When the war began in September 1939, Hitler and Mussolini divided areas of responsibility: Hitler focused on Europe and left Mussolini to operate in the Middle East. British forces controlled the eastern Mediterranean, and the French fleet and colonial army were based in the western Mediterranean. The French surrender to Germany in June 1940 placed its territories in Syria and North Africa under the jurisdiction of the Axis-aligned Vichy French, which meant that the Jews who lived there were also subject to racial laws. The French defeat also provided Mussolini with an opportunity to invade Egypt from the Italian-ruled territories in Libya, but, when the British pushed Italian forces back, Hitler decided to send General Erwin Rommel and German troops to North Africa and continued the back-and-forth war across Libya. By the spring of 1941, as German armies occupied Greece and the Balkans and a pro-Nazi regime came to power in Baghdad, Britain stood alone against the Nazi threat in the eastern Mediterranean.