The Neutrals, by Denis J. Fodor
It is perhaps not surprising that the various neutrals of World War II should find themselves shifting in response to the course of the war and that regardless of their own desire to remain out of harm’s way that somewhat embarrassing concessions to reality were necessary that such nations sought to avoid suffering repercussions from in the course of time. In truth, it may be said that with regards to the largest struggles that the world faces that there is no neutrality. One may not be a combatant, but to be neutral is entirely impossible as the weight of events will force certain concessions to be made that will not be in accordance with the independence that one seeks as a neutral. Whether or not anyone in particular is to blame for that, it is only to be expected that powerful nations will seek to push their weight and affect the behavior of those within their influence, and such is what we clearly see here in the case of World War II. If Time-Life is not necessarily always the source of intellectual depth, in many cases (including this one) it certainly provides evidence that can be used for depth in thinking.
This book is about 200 pages long and it is divided into five chapters with numerous picture essays. The author begins with a discussion of the neutrals who sought to deter war through claiming their total peaceful intent but which got overrun by Hitler, especially the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway (1). After that comes a discussion of Switzerland in arms as well as its status as a perpetual neutral (2). A discussion of the legacy of the Spanish Civil War and the difficult diplomatic dance undertaken by both Spain and Portugal regarding staying neutral in the face of competing pressures by the Allies and Axis (3), including the sending of Spanish volunteers to fight on the Eastern front follows next. After that the author discusses Sweden’s trading as a price of it keeping neutrality as well as the way that Sweden’s course during WWII showed how the war was going (4). Finally, the book ends with a discussion of Ireland and Turkey as two stubborn holdouts against the war for various reasons as well as the red cross and its actions and the limits of what it was able to do in some cases (5). After this there is a bibliography, picture credits, acknowledgements, and index.
What is it that led nations to be useful? The motives of neutrality are diverse, ranging from a desire to avoid having people fight over their territory, concerns about the well-being of the people and in a high degree of hatred for the parties that one would have been expected to support. By and large the various nations that remained neutral in World War II have not suffered for their neutrality. Some of them were invaded anyway because they were not strong enough to resist. Many are a part of NATO and the EU and represent economically or militarily powerful nations that command the respect of others. Perhaps for some nations there has been a bit of soul-searching about the way that these nations lost a bit of honor when it came to how they treated Hitler when he was powerful, but at the same time those nations were quick to turn towards the allies when the war changed its complexion, so that they ended up being invited to the UN and receiving the full blessings of nations in good standing with the world at large. And so, I suppose, those nations who were able to stay neutral did get what they wanted out of it, more or less.