On 31st of July 1941, general Ion Antonescu ensured the German chancellor Adolf Hitler that the Romanian Army will fight alongside Germany “until the end” [Bibliography 1], without any Romanian-German military conditions. The most important military operation which was supposed to take place, engaging Romania on the Eastern front in the fall of 1941, was the campaign of the 4th Army for conquering Odessa, a port city 150 km away from the Danube Delta.
The city was one of the main Soviet bases of terrestrial, naval and aerial operations. By explicit request of Ion Antonescu, during the period 8th of August and 16th of October 1941, the fight for Odessa gathered mainly Romanian forces. Conquering Odessa, after 2 extremely difficult fights [Bibliography 2] against a well-equipped and determined enemy had “an important role in the military operations on the Southern flank of the front” [Bibliography 3].
On the night of 22nd of October 1941, the building which hosted the Commandment of Romanian troops in Odessa exploded, killing dozens of Romanian soldiers. Although the responsible persons were not identified, they were, most probably, Soviet partisans, the general Ion Antonescu ordered a quick reprisal to set an example for the population: the reprisal consisted of shooting and hanging in public places the dead bodies of thousands of Jewish people considered guilty. Although the German authorities offered to send out an SS battalion to support cleaning out Odessa of “Jews and Bolsheviks”, the commanders of the Romanian Army decided to act on their own. The precise number of the victims is not known, but “by the morning of the next day, hundreds of bodies of Jewish people were hanging in public squares and at crossroads”. [Bibliography 4].
This event is one of the darkest moments of Romanian modern history and represents a shameful stain in the history of Romanian army.
- Alesandru Duţu, „De la Nistru spre Volga şi Caucaz”, in Dosarele Istoriei, year IV, no. 7(35), 1999, p. 30.
- Dennis Deletant, Hitler’s Forgotten Ally. Ion Antonescu and His Regime, Romania 1940-44, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2006, p. 87.
- Manuel Stănescu, „De ce trebuia cucerită Odessa de Armata Română”, în Historia, article available online at: https://www.historia.ro/sectiune/general/articol/de-ce-trebuia-cucerita-odessa-de-armata-romana#_ftn3, retrieved on 21.11.2018.
- Comisia Internațională pentru Studierea Holocaustului în România, Raport Final, Iași, Ed. Polirom, 2004, p. 150.