here have been many different speculations from foreign histories as to why Romania switched sides and turned against Germany in the Second World War. Some say, that there was some sort of deal going between Hitler and Antonescu whilst others say that the change was a huge political influence from the USSR. I am here to tell you that most if not all of the things you have heard are rubbish and nonsense. As a Romanian, I have been taught the truth about this story from a young age and it is still engraved in my brain.
1918-Formation of Romania
In order to offer you a better understanding, I will take you back 1918 when Romania was formed by having Walachia and Moldova come together along with Transilvania as part of the First World War peace treaty. With this treaty and from some political debate they have managed to also take back Basarabia which even to this day is a debated country because it is neither on the Ukrainian or Romanian side.
History tells us that Basarabia was taken from Moldovia in 1812 by the Russian Empire in the Russian-Turkish war. With the integration of Basarabia, the formation of Romania was given the name ‘Greater Romania’ as the country finally had all the parts they owned through their ancestors since the medieval era.
1927-Death of King Ferdinand I
At this time the ruler of Romania was Ferdinand I. He was King of Romania from 1914 (the beginning of WW1) until 1927 where he passed away. He had proven to be a good king to his country as even in the First World War he has betrayed the Germans to fight on the Allied side. The betray was the cause of him being a member of the Swabian branch of Germany’s ruling House of Hohenzollern.
After the First World War, he had been in many successful political debates in order to regain the Romanian land which had been lost in the war thus uniting Romania as a country. During the time of his ruling, he had stabilized a better economy in Romania that is based more on agriculture as it was the forte point of the nation. He was the one to create vast oil supplies in the land of Romania as well as have trade diplomacies with many foreign countries.
After his death, it was time for Carol II to take the throne as a king. At the same time, Michael I son of Carol II was 5 years of age. (I mention this as it will be an important factor as the story goes along.)
1940-Abdication of King Carol II
Carol II became king of Romania right after the death of Ferdinand I as upon of King Carol’s I death Carol II became crown prince. At this time Michale I was 5 years of age and had received the prince crown. In 1940 Carol II was challenged by the Soviet Union to give Basarabia back to its “rightful owners” otherwise Romania would face war.
As Romania had no real allies at the time war was most certainly not a good idea. Despite what the government had been discussing Carol II wanted to wage war to the point where he faced abdication, therefore, losing his throne in 1940. The government decided to not risk entering the Second World War and give Basarabia to the Soviet Union. It is imperative to mention that this decision was also influenced by Hitler as he had different plans for Romania.
At this stage Michael I was 18 years of age and he was made the new king of Romania. He had all the power but, because of his young age he was not seen as a leader sort of figure, therefore, Marshal Ion Antonescu was appointed as the Prime Minister of Romania.
1941- Marshal Ion Antonescu Coming to Power
Marshal Ion Antonescu had received his rank during WW I. He was a very respected man with a bad entourage from his German friends such as Hitler as he was (just like Ferdinand I) a member of the Swabian branch of Germany’s ruling House of Hohenzollern. He was the leader during most of the Second World War and a very good one because of his high ranking military background.
A very authoritarian figure Antonescu and Hitler were making a good duo as with the help of Hungary and Romania the Axis forces managed to push the Russians back as far as Stalingrad. In this military Campaign, Romania managed to gain back Basarabia from the Soviet Union and even Odesa for a short period of time.
However, at Stalingrad, the Red Army decided to turn the tide of war as they have started to push the Axis back in 1942. As the Soviet troops were getting closer and closer to Romania the tension was building up in the governmental body.
1944-Rise of Michael I
In early 1944 the Soviet army had entered Romania however Antonescu did not want to stop the fight. At the age of 21 Michale I had acknowledged that there was no chance for the Axis power to win this war which meant that Romania would be wiped if they would not sign an armistice with the Soviet Union.
As the Red Army had pushed through the city of Iasi in February of 1944 Michael I had taken upon himself to speak with political heads and military commanders about the situation of Romania within the war. They have all agreed upon the idea that in order to survive Romania needs to turn on the allied side as the Axis (despite Hitler’s fantasies) had no chance to win the Second World War.
On the 23rd of August 1944 Michael I calls upon a meeting with Prime Minister Ion Antonescu in which he tried to explain the situation. Antonescu acknowledged the bad situation of Romania within the Second World War however, he could not betray Hitler. This left Michael I with no choice than to use his power as King of Romania and imprison Ion Antonescu in order to regain power over the Romanian army.
On the 24th of August 1944 Michael I changes the government of Romania and signs an armistice with the Soviet Union thus turning guns on the Axis. Once the war had ended Romania had gotten back Transilvania however, they have never seen Basarabia ever again. Sadly, King Michael I had been abdicated in 1947 as the communist regime was setting in across East Europe which was influenced by Stalin.
Many see Romania as a dishonest country for betraying its own allies in the Second World War no matter if the allies we are speaking of include Hitler. However, It is imperative to understand that this decision was made more like an instinct for survival, Romania did no stand a chance against the Soviet Union or other nations from the Allies’ side.