Michael I of Romania obituary

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Former monarch and last surviving head of state from the second world war

The former King Michael of Romania, who has died aged 96, was the last surviving head of state from the second world war. Trapped between two giant war machines, he was eventually ousted by the Soviets in 1947, having helped end his country’s alliance with the Nazis three years earlier. This discreet man, who lunched with Adolf Hitler and shook hands with Winston Churchill, cut an unlikely hero. However, Michael’s decisive arrest of the Romanian dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, an ally of Hitler’s, on 23 August 1944, and his subsequent ability to carry the Romanian army with him against the Germans, was a boost for the allies on the eastern front.

For years the Soviet Union took credit for the outcome of this political gamble, which had shocked Hitler, when in fact it was the Romanians at the behest of Michael who switched sides and repelled the Germans, with the Red Army rolling into Bucharest 10 days later.

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