Moscow Declaration Regarding the Postwar Period Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

From 1939 to 1945, World War II engulfed much of the Northern Hemisphere. The Allied forces—including the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union—fought in Europe to defeat the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. German and Italy formed an alliance to disrupt the balance of power across Europe, but many Italians disliked Prime Minister Benito Mussolini's association with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. By 1943, Mussolini was ousted from his position. His replacement, General Pietro Badoglio, reached an armistice with the Allies, and Italy officially switched sides. The United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China issued the Moscow Declaration to establish their intention to completely defeat Germany in the war. The declaration also outlined both an agreement regarding how to restore order and democracy to Italy following its surrender to the Allies and how to treat German criminals who committed atrocities on behalf of the Nazi Party.

Summary Overview

From 1939 to 1945, World War II engulfed much of the Northern Hemisphere. The Allied forces—including the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union—fought in Europe to defeat the Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. German and Italy formed an alliance to disrupt the balance of power across Europe, but many Italians disliked Prime Minister Benito Mussolini's association with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. By 1943, Mussolini was ousted from his position. His replacement, General Pietro Badoglio, reached an armistice with the Allies, and Italy officially switched sides. The United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China issued the Moscow Declaration to establish their intention to completely defeat Germany in the war. The declaration also outlined both an agreement regarding how to restore order and democracy to Italy following its surrender to the Allies and how to treat German criminals who committed atrocities on behalf of the Nazi Party.

Defining Moment

Between 1937 and 1945, nearly the entire Northern Hemisphere was involved in World War II: the Japanese invasion of China on July 7, 1937, launched the war in the Pacific theater, while Germany's invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, launched the European war. The Allies included most of the countries of Western Europe, primarily led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. The Axis included many of the countries in central and southeastern Europe, led by Germany, Italy, and Japan.

On November 1, 1936, Germany and Italy formally initiated a “treaty of friendship.” At the time, Germany was controlled by the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler, while Italy was controlled by the Fascist Party and Benito Mussolini. Over the next several years, the two nations signed several cooperation treaties with each other, and with Imperial Japan. These included the Anti-Comintern Pact to neutralize the perceived threat of communism from the Soviet Union, the Pact of Steel to formalize the Italian-German alliance with military provisions, and the 1940 Tripartite Pact, a defensive military alliance of the three countries.

By 1943, however, public support for the war in Italy—and for Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini—was extremely low. When the Allied forces landed on the island of Sicily that year, Italian forces made little effort to fight back. Instead, Mussolini was forced out of his position as prime minister on July 25, 1943. His replacement, General Pietro Badoglio, sought peace and reached an armistice with the Allies within a few weeks. On September 8, 1943, Italy became the first Axis nation to formally surrender to the Allied forces.

In October 1943, leaders from the Allied countries of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China met at the third of four conferences held over the course of the war in Moscow, Russia, the capital of the Soviet Union. Foreign ministers from these nations met to negotiate their cooperative plans for the remainder of the war. They issued the Moscow Declaration to establish their intention to force Germany's surrender, and to formalize a plan for occupying and rehabilitating Italy in the wake of its surrender to the Allies.

Author Biography

The Moscow Declaration was drafted by foreign ministers and other officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China during the 1943 Moscow Conference. The conference was held to improve the American and British relationship with the Soviet Union, and to determine how to reorganize Germany once the Allies forced its surrender. These three nations were united in their desire to stop the Axis powers from taking over Europe and to liberate their fellow Allied nations from Nazi occupation. However, they differed on many other ideological matters, and they struggled to agree on the terms of surrender they would offer to the Axis powers once the war ended. The Moscow Declaration addressed some of these issues and was signed by Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, British foreign secretary Anthony Eden, US secretary of state Cordell Hull, and Chinese ambassador to the Soviet Union Foo Ping-sheung.

Historical Document

JOINT FOUR-NATION DECLARATION

The governments of the United States of America, United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China;

United in their determination, in accordance with the declaration by the United Nations of January, 1942, and subsequent declarations, to continue hostilities against those Axis powers with which they respectively are at war until such powers have laid down their arms on the basis of unconditional surrender;

Conscious of their responsibility to secure the liberation of themselves and the peoples allied with them from the menace of aggression;

Recognizing the necessity of insuring a rapid and orderly transition from war to peace and of establishing and maintaining international peace and security with the least diversion of the world's human and economic resources for armaments;

Jointly declare:

1. That their united action, pledged for the prosecution of the war against their respective enemies, will be continued for the organization and maintenance of peace and security.

2. That those of them at war with a common enemy will act together in all matters relating to the surrender and disarmament of that enemy.

3. That they will take all measures deemed by them to be necessary to provide against any violation of the terms imposed upon the enemy.

4. That they recognize the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, and open to membership by all such states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.

5. That for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security pending the re-establishment of law and order and the inauguration of a system of general security they will consult with one another and as occasion requires with other members of the United Nations, with a view to joint action on behalf of the community of nations.

6. That after the termination of hostilities they will not employ their military forces within the territories of other states except for the purposes envisaged in this declaration and after joint consultation.

7. That they will confer and cooperate with one another and with other members of the United Nations to bring about a practicable general agreement with respect to the regulation of armaments in the post-war period.

DECLARATION REGARDING ITALY

The Foreign Secretaries of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union have established that their three governments are in complete agreement that Allied policy toward Italy must be based upon the fundamental principle that Fascism and all its evil influence and configuration shall be completely destroyed and that the Italian people shall be given every opportunity to establish governmental and other institutions based on democratic principles.

The Foreign Secretaries of the United States and the United Kingdom declare that the action of their governments form the inception of the invasion of Italian territory, in so far as paramount military requirements have permitted, has been based upon this policy.

In furtherance of this policy in the future the Foreign Secretaries of the three governments are agreed that the following measures are important and should be put into effect:

1. It is essential that the Italian Government should be made more democratic by inclusion of representatives of those sections of the Italian people who have always opposed Fascism.

2. Freedom of speech, of religious worship, of political belief, of press and of public meeting, shall be restored in full measure to the Italian people, who shall be entitled to form anti-Fascist political groups.

3. All institutions and organizations created by the Fascist regime shall be suppressed.

4. All Fascist or pro-Fascist elements shall be removed from the administration and from institutions and organizations of a public character.

5. All political prisoners of the Fascist regime shall be released and accorded full amnesty.

6. Democratic organs of local government shall be created.

7. Fascist chiefs and army generals known or suspected to be war criminals shall be arrested and handed over to justice.

In making this declaration the three Foreign Secretaries recognize that so long as active military operations continue in Italy the time at which it is possible to give full effect to the principles stated above will be determined by the Commander-in-Chief on the basis of instructions received through the combined chiefs of staff.

The three governments, parties to this declaration, will, at the request of any one of them, consult on this matter. It is further understood that nothing in this resolution is to operate against the right of the Italian people ultimately to choose their own form of government.

DECLARATION ON AUSTRIA

The governments of the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States of America are agreed that Austria, the first free country to fall a victim to Hitlerite aggression, shall be liberated from German domination.

They regard the annexation imposed on Austria by Germany on March 15, 1938, as null and void. They consider themselves as in no way bound by any charges effected in Austria since that date. They declare that they wish to see re-established a free and independent Austria and thereby to open the way for the Austrian people themselves, as well as those neighboring States which will be face with similar problems, to find that political and economic security which is the only basis for lasting peace. Austria is reminded, however that she has a responsibility, which she cannot evade, for participation in the war at the side of Hitlerite Germany, and that in the final settlement account will inevitably be taken of her own contribution to her liberation.

STATEMENT ON ATROCITIES

Signed by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Premier Stalin.

The United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union have received from many quarters evidence of atrocities, massacres and cold-blooded mass executions which are being perpetrated by Hitlerite forces in many of the countries they have overrun and from which they are now being steadily expelled. The brutalities of Nazi domination are no new thing, and all peoples or territories in their grip have suffered from the worst form of government by terror. What is new is that many of the territories are now being redeemed by the advancing armies of the advancing armies of the liberating powers, and that in their desperation the recoiling Hitlerites and Huns are redoubling their ruthless cruelties. This is now evidenced with particular clearness by monstrous crimes on the territory of the Soviet Union which is being liberated from Hitlerites, and on French and Italian territory.

Accordingly, the aforesaid three Allied powers, speaking in the interest of the thirty-two United Nations, hereby solemnly declare and give full warning of their declaration as follows:

At the time of granting of any armistice to any government which may be set up in Germany, those German officers and men and members of the Nazi party who have been responsible for or have taken a consenting part in the above atrocities, massacres and executions will be sent back to the countries in which their abominable deeds were done in order that they may be judged and punished according to the laws of these liberated countries and of free governments which will be erected therein. Lists will be compiled in all possible detail from all these countries having regard especially to invaded parts of the Soviet Union, to Poland and Czechoslovakia, to Yugoslavia and Greece including Crete and other islands, to Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Italy.

Thus, Germans who take part in wholesale shooting of Polish officers or in the execution of French, Dutch, Belgian or Norwegian hostages of Cretan peasants, or who have shared in slaughters inflicted on the people of Poland or in territories of the Soviet Union which are now being swept clear of the enemy, will know they will be brought back to the scene of their crimes and judged on the spot by the peoples whom they have outraged.

Let those who have hitherto not imbrued their hands with innocent blood beware lest they join the ranks of the guilty, for most assuredly the three Allied powers will pursue them to the uttermost ends of the earth and will deliver them to their accusors in order that justice may be done.

The above declaration is without prejudice to the case of German criminals whose offenses have no particular geographical localization and who will be punished by joint decision of the government of the Allies.

Glossary

amnesty: a general pardon for offenses, especially political offenses, against a government, often granted before any trial or conviction

hitherto: up to this time; until now

imbrue: to stain

Document Analysis

The Moscow Declaration has four parts. The first part, the “Joint Four-Nation Declaration,” was signed by representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and China. Its objectives include ending the war in Europe, freeing the occupied countries, and maintaining international peace and security with the “least diversion of the world's human and economic resources for armaments.”

The four nations jointly declare that they will work together on behalf of all the Allies to end the war as quickly as possible; pursue the surrender and disarming of the enemy nations; establish a formal and permanent international organization dedicated to maintaining international peace and security; and consult with the international community for joint actions related to international security.

In the second and third parts, the “Declaration Regarding Italy” and the “Declaration on Austria,” three of the four nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) also declare their mutual agreement on a strategy for occupying and rehabilitating postwar Italy and Austria. Regarding Italy, the signatory nations agree that “Fascism and all its evil influence and configuration shall be completely destroyed” so that Italy can be reestablished under democratic principles. The Americans and the British state that their invasion of Italy (which commenced in September 1943), has been motivated by the goal of ridding Italy of fascism. The three nations agree to return democratic rule to Italy; to remove Fascist and pro-Fascist elements from the government and administration; and to restore freedom of speech, press, public meeting, and religious worship to the Italian people. Ultimately, the three nations agree that the Italian people must retain the right to choose their own (non-Fascist) form of government.

With respect to Austria, the three nations agree that it “shall be liberated from German domination.” The 1938 annexation of Austria by Germany is declared null and void, and the Austrian people shall be free to reestablish their own independent government. However, the declaration includes a reminder of Austria's participation in the war on the side of Hitler and Nazi Germany. It states that Austria “has a responsibility which she cannot evade” that “in the final settlement account will inevitably be taken of her own contribution to her liberation.”

Finally, the three nations issue a “Statement on Atrocities” regarding any war crimes by Germans in German-occupied territories. The signatories observe that a great deal of evidence has accumulated of “atrocities, massacres and cold-blooded mass executions” perpetrated by “Hitlerite” forces, and that as liberating armies advance to expel them, such atrocities are on the rise. The declaration provides that any Germans who have participated in atrocities will be captured, returned to the scene of their crimes, and judged by the people they have wronged. Germans guilty of broader war crimes will be punished by joint decision of the Allied forces.

Essential Themes

German and Italian fascism advocated full economic, social, and military control by a dominant group of people under the control of a single leader. These ideas directly contradicted the democracy and socialism that had been prominent in Europe after World War I. In addition to their desire to end German domination in Europe, the Allies fought to unseat the dictators in Germany and Italy and hoped to return these nations to democratic rule. The Moscow Declaration focused on removing all fascist influences from the governments of Germany, Italy, and their allies and puppet states, because the Allies feared that any remaining influences would harm the chance of restoring democracy to all the countries of Europe.

Mussolini was removed from power in 1943 with the help of the Italian resistance. Despite the country's significant role in starting World War II, Italy sought peace with the Allies under the new leadership of Pietro Badoglio. Not only was Italy the first Axis country to surrender, but also, on October 13, 1943, it officially switched sides in the war. However, Germany had noticed Italy's waning support throughout the early 1940s and anticipated this turn of events: shortly after the armistice, German troops occupied northern Italy, retaining Mussolini in a nominal leadership role in that part of the country until his capture and execution by the resistance in 1945. In the rest of Italy, Italian troops fought alongside the Allies until the end of the war in May 1945.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • Atkinson, Rick. The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943–1944. New York: Holt, 2007. Print.
  • “Axis Alliance in World War II.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 20 June 2014. Web. 5 Jan. 2014.
  • “Fact File: First Moscow Conference.” BBC. BBC, 2005. Web. 2 Dec 2014.
  • Paxton, Robert O. The Anatomy of Fascism. New York: Random, 2004. Print.
  • Wilhelm, Maria de Blasio. The Other Italy: The Italian Resistance in World War II. New York: Norton, 1988. Print.
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