Two months after General Ion Antonescu seized power in Romania and forced King Carol II to abdicate, Antonescu’s Iron Guard arrests and executes more than 60 aides of the exiled king, including Nicolae Iorga, a former minister and acclaimed historian.
The extreme right-wing movement known as the Iron Guard was founded by Corneliu Codreanu in the 1920s, imitating Germany’s Nazi Party in both ideology and methods. In 1938, King Carol II managed to establish a stronger dictatorship in Romania and took steps to suppress the activities of the Iron Guard as well as its left-wing antithesis, the Romanian Communist Party. However, the control fell into violent turmoil after the Munich Pact of 1939 was signed, seen as an abandonment of Romania by its Western allies from World War I, followed by a Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact in 1939, which ceded portions of Romania to the USSR.
General Ion Antonescu emerged from the chaos victorious and established a dictatorship with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s approval, killing, exiling, or imprisoning most of his former political opposition. Nevertheless, Romanian resistance to the Iron Guard and Nazi occupation persisted during the war, and in August 1944 a massive revolt toppled Antonescu’s government in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, allowing the Soviet liberators to capture the city without firing a shot. In 1945, Romanian communists came to power with the backing of the Soviet Union.