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The Devils' Alliance: Hitler's Pact with Stalin, 1939-1941 Hardcover – 2014
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For nearly two years the two most infamous dictators in history actively collaborated with one another. The Nazi-Soviet Pact stunned the world when it was announced, the Second World
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He goes into great detail about economics of the deal in terms pricing and delivery of raw materials from Russia and capital goods from Germany. Though this sounds like boring stuff, he shows how the Germans lost patience with the Soviets nit-picking the terms of each and every shipment. Remember that at the outset, Hitler needed the deal more than Stalin, but after the German lightening victory in France, Stalin needed the deal far more than Hitler. It is no accident that Stalin occupies the Baltic States as France is falling. Hence we get a ringside seat to Molotov’s visit to Berlin in November 1940 which sets into motion a reorientation of Hitler’s thinking. As a sidebar the tactics used by Stalin in the Baltics in 1940 are identical to what Putin is using in the Ukraine today.
It is with the German victory in France and the subsequent German defeat over the skies of Britain that Hitler turns east and according to Moorhouse the flashpoint that ended the pact was the territorial division of the Balkans which was mostly outside of the initial deal. I think Moorhouse makes too much of the disputes in the Balkans, in particular the disagreements in the rather obscure Danube Commission. My guess is that Hitler’s decision to invade Russia was more on the level of grand strategy than a localized dispute.
Moorhouse puts to rest the myth that Stalin was surprised by the German invasion in June 1940. For the prior six months he spent practically every waking hour trying to avoid war and to get his armies battle ready for the coming onslaught. His problem was that he couldn’t mobilize for fear of giving Hitler an excuse to invade. Simply put he was practicing the very same appeasement policy that Britain and France followed three years earlier.
Along the way Moorhouse brings to life the dour personality of Molotov and the rather flippant personality of his counterpart, Ribbentrop. Both of whom were at the beck and call of their puppet masters. One interesting note Moorhouse follows up with the British-Russian –Polish conference of July 1941 where Russia offers concessions to the Polish government in exile to receive British support in their new war against Germany. One of those concessions was the freeing of Polish nationals held in the Soviet gulag. Although Moorhouse doesn’t mention it, one of those so freed was Menachem Begin
This book would be good to read in combination with Gorodetsky's Grand Delusion, which only covers the aftermath of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, while this book covers the Pact's negotiation as well. Also, while Gorodetsky only covers the diplomatic maneuvers, this book covers the impact on the ground--refugees created, prisoners executed, etc.
There are only two things I didn't care for in the book, but they are pretty minor and did not warrant removing a star from this otherwise excellent book:
--in the introduction the author says that the mainstream historical interpretation that the Soviets were merely buying time to prepare for an expected German invasion is false, and that in fact Stalin's policy was "pro-active and anti-Western". While there is some truth to the author's claim, ultimately, I don't think that the author really made his case, or even made much of an attempt to do so.
--while the book has extensive notes, the notes are not indicated in the text, but rather only inserted in an endnotes section along with a snippet from the text to identify which notes go with which text. I'm not a fan of that approach of providing notes, although I guess that most people could care less.
Although Hitler and Stalin despised each other's "system", and were pretty much equally distrustful of anyone- particularly each other, the Ribbentrop/Molotov pact served some important purposes for each party. Even though neither expected this to last, it bought time and possible economic opportunity. It assured Hitler that his days-away invasion of Poland would not be challenged by the Soviets- particularly as they were cut in on the deal to split Poland between themselves. It gave Hitler access to some of the vast natural resources of the Soviet Union necessary for a country at war. It also offered Stalin potential access to German technology necessary to build the defensive military force he knew he needed once the pact ended.
Keep in mind that this book's focus is a rather narrow part of WWII, and is probably better suited to the person who has already read some of the more sweeping books about the war and is looking for some additional detail on certain aspects of the conflict. That said, all in all, a pretty good book.
My only complaint is that the typesetting has a number of errors, but overall a very good book.
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