After 80 years: the war that the West cannot afford to explain, and Russia cannot afford to terminate
The commemoration, on September 1st, 2019, of 80 years since the military onset of the Second World War takes place in the context of the exacerbation of the last years offensive-mythological tendency of the official Russia to rewrite, reinterpret and maneuver up to saturation, for political purpose, the history of that war, which changed the face of Europe and the world, and of the consequences of which it is obvious that neither Russia, but unfortunately, nor the West, are showing signs of detachment.
(Note: This article was also published in Romanian on August 31 on contributors.ro)
In order to promote its version of events, the regime in Moscow massively employed the entire legacy of the USSR, and subsequently “refined” it – propaganda, intimidation, manipulation, intoxication, “active measures”, etc. – with an obvious and precise purpose: “bleaching” the USSR of the historical responsibility of co-participating in the preparation and initiation of the Second World War. Responsibility which, given the fact that Moscow now voluntarily assumes not only the legal succession of the USSR, but also its geopolitical inheritance, is not only historical, but also political.
The “peak of official histories” was recorded in Moscow on August 20th, 2019, at the inauguration of the exhibition entitled “1939, the beginning of the Second World War”, when Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that “cynical and inexistent opinions on the causes of the war” continues to be imposed in some countries.” Rarely has a better example been seen of the “best defense is attack” tactics. Moscow acts in this way, despite the risks, because the alternative – the acceptance of historical truth – would be incompatible with keeping Lenin’s mummy in the Red Square mausoleum, as well as keeping Stalin in the position of “national hero”, changes of political direction on which Russia’s current leadership feels it cannot afford.
After 1999, the resources committed by Moscow increased, year after year, with the aim of rewrite the history of the war and transform the day of May 9th (1945, the surrender of Nazi Germany, “on Moscow time”) into an event with resurgent, mystical and self-motivating valences internally, and of image and influence externally. In 2015, when 70 “round” years from May 9th, 1945, were commemorated, the Western leaders’ refusal, due to Russia’s gross violation of international law by invading and annexing Crimea, to participate in the military “grand parade” of May 9th, triggered a veritable tirade of Russian propaganda, which put the equal mark between the respective decision of the Western leaders and the “disrespect for the memory of the fighters against fascism“. In 2019, on the 75th anniversary of the landing of the Western Allies in France (1944), Russia, through the voice of the unmistakable spokesman of the Russian MFA, Maria Zakharova, recidivated, saying that the event “had no decisive impact” over the course of the war and “should not be exaggerated“, in particular “not in comparison with the titanic effort of the Soviet Union, without which victory simply would not have existed“. The zealous spokeswoman was joined by her direct boss, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said that “it is a fact that the people of the Soviet Union were the ones who broke the back of the Third Reich” and commemorating the landing of the Western Allies in France was “part of some pseudo-historical theories“. In essence, Moscow’s messages are intended to convey the idea that the USSR has won almost alone (if not entirely alone) war with Nazi Germany, and the West did, at best, only some backstage extras.
Surprisingly, all these vindictive defenders of the USSR memory (though they represent a state that is today officially called “The Russian Federation”), seem unaware – though they have access to archives – that Stalin himself has repeatedly called for the landing of Anglo-American forces in Western Europe, constantly pushing in this regard, between 1941 and 1943, his counterparts in Washington and London, and ignore, above all, the fact that without the political and subversive “efforts” of Soviet Russia, then of the USSR, between 1917 – 1939, very likely that the “great victory” of 1945 would not have been necessary, for the simple reason that the Second World War itself would no longer have been necessary.
In the Second World War, the USSR mobilized in the military (and militarized) structures over 34 million citizens, representing almost 20% of the population, double from the 10% threshold considered in the military theory of the time as the upper limit at which an normally industrialized state could endure general mobilization without ruining itself. Bur the USSR was anything but a “normal state”. Before the first cartridge was fired on the Eastern Front, the Soviet regime had already exterminated, “in peace time “, more than 10 million of its own citizens, of which 5-7 million solely through the great famine (Holodomor) deliberately organized in Ukraine. The pressure put on Soviet civilians – the “lucky ones” who had been left alive until 1941 – to support a Red Army that included a fifth of the population (mostly young men, of working age), in a regime like the Stalinist one, surpasses by much the today’s average imagination.
Between June 22nd, 1941 and May 9th, 1945, the Red Army lost 11 million servicemen, almost 33% of its effectives, the most disastrous result in the history of modern wars. By comparison, the German army, completely crushed by the Allies in 1945, and fighting since 1939 (not since 1941) and not on one front, but on two or three, often simultaneously, lost in the war “only” 30 % of the military, less than the Red Army both in absolute numbers and proportionally to the total number of soldiers deployed. Just one example: of all the boys born in the USSR in 1923, and drafted in 1941, when they turned 18 years old, 80% were killed in action.
More than 16 million civilian casualties were added to the catastrophic military losses of the USSR, which raised the “balance sheet” of the USSR’s participation in World War II to the dizzying figure of 27 million, far above anything it has ever been lost in any war by any other modern or contemporary state entity. Of the total number of victims of the global conflagration between 1939 and 1945, the USSR losses, civil and military, accounted for almost half. For Stalin, however, the losses among the troops and civilians never mattered in making decisions: Mother Russia was able to replace them, or so he thought.
What Mr. Lavrov forgot to mention when he banter the importance of Western Allies landings in France in 1944 was that not only Nazi Germany got “its back broken” in the war, but also the Russian society as a whole, which demographic vitality, already severely affected by the First World War, the civil war, the great famine and the Stalinist terror, then received its coup de grace, in the war of destruction with Germany between 1941-1945. The Russian demographic decline became irreversible after 1945 and has continued to worsen to this day. If Russia’s foreign minister really wants to talk about “broken backs” in the 20thcentury, he might start with what Lenin and Stalin did to “historical Russia” in the years when they “forged” instead of it the USSR, “the Homeland of world socialism “.
If we begin the analysis on September 1st, 1939, we won’t understand much
“The Union is open to all existing or future Soviet socialist republics, (…) and will act as a bastion against world capitalism, and as a decisive new step towards uniting the working people of all countries into the World Socialist Soviet Republic.”
(Declaration establishing the USSR, December 29th, 1922)
“Lenin was sent to Russia by the Germans in the same way that someone would put a vial of typhoid or cholera fever in the water tank of a big city, and he worked there with amazing accuracy.”
(Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons, November 5th, 1919)
The first official use of swastika in Europe, in the center of the 250-ruble banknote introduced by the Russian Revolutionary Government led by A. Kerensky (July-November 1917), leader of the Russian Revolutionary Socialist Party and vice-president of the Petrograd Soviet.
On April 25th, 2005, in a speech on the State of the Nation, President Vladimir Putin delivered the key sentence, without which the politics of Russia in recent years cannot be understood: “The collapse of the USSR was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century“. He was referring to the Christmas Day of 1991, when the USSR had peacefully “dissolved”, and the flag with sickle and hammer had been lowered from the Kremlin. Looking back on the events of recent years, it is obvious that the Russian leader has retained from the history of the USSR its (presumed) “greatness” and its (real) “force”, without being particularly moved by Gulag, genocide, deportation, terror, repression, famine etc., “details” of Soviet history that caused tens of millions of human victims.
The USSR was founded in 1922, on the ruins of the Russian Empire, as a prototype of the “World Federation of Soviets”, the vehicle and essential support of the “world communist revolution”. It is very easy today to overlook the fact that the name of the state – the USSR - lacked any national or geographical indicators, global ambition suggested also by the official Soviet coat of arms, which represented a sickle and a hammer profiled all over the Earth. The Bolshevik leaders around Lenin had tactical differences, but there was never a shadow of doubt among them regarding the strategic objective: the expansion of communism in Europe (starting from Germany) and in the world (starting from Europe). There are linear kilometers of documents, including many publics from the first moment of their existence (the Soviet press, for example) that support this evidence. After its installation in 1917, the Soviet power announced, supported, prepared, glorified the future “great imperialist war” in which “the capitalist powers were to destroy each other“, thus opening the way for the European and world revolution.
The history of the Second World War cannot be understood in compartmentalization, in isolation, separate from the history of communism and the history of the USSR. If the two plans are separated, immediately a series of extraordinarily difficult questions arise, the answers of which most historians (including from the West) are discreetly avoiding. How did Hitler come to power “by popular vote” if he obtained only 33% of the German votes in the last free elections before the dictatorship was established? If the defense of Poland’s freedom and sovereignty was a sufficient reason for Britain and France to declare, totally unprepared, war on Germany on September 3rd, 1939, then why the USSR’s identical aggression against the same Poland on September 17th, 1939 was ignored by Western democracies, and why in 1945 Poland (along with all other Eastern European nations) was abandoned at Stalin’s discretion? How did Hitler reach the decision to attack the USSR on June 22nd, 1941, Germany’s “ally and friend” starting from August 23rd, 1939, while all his life he had been obsessed with the defeat of Germany in 1918 as a result of engaging in a two-fronts war? Why Stalin, renowned for his meticulousness, memory, and attention to intelligence reports, rejected(sometimes brutally) hundreds of warnings about invasion preparations by the German army, and, moreover, in the first half of 1941 ordered the amassing of most of the Red Army at the western borders of the USSR? And the list could go on.
So we get to the heart of the problem. The “great imperialist war” prophesied and sung by Soviet propaganda since the “glorious days of October 1917″ finally broke out in 1939, and in 1941 it reached the USSR. No proverb applies better to the history of the USSR than the one that says “be careful what you wish for, because it might happen to you.” The essential question that interests us here, however, is how did the USSR end the long-awaited war, in relation to the main objective pursued before its outbreak, namely the objective of “fulfilling Lenin’s will”?From any angle of analysis, the answer can only be one: in a desperate strategic situation, without exit.
Between June 22nd, 1941 and May 9th, 1945, the USSR lost 15% of the population – almost 27 million, mostly young people. Two generations of men were largely destroyed. The most populated and developed European territories – Ukraine, Belarus, western and southwestern Russia – were literally “razed to the ground”, nearly 100% of the infrastructure being destroyed. The colossal war effort made to defeat Nazi Germany, combined with the nature of the Stalinist regime, reduced Soviet society in 1945 to a wreck: tens of millions of displaced or deported to or from the Ural, Asia, tens of millions of widows, orphans, and of families permanently destroyed, hunger, poverty-stricken. Over 60% of the nuclear families existing in the USSR in 1941 lost at least one of the members until May 9, 1945. The colossal price paid for this “victory” was matched only by its atrocious details.
If the Putin regime considers that the disastrous “results” achieved by the USSR in 1945 can be defined as “a great victory”, then we can seriously worry while trying to imagine what this regime would mean by “a defeat”.
What did the USSR gain from the “great victory” of May 9th, 1945? The right to export its slavery-type bankrupt communism to 6 European countries bad lucked by their geography, including Romania, plus one third from Germany – the poorest and less industrialized third – and in half of the city of Berlin, and to it maintain them, for 45 years, in dependence, underdevelopment and isolation from the rest of the world. Moscow also managed to export communism to China, but without much benefit for her in the end. As the Mongols of Kublai Khan became Chinese after the conquest of China, the communists of Mao Zedong also quickly (re)became Chinese after they saw themselves masters in Beijing, and stopped in receiving “instructions” from Moscow. In brackets to be said, here lays the fatal viciousness of the “Eurasian doctrine” in vogue today in the Kremlin, and having Alexandr Dughin as “great pontiff”: a nation of less than 150 million people has no chance to maintain its pre-eminence in a continent (Asia) with over 5 billion, where China and India, states with more than solid histories, cultures and identities, each have nearly 1.5 billion.
After losing 27 million people, the USSR achieved no single strategic breach on May 9th, 1945. The straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, Kattegat, Gibraltar, Hormuz, Malacca, Bab el-Mandeb and Suez Canal all remained under the control of Western military fleets, along with all the oceans and the North and Mediterranean Seas. After 1945, as before 1939, the only ports through which the USSR could access (with difficulties) the open sea remained Murmansk and Vladivostok. The only European communist parties that would have had a reasonable chance of seizing power through free elections – those in France, Italy and Greece – were neutralized by the countermeasures launched by the USA under the “Truman doctrine” (political in the first two cases, military in the last case).
Drawing the line, the significance of May 9th, 1945 for the USSR can be described as “checkmate”. Not only did it miss the export of communism in all the Western European countries with major continental weight, but it also failed in an effort to “defeat” the hostile geography of northern Eurasia by gaining unhindered access to the planetary ocean. In 1945, for a minimum chance of success, the USSR would have needed at least the communization and subordination of the whole of Germany, plus France and (northern) Italy. Even so, the chances would have been limited, with the UK, Turkey and Spain remaining beyond its control. On May 9th, 1945, the global ambitions of the USSR received the coup de grace. The Korean and Afghan wars, the two Berlin crises and the Cuban missile crisis later confirmed the irreparable failure of 1945.
If President Vladimir Putin was really consistent with his statement of April 25th, 2005, then May 9th should not be celebrated with great fast and heraldry, but should instead be declared a national mourning day. The “geopolitical catastrophe” of the USSR then took place, on May 9th, 1945, even though its agony extended for another 46 years, until December 25th, 1991.
Because “the lie is the immortal soul of communism” (as Leszek Kolakowski brilliantly put it), the communist regime in Moscow continued to live in lies and denial after 1945, refusing to admit that the strategic and human mega-failure of 1945 was because of his own nature and Stalin’s policy of allying with Hitler in 1939, to facilitate the start of the “great imperialist war”. The blame for the failure of the “world revolution” led by Moscow was placed – very convenient for Soviet leaders – on the USA, the former decisive ally (so much for gratitude, one might say). The USSR has never lacked disinformation experts. Just as the “great imperialist war” of the 1920s and 1930s propaganda was quickly renamed, after June 22nd, 1941, the “great war for the defense of the motherland“, a few years later, the “Truman doctrine,” which provided for the containment of Soviet expansionism by priority political methods, was presented to the USSR population as “an aggressive USA policy of encircling the USSR“. Anti-Americanism became in 1945 the main defensive ingredient of the self-justifying theory of the communist regime in Moscow, gradually replacing the messianic offensive ingredient of the “romantic” times of the communist revolution with world aspirations.
USA and USSR – “the best enemy that money can buy” (Antony Sutton, British historian)
“Magnificent is our homeland: the Earth itself must travel for 9 hours for our huge Soviet homeland to enter the new year of its victories. The time will come when the Earth will need for this not 9 hours, but 24.”
(New Year’s Editorial, Pravda, January 1st, 1941)
The Kremlin propaganda machine, specialized after 1945 in demonizing the USA, and the West generally, “forgets” of course to remind the Russians that without the 18 million tons of American industrial and agricultural supplies (weapons, ammunition, 300,000 trucks, locomotives, wagons, ships, 11,000 fighter jets, industrial equipment and machinery, spare parts, 6000 tanks, armored vehicles, rare metals, oil and derivatives, clothing, footwear, medicines, ambulances, medical equipment, blankets, tents etc.) delivered by the USA since 1941 under the Lend Lease Act, the USSR would have seriously risked the collapse in 1941-1942. During the culmination of the conflict on the Eastern Front (1942-1944), the military and civilian supplies transported by the US Army to the USSR through the North Atlantic and Iran could fully satisfy the daily consumption, on the front, of nearly 100 Soviet divisions with full effectives.
Of the 18 million tons of military and civilian supplies delivered by the US to the USSR, about 4 million tons consisted of food, which the Soviet “economy” was unable to produce in decent quantities even during peacetime. Without the food sent from the USA, the war would have inflicted millions more casualties in the USSR by starvation, which would have added to the catastrophic loss of 27 million. And, by the way of the “diplomatic” metaphor of “back-breaking” chosen by Minister Lavrov in order to send derisively the participation of the Western allies in the war, let us remember that the “back” of Nazi Germany was also broken by the 3 millions of tons of bombs thrown on it by American and British air forces, which turned into ruins all major German cities, killed half a million civilians, left another 8 million homeless, significantly altered the German industry’s ability to replace the materials losses on the Eastern Front, and severely demoralized German soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front, while knowing that their families were bombed at home continuously, day and night. In the strategic air offensive over Germany, the USA aviation lost nearly 10,000 bombers, a figure that is worth compared to the 11,000 military aircraft delivered during the war. Basically, for every military aircraft delivered to replace losses in Europe, the USA industry also delivered one to the USSR.
The value of the equipment and goods delivered by the USA to the USSR during the war was 11.3 billion $, which in the present value of the USA currency equals nearly $ 200 billion. In the history of the world, wherever we searched and analyzed the figures and data, no country was ever helped by another, just as the USSR was then helped by the United States. For comparison, the Marshall Plan, launched in 1948, but for the benefit of not one, but 17 non-communist European states, cost US $ 12.7 billion. USA aid to the USSR during the war represented 89% of the value of the Marshall Plan later offered to USA Western allies. And let us not forget that we are talking here about a state – the USSR – whose propaganda used to assert before 1941 that it was preparing the “tomb of capitalism” and “the hang for the plutocracy“. What an amazing luck for the USSR to have such “capitalist” allies, especially since the $ 200 billion remained a gift from American taxpayers.
Sometimes even great satraps can have their moments of honesty. In 1943, at the Tehran conference, Stalin had such a moment, when he declared that “without the power of the American economy, the Allies would not be able to win the war with Germany“. Today, of course, no one would dare in Moscow to recall that statement, even though Stalin’s cult was revived to levels unheard after the “secret report” read by Khrushchev in 1956. If today’s Russian officials are so fond of ” the historical memory “of the USSR as they publicly claim, then not Stalin should have been rehabilitated – who killed millions of innocent Soviet citizens and, through adventurous policies, sent later millions others
directly in the meat grinder of Nazi German armies – but USA President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which would deserve a statue and at least one boulevard with its name in every city in Russia. Without the colossal American aid from 1941 to 1945, it is not at all certain that the USSR would have survived the Second World War, which does not mean that Nazi Germany would have won it (her chances were zero, as it was strategically terminated from the very moment of the signing of the Ribbentrop – Molotov pact), but would means only that today, most likely, it would not have been anyone in Moscow to wave under the eyes of the timorous West the banner with the slogan – “without the heroic USSR, Hitler would have eaten you all” .
From Lenin and Stalin to the “Beatles – Sinatra doctrine”
“We do not stand for national interests, but proclaim that the interests of socialism, the interests of world socialism, go before the national interests and the interests of the state. We are the defenders of the Homeland of Socialism“
(V.I. Lenin, speech before the CC of the USSR Communist Party, May 14th, 1918)
After the victory parade organized on the Red Square in Moscow on June 24th, 1945, for 20 years, May 9th was in the USSR a working day like any other. From the perspective of “promoting Lenin’s legacy” there was absolutely nothing to celebrate about May 9th, 1945, and all Soviet leaders, including Stalin, were perfectly aware of this fact. The rediscovery of the “great victory” against Nazi Germany in 1965 coincided with the entry of Soviet Communism into the phase of Brezhnev decomposition, when a mythological prop of such resonance became useful to the official discourse that was desperately trying to find “new” justifications for the regime’s perpetuation.
Emerging on the last day of 1999 as the leader of a country severely traumatized by 75 years of communism and 10 years of kleptocratic “transition”, Vladimir Putin decided to incorporate the Soviet tradition into the official and justifying discourse of the political and state construction he had taken over. The option is not surprising, but, in retrospect, the main motivation was not nostalgic, but pragmatic. The “new tsar” wanted, and wants, a state that would satisfy his ambitions and, first of all – in line with the Soviet obsession born in 1945 – the ambition to be “treated as equal” by the USA.
President Putin’s main problem is that he patronizes a state-type entity that no longer has the possibility to return to the global strength and status of the USSR, but cannot return either to old imperial Russia, the ravages of communism being too great, and too widespread temporally (75 years) and humanly (4-5 generations axiological and biologically devastated). The Russian leader, set on the objective of “parity with the US”, ignores the fact that Russia is – through history and tradition – a European state, and ignores his own statements made in rare moments of public sincerity – when he admitted that Lenin was the sexton of historical Russia – and acts on what might be called “Beatles doctrine – Sinatra”: Back in the USSR, but in My Way.
Putin ardently wanted a strong state to support his ambition to “talk on an equal footing with the Americans”. He believed that he could only obtain it by reactivating the political mythology and propaganda originating in the USSR, because the others, the genuine Russian values, said no longer nothing to the largest part of the society. He restored Soviet symbols, resumed the USSR anthem (with other lyrics), changed school textbooks for the glory of Stalin (who made “some mistakes”, but no crimes against humanity), unleashed a revisionist propaganda based on the “USSR greatness” cult and seasoned all this revisionist panoply with some “orthodox”,”patriotic”, “conservative” and “Eurasian” spices, and, inevitably, reach the stage of reinterpreting the Second World War and the” great victory” of May 9th, 1945.
The second problem of the Kremlin leader is that geopolitics is not sensitive to ambitions, nostalgia, emotions or identity crises. The “Great Parade” of May 9th, 2015 brought together 10,000 soldiers in the Red Square in Moscow. On June 24th, 1945, over 40,000 had marched. Beyond symbolism, this is also the ratio of forces between the former USSR and Russia today: at least 4-1. Relations between states are always established according to their real strength and influence, not to the personal ambitions of the leaders. The USA relates to Russia based on what Russia is and does, not on what Russia would like to be, or would like to become, or on the ambitions of its leaders.
For the Putin regime, the propaganda exploitation of the “great victory” against Nazi Germany represents, on the external “front”, the equivalent of the Queen on the chessboard. The Kremlin leader will not let it out easily, because he knows it offers him a great way to put the West on the defensive. With cynicism and nerve, Moscow clings to Hitler’s ghost and confronts Western capitals with serious dilemmas, which touch not only on their inherent weaknesses – past and present – but also complicities they would like to forget. The Kremlin obviously knows that Western leaders have closed their eyes to the crimes of the Stalinist regime, because it has significantly contributed to the defeat of the Hitler regime. Speculating this, as well as the positions (re)gained in the West after 1990 by the radical left – especially in universities and the press – Moscow acts according to the classic “Corleone method” and transmits to the Westerners a subtle and implicit message of the type “you are just as guilty as we are, so you’re going anywhere! ”
Who started World War II?
“Germany did not attack France and England, but France and England attacked Germany, taking upon themselves the responsibility for the current war. After the first military actions, Germany addressed France and England with peace proposals, and the Soviet Union sincerely supported Germany’s peace proposals… (…) The leading circles of France and England have grossly rejected Germany’s peace proposals, as they have rejected the Soviet Union’s attempts to reach a hasty end to the war. “
(Statement signed by I.V. Stalin, Pravda, November 30, 1939)
Moscow, August 23, 1939, the day Germany committed suicide and pulled Europe after her. One leader (Stalin, obviously satisfied), a strategist (General Boris Shaposnikov, 2nd from left, in uniform), and two stewards (Molotov, at table; Ribbentrop, “constipated”, 4th from left). Shaposnikov was the author of the Red Army’s offensive strategy, and the only one in the close entourage to whom Stalin addressed himself without “comrade”, using the Christian names Boris Mihailovich.
The relative success of Moscow, not only in insolently promoting a history of the Second World War full of epic interpretive forgeries, but also in “expediting” very quickly over a third of it (August 23rd, 1939 – June 22nd1941), is facilitated by the very prudence of mainstream history schools in the West to call things by name, coupled with an even greater prudence of Western politicians in reacting to such propagandistic insolences. Russia’s ability, after 1999, to “establish” itself as Hitler’s main, if not only, victor, but without explaining how Hitler came to power, and who initially helped him (1939-1941) to dismantle Europe, plus the aggressiveness with which this slogan is promoted, acts as a powerful inhibitor in the Western intellectual elite, where the Kremlin leader’s supporters are anyway increasingly numerous.
Moscow would like to erase the history of the first two years of war from the universal memory. After the long official denial of the existence of the secret annexes of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact became unsustainable with the dissolution of the USSR, the official Russian speech withdrew on a line of “easier argumentation”, admitting the existence of barter with Nazi Germany, but which it tries now to “justify” by “the need for the USSR to gain time to prepare its defense“. It is an “argument” that outrage elementary logic: if the USSR was indeed “afraid” of German aggression, the best thing it could have done was to leave Poland (in hostile relations with Germany since March 1939) exactly where it was, not to share it with Hitler in August 1939, thus offering the German army a direct land border with the USSR. Without a common German-Soviet border, attacking the USSR by Germany would have been exceptionally difficult (both military and political), and attacking the USSR “by surprise” would have been impossible.
The history of Europe in the 20th century cannot be understood without accepting the obvious fact that the Soviet-German pact signed in Moscow, on August 23rd, 1939, was the political founding act of World War II.The military founding act of the Second World War was the attack on Poland by Nazi Germany on September 1st, 1939, but Berlin and Moscow entered as allies in that war. Stalin was (much) smarter than Hitler, allowing him to attack first and “collect”, two days later, the declarations of war of Great Britain and France. On September 3rd, 1939, “the great imperialist war” began, and the USSR reached its geopolitical peak of its history, remaining “neutral” on the sidelines, to watch as “the capitalist powers break apart“.
On September 17th, 1939, the USSR committed exactly the same serious offense under international law as Nazi Germany did on September 1st, 1939: an unprovoked military aggression against Poland. Already in war with Germany, the United Kingdom and France did not judge with the same measure and did not declare war to the USSR, which until the summer of 1940, although being into a treaty of “non-aggression and friendship” with Nazi Germany, annexed unchallenged by the West more than half of Poland, one-fifth of Romania, the three Baltic states and parts of Finland. The radically different approach of the Western democracies to the two bloody totalitarianisms of the 20th century has as its official birth day September 17th, 1939, and is the key to understanding the timid and defensive way in which the West responds, today, to the propaganda offensive of Moscow on the subject of World War II.
Eventually, the historical truth will impose itself, regardless of Moscow’s desperate efforts to hide it, and this truth is that the USSR, an internationalist-socialist (communist) state, entered the Second World War, as a totalitarian, aggressor and revisionist state, side by side and in close “official friendship” with the German Third Reich, a nationalist-socialist (Nazi) state, also totalitarian, aggressor and revisionist. Until June 22nd, 1941, the USSR supported Germany through massive deliveries: 1.6 million tons of cereals, 900,000 tons of oil, 500,000 tons of iron ore, 300,000 tons of iron and steel, 200,000 tons of cotton , 200,000 tons of phosphates, 140,000 tons of magnesium, 100,000 tons of soy, 20,000 tons of chromium, 18,000 tons of rubber, 2 tons of platinum. Stalin contributed, to a great extent, to the success of Hitler’s assault on European democracies from 1939 to 1941. Wermacht soldiers were partially clothed, equipped and fed by supplies from the USSR, and the German military industry fully benefited from supplies of strategic ores from the same USSR. The total economic blockade imposed by the British fleet on Germany, on September 3rd, 1939, had no noticeable effect in the first two years of the war because Stalin delivered to “his comrade” Hitler all that he was no longer able to import from abroad.
The current Russian propaganda also aims at hiding an enormous “skeleton” from the recent history closet: most of the 27 million Soviet victims of World War II were provoked by the USSR conflict with its closest “friendly state” in Europe before June 22nd, 1941. Stalin and his henchmen played with the fire (the “world revolution” and the alliance with Hitler), and the captive nations in the USSR, starting with the Russian one, paid a terrible price because of this reason. “Historic Russia” invoked today in Moscow every May 9th could not have win any victory on May 9th, 1945, for a very simple reason: it no longer existed at that time, having already been liquidated years before by the axe of CEKA / NKVD / NKGB. The propagandistic and ideological battle to gain control over the interpretation of the history of war and of “the victory day – May 9th, 1945″ is fought strictly on the post-Soviet political agenda. The fact that today most Russians – exposed to unparalleled disinformation – believe otherwise, does not change this fact.
Everyone agrees today that Hitler’s leadership profile was of a criminal type, with obsessive-compulsive dominant. But not everyone remembers that one of his obsessions was the avoidance by Germany of another war on two fronts. The documents are edifying: as much as he wanted a new, “revenge” war (as opposed to the First World War), he was so obsessed with the risk of carrying it on two fronts, aware that Germany would have no chance in such a scenario and would end up defeated, as it was in 1918. By strategically maneuvering on a much higher level, Stalin released Hitler from this obsession on August 23rd, 1939, after throughout the summer he had kept him “burnt” on small fire by miming, in Moscow, “military negotiations” with France and the United Kingdom, which he never intended to finalize, but which have achieved the objective of frightening Berlin. Without the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact (in fact, a Hitler-Stalin pact which, strangely, is not designated by historians as the “Moscow Pact”, after the place of signature, as all other international agreements), the denouement of September 1st, 1939 would not have been inevitable. British historian A.J.P. Taylor, one of the greatest experts in the origins of the war, wrote of the political situation on the night of August 30/31, 1939: “In 24 hours, the breakup would have become complete(between London and Warsaw, following the Polish government’s refusal to talk to Berlin), but Hitler did not allow these 24 hours. He was the prisoner of his own programming“. Would he have remained the “prisoner of his own calendar”, and of his own bluster, if he hadn’t had Stalin’s guarantee that he would not risk a two-fronts war by attacking Poland?
Stalin, through the eyes of the Moscow’s propaganda of 2019: both triumphant hero and dummy. Simultaneous?
“The TASS is empowered to declare that (…) based on the information available to the USSR, Germany unabashedly respects the conditions of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact, so rumors of Germany’s intention to violate the pact and commit an attack on the USSR are baseless (…) The USSR, in the framework of its peace policy, has respected, and intends to comply with, the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact, so rumors that the USSR is preparing for war with Germany are false and provocative. “
(TASS, official statement, June 13th, 1941)
Soviet attack plan on Germany and Romania (in the version approved by Stalin on May 15th, 1941)
Russian propaganda revived, after 1999, from the Soviet old one, by the Putin regime, wants to convince the whole world that the USSR, a “peace-loving” state, but “scared” of Hitler’s aggressiveness, has entered the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact in order to win the necessary time to “prepare the country’s defense.” This does not explain why, then, the “innocent and pacifist” USSR committed direct, brutal and unprovoked aggression against Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, countries that did not threaten it in any way, thus grossly violating the international law. The USSR could have concluded the non-aggression pact with Germany without asking for anything in return, if it was allegedly “animated by the peace policy“. Although the August 23rd, 1939 pact can be termed as a “temporary non-aggression” one between the USSR and Germany, it clearly was a pact of aggression against Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and – implicitly – Finland.
Moscow’s official narrative continues to “explain” how Hitler “surprised” with his attack the “unprepared” Red Army, also as a result of Stalin’s “ignorance” of the reports presented by the Soviet intelligence bodies – probably the most efficient in the world at that time – regarding the imminent German attack. Then followed the “great war for the defense of the motherland“, in which the USSR made the highest sacrifices among all participants in the United Nations coalition, and to which it had by far the largest contribution (if not nearly the only contribution) to the final victory, whose apotheosis was the conquest of Berlin by the Red Army in May 1945.
The only integral genuine element of this fantastic historical prose is that concerning the colossal human sacrifices (mentioned above) of the peoples of the former USSR. Exactly on this element the Kremlin leaders have the most tense and offensive position, and not by chance: being ultra-emotional, but also real, it can be used to silence those who do not accept “in pack” all the current official history of Moscow about the war, by using the accusation of “disrespect for the memory of the victims“. In fact, neither at the level of the former allies, nor at the level of the former adversaries of the USSR in the war, have there ever been (at least not officially) gestures of disrespect towards the Soviet victims, or attempts to deny the colossal level of human sacrifices in the former USSR. It should be seen, rather, where “respect” is when the memory of 27 million victims is instrumentalized for purely political ends, as is the case with the “official” history of the conflict, which Russia “rolls” increasingly insistently in recent years.
By accepting Moscow’s official narrative about the war, two major drawbacks are inevitably hit. The first is internal (relative to Russia) and involves taking over the entire Soviet “passive”, like a millstone hanging from the neck of the Russian nation. How could one imagine Russia’s detachment from the legacy of the communist regime, or at least from the Stalinist part of it, and the healing of Russian society from the effects of the frightening crimes against humanity committed by that regime, if official Moscow turns Stalin into “the hero of May 9th, 1945″ and the “founding stepfather” of the “new Russia”? How does the current Kremlin propaganda think to convince the rest of the world that it does not find peace until the memory of the 27 million victims of the war “would be properly honored” when official Russia herself did not shed a tear for the 15-20 million of victims of the same regime, which are not related to the war with Nazi Germany? Aren’t people’s lives, in themselves, equal in value? Or is Moscow aware of any “grid” for ranking the value of human life, depending on who the criminals were?
The second drawback is external, in the sense that it concerns other states, to which the current fantastic narrative of Moscow about the Second World War mandatory impose the acceptance of the chapter referring to the so-called “liberation of Central and Eastern Europe by the Red Army“. Obviously, it does not surprise anyone that the nations that have experienced for 45 years, on their own skin, the “benefits of liberation” by the USSR in 1944-1945, do not accept such an interpretation of their recent history. What can truly surprise, is Moscow’s arrogance in insisting on a “story” that is not only false, but also deeply offensive to those it is intended. Ultimately, what Moscow is asking today from the former satellite states of the USSR in Central and Eastern Europe is equivalent to asking a family who lost a member as a result of a crime to put the portrait of the criminal on the living room wall. If he continues to insist on “sovereignty” in his anti-Western discourse, Russia might begin by understanding that other states and nations are sovereign, too, and have the right to their own interpretation of recent history. If they do not want statues of the “liberating Soviet soldier” in the public plazas of their cities, this does not mean “disrespect”, but on the contrary, respect for their own history and for the memory of two generations destroyed without being guilty of something, in a war determined over their heads, and by the consequences of that war.
The healing of the still incompletely closed wounds of the war is not and will not be possible without the complete assumption of historical truth, by all participants, including the politically unpleasant parts of this truth, and of the parts which do not fall into the category of “retrospective motives of national pride”. If Germany assumed full responsibility for the abominable crimes against humanity committed by the German Third Reich between 1933 and 1945, if the Central-Eastern European states – including Romania – took full responsibility for their recent history, including the tragic reality of involvement in, and participation at, the Holocaust in the years of alliance with Nazi Germany, or its domination on their national territories, on the other hand Russia not only has not taken any step towards assuming its recent history, but it persists, with an obvious worsening tendency in recent years, in manipulating history by glorifying a criminal regime, for obvious (geo)political purposes. A mass murderer (cunning and calculated) who kills another mass murderer (psychopath and hysterical), who has been its accomplice in crimes, does not automatically become a “basic model and pillar of society”, even if no one is weeping after the murdered killer. Moscow should strive more to penetrate this elementary truth, while there is still time.
There are many other elements insufficiently clarified regarding the “great patriotic war” transformed into the political (re)founding myth by the Putin regime. In 1812, Napoleon’s army that invaded Russia marched for two and a half months until it managed to engage the first battle with the Russian army. Czar Alexander I, who had far less accurate information on the enemy than Stalin had in 1941, adopted a defensive strategy, withdrawing his forces far inland to exhaust the French, thus succeeding in winning the war with reasonable losses. As for the situation in 1941, the Kremlin propagandists have no logical explanation for the fact that 14 Soviet armies (the first strategic echelon of the Red Army, with 171 divisions and 3 million soldiers) were “stuck” on the western frontiers of the USSR on June 22nd, 1941, and another 3 armies (the second strategic echelon, with 57 divisions and about 1 million soldiers, in the phase of completing the troops) were in the final mobilization phase about 100-200 kilometers to the east. All were relatively easy targets, being encircled and destroyed or devastated in the first weeks of the German blitzkrieg. Of the 11 million military personnel lost by the USSR in the war, 40% were the losses caused by the initial German assault between June and November 1941. A striking figure, which begs a big question: why was the bulk of the 1941 Soviet army overcrowded at the western borders of the USSR?
In mid-June 1941, once the preparations for the offensive against the USSR were completed, Germany had “stuck” on the eastern border (more precisely on the demarcation line resulting from the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact) an army of 3.8 million soldiers (a figure that included Romanian and Finnish allied troops). For an army preparing for an offensive, that deployment was natural. But the oddities appear when analyzing the disposition of the Red Army, that is, the army of a state that – to this day tells us the official historiography of Moscow – was a “peace loving” one, was preparing “for defense” and “feared” the aggression of Nazi Germany (“scared” enough to conclude the 1939 pact in order to “win time”). On June 21st, 1941, the USSR had 3 million soldiers “stuck” at the borders with Germany and Romania, another 1 million a little farther east, and another 1.5 million already incorporated, resulting in a total of 5.5 million soldiers, sensibly more than Germany and its allies had. In addition, conscription orders have been sent to another 14 million Soviet citizens, outlining the picture of a total war mobilization, launched obviously before the German attack of June 22nd, 1941. By comparison, Germany would introduce the total mobilization of the population and economy for the effort. only in February 1943, after the defeat at Stalingrad.
The analysis of the Red Army’s deployment in the field, in June 1941, does not suggest defensive intentions. If the USSR was “preparing for defense“, and given that it was the European state with the largest territory, so it had the widest “strategic depth” and the best tactical options to avoid “surprise strikes” at the border, then why 3-4 million Soviet soldiers were “crowded” at the western borders, or near them, in extremely exposed positions, where they were either destroyed or taken prisoners by the German army in the first weeks of the war? Any student at a military academy who would propose a “defensive plan” of the type that the USSR had in 1941, would be immediately directed to a civilian career. Had the Soviet leadership of 1941 been, beginning with Stalin, made up of stupid and incompetents? In the years of the Great Terror (1936-1938), Stalin had sent to death tens of thousands of Red Army officers for imaginary or minor mistakes, or simply to “motivate” those left alive to execute immediately and without comments any order. However, the Soviet senior officers who led the 1941 mobilization and the deployment of the Red Army near the Western borders – a fact that decisively contributed to the disaster of the first months of the war and to the occupation of a large part of the USSR’s European territory by the German army – were not disturbed by Stalin even with a “written reprimand”, many ending the war with marshal or general ranks, loaded with honors and decorations. Stalin sent millions of innocent Soviet citizens to death, but with his military commanders who “managed” between June and December 1941 a military disaster in which the USSR lost nearly 5 million soldiers and almost collapsed, he was “merciful” and gave them another chance.
The weeks leading up to the “surprise” attack of Nazi Germany recorded an unprecedented series of “weirdness” that current historiographers in the West (not to mention the official Russian ones) have not managed for 80 years to put “head to head” and explain them coherently. On May 5th, 1941, in a speech to the graduates cadets of the Soviet military academies of that year, Stalin came out of “restraint” and announced that “Germany is the most likely enemy of the USSR in the future war, which may begin at the earliest in 1942“. The speech was classified “top secret”, but the list of beneficiaries, including the commanders of large units and tactical units of the Red Army, reached several thousand people. Did Stalin have any illusions that a “secret” disseminated to several thousand beneficiaries would remain secret long afterwards? Then why did the message “get away” though? The next day, May 6th, 1941, the mystery deepened: Stalin officially assumed the position of “President of the Soviet of the People’s Commissars“, which in Soviet jargon designated the position of Prime Minister of the USSR. As Secretary General of the Communist Party from 1922, and after the death of Lenin in 1924, Stalin had discretionary powers, by which he could ordered in impunity anything “on the party line of command”, while the responsibility rested entirely with “the comrades with command position within the state”, respectively “people’s commissars” (ministers), military commanders, and their subordinates. Stalin, having no official function within the state, kept himself “above” the system, constantly putting responsibility for the “side effects” of his dictatorship on the enforcers, who were most often “liquidated” for “sabotage”, “treason”, “espionage”, etc. What, in those circumstances, determined Stalin to officially assume, in view of the entire USSR, the responsibility for governing the country, and precisely in May 1941, when information about the upcoming conflict with Germany “flowed” from all sides?
On June 13th, 1941, the “USSR leadership” (that was, Stalin) sent to the official TASS news agency the famous press release, which practically announced that the rumors regarding the preparation of a German aggression against the USSR were “unfounded”, and the rumors about the preparation of a Soviet aggression against Germany are “false and provocative”. To be noted, from the beginning, the different labeling of the two “categories of rumors”: for anyone familiar with Soviet repressive-totalitarian jargon, the difference between “unfounded” and “provocative” was about the same as the difference between (at least) 10 years of forced labor in the Gulag and a bullet in the head, the language of choice obviously indicating the Soviet leader’s anger at rumors of his own intentions more than at rumors of Hitler’s intentions. Viewed in retrospect, from the perspective of the German attack that took place a week later, the TASS press release of June 13th, 1941, appears to be the work of a mentally retarded or blockhead. But on the very same day, the units of the first strategic echelon of the Red Army, received the order to deploy on the immediate vicinity of the USSR’s Western borders. Stalin was well known for his paranoid nature, entrenched in suspicion and distrust, which led to death hundreds of his closed aids, and thousands of Bolshevik leaders from the “old guard” from 1917. Despite this, the historical narratives which currently dominate the “market” would like to convince their readers that, from all people which he interacted to, Stalin trusted only one person – Hitler. If Stalin issued a press release on June 13th, 1941, saying he trusted Hitler to “unabatedly respecting the non-aggression pact” from 1939, that doesn’t meant he believed for one second what he declared, but just that he had a very serious reason to “play the foul” in public.
On June 16th, 1941, Stalin received from the head of the NKVD foreign intelligence the intelligence – having as source a senior officer in Luftwaffe, Germany’s military aviation – that the German attack on the USSR “may begin now at any time“. Stalin’s resolution on that report remained famous, as it instructed the Soviet intelligence service to “send his misinformation source to his mother’s origin” (in Russian, it sounded much worse). At the time, information from first-hand intelligence sources was “flowing” to Moscow for months, adding to the information provided (for free) by the USA and the United Kingdom, which supported the same conclusion. In brackets to be said, the German military and diplomatic service were “sieve”, being penetrated by Soviet espionage in all key points. Stalin had constantly received the respective intelligence with distrust, had asked for extra oversight, clarifications, etc., occasionally reacting nervously. Stalin’s vulgar resolution on the June 16th, 1941 report does not “prove”, however, that he refused “until the end” to accept the reality of the concentration of the German army on the Western border of the USSR. There was no chance that the Soviet dictator would have ignored this fact, and his anger only showed that he did not need such information exactly at that time, when he had ordered the Red Army to amass “symmetrically” on the other side of the border, and when he “needed to believe” that his logic was correct.
In fact, Stalin did not “ignore” the intelligence reports that came to his desk before June 22nd, 1941, and he had no doubt that Hitler was massing his troops on the border with the USSR, but his interpretation was “political” (an attempt to intimidate Hitler), simply because he did not believe that Germany, already trapped in a war with Britain (behind which was the USA, with virtually inexhaustible resources), could have risks also a war with the USSR.
If in 1939 Hitler was deceived by Stalin’s cunning, in 1941 Stalin was deceived by Hitler’s folly. Historians who insist on Stalin’s “blindness” of 1941 “forget” to recall that from the hundreds of reports received from NKVD and GRU, Stalin had formed a detailed, accurate picture of the German army at that time (which was not at all the case with Hitler, relative to the Soviet Army), so he knew that the Red Army is clearly superior to the Wermacht in all indicators, superiority going up to 8-1 in tanks, 3-1 in aviation and 5-1 in artillery, not to mention the Soviet short-term recruitment reserve of 14 million people, whom Germany could only dream of. Another detail, only apparently minor: the agents recruited by the GRU in the Ministry of Economy in Berlin reported to Moscow that, until June 1941, the German army had not released to the industry orders for the winter clothes needed for the nearly 4 million soldiers massed at the USSR border. Drawing the line, Stalin could not believe, applying the basic logic, that Hitler would attack with an army of 24,000 tanks with 3,300 tanks, nor that would he send his soldiers to the USSR wearing only summer clothing. In “linear” logic, Hitler “couldn’t” attack, and yet he did. And even the post-1945 Soviet sources (military commander’s memoirs, for example) indicate the same conclusion: the 1941 USSR military disaster, which was the cause of the loss of 27 million of its citizens, was due to the fact that the German army attacked “in the worst possible moment” for the Soviet army, respectively when it was in the process of concentration-organization on the western frontier and of general mobilization inland. Certainly, the Red Army movements in the first part of 1941 did not aim at “gathering the harvest”: neither Hitler nor Stalin had any intention to respect the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, mainly because the totalitarian regimes, of criminal nature, do not, by “definition”, fulfill their commitments. For Europe, however, the consequences were calamitous.
“The Russian question at the end of the 20th century” (described by Alexandr Soljeniţin in the homonym book), contains a valid conclusion for the understanding of the Second World War: the main source of the evils fallen on Russia is Moscow’s traditionally erroneous foreign policy, based on Moscow on a illusory and hopeless messianic creed (in the past “the 3rd Roma” and “the world communist revolution”, today “the Eurasianism”). But Russia has never had the soft power to inspire and, in particular, support such a messianic creed. If Russia were to draw a conclusion from the (real) history of the war, it would be that its only real option is to accept the country’s European and Western roots, to liquidate the cult of Lenin’s mummy and of the regime founded by him (with the exception of Genghis Han, no one did more harm to the Russians than Lenin, but official Moscow still honors him, which says a lot), and sincerely joining the concert of the European democratic nations – as a big and important state, no doubt, but neither “special”, nor “messianic”, and by no means privileged. Russia’s only exit from the communist disaster is to the West, through – and with – Europe. The “Eurasian” illusions, that is, “playing Asia” to impress the US, carry risks with serious potential, first and foremost for Russia itself. By 2050 at the latest, Asia will be able to “swallow” (without digestion problems) a Russia self-isolated from Europe and the West. Russian decision-makers should know this … but Stalin also knew a lot before June 22nd, 1941.
Hitler’s Road to Power: “Young Plan” and Comrades Stalin and Thälmann
“Except for Hitler, Lenin was the greatest man, and the differences between communism and Hitler’s conception are very small” (Joseph Gobbels, quoted by the New York Times correspondent in Germany, in the November 28th, 1925 edition, article “Hitler revolts” Berlin “, p. 4)
“If at any end the revolutionary shaking of Europe begins, it will be Germany, and the victory of the revolution in Germany means the victory of the international revolution” (I.V. Stalin, 1923)
“One cannot terminate capitalism without first terminating the social democracy” (I.V. Stalin, editorial in Pravda, November 7, 1927)
Hitler, still humble, under the contemptuous eyes of President Hindenburg (1933)
The overwhelming majority of history textbooks used in Western democracies’ schools continue to propagate an idea not dissimilar to that was found in textbooks used during the Cold War, in the communist states: “In the context of the effects provoked in Germany by the world crisis of the capitalist system, which broke out in 1929 , Hitler came to power in 1933 through free elections“. The global economic crisis which lasted from 1929 to 1933 was very real, but its initial shock was felt especially in the US, not in Europe. What made Germany a main (and sure) victim of the crisis was the “Young Plan” of January 1930, which “restructured” the war reparations owed by Germany to the 1918 victorious powers under the Versailles Treaty, set in 1921 at the dizzying amount of 132 billion gold marks, respectively 250% of Germany’s GDP in 1913. This “payment bill”, which played a decisive role, even before 1929, in undermining the parliamentary democracy of the Weimar Republic (1918 – 1933), by feeding the two extremisms – national-socialist and communist – resulted from 3 figures: at 12 billion gold marks were evaluated the damages caused by the German army in the occupied territories of the Allies (including in Romania); 38 billion gold marks constituted the debts incurred by France and the United Kingdom in the USA, in order to finance their war expenses, debts that were thus “transferred” to the defeated Germany; the most consistent part, of 82 billion gold marks, was strictly punitive, and had no other justification than the article in the Versailles Treaty which assign to Germany the “full responsibility for the outbreak” of the First World War (which was a serious exaggeration in interpreting the events of 1914), and which was the main power supply of the revisionist propaganda of the National Socialist Party of German Workers – NSDAP / Nazi, led by Adolf Hitler).
The “Young Plan” reduced Germany’s total bill to 112 billion gold marks, extending the payments over 58 years (a figure that, once announced, further inflamed Nazi propaganda, which starts denouncing the “enslavement of three German generations by foreigners“), and set an annual rate of reimbursement of 2 billion gold marks (3% of Germany’s GDP in 1930), of which one-third was absolutely mandatory and had priority over any other payment of the German state, including payments in the external debt account. Although accompanied by some concessions – the promise of France to withdraw its occupation troops from the Rhineland in 1930, 5 years earlier than the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, the cessation of the “supervision” by the Allies of the National Bank and of the German railways, and the dissolution of the Allied Commission for Reparations – the “Young plan” gave a blow to the German economy, because it practically destroyed its ability to access financingthrough external loans.
In the midst of the global economic crisis – which had already made foreign loans more expensive and more difficult to obtain – the compulsion of Germany, through an international treaty, to annually pay at least 650 million gold marks, without any waiver and without exceptions, before any other external or internal payments, had the immediate effect of the disappearance of the external creditors, who were scared – justified, from their perspective – that burdened with the respective payments the budget of Germany will not have the capacity to repay the loans from private banks. In addition, the German government, faced with such an “compulsory payment” starting from 1930, was forced to take immediate measures to reduce spending in order to force a budget surplus, which is exactly what it should not have done during an economic downturn. Thus, a spiral of underfunding and capital flow opened, leading in the summer of 1931 to the collapse of a large part of the financial and banking system in Germany (several large banks went bankrupt) and to a partial cessation of payments.
It is at least strange that the historical narratives of Hitler’s ascension to power insist on the economic crisis that started in the USA in 1929, but does not go into the details of the 1931 financial-banking crash in Germany, which was one of the greatest economic disasters in modern history. To avoid a total catastrophe, the government in Berlin was forced to adopt drastic austerity measures (those who juggle today, politically, in Europe, with “denouncing austerity”, could look more closely at the history of Germany from 1930 to 1932, to better understand what “austerity” means). The consequences were seen in 1932: industrial production collapsed by 42% compared to 1928, and the number of unemployed jumped to over 6 million, representing over 30% of the workforce (before the introduction of the “Young plan” there were 1.5 million of the unemployed). In 1932, tens of millions of Germans literally starved, and many even died, 14 years after the war, as a result of general economic misery.
The political effects were inevitable and spectacular. After almost a decade of “rabid” propaganda, revisionist, populist, anti-Semitic, etc., Hitler’s NSDAP was still, in 1928, a “pocket” party. In the elections of May 20th, 1928, he obtained 2.6% of the votes and 12 deputies, the last place (8 out of 8) between the parliamentary parties. By comparison, in the same elections, organized in a period when the German economy was booming, KPD (German communists, affiliated – and subordinate – to the Stalinist Comintern) obtained 10.6% of the votes and 54 deputies, respectively 4thplace out of 8.
The following elections were held in Germany on September 14th, 1930, when the combined effects of the global economic crisis that erupted in October 1929 and the “Young plan” of January 1930 had already “bitten” deep. The Nazis obtained 18.3% of the votes, respectively 107 deputies – by far the biggest jump in the electoral history of the Weimar Republic: 7 times more votes, respectively 10 times more deputies, in 2 years. In 1930, from a noisy and marginal party, ignored by the vast majority of German society, the NSDAP became the second parliamentary party, after the Social Democrats (SPD). The Communists also did well, obtaining 13.1% of the vote and 77 deputies, respectively 3rd place between the parties.
Without the economic crisis that broke out in 1929 and the mismanagement by Western democracies of the problem of war reparations owed by Germany, the NSDAP would never have become a large party, with national “coverage” and a audience. Here, everyone agrees. The problem is – as in many other cases – that the devil is hiding in details, and many take the next step in reasoning wrong. If the NSDAP became the second parliamentary party in 1930 as a result of the global economic crisis and its exacerbated effects in Germany, this does not mean that there is a determinism to validate statements as such: “In the context of the effects of the economic crisis, the popularity of the Nazis has massively increased, so they succeed in gaining power through democratic methods“. In summary, YES, it is true that due to the economic crisis NSDAP entered, as a party, in 1930, in the “first league” of German politics, but it is NOT true that this party won by “the ballot box” the power in Germany and the mandate of Chancellor for its leader, Adolf Hitler. Anyway, not only by the ballot box.
Clarifying how Hitler came to be named Chancellor of Germany on January 30th, 1933, is far more important than it seems. As a “mere politician” – no matter how extremist, turbulent, demagogic and hatred he was – Hitler could not implement his retaliatory, revisionist, anti-Semitic, racist obsessions that led, among other things, to the decision of 80 years ago (attacking Poland on September 1st, 1939) that set Europe on fire, ultimately destroying it from one end to another, neither sending 7 million Jews to death, nor liquidating the pre-eminence of Europe and its civilization at the global level (because that’s what World War II did, essentially). Hitler was able to move on to “deeds” and commit these mass crimes and “historical crimes” only because he came to the position of supreme ruler of the most populous and (potentially) powerful European state. Therefore, the exact understanding of the mechanism by which Hitler obtained state power in Germany is essential to any real understanding of that war.
We thus arrive at the fascinating year 1932, decisive for the fate of Europe to this day, and – surprisingly, in this regard – bypassed in general “historical fashionable stories”. It was not only the peak year of the economic crisis in Germany, but also the year in which witnessed three major national election exercises – the March-April presidential elections, respectively the July 31st and November 6th parliamentary elections – that “made the books” and paved the way for the denouement of January 30th, 1933.
Those who continue to circulate, to this day, statements such as “Hitler came to power through free elections“, forget (or pretend to forget) that the German Republic of Weimar was thought of as a semi-presidential one. Elected by direct vote of the entire German electorate, its president (Reichspräsident) had executive powers correctly calibrated to its maximum democratic legitimacy, including the power to dissolve the Parliament (Reichstag) and to convene early legislative elections within 2 months, the power of to issue emergency laws and decrees, with immediate applicability (which the Reichstag could cancel within 60 days by simple majority), the (exclusive) power to appoint and dismiss the chancellor (prime minister) and the supreme command of the armed forces (Reichswehr). In the history of the Republic of Weimar, no politician “became” Chancellor “only by going through the polls“, but by being appointed by the head of state, who was not required by the Constitution to automatically appoint as Chancellor the leader of the party which obtained a relative majority of votes. This is all the more evident given that, since 1925, President-elect of the Weimar Republic was Paul von Hindenburg, a former Field-Marshal and supreme military commander of the German armies in World War I, considered by most of the population as a national hero, and a beneficiary of a position of moral authority unmatched during his lifetime by any other German politician.
The first German elections in 1932 were the presidential ones, which took place in two rounds, on March 13th and April 10th. Hindenburg ran for re-election, with NSDAP leaders Adolf Hitler and KPD Ernst Thälmann as main opponents. We will shortly get back to the story of Comrade Thälmann, the beneficiary to this day of a entirely unmerited heroic myth within the “progressive left” in Germany and Western Europe, but for the time being we shall note that in the election campaign of the spring of 1932, Hitler and Thälmann barely attacked each other, reserving all their “ammunition” for Hindenburg. With all the disaster caused by the economic crisis, Hindenburg has been re-elected with 53% of the vote and nearly 20 million supporters. For Hitler, however, the “defeat” with 37% of the vote (over 13 million supporters and a majority in 6 lands) turned into a personal victory propaganda story, apparently validating him as the main “arithmetic” challenger to the position of Chancellor.
In evoking the immediately preceding period of Hitler’s “arriving in power,” the very harsh Hindenburg – Hitler political and electoral confrontation in the spring of 1932 is almost always overlooked, the most plausible explanation being that it invalidates the Comintern’s thesis, present to date not only to Moscow, but also in Western historiography, according to which “the capitalist and reactionary circles in Germany brought Hitler to power“. Upon careful analysis, one can immediately notice the false notes in this narative. Hindenburg was the undisputed leader of the Nationalist-Conservative Right in the Weimar Republic. There is an abundance of sources who argue that Hindenburg not only detested Hitler as a politician but also despised him as an individual, in conversations with his close friends often referring to him with nicknames such as “Bohemian corporal” or “Austrian peasant”. From the very beginning, Hindenburg perceived Hitler – correctly – as an intruder and impostor in the political family of the German conservative Right, as a revolutionary “under patriotic cover” that seeks to liquidate the constitutional democracy. Hitler himself did not made significant efforts to mitigate this perception by constantly insisting on the “socialist” and “transforming” character of the “movement” he was leading.
To date, the term “Nazi”, which is an acronym for the title “Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – NSDAP / The National Socialist Party of German Workers“, from which have been chosen the letters that highlight nationalism, but have been avoided the letters stressing the “socialist” and “working-class” character, serves the original purposes, namely to protect the delicate audiences in the West from palpitations, but also to quickly close the mouths of those tempted by “academic curiosities” (it is “very clear” that it is “extreme right”, “fascist”, and with that the discussion ended). Who remembers today that this party was called in its beginnings (1919 – 1920) “Deutsche Arbeiterpartei / German Labor Party” and that Hitler, after taking over his leadership, had intended to change his name to “Social Revolution Party of Germany“, being hardly convinced by his entourage to opt for the NSDAP variant, less scary for voters?
The first German parliamentary elections in 1932 were held on July 31stand provoked the “great shock”: with 37.4% of the vote and 230 deputies, the NSDAP became the first party in Germany. Basically, the party has equated the performance of its chief in the spring presidential elections and has reached the maximum point of popular support under democratic conditions, with free and fair elections. Even if the result of 37% was not bad at all for a party that 3 years ago could not get 3%, the obvious fact immediately jumps in sight: even at the climax of the economic crisis, the NSDAP did not receive the support of the majority of the German electorate, allowing it to “access to government through democratic means“. From 37% to 51% it was still a long way, which Hitler’s party could never walk for as long as the elections were free. The political Left obtained 36.2% of the vote (social-democrats 21.6%, communists / KPD 14.6%), with a total of 222 deputies, only 8 fewer than the Nazis. The centrist and regional parties obtained together, 16.7% of the votes and 101 deputies, and the parties of the traditional-conservative right obtained 7% of the votes and 44 deputies. The main problem opened by the elections of July 31st, 1932 was not the transformation of the NSDAP into the first party (as a parliamentary dimension) in Germany, but the fact that the Nazis and the Communists, the two extremist political forces that “cannibalized” the economic and social crisis to win votes, obtained together (in the sense of parliamentary “arithmetic”) 52% of the votes and of the mandates of deputy from Reichstag. The result of the July 31st, 1932 election meant that no German government based on a parliamentary majority (in the spirit of the Weimar Republic Constitution, though not compulsory in its letter) was no longer possible with the simultaneous exclusion of the NSDAP (Nazis) and the KPD (communists) from the government.
On August 1, 1932, the German political system suddenly “jumped” from one main “player” (President Paul von Hindenburg) to three: Hindenburg, Adolf Hitler and Ernst Thälmann. Therefore, the exact understanding of what happened between August 1st, 1932 and January 30th, 1933, cannot avoid answering one simple question: who was Comrade Ernst Thälmann?
Runaway, in World War I, from the German army on the western front (1918), active in the far-left wing of the Social-Democratic Party, Thälmann played a major role in the split, then its merger with the new KPD (Kommunistische Part Deutschlands) / The German Communist Party), on the political platform of unconditional accession to the Comintern (Communist 3rd International organization, based in Moscow and controlled by iron hand by Lenin, then by Stalin, whose officially assumed objective was “to overthrow by any means, including armed force, of the international bourgeoisie, with a view to establishing the Soviet World Republic“. With such “opinions “, Thälmann advanced rapidly in the KPD hierarchy: in 1920 he was elected a member of the Central Committee, and in 1921 he was one of the KPD delegates sent to the 3rdcongress of Comintern, in Moscow, where Lenin himself made time to meet him.
In 1923, Thälmann played a central role in organizing and conducting the second communist uprising in Germany (the first had taken place in 1919), personally conducting operations in Hamburg. After the German army’s repression of the coup attempt, it disappears “off the radar” for a while (it had been fired from the position of German civil servant since 1921, but Moscow had taken him immediately in its payment), and reappears in Moscow in January 1924, where he “mourns a few days” at Lenin’s bier. The mourning after Lenin, and his return to Moscow, gave his career a new boost, in February 1924, when Thälmann became vice president of the KPD, a communist deputy in the Reichstag, and, at the 5th congress of the Moscow Comintern, was “elected” to the Executive Committee of the organization.
The year 1925 witnessed the true entry of Thälmann into the great politics of Germany. In the subordinate situation in which the KPD was placed by Moscow, it is obvious that the dizzying upturn of Thälmann’s career that year would not have taken place without the direct support of the new leader in Kremlin, Joseph Stalin. The overture took place in February, when he became commander of the RFB (“Alliance of Red Front Fighters“, the paramilitary organization of the KPD, similar, up to almost uniform level, to the paramilitary organization SA of NSDAP). At the April presidential elections, the KPD nominated Thälmann as its candidate, although it was obvious that a communist candidate separate from the one supported by social democrats has no chance. Even with zero chances of success, in itself, Thälmann’s candidacy mattered enormously for the other two, the one of the right – Paul von Hindenburg, then entered for the first time in politics in the Weimar Republic – and that of the center-left coalition between SPD (Social Democrats), Catholic Center and Democratic Party – Wilhelm Marx, Catholic and centrist politician. Thälmann obtained “only” 6% of the votes, which were decisive, considering that Hindenburg obtained 48% and Marx 46%. “Splitting” 6% of the left votes, Thälmann assured Hindenburg in 1925 of his election as president of the Weimar Republic, which could only mean that Stalin had crystal clear opinions on the desired outcome of those elections. Advise to those trying today to understand the ” Russian interference in the Western democracies elections”: the “boys” in Moscow have about 100 years of recorded experience in the field, enough time for ultra-refinement.
To make it all clear, the German Communists were not at all upset that Thälmann “lost” the elections with “only” 6% of the votes, and even “rewarded” him in October the same year (1925) with the election in the position of president of the KPD. Thälmann had very strong protectors, not only the Comintern being behind him, but also Stalin personally, who – rarely saw thing – intervened directly for his “choice”. Stalin’s protégé proved to be a “winning card” for Moscow’s grand strategy. Thälmann totally aligned his party with the politics of Moscow, including with the policy adopted at the 6th Congress of the Comintern in 1928, where he also personally participated, by which, following the “line” prefigured by Stalin as early as 1927, social-democracy and the social-democratic parties of Europe, at the forefront – it is understood – with the German one, were designated, under the “unmasking” label of “social fascism“, as “the main enemies of the interests of the proletariat and the world revolution“, and as “a version of fascism“.
The moment of 1928 is important in understanding Hitler’s ascension to power. Comrade Thälmann swallowed without blinking the “medicine” from Stalin’s spoon, and directed all the political and organizational machinery of the KPD against the SPD. For the sake of the truth, let us mention that some German Communists – those who, at that time, were still deluded themselves that their party was in charge of the “working class interests”, not those of Stalin and the USSR – tried to resist the political horror dictated by Thälmann on Moscow’s order, aware that without an alliance with the Social Democrats, the KPD had no chance of coming to power, at least not through elections. Their collective mistake was that they did not reckon that Stalin’s policy might not seek to bring them to power, but to manipulate the KPD into a broader “operative combination”. Mistake which, for the most part, including Thälmann, cost their lifes after 1933.
Also in 1928, it was recorded the last chance of the KPD to “escape” from Thälmann’s toxic policies, which – after trying to “cover” a friend who had stolen the party’s money – was expelled from all management positions. Stalin’s second personal intervention (already much stronger in Moscow than in the first intervention in 1925) was needed to re-establish Thälmann at the helm of the KPD. In gratitude, from the KPD congressional rostrum of 1929, Thälmann announced a policy of “total confrontation” with the SPD, which he did not give up until 1933 when Hitler destroyed both the KPD and the SPD.
Returning to the elections of July 31st, 1932, they could not produce a functioning parliamentary majority. Hitler loudly demanded the office of Chancellor, from the position of “leader of the largest parliamentary party”, which President Hindenburg refused, preferring to keep the “presidential government” headed by Franz von Papen, of conservative orientation. Hindenburg proposed to Hitler the position of vice-chancellor, which he rejected on the “all or nothing” principle. The Left and Center would have 53% together in the Reichstag, but the KPD policy, which was actually the Moscow policy, blocked any solution in that direction. The economic crisis has intensified, and the street violence between the paramilitary organizations of the NSDAP and the KPD has generated the perception that the country is on the verge of chaos and civil war.
In a desperate attempt to release the parliamentary deadlock, Hindenburg once again used his prerogative to dissolve the Reichstag and convened new elections on November 6th, 1932. The Nazis came out seriously “shaken”. Although they remained the first parliamentary party, they lost 2 million votes comparing to the July 31st elections, gaining “only” 33.1% and 196 deputies. The Communists, however, made a significant leap from the previous elections, gaining 17% of the votes and 100 deputies, thus becoming the second parliamentary party, and overtaking the Social Democrats, who obtained only 20% and 121 deputies. The tragedy of the elections of November 6th, 1932 was illustrated by the fact that the two extremist parties in Germany obtained the first two places (which can be explained, first of all, by the economic and social disaster at that time), but the political conclusion from the July 31st elections it was revalidated: a government based on a parliamentary majority could not be formed with the simultaneous exclusion of the Nazis and the Communists.
Let’s look first at the figures. The “Left” (SPD and KPD) and the Center (two parties) together had 50%, and if they had cooperated with the government and the Bavarian (regionalist) party would have 53%. The “Right” (NSDAP and two nationalist parties) had 44%. The conclusions are clear: the November 6th, 1932 elections blocked the NSDAP in a “deadlock”, and pulled Hitler temporarily out of the game. The big decision game was restricted from 3 to 2 persons: Hindenburg and Thälmann. Hindenburg had broad constitutional powers on its side, which allowed him to issue emergency decrees and dissolve the Reichstag (powers it had already used to the limit), and Thälmann had the “key” of a center-left coalition, along with the SPD, which would have struck a blow, probably deadly, to the NSDAP, and would have allowed for the first time access to communist ministers in the government. Hindenburg had stated many times that he would not call Hitler into the Chancellor office, but had never stated that he would not accept a coalition between the SPD and the KPD. There was only one problem: Thälmann was not an autonomous politician, but the man of Moscow, specifically the man of Stalin – who had acted intelligently for years to “lead” him in such a position – and “blindly” executed orders received from the USSR. And in the face of the 1932persistent political deadlock in Germany, following two inconclusive successive parliamentary elections, the orders of Moscow remained unwavering: the KPD would not enter into an alliance with the “social fascists” of the SPD.
Here is, in fact, the essence of understanding the causes of the Second World War. The NSDAP, lead by Hitler, forced itself near the stroke, in 1930-1932, to win the elections with a “score” high enough to make their claim to take state power undeniable. Especially in 1932, the Nazi party contracted huge domestic loans to finance the election campaigns and the payment of the party machine and of the SA and SS troops, loans granted “under the private signature” of Hitler, obviously in the hope of the creditors that once he’ll be appointed Chancellor he will reimburse them. For the NSDAP, the November 6th, 1932 election was, literally, a disaster. The rebuff from 37% to 33% meant the failure of the “electoral strategy” and the contemplation of the disaster. Several of Hitler’s acolytes from the NSDAP leadership made in their journals grim records of those days, with references to the imminent demise of the party and to Hitler’s suicidal intentions.
Under these circumstances, what was Moscow pursuing through the “steering” of the KPD and of the party’s leader, Ernest Thälmann?Hitler had made no secret, he had said for hundreds, maybe thousands times, including publicly, that he intended to destroy the Communists, but also the Social Democrats, once he took power (which he did, without wasting any time, in 1933). Undoubtedly, both Stalin and Thälmann were aware of the threats Hitler had been making for years throughout Germany and in the press. However, at the defining moment, when it was clear that the parliamentary democracy of the Weimar Republic “cracked all the joints” and that President Hindenburg was quickly left without viable options, and the Constitution “remained in one last screw,” the Moscow’s orders for KPD they remained the same: no alliance with the “social fascists” of the SPD, no entry to the government. Until the end (including theirs), the German Communists were forced by the USSR to keep their eyes fixed on the “danger of social democracy” and to ignore the real danger from Hitler’s national socialists. By this, Thälmann and his comrades in the KPD had committed suicide, apart from a small number of them who had fled to the USSR and formed, since 1945, the “ruling nucleus” of the GDR. If in the case of the German Communists one can suspect the blindness induced by fanaticism “for the cause”, which pushed them to execute without hesitation the orders received from Moscow, in Stalin’s case things are much more unclear: why would he have wanted to “suicide” the German Communists, instead of letting them finishing Hitler?
Aged 85, sick (he was to die a year later), exasperated and increasingly ill-advised by his close friends, Hindenburg slipped from December 1932 to the brink. He was aware that the dissolution of the Reichstag every 3 months, and the call for new elections that led to similar results (with the Nazis and the Communists blocking at least half of parliamentary mandates), represented an abuse of his constitutional powers. The last “presidential” Chancellor, appointed over the will of the parties, General Kurt von Schleiter, after several failed attempts to “break a dissident anti-Hitler wing” from the NSDAP, suggested to Hindenburg one last option: to use the position of supreme army commander for to order the Reichswehr to go through the “total repression” of both extremist parties – the NSDAP and the KPD – followed by their outlaw. Although reduced to 100,000 by the Treaty of Versailles, the Reichswehr was a professional military force that would most likely have been able to neutralize the paramilitary forces of the two parties. Hindenburg, however, refused the role of “dictator for the salvation of democracy” and gave up to the “assurances” from his entourage that Hitler “could be controlled” and that he was “the only solution” in the face of an “imminent communist insurrection”. On January 30th, 1933, the disaster took place, Hitler being named Chancellor by Hindenburg, which eventually yielded to the argument of “the leader of the largest parliamentary party”.
But if we look carefully at all the details of the pre-World War II history, the “movie” looks something like this: in 1925, Stalin directed Thälmann to ensure Hindenburg’s victory for the presidency of the Weimar Republic, to the detriment of the candidate supported by the Catholic center and by social-democrats; in 1932, Stalin directed the same Thälmann in order to be sure that a parliamentary majority was impossible without Hitler’s party, situation which exasperated Hindenburg and “helped” him to make the fatal decision of January 30th, 1933; in 1939, the same Stalin “helped” Hitler, through the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, to make the decision to attack Poland, which led to a new intra-Western war between Germany, the United Kingdom and France, just 20 years after the First World War. It is said, with much basis, that “once it may be an accident, the second time it may be a coincidence, but from the third time upwards it is certainly something planned“. In the 15 years that preceded the sinking of Europe and the world in the catastrophe of World War II, there were so many “coincidences” that we understand too well the statement of the Russian leader on August 21st, 2019, saying that “certain countries are trying to rewrite the causes of World War II in the name of personal economic and political interests“. The only problem with that statement is that President Putin failed to say who those “certain countries” are, in particular, and opted to keep Western audiences in suspense.
In March 1933, Thälmann fell victim to the first wave of mass reprisals launched by the Nazis once they got the state power. He was arrested, tortured and thrown in jail. A “trial” was opened for him, but in 1935 Hitler ordered it to be stopped, though he could impose any “verdict”. Following the signing of the Ribbentrop – Molotov pact, Thälmann’s wife submitted to the USSR embassy in Berlin (where she was not prevented by the Gestapo from entering) a memorandum to Stalin, asking him to intervene with Hitler, by virtue of the “friendship and cooperation” relations just established between the two totalitarian regimes, for the release of her husband. But Stalin did not move a finger in favor of the one for whom he had personally intervened twice, in 1925 and 1928, to save his career in the KPD, among the very rare cases in which he devolved his interests. He acted exactly as he had suggested in “a joke” to the delegates at the last congress of the Communist Party of the USSR before the Great Terror: “I have told you so many times: you can do what you want, but do not leave traces!“. Soviet Communist delegates laughed then, but even so Stalin later sent 90% of them to death. Thälmann was a first hand witness to the events that led to Hitler’s ascension to power in Germany. Stalin did not need witnesses, fact known by everyone in the USSR, but he did not particularly wanted to “solve” by his own hands the problem with a “Comintern hero”. So he left comrade Thälmann in the prisons and camps of Hitler, who, interestingly, hesitated for 5 years until giving, in August 1944, the order to assassinate his former rival. Also interesting, after the execution Hitler propaganda publicly announced that Thälmann “died in a US bombing raid“. Hitler’s henchmen almost never bothered to cover up their crimes. In the case of Thälmann they made one of the few exceptions.
Ironically, Thälmann has statues to date in Germany, including in Berlin, but also in Weimar, the 1918 birthplace of the unhappy German democratic republic, which he has endeavored with all his powers, along with his Moscow’s bosses, to destroy. Until the Europeans will not struggle to accurately understand the history of World War II, starting with its obscure origins, they will not be able to fully free themselves from its consequences.
“The opinions expressed belong exclusively to the author and do not employ the Romanian MFA.”
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