June 22, 1941 – the day Hitler and Stalin ceased to be allies

German Stuka dive-bombers, in flight heading towards their target over coastal territory between the Dnipro River and Crimea, towards the Gate of the Crimea on November 6, 1941. (Image: AP Photo)

German Stuka dive-bombers heading towards their target between the Dnipro and Crimea on November 6, 1941. (Image: AP Photo) 

History, More

Edited by: A. N.

Seventy-five years ago, Adolf Hitler attacked the USSR, thus ending a period of almost two years when he and Joseph Stalin were formally allies as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and a much longer one during which the Soviet Union and Germany, two outcasts in the international community, cooperated covertly.

It cannot be said too often that the peoples of the Soviet Union paid an enormous price in lives and treasure to defeat Nazi Germany, but it must not be forgotten that in many ways they were forced to do so because of the policies of their own government before the war and its intentions of spreading communist rule into Europe after it.

That is especially important now in both Russia and the West. On the one hand, polls show that Russians increasingly accept the official version that Stalin’s policies had nothing to do with the start of the war or the ways in which so many Soviet citizens died during its prosecution.

And on the other, many in the West also accept the official Kremlin line about the war, one that ignores the Hitler-Stalin alliance and Stalin’s brutality toward his own people and others in the name of promoting the idea that the alliance between the West and Moscow after June 22 is the only thing that should be remembered and re-instituted.

In both cases, the very real sacrifices of the Soviet peoples are used as a kind of universal moral solvent that allows the Kremlin to this day to divert attention from the crimes, domestic and international, of Stalin and the Soviet system which was prepared to sacrifice all human values in the name of spreading communism and advancing Soviet power.

The story of Stalin’s culpability for World War II is usefully recounted in detail by Andrey Zubov in a lecture, the first part of which is published today in Moscow’s “Novaya gazeta.” As he shows, it was Stalin’s desire to expand his power and not Western malfeasance that blocked an alliance that might have stopped Hitler.

The work of Zubov and others like him in Russia and the West deserve the closest attention not only from historians but also from political leaders and the populations of both Russia and Western countries because of the ways in which the Kremlin today is whitewashing the past and using its version to advance its own agenda.

On this date, however, it is perhaps more important to focus on the war itself and how, thanks to the Soviet government and Stalin personally, the peoples of the USSR and then the peoples of the countries Moscow occupied suffered so much that might have been avoided had those in the Soviet capital pursued different policies.

That is provided by opposition Russian politician Gennady Gudkov in a remarkable essay posted on the Ekho Moskvy portal today, a commentary which is especially important because it links what happened 75 years ago under Stalin to what is happening in Russia again today under Putin.

“The further we are from the tragic date [of June 22, 1941] and the more secret materials the archives reveal, the more obvious a terrible truth becomes: the massive losses of Soviet citizens [following the German invasion] were to a SIGNIFICANT DEGREE the result of the failed policy of Stalin and his entourage,” Gudkov says.

War in Europe was “inevitable,” he continues, and Germany was to blame for pursuing it. That cannot and must not be denied, “but the lives of tens of millions of Soviet citizens COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED, if the country had not been ruled by a paranoid dictator convinced in his ‘genius’ that he was always right.”

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on the division of Europe which was concluded in 1939 forever has compromised the Stalinist clique because it made the USSR an ally of fascist Germany for several pre-war years. Precisely this agreement, alas, in fact allowed Hitler to unleash a new WORLD WAR in September 1939.”

And Stalin’s actions while he was Hitler’s ally show that the Soviet dictator believed that Hitler was someone he could trust and for a long time. Thus, the Red Army attacked Poland as the Germans did, tried to seize Finland, occupied the Baltic countries and part of Bessarabia, and even held “joint military parades with the Wehrmacht.”

Gudkov notes in passing that “a significant number of future generals of the German army had studied in the USSR on the eve of the war,” a fact that highlights not only Stalin’s perfidy in 1939 but the way in which the Soviet system had long been prepared to help the Germans rebuild their power in secret and again threaten Europe.

Stalin’s faith that Hitler would never attack him meant that the Soviet dictator not only continued to supply the Nazi regime with resources right up to June 22 but also did not take the simplest defensive measures that might have saved so many Soviet citizens from destruction in the first days of the war.

The Russian politician-commentator says that in his view, “even the Germans did not expect from Stalin so many ‘gifts,” because they could not imagine that the Kremlin leader could not see that war was coming given all the evidence of that fact. And Stalin’s faith in his fellow dictator continued even after the invasion.

As Gudkov notes, “it is already well-known that Stalin frightened and shocked by defeats of the first weeks of the war attempted to stop the rapid attack of Hitler’s forces by offering the Germans a new ‘Brest peace.’”

World War II continues to cast a dark shadow over Russia, he continues, given the way in which the massive losses affect the country’s demography and Stalin’s successful rewriting of history inform the calculations of the current Kremlin rule and, as a result of propaganda, the thinking of many in Russia and in the West.

“Today is the Russian day of memory and sorrow,” Gudkov says, but then he asks are Russians really sorry about “the millions of dead and wounded by whose blood our Victory was won – or are [they] again ready to be drawn into any fight, be it in Ukraine or Syria” or even into a war that would leave the world a pile of “’radioactive dust’?”

Militant and unquestioning patriotism is again on the rise, Gudkov points out, and Russia is “bristling with weapons.” But Russia today “does not have the potential – human, economic, technological or military – which the USSR had back then.” And it doesn’t have any allies, even on the territory of the former USSR.

Yes, he concedes, Moscow does have “a nuclear ‘club,’” but this is not as compelling an argument with others as many still assume, especially in the intoxication they fall victim of when the Kremlin’s version of World War II is the only one they have. “Perhaps,” Gudkov concludes, “it would be better to learn from the mistakes of our own history than … to repeat them.”

“Or is this not our path?” he asks.

  • German infantrymen watch enemy movements shortly before an advance inside Soviet territory, on July 10, 1941. (Image: AP)
    German infantrymen watch enemy movements shortly before an advance inside Soviet territory, on July 10, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • Nazi troops lie concealed in the undergrowth during the fighting prior to the capture of Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1941. (Image: AP Photo)
    Nazi troops lie concealed prior to the capture of Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1941. (Image: AP Photo)
  • German Stuka dive-bombers, in flight heading towards their target over coastal territory between the Dnipro River and Crimea, towards the Gate of the Crimea on November 6, 1941. (Image: AP Photo)
    German Stuka dive-bombers heading towards their target between the Dnipro and Crimea on November 6, 1941. (Image: AP Photo)
  • Soviet children during a German air raid, June 1941 (Image: RIAN Archives)
    Soviet children during a German air raid, June 1941 (Image: RIAN Archives)
  • The corpses of victims of Soviet NKVD murdered in last days of June 1941, just after outbreak of German-Soviet War (NKVD prisoner massacres) and escape of Red Army and NKVD troops from the cities. Here: Citizens of Lviv are looking for their friends and relatives, previously arrested by NKVD and kept in prison. (Image: Wikimedia via Jerzy Węgierski "Lviv under Soviet occupation," Warszawa 1991, ISBN 83-85195-15-7)
    The corpses of victims of Soviet NKVD murdered in Lviv, Ukraine in last days of June 1941, just after outbreak of German-Soviet War (NKVD prisoner massacres) and escape of Red Army and NKVD troops from the cities. Here: Citizens of Lviv are looking for their friends and relatives, previously arrested by NKVD and kept in prison. (Image: Wikimedia via Jerzy Węgierski "Lviv under Soviet occupation," Warszawa 1991, ISBN 83-85195-15-7)
  • A German infantryman walks toward the body of a killed Soviet soldier and a burning BT-7 light tank in Ukraine in 1941, during the early days of Operation Barbarossa. (Image: Deutsches Bundesarchiv/German Federal Archive)
    A German infantryman walks toward the body of a killed Soviet soldier and a burning BT-7 light tank in Ukraine in 1941, during the early days of Operation Barbarossa. (Image: Deutsches Bundesarchiv/German Federal Archive)
  • An Sd.Kfz-250 half-track in front of German tank units, as they prepare for an attack, on July 21, 1941, somewhere along the Russian warfront, during the German invasion of the Soviet Union. (Image: AP Photo)
    An Sd.Kfz-250 half-track in front of German tank units, as they prepare for an attack, on July 21, 1941, somewhere along the Russian warfront, during the German invasion of the Soviet Union. (Image: AP Photo)
  • German soldiers, supported by armored personnel carriers, move into a burning Russian village at an unknown location during the German invasion of the Soviet Union, on June 26, 1941. (Image: AP)
    German soldiers move into a burning Russian village during the German invasion of the Soviet Union, on June 26, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • Russian men and women rescue their humble belongings from their burning homes, set on fire by the Soviets, part of a scorched-earth policy, in a Leningrad suburb on October 21, 1941. (Image: AP)
    Russians rescue their belongings from the homes, set on fire by the Soviets, part of a scorched-earth policy, in a Leningrad suburb on October 21, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • German infantrymen force their way into a snipers hide-out, where Soviets had been firing upon advancing German troops, on September 1, 1941. (Image: AP)
    German infantrymen force their way into a snipers hide-out, where Soviets had been firing upon advancing German troops, on September 1, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • With a burning bridge across the Dnipro River in the background, a German sentry keeps watch in the recently-captured city of Kyiv, Ukraine in 1941. (Image: Deutsches Bundesarchiv/German Federal Archive)
    With a burning bridge across the Dnipro River, a German sentry keeps watch in captured Kyiv, Ukraine in 1941. (Image: Deutsches Bundesarchiv/German Federal Archive)
  • Machine gunners of the far eastern Red Army in the USSR, during the German invasion of 1941. (Image: LOC)
    Machine gunners of the Red Army during the German invasion of 1941. (Image: LOC)
  • Russian soldiers, left, hands clasped to heads, marched back to the rear of the German lines on July 2, 1941, as a column of Nazi troops move up to the front at the start of hostilities between Germany and the Soviet Union. (Image: AP Photo)
    Captured Soviet soldiers marched to the rear of the German lines on July 2, 1941, as a column of Nazi troops move up to the front at the start of hostilities between Germany and the Soviet Union. (Image: AP)
  • German troops make a hasty advance through a blazing Leningrad suburb, in Russia on November 24, 1941. (Image: AP)
    German troops make a hasty advance through a blazing Leningrad suburb, in Russia on November 24, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • Evidence of Soviet resistance in the streets of Rostov, a scene in late 1941, encountered by the Germans as they entered the heavily besieged city. (Image: AP Photo)
    A scene in late 1941, encountered by the Germans as they entered Rostov. (Image: AP Photo)
  • German soldiers remove Communist emblems during their drive to conquer the USSR on July 18, 1941. (Image: AP)
    German soldiers remove Communist emblems during their drive to conquer the USSR on July 18, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • June 22, 1941 – the day Hitler and Stalin ceased to be allies ~~
    German mechanized troops rest before continuing the fight for Kyiv, Ukraine. The gutted buildings in the background testify to the thoroughness of the Soviets' "scorched earth" policy. (Image: AP)
  • Adolf Hitler, center, studies a USSR war map with General Field Marshal Walter Von Brauchitsch, left, German commander in chief, and Chief of Staff Col. General Franz Halder, on August 7, 1941. (Image: AP)
    Hitler studies a USSR war map with General Field Marshal Brauchitsch, left, German commander in chief, and Chief of Staff Col. General Halder, on August 7, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • Soviet armored cars move toward the front, on October 19, 1941. (Image: AP)
    Soviet armored cars move toward the front, on October 19, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • German soldiers cross the Don River in a stormboat, sometime in 1941, during the German invasion of the Caucasus region in the Soviet Union. (Image: AP)
    German soldiers cross the Don River in a stormboat, in 1941, during the invasion of the Caucasus region in the Soviet Union. (Image: AP)
  • A view of the destruction in Riga, the capital of Latvia, on October 3, 1941, after the wave of war had passed over it, the Soviets had withdrawn and it was in Nazi hands. (Image: AP)
    Riga, Latvia after the Soviet withdrawal and it was in Nazi hands on October 3, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • June 22, 1941 – the day Hitler and Stalin ceased to be allies ~~
    German soldiers crossing a wetland area in October 1941, near Salla on Kola Peninsula, a Soviet-occupied region in northeast Finland. (Image: AP)
  • Soviet gun crew in action at Odessa in 1941. (Image: Wikimedia)
    Soviet gun crew in action at Odessa in 1941. (Image: Wikimedia)
  • Evidence of the fierce fighting on the Moscow sector of the front is provided in this photo showing what the Germans claim to be some of the 650,000 Soviet prisoners which they captured at Bryansk and Vyasma, Russia. They are here seen waiting to be transported to a prisoner of war camp somewhere in Russia, on November 2, 1941. (Image: AP)
    650,000 Soviet prisoners captured by the Germans at Bryansk and Vyasma, Russia, waiting to be transported to a prisoner of war camp somewhere in Russia, on November 2, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • An column of Soviet prisoners of war taken during recent fighting in Ukraine, on their way to a Nazi prison camp on September 3, 1941. (Image: AP)
    Soviet prisoners of war taken during fighting in Ukraine, on their way to a Nazi prison camp on September 3, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • Russian prisoners of war, taken by the Germans on July 7, 1941. (Image: AP)
    Russian prisoners of war, taken by the Germans on July 7, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • Heinrich Himmler (left, in glasses), head of the Gestapo and the Waffen-SS, inspects a prisoner-of-war camp in this from 1940-41 in Russia. (Image: US National Archives)
    Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo and the Waffen-SS, inspects a POW camp in 1940-41 in the Soviet Union. (Image: US National Archives)
  • A long-distance camera view of Leningrad, taken from the Germans' seige lines, on October 1, 1941, the dark shapes in the sky were identified as Soviet aircraft on patrol, but were more likely barrage balloons. This would mark the furthest advance into the city for the Germans, who laid seige to Leningrad for more than two more years, but were unable to fully capture the city. (Image: AP)
    A long-distance camera view of Leningrad, taken from the Germans' seige lines, on October 1, 1941, the dark shapes in the sky were identified as Soviet aircraft on patrol, but were more likely barrage balloons. This would mark the furthest advance into the city for the Germans, who laid seige to Leningrad for more than two more years, but were unable to fully capture the city. (Image: AP)
  • June 22, 1941 – the day Hitler and Stalin ceased to be allies ~~
    Soviet prisoners en route to Germany, on October 3, 1941. Several million Soviet soldiers were sent to German prison camps, the majority of whom never returned alive. (Image: AP)
  • General Heinz Guderian, commander of Germany's Panzergruppe 2, chats with members of a tank crew on the Soviet front, on September 3, 1941. (Image: AP)
    General Heinz Guderian, commander of Germany's Panzergruppe 2, chats with members of a tank crew on the Soviet front, on September 3, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • Rapidly advancing German forces encountered serious Soviet guerrilla resistance behind their front lines. Here, four guerrillas with fixed bayonets and a small machine gun are seen in action, near a small village. (Image: LOC)
    Soviet guerrillas with fixed bayonets and a small machine gun are seen in action, near a small village. (Image: LOC)
  • Soviet snipers leave their hide-out in a wheat field, somewhere in the USSR, on August 27, 1941, watched by German soldiers. In foreground is a disabled soviet tank. (Image: AP)
    Soviet snipers leave their hide-out in a wheat field, somewhere in the USSR, on August 27, 1941, watched by German soldiers. In foreground is a disabled soviet tank. (Image: AP)
  • Five Soviet guerrillas on a platform, with nooses around their necks, about to be hanged by German soldiers, near the town of Velizh in the Smolensk region, in September of 1941. (Image: LOC)
    Soviet guerrillas about to be hanged by German soldiers, near the town of Velizh in the Smolensk region, in September of 1941. (Image: LOC)
  • Burning houses, ruins and wrecks speak for the ferocity of the battle preceding this moment when German forces entered the stubbornly defended industrial center of Rostov on the lower Don River, in Russia, on November 22, 1941. (Image: AP)
    German forces enter Rostov on the lower Don River, in Russia, on November 22, 1941.
  • A huge Soviet gun on tracks, likely a 203 mm howitzer M1931, is manned by its crew in a well-concealed position on the Russian front on September 15, 1941. (Image: AP)
    A Soviet gun, likely a 203mm howitzer M1931, in a well-concealed position on September 15, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • Red Army soldiers examine war trophies captured in battles with invading Germans on September 19, 1941. (Image: AP)
    Red Army soldiers examine war trophies captured in battles with invading Germans on September 19, 1941. (Image: AP)
  • A Soviet attack at Krasnaya Sloboda near Bryansk, 1941 (Image: Anatoly Garanin)
    A Soviet attack at Krasnaya Sloboda near Bryansk, 1941 (Image: Anatoly Garanin)
  • A Soviet 82mm BM-37 mortar squad in August 1941. (Image: rgakfd.altsoft.spb.ru)
    A Soviet 82mm BM-37 mortar squad in August 1941. (Image: rgakfd.altsoft.spb.ru)
  • German SS troops near Mariupol, Ukraine in October 1941 (StuG.III Ausf.B stormgun, left - 105mm leFH18 howitzer, far right - Panzerjäger I). (Image: Paul Augustin)
    German SS troops near Mariupol, Ukraine in October 1941 (StuG.III Ausf.B stormgun, left - 105mm leFH18 howitzer, far right - Panzerjäger I). (Image: Paul Augustin)
  • Hitler and Mussolini reviewing a war map in Uman, Ukraine in August 1941 (Image: waralbum.ru)
    Hitler and Mussolini reviewing a war map in Uman, Ukraine in August 1941 (Image: waralbum.ru)


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Edited by: A. N.
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