The Russo-German Alliance: August 1939 – June 1941, by A. Rossi (Angelo Tasca) 1949

Chapter VI: German – Soviet Collaboration during the ‘Phoney War’

According to various popular accounts, Hitler and Stalin signed the pacts of August and September 1939 with every intention of repudiating them as soon as an opportunity arose, and then of flying at each other’s throats.

There is no documentary evidence for this assumption. Hitler and Stalin were under no illusions about each other, and there was nothing sentimental in their estimate of each other’s character. Both were well aware that the pact between them was founded on self-interest, and that self-interest could destroy it. If the volte-face of August had gone a little to their heads it was because they were still adding up the very considerable profits which it had brought them. There was, too, a certain amount of Schadenfreude on both sides at the thought of the consternation which the news would cause among statesmen and ordinary people in London, Paris and all over the world, since such a turn of events was the last thing anybody believed possible.

This ‘realism’ was, of course, at once the strength and the weakness of their new-found friendship. At a conference with his army chiefs on 23 November 1939, Hitler quoted Bismarck as his authority for the statement that ‘pacts last only as long as they are useful in fulfilling their purpose’, and added that Russia for her part would observe them only ‘so long as she considers them to be to her advantage’. [1]

Nevertheless, Hitler and Stalin were convinced that the vital interests of the two governments could overlap for a considerable time. Hitler had to ‘digest’ Poland, overthrow France and vanquish Britain, after which he would be in control of the whole of Europe behind a ‘wall’ running from the Baltic frontiers ‘to the Danube estuary’. Victory would also secure for him those colonial resources outside Europe which he later mentioned to Serrano Suñer during the latter’s visit to Berlin in September 1940. [2] This programme was quite enough to put the Russian problem into cold storage for a long time to come, even if some day he thought of expanding it. All the evidence of Hitler’s intimates agrees in attributing to him the idea, which he had very much at heart during the first few months of the pact, that the Russian agreement ‘was a very great act of diplomacy’ and that it was capable of lasting a long time. [3] Goering clearly remembered that in August 1939, Hitler told him: ‘I am determined to work with Russia for a long time.’ [4] Hitler himself told Mussolini when they met on the Brenner that his decision to collaborate with Russia was the result of prolonged deliberation and would not be changed: ‘... the Führer has decided to maintain friendly relations with that country in future.’ [5]

Hitler’s Opinion of Stalin: In one of the versions which have reached us of Hitler’s speech to the military chiefs on 22 August 1939, just before Ribbentrop left for Moscow, Hitler gave what was intended to be a very flattering opinion of Stalin by considering him as his equal. ‘Stalin and I are the only people who have considered the future'; in other words, the only people capable of building a structure that would last.

Hitler thought of history as a drama in which the parts were played by distinguished people. He could see only ‘three great statesmen’, himself, Stalin and Mussolini. [6] He was wrong about Mussolini because his judgement was warped by friendship. But there was no such bias where Stalin was concerned, and Hitler was convinced that the pacts would be observed as long as Stalin was alive. He expressed this opinion to Admiral Raeder at the conference on 25 November 1939:

As long as Stalin is in power, it is certain that she [Russia] will adhere strictly to the pact made. Her political attitude may change after years of building up her internal strength, particularly if Stalin is overthrown or dies. [7]

Hitler ‘was a great admirer of Stalin and was only afraid that he might be replaced by some extremist’. This also to a great extent explains why, after the armistice with France, the bookshops were painstakingly stripped by the ‘Otto list’ of all Trotsky’s works while Stalin’s were left alone, [8] and why the German censorship prohibited any ‘discussion of Stalin’ [9] until June 1941. Again, on the last day of 1940, when military preparations against Russia were well under way, he wrote to Mussolini: ‘I do not anticipate that the Russians will take the initiative as long as Stalin is alive and as long as we ourselves do not have any serious crises.’ [10]

But Hitler was not quite so much under the spell of the Russian pact as were Goering and, particularly, Ribbentrop, both of whom claimed the honour of being the first to suggest the idea of a rapprochement to Hitler.

When Ciano went to Berlin on 1 October, a few days after the signing of the second Moscow pact, he found Ribbentrop to be ‘all out for the Russians’ and wild in his praise of the Bolsheviks. [11]

This attitude was also based on an error – the same as was made by Russia’s Western allies after June 1941. On his return from Moscow, Ribbentrop told Hitler that ‘the Communist revolution had reached a reasonable stage of development’ and that an understanding with the Bolsheviks was therefore possible. On 1 October he assured Ciano that Stalin had become the real champion of Russian nationalism, [12] and shortly afterwards, in March 1940, ‘that Stalin had given up the idea of a world revolution’ and that ‘Russia was not only on the way to becoming a normal national state but had already gone some distance along this path’. [13] Hitler expressed similar views a few days later, although he spoke rather less positively. During their meeting at the Brenner he said to Mussolini:

It seems that Russia too is undergoing a far-reaching evolution, and the path which Stalin has taken appears to lead towards a kind of Slav-Muscovite nationalism and to be a move away from Bolshevism of a Jewish-International character. [14]

Again in March, on the 21st, one of Ribbentrop’s envoys explained to M Gafencu, then Rumanian Foreign Minister, what his chief in the Wilhelmstrasse thought of political developments in the USSR. Ribbentrop:

... came back from Moscow convinced that Russia was no longer a Bolshevik state but, under the clear-sighted leadership of its Führer, was making giant strides to a nationalist regime fundamentally socialist. Was not the exceptionally keen interest shown by the Soviet leaders in the ancient frontiers of Holy Russia an additional proof of their nationalistic evolution? Such a regime, whose understanding of the political trend of the Axis steadily increased, and whose regard for the Jews steadily diminished had, according to Ribbentrop, all the qualifications necessary to collaborate in maintaining peace in Eastern Europe. [15]

This illusion was also shared by Mussolini, for in October 1939 he intended to explain to the Italian people that Bolshevism was finished in Russia and had been replaced by a sort of Slav Fascism. [16]

Stalin Continues the Policy of Rapallo: All this was an optical illusion arising out of the kind of half-truths which increase a blunder by confusing the issues. But in Hitler’s Russian policy there was another thread, leading back to the Bismarckian tradition. Hitler himself was not much affected by it, but it had retained a strong influence in military [17] and diplomatic circles, especially at the Reich Embassy in Moscow.

For his part, Stalin had good reason to believe that the agreements he had concluded would remain in force for quite a long time. He was determined not to allow Russia to be drawn into the war, and as he foresaw that it would be a long one, the agreement with Hitler would probably last as long as the war itself, or at least up to its final decisive stage. This opinion was shared by Mussolini, who at the beginning of September 1940 thought there might be war between the Axis and Russia, but only ‘between 1945 and 1950’. [18]

If Hitler could quote Bismarck as an authority, [19] Stalin too had a tradition to renew – that of Rapallo. It was one which he had never abandoned, and which he had always wished to revive. On 31 August before the Supreme Council, Molotov made a point of saying that the policy of the 1922 and 1926 agreements with Germany had broken down after 1933 in spite of the Soviet government’s desire to continue and even to expand it.

The Joint Campaign for Peace: The close collaboration between Moscow and Berlin from the beginning of April 1939 to June 1941 took place within this framework and against this background. It extended into every field: political, economic and military.

Political collaboration between Soviet Russia and Hitler’s Germany went much farther than is generally supposed. It came to a head in the campaign for ‘immediate peace’ just after the signing of the agreements of 27-28 September 1939. The two partners had then decided that, as the Polish problem had been settled ‘once and for all’, there was no longer any good reason why the war should continue, and that it should be ended ‘as quickly as possible’. If Britain and France would not consent to another Munich, they alone would be ‘responsible for the continuation of the war’. [20]

This raises a problem which, in the absence of documents, cannot be finally solved. Was Stalin ‘sincere’ when he agreed to join the crusade for peace? This is a good example of a false question, and it is mentioned here only because attempts have already been made to ask it. Since Stalin foresaw a long war, why did he support the German peace campaign?

One possible answer is that, knowing the attitude of Britain and France made peace impossible, Stalin found it much easier to back Hitler’s manoeuvre since it was doomed to fail in any case. But this explanation seems inadequate. In theory, a long war would undoubtedly have been to the advantage of the Soviet Union and its leaders as it might have left them holding the balance. [21] But Stalin never lost his sense of reality, even on the long-term view. The rapid conclusion of the Polish campaign caught him by surprise [22] and showed him the strength of the German army. And to this picture was added the torpor of Britain and France. Perhaps peace was possible in spite of all appearances to the contrary, and if it was, the USSR would be represented at the new Munich, where she too would dictate her terms.

Stalin was not content to give purely formal support to Hitler’s peace campaign. He might have confined his help to official diplomatic channels. But he actually went a good deal farther by bringing in to the campaign all the machinery and all the parties of the Communist International. The Moscow agreements of 28 September did not compel him to do this. But, without wasting a moment, he sent the Communist party of every country into action as early as the end of September, using every legal or underground means, or both at the same time, to prepare the ground for the peace proposals which Hitler eventually made in his Danzig speech of 6 October. The main incidents in the mobilisation of the Communist International were the letter sent by the French Communist deputies to President Herriot on 1 October 1939, and the speech of Gallacher, the Communist MP, in the House of Commons. As the Kremlin ordered the mobilisation, this must have been part of its policy, and Stalin must therefore have accepted the idea of an ‘immediate peace’. The Communist parties under his command went on agitating for it all through the period of the ‘phoney war’.

But that was not all. The Soviet press commented on and amplified the joint declaration of 28 September immediately after its publication. On 30 September Pravda said:

There is no justification for a war between France and Britain on the one side and Germany on the other, a war which is quite meaningless... It is up to France and Britain to end a war which was begun against the will of their peoples.

If the efforts of Russia and Germany to make peace were unsuccessful, it was clear that ‘the blame would rest on France and Britain, their governments, and their ruling classes’. Izvestia took the same line. On 1 October a further editorial in Pravda added that ‘the hostility which the imperialist war-mongers have fomented between the two greatest countries in Europe is now at an end’. [23]

The Temps of 29 November 1939 published the alleged minutes of a meeting of the Moscow Politbureau on 19 August, which the Navas agency was said to have received from Moscow via Geneva. These minutes were frequently quoted afterwards, but they were undoubtedly a forgery, as is frequently the case with documents of this type put out by professional anti-Communists. It was alleged that at the Politbureau meeting Stalin explained quite openly his plan for prolonging the war for as long as possible so that when the two groups of belligerents were exhausted he could touch off the ‘world revolution’. Stalin immediately gave an interview to Pravda, which published his statement on 30 November. It is not the document itself which is interesting so much as Stalin’s reaction. After flatly denying the Havas report as ‘an impudent and criminal lie’, Stalin countered it with the following facts:

i: It was not Germany who attacked Britain and France, but Britain and France who attacked Germany.

ii: After military operations had begun, Germany approached the British and French governments with an offer of peace. This had had the support of the Soviet Union.

iii: The British and French governments had brusquely rejected the German proposal and the USSR’s efforts for a settlement; that was the truth. [24]

This argument remained unchanged for the first six months of 1940. When the Soviet press from time to time reverted to it, it expressed itself in very violent terms. On 26 January Pravda published an article under the heading ‘Silence on the Maginot Line’, a few passages of which are worth quoting:

The war was declared by Britain and France. The peace proposals were not rejected by Germany but by Britain and France, who insist not only on continuing the war but on spreading it.

After branding the Anglo – French as ‘aggressors’ for wanting to drag the neutrals into the war, the Soviet newspaper came out with the following reprimand:

The Anglo – French imperialists wish to turn this war into a world war. They wish to plunge the whole of humanity into a sea of suffering and hardship. They have chosen a dangerous path, for it conceals consequences which will be disastrous for those who have instigated a new world slaughter.

Molotov reverted to the same theme in his speech to the Supreme Soviet on 29 March 1940, when he attacked exclusively the enemies of Hitler’s Germany:

We know [he said] that the desire of Germany for peace shown at the end of last year was thwarted by the French and British governments... Germany has clearly become a dangerous rival to Britain and France, the chief imperialist powers in Europe. It was for this reason that, under the pretext of fulfilling their obligations to Poland, these two countries declared war on Germany... The British and French governments have announced that their aim in this war was to crush and dismember Germany... They have shown increasing hostility towards the USSR, since the USSR has refused to become the accomplice of Britain and France in carrying out their anti-German policy.

This was the attitude of the USSR after the end of September 1939. If the German peace proposals had been accepted, the USSR would at least not have come away with empty hands, as she would have obtained the three Baltic countries and eastern Poland through the agreements of August and September.

Political and Ideological Aid to Germany: The Kremlin’s support of Germany was not confined to direct action but extended into the field of ideology, which it apparently regarded as peculiarly its own. From 1939 to 1940 Molotov made several speeches, the gist of which was elaborated both by the Soviet press and by all the Communist parties in their propaganda, legal and underground. These themes were: ideological differences should not stand in the way of close collaboration with Hitler’s Germany; the ideological war between democracy and fascism was ridiculous and uncivilised; Europe needed a strong Germany; Hitler’s Germany went to war in order to break the chains of Versailles; the chief responsibility for the war therefore rested on Britain and France, and they alone wished to prolong and spread it; the war which these two countries persisted in carrying on was an imperialist war, dictated solely by their desire to hold on to their colonies without having to surrender any of them to Germany. [25]

This ideological support was backed by very definite political action. From 25 October 1939, Russia openly supported the German arguments against the British blockade, particularly by her note of protest on 10 December 1939. She came out in favour of the Belgian and Dutch governments’ efforts to mediate on 7 November 1939. In his speech of 31 August 1939, Molotov himself denounced the United States’ decision to raise the embargo on war materials, and accused them of wanting ‘to lengthen the war’. On 16 September the Soviet government, which six months earlier had refused to accept the fait accompli in Czechoslovakia, officially recognised Slovakia, welcomed a plenipotentiary from that country to Moscow in December, and at the same time asked M Fierlinger, the Czechoslovak Minister, to leave Soviet territory.

According to the German documents, Russia showed ‘understanding’ [26] during the Wehrmacht’s campaign in Norway. When the German Ambassador broke the news of the operation to Molotov, he wished the Reich troops ‘complete success’. [27] The Soviet press did its best to justify the German expedition. On 11 April Izvestia gave it the official blessing of the Moscow government:

There can be no doubt that Germany has been forced to act in Denmark and Norway because of prior moves by Britain and France. [28] These two countries wished to undermine Germany’s military positions and at the same time to strengthen their own. The objection has, of course, been raised that Germany has violated the rules of international law, and has treated the pact of non-aggression with Denmark as a scrap of paper. It is absurd to begin wailing about the legality or illegality of Germany’s actions in Scandinavia when the sovereignty of the Scandinavian countries has been violated by Britain and France. War has its own logic which is stronger than any other.

The official organ of the Soviets went farther. Referring to the attitude of Britain and France to the Russo – Finnish conflict, it denounced its essentially anti-German character. Ruling circles in London and Paris had actually thought of sending an expeditionary corps to help Finland:

But if this famous ‘corps’ was under orders to land in Finland – and we are not at all sure that it was – it would no doubt have taken two or three months to do so, by which time the Finnish ‘Whites’ would have been crushed once and for all. These troops would have remained in Norway and Sweden simply to occupy a number of important strategic positions there, force these two countries into the war, and create a new front against Germany. Under the banner of the fight against Bolshevism, Britain and France wanted to get a strong foothold in Scandinavia in order to spread the war against Germany. This scheme was wrecked by the Peace of Moscow. [29] The Allies were then forced to consider obtaining control of the neutral seaboard of Norway and stopping exports from Scandinavia to Germany. [30] It was no longer a question of helping Finland. The USSR had torn off the mask and what they now wanted was to spread the war against Germany. [31]

Thus what the Soviet press was chiefly concerned to denounce was the anti-German strategy of the Anglo – French in Scandinavia. It is not surprising that about half-way through February Moscow and Berlin agreed not to allow Sweden to be driven into the anti-German camp. There was an exchange of views on this subject in Moscow between representatives of the two governments, followed by a declaration that they both ‘had the same interest in maintaining Swedish neutrality’. [32]

Moscow and Ankara: One of the most important aims of Soviet diplomacy during this period was to prevent the conclusion of an agreement between Turkey and the Western democracies. It was of course true that, besides doing a good turn to Germany, the rulers of the Kremlin were principally working for a solution of the Dardanelles problem which would fit in with their own plans.

The Turkish Foreign Minister had arrived in the Soviet capital to conclude a pact of mutual assistance with Russia on 25 September 1939. Negotiations were suspended during Ribbentrop’s visit to Moscow but were resumed as soon as he left. They lasted until just before M Saracoğlu left Russia on 18 October.

Agreement was impossible because Stalin and Molotov made their main condition for signing the pact ‘the definite exclusion of all possibility of a conflict with Germany’. [33]

The pact was not to operate if Germany attacked Turkey. So on 19 October Turkey concluded a pact of mutual assistance with Britain and France. Although she had taken the precaution of inserting a supplementary protocol making it clear that under no circumstances would her commitments allow her to be drawn into an armed conflict with Russia, the Soviet rulers launched a violent campaign against the Ankara government. It was accused of becoming the lackey of Britain and France; of being a party to the manoeuvres of those who wanted to continue and spread the war; of abandoning its neutrality, for which it would probably repent. [34] The Turkish leaders resisted the Soviet government’s threats, which undoubtedly played an important part in determining their attitude during the war. [35]

When hostilities began on 2 September Molotov, ‘after consultation with Stalin’, informed von Schulenburg that the Soviet government ‘was prepared to work for the permanent neutrality of Turkey as desired by Germany’. [36] Germany had therefore nothing to fear from this quarter. On 24 October von Ritter was able to assure Berlin that the Russian government would fulfil its obligations and would not allow either the passage of French or British ships through the Dardanelles or an anti-German attitude on the part of Turkey. [37] In its issue of 25 April 1940, Pravda denounced the ‘intrigues of the British and French imperialists’ in Turkey, which aimed at turning the country into ‘a military and economic base against Germany’. [38]

In exchange for all this assistance Germany eventually supported the USSR’s action against Finland, to whom she had given military aid in 1918. At the first signs of a dispute between Moscow and Helsinki, the Wilhelmstrasse immediately informed its representative in Helsinki that Germany ‘was hardly in a position, in any case, to intervene in the Russian – Finnish conversations’. [39] This was because the German government was in future bound by the secret pact of 23 August, in which Finland had been assigned to the Soviet sphere of interest. But as the Wilhelmstrasse could not disclose this, it explained to its representatives abroad, in a memorandum dated 2 December, the arguments they should use to justify Germany’s attitude in the conflict. First, there were the various security questions raised by the Russians with regard to Leningrad and the Baltic. Next, Finland had taken it as ‘axiomatic’ that Germany would be opposed to Russia, she had refused to sign a non-aggression pact with Germany, and she felt drawn towards Britain. [40] These three crimes were enough to condemn her. A few days later additional instructions insisted that ‘in conversation, sympathy is to be expressed for the Russian point of view’. [41] As there was some pro-Finnish agitation in the Scandinavian countries, they were warned by Berlin ‘not to listen to the blandishments of League of Nations evangelists and British extremists’. [42] Thus any hopes the Finnish government might at first have had of German help vanished. On 8 December the Finnish Minister in Rome had confided to Ciano that Germany ‘had supplied arms to Finland from the booty captured during the Polish campaign’, [43] but on 12 December Hitler yielded to the Naval General Staff’s request for a ‘clear-cut policy’ towards Finland and for the suspension of arms deliveries there. [44] The shipment of arms to Sweden was to be stopped unless the Swedish government gave a written guarantee that they would not be transferred to Finland. [45] A few aircraft ordered from Italy before the war and on their way to Helsinki were seized in Germany. [46]

At his second meeting with Molotov in Berlin (13 November 1940), Hitler pointed out that ‘during the Russo – Finnish war, despite the danger that Allied bases might be established in Scandinavia, Germany had meticulously kept her obligations toward Russia’ and that ‘in this connection she had even gone so far as to deny to the Finnish President the use of a German cable for a radio address to America’. [47]

In Bucharest Germany smoothed the way for the Russian claim to Bessarabia through the diplomatic action of Fabricius in December 1939 and May 1940. [48]

German – Soviet Military Collaboration: ‘For the first time for 50 years’, the German leaders said in November 1939, ‘Germany has no fears in the East and has not to consider a war on two fronts.’ [49] There is no doubt that this was the USSR’s most important and most decisive military contribution to Germany. Hitler expressed his satisfaction with it in his speech at Munich on 8 November 1939, and this weighty argument was used by the German leaders to allay Mussolini’s misgivings and overcome his hesitation, for in a letter of 4 January 1940, he had warned Hitler against the new German policy. [50] When General Bodenschatz, Goering’s close friend and his liaison officer with Hitler, was discussing this question with Count Magistrati, he explained that ‘the agreements were necessary so as to secure our rear for the duration of the war with Great Britain'; [51] and three weeks later Hitler also told the Count that success in the West depended on ‘Germany’s being on good terms with Russia’. [52] The DNB communiqué, issued on 1 March 1940, on the occasion of Sumner Welles’ visit to Berlin, stated that even if Britain succeeded in coercing some of the neutrals into joining the war, this would by no means compensate the Western powers for ‘what Germany had gained through friendship with the Soviet Union’, which ‘protected her from military action in her rear’ and guaranteed her ‘economic security’. In a speech to the air force units of the Hitler Youth a few weeks before the Flanders offensive, Goering was bubbling over with optimism:

Germany [he told them] is ready to strike... Secure on her flanks and in her rear, the mighty German army facing England and France in the West forms in the air, on land and on sea, a solid block of steel. It is there that the decision must be made. [53]

Hitler was ready to risk war with the Western powers only on condition – and this was vital – that he could count on the benevolent neutrality of Soviet Russia. [54] Without this condition he would not have attacked either in the East or in the West. Russia’s neutrality was essential for the rapid annihilation of Poland and also for the Blitzkrieg against France, planned in the autumn of 1939 and carried out in May and June 1940; for if there had been no agreement with Russia, Germany would have had to tie up ‘at least 50 divisions’ to guard the Eastern frontier. [55]

An essential factor in Hitler’s strategical calculations was that he should be able to withdraw almost all the troops stationed along the Eastern frontier when the attack on France began. As soon as the Polish campaign was over, he thought that victory in the West was assured since Germany ‘was able to bring all her strength to bear in the West, leaving only a few covering troops in the East’. [56] Several months later Ribbentrop explained Hitler’s views on this subject to Ciano. The Führer, he said, thought that in spite of the dissimilarity between the two regimes it had been possible to conclude ‘a trade agreement with Russia, and to keep a number of divisions free in the West which otherwise would have had to be used as cover against Russia’. [57] What happened in May 1940 shows how well-founded Hitler’s view was: ‘The Russian front was almost stripped during the campaign in France – between five and eight German divisions were retained there.’ [58] This statement by Goering tallies exactly with the figures given by Keitel at Nuremberg:

During the campaign in the West, there were seven divisions on the Russian front. Seven divisions from East Prussia to the Carpathians, two of which were transferred to the West during the campaign but later on were transported back again. [59]

Thus the German – Soviet pact and the way in which it was implemented by Stalin were among the most important factors in Hitler’s strategy and therefore in the French defeat.

On their side, the Soviet leaders realised how important their contribution was, and turned this knowledge to their advantage. Immediately after the great German victories on the Western front, when they might very well have wondered what Hitler was going to do with his divisions, now disengaged and flushed with victory, Molotov thought it might be useful to remind Hitler that the pact with the USSR ‘gave Germany an assurance of tranquillity in the East’. It was a discreet but unambiguous way of referring to services rendered. [60] He later repeated it more forcibly during his talks with Hitler in Berlin. At the first talk he declared that he ‘concurred in the opinion of the Führer that both partners had derived substantial benefits from the Soviet-German agreement’ and particularly emphasised that ‘Germany had received a secure hinterland that, as was generally known, had been of great importance for the further course of events during the year of war’. [61] On the following day he pointed out to Hitler that ‘if he drew up a balance sheet of the situation after the defeat of France’, the result would be that ‘the German – Russian agreement had not been without influence upon the great German victories’. [62]

In addition to this supremely important strategical factor which, by allowing Germany to fight on a single front, made the war itself inevitable, the German and Soviet leaders took a number of steps towards closer military cooperation. The nature and extent of this cooperation was seen during the Polish campaign. [63] Immediately afterwards, in the rather heady atmosphere generated by the August and September agreements, German military circles were considering a far-reaching programme of mutual assistance. The plans of the German Admiralty were ambitious, and included buying submarines from Russia, repairing German warships in Russian shipyards, and arming auxiliary cruisers there; in exchange, the Russians were to receive the plans of modern German cruisers like the Bismarck and were to buy the hulls of uncompleted battleships. [64] On 10 October 1939, Admiral Raeder informed Hitler that a German auxiliary cruiser was being equipped at Murmansk and that the Russians were willing to place a ‘northern naval base’ near this port at Germany’s disposal. [65] It was in fact used by the German navy up to the beginning of September 1940. The German Admiralty then gave up the base ‘on the Murmansk coast’ on the grounds that it could in future make use of the Norwegian bases, and expressed ‘its gratitude’ to the Russians. [66]

It is also clear that the Russians asked to be given plans of German armaments (anti-aircraft batteries, heavy gun turrets for battleships, etc). This deal formed an integral part of the economic negotiations begun immediately after the September agreements by the German mission under Karl von Ritter. Stalin dealt with these questions personally. [67]

How far were these projects effectively carried out? There were certainly some instances of active collaboration, as when the Russians offered the base east of Murmansk or connived at allowing the Bremen to return to the Elbe estuary. The German Admiralty stressed the help given by Russia on this occasion ‘by keeping foreign shipping in Murmansk for three days after the departure of the Bremen’. [68] Both Admiralties discussed ‘practical agreements’ for the supply of fuel to German submarines and the use of the ‘northern sea-route’ [69] by German ships. The German Admiralty was very keen on this last point and negotiations began towards the end of December 1939. [70] On 6 February 1940, the German Naval Attaché in Moscow announced that the Russians were willing to allow a German auxiliary cruiser, ‘Ship 45’, [71] to sail to the Far East by the ‘Siberian route’. A temporary stiffening of Molotov’s attitude at the beginning of April seemed to bring them back to where they started, [72] but preparations for the voyage were eventually resumed ‘with Russia’s cooperation’ [73] and ‘Ship 45’ sailed on 12 August 1940, ‘by the Siberian sea-route, with Russian help’. [74] The German auxiliary cruiser was thus able to cross the Pacific without risk and there raid British ships as a privateer. For their part, the Germans handed over the Lützow to the Russians, [75] and in the Leningrad shipyards technicians took over the construction or repair of some of the big ships of the Soviet navy. In November 1940, Admiral Raeder was convinced that Russia would not attack Germany on the grounds that she ‘was starting to build up her navy with the help of Germany’. [76] They were still working together in May 1941. In a memorandum of the 15th of this month Schnurre stated that:

... construction of the cruiser L in Leningrad is proceeding according to plan, with German supplies coming in as scheduled. Approximately 70 German engineers and fitters are working on the cruiser in Leningrad under the direction of Admiral Feige. [77]

As all this bargaining was primarily the concern of the military experts, it was scarcely mentioned in the German diplomatic documents which are now published or known. On the other hand, there are many hints of what was going on in the minutes of the conferences between the German naval chiefs and Hitler. From all the available evidence, however, the military collaboration between Germany and Russia does not seem to have gone very far in the technical field. Stalin asked for a great deal and was ready to give the necessary quid pro quo, but notwithstanding his eagerness to get hold of prototypes and the secret manufacturing processes of certain German weapons, he was to some extent restrained by the need not to endanger the profits he hoped to make out of his policy of ‘neutrality’. Over and above all this there was Hitler’s deep distrust of Soviet Russia, once he had sobered down after his early successes. When the German military chiefs, especially the naval chiefs, insisted on going as far as possible to satisfy Soviet requests in this field, Hitler turned obstinate, refused to give way to their demands, wavered, and ended up by rejecting almost all of them. On 10 October 1939, he turned down the proposal to build submarines in Russia [78] or to buy them from her; [79] on 8 December he forbade the sale to the Russians of the Seydlitz, the Prinz Eugen, and the plans of the Bismarck. [80] He also turned a deaf ear to the German Admiralty’s suggestion for direct cooperation with the Russians in Norway. [81] Without being altogether negligible, the balance sheet is here less impressive than in other fields.

The Mobilisation of the Communist International Behind Hitler: Apart from the strategic results of the German – Soviet pact, [82] Russia’s most effective contribution to Germany’s military successes was undoubtedly the mobilisation of the Communist parties against the war, which after the pact of 23 August had become essentially ‘imperialist’. Directives on the new policy had gone out to all the parties belonging to the Communist International from three sources: Molotov’s speech to the Supreme Soviet on 31 August 1939; an article by George Dimitrov in October, to which the widest publicity was given throughout the world; and the manifesto of the Communist International issued on the occasion of the twenty-second anniversary of the October Revolution. In theory, the war was to be opposed in all the belligerent countries without exception. But even omitting the fact that the bracketing together of Britain, France and Germany was already of some help to Hitler, the campaign against the war was in practice effective only in the democratic countries. In Germany the Hitler regime had much less to fear from Communist opposition, for it had been almost entirely liquidated years before. Moreover, at this period the basic policy of the German Communists was to do everything in their power to support the German – Soviet pact. Their party leaders, who had fled to Moscow, used language against Britain and France – and against them exclusively – which sometimes surpassed even the Nazi press in its unparalleled violence. One of them, a Secretary of the Communist International named Walter Ulbricht, launched an attack on the Social Democratic leader Rudolf Hilferding, who was guilty of having told Socialists it was their duty to fight with the Western democracies against Hitler. [83] After taking him sharply to task, Walter Ulbricht came out against any attempt to prolong the war:

The German government [he wrote] announced its desire for friendly relations with the Soviet Union, whereas the Anglo – French warmongers wished to make war on her. It is in the interests of the Soviet people and the German workers to thwart Britain’s plans. All they want is a rapid end to the war... [84]

The slogan of ‘immediate peace’ was used by all the Communist parties between September 1939 and June 1941.

In March 1940, Ribbentrop expressed to Mussolini his satisfaction at the new attitude of the USSR on the grounds that ‘since the pact was signed, the Soviet has stopped trying to interfere in our internal affairs’. [85] The USSR had in fact interfered through the Communist International, but in a way that fitted in perfectly with Berlin’s own interests and plans. [86]

The Italian Communists adopted a similar attitude, their slogan being: ‘Italy must keep out of the war!’ As Mussolini was inclined to join in on the German side, their propaganda was in practice useful, even though in theory their policy of neutrality was supposed to be applied uniformly to all the belligerent countries. But the Communist International came out against the war wherever there were large numbers of Italian emigrants, as in France, Tunisia, the USA and the Argentine. It supported any defeatist and isolationist argument, and thus joined forces with Hitler’s ‘fifth column’, which in these countries was very strong.

Through Gallacher’s speech in the House of Commons (3 October 1939), the British Communist Party demanded that negotiations for peace should begin immediately. In January 1940, it went so far as to organise a ‘People’s Congress’ which voted against the ‘imperialist war’ and the nationalist attitude of the Labour Party. [87]

In the United States the Communist Party protested against the raising of the arms embargo on the democracies which were at war, and against lease-lend. On 22 May 1940, while the battle was raging in Flanders, it organised a meeting in New York against Roosevelt’s policy. [88] And again, in the spring of 1941 when General Sikorski and M Mikołajczyk were in Washington to seek aid for the Polish liberation army from the American government, they were denounced by the Communist press as ‘agents of British imperialism who were trying to drag the United States into war’. [89]

In Belgium the parliamentary Communist Party at the beginning of October 1939 denounced ‘the urgent appeals of the British government, which aimed at involving Belgium in the war’ and called on the Belgian government to line up with the USSR to ‘restore peace’. It went as far as congratulating Degrelle’s ‘Rexists’ for opposing any kind of concession to the French and British. [90]

The fact that a country had been occupied by Germany did not cause any radical change in Communist tactics. In Czechoslovakia the Communists put ‘Hacha’s followers and the supporters of Beneš’ on the same footing – after the German – Soviet pact – and accused the latter of being the lackeys of French and British capitalism. In February 1940, M Hubert Ripka, a member of the Czech National Committee in London, denounced the Communist campaign in the Committee’s publication Česloslovenský Boj as being directed primarily against the independent resistance movements, and thus helping Hitler to maintain his grip on their country. [91] Both the facts established by M Ripka and his analysis of the situation have recently been confirmed by President Beneš, who in his memoirs summed up the Czech Communists’ position at this period, after an interview he had in Paris with J Šverma, a Communist deputy from Prague, in October 1939:

This interview gave me a clearer understanding of the extent to which our Communists, under the influence of their Soviet brothers, differed from me in their attitude to the war. We were both convinced that the USSR would have to fight. But the Communists reckoned that their entry into the war could be postponed until the end of hostilities, when both sides would be too exhausted to prevent a social revolution or to keep it under control... And so I was not surprised when I heard from Prague that our resistance movement was being cold-shouldered by the Communists. The decisions of the Central Committee of the party published in the underground Communist newspaper were reported to us by our friends in Prague. The Communists were counting on the Soviet remaining neutral until the end of the ‘imperialist war’, after which the world revolution could begin. [92]

The Part Played by the French Communist Party: It was in France, however, that the Communists made the most intensive and systematic efforts to spread defeatism. The French Communist Party wavered for a few days, torn between orders from Moscow and sheer inertia at having to leave positions which it had defended from 1935 right up to the eve of the German – Soviet pact. Under the influence of Gabriel Péri [93] the Communist Parliamentary Party voted for the military credits at the sitting on 2 September 1939, but it soon toed the ‘line’. The turning point came at the beginning of October when Florimond Bonte and Arthur Ramette sent their letter from the ‘Workers and Peasants Group’ to President Herriot. This was an incident of outstanding importance in Hitler’s peace campaign. [94] It was for this reason that the first number of the French underground paper Cahiers du bolchevisme, [95] after denouncing the ‘gross error’ of the parliamentary party in voting for the war credits and pointing out its ‘opportunist’ and ‘legalistic’ tendencies and the vacillations of the Central Committee itself, [96] could finally hail the letter to Herriot as lining up ‘the party, publicly and dramatically, against the war’.

From then right up to the end they were to follow the ‘party line’, as laid down in October in an article by George Dimitrov, [97] the Secretary of the Communist International, and by two further documents in particular which developed its main theme: Maurice Thorez’s interview with the correspondent of the British Communist paper, the Daily Worker (3 November 1939); and André Marty’s Open Letter to M Léon Blum. In his interview the Secretary of the French Communist Party explained that if he had deserted, it was because he wished ‘to remain at his post in the class war which the people had to fight against the war-mongers, the fascists and the capitalist exploiters’. The Communist journalist was a little disturbed by this attitude. If it became general, who would be left in France or at the front to fight against the war? Thorez reassured him. If he himself had deserted, it was because ‘the leadership of the party had to be secured against any eventuality’, but the vast majority of militant Communists would carry on with their jobs where they were, since their work ‘lay among the soldiers in the army, the workers in the factories, the peasants in the villages, the refugees in the evacuation centres, the wives of the men who had been called up everywhere’. [98]

They did, in fact, carry on with their work, both in the country and at the front. In the country the leading Communists began a campaign for ‘immediate peace’ and did their utmost to stir up an anti-war movement among the people, making use of every possible means, legal, in so far as action of this kind was possible, and illegal. Through, for instance, the declaration which Florimond Bonte was about to read out just before he was expelled from the Chambre des Députés. It was, however, printed by the party press. It castigated the ‘Anglo – French imperialists’ who were responsible for the war because they ‘had persuaded Poland to refuse an amicable settlement of the Danzig question’, and the French deputies who, instead of examining Hitler’s peace offer, had permitted ‘a war policy to be acclaimed and adopted which was contrary to the interests of the French people and which the French people was determined to bring to an end’. [99]

Or, again in the Chambre des Députés, the demonstration against the French army by the four Communist deputies (Raymond Guyot, Fernand Grenier, Charles Michels and André Mercier) during the sitting on 9 January 1940. Or the appeal addressed by Maurice Thorez and Jacques Duclos To the Members of the French Communist Party, in which they lauded the party whose ‘fighting slogans for peace and against the imperialist war were finding their way into every section of the working class, in the factories, in the countryside and as far as the trenches’. Or the declarations of the Communist deputies and their lawyers during their trial in March and April 1940. The case was brought up before the Third Military Tribunal of Paris. It had been decided to hold it in camera, but the widest possible publicity was given to their statements by the Communist Party. At the hearing on 3 April M François Billoux read a statement on behalf of all the accused:

We are being persecuted [it ran] because we have resisted, and with all our strength continue to resist the imperialist war now raging over our country; and because we call on the people to demand that it shall be brought to an end by peace.

The March-April number of the Internationale Communiste review for 1940 was devoted to this trial and contained an article in which Maurice Thorez explained that the Communist deputies were being prosecuted for being members ‘of the party which is organising the struggle against the imperialist war’. Or again, newspapers written specially for the troops at the front were started between January and the end of June 1940, in which they were urged ‘to end the war as quickly as possible’, to act together ‘to put an end to the slaughter’, and ‘to fraternise’ with the German soldiers. [100] In February 1940, when there was a general demand for a more vigorous conduct of the war, the French Communist Party circulated a ‘Letter to the French Troops’ in which the front-line soldiers were addressed as follows: ‘We must, dear friends, all act together to stay the hand of the butchers who are planning murderous offensives'; they must unite to bring down the government, and they must ‘force it to make peace’ and thus prevent the ‘coming massacres’.

Such conduct earned praise for the French Communists in the Soviet press, which encouraged them to carry on the good work. An article in Pravda on 4 December 1939, expressed satisfaction because in France ‘large numbers of leaflets demanding peace have been distributed since the outbreak of war’. In spite of ‘the severest counter-measures taken by the authorities, the distribution of leaflets demanding an end to the war is increasing rather than decreasing’. On the following day it explained that Humanité had been banned because it ‘told the people the truth about the USSR’s peace policy and about the criminal policy of the war-mongers’. A few weeks later, on 26 January 1940, Pravda also praised the French Communist Party’s defeatism:

In spite of all the reprisals [it wrote], the illegal Communist Party tirelessly continues its underground struggle in France against the war-mongers. The party newspaper Humanité, anti-militarist leaflets, etc, are distributed in the factories with good results... The dark forces of reaction will not prevent the spread of an anti-militarist attitude in the country and of a hatred for the oppressors of the French people... The Minister of the Interior, Sarraut, has been forced to acknowledge, in one of his reports, the ineffectiveness of all the measures he has taken. The anti-militarist movement in France is spreading in spite of reprisals.

Such propaganda, carried on through a great variety of channels, undermined the morale of the French troops to an extent which helped the Wehrmacht when it delivered its onslaught. This is confirmed by a mass of evidence, from which it is enough to select that of a violently anti-Nazi American journalist, Mr William Shirer, who crossed the whole war zone on his way from Berlin to Paris half-way through June 1940: ‘From German and French sources alike I heard many stories of how the Communists had received their orders from their party not to fight, and didn’t...’ In his opinion ‘among large masses of the troops Communist propaganda had won the day’. [101]

During the ‘phoney war’ the French Communist Party for the most part collaborated only indirectly with Hitler, mainly because of the political position it had adopted. This was exploited by German propaganda in many different ways. For example, German aircraft scattered thousands of leaflets over France containing Molotov’s speech of 31 August 1939 to the Supreme Soviet. But there were also instances of direct collaboration, as is proved by Ribbentrop’s remark to Mussolini during their conversation in Rome on 10 March 1940. When Mussolini expressed astonishment that Communist papers should still be published in France in spite of being banned, the Reich Foreign Minister informed him, with a smile, ‘that some of these papers were printed in Germany’. [102] It is not surprising, therefore, that on the day the Germans entered Paris the French Communist leaders should have ventured to ask permission to publish Humanité and other party newspapers legally, undertaking to ‘denounce the activities of British agents’ and to ‘defend the conclusion of a Franco – Soviet pact of friendship which would be complementary to the German – Soviet pact’. [103]

Russia’s Economic Aid to Germany: Germany’s first advantage from the agreement with Russia was military: she could fight on a single front. [104] Her second was economic: she could escape the consequences of the blockade.

In Hitler’s survey of the situation on 22 August 1939, he congratulated himself on now being able to count on Russian raw materials for certain. [105] Nor was he disappointed. He mentioned this in a conversation with Nevile Henderson on 25 August. [106] And Goering in his talk to the workmen at the Börsig-Werke on 6 September laid special emphasis on the importance of the economic agreement with Russia for the victorious conduct of the war. Berlin was not worried when, on about 11 October, Moscow came to an agreement with London for exchanging timber for rubber and zinc. In fact Germany hoped to profit by the exchange, for the rubber and zinc which she could thus obtain from Russia were ‘as important for her as Russia’s timber was for Britain’. The timber was, moreover, sent from Murmansk in British or neutral ships which the German navy could intercept en route. There was no need to fear complications as Russia ‘had no desire to damage Germany’s war economy’. [107]

Hitler was absolutely ‘certain of Russia’s economic cooperation’ and praised it to Sven Hedin. [108] The Chief of Naval Operations was also very optimistic. ‘The importance for us of Russia’s economic aid’, he said, ‘is decisive. Their offer was so generous that the economic blockade is almost bound to fail.’ [109] In February 1940, Schnurre recalled that ‘Stalin himself had promised generous help’ to Germany’s economic programme. [110] As he wanted deliveries of German armaments quickly, Stalin spoke about the future in the most glowing terms to Karl von Ritter: ‘If we – Russia and Germany – go on collaborating like this for another four or five years, Russia will be able to produce enough raw materials to supply two Germanys.’ [111]

Even before the formal signature on 10 February 1940 of the comprehensive economic agreement outlined in the correspondence between Molotov and Ribbentrop on 29 September 1939, [112] the commodities and raw materials supplied to Germany reached an impressive figure. Under the new agreement the total of Soviet deliveries and services during the first 12 months was to amount to 800 million Reichsmarks. The most important Russian deliveries were to be 900,000 tons of mineral oil, [113] 100,000 tons of cotton, 500,000 tons of iron ore, 300,000 tons of scrap iron, 2400 kg of platinum, and manganese, timber, fodder, oil-seeds, etc. [114] Negotiations were difficult and protracted. But ‘the desire of the Soviet government to help Germany and to consolidate firmly the political understanding in economic matters became more and more evident’. If Germany could meet her commitments to the extent required, the arrival of the Soviet raw materials would ‘decisively weaken the effects of the English blockade’. [115] In March 1940, Ribbentrop passed on the following information to the Rumanian Foreign Minister, M Gafencu:

The economic assistance which the Soviets could give to Germany was considerable. It might well be decisive. The economic agreement had been worked out to the last detail and was being implemented with the strictest punctuality by the Soviets, who wished to live down their undeserved reputation for vagueness and inefficiency. And through this economic collaboration Russia was being drawn even closer to the national and social order ruling in the Third Reich. [116]

The Soviets felt the same about it. An article on the agreement in Pravda drew attention to its ‘considerable political importance’ and added that:

... all the agreements reached between Germany and the USSR during the last three months – the non-aggression pact, the boundary and friendship treaty, and lastly the economic agreement – have established a solid and lasting basis for the development of cordial economic and political relations between the two states. They fully correspond to the basic interests of the German and Soviet peoples, to the interests of peace, and to the interests of the popular masses in every country. [117]

The agreements carried one condition which was the source of a good deal of friction. Although the Russian raw materials were to be delivered at a faster rate than Germany’s industrial goods, the balance between the two countries was periodically to be adjusted. But Germany was a country at war, and the whole of her industry had to be mobilised for armaments production. Consequently her industrial goods, which were her part of the bargain, were not always delivered regularly, [118] and in March 1940 the Soviet government had apparently to remind Germany of her obligations under the agreements. [119] Without ever giving cause for alarm, this resulted in serious differences, especially at the beginning of September 1940. [120] In his report of the 28th, Schnurre considered the balance sheet for the agreements to be very much in Germany’s favour, since in one year Soviet deliveries to Germany in grain alone amounted to about one million tons. [121] Again in September Stahmer, the German Ambassador in Tokyo, informed the Japanese government that the German – Soviet agreement had worked out ‘remarkably well’ and that it had been ‘faithfully carried out by Russia, right up to the delivery of the last drop of oil’. [122] And Funck, the minister, confirmed at Nuremberg that ‘the Russians punctually furnished us with grain, manganese and oil’. [123]

It was not possible to draw up a balance sheet solely on the basis of the deliveries of Russian goods and raw materials. Moscow also played the part of a more or less honest broker in procuring products from other countries for Germany. Ribbentrop confessed as much to Mussolini on 10 March 1940:

In confidence, the Reich Foreign Minister can announce that Russia is being very generous in supplying raw materials and is using some of her own gold to buy raw materials which Germany needs. [124]

In doing this Russia was fulfilling a promise made at the time of the agreement, ‘the Soviet Union declared her willingness to buy metals and raw materials in third countries’. [125]

It is understandable, therefore, why London, which wanted a large-scale commercial agreement with the USSR, mainly for political reasons, also wished to be assured that British goods exported to Russia would not go through to Germany by this route. The Soviet leaders stubbornly refused to give any such guarantee. They would not agree to having any ‘strings’ attached, [126] and Stalin himself informed Berlin that he had left Sir Stafford Cripps under no illusions on this point – as on several others. [127] The fact that Moscow and Berlin were hand in glove over this was a source of continual worry to the British leaders. Mr Hugh Dalton, Minister of Economic Warfare in Churchill’s Cabinet, told the House of Commons on 28 January 1941 that important talks were being held in Washington on the question of American exports to Russia. His ministry had numerous proofs showing that Russia was exporting goods to Germany and replacing them by American imports. For example, Russian imports of cotton had been insignificant in the past but during the previous quarter had reached 30,000 tons, while at the same time considerable supplies of cotton were being sent from Russia to Germany. On the same day the British Ambassador in Washington, Lord Halifax, discussed this question with Mr Sumner Welles.

A still more serious gap in the British blockade of wartime Germany was caused as a result of the secret agreement of 28 September 1939, by which Russia allowed Germany the use of her territory and railways for the transport of goods imported from Rumania, Iran, Afghanistan and the Far East. [128] This clause appeared in the economic agreement of 11 February 1940, and thus gave Germany ‘a door wide open to the East’. [129] A large quantity of imports came across Russia from Manchukuo. [130] And when he drew up a balance sheet of the benefits accruing to Germany from these agreements, Schnurre emphasised that they should be maintained at all costs since ‘our sole economic connection with Iran, Afghanistan, Manchukuo, Japan and, also, with South America, is the route across Russia, which is being used to an increasing extent for German raw material imports’. [131]


1. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 3 (Washington, 1946), p 575.

2. See the report of this meeting by P Schmidt, the interpreter, in The Spanish Government and the Axis (US Department of State, 4 March 1946), document V.

3. Interrogation by the American Mission.

4. DC Poole, ‘Light on Nazi Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, October 1946, p 18 of the off-print.

5. 18 March 1940, Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 364; the same note occurs in the Ribbentrop – Ciano meeting of 19 June 1940, Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 374.

6. This version of the speech of 22 August was not presented at Nuremberg by the American prosecutor (see his declaration at the hearing of 26 November 1945, Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Volume 2 (Nuremberg, 1947), p 286; cf Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 1 (Washington, 1946), p 397). Certain passages have been published in Le Monde, 25 November 1945; complete text in Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 7 (Washington, 1946), pp 752-54.

7. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), p 47.

8. For this list, see Biblio 1939 (Paris, 1940).

9. Jean Zay, Souvenirs et Solitudes (Paris, 1945), p 100.

10. Lettres secrètes Hitler-Mussolini (Paris, 1946), p 109.

11. Ciano’s Diary, 1939-43 (London, 1947), p 162.

12. Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 316.

13. Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 342. It was such views as this which inspired the Germans to contact the Soviet representatives with a view to a rapprochement; see for example Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 35.

14. Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 364.

15. G Gafencu, Prelude to the Russian Campaign (London, 1945), p 38.

16. Ciano’s Diary, 1939-43 (London, 1947), p 167.

17. See above, Chapter I, note 4; Daily Telegraph, 30 March 1940.

18. Ciano’s Diary, 1939-43 (London, 1947), p 289.

19. For their part, the Soviet State Publishing House undertook the publication of Bismarck’s memoirs during the autumn of 1940, in the ‘Library of Foreign Politics’ series.

20. Joint declaration published on 29 September 1939.

21. See this chapter below, section ‘The Mobilisation of the Communist International Behind Hitler’ for statements by Czech Communists to President Beneš.

22. See above, Chapter IV, section ‘State of Alarm in Moscow’.

23. These extracts were also used by Radio Moscow and were reprinted in Europe Nouvelle, 7 October 1939.

24. In an English-language broadcast from Radio Moscow on 29 November 1939, Stalin’s statement was summarised as follows: ‘Firstly, the entire responsibility for the war falls on Great Britain and France. Secondly, the Soviet Union has supported Germany’s peace offers to the Allies, as well as offers to mediate from neutral countries.’

25. Speeches by Molotov to the Supreme Council on 31 August 1939, 31 October 1939, and 31 July 1940; speech by Molotov at a meeting of the Moscow Soviet on 6 November 1939. The suggestion that the ideological differences between Bolshevism and Nazism were not such as to prevent collaboration between the two regimes on questions of world policy was frequently made by the Soviet representatives during their early negotiations with the Germans (Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), pp 2, 14, 60).

26. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 983.

27. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 138.

28. This was the official argument adopted by Berlin, which devoted to it its fourth White Book, published at the end of April 1940. The Wilhelmstrasse used a number of extracts from this in a pamphlet intended for use as propaganda in France just before the Flanders offensive, and entitled Le coup de main tenté par l'Angleterre contre la Norvège. This German – Soviet thesis has been finally demolished by the documents produced at Nuremberg, which prove that the German plan to occupy bases on the Norwegian coast dates back to October 1939, and that the occupation of Norway, with Quisling’s help, was contemplated as early as December. See Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), pp 24 and 58; Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Volume 3 (Nuremberg, 1947), pp 264-74; Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 3 (Washington, 1946), pp 32-35, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), pp 815-16, 884-87, 891-92, 928. The first concrete measures for operation ‘Weseruebung’ date from January 1940, see Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg, 1947), Volume 3, p 274; Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 883.

29. Reference to the peace signed in Moscow between Finland and the USSR on 12 March 1940.

30. Cf Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm (London, 1948), p 430, where this interpretation is confirmed; see also A Rossi, Physiologie du Parti Communiste Français (Paris, 1948), note J, pp 437-40.

31. Izvestia renewed its attacks on the ‘Anglo – French incendiaries’ on 23 April 1940.

32. Tass communiqué of 3 March 1940; and see Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), pp 140-41.

33. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 97.

34. See especially Molotov’s speech to the Supreme Soviet on 31 October 1939.

35. According to Pertinax (Les Fossoyeurs, Volume 1 (New York, 1943), p 130) the Turkish government was ready to give way to the Kremlin’s demands but was prevented from doing so by the intervention of the French government. There appears to be no doubt that the French did intervene on this occasion but we must apparently exclude the possibility that Ankara was inclined to apply to Germany the same safeguarding clause as had been formally included in the supplementary protocol to the agreements of 19 October referring to Russia.

36. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 86, cf pp 87-88.

37. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 979. After 8 October von Ritter was in charge of the German economic delegation in Moscow.

38. This article in Pravda had an extremely favourable reception in the German press. In a reference to it, the National Zeitung of 3 May in its turn vindicated Moscow’s attitude to Turkey.

39. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 122 (9 October 1939).

40. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), pp 127-28.

41. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 130.

42. DNB communiqué, 7 December 1939.

43. Ciano’s Diary, 1939-43 (London, 1947), p 182.

44. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), 12 December 1939, p 58.

45. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), 12 December 1939, p 58.

46. L Simoni, Berlino Ambasciata d'Italia (1939-43) (Rome, 1946), p 36, under the date 13 December.

47. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), pp 240-41.

48. G Gafencu, Prelude to the Russian Campaign (London, 1945), p 339.

49. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), conference of 10 November, p 49.

50. Lettres secrètes Hitler-Mussolini (Paris, 1946), pp 54-56.

51. L Simoni, Berlino Ambasciata d'Italia (1939-43) (Rome, 1946), p 53 (10 January 1940).

52. L Simoni, Berlino Ambasciata d'Italia (1939-43) (Rome, 1946), p 6 (end February 1940).

53. Berlin, 4 April 1940.

54. See above, Chapter IV, sections ‘Hitler Plans to Neutralise Russia and to Attack Poland’ and ‘Stalin Bets on War’.

55. Statement by Goering. See DC Poole, ‘Light on Nazi Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, October 1946, p 17 of the off-print.

56. ‘Memorandum and Directives for the Conduct of the War in the West’, 9 October 1939; almost certainly by Hitler. See Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 7 (Washington, 1946), p 802.

57. Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 345.

58. DC Poole, ‘Light on Nazi Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, October 1946, p 17 of the off-print.

59. Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Volume 10 (Nuremberg, 1947), p 525.

60. Text of a speech to the Supreme Soviet on 31 July 1940, printed in clandestine edition of the Cahiers du bolchevisme in the latter part of 1940.

61. Meeting of 12 November, Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 232.

62. Meeting of 13 November, Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 236.

63. See above, Chapter IV.

64. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), under the date of 23 September, p 21.

65. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), p 25. See also Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Volume 13 (Nuremberg, 1947), pp 219-21.

66. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 185.

67. See on this subject the disclosures of Dr Harold C Deutsch, head of the Research Mission of the OSS in Germany, in La Bataille, 30 April 1947, and DC Poole, ‘Light on Nazi Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, October 1946, p 16 of the off-print.

68. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), p 59.

69. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), p 64.

70. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 981.

71. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 982.

72. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 983.

73. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 985.

74. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 986. The conduct of the Soviet authorities was, in general, ‘cordial and cooperative’.

75. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), p 38.

76. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1940) (London, 1947), p 124.

77. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 340.

78. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), p 27.

79. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), p 44.

80. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), p 52; cf Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1940) (London, 1947), p 9.

81. Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1939) (London, 1947), p 27; and especially Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs (1940) (London, 1947), p 20.

82. See above, this chapter, section ‘German – Soviet Military Collaboration’.

83. In an article ‘The Meaning of the War’ which appeared in Neuer Vorwärts, organ of the leaders of the German Social Democratic Party. Rudolf Hilferding, a refugee in the southern zone of France, was afterwards handed over to the Gestapo by the Vichy government.

84. Die Welt (organ of the Communist International published in Stockholm), 9 February 1940. Walter Ulbricht is now the leader of the ‘United Socialist Party’ in Eastern Germany, and in this capacity is conducting a virulent campaign against the Social Democrat leader Kurt Schumacher, who spent long years in a concentration camp for his opposition to the Hitler regime. And so it goes on...

85. Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 343.

86. If one is to believe a Havas dispatch of 29 October 1939, the collaboration between Communists and Nazis in Germany must have gone quite far during this period. In the Bochum steel works a factory newspaper is said to have appeared under the title ‘The Swastika, The Hammer and the Sickle’. It preached a ‘crusade against the bankers of Wall Street and the City’.

87. In the summing up in the libel action brought by Sir Walter Citrine and other trade-union leaders in May 1940 against the Daily Worker, it was stated that its campaign ‘was the reflection of a policy dictated by Moscow’ which aimed ‘at breaking Great Britain’s resistance to Germany’s attacks’ (The Times, 7 May). [The People’s Convention was actually held on 12 January 1941 – MIA.]

88. L Fischer, The Great Challenge (London, 1947), p 14. See also the extracts from the New York Daily Worker, official organ of the American Communist Party, given in William C Bullitt, The Great Globe Itself (London, 1947), pp 195-253.

89. S Mikołajczyk, ‘Le Martyre de la Pologne’, Le Monde, 19 February 1948.

90. Le Monde (Communist paper published in Brussels), no 4, 7 October 1939, pp 18-19.

91. This article was reprinted in La Croix, 21 February 1940. After the liberation M Hubert Ripka, the author of a remarkable book on Munich, of which he was an uncompromising opponent, was Minister of Commerce in the Czechoslovak government until the crisis in February 1948. The end of his article of February 1940 is not without interest today: ‘We are not fighting to change the Nazi dictatorship of violence into a Communist dictatorship of violence. Our struggle is for the freedom of the whole nation, that is, for the freedom of all and the rights of each one of us.’

92. Gazette de Lausanne, 14 March 1948. As a matter of interest, and without being able to guarantee its accuracy, we reprint below a Havas dispatch of 20 February 1940: ‘The Communist groups in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia which remained faithful to Stalin after the German – Soviet agreement are very active, apparently with German support. Šmeral and Gottwald, the Communist leaders who fled to Moscow after the occupation of Czechoslovakia, went through Bohemia on a journey of inspection in December and January, with the approval of the German leaders. It so happens that in places like Moravska, Ostrava, Kladno and Pilsen, which are known to be centres where the workers were formerly very sympathetic to Communism, only 10, 20 and 60 people attended their meetings... In the leaflets which they distribute, the Stalinists assert that National-Socialism is the creed nearest to State Socialism... The alliance with Germany is explained by the argument that revolution is easier in a Reich which has already passed through the capitalist stage... The German authorities not only tolerate their propaganda but encourage it, since in these tracts the Communists attack MM Daladier and Chamberlain, “the instigators of capitalist war,” and “their lackey Edward Beneš.”’

93. For Péri’s views at this period, see Jean Zay, Souvenirs et Solitudes (Paris, 1945), pp 201-03.

94. See above, this chapter, section ‘The Joint Campaign for Peace’.

95. Seventeenth year, second half-year 1939 – January 1940. This number was circulated in a faked wrapper bearing the title The Defence of Freedom.

96. ‘The Central Committee did not understand in time the significance of the changes which suddenly occurred at the end of August and at the outbreak of war. When, in the international field, Hitler either willingly or unwillingly dropped the idea of a war against the Soviet Union, the aggressors in Paris and London embarked on an armed conflict with Germany. There can, therefore, be no question of a Peace Front, or of collective security, or of mutual assistance.’ (Cahiers du bolchevisme, second half-year 1939 – January 1940, p 11)

97. This article, entitled ‘War and the Working Class in the Capitalist Countries’, was widely circulated in France in a pamphlet bearing the faked title: The Truth About the War: How Is It To Be Won?.

98. Thorez’s interview was published in one of the clandestine numbers of Humanité and in the Cahiers du bolchevisme, second half-year 1939 – January 1940, already mentioned. Its title in this review was ‘Maurice Thorez speaks... Statement on the Struggle Against the Imperialist War’.

99. Clandestine number of Humanité printed in December 1939.

100. Le Trait d'Union, La Liaison, L'Humanité du Soldat.

101. William L Shirer, Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934-41 (London, 1941), pp 342-43. This is certainly an overstatement. Mr Shirer was able to ascertain that ‘the French here and there fought valiantly and even stubbornly’. While taking into due account the effect which Communist agitation undoubtedly had, it must also be said that it could have been neutralised if the policy of the French government and the attitude of certain powerful circles had not made its task easier and helped to spread its effects.

102. Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 348.

103. See on this subject A Rossi, Physiologie du Parti Communists (Paris, 1948), especially pp 402-10.

104. See above, this chapter, section ‘German – Soviet Military Collaboration’.

105. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 3 (Washington, 1946), p 585 – ‘We need no longer fear the blockade.’

106. See above, Chapter IV, section ‘Hitler Plans to Neutralise Russia and to Attack Poland’.

107. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 979.

108. Interview given by Sven Hedin to the correspondent of the News Chronicle in Stockholm, 22 October 1939.

109. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 979 (26 October 1939).

110. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 133.

111. DC Poole, ‘Light on Nazi Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, October 1946, p 16 of the off-print.

112. See above, this chapter, section ‘Hitler’s Opinion of Stalin’.

113. To this total must be added the petroleum from the Drohobycz and Borysław districts which Russia had undertaken to deliver separately, in accordance with the agreement of 28 September 1939. See above, Chapter V, section ‘The Agreements of 28 September’, and Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 109.

114. Schnurre’s report of 26 February 1940, Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), pp 131-33.

115. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 134.

116. G Gafencu, Prelude to the Russian Campaign (London, 1945), p 38.

117. Pravda, 18 February 1940.

118. Walter Funck, former Reich Minister for Economic Affairs, gave the following explanation of this at Nuremberg: ‘Our deliveries of machinery were always late, the Russian orders being for the most part for specialised machines.’ (Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Volume 13 (Nuremberg, 1947), p 114)

119. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 4 (Washington, 1946), p 1082.

120. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), pp 196-97, 199-201.

121. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 200.

122. Interview with Prince Konoe, Combat, 14 September 1945.

123. Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal, Volume 13 (Nuremberg, 1947), p 114.

124. Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 347.

125. Memorandum by Schnurre, 26 February 1940, Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 133.

126. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6 (Washington, 1946), p 983 (1 May 1940).

127. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 167 (13 July 1940).

128. See above, Chapter V, section ‘The Agreements of 28 September’.

129. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 134.

130. Ciano’s Diplomatic Papers (London, 1948), p 347.

131. Nazi – Soviet Relations 1939-41 (Washington, 1948), p 201 (September 1940).