October 2, 2022

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The historical significance of August 23: Romania returns its weapons in the Second World War

The date of August 23 has a special meaning for Romanians: it represents the moment when Romania renounced the alliance with Germany, during the Second World War. Later, during the communist period, it was Romania’s national day.

What happened on August 23, 1944

In March 1944, the Soviet army entered northern Moldova, and King Mihai agreed to remove Marshal Antonescu from office if he refused to sign the armistice with the United Nations.

On August 23, 1944, Ion Antonescu held a discussion with King Mihai I in which he presented the situation at the front and told him that he would conclude the armistice only with Hitler’s consent and refused Romania’s exit from the war, justifying himself by gave Hitler his word that he would go with him to the end.

Hearing this, King Mihai decided to put into action the plan to detain the marshal saying that: “If things are like this, then there is nothing left for us to do”, writes Mircea Ciobanu in the book “Conversations with Michael I of Romania”.

Thus, Marshal Ion Antonescu and Mihai Antonescu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, were handed over to Emil Bodnăraș, who was the head of the armed workers group “Patriotic Guards” and who transferred them to a conspiratorial house in the Vatra Luminoasă district of Bucharest.

On August 23, 1944, before 8:00 p.m., King Mihai recorded a message for the country announcing the change of government and the switch to the Allies.

“Romania accepted the armistice offered by the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the United States of America. From this moment, the fight and any act of hostility against the Soviet army ceases, as well as the state of war with Great Britain and the United States”, said King Mihai I, in the Proclamation for the country delivered on the radio, in the evening of August 23, 1944.

In the 1980s, a document written by Antonescu was discovered, from which it emerged that he did not vehemently submit to Romania’s exit from the Second World War, but refused, arguing the difficult terms of the armistice in relation to the Soviet Union (signing a political act of cession of Bessarabia and Northern Bucovina, acceptance of Soviet occupation, payment of undefined compensations).

After the dismissal and arrest of Marshal Ion Antonescu and his government, King Mihai appointed General Constantin Sănătescu as prime minister.

This government was composed of soldiers and representatives of the National Democratic Bloc: Iuliu Maniu, Constantin IC Brătianu, Constantin Titel Petrescu and Lucreţiu Pătrășcanu.

The effects on the Second World War of the return of Romania’s arms

Military historians have stated that the return of Romania’s arms on August 23, 1944 shortened the Second World War by six months and saved millions of lives.

Academic historians also mentioned that the action of August 23, 1944, was the alternative that caused the least damage to Romania during the Second World War.

On the other hand, there are voices that believe that the armistice with the USSR was not the wisest decision, because it led to the capture of over 170,000 Romanian soldiers and the deportation of over 70,000 Romanians to the USSR.

Following the armistice, the USSR awarded King Mihai I with the Order of Victoria, however, after a few years, the king was forced to abdicate and leave the country.

What happened to Romania after the act of August 23, 1944

Shortly after the dismissal and arrest of Ion Antonescu, Romania renounced its alliance with the Axis Powers and declared war on Germany and Hungary.

The Armistice Agreement between the governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the USSR, on the one hand, and the government of Romania, on the other hand, was signed in Moscow on September 12, 1944.

Although Romania had already turned its weapons against the Axis powers, for three weeks until the agreement was signed, the country was still considered an enemy by the United Nations and Russia.

This situation allowed the Soviet Union to confiscate armaments, ammunition, vehicles, aircraft and the Romanian military and civilian fleet.

In the framework of the Armistice Agreement of September 12, 1944, the political ways of governing Romania were established, as well as the payment of material reparations to the USSR in the amount of 300 million dollars broken down over 6 years, in the form of goods.

Also as a result of the alliance was the passing of Transylvania under the leadership of Romania, while the Quadrilateral retroceded to Bulgaria, as well as Bessarabia and northern Bucovina ceded to the Soviet Union remained in their possession.

Also, the change of alliance accelerated the entry of the Allies towards the borders of Germany.

The Romanian army participated in the operations of 1944 against Nazi Germany on the territory of its country, as well as those on the territories of Hungary and Czechoslovakia until the end of the Second World War.

August 23 National Day of Romania during the communist period

In 1948, August 23 became a national day, and at that time, Romania was under strong Soviet influence, and the Communist Party had started an intense propaganda campaign for legitimization, and the celebration of August 23 had an important role.

On August 23, 1948, people celebrated “the day of the liberation of Romania by the glorious Soviet army and the overthrow of the Antonesian fascist dictatorship by the patriotic forces led by the Communist Party”.

How August 23 was celebrated during the communist period

In the “Golden Age”, Romania’s National Day was considered the most important communist holiday.

On the occasion of Romania’s National Day, lavish parades, military marches, pioneering songs and various shows were organized.

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