This Day In History: Hitler Invades Romania (1940)

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On this day in 1940, during WWI, Hitler orders his army into the Kingdom of Romania. It is part of his strategy of creating a buffer zone against Stalin and the Soviets in Eastern Europe.  In 1937 there was a Fascist Government in Romania, that was very similar to the Nazi regime. It like the Nazis also persecuted the Jews, and also any other non-Romanian minorities living with the borders of the country. However, the king of Romania acted decisively and later dissolved the government and made the Head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch, the  Prime Minister. Officially this was because the fascist government had mishandled the economy but, in reality, the king was concerned at the growing influence of Germany in Romanian affairs. However, the Patriarch later died and the fascist paramilitary force instigated a peasant revolt and generally tried to destabilize the country.

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A demonstration by the Iron Guard (1938)

Then in June 1940, the Soviets annexed two Romanian provinces (the present day Moldova). The king feared like many of his subjects that the Soviets would occupy the rest of the country and he searched for allies. He was pro-western but France had been conquered by the Germans and the British were too far away to be of any help. Bucharest had no choice but to seek the help and protection of the Nazis. They were seen by many as the lesser of two evils.

After some negotiations on July the 5th, 1940, Romania officially allied itself with Nazi Germany. However, the Germans used the agreement to seize the country and German forces occupied Romania beginning on this date in 1940. Hitler had been able to turn the country into a puppet state without firing a shot.

The king had failed to preserve the neutrality and independence of his kingdom and he abdicated. The fascists took control of the government and became a loyal ally of the Germans. However, the Germans exploited the country and treated it like a colony and took its resources, especially its oil for practically nothing. The Romanians also were forced to join the Axis Pact in November and this meant that the country’s destiny was tied to that of Italy, Germany, and Japan.

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Allied air-raid on Romanian oil fields (1943)

The new fascist government under the Premiership of Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard began once again to persecute Jews and the country’s large gypsy population. The Germans occupied key points in the country and they effectively controlled the oil wells. These oil wells were to play a key role in the Nazi war regime. In June 1941 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and several Romanian armies took part in the invasion and they were able to recover the two provinces that they were seized by Stalin in June 1940. The Romanian army was to fight on the Eastern Front and suffered heavy casualties. At Stalingrad, an entire Romanian army was destroyed.  The allies launched many air raids on the country’s oil-producing region to disrupt supplies to the Nazi war-machine. The country was later occupied by the Soviet Union who established a pro-Moscow government in Bucharest.

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