As the world was engulfed by conflict during World War II, some nations chose to remain neutral. The stance of neutrality did not protect some countries from conflict. Initially neutral when the war broke out, Denmark, Norway, and the Low Countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) were invaded by Axis troops in 1940, resulting in their governments joining the Allies. While some nations remained entirely neutral during the conflict (Switzerland for example), others aligned themselves with the two powers.
During the war, Portugal sent 10,000 soldiers to fight alongside British troops in Northern France (these soldiers were under British control). Spain, who had established relations with Germany during the Spanish Civil War, sent a division (Blue Division) to serve in the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. These Spanish volunteers would later take part in the Battle of Leningrad. In Sweden, the government supported Finland during the Winter War with aid, materiel, and volunteers. As the war began to shift in 1944 and 1945, Sweden began preparations to help the Allies retake Norway and Denmark. While the offensive never materialized, Sweden did support the liberation of Finnmark (the northernmost county in Norway).
The war did prove profitable for some neutral countries. Because iron was an important commodity for Germany, Sweden established trade relations to provide iron for German war industries. Another valuable resource for German industries was chromite. Chromite is an essential alloy ingredient for the production of stainless steel tools. Turkey was an important producer of chromite, and during the war, they provided Germany with the resource. Sales of chromite lasted until April 1944. Turkey would later break off relations with Germany in August 1944. In February 1945, Turkey joined the Allies (although no Turkish troops served in combat during the war) and later became a founding member of the United Nations (initial entrance into the UN was decided during the Yalta Conference, and was only open to those at war with Germany).
Look for more information regarding Turkish neutrality in World War II in the upcoming World at War issue #49 with the article “On the Razor’s Edge: Turkey in World War II” and join the conversation on Facebook!