As I understand it, Germany did not make war with America on the condition that Japan joined the war against Russia.

Was this because they thought that Japan would attack Russia anyway? If so, what basis did they have for thinking that? Or did they think they didn't need Japan to defeat Moscow?

4 Answers 4


The Tripartite Pact explicitly excluded Russia; thus, given the The Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, it is hard to imagine that Hitler expected a Japanese attack on Russia.

Hitler thought that Russia was, for all practical purposes, already defeated; he declared war on the US saying that for all intents and purposes they are already fighting - this just freed him to unleash his U-boats.


As far as I am aware, there is no evidence existing that supports the Germans expected a Japanese attack on Russia.

However, I believe that Hitler knew at the time he made his speech declaring war on the U.S. on December 11, 1941, that Germany was in real trouble at the gates of Moscow. For this reason it is my opinion that Hitler declared war on the U.S. hoping for help from the Japanese.

The following supports this opinion:

Many historians and writings have stated Hitler did this to show loyalty to his Japanese allies, simply making official the fighting that had been going on between the U.S. and Germany in the Atlantic since the fall of France or as some sort of retalliation for Lend Lease to German enemies.

Short of saying it in a speech, Germany couldn't DO anything more than they were already doing against the U.S. What is the point in giving America justification to join England in a bombing campain if it doesn't help the German situation at the time? The answer is there is no point. Making dumb moves like that fits the Hitler of the comming desperation times but not of late 1941. The Hitler of 1941 still worked situations to his benefit in most cases.

Hitler knew going into Operation Barbarosa, Germany could not win a war of attrition with the Russians. He has been quoted saying that he expected complete victory before the end of Summer 1941. When it became obvious this was not possible, he was well aware that Germany would not win a prolonged war. However, he still thought that victory for the most part, could be secured during Barbarosa as late as early December, 1941.

It was during the very week of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, operation Barbarosa ground to a halt at the gates of Moscow. Right after the stall (December 5th and 6th, 1941), the Soviets attacked German forces around Moscow with forces that included 70 fresh divisions of well equipped, Siberian troops. Troops that the German High Command didn't think were available.


One day before Pearl Harbor, the temperature along the Moscow front dropped to -38f. Lubricants for German guns and equipment had been jelling up for the past couple of nights due to temperatures around -25f all along the front, affecting combat worthiness drastically. From the 5th on, the Soviets were making small gains (a mile or less) in several areas. On the 6th, Soviet Thitieth Army broke into Third Panzer Group's left flank northeast of Klin to a distance of eight miles, almost creating a complete breakthrough.

German generals were reporting all along the line about the fresh, well trained and equipped Russian Siberian forces. For the next several days German forces were retreating west from Moscow. Early on, it looked at times like the routs the German were accustomed to creating but they were the ones on the run. On the 10th of December, Guderian characterized his Second Panzer Army as a scattered assemblage of armed baggage trains slowly wending their way to the rear.

Hitler knew everything that was happening along the front and was updated several times a day. He knew his armies were stalled and falling back. He also knew that unless something changed quickly, the objectives of Barbarosa would not be accomplished in 1941. In fact, some German generals later stated that as of December 9th and 10th both Hitler and they realized Germany may well loose the war eventually unless they could somehow turn the situation quickly.

In addition, Hitler was aware that his nation's strategic fuel reserves were low and some of the armies in Russia were well short of normal strength. He had plans for how to get troop strengths back up but the oil situation alone threatened everything.

Even with the armies back to full strength, the German oil reserves were too low and replenshment too slow to be able to adequately replace supplies by Spring 1942 for another all-out offensive like Barbarosa.

In order to turn the situation immediately, Hitler was looking for ways to change things on the Russian front. He hoped declaring war on the U.S. would induce Japan to reciprocate the gesture by declaring war on the Soviets. At the least he hoped to persuade his ally to create concerns along the Russian boarder.

New concerns to the East may cause Stalin to re-think his decision to pull Siberian divisions from that front to reinforce Moscow. Hopefully, he would then send back at least part of the units he had taken from that area for Moscow defense since August, 1941.

The Soviets and Japanese were not allys by any stretch. In fact, Stalin had feared a Japanese attack on the Russian Eastern border since the war bagan. It was very reluctantly--and possibly out of desperation--that he had moved forces from there to the Moscow area to begin with.

If successful, Hitler likely would have thought his forces could once again go on the offensive. He was still under the mistaken impression the Russians were completely out of reserves and the original move by Stalin, though successful, would likely not have put his forces on the defensive without the additional bad fortune of the onset of really cold weather. Nazi climate research had indicated the the really cold weather of a Russian Winter was still a couple of weeks away when it hit.

Other than his hopes for immediate help with the Soviet situation--which would have been admitted to NO ONE by the Nazi regime--it is unexplainable that Hitler would just up and declare war on America with no real upside for his country at the time.

Hitler rolled the dice in hopes it would help the cause. But the Japanese didn't bite!


Hitler's Meeting with Japanese Ambassador Oshima on 3 January 1942

enter image description here

On 3 January 1942, Hitler met the Japanese ambassador, Hiroshi Oshima, to discuss his future plans and the potential for co-operation between the two powers. A German observer of Hitler's meeting with Oshima noted:

...For the time being [Hitler] did not intend to carry out any more attacks in the centre of the [Russian] front. His goal was an offensive on the southern front. Picking up the thread of his argument again, the Fuhrer declared that he was determined to take up once again the offensive in the direction of the Caucasus as soon as the weather was favourable. The thrust in this direction was the most important one: we must get to the oil and to Iran and Iraq. Once we were there, he hoped that we could get help to unleash the freedon movement of the Arab world. Naturally, in addition, he would do everything possible to destroy Moscow and Leningrad.

...All of us and Japan as well were engaged in a joint life and death struggle and so it was vital that we share our military experience. ...[Hitler then] emphasized that it was probably the first time in history that two such powerful military powers, which were so far apart from one another, stood together in battle. Provided their military operations were co-ordinated, this offered the possibility of creating leverage in the conduct of the war which must have enormous effects on the enemy, since they would be thereby compelled continually to shift their centres of gravity and in this way would hopelessly fritter away their forces. He did not believe the United States would have the courage to conduct offensive operations in the East Asian sphere... the Fuhrer continued "if England loses in India a world will collapse. India is the cornerstone of the English Empire. England acquired all its wealth from India".

...The Fuhrer is of the opinion that England can be destroyed. He is not sure yet how the USA can be defeated. The South American states would, in his opinion gradually move away from the United States. In reply to a comment by the Foreign Minister [Ribbentrop] that Japan might be in a position to attack Russia in May, the Fuhrer said that the most important thing from Germany's point of view was that Japan was not defeated by the Anglo-Saxon powers. It must not prematurely dissipate its forces. For us too England was the main enemy. We would certainly not be defeated by Russia. He pointed out to Oshima the long-term danger of the United States and England establishing themselves in a big way on the Australian continent. Oshima is of the same opinion and convinced that Japan would soon secure bases in Australia. In addition, it was obvious that Japan must one day beat Russia, for otherwise the new order in East Asia would be impossible. At the moment, she was still heavily committed with her troops in China. However, he was convinced that the Chungking government would get progressively weaker in the coming months and then Japan would be in a position to withdraw troops from China.

Roosevelt's greatest mistake was to impose sanctions on Japan without at the same time being sufficiently well-armed. This was a really crazy policy. The Fuhrer was of the same opinion and said that if one did not want to wait until one's throat was cut one simply must strike first and Japan had correctly recognized that and done it. The Fuhrer is of the opinion that it is extremely important for Japan and Germany to exchange their military inventions. Germany has no interest in East Asia and Japan none in Europe and Africa...

The question of Japan's possible intervention into the war against Russia pervades the conversation with Oshima. Of course there is the obvious suggestion from German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop that Japan might possibly be in a position to attack the Russians in May 1942. However Hitler's approach to the question seems far more subtle. In response to Ribbentrop he appears to take the side of the Japanese by insisting that Japanese success in their war against the Anglo-Saxons is more important than them helping Germany in Russia. Further suggesting that the British are in fact the main enemy of both Germany and Japan, and that working together to defeat Britain could be a fruitful possibility.

However in tandem with this reasoning, and in response to Oshima's comment that Roosevelt had made a mistake in provoking war before his country was ready to fight, Hitler responds by reminding Oshima of Japan's courage in taking the step of striking first against America before their throat was cut, both echoing Hitler's own motive for declaring war on America, and also perhaps suggesting that it would also be in Japan's interests to strike first against the Russians before they became too strong.

So again, in agreement with other answers, there is no indication that a Japanese attack on Russia was expected by the German leadership, but there was clearly a hope that the Japanese might cooperate with Germany in the war, and that such cooperation could include support against the Russians.

Source: Nazism 1919-1945: vol.3: Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination (A Documentary Reader), edited by J. Noakes and G. Pridham (1997)


Up until mid-1941, Ribbentrop, Hitler's foreign minister, had tried to get Japan to attack the USSR. Once it became clear that the Japanese weren't interested in this, Ribbentrop started pushing them to attack the USA.

He hoped by this to deprive Britain of US arms, since the US would "obviously" need all its own production for a war against Japan. This policy wasn't particularly coordinated with that of Hitler. Nazi Germany was like that.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.