Antonescu, Marshal Ion, 1882-1946

Antonescu was a stupid rather than sinister Rumanian dictator throughout the war. He was an army leader who had assumed leadership of the fascist Iron Guards. King CAROL II who was afraid of his power had him imprisoned but when faced with growing territorial demands from Germany and the USSR (he had ceded Bessarabia and northern Bukhovina to the USSR and more territory to Hungary and Bulgaria) Carol abdicated and appointed Antonescu Prime Minister. Antonescu came to power with the support of the Iron Guards on 5 September 1940 and immediately sent messages of loyalty to HILTER and MUSSOLINI. He called in German troops to protect the Ploesti oilfields which were to supply Germany with 46,000 tons of fuel per month in 1941. On 23 September 1940 he signed the Axis Pact and by this time had won Hitler’s trust. In January 1941 he asked Hitler for permission to suppress the Iron Guards who had been persecuting the Jews and committing other atrocities, and Hitler readily assented. Antonescu secured his hold on Rumania by using the army to put its citizens down. Later that year Rumanian divisions joined Army Group South in the invasion of the USSR. These divisions went on to fight at Stalingrad and after their defeat Antonescu was soon thinking in terms of getting Rumania out of the German alliance. He sent his Prime Minister, Mihai Antonescu, to Mussolini to discuss the possibility of the withdrawal of Italy, Rumania and Hungary from the alliance but although Mussolini agreed with this scheme, he never took any action against Hitler. As the Red Army swept through the Ukraine there was little Antonescu could do.

On23 August 1944, King MICHAEL summoned him and after a stormy interview Antonescu was arrested and replaced by Sanatescu. He was tried for his war crimes and executed after the war.

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