ANTONESCU, ION ° (1882–1946), Romanian soldier and politician. Following a dispute with King Carol ii in 1934, Antonescu resigned his post as chief of staff. When Goga and *Cuza formed an antisemitic government late in 1937, Antonescu, an antisemite, was appointed minister of defense, and the Germans established contact with him. On September 4, 1940 he became prime minister, with dictatorial powers. Two days later Antonescu forced King Carol ii to abdicate, formed a government together with the *Iron Guard, and called himself conducator ("leader") of Romania. Antonescu disapproved of the violent methods of the Iron Guard, fearing that they would lead to Romania's economic ruin. On January 21 and 22, 1941, the Iron Guard made its revolt against Antonescu the occasion for a pogrom. Hitler took Antonescu's part, since he needed the Romanian army for his planned invasion of Russia. After Romania entered the war against Russia on June 22, 1941, the Germans and Romanians conquered Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, and massacred the Jewish population. Antonescu ordered the Odessa massacre (November 23, 1941), which cost between 25,000 and 30,000 Jewish lives. In the autumn of 1942, the Jewish leadership in Bucharest enlisted the aid of local politicians, neutral diplomats, and the papal nuncio, who applied pressure on Antonescu, and succeeded in preventing the deportation of the entire Jewish population of Romania to concentration camps. After the German defeat at Stalingrad, Antonescu became increasingly lenient toward the Jews. Late in 1943, negotiations began between Jewish leaders and Antonescu's government for the return of those Jews deported to *Transnistria and for their emigration to Palestine. At the same time, Antonescu began negotiating for a separate peace. The Transnistria deportees began to return only in the spring of 1944, when the Russians reconquered the area. Antonescu was sentenced to death by a Bucharest People's Court and executed on June 6, 1946.
A. Hillgruber, Hitler, Koenig Carol und Marschall Antonescu (1954); M. Carp, Cartea Neagrā, 3 vols. (1946–48), index; Gutachten des Instituts fuer Zeitgeschichte, 1 (1958), 102–83; T. Lavi, Yahadut Romanyah be-Ma'avak al Haẓẓalatah (1965), passim.