World War 2 National Socialism and the Holocaust

Chapter 3: A Cruel Romance: The Nazi-Soviet Alliance And Soviet Expansion, August To November 1939 – Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War by Chris Bellamy

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Until 1933, long-term cooperation between Germany and the Soviet Union was far from unthinkable. Hitler’s accession changed that, but cooperation was still necessary in the short term. Nor, at the time, did it seem so absurd. Politics, like the world, is round. If you go far enough west, you reach the ‘far east’. And, if you travel far to the political ‘left’ or ‘right’, you end up in the same place: some form of totalitarian dictatorship where state security is not only paramount, but actually threatens the very people whose lives, liberties and aspirations the state exists to protect. So it was with National Socialism under Hitler and Soviet communism under Stalin.”
  • “The struggle against the Jewish Bolshevisation of the world demands that we should declare our position towards Soviet Russia. We cannot cast out the devil through Beelzebub… the future goal of our foreign policy ought not to involve an orientation to the East or West; but it ought to be an eastern policy which will have in view the acquisition of such territory as is necessary for our German people. 18 The last sentence encapsulates Hitler’s desire for Lebensraum (living space)”
  • “In all, 3 out of 5 Marshals of the Soviet Union died, 3 out of 5 Army Commanders (komandarm), First Class, all 10 Second Class, 50 out of 57 Corps Commanders (komkor), 154 out of 186 Divisional Commanders (komdiv), 401 out of 456 colonels, plus almost all corps and divisional commissars.”
  • “The Soviet Union’s ruling elite probably, and not unreasonably, thought that the West was willing to let Hitler get away with anything as long as he delivered on the promise, made in Mein Kampf, to eliminate Bolshevism.”
  • “In the face of such consummate diplomacy, on 14 August 1939 Marshal Voroshilov declared that ‘without clear and unambiguous answers to these questions, further negotiations are pointless. The Soviet military delegation cannot recommend that its government participate in an undertaking so clearly doomed to failure.’ Compared with this sorry state of affairs, the proposal which had come from Germany seemed to be a breath of fresh air.”
  • “Either Molotov was playing a cynical game, or he really had little idea what the Red Army was up to, or the Soviets were trying desperately to organize a military response. Reports of the state of the Soviet forces which moved into Poland suggest the latter is probably the case.”
  • “Russian military administration remains much as it used to be. Train timings are chaotic, motor transport is seldom available at the right time and place, petrol supplies break down, and no one has any clear idea at what time anything is going to arrive. In spite of it all something happens … the Red Army was faced with hardly any opposition, so … the defects in administration did not have their full effect, but even so one is left with the impression that the Russian genius for piecemeal improvisation will always carry them through to a strictly limited extent.”
  • “The weakness of leadership and of the administrative machine are evidently still very serious, and combined with the apathy and loss of initiative of the rank and file, must render the army a somewhat amorphous mass which may be capable of taking hard blows but is not capable of delivering them, at any rate when faced with a large scale organised opposition.”

Thought Questions

  • Describe the development of the agreements between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia regarding spheres of influence generally and the division of Poland specifically
  • What logic was Germany following in developing the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact
  • What logic was Russia following in developing the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact
  • What were the seven articles of the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact?
  • What were the purposes of the secret protocols attached to the pact?
  • In what ways was the protocol exchanging the Lithuania area for a Polish area significant
  • Affirm or Refute: “The biggest and worst war in history had become inevitable when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933.”
  • Explain and Expand: “Nor did the leaders who exercised unprecedented power over these self-confident superstates appear so different from one another.”
  • Explain and Expand: “Ribbentrop’s foreign policy goals were more traditionally German”
  • What was The German Condor Legion
  • How did the Spanish Civil War impact informal and formal relations between Russia and Germany
  • Explain and Expand: “For the victors of the First World War, the Soviet Union was potentially a greater threat than a resurgent Germany.”
  • What was the 1938 Munich agreement and how did it impact relations between Russia and the West
  • What international ‘collective security’ arrangements were in place in 1939
  • Describe the post 1938 negotiations between Russia and the western powers
  • Explain and Expand: “was at this meeting that the idea of a non- aggression pact was first raised.”
  • Describe the Soviet 1939 invasion of Poland by Russia
  • Who was Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria?
  • What was a Russian ‘Operational-Chekist’ group and what role did they perform in Poland
  • What role did prisoner of war slavery have in the destruction of Poland
  • Explain and Expand: “As a result of the observations in Poland and the Baltic States, most foreigners believed that ‘the value of the Red Army for war remains low’.”

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