Axis leaders of World War II

Axis leaders of World War II

The Axis leaders of World War II were the important political and military figures during the war. They basically led all of the other Axis powers. They were established with the signing of the Tripartite Pact in 1940 and pursued a strong militarist and nationalist ideology with a policy of anti-communism. During the early phase of the war, puppet governments were established in the occupied nations. When the war ended many leaders faced trial for war crimes and treason.

flagicon|Germany|Nazi Greater German Reich (Nazi Germany)

* Adolf Hitler was the leader of Nazi Germany, first as Chancellor from 1933 until 1934 and later as Führer from 1934 until his suicide in 1945. Hitler came into power during Germany's period of crisis after the Great War. During his rule Germany became a fascist state with a policy of anti-Semitism that lead to the Holocaust. Hitler pursued an aggressive foreign policy that triggered the war.

* Hermann Goering was second in command of Nazi Germany as Reichsmarschall and Prime Minister of Prussia. He was the commander of the Luftwaffe. Hitler awarded Göring the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross for his successful leadership. Goering was the third highest ranking Nazi official brought before the Nuremberg Trials.

* Heinrich Himmler was the commander of the Schutzstaffel and the Gestapo. Himmler was responsible for the establishment of the Nazi concentration camps. Himmler held final command responsibility for annihilating "subhumans" who were deemed unworthy to live. Shortly before the end of the war, he offered to surrender all of "Germany" to the Allies if he was spared from prosecution as a Nazi leader. Himmler committed suicide with cyanide when he became a captive of the British Army.

* Rudolf Hess was Hitler's deputy in the Nazi Party. Hess hoped to score a stunning diplomatic victory by sealing a peace between the Reich and Britain. He flew solo to Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace, but was arrested. He was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to life imprisonment.

* Ernst Kaltenbrunner was an Obergruppenführer and chief of the SD (Sicherheitsdienst), Gestapo, SIPO (Sicherheitspolizei), KRIPO (Kriminalpolizei) and Einsatzgruppen death squads. Under Himmler, he was Reinhard Heydrich's replacement as chief of the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt) and the highest ranking SS leader to face trial at Nuremberg and be executed.

* Joseph Goebbels was Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda from 1933 until 1945. An avid supporter of war, Goebbels did everything in his power to prepare the German people for a large scale military conflict. He was one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers. He became Chancellor for a day before his suicide.

* Hans Frank was Chief of Administration of General Government of occupied Poland. Frank oversaw the segregation of the Jews in to the ghettos and the use of Polish civilians as slave labour. Frank was captured by American troops in 1945 and tried at Nuremberg.

* Erich Raeder, was Großadmiral of the Kriegsmarine from 1 April 1939 until 30 January 1943.

* Karl Dönitz was made Großadmiral of the Kriegsmarine on 30 January 1943 and was President for 23 days after Hitler's suicide. Under his command the U-boat fleet fought an unrestricted submarine warfare during the Battle of the Atlantic. After the war he was tried at Nuremberg.

* Erich von Manstein is credited with the drawing up of the Ardennes invasion plan of France. He also conquered the Sevastopol and was then made "Generalfeldmarschall". The winner of the battle of Kharkov, he is considered one of the finest German strategists and field commanders of World War II.

* Heinz Guderian was the principal creator of Blitzkrieg. He commanded several front line armies in the early years of the war, most notably Panzergruppe Guderian during Operation Barbarossa. Guderian later served as chief of staff of the army from July 1944 to March 1945.

* Erwin Rommel was the commander of the Afrika Korps and became known by the nickname "The Desert Fox". Rommel was admired as a strategic genius by both Axis and Allied leaders during the war. Later he was in command of the German forces during the invasion at Normandy.

flagicon|Italy|1861 Kingdom of Italy (Until 1943), flagicon|Italy Italian Social Republic (1943-1945)

* Benito Mussolini was Prime Minister from 1922 until 1943 commonly called "Duce" ("Leader") by his Fascist supporters. Mussolini was the "de facto" dictator of Italy during that period, as King Emmanuel III delegated his powers to Mussolini and opposition to Mussolini and the Fascist state was seen as treason. Mussolini was the official head of the "Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale," MVSN ("Volunteer Militia for National Security"), often called the "Blackshirts", who were Fascist partisans loyal specifically to him, rather than the King. Mussolini was later Head of State of the Italian Social Republic (regime under control of Nazi Germany), that succeeded the Kingdom of Italy in the Axis between 1943 and 1945. Mussolini was the founder of fascism and made Italy the first fascist state using the ideas of nationalism, militarism and anti-communism combined and state propaganda. Mussolini's regime was an influence on Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

* Victor Emmanuel III was the king of Italy from 1900 until his abdication in 1946. He supported the Fascist government from 1922 until 1943 when he had the Fascist regime removed from office. Technically as King he was the supreme commander of the Italian army and navy, but he was a figurehead leader and delegated his powers to Mussolini who delegated those powers to ministers. In 1943, with Italian dissatisfaction with the war and the embarrassment Italy's failed war effort, Victor Emmanuel used his powers as King to remove Mussolini from office and dissolve the Fascist regime. He and Pietro Badoglio then brought Italy into the war on the side of the Allies against Germany.

* Ugo Cavallero was the head of the Italian Royal Army during the Second World War, his powers being delegated to him from the King, who was the official supreme commander of the Italian Royal Army. He led Italian forces during the Greco-Italian War in which Italian forces faltered badly.

* Arturo Riccardi was the head of the Italian Royal Navy ("Regia Marina") from 1940 to 1943, his powers being delegated to him from the King, who was the official supreme commander of the Italian Royal Navy.

* Italo Balbo was the head of the Italian Royal Airforce ("Regia Aeronautica") from the 1930s until his death in 1940. His powers were delegated to him from the King, who was the official supreme commander of the Italian Royal Air Force. He also commanded the Tenth army in Libya until his death.

* Galeazzo Ciano was appointed minister of foreign affairs in 1936 by Mussolini (who was his father-in-law) and remained in that position until the end of the Fascist regime in 1943. Ciano signed the Pact of Steel with Germany in 1939 and subsequently the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Japan in 1940. Ciano attempted to convince Mussolini to bring Italy out of the war as casualties mounted but was ignored. In 1943, Ciano supported the ousting of Mussolini as Prime Minister. Ciano was later executed by Fascists in the Italian Social Republic for betraying Mussolini.

* Roberto Farinacci was the minister in charge of Italian culture during the Second World War. Unlike other Italian Fascists, Farinacci was an avid anti-Semite and eagerly adapted anti-Semitic policies for Italy and endorsed the creation of concentration camps and deportation of Jews. He remained loyal to the Fascist cause even after the Fascist regime was removed from power, and the Nazis considered making him head of a new fascist puppet state, but Mussolini was finally made the head of that state (the Italian Social Republic) after Mussolini was freed from imprisonment.

* Rodolfo Graziani was the governor of Libya during World War II and commander of the Tenth Army, stationed in Libya. He became commander after the death of Italo Balbo killed in a friendly fire incident on June 28, 1940. Graziani was ordered to invade Egypt by Mussolini. Graziani expressed doubts about the ability of his largely un-mechanized force could defeat the British, however, he followed orders and the Tenth Army attacked on September 13. He resigned his commission in 1941 after being defeated by the British in Operation Compass. Graziani was the only one of the Italian marshals to remain loyal to Mussolini after Dino Grandi's Grand Council of Fascism coup, and was appointed Minister of Defence of the Italian Social Republic ("Repubblica Sociale Italiana", or RSI). Graziani had under his command the mixed Italo-German LXXXXVII "Liguria" Army ("Armee Ligurien") of the RSI.

* Giovanni Messe was the commander of the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia ("Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia", or CSIR). The CSIR fought on the Eastern Front, fighting with German forces against the Soviet Union.

* Pietro Badoglio was Marshal of the Army. He lead the Italian Army during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. He resigned in 1940 after the Italian defeat during the Greco-Italian War. In 1943, after Victor Emmanuel overthrew Mussolini, Badoglio became Prime Minister of Italy. He and the King arranged with the Allies for an armistice and set up a Royalist government in southern Italy.

flagicon|Japan|alt Empire of Japan

* Hirohito was the Emperor from 1926 until his death in 1989. He was commander of the Imperial General Headquarters from 1937 to 1945 and authorized in 1936, by imperial decree, the expansion of Shiro Ishii's bacteriological research unit [Daniel Barenblat, "A plague upon humanity", 2004, p.37.] , while, according to some authors, assuming control over the use of chemical and bacteriological weapons [Yoshiaki Yoshimi, "Dokugasusen Kankei Shiryō II, Kaisetsu"(Materials on Poison Gas Warfare), 1997, pp.25–29., Herbert P. Bix, "Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan", 2001] . He was exonerated from criminal prosecutions with all members of the imperial family by Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP).

* Fumimaro Konoe was Prime Minister from 1937 to 1939 and 1940 until 1941. Konoe authorized the publications of Kokutai no Hongi (1937) and Shinmin no Michi (1941). He join with the military to recommended to emperor Shōwa the invasion of China and launched the National Spiritual Mobilization Movement, the League of Diet Members Believing the Objectives of the Holy War and the Taisei Yokusankai to promote total war effort. Konoe was opposed to war with Occidental powers. During the occupation of Japan, he refused to collaborate with the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers to exonerate Hirohito and the imperial family of criminal responsibility and came under suspicion of war crimes. He committed suicide in 1945.

* Hideki Tojo was Prime Minister from 1941 until 1944. Tojo was a strong supporter of the Tripartite Alliance between Japan, Germany and Italy. Minister of War in the second cabinet of Fumimaro Konoe, he was chosen as prime minister by the emperor in October 1941. He was one of the main proponent of the war against Occident. Tojo strengthen the Taisei Yokusankai to create a single-party state. He was demoted in July 1944 by the emperor, following the Battle of Saipan and condemned to death by the Tokyo tribunal.

* Sadao Araki was minister of the Army from 1931 to 1933 and Education Minister from 1938 to 1939. Araki was one of the main proponents of militarism and expansionism during the Shōwa era. He developed the fascist ideas of the Kōdōha and led the National Spiritual Mobilization Movement to promote the "Holy war" against China. After the war Araki was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment but was released in 1955 with all the other major convicts.

* Kotohito Kan'in was chief of staff of the Army from 1931 to 1940. During his mandate, the Army committed the Nanking massacre and regularly used chemical weapons in China. Kan'in was one of the main proponents of State Shinto. He died before the end of the war.

* Hajime Sugiyama was minister of the Army from 1937 to 1938, then chief of staff from 1940 to 1944. During this period, the Army kept using chemical weapons and implemented the sanko sakusen. He committed suicide in 1945.

* Hiroyasu Fushimi was chief of staff of the Navy from 1932 to 1941. Starting in 1937, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service implemented strategic bombing of Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou. He was exonerated from criminal prosecutions with all members of the imperial family by SCAP.

* Osami Nagano was chief of staff of the Navy from 1941 to 1944. During this period, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service committed the attack of Pearl Harbor and the strategic bombing of Chongqing. He was tried before the Tokyo tribunal but died in prison before his sentence.

* Isoroku Yamamoto was commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1939 to 1943 and was responsible for Japan's early naval victories, including the atttack on Pearl Harbor. Considered the most brilliant Japanese naval commander of the war, his death in 1943 deprived the military of a skilled tactician and was a severe blow to Japanese morale.

* Mitsumasa Yonai was prime minister in 1940 and minister of the Navy from 1937 to 1939 and 1944 to 1945. During his second mandate as Navy minister, the Imperial Japanese Navy implemented the "tokkōtai" or suicide units against the Allied fleet. He cooperated with SCAP to fix the testimony of the high officers accused in the Tokyo trials and was exonerated from criminal prosecutions.

flagicon|Hungary|1940 Kingdom of Hungary

* Miklós Horthy was the Regent of Hungary from 1920 until 1944.

* Miklós Kállay was the Prime Minister from 1942 until 1944.

* Ferenc Szálasi was the leader of the fascist Arrow Cross Party, the "Leader of the Hungarian Nation" ("Nemzetvezető"), and the Prime Minister from 1944 to 1945.

* Béla Miklós was as acting Prime Minister, at first in opposition, and then officially, from 1944 to 1945.

* Iván Hindy was colonel-general in the Hungarian Army. He orchestrated the defence of Budapest. On February 11, 1945, Hindy was captured by the Soviets when he tried to escape just prior to the fall of the city on February 13. He was sentenced to death and in 1946, he was executed.

* Géza Lakatos was a general in the Hungarian Army during World War II who served briefly as Prime Minister of Hungary, under governor Miklós Horthy from August 29, 1944, until October 15, 1944.

flagicon|Romania Kingdom of Romania (Until 1944)

* Michael I was King of the Romanians from 1940 until 1947. Michael I was installed in power by Antonescu to replace Michael's father Carol II. He was not intended to have much power. Led a coup to overthrow Antonescu and switched sides to Allies in 1944.

* Ion Antonescu was Prime Minister of Romania and "conducător" with dictatorial powers 1940-44.

* Petre Dumitrescu commanded the Romanian Third Army on its campaign against the Soviet Union.

*Constantin Constantinescu-Claps commanded the Romanian Fourth Army.

flagicon|Bulgaria|1878 Kingdom of Bulgaria (Until 1944)

* Boris III was the Tsar from 1918 until his death in 1943.

* Simeon II was the last Tsar of Bulgaria from 1943 until 1946, was underage and did not have any power

* Kyril, Prince of Bulgaria, head of the regency council, 1943-44

* Bogdan Filov, Prime Minister, 1940-43, member of the regency council, 1943-44

* Dobri Bozhilov, Prime Minister, 1943-44

* Ivan Ivanov Bagrianov was Prime Minister in 1944. He attempted to pull Bulgaria out of the war and declare neutrality.

flagicon|Thailand Kingdom of Thailand

* Ananda Mahidol was King of Thailand from 1935 until his death in 1946. During the war, Mahidol stayed in neutral Switzerland. He returned to Thailand in 1945 after the war.

* Plaek Pibulsonggram was Field Marshal of the Thai Army and was Prime Minister of Thailand from 1938 until 1944. Pibulsonggram regime embarked upon a course of economic nationalism and Anti-Chinese policies. In 1941 he had Thailand allied with Japan and allowed them to use the country for the invasions of Burma and Malaya.

* Khuang Abhaiwongse, Prime Minister, 1944-45

flagicon|Finland Republic of Finland (Until 1944)

* Risto Ryti was President of Finland from 1940 until 1944. Ryti time in office was marked by the Continuation War with the Soviet Union. He resigned in 1944 to pull Finland out of the war.

* Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was the Commander-in-Chief of Finnish military and was Marshal of Finland. Mannerheim was an astute politician and a successful military commander. He became president in 1944 after Ryti's resignation.

* Hjalmar Siilasvuo was a general who led the Finnish military during the war. During the Continuation War he led the III Corps in northern Finland. After the peace with the Soviets, he was given the command of the Finnish forces during the Lapland War.

* Karl Lennart Oesch was one of the leading Finnish generals during the war. At the end of the Continuation War, two-thirds of the Finnish ground forces were under his command.

flagicon|Iraq|1924 Kingdom of Iraq (Until 1941)

* Rashid Ali al-Kaylani was Prime Minister of Iraq from 1940 -1941. Ali al-Kaylani overthrew the pro-British Nuri Said Pasha and established a pro-Nazi regime. Britain responded with severe economic sanctions against Iraq and an invasion. The Anglo-Iraqi War lasted only two months with a British victory and Ali al-Kaylani out of power. As a result, Rashid Ali al-Kaylani had to flee to Iran to avoid capture.

* Haj Amin al-Husseini was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who had been exiled from the British Mandate of Palestine for his nationalist activities. Husayni aided the Axis cause in the Middle East by issuing a fatwa for a holy war against Britain in May 1941. The Mufti's widely heralded proclamation against Britain was declared in Iraq, where he was instrumental in the pro-Nazi Iraqi revolt. When Britain invaded Iraq the Mufti fled to Germany.

flagicon|Iran|1925 Empire of Iran (Until 1941)

*Reza Shah Pahlavi was the Shah of Iran from 1925 until 1941. Reza Shah was a reformist who modernized Iran during his rule. During the war, Reza Shah had a policy of neutrality but had built strong relations with Nazi Germany. Fearing that Iran's oil would fall under Nazi control, Britain and the USSR invaded Iran. Reza Shah was deposed and went into exile in South Africa. His son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, took the throne and brought Iran into line with the Allied Powers.
*Mohammad-Ali Foroughi, Iranian minister and diplomat.
*Fazlollah Zahedi was an Iranian general during the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. Zahedi was named military governor of Khuzestan province, the hub of Iran's oil industry. When the British invaded, he was arrested and held in Palestine until 1945. After the war he became Prime Minister.

flagicon|France Vichy France (Until 1944)

*Philippe Pétain was president of Vichy France from its establishment in 1940 until the Allied Invasion in 1944. The Pétain government collaborated with the Nazis and organized raids to capture Jews. The Pétain government was opposed by General de Gaulle's Free French Forces. After the war, Pétain was tried for treason and sentenced to life in prison.

* René Bousquet was general secretary to the Vichy police force.

* Joseph Darnand was the commander of the paramilitary force Milice. A pro-Nazi leader he was a strong supporter of Hitler and Pétain government. He established the Milice to round-up Jews and fight the French Resistance. After the war, Darnand was tried for treason and executed.

* Jean Decoux was the Governor-General of French Indochina representing the Vichy government. Decoux's task in Indochina was to reverse the policy of appeasement towards the Japanese led by his predecessor general Georges Catroux, but political realities soon forced him to continue down the same road. Arrested and tried after the war, Decoux was not convicted.

* Henri Dentz was commander of the Army of the Levant during the Syria-Lebanon Campaign. During the war he allowed the Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica to establish airbases in the mandate, which lead to the Allied invasion. After the war, Dentz was convicted of treason and sentenced to Life imprisonment.

Puppet States of Nazi Germany

flagicon|Serbia|1941 Government of National Salvation (Until 1944)

*Milan Nedić, general and Prime Minister of the Serbian puppet government.

flagicon|Slovakia|1938 Slovak Republic

* Jozef Tiso, President

* Vojtech Tuka, Prime Minister

*Ferdinand Čatloš was commander of the Field Army Bernolák during the Invasion of Poland.

flagicon|Croatia|1941 Independent State of Croatia

* Tomislav II, Italian-born King of Croatia
* Ante Pavelić, Leader ("Poglavnik") of the Independent State of Croatia from 1941 to 1945

Puppet states of the Kingdom of Italy

flagicon|Montenegro|1941 Kingdom of Montenegro (Until 1944)

*Sekula Drljević was founder of the Montenegrin Federalist Party and Prime Minister of Montenegro until his imprisonment in 1941.

flagicon|Greece|old Hellenic State (Until 1944)

* Georgios Tsolakoglou was Prime Minister from April 30, 1941 to December 2, 1942.
* Konstantinos Logothetopoulos was Prime Minister from December 2, 1942 to April 7, 1943.
* Ioannis Rallis was Prime Minister from April 7, 1943 to October 12, 1944.

flagicon|Albania|1939flagicon image|Flag of German occupied Albania.svg Albanian Kingdom (Until 1944)

* Shefqet Verlaci, Prime Minister

Puppet States of Imperial Japan

flagicon|Manchukuo Empire of Manchukuo

*Puyi was the Emperor of Manchukuo from 1934 until the disestablishment of the state in 1945. Puyi was installed by the Japanese after the Invasion of Manchuria. After the war, he was captured and imprisoned by the Red Army.
*Zhang Jinghui was the Prime Minister of Manchukuo. Zhang was a Chinese general and politician during the Warlord Era who collaborated with the Japanese to establish Manchukuo. After the war, he was captured and imprisoned by the Red Army.
*Xi Qia was the finance superintendent of Manchukuo in 1932, a minister of Manchukuo in 1934, and palace and interior minister in 1936. At the end of World War II he was captured by the Soviets and held in a Siberian prison until he was returned to China in 1950, where he died in prison.
*Chang Hai-peng, general of the Manchukuo Imperial Army.

flagicon|Mengjiang Mengjiang United Autonomous Government

*Demchugdongrub was the vice-chairman, then the chairman. In 1941 he became chairman of the Mongolian Autonomous Federation.

flagicon|Republic of China Republic of China-Nanjing

*Wang Jingwei, Head of State, President of the Executive Yuan and Chairman of the National Government.
*Chen Gongbo, Head of the Legislative Yuan.
*Zhou Fohai, Head of the Executive Yuan.

flagicon|Burma|1943 State of Burma (Until 1945)

*Ba Maw, political leader

flagicon|Philippines|old Second Philippine Republic

*Jose P. Laurel, President

flagicon|Vietnam|1945 Empire of Vietnam (1945)

*Bảo Đại was the King of Annam from 1926 until 1945 and Emperor of Vietnam from 1945 until 1949.
*Trần Trọng Kim, Prime Minister

flagicon|Cambodia|1942 Kingdom of Cambodia (1945)

*Sisowath Monivong was the King from 1927 until his death in 1941.
*Norodom Sihanouk was the King following Monivong's death.
*Son Ngoc Thanh, Prime Minster

flagicon|Laos Kingdom of Laos (1945)

*Phetsarath Rattanavongsa, Prime Minister from 1942 to 1945 and vice-king.

ee also

* Axis powers of World War II
* Allied Leaders of World War II
* Commanders of World War II

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