Why did Joseph Stalin fight Hitler?
Antony Beevor, Born in 1946, is one of the leading experts on the Second World War. The Briton received numerous prizes for his books, including: "Stalingrad", "Berlin 1945. Das Ende" and most recently "The Second World War".
When Hitler decided to campaign against the Soviet Union in December 1940, he ignored both Bismarck's old warnings against invading Russia and the long-recognized dangers of a two-front war.
His long-cherished goal of crushing "Jewish Bolshevism" arose purely out of feeling and ideology. But he justified his idea to the German generals as the surest way to force Britain to come to an agreement with Germany. And once the Soviet Union was defeated, Japan would be able to turn America's attention away from Europe and toward the Pacific.
The strategic goal of the Nazi leadership was to secure the oil and food of the Soviet Union. Once they did that, they believed the Third Reich would become invincible. Hitler wavered comparatively often in his attitude towards big projects, but his idea of an invasion of the Soviet Union can be traced back to the end of the First World War.
Soviet suspicions against Churchill
The German occupation of Ukraine in 1918 under General Field Marshal Hermann von Eichhorn had always fascinated him. A renewed control of this area would make Germany self-sufficient, prevent a repetition of the British blockade as in the First World War and with it the famines that had resulted at that time.
Throughout the first six months of 1941, Stalin suspected British Prime Minister Winston Churchill of trying to provoke a war between Germany and the Soviet Union in order to save his beleaguered country.
The dictator ignored all British warnings about German preparations for an invasion of the Soviet Union, for him they were nothing but "angliiskaya provokatsiya". He furiously refused even detailed information from his own secret services, often on the grounds that the agents abroad had been corrupted.
The bizarre flight of the self-proclaimed diplomatic mediator Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, to Great Britain on May 10, 1941 caused astonishment in Germany and embarrassment in England, but deep mistrust in Moscow. The British Government got the matter very wrong in trying to keep Hess's arrival a secret.
Churchill would have better announced immediately that Hitler had tried to make him an offer of peace, but that he had flatly refused it. Stalin now wondered whether the arch-anti-Bolshevik Churchill would secretly conspire against him with the Germans. He suspected that the British Secret Intelligence Service had directed Hess's plane into the country.
The most astonishing warning about the invasion came from the German ambassador in Moscow, Friedrich Werner Graf von der Schulenburg, a Nazi opponent who was later executed for his role in the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944. When Stalin found out what had said about Schulenburg, he was beside himself, he didn't believe a word about it. "Now the disinformation has already reached the ambassador level!" He shouted.
The Soviet leader convinced himself that the Germans had no other intention of marching on his western border than to put pressure on him to get more concessions out of a new version of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (In the pact of 1939 and a related secret agreement, the German Reich and the Soviet Union had effectively divided Eastern Europe among themselves and defined their spheres of interest; SZ).
For a person as paranoid as Stalin, the self-denial with which he accepted Hitler's assurance in a letter earlier this year that German troops were only moving east to get out of the range of British bombers is extraordinary.
Lieutenant General Filipp Golikow, the inexperienced director of the GRU (Headquarters for Enlightenment), the Russian military intelligence service, was also convinced that Hitler would never attack the Soviet Union until he had overthrown Great Britain.
Golikov refused to pass on any of his agency's findings about German intentions to Georgii Zhukov, the chief of the general staff, or to Marshal Semyon Tymoshenko, who had replaced Kliment Voroshilov as defense commissioner.
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