Tripartite Pact

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Mar 15, 2023

Table of Content


The Tripartite Pact, Three-Power Pact, Axis Pact, Three-Way Pact or Tripartite Treaty was signed in Berlin on 27 September 1940 by Saburo Kurusu (for the Japanese Empire), Adolf Hitler (for Nazi Germany), and Galeazzo Ciano (for Fascist Italy), which laid the foundations for a military-political alliance and was the official founding act of the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis, which opposed the Allies.

The pact formalised the partnership of the Axis powers and was seen at the time as a warning to the US to remain neutral in the looming war.

The three-nation pact provided that for the coming decade they would cooperate with each other for the primary purpose of establishing an order of things, but also to promote the mutual prosperity and welfare of their peoples. The three recognised each other's spheres of influence and undertook to provide each other with political, economic and military aid should any of them be attacked by a power with which they were not already engaged in war, with the exception of the USSR.

The pact complemented the "German-Japanese Agreement" and the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936 and helped to overcome the differences that arose between the two powers after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed by Germany and the USSR in 1939.

The Tripartite Pact was later signed by Hungary (20 November 1940), Romania (23 November 1940) and Slovakia (24 November 1940). Bulgaria signed the pact on 1 March 1941, before German troops entered the country.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire allied itself with the German Empire during the First World War. Austro-Hungary was eventually defeated and the empire fell apart. After the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary was reduced to almost half the size of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Among Hungarians, this territorial reduction caused much resentment. To ease this resentment, Germany and Italy implemented the Vienna Arbitrations of 1938 and 1940 (which gave Hungary back some of the territory lost at the end of the First World War), which led Budapest to sign the Tripartite Pact in November 1940. Hungary's obligations under the Tripartite Pact were renewed when power was taken over by the Arrow Cross Party.

Following the division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Slovakia became part of Czechoslovakia. Hitler needed Slovak territory as a strategic base to invade Poland. Taking advantage of the fact that the Slovaks wanted an independent state, the Furher called on Tiso to proclaim independence. In gratitude, Bratislava signed the Tripartite Pact on 24 November 1940.

Romania joined the Allies in the First World War and in 1918 Transylvania (previously part of Hungary) united with this country. After Germany and Italy granted north-western Transylvania to Hungary under the Vienna Dictatorship, Romania lost Bessarabia to the Soviet Union and Cadrilat to Bulgaria. Romania signed the Tripartite Pact on 23 November 1940, after the Iron Guard came to power. Romania's signing of the Tripartite Pact was an attempt to protect the country from further aggression by the USSR.

Bulgaria was on the losing side at the end of the First World War, losing territory to Serbia and Greece. Germany needed Bulgarian territory to attack Greece. Adolf Hitler guaranteed Tsar Boris III the return of all territory lost during the Balkan Wars and World War I if Sofia signed the Tripartite Pact. Bulgaria signed the treaty on 1 March 1941.

It should be remembered that Bulgaria never declared war on the USSR. Bulgaria maintained such good relations with the Soviet Union that Stalin used the Bulgarian ambassador in Moscow to initiate peace talks with Nazi Germany. The Bulgarian army was involved in fighting with the Western Allies but not with the Soviet Union. Bulgarian fighter aircraft defended targets in the Balkans and Romania from Allied bombing raids, but did not engage in conflicts with Russian aircraft.

On 25 March 1941, Prince Pavle, the regent of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, signed the Tripartite Pact in Vienna. It was no easy task for Hitler to persuade Yugoslavia to sign this agreement. The Yugoslavs harboured strong anti-German feelings, especially among the Serb population. On 27 March, Pavle's regime was overthrown in a military coup, which was backed by the British, and power was seized by the under-18 king, Petar II.

Although the new sovereign had anti-German sentiments, he also feared a Nazi attack, as the British were unable to provide any real help in the event of war. To ensure his country's security, the king declared that Yugoslavia would eventually join the Tripartite Pact. It should be pointed out that although the Yugoslav government signed the pact, the original arrangements only provided for Belgrade's acceptance of free transit of German troops. Whatever concessions the Yugoslavs seemed willing to make did not appease Hitler, who decided to invade Yugoslavia.

Postponing Operation Barbarossa, the Germans simultaneously attacked Greece and Yugoslavia on April 6. The Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade for several days, and ground troops attacked heavily, with the Royal Yugoslav Army surrendering 11 days later on 17 April.

German-Japanese cooperation in the pre-war period and throughout the Second World War period had two distinct agendas. The first concerned the fight against communism through the Anti-Comintern Pact, and the second concerned military cooperation through the Tripartite Pact. During the First World War, the two powers had been on different sides, and the agreements mentioned earlier were used to resolve conflicts and animosities between them.

Germany's declaration of war further strengthened German-Japanese relations and demonstrated German solidarity with Japan and encouraged the Japanese to act against British interests. Both Germany and Japan envisaged a partnership based on exchanges across the Indian subcontinent, which would allow the transfer of armaments and raw materials and materials. The failed anti-British uprising in India and the deterioration of Axis positions meant that all German-Japanese exchanges were made by shipping across the open seas. Although the Germans apparently expected Japan to declare war on the USSR and attack the Soviet Far East, the Nazis' major interest focused on cooperation against British interests in India, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. In order to strengthen German-Japanese ties, the Nazi government, after signing the Anti-Comintern Pact, granted the Japanese people the status of "honorary Aryan". Archived March 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine...

Germany's declaration of war against the US

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, Nazi Germany was to mobilise for the defence of its allies only if they were attacked. Since Japan had been the attacker, Germany was not obliged to help. However, on 11 December, Hitler decided to declare war on the US.

Hitler made a speech in the Reichstag on 11 December 1941, three days after the US had declared war on Japan, in which he said that the Japanese government "after years of negotiating with this man (Franklin D. Roosevelt), was tired of being defied by him in such an undignified manner" and that the Japanese attack was justified. Hitler said that the loyalty of Germany and Italy to the provisions of the Tripartite Pact required them to enter into a joint struggle against the USA and England, for "the defence and thereby the maintenance of the freedom and independence of their nation and empires". According to the German dictator, the US and England had not hesitated to use every opportunity to question the natural rights of existence of Germany, Italy and Japan, which would have led to a total and dictatorial domination of the Americans and their allies on the globe.

From the point of view of the future course of the conflict, this declaration of war proved a monumental mistake, as it provided the necessary justification for the US to join the UK in the fight against Germany without any constraints related to the Americans' self-imposed neutrality status up to that point. The Americans participated in both the strategic bombing of Germany and the invasion of continental Europe, which were decisive contributions to the defeat of the Nazis.

Hitler had fairly accurate information about American war plans and was sceptical about their willingness to get involved in a conflict in Europe. On the basis of the information he had, Hitler judged that the Americans would be involved in the fighting in Europe at the earliest in 1943.

German policy at the beginning of the war reflected the view that the United States could be persuaded to maintain its policy of neutrality. Strenuous efforts were made to avoid a repeat of the "Lusitania" incident influencing American public opinion. American isolationists gradually lost their influence on public opinion, mainly due to the media. Hitler's decision to declare war on the US could be seen more as a show of solidarity with Japan, given an inevitable future conflict with the Americans. German strategists believed that it would take the Americans a long time to mobilise their forces and convert civilian industrial production to military production. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor it seemed that German victory in the Soviet Union was certain. Victory on the Eastern Front would bring Siberia with its huge natural resources into the German and Japanese spheres of influence. A confrontation with the United States with Germany in control of the whole of Europe and Siberia would have been highly unlikely.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, during the ceremony awarding the "Order of the German Eagle" to Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Oshima, Hitler declares that Japan acted correctly, the chosen method (attacking without a declaration of war) proved to be the only appropriate one.

For a long time, Jews considered the Japanese Empire to be one of the safest places in the world for their community. Through the so-called "Fugu Plan", the Japanese government created a scheme for the settlement of Jews who had fled from German-occupied Europe in Japan and the territories under its control on the Asian continent. Throughout the war, the Japanese government rejected German demands to promote an anti-Semitic policy. However, at the end of the war, most of the Jewish community left Japan, with most members of the community settling in the USA and a significant number becoming citizens of the newly founded state of Israel.

However, the Japanese were adherents to the theory of racial superiority and set up concentration camps, such as Unit 731 in China. In this camp they experimented with biological weapons on prisoners, resulting in the murder of around 200,000 of them.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka declared on 31 December 1940 that although he was the architect of the alliance with Hitler, he was in no way committed to Nazi anti-Semitic policies. Moreover, the minister claimed that it was not just a personal choice but the official policy of the Japanese government towards the Jewish community.

During the Holocaust, Italy also received many Jewish refugees from Germany and territories under occupation. However, after the creation of the puppet state of the Italian Social Republic, about 20% of Jews in Italy were killed.

Italy joined the Western Allies in 1943, marking the beginning of the end of the Tripartite Pact. In 1944, Bulgaria and Romania joined the Allies (USSR). Hungary was the last 'minor' member of the Pact, remaining with the 'big two' - Germany and Japan, but was occupied at the end of 1944. The Pact lost virtually all meaning after Germany's surrender


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  2. Pactul Tripartit
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