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In the days before the war, Hitler had incorporated Austria and Czechoslovakia into the Reich, and most of Poland had been his first military acquisition. His greatest goal, however, was to conquer Soviet Russia. To prepare for his sweep into the Urals, he first needed to acquire the states which had been part of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire - Romania, Hungary itself, and Bulgaria. Romania also contained copious oilfields - he would need this resource to fuel his war.

In 1940, Russia demanded the return of sizeable amounts of Romania land which had been lost to Russia in 1919 and the decisions at Versailles. Bulgaria and Hungary - not to be left behind in the grab for land - decided they to had claims to land. Hungary demanded that 17,000 square miles of Transylvania - including some of Romania's richest countryside and the provincal capital of Cluj - be handed over. Bulgaria moved her forces northeastwards some 40 miles into Southern Dobruja, claiming the land.

Romania's ruler, the highly unpopular King Carol II and his mistress, decided that only an alliance with Hitler could save them from this fervent land-grabbing. In an effort to curry favour, they encourage the Iron Guards - Romania's fascists - to emerge. King Carol and his advisors turned to Hitler in desperation. Hitler, however, wasn't having any of it - he ordered that Romania were to hand over the territory now with no further argument. Romania's already diminished political weight was now at zero.

And thus Romania was removed as a problem to Hitler's ambitions, and Hungary and Bulgaria were indebted to him. King Carol's government fell, and he was forced to flee the country. The leader of the Iron Guard, Marshal Antonescu assumed control, and Germany bolstered them with a "military mission" who would help train the Romanian army. The reason for Hitler agreeing to send this mission soon became clear - Red Army units were a mere 100 miles away from Romania's oilfields.

Wehrmacht units moved right down to the Bulgarian border, and Nazi officials were celebrating the bloodless occupation of Romania in Bucharest in no time.

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