he did think this would happen in his own lifetime. Subsequently, the Romanians assigned to Barbarossa were to learn that as a Latin people, the Germans considered them to be their inferiors, albeit not as inferior as the Slavs, Asians and Jews who were viewed as untermensch ("sub-humans"). Hitler's promise to Antonescu that after the war, the Germanic and Latin races would rule the world in a partnership turned out to be meaningless.
    On 12 June 1941 during another summit with Hitler, Antonescu first learned of the "special" nature of Operation Barbarossa, namely that the war against the Soviet Union was to be an ideological war to "annihilate" the forces of "Judo-Bolshevism", a "war of extermination" to be fought without any mercy and Hitler even showed Antonescu a copy of the "Guidelines for the Conduct of the Troops in Russia" he had issued to his forces about the "special treatment" to be handed out to Soviet Jews.
    More Details Hide Details Antonescu completely accepted Hitler's ideas about Operation Barbarossa as a "race war" between the Aryans represented by the Nordic Germans and Latin Romanians on the Axis side vs. the Slavs and Asians commanded by the Jews on the Soviet side. Besides for anti-Semitism, there was an extremely strong current of anti-Slavic and anti-Asian racism to Antonescu's remarks about the "Asiatic hordes" of the Red Army. The Asians Antonescu referred were the various Asian peoples of the Soviet Union such as the Kazakhs, Kalmyks, Mongols, Uzbeks, Buriats, etc.
    In parallel, Romania's relationship with the United Kingdom (at the time the only major adversary of Nazi Germany) aggravated into conflict: on February 10, 1941, British Premier Winston Churchill recalled His Majesty's Ambassador Reginald Hoare, and approved the blockade of Romanian ships in British-controlled ports.
    More Details Hide Details
    Antonescu traveled to Germany and met Hitler on eight more occasions between June 1941 and August 1944.
    More Details Hide Details Such close contacts helped cement an enduring relationship between the two dictators, and Hitler reportedly came to see Antonescu as the only trustworthy person in Romania, and the only foreigner to consult on military matters. The American historian Gerhard Weinberg wrote that Hitler after first meeting Antonescu " was greatly impressed by him; no other leader Hitler met other than Mussolini ever received such consistently favorable comments from the German dictator. Hitler even mustered the patience to listen to Antonescu's lengthy disquisitions on the glorious history of Romania and the perfidy of the Hungarians-a curious reversal for a man who was more accustomed to regaling visitors with tirades of his own". In later statements, Hitler offered praise to Antonescu's "breadth of vision" and "real personality." A remarkable aspect of the Hitler-Antonescu friendship was neither could speak others' language. Hitler only knew German while the only foreign language Antonescu knew was French (in which he was completely fluent in). During their meetings, Antonescu spoke in French which was then translated into German by Hitler's translator Paul Schmidt and vice-versa (Schmidt did not speak Romanian). The German military presence increased significantly in early 1941, when, using Romania as a base, Hitler invaded the rebellious Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Kingdom of Greece (see Balkans Campaign).
    The Antonescu-Sima dispute erupted into violence in January 1941, when the Iron Guard instigated a series of attacks on public institutions and a pogrom, incidents collectively known as the "Legionary Rebellion".
    More Details Hide Details This came after the mysterious assassination of Major Döring, a German agent in Bucharest, which was used by the Iron Guard as a pretext to accuse the Conducător of having a secret anti-German agenda, and made Antonescu oust the Legionary Interior Minister, Constantin Petrovicescu, while closing down all of the Legionary-controlled "Romanianization" offices. Various other clashes prompted him to demand the resignation of all Police commanders who sympathized with the movement. After two days of widespread violence, during which Guardists killed some 120 Bucharest Jews, Antonescu sent in the Army, under the command of General Constantin Sănătescu. German officials acting on Hitler's orders, including the new Ambassador Manfred Freiherr von Killinger, helped Antonescu eliminate the Iron Guardists, but several of their lower-level colleagues actively aided Sima's subordinates. Goebbels was especially upset by the decision to support Antonescu, believing it to have been advantageous to "the Freemasons".
    On 14 January 1941 during a German-Romanian summit, Hitler informed Antonescu of his plans to invade the Soviet Union later that year and asked Romania to participate.
    More Details Hide Details By this time, Hitler had come to the conclusion that while Sima was ideologically closer to him, Antonescu was the more competent leader capable of ensuring stability in Romania while being committed to aligning his country with the Axis.
    During the National Legionary State period, earlier antisemitic legislation was upheld and strengthened, while the "Romanianization" of Jewish-owned enterprises became standard official practice. Immediately after coming into office, Antonescu himself expanded the anti-Jewish and Nuremberg law-inspired legislation passed by his predecessors Goga and Ion Gigurtu, while tens of new anti-Jewish regulations were passed in 1941–1942.
    More Details Hide Details This was done despite his formal pledge to Wilhelm Filderman and the Jewish Communities Federation that, unless engaged in "sabotage", "the Jewish population will not suffer." Antonescu did not reject the application of Legionary policies, but was offended by Sima's advocacy of paramilitarism and the Guard's frequent recourse to street violence. He drew much hostility from his partners by extending some protection to former dignitaries whom the Iron Guard had arrested. One early incident opposed Antonescu to the Guard's magazine Buna Vestire, which accused him of leniency and was subsequently forced to change its editorial board. By then, the Legionary press was routinely claiming that he was obstructing revolution and aiming to take control of the Iron Guard, and that he had been transformed into a tool of the Freemasonry (see Anti-Masonry). The political conflict coincided with major social challenges, including the influx of refugees from areas lost earlier in the year and a large-scale earthquake affecting Bucharest.
  • 1940
    Age 57
    The circumstances of wartime accounted for cautious and ambivalent approaches to Antonescu's rule from among the Romanian political mainstream, which grouped advocates of liberal democracy and anti-fascism. According to Gledhill and King: "Romanian liberals had been critical of their government's warm relationship with Hitler, which had been developing throughout the 1930s, but the 1940 Soviet attack on Romanian territory left them with little chance but to support Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union."
    More Details Hide Details Other authors also cite the Greater Romanian agenda of the Antonescu executive as a reason behind the widespread acquiescence. The tendency was illustrated by Dinu Brătianu, who, in late January 1941, told his National Liberal colleagues that the new "government of generals" was "the best solution possible to the current crisis", urging the group to provide Antonescu with "all the support we can give him." An early point of contention between Antonescu and the National Peasants' Party came in spring 1941, when Antonescu's support for the Balkans Campaign and Romania's claim to parts of Vojvodina were met with a letter of protest from Iuliu Maniu, which Antonescu dismissed. Maniu and Brătianu also issued several condemnations of Antonescu's decision to continue the war beyond the Dniester. One such letter, signed by both, claimed that, while earlier steps had been "legitimized by the entire soul of the nation, the Romanian people will never consent to the continuation of the struggle beyond our national borders." Maniu specifically mentioned the possibility of Allied victory, accused Antonescu of diverting attention from the goal of Greater Romania (Northern Transylvania included), and stressed that Romania's ongoing participation in the Axis was "troubling enough".
    Antonescu was a firm believer in the conspiracy theory of "Jewish Bolshevism", according to which all Jews were supporters of communism and the Soviet Union. His arguments on the matter involved a spurious claim that, during the 1940 retreat from Bessarabia, the Jews had organized themselves and attacked Romanian soldiers.
    More Details Hide Details In part, this notion exaggerated unilateral reports of enthusiasm among the marginalized Jews upon the arrival of Red Army troops.
    On October 6, he presided over the Iron Guard's mass rally in Bucharest, one in a series of major celebratory and commemorative events organized by the movement during the late months of 1940.
    More Details Hide Details However, he tolerated the PNȚ and PNL's informal existence, allowing them to preserve much of their political support. There followed a short-lived and always uneasy partnership between Antonescu and Sima. In late September, the new regime denounced all pacts, accords and diplomatic agreements signed under Carol, bringing the country into Germany's orbit while subverting its relationship with a former Balkan ally, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Germans troops entered the country in stages, in order to defend the local oil industry and help instruct their Romanian counterparts on Blitzkrieg tactics. On November 23, Antonescu was in Berlin, where his signature sealed Romania's commitment to the main Axis instrument, the Tripartite Pact. Two days later, the country also adhered to the Nazi-led Anti-Comintern Pact. Other than these generic commitments, Romania had no treaty binding it to Germany, and the Romanian-German alliance functioned informally.
    Carol yielded and, on September 5, 1940, the general became Prime Minister, and Carol transferred most of his dictatorial powers to him.
    More Details Hide Details The latter's first measure was to curtail potential resistance within the Army by relieving Bucharest Garrison chief Gheorghe Argeșanu of his position and replacing him with Dumitru Coroamă. Shortly afterward, Antonescu heard rumors that two of Carol's loyalist generals, Gheorghe Mihail and Paul Teodorescu, were planning to have him killed. In reaction, he forced Carol to abdicate, while General Coroamă was refusing to carry out the royal order of shooting down Iron Guardist protesters. Michael ascended the throne for the second time, while Antonescu's dictatorial powers were confirmed and extended. On September 6, the day Michael formally assumed the throne, he issued a royal decree declaring Antonescu Conducător (leader) of the state. The same decree consecrated a ceremonial role for the monarch. Among his subsequent measures was ensuring the safe departure into self-exile of Carol and his mistress Elena Lupescu, granting protection to the royal train when it was attacked by armed members of the Iron Guard. The regime of King Carol had been notorious for been the most corrupt regime in Europe during the 1930s, and when Carol fled Romania, he took with him the better part of the Romanian treasury, leaving the new government with enormous financial problems. Antonescu had expected-perhaps naïvely-that Carol would take with him enough money to provide for a comfortable exile, and was surprised that Carol had cleared out almost the entire national treasury. For the next four years, a major concern of Antonescu's government was attempting to have the Swiss banks where Carol had slashed much of the loot to return the money to Romania; this effort did not meet with success.
    When Carol proved reluctant to have Antonescu as Prime Minister, Pop visited the German legation to meet with Fabricius on the night 4 September 1940 to ask that the German minister phone Carol to tell him that Reich wanted Antonescu as Prime Minister; Fabricius's promptly did just that.
    More Details Hide Details Carol and Antonescu accepted the proposal, Antonescu being mandated to approach political party leaders Maniu of the PNȚ and Dinu Brătianu of the PNL. They all called for Carol's abdication as a preliminary measure, while Sima, another leader sought after for negotiations, could not be found in time to express his opinion. Antonescu partly complied with the request but also asked Carol to bestow upon him the reserve powers for Romanian heads of state.
    On 2 September 1940, Valer Pop, a courtier and an important member of the camarilla first advised Carol to appoint Antonescu as Prime Minister as the solution to the crisis.
    More Details Hide Details Pop's reasons for advising Carol to have Antonescu as Prime Minister who was partly because Antonescu-who was known to be friendly with the Iron Guard and had been imprisoned under Carol-was believed to have enough of an oppositional background to Carol's regime to appease the public and partly because Pop knew that Antonescu for all his Legionary sympathies was a member of the elite and would never turn against it.
    Angered by the territorial losses of 1940, General Antonescu sent Carol a general note of protest, and, as a result, was arrested and interned at Bistrița Monastery.
    More Details Hide Details While there, he commissioned Mihai Antonescu to establish contacts with Nazi German officials, promising to advance German economic interest, particularly in respect to the local oil industry, in exchange for endorsement. Commenting on Ion Antonescu's ambivalent stance, Hitler's minister to Romania, Wilhelm Fabricius, wrote to his superiors: "I am not convinced that he is a safe man." Romania's elite had been intensely Francophile ever since Romania had won its independence in the 19th century, indeed so Francophile that the defeat of France in June 1940 had the effect of discrediting the entire elite. Antonescu's internment ended in August, during which interval, under Axis pressure, Romania had ceded Southern Dobruja to Bulgaria (see Treaty of Craiova) and Northern Transylvania to Hungary (see Second Vienna Award). The latter grant caused consternation among large sections of Romania's population, causing Carol's popularity to fall to a record low and provoking large-scale protests in Bucharest, the capital. These movements were organized competitively by the pro-Allied PNȚ, headed by Iuliu Maniu, and the pro-Nazi Iron Guard. The latter group had been revived under the leadership of Horia Sima, and was organizing a coup d'état. In this troubled context, Antonescu simply left his assigned residence. He may have been secretly helped in this by German intercession, but was more directly aided to escape by socialite Alice Sturdza, who was acting on Maniu's request. Antonescu subsequently met with Maniu in Ploiești, where they discussed how best to manage the political situation.
    Antonescu nevertheless rose to political prominence during the political crisis of 1940, and established the National Legionary State, an uneasy partnership with the Iron Guard's leader Horia Sima.
    More Details Hide Details After entering Romania into an alliance with Nazi Germany and the Axis and ensuring Adolf Hitler's confidence, he eliminated the Guard during the Legionary Rebellion of 1941. In addition to leadership of the executive, he assumed the offices of Foreign Affairs and Defense Minister. Soon after Romania joined the Axis in Operation Barbarossa, recovering Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, Antonescu also became Marshal of Romania. An atypical figure among Holocaust perpetrators, Antonescu enforced policies independently responsible for the deaths of as many as 400,000 people, most of them Bessarabian, Ukrainian and Romanian Jews, as well as Romanian Romani. The regime's complicity in the Holocaust combined pogroms and mass murders such as the Odessa massacre with ethnic cleansing, systematic deportations to occupied Transnistria and widespread criminal negligence. The system in place was nevertheless characterized by singular inconsistencies, prioritizing plunder over killing, showing leniency toward most Jews in the Old Kingdom, and ultimately refusing to adopt the Final Solution as applied throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
  • 1938
    Age 55
    Ion Antonescu himself had come to value a pro-Axis alternative after the 1938 Munich Agreement, when Germany imposed demands on Czechoslovakia with the acquiescence of France and the United Kingdom, leaving locals to fear that, unless reoriented, Romania would follow.
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    The deposed Premier died in 1938, and Antonescu remained a close friend of his widow, Veturia Goga.
    More Details Hide Details By that time, revising his earlier stance, Antonescu had also built a close relationship with Codreanu, and was even said to have become his confidant. On Carol's request, he had earlier asked the Guard's leader to consider an alliance with the king, which Codreanu promptly refused in favor of negotiations with Goga, coupled with claims that he was not interested in political battles (an attitude supposedly induced by Antonescu himself). Soon afterward, Călinescu, acting on indications from the monarch, arrested Codreanu and prosecuted him in two successive trials. Antonescu, whose mandate of Defense Minister had been prolonged under the premiership of Miron Cristea, resigned in protest to Codreanu's arrest. He was a celebrity defense witness at the latter's first and second trials. During the latter, which saw Codreanu's conviction for treason, Antonescu vouched for his friend's honesty while shaking his hand in front of the jury. Upon the end of procedures, the king ordered his former minister interned at Predeal, before assigning him to command the Third Army in the remote eastern region of Bessarabia (and later removing him after Antonescu expressed sympathy for Guardists imprisoned in Chișinău). Attempting to discredit his rival, Carol also ordered Antonescu's wife to be tried for bigamy, based on a false claim that her divorce had not been finalized. Defended by Mihai Antonescu, the officer was able to prove his detractors wrong. Codreanu himself was taken into custody and discreetly killed by the Gendarmes acting on Carol's orders (November 1938).
  • 1936
    Age 53
    In 1936, to the authorities' alarm, Army General and Iron Guard member Gheorghe Cantacuzino-Grănicerul arranged a meeting between Ion Antonescu and the movement's leader: Antonescu is reported to have found Codreanu arrogant, but to have welcomed his revolutionizing approach to politics.
    More Details Hide Details In late 1937, after the December general election came to an inconclusive result, Carol appointed Goga Prime Minister over a far right cabinet that was the first executive to impose racial discrimination in its treatment of the Jewish community. Goga's appointment was meant to curb the rise of the more popular and even more radical Codreanu. Initially given the Communications portfolio by his rival, Interior Minister Armand Călinescu, Antonescu repeatedly demanded the office of Defense Minister, which he was eventually granted. His mandate coincided with a troubled period, and saw Romania having to choose between its traditional alliance with France, Britain, the crumbling Little Entente and the League of Nations or moving closer to Nazi Germany and its Anti-Comintern Pact. Antonescu's own contribution is disputed by historians, who variously see him as either a supporter of the Anglo-French alliance or, like the PNC itself, more favorable to cooperation with Adolf Hitler's Germany. At the time, Antonescu viewed Romania's alliance with the Entente as insurance against Hungarian and Soviet revanchism, but, as an anti-communist, he was suspicious of the Franco-Soviet rapprochement. Particularly concerned about Hungarian demands in Transylvania, he ordered the General Staff to prepare for a western attack. However, his major contribution in office was in relation to an internal crisis: as a response to violent clashes between the Iron Guard and the PNC's own fascist militia, the Lăncieri, Antonescu extended the already imposed martial law.
  • FORTIES
  • 1930
    Age 47
    These assignments coincided with the rule of Carol's underage son Michael I and his regents, and with Carol's seizure of power in 1930.
    More Details Hide Details During this period Antonescu first grew interested in the Iron Guard, an antisemitic and fascist-related movement headed by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. In his capacity as Deputy Chief of Staff, he ordered the Army's intelligence unit to compile a report on the faction, and made a series of critical notes on Codreanu's various statements. As Chief of Staff, Antonescu reportedly had his first confrontation with the political class and the monarch. His projects for weapon modernization were questioned by Defense Minister Paul Angelescu, leading Antonescu to present his resignation. According to another account, he completed an official report on the embezzlement of Army funds, which indirectly implicated Carol and his camarilla (see Škoda Affair). The king consequently ordered him out of office, provoking indignation among sections of the political mainstream. On Carol's orders, Antonescu was placed under surveillance by the Siguranța Statului intelligence service, and closely monitored by the Interior Ministry Undersecretary Armand Călinescu. The officer's political credentials were on the rise, and he had contacts with all sides of the political spectrum, while support for Carol plummeted. Antonescu maintained contacts with the two main democratic groups, the National Liberal and the National Peasants' parties (known respectively as PNL and PNȚ). He was also engaged in discussions with the rising far right, antisemitic and fascist movements: although in competition with each other, both the National Christian Party (PNC) of Octavian Goga and the Iron Guard sought to attract Antonescu to their side.
  • 1926
    Age 43
    After returning to Romania in 1926, Antonescu returned to his teaching position in Sibiu, and, in autumn 1928, was Secretary-General of the Defense Ministry in the Vintilă Brătianu cabinet.
    More Details Hide Details He married Maria Niculescu, for long a resident of France, who had been married twice before: to a Romanian Police officer, with whom she had a son, Gheorghe (died 1944), and to a Frenchman of Jewish origin. After a period as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, he was appointed its Chief (1933–1934).
  • 1923
    Age 40
    In 1923, he made the acquaintance of lawyer Mihai Antonescu, who was to become his close friend, legal representative and political associate.
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    From 1923, Antonescu was also the Romanian attaché in the United Kingdom and Belgium.
    More Details Hide Details After embarking on his mission, he negotiated a credit worth 100 million French francs to for Romania to purchase French weaponry, and worked together with Romanian League of Nations diplomat Nicolae Titulescu; the two became personal friends. According to one account, he was also in contact with the Romanian-born conservative aristocrat and writer Marthe Bibesco, who is reported to have introduced Antonescu to the ideas of Gustave Le Bon, a researcher of crowd psychology who had an influence on fascist leaders. The same story has it that Bibesco saw the Romanian officer as a new version of 19th century nationalist rebel Georges Boulanger, introducing him as such to Le Bon.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1922
    Age 39
    Nevertheless, Șuțu had to leave Paris in 1922, and when the Romanian government nominated Antonescu again, the French government felt obliged to accept his nomination, despite renewed criticism from Pétin's part.
    More Details Hide Details At the moment of his reassignment, Antonescu was handling military instruction in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, where his rebellious attitude was causing irritation among his commanders.
  • 1920
    Age 37
    In March 1920, Antonescu was one of three people nominated by the new Averescu executive to be a military attaché of Romania in France, but a report issued by the French military observer in Romania, General Victor Pétin, was negative enough to make the French side choose a certain Colonel Șuțu instead (the text referred to Antonescu as "extremely vain", "chauvinistic" and "xenophobic", while acknowledging his "great military worth").
    More Details Hide Details Antonescu was known for his frequent and erratic changes of mood, going from being extremely angry to being calm to angry again to being calm again within minutes, something that often disoriented those who had to work with Antonescu. The Israeli historian Jean Ancel wrote that Antonescu's frequent changes of mood were due to the syphilis he contacted as an young man, and which he suffered from for the rest of his life.
  • 1919
    Age 36
    Lieutenant Colonel Ion Antonescu retained his visibility in the public eye during the interwar period. He participated in the political campaign to earn recognition at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 for Romania's gains in Transylvania.
    More Details Hide Details His nationalist argument about a future state of the Romanians was published as the essay Românii. Origina, trecutul, sacrificiile și drepturile lor ("The Romanians. Their Origin, Their Past, Their Sacrifices and Their Rights"). The booklet advocated extension of Romanian rule beyond the confines of Greater Romania, and recommended, at the risk of war with the emerging Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the annexation of all Banat areas and the Timok Valley.
  • 1918
    Age 35
    Another event occurring late in the war is also credited with having played a major part in Antonescu's life: in 1918, Crown Prince Carol (the future King Carol II) eloped and technically deserted his army posting, to marry the commoner Zizi Lambrino.
    More Details Hide Details This outraged Antonescu, who developed enduring contempt for the future king.
  • 1916
    Age 33
    After 1916, when the Kingdom of Romania entered World War I on the Entente side, Ion Antonescu acted as chief of staff for General Constantin Prezan.
    More Details Hide Details In August 1916, upon the start of the Romanian campaign, Romanian troops crossed the Carpathian Mountains, marching into the Austro-Hungarian-ruled region of Transylvania, but their effort was halted when the Central Powers opened new fronts. Bulgarian and Imperial German armies decisively defeated their ill-equipped and poorly defended Romanian adversaries in the Battle of Turtucaia on (August 24) and advanced into Dobruja. When enemy troops crossed the mountains from Transylvania into Wallachia, Antonescu was ordered to design a defense plan for Bucharest. The Romanian royal court, army, and administration were subsequently forced to retreat into Moldavia, the last portion of territory still under Romanian control. Henceforth, Antonescu took part in an important decision involving defensive efforts, an unusual promotion which probably stoked his ambitions. In December, as Prezan became the Chief of the General Staff, Antonescu, who was by now a major, was named the head of operations, being involved in the defense of Moldavia. He contributed to the tactics used during the Battle of Mărășești (July–August 1917), when Romanians under General Alexandru Averescu managed to stop the advance of German forces under the command of Field Marshal August von Mackensen. Antonescu lived in Prezan's proximity for the remainder of the war and influenced his decisions.
  • 1913
    Age 30
    In 1913, during the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria, Antonescu served as a staff officer in the First Cavalry Division in Dobruja.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1911
    Age 28
    The following year, Antonescu was promoted to Lieutenant, and, between 1911 and 1913, he attended the Advanced War School, receiving the rank of Captain upon graduation.
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  • 1907
    Age 24
    During the repression of the 1907 peasants' revolt, he headed a cavalry unit in Covurlui County.
    More Details Hide Details Opinions on his role in the events diverge: while some historians believe Antonescu was a particularly violent participant in quelling the revolt, others equate his participation with that of regular officers or view it as outstandingly tactful. In addition to restricting peasant protests, Antonescu's unit subdued socialist activities in Galați port. His handling of the situation earned him praise from King Carol I, who sent Crown Prince (future monarch) Ferdinand to congratulate him in front of the whole garrison.
    A Romanian Army career officer who made his name during the 1907 peasants' revolt and the World War I Romanian Campaign, the antisemitic Antonescu sympathized with the far right and fascist National Christian and Iron Guard groups for much of the interwar period.
    More Details Hide Details He was a military attaché to France and later Chief of the General Staff, briefly serving as Defense Minister in the National Christian cabinet of Octavian Goga. During the late 1930s, his political stance brought him into conflict with King Carol II and led to his detainment.
  • 1904
    Age 21
    According to one account, Ion Antonescu was briefly a classmate of Wilhelm Filderman, the future Romanian Jewish community activist whose interventions with Conducător Antonescu helped save a number of his coreligionists. After graduation, in 1904, Antonescu joined the Romanian Army with the rank of Second Lieutenant.
    More Details Hide Details He spent the following two years attending courses at the Special Cavalry Section in Târgoviște. Reportedly, Antonescu was a zealous and goal-setting student, upset by the slow pace of promotions, and compensated for his diminutive stature through toughness. In time, the reputation of being a tough and ruthless commander, together with his reddish hair, earned him the nickname Câinele Roșu ("The Red Dog"). Antonescu also developed a reputation for questioning his commanders and for appealing over their heads whenever he felt they were wrong.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1882
    Born
    Born on June 15, 1882.
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