Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Romania and Axis: 70 years ago

Bucharest Arch of Triumph
23 November 1940: Romania joins the Axis Powers.
Following the outbreak of World War II on September 1, 1939, the Kingdom of Romania officially adopted a position of neutrality. However, the rapidly changing situation in Europe during 1940, as well as domestic political upheaval, undermined this stance. Fascist political forces such as the Iron Guard rose in popularity and power, urging a rapprochement with Nazi Germany and its allies. As the military fortunes of Romania's two main guarantors of territorial integrity - France and Britain - crumbled in the Fall of France, the government of Romania turned to Germany in hopes of a similar guarantee, unaware that the currently dominant European power had already granted its consent to Soviet territorial claims in a secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed back in 1939.
In summer 1940, a series of territorial disputes were resolved unfavorably to Romania, resulting in the loss of most of the territory gained in the wake of World War I. This caused the popularity of Romania's government to plummet, further reinforcing the fascist and military factions, who had eventually staged a coup that turned the country into a fascist dictatorship under conducător Ion Antonescu. The new regime had firmly set the country on the course towards the Axis camp, officially joining the Axis Powers on November 23, 1940. "When it's a question of action against the Slavs, you can always count on Romania," Antonescu stated ten days before the start of Operation Barbarossa (the Nazi Germany invasion of the Soviet Union).

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