From Charles I to Charles Taylor
8 Creating Legitimacy: the Trial of Marshal Antonescu
The trial of Marshal Ion Antonescu, Conducător (leader) of Romania from 1940 to 1944, took place in less than two weeks in May 1946, as the Nuremberg trials were still continuing in Germany. Antonescu was found guilty and shot on 1 June 1946. Marshal Antonescu had become head of the Romanian government in September 1940 in much the same way as Marshal Pétain had in France – as a result of national disaster. King Carol, who had established a royal dic- tatorship before the war, had tried to balance between the Nazis and the Western Allies. His policy collapsed when, as a result of the terms of the secret protocol to the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact signed on 23 August 1939, Romania’s northeastern province of Bessarabia was invaded by the Soviet Union and annexed in August 1940. At the same time, the Vienna diktat imposed by Hitler caused part of Transylvania to be ceded to Hungary. The southern Dobruja was ceded to Bulgaria. This triple loss of territory precipitated a crisis: King Carol made Marshal Antonescu prime minister with full powers on 4 September 1940. Antonescu, who had fought in the Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913 and then in World War I, had been military attaché in Paris and London; he promptly deposed the corrupt and unpopular king, on 6 September 1940, and appointed his son, King Michael, in his place. Romania joined the Axis and helped invade the Soviet Union in June 1941, principally to regain Bessarabia. King...
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