Files from the Whispered History of Romanians (7)

Odessa – Dalnic Massacre

from 22 to 25 October 1941,

commanded by Marshal

Victor Ion Antonescu,

with more than

38,000 killed civilian Jews

 

Ion Victor Antonescu, Romania, the Conductor of Romania from 4 September 1940 till 23 August 1944, the Romanian version of the function of “Fuhrer” of Germany, held by Adolf Hitler, was a controversial figure, who was shot by the guards at Jilava Penitentiary, on 1 June 1946, at 18.03, following the death sentence for war crimes, sentence decided on May 17, 1946, by the People’s Court in Bucharest. Along with Ion Antonescu, following the same process, were shot Mihai Antonescu, Vice President of the Council of Ministers of Romania, Minister of Foreign Affairs during the period June 29, 1941 – August 23, 1944, Constantin Z. Vasiliu, Romanian Gendarmerie Commander between September 9, 1940 – 23 August, 1944, and Gheorghe Alexianu, the governor of Transnistria during the period August 19, 1941 – January 29, 1944.

These sentences were confirmed, with some amendments, on December 5, 2006, by Bucharest Court of Appeal, later, on May 6, 2008, reconfirmed definitively without amendments, by the High Court of Cassation and Justice.

On 22 June 1941, at dawn, began the Operation Barbarossa, of  concomitant attacking of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics by seven countries, five of which having at that time a common border with the only european communist state, these countries being Germany, Finland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary. They were joined by Italy and Spain.

In the same day, from the part of Romania, General Ion Antonescu gave the following order: “Soldiers, I order you: cross the Prut, crush enemy from the east and north, emancipate from the red yoke of Bolshevism our invaded brothers!” This order meant much hope for Romanian, of recovery of lost territories after the Ultimatum given by Moscow, on June 26, 1940.

The proper offensive of Romanian Army began on July 3, and the liberation of Bessarabia, including Herta Region and Northern Bukovina ended on July 24, 1941. There were registerd 4,271 Romanian soldiers dead.

On July 27, 1941, Adolf Hitler asked Antonescu to cross the Dniester and administer the territories between the Dniester and Bug. On July 31, Ion Antonescu replied to the affirmatively.

The battle of Odessa was held between August 8 and 11 October 1941, the largest victory with a majority Romanian participation in the Second World War. In this battle died in all 11,046 Romanian soldiers and officers.

Meanwhile, on August 22, King Mihai I raised General Ion Antonescu to the rank of active marshal. Previously, on May 19, 1941, the Conductor Ion Antonescu accorded the honorary degree of marshal to the King Mihai I.

If at the fighting between the Pruth and Dniester the the morale of Romanian military was at its peak, in the battle for Odessa this estate of spirits was incomparably lower. It was there, that, to correct this aspect, by the Order of August 14, 1941, General Josif Iacubovici, Minister of National Defence in the period January 27 – September 22, 1941, introduced corporal punishment of 25 lashes, imposed those who err seriously about soldierly duties.

On September 9, 1941, General Nicolae Ciupercă resigned as commander of the Fourth Army, participating in the battle for Odessa, just to protest against the military campaign over Dniester, initiated by Ion Antonescu.

Against the armed passage of Dniester pleaded and other generals, like Constantin Ilasievici, Nicolae Radescu and Florea Tenescu.

The passage of Dniester has been criticized by the traditional parties. For example, on July 18, 1941, Iuliu Maniu, president of the National Peasant Party,  implored Ion Antonescu: “We need to spare our army for our Romanian purposes, which are many and great and of tragic actuality for very close times”.

Ion Antonescu answered them all: “I can not betray Hitler, I gave him my word as an officer.” This oath of allegiance took place on January 14, 1941, when Ion Antonescu was in Berlin to ask Hitler for help to remove the government of the legionaries of Horia Sima, Vice President of the Council of Ministers during the period September 14, 1940 – January 21, 1941, in the General Ion Antonescu government (2).

In a letter of 31 July, 1941 addressed to Hitler, Antonescu said: “I will go till the end into the action we started on the East against the great enemy of civilization, of Europe andof  my country: Russian Bolshevism. Therefore I do not put any conditions and I do not at all discuss this military cooperationing”

Besides the low morale of the soldiers in the battle for Odessa appeared and the crass incompetence of some senior officers of the Romanian Army, as was the case of General Ion Glogojanu.

On October 17, 1941, Ion Glogojanu was appointed commander of the Military Command in Odessa. He has been warned by  Gherman Pantea, the new mayor of Odessa, that he learned from a Russian woman about the mining of building of the former headquarters of N.K.V.D. (n.a. People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) Regardless of this information, Ion Glogojanu decided that the headquarters of the Military Command in Odessa to be on the street Friedrich Engels at number 40, which is precisely in the building of the former headquarters of N.K.V.D.

The result was that on October 22, at 17.45, the building at number 40 on the street Friedrich Engels, jumped into the air. 79 soldiers died, including 75 Romanians and four Germans, among them were the General Ion Glogojanu, Colonel Ionescu Mangu, Captain Walter Kern, Captain Walter Reichert, commander Herwart Schmidt. To these were added a number of 43 Romanian soldiers wounded. Searches through the rubble lasted two days, the lifeless body of Ion Glogojanu being discovered on 23 October, at 13.10.

From the stenogram of 13 November, 1941, of the Council of Ministers, it is resulting that Ion Antonescu ordered, as “drastic and immediate” reprisal, the killing of 200 Jews for each killed Romanian and of 100 Jews for each wounded Romanian. That means, by a simple calculation, 15,000 civilian Jews to be killed for those 75 dead military Romanians and 4,300 civilian  Jews to be killed for those wounded military Romanians, giving a total of 19,300 civilian Jews to be killed.

But, from contemporary accounts, these numbers were much higher. In the days 22 – 25 October 1941, strictly in Odessa were killed by shooting, hanging or exploding a number of over 18,000 killed Jews, because for the day October 23 was circulated a number of more than 5,000 and for the day of October 25 a number of more than 13,000 killed Jews in Odessa. Almost there was no pole or tree in Odessa from which were not a hanged Jew. Nine warehouses in port, full of Jews, in a indescribable crowding, were set on fire and machine – gunned.

In a letter of the mayor Gherman Pantea to Ion Antonescu, it is described a nightmare picture of Odessa from the day October 23: “Marshal, I woke up in the morning, having in the face a horrrible scene, namely: on all streets and on all corners there were hung four, five people, and the frightened population fleeing the city in all directions. Outraged, I asked who committed this barbarianism, this shame that we will never wash in the eyes of the civilized world. The people in right to answer said me they know nothing. On the other hand, on the walls of Odessa, appeared an unsigned communiqué, of the Military Command, ordering all Jews to leave the city on the day of 23 October and to go in convoys to Dalnic. The Jews, terrified, abandoned their homes and belongings and headed in thousands to Dalnic, and the remaining population from the city has began a total pillage of homes”.

The massacre has continued in Dalnic, a small locality, situated just three kilometers from Odessa. More than 20,000 Jews from Odessa were in convoy, escorted by Romanian troops to Dalnic, where they were imprisoned in four depots. On October 24, three depots were burned and machine – gunned, and one was mined and exploded at the same time, 17.45, when blew the building in which was established the Military Command in Odessa.

Thus, at least 38,000 civil Jews from Odessa were killed in what rightly has been called “the Massacre in Odessa”.

The victims of the explosion of October 22, 1941 were buried in a cemetery, hastily aranged in the Park “Taras Shevchenko”, in central Odessa, close to the Black Sea. This cemetery has been razed to the ground immediately after the Red Army entered Odessa, the fights taking place between 6 and April 19, 1944.

Ion Antonescu, being at this cemetery, when he arrived at the tomb of Ion Glogojanu, said: “You fought like a hero for Odessa and died in Odessa like a silly”.

In Romania, the “final solution”, envisaged by Adolf Hitler for Jews, was replaced by “cleansing of the land”, used by Ion Antonescu. When arrived the turn of Romania to send Jews to the crematoria of Auschwitz, which until then were used at full capacity to implement the “final solution” in Germany and Poland, Ion Antonescu was opposed, even if the first train sets were ready to go. This decision of Ion Antonescu seems surprising after a policy of an active anti-Semitism, if it is not taken into consideration the time of this position, on October 13, 1942, that is to say, after the start of the battle of Stalingrad, held in the period August 23, 1942 – 2 February, 1943. Already, on September 5, 1942, Stalin felt enough prepared and approved the first counterattack with the Army XXIV and the Army LXVI.

Although it was rejected, the Soviet counterattack was a signal for Ion Antonescu to suddenly become cautious with the extermination of the Jews. Also, he knew the best that he and the  Army III and the Army IV, from the Romanian front of Stalingrad were not properly equipped against of an attack with tanks from the the part of Soviets. And of what he did fear he did  not escape, on November 19, 1942 began the great counteroffensive of Soviets, who pierced the front just where they were placed the two Romanian armies, which did represent one of the deciding factors that led to the loss of the war by Germany and its allies.

It is estimated that by the refusal of Ion Antonescu, on October 13, 1942, it was avoided the killing of an additional number of  400,000 Jews in Romania. “Cleansing the land,” Antonescu version of the “final solution” of Hitler, was not applied until the end.

Even so, the lowest number, advanced by specialists, of Jews, executed in Romania of Antonescu, especially during 22 to 25 January, 1941, of the Pogrom in Bucharest, during 27 to 29 June, 1941, of the Pogrom in Iasi, between 22 to 25 October, 1941, of the Massacre of Odessa, during December 21, 1941 to January 8, 1942, of the Massacre in Bogdanovca, was 213,000, while at the Holocaust History Museum, located in Tel Aviv, is mentioned the number of 500,000.

Next, I quote from what I wrote in the book “Letters of a Dniesteran – Tiszan Man”: “The existence of the Holocaust in Romania was officially recognized on November 11, 2004, when the report of the International Commission for Studying  the Holocaust in Romania, led by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate for Peace, was declared «state document» and homologated in its entirety. As a result, on October 9, 2005, it was opened in Bucharest the National Institute for Studying the Holocaust in Romania, and 9 October was declared the National Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust in Romania!”

 

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

The text is part from the volume in course of translation “Files from the Whispering History of Romanians”

 

(The translation from Romanian and the adaptation are realized by the author himself)