15. The Pact of Steel changed Italian laws regarding the treatment of Jews
When Adolf Hitler rose to control the German government as Chancellor, and after passing the Enabling Act as dictator, he moved to tighten relations with Mussolini, both due to his admiration of the Italian dictator and his need to neutralize the French Navy in the Mediterranean. England and France had a naval agreement which gave the French primary responsibility for the protection of the Mediterranean and North Africa, while Britain was responsible for the North Atlantic and the coast of Europe. The Italian Navy was built primarily to counter the French fleet. As Hitler courted the Italian leader, the Germans created many programs along the lines of those created by Mussolini, including the youth movements, education reforms, and secret police forces. Hitler also berated Mussolini over the Jewish population, warning the Italian leader of the dangers they created internationally.
Mussolini discounted the Nazi preoccupation with the Jews of Germany during the 1930s, and opposed the creation of similar laws in Italy, going so far as telling the Austrian ambassador to Italy, “Hitler’s anti-Semitism has already brought him more enemies than necessary.” After the Pact of Steel Between Germany and Italy, Hitler and his regime increased the pressure on the Italians to enact laws which restricted the Jews in Italy. In 1938 Mussolini yielded to the pressure, which cost him his Jewish mistress, Margherita Sarfatti, who also had served as his Minister of Propaganda. The laws which made anti-Semitism an official policy of the Fascist party and Italian law were highly unpopular within the Italian populace and the Fascist Party and were often little more than winked at by government officials.