Ion Antonescu

Ion Antonescu (/ˌæntəˈnɛsk/; Romanian: [i'on antoˈnesku] (listen); 14 June [O.S. 2 June] 1882 – 1 June 1946) was a Romanian military officer and marshal who presided over two successive wartime dictatorships as Prime Minister and Conducător during most of World War II. Having been responsible for facilitating the Holocaust in Romania, he was tried for war crimes and executed in 1946.

Ion Antonescu
Ion Antonescu's portrait
Conducător of Romania
In office
6 September 1940  23 August 1944
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
43rd Prime Minister of Romania
In office
5 September 1940  23 August 1944
MonarchsCarol II
Michael I
DeputyHoria Sima (1940–1941)
Mihai Antonescu (1941–1944)
Preceded byIon Gigurtu
Succeeded byConstantin Sănătescu
Additional positions held in the Government
Minister of War
In office
22 September 1941  23 January 1942
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byIosif Iacobici [ro]
Succeeded byConstantin Pantazi [ro]
In office
4 September 1940  27 January 1941
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byConstantin Nicolescu
Succeeded byIosif Iacobici [ro]
In office
28 December 1937  31 March 1938
Prime MinisterOctavian Goga
Miron Cristea
Preceded byConstantin Ilasievici [ro]
Succeeded byGheorghe Argeșanu
Minister of Culture and Religious Affairs
In office
11 November 1941  5 December 1941
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byRadu R. Rosetti
Succeeded byIon Petrovici
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
27 January 1941  29 June 1941
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byMihail R. Sturdza
Succeeded byMihai Antonescu
Minister of Air Transport and Marine
In office
10 February 1938  30 March 1938
Prime MinisterMiron Cristea
Preceded byRadu Irimescu
Succeeded byPaul Teodorescu [ro]
Chief of the Romanian General Staff
In office
1 December 1933  11 December 1934
MonarchCarol II
Preceded byConstantin Lăzărescu [ro]
Succeeded byNicolae Samsonovici
Personal details
Born(1882-06-14)14 June 1882[1]
Pitești, Argeș County, Kingdom of Romania
Died1 June 1946(1946-06-01) (aged 63)
Jilava, Ilfov County, Kingdom of Romania
Cause of deathExecution by firing squad
Political partyNone[a]
(m. 19271946)
Known forRecapture of Bessarabia and Bukovina
ReligionRomanian Orthodox
NicknameCâinele Roșu ("Red Dog")
Military service
Allegiance Romania
Branch/service Romanian Land Forces
Years of service1904–1944
Rank Marshal of Romania
CommandsCommander-in-Chief of the Romanian Armed Forces
Criminal conviction
Criminal statusExecuted
Conviction(s)War crimes
Crimes against peace
Crimes against humanity
TrialRomanian People's Tribunals
Criminal penaltyDeath
VictimsRomanian Jews
Ukrainian Jews
Romani people
a. ^ Formally allied with the Iron Guard (1940–41)

A Romanian Army career officer who made his name during the 1907 peasants' revolt and the World War I Romanian Campaign, the antisemitic Antonescu sympathized with the far-right and fascist National Christian and Iron Guard groups for much of the interwar period. He was a military attaché to France and later Chief of the General Staff, briefly serving as Defense Minister in the National Christian cabinet of Octavian Goga as well as the subsequent First Cristea cabinet, in which he also served as Air and Marine Minister. During the late 1930s, his political stance brought him into conflict with King Carol II and led to his detainment. Antonescu nevertheless rose to political prominence during the political crisis of 1940, and established the National Legionary State, an uneasy partnership with the Iron Guard's leader Horia Sima. After entering Romania into an alliance with Nazi Germany and ensuring Adolf Hitler's confidence, he eliminated the Guard during the Legionary Rebellion of 1941. In addition to being Prime Minister, he served as his own Foreign Minister and Defense Minister. Soon after Romania joined the Axis in Operation Barbarossa, recovering Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, Antonescu also became Marshal of Romania.

An atypical figure among Holocaust perpetrators, Antonescu enforced policies independently responsible for the deaths of as many as 400,000 people, most of them Bessarabian, Ukrainian and Romanian Jews, as well as Romanian Romani. The regime's complicity in the Holocaust combined pogroms and mass murders such as the Odessa massacre with ethnic cleansing, and systematic deportations to occupied Transnistria. The system in place was nevertheless characterized by singular inconsistencies, prioritizing plunder over killing, showing leniency toward most Jews in the Old Kingdom, and ultimately refusing to adopt the Final Solution as applied throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. This was made possible by the fact that Romania, as a junior ally of Nazi Germany, was able to avoid being occupied by the Wehrmacht and preserve a degree of political autonomy.

Aerial attacks on Romania by the Allies occurred in 1944 and Romanian troops suffered heavy casualties on the Eastern Front, prompting Antonescu to open peace negotiations with the Allies, ending with inconclusive results. On 23 August 1944, the king Michael I led a coup d'état against Antonescu, who was arrested; after the war he was convicted of war crimes, and executed in June 1946. His involvement in the Holocaust was officially reasserted and condemned following the 2003 Wiesel Commission report.

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