Chapter 4.

Soviet Russia and the Western World, 1921-1941.


Soviet foreign policy was a combination of old and new, of tradition and revolution. Thus, it had a dual, interconnected aim: (a) the recovery of the lands Russia had lost in 1918-21: Finland, the Baltic states, Poland (or at least eastern Poland), and Bessarabia (northeastern Romania, now Moldova). Once recovered and communized, all these lands, except Finland, were to continue their traditional role as buffers against invasion from the West, now against a capitalist/imperialist West; (b) World revolution, which, in theory, would abolish states and frontiers, replacing them with a "socialist" commonwealth led by Soviet Russia. To begin with, World Revolution would advance with the recovery of the western borderlands of the former Russian Empire.

To accomplish these aims, the Soviet leaders used traditional diplomatic methods as well as Western and Third World communist parties, which they controlled through the Comintern (Communist International). In 1918-21, European and U.S. communist parties emerged out of the left-wing sections of existing socialist parties. From then on, there was an almost constant, bitter, rivalry in Europe between the socialists and the communists for the workers' vote. The socialists were bound by democratic principles - which the communists rejected as "bourgeois."

The Comintern was founded in Moscow in March 1919 by thirty-five assorted left-wing socialists, including the American John Reed, author of Ten Days that Shook the World. The Comintern manifesto called for world revolution. At the second congress, in July 1920, the participants called on the Soviet government to take Warsaw and make Poland a member of an international federation of Soviet states.

In August 1920, the Comintern issued a program, titled The 21 Conditions. It called on communists to fight socialists everywhere for control of trade unions; to infiltrate the armed forces, the factories and villages in capitalist countries; to support colonial revolts against the imperialist powers; to carry out periodic party purges; and always, first and foremost, to support the one and only "socialist" state: Soviet Russia. While intended to defend Soviet Russia, this program was also a declaration of war on the capitalist world and was treated as such. (1)

I. 1921-1933: the Pre-Hitler Era.

Despite the 21Conditions, the closest relations Soviet Russia had at this time were with capitalist Germany: The Weimar Republic (1919-33). As Lenin said:

Germany wants revenge and we want revolution. For the moment our aims are the same . . . but when our ways part, they will be our most ferocious enemies. Time will tell whether a German hegemony or a Communist federation is to arise out of the ruins of Europe. (2)

Official diplomatic relations between Bolshevik Moscow and Berlin began before the end of the world war with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March 3, 1918 (see ch. 2). While the this punitive peace lapsed with Germany's defeat in the West, German-Soviet relations developed auspiciously. In 1921, mixed German-Soviet companies were set up for the industrial development of Soviet Russia. The German military supported a return to the former close relations, as they existed up to 1894, in the belief that Germany and Russia together would be able to recover the territories they had lost to Poland. Therefore, a secret department "R" was set up in the German War Ministry for military cooperation with Soviet Russia.

On April 16, 1922, the Treaty of Rapallo was signed by German and Soviet representatives. Germany and Russia renounced all reparation claims and all financial claims against each other; furthermore, Germany promised financial aid to Russia, and mutual trade relations were established. The treaty was signed during the international Genoa Conference, at which British Prime Minister, David LLoyd George, tried to bring Soviet Russia back into the "concert of powers," and arrange for Western credits and loans for Soviet economic development. However, the Soviet leaders and Soviet Foreign Commissar Georgii V. Chicherin (1872-1936) opposed the conditions attached to prospective Western credits, i.e., the payment of Tsarist debts, the restoration of foreign property in Russia, and the securing of Western credits and loans with key Soviet assets, which would be under Western control. At the same time, Soviet leaders feared the establishment of a united Western front against Soviet Russia. Therefore, they chose to align themselves with Germany.

In the years 1923-1933, there was extensive Soviet-German military cooperation. This included the training of German pilots in Russia (the cadres of Hitler's later Luftwaffe); experiments in tank and gas warfare; the use of paratroops; the building of submarines and aircraft prototypes. This cooperation allowed the Germans to circumvent Part V of the Versailles Treaty, which prohibited German development and use of offensive weapons. For their part, the Soviets benefited from access to German military technology. (3)

However, this cooperation did not mean that Soviet leaders would psass up an opportunity to foment revolution in Germany. Thus, after the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr in January 1923 (because Germany was defaulting on reparations in kind needed to rebuild French and Belgian industry), the Comintern ordered workers' revolts in German cities. Although it called them off at the last moment, it was too late to call off the one in Hamburg and it was crushed by German troops. Note that Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) tried to use the unsettled situation to take over Bavaria, in the "Beerhall Putsch" in Munich, November 8-11, 1923, but it was also put down by the army.

German foreign policy in the period 1923-1929 was shaped by Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929), who was foreign minister at that time. His aim was for Germany to balance between East and West, i.e., between Soviet Russia and the Western powers. However, he leaned more toward the latter, for he was particularly anxious to achieve security in the West so as to give Germany a free hand to regain the territories lost in the east to Poland, also to effect a union with Austria. Therefore, on October 16, 1925. he signed the Locarno Treaties with France, Britain, Belgium, Italy, Poland and Czechoslovakia. In these treaties the Britain and Italy guaranteed the frontiers of France and Belgium with Germany in the west - but not Germany's frontiers with Poland and Czechoslovakia in the east. With those two countries, Germany signed only treaties of arbitration - which, at German insistence, excluded territorial disputes.

Poland and Czechoslovakia were allies of France, but French help for them became questionable after Locarno. This was so, because France now adapted her alliances to the League of Nations Covenant, that is, she would go to war to help her allies only if the League of Nations Council (minus the parties involved) failed to reach a unanimous decision that an act of unprovoked aggression had been committed, and condemned the aggressor. Such a procedure meant the loss of valuable time while the potential aggressor -- Germany -- was attacking the states in question, so they were duly alarmed. France also signed friendship treaties with Romania and Yugoslavia, but these were not formal alliances. Furthermore, Germany entered the League of Nations in 1926, with a permanent seat on the Council.

Soviet Foreign Commissar Georgii V.Chicherin (1872-1936, Foreign Commissar 1918-1930) tried very hard to prevent Stresemann from signing the Locarno Treaties. He feared -- quite wrongly as it turned out -- that these treaties would bring Germany into a British-dominated Europe, and he saw Britain as the most dangerous enemy of Soviet Russia. Like Lenin, he also viewed the League of Nations as an organization of anti-Soviet states that could launch a crusade against the Soviet Union.In fact, however, Great Britain did not want to become involved in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe. She signed the Locarno Treaties to avoid an alliance with France. The British viewed the League of Nations as a means of settling disputes peacefully. Finally, they had no plans to dominate Europe and least of all to launch a crusade against Soviet Russia. All this could be read in the British press, but Chicherin, Lenin, and later Stalin, persisted in seeing Britain as the key enemy of Soviet Russi, .believing that the British were merely camouflaging their anti-Soviet designs. Chicherin suspected Great Britain of controlling the East European and Baltic states and of planning to use them as a launching pads against Soviet Russia, as it had, to some extent, tried to do during the Russian Civil War. Thus, one set of indisputable facts: British peaceful intentions and lack of interest in Eastern Europe, was countered by another fact: the Soviet perception that Britain was always eager to launch, or at least support, an attack on the Soviet Union. (4)

German-Soviet relations were strengthened by the Treaty of Berlin signed in September 1926. Each country agreed to observe neutrality if the other was attacked by a third power; also, neither would support economic measures used against the other. This treaty was due less to Chicherin's efforts, than to Stresemann's policy of balancing between the Western powers and Moscow. He also continued secret Soviet-German military cooperation, which did not prevent him from accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for the Locarno Treaties, along with Austen Chamberlain of Great Britain and Aristide Briand of France.

Soviet Relations with Other European States.

The first to establish relations with Soviet Russia were the Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which did so in 1920. Relations were established with Finland that same year. The next state to establish normal relations with Moscow was Poland, which did so by signing the Treaty of Riga with the Soviets on March 18, 1921 (see ch. 2).

Great Britain recognized the Soviet Union in January 1924 and trade treaties were signed. However, these were not ratified by the British parliament because: (i) a Conservative government came into power after the elections of fall 1924, and it was not anxious to ratify the treaties; (ii) it found a good pretext not to do so in the "Zinoviev letter," published in the British press in October 1924. This letter, signed by Grigorii Ie. Zinoviev, head of the Comintern, Arthur McManus, head of the British Communist Party, and Otto Kuusinen, head of the Finnish Communist Party, urged the British communists to work for the ratification of the trade treaties. At the same time, it ordered them to infiltrate the armed forces and trade unions in preparation for a revolution.

As it turned out, the "Zinoviev letter" was a forgery, just as the Soviet government claimed. It is possible that Polish military intelligence had a hand in it. (5) Although the letter did not play a decisive role in the British rejection of the trade treaties, it exerted a negative influence on British public opinion at the time. Furthermore, the Soviet image was not helped by an attempted coup to take over Estonia on December lst that year, nor by the discovery of communist propaganda literature and evidence of espionage on the London premises of the Anglo-Soviet "Arcos" trading company in May 1927. This led Great Britain to break off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. There was a war scare in Moscow, which Stalin used as a weapon against Trotsky. Soviet-British relations were re-established a short while later.

The main obstacle to establishing Soviet-French relations was Soviet repudiation of imperial Russian debts, that is, the Russian bonds. Some two million French citizens had bought these bonds (issued in the years 1894-1914), so it was very difficult for any French government to agree to their cancellation. Nevertheless, France followed the British lead in recognizing the Soviet Union in 1924. Moreover, France and the USSR signed a Nonaggression Pact in November 1932. In taking this step, France followed the Polish example, for Poland had signed such a pact with Moscow in July of that year.

(Note: After the signature of the Polish-German Declaration of Nonaggression in January 1934, which was valid for 10 years, the Polish-Soviet Nonaggression Pact was extended, on Polish initiative, for 10 years. Nevertheless, Hitler and Stalin attacked Poland in September 1939 and partitioned her between them).

Soviet-U.S. relations were established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) in 1933. The first American Ambassador to Moscow was William C. Bullitt (1933-36), who had been sent on a peace mission to Lenin by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 (see ch. 2). Bullitt, however, became so disillusioned with the Soviet Union that he became a strong anti-Communist. (He was U.S. ambassador to France, 1936-40).

II. The Soviet Policy of "Collective Security," 1933-1938.

In late 1933, the Soviet Union switched from an anti-western and anti-capitalist policy to apparent cooperation with the Western powers, and entered the League of Nations in September 1934. In the following year, Moscow also called for "Popular Fronts," that is, alliances between communists and socialists in European countries. Why did the USSR switch from cooperation with Germany to what seemed to be an anti-German policy? The answer is the new, anti-communist policy and thus anti-Soviet implemented by Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), who became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Then, on March 5th, the Nazis won the largest share of the popular vote in the elections (44%) .

Contrary to popular western belief at that time, the Nazi victory had little to do with the much maligned Versailles Treaty of 1919. It is true that most Germans resented the treaty and that every German government had condemned it as unjust. However, we should note that a return to Germany's frontiers of 1914 would have been unjust to the preponderantly non-German peoples inhabiting most of those territories. (The exception was Danzig, which had a population that was 90% German. It was made a self-governing Free City to provide a port for Poland. It had its own government but its constitution was under the protection of the League of Nations). Also, despite the German hue and cry against reparations, Germany paid next to nothing after January 1923, that is, the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr which led to runaway German inflation. Furthermore, after the inception of the Dawes Plan in 1924, which brought western credits and loans - predominantly from the U.S, and Gt. Britain - prosperity dulled German resentment. Indeed, in 1929, Germany was more prosperous than it had been in 1914, because its economy had boomed with western credits and loans in 1924-29. These were originally meant to help Germany get back on her feet and start paying reparations in 1929. (Note: The conditions set by the Dawes Plan of 1924 were amended to Germany's advantage by the Young Plan of 1929).

Hitler's racist and nationalist slogans found little support as long as Germany was prosperous. However, the Great Depression hit Germany very hard because it was the leading industrial power in Europe. Thus, when American banks and financiers demanded the repayment of short-term credits and loans after the Wall Street crash of October 1929, many German banks and businesses collapsed. This meant widespread unemployment: In 1930, out of a total population of some sixty million, there was an able bodied population of about 18 million, but six million, or one-third of this number, were unemployed. The governments of the Weimar Republic could not cope with this situation while Hitler promised full employment. This promise, more than anything else, made people vote for the Nazis in the elections of March 5, 1933.

But there was another factor in this victory. Some German communiss claimed that Stalin helped Hitler win the elections. Indeed, the Nazis would have had much less chance of winning if the German communists had teamed up with the powerful German Social Democratic Party. However, the Comintern - read Stalin - ordered the German communists to run not only against the Nazis, but also against the socialist and bourgeois parties. There are strong indications that Stalin was willing to let Hitler win on the assumption that he would be unable to deliver the goods, that is, provide the full employment he promised. Stalin then expected the disappointed and desperate Germans to vote the communists into power. Also, Stalin might have assumed that if the Nazis came to power, they would raise tensions, and even clash with the western powers in war. This would allow the USSR to export communist, and thus Soviet influence, to a Europe. exhausted by war. (6)

Whatever Stalin's scheme might have been, Hitler obtained full powers from the German Reichstag (Federal Legislature) after the original building had been set on fire and burned. The Nazis caught an unemployed, mentally disturbed and half blind Dutch anarchist, Marinus Van der Lubbe - who admitted to setting the fire. Most historians do not believe that he could have done it all by himself, and some suspect the Nazis at least knew about the plan - and perhaps even manipulated him do it. In any case, Hitler not only received full powers, which he used to become a dictator, but he also imprisoned German communists. (Van der Lubbe was tried and executed in 1934). Hitler then withdrew the German military mission from the USSR. However, Hitler agreed to renew the Treaty of Berlin (1926), and trade relations continued as before.

Soon after Hitler came to power, the Soviet government launched the policy of collective security, sometimes known as the "Litvinov policy," after Maxim M.Litvinov (real name: Vallach, 1876-1951, Commissar of Foreign Affairs fall 1930 - May 1939) Thus, in September 1934, the USSR became a member of the League of Nations - which Lenin had called a "band of robbers," and an imperialist conspiracy" against the Soviet Union. Moscow also supported the French proposal, put forward in 1934 by Premier and Foreign Minister Louis Barthou (1862-1934), for an Eastern Locarno, in which the USSR would take over France's obligations to defend her allies, Poland and Czechoslovakia, if they were attacked by Germany. However, neither of these two countries, nor indeed any other East European state, wanted direct, Soviet, military aid - least of all Poland with her experience of Russian domination. (Czechoslovakia was willing to accept Soviet help, but only if France helped first). Furthermore, Germany did not want to sign the pact and Great Britain would not support it unless Germany did. In any case, Barthou was more interested in an alliance with the USSR, which he and succesive French governments saw as a diplomatic means of keeping Hitler in check. So, while it is true that Polish opposition counted for something, it was not decisive in the failure of the "Eastern Locarno" or Eastern Security Pact project.

Furthermore, France and Britain did not see eye to eye on Germany, just as they not done since 1919. In early May 1935, France signed an alliance with the Soviet Union, and so did Czechoslovakia. These alliances were interconnected, but were not accompanied by military conventions. Thus, their primary goal was to deter Hitler from using force, not to fight him. This was partly because the French did not have a high opinion of Soviet military worth, partly because they mistrusted the Soviets -- the distrust was mutual -- but mostly because France was committed to the doctrine of a "defensive war." At the same time, Edvard Benes (1884-1948), Foreign Minister and later President of Czechoslovakia, included in the Czechoslovak-Soviet Pact the provision that the USSR would help his country only if France did so first. He assumed that this condition would secure French military aid and avert accusations that Czechoslovakia was pro-Communist.

The British, for their part, did not wish to antagonize Germany. On the contrary, they wanted to reach a settlement with her. Also, they were opposed to concluding any peacetime alliances, even with France. They considered themselves primarily an imperial power with overseas interests. To pursue these interests and maintain their empire they needed peace, not war. So, in March 1935, they made only a weak protest when Hitler restored conscription - which was forbidden by the Versailles Treaty. What is more, the Anglo-German Naval Agreement signed in June 1935, allowed Germany to build a navy up to 35% of total British surface tonnage, and more in submarines. The British rationale for this step was: (a) they did not want to go to war with Germany over her violations of the military part of the Versailles Treaty, whose revision they considered inevitable; (b) they believed it would take Germany years to challenge the British navy; (c) they believed that Hitler would honor agreements he had signed, or lose face. This belief, of course, reflected British thinking, not Hitler's.

At the same time, the Naval Agreement reflected widespread British pacifism as well as the view that swift rearmament would be disastrous to trade, which was, after all, the lifeblood of Britain. Another important consideration was the threat of Japanese expansion in the Far East, while at the same time Anglo-Italian relations were endangered by Benito Mussolini (1883-1945, dictator of Italy, 1922-45) who was ready to use force to acquire Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Indeed, he invaded this country in October 1935.

This state of affairs made the British Chiefs of Staff advise the government that Britain could not simultaneously fight Italy in the Mediterranean, Japan in the Far East, and Germany. It is true that Britain could not fight all three powers at once. However, we should bear in mind that until 1939, the British refused to consider an alliance with France against Germany - and even less with her East European allies and/or the USSR. Therefore, the goal of British policy was a European settlement agreeable to Berlin. Until about 1936, British statesmen believed that such a settlement would avert a European war; later, while still hoping to save peace, they wamted to gain time for gradual British rearmament.

Meanwhile, however, by assenting to a buildup of the German navy (even though it was expected to take a long time), Britain indicated she did not care if the Baltic Sea was dominated by Germany, which could then threaten Poland and the Baltic states. In fact, Britain was not concerned with the security of Eastern Europe. This region had never played an important role in British trade or foreign policy, so most British statesmen believed it was not a sphere of British vital interests. Therefore, they viewed Eastern Europe as a natural sphere of German influence, provided British trade was not excluded. However, this reservation was mainly a matter of prestige because Eastern Europe accounted for only 2% of total British foreign trade.

It seems that Stalin and his colleagues interpreted this policy to mean British support for German eastern expansion, which they saw as directed primarily at the USSR. As we know, this was not the case. We may ask, however, if the Soviets were sincere in calling for "collective security" to prevent such German expansion? This seems rather doubtful. The ink was hardly dry on the Franco-Soviet alliance of May 2, 1935, when Litvinov suggested to the German Ambassador in Moscow, Count Friedrich W. von der Schulenberg, that now was the right time to improve German-Soviet relations by concluding a mutual nonaggression pact. (7) Thus, Stalin may well have supported collective security as a means of pressuring Hitler to cut a deal with the Soviet Union. At any rate, judging by Litvinov's proposal cited above, Stalin seems to have envisaged a pact with Germany 1935, and perhaps as early as 1933. As we shall see, this proposal would be renewed at the turn of 1936-1937 and finally bore fruit in the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of August 23, 1939.

Stalin's mistrust of France and Britain must have been strengthened by their reaction to Hitler's nexr move. On March 7, 1936, German troops marched into the DMZ (demilitarized zone) on the west bank of the Rhine. The DMZ had been set up by the Versailles Treaty on both sides of the Rhine (the territory remained in German hands), as a guarantee for German reparations payments and additional security for France. When France concluded alliances with Poland and Czechoslovakia (1921, 1924) the DMZ was a vital guarantee of their security against Germany. This was so because, if Germany attacked either or both countries, the only way that France could help them immediately was to march into the Ruhr -- the industrial heart of Germany, which would force her to make peace.

Stresemann had recognized the DMZ in the Locarno Treaties, but managed later to secure allied agreement to evacuate the token allied garrisons. This was done after his death in 1930. He was preparing for the day when Germany would have her troops in the Rhineland, and thus be free to pursue her ambitions in Eastern Europe. Indeed, Stresemann aimed to regain most of the German lands lost to Poland and to unite Austria with Germany. The latter would lead to a German outflanking of Czechoslovakia, which would put that country at Berlin's mercy - and open the way to German economic political expansion into the Balkans.

When Hitler sent German troops into the western part of the DMZ on March 7, 1936, he counted on French passivity. Indeed, he told his generals that the French would not fight - but if they did, he would resign or kill himself. Hitler was right, for the French did nothing, even though their army could have crushed the Germans at this time. In fact, the French government assumed that France could not fight Germany without British support, and the British made it very clear that they would not support the French in a war to throw Germans troops out of the western part of the DMZ. The British government wanted to negotiate with Germany, not fight her.

The consequences of Anglo- French passivity were far-reaching. France became even more fearful of Germany, while her allies and friends in Eastern Europe felt even more insecure. As mentioned above, the only way France could help Poland and/or Czechoslovakia immediately if they were attacked by Germany, was by marching into the DMZ and occupying the Ruhr. But after March 1936, the French could not do this without clashing with German troops and thus risking a war with Germany -- a war the French believed they could not win without British support, which was clearly lacking. The French and British reaction to Hitler's occupation of the Rhineland DMZ was to explore the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the problem. Hitler said he wanted peace - but at the same time he was rearming Germany, so Franco-British talks with Germany in 1936-37 did not lead to any agreements.

Stalin's reaction to all this was to renew secret proposals for improving German-Soviet relations. David Kandelaki, a confidant of Stalin's at this time, was the head of the Soviet Trade Mission in Berlin. He made such proposals at the turn of 1936-37 to Hjalmar Schacht (1877-1970), the head of the Reichsbank (State Bank) and of German economic planning. Kandelaki said Moscow was willing to negotiate for improved relations with Germany, either secretly or publicly. Although Hitler commented the time was not ripe for such negotiations, he also said that once Stalin had clearly established his absolute power in Russia (the purges were in full swing), especially over the military (Stalin was to purge the Red Army officer corps in 1937, see ch. 3) - then Germany "certainly ought not to let slip the right moment for taking a hand in Russia again." (8)

At the same time as Stalin pursued his secret attempts to improve relations with Hitler, the Comintern was calling for the establishment of Popular Front governments, i.e. including both socialists and communists, to oppose the Nazis and the Fascists. The need for such a policy, approved by the Comintern in 1935, seemed to be confirmed by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.


The Spanish Civil War.

In late 1935, Mussolini drew closer to Hitler because of the League of Nations' (led by Britain and France) economic sanctions against Italy for her invasion and occupation of Abyssinia. He moved even closer to Hitler after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936. While Hitler and Mussolini supported General Francisco Franco (1892-1975), leader of the "rebel" or "nationalist" forces, Stalin supported the republican government or the "loyalist" forces.

Hitler used the Luftwaffe -- the "Condor Squadron" -- to aid Franco, while Mussolini sent in troops and tanks. The Soviets sent some planes, pilots, and arms, paid for by the Spanish government's gold reserves sent for "safe keeping" to Moscow.

Many idealistic young men (including two students from K.U) joined the International Brigades, fighting on the Republican side. Indeed, many people, especially poets and writers (including Ernest Hemingway) saw the Spanish Civil War as a struggle between good and evil, fascism and democracy . The fact that Stalin was interested in establishing political and military control over the republic, was not general knowledge at the time. Meanwhile, Soviet support of the republic gained Moscow many sympathizers in the West, and made the communists more popular than ever in western left-wing and liberal circles.

This popularity was strengthened by the French and British policy of neutrality, which was a help to Franco, since they did not send arms to the republicans. The "Popular Front" government in France under the socialist Premier, Leon Blum (1872-1950), wanted to help the republicans, but did not do so for fear that right-wing opposition might lead to civil war at home. Also, since Britain was opposed to French intervention, Blum felt he could not afford to antagonize her.

Sometime in 1937-38, Stalin seems to have decided against giving further significant aid to the republicans, presumably because he did not want to risk a conflict with Hitler over Spain when he was trying to get a German-Soviet nonaggression pact, or at least to improve mutual relations. (Soviet documents on Stalin's policy toward Spain have not been made public as of this writing, summer 1997, but Yale University Press plans to publish a selection from Russian archives in its Annals of Communism Series).

In these circumstances, Franco's victory was only a matter of time, and it came with the fall of Madrid in early 1939. Spain had been bled white and was exhausted for decades to come. The symbol of Spanish suffering was the little Basque town of Guernica, bombed to smithereens by the German "Condor Squadron." It inspired Pablo Picasso's famous painting titled "Guernica".

The Soviet Union gave asylum to many Spanish republican refugees, just as it had to refugees from the socialist uprising in Vienna of February 1934. However, once they were in the USSR, most of these Austrians and Spaniards criticised the Soviet system of government, so many wound up in Stalin's labor camps. (Some were used as forced labor in building the Moscow subway). Likewise, many Soviet and other communist veterans who returned to the USSR from the Spanish Civil War were also jailed, for Stalin suspected them of being Trotskiites or/and of being tainted with western ideas.


III. The Austrian and Czechoslovak Crises of 1938.

By late 1937, it was quite clear that Hitler was interested in expansion in Central Europe. He not only wanted a union with Austria -- as Stresemann had done -- but also aimed at Czechoslovakia by fomenting unrest among the Sudeten Germans.

Although these people were Germans, they had not been part of the German empire as it existed between 1871-1914. German-speaking Austrians had been the ruling nationality in the Austrian, later the Austro-Hungarian empire. However, the idea of an Austro-German union had some support among a few nationalist Austrian politicians in the late 19th century. After Austria lost her empire and became a small state in late October 1918, many Austrians saw union with Germany as the best solution to their economic problems, especially after the onset of the Great Depression in 1930, which also hit Austria very hard.

In 1930, France had opposed an Austro-German union -- forbidden by the peace treaties -- and so had Mussolini. France feared the German outflanking of her ally, Czechoslovakia, while Mussolini opposed an Austro-German union because he did not want the establishment of predominant German influence in the western Balkans (Yugoslavia and Albania), which he regarded as an Italian sphere of influence. Indeed, in July 1934, when Austrian Nazis murdered Engelbert Dollfus (1882-1934, Chancellor of Austria in 1933-34), Mussolini moved Italian troops up to the Brenner Pass to prevent a Nazi takeover of Austria. In spring 1935, he joined Britain and France in guaranteeing Austrian independence at the Stresa Conference. He assumed that, in exchange for his defense of Austria, they would allow him to take over Abyssinia (Ethipia). However, after League sanctions were imposed on Italy as a means of pressuring her to reach a peaceful settlement, he gave up the policy of defending Austrian independence and moved closer to Hitler. On October 25, 1936, the two countries signed an agreement creating the Rome-Berlin Axis (hence the name "Axis Powers" used in World War II for Germany, Italy, and Japan, which joined on September 27, 1939).

The Germans living in Czechoslovakia were generally called Sudeten Germans, though they lived not only in the Sudeten mountains but also along the whole rim of western Czechoslovakia (Bohemian diamond), as well as in other areas that were preponderantly Czech. They were the descendants of medieval German settlers in the old kingdom of Bohemia. This kingdom had never been part of Germany. It had been independent until 1620, when it became part of the Austrian, later (1867) the Austro-Hungarian empire. In November 1918, the Sudetenland became part of the new state of the Czechs, Slovaks and Ruthenes, named Czechoslovakia.

These Germans (former Austrian subjects) made up about 33% of the total Czechoslovak population (about 14 million in 1938). They resented becoming a minority and the Sudeten German Social Democratic party had agitated for Sudeten autonomy in the early 1920s. However, with economic prosperity, the population had more or less settled down by 1929, but then the Great Depression struck. Mass unemployment appeared in the industrial areas of the country, mainly in the Sudetenland. The economic crisis led to widespread support for the Sudetendeutsche Partei (Sudeten German Party), a Nazi party formed in 1935. It was subsidized from Berlin and led by Konrad Henlein (1898-1945), a Sudeten German Nazi, who was an instructor of physical education.

As noted earlier, the British were not vitally interested in Central or Eastern Europe, and thus in the independence of Austria and Czechoslovakia. This made it all the easier for them to see German claims there as justified by the principle of self-determination. In November 1937, Lord Halifax (Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1881-1959), a close adviser and later, in 1938-40, Foreign Secretary under Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940, British Prime Minister 1937-40), visited Hitler at Berchtesgaden, his "eagle's nest" in the Bavarian Alps. In sounding out Hitler about a general settlement, Halifax said that Britain would not oppose "peaceful modifications" in Central and Eastern Europe; he went on to mention a German union with Austria, German acquisition of the Czech Sudetenland, and finally the return to Germany of the Free City of Danzig, where Poland had the free use of the port. (9) It is true that there were German-speaking majorities in all these areas. However, Austria was independent; the Sudeten Germans had never belonged to Germany; and the Danzig Germans governed themselves under the protection of the League of Nations. In fact, the local Nazis ruled Danzig since the elections of 1935.

What the British did not see, or refused to see - and what the French, being a continental power, did see and feared greatly - were the strategic consequences of German expansion in Central Europe at the expense of the above named countries. Such acquisitions were bound to make Germany even more powerful than she already was. In fact, they would make her the dominant power in Central and Eastern Europe and open the door to German domination of the Balkans. Finally, who could guarantee that after acquiring these territories Hitler would not turn against Western Europe?

However, the British government did not see the situation in this light, because they did not view Central and Eastern Eastern Europe as a sphere of Britain's vital interests. Instead, they believed that peaceful concessions to Germany at the expense of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, would make a general European settlement possible and thus avoid or at least delay war. Indeed, in return for such a peaceful settlement, they even tempted Hitler with the possibility of gaining some colonies -- though not their own. (They were willing to let him have Belgian and Portuguese possessions in Africa).

We should also bear in mind that British statesmen - except for Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965, Prime Minister 1940-45 and 1951-55), who was viewed at this time as a political maverick - refused to believe that Hitler would try to dominate Europe and thus risk another world war.. Hitler's book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), published in 1925, had been translated for the British Foreign Office. However, the plans he outlined there - the conquest of Russia and France and friendship with Britain if she agreed to the above, but war if she did not - were generally viewed by British statesmen as demagoguery aimed to make him popular in Germany , and not as the goals of the peace-loving statesman he now claimed to be.

Hitler justified his program of conquest by the German people's alleged need for lebensraum (living space). He saw it in the Soviet Union, especially in the Ukraine, also in western Poland, both of which he dreamed of settling with German farmers. He combined this aim with another -- the capture of raw materials he needed for the conquest of Europe, perhaps also of the Middle East and parts of Africa. These raw materials would, he thought, give him victory in a war against Britain and France, and also the United States if it came into the war against Germany. Again, few British statesmen or officials who knew of Hitler's aims, took them seriously.

In view of the above, it was not surprising that in November 1937, Hitler understood Lord Halifax's statement that Britain would not oppose peaceful German expansion in Central and Eastern Europe as a "green light" to go ahead with his plans. In February 1938, he tried to bully the Austrian Chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg (1897-1977), into accepting a Nazi government in Austria. When Schuschnigg announced that he would hold a plebiscite for Austrians to decide whether they wanted to remain independent, Hitler bullied the Austrian government into "inviting" German troops to "restore order," and sent his troops into Austria on March 12, 1938. He then proclaimed its union with Germany. France and Britain made only weak diplomatic protests. Now Germany outflanked Czechoslovakia.

Hitler made peaceful noises but proceeded to use the Sudeten German Party as his "Trojan Horse" to dismember Czechoslovakia, the ally of both France and the USSR. He instructed the leader of the Sudeten German Party, Henlein to make ever greater demands, starting with autonomy and ending with the absorption of the Sudetenland in Germany. If, however, the Czechoslovak government agreed to such a broad autonomy for the Sudeten Germans as to make their rejection of it look unreasonable to Western opinion, Henlein was to demand that Prague give up its alliances with France and the USSR. Hitler expected President Edward Benes to refuse; if he did, Germany would use force and blame Czechoslovakia for rejecting a "peaceful settlement."

Faced with the German threat to Czechoslovakia, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain refused to work for a "Grand Alliance" of France, Britain, and Soviet Russia to contain Germany - an alliance advocated by Churchill and his friends. Instead, Chamberlain and his government wanted to avert war by appeasing Hitler and justify this by self-determination.. Therefore, the British forced President Benes to "request" a "private" British mediator. Chamberlain appointed Lord Walter Runciman, who had been President of the Board of Trade in 1931-37. He was a shipping magnate with a good record in labor negotiations, but with no experience of foreign affairs and no knowledge of Czechoslovakia.

Runciman went to Czechoslovakia in late July and came back in early September. He believed the only solution was to cede to Germany the areas where the population was at least 60 per cent German. The French went along with this proposal, for they believed they could not fight Germany without British support. They were still deeply traumatized by the great loss of life and the devastation of northern France in World War I. For these reasons, most members of the French Cabinet did not even consider going to war with Germany along with their allies, Poland and Czechoslovakia (although a few cabinet ministers wanted to fight).. At this time, the combined Polish and Czechoslovaka armed forces could have contained Hitler in the East - but only if France guaranteed it would attack Germany in the West. This, however, she would not do without British support, which was not offered. Finally, even if British support were available, French military strategy was defensive -- a result of the tremendous loss of life in 1914-18. According to the French master plan, French troops would, in case of war, man the great fortifications known as the Maginot Line, which covered part of the French border with Germany. They would also make a few forays into German territory to seize territorial "pawns" and withdraw. (As we shall see later, this is what they did when Germany attacked Poland in September 1939).

Chamberlain flew twice to see Hitler: in early and mid-September 1938. First, he flew to Munich and went on to Berchtesgaden, secondly to Cologne, when he went to meet Hitler at Bad Godesberg, now a suburb of Bonn. Although the British and French conceded German demands and told the Czechs to accept them, Hitler provoked a crisis and threatened war. The sticking point for London and Paris were Hitler's demands that he must have the Sudetenland by October 1st, and that if there was to be a plebiscite, it would be held after the Germans had entered the territory. The Western democracies could not accept such terms without a complete loss of face. Therefore, the French army mobilized and so did the British fleet. Trenches were dug in London; some children were evacuated and gas masks were distributed. Chamberlain made a radio speech in which he spoke sadly of the possibility of Britain's involvement in a war "between far away peoples of whom we know nothing." This phrase expressed the British view of Eastern Europe.

Hitler realized, however, that the German people were in no mood to fight another European war. So, on September 28, he accepted Mussolini's proposal (suggested to the Duce by Chamberlain via the British ambassador in Rome) that the Great Powers meet to negotiate an agreement. Thus, the Munich Conference took place on September 29, 1938. The French and British leaders met with Hitler and Mussolini and handed the Sudetenland to Germany. President Benes knew that if his country resisted, the French would only man the Maginot Line, and that the Soviets would not help, so he persuaded his government to accept the Munich terms. He announced their acceptance at noon on September 30, and then resigned. Czechoslovakia lost 16,000 sq. miles of territory containing much of her industry as well as her mountain defenses; she also lost 5,000,000 people, including 1,161,000 Czechs and Slovaks. The country was no longer economically viable, and by losing its mountain fortifications it became militarily indefensible as well. It was obvious that total dismemberment was only a question of time.

The British, like most Europeans, including the Germans, were greatly relieved that war had been avoided, so Chamberlain was feted as the "man who saved peace." He received thousands of letters thanking him for averting war, and many gifts (mostly umbrellas and fishing rods).. However, in early October, there was a stormy "Munich debate" in the House of Commons. Also, opinion polls in France and Britain showed that while the majority of respondents believed the Munich settlement was unavoidable, some 70 per cent opposed any further concessions to Hitler.

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The policies of the USSR and Poland during the Czechoslovak crisis

The policies of both these countries have been subject to much misunderstanding and/or misrepresentation.

(a) Soviet Policy.

Soviet historians claimed that Moscow wanted to help Czechoslovakia, but that this was impossible because Poland and Romania refused permission for Soviet troops to cross their territory. Then France and Britain caved in to Hitler at Munich. Many western historians also believe that if the Western powers had teamed up with the USSR, Hitler would have been stopped in his tracks.

However, despite declarations of support for Czechoslovakia, Stalin's policy between March and the end of September 1938 seems to have consisted of giving diplomatic and propaganda support to his ally while not risking a war with Germany. In fact, when President Benes asked Sergei S. Aleksandrovskii, the Soviet Minister in Prague, on September 20th if the Soviet Union would help the Czechs in case of a German attack, whether or not France fulfilled her obligations - the answer he got was that the Soviets would help, but only if: (1) France helped first (this was stipulated in the Czechoslovak-Soviet alliance of 1935); and (2) provided the League of Nations Council, or a majority of its members, proclaimed Germany to be the aggressor. Indeed, Litvinov had given the same answer earlier that month. to French Foreign Minister, Georges E. Bonnet (1889-1973). At 7.30 a.m. on September 30th, when Benes knew the Munich terms, he again asked Aleksandrovskii, whether the Soviets would help Czechoslovakia, if she fought, and if so, whether they would do this independently of France and of the League of Nations, and begged for a reply by noon - the Soviet Minister did not even send the cable to Moscow until four hours later. The answer, that the USSR would help, arrived on October 2nd, after the German army had marched into the Sudetenland. (10)

As mentioned above, the lack of Soviet military help for Czechoslovakia in 1938 is often explained by the refusal of Poland and Romania to allow the passage of Soviet troops through their territories. In fact, however, the Soviet government never asked Warsaw directly for such agreement, though it put this question either directly or indirectly to Romania. In 1984, a Czech scholar living in the U.S. published a book containing a most interesting document. This is a letter by the Romanian Foreign Minister Nicholas Petrescu Comnene (1881-1938) to Foreign Commisar Maxim M.Litvinov, transmitting to the Soviets his government's offer to allow not only the overflight of Soviet planes, but also the passage of Soviet troops through a specified area of its territory in case of war. This letter, dated September 24, was addressed and delivered to Litvinov, when both were in Geneva, and Comnene also sent a copy to Prague. Futher light on this Romanian offer has been cast by another Czech scholar in a book recently published in Germany, who shows that the Soviet government's answer to this note only took up the Romanian readiness not to seek a guarantee of its frontier with the USSR and did not even mention the proposal for troop transit and military overflight of Romanian territory. Morever, the author cites telephone conversations between Benes and Stalin in which the latter avoided any commitment of aid. Furthermore, an American historian of Benes's foreign policy has recently pointed to Soviet unwillingess to go to war over Czechoslovakia in 1938 - while at the same time encouraging the Czech communists to refuse a compromise with Germany because a war would allow them to come to power in Czechslovakia. Indeed, a Soviet leader close to Stalin told Czechoslovak communists that only a European war could pave the way to communist power in Germany and other European countries (11).

It is true that in the course of the crisis, the USSR moblilized two army groups in its western territories, and sent a few planes to Czechoslovakia. However. from the Soviet government's (Stalin's) treatment of Benes and its passive reaction to the Romanian offer of passage, it seems that, just like France and Britain, the USSR did not want to risk a war with Germany over Czechoslovakia. Thus Soviet mobilization of the Belorussian and Ukrainian military districts may have been intended not as preparation for war with Germany, but for annexing eastern Poland if the occasion arose. Indeed, the forces mobilized in September 1938, were equivalent to those used in invading eastern Poland in September 1939. (11a)

In one instance only did the Soviet government take action, but it was diplomatic. On September 23rd it threatened to abrogate the Polish-Soviet nonaggression pact (of July 1932, extended for 10 years in 1934), if Poland moved against Czechoslovakia. This Soviet note was sent at the request of President Benes and aimed to prevent Polish recovery of the western part of Teschen Silesia (Czech: Tesin, Polish: Cieszyn).However, when the Poles took this area, the USSR did not carry out its threat.

Polish Foreign Policy in 1938.

Why did Poland demand and then take part of western Teschen Silesia from the Czechs? We should bear in mind that this area - known in Polish as "Zaolzie," or beyond the Olza river - had a preponderantly Polish population. Nevertheless, the Czechs had seized it by force in January 1919. Negotiations failed and in late July 1920 -- when it looked as if Warsaw would fall to the Bolsheviks -- the western powers agreed to award the area to Czechoslovakia in return for Benes's promise to persuade Czech railwaymen to allow war supplies to transit his country to Poland. He did not keep his promise.

Polish public opinion always resented the Czech seizure of Teschen Silesia and this feeling was exacerbated by official Czech pressure on the Polish population to assimilate, for e.g. to send their children to Czech schools - or lose their jobs. All Polish attempts to reach a negotiated solution failed because the Czechoslovak government and Czech public opinion believed this coal-rich area (anthracite=coking coal) with its steel mills must stay in Czechoslovakia. As far as Poland was concerned, not only the Polish government but also the opposition parties and the vast majority of Polish opinion believed the area should return to Poland. In fact, in spring 1938, the opposition parties offered an alliance to Prague when they came to power - but only if the Czechs returned the region to Poland. There was no reply.

The Polish government, for its part, did not expect the French and British to fight for Czechoslovakia, but if they did, it held that Poland could not be on Germany's side in a European war. On September 23rd, when Chamberlain was meeting with Hitler at Bad Godesberg, the Poles learned of German plans to annex the area. Therefore, they warned Hitler of their claim and the Polish General Staff formed a small expeditionary corps on the Polish side of the border, ready to march into Zaolzie if the Western powers abandoned the Czechs.

As noted above, the Soviets threatened to abrogate the Polish-Soviet nonaggression pact if the Poles crossed the Czechoslovak border. The Poles replied they knew their treaty obligations and did not need the Soviets to tell them what they were. Finally, when France and Britain failed to consult Poland and signed the Munich Agreement of September 30th, it did not include a settlement of Polish demands -or Hungarian ones for Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia either. Twelve hours after the Czechoslovak government accepted the Munich terms,Warsaw issued an ultimatum to Prague and, on its acceptance, moved troops into westerm Teschen Silesia on October 1, 1938. The Soviets did not carry out their threat to abrogate the nonaggession pact and Polish-Soviet relations were normalized at the end of November 1938.

Contrary to Western opinion, the Polish government did not act in collusion with Hitler. Although Hitler decided to support Polish and Hungarian demands for his own purposes, he did not insist that they be embodied in the Munich Agreement. The Polish government, for its part, did not want to receive the area it claimed as a gift from Hitler. It also believed, rightly as it turned out, that post-Munich Czechoslovakia would soon fall under German domination, so it wanted to prevent the preponderantly Polish population in western Teschen Silesia, and the areas industrial wealth, from falling to Germany.

The Polish action was roundly condemned as "a stab in the back," both by the western powers, who had sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler, and by the Soviets, who did not want to risk a war with him over that country. As mentioned earlier, however, the Poles would not fight on Germany's side in a European war. Indeed, the Polish government hinted more than once to London, that they would be on the Anglo-French side in such a war, but received no encouragement. After the Munich agreement, there were solid reasons for the Polish ultimatum and annexation of part of western Teschen Silesia. Nevertheless, it is clear that it would have been much better for Poland's reputation and future Polish-Czechoslovak relations, if the Polish government had accepted the last minute Czech offer to work for a negotiatiated solution - even if this were to be abrogated by Hitler's annexation of the rest of Czechoslovakia, which took place in March 1939. (12).


IV. The British Guarantee to Poland and the Coming of the Second World War.

The Germans were just as relieved as the French, British and other peoples that Munich had saved the peace, but Hitler was furious because he had been bilked of a victorious little war. He planned to act as soon as the right occasion arose.

He saw his opportunity when the Slovaks quarreled with the Czechs, and Czech troops moved into Slovakia. So, on the night of March 14-15, 1939, German troops marched into the Czech lands, after Hitler had bullied the ailing President Emil Hacha (1872-1945) to "invite" them in -- or see Prague destroyed by the German air force. At the same time, Hitler induced the Slovak leaders to proclaim the independence of Slovakia under his protection - otherwise, he threatened to give them back to the Hungarians. (Subcarpathian Ruthenia went back to Hungary in early November 1938). In the Czech lands, Hitler set up "The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia." However, this time there was outrage in the West.

As noted earlier, public opinion polls, taken in France and Britain after Munich showed that while the majority of respondents believed the Munich agreement was inevitable, they also opposed any further concessions to Hitler.At the same time, opinion was deeply split, particularly in Britain, between those who accepted Munich as the price of peace with Germany, and those who saw it as a betrayal of Czechoslovakia and a defeat for the Western powers. (13) Finally, we should note that Chamberlain and Hitler had, on the former's initiative, signed an informal agreement at Munich stating the two countries would consult each other in the future. In early December, the French and German governments also signed an agreement on consultation.

When Hitler seized the Czech lands and created an "independent" Slovakia, British opinion exploded with outrage. Moreover, at almost the same time, rumors flew in London that the Germans had issued an ultimatum to Romania. Now, this country would be very useful to Germany in a war because of its oil and food production. As it turned out, there was no ultimatum, but Germany and Romania did sign an economic agreement on March 23, 1939, which established Germans control over the Romanian economy. Also on March 23rd, the Germans forced Lithuania to give up Memel (Lith; Klajpeda). Hitler arrived on a German warship to take over the city. (He was so sea-sick that he vowed never to travel by sea again). This port-city and its surrounding countryside had been part of East Prussia before 1918, but was annexed by Lithuania in 1923. Most of the population in the city was German-speaking, but the countryside was Lithuanian.

Public outrage at German aggression against Czechoslovakia and the rumors about a German threat to Romania, forced Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his cabinet to adopt a stiffer policy toward Germany. Chamberlain warned Hitler publicly that Gt. Britain would not stand by if one great power (Germany) tried to dominate Europe. Privately, however, he did not give up the goal of reaching a peaceful settlement with Berlin. In this, he had the full support of most of his Cabinet.

Now the British government suddenly saw Poland as the only country that could protect Romania. However, rumors flew that Poland might be Hitler's next victim and it was common knowledge that she would fight if attacked. Therefore, the British government decided to offer Poland a "guarantee" of aid -- on condition that if her independence was threatened, she decided to defend it with her national forces.(The British Cabinet assumed that Poland would not risk a war with Hitler, so the guarantee would not have to be activated). After a brief consultation with the Polish government, the guarantee was proclaimed by Chamberlain in the British Parliament on March 31, 1939, as jointly given by Britain and France. (France was an ally of Poland since 1921).

This did not mean, however, that the two powers had guaranteed Polish frontiers, nor that they gave Poland some sort of "blank check" which then made the Poles reject any compromise with Germany. In fact, the guarantee was no bllnk check, and even before accepting it, the Polish government had decided to reject negotiations on the basis of Hitler's demands, that is, the return of Danzig to Germany, plus a belt of territory through Polish Pomerania (the Polish Corridor) to provide for direct (German) "extraterritorial" communication between Germany proper and East Prussia. The Polish government was ready to negotiate a compromise with Germany both before and after accepting the guarantee -- but one compatible with Polish independence - and Hitler's terms were seen as incompatible with it. This was so because German rule over Danzig entailed the possibility of long-range artillery being staioned there, which could threaten the Polish port of Gdynia. Also, this port - which together with Danzig handled 78% of Polish foreign trade in 1938 - could be cut off from the rest of Poland by the German extraterritorial belt of territory through the Corridor. It is true that Hilter offered to guarantee free Polish use of the port of Danzig and free Polish transit to both Danzig and Gdynia, but he had broken his word so many times that it was worthless.Furthermore, the preponderantly Polish population in the belt of territory that Hitler demanded would either have to live under German rule or move to Polish territory. Finally, German rule in the Corridor and western Poland - which ended in early 1919 - was remembered for its policy of germanization and harassment of the Poles, also for deporting many of them to forced labor in Germany during the war. For all these reasons, Polish public opinion could not accept Hitler's terms, and any Polish government that did could not expect to stay in power.

As for the British and French governments, they saw the guarantee, as well as the provisional Anglo-Polish agreement on mutual aid signed on April 6th, primarily as a "deterrent" to Hitler. It was meant to scare him with the threat of a war on two fronts - like World War I which Germany lost - and so make him willing to "negotiate" with Poland. In these "negotiations," however, the British and French assumed that Hitler would get what Poland had refused to give him, thus saving the peace, or at least delaying war.

Such German gains would have made Polish access to the sea dependent on Germany, and would have established German domination over Poland. There were also German claims to Polish Upper Silesia, which contained most of Polish heavy industry. Nevertheless, the British and French governments secretly agreed to work for just such Polish-German "negotiations." This is clear from British and French diplomatic documents for 1939.

It is also clear that the French government made no plans to implement its pledge, given in a military agreement with the Poles signed in Paris on May 17, 1939. In this agreement, which interpreted the military convention of March 1921, France committed herself to take immediate though limited land and air action in the West if Poland was attacked by Germany. France would also launch an all-out offensive against Germany on the fifteenth day after a German attack on Poland. (French mobilization would take fifteen days). This was a pledge made in bad faith because the British and French General Staffs had agreed in April 1939 that if Germany attacked Poland, they would fight a purely defensive war to gain time. Thus, the French pledge aimed to secure the longest possible Polish resistance in order to win time for France. (14)

As in the case of the guarantee to Poland, so the French and British guarantees to Greece and Romania of April 13, 1939 (after Mussolini's invasion of Albania) were meant to deter the Italians and the Germans from expanding into the Balkans, but no preparations were made for giving military aid to those countries. In all three cases, i.e. Poland, Romania and Greece, the Franco-British decision was not to give them active military help, but to stay on the defensive and wait until they themselves were attacked. Then they would proced to wear Germany down in a war of attrition. They hoped the U.S. would come in on their side, as it did in 1917. However, American isolationism was so strong that no one could predict when and how the U.S. would be able help them if war broke out in Europe.


V. The Road to War and Soviet Foreign Policy in 1939.

Western historians are still divided on interpreting Soviet policy in 1939. (1) Some believe that Stalin concluded a nonaggression pact with Hitler because, in view of the western policy of appeasement, and the western powers' unwillingness to accept his terms, he had no alternative. (2) Some believe that he played the western powers off against Hitler while intending to line up with him all along. Russian historians generally belong to the first group, though the division of Eastern Europe between the two dictators, and especially the partition of Poland, is condemned as an immoral and predatory deal. (3) Others believe that Stalin's proposals to the German government to improve relations or even sign a nonaggression pact (1935-37), were an attempt to return to the Rapallo (1922) policy of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. Therefore, Stalin may have been trying to support anti-Nazis in the German establishment. (4) Yet others believe that some highly placed members of the Soviet party and government had different conceptions of the foreign policy their country should follow, which might explain the contradictions. (5) some think that the German-Soviet Pact of Aug. 23, 1939, resulted from the persuasive powers of both Soviet and German supporters of Rapallo. (6) Finally, some believe Stalin was trying to obtain security for the USSR by any and every means. [14a] In this author's opinion, a return to Rapallo policies, especially with Hitler, meant not only cooperation between Moscow and Berlin, but also sooner rather than later, disastrous results for Eastern Europe, especially Poland, which was always the object of both German and Soviet revisionist policies. It is clear that in 1939, such a policy would also strengthen Hitler's hand and thus greatly increase the risk of war. It seems that Stalin welcomed war - as long as the Soviet Union stayed out of it.

Soviet archival documents for the interwar period are gradually becoming accessible. A large selection dealing with 1939 was published in two parts in 1992, and continued for 1939-40 in a volume published in 1995. However, the picture is far from complete, for the vast majority of Politburo and Central Commitee documents on foreign policy are still classified, yet it was the party leadership which decided policy. We do not know whether Stalin made decisions and the rest accepted them, or whether real discussion took place first. Therefore, Soviet policy can be traced most easily in German diplomatic documents. Soviet declarations and statements, published in the Soviet press, also provide useful indications.

On March 10, 1939, just before Hitler's dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, both Stalin and Deputy Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov (1890-1983), made some significant statements at the 18th Party Congress. They accused the western powers of spreading false rumors that Hitler was planning to attack Russia. Stalin said the Soviet government did not believe this, and saw no visible reasons for a Soviet-German conflict. He also declared the USSR would not "pull the chestnuts out of the fire" for others. This seemed a broad hint to Hitler that Stalin would welcome closer German-Soviet relations. Molotov seconded these statements.

As noted above, the Franco-British strategy was to avoid war by bringing about a Polish-German "agreement" on Hitler's terms. One of the ways to achieve this goal was to put pressure on Hitler by securing Soviet support. If this plan succeeded, the USSR could either deter Hitler from war, or if war came, align itself with the West. Since there was already a Franco-Soviet alliance (May 1935), the objective was to bring in Gt. Britain and, secure Soviet support for Poland and Romania.

In April, the British began talks in Moscow to draw the Soviets into giving guarantees of aid to those two countries. The Soviets said they wanted an alliance with the western powers. The British agreed, but the Soviets kept on upping the ante. In particular, they demanded western agreement to Soviet entry into the Baltic States if Moscow decided this was necessary for its security. However, the Baltic States did not want Soviet troops on their soil. Also, both British and neutral opinion was expected to oppose British agreement to this demand, so the British government balked.

It is true that the British government distrusted the USSR, but this feeling was mutual. Indeed, while the Soviets were negotiating with the British for an alliance - - they were also throwing out broad hints to the Germans that they were interested in an agreement with them. In June, they let the Germans know through the Bulgarian ambassador in Berlin, that given the choice of an alliance with the western powers or a nonaggression pact with Germany, they would prefer the latter. In fact, as mentioned earlier, Litvinov had proposed such a pact to the German ambassador in Moscow in May 1935, and Kandelaki had renewed the proposal at the turn of 1936-37. Although Litvinov was replaced as Foreign Commissar by Molotov in early May 1939, the policy was still the same. (15).

In the course of German-Soviet trade negotiations, in late July, the German economic experts said they saw no objections to a Soviet-German agreement over Eastern Europe, especially Poland, where their mutual interests did not conflict. The German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893-1946), repeated this statement in early August to a Soviet diplomat in Berlin. On August 14th, he instructed the German ambassador in Moscow to make a formal statement to this effect to Molotov. This was done on the evening of the next day.

The British government, which hoped to avert war, was also sounding out the Germans on the possibility of a peaceful solution to Hitler's demands on Poland. Perhaps in late July, and certainly in early August, Sir Horace Wilson, Prime Minister Chamberlain's closest adviser, secretly told the Germans that if Germany were willing to proclaim her peaceful intentions and sign a nonaggression pact with Britain, the latter would cancel her guarantees to Poland, Romania and Greece. But Hitler gave no answer to this proposal until August 22nd; he then said that he must obtain all his demands no Poland first, and only then would he be ready to cooperate with Britain. (16) This was unacceptable to the British government which could not agree to such terms for fear of an outcry by public opinion when it might well be forced to resign.

Meanwhile, a Franco-British military mission arrived in Moscow on August 12th to negotiate a military alliance with the USSR. When official talks opened, however, Stalin already knew of Hitler's desire for an agreement with him. It was in this context that Soviet negotiators demanded that the British and French governments secure Polish and Romanian agreement to the passage of Soviet troops through their territories in case of war with Gemany -- a demand Moscow had not made earlier. It seems that Stalin expected the two governments to refuse.

The French tried very hard to get the Poles to agree to the Soviet demands. When they failed, Premier and War Minister Edouard Daladier (1884-1970) cabled French agreement to the head of the French mission in Moscow.The Soviets, however. now demanded that the Polish and Romanian governments themselves declare their agreement. This was most unlikely, so it was probably made to provide an excuse to break of negotiations with the western powers.

In July 1996, a German newspaper published the translation of an alleged Russian document. According to this text, on August 19 Stalin explained to the Politbureau his reasons for his decision to sign a nonaggression pact with Hitler. He allegedly said that a European war was necessary for the USSR because peace would not allow Communism to dominate Europe, and might even destroy the USSR.Thus, only the conclusion of a Soviet-German pact would make Hitler attack Poland and thus force England and France to come into the war. When chaos prevailed in Europe, said Stalin, the USSR could join in the war. The pact with Germany would allow the USSR to extend its western frontier to Warsaw. At the same time, Germany would agree to a Soviet protectorate over the Baltic States; Soviet annexation of Bessarabia [now Moldova], as well as its domination over Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Later, it would be the turn of Yugoslavia. Ultimately, Hitler's defeat would lead to the sovietization of Germany. Stalin was to have declared that Soviet interests required the war last as long as possible, or at least long enough to ruin France and England so that they would not be strong enough to destroy a Communist Germany. Therefore, communist agitation should be stepped up immediately in France; the army and police there should be demoralized, and everything should be done to make the war last the longest time possible. At the end of his speech, Stalin was to have said: "in any case, a pact with Hitler is the only way for Communism to win all over the world." This was so because even if Hitler won the war, he would not be able to control such vast territories. Then, Communists would lead national liberation movements -- and would take power anyway.

As it turned out, this "document" was not genuine. In fact, it had been published in a Swiss newspaper in late 1939, without giving the source. A German historian researched the matter in the late 1950s and found that the source of the "document" was an unnamed expert on the USSR, who gave it to a journalist, who published it in Geneva. Recently, a Russian historian found the text in the "Special Archive" - former trophy archive - in Moscow and thought it was genuine. Then it found its way into the German press in July 1996. (16a) What is interesting about this whole affair is that at least part of the alleged Stalin speech is confirmed by what Soviet communists had told Czechoslovak communists in the summer of 1938, that is, that communism could only come to power in European countries when they were exhausted by war. Therefore, the Czech communists were encouraged not to support any peaceful settlement with Germany over the Sudetnland. (16b)

Indeed, it is more than likely that Stalin had been thinking of a deal with Hitler at least since 1935. The Litivinov and Kandelaki proposals seem to support this view. If this was so, then the policy of "collective security" of 1935-38 was used as pressure on Hitler to come to terms with Stalin, but if there are any Soviet documents to confirm this, they are still inaccessible in Russian archives. In any case, a German-Soviet trade treaty was signed on August 22, and Stalin had earlier agreed to Hitler's request tha German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop come to Moscow and sign a political treaty by August 23rd. The Polish government, pressed by its French and British allies to agree to the passage of Soviet troops through Poland, told them that evening it would agree to General Staff talks on this matter, but Stalin was not interested.

Thus, it seems clear that the Soviet demands regarding passage through Poland and Romania were a pretext for breaking off negotiations with the western powers and concluding an agreement with Hitler. On the night of August 23-24th, Ribbentrop and Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov worked out signed a Non-aggression Pact, (sometimes called the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact), at the Kremlin. At the banquet which followed, Stalin drank to Hitler's health.

Ribbentrop and Molotov also signed a Secret Protocol providing for a German-Soviet partition of Poland, as well for Soviet domination of Latvia, Estonia, part of Lithuania and Bessarabia. The U.S. government gained a general idea of the contents through a "leak" from the German embassy in Moscow, but did not make them public. Perhaps it decided against publication because the news was unconfirmed (though the British and French ambassadors reported hearsay reports on similar lines), and to safeguard the German informant. A microfilm of the protocol was found by the Western Allies at war's end in the archives of the German Foreign Ministry, which had been evacuated to western Germany. The four victorious powers decided not to admit it as evidence for the German leaders' defense at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, to avoid a break in relations with the USSR. It was first published in the West in 1948, at the onset of the Cold War. For forty years the Soviet authorities claimed the microfilm copy was a forgery and that no such Russian document existed. In 1989, however, the newly elected Supreme Soviet condemned the pact and and ordered an investigation to settle the question if an original Russian document existed or not. In February, 1990, a Soviet Foreign Ministry bulletin published the results. The Russian copy of the protocol had been found. It was typed on a Soviet typewriter and Molotov's signature was pronounced as genuine. (17)

Returning now to 1939, after the conclusion of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, the British government concluded a formal alliance with Poland. This was signed in the form of a Treaty of Mutual Assistance on the late afternoon of August 25th. However, the British government still hoped for a peaceful settlement and hinted to Hitler that they considered his demands for Danzig and a strip of territory through the Polish Corridor, as acceptable. They gave Hitler this indication even though the Poles had rejected these demands earlier as a threat to their independence. Therefore, the British only asked if the Polish government was willing "in principle" to negotiate. The Poles said yes, provided the terms were compatible with Polish independence.

Faced with the Anglo-Polish alliance and also Mussolini's unreadiness to join in a European war, Hitler suspended his order for the attack on Poland to begin on August 26. He now pretended he was willing to negotiate. However, late on August 29, Ribbentrop told British Ambassador Sir Nevile Henderson that he expected a Polish plenipotentiary to arrive in the German capital the next day. This meant the Poles would be told to accept German terms -- like the Czechoslovak President Hacha in March 1939. The British government decided it could not ask the Poles to send a plenipotentiary, but Ambassador Henderson exerted great pressure on his Polish colleague, Ambassador Jozef Lipski, to have his government request the presentation of German "conditions." The Polish government instructed Lipski to do so.

Lipski, came to the German Foreign Office at 6:00 P.M. on August 31st, to receive the text of the German demands. However, when Ribbentrop learned the ambassador did not have full powers, i.e. that he had not come to accept German demands - he ended the meeting. So Hitler's demands -- as embodied in the "16 Points" -- were never formally presented to the Polish government, although they were communicated to foreign diplomatic representatives in Berlin and broadcast by the German radio on the evening of August 31, with the comment that they had been rejected by the Poles. The points were formulated in such a way as to seem reasonable to Western opinion and thus put the blame on Poland if war broke out. (18)


VI. The Outbreak of the Second World War and the German Campaign in Poland, September 1939.

At dawn on September 1, 1939, the German army, navy and airforce attacked Poland from the north (East Prussia), west (Germany proper), and southwest (Slovakia). Hitler's pretext was an alleged Polish attack on a radio station in Gleiwitz (now Gliwice, Poland). Hitler told the German Reichstag that the Poles had fired at the Germans, so they were "returning fire". However, we know that Hitler's attack plans had been finalized before that date. Furthermore, the postwar Nuremberg War Crimes Trials revealed that the SS. had put some prisoners in Polish uniforms. They staged an attack on the radio station and broadcast a statement (in bad Polish) , after which the SS killed the prisoners to destroy the evidence.

On September 1st, the French and British ambassadors in Berlin delivered notes stating their governments would be forced to go to war if the German government did not agree to withdraw its troops from Poland. Then the two western governments waited two days, hoping Hitler would accept Mussolini's proposal of another conference (a proposal again encouraged by the British), though this time including the victim of aggression, Poland.

On the evening of September 2nd, Chamberlain and Halifax told the two houses of Parliament (Halifax in the House of Lords and Chamberlain in the House of Commons), that the British government was waiting for Hitler's reply to Mussolini's proposal and that, if the German government agreed to withdraw its troops from Poland, Britain would support either direct Polish-German negotiations, or an international conference. The House of Lords accepted this statement from Halifax without question. There was, however, an outburst of indignation against the Prime Minister in the House of Commons and a revolt in the Cabinet, so Chamberlain was in danger of falling. He had to inform the House of Hitler's answer by 11 A.M. the next day. Therefore, he told the French that by that time he must have a postive German reply to the British note of September lst or go to war. Thus, it was on September 3rd, at 9 A.M., that Ambassador Henderson demanded an answer from the German government by 11 a.m. When none came, Britain was at war with Germany. France followed at 5 p.m. However, having declared war, they did not fight. (They had agreed in April on a defensive strategy if Germany attacked Poland). Therefore, the war in the West is known as the "phony war." The Poles were left to fight the Germans alone.

Although the French Commander-in-Chief, General Maurice Gamelin had no intention of attacking Germany in the West, he assured the Poles the offensive would take place as soon as the French army was fully mobilized. The French goal was to have the Poles fight as long as possible, and gain time for France. As for the British, they had told the Poles in May that if the Germans bombed Poland, they would bomb German military objectives. However, they later decided against it, allegedly fearing this would provoke German air raids on Britain. RAF (Royal Air Force) experts knew such raids would be ineffective without the use of German airfields in France. This was so because German planes starting from the Rhineland could not carry heavy bombs; they would not have enough fuel to return to Germany. German airmen knew this too - but the British government did not allow this view to be published.

The Poles did not have a chance. They bore the full brunt of the German war machine, the best in the world at that time. Two thirds of the German armed forces were thrown against Poland, leaving only some 30 divisions (most of them reserve ) and a weak air cover in the west.Thus, in the first two weeks of the war, the Allies had more planes, tanks, and men in the west than the Germans, but their agreement on a defensive strategy prevented them from attacking Germany and breaking into the Ruhr.

We should also bear in mind that Poland was an economically underdeveloped country, so no amount of Polish military genius could have balanced German military superiority. The Poles' only hope was a massive French offensive in the west, which would force the Germans to split their armed forces in two, thus allowing the Polish armies to regroup and eventually launch a counter-offensive. However, as mentioned above, the French had no intention of fulfilling their pledge.

War histories often state that the Polish cavalry charged German tanks. This is a myth originated by Nazi propaganda to show the Poles as heroic fools. In fact, small Polish cavalry units had heavy machine guns, while larger units had field guns (French howitzers 77). These units travelled cross-country on horseback, then took up positions and fought. When surrounded by German tanks, they mounted their horses and tried to escape by charging between the tanks - not at them.

The German Blitzkrieg (lightning war) devastated Poland. The Luftwaffe bombed not only military objectives, particularly railway lines, but also open towns. Indeed, they machine-gunned everything that moved on the ground such as: the refugees who crowded the roads, and people working in the fields.

But the Poles had not only the Germans to contend with. On September 17, as the Polish armies were trying to regroup in the southeast, the Red Army marched into eastern Poland. The Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister, Vladimir P. Potemkin, handed a note to the Polish ambassador in Moscow, Waclaw Grzybowski, claiming that Warsaw no longer existed as the capital of Poland, and that the Polish government had collapsed (neither was true). The Soviets then published a declaration saying they were coming into Poland to "protect" their defenseless Ukrainian and Belorussian "brothers" (presumably against the Germans), and also to give the Poles a "better and happier life." This was, of course, a propaganda ploy, since they were coming in according to the secret protocol of August 23, 1939. But, as mentioned above, no one knew the contents of that protocol at the time, except for high German and Soviet officials and the U.S. government, which, however, did not publicize them. (See p.152).

On hearing that Soviet troops were entering Poland, the Polish government and the Army High Command -- who were now in the southeastern corner of Poland on the Polish-Romanian border -- decided to cross over into Romania, an ally of Poland, though it had proclaimed neutrality. This decision was taken both to avoid capture by the Germans or the Soviets - the latter were some 50 km. away from the Polish authorities' locale on the evening of September 17th - and to continue fighting the Germans.

The Polish government planned to proceed to France and carry on the fight alongside its allies. However, German pressure on the Romanian government, combined with lack of Franco-British counter pressure, led to the internment of the Polish authorities in Romania. Therefore, on September 30th, a new Polish government was formed in Paris. It was based on the prewar opposition parties and led by General Wladyslaw Sikorski (1881-1943), a well-known opponent of the Polish prewar regime who enjoyed French support. He became Premier and later Commander-in-Chief of Polish armed forces. A new Polish army was raised in France, made up of emigre Poles already there, and of some 60,000 Polish soldiers, including airmen, who made their way across Europe to France. By May 1940, this army numbered some 80,000, though some were still in training camps.

Meanwhile, Warsaw resisted a brutal German siege from September 7 to September 27th, when it surrendered for lack of food and water. The last Polish units fighting outside Warsaw capitulated at Kock, southeast of Warsaw, on October 5th. Thus, the Polish-German war lasted between 4 and 5 weeks, depending on whether it is seen as ending with the surrender of Warsaw or the capitulation at Kock. By comparison, the German campaign in France in 1940, lasted from May 12th, (the Germans attacked Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg on May 10th and they collapsed soon thereafter), to June 17th (28 or 30 days).. On that day, the new head of the French government, the aged Marshal Henri Philippe Petain (1856-1951) asked the Germans for an armistice. It was signed on June 22nd. ( Petain headed the "Vichy" government, which collaborated with Germany from 1940 to 1944). Thus, the French army, supported at first by a small but heavily-armed British Expeditionary Force (evacuated from Dunkirk between May 28 and June 4th), fought the Germans about as long in 1940 as the isolated Poles had done in 1939.

It is not generally known that the Germans suffered heavy losses in Poland. They lost an estimated 600 planes (one third of their frontline total) and about 500 tanks (out of a frontline total of some 2,400), not counting planes and tanks too damaged for repair. They also used up all their available bomb stocks. Thus, it was not only bad weather but also German losses in Poland which prevented Hitler from launching an attack on France in October, as he had planned. (19)

The Polish losses were, of course, much greater than the German. What was important, however, was that the Poles won precious time for France and Britain, especially the latter, which was now producing some 600 fighter planes per month. But the French and British did not learn their lesson from the German campaign in Poland. They were convinced the "Blitzkrieg" could not be repeated in France. They were proved wrong in May-June 1940.


VI. The German and Soviet Occupation of Poland.

On September 28th, 1939, the Germans and Soviets signed a Treaty on Friendship and Borders. This gave the Germans more Polish territory than in the secret protocol of August 23rd, fixing the new German-Soviet frontier along the rivers Narev, Vistula, and San, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Line. A new secret protocol recognized the whole of Lithuania as part of the Soviet sphere of influence. (Later, Stalin also paid Hitler $3,000,000 in gold for western Lithuania). Another secret protocol stipulated mutual cooperation to repress all Polish "agitation." In fact, this meant cooperation between the Gestapo and the NKVD against any Polish resistance that might arise. (20)

A. German-Occupied Poland.

The Germans followed a policy of terror. As soon as they occupied a town, they took "hostages," mostly educated people, especially lawyers, teachers and doctors, etc., who were potential resistance leaders. Most of them were shot out of hand, though there was as yet no resistance movement. The German aim was to "behead" the Polish nation by depriving it of its leaders. (They shot 15,000 "hostages" in the author's home town of Gdynia, which had 150,000 inhabitants in 1939. Their remains were found at the end of the war, buried in the sand dunes).

Western Poland (i.e. the Polish Corridor, former Poznan province, and Polish Upper Silesia) was annexed to the Reich. In order to reduce the Polish majority in these lands, the Nazi authorities deported about one million Poles in the harsh winter months of 1939-40. They were given a half hour to pack a maximum of 20 kilos (about 40 lbs.) of belongings, and were sent in unheated cattle cars to central Poland. Here the Germans had already established an occupation zone called the "General Gouvernement." Many people, especially children, died on the way. Those who survived faced very difficult living conditions. In particular, food rations were very low. There were many deaths from starvation and malnutrition, especially in 1939-40. The German government tried to resettle Baltic Germans (from the Baltic States, which fell into the Soviet sphere of influence) in former western Poland, but they could not replace all the deported Poles. At the same time, very few Germans from Germany proper could be persuaded to settle there.

In the General Gouvernement, the German authorities soon forbade all education for Poles, except at the elementary level, and even this was scarce. The first sign of this policy came at the beginning of the academic year in early October 1939. The faculty of the ancient Jagiellonian University in Krakow (founded 1364) were called to "meet" with the German Governor General, Hans Frank (1900-1946). They were promptly rounded up and deported to concentration camps - mainly Sachsenhausen - where some of them died. Most of them were, however, released a few months later, under pressure from Italy and neutral countries, but they were not allowed to teach.

Hitler's policy was to make the Poles a nation of slaves. He even planned, after his conquest of Russia, to deport most of them to Siberia, leaving only a few million to serve the Germans. At the same time, the Germans forced the Polish Jews -- who numbered about 3 million, or 10% of the total prewar population, but between 30% and 50% in the towns of central, southern, and eastern Poland -- to wear the "Star of David" on their clothes, as was done in Germany. Their shops and property were confiscated and they were soon forced to move into ghettos, where conditions were terrible (overcrowding, lack of food, disease).. Later, the Germans began to deport them to death camps (summer 1942).

It is true there was anti-Semitism in Poland, but it had taken the form of job discrimination and occasional harrassment, not genocide. The Germans set up death camps in occupied Poland for the simple reason that it had the largest Jewish population in Europe (3 million out of an estimated 7 million). Hence, other European Jews were transported to the camps in Poland. We should also note that the Germans proclaimed the death penalty for any Poles helping Jews. They would hardly have done this if no such help was available. That is why most Poles were passive, fearing for their families and themselves. Some made money by blackmailing hidden Jews, but others helped. Aside from individual acts of help, the Polish underground set up a special organization to help hide and feed Jews called "Zegota." This was in the fall of 1942, after the Germans began emptying the ghettos by sending Jews to the death camps. The Polish underground also decreed the death penalty for Poles who blackmailed or betrayed Jews to the Germans. Finally, the Polish government in London was the first to publicize the extermination of the Jews in Poland. They called for allied counteraction in late November 1942. Unfortunately, the allies did nothing.

As for the Poles, the German policy was to kill off the educated ones and starve the rest into submission. The German terror was great. 100 Poles had to pay with their lives for every dead German .(In France, it was 10 Frenchman for 1 German). The Germans also deported some 2 million Poles for forced labor in Germany. Nevertheless, an underground resistance movement began in late 1939 and developed into the second largest movement in German-occupied Europe. [The largest was the Partisan Movement led by the communist Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia, but it began only after the German attack on the USSR in June 1941]. (21)

B. The Soviet Occupation.

In the Soviet zone of occupation, i.e. eastern Poland, the Poles had been the ruling nationality, so most of the landowners and administrators were Polish. In all, the Poles were a sizeable minority amounting to between 33% and 40% of the population. However, they constituted the majority in the large towns, and also in the countryside in the northeastern part of the region around Vilna (P. Wilno, Lith. Vilnius, Russ. Vilna) and in the southeast around Lvov (P. Lwow, Ukr. L'viv, Russ. Lvov). There were also rural areas where Polish farmers predominated in the villages.

As in German-occupied Poland, Soviet policy was to liquidate the educated Poles. At first, Soviet authorities called on the peasants, who were predominantly Ukrainian or Belorussian, to "settle accounts" with Polish landlords and take what they wanted. This led to a short but brutal period of murder and robbery perpetrated by the worst elements.. At the same time, Soviet NKVD (security) officers shot many Polish landowners, officers, teachers, priests, judges, administrators, policemen, border guards, etc, out of hand, according to lists prepared beforehand. In some places, Ukrainian or Belorussian peasants defended their Polish landlords and saved them from execution, though not from arrest.


While many Ukrainians, Belorussians and some Jews generally welcomed the Red Army, they often did so on the prompting of Soviet agents, who travelled ahead of the army and sometimes threatened reprisals if no public welcome was arranged. In those places, where no welcoming arches awaited them, the soldiers put up the decorations themselves, so they could appear on Soviet newsreels.

The Ukrainians were soon disappointed, for the Soviet authorities tore down the blue and yellow flags of the Ukrainian national movement. The Belorussians, whose national consciousness was little developed, were either passive or welcomed the Soviets in hopes of gaining more land.

The Jews, some of whom lived in their own villages. -- but who were more numerous in small towns, where they made up betweem 30% and 80% of the population -- generally welcomed the Red Army as saviors from the Germans. Here we should note, that German troops had pushed far into eastern Poland by September 17th. Before they moved out, they often massacred the Jews. Still, after a few weeks of Soviet occupation, many Jewish refugees from what was now German-occupied Poland, tried to get back to their homes. They assumed the German soldiers had massacred Jews in the heat of battle, and that German occupation authorities would not harm them when they returned home. The Soviet autthorities refused to let them go, and later deported them into the depths of the USSR.

While most of the Jewish population of eastern Poland was politically passive, some Jews, especially young men and women with Communist sympathies, cooperated with the Soviets. They became prominent in the new local militia and helped Soviet authorities in hunting down Polish political leaders and administrators. Although these pro-communist Jews made up a very small minority of the total Jewish population, they were highly visible in oppressing the Poles. This served to reduce Polish sympathy for the Jews in German-occupied Poland in the first months of German occupation, and later fuelled overt anti-Semitism in the Polish army raised in the USSR in 1941-42, most of whose soldiers had been deported to Soviet labor camps from former eastern Poland. (On the Polish army in the USSR, see ch. 5).

The Soviet military commanders -- though more often the NKVD -- immediately appointed, or ordered the election of new local authorities: revolutionary committees, village headmen, and town councils. These were often hardened criminals or petty thieves, and often the poorest inhabitants. They were encouraged to take power because the respectable citizens and peasants, especially Poles, were labelled "bourgeois" and/or "counter-revolutionary." The new local authorities were then urged to seize the property of the former Polish upper class, and, in particular, to plunder the landlords. In general, they were urged to hunt down "enemies of the people." At the same time, "land reform" was carried out, i.e. the peasants were told to divide Polish estates among themselves. (But soon thereafter, the Soviets imposed collectivation).

In early October, the Soviet authorities began a propaganda campaign and carried out intensive preparations for "elections" to Soviets ( councils =legislatures) in former Polish Ukraine and Belorussia. Election committees were organized at all levels, while thousands of agents were sent out to propagandize people at the grass-roots level, e.g. the tenants of apartment buildings in town and families in the villages. The "elections" were held on October 22, 1939. People did not know these Soviets would then petition for inclusion of their regions in the USSR. Furthermore, as in the Soviet Union, there was only one list of candidates -- all nominated by the Soviet authorities, and some of them, for e.g. Molotov, not even resident in their electoral districts. The population was driven to the polls both by propaganda and fear; it was made clear that anyone who failed to vote would face repression. While curtained polling booths were available in some places -- mostly in towns -- NKVD officers or local communists noted the names of those who used them, thus intimidating the voters. Even so, many people used them to cross off the names of the official candidates, and/or wrote insults on their ballots. But this was to no avail, since the local election committees, controlled by the NKVD, doctored the results. Sometimes they simply threw out all the "no"ballots and substituted "yes" ballots..

The "duly elected" Soviets of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia "petitioned" the Supreme Soviet for admission into the Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belorussia. The Supreme Soviet graciously "granted" their requests in early November 1939. Ever since then, Soviet governments claimed that the people had opted for union with the USSR in a democratic plebiscite, which legalized the annexation of these regions to the USSR.

In fact, however, this was not enough for Moscow. Mass deportations began in January 1940. By June 1941, when the third mass deportation took place, some 1,250,000 people, (or about 10% of the total population), had been deported to Soviet Central Asia, the Far East, Tundra and Arctic regions.Of this number about 52% were ethnic Poles, while 48% were Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Jews. These were not only educated people, but also the better-off peasants and shopkeepers - the latter were mostly Jews. All of them were considered "class-enemies" by the Soviets.

People were rounded up at dead of night, given half an hour to pack a few belongings, taken to the bearest railway station, and herded into crowded cattle cars. They were given very little food and water on their long journey. In the summer, they suffered from the heat, while in the winter, they suffered from the cold. The result was that the old, the sick and the children died in droves. Many more died later from cold, malnutrition and disease in the labor camps. Thus, they shared the fate of millions of other Soviet citizens. Probably about 200,000 of these Poles died by the time Hitler attacked Soviet Russia in June 1941. (Note: Though originally Polish citizens, these people automatically became Soviet citizens after the union of the western Ukraine and Belorussia with the Ukrainian and Beloruissian Soviet Republics in November 1939).

Aside from these losses, it is estimated that between September 1939 and June 1941, i.e. in the space of 21 months, the Soviets killed many more people in eastern Poland than did the Germans in their part of the country. The Germans killed about 100,000 Jews and shot some 10,889 Christian Poles in public executions. It is estimated that another 10,000 Christian Poles were killed in prisons and elsewhere. Thus, the Germans killed about 130,000 Polish citizens, most of them Jews, between late September 1939 and June 22, 1941, when they attacked the Soviet Union. However, the Soviet NKVD is estimated to have killed as many as l00,000 just during the evacuation of their prisons in eastern Poland in June and July 1941. In spring 1940, they also massacred some 25,000 Polish prisoners of war (see ch. 6). Finally, as noted above, some 200,000 of the Poles deported to various parts of the USSR are estimated to have died by summer 1941. Thus, in 21 months, the Soviets probably killed about 425,000 Poles, a little over three times as many as killed in the same space of time by the Germans. (22)

The Soviets later applied the same methods of killing and deportations as well as "elections" in the Baltic states and Bessarabia (formerly northeastern Romania, now Moldova), when they annexed these areas in mid-June 1940. (As noted in ch. 3, other non-Russian peoples in the USSR were also deported from their homelands during and after the war).

In the past, Soviet and Polish historians were silent about the deportations from eastern Poland, or justified them as "security measures." However, in 1987, the Polish strongman, General Wojciech Jaruzelski publicly said the deportations were a grave and unjustified injury to the Polish people, which should be condemned. Soviet President Mikhail S.Gorbachev made a similar statement.His goal was to give some satisfaction to Polish grievances against the Soviet Union and thus make Jaruzelski more popular in Poland..

(Note: Wojciech Jaruzelski, born into a gentry family in 1923; was deported from eastern Poland with his family to the USSR, where his father died after release from Soviet camp. Wojciech barely survived with his mother and sister. He joined the second, communist-led Polish army in the USSR in summer 1943, and continued to serve in the Polish army. He was Minister of Defense, 1968-83, also Prime Minister and head of the Party for several years beginning 1981. He procliamed Martial Law and crushed "Solidarity" in December 1981. After the "round table" agreements of spring 1989, he was briefly President of Poland, resigining before the new elections of November-December 1990, see ch. 8).

While all these horrors were imposed on the Polish population of former eastern Poland, a small group of Polish communists and left-wing sympathizers was active in the former Polish city of Lwow (now L'viv), which now became the administrative center of the western part of Soviet Ukraine. Led by a prewar left-wing writer and activist, Wanda Wasilewska (1904-1964), these people were allowed to publish pro-communist Polish newspapers and organize poets and writers to write in support of Soviet rule.

These communists became more prominent after the fall of France in June 1940. It is clear that from that time on, if not earlier, they were selected by Stalin to provide a new, predominantly communist leadership for a future Soviet-dominated Poland, as a counter to the Polish government in London, which enjoyed the support of the vast majority of Poles.. Wasilewska herself was elected to the Supreme Soviet from the western Ukraine; she then joined the Ukrainian Communist Party and became a Soviet citizen. (We will return to her activities, and discuss the fate of 15,000 Polish officers and others taken prisoner in 1939, in ch. 5).


VII. The "Winter War" with Finland.

After the Finns had rejected Soviet territorial demands (see annexations below), the Soviets attacked Finland on November 30, 1939, in what is known as the Winter War. Although the Finns at first gave the Russians a drubbing, they could not withstand a mass onslaught. They were forced to give in and signed a peace treaty on March 12, 1940. Finland gave up to Soviet Russia the Karelian Isthmus, the city of Viipuri (Vyborg), ceded the naval base at Hangoe and altogether gave up territories totaling 16,173 sq. miles with a population of 450,000. (Most of the Finns from these territories were resettled in Finland).

The USSR was expelled from the League of Nations (December 14, 1939) for its attack on Finland -- but not for its earlier attack on Poland. This difference in treatment was due to the fact that the western powers hoped to draw the USSR away from Germany and over to their side.


VIII. Toward the German-Soviet War.

German-Soviet relations were good in 1939-1941. Soviet grain and oil greatly helped the German war effort. A couple of Soviet submarines even joined the Germans in sinking supply ships from Canada and the the British coast

Nevertheless, in July 1940, Hitler ordered the preparation of the attack plan codenamed Barbarossa (This was the nickname of Frederick I Hohenstaufen, Holy Roman Emperor, who had a red beard and ruled 1147-90. He was probably the greatest of the medieval Holy Roman Emperors). Hitler's decision to implement this plan was based on three factors: (a) Like Napoleon Bonaparte, he failed to conquer Great Britain. He lost the air war called: "The Battle of Britain" in the fall of 1940, and felt uneasy with Russia at his back, just as Napoleon had done. Also, he believed Russia was Britain's only potential source of support; (b) In November 1940, the Russians demanded a large sphere of influence in the eastern Balkans and in part of the Middle East; (c) he wanted to control the Soviet economic resources in order to carry on the war; and (d) an attack on Soviet Russia would allow him to carry out his plans for establishing a German "lebensraum" (living space) there, especially in the fertile Ukraine.

In spring 1941, the Polish underground movement began reporting German concentrations near the German-Soviet border in Poland, as well as the stock-piling of arms and road signs for Russia. German concentrations were also reported by the British "Enigma" decrypts of German military cipher communications. (Polish mathematicians had succeeed in breaking the early codes before the war. They constructed two models of German code typewriters, a rudimentary method of eliminating thousands of combinations (perforated drums), and handed their work to British and French agents in July 1939. The mathematicians (military) then worked in France until she fell in 1940. The British developed this work at their top secret decrypting center in Bletchley).

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned Stalin of the impending German attack, as did President Roosevelt, but the Soviet dictator refused to believe them. Indeed, he even refused to believe his own military intelligence. It is true, of course, that British military intelligence considered the possibility that Hitler was massing troops only to blackmail Stalin into giving him more Soviet aid, or force some other concessions, and it seems Stalin believed this too. He even disregarded a warning from the Soviet spy in Japan, Viktor Sorge, who gave the correct date of the impending invasion, June 22. In the last few weeks before the German attack, when Soviet intelligence pointed to its imminence, Stalin refused to believe the reports. Finally,. a German soldier, who defected to the Soviets the day before the attack and reported it would take place next morning - was shot. Stalin seems to have seen all these reports as efforts to provoke a war between Germany and the USSR

Stalin's refusal to listen to the earlier warnings meant the Red Army was totally unprepared for the attack that followed.

As it happened, Hitler was delayed a few weeks because he decided to invade Yugoslavia in early April 1941. Here an officers' coup in late March had made the young Peter (1923-1970) king, replacing his pro-German uncle, the Regent Prince Paul. The new Yugoslav government then tried to evade German demands for passage through Yugoslavia to Greece, where the Italians were being beaten by the Greeks. Infuriated by the Yugoslav attitude, Hitler launched an attack on Yugoslavia on April 6th, opening with a brutal bombing of Belgrade. Interestingly enought, the Soviets had just concluded an alliance with Yugoslavia - from they backed out immediately. The Yugoslavs were defeated, of course, as were the Greeks, even though they had the help of a small British expeditionary force. Nevertheless, Hitler's invasion of Russia was delayed by about 4 weeks. Historians disagree on whether Hitler could, in fact, have attacked the USSR earlier. Some argue that the wet spring of 1941 created difficult conditions for an invasion earlier than mid or late June.

The German attack on the USSR began on June 22, 1941 (Napoleon had attacked Russia on June 21, 1812). The Germans overran the Soviet part of Poland in about five days. In fact, far from providing the USSR with security against Germany, the partition of Poland placed the Germans in a more advantageous position to attack, because instead of being separated from the Russians by a large Poland, they now had a common frontier with them and were that much nearer to Moscow. Furthermore, while Stalin ordered some earthworks built in annexed eastern Poland, he also ordered the dismantling of fortifications on the Soviet side of the former Polish-Soviet border (as fixed by the Treaty of Riga, March 1921, see Polish-Soviet War, ch. 2). These old fortifications could have delayed the German advance.

The Germans quickly occupied the Baltic States, where they were welcomed by the people, who had suffered greatly under the Russians. The peasants of western Ukraine and Belorussia (formerly in Poland), also welcomed the Germans with open arms, hoping they would restore private farms. The Ukrainians of former eastern Poland also hoped for an independent state of their own. All were to be disappointed.

The German attack found the Soviet forces unprepared. Much of the Soviet airforce was destroyed on the ground, and the Red Army retreated. Stalin ordered it to stand fast, but this allowed the Germans to outflank and surround large bodies of Russian troops, taking over 1 million prisoners in about 3 months. Stalin decreed that all those who surrendered, as well as their families, were "traitors."

The Germans reached the suburbs of Moscow in late October and laid siege to Leningrad. This is not the place for a detailed survey of the German-Soviet War, so only the key factors which accounted for Hitler's defeat will be listed here..

1. Hitler should have concentrated on taking Moscow, as his generals advised. Instead, he strung out his troops along a 1,000 mile front, from Leningrad to the Caucasus. He wanted to get his hands on Soviet oil, so in August, assuming the fall of Moscow, he diverted his Panzer (armored) divisions to the southeast.

Of course, we do not know what would have happened if Hitler had managed to take Moscow - but we do know the Soviet government planned to retreat even beyond the Ural mountains, if it had to. There is no knowing whether Stalin would have stayed in power had this occurred, or how the Germans would have managed to hold the enormous territory they had conquered.

In any event, the German army was not equipped to fight a winter war. Hitler had assumed his troops would take Moscow before the winter set in, so they had no winter uniforms or special winter oil for their machines. Thus, with the onset of winter, they faced enormous difficulties. Many froze to death.

2. Since Stalin had signed a Nonaggression Pact with Japan in April 1941, he was able to move his Siberian divisions to the Moscow front and launch a counter-offensive in early December. (Stalin honored this nonaggression pact until August 8, 1945 -two days after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima - when he attacked Japanese forces in Manchuria).

3. The Soviets successfully evacuated many factories and workers from European Russia to the Ural mountains and beyond, where they had already developed heavy industry in the 1930s. This area was beyond the range of German bombers and produced most of the Soviet armaments for the war. The Soviet command economy allowed the concentration of all means on war production.

4. Anglo-American aid, given through Lend-Lease, was crucial for Russia in 1941-1942. In the period from the end of 1941 to the end of May 1945, it provided the equivalent of one year's Soviet prewar industrial production. The Red Army rode in U.S. trucks and jeeps; ate American canned food; wore U.S.- made shoes and belts, and flew some American planes.. Of course, Soviet industrial production was the key to victory, but Anglo-American aid was very important, particularly in the first year of the German-Soviet war. (Supplies reached Russia from England by the northern route, off the coast of Norway, to Murmansk and Archangel, with great losses in the ship convoys to German planes and submarines. Supplies also went by the southern route through Iran, occupied by British and Soviet forces).

5. German oppression of the Ukrainians and Belorussians created partisan movements in those areas, just as their treatment of the Russians did in Russia proper. The partisans, led by Soviet officers who were parachuted in, sabotaged German communications, especially the railway tracks, and harassed the Germans in many other ways.

6. Faced with German brutality, the Soviet peoples, especially the Russians, fought magnificently in what was for them the Great Patriotic War. The Orthodox Church was allowed to function more freely in return for supporting the war. However, some Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians, Tatars, and other Asiatic peoples joined the Germans and were formed into special army units. In particular, many Ukrainians supported the Germans in the hope they would be rewarded with an independent Ukraine.

Soviet losses were very great. Russian historians estimate now that about 28 million people of out of a total popularion of some 170 mln. in early 1941, were killed, or died as a result of the war. Of these, about 1 million starved and/or froze to death in Leningrad alone. This was Stalin's fault; he had not put in large stocks of food and fuel, because he refused to believe Hitler would attack Russia. Also, the food stocks available were stored in one place, which was destroyed by German bombs. Finally, Stalin did not see relief of the besieged city as a priority, so the siege lasted for almost 1,000 days.

Many soldiers were lost in 1941, because Stalin ordered them to stand and fight to the death. Most of those who surrendered to the Germans starved to death. This was because the Soviets did not recognize the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, so the Germans did not apply it to the captured Soviets. (Those who somehow managed to survive and return to Soviet Russia were treated as traitors; they were either shot, or sent to labor camps, where many died). There were also Russian units in the German army, which the anti-Stalinist General Andrei A. Vlasov was finally allowed to form into two Russian divisions. In May 1945. After helping liberate Prague, he fled to the Americans, who handed him over to the Soviets. The allies handed Stalin some 2 million prisoners of war, including those who had served in the German army as well as civilians. The western leaders agreed to Stalin's demand on this head because they wanted to keep good relations with him. At the time, they also feared that if they did not give him these people, he might not release allied prisoners of war in German concentration camps in territories overrun by the Red Army.

The turning point of the war came with the Soviet victory at Stalingrad in early February 1943. But Soviet victory was not really sealed, however, until they won the Battle of Kursk in July-August of the same year. This was the greatest tank battle of World War II, involving 1,200 German and 3,500 Soviet tanks. German and Soviet planes were also engaged. The Soviet side had the advantage of knowing the German battle plan from "Enigma" decrypts - stolen and passed on to Moscow by high-placed British spies. (A fact missed in segment 7-8 by the makers of the TV documentary series:" Russia's War," shown on PBS Aug. 4, 1997. They also failed to mention the decision of the Great Three at the Tehran Conference, Nov.28-Dec.1, 1943. They could have avoided these slips if they had consulted a specialist on this period). Even so, it was not until the early summer of 1944 that the Soviet armies finally pushed the Germans out of the lands annexed by the USSR in 1939-40. (23)



1. For the 21 conditions of the Comintern, of August 1920, see R. V. Daniels, A Documentary History of Communism and the World, rev. ed., Hanover, New Hampshire and London, 1984, vol.2, pp. 44-47, also 3rd edition, 1994, or Helmut Gruber, ed., International Communism in the Lenin Era. A Documentary History, New York, 1972, pp. 242-246.

2. Lenin, cited in Gerald Freund, Unholy Alliance. Russian-German Relations from the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk to the Treaty of Berlin, London, 1957, p. 83.

3. The best overall Eng. lang. study on Soviet-German military cooperation, see John Erickson, The Soviet High Command. A Military-Political History, 1918-1941, New York and London, 1962, chaps. VII, IX. For Russian documents on this cooperation, see: Yuri Dyakov & Tatyana Bushueva, eds., THE RED ARMY AND THE WEHRMACHT. How the Soviets Militarized Germany, 1922-33, and Paved the Way for Fascism, Amhest, N.Y., 1995.

4. For a detailed study of Soviet foreign policy and views at this time, see Timothy Edward O'Connor, Diplomacy and Revolution. G. V. Chicherin and Soviet Foreign Affairs, 1918-1930, Ames, Iowa, 1988, chaps. 4, 5; fora good overview, see Adam B. Ulam, Expansion and Coexistence. The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-67, New York, 1968, rev. ed. 1974, chaps. III-VI.

5. On the Zinoviev letter see Lewis Chester, Stephen Fay, and Hugo Young, The Zinoviev Letter, London, 1967, and Sybil Crowe, "The Zinoviev Letter: A Reappraisal," Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 10, no. 3, London, 1975, pp. 407-432.

6. On Stalin's instructions to German communists in 1930-1933, and comments, see Robert C. Tucker, Stalin in Power. The Revolution From Above, 1928-1941, New York, 1900, pp. 228-232; for more detail, see Ruth Fischer, Stalin and German Communism. A Study in the Origins of the State Party, Cambridge, Mass., 1948; reprinted in New Brunswick, New Jersey and London, 1985.

7. On Litvinov's proposal, see telegram from German Ambasssador Friedrich von der Schulenburg, May 8, 1935, in Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945, ser. C, vol. IV, no.78, p. 138.

8. On the Kandelaki proposals and Hitler's reaction, see Ibid., ser. C., vol. VI, nos. 183, 195, pp. 379-380 and 403-404.

9. On Lord Halifax's proposals to Hitler, see Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939, 2nd ser., vol. XIX, London, 1982, no. 336, pp. 544-548, esp. p.545.

10. On Soviet policy toward Czechoslovakia in 1938, see Jiri Hochman, The Soviet Union and the Failure of Collective Security, 1934-1938, Ithaca, New York, 1984, ch. 7. (Aleksandrovskii was arrested sometime after his return from Czechoslovakia and was apparently executed in 1949). For a more detailed study based on thorough research in Czechoslovak archives (only partly available to Hochman), see: Igor Lukes, CZECHOSLOVAKIA BETWEEN STALIN AND HITLER. The Diplomacy of Edvard Benes in the 1930s, Oxford, 1996. For a detailed study of Soviet policy, based on Czech, German, American, British, and Romanian archives, written to show that Soviet willingness to defend Czechoslovakia is a myth, see the German lang. work of: Ivan Pfaff, Die Sowjetunion und die Verteidigung der Tschechoslowakei 1934-1938. Versuch der Revision einer Legende (The Soviet Union and the Defense of Czechoslovakia, 1934-1938. Attempt to Revise a Myth), Cologne, Weimar, Vienna, 1996.

11. The Romanian proposal is printed in Hochman, Ibid., appendix C (text in French). This document was found by another scholar in the Romanian archives, who gave it Hochman, asking that his name not be mentioned for fear he would not be allowed to do research again in the Romanian archives. The document was considered unreliable by some historians because its origin was not clear, and the French text contained errors thought unlikely to have been committed by its author, Romanian Foreign Minister Petrescu Comnene. Now we know that the unnamed cholar was Ivan Pfaff, who cites the document again in his German lang. work cited in note 10 above, and the documents seems to be genuine..

11. On Soviet mobilization in western USSR, Sept. 1938, see Hugh Ragsdale, "Soviet Military Preparations in the Munich Crisis," unpublished article in this author's possession.

12. For a short survey and interpretation of Polish policy during the Czechoslovak crisis, see Anna M. Cienciala, "The View from Warsaw," in Maya Latynski, ed., Reappraising the Munich Pact. Continental Perspectives, Baltimore, Maryland and London, 1992, pp. 79-101.

13. French opinion on Munich is cited by Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, La Decadence. 1932-1939, Paris, 1979, pp. 355 ff; on the split in British opinion, see Neville Thompson, The Anti-Appeasers. Conservative Opposition to Appeasement in the 1930's, Oxford, 1971.

14. For an analysis of British and French policy toward Poland in 1939, see Anna M. Cienciala, "Poland in British and French Policy in 1939: Determination to Fight, or to Avoid War?," Polish Review, v. XXIV, no. 3, New York,1989, pp. 199-226; reprinted with abbreviations in: Patrick Finney, ed., The Origins of the Second World War, Arnold Readers in History Series, London, New York, 1997, pp. 413-433.

14.a. For an excellent, brief, summary of various interpretations of Soviet foreign policy, especially in 1939, see: Patrick Finney, ed., The Origins of the Second World War,, p.12. See also readings on Soviet foreign policy in this volume by British historian John Erickson and U.S. historian Teddy J. Uldricks.

15. On the Litvinov and Kandelaki proposals, see note 7 above.

16. On German-Soviet talks, summer 1939 and negotiations leading to the nonaggression pact, see Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany. Starting World War II, 1937-1939, Chicago, 1980, ch. 14; on Soviet policy, and Soviet-British negotiations, see Sidney Aster, 1939. The Making of the Second World War, New York, 1973, chaps. 6, 10-11; on British proposals to Germany, see Ibid., pp. 247-268 and ff.

16.a. The text of Stalin's alleged speech to the Polibureau on August 19, 1939, was published in the German newspaper, Die Welt, July 16,1996; cited with excerpts in the Polish-American daily, Nowy Dziennik, New York, July 17, 1996, p. 20. For a study showing the alleged document's origins, see: Eberhard Jackel "Uber eine angeblische Rede Stalins vom 19. August 1939" (On an Alleged Speech of Stalin's of Aug.19, 1939), Vierteljarhshefte fur Zeitgeschichte, 1958, no. 4, pp. 380-389. Clearly, the Russian historian who found this "document" and thought it genuine, did not know Jackel's article, published 38 years earlier.

16.b. On secret Soviet advice to Czechsolovak Communist Party in summer 1938, found in party and police archives, Prague, see: Ivan Lukes, CZECHOSLOVAKIA BETWEEN STALIN AND HITLER, pp.198-199.

17. For the text of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Treaty and Secret Protocol of August 23, 1939, see Documents on German Foreign Policy, ser. D, vol. VII, nos. 228, 229; reprinted in Documents on Polish-Soviet Relations, vol. I, London, 1961, nos. 31-32. On the leaks from the German to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in August 1939, see Charles E. Bohlen, Witness to History, 1929-1969, New York, 1973, chapter five, and Hans Herwarth von Bittenfeld, Against Two Evils, New York, 1981, ch. 11. The U.S. Ambassador in Moscow, Laurence Steinhardt, cabled the State Department on August 24th that he had learned "in strict confidence" that Estonia, Latvia, eastern Poland and Bessarabia were recognized by Germany as spheres of Soviet interest. See Foreign Relations of the United States, 1939, v. I, Washington, D.C., 1956, tel. no. 761.6211/93, pp. 342-43. It seems the ambassador did not know that part of Lithuania had also been assigned to the USSR. The text of the Secret Protocol, well known in the West since 1948, was first published in the USSR in an Estonian paper in mid-August 1988, and broadcast over Estonian radio on August 12th that year. For the Soviet Foreign Ministry bulletin reporting that the protocol was genuine, see New York Times, February 28, 1990. The Russian text was published in Dokumenty vneshnei politiki. 1939 god (Documents on Foreign Policy. The Year 1939), vol. XXII, part I, Moscow, 1992, doc. no. 485; for details on the special commission's work and the Supreme Soviet's condemnation of the pact, see: Ibid., pt. II, note 176, pp. 590-91.

18. Among key points in the German "proposal" was the return of Danzig to Germany with Polish rights secured therein and a plebiscite in the Polish Corridor in which only persons resident there there in 1918 could vote . (Hitler assumed there was a German majority in the rea in 1918, but in fact, it was a minority), with free Polish access to Gdynia if the Germans won the plebiscite. There was also to be an exchange of minorities, presumably meaning the resettlement of Poles living in German territory to Poland, and perhaps some Germans living in Poland to Germany, though the latter seems dubious since the German government did all it could to keep Germans in Poland and use them as an instrument of German policy, especially to claim territory . For the German 16 points of August 31, 1939, see Documents on German Foreign Policy, ser. D, vol. VII, no. 458; for Ambassador Lipski's account of August 1939 in Berlin, including the pressure exerted on his by British ambassador Nevile Henderson, also documents, see Waclaw Jedrzejewicz, ed., Diplomat in Berlin. Papers and Memoirs of Jozef Lipski, Ambassador of Poland, New York, 1968, pp. 574-614.

19. The first English-language military study of the Polish-German war in September 1939 was R. Kennedy's The German Campaign in Poland, Washington, D.C., U.S. Army Pamphlet 20-255, 1955; it has now been superceded by Steven Zaloga and Victor Madej, The Polish Campaign 1939, New York, 1985; however, the book has no footnotes and is misleading on Polish foreign policy. For a broader study encompassing the policy of the Western Powers, see Nicholas Bethell, The War Hitler Won. The Fall of Poland, September 1939, New York and London, 1972. For the personal account of a Polish general who fought in the September campaign and later in the West, see General K. S. Rudnicki, DSO, The Last of the War Horses, London, 1974 (chaps. 1-5 deal with the war in in Poland in September 1939).

20. For the German-Soviet Treaty and Secret Protocols of September 28, 1939, see Documents on German Foreign Policy, ser. D, vol. VIII, nos. 159-160, 193; reprinted in Documents on Polish-Soviet Relations, vol. I, London, 1961, nos. 52-55, 59; for the Russian text see Dokumenty vneshnei politiki. 1939 god, vol. XXII, part II, Moscow 1992, doc. nos. 640-649.

21. On the German occupation of Poland, see Jan T. Gross, Polish Society under German Occupation: The General Gouvernement, 1939-1944, Princeton, New Jersey, 1979; Gross emphasizes Polish anti-Semitism under the German occupation; for a more balanced view, see Richard C. Lukas, The Forgotten Holocaust. The Poles under German Occupation, 1939-1944, Lexington, Kentucky, 1986.

22. On the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland, see Jan T. Gross, Revolution from Abroad. The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia, Princeton, New Jersey, 1988; for the figures on people killed by the Germans and the Soviets, see pp. 228-229; see also Keith Sword, The Soviet Takeover of the Polish Eastern Provinces, 1939-1941, London, Macmillan, London School of Slavonic Studies, 1991. On Jewish collaboration

with the Soviets, see: Dov Levin, The Lesser of Two Evils. Eastern European Jewry under Soviet Rule, 1939-1941, Philadelphia Jerusalem 5755 / 1995. ch. 2, pp. 31-35. For more detail on Polish Jews under Soviet rule, see Norman Davies and Antony Polonsky eds., Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939-46, New York, 1991. On the deportations of Polish citizens from eastern Poland in 1940-41, see Keith Sword, Deportation and Exile. Poles in the Soviet Union, 1939-48, London, 1994.

23. For a survey of the German-Soviet War, see Albert Seaton, The Russo-German War, 1941-1945, New York, 1971 (for other books, see section 5 of the bibliography). The best Eng. lang. study so far, up to early 1943, is John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad,: Stalin's War with Germany, Boulder, Co., 1975; 2nd ed. Westview Press, 1984.

Select Bibliography.

1. Surveys of Soviet Foreign June 1941

M. K. Dziewanowski, A History of Soviet Russia, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 3rd ed., 1990 , (chaps. 16-17); or, same, A History of Soviet Russia and Its Aftermath, 5th edition, Upper Saddle River, N.J., 1997, ch.16, 17.

A. A. Gromyko, & B. N. Ponomarev, History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-1945, Moscow, 1969; 2nd ed., 2 vols, 1981 (reflects the contemporary party line).

Barbara Jelavich, St.Petersburg and Moscow. Tsarist and Soviet Foreign Policy, 1814-1974, Bloomington, Indiana, 1974. (Shows continuity).

Adam B. Ulam, Expansion and Coexistence. The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-67, New York, 1968 (chaps. III through VI); 2nd ed., 1974 (v. good survey, but new documents have come to light since 1989 and especially since 1991).

Documents in English:

Alvin Z. Rubinstein, The Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union, New York, 1960; 1966; 3rd ed., 1972 (selected documents)

2. The Comintern.

Franz Borkenau, World Communism: A History of the Communist International, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1962.

Helmut Gruber, ed., International Communism in the Era of Lenin. A Documentary History, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1967; New York, Anchor Books, 1972.

Same, ed., Soviet Russia Masters the Comintern. International Communism in the Era of Stalin's Ascendancy, New York, Anchor Books, 1974.

Kermit E. McKenzie, The Comintern and the World Revolution, 1928-1943 . . ., New York, 1964.

A. I. Sobolev et al., Outline History of the Communist International, Moscow, 1971 (contemporary party line).

3. Studies.

(a) Soviet Foreign Policy.

Jonathan Haslam, Soviet Foreign Policy, 1930-33. The Impact of the Depression, New York, 1983 (sympathetic to the Soviet Union).

Same, The Soviet Union and the Struggle for Collective Security in Europe, 1933-39, New York, 1984 (sympathetic to the Soviet Union).

Jiri Hochman, The Soviet Union and the Failure of Collective Security, 1934-1938, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1984 (the author is very critical of Soviet policy; the book is particularly valuable for its use of Czechoslovak archival sources, especially for 1938, and for the text of the Romanian offer of territorial passage by Soviet troops). See also: Igor Lukes, CZECHOSLOVAKIA BETWEEN

STALIN AND HITLER, Oxford, 1996, and Ivan Pfaff, Die Sowjetunion und die Verteidigung der Tshechoslowakei, 1934-1938, Cologne, 1996.

Timothy Edward O'Connor, Diplomacy and Revolution. G. V. Chicherin and Soviet Foreign Affairs, 1918-1930, Ames, Iowa, 1988 (book had critical reviews)..

Charles Raack, Stalin's Drive to the West, 1938-1945. The Origins of the Cold War,Stanford, CA, 1995 (the author argues the case that Stalin's policy was not defensive, but offensive, aiming to build a Soviet Empire).

Vilnis Sipols, Diplomatic Battles Before World War II, Moscow, 1982 (party line).

Diplomatic Documents.

Soviet Peace Efforts on the Eve of World War II. (Selected Soviet documents for the period September 1938-August 1939, purporting to show that the USSR was completely devoted to peace), Moscow, 1973, 2nd printing, 1976.

Dokumenty vneshnei politiki. God 1939, vol. xxii, parts I, II, Moscow, 1992.

Dokumenty vneshnei politiki 1940-22 iuniia 1941 vol. I., Moscow, 1995.,

God Krizisa, 1938-1939.Dokumenty i Materiialy, 2 vols., Moscow, 1990 (goes up to Sept. 2, 1939).

Documents on British Foreign Policy, 1919-1939 ,, 2nd and 3rd series, London, 1949 ff.

Documents Diplomatiques Francais, 1932-1939, lst and 2nd series, Paris, 1964 ff.

Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945, series C and D, Washington, D. C. and London, 1949 ff.

Documents on Polish-Soviet Relations, 1939-1945, 2 vols., London, 1961, 1967.

I Documenti Diplomatici Italiani, 8th series, Rome, 1950 ff.

(b) Soviet-German Relations.

Harvey L. Dyck, Weimar Germany & Soviet Russia. 1926-1933, A Study in Diplomatic Instability, New York, 1966.

Ruth Fischer, Stalin and German Communism. A Study in the Origins of the State Party, Cambridge, Mass., 1948; new edition, Transaction Books, 1985 (by a former German communist).

Ingeborg Fleischhauer, "Soviet Foreign Policy and the Origins of the Hitler-Stalin Pact," in Berndt Wegner book (see this section, below - the author believes the pact resulted from pressure on Hitler and Stalin by supporters of a return to Rapallo policy).

Gerald Freund, Unholy Alliance: Russo-German Relations from the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk to the Treaty of Berlin, New York, 1957.

R. H. Haigh, D. S. Morris, A. R. Peters, German-Soviet Relations in the Weimar Era. Friendship from Necessity, Totowa, New Jersey, 1985 (a brief survey).

R. H. Haigh, D. S. Morris, A. R. Peters, The Years of Triumph. German Diplomatic and Military Policy, 1933-1941, Totowa, New Jersey, 1986 (chaps. 4-7; see comment above).

Gustav Hilger and Alfred G. Mayer,The Incompatible Allies: A Memoir History of German-Soviet Relations, 1918-1941, New York, 1953 (a valuable study written by two contemporary German diplomats).

Lionel Kochan, Russia and the Weimar Republic, Cambridge, England, 1978 (survey)..

Geoffrey Roberts, The Soviet Union and the Origins of the Second World War. Russo-German Relations and the Road to War, 1933-1941, New York, 1995 (British historian who believes Stalin genuinely tried to reach collective security with W. Powers, and when this proved impacticable, turned to Hitler).

Berndt Wegner, ed., From Peace to War. Germany, Soviet Russia and the World, 1939-1941, Oxford, Providence R.H.. 1997 (collection of essays by German and Russian historians, on Geramn-Soviet relations 1939-41, then war, and the two states in international politics).

Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany. Starting World War II, 1937-1939, Chicago, 1980 Ttreats German-Soviet relations within the context of the whole international scene; best book on German foreign policy in this period).

Same, Germany and the Soviet Union, 1939-41, New York, 1972 (best study to date).


Yuri Dyakov & Tatyana Bushueva, eds., THE RED ARMY AND THE WEHRMACHT. How the Soviets Militarized Germany, 1922-1933 and Paved the Way for Fascism, Amherst, N.Y., 1995 (Russian documents in English translation).

(c) Franco-Soviet Relations.

William Evans Scott, Alliance Against Hitler. The Origins of the Franco-Soviet Pact, Durham, North Carolina, 1962 (good study, but written before French diplomatic documents for this period were accessible. Russian documents for the period are supposed to be accessible in 1997-98).

(d) Soviet-British Relations.

Sidney Aster, 1939. The Making of the Second World War, New York, 1973 (chaps. 6, 10-11; good, easy to read, based mainly on British archival documents).

Lewis Chester, Stephen Fay and Hugh Young, The Zinoviev Letter, London, 1967.

Sybil Crowe, "The Zinoviev Letter: A Reappraisal," Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 19, no. 3, London, 1975, pp. 487-32.

Stephen White, Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution. A Study in the Politics of Diplomacy, 1920-1924, London, 1979.

(See also Haslam, section 3 a).

(e) Soviet-U.S. Relations.

Donald G. Bishop, The Roosevelt-Litvinov Agreement. The American View, Syracuse, New York, 1965.

Charles E. Bohlen, Witness to History, 1929-1969, New York, 1973 (Part I deals with Bohlen's service in Moscow, 1934-1940).

Robert Paul Browder, The Origins of Soviet-American Diplomacy, Princeton, New Jersey, 1953.

John L. Gaddis, Russia, the Soviet Union and the United States: An Interpretive History, New York, 1978 (an excellent survey with bibliography up to about 1976).

Loy W. Henderson, A Question of Trust. The Origins of U.S.-Soviet Diplomatic Relations, edited with an introduction by George W. Baer, Stanford, California, Hoover Institution, 1986 (parts VIII, IX, deal with the establishment of U.S.-Soviet relations and Henderson's service in the U.S. Embassy, Moscow, 1934-39).

George F. Kennan, Memoirs (1925-1950), Little, Brown, 1967 (chaps. 2-3 deal with Kennan's service in Moscow,1934-38).

4. Appeasement and the Coming of World War II. The International Scene.

Sidney Aster, 1939. The Making of the Second World War, New York, 1973.

P. M. H. Bell, The Origins of the Second World in Europe, New York and London, 1986, 2d ed., 1997.. (This is an excellent survey by a British historian, emphasizing British policy)

Michael Dockrill and Brian McKercher, eds., Diplomacy and World Power, Cambridge, England, 1996.

Patrick Finney, ed., The Origins of the Second World War, London, New York, 1997 (This is a collection of readings, with commentaries, on British, French, German, Soviet and U.S. foreign policy, on the Spanish Civil War, on Munich, Polish policy, and the meaning of the Frenchd defeat in 1940. The introduction is a valuable assessment of various interpretations of appeasement and policies of major powers, while the commentaries are to each sections are excellent guides to the readings. It is a pity that nothing was included on Czechoslovak policy, or the policies of other East European states except Poland).

Wolfgang J. Mommsen and Lothar Kettenacker, eds., The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement, London, 1983 (articles by specialists on the policy of the European powers, U.S. and USSR).

R.A.C. Parker, Chamberlain and Appeasemtn. British Policy and the Coming of the Second World War, London, 1993.

A. L. Rowse, All Souls and Appeasement, London and New York, 1961; U.S. edition, Appeasement: A Study in Political Decline, 1933-39, New York, 1963 ( memoir by a British historian bitterly opposed to appeasement, offering some insights into the thinking of the British elite of the time).

Donald Cameron Watt, How War Came. The Immediate Origins of the Second World War, 1938-1939, New York, 1989 (exhaustive and exhausting study by the pre-eminent British diplomatic historian; sometimes intemperate in judgment; poor on East European states and their policies).

Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany. Starting World War II, 1937-1939, Chicago and London, 1980, (a magisterial work by the leading U.S. historian of this subject; chapters 13-14 cover German-Soviet negotiations).

Same, Germany and the Soviet Union, 1939-1941, Leiden, 1972.

Robert Young, France and the Origins of the Second World War, London, 1997.

5. The German-Soviet War.

Wladyslaw Anders, Hitler's Defeat in Russia, Chicago, Illinois, 1953 (good, brief, study by a Polish general interned in USSR 1939-41, later Commander of Polish Army there, 1941-42, then Commander of the Polish 2nd Corps in the British 8th Army, Italy).

Seweryn Bialer, ed., Stalin and His Generals. Soviet Military Memoirs of World War II, New York, 1969.(Good study by a former Polish communist, based on materials available up to that time).

John Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, London, Boulder, Co., 1975; 2d ed. Westview Press, 1984. (By the leading British historian of the Red Army in World War II).

Same, The Road to Berlin, Boulder, Colorado, 1983.

Albert Seaton, Stalin As Military Commander, New York, 1976. ( By a British military historian).

Same, The Russo-German War, 1941-1945, New York, 1971.

Berndt Wegner, ed., From Peace to War, Oxford, Providence, R.H., 1997, (section IV on military history, see esp.Dmitri Volkogonov, "Stalin as Supreme Commander," pp. 463-180, by a Russian military historian who had first access to party and military archives; v. critical of Stalin).

6. The Baltic States and Finland.

John Hiden and Thomas Lane, eds., The Baltic and the Outbreak of the Second World War, Cambridge, England, 1992.

H. Peter Krosby, Finland, Germany, and the Soviet Union, 1940-1941. The Petsamo Dispute, Madison, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and London, 1968.

Manfred Menger, "Germany and the Finnish 'Separate War against the Soviet Union," in: Berndt Wenger, ed., From Peace to War, Oxford, Providence, R.I., 1997

Seppo Myllyniemi, "Consequences of the Hitler-Stalin Pact for the Baltic Republics and Finland," in: Berndt Wegner, ed., From Peace to War,, pp. 79-94.

Hugh I. Rodgers, Search for Security. A Study in Baltic Diplomacy, 1920-1934, Archon Books, 1975.

Albert N. Tarulis, Soviet Policy toward the Baltic States, 1918-1940, Notre Dame, 1940.

Anthony F. Upton, Finland 1939-1940. The Politics and Strategy of the Second World War, Newark, Delaware, 1974.

V. Stanley Vardys and Romuald J. Misiunas, eds., The Baltic States in Peace and War, 1917-1945, University Park, Pennsylvania and London, 1978.

7. Poland.

Anna M. Cienciala, "The View from Warsaw," in Maya Latynska, ed., Reappraising the Munich Pact. Continental Perspectives, Baltimore, Maryland and London, 1992, pp. 79-101.

Same,"Poland in British and French Policy in 1939: Determination to Fight or Avoid War?," Polish Review, v. XXIV, no. 3, 1989, pp. 199-226.

Norman Davies and Antony Polonsky, eds., Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939-46, New York, 1991.

Jan T. Gross, Revolution from Abroad. The Soviet Occupation of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia, Princeton, New Jersey, 1988.

same, "Sovietization of Poland's Eastern Territories," in: Berndt Wegner, ed., From Peace to War, Oxford, Providence, R.I., 1997, pp. 63-78.

Waclaw Jedrzejewicz, ed., Diplomat in Berlin, 1933-1939. Papers and Memoirs of Jozef Lipski, Ambassador of Poland, New York, London, 1968.

Waclaw Jedrzejewicz, ed., Diplomat in Paris, 1936-1939. Papers and Memoirs of Juliusz Lukasiewicz, Ambassador of Poland, New York, London, 1970.

Anita Prazmowska, Britain, Poland and the Eastern Front, 1939, Cambridge, London and New York, 1987 (very good on British policy, but poor on Polish policy).

Keith Sword, ed., The Soviet Takeover of the Polish Eastern Provinces, 1939-41, New York, 1991 (also covers non-Poles).

Same, Deportation and Exile. Poles in the Soviet Union, 1939-48, London, 1994 (first bok length study on subject. Very good).

Tomasz Szarota, "Poland under German Occupation, 1939-1941: A Comparative Survey," in: Berndt Wegner, ed., From Peace to War, Oxford, Providence, R.I., 1997, pp. 47-62.

Piotr S. Wandycz, The Twilight of French Eastern Alliances 1926-36. French-Czechoslovak-Polish Relations from Locarno to the Remilitarization of the Rhineland, Princeton, New Jersey, 1988 (excellent and so far unique study of the subject by the leading historian of Poland in the United States, based on French, Czech and Polish sources . This is a sequel to his earlier book France and Her Eastern Allies 1919-1925. French-Czechoslovak-Polish Relations from the Paris Peace Conference to Locarno, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1962).

Steven Zaloga and Victor Madej, The Polish Campaign 1939, New York, 1985 (good on military side, poor on foreign policy; no footnotes).