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Flags of Germany, Japan, and Italy in Berlin (September 1940)

Germany's Führer Adolf Hitler (right) beside Italy's Duce Benito Mussolini (left).

Japan's Prime Minister Hideki Tojo (center) with fellow government representatives of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. To the left of Tojo, from left to right: Ba Maw from Burma, Zhang Jinghui from Manchuria, Wang Jingwei from China. To the right of Tojo, from left to right, Wan Waithayakon from Thailand, José P. Laurel from the Philippines, Subhas Chandra Bose from India.

File:Signing ceremony for the Axis Powers Tripartite Pact;.jpg

The signing of the Tripartite Pact by Germany, Japan, and Italy on 27 September 1940 in Berlin. Seated from left to right are the Japanese ambassador to Germany Saburō Kurusu, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Galeazzo Ciano, and Adolf Hitler.

The Axis powers (German language: Achsenmächte, Japanese: 枢軸国 Sūjikukoku, Italian language: Potenze dell'Asse ), also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or the Axis, were the nations that fought in the Second World War against the Allied forces. The Axis promoted the alliance as a part of a revolutionary process aimed at breaking the hegemony of plutocratic-capitalist Western powers and defending civilization from communism.[1]

The Axis grew out of the Anti-Comintern Pact, an anti-communist treaty signed by Germany and Japan in 1936. Italy joined the Pact in 1937. The "Rome–Berlin Axis" became a military alliance in 1939 under the Pact of Steel, with the Tripartite Pact of 1940 leading to the integration of the military aims of Germany and its two treaty-bound allies.

At its zenith during World War II, the Axis presided over empires that occupied large parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The war ended in 1945 with the defeat of the Axis powers and the dissolution of the alliance. Like the Allies, membership of the Axis was fluid, with nations fighting and not fighting over the course of the war. [2]

Origins and creation

The term "axis" is believed to have been first coined by Hungary's fascist prime minister Gyula Gömbös, who advocated an alliance of Germany, Hungary, and Italy. He worked as an intermediary between Germany and Italy to lessen differences between them to achieve such an alliance. [3] Gömbös' sudden death in 1936 while negotiating with Germany in Munich and the arrival of Kálmán Darányi, his non-fascist successor, ended Hungary's initial involvement in pursuing a trilateral axis. The lessening of differences between Germany and Italy led to the formation of a bilateral axis. [3]

Initial proposals of a German-Italian alliance

Benito Mussolini, Head of Government and Duce of Fascism, 1922–1943, Duce of the Italian Social Republic, 1943–1945. Photograph of Mussolini taken in 1932.

Italy under Duce Benito Mussolini had pursued a strategic alliance of Italy with Germany against France since the early 1920s.[4] Prior to becoming head of government in Italy as leader of the Italian Fascist movement, Mussolini had advocated alliance with recently defeated Germany after the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 settled World War I.[4] He believed that Italy could expand its influence in Europe by allying with Germany against France.[4] In early 1923, as a goodwill gesture to Germany Italy secretly delivered weapons for the German Army, which had faced major disarmament under the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.[4]

Gustav Stresemann, Chancellor of Germany, 1923, Foreign Minister of Germany, 1923–1929.

In September 1923, Mussolini offered German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann a "common policy": he sought German military support against potential French military intervention over Italy's diplomatic dispute with Yugoslavia over Fiume, should an Italian seizure of Fiume result in war between Italy and Yugoslavia. The German ambassador to Italy in 1924 reported that Mussolini saw a nationalist Germany as an essential ally to Italy against France, and hoped to tap into the desire within the German army and the German political right for a war of revenge against France.[4]

Italy since the 1920s had identified the year 1935 as a crucial date for preparing for a war against France, as 1935 was the year when Germany's obligations to the Treaty of Versailles were scheduled to expire.[5]

However at this time Mussolini stressed one important condition that Italy must pursue in an alliance with Germany, that Italy "must ... tow them, not be towed by them".[4] Italian foreign minister Dino Grandi in the early 1930s stressed the importance of "decisive weight", involving Italy's relations between France and Germany, in which he recognized that Italy was not yet a major power, but perceived that Italy did have strong enough influence to alter the political situation in Europe by placing the weight of its support onto one side or another.[6] However Grandi stressed that Italy must seek to avoid becoming a "slave of the rule of three" in order to pursue its interests, arguing that although substantial Italo-French tensions existed, that Italy would not unconditionally commit itself to an alliance with Germany, just as it would neither unconditionally commit itself to an alliance with France over conceivable Italo-German tensions.[7] Grandi's attempts to maintain a diplomatic balance between France and Germany were challenged by pressure from the French in 1932 who had begun to prepare an alliance with Britain and the United States against the then-potential threat of a revanchist Germany.[8] The French government warned Italy that it had to choose whether to be on the side of the pro-Versailles powers or the side of the anti-Versailles revanchists.[8] Grandi responded by stating that Italy would be willing to offer France support against Germany if France gave Italy its mandate over Cameroon and allowed Italy a free hand in Ethiopia.[8] France refused Italy's proposed exchange for support, as it believed Italy's demands were unacceptable and the threat from Germany was not yet immediate.[8]

On 23 October 1932, Mussolini declared support for a Four Power Directorate that included Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, to bring about an orderly treaty revision outside of what he considered the outmoded League of Nations.[8] The proposed Directorate was pragmatically designed to reduce French hegemony in continental Europe, to reduce tensions between the great powers in the short term to buy Italy time from being pressured into a specific war alliance while at the same time being able to benefit from diplomatic deals on treaty revisions.[8]

Danube alliance, dispute over Austria

Portrait of Gyula Gömbös, Prime Minister of Hungary, 1932–1936.

In 1932, Gyula Gömbös and the Party of National Unity rose to power in Hungary, and immediately sought alliance with Italy.[8] Gömbös sought to end Hungary's post-Treaty of Trianon borders, but knew that Hungary alone was not capable of challenging the Little Entente powers by forming an alliance with Austria and Italy.[8] Mussolini was elated by Gömbös' offer of alliance with Italy, and both Mussolini and Gömbös cooperated in seeking to win over Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss to joining an economic tripartite agreement with Italy and Hungary.[8] During the meeting between Gömbös and Mussolini in Rome on 10 November 1932, the question came up over the sovereignty of Austria in regards to the predicted inevitable rise of the Nazi Party to power in Germany.[8] Mussolini was worried over Nazi ambitions towards Austria, and indicated that at least in the short-term he was committed to maintaining Austria as a sovereign state.[8] Italy had concerns over a Germany with Austria within it, laying land claims to German-populated territories of the South Tyrol (also known as Alto-Adige) within Italy that bordered Austria on the Brenner Pass. Gömbös responded to Mussolini by saying that as the Austrians primarily identified as Germans, that the Anschluss of Austria to Germany was inevitable, and advised that it would be better for Italy to have a friendly Germany on the border of the Brenner Pass than a hostile Germany bent on entering the Adriatic.[8] Mussolini replied by expressing hope that the Anschluss could be postponed as long as possible until the breakout of a European war that he estimated would begin in 1938.[8]

Adolf Hitler, Führer and Reich Chancellor of Germany beside SA chief Ernst Rohm

In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany. His first diplomatic visitor was Gömbös. In a letter to Hitler within a day of his being appointed Chancellor, Gömbös told the Hungarian ambassador to Germany to remind Hitler "that ten years ago, on the basis of our common principles and ideology, we were in contact via Dr. Scheubner-Richter".[9] Gömbös told the Hungarian ambassador to inform Hitler of Hungary's intentions "for the two countries to cooperate in foreign and economic policy".

Hitler had long advocated an alliance between Germany and Italy since the 1920s.[10] Shortly after being appointed Chancellor, Hitler sent a personal message to Mussolini, declaring "admiration and homage" and declaring his anticipation of the prospects of German-Italian friendship and even alliance.[11] Hitler was aware that Italy held concerns over potential German land claims on South Tyrol, and assured Mussolini that Germany was not interested in South Tyrol. Hitler in Mein Kampf had declared that South Tyrol was a non-issue considering the advantages that would be gained from a German-Italian alliance. After Hitler's rise to power, the Four Power Directorate proposal by Italy had been looked at with interest by Britain, but Hitler was not committed to it, resulting in Mussolini urging Hitler to consider the diplomatic advantages Germany would gain by breaking out of isolation by entering the Directorate and avoiding an immediate armed conflict.[12] The Four Power Directorate proposal stipulated that Germany would no longer be required to have limited arms and would be granted the right to re-armament under foreign supervision in stages.[13] Hitler completely rejected the idea of controlled rearmament under foreign supervision.[13]

Mussolini did not trust Hitler's intentions regarding Anschluss nor Hitler's promise of no territorial claims on South Tyrol.[14] Mussolini informed Hitler that he was satisfied with the presence of the anti-Marxist government of Dollfuss in Austria, and warned Hitler that he was adamantly opposed to Anschluss.[14] Hitler responded in contempt to Mussolini that he intended "to throw Dollfuss into the sea".[14] With this disagreement over Austria, relations between Hitler and Mussolini steadily became more distant.[14]

Hitler attempted to break the impasse with Italy over Austria by sending Hermann Göring to negotiate with Mussolini in 1933 to convince Mussolini to press the Austrian government to appoint members of Austria's Nazis to the government.[15] Göring claimed that Nazi domination of Austria was inevitable and that Italy should accept this, as well as repeating to Mussolini of Hitler's promise to "regard the question of the South Tyrol frontier as finally liquidated by the peace treaties".[15] In response to Göring's visit with Mussolini, Dollfuss immediately went to Italy to counter any German diplomatic headway.[15] Dollfuss claimed that his government was actively challenging Marxists in Austria and claimed that once the Marxists were defeated in Austria, that support for Austria's Nazis would decline.[15]

In 1934, Hitler and Mussolini met for the first time, in Venice. The meeting did not proceed amicably. Hitler demanded that Mussolini compromise on Austria by pressuring Dollfuss to appoint Austrian Nazis his cabinet, in which Mussolini flatly refused the demand. In response, Hitler promised that he would accept Austria's independence for the time being, saying that due to the internal tensions in Germany (referring to sections of the Nazi SA that Hitler would soon kill in the Night of the Long Knives) that Germany could not afford to provoke Italy.[16] Galeazzo Ciano told the press that the two leaders had made a "gentleman's agreement" to avoid interfering in Austria.[17]

Engelbert Dollfuss, Chancellor of Austria, 1932–1934.

Kurt Schuschnigg, Chancellor of Austria, 1934–1938.

Several weeks after the Venice meeting, on 25 June 1934, Austrian Nazis assassinated Dollfuss.[18] Mussolini was outraged as he held Hitler directly responsible for the assassination that violated Hitler's promise made only weeks ago to respect Austrian independence.[19][17] Mussolini rapidly deployed several army divisions and air squadrons to the Brenner Pass, and warned that a German move against Austria would result in war between Germany and Italy.[20] Hitler responded by both denying Nazi responsibility for the assassination and issuing orders to dissolve all ties between the German Nazi Party and its Austrian branch, which Germany claimed was responsible for the political crisis.[21]

Italy effectively abandoned diplomatic relations with Germany while turning to France in order to challenge Germany's intransigence by signing a Franco-Italian accord to protect Austrian independence.[22] French and Italian military staff discussed possible military cooperation involving a war with Germany should Hitler dare to attack Austria. As late as May 1935, Mussolini spoke of his desire to destroy Hitler.

Relations between Germany and Italy recovered due to Hitler's support of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, while other countries condemned the invasion and advocated sanctions against Italy.

Development of German-Italian-Japanese alliance

Fumimaro Konoe, Prime Minister of Japan, 1937–1940.

Interest in Germany and Japan in forming an alliance began when Japanese diplomat Oshima Hiroshi visited Joachim von Ribbentrop in Berlin in 1935.[23] Oshima informed von Ribbentrop of Japan's interest in forming a German-Japanese alliance against the Soviet Union.[23] Von Ribbentrop expanded on Oshima's proposal by advocating that the alliance be based in a political context of a pact to oppose the Comintern.[23] The proposed pact was met with mixed reviews in Japan, with a faction of ultra-nationalists within the government supporting the pact while the Japanese Navy and the Japanese Foreign Ministry were staunchly opposed to the pact.[24] There was great concern in the Japanese government that such a pact with Germany could alienate Japan's relations with Britain, endangering years of a beneficial Anglo-Japanese accord, that had allowed Japan to ascend in the international community in the first place.[25] The response to the pact was met with similar division in Germany; while the proposed pact was popular amongst the upper echelons of the Nazi Party, it was opposed by many in the Foreign Ministry, the Army, and the business community who held financial interests in China to which Japan was hostile.

"Good friends in three countries" (1938): Japanese propaganda postcard celebrating the participation of Italy in the Anti-Comintern Pact on November 6, 1937. On top, Hitler, Konoe and Mussolini are each in medallion.

On learning of German-Japanese negotiations, Italy also began to take an interest in forming an alliance with Japan.[23] Italy had hoped that due to Japan's long-term close relations with Britain, that an Italo-Japanese alliance could pressure Britain into adopting a more accommodating stance towards Italy in the Mediterranean.[23] In the summer of 1936, Italian Foreign Minister Ciano informed Japanese Ambassador to Italy, Sugimura Yotaro, "I have heard that a Japanese-German agreement concerning the Soviet Union has been reached, and I think it would be natural for a similar agreement to be made between Italy and Japan".[23] Initially Japan's attitude towards Italy's proposal was generally dismissive, viewing a German-Japanese alliance against the Soviet Union as imperative while regarding an Italo-Japanese alliance as secondary, as Japan anticipated that an Italo-Japanese alliance would antagonize Britain that had condemned Italy's invasion of Ethiopia.[23] This attitude by Japan towards Italy altered in 1937 after the League of Nations condemned Japan for aggression in China and faced international isolation, while Italy remained favourable to Japan.[23] As a result of Italy's support for Japan against international condemnation, Japan took a more positive attitude towards Italy and offered proposals for a non-aggression or neutrality pact with Italy.[26]

The "Axis powers" formally took the name after the Tripartite Pact was signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan on 27 September 1940, in Berlin. The pact was subsequently joined by Hungary (20 November 1940), Romania (23 November 1940), Slovakia (24 November 1940), and Bulgaria (1 March 1941). [27]

Economic resources

The Axis population in 1938 was 258.9 million, while the Allied population (excluding the Soviet Union and the United States, who later joined the Allies) was 689.7 million. [28] Thus the Allied powers outnumbered the Axis powers by 2.7 to 1.[29] The leading Axis states had the following domestic populations: Germany (including recently annexed Austria, 6.8 million) 75.5 million, Japan (excluding its colonies) 71.9 million, and Italy (excluding its colonies) 43.4 million. The United Kingdom (excluding its colonies) had a population of 47.5 million and France (excluding its colonies) 42 million.[28]

The wartime gross domestic product (GDP) of the Axis was $911 billion at its highest in 1941 in international dollars by 1990 prices. ,[30] the Allied powers $1,798 billion - the United States was $1,094 billion, more than the Axis. [31]

The burden of the war upon participating countries has been measured through the percentage of gross national product (GNP) devoted to military expenditures. [32] Nearly one-quarter of Germany's GNP was committed to the war effort in 1939, and this rose three-quarters of GNP in 1944, prior to the collapse of the economy. [32] In 1939, Japan committed 22 percent of its GNP to its war effort in China; this rose to three-quarters of GNP in 1944.[32] Italy did not mobilize its economy; its GNP committed to the war effort remained at prewar levels. [32]

Italy and Japan lacked industrial capacity; their economies were small, dependent on international trade, external sources of fuel and other industrial resources. [32] As a result, Italian and Japanese mobilization remained low, even by 1943.[32]

Among the three major Axis powers Japan had the lowest per capita income, while Germany and Italy had an income level comparable to the United Kingdom. [33]

Major powers


German cavalry parade in Lodz in September 1939 during the invasion of Poland.

German Heinkel He-111 bomber aircraft during the Battle of Britain.

German vehicles advancing during the Second Battle of El Alamein in the North African campaign.

German soldiers during the Battle of Stalingrad in the Eastern Front campaign.

German submarine U-118 under air attack in June 1943.

War justifications

Hitler in 1941 described the outbreak of World War II as the fault of the intervention of Western powers against Germany during its war with Poland, describing it as the result of "the European and American warmongers".[34] Hitler denied accusations by the Allies that he wanted a world war, and invoked anti-Semitic claims that the war was wanted and provoked by politicians of Jewish origin or associated with Jewish interests.[35] However Hitler clearly had designs for Germany to become the dominant and leading state in the world, such as his intention for Germany's capital of Berlin to become the Welthauptstadt ("World Capital"), renamed Germania.[36] The German government also justified its actions by claiming that Germany inevitably needed to territorially expand because it was facing an overpopulation crisis that Hitler described: "We are overpopulated and cannot feed ourselves from our own resources".[37] Thus expansion was justified as an inevitable necessity to provide lebensraum ("living space") for the German nation and end the country's overpopulation within existing confined territory, and provide resources necessary to its people's well-being.[37] Since the 1920s, the Nazi Party publicly promoted the expansion of Germany into territories held by the Soviet Union.[38]

On the issue of Germany's war with Poland that provoked Allied intervention against Germany, Germany claimed that it had sought to resolve its dispute with Poland over its German minorities particularly within the densely German-populated "Polish Corridor" by an agreement in 1934 whereby Poland would end its assimilationist policies towards Germans in Poland, but Germany later complained that Poland was not upholding the agreement.[39] In 1937, Germany condemned Poland for violating the minorities agreement, but proposed that it would accept a resolution whereby Germany would reciprocally accept the Polish demand for Germany abandon assimilation of Polish minorities if Poland upheld its agreement to abandon assimilation of Germans.[39] Germany's proposal was met with resistance in Poland, particularly by the Polish Western Union (PZZ) and the National Democratic party, with Poland only agreeing to a watered down version of the Joint Declaration on Minorities, on 5 November 1937.[39] On the same day, Hitler declared his intention to prepare for a war to destroy Poland.[39] Germany used legal precedents to justify its intervention against Poland and annexation of the German-majority Free City of Danzig (led by a local Nazi government that sought incorporation into Germany) in 1939 was justified because of Poland repeatedly violating the sovereignty of Danzig.[40] Germany noted one such violation as being in 1933 when Poland sent additional troops into the city in violation of the limit of Polish troops admissible to Danzig as agreed to by treaty.[40]

After Poland had agreed to a watered-down agreement to guarantee that its German minorities would not be assimilated, Hitler decided that the time had come to prepare for war with Poland to forcibly implement lebensraum by destroying Poland to allow for German settlement of its territory.[39]

Although Germany had prepared for war with Poland in 1939, Hitler still sought to use diplomatic means along with threat of military action to pressure Poland to make concessions to Germany involving Germany annexing Danzig without Polish opposition, and believed that Germany could gain concessions from Poland without provoking a war with Britain or France.[41] Hitler believed that Britain's guarantee of military support to Poland was a bluff, and with a German-Soviet agreement on both countries recognizing their mutual interests involving Poland.[41] The Soviet Union had diplomatic grievances with Poland since the Soviet-Polish War of 1919–1921 in which the Soviets were pressured to cede Western Belarus and Western Ukraine to Poland after intense fighting in those years over the territories, and the Soviet Union sought to regain those territories.[42] Hitler believed that a conflict with Poland would be an isolated conflict, as Britain would not engage in a war with both Germany and the Soviet Union.[41]

Poland rejected the German demand for negotiations on the issue of the annexation of Danzig, and Germany in response prepared a general mobilization on the morning of 30 August 1939.[43] Hitler thought that the British would accept Germany's demands and pressure Poland to agree to them.[43] At midnight 30 August 1939, German foreign minister Joachim Ribbentrop was expecting the arrival of the British ambassador Nevile Henderson as well as a Polish plenipotentiary to negotiate terms with Germany.[43] Only Henderson arrived, and Henderson informed Ribbentrop that no Polish plenipotentiary was arriving.[43] Ribbentrop became extremely upset and demanded the immediate arrival of a Polish diplomat, informing Henderson that the situation was "damned serious!", and read out to Henderson Germany's demands that Poland accept Germany annexing Danzig as well as Poland granting Germany the right to connect East Prussia to mainland Germany via an extraterritorial highway and railway that passed through the Polish Corridor, and a plebiscite to determine whether the Polish Corridor (with a German majority population) should remain within Poland or be transferred to Germany.[43]

Germany justified its invasion of the Low Countries of Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands in May 1940 by claiming that it suspected that Britain and France were preparing to use the Low Countries to launch an invasion of the industrial Ruhr region of Germany.[44] When war between Germany versus Britain and France appeared likely in May 1939, Hitler declared that the Netherlands and Belgium would need to be occupied, saying: "Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied ... Declarations of neutrality must be ignored".[44] In a conference with Germany's military leaders on 23 November 1939, Hitler declared to the military leaders that "We have an Achilles heel, the Ruhr", and said that "If England and France push through Belgium and Holland into the Ruhr, we shall be in the greatest danger", and thus claimed that Belgium and the Netherlands had to be occupied by Germany to protect Germany from a British-French offensive against the Ruhr, irrespective of their claims to neutrality.[44]

Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 involved the issue of lebensraum and anti-communism. Hitler in his early years as Nazi leader had claimed that he would be willing to accept friendly relations with Russia on the tactical condition that Russia agree to return to the borders established by the German-Russian peace agreement of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed by Vladimir Lenin of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic in 1918 which gave large territories held by Russia to German control in exchange for peace.[38] Hitler in 1921 had commended the Treaty of Brest Litovsk as opening the possibility for restoration of relations between Germany and Russia, saying:

Through the peace with Russia the sustenance of Germany as well as the provision of work were to have been secured by the acquisition of land and soil, by access to raw materials, and by friendly relations between the two lands.

—Adolf Hitler, 1921[38]

From 1921 to 1922 Hitler evoked rhetoric of both the achievement of lebensraum involving the acceptance of a territorially reduced Russia as well as supporting Russian nationals in overthrowing the Bolshevik government and establishing a new Russian government.[38] However Hitler's attitudes changed by the end of 1922, in which he then supported an alliance of Germany with Britain to destroy Russia.[38] Later Hitler declared how far into Russia he intended to expand Germany to:

Asia, what a disquieting reservoir of men! The safety of Europe will not be assured until we have driven Asia back behind the Urals. No organized Russian state must be allowed to exist west of that line.

—Adolf Hitler.[45]

Policy for lebensraum planned mass expansion of Germany eastwards to the Ural Mountains.[45][46] Hitler planned for the "surplus" Russian population living west of the Urals were to be deported to the east of the Urals.[47] After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Nazi regime's stance towards an independent, territorially-reduced Russia was affected by pressure beginning in 1942 from the German Army on Hitler to endorse a Russian national liberation army led by Andrey Vlasov that officially sought to overthrow Joseph Stalin and the communist regime and establish a new Russian state.[48] Initially the proposal to support an anti-communist Russian army was met with outright rejection by Hitler, however by 1944 as Germany faced mounting losses on the Eastern Front, Vlasov's forces were recognized by Germany as an ally, particularly by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler.[49]

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States, Germany supported Japan by declaring war on the US. During the war Germany denounced the Atlantic Charter and the Lend-Lease Act that the US adopted to support the Allied powers prior to entry into the alliance, as imperialism directed at dominating and exploit countries outside of the continental Americas.[50] Hitler denounced American President Roosevelt's invoking of the term "freedom" to describe US actions in the war, and accused the American meaning of "freedom" to be the freedom for democracy to exploit the world and the freedom for plutocrats within such democracy to exploit the masses.[50]


At the end of World War I, German citizens felt that their country had been humiliated as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, which forced Germany to pay enormous reparations payments and forfeit German-populated territories and all its colonies. The pressure of the reparations on the German economy led to hyperinflation during the early 1920s. In 1923 the French occupied the Ruhr region when Germany defaulted on its reparations payments. Although Germany began to improve economically in the mid-1920s, the Great Depression created more economic hardship and a rise in political forces that advocated radical solutions to Germany's woes. The Nazis, under Hitler, promoted the nationalist stab-in-the-back legend stating that Germany had been betrayed by Jews and Communists. The party promised to rebuild Germany as a major power and create a Greater Germany that would include Alsace-Lorraine, Austria, Sudetenland, and other German-populated territories in Europe. The Nazis also aimed to occupy and colonize non-German territories in Poland, the Baltic states, and the Soviet Union, as part of the Nazi policy of seeking Lebensraum ("living space") in eastern Europe.

Germany renounced the Versailles treaty and remilitarized the Rhineland in March 1936. Germany had already resumed conscription and announced the existence of a German air force in 1935. Germany annexed Austria in 1938, the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia, and the Memel territory from Lithuania in 1939. Germany then invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939, creating the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and the country of Slovakia.

On 23 August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which contained a secret protocol dividing eastern Europe into spheres of influence. [51] Germany's invasion of its part of Poland under the Pact eight days later[52] triggered the beginning of World War II. By the end of 1941, Germany occupied a large part of Europe and its military forces were fighting the Soviet Union, nearly capturing Moscow. However, crushing defeats at the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk devastated the German armed forces. This, combined with Western Allied landings in France and Italy, led to a three-front war that depleted Germany's armed forces and resulted in Germany's defeat in 1945.

There was substantial internal opposition within the German military to the Nazi regime's aggressive strategy of rearmament and foreign policy in the 1930s.[53] From 1936 to 1938, Germany's top four military leaders, Ludwig Beck, Werner von Blomberg, Werner von Fritsch, Walther von Reichenau, were all in opposition to the rearmament strategy and foreign policy.[54] They criticized the hurried nature of rearmament, the lack of planning, Germany's insufficient resources to carry out a war, the dangerous implications of Hitler's foreign policy, and the increasing subordination of the army to the Nazi Party's rules.[54] These four military leaders were outspoken and public in their opposition to these tendencies.[54] The Nazi regime responded with contempt to the four military leaders' opposition, and Nazi members brewed a false crass scandal that alleged that the two top army leaders von Blomberg and von Fritsch were homosexual lovers, in order to pressure them to resign.[54] Though started by lower-ranking Nazi members, Hitler took advantage of the scandal by forcing von Blomberg and von Fritsch to resign and replaced them with opportunists who were subservient to him.[54] Shortly afterwards Hitler announced on 4 February 1938 that he was taking personal command over Germany's military with the new High Command of the Armed Forces with the Führer as its head.[54]

The opposition to the Nazi regime's aggressive foreign policy in the military became so strong from 1936 to 1938, that considerations of overthrowing the Nazi regime were discussed within the upper echelons of the military and remaining non-Nazi members of the German government.[55] Minister of Economics, Hjalmar Schacht met with Beck in 1936 in which Schacht declared to Beck that he was considering an overthrow of the Nazi regime and was inquiring what the stance was by the German military on support of an overthrow of the Nazi regime.[55] Beck was lukewarm to the idea, and responded that if a coup against the Nazi regime began with support at the civilian level, the military would not oppose it.[55] Schacht considered this promise by Beck to be inadequate because he knew that without the support of the army, any coup attempt would be crushed by the Gestapo and the SS.[56] However by 1938, Beck became a firm opponent of the Nazi regime out of his opposition to Hitler's military plans of 1937–38 that that told the military to prepare for the possibility of a world war as a result of German annexation plans for Austria and Czechoslovakia.[56]

Colonies and dependencies

Belgium was under a military occupation authority from 1940 to 1944, but Belgium and its Germanic population were planned to be incorporated into the planned Greater Germanic Reich, initiated by the creation of Reichskommissariat Belgien, an authority run directly by the German government that sought the incorporation of the territory into the planned Germanic Reich. However Belgium was soon occupied by Allied forces in 1944.

The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was a protectorate and dependency considered an autonomous region within the sovereign territory of Germany.

The General Government was the name given to the territories of occupied Poland that were not directly annexed into German provinces, but like Bohemia and Moravia was a dependency and autonomous region within the sovereign territory of Germany.

Reichskommissariat Niederlande was an occupation authority and territory established in the Netherlands in 1940 designated as a colony to be incorporated into the planned Greater Germanic Reich.

Reichskommissariat Norwegen was established in Norway in 1940. Like the Reichskommissariats in Belgium and the Netherlands, its Germanic peoples were to be incorporated into the Greater Germanic Reich. In Norway, the Quisling regime, headed by Vidkun Quisling, was installed by the Germans as a client regime during the occupation, while king Haakon VII and the legal government were in exile. Quisling encouraged Norwegians to serve as volunteers in the Waffen-SS, collaborated in the deportation of Jews, and was responsible for the executions of members of the Norwegian resistance movement.

About 45,000 Norwegian collaborators joined the pro-Nazi party Nasjonal Samling (National Union), and some police units helped arrest many Jews. However, Norway was one of the first countries where resistance during World War II was widespread before the turning point of the war in 1943. After the war, Quisling and other collaborators were executed. Quisling's name has become an international eponym for traitor.

Reichskommissariat Ostland was established in the Baltic region in 1941. Unlike the western Reichskommissariats that sought the incorporation of their majority Germanic peoples, Ostland were designed for settlement by Germans who would displace the majority non-Germanic peoples living there, as part of lebensraum.

Reichskommissariat Ukraine was established in Ukraine in 1941. Like Ostland it was slated for settlement by Germans.

The Military Administration in Serbia was established on occupied Yugoslav territory in April 1941, following the invasion of the country. On 30 April a pro-German Serbian administration was formed under Milan Aćimović to serve as a civil administration in the military occupation zone. A joint Partisan and Chetnik uprising in late 1941 became a serious concern for the Germans, as most of their forces were deployed to Russia; only three divisions were in the country. On 13 August 546 Serbs, including some of them country's prominent and influential leaders, issued an appeal to the Serbian nation that condemned the Partisan and royalist resistance as unpatriotic. Two weeks after the appeal, with the Partisan and royalist insurgency beginning to gain momentum, 75 prominent Serbs convened a meeting in Belgrade and formed a Government of National Salvation under Serbian General Milan Nedić to replace the existing Serbian administration. The Germans were short of police and military forces in Serbia, and came to rely on poorly-armed Serbian formations, the Serbian State Guard and Serbian Volunteer Corps, to maintain order. These forces, however, were not able to contain the resistance, and for the most of the war large parts of Serbia were under control of the Partisans or Chetniks (the two resistance movements soon became mutually-hostile). The Government of National Salvation, imbued with few powers upon formation, saw its functions further decreased and taken over by the Wehrmacht occupation authorities as the war progressed. After the initial mass revolts, the German authorities instituted an extreme regime of reprisals: proclaiming that 100 civilians will be executed for every German soldier killed, and 50 for each one wounded. These measures were actually implemented on more than one occasion, large scale shootings took place in the Serbian towns of Kraljevo and Kragujevac during October 1941.


Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter aircraft and other aircraft preparing for takeoff on the aircraft carrier Shōkaku on 7 December 1941, for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Japanese soldiers crossing the border from China into the British colony of Hong Kong during the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941.

Japanese soldiers march along the shore of Guadalcanal in September 1942 during the Guadalcanal Campaign.

Japanese battleship Yamato under attack by American aircraft during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

War justifications

The Japanese government justified its actions by claiming that it was seeking to unite East Asia under Japanese leadership in a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere that would free East Asians from domination and rule by clients of Western imperialism and particularly American imperialism.[57] Japan invoked themes of Pan-Asianism and said that the Asian people needed to be free from Anglo-American influence.[58]

The United States opposed the Japanese war in China, and recognized Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalist Government as the legitimate government of China. As a result, the United States sought to bring the Japanese war effort to a halt by imposing an embargo on all trade between the United States and Japan. Japan was dependent on the United States for 80 percent of its petroleum, and as a consequence the embargo resulted in an economic and military crisis for Japan, as Japan could not continue its war effort against China without access to petroleum.[59]

In order to maintain its military campaign in China with the major loss of petroleum trade with the United States, Japan saw the best means to secure an alternative source of petroleum in the petroleum-rich and natural-resources-rich Southeast Asia.[60] This threat of retaliation by Japan to the total trade embargo by the United States was known by the American government, including American Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who was negotiating with the Japanese to avoid a war, feared that the total embargo would pre-empt a Japanese attack on the Dutch East Indies.[61]

Japan identified the American Pacific fleet based in Pearl Harbor as the principal threat to its designs to invade and capture Southeast Asia.[60] Thus Japan initiated the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 as a means to inhibit an American response to the invasion of Southeast Asia, and buy time to allow Japan to consolidate itself with these resources to engage in a total war against the United States, and force the United States to accept Japan's acquisitions.[60]


The Empire of Japan, a constitutional monarchy ruled by Hirohito, was the principal Axis power in Asia and the Pacific. The Japanese constitution prescribed that "the Emperor is the head of the Empire, combining in Himself the rights of sovereignty, and exercises them, according to the provisions of the present Constitution" (article 4) and that "The Emperor has the supreme command of the Army and the Navy" (article 11). Under the emperor were a political cabinet and the Imperial General Headquarters, with two chiefs of staff.

At its height, Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere included Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, large parts of China, Malaysia, French Indochina, Dutch East Indies, The Philippines, Burma, some of India, and various Pacific Islands in the central Pacific.

As a result of the internal discord and economic downturn of the 1920s, militaristic elements set Japan on a path of expansionism. As the Japanese home islands lacked natural resources needed for growth, Japan planned to establish hegemony in Asia and become self-sufficient by acquiring territories with abundant natural resources. Japan's expansionist policies alienated it from other countries in the League of Nations and by the mid-1930s brought it closer to Germany and Italy, who had both pursued similar expansionist policies. Cooperation between Japan and Germany began with the Anti-Comintern Pact, in which the two countries agreed to ally to challenge any attack by the Soviet Union.

Japan entered into conflict against the Chinese in 1937. The Japanese invasion and occupation of parts of China resulted in numerous atrocities against civilians, such as the Nanking massacre and the Three Alls Policy. The Japanese also fought skirmishes with Soviet–Mongolian forces in Manchukuo in 1938 and 1939. Japan sought to avoid war with the Soviet Union by signing a non-aggression pact with it in 1941.

Territories controlled by Japan during the war

Japan's military leaders were divided on diplomatic relationships with Germany and Italy and the attitude towards the United States. The Imperial Japanese Army was in favour of war with the United States, but the Imperial Japanese Navy was generally strongly opposed. When Prime Minister of Japan General Hideki Tojo refused American demands that Japan withdraw its military forces from China, a confrontation became more likely. [62] War with the United States was being discussed within the Japanese government by 1940.[63] Commander of the Combined Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was outspoken in his opposition, especially after the signing of the Tripartite Pact, saying on 14 October 1940: "To fight the United States is like fighting the whole world. But it has been decided. So I will fight the best I can. Doubtless I shall die on board Nagato [his flagship]. Meanwhile Tokyo will be burnt to the ground three times. Konoe and others will be torn to pieces by the revengeful people, I [shouldn't] wonder. "[63] In October and November 1940, Yamamoto communicated with Navy Minister Oikawa, and stated, "Unlike the pre-Tripartite days, great determination is required to make certain that we avoid the danger of going to war. "[63]

With the European powers focused on the war in Europe, Japan sought to acquire their colonies. In 1940 Japan responded to the German invasion of France by occupying French Indochina. The Vichy France regime, a de facto ally of Germany, accepted the takeover. The allied forces did not respond with war. However, the United States instituted an embargo against Japan in 1941 because of the continuing war in China. This cut off Japan's supply of scrap metal and oil needed for industry, trade, and the war effort.

To isolate the American forces stationed in the Philippines and to reduce American naval power, the Imperial General Headquarters ordered an attack on the U. S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941. They also invaded Malaya and Hong Kong. Initially achieving a series of victories, by 1943 the Japanese forces were driven back towards the home islands. The Pacific War lasted until the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The Soviets formally declared war in August 1945 and engaged Japanese forces in Manchuria and northeast China.

Colonies and dependencies

Korea was a Japanese protectorate and dependency formally established by the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910.

The South Pacific Mandate were territories granted to Japan in 1919 in the peace agreements of World War I, that designated to Japan the German South Pacific islands. Japan received these as a reward by the Allies of World War I, when Japan was then allied against Germany.

Taiwan, then known as Formosa, was a Japanese dependency established in 1895.


Italian soldiers in the North African Campaign in 1941.

Italian Fiat M13/40 tanks in the North African Campaign in 1941.

File:Veneto guns at Gaudos.jpg

Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto firing at Allied warships during the Battle of Cape Matapan.

Italian Bersaglieri in the Balkans Campaign.

Italian Macchi C.200 fighter aircraft during the war.

War justifications

Duce Benito Mussolini described Italy's declaration of war against the Western Allies of Britain and France in June 1940 as the following: "We are going to war against the plutocratic and reactionary democracies of the West who have invariably hindered the progress and often threatened the very existence of the Italian people".[64] Italy condemned the Western powers for enacting sanctions on Italy in 1935 for its actions in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War that Italy claimed was a response to an act of Ethiopian aggression against tribesman in Italian Eritrea in the Walwal incident of 1934.[65] In 1938 Mussolini and foreign minister Ciano issued demands for concessions by France, particularly regarding the French colonial possessions of Djibouti, Tunisia and the French-run Suez Canal.[66] Italy demanded a sphere of influence in the Suez Canal in Egypt, specifically demanding that the French-dominated Suez Canal Company accept an Italian representative on its board of directors.[67] Italy opposed the French monopoly over the Suez Canal because under the French-dominated Suez Canal Company all Italian merchant traffic to its colony of Italian East Africa was forced to pay tolls upon entering the canal.[67] Italy like Germany also justified its actions by claiming that Italy needed to territorially expand to provide spazio vitale ("vital space") for the Italian nation.[68]

Italy justified its intervention against Greece in October 1940 on the allegation that Greece was being used by Britain against Italy, Mussolini informed this to Hitler, saying: "Greece is one of the main points of English maritime strategy in the Mediterranean".[69]

Italy justified its intervention against Yugoslavia in 1941 by appealing to both Italian irredentist claims and the fact of Albanian, Croatian, and Vardar Macedonian separatists not wishing to be part of Yugoslavia.[70] Croatian separatism soared after the assassination of Croatian political leaders in the Yugoslav parliament in 1928 including the death of Stjepan Radić, and Italy endorsed Croatian separatist Ante Pavelić and his fascist Ustaše movement that was based and trained in Italy with the Fascist regime's support prior to intervention against Yugoslavia.[70]


In the late 19th century, after Italian unification, a nationalist movement had grown around the concept of Italia irredenta, which advocated the incorporation into Italy of Italian-speaking areas under foreign rule. There was a desire to annex Dalmatian territories, which had formerly been ruled by the Venetians, and which consequently had Italian-speaking elites. The intention of the Fascist regime was to create a "New Roman Empire" in which Italy would dominate the Mediterranean. In 1935–1936 Italy invaded and annexed Ethiopia and the Fascist government proclaimed the creation of the "Italian Empire". [71] Protests by the League of Nations, especially the British, who had interests in that area, led to no serious action. Italy later faced diplomatic isolation from several countries. In 1937 Italy left the League of Nations and joined the Anti-Comintern Pact, which had been signed by Germany and Japan the preceding year. In March/April 1939 Italian troops invaded and annexed Albania. Germany and Italy signed the Pact of Steel on May 22.

Italy entered World War II on 10 June 1940. In September 1940 Germany, Italy, and Japan signed the Tripartite Pact.

Italy was ill-prepared for war, in spite of the fact that it had continuously been involved in conflict since 1935, first with Ethiopia in 1935–1936 and then in the Spanish Civil War on the side of Francisco Franco's Nationalists. [72] Military planning was deficient, as the Italian government had not decided on which theatre would be the most important. Power over the military was overcentralized to Mussolini's direct control; he personally undertook to direct the ministry of war, the navy, and the air force. The navy did not have any aircraft carriers to provide air cover for amphibious assaults in the Mediterranean, as the Fascist regime believed that the air bases on the Italian Peninsula would be able to do this task. [73] Italy's army had outmoded artillery and the armoured units used outdated formations not suited to modern warfare. [74] Diversion of funds to the air force and navy to prepare for overseas operations meant less money was available for the army; the standard rifle was a design that dated back to 1891.[75] The Fascist government failed to learn from mistakes made in Ethiopia and Spain; it ignored the implications of the Italian Fascist volunteer soldiers being routed at the Battle of Guadalajara in the Spanish Civil War. [75] Military exercises by the army in the Po Valley in August 1939 disappointed onlookers, including King Victor Emmanuel III. [74] Mussolini who was angered by Italy's military unpreparedness, dismissed Alberto Pariani as Chief of Staff of the Italian military in 1939.[76]

Italy's only strategic natural resource was an abundance of aluminum. Petroleum, iron, copper, nickel, chrome, and rubber all had to be imported. [74] The Fascist government's economic policy of autarky and a recourse to synthetic materials was not able to meet the demand. [72] Prior to entering the war, the Fascist government sought to gain control over resources in the Balkans, particularly oil from Romania.[77] The agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union to invade and partition Poland between them resulted in Hungary that bordered the Soviet Union after Poland's partition, and Romania viewing Soviet invasion as an immediate threat, resulting in both countries appealing to Italy for support, beginning in September 1939.[76] Italy - then still officially neutral - responded to appeals by the Hungarian and Romanian governments for protection from the Soviet Union, by proposing a Danube-Balkan neutrals bloc.[76] The proposed bloc was designed to increase Italian influence in the Balkans, it met resistance from France, Germany, and the Soviet Union that did not want to lose their influence in the Balkans; however Britain that still hoped that Italy would not enter the war on Germany's side, supported the neutral bloc.[76] The efforts to form the bloc failed by November 1939 after Turkey made an agreement that it would protect Allied Mediterranean territory, along with Greece and Romania.[76]

Mussolini refused to heed warnings from his minister of exchange and currency, Felice Guarneri, who said that Italy's actions in Ethiopia and Spain meant the nation was on the verge of bankruptcy. [75] By 1939 military expenditures by Britain and France far exceeded what Italy could afford. [75]

After entering the war in 1940, Italy had been slated to be granted a series of territorial concessions from France that Hitler had agreed to with Italian foreign minister Ciano, that included Italian annexation of claimed territories in southeastern France, a military occupation of southeastern France up to the river Rhone, and receiving the French colonies of Tunisia and Djibouti.[78] However on 22 June 1940, Mussolini suddenly informed Hitler that Italy was abandoning its claims "in the Rhone, Corsica, Tunisia, and Djibouti", instead requesting a demilitarized zone along the French border, and on 24 June Italy agreed to an armistice with the Vichy regime to that effect.[78] Later on 7 July 1940, the Italian government changed its decision, and Ciano attempted to make an agreement with Hitler to have Nice, Corsica, Tunisia, and Djibouti be transferred to Italy; Hitler adamantly rejected any new settlement or separate French-Italian peace agreement for the time being prior to the defeat of Britain in the war.[78] However Italy continued to press Germany for the incorporation of Nice, Corsica, and Tunisia into Italy, with Mussolini sending a letter to Hitler in October 1940, informing him that as the 850,000 Italians living under France's current borders formed the largest minority community, that ceding these territories to Italy would be beneficial to both Germany and Italy as it would reduce France's population from 35 million to 34 and forestall any possibility of resumed French ambitions for expansion or hegemony in Europe.[78] Germany had considered the possibility of invading and occupying the non-occupied territories of Vichy France including occupying Corsica Germany capturing the Vichy French fleet for use by Germany, in December 1940 with the proposed Operation Attila.[79] An invasion of Vichy France by Germany and Italy took place with Case Anton in November 1942.

In mid-1940, in response to an agreement by Romanian Conductator Ion Antonescu to accept German "training troops" to be sent to Romania, both Mussolini and Stalin in the Soviet Union were angered by Germany's expanding sphere of influence into Romania, and especially because neither was informed in advance of the action in spite of German agreements with Italy and the Soviet Union at that time.[69] Mussolini in a conversation with Ciano responded to Hitler's deployment of troops into Romania, saying: "Hitler always faces me with accomplished facts. Now I'll pay him back by his same currency. He'll learn from the papers that I have occupied Greece. So the balance will be re-established.".[69] However Mussolini later decided to inform Hitler in advance of Italy's designs on Greece.[69] Upon hearing of Italy's intervention against Greece, Hitler was deeply concerned as he said that the Greeks were not bad soldiers that Italy might not win in its war with Greece, as he did not want Germany to become embroiled in a Balkan conflict.[69]

By 1941, Italy's attempts to run an autonomous campaign from Germany's, collapsed as a result of multiple defeats in Greece, North Africa, and Eastern Africa; and the country became dependent and effectively subordinate to Germany. After the German-led invasion and occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece, that had both been targets of Italy's war aims, Italy was forced to accept German dominance in the two occupied countries.[80] Furthermore, by 1941, German forces in North Africa under Erwin Rommel effectively took charge of the military effort ousting Allied forces from the Italian colony of Libya, and German forces were stationed in Sicily in that year.[81] The German government in response to Italian military failures and dependence on German military assistance, viewed Italy with contempt as an unreliable ally, and no longer took any serious consideration of Italian interests.[82] Germany's contempt for Italy as an ally was demonstrated that year when Italy was pressured to send 350,000 "guest workers" to Germany who were used as forced labour.[82] While Hitler was deeply disappointed with the Italian military's performance, he maintained overall favourable relations with Italy because of his personal friendship and admiration of Mussolini.[83]

Mussolini by mid-1941 was left bewildered and recognized both that Italy's war objectives had failed and that Italy was completely subordinate and dependent to Germany.[80] Mussolini henceforth believed that Italy was left with no choice in such a subordinate status other than to follow Germany in its war and hope for a German victory.[80] However Germany supported Italian propaganda of the creation of a "Latin Bloc" of Italy, Vichy France, Spain, and Portugal to ally with Germany against the threat of communism, and after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the prospect of a Latin Bloc seemed plausible.[84] From 1940 to 1941, Francisco Franco of Spain had endorsed a Latin Bloc of Italy, Vichy France, Spain and Portugal, in order to balance the countries' powers to that of Germany, however the discussions failed to yield an agreement.[85]

After the invasion and occupation of Yugoslavia, Italy annexed numerous Adriatic islands and a portion of Dalmatia that was formed into the Italian Governorship of Dalmatia including territory from the provinces of Split, Zadar, and Kotor.[86] Though Italy had initially larger territorial aims that extended from the Velebit mountains to the Albanian Alps, Mussolini decided against annexing further territories due to a number of factors, including that Italy held the economically valuable portion of that territory within its possession while the northern Adriatic coast had no important railways or roads and because a larger annexation would have included hundreds of thousands of Slavs who were hostile to Italy, within its national borders.[86] Mussolini and foreign minister Ciano demanded that the Yugoslav region of Slovenia to be directly annexed into Italy, however in negotiations with German foreign minister Ribbentrop in April 1941, Ribbentrop insisted on Hitler's demands that Germany be allocated the eastern Slovenia while Italy would be allocated western Slovenia, Italy conceded to this German demand and Slovenia was partitioned between Germany and Italy.[87]

Internal opposition by Italians to the war and the Fascist regime accelerated by 1942, though significant opposition to the war had existed at the outset in 1940, as police reports indicated that many Italians were secretly listening to the BBC rather than Italian media in 1940.[88] Underground Catholic, Communist, and socialist newspapers began to become prominent by 1942.[89] By January 1943, King Victor Emmanuel III was persuaded by the Minister of the Royal Household, the Duke of Acquarone that Mussolini had to be removed from office.[90]

On 25 July 1943, King Victor Emmanuel III dismissed Mussolini, placed him under arrest, and began secret negotiations with the Allies. An armistice was signed on 8 September 1943, and Italy joined the Allies as a co-belligerent. On 12 September 1943, Mussolini was rescued by the Germans in Operation Oak and placed in charge of a puppet state called the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana/RSI, or Repubblica di Salò) in northern Italy. He was killed by Communist partisans on 28 April 1945.[91]

Colonies and dependencies

Italian Empire in his maximum extension, in 1941.

In Europe

Albania was an Italian protectorate and dependency from 1939 to 1943. In spite of Albania's long-standing protection and alliance with Italy, on 7 April 1939 Italian troops invaded Albania, five months before the start of the Second World War. Following the invasion, Albania became a protectorate under Italy, with King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy being awarded the crown of Albania. An Italian governor controlled Albania. Albanian troops under Italian control were sent to participate in the Italian invasion of Greece and the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia. Following Yugoslavia's defeat, Kosovo was annexed to Albania by the Italians.

Politically and economically dominated by Italy from its creation in 1913, Albania was occupied by Italian military forces in 1939 as the Albanian king [Zog] fled the country with his family. The Albanian parliament voted to offer the Albanian throne to the King of Italy, resulting in a personal union between the two countries.

The Albanian army, having been trained by Italian advisors, was reinforced by 100,000 Italian troops. A Fascist militia was organized, drawing its strength principally from Albanians of Italian descent.

Albania served as the staging area for the Italian invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia. Albania annexed Kosovo in 1941 when Yugoslavia was dissolved, creating a Greater Albania.

Albanian troops were dispatched to the Eastern Front to fight the Soviets as part of the Italian Eighth Army.

Albania declared war on the United States in 1941.

When the Fascist regime of Italy fell, in September 1943 Albania fell under German occupation.

The Dodecanese Islands were an Italian dependency from 1912 to 1943.

Montenegro was an Italian protectorate and dependence from 1941 to 1943 that was under the control of an Italian military governor.

In Africa

Italian East Africa was an Italian colony existing from 1936 to 1943. Prior to the invasion and annexation of Ethiopia into this united colony in 1936, Italy had two colonies, Eritrea and Somalia since the 1880s.

Libya was an Italian colony existing from 1912 to 1943. The northern portion of Libya was directly into Italy in 1939, however the region remained united as a colony under a colonial governor.

Self-governing sovereign dominions or protectorates

Croatia (Independent State of Croatia)

The Croatian Home Guard on parade in Zagreb in 1942.

The Independent State of Croatia (NDH) established in 1941, was officially a self-governing sovereign protectorate under King Tomislav II, an Italian monarch from Italy's House of Savoy. The NDH was also under strong German influence, and after Italy capitulated its war effort in 1943, the NDH was no longer a monarchy, and became a German client state.

Military-contributing minor powers


Hungarian Toldi I tank as used during the 1941 Axis invasion of the Soviet Union.

Hungarian soldiers in the Carpathian mountains in 1944.

Hungary, ruled by Regent Admiral Miklós Horthy, was the first country apart from Germany, Italy, and Japan to adhere to the Tripartite Pact, signing the agreement on 20 November 1940.

Political instability plagued the country until Miklós Horthy, a Hungarian nobleman and Austro-Hungarian naval officer, became regent in 1920. Hungarian nationalists desired to recover territories lost through the Trianon Treaty. The country drew closer to Germany and Italy largely because of a shared desire to revise the peace settlements made after World War I. [92] Many people sympathized with the anti-Semitic policy of the Nazi regime. Due to its pro-German stance, Hungary received favourable territorial settlements when Germany annexed Czechoslovakia in 1938–1939 and received Northern Transylvania from Romania via the Vienna Awards of 1940. Hungarians permitted German troops to transit through their territory during the invasion of Yugoslavia, and Hungarian forces took part in the invasion. Parts of Yugoslavia were annexed to Hungary; the United Kingdom immediately broke off diplomatic relations in response.

Although Hungary did not initially participate in the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union on 27 June 1941. Over 500,000 soldiers served on the Eastern Front. All five of Hungary's field armies ultimately participated in the war against the Soviet Union; a significant contribution was made by the Hungarian Second Army.

On 25 November 1941, Hungary was one of thirteen signatories to the revived Anti-Comintern Pact. Hungarian troops, like their Axis counterparts, were involved in numerous actions against the Soviets. By the end of 1943, the Soviets had gained the upper hand and the Germans were retreating. The Hungarian Second Army was destroyed in fighting on the Voronezh Front, on the banks of the Don River. In 1944, with Soviet troops advancing toward Hungary, Horthy attempted to reach an armistice with the Allies. However, the Germans replaced the existing regime with a new one. After fierce fighting, Budapest was taken by the Soviets. A number of pro-German Hungarians retreated to Italy and Germany, where they fought until the end of the war.


Romanian soldiers on the outskirts of Stalingrad during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.

Romanian IAR80 fighter aircraft.

When war erupted in Europe in 1939, the Kingdom of Romania was pro-British and allied to the Poles. Following the invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, and the German conquest of France and the Low Countries, Romania found itself increasingly isolated; meanwhile, pro-German and pro-Fascist elements began to grow.

The August 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union contained a secret protocol ceding Bessarabia, part of northern Romania, to the Soviet Union. [51] On June 28, 1940, the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Bessarabia, as well as Northern Bukovina and the Hertza region. [93] On 30 August 1940, Germany forced Romania to cede Northern Transylvania to Hungary as a result of the second Vienna Award. Southern Dobruja was ceded to Bulgaria in September 1940. In an effort to appease the Fascist elements within the country and obtain German protection, King Carol II appointed the General Ion Antonescu as Prime Minister on September 6, 1940.

Two days later, Antonescu forced the king to abdicate and installed the king's young son Michael (Mihai) on the throne, then declared himself Conducător ("Leader") with dictatorial powers. Under King Michael I and the military government of Antonescu, Romania signed the Tripartite Pact on November 23, 1940. German troops entered the country in 1941 and used the country as platform for invasions of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Romania was a key supplier of resources, especially oil and grain.

Romania joined the German-led invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941; nearly 800,000 Romanian soldiers fought on the Eastern front. Areas that were annexed by the Soviets were reincorporated into Romania, along with the newly established Transnistria Governorate. After suffering devastating losses at Stalingrad, Romanian officials began secretly negotiating peace conditions with the Allies. By 1943, the tide began to turn. The Soviets pushed further west, retaking Ukraine and eventually launching an unsuccessful invasion of eastern Romania in the spring of 1944. Foreseeing the fall of Nazi Germany, Romania switched sides during King Michael's Coup on August 23, 1944. Romanian troops then fought alongside the Soviet Army until the end of the war, reaching as far as Czechoslovakia and Austria.


Bulgarian soldiers in Vardar Macedonia during the Balkans campaign.

The Kingdom of Bulgaria was ruled by Тsar Boris III when it signed the Tripartite Pact on 1 March 1941. Bulgaria had been on the losing side in the First World War and sought a return of lost ethnically and historically Bulgarian territories, specifically in Macedonia and Thrace. During the 1930s, because of traditional right-wing elements, Bulgaria drew closer to Nazi Germany. In 1940 Germany pressured Romania to sign the Treaty of Craiova, returning to Bulgaria the region of Southern Dobrudja, which it had lost in 1913. The Germans also promised Bulgaria — in case it joined the Axis — an enlargement of its territory to the borders specified in the Treaty of San Stefano.

Bulgaria participated in the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece by letting German troops attack from its territory and sent troops to Greece on April 20. As a reward, the Axis powers allowed Bulgaria to occupy parts of both countries—southern and south-eastern Yugoslavia (Vardar Banovina) and north-eastern Greece (parts of Greek Macedonia and Greek Thrace). The Bulgarian forces in these areas spent the following years fighting various nationalist groups and resistance movements. Despite German pressure, Bulgaria did not take part in the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union and actually never declared war on the Soviet Union. The Bulgarian Navy was nonetheless involved in a number of skirmishes with the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, which attacked Bulgarian shipping.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Bulgarian government declared war on the Western Allies. This action remained largely symbolic (at least from the Bulgarian perspective), until August 1943, when Bulgarian air defense and air force attacked Allied bombers, returning (heavily damaged) from a mission over the Romanian oil refineries. This turned into a disaster for the citizens of Sofia and other major Bulgarian cities, which were heavily bombed by the Allies in the winter of 1943–1944.

On 2 September 1944, as the Red Army approached the Bulgarian border, a new Bulgarian government came to power and sought peace with the Allies, expelled the few remaining German troops, and declared neutrality. These measures however did not prevent the Soviet Union from declaring war on Bulgaria on 5 September, and on 8 September the Red Army marched into the country, meeting no resistance. This was followed by the coup d'état of 9 September 1944, which brought a government of the pro-Soviet Fatherland Front. After this, the Bulgarian army (as part of the Red Army's Third Ukrainian Front) fought the Germans in Yugoslavia and Hungary, sustaining numerous casualties. Despite this, the Paris Peace Treaty treated Bulgaria as one of the defeated countries. Bulgaria was allowed to keep Southern Dobruja, but had to give up all claims to Greek and Yugoslav territory. 150,000 ethnic Bulgarians were expelled from Greek Thrace alone.


Various countries fought side by side with the Axis powers for a common cause. These countries were not signatories of the Tripartite Pact and thus not formal members of the Axis.


Thai Prime Minister Phot Phahonyothin (far left) with Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō (center) in Tokyo, Japan, 1942

Thailand waged the Franco-Thai War in October 1940 to May 1941 to reclaim territory from French Indochina. It became a formal ally of Japan from 25 January 1942.

Japanese forces invaded Thailand's territory on the morning of 8 December 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Only hours after the invasion, prime minister Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram ordered the cessation of resistance against the Japanese. On 21 December 1941, a military alliance with Japan was signed and on 25 January 1942, Sang Phathanothai read over the radio Thailand's formal declaration of war on the United Kingdom and the United States. The Thai ambassador to the United States, Mom Rajawongse Seni Pramoj, did not deliver his copy of the declaration of war. Therefore, although the British reciprocated by declaring war on Thailand and considered it a hostile country, the United States did not.

On 21 March, the Thais and Japanese also agreed that Shan State and Kayah State were to be under Thai control. The rest of Burma was to be under Japanese control, On 10 May 1942, the Thai Phayap Army entered Burma's eastern Shan State, which had been claimed by Siamese kingdoms. Three Thai infantry and one cavalry division, spearheaded by armoured reconnaissance groups and supported by the air force, engaged the retreating Chinese 93rd Division. Kengtung, the main objective, was captured on 27 May. Renewed offensives in June and November evicted the Chinese into Yunnan.[94] The area containing the Shan States and Kayah State was annexed by Thailand in 1942. The areas were ceded back to Burma in 1946.

The Free Thai Movement ("Seri Thai") was established during these first few months. Parallel Free Thai organizations were also established in the United Kingdom. Queen Ramphaiphanni was the nominal head of the British-based organization, and Pridi Phanomyong, the regent, headed its largest contingent, which was operating within Thailand. Aided by elements of the military, secret airfields and training camps were established, while Office of Strategic Services and Force 136 agents slipped in and out of the country.

As the war dragged on, the Thai population came to resent the Japanese presence. In June 1944, Phibun was overthrown in a coup d'état. The new civilian government under Khuang Aphaiwong attempted to aid the resistance while maintaining cordial relations with the Japanese. After the war, U. S. influence prevented Thailand from being treated as an Axis country, but the British demanded three million tons of rice as reparations and the return of areas annexed from Malaya during the war. Thailand also returned the portions of British Burma and French Indochina that had been annexed. Phibun and a number of his associates were put on trial on charges of having committed war crimes and of collaborating with the Axis powers. However, the charges were dropped due to intense public pressure. Public opinion was favourable to Phibun, since he was thought to have done his best to protect Thai interests.


Although Finland never signed the Tripartite Pact and legally (de jure) was not a part of the Axis, it was Axis-aligned in its fight against the Soviet Union.[95] Finland signed the revived Anti-Comintern Pact of November 1941.[96]

The August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union contained a secret protocol dividing much of eastern Europe and assigning Finland to the Soviet sphere of influence. [51][97] After unsuccessfully attempting to force territorial and other concessions on the Finns, the Soviet Union tried to invade Finland in November 1939 during the Winter War, intending to establish a communist puppet government in Finland. [98][99] The conflict threatened Germany's iron-ore supplies and offered the prospect of Allied interference in the region. [100] Despite Finnish resistance, a peace treaty was signed in March 1940, wherein Finland ceded some key territory to the Soviet Union, including the Karelian Isthmus, containing Finland's second-largest city, Viipuri, and the critical defensive structure of the Mannerheim Line. After this war, Finland sought protection and support from the United Kingdom[101][102] and non-aligned Sweden, [103] but was thwarted by Soviet and German actions. This resulted in Finland being drawn closer to Germany, first with the intent of enlisting German support as a counterweight to thwart continuing Soviet pressure, and later to help regain lost territories.

In the opening days of Operation Barbarossa, Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union, Finland permitted German planes returning from mine dropping runs over Kronstadt and Neva River to refuel at Finnish airfields before returning to bases in East Prussia. In retaliation, the Soviet Union launched a major air offensive against Finnish airfields and towns, which resulted in a Finnish declaration of war against the Soviet Union on 25 June 1941. The Finnish conflict with the Soviet Union is generally referred to as the Continuation War.

Mannerheim with Hitler

Finland's main objective was to regain territory lost to the Soviet Union in the Winter War. However, on 10 July 1941, Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim issued an Order of the Day that contained a formulation understood internationally as a Finnish territorial interest in Russian Karelia.

Diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Finland were severed on 1 August 1941, after the British bombed German forces in the Finnish village and port of Petsamo. The United Kingdom repeatedly called on Finland to cease its offensive against the Soviet Union, and declared war on Finland on 6 December 1941, although no other military operations followed. War was never declared between Finland and the United States, though relations were severed between the two countries in 1944 as a result of the Ryti-Ribbentrop Agreement.

Finnish troops passing by the remains of a destroyed Soviet T-34 at the battle of Tali-Ihantala

Finland maintained command of its armed forces and pursued war objectives independently of Germany. Germans and Finns did work closely together during Operation Silverfox, a joint offensive against Murmansk. Finland refused German requests to participate actively in the Siege of Leningrad, and also granted asylum to Jews, while Jewish soldiers continued to serve in its army.

The relationship between Finland and Germany more closely resembled an alliance during the six weeks of the Ryti-Ribbentrop Agreement, which was presented as a German condition for help with munitions and air support, as the Soviet offensive coordinated with D-Day threatened Finland with complete occupation. The agreement, signed by President Risto Ryti but never ratified by the Finnish Parliament, bound Finland not to seek a separate peace.

After Soviet offensives were fought to a standstill, Ryti's successor as president, Marshall Mannerheim, dismissed the agreement and opened secret negotiations with the Soviets, which resulted in a ceasefire on 4 September and the Moscow Armistice on 19 September 1944. Under the terms of the armistice, Finland was obliged to expel German troops from Finnish territory, which resulted in the Lapland War. Finland signed a peace treaty with the Allied powers in 1947.

San Marino

San Marino, ruled by the Sammarinese Fascist Party (PFS) since 1923, was closely allied to Italy. On 17 September 1940, San Marino declared war on Britain; Britain did not reciprocate.[104] A day earlier, San Marino restored diplomatic relations with Germany, as it did not attend the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.[105]

San Marino's 1,000 man army remained garrisoned within the country. The war declaration was intended for propaganda purposes to further isolate and demoralize Britain.

Three days after the fall of Mussolini, the PFS was removed and the new government declared neutrality in the conflict. The Fascists regained power on 1 April 1944, but kept neutrality intact. On 26 June, the Royal Air Force accidentally[citation needed] bombed the country, killing 63. Germany used this tragedy in propaganda about Allied aggression against a neutral country.

Retreating Axis forces occupied San Marino on 17 September, but were forced out by the Allies in less than three days. The Allied occupation removed the Fascists from power, and San Marino declared war on Germany on 21 September.[106] The newly elected government banned the Fascists on 16 November.


An RAF officer investigates wrecked Iraqi artillery near Habbaniya.

The Kingdom of Iraq was briefly an ally of the Axis, fighting the United Kingdom in the Anglo-Iraqi War of May 1941.

Anti-British sentiments were widespread in Iraq prior to 1941. Seizing power on 1 April 1941, the nationalist government of Prime Minister Rashid Ali repudiated the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 and demanded that the British abandon their military bases and withdraw from the country. Ali sought support from Germany and Italy in expelling British forces from Iraq.

On 9 May 1941, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the Mufti of Jerusalem and associate of Ali, declared holy war[107] against the British and called on Arabs throughout the Middle East to rise up against British rule. On 25 May 1941, the Germans stepped up offensive operations in the Middle East.

Hitler issued Order 30: "The Arab Freedom Movement in the Middle East is our natural ally against England. In this connection special importance is attached to the liberation of Iraq ... I have therefore decided to move forward in the Middle East by supporting Iraq. "[108]

Hostilities between the Iraqi and British forces began on 2 May 1941, with heavy fighting at the RAF air base in Habbaniyah. The Germans and Italians dispatched aircraft and aircrew to Iraq utilizing Vichy French bases in Syria, which would later invoke fighting between Allied and Vichy French forces in Syria.

The Germans planned to coordinate a combined German-Italian offensive against the British in Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq. Iraqi military resistance ended by 31 May 1941. Rashid Ali and the Mufti of Jerusalem fled to Iran, then Turkey, Italy, and finally Germany, where Ali was welcomed by Hitler as head of the Iraqi government-in-exile in Berlin. In propaganda broadcasts from Berlin, the Mufti continued to call on Arabs to rise up against the British and aid German and Italian forces. He also helped recruit Muslim volunteers in the Balkans for the Waffen-SS.

Client states


The Empire of Japan created a number of client states in the areas occupied by its military, beginning with the creation of Manchukuo in 1932. These puppet states achieved varying degrees of international recognition.

Manchukuo (Manchuria)

Manchurian soldiers training in a military exercise.

Manchurian pilots of the Manchukuo Air Force.

Manchukuo, in the northeast region of China, had been a Japanese puppet state in Manchuria since the 1930s. It was nominally ruled by Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, but was in fact controlled by the Japanese military, in particular the Kwantung Army. While Manchukuo ostensibly was a state for ethnic Manchus, the region had a Han Chinese majority.

Following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the independence of Manchukuo was proclaimed on 18 February 1932, with Puyi as head of state. He was proclaimed the Emperor of Manchukuo a year later. The new Manchu nation was recognized by 23 of the League of Nations' 80 members. Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union were among the major powers who recognised Manchukuo. Other countries who recognized the State were the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Vatican City. Manchukuo was also recognised by the other Japanese allies and puppet states, including Mengjiang, the Burmese government of Ba Maw, Thailand, the Wang Jingwei regime, and the Indian government of Subhas Chandra Bose. The League of Nations later declared in 1934 that Manchuria lawfully remained a part of China. This precipitated Japanese withdrawal from the League. The Manchukuoan state ceased to exist after the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in 1945.

Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia)

Mengjiang was a Japanese puppet state in Inner Mongolia. It was nominally ruled by Prince Demchugdongrub, a Mongol nobleman descended from Genghis Khan, but was in fact controlled by the Japanese military. Mengjiang's independence was proclaimed on 18 February 1936, following the Japanese occupation of the region.

The Inner Mongolians had several grievances against the central Chinese government in Nanking, including their policy of allowing unlimited migration of Han Chinese to the region. Several of the young princes of Inner Mongolia began to agitate for greater freedom from the central government, and it was through these men that Japanese saw their best chance of exploiting Pan-Mongol nationalism and eventually seizing control of Outer Mongolia from the Soviet Union.

Japan created Mengjiang to exploit tensions between ethnic Mongolians and the central government of China, which in theory ruled Inner Mongolia. When the various puppet governments of China were unified under the Wang Jingwei government in March 1940, Mengjiang retained its separate identity as an autonomous federation. Although under the firm control of the Japanese Imperial Army, which occupied its territory, Prince Demchugdongrub had his own independent army.

Mengjiang vanished in 1945 following Japan's defeat in World War II. As Soviet forces advanced into Inner Mongolia, they met limited resistance from small detachments of Mongolian cavalry, which, like the rest of the army, were quickly overwhelmed.

Reorganized National Government of China

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japan advanced from its bases in Manchuria to occupy much of East and Central China. Several Japanese puppet states were organized in areas occupied by the Japanese Army, including the Provisional Government of the Republic of China at Beijing, which was formed in 1937, and the Reformed Government of the Republic of China at Nanjing, which was formed in 1938. These governments were merged into the Reorganized National Government of China at Nanjing on 29 March 1940. Wang Jingwei became head of state. The government was to be run along the same lines as the Nationalist regime and adopted its symbols.

The Nanjing Government had no real power; its main role was to act as a propaganda tool for the Japanese. The Nanjing Government concluded agreements with Japan and Manchukuo, authorising Japanese occupation of China and recognising the independence of Manchukuo under Japanese protection. The Nanjing Government signed the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1941 and declared war on the United States and the United Kingdom on 9 January 1943.

The government had a strained relationship with the Japanese from the beginning. Wang's insistence on his regime being the true Nationalist government of China and in replicating all the symbols of the Kuomintang led to frequent conflicts with the Japanese, the most prominent being the issue of the regime's flag, which was identical to that of the Republic of China.

The worsening situation for Japan from 1943 onwards meant that the Nanking Army was given a more substantial role in the defence of occupied China than the Japanese had initially envisaged. The army was almost continuously employed against the communist New Fourth Army.

Wang Jingwei died on 10 November 1944, and was succeeded by his deputy, Chen Gongbo. Chen had little influence; the real power behind the regime was Zhou Fohai, the mayor of Shanghai. Wang's death dispelled what little legitimacy the regime had. The state stuttered on for another year and continued the display and show of a fascist regime.

On 9 September 1945, following the defeat of Japan, the area was surrendered to General He Yingqin, a nationalist general loyal to Chiang Kai-shek. The Nanking Army generals quickly declared their alliance to the Generalissimo, and were subsequently ordered to resist Communist attempts to fill the vacuum left by the Japanese surrender. Chen Gongbo was tried and executed in 1946.

Philippines (Second Republic)

After the surrender of the Filipino and American forces in Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island, the Japanese established a puppet state in the Philippines in 1942.[109] The following year, the Philippine National Assembly declared the Philippines an independent Republic and elected José Laurel as its President.[110] There was never widespread civilian support for the state, largely because of the general anti-Japanese sentiment stemming from atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army.[citation needed] The Second Philippine Republic ended with Japanese surrender in 1945, and Laurel was arrested and charged with treason by the US government. He was granted amnesty by President Manuel Roxas, and remained active in politics, ultimately winning a seat in the post-war Senate.

India (Provisional Government of Free India)

File:INA Jubilation.jpg

Indian National Army soldiers in Asia.

The Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind, the Provisional Government of Free India, was a government in exile led by Subhas Chandra Bose, an Indian nationalist who rejected Mohandas K. Gandhi's nonviolent methods for achieving independence.

One of the most prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement of the time and former president of the Indian National Congress, Bose was arrested by British authorities at the outset of the Second World War. In January 1941 he escaped from house arrest, eventually reaching Germany. He arrived in 1942 in Singapore, base of the Indian National Army, made up largely from Indian prisoners of war and Indian residents in south east Asia who joined on their own initiative.

Bose and local leader A.M. Sahay received ideological support from Mitsuru Toyama, chief of the Dark Ocean Society, along with Japanese Army advisers. [111] Other Indian thinkers in favour of the Axis cause were Asit Krishna Mukherji, a friend of Bose, and Mukherji's wife, Savitri Devi, a French writer who admired Hitler. [112] Bose was helped by Rash Behari Bose, founder of the Indian Independence League in Japan. Bose declared India's independence on October 21, 1943. The Japanese Army assigned to the Indian National Army a number of military advisors, among them Hideo Iwakuro and Saburo Isoda.

The provisional government formally controlled the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; these islands had fallen to the Japanese and been handed over by Japan in November 1943. The government created its own currency, postage stamps, and national anthem. The government would last two more years, until 18 August 1945, when it officially became defunct. During its existence it received recognition from nine governments: Germany, Japan, Italy, Croatia, Manchukuo, China (under the Nanking Government of Wang Jingwei), Thailand, Burma (under the regime of Burmese nationalist leader Ba Maw), and the Philippines under de facto (and later de jure) president José P. Laurel.

Vietnam (Empire of Vietnam)

The Empire of Vietnam was a short-lived Japanese puppet state that lasted from 11 March to 23 August 1945.

When the Japanese seized control of French Indochina, they allowed Vichy French administrators to remain in nominal control. This French rule ended on 9 March 1945, when the Japanese officially took control of the government. Soon after, Emperor Bảo Đại voided the 1884 treaty with France and Trần Trọng Kim, a historian, became prime minister.

The state suffered through the Vietnamese Famine of 1945 and replaced French-speaking schools with Vietnamese language schools, taught by Vietnamese scholars.


The Kingdom of Cambodia was a short-lived Japanese puppet state that lasted from 9 March 1945 to 15 April 1945.

The Japanese entered Cambodia in mid-1941, but allowed Vichy French officials to remain in administrative posts. The Japanese calls for an "Asia for the Asiatics" won over many Cambodian nationalists.

This policy changed during the last months of the war. The Japanese wanted to gain local support, so they dissolved French colonial rule and pressured Cambodia to declare its independence within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Four days later, King Sihanouk declared Kampuchea (the original Khmer pronunciation of Cambodia) independent. Co-editor of the Nagaravatta, Son Ngoc Thanh, returned from Tokyo in May and was appointed foreign minister.

On the date of Japanese surrender, a new government was proclaimed with Son Ngoc Thanh as prime minister. When the Allies occupied Phnom Penh in October, Son Ngoc Thanh was arrested for collaborating with the Japanese and was exiled to France. Some of his supporters went to northwestern Cambodia, which had been under Thai control since the French-Thai War of 1940, where they banded together as one faction in the Khmer Issarak movement, originally formed with Thai encouragement in the 1940s.


Fears of Thai irredentism led to the formation of the first Lao nationalist organization, the Movement for National Renovation, in January 1941. The group was led by Prince Phetxarāt and supported by local French officials, though not by the Vichy authorities in Hanoi. This group wrote the current Lao national anthem and designed the current Lao flag, while paradoxically pledging support for France. The country declared its independence in 1945.

The liberation of France in 1944, bringing Charles de Gaulle to power, meant the end of the alliance between Japan and the Vichy French administration in Indochina. The Japanese had no intention of allowing the Gaullists to take over, and in late 1944 they staged a military coup in Hanoi. Some French units fled over the mountains to Laos, pursued by the Japanese, who occupied Viang Chan in March 1945 and Luang Phrabāng in April. King Sīsavāngvong was detained by the Japanese, but his son Crown Prince Savāngvatthanā called on all Lao to assist the French, and many Lao died fighting against the Japanese occupiers.[citation needed]

Prince Phetxarāt opposed this position. He thought that Lao independence could be gained by siding with the Japanese, who made him Prime Minister of Luang Phrabāng, though not of Laos as a whole. The country was in chaos, and Phetxarāt's government had no real authority. Another Lao group, the Lao Sēri (Free Lao), received unofficial support from the Free Thai movement in the Isan region.

Burma (Ba Maw regime)

The Japanese Army and Burma nationalists, led by Aung San, seized control of Burma from the United Kingdom during 1942. A State of Burma was formed on 1 August under the Burmese nationalist leader Ba Maw. The Ba Maw regime established the Burma Defence Army (later renamed the Burma National Army), which was commanded by Aung San.


Italy occupied several nations and set up clients in those regions to carry out administrative tasks and maintain order.


Montenegro in 1941

Montenegro, a former kingdom which was merged into Serbia to form Yugoslavia after the First World War, had long ties to Italy. When Yugoslavia came under Axis occupation, Montenegrin nationalists jumped at the opportunity to create a new Montenegro.

Sekula Drljević and the core of the Montenegrin Federalist Party formed the Provisional Administrative Committee of Montenegro on 12 July 1941, and proclaimed on the Saint Peter's Congress the "Kingdom of Montenegro" under under the protection of Italy.

The country served Italy as part of its goal of fragmenting the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia, expanding the Italian Empire throughout the Adriatic. The country was caught up in the rebellion of the Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland. Drljevic was expelled from Montenegro in October 1941. The country came under direct Italian control. With the Italian capitulation of 1943, Montenegro came directly under the control of Nazi Germany.

In 1944 Drljević formed a pro-Ustaše Montenegrin State Council in exile based in the Independent State of Croatia, with the aim of restoring rule over Montenegro. The Montenegrin People's Army was formed out of various Montenegrin nationalist troops. By then the partisans had already liberated most of Montenegro, which became a federal state of the new Democratic Federal Yugoslavia. Montenegro endured intense air bombing by the Allied air forces in 1944.


The Principality of Monaco was officially neutral during the war. The population of the country was largely of Italian descent and sympathized with Italy. Its prince was a close friend of the Vichy French leader, Marshal Philippe Pétain, an Axis collaborator. A fascist regime was established under the nominal rule of the prince when the Italian Fourth Army occupied the country on November 10, 1942 as part of Case Anton. Monaco's military forces, consisting primarily of police and palace guards, collaborated with the Italians during the occupation. German troops occupied Monaco in 1943, and Monaco was liberated by Allied forces in 1944.


The collaborationist administrations of German-occupied countries in Europe had varying degrees of autonomy, and not all of them qualified as fully recognized sovereign states. The General Government in occupied Poland did not qualify as a legitimate Polish government and was essentially a German administration. In occupied Norway, the National Government headed by Vidkun Quisling – whose name came to symbolize pro-Axis collaboration in several languages – was subordinate to the Reichskommissariat Norwegen. It was never allowed to have any armed forces, be a recognized military partner, or have autonomy of any kind. In the occupied Netherlands, Anton Mussert was given the symbolic title of "Führer of the Netherlands' people". His National Socialist Movement formed a cabinet assisting the German administration, but was never recognized as a real Dutch government.

Slovakia (Tiso regime)

Slovakia in 1941

The Slovak Republic under President Josef Tiso signed the Tripartite Pact on 24 November 1940.

Slovakia had been closely aligned with Germany almost immediately from its declaration of independence from Czechoslovakia on 14 March 1939. Slovakia entered into a treaty of protection with Germany on 23 March 1939.

Slovak troops joined the German invasion of Poland, having interest in Spiš and Orava. Those two regions, along with Cieszyn Silesia, had been disputed between Poland and Czechoslovakia since 1918. The Poles fully annexed them following the Munich Agreement. After the invasion of Poland, Slovakia reclaimed control of those territories.

File:Andrzeja Olejko Słowackie epizody z polskiego Podkarpacia Sanok 39.jpg

Slovak troops led by General Ferdinand Čatloš (center) pose with a statue of Tadeusz Kościuszko in Sanok during the Invasion of Poland.

Slovakia invaded Poland alongside German forces, contributing 50,000 men at this stage of the war.

Slovakia declared war on the Soviet Union in 1941 and signed the revived Anti-Comintern Pact of 1941. Slovak troops fought on Germany's Eastern Front, furnishing Germany with two divisions totaling 80,000 men. Slovakia declared war on the United Kingdom and the United States in 1942.

Slovakia was spared German military occupation until the Slovak National Uprising, which began on 29 August 1944, and was almost immediately crushed by the Waffen SS and Slovak troops loyal to Josef Tiso.

After the war, Tiso was executed and Slovakia was rejoined with Czechoslovakia. The border with Poland was shifted back to the pre-war state. Slovakia and the Czech Republic finally separated into independent states in 1993.

Croatia (Independent State of Croatia)

Adolf Hitler meeting with NDH leader Ante Pavelić.

On 10 April 1941, the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, or NDH) was declared to be a member of the Axis, co-signing the Tripartite Pact. The NDH remained a member of the Axis until the end of Second World War, its forces fighting for Germany even after NDH had been overrun by Yugoslav Partisans. On 16 April 1941, Ante Pavelić, a Croatian nationalist and one of the founders of the Ustaša – Croatian Liberation Movement, was proclaimed Poglavnik (leader) of the new regime.

Initially the Ustaše had been heavily influenced by Italy, it was actively supported by Mussolini's Fascist regime in Italy, which gave the movement training grounds to prepare for war against Yugoslavia, as well as accepting Pavelić as an exile and allowing him to reside in Rome. Italy intended to use the movement to destroy Yugoslavia, which would allow Italy to expand its power through the Adriatic. Hitler did not want to engage in a war in the Balkans until the Soviet Union was defeated. The Italian occupation of Greece was not going well; Mussolini wanted Germany to invade Yugoslavia to save the Italian forces in Greece. Hitler reluctantly submitted; Yugoslavia was invaded and the Independent State of Croatia was created. Pavelić led a delegation to Rome and offered the crown of Croatia to an Italian prince of the House of Savoy, who was crowned Tomislav II, King of Croatia, Prince of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Voivode of Dalmatia, Tuzla and Knin, Prince of Cisterna and of Belriguardo, Marquess of Voghera, and Count of Ponderano. The next day, Pavelić signed the Contracts of Rome with Mussolini, ceding Dalmatia to Italy and fixing the permanent borders between the NDH and Italy. Italian armed forces were allowed to control all of the coastline of the NDH, effectively giving Italy total control of the Adriatic coastline.

However German influence became strong upon the NDH being founded. After the King of Italy ousted Mussolini from power and Italy capitulated, the NDH became completely under German influence.

The platform of the Ustaše movement proclaimed that Croatians had been oppressed by the Serb-dominated Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and that Croatians deserved to have an independent nation after years of domination by foreign empires. The Ustaše perceived Serbs to be racially inferior to Croats and saw them as infiltrators who were occupying Croatian lands. They saw the extermination of Serbs as necessary to racially purify Croatia. While part of Yugoslavia, many Croatian nationalists violently opposed the Serb-dominated Yugoslav monarchy, and assassinated Alexander I of Yugoslavia, together with the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization. The regime enjoyed support amongst radical Croatian nationalists. Ustashe forces fought against Serbian Chetnik and communist Yugoslav Partisan guerrillas throughout the war.

Upon coming to power, Pavelić formed the Croatian Home Guard (Hrvatsko domobranstvo) as the official military force of the NDH. Originally authorized at 16,000 men, it grew to a peak fighting force of 130,000. The Croatian Home Guard included an air force and navy, although its navy was restricted in size by the Contracts of Rome. In addition to the Croatian Home Guard, Pavelić was also the supreme commander of the Ustaše militia, although all NDH military units were generally under the command of the German or Italian formations in their area of operations. Many Croats volunteered for the German Waffen SS.

The Ustaše government declared war on the Soviet Union, signed the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1941, and sent troops to Germany's Eastern Front. Ustaše militia were garrisoned the Balkans, battling the Chetniks and communist partisans.

The Ustaše government applied racial laws on Serbs, Jews, and Romas, and after June 1941 deported them to the Jasenovac concentration camp or to German camps in Poland. The racial laws were enforced by the Ustaše militia. The exact number of victims of the Ustaše regime is uncertain due to the destruction of documents and varying numbers given by historians. The estimates range between 56,000 and 97,000[113] to 700,000 or more.

Ustaše never had widespread support among the population of the NDH. Their own estimates put the number of sympathizers, even in the early phase, at around 40,000 out of total population of 7 million. However, they were able to rely on the passive acceptance of much of the Croat population of the NDH.

Italy (Italian Social Republic)


RSI soldiers, March 1944.

Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini formed the Italian Social Republic (Repubblica Sociale Italiana in Italian) on 23 September 1943, succeeding the Kingdom of Italy as a member of the Axis.

Mussolini had been removed from office and arrested by King Victor Emmanuel III on 25 July 1943. After the Italian armistice, in a raid led by German paratrooper Otto Skorzeny, Mussolini was rescued from arrest.

Once restored in power, Mussolini declared that Italy was a republic and that he was the new head of state. He was subject to German control for the duration of the war.

Albania (under German control)

After the Italian armistice, a void of power opened up in Albania. The Italian occupying forces could do nothing, as the National Liberation Movement took control of the south and National Front (Balli Kombëtar) took control of the north. Albanians in the Italian army joined the guerrilla forces. In September 1943 the guerrillas moved to take the capital of Tirana, but German paratroopers dropped into the city. Soon after the fight, the German High Command announced that they would recognize the independence of a greater Albania. They organized an Albanian government, police, and military with the Balli Kombëtar. The Germans did not exert heavy control over Albania's administration, but instead attempted to gain popular appeal by giving the Albanians what they wanted. Several Balli Kombëtar leaders held positions in the regime. The joint forces incorporated Kosovo, western Macedonia, southern Montenegro, and Presevo into the Albanian state. A High Council of Regency was created to carry out the functions of a head of state, while the government was headed mainly by Albanian conservative politicians. Albania was the only European country occupied by the Axis powers that ended World War II with a larger Jewish population than before the war. [114] The Albanian government had refused to hand over their Jewish population. They provided Jewish families with forged documents and helped them disperse in the Albanian population.[115] Albania was completely liberated on November 29, 1944.

Hungary (Szálasi regime)

Relations between Germany and the regency of Miklós Horthy collapsed in Hungary in 1944. Horthy was forced to abdicate after German armed forces held his son hostage as part of Operation Panzerfaust. Hungary was reorganized following Horthy's abdication in December 1944 into a totalitarian fascist regime called the Government of National Unity, led by Ferenc Szálasi. He had been Prime Minister of Hungary since October 1944 and was leader of the anti-Semitic fascist Arrow Cross Party. In power, his government was a Quisling regime with little authority other than to obey Germany's orders. Days after the government took power, the capital of Budapest was surrounded by the Soviet Red Army. German and fascist Hungarian forces tried to hold off the Soviet advance but failed. In March 1945, Szálasi fled to Germany to run the state in exile, until the surrender of Germany in May 1945.

Joint German-Italian puppet states


Greece, 1941–1944

Following the German invasion of Greece and the flight of the Greek government to Crete and then Egypt, the Hellenic State was formed in May 1941 as a puppet state of both Italy and Germany. Initially, Italy had wished to annex Greece, but was pressured by Germany to avoid civil unrest such as had occurred in Bulgarian-annexed areas. The result was Italy accepting the creation of a puppet regime with the support of Germany. Italy had been assured by Hitler of a primary role in Greece. Most of the country was held by Italian forces, but strategic locations (Central Macedonia, the islands of the northeastern Aegean, most of Crete, and parts of Attica) were held by the Germans, who seized most of the country's economic assets and effectively controlled the collaborationist government. The puppet regime never commanded any real authority, and did not gain the allegiance of the people. It was somewhat successful in preventing secessionist movements like the Principality of the Pindus from establishing themselves. By mid-1943, the Greek Resistance had liberated large parts of the mountainous interior ("Free Greece"), setting up a separate administration there. After the Italian armistice, the Italian occupation zone was taken over by the German armed forces, who remained in charge of the country until their withdrawal in autumn 1944. In some Aegean islands, German garrisons were left behind, and surrendered only after the end of the war.

Controversial cases

States listed in this section were not officially members of Axis, but at some point during the war engaged in cooperation with one or more Axis members on level that makes their neutrality disputable.


Kingdom of Denmark

On 31 May 1939, Denmark and Germany signed a treaty of non-aggression, which did not contain any military obligations for either party.[116] On April 9, 1940, citing the intended laying of mines in Norwegian and Danish waters as a pretext, Germany invaded both countries. King Christian X and the Danish government, worried about German bombings if they resisted occupation, accepted "protection by the Reich" in exchange for nominal independence under German military occupation. Three successive Prime Ministers, Thorvald Stauning, Vilhelm Buhl, and Erik Scavenius, maintained this samarbejdspolitik ("cooperation policy") of collaborating with Germany.

Denmark coordinated its foreign policy with Germany, extending diplomatic recognition to Axis collaborator and puppet regimes, and breaking diplomatic relations with the governments-in-exile formed by countries occupied by Germany. Denmark broke diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and signed the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1941.[117]

In 1941 a Danish military corps, the Frikorps Danmark, was created at the initiative of the SS and the Danish Nazi Party, to fight alongside the Wehrmacht on Germany's Eastern Front. The government's following statement was widely interpreted as a sanctioning of the corps. [118] Frikorps Danmark was open to members of the Danish Royal Army and those who had completed their service within the last ten years.[119] Between 4,000 and 10,000 Danish citizens joined the Frikorps Danmark, including 77 officers of the Royal Danish Army. An estimated 3,900 of these soldiers died fighting for Germany during the Second World War.[citation needed]

Denmark transferred six torpedo boats to Germany in 1941, although the bulk of its navy remained under Danish command until the declaration of martial law in 1943.[citation needed]

Denmark supplied agricultural and industrial products to Germany as well as loans for armaments and fortifications. The German presence in Denmark, including the construction of the Danish part of the Atlantic Wall fortifications, was paid from an account in Denmark's central bank, Nationalbanken. The Danish government had been promised that these costs would be repaid, but this never happened. The construction of the Atlantic Wall fortifications in Jutland cost 5 billion Danish kroner.[citation needed]

The Danish protectorate government lasted until 29 August 1943, when the cabinet resigned following a declaration of martial law by occupying German military officials. From that on, Denmark officially joined the allied. Germany declared war on Denmark and attacked the Danish military bases which led to 13 Danish soldiers dead in the fighting. The Danish navy scuttled 32 of its larger ships to prevent their use by Germany. Germany seized 14 larger and 50 smaller vessels, and later raised and refitted 15 of the sunken vessels. During the scuttling of the Danish fleet, a number of vessels attempted an escape to Swedish waters, and 13 vessels succeeded, four of which were larger ships.[120][121] By the autumn of 1944, these ships officially formed a Danish naval flotilla in exile.[122] In 1943 Swedish authorities allowed 500 Danish soldiers in Sweden to train as police troops. By the autumn of 1944, Sweden raised this number to 4,800 and recognized the entire unit as a Danish military brigade in exile.[123] Danish collaboration continued on an administrative level, with the Danish bureaucracy functioning under German command.

Active resistance to the German occupation among the populace, negligible before 1943, increased after the declaration of martial law. The intelligence operations of the Danish resistance was described as "second to none" by Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery after the liberation of Denmark.[124]

Vichy France

Personal standard of Philippe Pétain, as Chief of the French State

France and its colonial empire, under the Vichy regime of Marshal Philippe Pétain, collaborated with the Axis from 1940 until 1944, when the regime was dissolved.

The German invasion army entered Paris on June 14, 1940, following the battle of France. Pétain became the last Prime Minister of the French Third Republic on 16 June 1940. He sued for peace with Germany and on 22 June 1940, his government concluded an armistice with Hitler. Under the terms of the agreement, Germany occupied two-thirds of France, including Paris. Pétain was permitted to keep an "armistice army" of 100,000 men within the unoccupied southern zone. This number included neither the army based in the French colonial empire nor the French fleet. In French North Africa and French Equatorial Africa, the Vichy were permitted to maintain 127,000 men under arms after the colony of Gabon defected to the Free French. [125] The French also maintained substantial garrisons at the French-mandated territory of Syria and Lebanon, the French colony of Madagascar, and in Djibouti.

After the armistice, relations between the Vichy French and the British quickly deteriorated. Fearful that the powerful French fleet might fall into German hands, the British launched several naval attacks, most notable of which was against the Algerian harbour of Mers el-Kebir on 3 July 1940. Though Churchill defended his controversial decision to attack the French Fleet, the French people were less accepting. German propaganda trumpeted these attacks as an absolute betrayal of the French people by their former allies. France broke relations with the United Kingdom and considered declaring war.[citation needed]

On 10 July 1940, Petain was given emergency "full powers" by a majority vote of the French National Assembly. The following day approval of the new constitution by the Assembly effectively created the French State (l'État Français), replacing the French Republic with the unofficial Vichy France, named for the resort town of Vichy, where Petain maintained his seat of government. The new government continued to be recognised as the lawful government of France by the United States until 1942. Racial laws were introduced in France and its colonies and many French Jews were deported to Germany. Albert Lebrun, last President of the Republic, did not leave the presidential office when he moved to Vizille on 10 July 1940. By 25 April 1945, during Petain's trial, Lebrun argued that he thought he would be able to return to power after the fall of Germany, since he had not resigned.[126]

In September 1940, Vichy France allowed Japan to occupy French Indochina, a federation of the French colonial possessions and protectorates roughly encompassing the territory of modern day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Vichy regime continued to administer the colony under Japanese military occupation. French Indochina was the base for the Japanese invasions of Thailand, Malaya, and Borneo. In 1945, under Japanese sponsorship, the Empire of Vietnam and the Kingdom of Cambodia were proclaimed as Japanese puppet states.

France during the war

French General Charles de Gaulle headquartered his Free French movement in London in a largely unsuccessful effort to win over the French colonial empire. On 26 September 1940, de Gaulle led an attack by Allied forces on the Vichy port of Dakar in French West Africa. Forces loyal to Pétain fired on de Gaulle and repulsed the attack after two days of heavy fighting. Public opinion in vichy France was further outraged, and Vichy France drew closer to Germany.

Vichy France assisted Iraq in the Anglo–Iraqi War of 1941, allowing Germany and Italy to utilize air bases in the French mandate of Syria to support the Iraqi revolt against the British. Allied forces responded by attacking Syria and Lebanon in 1941. In 1942 Allied forces attacked the French colony of Madagascar.

There were considerable anti-communist movements in France, and as result, volunteers joined the German forces in their war against the Soviet Union. Almost 7,000 volunteers joined the anti-communist Légion des Volontaires Français (LVF) from 1941 to 1944, and some 7,500 formed the Division Charlemagne, a Waffen-SS unit, from 1944 to 1945. Both the LVF and the Division Charlemagne fought on the eastern front. Hitler never accepted that France could become a full military partner, [127] and constantly prevented the buildup of Vichy's military strength.

Vichy's collaboration with Germany was industrial as well as political, with French factories providing many vehicles to the German armed forces.

In November 1942 Vichy French troops briefly but fiercely resisted the landing of Allied troops in French North Africa, but were unable to prevail. Admiral François Darlan negotiated a local ceasefire with the Allies. In response to the landings and Vichy's inability to defend itself, German troops occupied southern France and Tunisia, a French protectorate that formed part of French North Africa. The rump French army in mainland France was disbanded by the Germans. The Bey of Tunis formed a government friendly to the Germans.

In mid-1943, former Vichy authorities in North Africa came to an agreement with the Free French and setup a temporary French government in Algiers, known as the French Committee of National Liberation (Comité Français de Libération Nationale, CFLN), initially led by Darlan. After his assassination De Gaulle emerged as the French leader. The CFLN raised more troops and re-organized, re-trained and re-equipped the French military, under Allied supervision.

While deprived of armed forces, the Vichy government continued to function in mainland France until summer 1944, but had lost most of its territorial sovereignty and military assets, with the exception of the forces stationed in French Indochina. In 1943 it founded the Milice, a paramilitary force which assisted the Germans in rounding up opponents and Jews, as well as fighting the French Resistance.

Soviet Union

German and Soviet soldiers during the official transfer of Brest to Soviet control in front of picture of Stalin, in the aftermath of the invasion and partition of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939.

Relations between the Soviet Union and the major Axis powers were generally hostile before 1938. In the Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union gave military aid to the Second Spanish Republic, against Spanish Nationalist forces, which were assisted by Germany and Italy. However, the Nationalist forces were victorious. The Soviets suffered another political defeat when their ally Czechoslovakia was partitioned and partially annexed by Germany and Hungary via the Munich Agreement. In 1938 and 1939, the USSR fought and defeated Japan in two separate border wars, at Lake Khasan and Khalkhin Gol, the latter being a major Soviet victory.

In 1939 the Soviet Union considered forming an alliance with either Britain and France or with Germany. [128][129] The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 between the Soviet Union and Germany included a secret protocol whereby the independent countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania were divided into spheres of interest of the parties. [51] The Soviet Union had been forced to cede Western Belarus and Western Ukraine to Poland after losing the Soviet-Polish War of 1919–1921, and the Soviet Union sought to regain those territories.[42]

On 1 September, barely a week after the pact had been signed, Germany invaded Poland. The Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east on 17 September and on 28 September signed a secret treaty with Nazi Germany to arrange coordination of fighting against Polish resistance. The Soviets targeted intelligence, entrepreneurs, and officers, committing a string of atrocities that culminated in the Katyn massacre and mass relocation to Siberian concentration camps (Gulags).[130]

Soon after that, the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, [93][131] and annexed Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina from Romania. The Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939, which started the Winter War. [99] Finnish defences prevented an all-out invasion, resulting in an interim peace, but Finland was forced to cede strategically important border areas near Leningrad.

The Soviet Union supported Germany in the war effort against Western Europe through the 1939 German-Soviet Commercial Agreement and the 1940 German-Soviet Commercial Agreement, with exports of raw materials (phosphates, chromium and iron ore, mineral oil, grain, cotton, and rubber). These and other export goods transported through Soviet and occupied Polish territories allowed Germany to circumvent the British naval blockade.

In October and November 1940, Nazi-Soviet talks about the potential of joining the Axis took place in Berlin. [132][133] Joseph Stalin later personally countered with a separate proposal in a letter later in November that contained several secret protocols, including that "the area south of Batum and Baku in the general direction of the Persian Gulf is recognized as the center of aspirations of the Soviet Union", referring to an area approximating present day Iraq and Iran, and a Soviet claim to Bulgaria. [133][134] Hitler never returned Stalin's letter. [135][136] Shortly thereafter, Hitler issued a secret directive on the eventual attempts to invade the Soviet Union. [134] [137]

Germany ended the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by invading the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941.[52] That resulted in the Soviet Union becoming one of the main members of Allies.

Germany then revived its Anti-Comintern Pact, enlisting many European and Asian countries in opposition to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union and Japan remained neutral towards each other for most of the war by the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact. The Soviet Union ended the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact by invading Manchukuo on 8 August 1945, due to agreements reached at the Yalta Conference with Roosevelt and Churchill.


Front row in order from left to right: Karl Wolff, Heinrich Himmler, Francisco Franco and Spain's Foreign Minister Serrano Súñer in Madrid, October 1940.


Francisco Franco (centre) and Serrano Súñer (left) meeting with Mussolini (right) in Bordighera, Italy in 1941. At Bordighera, Franco and Mussolini discussed the creation of a Latin Bloc.[85]

Caudillo Francisco Franco's Spanish State gave moral, economic, and military assistance to the Axis powers, while nominally maintaining neutrality. Franco described Spain as a member of the Axis and signed the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1941 with Hitler and Mussolini. Members of the ruling Falange party in Spain held irredentist designs on Gibraltar. [138] Falangists also supported Spanish colonial acquisition of Tangier, French Morocco and northwestern French Algeria. [139] Spain also held ambitions on former Spanish colonies in Latin America. [140] In June 1940 the Spanish government approached Germany to propose an alliance in exchange for Germany recognizing Spain's territorial aims: the annexation of the Oran province of Algeria, the incorporation of all Morocco, the extension of Spanish Sahara southward to the twentieth parallel, and the incorporation of French Cameroons into Spanish Guinea. [141] In 1940 Spain invaded and occupied the Tangier International Zone, maintaining its occupation until 1945.[141] The occupation caused a dispute between Britain and Spain in November 1940; Spain conceded to protect British rights in the area and promised not to fortify the area. [141] The Spanish government secretly held expansionist plans towards Portugal that it made known to the German government. In a communiqué with Germany on 26 May 1942, Franco declared that Portugal should be annexed into Spain. [142]

Franco won the Spanish Civil War with the help of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, which were both eager to establish another fascist state in Europe. Spain owed Germany over $212 million[citation needed] for supplies of matériel during the Spanish Civil War, and Italian combat troops had actually fought in Spain on the side of Franco's Nationalists.

From 1940 to 1941, Franco had endorsed a Latin Bloc of Italy, Vichy France, Spain, and Portugal, with support from the Vatican in order to balance the countries' powers to that of Germany.[85] Franco discussed the Latin Bloc alliance with Petain of Vichy France in Montpellier, France in 1940, and with Mussolini in Bordighera, Italy.[85]

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Franco immediately offered to form a unit of military volunteers to join the invasion. This was accepted by Hitler and, within two weeks, there were more than enough volunteers to form a division – the Blue Division (División Azul) under General Agustín Muñoz Grandes.

The possibility of Spanish intervention in World War II was of concern to the United States, which investigated the activities of Spain's ruling Falange party in Latin America, especially Puerto Rico, where pro-Falange and pro-Franco sentiment was high, even amongst the ruling upper classes. [143] The Falangists promoted the idea of supporting Spain's former colonies in fighting against American domination. [140] Prior to the outbreak of war, support for Franco and the Falange was high in the Philippines. [144] The Falange Exterior, the international department of the Falange, collaborated with Japanese forces against US forces in the Philippines through the Philippine Falange. [145]


The official policy of Sweden before, during, and after World War II was neutrality, except in the Finnish Winter War where Sweden supported Finland as a non-belligerent non-neutral country. It had held this policy for over a century, since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. However, Swedish neutrality during World War II has been much debated and challenged.

In contrast to many other neutral countries, Sweden was not directly attacked during the war. It was subject to British and Nazi German naval blockades, which led to problems with the supply of food and fuels. From spring 1940 to summer 1941 Sweden and Finland were surrounded by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. This led to difficulties with maintaining the rights and duties of neutral states in the Hague Convention. Sweden violated this, as German troops were allowed to travel through Swedish territory between July 1940 to August 1943.

In spite of the fact that it was allowed by the Hague Convention, Sweden has been criticized for exporting iron ore to Nazi Germany via the Baltic and the Norwegian port of Narvik. German dependence on Swedish iron ore shipments was the primary reason for Great Britain to launch Operation Wilfred and, together with France, the Norwegian Campaign in early April 1940. By early June 1940, the Norwegian Campaign stood as a failure for the allies. Nazi Germany could obtain the Swedish iron ore supply it needed for war production, despite the British naval blockade, by its forcefully securing access to Norwegian ports.


Yugoslavia before 1941

On 25 March 1941, fearing that Yugoslavia would be invaded otherwise, Prince Paul signed the Tripartite Pact with significant reservations. Unlike other Axis powers, Yugoslavia was not obligated to provide military assistance, nor to provide its territory for Axis to move military forces during the war. Yugoslavia's inclusion in the Axis was not openly welcomed; Italy did not desire Yugoslavia to be a partner in the Axis alliance because Italy had territorial claims on Yugoslavia. [146] Germany, on the other hand, initially wanted Yugoslavia to participate in Germany's then-planned Operation Marita in Greece by providing military access to German forces to travel from Germany through Yugoslavia to Greece. [146]

Two days after signing the alliance in 1941, after demonstrations in the streets of Belgrade, Prince Paul was removed from office by a coup d'état. Seventeen-year-old Prince Peter was proclaimed to be of age and was declared king, though he was not crowned nor anointed (a custom of the Serbian Orthodox Church). The new Yugoslavian government under King Peter II, still fearful of invasion, stated that it would remain bound by the Tripartite Pact. Hitler, however, suspected that the British were behind the coup against Prince Paul and vowed to invade the country.

The German invasion began on 6 April 1941. Royal Yugoslav Army was thoroughly defeated in less than two weeks and an unconditional surrender was signed in Belgrade on 17 April. King Peter II and much of the Yugoslavian government had left the country because they did not want to cooperate with the Axis.

While Yugoslavia was no longer capable of being a member of the Axis, several Axis-aligned puppet states emerged after the kingdom was dissolved. Local governments were set up in Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro. The remainder of Yugoslavia was divided among the other Axis powers. Germany annexed parts of Drava Banovina. Italy annexed south-western Drava Banovina, coastal parts of Croatia (Dalmatia and the islands), and attached Kosovo to Albania (occupied since 1939). Hungary annexed several border territories of Vojvodina and Baranja. Bulgaria annexed Macedonia and parts of southern Serbia.

Further resistance in the Nazi-occupied country was not unified as ideologically opposed resistance groups like the Partisans and Chetniks formed and began making offensives in the Balkans.

German, Japanese and Italian World War II cooperation

German-Japanese Axis-cooperation

Germany's and Italy's declaration of war against the United States

Hitler declaring war on the United States on 11 December 1941

Italian pilots of a Savoia-Marchetti SM.75 long-range cargo aircraft meeting with Japanese officials upon arriving in East Asia in 1942.

On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked the naval bases in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. According to the stipulation of the Tripartite Pact, Nazi Germany was required to come to the defense of her allies only if they were attacked. Since Japan had made the first move, Germany and Italy were not obliged to aid her until the United States counterattacked. Hitler ordered the Reichstag to formally declare war on the United States. [147] Italy also declared war.

Hitler made a speech in the Reichstag on 11 December, saying that:

The fact that the Japanese Government, which has been negotiating for years with this man (President Roosevelt), has at last become tired of being mocked by him in such an unworthy way, fills us all, the German people, and all other decent people in the world, with deep satisfaction ... Germany and Italy have been finally compelled, in view of this, and in loyalty to the Tri-Partite Pact, to carry on the struggle against the U. S. A. and England jointly and side by side with Japan for the defense and thus for the maintenance of the liberty and independence of their nations and empires ... As a consequence of the further extension of President Roosevelt's policy, which is aimed at unrestricted world domination and dictatorship, the U. S. A. together with England have not hesitated from using any means to dispute the rights of the German, Italian and Japanese nations to the basis of their natural existence ... Not only because we are the ally of Japan, but also because Germany and Italy have enough insight and strength to comprehend that, in these historic times, the existence or non-existence of the nations, is being decided perhaps forever.[148]

German and Japanese direct spheres of influence at their greatest extents in fall 1942. Arrows show planned movements to an agreed demarcation line at 70° E, which was, however, never even approximated.

Historian Ian Kershaw suggests that this declaration of war against the United States was one of the most disastrous mistakes made by the Axis powers, as it allowed the United States to join the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in war against Germany without any limitation. [149] Americans played a key role in the strategic bombardment of Germany and the invasion of the continent, ending German domination in Western Europe. The Germans were aware that the Americans had drawn up a series of war plans based on a plethora of scenarios, and expected war with the United States no later than 1943.[150]

Hitler awarded Japanese ambassador to Nazi Germany Hiroshi Ōshima the Grand Cross of the Order of the German Eagle (1st class) after the attack on Pearl Harbor. On this occasion he said:

"You gave the right declaration of war. This method is the only proper one. Japan pursued it formerly and it corresponds with his own system, that is, to negotiate as long as possible. But if one sees that the other is interested only in putting one off, in shaming and humiliating one, and is not willing to come to an agreement, then one should strike as hard as possible, and not waste time declaring war."[151]

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Further reading

  • Dear, Ian C. B.; Foot, Michael; Richard Daniell (eds.) (2005). The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280670-X. 
  • Kirschbaum, Stanislav (1995). A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-10403-0. 
  • Roberts, Geoffrey (1992). "Infamous Encounter? The Merekalov-Weizsacker Meeting of 17 April 1939". Cambridge University Press. pp. 921–926. Digital object identifier:10.1017/S0018246X00026224. JSTOR 2639445. 
  • Weinberg, Gerhard L. (2005). A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II (2nd ed.). NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-85316-3. 

External links

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