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Neutral Countries in World War 2

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Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

Learn about the neutral countries during World War II and how they maintained their neutrality while dealing with both sides. Then take the quiz and see what you've learned. Updated: 06/18/2020

To Be Neutral

You're on the playground at school, and two of your friends get into a fight. It's a stupid fight and you like them both so you either try to get between them or you let them fight. Neutral, right? Well, in warfare the rules are a little bit more complicated. You actually can help one side or another during a war, just not too much. You can sell war materials to one side but not the other, or defend your borders. In this case, neutral means not actually declaring war on someone else and hoping no one declared war on you. What you can't do is allow armies from either side to pass through your country. You also can't give information about the enemy to either side.

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  • 0:04 To Be Neutral
  • 0:46 Why Be Neutral?
  • 1:38 The Three Types of Neutrality
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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Why Be Neutral?

In a war like World War II, you might ask why a country would choose to be neutral. After all, Adolf Hitler was killing Jews and other groups like they were diseased animals while he was trying to conquer the world. The Japanese had similar designs in Asia, and they didn't mind if their prisoners of war died from exhaustion. It's hard not to hate that, right?

Most of the neutral countries, though, were small and/or near the fighting. They knew they had no chance of staying independent if they declared war. Afghanistan, Andorra, Estonia, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Tibet, Vatican City, and Yemen were all neutral during the war. Apart from Yemen and Tibet they were all near the action.

The Three Types of Neutrality

To be neutral during World War II actually meant different things. Let's break those different ways down one at a time.

1. Neutral But Occupied Anyway

Declaring neutrality didn't always protect a country from the war, though. Iceland, for instance, could have been used as a base for German submarine operations in the northern Atlantic so the British occupied it in 1940 to keep the Germans from having it. The Germans occupied San Marino for strategic reasons at the end of the war.

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