Split right down the Axis

well_chuffed, Going Postal
Germany’s Führer Adolf Hitler (right) beside Italy’s Duce Benito Mussolini (left)

As we all know, the Axis was an agreement between Germany, Italy and Japan to come to the assistance of each other in case of attack. What is often forgotten is that three other countries also joined in, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. Yugoslavia also joined but their participation lasted for just for two days. Aside from Germany, the others were always looking over their shoulder to see which way the wind was blowing and whether to jump ship or not. The Germans were aware of this and kept close tabs on them. Who says allied nations don’t spy on each other.

Slovakia, Croatia, Iraq and Thailand also joined in, Iraq being against the British and Thailand being against the French but their contributions were not so great in comparison to the others although Slovakia joined in the invasion of Poland to win back some territory they considered theirs. This was even before they signed the Tripartite Pact.

The co-operation of these countries varied; some sent troops to fight alongside the Germans, others assisted the Germans in their own lands, a few cooperated in signals intelligence. Spain as another example, raised a division of volunteers who were sent to fight on the Eastern Front. This was obviously a thank you for the help given by the Germans during the Spanish Civil War but crafty old Franco never signed any agreements with Italy or Germany.

The Vichy regime in France was another example, it did not sign the Tripartite Pact but although doing very little to help the Germans, it did even less to hinder them. One result was that the Allies could not be sure what Vichy was up to and ended up attacking the French fleet. During Operation Torch the Germans were reading the American signals in real time and while the Vichy French were telling the Germans they were resisting the invasion gallantly, the Germans could see from the American signals that in general, the French in Algeria and Tunisia were putting up no resistance at all. The German response to this was to occupy Vichy France, they were also unsure what the French were up to. And the French call us perfidious.

This a list of the treaties/pacts signed with rough start and end dates.

October 1936 Germany-Italy Treaty
November 1936 Germany-Japan Anti-Comintern Pact
May 1939 July 1943 Germany-Italy Pact of Steel
September 1940 Germany-Italy-Japan Tripartite Pact
November 1940 Slovakia Tripartite Pact
November 1940 March 1945 Hungary Tripartite Pact
November 1940 August 1944 Rumania Tripartite Pact
March 1941 September 1944 Bulgaria Tripartite Pact
April 1941 May 1945 Croatia Tripartite Pact
November 1941 September 1944 Finland Anti-Comintern Pact

Though Italy bailed out in 1943, when Mussolini was reinstated by the Germans, the northern part of Italy resumed its participation in the Tripartite Pact but by that time he was little more than a puppet until he tried to flee to Switzerland and was collared by Lake Como so he could receive the lamppost and piano wire treatment.

As a general introduction, the German Signals people liaised with the Italians, Finns and Hungarians. The German attitude to the Italians and their capability bordered on contempt, in fairness, there was no great love between their respective militaries to begin with. The Finns were considered almost on a par with the Germans but as they were fighting the Soviets for their survival, they could collaborate in intelligence matters but were never going to give any military assistance other than being a thorn in the side of the Russians. The Hungarians, well how does one deal with them. They assisted with sending divisions to Russia and Signals Intelligence but as has been mentioned before, the German military gave them some codebooks that had been captured or decrypted. The Hungarians reciprocated by selling these same codes back to the Abwehr. I would have been proud of that.

In February 1943 the German intercept service learned that for the first time, the Hungarian Government was putting out feelers through the Vatican for a separate peace. Provided Hungary’s boundaries remained intact, the country was ready to support the Allies in case of a landing in the Balkans. At the same time Hungary called for the return of 30,000 wood workers from Germany. The negotiations brought no results at that time.

Again in early 1944 it was obvious from decrypted traffic that Hungarians were putting out feelers to find some way out of their difficult situation. To force a change of attitude, the Chief of state, Horthy, was summoned to Hitler’s HQ in mid-March where it became apparent that Horthy himself was in favour of these efforts. The Germans decided to act at once, the next part may seem to be similar to what happens in the EU these days. In the night of 19 to 20 March “at the wish of the Hungarian Government” Hungary was occupied by German troops and the Hungarians awoke to Germans goose stepping in Budapest. Horthy was convinced to continue the struggle on the side of Germany.

The worsening situation in the East and the obviously impending defections of Finland, Romania and Bulgaria meant that several Hungarian Government were formed over a few weeks, By the end of August the German collapse in France expedited matters and Hungarian diplomatic traffic revealed that they were seriously trying to get out of the war. The commander of the First Hungarian Army on the Eastern from was conferring with the Russian Army facing him.

Now Horthy was overthrown in a coup d’état and take into custody, the Germans actively assisted. Horthy was forced to announce that he didn’t really want to get out of the war and was allowed to retire.

It is weird that the Hungarians, having collaborated with German Signals Intelligence and knowing their capabilities, would send signals about getting out of the war. Were they so naïve to think the Germans weren’t listening.

The expulsion of the Jews from Hungary started after Horthy was kicked out. There is an article there if anyone is interested. Stickypedia just says that Horthy was removed without really elaborating but once he was gone they started on the Jews. Whether Horthy resisted that or it was part of Germany’s punishment beating is a good question. The way the Germans carried on with their client states is so similar to the EU’s machinations it is plain eerie.

In the meantime, a Russian spy network was rounded up in Bulgaria and their messages had also contained details of disquiet in the Bulgarian military. It was starting to unravel for the Germans who started to kick butt.

1943 was such a portentous year, the until then apparently invincible Germans had started to go on the back foot and their allies started to become nervous. Finland and Romania were also looking at ways to extricate themselves without losing too much.

The only member of the Axis that wasn’t actively looking for a way out was Japan. The Germans hadn’t cracked the Purple code used by the Japanese for their diplomatic communications but the Americans had and had passed it on to the British. The Japanese Ambassador in Berlin kept his ear close to the ground and also had face to face meetings with Hitler. All of this was reported in detail to Tokyo and, via intercepts, to the very grateful Allies. The cooperation between Germany and Japan was a one way street, the Japs received but gave very little. Hardly surprising since they had come to a non-aggression agreement with Stalin that allowed the Georgian to move most of his troops from the extreme east to face the Germans. I shall attempt to describe an intercepted telegram from May 1944 sent from Ambassador Oshima to Tokyo in my next offering.

© well_chuffed 2018

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