Topics covered in this section:
- This Year's Rulers
- January 1940
- February 1940
- March 1940
- April 1940
- May 1940
- June 1940
- July 1940
- August 1940
- September 1940
- British Sympathy
- No Western Help
- Unacceptable Losses
- God's Retribution?
- Bumbling Leaders
- Government Turnover
- Economy Had Blossomed
- Parliament Dissolved
- Ion Antonescu
- Carol Abdicates
- Antonescu: Man of Action
- Antonescu's Past
- Military School
- Ion "Red Dog" Antonescu
- Second Balkan War
- World War I
- Other Accolades
- Codreanu Posters
- Carol and Lupescu Flee
- Stolen Treasures
- More Demons to Come
- Carol's Final Saga
- Spain and Portugal
- Romania: Michael
- October 1940
- November 1940
- Opportunities for Jews Curtailed
- Nationalized Property Law Expanded
- Iron Guard Power
- Guardists Claim Top Positions
- National Legionary State
- Sima Enacts Strict Laws
- Public Outrage Crushed
- Near Anarchy
- God's Earthquake
- Iron Guard Rampage
- Jilava Executions
- Jewish Executions
- Peasant Party Leader Executed
- Nicolae Iorga Executed
- New Axis Members
- Antonescu Promises Order
- Ploieşti Oil for Nazis
- Iron Guard: National Saints
- Funeral for Guard Martyrs
- Church of Ilie Gorgani
- Martyrs Canonized as Saints
- Broadcast of Codreanu Speech
- December 1940
- Unknown Month 1940
- Pronunciation Help
This Year's Rulers
- Kingdom of Romania:
King Carol II (Jun 1930 - Sep 1940)
Prime Minister Gheorghe Tătărescu (Nov 1939 - Jul 1940)
Prime Minister Ion Gigurtu (Jul 1940 - Sep 1940)
Prime Minister Ion Antonescu (Sep 1940 - Aug 1944)
- Kingdom of Romania:
King Michael I (Sep 1940 - Dec 1947)
Prime Minister Ion Antonescu (Sep 1940 - Aug 1944)
- Romanian Fascists: Military Dictator Ion Antonescu (1940-1944)
- Romanian Communists:
Gen. Secy. Boris Stefanov (1936-1940)
Gen. Secy. Ştefan Foriş (1940-1944)
Communist Sympathizer Petru Groza (1940-1952)
- USSR: Joseph Stalin (1924-1953)
- Germany: Adolf Hitler (1933-1945)
On 9 April 1940 Germany began its invasion of Norway. Assisted by British and French troops, Norway resisted the assault as best they could.
But the French and British armies were collapsing in France, so Norway was pretty much left to fight alone.
Before long an armistice was signed between Norway and Germany.
Meanwhile German troops occupied Denmark and quickly overran the Netherlands.
Iron Guard Pardoned
By the end of April 1940 the Iron Guard pledged allegiance to King Carol's National Renaissance Front (Frontul Renaşterii Naţionale, FRN). Recall that the FRN, created in 1938, was a fascist-inspired party.
Horia Sima, who had assumed leadership of the Iron Guard after Codreanu's death, along with other Guard members who had taken refuge in Germany, were allowed to return to Romania.
Three cabinet posts were given to Iron Guardsmen.
In May 1940 France, Romania's strongest Western ally, fell to the Germans.
On 10 May 1940 German troops advanced into Belgium.
On 22 June 1940, German troops entered Paris. France signed the final surrender, dividing the nation into occupied and unoccupied zones.
Party of the Nation
After the fall of France, King Carol changed the name of the National Renaissance Front, which sounded too French, to the Party of the Nation (Partitul Naţiunii) and assumed its leadership himself.
Severe Territorial Losses
In 1940 Romania suffered three severe territorial losses that tore away some 100,000 square kilometers (nearly 39,000 square miles) of territory and stripped about four million people out of Romania's population.
Nearly all of the territorial gains Carol's mother, Queen Marie, had won after World War I were now lost.
On 26 June 1940 Stalin gave Romania a three-day ultimatum to return not only Basarabia but northern Bucovina and the Hertza land as well.
In a complete about-face from previous promises, Germany's ambassador in Bucharest supported the Russian demands, putting strong pressure on King Carol to submit to Stalin's ultimatum.
Carol Drags His Feet
King Carol dragged his feet, hoping to stall for time while he made a move to ensure himself a substantial personal financial gain from this potential territorial loss. He quickly sold his mother's (Queen Marie's) summer home in the region for $250,000.
Tradition claims that Queen Marie's heart had lain buried in a gold casket near her summer home. But it was money, not sentiment, that was Carol's driving ambition. After all, he had to support his addiction to gambling.
Ethnic Romanians Deported
Two days after the ultimatum, on 28 June 1940, one day ahead of schedule, Romania had no choice but to bow to Russian demands and ceded Basarabia to the Soviet Union.
The Red Army immediately entered Basarabia and Bucovina and began making arrests. Ultimately the Soviets deported some 100,000–500,000 ethnic Romanians to Siberia and to Central Asia. The small group of communist sympathizers in Romania rejoiced.
Ukrainians and Jews Pleased
Romanian nationalists were infuriated when many Ukranians happily greeted their long-lost Slavic brothers. Many of the Jews were also pleased with the apparent downfall of Carol's anti-Semitic regime.
Carol Profits from the Loss
King Carol certainly didn't lose any sleep over these huge territorial losses. Without apparent shame and without a struggle, he had given up one-third of Romania's territory and population. He then used the losses to amass a personal fortune.
Carol Becomes a Rich Man
He demanded and got $1 million in compensation, which was an exhorbitant sum at the time. His countrymen who lived in the severed territories, and who had lost everything of value, were not even allowed to make a claim against Carol's windfall.
Reportedly, between 1930 and 1940 he had deposited some US$40 million to US$50 million abroad. All by shaving a percentage off the top of every deal made by Romania.
Loss of Public Support
As a result of his duplicitous behavior, Carol lost what little public support he had managed to retain.
Eventually, Romania will also lose southern Dobrogea. But that will have to wait for Carol to be deposed, which will happen soon.
No Well-Defined Border
Unlike what had happened when Russia annexed Finland, Moscow now avoided concluding an international treaty in order to hold off establishing a new Soviet-Romanian border. Apparently, Stalin wanted to leave his options open for additional gains of Romanian territory in the future.
Prime Minister Tătărăscu and King Carol were forced to relent. Rather than placing the blame where it belonged (in himself), Carol blamed Tătărăscu for the territorial loss and as a result, Tătărăscu resigned on 4 July 1940.
On 4 July 1940 Carol established a right-wing government. By taking these steps, Carol hoped to gain Nazi Germany's support in protecting Romania's remaining borders. But events soon proved his gamble hadn't paid off.
Prime Minister Gigurtu
Carol chose Ion Gigurtu, a pro-Nazi industrialist and one of Hermann Goering's friends, as his prime minister. Gigurtu was told to form a far-right government.
Foreign Minister Manoilescu
Mihail Manoilescu, a pro-German corporatist, was appointed foreign minister.
Education Minister Sima
Horia Sima, the current leader of the Iron Guard, was named minister of education and immediately placed severe restrictions on public education. He then set out to train a group of educators to teach Nazi principles.
He later became minister of art and culture.
Under the Party of the Nation, anti-Semitism became an official policy.
On 8 August 1940 Law No. 2650 was enacted and approved by King Carol II. The law was also signed by Prime Minister Ion Gigurtu and Minister of Justice Ion V. Gruia.
The following categories of citizens were defined by the law as Jews:
- Persons professing the Mosaic faith
- Persons born to parents practicing the Mosaic faith
- Jews "by blood" even if they later became Christians or atheists
- Christian converts born to unconverted Jewish parents
- Christians born to a Christian mother and a Jewish father
- Illegitimate children of a Jewish mother
- Jewish women who became Christians after 22 June 1939
Another corollary law forbade marriage between Jews and ethnic Romanians. It implied that pure Romanian bloodlines were the foundation of the country.
Jews were forbidden to practice law, hold any public office, or to serve in the military. They were obligated to report for compulsory labor.
In the Battle of Britain during August and September 1940 Germany launched massive air raids against Great Britain.
But the Battle of Britain was won by the air superiority of the Royal Air Force, and so the German naval invasion of Britain ("Operation Sea Lion") never occurred.
On 19-21 August 1940, with German and Soviet backing, Bulgarian nationalist representatives met with Romanian leaders in Craiova and demanded the return of southern Dobrogea. Bulgaria didn't receive it ... yet.
The ease with which the Soviets had taken Basarabia and northern Bucovina away from Romania triggered a movement in Budapest for a war against Romania. The goal of the planned war was to recapture Transylvania.
But Romanian nationalists were poised to respond in kind to any threat from Hungarian nationalists.
However, the last thing Hitler wanted at this time was a local war in the Balkans to interfere with his plans to invade the Soviet Union. Hitler decided, therefore, that it was time for him to step in and impose a solution on these two combative countries.
Turnu Severin Meeting
Under German pressure Romanian-Hungarian negotiations took place at Turnu Severin in Transylvania. But neither side could reach an agreement.
On 29 August 1940 German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop and Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano met with Romanian Foreign Minister Mihail Manoilescu in Vienna.
Hungary Gains Part of Transylvania
On 30 August 1940, in an ultimatum known as the Vienna Dictate, northeastern Transylvania was awarded to Horthy's pro-Nazi Hungarian government. Recall that Admiral Horthy served as Regent of Hungary between 1920-1944.
Romanian Foreign Minister Manoilescu was told that in order to avoid war, he had to accept the decision of the Axis arbitrators. In other words, accept the Vienna Dictate or face war with Germany.
When Manoilescu was shown the portion of northeastern Transylvania that Germany and Italy had proposed giving to Hungary, Manoilescu reportedly fainted on the spot (nice story, but unlikely).
Carol Meekly Concedes
King Carol weakly appealed to Hitler for help, but he conceded in the end. Hitler gave Hungary some 40 percent of Transylvania, including the Székely (Szekely) region.
The lost territory had a population of some 2.5 million people, 52 percent of whom were of Hungarian (Székler) descent.
The Székely region will figure prominently in future disputes over Hungarian autonomy, well into the 21st century.
In the next few years, thousands of Transylvanian citizens lost their lives simply because they weren't Hungarian. And upon orders from Budapest, tens of thousands of Jews were taken from their homes by force.
On 3 September 1940, in a stirring speech before the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to what he called the "serious territorial mutilation suffered by [Romania]." He boldly told the House that Britain didn't recognize the territorial changes made under the Vienna Dictate's threat of force.
Unfortunately, Churchill's boldness bore no fruit. In this case, German force triumphed over British reason.
Russia, Hungary, and Bulgaria had their way with Romania, each taking a chunk of Romania for themselves. Russia stripped away Basarabia and Bucovina. Hungary stripped away northeastern Transylvania. In the near future, Bulgaria will strip away the Cadrilator in southern Dobrogea (7 September 1940).
Throughout Romania's history, it seems, foreign powers had threatened Romania's territorial integrity and endangered Romania's independence.
No Western Help
France had surrendered to the Germans and Great Britain was being bombarded by the German Luftwaffe. Nazi Germany was in control of central and western Europe. Thus, Romania couldn't hope for help from the West.
And the military might of the Soviet Red Army was a constant threat on Romania's eastern borders. Romania was once again in great danger, caught between Germany and Russia (Axis and Allies), her more powerful neighbors.
Romanian nationalists, and even the less politically inclined peasants, found it difficult to accept the state's territorial losses.
The people blamed Carol for the losses, claiming that it was God's retribution toward the Orthodox Romanian nation for tolerating a king who slept with a Jewess. And, as if that unorthodox action wasn't bad enough, Carol was the one responsible for murdering their beloved "Captain" (Codreanu, the martyred original leader of the fascist Iron Guard).
Horia Sima, the current leader of the Iron Guard wasn't able to ascend the same hero's pedestal as Codreanu had. Sima had the drive, but not the charisma of the Captain. But he did have the foresight to play Codreanu's hero status for all it was worth.
However, Romania's troubles couldn't really be attributed entirely to God's retribution.
Rather, the Romanians had for centuries suffered — and, incidently, will often suffer in the future — from a host of bumbling, self-aggrandizing leaders.
In the previous two and a half years of Carol's reign, between 10 February 1938 and 4 September 1940, six separate governments had led Romania. It seems that King Carol II just couldn't get his politicians to follow his lead.
Economy Had Blossomed
But although it had been a period of extreme political uncertainty, the economy had still managed to blossom. Industrial production reached its peak, partially as a result of Germany's imports from Romania in preparation for its war against the Soviet Union.
Another government turnover was about to occur. On 4 September 1940 King Carol suspended the Constitution of 1938 in its entirety and dissolved Parliament.
The next day, 5 September 1940, Carol appointed General Ion Antonescu to head the government as prime minister. It was Antonescu's turn, for better or worse, to steer the nation through its troubled and dangerous waters.
Appointing Antonescu was a mistake on Carol's part. Antonescu, like many military generals, apparently didn't like taking orders from the king.
On the night of 6 September 1940, renegade military officers, led by General Antonescu, plus a number of Iron Guardsmen stormed the royal palace. As a result of the military coup, King Carol II was forced to abdicate.
Antonescu and his followers claimed that the coup was justified on the grounds that Carol lacked sufficient authority as a monarch. Testimony to his lack of assertiveness was the way he had refused to take a firm stand as he watched huge chunks of Romania being handed over to foreign powers.
Antonescu: Man of Action
Romania's history was filled with examples of foreign powers dictating Romania's political path. That trend had to end ... and it had to end now. And Antonescu was just the man to accomplish it. If General Antonescu had been in charge during the Vienna Dictate, everyone thought, Romania never would have suffered the embarrassing loss of so much territory.
Unfortunately, Antonescu was brutally anti-Semitic and his assertiveness was often directed against defenseless Jews. In Romanian, the word for Jews is "evrei" but Antonescu never referred to them in this polite way, always using instead the derogatory form: "jidani" (roughly equivalent to "kike" in English).
Ion Antonescu was born 15 June 1882 in Piteşti. He died by firing squad, 1 June 1946, following his trial for war crimes. On 5 December 2006, the Bucharest Court of Appeals overturned his conviction for several of the counts against him.
Carrying on the tradition of his military family, he attended military schools at Craiova and Iaşi. In 1904 he graduated from Cavalry School at the top of his class. Then in 1911 he graduated from the military academy.
Ion "Red Dog" Antonescu
In 1907 Lieutenant Antonescu — a tall, red-haired cavalry officer — took part in suppressing the peasant revolt. His ruthlessness earned him the nickname Red Dog (Câinele Roşu) Antonescu.
Second Balkan War
In 1913 Captain Antonescu engaged Bulgarian troops in the Second Balkan War. Fortunately for Antonescu, the Bulgarian army was spread thin, fighting on two fronts against Serbia and Greece. As a result, Bulgaria sued for peace. During the treaty negotiations, Bulgaria lost the Cadrilater (southern Dobrogea) to Romania.
Following the war Antonescu received Romania's highest military decoration, The Order of Michael the Brave (Ordinul Mihai Viteazul).
World War I
During World War I, Major Antonescu participated in the failed attempt to wrest Transylvania from Austrian-Hungarian hands. The Romanian army retreated back to Bucharest and Antonescu was given the task of securing the defenses of Bucharest. Unfortunately, an officer carrying the battle plans was captured by the Austrians, whereupon Bucharest was occupied.
The royal court, the army, and most of the political body was forced to flee to Moldavia. Lieutenant-Colonel Antonescu played an important role in the defense of Moldavia. Following the war, King Ferdinand again decorated Antonescu for his role in defending the crown.
Abroad, he earned the respect of France and Britain while serving as military attache in Paris in 1922 and in London from 1923-1927. Promoted to the rank of general in 1934, he became chief of general staff. Then in 1937 he served under the short-lived Goga government as minister of national defense.
Unfortunately, General Antonescu suffered from periodic bouts of fever brought on by his syphilus. This caused him to have frequent and sudden mood swings.
The day after the coup, on 7 September 1940 posters appeared throughout Bucharest bearing Codreanu's picture and the words, "Corneliu Zelea Codreanu — President." In other words, Codreanu lived on, even if only in the minds of his supporters.
Carol and Lupescu Flee
Deposed King Carol II and his mistress Elena Lupescu left Romania in the dead of night, in a nine-car railway train reportedly filled with the country's gold and art treasures.
A death squad of Iron Guard legionnaires fired a hail of bullets at the train as it crossed the Romanian border, but failed to stop it.
Crown Prince Michael, not quite nineteen years old, never saw his father again.
Carol's booty included many of the royal jewels; hundreds of original canvasses by the Old Masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt, and Titian; and the armor that had decorated the walls of their palaces at Peleş and Pelişor in Sinaia.
More Demons to Come
With the flight abroad of King Carol II and his mistress, the Romanian people thought that their country had finally cast out the its demons. But instead, as history will show, Romania's demons were about to run riot, encouraged first by Hitler, then by Stalin.
Carol's Final Saga
Although most of the following events won't happen until the future, we'll include them here to wrap up the story of King Carol II and Elena Lupescu.
Spain and Portugal
Carol and Lupescu managed to cross the Romanian border. Their first stop was in Spain, and then Portugal.
Some time later they made their way to Mexico, where they spent the rest of the war years. But Elena never adjusted to her life in Mexico City, suffering from anemia.
So the couple packed up their bags and moved to Rio de Janeiro, where many of the war criminals had relocated.
On 3 June 1947 (other sources say 5 July 1947) Carol and Elena were married in a hotel room in Rio de Janeiro. It was Carol's third marriage and Elena's second.
From then on, Elena referred to herself as Princess Elena von Hohenzollern of Romania. Since Carol was a deposed king, the title was little more than hot air.
For her health, Elena was advised to move to a more temperate climate. So they again packed their bags and moved to the Portguguese coastal resort of Estoril.
While in Portugal they sold much of the treasure they had stolen, which gave them enormous wealth. They spent their wealth lavishly, living a life of wasteful luxury.
Carol remained in exile the rest of his life. He died of a heart attack in 1953 in Portugal.
Following his death, Lupescu moved in with one of Carol's former secretaries, Ernest Urdăreanu, who had fled with Carol and Elena on the train following Carol's abdication. The new couple lived in luxury in Estoril, Portugal.
Elena died in 1977, apparently a satisfied woman.
Carol's body was returned to Romania in 2003, where his remains lie in the Curtea de Argeş monastery, but outside the church that is the burial place of most Romanian kings. His son ex-King Michael, then in exile in Switzerland, did not attend the reburial service.
Elena's body was also returned at the same time, but not being of royal blood, she was buried in the monastery's common cemetery.
King Carol's 18-year-old son Mihai (Michael) was left behind to claim the throne a second time (r.1940-1947). He was expected to clean up the mess his father had left behind.
Michael is Crowned King
On 6 September 1940, the same day his father had abdicated, Michael swore his oath and became king. The witnesses to the oath swearing were Antonescu, the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the minister of justice, and the justices of the Supreme Court.
King in Name Only
Unfortunately, even though he was older than he had been during his first term as king, he was still too young to seize power from more experienced military and political figures.
"I was in a daze," Michael later confessed. "I had no education about the political part of our country — none." He figured it had been part of his father's intention in order to prevent Michael from usurping the throne before his father, Carol II, was ready to step down.
However, Michael's education did teach him about the variety of people living in Romania during his childhood. His father had made a special school for Michael on the palace grounds. There were about twelve boys, each from a different social level and part of the country. One was the son of a simple peasant, another was the son of an auto mechanic, another was the son of a lawyer, and another was the son of an industrialist.
He learned about the different regions of Romania during field trips with the boys each summer.
Antonescu is Real Power
Real power rested in the hands of an army-based government, led by Ion Antonescu, who had promoted himself to the rank of Marshal.
Full Dictatorial Powers
Marshal Antonescu was granted full dictatorial powers as the leader of the Romanian state (Conducătorul Statului Român). He then took the titles of chief of state and president of the Council of Ministers (effectively president of the country).
Into the Nazi Camp
Once Marshal Ion Antonescu had usurped Michael's authority, he immediately brought Romania squarely into the Nazi camp. And yet another Romanian leader, this one a virulent anti-Semite, dragged the citizenry into the muck and mire.
Loss of Dobrogea
Following the stalled Romanian-Bulgarian talks in Craiova (in August 1940), Hitler forced his ally Antonescu to sign the Treaty of Craiova on 7 September 1940. The treaty handed the southern portion of Dobrogea, known as the Cadrilator (Quadrilateral) region, to Bulgaria.
It seems Marshal Antonescu couldn't save Romania from losing chunks of its territory either. Especially not when the demand came from his buddy, Hitler.
Hitler Needs Oilfields
Marshal Antonescu immediately began to prove to Hitler that he could be just as brutal toward Jews as Hitler was. And he invited Nazi troops into Romania as preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler needed Romania's oil if he hoped to be successful in that invasion.
On 5 October 1940 Marshal Antonescu created Law No. 3347, which nationalized all Jewish rural property (that is, their property was turned over to the state). This was just the beginning of Antonescu's persecution of the Jews.
Nazis Arrive in Romania
On 8 October 1940 Nazi troops began crossing into Romania. It wasn't long before they numbered more than 500,000. And German SS and Gestapo agents will soon get very close to Antonescu's regime.
Queen Helen Returns
At the request of Michael, Antonescu sent a telegram to Queen Helen, Michael's mother. Antonescu urged her to return from her exile near Florence, Italy, to counsel her son in Romania. She arrived at the beginning of October 1940, much to the relief of Michael.
Hitler had previously demanded that Mussolini do nothing to hinder Germany's secret preparations to invade the Soviet Union. But Hitler had chosen to keep his Italian ally in the dark concerning his planned invasion.
Mussolini Bungles Things
In the latter part of October 1940, Mussolini decided to act on his own.
Hitler Trying to Cheat Him?
Without having access to all the facts, Mussolini assumed that Hitler's dispatch of troops to Romania meant that Germany intended to conquer the eastern Balkans for itself and, thus, to leave only Albania for Italy.
Italians Invade Greece
So without informing Hitler, Mussolini decided to invade Greece from Albania in late October 1940.
He expected this would be an easy victory and ensure him a significant share of Balkan spoils. Unfortunately, the spectacular victory that Mussolini envisioned never materialized.
Britain Scatters Italians
Assisted by British reinforcements, the Greeks counterattacked, marching into Albania. The Italians barely managed to hold a tenuous defensive front after suffering enormous losses in men and equipment.
Hitler's annoyance with his ally's folly turned to anger when the incompetently led Italian forces were soundly defeated and routed by the Greeks.
Hitler Needs Allies
Desperate to patch together some way of bailing out his bumbling Italian ally, while still preserving his preparations to invade the Soviet Union, Hitler needed Romania and Hungary to join the Axis alliance.
By the end of the month, Hitler will have three new Axis allies.
Opportunities for Jews Curtailed
Between 6 August and 3 September 1940, nine ministries in Bucharest fired a total of 609 Jewish employees.
On 15 November 1940 Jewish-born healthcare providers (e.g., doctors and nurses) were prevented from joining the National Association of Physicians. New and existing Jewish physicians found it impossible to work.
On 16 November 1940, Law Number 825 ordered all businesses to fire all white-collar or professional Jews. Now Jews could only work in menial jobs.
Nationalized Property Law Expanded
On 17 November 1940, nationalized property under the law of 5 October 1940 was extended to include forests, lumber yards, mills, granaries, distilleries, as well as nonarable land.
Iron Guard Power
Initially, Antonescu intended to set up a government composed of all major parties. But when this project failed, and as a result of German insistance, he formed a government composed mainly of Iron Guard leaders, military officers in the Ministry of National Defense, and some finance specialists in the Ministry of National Economy.
Guardists Claim Top Positions
Horea Sima, the head of the Iron Guard, was named vice president of the Council of Ministers and Mihai Antonescu (no relation to Ion), a professor of law at the University of Bucharest, was appointed minister of justice.
National Legionary State
Romania was declared a National Legionary State. Marshal Antonescu's first act as effective head of state (president of the Council of Ministers) was to order all Romanians to attend their local churches and "blaspheme" the ex-king Carol II.
Sima Enacts Strict Laws
His new fascist government, spearheaded by Iron Guard leader Horea Sima, quickly enacted stricter anti-Semitic laws and established extensive restrictions against Jewish, Greek, and Armenian businessmen.
However, widespread bribery of corrupt government officials softened the harshness of the new laws somewhat. Those with money were able to "buy" greater freedom.
Public Outrage Crushed
As nationalist public outrage swelled against the government, Antonescu enlisted the aid of the Iron Guard. Opposition was crushed quickly and decisively.
Once unleashed, the Iron Guard's terror campaign against Jews and Antonescu's political opponents alike, brought Romania to the brink of political anarchy and economic collapse.
An earthquake in early November 1940 that demolished 10,000 houses in Bucharest was taken as a sign by the Iron Guard that God favored their actions. [I'm not sure how they came to that conclusion.]
Newly inspired, the Iron Guard set out to avenge their earlier martyred friends including Codreanu, their Captain.
Iron Guard Rampage
It soon became evident that the political alliance between Antonescu and Sima wasn't going to work out.
Sima accused Antonescu of being too lenient and of preventing the establishment of "the new order" in Romania.
Antonescu retaliated by accusing Sima of brutalizing and robbing the Jewish population and of sabotaging his attempt to rebuild the Romanian state. [Kind of a strange thing for a brutal anti-Semite to say.]
The situation came to a head on 26 November 1940 when Iron Guards, thirsty for vengeance, broke into the Jilava prison and butchered 64 prominent associates of ex-king Carol on the same spot where Codreanu had died.
From the prison, with the taste of spilled blood still fresh, the Iron Guards stormed through Bucharest's Jewish quarter, "killing, looting, and burning" (in the words of Associated Press correspondent Robert St. John, who was stationed in Bucharest at the time).
Peasant Party Leader Executed
The Legionnaires then dragged Virgil Madgearu, a National Peasant Party leader, out of his home and shot him.
Nicolae Iorga Executed
Next the Legionnaires murdered Dr. Nicolae Iorga, perhaps the best-known Romanian intellectual and historian of the 20th century and a former leader of the National Democratic Party.
The Iron Guard held him personally responsible for the former arrest, imprisonment, and assassination of Codreanu.
They brutally yanked out every hair of his long, white beard and then stuffed a liberal newspaper down his throat. Although he was a committed anti-Semite, Iorga was also, by Iron Guard standards, a liberal intellectual. And that was reason enough to kill him.
New Axis Members
On 23 November 1940 Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia joined the Axis Powers.
Several wartime photos show Marshal Antonescu riding somber-faced in a jeep beside Hiter. With Antonescu's blessing, Hitler now cast Romania in the role of a regular supplier of food and fuel for the Nazi armies.
Antonescu Promises Order
Antonescu, proud of his new relationship with Hitler, promised to maintain order in Romania, with the help of the Iron Guard, and to deliver the precious oil to the German war machine.
Ploieşti Oil for Nazis
To Hitler Romania meant a ready supply of raw materials, particularly petroleum from the rich Ploieşti oil fields 50 miles north of Bucharest. With Russia just across the river from Romania, the oil will help fuel German tanks during the planned invasion of Russia.
Hitler's troops established what they called a "protective occupation" of the Ploieşti oil fields in return for official Axis Power recognition of Marshal Antonescu's dictatorship. In other words, Hitler did whatever he wanted with the oil and Antonescu sold his country to the Nazis.
Iron Guard: National Saints
After their rampage of 26 November 1940 had died down, the Iron Guard Legionnaires put away their weapons and donned their religious mysticism.
Funeral for Guard Martyrs
The Legionnaires ordered a public funeral in Bucharest to celebrate the reinterment of Codreanu ("the Captain") and the thirteen other Legionnaires strangled by Carol's men two years earlier. Recall that sulfuric acid had been poured on their bodies to speed decomposition.
Church of Ilie Gorgani
At 10:30 the morning of 30 November 1940 a light snow had just begun to fall in Bucharest. But it was warm and toasty inside the Church of Ilie Gorgani (Parohia Sfântul Ilie Gorgani) where hundreds of candles illuminated the church's dome. Romanian Orthodox priests had been chanting prayers and swinging incense lamps all night. Coffins, draped in green flags with gold embroidery, lined the sides of the nave while attendants brought trays of colivă (sugar bread) for the dead.
Martyrs Canonized as Saints
The decomposed remains of fourteen members of the fascist Iron Guard (Legion of the Archangel Michael), including the cult's leader, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, were about to be reburied and canonized as "national saints" by the Romanian Orthodox church. Given the freedom of choice, the priests probably would have refused, but...
Broadcast of Codreanu Speech
At the conclusion of the service, the people heard a recording of the dead Codreanu shouting "you must await the day when you can avenge our martyrs!" That day had apparently arrived. But would the people have attended the service or the priests conducted the rite if they hadn't been afraid for their lives from Iron Guard reprisals?
The answer is yes, many of them would have because Codreanu was a national hero in their minds.
On 4 December 1940, nationalized property under the law of 5 October 1940 was again extended to Jewish-owned boats and barges.
Unknown Month 1940
Prior to World War II Bucharest was an extremely liberalized city, as you might expect in a country run by the so-called playboy king Carol II. During the war Bucharest became a hub for German and Allied forces on the eastern front. As such, it also attracted numerous journalists from various countries.
International Bad Press
Reporters, commentators, and other writers minced no words in their disgust with the state of affairs in the country and especially in its capital.
No Self Control
Hannah Pakula, the biographer of Romania's deceased Queen Marie (the mother of King Carol II), quoted a member of the old aristocracy as saying that no word existed in the Romanian language for self control, "the term and idea being ... alien to a Romanian mind."
"Bucharest was delightfully depraved," observed New York Times correspondent C.L. Sulzberger at the start of World War II. "There was small opportunity for the ample population of paid prostitutes because of enthusiastic rivalry among amateurs of all classes, from princesses on down."
Romania is a Profession
Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia and first cousin to Queen Marie, had scoffed at the derogatory reputation of Romania in the international press, and Bucharest in particular. "Rumania [the outdated way of spelling Romania] is not a country," he claimed, "it's a profession."
Athenee Palace Hotel
Designed and built back in 1914 by French architect Teophile Bradeau, the Athenee Palace Hotel was located in the heart of Bucharest, overlooking the present-day Piaţa Revoluţiei and Calea Victorieri.
Although it was the first building in Bucharest to use reinforced concrete, it suffered heavy bombing during World War II and had to be extensively rebuilt in 1945.
But prior to World War II, the hotel was a very different place.
Journalist John Reed, who in 1915 had moved into the one-year-old hotel, wrote: "Ten thousand women parade by. For your true Bucharestian boasts that his city supports more prostitutes, in proportion, than any other four cities in the world combined."
That was then.
Home to International Jounalists
During World War II, however, with its strategic location between the royal palace on one side and a Paris-style concert hall on the other, it served as a meeting place for international journalists.
In the first few years of World War II, according to Robert St. John, the Associated Press bureau chief in Bucharest, "there were seldom less than fifty correspondents housed in the Athenee Palace at any one time."
And it was perhaps the only hotel in war-torn Europe where Nazi and Allied officials slept under the same roof and where Western journalists could sit with uniformed SS officers and discuss events over drinks.
Athenee Palace Hilton
In the distant future (October 1997), following a US$ 50 million facelift, it reopened as the Athenee Palace Hilton, Bucharest's classiest and most expensive hotel at the time.
In 1940 Nicolae Ceauşescu, a member of the communist youth movement, was imprisoned because of his party activities.
While in prison at this time, Ceauşescu became an ardent follower and protégé of his cellmate, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. Later we'll see Gheorghiu-Dej, who was favored by Stalin, ascend to communist dictator of Romania, followed soon after by Ceauşescu.
Ceauşescu's Unique Communism
Ceauşescu is the main reason we've given so much attention to Soviet communism in these web pages.
In the future, Ceauşescu will take the worst of Lenin's and Stalin's ideology and invent his own brand of communism. He'll establish a larger secret police than the Soviets, relatively speaking, and repress his people even more than they did.
And he'll use one of Stalin's favorite tricks of presenting one side of himself to the external world while maintining his ruthlessness behind their backs.
Luckily for him and his bold attempt to free Romania from Russia's yoke, Stalin will be dead by the time he comes to power.
To help American readers, the following pronunciation guide to Romanian words used above is provided. The sounds shown are only approximations, however.
- Antonescu. Ahn-tohn-ehs-koo.
- Argeş. (Arges) Ahr-jehsh.
- Basarabia. Bah-sahr-rah-byah.
- Cadrilator. Kah-dree-lah-tohr.
- Câinele. (Cainele) Kih-ee-nehl-eh.
- Calea. Kahl-yah.
- Carol. Kahr-ohl.
- Ceauşescu. (Ceausescu) Chow-shehs-koo.
- Codreanu. Kohd-rahn-oo.
- Colivă. (Coliva) Koh-lee-vah.
- Conducătorul. (Conducatorul) Kohn-doo-kuh-tohr-rool.
- Corneliu. Kohr-neh-lyoo.
- Craiova. Krigh-oh-vah.
- Curtea. Koor-tyah.
- Dej. Dehzh.
- Dobrogea. Doh-broh-jyah.
- Elena. Eh-leh-nah.
- Evrei. Ehv-righ.
- Foriş. (Foris) Fohr-reesh.
- Frontul. Frohn-tool.
- Gheorghe. Gohr-geh.
- Gheorgiu. Gohr-jyoo.
- Gigurtu. Zhee-goor-too.
- Goga. Goh-gah.
- Gorgani. Gohr-gahn.
- Groza. Groh-zah.
- Gruia. Groo-yah.
- Horea. Hohr-yah.
- Iaşi. (Iasi) Yahsh.
- Ilie. Eel-yay.
- Ion. Yohn.
- Iorga. Yohr-gah.
- Jidani. Zhee-dahn.
- Jilava. Zhee-lah-vah.
- Lupescu. Loo-pehs-koo.
- Madgearu. Mahd-gyahr-roo.
- Manoilescu. Mahn-oy-lehs-koo.
- Mihai. Mee-high.
- Mihail. Mee-highl.
- Moldavia. Mohl-dah-vyah.
- Naţionale. (National). Naht-see-ohn-ahl-eh.
- Naţiunii. (Natiunii). Naht-see-oon-ee.
- Nicolae. Nee-koh-ligh.
- Ordinul. Ohr-deen-ool.
- Partitul. Pahr-tee-tool.
- Peleş. (Peles) Peh-lehsh.
- Pelişor. (Pelisor) Peh-lee-shohr.
- Petru. Peh-troo.
- Piaţa. (Piata) Pyaht-sah.
- Piteşti. (Pitesti) Pee-tehsht.
- Ploieşti. (Ploiesti) Ploh-yehsht.
- Renaşterei. (Renasterei) Rehn-ahs-tehr-righ.
- Revoluţiei. (Revolutiei) Reh-voh-loot-see-igh.
- Român. (Roman) Roh-mihn.
- Roşu. (Rosu) Roh-shoo.
- Severin. Seh-vehr-een.
- Sima. See-mah.
- Sinaia. Shih-nigh-ah.
- Statului. Stah-tool-wee.
- Ştefan. (Stefan) Shteh-fahn.
- Tătărăscu. (Tatarascu) Tuh-tuh-ruhs-koo.
- Transylvania. Trahn-seel-vahn-yah.
- Turnu. Toor-noo.
- Victorieri. Veek-tohr-yehr-ree.
- Viteazul. Vee-tyah-zool.
- Wallachia. Vah-lahk-yah.
- Zelea. Zehl-yah.
At this point, you have a couple of options:
- Return to the History Department to choose another timeframe.
- Rewind to the previous timeframe section, the Empire Period Section.
- Select a specific century or a decade within the current century (shown in preferred reading order):