Axis powers

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World map with the states involved in World War II
Blue: Axis Powers
Dark green: Allies before the attack on Pearl Harbor
Light green: Other / new allies after the attack on Pearl Harbor
The monthly magazine Berlin Rom Tokio was published from 1939 to 1944
German Reichskriegsflagge (used during the Nazi era ) and Italian flag waving on an embassy building in Rome , June 1943
Fool the Axis - use prophylaxis ("Bounce the axis - use prophylaxis "). Arthur Szyk 1943 American poster warning service personnel about sexually transmitted diseases . Depicted are Benito Mussolini , Tōjō Hideki and Adolf Hitler .

The powers of the "Axis Berlin - Rome" , a designation that goes back to an agreement between Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini on October 25, 1936 , are initially referred to as the Axis Powers . It established a collaboration between the Nazi state and fascist Italy . The capitulation of Italy in 1943 ended this collaboration. In the context of the Second World War , the “Axis Powers” ​​meant the German Reich and its allies Italy and Japan . At the height of their power, the Axis powers and their allies ruled large parts of Europe , North Africa , East Asia, and the western Pacific .

The war opponents of this alliance are referred to as the allies among the belligerent states of the Second World War , the then global war coalition acted as the anti-Hitler coalition .

In November 1936, the German Reich succeeded in winning Japan as an additional ally with the Anti-Comintern Pact . Italy joined him in November 1937. The “Axis Berlin – Rome” also became a formal alliance through the Steel Pact (1939) . Since the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact concluded on Hitler's initiative (1940) between the German Reich, the Japanese Empire and the Kingdom of Italy , the “Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis” has been spoken of - also by the contracting parties .

From 1939 to 1944, the Foreign Office published the lavishly designed and bilingual (German / Italian) propaganda magazine Berlin Rom Tokio , which gave journalistic expression to the cooperation between these three countries.


Friendship Treaty Berlin-Rome (1936)

The name Axis powers goes back to a speech by Benito Mussolini on November 1, 1936, in which he spoke of an "axis Berlin-Rome", which was preceded by a secret friendship treaty between Italy and the German Reich on October 25, 1936. Mussolini declared that the two countries would form an "axis" around which the other European states would rotate.

This agreement was concluded when Fascist Italy - originally by no means friendly to Germany - was exposed to criticism from the League of Nations due to the war in Ethiopia , but received support from Germany (the union of Italy with Great Britain and France at Stresa in April 1935 had only lasted two months ). With the Axis Alliance, Hitler aimed to move Great Britain to draw closer to the German Reich, while Mussolini intended the opposite: he concluded the Axis in order to prevent such closer German-British cooperation, which would harm Italian interests in Africa Ways could stand.

"Steel Pact" Berlin-Rome (1939)

Announcement about the friendship and alliance pact between Germany and Italy of June 15, 1939 in the Reichsgesetzblatt

The axis was primarily an element of the propaganda of both countries. Even after it was expanded into a military alliance with the steel pact , there was hardly any concrete cooperation. It was signed in the form of a friendship and alliance treaty by the foreign ministers of both countries, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Galeazzo Ciano , in the presence of Hitler on May 22, 1939 in Berlin .

In practice, it soon became apparent that the military and arms-political cooperation between Berlin and Rome, despite the pact, was characterized by a competitive relationship - which research has summarized under the catchphrase "cooperation as a power struggle". After the Italian entry into the war, when the alliance had to prove itself in the war, it quickly became clear that the Axis partners did not succeed in working together effectively: “Italian wishes and German offers of help rarely interlinked. It was not possible to use the potential force that the coalition basically offered. The myth and reality of the alliance diverged radically. With the Italian defeats, these deficiencies increasingly came to the fore. The practical constraints of the coalition war meant that the cohesion of the alliance, which has often been invoked, on the one hand visibly lost its substance, while on the other hand Germany and Italy de facto grew together to form a 'supposedly alternative emergency community. The ineffective supply and demand game of autumn 1940, in which the coalition partners always offered or demanded support that was not asked or approved, is an example of the mutual distrust and blocked cooperation within the 'axis'. "

Tripartite Pact (1940)

On September 27, 1940, the Axis powers signed the three-power pact :

The three main axis powers
country State flag National coat of arms Capital Head of government Head of state
German Empire Flag of Germany (1935–1945) .svg Imperial Eagle German Reich (1935–1945) .svg Berlin Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler
Kingdom of Italy Flag of Italy (1861-1946) .svg Lesser coat of arms of the Kingdom of Italy (1929-1943) .svg Rome Benito Mussolini King Victor Emmanuel III
Japanese Empire Flag of Japan.svg Imperial Seal of Japan.svg Tokyo Konoe Fumimaro Emperor Hirohito

Short term: the first name was Roberto a new meaning as acronym of Ro m Ber lin To kio . Axis representatives last emphasized their partnership on January 16, 1942 and shaped this slogan .

In the self-image of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt , the dispute with the Axis powers Germany, Italy and Japan was not just a conflict between the "have" ( beati possidentes ) and the three global and colonial "have-nots". For him it was an “epoch-making struggle for the future shape of the world between aggressors and peaceful nations, between liberal democracy and fascism […], between good and evil”, both to destroy and to destroy the “new orders” in Europe and Asia to position the USA as a future world power .

Allies of the "axis"

Countries that allied themselves in the three-power pact with National Socialist Germany are considered allies of the "Axis". Shortly thereafter, a number of other European countries joined this treaty between the Axis powers Germany, Italy and Japan of September 1940. Hungary , Romania and Slovakia joined in 1940, Bulgaria in 1941. Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite Pact on March 25, 1941, but did not ratify it after the March 27 coup and was smashed by the Axis powers in the Balkan campaign . The then formed Independent State of Croatia joined the pact in June 1941. During the Second World War, Axis Powers was the name for all states allied with the German Reich.


The “Independent State of Croatia” (NDH State), a nominally independent vassal state that emerged after the German conquest and division of Yugoslavia, was also considered a member of the “Axis”. Croatia was a member of the Anti-Comintern Pact and was in a comprehensive military alliance with Germany until the end of the war on May 8, 1945.


Thailand did not join the Tripartite Pact, but in 1942 it formed a military alliance with Japan and declared war on the USA and Great Britain.


The Finns are reluctant to call themselves former allies of the German Reich. Rather, they want to be seen as a "warring state at the same time". Finland took part in the German invasion of the Soviet Union . Finnish territory was allowed to be used by the Wehrmacht as a deployment area and the Finnish army was mobilized against the Soviet troops . The name of this so-called continuation war alludes to the Finnish-Soviet winter war .

In the Continuation War Finland wanted to regain the territories lost in the previous Winter War and also to conquer East Karelia . The bombing of Finnish cities by Soviet forces on June 25, 1941 then served as the reason for the Finnish declaration of war and the start of the Finnish offensive . Great Britain also declared war on Finland on December 6, 1941 after repeated requests to cease hostile activities against the Soviet Union.

Finland never joined the Tripartite Pact, but signed the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1941. Finland refused to place its armed forces under the command of a joint German-Finnish headquarters and retained its operational independence. For example, participation in the Leningrad blockade and the attack on the Murmansk Railway near Louhi was refused.

With the Ryti-Ribbentrop Treaty , which lasted a total of six weeks , the relationship changed to a formal military alliance, which was concluded as a German condition for the granting of urgently needed weapons and air support, when Finland faced the risk of a complete offensive by the Red Army faced Soviet occupation. After the offensive was fended off with the help of German arms deliveries, Finland switched to the Allies in 1944 and, under Soviet pressure, attacked German forces during the Lapland War . President Risto Ryti , who had given his personal word of honor for upholding the alliance, resigned from office. His successor in office, President Mannerheim , declared Ryti's agreement with the Germans null and void. After the war ended, the Soviet Union pushed for a trial against Ryti and some of his cabinet members. In the controversial trial, Ryti was eventually sentenced ex post facto to ten years in prison.

Countries dependent or controlled by Germany (selection)

Kingdom of Belgium

After the experiences of the German occupation, which Belgium had to endure in the First World War , the entire nation was appalled at the thought of a second German occupation, especially since the Belgian delegation had little influence at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 - even if Belgium was involved the reparations were by no means neglected. For this reason, rather than for political reasons, Belgium was not very friendly to the Axis Powers, although later thousands of Belgians (both Flemish and Walloons ) voluntarily joined the Waffen SS under the notorious Belgian fascist Léon Degrelle .

After the Germans actually reoccupied Belgium in 1940, the Dutch-speaking Flemings experienced a certain preference from the Germans over the Francophone Walloons. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Flemish volunteers were given permission to join the Waffen-SS, whereas the Walloons were initially only accepted into the German Wehrmacht.

Belgian Congo , on the other hand, sided with the Belgian government in exile and took part in the war against the Axis powers in North and East Africa and in Southeast Asia .

Kingdom of Denmark

Denmark was invaded by Germany on April 9, 1940 as part of Operation Weser Exercise and remained under military occupation until the end of the war . The Danes had great sympathy for the Allies, but there was also support for the Axis Powers: The government, which the German occupying power had in office until 1943, joined the Anti-Comintern Pact . Over 6,000 Danish nationals served in the Waffen SS on the Eastern Front in various associations, 1,500 of them belonging to the German minority in Denmark (figures from 1941). In August 1943, the Danish government ended cooperation with the occupying power and resigned. From then on, Denmark was only under German military administration without being a partner of the axis.

French state (Vichy regime)

After the French surrender on June 22, 1940, Marshal Philippe Pétain was appointed the new head of state of the so-called Vichy regime . The terms of the armistice provided for the military occupation of more than 50 percent of French territory, including the capital Paris . Pétain moved the seat of government to the seaside resort of Vichy in the unoccupied "free" zone.

Great Britain feared that the French navy would fall into German hands and confiscated all French ships in ports under British control. During a British attack in Mers-el-Kébir on July 3, 1940, several French warships were sunk. After this attack, the Vichy regime broke off all diplomatic relations with Great Britain and considered a declaration of war.

The Vichy government exercised control over the French colonial possessions and was also diplomatically recognized by the USA and the Soviet Union. This was opposed by the Forces Françaises Libres , whose government in exile under Charles de Gaulle was in London .

Vichy France signed the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1941 and sent French volunteers to the Eastern Front. Vichy-ruled colonies were often used as staging areas for attacks by the Axis powers. Japan occupied French Indochina , which was the starting point for the invasion of Thailand , Malaya and Borneo .

Armed forces of the British and the Forces Françaises Libres fought troops loyal to Vichy in a League of Nations mandate for Syria and Lebanon in 1941 and Madagascar in 1942 , US-American units took part in late 1942. The German Wehrmacht occupied southern France in 1942 and the Vichy colony of Tunisia after the Vichy- Defense forces had been overrun and defeated by the Americans and British.

Italian social republic

The Italian Social Republic ( Repubblica Sociale Italiana - RSI) replaced the Kingdom of Italy as a member of the Axis Powers in 1943 . On July 25, 1943, King Victor Emmanuel III deposed. in accordance with the Fascist Grand Councilor Benito Mussolini resigned and had him arrested. Italy joined the Allies and declared war on Germany. In a spectacular commando operation, however, Mussolini was freed by a German paratrooper unit under Otto Skorzeny .

Northern Italy was occupied by the Wehrmacht, and on September 23, 1943, Mussolini (used by Hitler as a puppet from September 8) proclaimed the Italian Social Republic ("Duce Italy") there. This state, whose seat of government was in Salò on Lake Garda , shrank in size as the western allies advanced north. The fascist republic of Salò ceased to exist at the end of April 1945 when the last remaining German forces on Italian soil withdrew or surrendered and they finally surrendered.

Countries dependent or controlled by Japan (selection)

Kingdom of Thailand

Japanese forces advanced into Thai territory on the morning of December 8, 1941 . Initially, the Thai border troops resisted the invasion, but Field Marshal and Prime Minister Phibul Songkhram ordered the end of the resistance. On December 21, 1941, a military alliance was signed with Japan, followed by the Thai declaration of war on the United Kingdom and the United States of America on January 25, 1942 . The Siamese ambassador to the United States, Seni Pramoj, did not deliver his copy of the statement. Although the British returned the declaration of war by declaring war on Thailand and consequently viewing it as a hostile nation, the US did not. The Seri Thai movement emerged during this time. In May 1942, Thai forces carried out their largest offensive of the war and captured the city of Kengtung in northern Burma from the Chinese 93rd Division.

Further Seri Thai structures were set up in Great Britain and within Thailand. Queen Ramphaiphanee headed the section in Britain, and the Regent Pridi Banomyong commanded indirectly by far the largest part of the movement, the inland, which de facto treason equaled. With the support of parts of the military, secret airfields and training camps were set up and Allied agents were smuggled in from 1945.

As the war progressed, the Thai population grew dissatisfied with the Japanese occupation. In June 1944, Phibul Songkhram resigned after a parliamentary vote defeat. The new civil government tried to support Seri Thai while also maintaining good relations with the Japanese.

After the end of the war, significant US influence prevented Thailand from being viewed as an axis power, but Britain demanded three million tons of rice as reparations and the return of areas of the British colony of Malaya that had been annexed during the war and invasion . Thailand also had to return annexed parts of British Burma , French Indochina , French Cambodia and French Laos .

Empire of Manshu (Manchukuo)

Manchukuo was a puppet state established by Japan on March 1, 1932 in Manchuria. The state independence of Manchukuo of China was the League of Nations not recognized what Japan caused them to withdraw from the League of Nations. The German Empire, Italy and the Reorganized Government of the Republic of China under Wang Jingwei were the only significant countries that diplomatically recognized the state that was dependent on Japan. Later these countries followed: Costa Rica , El Salvador , Burma under Ba Maw , Thailand , the Provisional Government of Free India by Subhash Chandra Bose and the Vatican . In 1945 Manchukuo was occupied by Soviet troops in Operation August Storm and returned to the Republic of China in 1946 .

Nanjing China

During the Second Sino-Japanese War 1937–1945 , a short-lived state was proclaimed in Nanjing on March 29, 1940 by Wang Jingwei , who also became the head of the Japanese-controlled puppet government . The state emblems of the government of the Republic of China were similar to those of the Republic of China and what is now Taiwan. After the Japanese defeat on September 9, 1945, the territory was handed over to the rule of the nationalist and Chiang Kai-shek- loyal General Ho Ying-ching .

In addition, the Japanese established other small “independent” or “autonomous” states or political entities in occupied areas of mainland China, from Inner Mongolia to Guangdong . Mengjiang was one of these other satellite states in northern China . It was founded on February 18, 1936 in eastern Inner Mongolia , and since 1942 it has been a formally autonomous part of Nanjing-China. The country's autonomy was purely theoretical, as the actual exercise of political power remained in the hands of the Japanese occupiers. Mengjiang's head of state by the grace of Japan was the Mongol prince Demchugdongrub .

Provisional Government of Free India

The Provisional Government of Free India ( Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind ) was a shadow government under Subhash Chandra Bose . Their sphere of activity was limited to those parts of India that were under Japanese control. Bose was an Indian freedom fighter who didn't like Gandhi's concept of nonviolent resistance.

Bose's rise was based on several factors:

  • India's army was largely independent even under British colonial occupation.
  • With Britain at war with Germany, suppressing an insurrection would have been problematic.
  • The most important factor was the Japanese advance in Asia. The Japanese Empire had granted Manchuria and later Indonesia and Vietnam "independence" as early as 1932 , the latter without any consent from their European colonial powers.

Bose initiated a mass movement against the use of Indian resources and soldiers for war and formed an alliance with the Japanese advancing into the East Indies. Bose and Anand Mohan Sahay , another political leader, received ideological support from the head of the ultra-nationalist secret society Gen'yōsha Tōyama Mitsuru and Japanese military advisers. Other ax-friendly Indian politicians were Asit Krishna Mukherji, a friend of Bose, his wife and Indian by choice Savitri Devi , the pundit Rajwade of Pune and Rash Behari Bose , the founder of the “Indian Independence League”. Bose declared India independent on October 21, 1943.

After the Japanese occupation of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands , Port Blair became the provisional capital. The “Provisional Government of Free India” lasted until August 18, 1945, when it was officially dissolved. During its existence it was recognized by nine different states: Germany , Japan , Italy , Croatia under Ante Pavelić , the Republic of China under Wang Jingwei , Thailand , Burma under Ba Maw , Manchukuo and the Philippines under the de facto (and later also de jure ) President José Laurel .

Countries dependent or controlled by Italy (selection)

Kingdom of Albania

Under King Ahmet Zogu , the Kingdom of Albania had been under Italy's sphere of influence since the 1920s. The Italian language was taught in Albanian schools even before the First World War , and after the war the country was under the "protection" of a large number of Italian fortresses.

On April 7, 1939, Italian troops marched into Albania, quickly occupied the country and forced King Zogu into exile. Five days after the invasion, the Albanian parliament decided to join Italy in personal union by giving the Albanian crown Victor Emanuel III. was offered, who was thus King of Italy, Emperor of Ethiopia and also King of Albania. On June 10, 1940, Albania followed Italy to war against Great Britain and France. Albania served as a staging area for the Italian invasion of Greece in 1941. Albanian troops took part in the invasion of Greece, and Albanian volunteers later served in the 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS "Skanderbeg" (Albanian No. 1) . In 1941 Albania also declared war on the USA.

Empire of Ethiopia

After the Italian attempt to conquer Ethiopia in the First Italo-Ethiopian War in 1895/96 had failed, the empire was finally occupied by the Italians in the second war 1935–1936 . The victory was announced on May 9, 1936, and the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III. crowned Emperor of Abyssinia .

See also


  • ICB Dear, MRD Foot (Ed.): The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 1995, ISBN 0-19-214168-6 .
  • Lutz Klinkhammer , Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi, Thomas Schlemmer (eds.): The "axis" in war. Politics, ideology and warfare 1939–1945 . Schöningh, Paderborn / Munich / Vienna 2010 ( War in History , Volume 64), ISBN 978-3-506-76547-5 .
  • Malte König: Cooperation as a power struggle. The fascist axis alliance Berlin-Rome in the war 1940/41. (=  Italy in the Modern , Volume 14), SH-Verlag, Cologne 2007, ISBN 3-89498-175-X .
  • Jens Petersen : Hitler, Mussolini: The emergence of the axis Berlin - Rome 1933-1936 (= library of the German Historical Institute in Rome. Volume 43). Niemeyer, Tübingen 1973, ISBN 3-484-80064-X .
  • Gerhard L. Weinberg: A World at Arms. A Global History of World War II. 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, New York 2005.

Web links

Commons : Axis Powers  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Peter Longerich : Propagandists in War. The press department of the Foreign Office under Ribbentrop (=  Studies on Contemporary History ; Vol. 33), Oldenbourg, Munich 1987, pp. 260–262.
  2. Die Zeit - The Lexicon in 20 volumes . Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-411-17561-3 , p. 59.
  3. Cornelia Schmitz-Berning: Vocabulary of National Socialism. De Gruyter, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-019549-1 , p. 7 f.
  4. a b c Karsten Krieger: Axis (Berlin-Rome), Axis Powers . In: Wolfgang Benz , Hermann Graml and Hermann Weiß (eds.): Encyclopedia of National Socialism . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1997, p. 347.
  5. ^ Hermann Weiss: Steel Pact . In: Hermann Weiß, Wolfgang Benz and Hermann Graml (eds.): Encyclopedia of National Socialism . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1997, p. 745.
  6. Wolfgang Schieder , The Italian Fascism , Munich 2010, p. 86; Christof Dipper , distant neighbors. Comparative studies on Germany and Italy in modern times , Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2017, p. 19.
  7. Malte König: Cooperation as a power struggle. The fascist axis alliance Berlin-Rome in the war 1940/41 , Cologne 2007, p. 44.
  8. ^ Richard F. Hill: Hitler Attacks Pearl Harbor: Why the United States Declared War on Germany. Boulder, Colo .: Lynne Rienner, 2003, p. 91.
  9. Detlef Junker , Franklin D. Roosevelt and the National Socialist Threat to the USA , in: Frank Trommler (Ed.): Amerika und die Deutschen. Relationships in the 20th Century , Springer, Wiesbaden 2013, pp. 36, 38 f .; Imanuel Geiss (1981), Historical Prerequisites for Contemporary Conflicts , in: Wolfgang Benz, Hermann Graml (Hrsg.): Weltprobleme between the power blocs. The Twentieth Century III ( Fischer Weltgeschichte , Volume 36). Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-596-60036-7 , p. 36.
  10. Bo Lidegaard: Dansk Udenrigsppolits Historie, Volume IV: "Overleveren 1914-1945" . Gyldendal , 2nd edition, Copenhagen 2006, p. 461.