Title: Deadly Embrace
Author: Anthony Read
Read, Anthony (1988) and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace: Hitler, Stalin and the Nazi-Soviet Pact, 1939-1941. New York: W.W. Norton
Date Posted: February 2, 2014
This is the story of how the world’s two strongest (and totalitarian) powers reached an agreement to carve Europe between them as World War II got underway. Hitler was obsessed with avoiding a two-front war as happened to Germany in WWI. This time, however, the situation was reversed. He sought to knock out the Western powers first before turning to the East. France and England were the major worries at the moment.
Stalin also wanted a free hand as he sought to restore the USSR’s borders to pre-Revolution range. This naturally included a division of Poland and the absorption of part of Eastern Europe. If one is amazed at at the gall of these powers sitting at a map and drawing lines, dividing the civilized world into spheres of influence, they should take another look at what the powers did following World War I. Many, if not all, of the current problems in the Middle East are attributable to the carving up of that land along arbitrary lines in the colonial interests of the winners. It remains questionable if Hitler and Stalin actually knew they in the end they would have to fight. Perhaps Hitler knew it all along and just wanted to hold off the Russian Bear for a time. It is hard to believe that Stalin really believed that he would have no future problems with Hitler. Perhaps he wanted more time to prepare.
The authors record the pre-talks, the feelers, the struggles of the Western powers to stop this deal at any cost. But Hitler was determined to press ahead and secure at least half of his border. There are several mini-tales included that were affected by the treaty—the tragic dismemberment of Poland, the Russian rape of Finland, the beginning of a pattern embraced by both powers and continued by the USSR after the war: The absurd claim that a government would ask either power to invade its territory in order to crush “warmongers”.
Both nations shocked their supporters—Germans were puzzled as to why such an agreement was needed with its arch-enemy. Leftists worldwide were struck dumb as their hero, Stalin, smiled and signed on the dotted line. But there was nothing to fear. As the fighting wore on and England refused to bow, Hitler planned the final punch—knock the USSR out of the war and England would be forced to sue for peace. It was almost a success but the supply lines and huge area became a quagmire and the lost retreat was in place. The treaty had served its purpose and like most treaties signed with totalitarian powers it remained in force as long as it was needed.