English Blood, Irish Heart
.Ireland and the Neutrals
The main neutrals were Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.66
The Soviet Union was officially neutral until June 1941 in Europe, and until August 1945 in Asia, when it attacked Japan in cooperation with the U.S.
The U.S. believed, falsely, that Germany had a master plan to subvert and take control of the economy of much of South America. Washington made anti-Nazi activity a high priority in the region. Three countries actively joined the war effort, while others passively broke relations or nominally declared war.67 Cuba declared war in December 1941 and actively helped in the defense of the Panama Canal. It did not send forces to Europe. Mexico declared war on Germany in 1942 after u-boats sank Mexican tankers carrying crude oil to the United States. It sent a 300-man fighter squadron to the war against Japan in 1945.68 Brazil declared war against Germany and Italy on 22 August 1942 and sent a 25,700-man infantry force that fought mainly on the Italian front, from September 1944 to May 1945. Its Navy and Air Force acted in the Atlantic Ocean.69
Argentina hosted a strong, very-well-organized pro-Nazi element before the war that was controlled by German ambassadors. Brazil, Chile and Mexico had smaller movements.70 American foreign-policy worked to unite all of Latin America in a coalition against Germany. Argentina proved recalcitrant, and the US worked to undermine the Argentine government. The American policy backfired when the military seized power in a coup in 1943. Relationships grew worse to the point that Washington seriously considered economic and diplomatic isolation of Argentina and tried unsuccessfully to keep it out of the United Nations in 1945. Historians now agree that the supposed affinity between Argentina and Germany was greatly exaggerated.71
The Argentine government remained neutral until the last days of the war but quietly tolerated entry of Nazi leaders fleeing Germany, Belgium and Vichy France in 1945. Indeed, a conspiracy theory grew up after the war that greatly exaggerated the Nazi numbers and amount of gold they brought. Historians have shown there was little gold and probably not many Nazis, but the myths live on.7273
Despite declaring neutrality the Baltic states were secretly assigned to the Soviet Sphere of influence via the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and subsequently occupied by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Diplomatic legations continued to represent the Baltic states throughout the period. The United States never recognized control by Germans or USSR.
Ireland tried to be strictly neutral during the war, and refused to allow Britain to use bases. However it had large sales of exports to Britain, and tens of thousands joined the British armed forces.74
Portugal was officially neutral, but in practice its dictator Salazar collaborated with the British and sold them rubber and tungsten (“wolfram”).75 In late 1943 he allowed the Allies to establish air bases in the Azores to fight U-boats. He helped Spain avoid German control. Tungsten was a major product, and he sold to Germany; he stopped in June 1944, when the threat of a German invasion of Portugal was no longer possible.7677 He worked to regain control of East Timor after the Japanese seized it.78 He admitted several thousand Jewish refugees. Lisbon maintained air connections with Britain and the U.S. Lisbon was a hotbed of spies and served as the base for the International Red Cross in its distribution of relief supplies to POWs held by Germany. The Quakers and other peace groups used it as a base for their aid to refugees.79
Nazi leaders spent much of the war attempting to persuade the Franco regime to enter the war and allow a German army to march on Gibraltar. The overtures proved futile. Franco was sympathetic but remained emphatically neutral. However, Spain did need to pay off its heavy debt to Germany. Therefore, Franco did provide various kinds of support to Italy and Germany.80 It sold Germany supplies, especially wolfram, the hard-to-find tungsten ore. It formed 45,000 volunteers into the Blue Division, which fought exclusively on the Eastern Front.
Spain was neutral and traded as well with the Allies. Germany had an interest in seizing the key fortress of Gibraltar, but Franco stationed his army at the French border to dissuade Germany from occupying the Iberian Peninsula. Franco displayed pragmatism and his determination to act principally in Spanish interests, in the face of Allied economic pressure, Axis military demands, and Spain’s geographic isolation. As the war progressed he became more hard-line toward Germany and more accommodating to the Allies.81
Sweden remained neutral during the war, avoiding the fate of its neighbors, occupied Norway and defeated Finland. The dominant historiography for decades after the war ignored issues of the Holocaust and depended on the “small state realist” argument. It held that that neutrality and cooperation with Germany were necessary for survival, for Germany was vastly more powerful, concessions were limited and were only made where the threat was too great; neutrality was bent but not broken; national unity was paramount; and in any case Sweden had the neutral right to trade with Germany. Germany needed Swedish iron and had nothing to gain—and much iron to lose—by an invasion.82 The nation was run by a unity government that included all major parties in the Riksdag. Its key leaders included Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson and Foreign Minister Christian Günther. King Gustav V had pro-Nazi proclivities that the government had to keep in check.
Switzerland was neutral and did business with both sides. It mobilized its army to defend itself against any invasion. The Germans did make plans, but never invaded.83 Cut off from the Allies, Swiss trade was mostly with Germany, with Swiss banks a favourite place for Nazis to store their loot. The Swiss depended on German permission to import its food and fuel. Smuggling high precision tools and weapons (such as jewel bearings, diamond dies, and chronographs) to Britain took place on a large scale.84 Switzerland became a convenient center for spies and espionage.85
Swiss banks paid Germany 1.3 billion Swiss Francs for gold; Germany used the Francs to buy supplies on the world market. However much of the gold was looted and the Allies warned Switzerland during the war. In 1947 Switzerland paid 250 million francs in exchange for the dropping of claims relating to the Swiss role in the gold transactions.86
Switzerland’s role regarding Nazi Germany became highly controversial in the 1990s.89 Wylie says, “Switzerland has been widely condemned for its part in the war. It has been accused of abetting genocide, by refusing to offer sanctuary to Hitler’s victims, bankrolling the Nazi war economy, and callously profiting from Hitler’s murderous actions by seizing the assets of those who perished in the death camps.”9091 On the other hand, Churchill told his foreign minister in late 1944:
“Of all the neutrals, Switzerland has the great right to distinction. She has been the sole international force linking the hideous-sundered nations and ourselves. What does it matter whether she has been able to give us the commercial advantages we desire or has given too many to the German, to keep herself alive? She has been a democratic state, standing for freedom in self defence among her mountains, and in thought, despite of race, largely on our side.”92
Turkey was neutral in the war, but signed a treaty with Britain and France in October 1939 that said the Allies would defend Turkey if Germany attacked it. The deal was enhanced with loans of ₤41 million. An invasion was threatened in 1941 but did not happen and Ankara refused German requests to allow troops to cross its borders into Syria or into the USSR. Germany had been its largest trading partner before the war, and Turkey continued to do business with both sides. It purchased arms from both sides. The Allies tried to stop German purchases of chrome (used in making better steel). Starting in 1942 the Allies provided military aid and pressed for a declaration of war. Turkey’s president conferred with Roosevelt and Churchill at the Cairo Conference in November, 1943, and promised to enter the war when it was fully armed. By August 1944, with Germany nearing defeat, Turkey broke off relations. In February 1945, it declared war on Germany and Japan, a symbolic move that allowed Turkey to join the future United Nations. Meanwhile, relations with Moscow worsened, setting stage for the Truman Doctrine of 1947 and the start of the Cold War.9394