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Click here to view this topic in its original format Forum > Romania in World War II 1941-1945 > 77. The Retreat of the Romanian Troops

Posted by: dragos June 04, 2011 02:54 pm
by Major Mihai Macuc

In his book “Hitler, Konig Carol und Marschall Antonescu”, the German historian Andreas Hillgruber showed since 1954 (when only ten years elapsed from the events described) what was the true fate of the Romanian troops which faced the Soviet armies on the Romanian front in 1944 summer: “Having acknowledged King Mihai I’s Proclamation and receiving the new orders of General Racovita, chief of the Operation Section of the Romanian General Headquarters, the Romanian units’ commanders sent messengers to the neighbouring Soviet Commands. The Soviets did not accept the proposals for the negotiations and considered the Romanians as being prisoners of war. During August 24 - September 12, other 130,000 Romanian soldiers, NCOS and officers took the road to the inprisonment camps, meeting the 147,000 Romanian POWs captured previously, mainly during the fights carried out at Stalingrad and in Crimea”.

Such went the events indeed. The only question that remained to be discussed further related to the wellknown German researcher’s affirmation is the one concerning the figures. In several studies, trying to minimize the losses of the Romanian Army, some authors mentioned that the real figures to be counted are 60,000 or 80,000 Romani POWs. Other studies offer amounts which are equivalent or even greater compared to the ones sustained by Andreas Hillgruber. Thus, General Platon Chirnoaga affirms, very exactly, that actually there were 129,000 Romanian POWs on the Moldavian front, but without giving any details related to records containing these figures. In the Archives of the Romanian Ministry of National Defence an official document, issued by the Romanian General Headquarters shows: “after August 23, 1944, the Soviets took prisoners and transported in USSR about 150,000 soldiers, 6,000 NCOS and 6,000 officers".

Yet, only a very meticulous study of the archives (including the Soviet ones, especially those containing records relatedto the inprisomnent camps in USSR) could offer the right and precise data concerning the dimensions of the losses of the Romanian troops after August 23, 1944. Actually, both during the development of “Iassy-Kishinev” offensive operation and in the following period, the 3rd and the 4th Romanian Armies, being under Generals Petre Dumitrescu and Mihai Racovita command (the latter was replaced subsequently by Generals Gheorghe Avramescu and Ilie Steflea), met a real new military catastrophe. The destruction of such great human forces, firstly through fight, then through disarmament and inprisonment (a more adequate word instead of “prisoners” might be "hostages”) explains why for the next operations carried out by the 4th ROmanian Army appeared the need to conscript new men and to add in the combat disposition of this Army several training divisions (until September 10, 1944, the forces of the 4th Romanian Army raised again to 113,000 military, but this fact required great efforts). As concerns the situation of the 3rd Romanian Army (that had several big units encircled and almost destroyed in Bessarabia, near Kishinev), it remained for rehabilitation in garrisons in the country, following up August 23, 1944. In its structure entered Border Guards Corps, the Gendarmerie Corps and the Firemen Corps, together with live Territorial Commands.

The moment when Romania broke off with the Axis found the Romanian two Armies developing their efforts to acomplish the recovering of their combat dispositions. This fact resulted, on one hand from the impetuous attacks performed by the Soviets and on the other hand from the orders received initially by the Romanian commanders to occupy the fortified alignment Focsani-Namoloasa-Braila. Subsequently another order came, specifying that the Romanian big units and units had to regroup their effectives south of this alignment.

From all these big units and units situated north of this so-called “truce alignment” (namely, the fortified line Focsani-Namoloasa-Braila) just a few managed to reach the new areas where they have totake a new disposition, according to the notices contained by the Romanian General Headquarters’ Order 250 from August 25, 1944. This order was given with the view to create a “free zone” at the exclusive disposal of the Romanian Government and of the Romanian troops. Paradoxically, the greatest amount of losses was provoqued not by the Germans (which suddendly became enemies) but the Soviets “allies”.

The main controversial issue in the negotiations with the Soviets carried out by the Romanian commanders on the Moldavian front (few almost similar events repeated in the areas near Bucharest, afterwards) was the one concerning the assurance of the free action of the Romanian big units and units on the Romanian land. The Romanian resentatives were asked firmly to surrend and troops were to lay down all their weaponry. The alternative was to be subordinated without any delay to the Soviet big units and carry on the fight against Germans in the sectors where Soviet commanders ordered. So speaking, it was not an exact "cooperation" but strictly a humiliating obedience to the Soviet Commands and Headquarters. Actually, the Romanians were sincere when they affirmed they wanted to fight beside the Soviets. Yet, they did not want that their military honour and dignity should be affected in any way. Naturally, Romanian commanding officers - especially the important ones - asked to obey only Romanian General Headquarters’ orders, not the ones coming from an unknown Soviet general. This fact explains why the Soviet historiography consecrated to the World War II remembers only a few Romanian units commited in fight against Germans on the Moldavian front immediately after August 23, 1944 (the Border Guards Detachment “Colonel Teodorescu”, the Armoured Detachment “Colonel Matei”, the l033d Alpine Division, the 71st Heavy Artillery Regiment). The commanders of these units accepted from the first moment to fight under a Soviet command. Thus, to promote the super-glorified “comradeship” between the Red Army and the Romanian Army (which was a slogan of the communist regime), until 1989, the only fights mentioned in Moldavia between Romanian troops and the Germans were those carried out by their troops; some other aspects concerning the relations with the Soviets in the first moments after 23 August, 1944 King Mihai I’s Proclamation (addressed especially to the Romanian Army), being not so pleasing, were covered in silence.

Another reason that might explain the large scale operation undertaken by the Soviets, consisting of Romanian troops inprisonment on the Moldavian front, was probably a political one. To justify its presence in the whole Romanian territory as a “liberating Army" and not as an occupying one (which it was in fact), the Red Army must have officialy attested that it had “liberated" as many localities as it could. Through false war communiqués, the Soviets announced in those days that the troops belonging to the II and the III Ukrainean Fronts liberated a lot of Romanian villages and towns. (Actually, greatest part of them were already liberated by the Romanian forces, through independent actions). In such communiques was also mentioned (even after August 23, 1944) that during the fights a great number of Romanian soldiers, NCOs and officers were taken prisoners (as an example, on August 25, the III Ukrainean Front announced: “15,000 German and Romanian troops were taken prisoners”). All these facts constituted just a first step, preparing the next operation which had as an objective the final destructure of the greatest part of the Romanian Anny, that was to be accused, subsequently, of nonloyalty. Such a plan was well elaborated previously by Moscow (it’s worth mentioning that the Soviets acted similarly in what concerns the Polish Army) and begun to be put in practise immediately after Romania announced the break off with Germany and its allies. Here intervened also the circumstance that the Romanian Armies which fought at Stalingrad (of course, partially recovered and restructured) were now at Soviet mercyless disposal.

A report from the archives related to the state of facts in Moldavia after Septmber 28, 1944 written by General Gheorghe Eftimiu, who was sent as a delegate of the Romanian General Headquarters to inspect the area, confirms the brutal behaviour of the new Soviet allies: “The situation stays as follows. A part of the troops that were disarmed were given back their weapons, being reorganized and, under a new name of Cretzulescu Division (the former l03rd Alpine Division), now fight in Transylvania, under Soviet command. A greater part - approximately 45,000 men - including several hundreds officers - after being imprisoned in some camps, are located at this very moment in Iassy inprisonment camp (could be approximately 40,000 men; the Soviet Command from Iassy stated that here are only 35,000 and some other prisoners were transported to Vaslui), also at Roman and Focsani /.../. It seemed that a part of the ones which have been disarmed (excepting the prisoners from Iassy) were transported over the border, beyond the Prut river. At Bistricioara, I found a group of three generals (I.Teodorescu, Gheorghe M. Cosma and Barozzi), together with other superior officers, watched by SoViet guards /.../. The situation concerning the men in the inprisonment camps is very critical both related to nutrition and to living conditions; a lot of them are forced to sleep on the ground, in the open air /.../ The Soviet commanders in Focsani and Iassy did allow nor to Mr. Minister Damaceanu neither to me, to visit the camp; they not even permitted us to speak with a colonel. I think the reason for that is very easy to be understood”.

From the 3rd Romanian Army, the big unit that suffered mostly after their meetings with Soviets after August 23, 1944 in Moldavia was the III Anny Corps. From its units, only the 1st Cavalry and the 21st Infantry Divisions could retreat in order inland, having almost intact their effectives. In exchange, the 4th Alpine Division and the 110th Infantry Command were disarmed and a great part of their troops were taken prisoners by the Soviets.

A similar treatment “enjoyed” some other Romanian big units on the Moldavian front (the 1st, 4th, 6th, 8th, 13th, 14th, 20th Infantry Divisions, the 103rd and 104th Alpine Commands) all being in the structure of the I, V and VII Army Corps. All these big units and units met the repeated pressures of the Soviets. Finally, the new allies managed to disarm their men on... September 2, 1944 (!)

Yet, just a few days before (on August 27, 1944) during an interview with General Gheorghe Mihail, the chief of the Romanian General Headquarters, Marshal Malinovski had promised that he will observe personally the questions concerning the Romanian POWs and that he will take measures for returning the weaponry and other materials back were they belonged. In spite of such promises, the Romanian POWs were to be sent not back home or to their units, but far beyond the borders, in USSR, near the Arctic Pole and in Siberia. The greatest part of them never returned to their families...

Posted by: Florin June 06, 2011 04:47 am
In what year Soviet Union allowed the return home of most of the Romanian prisoners ?

Posted by: Florin June 06, 2011 04:51 am
QUOTE (dragos @ June 04, 2011 09:54 am)
..................... In spite of such promises, the Romanian POWs were to be sent not back home or to their units, but far beyond the borders, in USSR, near the Arctic Pole and in Siberia. The greatest part of them never returned to their families...

Did any Romanian historian tried to trace or estimate after 1990 how many Romanian prisoners taken by Soviet Union never returned, being lost for their families and for their country ?

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