is waging the war
against a common enemy without the formal treaty of military alliance
Co-belligerence is a broader and less precise status of wartime partnership as a formal military alliance. Co-belligerents may support each other materially, exchange intelligence and have limited operational coordination. The aims of war of co-belligerents may differ considerably.
The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness between the co-belligerent parties, cultural, religious, ideological or otherwise, whereas alliance indicates a corresponding closeness.
The Allies as co-belligerents with former enemies
The term was used in 1943-45 during the latter stages of World War II
to define the status of former German
allies and associates (chiefly Italy
, but also from 1944 Romania
), after they more or less voluntarily joined the Allied
war against Germany.
Finland as co-belligerent with Nazi-Germany
Co-belligerence is also the term used by Finland
for her military co-operation with Nazi-Germany
in the Continuation War
of 1941-44, when both countries had the Soviet Union
as a common enemy. The Continuation War was a direct consequence of Nazi-Germany's attack on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa
. Until then the German and Soviet governments had been allies, as during the Winter War
(1940) against Finland.
While the Allied propaganda from 1941 often referred to Finland as one of the Axis Powers, this description is in Finland viewed as negligent and erroneous, as Finland was never a signatory to the German-Italian-Japanese Tripartite Pact of September 1940. The Allies, in turn, pointed to the fact that Finland, like Japan and Italy, (as well as a number of countries including neutral Spain) belonged to Hitler's "Anti-Comintern Pact"
Remaining sympathy among the western Allies, from the turn of the century Russification of Finland, to the later Finnish Civil War and Finnish cooperation with Franco-British interventions in the Russian Civil War, and again enhanced during the Winter War, may have contributed to an Allied assessment of Finland that, despite the state of war, was more understanding than in the cases of Hungary and Romania.
Finland's co-belligerence as a euphemism
declared Germany to be im Bunde
(in league) with the Finns, but Finland's government declared their intention to remain first a non-belligerent
country, then co-belligerent after the Soviet pre-emptive
air offensive, not the least due to a remaining neutralist
public opinion. The truth was somewhere in-between:
- By mining the Gulf of Finland Finland's navy together with Kriegsmarine locked the Leningrad fleet in, making the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia practically domestic German waters, where submarines and navy could be trained without risks in addition of securing Finland's fundamental trade routes for food and fuel.
- Germany was allowed to recruit a battalion from Finland which served under direct German command in operations away from Finnish-Soviet border. (It also recruited from non-belligerent Sweden and Spain. Germany didn't recruit from countries formally allied with it until 1943, when Italy surrendered)
- Finnish re-conquest of the Karelian Isthmus (historically Finnish territory), and to a lesser extent the occupation of East Karelia contributed to the Siege of Leningrad.
- The initial Finnish offensive was co-ordinated with Operation Barbarossa (see Continuation War for details of the pre-offensive staff talks).
- A German army corps invaded the Soviet Union from Finnish Lapland, and German army and air force units reinforced the Finnish army during the decisive 1944 battles on the Karelian isthmus.
- Finland also extradited 8 Jews, 76 political prisoners with non-Finnish citizenship and 2,600-2,800 prisoners of war to Germany in exchange of 2,100 Fennic/Karelian prisoners of war from Germany. Some of the extradited had a Finnish nationality, but had moved to Soviet Union before the war, received Soviet citizenship and returned to Finland in secret.
Hungary and Romania as co-belligerents with Nazi Germany
The most official written statement on the military alliance against the USSR between the National Socialist Germany, the democratic Finland, fascist Italy, semi-feudal Hungary and the ideology-free military dictatorship of Romania was the Anti-Comintern Pact
. The relations with the expected European dominant power, Nazi Germany, were not radically different in Hungary or Romania than in Finland. The strongest difference was rather that Finland more successfully could utilize remaining sympathy among the Allies.
Another factor explaining why Finland but not Hungary or Romania in English works often are characterized as co-belligerent with the Third Reich may be the Soviet occupation of Hungary and Romania. It was in line with Soviet policies to enhance the occupied nations' willingness to absorb Socialism by means of simplified accounts of the history of the Soviet Union's and particularly the Red Army's "heroic struggle against Fascism," that easily exaggerated the strength of Fascism in pre-Socialist Hungary and Romania.