Hitler and Stalin
In the Western popular imagination -- particularly the American one -- World War II is a conflict we won. It was fought on the beaches of. Within days Hitler invaded Poland, starting World War II. The pact between Hitler and Stalin that paved the way for World War II was signed. Hitler was worse, because his regime propagated the Until World War II, Stalin's regime was by far the more murderous of the two. and killed civilians almost exclusively in connection with the practice of racial imperialism.
Further south, the Soviets seized Bessarabia and northern Bukovina from the Romanians. These events are hardly "largely unknown", as Roger Moorhouse claims in his new book, nor are they "dismissed as a dubious anomaly" in the standard histories of the second world war.
And alliance indeed it was. For Hitler, the pact provided a guarantee that he could invade first Poland, then France and most of the rest of western Europe, without having to worry about any threat from the east.
- German–Soviet Axis talks
- When Stalin was Hitler's ally
- The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941 – review
For Stalin, it allowed a breathing space in which to build up armed forces that had been severely damaged by the purges of the previous years, as his botched invasion of Finland showed. It also gave him the chance to expand the Soviet Union to include parts of the old Russian empire of pre-revolutionary times.
Moorhouse is right, therefore, to insist that for Stalin the pact was not merely defensive, though he goes too far when he claims it was a golden opportunity for the Soviet leader "to set the world-historical forces" of revolution in motion. Moorhouse tells a good story and, though it has been told before, notably in Anthony Read and David Fisher's The Deadly Embracehe is able to add interesting new details. Yet for all its virtues this is a deeply problematic book.
Page after page is devoted to a detailed description of the horrors inflicted by Stalin and his minions on the territories the pact allowed him to occupy, with mass arrests and deportatations, shootings, torture and expropriation. The shooting of thousands of Polish army officers by the Soviet secret police in Katyn Forest and elsewhere has been well known for decades, like the brutal deportation of over a million Poles to Siberia and Central Asia, but much of the material provided by Moorhouse on the Baltic states is relatively new and makes sobering reading.
None of this, however, is balanced by any comparable treatment of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in Poland following their occupation of the western part of the country: If the pact allowed Stalin to visit his murderous policies on the Baltic states, it also permitted Hitler to do the same with the much larger and more heavily populated countries he invaded in western Europe at the same time, and even more so in the areas of southern Europe he conquered early in Moorhouse devotes considerable attention to the Soviet attempt to cover up the Katyn massacre, but fails to mention the deliberate killing of Red Army troops taken prisoner by the Germans.
Both men loathed and feared the other, yet there was much Hitler and Stalin had in common.
German–Soviet Axis talks - Wikipedia
Both were born into humble backgrounds, their early lives shaped by destitution and impoverishment. As young men, both were drawn to radical political movements. Both became revolutionaries and unlikely national leaders, rising to power in the tumultuous years between the two world wars.
Both promised progress, modernisation and better lives for their countrymen — but both were more concerned with consolidating and expanding their own power, rather than pleasing the people. Where the fates of Hitler and Stalin intersected, there would be little but war, conquest and misery for millions of Europeans.
The Secret Hitler-Stalin Pact
The infant Dzhugashvili contracted smallpox, a disease that left him with permanent facial scarring. At the behest of his mother, Dzhugashvili entered a seminary to train for the priesthood — but he was soon expelled for behavioural problems and not paying his school fees. In he took a liking to the communist theories of Lenin and joined the fledgeling Bolshevik movement.
Dzughashvili was tasked with raising funds for the party through criminal means: Dzhugashvili soon became a wanted man: In he was appointed to the Bolshevik Central Committee to advise on racial minorities, chiefly because of his own Georgian background. In he became editor of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda.
The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, – review | Books | The Guardian
Stalin did not play an active role in the October Revolution that elevated the Bolsheviks to power. He held this post until when he became General Secretary of the party. It was a seemingly insignificant position that no other leading Bolsheviks wanted — however it allowed Stalin to build a power base by recruiting allies and appointing them to government positions.
By the death of Lenin inStalin wielded significant power at the highest levels and was in a position to push for control of the party. Stalin was a ruthless and often cruel personality, obsessed with the idea that those around him were plotting his downfall. To hinder these threats and enforce his will, Stalin placed himself at the centre of a cult of personality.
Propaganda and Soviet culture portrayed him as the saviour of Russia: Stalin expanded Soviet secret police agencies, setting up a global network of agents and spies to report both on domestic opponents and the intentions of other nations. Within Russia, he instigated purges and show trials to eradicate potential opponents.