|UNDER THE SHADOW OF STALIN AND HITLER (WORLD WAR II AND THE FATE OF THE EUROPEAN NATIONS, 1939-1941)
And further by these, my son,
be admonished: of making
many books there is no end;
and much study is
a weariness of the flesh.
(Eccl. 12: 12)
What was exactly the Second World War? When did it start? These questions appear simple at first sight, but they have an astonishingly great variety of answers. Unlike the First World War, the second one has raised much more irreconcilable assessments both among the public and among scholars. Seven decades since the end of the Second World War are obviously not enough for reaching a generally accepted viewpoint. There is no unanimity even about the start of World War II. In Chinese and Japanese eyes it broke out on July 7, 1937, when Japan launched a large-scale invasion of China. For their part, Europeans associate the beginning of the conflict with the German assault on Poland on September 1, 1939. For the Americans the Second World War started with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, perpetrated on December 7, 1941. There is some truth in each of these interpretations, but there is also too much distortion, subjectivity and deliberate concealment of crucial facts.
Practically everybody agrees that the First World War started with the war declaration of Austria-Hungary on Serbia on July 28, 1914, and the bombardment of Belgrade by the Austro-Hungarians on the following day and that it ended with the surrender of Germany under the Compiegne Armistice on November 11, 1918. There were continuous battles during the entire period from July 29, 1914 to November 11, 1918, and for this reason the conflict was known also as the All-European War. Even the participation of the United States, which was decisive for the outcome, was predominantly in Europe, on the Franco-German front. The battles in Africa, the Middle and the Far East, as well as all over the oceans played an auxiliary rather than a central role. The most important thing, though, is that the armed clashes had a clear beginning and a not less clear end.
Things are far from clear as far as the Second World War is concerned. There was a continuous warfare solely between the Japanese and the Chinese, but China declared war on Japan only on December 9, 1941. Moreover, the war between Japan and China was a regional clash rather than a world conflagration with no direct connection with developments in other parts of the Earth. True enough, Hitler tended to support Japan, whereas Stalin gave assistance to the Chinese, but this continued even after the conclusion of an alliance between Communist Russia and National Socialist Germany. The Russo-Japanese Neutrality and Friendship Treaty was concluded only on April 13, 1941, but two months later the German “Wehrmacht” invaded Russia and that was the end of the Soviet-Nazi Alliance. The two belligerent coalitions were in fact formed only after the Japanese blow to Pearl Harbor. It was only then that the United Nations, headed by the United States, Russia and Britain, faced the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis, but Stalin agreed to denounce the Neutrality Pact with Japan and to take part in the operations against the Japanese only after the liquidation of the Third Reich in May 1945.
One may talk about a continuous warfare in Europe only after April-May 1940, when Hitler invaded Denmark and Norway, overran Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and France, and made a supreme effort to defeat Britain. The battle became even more “real” and devastating after June 22, 1941, when Hitler and Stalin came to grips with each other for the conquest of the planet. Until that moment there had been relatively short campaigns, often with no serious clashes. From September 1 to September 28, 1939, National Socialist Germany and Communist Russia conquered and partitioned Poland. From November 26, 1939, to March 12, 1940, Stalin made an attempt to conquer Finland. The next campaign was launched by Hitler, who overran Denmark and invaded Norway on April 9. The Norwegians offered a tough and efficient resistance and the Germans completed their conquest only in June 1940, when they had already occupied Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg and eliminated France, but they had to start the battle for England. Battles were waged also in North Africa, while Communist Russia was engulfing Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and annexing Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. However, these two Russian operations had a “peaceful” character, if we do not consider the hundreds of thousands and even millions of victims, thrown by the repressive services of Lavrenti Beria into the Soviet death camps.
It may be assumed, with some reservations, that in Europe the Second World War began in September 1939. However, the events from September 1, 1939, to June 22, 1941, are also distinguished by a number of inconvenient truths. For instance, scholars and observers rarely indicate that the Second World War, whatever it means, started not with the German invasion of Poland, but with the joint German-Russian invasion of Poland. True enough, on September 1, 1939, the German “Wehrmacht” invaded Poland from the west, the north and the south, but it is not less important that on September 17 Poland was assaulted from the east by units of the Russian “Red Army”. This fact is often concealed because of guilty conscience, because of the still existing Great Russian jingoism and Communist fanaticism, or simply in exchange for a good amount of money.
There are still attempts to underestimate the alliance character of the relationship between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union from August 23, 1939, to June 22, 1941. An increasing number of publications indicate, though, that during this period Hitler and Stalin were allies. Interesting in this regard is the conclusion of the British historian Lawrence Rees about the Soviet-Nazi alliance “all but in name”, while some of his colleagues name it an “Unholy Alliance”, hinting with black humor at the Holy Alliance of Russia, Austria and Prussia in the first half of the 19th century. According to the British scholar Adam Tooze it was precisely the alliance of Berlin with Moscow that gave the Reich a second breath in a suffocating blockade, imposed by Britain and France.1
The prevailing stereotype is still about the primordial and extreme aggressiveness of Germany, whereas Russia’s aggressive ambitions are concealed or underestimated and this applies both to the First and to the Second World War. However, during the last couple of decades there appeared a number of publications that break up this preconceived notion, including works by Russian authors like Viktor Suvorov and Igor Bunich. Indeed, to some extent Bunich and Suvorov make a not quite serious impression, since their books are not entirely in conformity with academic standards, but their arguments are, nonetheless, quite convincing. According to Suvorov, in particular, Stalin followed strictly Lenin’s testament by throwing all his energy to carry out the conquest and Sovietization of the entire world. Stalin was presumably well prepared even for the war against Finland in the winter of 1939 to 1940. As a matter of fact, the “Red Army” succeeded in breaking through the Finnish defense, which amounted to a miracle, bearing in mind the Arctic cold and the famous “Mannerheim Line”. The question remains, nevertheless, for what reasons Stalin did not conquer Finland and did not transform the country into a “Soviet Republic”, although he intended to do that, since he had patched up a “government” under the Comintern apparatchik Kuusinen. Suvorov thinks that after the exhausting campaign Stalin found it more reasonable to avoid being dragged into a guerilla war.2
Indeed the Soviet war machine suffered from setbacks in Finland in 1939-1940 in a way similar to the 1979-1985 developments in Afghanistan. Was Stalin aware of that, though? For the time being we have to limit ourselves to the assumption that from January to June 1940 an important change occurred in the course of the war, because in June 1940 Stalin dealt with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in precisely the same way, by annexing them to the “great” USSR. True enough, the three Baltic countries were an incomparably easier prey, but after the break of the “Red Army” through the Finnish defense line Finland could be also occupied and Sovietized accordingly. Moreover, under the secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Finland, Latvia and Estonia had been ceded to the Soviet “zone of influence”, whereas under the Treaty for Friendship and for the Border, concluded at the end of September 1939, Hitler gave over to Stalin Lithuania as well. In April 1940 the fear of a possible British landing on the Norwegian coast made the Third Reich occupy Denmark and Norway, and in June and July of the same year, when the German National Socialists ran over France, the Russian Communists annihilated Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and, by the way, they justified their action also by the “menace” of “British imperialism”.
Suvorov’s chief opponent is the Israeli professional historian Gabriel Gorodetsky, but it should be noted that the Russian authorities granted him a special stipend in order to write his book “The Icebreaker Myth”. It should be also mentioned that, in a tested Soviet manner, Gorodetsky often conceals important aspects of a particular fact and even flatly denies the evidence. Such is, for instance, his claim that the loudly proclaimed intention of Hitler to conquer the entire world was the actual ultimate goal of his regime, whereas the constantly announced aspiration of Russian Communism to subjugate and Sovietize the planet was mere propaganda.3
Gorodetsky’s ideas are not very original in this regard, since the US author Patrick Buchanan claims exactly the opposite, namely, that Stalin wanted to conquer the world, whereas Hitler sought domination “only” in continental Europe. At first sight Buchanan sounds more convincing, because the German dictator actually didn’t want a world conflict, but he intended to achieve his aims by a series of small “blitzkriegs”. The fact remains, though, that both Hitler’s and Stalin’s ultimate goal was the conquest and subjugation of the entire human race. It is quite another matter that not only Germany, as Buchanan claims, but also Russia lacks the resources for conquering the planet.4
Under a totalitarian regime propaganda is one of the most powerful instruments of brainwashing. It is impossible to inculcate the dogma of the inevitable victory of Communism all over the world in several generations of Soviet subjects and then, all of a sudden, to tell the same people that the whole thing has been just dust in their eyes. Back in the second half of the 1920s the military command of Communist Russia had worked out itemized plans for the conquest and Sovietization of ever larger territories until the Bolshevik system would be forced upon the entire human race. These plans provided for such details as whom to entrust with the Sovietization of a particular country. It was explicitly stated that local elements should be given a most modest accessory role, higher positions had to be reserved to Soviet subjects of the respective ethnic origin, whereas the most important work had to be done by the repressive services of the Bolshevik state.5
Numerous testimonies and reports clearly indicate that the entire mechanism of ideological brainwash, to which Stalin had submitted his soldiers, followed the same pattern. In 1939 a “red Army” soldier subconsciously precluded any other possibility than that of taking very soon the field for the “liberation” of Europe from “fascism and capitalism”.6
Russian Communism didn’t abandon its mania for conquering the world even at the time of Mikhail Gorbachev, whereas under Brezhnev all subjects of the Soviet Empire had to learn “scientific communism” as a mandatory branch of ideological knowledge. In fact “scientific communism” was a science about the means, methods and possible allies of Moscow’s strife for the subjugation and Sovietization of Earth. Stalin, obviously, could be no exception. As indicated by Suvorov too, the first reaction of each totalitarian regime is to seal completely the state borders in order to deprive its subjects of any information about the possibility of another way of life. However, this wouldn’t do, because the very thought that beyond the border there are societies, offering a different choice, could eventually lead to a general rejection of the official ideology, of the unique Party and its leader. In the eyes of Lenin, Stalin and their successors a truly permanent solution would be to achieve a situation, in which there will be nowhere to run away and this could be accomplished only by conquering the entire world and by destroying all alternative social and political systems.7
Quite significantly, more and more are the authors, including Russian scholars, who share the views of Suvorov. True enough, a historian like V.A.Nevezhin criticizes not very correctly Suvorov for his opinion that Stalin prepared a preventive war against Hitler. In fact, as Nevezhin stresses, “Stalin and his entourage, as indicated by the documents at the disposal of historians, imagined this war not as a preventive, but as an offensive one”. As a matter of fact, though, this is precisely what Suvorov proves and there are no substantial differences between him and Nevezhin. However, Nevezhin is more cautious in his conclusions. He is right in complaining about the fact that Stalin’s archives are still inaccessible, but he is wrong in considering that the reason for the inevitability of the clash between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union was a would-be “ideological irreconcilability” between National Socialism and Communism and not the ambition of both Hitler and Stalin to rule over the world.8
A highly valuable information about Stalin’s intentions during World War II is offered by politicians and statesmen of small European countries like Lithuania, Bulgaria, etc. Readers will have the opportunity to find out themselves that Moscow considered the annihilation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia merely as an episode toward the conquest and Sovietization of Europe which, according to the Russian dictator and his henchmen, was the objective of the Second World War, whereas the Third World War had to lead to the Bolshevization of the entire planet. Against the background of this irrefutable evidence, it is amazing how Gorodetsky tries to convince us that the engulfment of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by Stalin’s Russia in June 1940 had been in response to the fall of France under Hitler and that it was not the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that opened the door to the Sovietization of the Baltic countries.9 The general impression of Gorodetsky's work is that in fact he reproduces the outdated propaganda themes of the Communist regime in seemingly more “intelligent” terms.
A more or less similar pattern may be seen in a number of western authors, who close deliberately their eyes to the fundamental aggressiveness of the Soviet state in order to justify the alliance of their countries with Stalin during World War II. Such distortions are noticeable even in the work of the US journalist William Shirer “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, appreciated as a classical study of the history of German National Socialism. As a whole, Shirer’s account is well founded and detailed. He analyzes the logic of Hitler’s steps toward the Great War but, in examining the decision of the German dictator to attack Communist Russia, Shirer seems to abandon his logic and assigns this fatal move to some delirious self-confidence and hurt vanity because of Stalin’s successes. This view is deeply rooted in the historiography about the Second World War but it cannot find a plausible answer to the question as to why the German military feared a two-front war during the 1938 Czechoslovak crisis but did not object at all to Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union before eliminating Britain. There were obviously very serious and urgent reasons for Hitler and his generals to engage in such a venture, but Shirer doesn’t say in fact a word about these reasons.10
When dealing with the assault that National Socialist Germany perpetrated on Communist Russia on June 22, 1941, historians from both West and East usually present Hitler as the aggressor and Stalin as the victim, although a not entirely innocent one. Again Suvorov and Bunich are among the first authors who denied this legend and indicated that Stalin never prepared for defense but solely for aggression at the moment, chosen by him and that he was simply forestalled by Hitler. By the way, for many authors in the West, this was not a secret. As far back as the early 1960s the British historian A.J.P.Taylor contended that the Soviet military doctrine was entirely offensive but not defensive. Taylor was not the first one to claim that, since about a decade earlier the French historian M.Maurice wrote that National Socialist Germany had preferred “accelerating the assault on the USSR before the USSR itself would be ready to strike”.11
It was in the 1960s too that a number of Finnish historians disclosed many important aspects of the aggression of Communist Russia, but they had to publish their findings abroad (mostly in Switzerland), hoping to deprive in this way the Soviet Union of unnecessary pretexts for harassing Finland. It is worth noting that even in their foreign publications the Finns are quite prudent in their assessments, but this conceals by no means the fact that Moscow had concrete intentions to launch a campaign to the west through the corpse of Finland and of the other small Eastern European countries, which still existed by June 22, 1941. Thus, for instance, Heikki Jalanti writes cautiously about the “impression” that Moscow prepared a new aggression. In this way he hinted in fact at the panic, created in Helsinki by Stalin’s firm intention to annihilate Finland even after the end of the Winter War in March 1940.12
Nevertheless, authors like Gabriel Gorodetsky don’t seem to be embarrassed by all that. Faithful to his style, Gorodetsky frequently distorts facts and resorts to apparently innocent attributes only to present a particular event in a totally different light. Thus, in examining the two military games on maps, played by the Soviet command in early 1941, he claims that both games had an entirely defensive character13, which is simply not true. As one may see plainly from a study by the Russian author Vl.Karpov, in one of the games the “Red Army” had indeed to repulse an attack of the “Wehrmacht”, but in the other game the Soviet military forces attacked the Germans.14 In the same vein, when he deals with Stalin’s proposal for a mutual assistance pact with Bulgaria, Gorodetsky considers that the Russian dictator was highly concerned about the aggressive intentions of Hitler with regard to the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. This claim is based on the diary of Georgi Dimitrov that was not yet published at the time when Gorodetsky wrote his book. However, quotations from the diary are selected in such a way as to leave the readers in complete ignorance of the fact that the Russian dictator was not “concerned”, but in fact infuriated. Moreover, Stalin’s anger was due not to the German and Italian aspirations for the Straits, but to the fact that not only Germany and Italy, but also Britain had claims on a zone that Russia had considered for centuries as reserved for herself.15
In a similar way Gorodetsky thinks that Stalin’s intention to dissolve the Comintern as early as in April 1941 proves how the Russian dictator was afraid of Hitler and this fear made him give up the idea of conquering and Sovietizing the whole world.16 Gorodetsky fails to mention, though, that Stalin decided to dissolve the Comintern after a number of governments, including that of the United States, took special legislative measures for banning the respective local communist party as an organization under the command of foreign headquarters.
It is inevitable to have also reservations as to Gorodetsky’s method to prove his allegations by selecting all sorts of declarations of diplomats, politicians and statesmen no matter of the moment when these statements have been made. Such quotations are obviously put in this way out of the context of the respective events and it is easy to provide them with an entirely different meaning. By the way, events and developments in the present work are examined in a strict chronological order to avoid precisely distorted interpretations of what has actually happened. In reality, the more Gorodetsky is honest about the evidence, the less convincing are his efforts to refute Viktor Suvorov and thus Gorodetsky reaffirms in fact Suvorov’s conclusions.
The book “Hitler and Stalin before the Clash” by Lev Bezymenskij is of a somewhat different character. The author has given up the efforts of the Soviet propaganda to conceal the crucial moments of the creation and activity of the Soviet-Nazi Alliance from August 23, 1939, to June 22, 1941. He quotes abundantly the texts of the Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939, of the Treaty for Friendship and for the Border of September 28, 1939, as well as some quite revealing and compromising statements of Stalin in a relatively smaller circle. However, Bezymenskij fails to free himself completely from basic Communist legends, such as those about the attempt of Britain and France to direct the Nazi aggression against Bolshevik Russia and about the “peacefulness” of Stalin’s foreign policy. Neither is he able to overcome the quite popular belief that in 1939-1941 the “Red Army” was unprepared and weak. Within this context Bezymenskij also conceals a number of “inconvenient” facts, such as the sinister “detail” that the “Red Army” units Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were forced to admit to their territory in October 1939 outnumbered by far their own troops. Quite unconvincing is also the attempt to underestimate the smashing superiority the “Red Army” had by June 22, 1941, in tanks, planes and all sorts of combat equipment with regard to the “Wehrmacht”.17
Bezymenskij is also one of the authors who tend to overestimate the impact of France’s catastrophe in June 1940 on Stalin. According to Bezymenskij the surrender of the Third Republic presumably destroyed Stalin’s hopes for a continuous and exhaustive war on the western front and made him accelerate the engulfment of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, assessed in a scandalously euphemistic way as “the entrance of Estonia, Lithuania and Estonia into the USSR as union republics”. However, Hitler failed to eliminate Britain, although in the summer and fall of 1940 he made a supreme effort to this effect. Even Gorodetsky has to admit that the leader of German National Socialism decided to inflict, as soon as possible, a preemptive strike against Stalin only after Molotov’s visit to Berlin from November 12 to November 14, 1940. Hitler’s irreversible decision was due both to the British resistance and to the flat refusal of Moscow to cede the Balkans and Finland to Berlin. On the other hand, it is quite obvious that Stalin had decided to engulf the Baltic states long before the surrender of France, which is witnessed by Stalin’s revelations to the Soviet apparatchik Georgi Dimitrov, as well as by an order of the Russian war minister Semyon Timoshenko of July 3, 1940, about the status of the “Red Army” units in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. It’s quite another matter that even after the surrender of France the Russian dictator couldn’t believe that his German counterpart would attack him before eliminating Britain and would throw in this way Germany into a two-front war without having prepared his army for the harsh conditions of Russia.18
To some extent Bezymenskij reminds of Gorodetsky by his underestimation of the views of Suvorov, but Bezymenskij goes further by accusing Suvorov of reviving the propaganda of Goebbels and by assigning to Suvorov thoughts that he has never uttered. More than once Bezymenskij repeats in his book that in Suvorov’s opinion not Hitler intended to assault Russia and that Hitler did not even assault Russia, but only Stalin prepared an attack on Germany.19 In fact Suvorov denies by no means the aggressive schemes of Hitler against Stalin, abundantly documented for long years in the scholarly literature. Suvorov simply claims that not only Hitler intended to attack Russia, but that Stalin planned an invasion of Germany, and not only of Germany, but of Europe as a whole.
Similarly to Gorodetsky, Bezymenskij hastily rejects the threats Stalin made to assault Hitler as “boast” and “bragging”. The same terms are used for the speech that Stalin delivered on May 5, 1941, although the Russian dictator clearly disclosed in that speech his intention to attack Germany as soon as possible. If Stalin really overestimated the combat capacities of the “Red Army” in order to discourage Hitler, as Bezymenskij claims, then why was this speech not only kept in deep secrecy, but the Russians dumped on the Germans a deliberately false version, making the impression that the Soviet leader was ready for peace and for new compromises with the Third Reich?20
As a science, or at least as a humanity, history is based on primary sources and in modern and recent times “primary sources” means “archives”. Not knowing archives may easily lead experts to entirely wrong conclusions and this applies even more to those who have lived through the events and developments, dealt with in the present research. Such is, for instance, the fatal self-deception, shared even by Hitler and Mussolini, that Stalin presumably abandoned the idea of a “world revolution”. Apart from the unquestionable achievements of scholars in the field of World War II, this work is based on an abundant quantity of primary sources, both published and unpublished. This includes the documents of the German and Swiss foreign policy21, the already published diaries of Georgi Dimitrov22, Franz Halder23, Galeazzo Ciano24 and Bogdan Filov25, the published and unpublished Hungarian diplomatic papers26, the diplomatic and royal archives of Romania27, Churchill’s memoirs28, etc.
There can be hardly any doubt that the Second World War resulted to a great extent from the First one, but not because of the irreconcilability between winners and losers, as it is usually claimed. There were a lot of events in the interwar period, indicating quite persuasively that it was possible to overcome the antagonism between the victorious and the defeated powers. For instance, the 1925 Locarno Agreements created a regional collective security system of Germany, on the one hand, and France and Belgium, on the other, with Britain and Italy as guarantors. For its part, the 1932 Lausanne Conference annulled the reparations that the defeated countries had to pay to the winners.
As a matter of fact, the First World War made the Second one inevitable above all by creating the conditions and prerequisites for totalitarianism. On November 7, 1917, the Russian Bolsheviks under Lenin took power by a coup d’état in an atmosphere that favored immensely extremism because of the economic catastrophe, caused by the war. The diktat, forced upon Germany by the 1919 Versailles Peace Treaty, gave in its turn a chance to the National Socialists under Hitler who, unlike Lenin, came to power in conformity with the constitutional and parliamentary rules, since Hitler was the leader of the largest party in parliament. Lenin repeatedly proclaimed that his ultimate goal was the Bolshevization of the whole world and he explicitly and plainly formulated the tactics the Soviet state had to follow until the moment was ripe for that: “We should use the contrasts and contradictions between the two imperialisms, between the two groups of capitalist powers… As long as we have not conquered the entire world, as long as we are weaker than the remaining capitalist world, we should observe the rule: we should be able to use the contradictions and contrasts between the imperialists.”29
After defeating his opponents in the struggle for Lenin’s succession, Stalin strictly followed this testament and made everything possible to provoke a new conflict between the winners and the losers of World War I. Precisely for that reason the Russian dictator rejected abruptly the efforts of Britain and France for an alliance with Communist Russia in the summer of 1939. The refusal of the British and the French to throw the small Eastern European countries under the feet of Stalin played only an additional part. It should be obvious that, in the face of a bloc between Russia, Britain and France, Hitler would have never had the courage to assault Poland and to throw in this way Germany into a two-front war that would have inevitably ended even with a more dreadful catastrophe for the Germans. Moreover, even in the absence of a British-French-Russian alliance, Hitler would have never moved against Poland without a preliminary agreement with Stalin, at least because Russia was the eastern neighbor of the Poles and a traditional pretender to their territory. The key to the Second World War was, therefore, in the hands of Stalin and the only way of setting fire to a new world conflict was by achieving a friendly, if not an alliance agreement with Hitler. The Non-Aggression Pact, signed in Moscow on August 23, 1939, by the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and his Russian counterpart Vyacheslav Molotov, marked the beginning of the Soviet-Nazi alliance. Without that alliance the outbreak of a new war in Europe would have been impossible. After the conclusion of Nazi-Soviet pact there was nothing any more that could prevent Hitler from starting his expansion program with the complicity of Stalin. According to the secret protocol to the Non-Aggression Pact the western part Poland together with Lithuania were assigned to National Socialist Germany, while the eastern part of Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Bessarabia (then within the borders of Romania) were handed over to Communist Russia.
The entire strategy of Stalin aimed at the transformation of Russia into an infallible machine for the conquest of the planet. That was the objective of industrialization and collectivization, as well as of the 1936-1938 “Great Terror”, when the extermination of millions of loyal subjects of the dictator created such an atmosphere that if someone even dreamed about participating in a plot against the “Father”, the next day that same person would have given himself or herself to the authorities. Stalin imposed even more cruel changes in the High Treason Act that was draconian anyway. According to the new texts each “Red Army” soldier, who happened to be captured by the enemy, was to be immediately shot once back in Soviet hands and his property was to be confiscated. Moreover, the indictment for “treason” was to be brought not only against the prisoner of war, but also against all adult members of his or her family. “Severe punishment” awaited also those, who had known that someone could be captured, but who “haven’t reported on that to the agencies of Soviet power”. In 1939 these cannibalistic clauses were included in the oath of every “Red Army” recruit, while being sworn in.30
It goes without saying that Stalin and Hitler would have hardly acted in such an unpunished way if the United States did not refuse to assume the responsibility of the superpower it had become by the end of the 19th century. After World War I the American society sank into an insane and shortsighted isolationism and Europe was left alone to the mercy of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler. Despite their large colonial possessions, Britain and France turned out to be helpless in front of the Nazi and Soviet aggression. Their “appeasement” policy only enhanced Hitler’s and Stalin’s belief that the two Western European democracies were hopelessly weak. Britain and France met with suicidal indifference the offensive of various authoritarian regimes, established in most European countries in the 1920s and in the 1930s as the last and only efficient barrier against Russian Communism and German National Socialism. As early as in 1922 Italy fell under the rule of the Fascists, headed by Benito Mussolini, who banned in 1926 all political parties and imposed the monopoly of his own Fascist Party. A similar, although somewhat milder one-party system was forced upon Spain by Franco after his victory in the 1936-1939 civil war against the more and more Bolshevized “Popular Front” regime, by Salazar in Portugal after 1932, and by Konstantin Päts in Estonia and Karlis Ulmanis in Latvia after the respective coups d’état in 1934. Of a one-party character was also the “enlightened despotism” of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey and the same system was preserved after his death in 1938 by his close associate and successor Ismet Inönü, who had distinguished himself in the national revolution and in the war against Greece and the Entente. After the coup of February 1938 King Carol II of Romania imposed his own personal regime and tried to create a single state party too. In a number of European countries the multiparty system seemingly remained, but the opposition was in fact barred from access to the government. That was the case of Hungary under Regent Miklos Horthy after the country’s liberation from the Bolshevik terror in 1919, of the Yugoslav King Alexander Karageorgevich, who was succeeded by Paul as regent, of the “Sanation Regime”, forced upon by Jozef Pilsudski and reaffirmed after his death by a quadrumvirate, including the Inspector-General of the Polish Army Edward Rydz-Smigly, President Ignacy Moscicki, Prime Minister Felicjan Skladkowski-Slawoj and Foreign Minister Jozef Beck. After the 1926 coup d’état the Lithuanian leader Antanas Smetona followed initially a similar pattern, but in 1934 he decided also to ban all political parties except his own. For his part, King Boris III of Bulgaria removed in 1935 the perpetrators of the coup d’état of May 19, 1934, only to reaffirm the ban of all political parties and to rule as an absolute monarch, although he allowed a limited form of legal opposition activity. To some extent the military dictator of Greece Ioannis Metaxas ruled in a similar way after the 1936 coup, whereas Slovakia under Monsignor Jozef Tiso had a seemingly multiparty system, but these parties were resolutely pro-Nazi and ever more obedient to Hitler. By September 1, 1939, only 11 European countries enjoyed a stable multiparty representative democracy: Britain, France, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. By that time as many as three sovereign European states had been “peacefully” destroyed: Austria in March 1938, Czechoslovakia in March 1939, and Albania in April 1939. Austria and Bohemia were engulfed by the Third Reich. Slovakia became formally independent, but strictly controlled by Berlin, whereas Albania was in fact annexed to Fascist Italy.