The German High Command approved of Ion Antonescu who seized power with the cooperation of the Iron Guard and right-wing military elements. German officers had already been working with the Romanian military. As a result, German forces began moving into Romania (October 8). Romania after the Soviet partition was a country that was afraid of further Soviet incursions. German intervention was seen by many Romanians as protection from the Soviets. There were some complications in the Axis Alliance. Romania was a country in which Italy also has interests, and the German move was resented by Mussolini. The German move into Romania proved to be a major reason for Musollin's decession to invade Greece. Antonnescu upon assuming power asked for German troops to ensure that the Soviets did not intervene. Hitler dispatched the 13th Panzer Division and units of 2nd Panzer as well as anti-aircraft units and Luftwaffe squadrons. Obstensibly these forces were to train the Romanians, from Hitler's perspective they were there to protect the oil fields. The Germans deployed 0.5 million troops in Romania. Romania officially joined the Axis Alliance (November 23). Hitler now in control wanted stability in Romania so that the country could serve its purpose of supplying food and oil for the German war effort. Iron Guard violence was now disruptive. Thus German and Romanian soldiers began disarming the militants. The Iron Guard did not quietly acceot this. Units rebelled and street fighting broke out (January 1941). The Iron Guard took the opportunity to attack Jews before the German and Romanian authorities put down the insurection and restored order.
Antonescu was born into a modest middle-class family (1882). There was a a degree of family military tradition. He decided to persue a military career and attended military accademies in Craiova and Iaşi. He proved an able student. He graduated from the Cavalry School first in his class (1904). He persued further studies at the national military academy. As a junior officer he aggressively paricipated in putting dowm peasant revolts around Galaţi (1907). His ruthless actions gave rise to his being called Câinele roşu (the red dog). He gained considerable prestige for Romania's success in the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria (1913). Romania joined the Allies in World War I (1916). Althouhj the country was overrun by German and Bulgarian armies, Antonescu's role was generally seen as positive. He also helped seize land from Hungary. As a result, he had considerable following in the Romanian Army, especially among right-wing elements. The dictatorial powers that King Carol had asumed were taken over by Antonescu. He was a general and had veen the Minister of War. He as supported by right-wing elements in the military. This meant that the NAZIs had essentially turned Romanian from a pro-Allied neutral into a Fascist ally. Antonescu soon styled himself Conducator (Leader) adopting the NAZI Führer principle.
Antonescu moved to orient Romania into the NAZI sphere of influence. His government adopted much more severe anti-Semitic laws. Those affected were for a time able to avoid the worst conswquences of these laws by brining poorly paid Romanian officials. Antonescu cooperated with the Fascist Iron Guard. He unleashed them to attack both the leaders of democratic parties as well as Jews and non-Romanian minorities. The Iron Guard launched a series of vicious attacks. Armed Iron Guard members stormed into the Jilava prison and butchered 64 supporters of King Carol who had been arrested (November 1940). There were also vicious attacks on Jews. Later on the same day, noted historian and former prime minister Nicolae Iorga along with economit Virgil Madgearu, a former government minister, were arrested and after being tortured, shot. assassinated.
Romania was important to the NAZIs for a variety of reasons. In fact, the German assault on the Soviet Union required Romania's cooperation. First, strategically, Hitler had to gain control of the Balkans so the southern flank of the German offensive was secure and there could be no Allied (at the time only Britain) intervention from the south. Second, the Whermacht and German industry needed Romanial oil. After Hitler launched the War and the British instituted a naval embargo, Stalin had been shipping large quantities of oil to Germany to sustanin the NAZI war effort. This and the Romania's Ploesti oil fields was German's principal source of natural petroleum. The Germans expanded the stynrgeic petroleum indusry, but once Soviet delivered ended, Ploesti became the major source of oil. The Soviets played the major role in shifting Romania from the Alluied to the Axis camp, by seizing the eastern provinces. The result was that Romania would make a major contribution in the manpower needed for Barbarossa.
The German High Command approved of Ion Antonescu who seized power with the cooperation of the Iron Guard and right-wing military elements. German officers had already been working with the Romanian military. Antonescu concerned about further Soviet demands, requested a German military mission (October 1940). As a result, German forces began moving into Romania (October 8). Romania after the Soviet partition was a country that was afraid of further Soviet incursions. German intervention was seen by many Romanians as protection from the Soviets. Antonnescu upon assuming power asked for German troops to ensure that the Soviets did not intervene. Hitler dispatched the 13th Panzer Division and units of 2nd Panzer as well as anti-aircraft units and Luftwaffe squadrons. Obstensibly these forces were to train the Romanians, from Hitler's perspective they were there to protect the oil fields. The Germans rapidly deployed 0.5 million troops to Romania. This not only secured the Ploesti oil fields, but put them in a position to pressure Yugoslabia and Greece and later to launch the southern phase of Barbarossa into the Ukraine. Just before Hitler launched Barnarossa, Antonescu announced, "When it's a question of action against the Slavs, you can always count on Romania," [Beevor, p. 20.]
Complications within the Axis alliance developed within the Axis Alliance. Romania was a country in which Italy also has interests. Romania was given a joint German-Italian guarantee. Hitler decided to respons to Antonescu's request for a military mission unilaterally without consulting Mussolini. And Mussolini resented it. The German move into Romania proved to be a major reason for Mussolin's unilateral decession to invade Greece (October 1940). Mussolini assumed it wouls be a NAZI-style police action like the occupation of Czechoslovakia (March 1939). He believed that it would demobstrate Mussolini and Italy were not a junior partner or dependent on Hitler. Hitler was furious as it upset is carefully laid diplmomatic plans for the Balkans. The Greeks turned to the British for assistance, just what Hitler didn't want. British involvement brought British aircradt within striking range of Ploesti. It is at this time that Hitler begins to contemplate an attack on Greece. And He began to strengrhen his relations with other Balkan countries. Romania officially joined the Axis Alliance (November 23). Hungary also joined as would Bulgaria a few months later.
Antonescu used the Iron Guard, but their association was from the beginning an uneasy one. Sima and the Iron Guard was unhappy with Antonescu relatively moderate policies and they wanted power. Hitler now in control wanted stability in Romania so that the country could serve its purpose of supplying food and oil for the German war effort. Iron Guard violence was now disruptive and Antonescu that he could not control them. Thus German and Romanian soldiers began disarming the militants (November 1940). The Iron Guard did not quietly acceot this. Units rebelled and street fighting broke out (January 1941). The Iron Guard took the opportunity to attack Jews before the German and Romanian authorities put down the insurection and restored order. The Iron Gusrd coup was defeated in 4 daus, but it took several weeks to fully restore order. Antonescu dismissed The Iron Guard ministers. Sima and other legionnaires took refuge in Germany where they were tolerated because of their anti-Semitism and provided a thinly veiled threat for Antonescu. Many others were imprisoned by Romanian authorities.
The Germans provided substantial military equipment to Romania, needed to expand the country's armed forces. This was in part the German shipmebts in retun to the Romanian shipments of oil and other raw materials. The amount of modern weaponry and heavy equipment the Germans supplied was, however, limited given what was needed. This would prove to be a major factor in the climatic battle of Stalingrad. There were two reasons for the German failure to make the Romanians a first class fighting force. First, a Romania military with large numbers of modern aircraft as well as tanks ad artillery would essentially make Romanian independent. And Hitler did not want an independent Romania. He wanted a complient subject state that would do his bidding. Second, Germany did not have the industrial capacity to fully modernize the armed forces of its allies. Germany entered the war with a military that was still not fully mechanized. Thus the Germans were not about to provide the Romanians equipment that its own military lacked. The Germans provided very few modern tanks to the Romanians. Romanian armor consisted of largely obsolete French and Czech models and after the onset of the War a few Polish tanks. When the Germans and Romanians advanced into the Soviet Union, abandoned Soviet ranks, but few T-34s, were added to the inventory. All of these tanks were obsolete and totally inadequate for modern tank warfare. The inadequate equipment of the Romanian military would significantly affect its combat performance in the Soviet Union and most importantly, its ability to protect the German flanks at Stalingrad.
Romania requested a German military missiin (October 1940) and then joined the Axis (November 1940). One might think that there would have been economic benefits acruing to Romania. Actually just the opposite was true. Countries which did not join the Axis (Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey) benefitted from keeping the Germans at arms length. They were able to insist that the Germany pay for raw materiials and products they wanted. The country's which joined the Axis eventually turned over their economies to the Germans. Not only did the Romanians not benefit, but they suffered economically by joining the Axis. Of course the Germans may well have invaded had they not joined the Axis. But in doing so and allowing the Germans to take over the economy, the Germans were able to access oil, grain, and other raw materials without paying for them. Romania assumed the role of supplying fuel and food to the German war effort. Romanian oil was vital. Germany could not have fought World War II wiythout Romanian oil. As a result of the German exploitation of Romanua, national economic earnings dropped significantly. Oil was by far the most important commodity. The Romanians also supplied the Germans with grain, and industrial products. The Germans provided very little in payment. We are not sure if there was any formal economic aggreement signed between the two countries. I believe the Germans were able to take what they wanted by the simple expedient of taking over the Romanian railways, but we vdo not yet have details on this. The Germans essentially seized the oil and other goods. The export of a major part of Romania's production without receiving much of anything in return resulted in an increasingly serious inflation problem. Government officials who were aware of what was happening began compaining about exploitive NAZI policies. Criticizing the Germans was, however, something which was dangerous to do.
Beevor, Anthony. Stalingrad (1998).
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