On this day in 1940, Romania signs the Tripartite Pact, officially allying itself with Germany, Italy, and Japan.
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 because of a failing economy and installed Romania’s Orthodox Patriarch as prime minister. But the Patriarch’s death and peasant uprising provoked renewed agitation by the fascist Iron Guard paramilitary organization, which sought to impose order. 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—only to be invaded by its “ally” as part of Hitler’s strategy to create one huge eastern front against the Soviet Union.
King Carol abdicated on September 6, 1940, leaving the country in the control of fascist Prime Minister Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard. Signing the Tripartite Pact was now inevitable. Originally formulated in Berlin on September 27, the pact formally recognized an alliance between Germany, Italy, and Japan, termed the “Axis.” As more European nations became subject to fascist domination and invasion, they too were drawn into the pact, albeit as unequal partners (Hungary was made an Axis “power” on November 20). Now it was Romania’s turn.
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 its resources as part of the Nazi war effort. Besides taking control of Romania’s oil wells and installations, Hitler would help himself to Romania’s food crops, causing a food shortage for native Romanians.