Pact of Steel

Key Facts & Summary

  • It was an agreement between Italy and Germany.
  • In this agreement, the two countries formed a military alliance. It was the birth of the Axis powers.
  • The pact had both defensive and offensive terms requiring the two countries to come in the rescue of each other.

The King of Italy and Albania, Emperor of Ethiopia, and the Chancellor of the German Reich considered the time to confirm, by a solemn pact, the close ties of friendship and solidarity that exist between fascist Italy and National Socialist Germany. Considering that, with the definitively fixed common borders, was created between Italy and Germany the secure base for reciprocal aid and support, the two governments reconfirm the policy that was previously agreed between them in its foundations and in its goals and has proved highly profitable, both for the development of the interests of both countries and for the maintenance of peace in Europe.

The Italian people and the German people, closely united by the profound affinity of their conceptions of life and by the total solidarity of their interests, were determined to work in the future side by side and joining forces, for the security of their living space and for the maintenance of peace. In a troubled and troubled world, Italy and Germany intend, on this path marked by history, to fulfil their mission of ensuring the foundations of European civilization. In order to fix these principles by means of a pact, they have appointed their plenipotentiaries: For the King of Italy and Albania, Emperor of Ethiopia, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count Galeazzo Ciano of Cortellazzo; For the Chancellor of the German Reich, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Who, having exchanged their full powers, found in good and due form, have agreed on the following articles:

Article 1 – The Contracting Parties shall maintain constant contact in order to reach agreement on all matters concerning their common interests and the European situation in general.

Article 2 – Whenever the common interests of the Contracting Parties run the risk of being threatened by international events of any kind, they shall immediately enter into consultation as to the measures to be taken for the protection of those interests. Should the security or other vital interests of one of the contracting parties be threatened from outside, the other contracting party shall give the threatened party full political and diplomatic support to eliminate that threat.

Article 3 – If, in spite of the desires and hopes of the contracting parties, one of them was caught up in an armed conflict with another or with other powers, the other contracting party shall immediately proceed to its sides as an ally and would support it with all its military forces, on land, on sea and in the air.

Article 4 – In order to ensure, in the case envisaged, the swift implementation of the alliance commitments assumed under Article 3, the governments of the two contracting parties will further deepen their military and economic collaboration of war. In the same way, the two Governments will maintain constant contact for the adoption of the other measures necessary for the practical application of the provisions of the present pact. For the purposes indicated in paragraphs 1 and 2 above, the two governments will constitute standing committees, to be placed under the authority of the two Foreign Ministers.

Article 5 – The contracting parties undertake immediately in the case of a war conducted in common, not to conclude an armistice or peace, if not a full agreement between them.

Article 6 – The two contracting parties, aware of the importance of their common relations with the friendly powers, are determined to maintain and develop by mutual agreement in the future these relations in harmony with the convergent interests which bind them to these powers.

Article 7 – This pact comes into force immediately after its signature. The two contracting parties agree to fix the first period of validity at ten years. They shall agree in good time, before the expiry of this period, on the extension of the validity of the pact. In faith whereof, the Plenipotentiaries have signed the present Covenant and have thereto affixed their seals. Done in two originals, in the Italian and German languages, both texts being equally authentic.

The substance of the agreement

The pact held a “defensive” and “offensive” alliance between the two countries, specifically, the parties were required to provide mutual political and diplomatic assistance in an international situation that could endanger their “vital interests. This aid will be extended to the army had it unleashed a war, the two countries are also committed to consulting permanently on international issues and, in case of war, not to sign separate peace treaties, the duration of the treaty was originally set at ten years.

In the great preamble, it was guaranteed the inviolability of the border between Reich and Kingdom of Italy the Brenner Pass and he acknowledged the existence of a “living space” of Italy that Germany undertook not to break. The pact itself, which was immediately made public, was supplemented by a secret protocol in which he pointed out the political alliance between the two dictatorships and nodded to the methods by which economic cooperation, already planned military and cultural by the pact should have put in place.


The fact that the agreement was both defensive and offensive was an important innovation in the history of international relations, as the unusual term (ten years) and the imbalance of the military power of the two countries gave Germany the power to the initiative, which implies the ultimate Italian suppression of autonomy on its foreign policy. Some members of the Italian government, including the signatory Galeazzo Ciano, Minister of Foreign Affairs, opposed the pact, but to no avail.

Although not established the date of the beginning of the conflict, which seemed inevitable, Benito Mussolini did not fail to repeatedly communicate Adolf Hitler that Italy would be ready for war for two or three years, and August of this year, in a letter commonly referred to as “Cavallero Brief”, the name of the officer in charge of transmitting the message.

On May 23, however, the day after the signing of the Hitler Steel Pact held a secret war council: the order of the day was the attack on Poland. For the Germans, the Italians had to be the task of containing the reaction of France and England in the Mediterranean.

Mussolini, however, reportedly refused to follow the war in Germany because of the non-disclosure of the Molotov-Ribbentrop and the failure of the consultation Italy before ‘invasion of Poland, The facts that could be denunciatati that two violations of the obligation to permanent consultation content in the steel pact. After nine months of forced “non-war”, Mussolini led Italy into the war on the German side in June 1940.

Collaboration Between Italy and Nazi Germany

From 1936, fascist Italy became the ally of Nazi Germany. Mussolini, a pioneer of fascism in Europe and until then the equal of Hitler will gradually become the second and be dragged into the dangerous expansionist policy of Nazi Germany. In March 1936, Mussolini, just like Hitler intervenes in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Italy sends up to 70,000 men to support the nationalist rebels commanded by General Franco. In October 1936, Mussolini and Hitler formed the Axis Rome-Berlin, and on November 6 the two countries joined by Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact directed against the USSR. On 7 December Italy leaves the League of Nations (what Nazi Germany did in October 1934). Mussolini did not intervene when in 1938 Hitler invaded and annexed Austria (Anschluss), in compensation he obtained the Austrian High Adige which forced 70 000 German-speakers to leave the country.

In September 1938, Mussolini was one of the signatories of the Munich Agreement, which decided to dismember Czechoslovakia for the benefit of Germany. In March 1939, Italy and Germany signed the Steel Pact which provides for the entry into the war of one of the two countries if the other enters into conflict. In April 1939, Italy in view of a later action on Greece attacked the kingdom of Albania of which the king of Italy Victor-Emmanuel III becomes the sovereign beginning of May.

Italy in the Second World War

Aware that the Italian army was not ready to wage a protracted war, Mussolini did not intervene militarily when, on September 3, 1939, the Second World War broke out. But the German offensive and lightning victorious against the Franco-British in May-June 1940, pushed him to declare war. He hopes to participate in the peace treaty and to obtain benefits. Italy will gain the area of occupation of Nice.

Wanting to emulate German successes in September 1940, Italy attacks English Egypt from Italian Libya. It is a disastrous failure and in February 1941, it must appeal to German military aid. At the end of October 1940, Italy attacked Greece, but the country’s resistance forced it to stop its troops. In April 1941, Italy attacked Yugoslavia, but here too the Yugoslav resistance forced the Germans to intervene, to occupy the country and to wage war against the resistance fighters. To compensate for German troops immobilized in Yugoslavia and to participate in the anti-Communist “crusade”, Mussolini sent an expeditionary force to the USSR to help the Germans when they attacked the USSR in June 1941.

Italy’s entry into the war was disastrous for the country. Economic restrictions aggravate the already fragile situation of the population. Especially the defeats succeed the defeats and undermine the prestige of the fascist regime. In May 1943, in North Africa, the Italians and their German allies of Afrika-Korps were defeated by the Anglo-French-American Allies.