German troops led by General August von Mackensen entered Bucharest on December 6, 1916. Soon after, an effort was undertaken to reorganize the occupied territory, in order to make the most of the economic resources that were now at their disposal. For this purpose, the German military administration organized a census on January 6, 1917 to find out the available labour force in occupied Romania and to better control the population.
With the exception of officers and officials of the Central Powers, all the residents of occupied Romania were obliged to provide information on the name, age, their occupation, as well as on the number of persons who made up the family. Romanians were informed in advance that providing incorrect information was liable to punishment. State officials, teachers, priests, students and other persons wishing to participate in this action were used.
The census data gathered on this occasion showed that Bucharest had 308.989 inhabitants. Of these, 119.960 were men, and 189.029 were women. In the period between the entry of Romania in the First World War (August 1916) and the occupation of Bucharest (December 1916), 86.992 inhabitants left the capital. Of these, 77.995 were men (most of whom were mobilized in the army) and 8.997 women.
In regards to citizenship, in Bucharest there were 267.525 Romanians, 25.099 Austro-Hungarians, 2.732 Germans, 1.126 Bulgarians, 1.233 Turks, 5.405 Greeks, 739 Serbs, 1.644 Italians, 428 Russians, 394 French, 124 English, and 2.538 other nationalities. Following the publication of the census data on the population of the capital, the future prime minister of Romania, Alexandru Marghiloman, noted with sadness in his journal:
“The census of Bucharest is published. It didn’t even take them 6 days to set it up! We are far from the time and money that cost us in 1912. Bucharest has only 309.000 inhabitants, compared to 341.300 four years ago. There are 120.000 men compared to 189.000 women […]. In 1912, [there were] 173.000 men and 166.000 women. 26.000 Austro-Hungarian subjects, which is huge”.
Over 3.5 million people lived in the occupied Romanian territories
According to the census data, 3.438.002 persons lived in the occupied territory. It should be mentioned that the census was organized only in the counties under the direct jurisdiction of the German military administration, namely: Mehedinți (260.104 inhabitants), Gorj (166.579), Dolj (362.755), Vâlcea (166.068), Romanați (214.05), Argeș (205.499), Olt (146.738), Teleorman (239.317), Muscel (116.453), Dâmbovița (229.124), Vlașca (196.920), Prahova (328.631), Ilfov (594.028, which included the population of Bucharest), Ialomița (211.720).
To these figures the inhabitants of Dobruja were added, respectively 169.322 people, according to the data that was available in middle of April 1917, and those in the territories directly controlled by the German 9th Army, for which to date no precise data have been discovered.
With this knowledge, the German military administration set up a strict control of the population and of the economic resources. By ordinance number 24 of February 8, 1917, the mandatory identity card (Ausweis) was introduced for all residents who were at least 15 years of age. This document had to be carried permanently, the absence of which carrying a hefty fine. At the same time, food cards and requisition vouchers were also introduced. Occupation forces started seizing numerous goods, starting with sugar, then cars, gasoline, oil, spirit, even empty bottles and much more.
General-major (r) dr. Mihail E. Ionescu (coordinator), Românii în „Marele Război”. Anul 1917. Documente, impresii, mărturii [Romanians in the “Great War”. Year 1917. Documents, impressions, testimonies], Military Publishing House, Bucharest, 2018.
Alexandru Marghiloman, Note politice [Political Notes], Volume 2, Publishing House of the “Eminescu” Institute of Graphic Arts, Bucharest, 1927.
Translated by Laurențiu Dumitru Dologa