Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The worst thing that ever happened: 23 Aug 1939

Seventy-two years ago, the 20th Century's premier despots signed the Hitler-Stalin Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union. It divided Europe (and in particular, Poland) into two halves, with the western half going to Germany and the eastern half to Soviet Russia. The pact was the keystone of the Second World War, the worst thing that ever happened in the history of the world. Without it, neither country would have dared go to war, for each feared (with good reason!) a stab in the back by the other.

With the pact in place, Hitler and Stalin were free to launch their individual wars of aggression. As was usually the case when he made a bargain, Josef Stalin got the larger share of the booty: in addition to half of Poland, he got the three Baltic states--Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia--and a good piece of Finland, though the Finns would give him a black eye in the course of his land grab there. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford


At 4:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The natural sequel to the Czech crisis surely, when the British sold out the Czech government, Stalin realized no anti-Nazi Entente was on the cards, and the Poles did their own land-grab viz-a-viz Czechoslovakia?

At 6:09 AM, Blogger Dan Ford said...

Um, you think that a fair consequence for chopping up Czechoslovakia was a war that left fifty-five million dead and thrice that number wounded, homeless, or otherwise bereft? War did not follow from Hitler's Czech incursion. War inevitably followed from the Hitler-Stalin pact and the multiple invasions it foretold and made possible: Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, France.... Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Stalin signed the deal with Hitler because the Czech crisis demonstrated that the British and French weren't going to do a deal with him to contain Hitler. I also think the Polish government of the day painted themselves into a corner by acts like annexing chunks of Czechoslovakia, and hence left themselves without many friends or credible alliances. And finally, I think that war was avoidable and Hitler containable before he got his hands on the Czech tank park and learnt that Chamberlain was a walkover. I'm not alone in that, members of the German General Staff at the time were very nervous about Hitler's wider ambitions too, but after the Czech crisis (NOT the battle of France, note) there was not much they could mount in the way of political opposition because Hitler now looked like a military genius. So yeah, I don't think the Hitler-Stalin Pact was as significant as the bum's rush given Czechoslovakia by the Poles, British and French.


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