On this day in 1944, Soviet forces break through to Jassy, in northeastern Romania, convincing Romania’s king to sign an armistice with the Allies and concede control of his country to the USSR.
As early as 1937, Romania had come under control of a fascist government that bore great resemblance to that of Germany’s, including similar anti-Jewish laws. Romania’s king, Carol II, dissolved the government a year later, but was unable to suppress the fascist Iron Guard paramilitary organization. In June 1940, the Soviet Union co-opted two Romanian provinces, and the king searched for an ally to help protect it and appease the far right within its own borders. So on July 5, 1940, Romania allied itself with Nazi Germany. Later that year, it would be invaded by its “ally” as part of Hitler’s strategy to create one huge eastern front against the Soviet Union.
King Carol would abdicate in September 1940, leaving the country in the control of fascist Prime Minister Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard. While Romania would recapture the territory lost to the Soviet Union when the Germans invaded Russia, it would also have to endure the Germans’ raping of its resources as part of the Nazi war effort.
As the war turned against Germany, and the Soviet Union began to run roughshod over Eastern Europe, Antonescu started looking west for allies to save it from Soviet occupation. At this stage, King Michael, son of the late King Carol, emerged from the shadows and had the pro-German Antonescu arrested, imploring Romanians, and loyal military men, to fight with, not against, the invading Soviets. The king would finally sign an armistice with the Allies and declare war against an already-dying Germany in 1944.
King Michael would, ironically, be forced to abdicate by the Soviets, who would maintain a puppet communist government in Romania until the end of the Cold War. The king had virtually destroyed his nation in order to save it.