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> 60. The Romanian Choice
Posted: June 30, 2005 08:14 pm
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by Alesandru Dutu

In March 1944, after nearly three years of war — a war Romania entered aiming to restore its territorial integrity, seriously affected during the summer and autumn of 1940 - also, after the Romanian armies, joining Wehrmacht's forces, had advanced from the banks of the Dniester river close to the Volga river's ones, the north-eastern part of the country became again a theatre of war. The penetration of the Soviet armies into the Romanian territory was produced as a result of a few strong offensive operations developed by the I, II and III Ukrainean Fronts ("Proskurov-Cernauti", "Uman-Botosani" and "Odessa"), due to the fact that in their course the High German Command decided to assume the defence by getting into position on a better strenght-ened line, in the central parts of Moldavia and Bessarabia and to withdraw successively the forces from the Bug river's banks to the Dniester river, considering that it was better — as a report of the "Transocean" News Agency noticed at that time — "to renounce the territories in the East, instead to counter-attack with the western reserves, thus keeping its entire freedom to take new decisions in the future".

Romania was in a limit situation of its existence, the possibility of an extension of the Soviet forces' advance being doubled by the one of a military occupation (as a punishment), which might be made by Wehrmacht, in case of a desertion. The last but one talks-round between Hitler and Marshal Ion Anto-nescu, that took place at Klesheim Castle on March 23-24, 1944, avoided, for the moment, this last option. But the future expectations were not at all encouraging, due the fact that the Fuhrer had expressed again, on this occasion, his firm decision to fight "up to the very end", nonadmitting, even principially, the variant for concluding an agreement with the Western Powers.

Hardly trying to find the most advantageous solution for the well-being of the country, both the Government and "the opposition" intensified their approaches in the negotiations with the Western Powers — many times, even acting together — with the view to set up an action that should have reversed the situation, joining Romania with the United Nations Coalition, but also - not at least — looking for their protection, in case that Romania was to be confronted with future Soviet claims.

While the main Western Allies were proceeding on their consultations, with the object of finding a common point of view in "the Romanian case" - which was to be accepted both by Moscow or by London and Washington, with the single specification that "the first condition, inevitably, would consist in the unconditional surrender" - Romania's military and political situation was rapidly increasing in gravity. Especially after the massive bombings of the Royal Air Force and U.S. Air Force's bombers were launched on April 4, 1944, the country has seen itself completely surrounded, on land, by the Soviet troops (and, in case of a desertion, as we already mentioned, by the German ones), in the air, by the Allies' western bombers. The impact these events had in the military and political circles and in the public opinion was immense. "The whole structure that Romanians' illusions were built on — Gheorghe Barbul, Marshal Antonescu's assistent, wrote — has collapsed, struck by the American bombs".

On the lines of the front, in spite of the fact that the disagreements with the German Commands seemed to become deeper from one day to another, the Romanian generals and officers wished that "the big reversal of the situation" was to be done in the most advantageous terms for the country, but also avoiding an unloyal action against their former German allies. From this point of view, such a choice was very alike Marshal Antonescu's vision.

At last, the Romanian scenarios concerning the concluding of the truce with the United Nation Coalition, which were to be in accordance with the national desideratum, have failed. The reasons consisted both in the objective internal circumstances, and in some external ones. An important role was played in this process by the Soviet exigences, but also by the U.S.A.'s and Great Britain's refusal to assist Romania with their political or military presence while the detachment from the Nazi Reich was accomplished by their lack of interest in our country, going up to the proposal that Churchill had made to Stalin in reference with the delimitation of their spheres of influence in the South-Eastern Europe and the recognition of the Soviet preponderance in Romania, in exchange of the British one in Greece. The state of facts became worse during the summer of 1944, when Romania has seen itself exposed — both on land and in the air - to the concentric blows of the biggest and most powerful military forces of the world (Soviet, American and British). In this context, Romania's joining the United Nations Coalition on August 23, 1944 was to be accomplished before the Truce Convention had been negociated and signed, under the less advantageous circumstances for the country and after Marshal Antonescu was arrested in the Royal Palace, by the order of King Mihai I.

Without analysing the details which concern the possibilities which might existed at the time that Marshal Antonescu would have obtained better conditions for the truce, that he might have avoided or might have attenuated the Soviet regime of occupation, we wish to reveal a single fact: Romania's joining the United Nations Coalition was perceived by all contemporary Romanians as an act of national sovereignty and dignity, which was to be destined to consolidate the independence of the country, to create the needful circumstances for the liberation of the north-western part of Romania and for the instauration "of a democratic regime, where all the public liberties and the civil rights of the people will be fully guaranteed and respected", as the new Government's Declaration stated, luliu Maniu, the president of the National Peasant Party, considered the act of August 23, 1944 as "a coup d'etat equal with a revolution" and he estimated that "in spite of the burdens and of the pains we have accepted, the act of August 23, 1944 opens for us lights of hopes and sunlight", also that August 23 meant "a day of victory and a source of national wellfare. Its remembrance must not bring the grief into the souls of those against whom or of those in whose absence it has been done".

The unfulfilment of those hopes and ideals was due to a whole complex of factors, between them an important role being played by the abandonment of Romania by the Great Powers, the Soviet troops arrival in the country, the powerful influence of Moscow etc., facts which acted upon and even determined the internal political developments, mainly towards and after the March 6, 1945's regime came to power, installed by the Soviet Red Army. A historical analysis of the events that succeeded the August 23, 1944 act must operate a very distinct separation between what were, initially, the expectations, in the precise moment when the country joined the United Nations Coalition, and the result which has been realised, due the political freedom of action the Soviet forces were attributed with in the Romanian area. Also, between the internal juridical status of Romania during August 23 — September 12, 1944 - when the country assumed by itself the position of an independent and sovereign state, in spite of the abuses and encroachments the Soviets had made — and the one that followed the Truce Convention, up to the ratification of the Peace Treaty in 1947, when Romania was imposed by the Great Powers to endure a severe regime of truce, which had disastruos consequences for the Romanian people.

Beyond these sad realities — which necessarily can't be ignored — a fact, certainly, must be underlined: from the moment when joined the United Nations Coalition, Romania placed at their disposal her entire military, economical and financial potentialities, thus having a precious contribution in the fulfilment of the Great Victory in May 1945.
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