740.0011 European War 1939/8541: Telegram

The Minister in Rumania ( Gunther ) to the Secretary of State

166. Recently I had a long conversation with General Antonescu the salient parts of which are summarized below:

1. The General discoursed at length on the recent anarchistic uprising and admitted that he neither expected nor was prepared for it. He said that on two occasions when there had been divergencies between him and Horia Sima he had offered to turn over the leadership of the Government to the latter. In other words he had told Horia Sima either to conform and follow him or else accept the responsibility himself.

He admitted that Horia Sima and other Iron Guard leaders were in Germany and said that the German authorities were going to imprison them for several years with hard labor. In this I think the General is somewhat credulous and fails to realize that the Germans are undoubtedly holding Horia Sima as a threat over his head in case at some future date he shows too much independence.

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2. As he has so frequently done before, the General reviewed the reasons which he said had obliged him to adopt and follow a pro-German policy; the principal ones were: (a) the poltroonery of ex-King Carol’s government in not having opposed Russia’s occupation of Bessarabia and southern Bukowina; and (b) the fact that Rumania was still constantly being threatened by Russia.

3. The General did not appear to have any definite views with regard to the future course of events in this part of the world. But he did not think Germany would move further south than Rumania unless the British endeavored to establish themselves in the Balkans, or that she would attack Russia. On the latter point he seemed much less sure, however, his reasoning apparently being in the main based on Hitler’s known objection to fighting on two fronts at the same time. He referred to the fact that Rumania was constantly being threatened by Russia and said he was certain that, if Russia attacked Rumania, Germany would repel such an attack by force of arms.

I pointed out that Hitler’s objections to fighting on two fronts would hold equally good against the move southward but the General countered with the observation that Germany was invincible and could if she thought it desirable accomplish the occupation of all Balkan countries in less time than it took to subdue the Netherlands.36 When I expressed the opinion that in the event of an attack Turkey and Yugoslavia would probably both resist stubbornly he merely remarked that it would be “even easier for German troops to invade Greece if Yugoslavia resorted to arms”.

4. The General was not consistent in his remarks concerning the reasons for the presence of German troops in Rumania; at one point of the conversation he insisted they were here to protect the oil fields and to ensure Germany’s continued supply of petroleum products and at another that they were in Rumania to protect Rumania against Russia. He did not seem to agree with the theory that it would be desirable for Germany to occupy the Dardanelles before attacking Russia and in this connection he made the categorical statement that if Turkey were attacked by Germany and resisted, Russia would attack Turkey from the Caucasus. The Military Attaché37 tells me that he finds the same conviction prevalent in German circles here.

5. I found the General still very much impressed with German might and invincibility. He dwelt at some length upon Germany’s vast industrial strength which he pointed out had been increased by the factories of the countries occupied but I disturbed this impression somewhat by referring to the serious damage done by British bombers in [Page 287] western Germany and the occupied countries and to the resistance offered by the subjugated peoples.

He seemed disturbed over Italy and spoke at length of the splendid work that Mussolini38 had done for the Italian people at the beginning of his regime adding that if they did not appreciate him by now it showed them ungrateful and not worth the trouble he had taken.

6. General Antonescu’s remarks with regard to the recent anarchistic uprising and his pro-German policy were probably uttered with a view to justifying himself to me and through me to the American people for whom I know he has the highest regard. On the other hand his remarks concerning the general political situation in the Balkans have left me with the impression as he himself practically admits that he does not really know how things are shaping. Nevertheless I deem it pertinent to remark that his apparent feeling that if the Germans move in this part of the world it will be toward Russia rather than southward is apparently shared by many thinking people here.

From a friendly Rumanian industrialist and important bridge building executive I hear that orders have reached him to cease work on defensive fortifications on the Focşani-Galatz line to the crest of the Carpathians while contracts have been awarded him for the construction of bridges in the districts of Botoşani, Dorohoi and Suceava. These bridges are obviously designed for retreat or even defense as they are to be placed very near the Bessarabian and northern Bukovina frontiers. This bridge building is being done with the utmost reserve and secrecy unlike the ostentatious bridgehead laying on the Danube in full view of foreign agents. (Please inform War Department of this paragraph. I have informed the Military Attaché.)

Gunther
  1. For correspondence regarding the German invasion of the Netherlands, see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. i, pp. 184 ff.
  2. Lt. Col. John P. Ratay.
  3. Benito Mussolini, Head of the Government and Prime Minister of Italy since 1922.