The World Trembled: When Russia and Nazi Germany Were Allies

Warfare History Network

Key point: Moscow and Berlin worked together to destroy Poland.

On August 23, 1939, Soviet Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, V.P. Potemkin, waited at the Moscow Airport for Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany. He warmly greeted the former champagne salesman and then whisked him away for a clandestine meeting at the Kremlin.

Waiting to receive the emissary were Soviet strongman Josef Stalin and his granite-faced foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov. They concluded what became known as the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. Included were provisions governing the transfer of raw materials from the Soviet Union in exchange for manufactured goods from Germany. But, more importantly, the pact was a protocol establishing each signatory’s sphere of influence. This included Poland. Hitler and Stalin did not merely intend to partition their neighbor, they meant to wipe the country off the map. The Germans would begin to close the vise on September 1, advancing to Brest-Litovsk. The Soviets would close the eastern jaws on September 17 until Poland was gobbled up. As an added inducement for Stalin’s compliance, Hitler agreed that Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Bessarabia, which was on the eastern edge of Romania, would be included in the Soviet sphere of influence.

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