Birth of the Axis Powers

Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito unified.

The Anti-Comintern Pact, inked on November 25, 1936, between Germany and Japan, with Italy joining in 1937, marked a pivotal diplomatic development preceding the Second World War.

This pact was a direct response to the Communist International, or Comintern, founded by the Soviet Union to foster global communism. It represented a clear alignment against the spread of communist ideologies and Soviet influence.

While not explicitly naming the Soviet Union, it primarily targeted the USSR, signifying the growing concerns of these Axis powers regarding Soviet expansionism.

The Anti-Comintern Pact laid the foundation for further collaboration and paved the way for the broader Axis powers alliance, significantly impacting the geopolitical landscape of the era.

Japanese fan celebrating the Anti-Comintern Pact signed by Germany, and Japan on 25th November 1936.


The Anti-Comintern Pact was born out of a complex web of historical, political, and ideological factors. The early 20th century saw the rapid spread of communist ideology, spearheaded by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.

The Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin marked the emergence of a new global ideological force.

The Soviet Union actively worked to export and support communist movements around the world, promoting the Comintern as an international organization to coordinate these efforts.

The Comintern aimed to unite and coordinate communist parties and revolutions worldwide. Through financial aid, ideological guidance, and training, the Soviet Union sought to nurture sympathetic regimes and uprisings.

This approach resulted in the spread of communist ideology and parties in various countries, influencing critical events like the Spanish Civil War and shaping the geopolitics of the 20th century. 

Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was a Russian revolutionary leader and the founder of the Soviet state. He played a pivotal role in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, shaping the early Soviet government.

Vladimir Lenin | В.И. Ленин – Color by Klimbim 0.2 (

The Soviet Union's unwavering dedication to fanning the flames of communism on the global stage was akin to a blazing torch, a cornerstone of its foreign policy, a fervent endeavor to sow the seeds of Marxism-Leninism far and wide.

A 1919 Weimar Republic poster calling on all German people to vote. The Weimar Republic in Germany saw much upheaval in its short history between the two World Wars and would eventually succumb to the Nazi's led by Adolf Hitler, who used the anger felt in much of Germany towards the Treaty of Versailles, to gain power and further his own, sinister, political agenda.

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In the years following the Russian Revolution, many governments, particularly those in Western Europe and the United States, viewed communism as a dire threat. They feared that the ideology might inspire revolutionary movements within their own nations and sought to counteract the influence of the Soviet Union.

...Both nations looked for ways to safeguard their interests...

Germany and Japan, both emerging from the turmoil of the First World War, were experiencing political and economic instability.

Germany was subjected to the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles and sought to defy its limitations.

Japan, meanwhile, was expanding its territory and influence in Asia.

Both nations looked for ways to safeguard their interests and establish themselves as major players in the international arena.

Soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army, 1930s. The Japan of the interwar period sought to increase its global power and influence - with it's increasingly capable and well equipped military being a reflection of this ideological aim.

Imperial Japanese Army & Navy (@JaponImperial) / X (


The Anti-Comintern Pact was the second key agreement agreed between the future Axis powers in the 1930’s, reflecting the evolving political climate of the late 1930s.

The Rome-Berlin Axis, established in 1936, was a political and military alliance between Fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini and Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler which helped lay the groundwork for the Anti-Comintern Pact. The Axis demonstrated the willingness of fascist powers to cooperate and extended this collaboration by uniting against the Communist International.

...a significant development in international diplomacy...

A month after the establishment of the Rome-Berlin Axis, the Anti-Comintern Pact was signed on November 25, 1936, between Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan.

This pact marked a significant development in international diplomacy during the interwar period.

Its primary objective was to counter the influence and activities of the Communist International, often referred to as the Comintern, an organization directed by the Soviet Union.

...reflected the growing concerns of both Germany and Japan regarding the spread of communism...

The Anti-Comintern Pact, signed by the German ambassador-at-large Joachim von Ribbentrop and Japanese ambassador to Germany Kintomo Mushanokōji, reflected the growing concerns of both Germany and Japan regarding the spread of communism.

The Soviet Union's involvement in promoting and supporting communist movements worldwide posed a direct challenge to the interests of these two major powers. By signing the pact, Germany and Japan aimed to present a united front against the ideological and political reach of the Comintern.

Delegates from Japan and Germany at the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact.

Interwar Years Timeline | Sutori

...Mussolini had his own reasons for opposing communism...

In 1937, Italy, led by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime, joined the pact, transforming it into a tripartite agreement. Mussolini had his own reasons for opposing communism and sought to align Italy with the other major militaristic powers of the time.

While the Anti-Comintern Pact primarily aimed to counter communism, it also had a notable ideological dimension.

All three signatory nations - Germany, Japan, and Italy - were authoritarian regimes that opposed liberal democracy and aimed to assert their dominance in their respective regions. This pact reflected their shared anti-communist, authoritarian, and expansionist goals.


The Anti-Comintern Pact was closely intertwined with the domestic politics of its signatory nations, as well as their evolving international strategies:

For Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime, the Anti-Comintern Pact was part of a broader strategy to consolidate power in Europe and challenge the post-World War I international order. Hitler sought to revise the Treaty of Versailles, which had imposed significant restrictions on Germany, and the pact aligned with his broader territorial ambitions.

Japan's inclusion in the pact was influenced by its territorial and economic interests in Asia. The Japanese government was expanding its empire in Manchuria and China and sought to protect its regional influence against potential threats, including the Soviet Union.

A Japan-Germany-Italy Anti-Comintern Pact Commemorative Postcard, featuring Benito Mussolini,  Fumimaro Konoe and Adolf Hitler.

Japan-Germany-Italy Anti-Comintern Pact Commemorative Postcard, Anti-Communist Propaganda, Mussolini Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe and Hitler, Mint | oldbid

...the Soviet Union posed a substantial perceived threat...

Benito Mussolini's Italy had its own reasons for joining the pact. Mussolini was motivated by a desire to align Italy with the other rising authoritarian powers, strengthen his regime's international standing, and gain support in his territorial expansionist efforts.

The common thread running through the politics of the pact's signatory nations was a shared anti-Soviet sentiment.

Under Joseph Stalin's leadership, the Soviet Union posed a substantial perceived threat by advocating for global communist revolution. The Anti-Comintern Pact provided Germany, Japan, and Italy with a means to collectively address this threat.

By uniting against the Comintern, which acted as a tool for spreading communism worldwide, the Axis powers sought to curb the influence and expansion of Soviet communism and protect their own interests and ideologies. This alignment marked a significant response to the perceived Soviet threat.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.  The Soviet Union was perceived as a major threat by the future Axis powers.

Key aims

Firstly, the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis agreement sought to establish a framework for the exchange of vital information concerning communist activities, with a particular emphasis on activities related to the Soviet Union.

However, the pact deliberately avoided explicit mention of the USSR to prevent provoking diplomatic conflicts with the Soviet government. This covert sharing of intelligence allowed Germany and Japan to stay informed about communist movements and ideologies, providing a strategic advantage in countering the spread of communism.

Adolf Hitler: The Fuhrer of Germany despised communism and sought an aggressive stance from the Anti-Comintern pact to counter it. 

Rare Color Photographs of World War II Taken by Hitler’s Personal Photographer ~ Vintage Everyday

...Japan was wary of being drawn into Germany's aggressive military campaigns...

Secondly, the pact contained a crucial provision concerning mutual defense. In the event of a Soviet military attack on one of the signatory nations, the other party committed to providing necessary assistance.

In the early stages of the Anti-Comintern Pact, Adolf Hitler's signed initial draft displayed a more aggressive posture, suggesting potential offensive actions. However, Japanese concerns were influential in reshaping the final version of the pact. Japan was wary of being drawn into Germany's aggressive military campaigns, preferring to prioritize defensive measures instead.

This adjustment in the pact's language was crucial in assuring Japan that their commitment would primarily focus on defending their own interests rather than actively participating in offensive operations, thus preserving their autonomy and control over their military strategies and decisions.

Prime Minister of Japan, Kōki Hirota. Wary of Hitler's aggressive posturing, the Japanese focused on a more defensive approach to the Anti-Comintern pact.

National Diet Library (

Signing of the Anti-Comintern pact on the 25th November 1936 in Berlin, by the Japanese ambassador Count Mushakoji. Sitting immediately on his left is the German Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop. 

Nazi Germany and fascist Italy become friends | Anne Frank House

Photo Collection: Bundesarchiv Bildearchiv

...clandestine addition underscored that the primary objective of the pact was to counter the Soviet Union...

Lastly, a confidential protocol, undisclosed to the public, was appended to the treaty. This protocol explicitly mentioned the Soviet Union and detailed the nature of the military and intelligence alliance between Germany and Japan.

This clandestine addition underscored that the primary objective of the pact was to counter the Soviet Union specifically, rather than communism in general. It marked a significant step in the development of the Axis powers' anti-Soviet strategy and set the stage for broader geopolitical dynamics in the lead-up to the Second World War.

Japanese leader, General Hideki Tojo speaking on the 8th December 1942, the first anniversary of the Japanese offensive in SE Asia. Tojo became Japanese Prime Minister on  the 18th October 1941  and was a strong supporter of the Tripartite Pact between Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy, the wartime alliance which stemmed from the Anti-Comintern pact.

Axis Powers | World War 2 Facts

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The personalities of the leaders in the signatory nations played a crucial role in the formation and operation of the Anti-Comintern Pact. Hitler was the driving force behind Nazi Germany's foreign policy. He was a fervent anti-communist who believed that communism was a threat to the Aryan race. Hitler's aggressive expansionist ambitions aligned with the goals of the Anti-Comintern Pact, and he used it as a tool to advance his plans.

Emperor Hirohito's role in Japanese politics was largely symbolic, as Japan was governed by a militaristic regime. However, his approval of the pact's signing was critical, as it reflected the alignment of Japan's political and military leadership.

Mussolini was the architect of Italy's fascist regime. While Mussolini's significance had diminished compared to Hitler's, he was motivated by a desire to maintain Italy's position as a major power in Europe and to support his territorial expansion in Ethiopia, Albania, and Spain.

Hungary, Manchukuo and Spain

Hungary became a signatory to the agreement on 24th February 1939. The invitation to join the Anti-Comintern pact was extended on 13th January, shortly after the Hungarian foreign minister, István Csáky, publicly announced on 12th January that Hungary would accept an invitation if it were offered.

Hungary held the distinction of being the first member with a degree of independence beyond the original three major signatories. However, it also became the first country within the pact to be denied top-tier status, which further solidified the division between Germany, Italy, and Japan as the primary powers in the pact, with the remaining nations occupying subordinate positions.

On the same day, the Japanese-created Empire of Manchukuo was among the nations that became a part of the pact. Manchukuo had been formally invited to join on 16th January, and the official accession protocol was signed in Changchun on the same date, 24th February.

István Csáky, Hungarian foreign minister (1938 - 1941) advocated for Hungary joining the Anti-Comintern pact.

A propaganda poster, created by the Manchukuo Government for the Western audience, featuring a couple of Japanese agrarian immigrants.
The Empire of Manchukuo - which joined the Anti-Comintern Pact on the 24th February 1939 - was a Japanese puppet state in Northeastern China from 1932 to 1945. Created after the invasion of Manchuria, it was nominally ruled by China's last emperor, Puyi. The state served Japanese interests, promoting industrialization and colonization, but faced resistance and was dissolved after the Second World War.

...Spain's inclusion in the Anti-Comintern Pact was driven by the objective of countering British influence in Spain....

The inclusion of Hungary and Manchukuo in the pact was viewed with enthusiasm by the state-controlled German newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter, which celebrated it as a significant expansion of the anti-communist front and a step toward strengthening a global order.

Spain, under the leadership of Francisco Franco, officially became a member of the Anti-Comintern Pact on 27 March 1939. This date coincided with the surrender of the Spanish Republicans, marking the conclusion of the Spanish Civil War.

The decision to expedite Spain's inclusion in the Anti-Comintern Pact was driven by the objective of countering British influence in Spain. German, Italian, and Japanese politicians had been actively pursuing this addition to the pact since at least January 1939.

Francisco Franco, leader of the victorious Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, took Spain into the Anti-Comintern Pact on 27th March 1939.

...deliberately postponed Spain's entry into the Anti-Comintern Pact...

However, the Spanish side delayed its accession to the pact due to concerns within Franco's leadership. They were apprehensive that if Spain sided with the Axis powers before the end of the Spanish Civil War, it might trigger intervention by the Allied powers in support of the Republican side.

As a result, Franco's foreign minister, Jordana, deliberately postponed Spain's entry into the Anti-Comintern Pact until the Spanish Civil War had concluded.

Loss of credibility

The credibility of the pact suffered a blow when Germany openly violated it by engaging in secret negotiations leading to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact with the Soviet Union.

In August 1939, just a few weeks prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, during discussions between Ribbentrop and Stalin in Moscow, the Anti-Comintern Pact proved to be a minor hindrance. Ribbentrop clarified to Stalin that the true target of the Anti-Comintern Pact had been the Western democracies, rather than the Soviet Union.

Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov (left) and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (right) at the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on 23 August 1939. The agreement threatened to undermine the Anti-Comintern Pact.

Stalin, in pursuit of his country's diplomatic objectives, accepted this explanation, leading to jests within the German public that the Soviet Union might eventually become a member of the Anti-Comintern Pact itself.

Notably, during the negotiations between Molotov and Ribbentrop, as well as with German ambassador Schulenburg, the Anti-Comintern Pact was not raised as a contentious issue.


The expiration of the Anti-Comintern Pact, initially established on 25th November, 1936, prompted its scheduled renewal on 25 November, 1941, marking the end of its five-year term. Germany's primary objective in renewing the pact was to maintain a close relationship with Japan and to encourage Japanese intervention on Germany's side in the German-Soviet War.

However, Japan declined to do so for the duration of the war.

German soldiers with an MG-42 machine gun on the Eastern Front. 1944. Hitler hoped the that Japanese would intervene on the Eastern Front (thus potentially leaving the Soviet Union facing a war on two fronts). However, the Japanese declined to do so throughout the duration of the war.

As for Germany, despite early successes, the Soviet Union would eventually force German forces back all the way to Berlin, ultimately costing them the war. 

...Germany emerged as the dominant force...

During the convention held between November 24 and 25, 1941, in Berlin, which culminated in the pact's renewal, Germany emerged as the dominant force within the Axis Powers.

The extension protocol was officially signed on 25 November, 1941, with the signatures of representatives from the six original signatory countries: Ribbentrop (Germany), Ōshima (Japan), Ciano (Italy), Bárdossy (Hungary), Lü Yiwen (Manchukuo), and Suñer (Spain), solidifying their commitment to the pact.

New members

During the Second World War, the Anti-Cominten pact gained several new members for a variety of reasons:

Bulgaria found itself caught between its expansionist ambitions in the Balkans, where it relied on Italian and German military assistance and diplomatic support, and the desire to avoid deep involvement in Axis operations.

In November 1941, Bulgaria was effectively compelled to join the Anti-Comintern Pact. Soon after, on December 13, the country declared war on the United Kingdom and the United States.

Bulgaria aimed to maintain a neutral stance towards the Soviet Union, but following Romania's shift to the Allied side, allowing the Red Army to traverse Romanian territory to invade Bulgaria, the 1944 Bulgarian coup d'état marked the transition to the People's Republic of Bulgaria.

Bulgarian soldiers pictured with a German soldier (centre) in 1941. Bulgaria was effectively forced to join the Anti-Comintern pact in 1941, despite it wanting to avoid any conflict with the Soviet Union.

Croatia, established in 1941 following the German occupation of Yugoslavia, became Germany's crucial partner in the Balkans during anti-partisan campaigns. Croatia joined the Anti-Comintern Pact in November 1941.

This accession was intended to legitimize the Croatian state, enhance its appearance of independence, and take a clear anti-Soviet stance.

...The Danish government, aware of the significant anti-German sentiment among its population, negotiated for four specific exemptions unique to Denmark's situation...

Soldiers of the 369th Croatian Reinforced Infantry Regiment, 1942. Croatia joined the Anti-Comintern pact in November 1941.

(18) Soldiers of the 369th Croatian Reinforced Infantry Regiment, 1942. : wwiipics (

German-occupied Denmark also joined the pact, but the circumstances were quite different.

The Danish government, aware of the significant anti-German sentiment among its population, negotiated for four specific exemptions unique to Denmark's situation.

These included Denmark taking no military obligations, limiting anti-communist actions to police operations within its territory, and maintaining neutrality in the Second World War.

The Germans reluctantly accepted these requests, albeit moving them into a secret addendum, presenting Denmark as a full pact member externally.

This action harmed the international standing of the Danish civilian government in the eyes of the Allies.

Danes celebrate their liberation from German forces on the 5th May 1945. Denmark had been occupied for most of the war by German forces and had little choice but to join the Anti-Comintern pact when directed to by Hitler.

(17) People celebrating the liberation of Denmark in Copenhagen, 5 May 1945. Germany surrendered 2 days later : Colorization ( ally of "Hitlerite Germany"...

Finland's role during the Second World War remains debated among historians. Some argue that Finland was a full member of the Axis Powers, while the wartime Finnish government claimed it was in a state of co-belligerence with Germany against the Soviet Union.

Finland's entry into the Anti-Comintern Pact on 25th November 1941, along with other factors, such as its acknowledgment of being an ally of "Hitlerite Germany" in the 1947 Peace Treaty, supports the argument that Finland was aligned with the Axis Powers.

The "Reorganized National Government of the Republic of China," also known as "China-Nanjing" or the Wang Jingwei regime, was a Japanese puppet state established in Nanjing in March 1940 by Wang Jingwei, a defeated Nationalist Party politician.

This regime joined the Anti-Comintern Pact on 25th November 1941.

Corporal Eino Forsten from Pori, Finland. who destroyed an enemy T-26 tank with a light anti-tank gun in Tammisuo (close to Vyborg), 8 August 1944. Finland became a member of the Anti-Comintern pact on the 25th November 1941.

Photograph taken by Tauno Norjavirta and was provided by Sa-kuva. Photo number: 161008.

Julius Backman Jääskeläinen (@julius.colorization) • Instagram photos and videos

December 1942, Wang Jingwei, president of the Reorganized National Government (third from right) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo (third from left) in Tokyo. He was attending the "First Anniversary of the Great East Asia War".

The Reorganized National Government, a Japanese puppet government, joined the Anti-Comintern Pact on 25th November 1941. In endured until the culmination of the Second World War and Japan's surrender in August 1945. At this juncture, the regime was disbanded, and a significant number of its prominent figures faced execution for their acts of treason.

汪精卫见东条英机 - Wang Jingwei - Wikipedia

...the need to appease the Germans...

Romania's decision to participate in the Anti-Comintern Pact on 25th November 1941, was motivated by the need to appease the Germans, advance the Romanian campaign against the Soviet Union with hopes of regaining lost territory like Bessarabia (which had been taken by the Soviet Union after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact), and secure further territorial acquisitions in Soviet Ukraine.

Slovakia, which came into existence in 1939 following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia instigated by Germany, became a member of the Anti-Comintern Pact on 25th November 1941.


The Anti-Comintern Pact had several significant outcomes and implications:

  • Strengthened Axis Alliance: The Anti-Comintern Pact laid the groundwork for the Axis Powers, a military alliance between Germany, Japan, and Italy. This alliance would play a central role in the events leading up to and during The Second World War.
  • Expansionist Agendas: The pact supported the territorial ambitions of Germany, Japan, and Italy. Germany's annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia, Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, and Japan's expansion into Manchuria and China all occurred during this period, further increasing international tensions.

German troops enter Czechoslovakia. The Anti-Comintern pact helped lay the ground work for Hitler's annexing of his European neighbour. 

This Week Marks 82 Years Since the Nazi Occupation of Czechoslovakia – Brno Daily

...the Anti-Comintern Pact's influence waned...

  • Global Impact: The Anti-Comintern Pact amplified international tensions and played a role in the lead-up to The Second World War. The signing of the pact contributed to a growing sense of crisis in international relations.
  • Transition to The Second World War: The pact foreshadowed the larger conflict that was to come. Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939 and the subsequent declaration of war by France and the United Kingdom marked the start of The Second World War. The Anti-Comintern Pact was a significant precursor to these events.
  • Dissolution and Impact on the Axis: As The Second World War progressed, the Anti-Comintern Pact's influence waned. Italy's shift to the Allied side and Japan's turn toward a more aggressive, expansionist foreign policy marked the decline of the pact's significance. Ultimately, the Axis Powers would face internal and external challenges, leading to their defeat in The Second World War.

German troops take shelter during the Invasion of France in 1940. 

In France 1940 - World War 2 Color Photo (


The Anti-Comintern Pact was a crucial diplomatic agreement in the late 1930s, reflecting the shared anti-communist, authoritarian, and expansionist goals of its signatory nations: Germany, Japan, and Italy.

The pact had important outcomes, including the strengthening of the Axis Powers, the support of expansionist agendas, and the contribution to the lead-up to The Second World War.

While the Anti-Comintern Pact played a key role in the early stages of the war, it eventually lost its significance as the Axis Powers faced internal and external challenges.

...a crucial chapter...

Nevertheless, its impact on the prelude to the Second World War and the course of the conflict cannot be underestimated. The pact remains a crucial chapter in the history of international relations during the 20th century.

A 1942 cartoon commenting on the The Axis powers by artists, Boris Artzybasheff.

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