10 WAYS NAZI GERMANY SUCKED AT WAR: (5) THEY DID NOT WORK WELL WITH ALLIES
What a surprise – Nazis don’t play well with others!
To put it in more formal terms, Nazi Germany did not have effective allies, or failed to coordinate with them effectively – or both.
In fairness, the same applied to Imperial Germany, or indeed, Bismarck’s successors generally – as if Bismarck used up all of Germany’s diplomacy points for sixty years or so.
Germany entered the First World War allied to an ailing Austria-Hungary – or “shackled to a corpse” in the memorable phrase attributed to Germany’s General Ludendorff, with Austria-Hungary largely shaping up to this expectation. Germany gained another ally in the Ottoman Empire or Turkey, which had spent the most part of the last century as the “sick man of Europe”, although it proved to be somewhat more robust in defending itself before collapsing. Bulgaria was the only other ally Germany gained in the war.
Nazi Germany actually found itself in a better position in the Second World War. It either absorbed or allied itself with the constituent parts of its former ally Austria-Hungary, as well as renewing its alliance with Bulgaria. And although Turkey remained neutral, it gained Italy and Japan, which had been allied against Germany in the First World War – as well as Romania (similarly a former adversary in the First World War) and Finland (formerly a subject part of Russia).
As for Germany’s most effective combatant ally, Japan, Germany largely could not and did not coordinate effectively with it, as the two fought largely separate wars against their superpower nemeses – Japan with the Pacific War against the United States, Germany with its Nazi-Soviet war. In a supreme irony, Germany’s strongest ally remained at peace with Germany’s strongest adversary – as Japan preserved its pact with the Soviet Union, which it had signed a couple of months before Germany invaded the Soviet Union, as Germany had not bothered to inform Japan of its intentions. Among other things, this resulted in Japan not cutting off the massive amounts of American aid and material shipped on the Pacific to the Soviet Union to use to fight Germany – as long as it was in Russian shipping.
As for Germany’s other allies, they were largely ineffective. Italy’s military performance was too inconsistent to be effective, although ultimately Nazi Germany had little basis to mock Italy. As this feature hopes to demonstrate, despite its superior fighting force (and economic capacity), Nazi Germany showed similar deficiencies when it came to waging war – “in Mussolini’s case, the weakness of Italy as an industrialized and military power immediately manifested itself in battlefield failures, whereas the weaknesses inherent in the German system were disguised for many years by greater national power and early victories”. In the latter days of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was famously described as Upper Volta with rockets (which would now have to be updated to Burkina Faso with rockets), for its mediocre economy outside its military-industrial and aerospace complex. Whatever the truth of that description, in the Second World War, Nazi Germany might equally have been described as fascist Italy with rockets.
Rounding out its allies with even more dubious effectiveness were Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia (except in the case of Romania and Hungary, with their enthusiasm for fighting each other). Finland was something of an exception in combat effectiveness, but largely fought its own war against the Soviet Union and resisted formal alliance with Nazi Germany:
“Germany’s associates were not capable, either immediately or in the long term, of providing her with effective military support in the prosecution of the war, and indeed, were liabilities that had to be supported”
Nor did they particularly want to as all, were conscious of the contempt in which they and their countries were held by the German system:
“Nazism abrogated, as the natural right of the German volk, the resources of Germany’s associates, an imposition that was ever more ruthlessly applied as defeat came closer, yet the Germans were never able to comprehend the hatred that their demands generated and they could never understand, except in terms of the innate treachery of inferior races, the ease and willingness with which such countries as Italy and Romania defected to the enemy”.
Not surprisingly, Nazi Germany found itself alone in its final pity party (and unconditional surrender)