Just before the start of the Second World War, the Germans and the Soviets (Russia) signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, ensuring non-aggression between the two powers and enabling both to pursue military goals without each other’s interference. On 22 June 1941, Hitler broke the pact by invading the Soviet Union.
Both the events surrounding the treaty and its violation would influence several countries’ decisions about entering the war, just as the war’s developments in later years would influence those countries’ decisions to switch their allegiance to the Allies.
Here we examine 4 countries who fought on the side of the Axis Powers and then later for the Allies.
At the start of the war Romania was allied and Poland and pro-British. However, as the war progressed, in order to avoid being overrun by the Soviet Union combined with Fascist elements within the country, Romania adopted a pro-German dictatorship and became an ‘affiliate state’ of the Axis Powers. It signed the Tripartite Pact in November 1940.
Romanian forces fought alongside Germany in the Soviet Union from June 1941, but then switched sides after a coup in August 1944. They subsequently fought on the side of the Soviets for the remainder of the war, supporting the Allies.
Another affiliate state, for most of the war Bulgaria was allied with the Axis Powers. The rise of the Bulgarian right wing in the 1930s saw a growth in ties with Germany, aided by German promises of the return of traditionally Bulgarian territories in Thrace and Macedonia. Bulgaria signed the Tripartite Pact in March 1941.
Though Bulgaria participated in the German invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece, albeit only by letting Germany attack via Bulgarian territory, it did not declare war on the Allies until after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour. Bulgarian forces did participate actively in the occupation of Greece and carried out an estimated 40,000 executions there.
After taking a harsh beating from Allied bombing raids, in September of 1944 a new Bulgarian government came to power. Bulgaria declared itself neutral, expelled German forces and sought peace with the Allies.
It offered no resistance to a Soviet invasion and subsequently joined forces with the Allies, declaring war on Germany.
Never a signatory of the Tripartite Pact, Finland was nonetheless a co-belligerent on the side of the Axis Powers. This was a result of the Soviet invasion of Finland, as sanctioned by the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
With little or no support from other powers, Finland signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, an anti-communist agreement of mainly fascist powers, in November 1941. The main reason for Finland’s siding with Germany was to regain territory lost to the Soviets in the Winter War of 1939 – 1940.
As opposed to Axis Power states and affiliates, Finland granted asylum to Jews and had Jewish soldiers serving in its military. It also refused to participate in the Siege of Leningrad.
By August 1944 Finland had a new president who began to hold secret talks with the Soviet Union, negotiating a peace by September, which also required the expulsion of German troops. This resulted in the Lapland War between Finland and Germany (September 1944 – April 1945).
Mussolini and Italian Fascism provided inspiration to Hitler and the Nazis long before the start of World War Two. Italy had its own imperial ambitions — partly based on the Roman Empire and similar to the German policy of lebensraum — which clashed with those of Britain and France.
Mussolini and Hitler both pursued an alliance between Germany and Italy, but Germany’s Anschluss with Austria was a sticking point.
On 27 September 1940 Japan, Germany and Italy signed the Tripartite Pact, officially forming the Axis Powers. Though Germany began the war by invading Poland, Italy did not enter the war until June 1940, and then with the principal aim of taking over British and French colonies in North Africa.
However, 3 years later Italy’s allegiances switched. After a series of military failures, in July of 1943 Mussolini gave control of the Italian forces to the King, Victor Emmanuel III, who dismissed and imprisoned him. The new government began negotiations with the Allies. The subsequent British invasion of Italy was unopposed.
By October Italy was on the side of the Allies. Fighting against German forces in Italy continued until May 1945.