[2 Maps – Double-sided Sheet:] Bukarest [City and Suburbs] / Bukarest [City Proper].
This rare, very large format double sided sheet features two maps of Bucharest, one embracing the metropolitan area (at a scale of 1:20,000) and the other showcasing the city proper (at scale of 1:10,000). The work was issued by the War Map Department of the General Staff of the Nazi German Army, just as Romania was switching sides in World War II from the Allied to the Axis cause. The map was made for classified German military use and is labeled as ‘Nur für den Dienstgebrauch’ (For official use only) and is the first edition of the first detailed Third Reich map of the Romanian capital. The maps are predicated upon the best and most recent official Romanian sources, and all the of toponymy is in the Romanian language, while the explanations are in German. Turning to the map of the city and its environs, it shows that central Bucharest retained its medieval urban plan, with a dense, winding warren of streets, while the outer areas feature wide, strait boulevards that radiate out towards the countryside. The ‘Objektverzeichnis‘ (sites directory), to the right of the map, employs numbers to label all manner of named industrial sites and military installations, with the Zeichenerklärung (Explanation of Symbols), employs signs to identify army barracks, munitions stores, petroleum works (especially important, as Romania was a major oil producer), railway facilities, electricity plants, factories of all kinds, amongst other sites, all clearly information that would be of great value to the Wehrmacht (which was at various times either allied to Romania, or at war with Romania), thus the locations listed on the map, depending upon the circumstances, could be either assets or targets for the Nazis. On the flip side, the detailed map of the city proper shows many of the same sites, just in greater detail, while providing a comprehensive ‘Straßenverzeichnis’ (street directory).The present work is very rare, we can trace only a handful of institutional examples, and are not aware of any sales records. It is one of the best and most important maps of a Romanian subject made during World War II.
Romania during World War II
At the beginning of the war, Romania was technically neutral, albeit clearly sympathetic to the Allies, having strong ties to Britain and Poland. In June 1940, the Soviets (who were then in cooperation with Hitler) invaded and occupied large parts of Romania, destabilizing the country. The pro-Allied King Carol I appointed the military strongman Ion Antonescu as prime minister on September 6, 1940. However, Antonescu deposed Carol in coup two days later, declaring himself ‘Conducător’ (Leader), taking total control over the country.
Antonescu, realigned Romania, joining the Axis powers on November 23, 1940. This was important, as it opened up much of southeastern Europe for Wehrmacht expansion and provided Germany with access to Romania’s vast oil reserves, notably that supplied by the massive Ploiești refinery (56 km north of Bucharest).
True to Axis form, Antonescu was a monstrous dictator who severely repressed his people and was an enthusiastic driver of the Holocaust. He exposed his own troops to horrible suffering, as they fought alongside the Nazis in during their disastrous invasion of the Soviet Union, including at the great defeat at Stalingrad.
Bucharest remained safely behind the battle lines for most of the war but came to suffer terribly in 1944. In April of that year, the Allies improved air war capabilities allowed them to bomb Bucharest, doing much damage to the city and its petroleum infrastructure.
On August 23, 1944, King Michael I, the hitherto puppet monarch of Romania, formed an alliance with various factions (including the Communists) to overshow Antonescu. He immediately switched Romania’s allegiance to the Allies and invited the Soviets to enter the country to prevent it from falling to the Wehrmacht. During and in the immediate wake of the coup, the centre of Bucharest was severely bombed by the Luftwaffe, with the National Theatre being destroyed and the Royal Palace, Victoria Palace and the Athenaeum taking direct hits.
Romania’s switch to the Allies caused the Germans to lose their last good source of petroleum, leading it to suffer severe shortages for the remainder of the war.
In the aftermath of the war, Romania was taken over by the Communists, initially under the influence of Stalin (although Soviet influence would later be curtailed). While King Michael remained on the throne for a time as figurehead, he was deposed and exiled in 1947.
References: Library of Congress: G6884.B8 1940 .G4; OCLC: 830910376 / 5448635.