The Pact of Steel, known formally as the Pact of Friendship and Alliance between Germany and Italy, was an agreement between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany signed on May 22, 1939, by the foreign ministers of each country and witnessed by Count Galeazzo Ciano for Italy and Joachim von Ribbentrop for Germany.
The Pact consisted of two parts: the first section was an open declaration of continuing trust and cooperation between Germany and Italy while the second, a “Secret Supplementary Protocol” encouraged a union of policies concerning the military and economy. However, certain members of the Italian government, including the signatory Ciano, were opposed to the Pact.
Generally, the Pact of Steel obliged Germany and Italy to aid the other country immediately, militarily or otherwise, in the event of war being declared, and to collaborate in military and wartime production. The Pact ensured that neither country was able to make peace without the agreement of the other. The agreement was based on the assumption that a war would occur within three years. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and war broke out on September 3, Italy was not yet fully prepared for conflict, and had difficulty meeting its obligations. Consequently, Italy did not enter World War II until June 1940 with an aborted invasion of southern France.
Article I stipulated that Germany and Italy were to stay in communication with one another, in order to ‘come to an understanding of all common interests or the European situation as a whole’.
Article II obliged Italy and Germany to follow similar foreign policy: for example, the two countries agreed, in the event of any ‘international happenings’, to enter into mutual consultation.
Article III promised the full military support of the signatories should the other country go to war.
Article IV supported the intentions of Article III of the Pact of Steel, encouraging the establishment of greater cooperation in ‘the military sphere and the sphere of war economy’. This article also supported greater communication between Italy and Germany in order to achieve economic and military cooperation.
Article V compelled Italy and Germany to agree to all future armistices, further supporting increasing military planning between the two countries.
Article VI of the Pact instilled the importance of maintaining relations with countries which were friendly towards either Italy or Germany.
Article VII of the Pact of Friendship and Alliance between Germany and Italy dealt with the validity of the Pact: it stated that the Pact came into force upon completion and that it would last until 1949.
Secret Supplementary Protocols
The Secret Supplementary Protocols of the Pact of Steel, which were split into two sections, were not made public at the time of the signing of the Pact by Ribbentrop and Ciano.
The first section urged the countries to quicken their joint military and economic cooperation whilst the second section committed the two countries to cooperate in ‘matters of the press, the news service and the propaganda’ to promote the power and image of the fascist Axis. To aid in this, each country was to assign ‘one or several specialists’ of their country in the capital city of the other for close liaisons with the Foreign Minister of that country.
According to Article VII, the pact was to last ten years. With the Axis defeat in North Africa and the invasion of Sicily in 1943, however, the Italians signed an armistice with the Allies in September. A new government under Marshal Pietro Badoglio was established which became a co-belligerent and part of the allies. Although a government under Mussolini was established in Northern Italy, the Italian Social Republic (ISR), Italy continued as a member of the pact in name only.