Devil’s Bargain: Germany and Russia Before WWII | HistoryNet
On August 23, –shortly before World War II () broke out in German chancellor Adolf Hitler () used the pact to make sure Germany in World War I–a two-front war, in which they would be fighting Russians troops in had cautiously begun exploring the possibility of a thaw in relations with Stalin. The defeat of Germany by the Soviets to reunite by the World War II Allies. He added that even in the Cold War, the Soviet Union didn't turn this particular tap off. The emotional ties between Russia and Germany are hard to unravel. The two countries do, after all, inhabit the same part of the world.
The earliest stages of the German-Russian postwar relationship remain murky.
Immediately after the First World War, the German government had little thought for long-term foreign policy as it contended with one internal crisis after another.
But a few individuals were able to look beyond the short term. One of them was the visionary Col. Hans von Seeckt, newly appointed commander of the German army. Seeckt was interested in developing military cooperation with the new Soviet regime and saw Russia as a place where Germany could secretly produce weapons far from the prying eyes of the Allied disarmament inspectors.
Russia’s Love Affair with Germany - The American Interest
In early Seeckt began sending out feelers to the Russian regime through Turkish contacts he had made during the war. These initial forays were conducted privately, without the knowledge or consent of the German government. Seeckt was not alone in seeing Russia as a place where Germany might pursue military production. Officials in the German Foreign Office also considered developing economic and military contacts with the Soviet Union, and by members of the Foreign Office began secret discussions with the Soviet War Ministry about selling German weapons and technology to the Soviet regime.
It might seem strange for Germany to establish relations with a communist revolutionary state just after brutally suppressing a Soviet-supported rebellion by German communists—which it did in —but both sides saw a certain logic to it. And Russia, for its part, could offer the Germans plenty of space to build secret factories to produce the modern weapons the Western Allies had denied them, without fear of discovery by the IAMCC. With both nations desperately needing to reestablish themselves as military powers, their governments entered into secret negotiations.
General von Seeckt carefully laid the groundwork for the alliance, creating in late an office under his direct control within the Reichswehr staff: Seeckt later dispatched Col. The published version of the treaty established friendly relations between the two nations that included trade and investment.
But the treaty also had a secret annex, signed two months later, that established close military cooperation between the two powers. These included aircraft manufacturing plants, ammunition factories, and a poison gas plant. Russia would also set up tank and gas warfare schools, and provide the Germans with bases where they could train airmen. German officers of the elite general staff were assigned to teach in the Soviet army and air force staff academies. The Rapallo agreement was a diplomatic and military masterstroke: To keep it that way, every effort was made to deceive the Allies as the extensive military activities got underway.
Upon completing their training they were reinstated in the army as if they had never left. Some accounts of the secret German military testing in Russia finally did leak out in the late s. By that time, none of the Allied powers wanted to confront Germany over what appeared to be minor breaches of the Versailles Treaty. As long as Germany was ostensibly disarmed, the Western powers did not want to provoke a crisis. The earliest efforts to rearm were inauspicious ones, however. From toa series of industrial cooperative programs involving weapons production—among them an ammunition factory and a small poison gas factory—were set up on Soviet soil.
These proved to be the least successful of the joint ventures. The Russians hoped for much, but in the early s the new Soviet state was too poor to order weapons, ammunition, or aircraft in sufficient quantities to cover the cost of the German investment.
After a short period of joint production, the German armaments firms closed their factories. One industrial enterprise did have a lasting impact.
The German army sponsored a deal with Junkers Aircraft Company to build a secret factory in Russia in the village of Fili, just outside Moscow, in At the time, Junkers had the most advanced all-metal aircraft designs in the world. To work on the Junkers project, the Soviets assembled an aircraft design team under the brilliant young engineer Andrei Tupolev. The Germans liked Tupolev and his team, and admired their desire to learn.
But the factory languished because the Soviet regime was unable to buy more than a handful of aircraft. After manufacturing only airplanes in two years, and losing a great deal of money in the process, Junkers pulled out and turned the plant over to the Russians.WW2 - What if Soviets join Axis in 1940
Yet, by providing the Russian designers and engineers with access to the latest western technology and ideas, this brief cooperation provided a major boost to the fledgling Soviet aircraft industry. Tupolev and his team took over the Fili factory and began manufacturing the TB-1 and TB-3 bombers—both of which showed a strong similarity to the Junkers designs of the era. By the early s the Soviet aircraft industry was growing at an astounding rate, and by the middle of the decade, the Soviet Union possessed one of the largest and most modern air forces in the world.
The air force training programs established in Russia came far closer to achieving what German visionaries had in mind. The Germans had created a large and technically advanced air force during World War I, and they were determined to maintain a secret force that could be expanded as soon as the hated Versailles Treaty was renounced. To do so, the German army needed a place to train its airmen and develop new technologies and tactics.
The Russians offered the Germans a base at the spa town of Lipetsk, miles southwest of Moscow. It proved ideal, and became the focus of a secret Luftwaffe rearmament and training program in the late s. The Lipetsk base, which opened inwas home to 60 to 70 permanent German personnel, including instructors, technicians, and test pilots.
After completing the rigorous training program, as thorough as any offered in the world at the time, the airmen would return to Germany and be officially reinstated in the army. During the eight years it was in operation, more than Reichswehr airmen were trained in Russia.
To ensure the training was as modern as possible, the Reichswehr managed to quietly obtain one of the hottest fighter planes of the era: The D XIII, powered by a British hp Napier engine, was one of the fastest airplanes of its time and set several speed records in the early s.
The Soviet-German War 1941 - 1945
There the planes served as trainers for the advanced fighter course and as fighter-bombers used to train German pilots in dropping bombs and attacking ground targets.
During the next few years the base also acquired several Heinkel HD 21 and Albatros L 68 trainers, and some Junkers transports that were used for the observer and navigator courses.
With plenty of aircraft the school had 66 planes inthe Germans were able to mount relatively large air exercises. The German air wing also carried out air support for Red Army maneuvers, and the Germans and Russians gained experience in the complicated art of air-ground operations. By the late s, the Lipetsk school had expanded to include a flight test center.
Although the Versailles Treaty had forbidden the Germans an air force, they were still allowed civil aviation, and in the s companies such as Junkers, Dornier, and Heinkel were producing some up-to-date and even innovative designs.
Some of these were not the transport or sport planes they purported to be, but were designed as bombers or reconnaissance planes. Inthe peak year for training and testing at Lipetsk, German trainers, instructors, and testing personnel were stationed there.
A similar success story was unfolding with armor development. One of the most painful mistakes the German General Staff made in World War I was its belated appreciation of the role of armored vehicles on the battlefield. In contrast to the Allies, who had fielded tanks by the thousands inGermany started late and had manufactured only a handful of tanks by the end of the war.
Although denied tanks by the Versailles Treaty, the Germans made the development of modern armored forces a high priority in the s. The tank prototypes were to incorporate the most advanced engines and transmissions, be gas-proof, and be able to cross rivers. In the order was followed up by contracts to produce light tanks, also with all the latest engineering features. In keeping with the highly secret nature of the program, the Germans used code names for the armor in all military correspondence: By the German companies had produced six prototype heavy tanks and four light tanks and shipped them to the Russian industrial city of Kazan to be tested.
Along with military personnel, dozens of German engineers were secretly brought to Russia to oversee the armored experiments. The Soviets were just beginning to organize mechanized forces inso they were especially eager to support the German tank school and testing station. Along with 10 German tanks, the Germans could now practice battalion-sized and larger operations. Although the armored warfare course was only for German officers, Soviet technicians were allowed to examine and test-drive the German prototype equipment, and more than 60 carefully selected Red Army officers were allowed to participate in the exercises and war games.
As the Soviet tank force expanded, the Red Army formed its new tank units near Kazan so they could conduct large-scale maneuvers with the Germans in and Between and30 German officers went through the months-long armored warfare course at Kazan; another 20 served as instructors. Silesian Uprisingsand because the Soviet state was also isolated internationally, the Soviet government began to seek a closer relationship with Germany and therefore adopted a much less hostile attitude towards Germany.
The specific German aims were the full rearmament of the Reichswehr, which was explicitly prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles, and an alliance against Poland. It is unknown exactly when the first contacts between von Seeckt and the Soviets took place, but it could have been as early as —, or possibly even before the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
By earlya special group in the Reichswehr Ministry devoted to Soviet affairs, Sondergruppe R, had been created. A team of inspectors from the League of Nations patrolled many German factories and workshops to ensure that these weapons were not being manufactured. The Treaty of Rapallo between Weimar Germany and the Soviet Union was signed by German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau and his Soviet colleague Georgy Chicherin on April 16,during the Genoa Economic Conferenceannulling all mutual claims, restoring full diplomatic relations, and establishing the beginnings of close trade relationships, which made Weimar Germany the main trading and diplomatic partner of the Soviet Union.
German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact - HISTORY
However, for a long time the consensus was that those rumors were wrong, and that Soviet-German military negotiations were independent of Rapallo and kept secret from the German Foreign Ministry for some time. In return, the Soviets asked for access to German technical developments, and for assistance in creating a Red Army General Staff. One month later, Junkers began building aircraft at Filioutside Moscow, in violation of Versailles.
Ina flying school was established at Vivupal, near Lipetskto train the first pilots for the future Luftwaffe. In turn, the Red Army gained access to these training facilities, as well as military technology and theory from Weimar Germany. Stresemann and Nikolai Krestinsky in Berlin, German staff at Tomka chemical weapons facility, Soviet Union, Since the late nineteenth century, Germany, which has few natural resources,   had relied heavily upon Russian imports of raw materials.
Soviet Union in World War II
The Soviets offered submarine-building facilities at a port on the Black Seabut this was not taken up. The Kriegsmarine did take up a later offer of a base near Murmanskwhere German vessels could hide from the British. During the Cold War, this base at Polyarnyy which had been built especially for the Germans became the largest weapons store in the world.
Most of the documents pertaining to secret German-Soviet military cooperation were systematically destroyed in Germany. This did not, however, have any immediate effect upon German relations with other European powers.
After World War II, the papers of General Hans von Seeckt and memoirs of other German officers became available,  and after the dissolution of the Soviet Uniona handful of Soviet documents regarding this were published.
These promptings were repeated over the years, with the Soviets always anxious to stress that ideological differences between the two governments were of no account; all that mattered was that the two countries were pursuing the same foreign policy objectives.
On December 4,Victor Kopp, worried that the expected admission of Germany to the League of Nations Germany was finally admitted to the League in was an anti-Soviet move, offered German Ambassador Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau to cooperate against the Second Polish Republic, and secret negotiations were sanctioned.
Germany's fear of international isolation due to a possible Soviet rapprochement with France, the main German adversary, was a key factor in the acceleration of economic negotiations. On October 12,a commercial agreement between the two nations was concluded. As Germany became less dependent on the Soviet Union, it became more unwilling to tolerate subversive Comintern interference: On April 24,Weimar Germany and the Soviet Union concluded another treaty Treaty of Berlindeclaring the parties' adherence to the Treaty of Rapallo and neutrality for five years.
France also voiced concerns in this regard in the context of Germany's expected membership in the League of Nations. Unlike Bukharin, Stalin believed that a deep crisis in western capitalism was imminent, and he denounced the cooperation of international communist parties with social democratic movements, labelling them as social fascistsand insisted on a far stricter subordination of international communist parties to the Comintern, that is, to Soviet leadership.
This was known as the Third Period. The relatively independent KPD of the early s almost completely subordinated itself to the Soviet Union. Under this agreement the Union of Industrialists agreed to provide the Soviet Union with an up-to-date armaments industry and the industrial base to support it, on two conditions: Stalin desperately wanted their weapons, including anti-aircraft gunshowitzersanti-tank gunsmachine guns etc.
As Russia had been a major wheat exporter before the First World War, he decided to expel his recalcitrant kulak peasant farmers to the wastes of Siberia and create huge collective farms on their land like the 50, hectare farm that Krupp had created in the North Caucasus.
Thus, in anda huge deluge of Soviet wheat at slave labour prices flooded unsuspecting world markets, where surpluses already prevailed, thereby causing poverty and distress to North American farmers. However, Stalin secured the precious foreign currency to pay for German armaments.
Yet the Union of Industrialists were not only interested in cash for their weapons, they wanted a political concession. They feared the arrival of socialism in Germany and were irate at the KPD and Social Democrats objecting to providing funds for the development of new armored cruisers.
Stalin would have had no compunction about ordering the German Communists to change sides if it suited his purpose. He had negotiated with the German armaments makers throughout the summer of and was determined to modernize his armed forces.