** war and social upheaval: World War II -- Axis alliance members

The Axis Alliance: Members

Figure 1.--The Japanese preparing to attack the United States received detailed reports from their Embassy in Berlin on Operation Barbarossa--the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The United States through the Magic Program decrypted some of these reports even before the Germans attacked and passed them on to Sralin. The reports of stunning German victories were so impressive that the Japanese concluded that the NAZIS would conquer the Soviets. Apparently there were Japanese military attaches accompanying the invading Wehrmacht forces. Here we see an unidentified Japanese officer at Taganrog, a captured Soviet Naval base on the Don near Rostov. We can't read the sign. It could be "F�hrerhauptquartier," but we are not sure. The Germans took the base (October 1941). The Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor was launched just as the Red Army launched its massive winter counter-offenive before Moscow. This was made possible in part because the Japanese decided to attack the United states rather than join the Germans in the campaign against the Soviet Union. Image coutesy of Military History of the 20th Century.

The agreement allied Germany and Italy (which were at war with Britain) and Japan (which was at war with China). Germany and Italy has since 1939-40 been at war with Britain. Japan since 1937 had been at war with China. The alliance became known as the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis alliance, or commonly the Axis. After the Axis agreement was signed, several German allies joined the Axis, notably Vichy France and Fascist Spain refused to do so. Several German allies did join the Axis: Slovakia (November 1940), Hungary (November 1940), Romania (November 1940), and Bulgaria (March 1941). Finland fought with Germany against the Soviet Union in an effort to regain territory lost to Stalin in 1940, but never signed the Tripartite Pact and thus was not technically a member of the Axis alliance. The Yugoslavian Royal Government, under intense German presure, joined the Axis alliance on March 25, 1941, but withdrew 2days later after an anti-German coup overthrew the government. After Germany and its allies invaded and partitioned Yugoslavia, the new Fascist puppet state of Croatia joined the Axis on June 15, 1941. Although Fascist Itly and NAZI Germany had played a key role in the Nationlist (Fascist) victory over the Spanish Republic, Fascist Spain refused to join the Axis alliance or to enter the war with Bfritain in 1940 and Russia in 1941. Japan had no Asian allies, except or the puppet state of Manchukuo.


Today we tend to denergate anything associated with the NAZIs and Fasscists because of the Holocaust. Indeed it is difficult to find any positive impacts of the NAZIs. In Germany the tains ran on time even before the NAZI era. One impact if the NAZIS, in part because of the lower middle class power base of the movement, was the destruction of the very class conscious structure that existed before World War II. The question of Germany and the Germans has to feature prominently in any discussion of World War II. Just how did it transpire that one of the most civilized of European countries, the land of Goethe and Schiller, Beethoven and Brahms, could have started two world wars--the second almost single handely. How could the Germans so passionately have followed the most evil of all historical monsters, Adolf Hitler and so eagerly embrace militarism and racism that would have returned Europe to a new Dark Age of unimagined barbarity? How could so many Germans gave participated in the killing of so many innocent civilians, most of whom were non-combatant women and children.


While little good can be said of the 12 years of NAZI rule in Germany, Italy is significantly different. Although it is not popular to say so, there were, along with the many negative aspects, possitive impacts of Missolini's Fascist movement. It is said that Mussolini made the trains run on time, but in fact there was much more to Fascist rule in Italy. Fascism was in fact a factor for modernization, especially for southern Italy which in the 1920s was still almost feudal. The excesses of the NAZIs were in part limited by the fact that Mussolini was not the homicidal maniac that Hitler was and the that the Italian Fascists were not as committed to the same racist doctrine that the NAZIs persued. Programs like eugenics, Lensensorn, euthenasia, and Eindeutschung, were never persued by the Itlalian Fascists. Here the fact that Mussolini never dared confront the Church as Hitler did, prevented the excesses of the NAZIs. Mussolini was, however, dazzeled by the military success of the NAZIs and joined Hitler in 1940 with an invasion of France, only after France had been essentially destroyed by the Wehrmacht. The Italian people turned on Mussolini as the illconceived War turned against the Italians and their German allies. The Italian Fascit were certainly not the friends of Jews, but the Holocaust in Italy was forced on Italy only after the NAZIs occupied Italy in late 1943 and Mussolini became a pawn of the NAZIs in late 1943 of the NAZIs.


Jpan began to develop as an imperial power with the seizure of Formoda (Taiwan) from China (1895). Next Japan seized Korea (19??). Japan's participation in World War I with the allies brought it Germany's Chinese and Pacific possessions. Prince Konoe, a future primeminister, declared that "as a result of [Japan's] one million annual increase in population, our national economic life is heavily burdened. We cannot wait for a rationalizing sdjustment of the world system." (1928) [Schom] The march to World War II began with the seizure of Manchuria (1931) and next the invasion of China (1937). Isolated by world public opinion, Japan withdrew from the League of Nations and looked to two other outcast nations, Germany and Italy, for allies. Japan's desire for colonies brought her into conflict with both the Soviets and the Allies (Britain and France) as well as the Americans. To confront these powers Japan would need allies which in the end lead her to join the Axis (September 27, 1940).

Balkan Partners

Germany even after World War I had the largest industrial economy in Europe. This gave it enormous influence, especially in the Balkans. After the NAZIs seized power (1933), Germany began a carefully orchestrated campaign to bring the Balkan countries within the German orbit. This included both the countries that fought wiyh the Central Powers in World War and the countries which fought with the Allies. Germany used both economic means as well as promoting Fascistg political parties. Hitler's objective was obtain access to needed natural resources as well as to secure Germany's southern flank for the eventual attack on the Soviet Union.

Axis Associated Non-member Countries

Several other countries attempted to join the Axis or were associated in various ways with Axis countries. This included an interesting mix of countries and groups. Some but not all were Fascist. As Britain was a large colonial power, anti-colonialism was an important factor. The Germans played with these groups, but never took full advantage of this--especiall Arab anti-British sentiment. A factor here was Italy which while opposed to Britain, wanted to replace them as the colonial power rather than liberate the Arabs. There seems to have been little appreciation among the Arabs as to the consequences of an Axis victory.


The Argentine Government was sympathetic toward the Axis, but Allied naval power and public opinion prevented any formal relationship. The country remained neutral until very late in the War.


Finland signed the Anti-Cominturn Pact, but never joined the Axis because of fundamental differences with Fascism. The Finns did join Germany in Operation Barbarossa. The Finns refer to this as "co-beligerence" and there war aims were to regain the territory seized by Stalin in the Winter War.

France (Vichy)

Vichy was dominated by Fascist elements. While Vichy never joined the Axis and refused to formnally join the German war effort, they did provide military and economic support to the German war effort. Vichy refused, however, to participate in Barbarossa and kept the French fleet out of German hands.


Iran moved toward the Germans after the NAZIs seized power. The Shah oriented Iranian trade increasingly toward the Germabd and invited in large numbers if Gernmab technicians. He saw this as a way of defkecting both the sioviets and British. Mot racialm policy lso appealed ti him. Under his rule, the name of the country was changed from Oerian to Iran--mening land of the Ayans. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Soviets and the British intervened in Iran and replaced the Shah with his young son. Iran would become the principal conduit for American Lend Lease supplies to the Soviet Union.


Iraq which at the time was a kingdom attemted to join the Axis after the successful German operation in the Balkans and seizure of Crete (April-March 1941). There was considerable anti-British sentiments in Iraq at the time which mutated into pro-NAZI sentiment. Anti-Semitism as promoted by the Grand Mufti was another factor. Seizing power on 1 April 1941, A nationalist government of Prime Minister Rashid Ali seized power (April 1). Ali repudiated the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 and demanded that the British turn over their military bases and withdraw from the country. Ali asked Germany and Italy for aid in expelling the British forces. He issued an appeal for Arabs throughout the Middle East to rise up against British, but not Italian rule. The Germans took some limited steps to support Ali, trying to get supplies to Iraq through Vichy occupied Syria. Fighting between Iraqi and British forces began (May 2). The resulting conflict is sometimes referred to as the Anglo-Iraqi War (May 1941). Vichy officials in Syria assisted the Germans, but a British military expedition managed to keep Iraq out of Axis hands. T Heavy fighting occurred at the RAF air base in Habbaniyah. The Germans and Italians dispatched aircraft and air crews to Iraq utilizing Vichy French bases in Syria, which would later invoke fighting between Allied and Vichy French forces in Syria. The Grand Mufti who the British had expelled from Palistine, and an associate of Ali, declared Holy War on the British (May 9). Hitler issued F�hrer 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 (MAy 23). It was already too late. And Hitler's focus was on the Soviet Union s the final preparations for Barbarossa were underway. The Germans were planning a combined German-Italian offensive against the British in Egypt, Palestine, and Iraq. It never materialized. Iraqi military resistance ended (May 31). Rashid Ali and the Grand Mufti fled to Iran and then through Turkey and Italy to Germany. Ali was welcomed by Hitler as head of the Iraqi government-in-exile in Berlin, rather like the governments in exile function for the countries Germany had occupied. The British operatiion was a campaign of considerable importance because the British naval operations in the eastern Meditteranean and the military operations in the Western Desert were possible only through the supply on Iraqi oil.


The Grand Mufti made propaganda broadcasts from Berlin to the Arab world throughout the War. He continued to call on Arabs to rise up against the British and aid the Axis firces. He helped recruit Muslim volunteers in the Balkans for the Waffen-SS, forces that committd terrible attricities.


Spain signed the Anti-Cominturn Pact, but never joined the Axis. Unlike the Finns, Franco's Fascist regime was sympathetic to the Axis. Spain did not enter the War only because Hitler offered insufficent inducements and the fact that Spain would have been exposed to Allied naval power. The Spanish committed a division to Barbarossa, but remained neutral in the War.

Non-ruling groups

There were also non-ruling groups such, especially Eguptians, Indians, and Palestinians that were sympathetic to the Axis.


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Created: 5:30 PM 4/30/2012
Last updated: 5:30 PM 4/30/2012