The appointment in 1933 of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany was greeted cautiously by the controlled Italian press. Hitler in turn expressed friendship for Italian fascism. A German-Italian axis was not immediately formed, however, and a temporary improvement in Franco-Italian relations resulted from German attempts to incorporate Austria into the Third Reich in 1934. Mussolini rushed 75,000 Italian troops to the Italo-Austrian frontier, announcing that he would intervene if Germany took overt action. Italy drew even closer to its allies of World War I in 1935. That year, along with France and Britain, it formed the Stresa Front, organized in protest against Germany’s repeated violations of the Treaty of Versailles, the peace treaty signed at the end of World War I.
The event that upset European alignments and brought the dictatorships of Italy and Germany into close accord was Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.
The Italian invasion of Ethiopia began on October 3, 1935. Four days later the Council of the League of Nations declared Italy guilty of violating its obligations under the League Covenant and imposed economic sanctions against the aggressor. The league’s failure to enforce these sanctions, however, contributed largely to the Italian victory. On May 9, 1936, Mussolini formally annexed Ethiopia and proclaimed King Victor Emmanuel III emperor. Within a month, the country was incorporated, along with Eritrea and Italian Somaliland (see Somalia), into a single colony, Italian East Africa. In October 1936, after Germany had recognized the Italian conquest, Hitler and Mussolini concluded an agreement providing for joint action in support of their common goals. With this pact they formed the Rome-Berlin Axis.
New stresses on the Italian economy resulted from Mussolini’s active support for General Francisco Franco’s cause in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Italian troops played an important role at the battles of Málaga and Santander, the Italian air force participated in many engagements, and Italian submarines allegedly sank many neutral ships carrying oil, food, and other supplies for the Republican armies that opposed Franco.
By 1937 cooperation between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany had begun to produce results. Following Mussolini’s visit to Germany in September, Italy announced its adherence to the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany and Japan, and soon thereafter withdrew from the League of Nations. The first major consequence of Italian policy toward Germany was Mussolini’s refusal to aid Austria when that republic was absorbed by Germany in March 1938 (Anschluss). Meanwhile, the increasing influence of Nazi doctrines found expression in a series of Italian measures designed to curb the activities of Jews, including a law that excluded all Jews from civil and military administrations. During the negotiations for the Munich Pact in 1938 and the subsequent dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, Mussolini gave firm support to Hitler’s demands. The two dictators signed a military assistance pact in May 1939. This move followed the German seizure of Bohemia and Moravia and the Italian annexation of Albania. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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