|Back to Lexicon Entries List
Axis (Ger. Achse)
The political, military, and ideological alliance of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Italy's Initial Attitude toward Germany. In the first three years of Nazi rule (1933-1935), Italy's political interests and concern over Nazi aspirations for territorial expansion prevented any alliance between the two regimes, despite their ideological affinity. Benito Mussolini's policy of ensuring the independence of Austria, so that it would serve as a buffer between Italy and Germany, even led him, in April 1935, to reach an agreement with France and Britain that was clearly directed against the Third Reich. This agreement called for the maintenance of peace within the framework of the League of Nations, expressed the signatories' opposition to "any unilateral violation of treaties which would jeopardise European peace," and promised concerted action against such steps.
The Italian Invasion of Ethiopia
Mussolini's attitude changed in the wake of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in October 1935. The League of Nations strongly opposed the invasion, and sanctions - albeit ineffective ones - were imposed on Italy, leading to a break between Italy and Britain and France. The ensuing political crisis led to a rapprochement between Italy and Germany, a process that was accompanied by a virulent propaganda drive against the "degenerating democratic West." This rapprochement was accelerated and reinforced by the Spanish Civil War, which broke out in July 1936, with both Italy and Germany lending military support to the anti-republican side. Rome-Berlin Axis. After Mussolini first used the term "Rome-Berlin Axis," in a speech in Milan in November 1936, it became widespread. At first, the two countries stressed their joint political interest in opposing the democratic powers and their regimes; Mussolini and Italian Fascism still had reservations about racism in general and its anti-Semitic version in particular. It wasn't until 1938, when the relative international weight carried by the two dictators had shifted, the Third Reich had grown in power, and the international crisis had deepened, that Mussolini adopted racism and launched an anti-Jewish drive.
Other Formal Agreements between Germany and Italy
In May 1939, following the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and a few months before the outbreak of war, Germany and Italy concluded the so-called Pact of Steel. In November 1937, Italy had joined the Anti-Comintern Pact. In September 1940, a tripartite alliance was forged between Germany, Italy, and Japan, to which the three countries committed themselves for ten years; this was known as the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis. During World War II, the term "Axis countries" also came to be applied to other states allied with Germany that had joined the Anti-Comintern Pact: Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Bulgaria.
Back to top