Germany and Italy sign the Pact of Steel (May 22, 1939) - History Key

Germany and Italy sign the Pact of Steel (May 22, 1939)

Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's foreign minster and son-in-law
Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s foreign minster and son-in-law © Image Source: Commons Wikimedia

Foreign Ministers Galeazzo Ciano and Joachim von Ribbentrop signed the “Pact of Friendship and Alliance between Germany and Italy”, giving birth to the Axis powers (which ultimately will include Japan). The pact was a military and political treaty designed as an instrument to remove the influences of western democrats. In this manner, Italy and Germany committed supporting each other in any circumstances.

Mutual assistance

The two countries became allies since 1936 when Mussolini left Hitler to annex Austria. Also, in the same year, the two countries signed an agreement recognizing the Italian domination over Ethiopia. However, some issues have remained unclear, but Mussolini’s announcement of the birth of the Axis had a big international echo.

Hitler brought up in discussion the industrial area of Czechoslovakia, inhabited mainly by Germans (Sudeten region). He required the annexation, but France and England officially supported Czechoslovakia. In 1939, Mussolini played the role of “savior of peace”, or at least he pretended to be. In fact, he supported Germany, giving a final shot against the fragile balance of the League of Nations and provoking the Soviet Union. From that moment, the ideological community of the two states became total. In Spain, the two powers fought together while in Italy racial laws were introduced, following the German model.

From blood to steel

Newspaper -THE NEW YORK TIMES, New York, May 23, 1939
Newspaper -THE NEW YORK TIMES, New York, May 23, 1939 © Image Source:

The friendship between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany was officially announced on May 22, 1939. The two foreign ministers signed the Pact of Steel, a political and military treaty. They supported each other even in a case of war. However, in the pact was not written the lack of Italian preparedness for war and the division of the points of influence. The alliance between Germany and Italy was defined by Ciano as “pure dynamite.” After the Ethiopian adventure, international isolation pushed Italy towards Germany, which made it a subordinate of Hitler.

The pact was made up of two parts. The first was a declaration of cooperation between Germany and Italy and the second was an “Additional Secret Protocol” provided for a common military and economic policy. The Italian dictator named the pact as “The Blood Pact”, but from the advice of his counselors he changed it to the “Pact of Steel”. The agreement included that none of the signatory parties would sign a peace treaty without the agreement of the other. The understanding was based on the assumption that the war would not be triggered earlier than at least three years.

When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Italy wasn’t fully prepared for war and it was impossible for it to fulfill its assumed obligations. Therefore, Italy entered the war on June 1940 when they attacked southern France. At the outbreak of WWII, Italy declared its “non-belligerence” in the violation of the Steel Pact. This action, led from an “Armed Peace” to an intervention with Germany, linking its destiny with the Reich.

Ciano And Hitler At Berlin In Germany, 1939
Ciano And Hitler At Berlin In Germany, 1939 © Image Source: Getty Images


Article I: Provided Germany and Italy will keep all channels of communication open with each other in order to reach an understanding of common interests of the European situation as a whole.

Article II: Obliged both of the countries to pursue a common foreign policy

Article III: Established that if one of the countries will enter a war, the other will provide full military support.

Article IV: Established that the Governments of the two countries will intensify their cooperation in the military sphere and the sphere of a war economy.

Article V: Obliged Germany and Italy to agree in an event of a war, to conclude armistice or peace only in full agreement with each other.

Article VI: Underlined the importance of maintaining good relations with other countries that have a friendly attitude towards Germany and Italy.

Article VII: Set the period of the pact – 10 years validity period.

Secret supplementary protocols

Included two sections and wasn’t public when it was signed. The first section obliged the two countries to speed up their military and economic cooperation. The second section obliged Italy and Germany to co-operate in press, news and propaganda issues to promote the image of the Axis.

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