Cornell University Press

Grant Harward on War in Romania

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We asked author Grant Harward three questions about his new book, Romania’s Holy War, and his research on Romania during World War II.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

One of my favorite anecdotes from my research for this book occurred at the Central Historical National Archives in Bucharest. Many Romanians have an aversion to A/C because of a folk believe that a draft can make you ill: toothaches, back pain, and even death are attributed to the dreaded curent. The archive usually left windows open to help with summer heat, but on one hot day, an archivist came into the reading room and said she had to turn on the wall A/C unit. While half the researchers immediately got up and rushed to the other side of the room, I sat right underneath it.

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

When I first started on this project, it was more about the experience than the motivation of the Romanian soldier on the eastern front. Therefore, some of my early oral interviews with veterans of the Second World War in Romania did not focus on the question of why they fought. I never had a chance to reinterview these men, and most are now no longer with us. Nevertheless, it was these early interviews that prompted me to reconsider and take a closer look at the motivation of Romanian soldiers because of what they told me. 

3. How do you wish you could change the field of Military History?

There is a valid criticism of military history being Euro-centric, however, this requires a caveat. Military history has focused on Western Europe, except for Russia or the USSR, which attracted greater attention due to the Cold War priority of knowing one’s enemy. Lack of access to archives, language barriers, and a certain amount of dismissiveness contributed to much less research into the military history of the rest of Eastern Europe. I hope that my work demonstrates that there is still much valuable and interesting military history to be uncovered in these overlooked countries in Eastern Europe.

*Featured photo: A street in Sighișoara, Romania. Credit: Freestocks.

Romania's Holy War
Cover Image of Romania’s Holy War.
Read more about this book.

Grant T. Harward is a US Army Medical Department Historian, a former Fulbright Scholar, and a former Research Fellow at the Mandel Center of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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