Ion Antonescu


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(b. 14 June 1882, d. 1 June 1946).

Romanian dictator 1940–4 Born in Pitesti, he became a professional soldier and served as a colonel in World War I. After the war he continued to advance in rank. In 1933 he became army Chief of Staff. He was Minister of Defence, 1937–8. In 1940, Carol II appointed him Prime Minister with dictatorial powers. Hoping initially to rule with the Iron Guards to enlist some popular support, he destroyed the Guards when they got out of hand, and created a full-blown military dictatorship. In June 1941 he joined World War II when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. His troops were victorious at first, recapturing Bessarabia and the Bukovina. They captured Odessa, which without undue modesty he renamed Antonescu. However, his position changed after 150,000 of his troops were lost in the decisive battle of Stalingrad. Thereafter, he concentrated in vain on preventing eventual Soviet domination, pinning his hopes on a speedy Anglo-American advance in the West. Shortly after the Red Army crossed into Romania, he was deposed on orders of King Michael I, whereupon Romania changed sides. He was tried and shot as a war criminal.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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