SOVIET MILITARY BUDGET GREW DRASTICALLY TO CONFRONT HITLER
Probably the best indication to the layman of the Red Army’s growth since the rise of Hitler is the fact the money allotted to it in the Soviet budget grew nearly 40 fold. From 1.5 billion rubles in 1933 it grew to 57 billion in 1940.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 95
Of course he [Stalin] and his entourage always kept in mind the possibility of war with the capitalist countries, and in the late 30s this meant specifically Germany and Japan. Preparations for such a war were made by creating a modern defense industry, military aviation, an up-to-date navy, civil-defense training for the whole population, and so on. In 1939-1941 the army increased by 2.5 times, many troops and supplies were transferred to the western districts, war production increased, and the number of military schools grew. Especially after the war with Finland, a great deal of work was done toward retraining the Army. The development of new weapons was speeded up. More than a 100,000 men were put to work on the fortification of the new western borders. Airfields were modernized, ordnance depots and ammunition dumps set up, and military exercises for troops and commanders carried out.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 735
Zhukov also wrote:
“The period between 1939 and the middle of 1941 was marked on the whole by trans-formations that within two or three years would have given the Soviet people a brilliant army.”
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 736
In 1940, the Soviet government spent 56 billion rubles on defense, more than twice as much as in 1938, and over 25 percent of all industrial investment. As a result, the defense industry developed at three times the rate of all other industries. During the time between the signing of the pact and the Nazi invasion, the value of the Soviet Union’s material resources was nearly doubled, an impressive achievement, even allowing for the low starting figure.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 482
BRITISH AIDED HITLER
British diplomacy granted to Hitler Germany everything that it had refused for more than a decade to the German republic: the remilitarization of the Rhineland, the Nazi — terrorized plebiscite in the Saar, German rearmament and naval expansion…. British finance, which had strangled the struggling German democracy with demands for impossible war reparations, supported Hitler’s regime with heavy investments and loans. It was no secret to any intelligent world citizen that the British Tories made these concessions to Hitler because they saw in him their “strong–arm gangster” who would eventually fight the Soviets, which important sections of British finance capital have always seen as their greatest foe.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 147
If any doubt remained as to the motives of the British and French foreign offices, it was removed at the Munich conference. Munich — with its cynical sell out of Czechoslovakia — was the trump card of the Tory ruling cllass in its game of driving Germany toward the east. The British Prime Minister chamberlain posed as “appeasing” Hitler, while actually egging him on. Chamberlain suggested that the Sudetenland might be given to Hitler before anyone in Germany had dared to express such a desire.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 148
Almost as soon as the Nazi troops marched into the Czech territory, it was discovered that representatives of London finance had agreed with German industrialists some weeks earlier about the financing of the great Enterprises thus seized.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 149
SU INVADED BY THE BIGGEST ARMY EVER
Already almost all the nations of Europe had gone down like ninepins.
The decision of Hitler…to turn eastward after the conquest of Europe, will probably go on permanent record as the greatest blunder in military history….
Two hundred and sixty divisions from Germany and her allies, Romania, Italy, Hungary, Spain, and Finland, swept eastward. There is nothing in the history of warfare with which to make comparison of the striking power of these forces against a single country.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 220
One hundred seventy-nine German divisions, 22 Rumanian divisions, 14 Finnish divisions, 13 Hungarian divisions, 10 Italian divisions, one Slovak division, and one Spanish division [Totaling 240 divisions-Editor], a total of well over 3 million troops, the best armed and most experienced in the world, attacked along a 2000 mile front, aiming their spearhead directly at Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad.
Franklin, Bruce, Ed. The Essential Stalin; Major Theoretical Writings. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1972, p. 31
On 25 April 1941 the German army contained 296 divisions overall with about 40 further divisions in the process of formation.
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 233
STALIN WAS ONLY SURPRISED AS TO THE EXACT TIME OF THE INVASION
Was Stalin taken by surprise with the turn of events? In the broader sense, no. All his actions from the day Hitler rose to power provide a complete proof of this. But there still remained in the situation an element of surprise in the sense that it was not possible to know the precise moment at which the blow would fall.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 221
German attacks on Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland had indeed been preceded by open claims and loud threats. Stalin apparently thought that Hitler would act according to precedent. Because he did not see the usual danger signals he refused to admit the imminent danger.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 455
Stalin received the correct information that “Barbarossa” would start on June 22 for instance – but he was also given other dates ranging from April 6 right through May and up to June 15 – and as each one proved wrong, it became less likely that he would accept the true version for what it was. Werner Wachter, a senior official at the Propaganda Ministry, later explained Goebbels’s technique in admirably simple language. The preparations for “Barbarossa,” he said, were accompanied by so many rumors, “all of which were equally credible, that in the end there wasn’t a bugger left who had any idea of what was really going on.”
Certainly, that comment seems to have been true for Stalin and his intelligence chiefs as the hour for the attack drew steadily closer.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 600
SU INVADED BY MANY COUNTRIES IN WWII
The assault was launched not by Germany but by all of fascist Europe.
By every rational calculation of war potential, the Soviet Union was doomed to swift and complete defeat, regardless of what British or American policy might be. Defeat would’ve meant not only the enslavement of the Soviet peoples but the ultimate conquest of Britain and China and the reduction of America to helplessness before the unchallenged masters of Eurasia and Africa.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 419
Franco whose fascist “Blue Legion” was fighting the Red Army.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 455
CHURCHILL SUPPORTS SU AGAINST NAZIS
Churchill said, “at four o’clock this morning Hitler attacked and invaded Russia…. No one has been a more consistent opponent of communism than I have for the last 25 years. But all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding…. Any man or state who fights against nazism will have our aid. Any man or state who marches with Hitler is our foe.”
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 422
An “off the record” story illustrates Churchill’s attitude. One of his friends said, “Winston, how can you support the Bolsheviks, you who led British intervention against Lenin and once admitted that you had spent 100 million British pounds to aid the ‘White’ armies of Kolchak and Denikin?”
The premier replied curtly, “If seven devils rose from hell to fight against that man Hitler, I’d shake them all by the hand and give each a bottle of brandy and a box of my best cigars.”
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 264
In June 22, 1941, Churchill had said: ‘No one has been a more persistent opponent of communism than I have been for the last 25 years. I will unsay no word that I have spoken about it, but all this fades away before the spectacle which is now unfolding.’
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 505
LINDBERGH SUPPORTS NAZIS AGAINST SU
Lindbergh said, I would a hundred times rather see my country ally herself with England, or even with Germany with all her faults, than with the cruelty, the Godlessness and the barbarism that exists in Soviet Russia.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 424
MACARTHUR PROFUSELY PRAISES THE RED ARMY’S DEFENSE AND COUNTERATTACK
Douglas MacArthur’s anniversary tribute of February 23, 1942: “The hopes of civilization rest on the worthy banners of the courageous Russian army. During my lifetime I have participated in a number of wars and have witnessed others, as well as studying in great detail campaigns of outstanding leaders of the past. In none have I observed such effective resistance to the heaviest blows of a hitherto undefeated enemy, followed by a smashing counter attack which is driving the enemy back to his own land. The scale and grandeur of the effort mark it as the greatest military achievement in all history.”
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 432
[As the Red Army fought the Wehrmacht in early 1942 MacArthur sent the following telegram to the Soviet leadership].
“The world situation at the present time indicates that the hopes of civilization rest on the worthy banners of the courageous Russian army. During my lifetime I have participated in a number of wars and have witnessed others, as well as studying in great detail the campaigns of outstanding leaders of the past. In none have I observed such effective resistance to the heaviest blows of a hitherto undefeated enemy, followed by a smashing counterattack which is driving the enemy back to his own land. The scale and grandeur of this effort marks it as the greatest military achievement in all history.”
Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins. New York: Harper, 1948, p. 497
LEADERS COMPLIMENT THE RED ARMY
It is the Russian army said Churchill on August second 1944 that has done the main work of tearing the guts out of the German Army.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 493
The German Generals’ impressions of the Red Army were interesting, and often illuminating. The best appreciation in a concise form came from General Kleist: “The [Soviet] men were first-rate fighters from the start, and we owed our success simply to superior training. They became first-rate soldiers with experience. They fought most toughly, had amazing endurance, and could carry on without most of the things other armies regarded as necessities. The Staff were quick to learn from their early defeats, and soon became highly efficient.”
I asked German General Rundstedt what he considered were the strong and weak points of the Red Army, as he found it in 1941. His reply was: “The Russian heavy tanks were a surprise in quality and reliability from the outset. But the Russians proved to have less artillery than had been expected, and their air force did not offer serious opposition in that first campaign.”
Talking more specifically of the Russian weapons Kleist said: “Their equipment was very good even in 1941, especially the tanks. Their artillery was excellent, and also most of the infantry weapons–their rifles were more modern than ours, and had a more rapid rate of fire. Their T-34 tank was the finest in the world.” In my talks with Manteuffel, he emphasized that the Russians maintained their advantage in tank design and that in the “Stalin” tank, which appeared in 1944, they had what he considered the best tank that was seen in battle, anywhere, up to the end of the war.
Hart, Liddell. The German Generals Talk. New York: W. T. Morrow, 1948, p. 220-221
As regards the general characteristics of the Russian soldier, Dittmar gave me an illuminating sidelight when I asked him what he considered was the Russians’ chief asset. “I would put first, what might be called the soulless indifference of the troops–it was something more than fatalism. They were not quite so insensitive when things went badly for them, but normally it was difficult to make any impression on them in the way that would happen with troops of other nations. During my period of command on the Finnish front there was only one instance where Russian troops actually surrendered to my own.
Dittmar added: “On Hitler’s specific orders, an attempt was later made in the German Army to inculcate the same mental attitude that prevailed in the Red Army. We tried to copy the Russians in this respect, while the Russians copied us, more successfully, in tactics.
Hart, Liddell. The German Generals Talk. New York: W. Morrow, 1948, p. 223-224
Blumentritt stated, “It was in this war, however, that we first learnt to realize what ‘ Russia’ really means. The opening battle in June, 1941, revealed to us for the first time the new Soviet Army. Our casualties were up to 50 percent. The 0GPU and a women’s battalion defended the old citadel at Brest-Litovsk for a week, fighting to the last, in spite of bombardment with our heaviest guns and from the air. Our troops soon learnt to know what fighting the Russians meant. The Fuhrer and most of our highest chiefs didn’t know. That caused a lot of trouble.
“The Red Army of 1941-45 was far harder than the Tsar’s Army, for they were fighting fanatically for an idea. That increased their doggedness, and in turn made our own troops hard, for in the East the maxim held good–‘You or I.’
Hart, Liddell. The German Generals Talk. New York: W. Morrow, 1948, p. 225
During the month of July 1941 the course of contemporary history was to be decided. Under the staggering blows of the Wehrmacht, already drawing upon the human and economic potential of the whole of Europe, the Red Army constantly retreated. The whole structure of the Soviet edifice was shaken by the terrible blows. A few fissures were showing in the western part of the country, where defections were taking place. However, despite the defeats, the heavy losses, and the withdrawal from thousands of miles of the front–despite the overwhelming effect on the country’s economy, as a whole the young State–and it was not 30 years old–was standing firm. Like certain metals, whose molecular structure becomes closer, and whose coefficient of resistance increases under the vibrations of a violent hammering, Soviet Russia was forging itself. There was no weakening of the military command or the government of the country; the industrial reorganization continued. Contrary to the enemy’s expectation, instead of sinking into anarchy the peoples of the USSR remained united under a central authority. They persevered in the organized effort which enabled the USSR to sustain a modern, technical war, and without interruption to increase its military potential.
Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 301
HITLER WAS NO FOOL
Because whether you like him or not, Hitler is far from a fool and never made a mistake until June 22, 1941.
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1941, p. 181
Hitler wasn’t a fool. On the contrary, he was a capable man.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 361
KREMLIN PREPARED FOR WAR FOR MANY YEARS
I know, as I said before, that the Kremlin has been preparing for this war for full seven years; that it has starved its people of consumer goods in order to equip the red army and build new munition and armament plants.
Duranty, Walter. The Kremlin and the People. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1941, p. 215
CHUEV: For the day of the attack, for the hour of the attack–that’s what we weren’t prepared for.
MOLOTOV: 0h, but no one could have been ready for the hour of the attack, even God itself! We’d been expecting the attack and we had a main goal–not to give Hitler a pretext for it. He would have said, “Soviet troops are assembling at the border. They are forcing me to take action!”
Of course that was a slip up, a shortcoming. And of course there were other slip-ups. You just try to find a way to avoid mistakes on such a question. But if you focus on them, it casts a shadow on the main point, on what decided the matter. Stalin was still irreplaceable. I am a critic of Stalin; on certain questions I did not agree with him, and I think he made some major, fundamental mistakes. But no one talks about these mistakes; instead they keep criticizing things on which Stalin was right….
In essence we were largely ready for war. The five-year plans, the industrial capacity we had created–that’s what helped us to endure, otherwise we wouldn’t have won out. The growth of our military industry in the years before the war could not have been greater!
The people went through a colossal strain before the war.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 25
MOLOTOV: We even abolished the seven-hour working day two years before the war! We abolished the right of workers to move from one enterprise to another in search of better conditions, even though many of them lived poorly and were looking for better places to live…. We built no apartment houses, but there was great construction of factories, the creation of new army units armed with tanks, aircraft….
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 26
Stalin thus stimulated production in Soviet industry and agriculture because he was the first of world statesman to perceive that sooner or later Hitler’s Nazi Germany would make a bid for world dominion. Stalin saw that from the outset, from 1935, when Chamberlain, and Bonnet in France, and even the United States, had small idea of Hitler’s wild ambition. From then onwards Stalin swung Russia towards what I might call “preparedness,” in the American sense. Deliberately he reduced the production of consumer goods, which the Russian people so greatly needed, in favor of factories to produce the material of war, and located those factories in areas east of Moscow, far from hostile attack, in the Urals and mid-Siberia and along the east Siberian coast.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 175
Russian factories and collective farms worked furiously in the fall and winter of 1940-41, aware that the breathing-space which Stalin’s agreement with Hitler had won for them in 1939 was nearly at an end. At this critical moment the Soviet state gained strength from its arbitrary system of centralization. It was able to drive its workers and peasants to the limit of their effort because the idea of greater reward for greater service had been adopted, because they had the incentive of personal profit in addition to the no less powerful incentive of patriotic service. By this time they all knew, the whole Soviet Union knew, that Germany was their enemy and that a clash with Germany could not long be averted.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 259
The scheme of evacuation had been carefully prepared, not only of people, animals, and foodstuffs from the countryside, but of machines, even whole factories, from the towns and cities. At Christmas, 1941, the Germans boasted that they had occupied the territory in which one-half of the heavy industry of the USSR was situated…. But Goebbels omitted to state how much machinery and tools were moved eastwards from the factories of the Donetz Basin, the Ukraine, White Russia, and Leningrad by the workers who had handled them, and how much more which could not be moved was deliberately demolished, like the great Dnieper dam and power stations, by the men and women who had built them.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 266
The record shows that the tribute was deserved. Had Stalin not won the fight for industrialization and defeated the Trotskyists and Bukharinites, the USSR would have become a Nazi province. Had he not had the foresight to build a metallurgical industry in the Urals, the Red Armies could not have been supplied with arms. Had he not industrialized the economy and introduced mechanized farming, he would have had neither a base for producing arms nor a mass of soldiers trained in the operation of machinery. Had he not signed a nonaggression treaty with Germany, the USSR might have been attacked 22 months sooner. Had he not moved the Soviet armies into Poland, the German attack would have begun even closer to Moscow. Had he not subdued General Mannerheim’s Finland, Leningrad would have fallen. Had he not ordered the transfer of 1,400 factories from the west to the east, the most massive movement of its kind in history, Russian industry would have received a possibly fatal blow. Had he not built up the army and equipped it with modern arms, it would have been destroyed on the frontiers.
He did not, of course, do these things alone. They were Party decisions and Party actions, and behind the Party throughout was the power, courage, and intelligence of the working class. But Stalin stood at all times as the central, individual directing force, his magnificent courage and calm foresight inspiring the whole nation. When some panic began in Moscow in October 1941 he handled it firmly.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 107
… our Red Army, Red Navy, Red Air Fleet and the Chemical and Air Defense Society must be increased and strengthened to the utmost. The whole of our people must be kept in a state of mobilization and preparedness in the face of the danger of military attack, so that no “accident” and no tricks on the part of our external enemies may take us by surprise….
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 163
For years [this was stated in 1937], the Russian leaders have based all their actions on the belief that they will soon be involved in war. They apparently started to build up a larger gold reserve in order to strengthen their military position.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 271
The 18th Party Conference of February 1941 was devoted almost entirely to defense matters…. Stalin proposed that in 1941 industrial output should increase by 17-18 percent. That did not seem unrealistic. In 1940, for instance, defense output had increased by 27 percent compared to 1939…. The people knew a war was coming and that they would have to perform the impossible. By the time of Hitler’s invasion, 2700 airplanes of a new type and 4300 tanks, nearly half of them a new model, had been built.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 374
A month before the German attack, Stalin, speaking to a close circle, said, ‘The conflict is inevitable, perhaps in May next year.’ By the early summer of 1941, acknowledging the explosiveness of the situation, he approved the premature release of military cadets, and young officers and political workers were posted, mostly without leave, straight to units which were below full strength. After much hesitation, Stalin also decided to call up about 800,000 reservists, bringing up to strength 21 divisions in the frontier military districts….
On 19 June 1941 troops were ordered to begin camouflaging aerodromes, transport depots, bases and fuel dumps, and to disperse aircraft around airfields. The order came hopelessly late, and even then Stalin was reluctant in case ‘all these measures provoke the German forces’.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 393
Despite all his miscalculations, Stalin was not unprepared to meet the emergency. He had solidly armed his country and reorganized its military forces. His practical mind had not been wedded to any one-sided strategic dogma. He had not lulled the Red Army into a false sense of security behind any Russian variety of the Maginot Line, that static defense system that had been the undoing of the French army in 1940. He could rely on Russia’s vast spaces and severe climate. No body of men could now dispute his leadership. He had achieved absolute unity of command, the dream of the modern strategist.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 461
What conclusions, then, follow from the facts sighted? How is one to assess what was done before the war, what we intended to do in the near future and what we did not have time to do or were unable to do in strengthening our country’s defensive capacity? How is one to make that appraisal today after everything has been gone through, critically interpreting the past and at the same time putting oneself once more on the threshold of the Great Patriotic War?
I have thought long over this and here is the conclusion to which I came.
It seems to me that the country’s defense was managed correctly in its basic and principal features and orientations. For many years everything possible or almost everything was done in the economic and social aspects. As to the period between 1939 and the middle of 1941, the people and Party exerted particular effort to strengthen defense.
… The fact that in spite of enormous difficulties and losses during the four years of the war, Soviet industry turned out a colossal amount of armaments –almost 490,000 guns and mortars, over 102,000 tanks and self-propelled guns, over 137,000 military aircraft–shows that the foundations of the economy from the military, the defense standpoint, were laid correctly and firmly.
Following once more in my mind’s eye the development of the Soviet Armed Forces all the way from the days of the Civil War, I should say that here too we followed the right road in the main. There was constant improvement along the right lines in Soviet military doctrine, the principles of educating and training the troops, the weapons of the army and navy, the training of commanding cadres and the structure and organization of the armed forces. The morale and fighting spirit of the troops and their political consciousness and maturity were always exceptionally high.
Of course, if it were possible to go over the whole road once more there are some things it would be better not to do. But today I cannot name a single major trend in the development of our armed forces that should have been abolished, abandoned, and disclaimed. The period between 1939 and the middle of 1941 was marked on the whole by transformations which in two or three years would have given the Soviet people a brilliant army, perhaps the best in the world.
During the period the dangerous military situation was developing we army leaders probably did not do enough to convince Stalin that war with Germany was inevitable in the very near future and that the urgent measures provided for in the operational and mobilization plans must be implemented.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 226
Other elements of the Soviet military effort were less affected by the purges. The training schools increased their intake of new officer trainees. The technological threshold still moved slowly forward. The system of fortifications begun in the 1920s along the whole western frontier–the Stalin Line–continued to be constructed and extended. Most important of all, the modernization and expansion of the Soviet heavy industrial base continued, and with it the large proportion allocated to military production. Without the economic transformation, the Red Army would have been a feeble force in 1941, relying on a vast base of peasant manpower. The industrial changes of the 1930s provided the planners, the scientists, engineers, and skilled labor necessary to cope with the demands of total mobilization made after the German invasion in 1941. Whatever the weaknesses exposed by the modernization drive, it is inconceivable that the Soviet Union could have withstood the German attack without it.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 51
Of course considerable preparations were made. For over a decade priority had been given to heavy industry, and the Soviet armed forces had first call on it. The Red Army was enlarged by two and a half times between 1939 and 1941, war production was increased, troops and supplies transferred to the west, a 100,000 men put to work on the fortifications.
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Knopf, 1992, p. 705
In his speech in the Reichstag on 7 March 1936 Hitler said: Nor do we doubt that Herriott. of France reported his information truly. Now, according to this information it is established in the first place that the Russian Army has a peace strength of 1,350,000 men, and secondly, that its war strength and reserves amount to 17,500,000 men. Thirdly, we are informed that it has the largest tank force in the world, and, fourthly that it has the largest air force in the world. This most powerful military factor has been described as excellent in regard to mobility and leadership and ready for action at any time.
HITLER’S SPEECHES by Norman Baynes, 1942, VOLUME 2, Page 1290
What confirmed me in my decision to attack [the Soviet Union] without delay was the information brought by a German mission lately returned from Russia, that a single Russian factory was producing by itself more tanks that all our factories together.
Hitler, Adolph. Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944. Trans. by Cameron & Stevens. New York: Enigma Books, 2000, p. 182
The more we see of conditions in Russia, the more thankful we must be that we struck in time. In another 10 years there would have sprung up in Russia a mass of industrial centers, inaccessible to attack, which would have produced armaments on an inexhaustible scale, while the rest of Europe would have degenerated into a defenseless plaything of Soviet policy.
Hitler, Adolph. Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944. Trans. by Cameron & Stevens. New York: Enigma Books, 2000, p. 586
The legend of the might of Germany’s mechanized army, backed by a highly industrialized society and run with ruthless Teutonic efficiency, has been with us for so long that it is difficult to realize how poor were the German preparations for the Russian campaign. The German army invaded Russia with 3,200 tanks and the monthly output of 80 to 100 was too low even to make good the wastage. Although this rate later went up rapidly, it did not reach its peak until August 1944, when it was already too late, and even then was only a quarter of the Russian output. The Germans had sufficient fuel for only a fraction of their transport to be motorized. The rest was moved by horses! The average German infantry division had about 1,500 horse-drawn vehicles and only about 600 motor-drawn ones, compared with some 3,000 in a British or American infantry division. The German soldier had no winter clothing, and had to make do by wearing large cotton combat overalls over his uniform and stuffing the spaces in between with crumpled newspapers or, since newsprint was scarce, with German propaganda leaflets.
The Russians, on the other hand, began the war with 20,000 tanks, more than were possessed by the rest of the world put together, and they produced no fewer than 100,000 during the war. They, too, used horses, but their motorized transport was adapted for winter conditions, their winter uniforms were white and, being quilted, provided excellent protection against the cold, and they possessed an adaptability to the environment that the Germans lacked. “Give a Russian an axe and a knife and in a few hours he will do anything, run up a sledge, a stretcher, a little igloo… make a stove out of a couple of old oil cans,” a German medical officer wrote. “Our men just stand about miserably burning precious petrol to keep warm.”
Knightley, Phillip. The First Casualty. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975, p. 252
It would be unfair to accuse Stalin of neglecting the country’s defense. In 1940 new regulations lengthened the working day and week. By 1941 the army was more than double the size it had been in 1939. In a number of cases capable people were put in charge of vital departments.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; the Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 531
It seems to me that the country’s defense was managed correctly as regards its basic and principal features and orientations. For many years, everything or almost everything possible was done in the economic and social fields. As to the period from 1939 to the middle of 1941, the people and the Party applied special efforts to strengthen the country’s defenses….
Of course, if it were possible to go over that whole road once again, there are some things it would have been better not to do and some things that would have to be straightened out. But today I cannot name a single major trend in the development of our armed forces that should have been written off, jettisoned, or repealed. The period between 1939 and the middle of 1941 was marked on the whole by transformations which gave the Soviet Union a brilliant army, and that readied it well for defense.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 270
Soviet economic might was so successfully dedicated to the war effort that in the last six months of 1942 it reached a level of production which the Germans attained only across the entire year. The numbers were remarkable. In that half-year the USSR acquired 15,000 aircraft and 13,000 tanks.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 421
At least four marshals–and many generals–deny Stalin’s alleged failure to prepare for the German invasion. In June 1941 Marshal Bagramyan says a ‘titanic’ effort had been made to prepare for the coming war. Marshal Vasilevsky points to a ‘whole number of very important measures’ taken to counter the menace of aggression. Marshal Zhukov goes farther, saying, ‘every effort’ and ‘every means’ was used to bolster the country’s defenses between 1939 and 1941. Marshal Rokossovsky says that the non-aggression pact with Hitler ‘gave us the time we needed so much to build up our defenses’….
Stalin’s generals are virtually unanimous in pointing to Russia’s accelerated pre-war industrial and military growth as the sine qua non for victory over Nazi Germany. This build-up started between the two world wars when the West had in effect quarantined the Soviet state.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 189
Djilas, a Yugoslav writer and activist who met Stalin several times during the war, says that, prior to the Nazi-Soviet War, Stalin spared nothing to achieve military preparedness; and the speed with which he carried out the transformation of the top army command in the midst of the war confirmed Stalin’s adaptability and willingness to open careers to men of talent. Djilas an uncompromising critic of Stalin, says that the sweeping military purges had less effect than is commonly believed.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 190
STALIN WAS A GOOD WWII SUPREME COMMANDER
Stalin as supreme commander of the Russian forces in the Second World War would be a theme for a special work. His great gift of military organization showed itself here again. Without any question, streams of energy proceeded from him throughout the war, and that energy halted the Germans before Leningrad and Moscow. They had to seek the road to victory in another direction– toward the Volga. Strategically they fell into exactly the same situation as the counter-revolutionary generals of the civil war. As then, Stalingrad had once more to become the battlefield on which the outcome of the war would be decided. Stalin had already won one victory there, at the outset of his career; once already he had prevented the enemy from crossing the Volga. The strategic problem was familiar to him. For the second time in his life he achieved his strategic triumphs on the same spot.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 365
“Hitler fooled us,” he [Stalin] said, in a calm but somewhat harsh voice. “I didn’t think he was going to attack now.”
He was silent. The launch still floated beside us, and Captain Karazov still stood at attention.
“We did all we could to avoid war,” Stalin said. “We did all we could to avoid the ruin it causes. But now we no longer have any choice. We have to accept the battle, for life or for death; and we can only win if the whole people rises as one man against the Germans.”
Svanidze, Budu. My Uncle, Joseph Stalin. New York: Putnam, c1953, p. 169
After dinner, before taking his leave, Rokossovsky shook my uncle’s hand, and said, “You have thanked us for what we did. Let me say that without your constant support, the victory would have been impossible. I will never forget the phone call you put through to me at my command post that night in November when the Germans were entering Istra and threatening to encircle Moscow. After I put down the phone, I ordered an attack and our troops re-occupied Istra.”
Svanidze, Budu. My Uncle, Joseph Stalin. New York: Putnam, c1953, p. 179
Stalin knew there was no hope of bringing the war to an early end but he had to bolster the morale of his people. The second battle of Moscow had begun, and Soviet Intelligence reported that the Fuehrer had given his Generals a fortnight in which to take the city.
Soon the Germans took Khimky, the small port on the Moscow-Volga-Canal, four miles from Moscow, and connected by trolley-bus to the city, and at this point Stalin personally took command of the defense operations. He urged the Soviet troops at all costs, to hold out for a few days to enable reinforcements, maneuvering their positions, to complete their reconcentration. To give his Generals and troops new strength, Stalin applied the right psychology, and frequently telephoned the field headquarters of his different Generals.
“Hello, here is Stalin, make your report,” he would say. After listening to their reports, he would urge encouragingly: “Hold out. We shall be coming to your assistance in three to four hours time. You will have your reinforcements”!
And the over-tired defenders of Moscow, near to collapse, held-out, and the Soviet counter-offensive was opened.
Then came a communique Signed by Marshals Timoshenko and Zhukov which announced the “crushing defeat of the Wehrmacht before Moscow.”
Fishman and Hutton. The Private Life of Josif Stalin. London: W. H. Allen, 1962, p. 144
In all, the State Committee for Defense adopted some 10,000 resolutions on military and economic matters during the war. Those resolutions were carried out accurately and with enthusiasm….
Stalin himself was strong-willed and no coward. It was only once I saw him somewhat depressed. That was at the dawn of June 22, 1941, when his belief that the war could be avoided, was shattered.
After June 22, 1941, and throughout the war Stalin firmly governed the country, led the armed struggle and international affairs together with the Central Committee and the Soviet Government.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 268
I can only repeat that Stalin devoted a good deal of attention to problems of armament and material. He frequently met with chief aircraft, artillery, and tank designers whom he would question in great detail about the progress achieved in designing the various types of equipment in our country and abroad. To give him his due, it must be said that he was fairly well versed in the characteristics of the basic types of armament.
Is it true that Stalin really was an outstanding military thinker, a major contributor to the development of the Armed Forces and an expert in tactical and strategic principles?
From the military standpoint I have studied Stalin most thoroughly, for I entered the war together with him and together with him I ended it.
Stalin mastered the technique of the organization of front operations and operations by groups of fronts and guided them with skill, thoroughly understanding complicated strategic questions. He displayed his ability as Commander-in-Chief beginning with Stalingrad.
In guiding the armed struggle as a whole, Stalin was assisted by his natural intelligence and profound intuition. He had a knack of grasping the main link in the strategic situation so as to organize opposition to the enemy and conduct a major offensive operation. He was certainly a worthy Supreme Commander.
Here Stalin’s merit lies in the fact that he correctly appraised the advice offered by the military experts and then in summarized form–in instructions, directives, and regulations–immediately circulated them among the troops for practical guidance.
As regards the material and technical organization of operations, the build-up of strategic reserves, the organization of production of material and troop supplies, Stalin did prove himself to be an outstanding organizer. And it would be unfair if we, the Soviet people, failed to pay tribute to him for it.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 284-285
The Second Front dawdled, but Stalin pressed unfalteringly ahead. He risked the utter ruin of socialism in order to smash the dictatorships of Hitler and Mussolini. After Stalingrad the Western World did not know whether to weep or applaud. The cost of victory to the Soviet Union was frightful. To this day the outside world has no dream of the hurt, the loss and the sacrifices. For his calm, stern leadership here, if nowhere else, arises the deep worship of Stalin by the people of all the Russias.
Statement by W.E.B DuBois regarding COMRADE STALIN on March 16, 1953
The modern Stalin was instantly recognizable. Harriman, who saw a great deal of Stalin during the war as Roosevelt’s emissary and then ambassador, was deeply impressed by him: “his high intelligence, that fantastic grasp of detail, his shrewdness… I found him better informed than Roosevelt, more realistic and Churchill… the most effective of the war leaders.”… At Tehran the British Chief of the General Staff, General Brooke, thought that Stalin’s grasp of strategy was the fruit of “a military brain of the highest caliber.” At Tehran Stalin did not, in Brooke’s view, put a foot wrong.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 348
For his part, Harriman rated Stalin ‘better informed than Roosevelt, more realistic than Churchill, in some ways the most effective of the war leaders’.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 252
Stalin possessed, all western observers in the Hitler war agreed, excellent strategic judgment.
Snow, Charles Percy. Variety of Men. New York: Scribner, 1966, p. 258
He [Stalin] spent whole days, and often nights as well, at headquarters. Zhukov wrote: “In discussion he made a powerful impression…. His ability to summarize an idea precisely, his native intelligence, is unusual memory…. his staggering capacity for work, his ability to grasp the essential point instantly, enabled him to study and digest quantities of material which would have been too much for any ordinary person…. I can say without hesitation that he was master of the basic principles of the organization of front-line operations and the deployment of front-line forces…. He controlled them completely and had a good understanding of major strategic problems. He was a worthy Supreme Commander.”
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 486
He [Stalin] was never a general let alone a military genius but, according to Zhukov, who knew better than anyone, this “outstanding organizer…displayed his ability as Supremo starting with Stalingrad.” He “mastered the technique of organizing for operations…and guided them with skill, thoroughly understanding complicated strategic questions,” always displaying his “natural intelligence…professional intuition” and a “tenacious memory.” He was “many-sided and gifted” but had “no knowledge of all the details.” Mikoyan was probably right when he summed up in his practical way that Stalin “knew as much about military matters as a statesman should–but no more.”
Montefiore, Sebag. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Knopf, 2004, p. 439
Like most people with whom I associated, I connected the turnabout in the course of the war with Stalin, and stories of him as a human being encouraged the magnification of his charisma. Therefore, though I had begun the war with doubts about the “wisdom” of Stalin’s leadership, I ended it believing that we had been very lucky, that without Stalin’s genius, victory would have taken much longer to achieve and would have entailed far greater losses, had it come at all.
Grigorenko, Petro G. Memoirs. New York: Norton, c1982, p. 139
Could Russia have won without Stalin? Was Stalin indispensable to the Soviet war effort? An expert on Russia, Dr. Bialer, has written: ‘It seems doubtful that the Soviet system could have survived an extraordinary internal shock, such as the disappearance of Stalin, while at the same time facing the unprecedented external bowl of the German invasion.’
Another expert, America’s wartime Ambassador to Moscow, Harriman, says: ‘We became convinced that, regardless of Stalin’s awful brutality and his reign of terror, he was a great war leader.’ (Replying to a question I [the author] put to him on his visit to Moscow in May 1975, Harriman called Stalin ‘one of the most effective war leaders in history’.) Harriman is categorical: ‘Without Stalin, they never would have held.’
Giving full support to Harriman, but going a step further is Joseph McCabe, who has been described by eminent historians as ‘one of our deeper thinkers’ and ‘one of the most learned men’ of the 20th century. McCabe has recorded that when Hitler’s armies fell upon Russia in 1941 Stalin became the West’s leader in the gravest crisis through which the world has passed since the fall of Rome.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 195
And Stalin, as a commander-in-chief, had no equal either among our allies or among our enemies. To the present moment  , Europe is the way Stalin left it. Even now the knots tied in the Far and Middle East remained untied.
Grigorenko, Petro G. Memoirs. New York: Norton, c1982, p. 212
The criticism of Stalin as a military leader in Khrushchev’s report at the closed session of the 20th Party Congress is on the level of small-town gossip. The one serious criticism of Stalin it contained was that he did not call a halt to the operation near Kharkhov when a threat to our flanks arose, and this criticism misses the point. In the case of Kharkhov, Stalin acted as the serious military leader. During the moment of crisis, persistence was what was most required. Stalin’s conduct, his unwillingness to come to the telephone, was geared toward calming his nervous subordinates, and it underlined the fact that he was convinced of the operation’s success. Khrushchev acted like a child. He was frightened by the prospect of being encircled and he failed, along with his commander, to provide any protection for his threatened flanks….
(Such is the truth. I can and I do hate Stalin with all the fibers of my soul.)
Grigorenko, Petro G. Memoirs. New York: Norton, c1982, p. 212
Stalin was convinced that in the war against the Soviet Union the Nazis would first try to seize the Ukraine and the Donets Coal Basin in order to deprive the country of its most important economic regions and lay hands on the Ukraine grain, Donets coal and, later, Caucasian oil. During the discussion of the operational plan in the spring of 1941, Stalin said: “Nazi Germany will not be able to wage a major lengthy war without those vital resources.”
…Stalin was the greatest authority for all of us, and it never occurred to anybody to question his opinion and assessment of the situation. Yet his conjecture as to the main strike of the Nazi invader proved incorrect.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 250
During the war, Stalin had five official posts. He was Supreme Commander-in-Chief, General Secretary of the Party’s Central Committee, Chairman of the USSR Council of People’s Commissars, Chairman of the State Defense Committee, and People’s Commissar for Defense. He worked on a tight schedule, 15 to 16 hours a day.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 349
Stalin made a great personal contribution to the victory over Nazi Germany and its allies. His prestige was exceedingly high, and his appointment as Supreme Commander was wholeheartedly acclaimed by the people and the troops.
Mikhail Sholokhov was quite right in saying in an interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda during the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Victory that “it is wrong to belittle Stalin, to make him look a fool. First, it is dishonest, and second, it is bad for the country, for the Soviet people. And not because victors are never judged, but above all because such ‘denouncements’ are contrary to the truth.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 363
I am often asked whether Stalin was really an outstanding military thinker and a major contributor to the development of the armed forces, whether he was really an expert in tactical and strategic principles.
I can say that Stalin was conversant with the basic principles of organizing operations of Fronts and groups of Fronts, and that he supervised them knowledgeably. Certainly, he was familiar with major strategic principles. Stalin’s ability as Supreme Commander was especially marked after the Battle of Stalingrad.
The widespread tale that the Supreme Commander studied the situation and adopted decisions when toying with a globe is untrue. Nor did he pour over tactical maps. He did not need to. But he had a good eye when dealing with operational situation maps.
Stalin owed this to his natural intelligence, his experience as a political leader, his intuition and broad knowledge. He could find the main link in a strategic situation which he seized upon in organizing actions against the enemy, and thus assured the success of the offensive operation. It is beyond question that he was a splendid Supreme Commander-in-Chief.
Stalin is said to have offered fundamental innovations in military science–elaborating methods of artillery offensives, of winning air supremacy, of encircling the enemy, splitting surrounded groups into parts and wiping them out one by one, etc.
This is untrue. These paramount aspects of warcraft were mastered in battles with the enemy. They were the fruit of deep reflections and summed up the experience of a large number of military leaders and troop commanders.
The credit that is due here to Stalin is for assimilating the advice of military experts in his stride, filling it out and elaborating upon it in a summarized form–in instructions, directives, and recommendations which were immediately circulated as guides among the troops.
Besides, in the matter of backing operations, building up strategic reserves, organizing arms production and, in general, the production of everything needed in the war, the Supreme Commander proved himself an outstanding organizer. And it would be most unfair if we failed to pay tribute to him for this.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 367-368
I would like additionally to say a few words about Stalin as Supreme High Commander. I would hope that my service position during the war, my constant, almost daily contact with Stalin and, finally, my participation in sessions of the Politburo and the State Defense Committee which examined all the fundamental issues concerning the war, give me the right to say a few words on this topic. In doing so I shall not discuss his Party, political and state activity in wartime, inasmuch as I do not consider myself sufficiently competent to do so….
Was it right for Stalin to be in charge of the Supreme High Command? After all he was not a professional military man?
There can be no doubt that it was right.
At that terribly difficult time the best solution, bearing in mind the enormous Leninist experience from the Civil War period, was to combine in one person the functions of Party, state, economic and military leadership. We had only one way ou___”t: to turn the country immediately into a military camp, to make the rear and the front an integral whole, to harness all our efforts to the task of defeating the Nazi invaders. And when Stalin as Party General Secretary, Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars and Chairman of the State Defense Committee also became the Supreme High Commander and the People’s Defense Commissar, there opened up more favorable opportunities for a successful fight for victory.
This combining of Party, state. and military leadership functions in the figure of Stalin did not mean that he alone decided every issue during the war….
It is my profound conviction that Stalin, especially in the latter part of the war, was the strongest and most remarkable figure of the strategic command. He successfully supervised the fronts and all the war efforts of the country on the basis of the Party line and he was able to have considerable influence on the leading political and military figures of the Allies in the war. It was interesting to work with him, but at the same time extremely taxing, particularly in the initial period of the war. He has remained in my memory as a stern and resolute war leader, but not without a certain personal charm….
Stalin possessed not only an immense natural intelligence,but also amazingly wide knowledge. I was able to observe his ability to think analytically during these sessions of the Party Politburo, the State Defense Committee and during my permanent work in the GHQ. He would attentively listen to speakers, unhurriedly pacing up and down with hunched shoulders, sometimes asking questions and making comments. And when the discussion was over he would formulate his conclusions precisely and sum things up. His conclusions would be brief, but profound in content .
I have already noted that during the first few months of the war Stalin’s inadequate operational and strategic training was apparent. He rarely asked the advice of the General Staff officers or front commanders. Even the top Operations Department men in the General Staff were not always invited to work on the most important GHQ operations directives. At that time decisions were normally taken by him alone and not always with complete success….
The big turning point for Stalin as Supreme High Commander came in September 1942 when the situation became very grave and there was a special need for flexible and skilled leadership in regard to military operations. It was at that time that he began to change his attitude to the General Staff personnel and front commanders, being obliged constantly to rely on the collective experience of his generals. “Why the devil didn’t you say so!
From then on, before he took a decision on any important war issue, Stalin would take advice and discuss it together with his deputy, the top General Staff personnel, heads of chief departments of the People’s Defense Commissariat and front commanders, as well as people’s commissars in charge of the defense industry….
The process of Stalin’s growth as a general came to maturity. I have already written that in the first few months of the war he sometimes tended to use Soviet troops in a direct frontal attack on the enemy. After the Stalingrad and especially the Kursk battles he rose to the heights of strategic leadership. From then on Stalin would think in terms of modern warfare, had a good grasp of all questions relating to the preparation for and execution of operations. He would now demand that military action be carried out in a creative way, with full account of military science, so that all actions were decisive and flexible, designed to split up and encircle the enemy. In his military thinking he markedly displayed a tendency to concentrate men and material, to diversified deployment of all possible ways of commencing operations and their conduct. Stalin began to show an excellent grasp of military strategy, which came fairly easily to him since he was a past master at the art of political strategy, and of operational art as well….
I think that Stalin displayed all the basic qualities of a Soviet general during the strategic offensive of the Soviet Armed Forces. He skillfully supervised actions of the Fronts .
Stalin paid a great deal of attention to creating an efficient style of work in the GHQ. If we look at the style from autumn 1942, we see it as distinguished by reliance on collective experience in drawing up operational and strategic plans, a high degree of exactingness, resourcefulness, constant contact with the troops, and a precise knowledge of the situation at the Fronts….
Stalin as Supreme High Commander was extremely exacting to all and sundry; a quality that was justified, especially in wartime. He never forgave carelessness in work or failure to finish the job properly, even if this happened with a highly indispensable worker without a previous blemish on his record….
As Supreme High Commander, Stalin was in most cases extremely demanding but just. His directives and commands showed front commanders their mistakes and shortcomings, taught them how to deal with all manner of military operations skillfully….
I deliberately leave untouched the expressions used by Stalin so as to give the reader the usual flavor of Stalin’s talk. He normally spoke succinctly, pithily, and bluntly….
Vasilevskii, Aleksandr M. A Lifelong Cause. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981, p. 447-451
It would be quite wrong, however, to look at Stalin from only one point of view. I have to say that he was an extremely difficult man to deal with, liable to fly off the handle and unpredictable. It was hard to get on with him and he took a long time to get used to .
If Stalin was ever unhappy about something, and the war, especially at the beginning, certainly gave plenty of causes, he could give a dressing down unjustly. However, he changed noticeably during the war. He began to be more restrained and calm in his attitude to us officers of the General Staff and main departments of the People’s Defense Commissariat and front commanders, even when something was going wrong at the front. It became much easier to deal with him. It is clear that the war, its twists and turns, failures and successes had an effect on Stalin’s character….
Joseph Stalin has certainly gone down in military history. His undoubted service is that it was under his direct guidance as Supreme High Commander that the Soviet Armed Forces withstood the defensive campaigns and carried out all the offensive operations so splendidly. Yet he, to the best of my judgment, never spoke of his own contribution. At any rate, I never happened to hear him do so. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union and rank of Generalissimus were awarded to him by written representation to the Party Central Committee Politburo from front commanders. In fact, he had fewer military orders than did the commanders of fronts and armies. He told people plainly and honestly about the miscalculations made during the war when he spoke at a reception in the Kremlin in honor of Red Army commanders on 24 May 1945: .
Vasilevskii, Aleksandr M. A Lifelong Cause. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981, p. 452
This nationalist revival and Stalin’s strong leadership, were extremely significant in the eventual victory of Russia over Germany.
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 163
“The only really military man in the family was my father,” says Svetlana. “He really had this talent. He really liked it, and the best performance he gave in his life was as organizer of the Red Army during the Second World War. He did what he was born for.”
…The fact that our country managed to get through the war was to Stalin’s huge merit. And then the economy was restored, and atomic weaponry was created, which to this day has maintained the peace.
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 170
According to Zhukov, Stalin ‘mastered questions of the organization of front operations [there being about a dozen large sectors, or “fronts”, at any given moment] and groups of fronts’, a point sustained by chief-of-staff Vasilevsky. Lest this be dismissed as mere post-Khrushchev propaganda aimed at rehabilitating Stalin’s image as a war leader, consider that General Alan Brooke, who encountered Stalin in 1943, judged him ‘a military brain of the very highest order’. And Brooke was arguably the keenest British military mind of the war, a professional who held in contempt politicians who dabbled in strategy, and also the one western general whom Stalin accused to his face of being unfriendly to Russia.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 242
After British Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke met Stalin he commented: ‘Never once in any of his statements did Stalin make any strategic error, nor did he ever fail to appreciate all the implications of a situation with a quick and unerring eye.’
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 165
Like many Russian generals, Krivoshein respected Stalin as Commander-in-Chief, calling him a ‘worthy commander’. He said that he agreed with British Field Marshal Alanbrooke’s estimate of Stalin as a man with a ‘military brain of the finest order’. But Krivoshein added a proviso. ‘Stalin’, he said, ‘had very good assistants in the armed forces, and they managed to tell him which way was the right way. But Stalin was able to use his formidable strength to manage military affairs and achieve victory–which was no small achievement.’
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 55
Author: Admiral, how do you assess Stalin’s role in the war?
Admiral Gorshkov: Stalin’s good point was that he could choose very talented military leaders. Stalin was of course also an outstanding political, state and military leader. This is not only my opinion, but that of Churchill and Lord Beaverbrook and many other prominent foreign personalities. Stalin had a broad understanding of military matters. And he was able to find solutions and make decisions in the most difficult situations.
Author: So, you would say that Stalin was the Supreme Commander not just in name?
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 124
Author: Actually, many persons in the West do not give Stalin credit for his role in the defeat of Hitler’s Germany; and there are books by experts, and an encyclopedia or two, that say that Stalin ‘interfered’ with his commanders in the field….
Admiral Gorshkov and General Pavlovsky: That is not correct.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 124
At the conclusion of his memoirs, Marshal Vasilevsky asks: ‘Was it right for Stalin to be in charge of the Supreme High Command? After all, he was not a professional military man.’ And Vasilevsky’s answer: ‘There can be no doubt that it was right.’
…The stocky Marshal, who had frequent, almost daily contact with Stalin throughout the war, held some of the highest posts in the Armed Forces: Chief of Operations of the General Staff; Chief of the General Staff; Deputy Defense Minister. In the summer of 1945 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Forces in the Far East in the war against Japan….
Looking back on the war Vasilevsky mentions ‘Stalin’s growth as a general’, although he does not fail to mention miscalculations by the Supreme Commander in the early months of the invasion. He points out that after a year or two Stalin ‘successfully supervised the Fronts and all the war efforts of the country’.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 180
When Marshal Konev was asked his impression of Stalin by the Yugoslav writer and political activist, Djilas (the year was 1944), he replied: ‘Stalin is universally gifted. He was brilliantly able to see the war as a whole, and this made possible his successful direction.’
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 181
A perusal of memoirs, speeches and articles leads one to conclude that there is virtual consensus among Russia’s wartime generals and admirals that Stalin was a military leader of extraordinary insight, that he was an exceptional Commander-in-Chief. This is apparent in the recollections of many Marshals, including Meretskov, Vasilevsky, and Bagramyan. According to these men there was nothing synthetic about Stalin’s name as Marshal and Generalissimo.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 181
In his book, Reminiscences and Reflections, Zhukov sums up his views about Stalin:
‘I am often asked whether Stalin was really an outstanding military thinker and a major contributor to the development of the armed forces, whether he was really an expert in tactical and strategic principles. I can say that Stalin was conversant with the basic principles of organizing the operations of Fronts and groups of Fronts, and that he supervised them knowledgeably. Certainly he was familiar with major strategic principles. His ability as Supreme Commander was especially marked after the Battle of Stalingrad.’ He adds that Stalin had ‘rich intuition and ability to find the main point in a strategic situation’, which is high praise indeed from a soldier of Zhukov’s stature.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 182
EACH ALLY TRIES TO GET THE OTHER TO DO THE HARD WORK
The situation of the Soviet Union after the outbreak of war was perfectly clear. The relations between allies in a coalition war show certain fixed characteristics. Each ally tries more or less to carry on the war at the cost of the other allies.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 366
STALIN CONTENDS ALLIES WANT SU BLED WHITE AND THEY AVOID SECOND FRONT
Stalin became convinced that the Anglo-Saxon Powers were pursuing a policy of prolonging the war, so that not only should Germany be brought low, but the Soviet Union should be so bled white that after the war it would be a weak country. This Stalin repeatedly and plainly declared, and again and again he pressed for the creation of the ‘Second Front’. It was this front above all that began to poison the relations between the allies.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 367
Until the middle of 1944 this question [the second front] occupied center-stage in his [Stalin] diplomatic efforts. True, as the wind of victory filled his sails, he became less insistent, and indeed the front in western Europe was only opened when it had become obvious that the Soviet Union was capable of destroying Nazi Germany on her own.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 485
Stalin’s tactics, of rudeness punctuated by warmth, were sometimes counter-productive. But his general strategy was sound…. And though Churchill at least was alienated by Stalin’s offensive attitude, even he was still susceptible to the feeling that Stalin had a genuine grievance while the Soviet Union was bearing the brunt of the war.
Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York, New York: Viking, 1991, p. 253
According to Eisenhower, they could not open a second front in 1942-43 allegedly because they were unprepared for such a large-scale combined strategic operation. That was certainly far from the truth, for they could have opened a second front in 1943. They deliberately waited till our troops would inflict greater damage on Germany’s military force.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 681
Stalin made it painfully clear that the Soviet government took no interest in the TORCH operation [code-name for the North African landings]. He spoke caustically of the failure of the Western Allies to deliver the promised supplies to the Soviet Union. He spoke of the tremendous sacrifices that were being made to hold 280 German divisions on the Eastern Front.
Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins. New York: Harper, 1948, p. 620
Roosevelt, whose judgment of affairs was objective, and who was not unfavorably prejudiced against the Soviet leader, nor against the Russians as a whole, recognized the reasonable nature of Stalin’s demands [for a second front]. But he replied that the British operations against Rommel in Africa already constituted, in a certain measure, a second front, and they were holding up the crack German formations. Stalin did not accept this explanation, which seemed to him a mere excuse or evasion. Rommel’s African Corps consisted of two armored divisions and one division of light infantry. Such a front was not a center of fixation; it was merely a slight diversion.
Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 323
The plan for an assault across the Channel was finally agreed upon with the British in April 1942, but even after that Churchill repeatedly attempted to persuade Roosevelt to undertake a landing across the Mediterranean. According to Eisenhower, they could not open a second front in 1942-1943 allegedly because they were not prepared for this major combined strategic operation. That was certainly far from the truth. They could have opened a second front in 1943, but they wittingly did not hurry to do so, waiting for our troops to inflict greater damage on Germany’s armed forces, and, consequently, to become more exhausted.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2, Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 457
STALIN FELT STALINGRAD VICTORY MEANT SU COULD WIN ALONE
In particular, the battle of Stalingrad had brought the decisive turning-point in the whole world war. From that moment on the German armies streamed homewards. The second front in Europe came only after the Battle of Stalingrad. It was natural for Stalin to think that the allies had landed in Europe only because of his victory, in order to forestall him, and that he could have been victorious alone, without the second front. From that moment he was convinced that the Soviet Union alone had conquered the strongest military Power in all history, the Third Reich, and without really effective aid from the Allies, who now were merely reaping the fruit of that victory.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 369
STALIN KNEW NAZI ATTACK WOULD RESULT IN MAJOR LAND LOST AT FIRST
Stalin and the Soviet general staff were aware that the first shock of the Nazi attack would certainly result in considerable territorial loss.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 121
ALLIES SENT THE SU ALMOST NOTHING IN EARLY STAGE OF WWII
…Hopkins said, “Inevitably not everything the Roosevelt administration has done has pleased Moscow. But we’ve got things straightened out now, surely? We’ve supplied you with warplanes and trucks and ships, and quite a bit of food, too.
It would have been tactless to argue with him; but the truth was that during the first year after Hitler’s attack, at the worst time for the Soviet Union, the U.S.A. sent us practically nothing. Only later, when it was clear that the USSR could stand its ground, and on its own, did the deliveries gradually begin to flow.
Gromyko, Andrei. Memoirs. New York: Doubleday, c1989. p. 43
[Footnote]: A few words must be said here to explain the material aspects of the Russian superiority. Throughout the war Russia was confronted with German Armies roughly twice as numerous and strong as those that had defeated her in the First World War. The Russian achievement was made possible primarily by the rapid industrialization of the eastern provinces, much of which took place in the course of the war on a basis prepared in peace. The industrial output of the provinces that escaped German occupation was normally about 40 percent of the total Soviet output. It was doubled between 1942 and 1945. The production of the armament factories in the East went up by 500-600 per cent. On the average, 30,000 tanks and fighting vehicles and nearly 40,000 planes were turned out every year between 1943 and 1945–almost none of these had been manufactured in Russia in the First World War. The annual output of artillery guns was now 120,000, compared with less than 4000 in 1914-17. The Russian army was supplied with nearly 450,000 home-produced machine-guns annually–only about 9000 had been produced under the Tsar. Five million rifles and Tommy guns, five times as many as in the First World War, were produced every year.
The Red Army fought its way from the Volga to the Elbe mainly with home-produced weapons. The weapons which the western powers supplied were a useful and in some cases a vital addition. But the lorries which carried the Russian divisions into Germany were mostly of American, Canadian, and British make–more than 400,000 lorries were supplied to Russia under Lend-Lease. So were most of the boots in which the infantry proper slogged its way to Berlin, through the mud and snow and sand of the eastern European plain. Much of the army’s clothing and of its tinned food were supplied under Lend-Lease. One might sum up broadly that the fire-power of the Red Army was home produced, whereas the element of its mobility was largely imported.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 512
What role did the military and economic assistance of our Allies play in 1941 and 1942? Great exaggerations are widely current in Western literature.
Assistance in accordance with the Lend-Lease Act widely publicized by the Allies was coming to our country in much smaller quantities than promised. There can be no denial that the supplies of gun-powder, high octane petrol, some grades of steel, motor vehicles, and food-stuffs were of certain help. But their proportion was insignificant against the overall requirements of our country within the framework of the agreed volume of supplies. As regards tanks and aircraft supplied to us by the British and American Governments, let us be frank: they were not popular with our tank-men and pilots especially the tanks which worked on petrol and burned like tender.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 391-392
STALIN SHOWS COURAGE AND BRAVERY IN EARLY DAYS OF THE INVASION
Stalin stayed in Moscow. On November 7, 1941, while German guns roared in the suburbs and Hitler announced Moscow already taken, Stalin reviewed the troops in Red Square.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 98
In his memoirs, Khrushchev portrays Stalin’s panic and confusion in the first days of the war and later. I saw no such behavior. Stalin did not isolate himself in his dacha until June 30th, 1941. The Kremlin diary shows he was regularly receiving visitors and monitoring the deteriorating situation. From the very beginning of the war, Stalin received Beria & Merkulov [cohead of the Soviet security service] in the Kremlin two or three times a day. They usually returned to NKVD headquarters late at night, or sometimes called in their orders directly from the Kremlin. It appeared to me that the administrative mechanism of command and control was functioning without interruption. In fact, Eitingon and I maintained a deep belief in our ultimate victory because of the calm, clear, businesslike issuance of these orders.
On Nov. 6, 1941, I received an invitation to attend the October Revolution anniversary gathering in the Mayakovsky subway station. Traditionally, these celebrations were held in the Bolshoi Theatre, but this time, for security reasons, it was arranged on the subway platform.
… Stalin spoke for about 30 minutes. I was deeply moved, because his confidence and self-assurance symbolized our ability to resist the Germans.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 134
This excerpt from Izvestia, #6, 1990 confirms Sudoplatov’s contention that Stalin, contrary to Khrushchev’s claims in his memoirs, was not immobilized by panic after the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22nd, 1941, but rather received a steady stream of visitors at his Kremlin study.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 433
It is worth recording Dimitrov’s attitude toward Stalin. He, too, spoke of him with admiration and respect, but without any conspicuous flattery or reverence….
He recounted: “When the Germans were outside Moscow, a general uncertainty and confusion ensued. The Soviet government had withdrawn to Kuibyshev. But Stalin remained in Moscow. I was with him at the time, in the Kremlin. They were taking out archives from the Kremlin. I proposed to Stalin that the Comintern direct a proclamation to the German soldiers. He agreed, though he felt no good would come of it. Soon after, I too had to leave Moscow. Stalin did not leave; he was determined to defend it. And at that most dramatic moment he held a parade in Red Square on the anniversary of the October Revolution. The divisions before him were leaving for the front. One cannot express how great a moral significance was exerted when the people learned that Stalin was sitting in Moscow and when they heard his words. It restored their faith and raised their confidence, and it was worth more than a good-sized army.”
Djilas, Milovan. Conversations with Stalin. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, p. 37
Moscow was bombed by German aviation. Panic began to seize the city’s population. The Nazis were only 80 kilometres away. Part of the administration was evacuated. But Stalin decided to remain in Moscow. The battles became more and more fierce and, in early November, the Nazi offensive was stopped. After consulting with Zhukov, Stalin took the decision to organize the traditional November 7 military parade on Red Square. It was a formidable challenge to the Nazi troops camped at the gates of Moscow. Stalin made a speech, which was broadcast to the entire country.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 247 [p. 224 on the NET]
[In September 1941] The situation at the front is bad…. If it becomes necessary to abandon Moscow we can’t be sure that [the leadership will stand firm–implied]…. In the Instantsia they are not quite sure either that [Stalin will stand firm–implied]…. Stalin stands for war to the end…. While with others…Brest-Litovsk is in the air.
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 307
We must get the peasant going and instill in him the hatred of the enemy…. What a brilliant order of Stalin’s to the Army…. “A fighter should not die without leaving the corpse of a German interventionist by his side. Kill him with a machine-gun, or rifle, a bayonet…. If you’re wounded, sink your teeth into his throat and strangle him as you would a wild beast”.
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 309
The main blow was aimed directly at the capital, Moscow, whose outskirts were reached by late fall. Almost all the government offices had been evacuated to the east. But Stalin remained in the capital, where he assumed personal command of the war. On Dec. 2, 1941, the Nazis were stopped in the suburbs of Moscow. In December 6, Stalin ordered the first major counterattack to occur in World War II.
Franklin, Bruce, Ed. The Essential Stalin; Major Theoretical Writings. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1972, p. 31
As to Stalin’s nerves, or lack of them, his generals make no criticisms. Rather, Marshal Zhukov told a war correspondent that Stalin had ‘nerves of steel’. The correspondent, author Ehrenburg, wrote that the Marshal repeated these words to him several times when they met at a command post near the front line early in the war.
Even General Vlasov who had a great grievance against Stalin and, therefore, cause for resentment, told the Germans upon his capture that Stalin had strong nerves. Speaking to Dr. Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, he said that in the autumn of 1941, when the city of Moscow was threatened by advancing German armies, every one in the Kremlin had lost his nerve but only Stalin insisted on continued resistance to the German invaders.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 168
This is what Kraskyn, Stalin’s confidant and the Press Department’s senior war correspondent, wrote regarding the outbreak of the German-Russo war:
… “Stalin remained at Sochi until the end of the month. The direct telephone line which connected his villa with the Kremlin was in constant use with Molotov at the other end. Stalin never showed bad temper, remained calm, and determined.”
Fishman and Hutton. The Private Life of Josif Stalin. London: W. H. Allen, 1962, p. 139
The Wehrmacht’s first offensive was launched against Moscow for Hitler well knew the city had always been a symbol to the Russians, and that if his troops could conquer this political and spiritual center, it would be a milestone on the road to the defeat of the Soviet Union.
Stalin realized this too. He attended all meetings of the Committee of the Defense of the City, and addressed his people regularly, but despite superhuman efforts by the Red fighting forces and the Soviet population, the Nazi armies advanced inexorably towards Moscow. Stalin was forced to order the evacuation of women and children from the Red capital. He issued an Order of the Day, declaring that Moscow would be defended to the last, and at the same time, a state of siege was proclaimed.
The next day, the Soviet Government and Diplomatic Corps established themselves in Kuibyshev in the middle Volga. Certain Government Departments had been transferred to Kazan and Sverdlovsk. Stalin, Molotov, and other members of the ” Inner Circle,” remained in Moscow.
Fishman and Hutton. The Private Life of Josif Stalin. London: W. H. Allen, 1962, p. 143
Stalin was affable and had the common touch. He showed courage, particularly during the war. During the war, he preferred to work at the dacha rather than in the Kremlin, even though there were no air-raid shelters at the dacha. During an air attack, he would sometimes watch the planes from the roof of the building. According to Rybin, Stalin did not panic in mid-October 1941 when German forward units had reached the suburbs of Moscow. While Beria gave orders to senior party officials for the evacuation of Moscow on the evening of October 15 and although Malenkov and Kaganovich also recommended the move to Kuibyshev, Stalin, in a Kremlin meeting on Oct. 16, announced that he had decided to stay in Moscow.
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner’s, c1990, p. 148
There were riots in Moscow at the time, and shops were pillaged. According to Rybin, Stalin deliberately showed himself in various parts of the city and talked to people to give a boost to morale. Molotov was sent for three days to Kuibyshev to supervise the transfer of the foreign ministry, but he also confirmed in conversation with Rybin that Stalin had no intention of leaving the capital…. When information was received that an unexploded mine or shell had landed not far from the dacha, Stalin joined the search party–yet another demonstration of personal courage.
…On a visit to Oryol in 1946, he walked the streets accompanied by hundreds of citizens. When they thanked him for having defeated the Germans, he replied modestly: “The people defeated the Germans, not I.”
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner’s, c1990, p. 149
I am often asked about Stalin’s role in the battle Moscow.
Stalin was in Moscow, in control of the troops and weapons, preparing the enemy’s defeat. He must be given credit for the enormous work in organizing necessary strategic, material, and technical resources which he did as head of the State Committee for Defense with the help of the executive staff of the People’s Commissariats. With strictness and exactingness Stalin achieved the near-impossible.
When I am asked what event in the war impressed me most, I always say: the Battle of Moscow.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 361
For a long time now, there are stories, lies, outright falsifications that the war scared Stalin out of his wits. In view of these lies, let me tell of an incident. On May 5, at a meeting in the Kremlin, one of the scared officers said that the Central Committee armored train is ready and hidden. Stalin really let him have it:…
What kind of nonsense! What kind of safety armored train, when the enemy is inside the borders of the Soviet Union!
You can draw your own conclusion from this statement….
At the beginning of the war with the German attack on the USSR, this news was conveyed to Stalin by Marshall Zhukov. Already at 3 a.m., Stalin came into his office at the Kremlin. After that came in Zhukov and Timoshenko. Stalin regularly walked on the streets of Moscow, even during the flights of German aircraft. But he understood that people must see him amongst themselves, that the leader is with them, that he is in the capital of Moscow, and is heading its defense. Even more effective, he visited command posts on Gorky Street, Zemlianov Valley, Smolensky Square. For the sentries and army personnel, this had a tremendous effect.
Sometimes at the beginning of the war, at about 4 o’clock in the morning, Stalin was on Kaluzhki Square. Underneath, you could hear the crunch of broken glass. Around us, there were wooden homes, ambulances were racing to and fro, taking the dead and tending the wounded civilians and soldiers, right in Moscow. We were surrounded by crying women with children in their arms. Looking at them with tears in his eyes, Stalin told Vlasik:
We must evacuate the children deep into the interior of the country.
All of them stared to ask as to when will the Red Army stop the German Fascists! Stalin tried to console them with these well-known words:
There will be, there will be a holiday and dancing on this street of ours!
After being bombed by German planes, we went into Gorky Street. A woman with a flashlight came up to Stalin and scolded him:
Is it permissible for you to wander on the street, comrade Stalin, during such dangerous times? An enemy could easily drop a bomb on you!
Stalin only opened up his arms. Of course, the lady was correct. He was with us near Kubinka when over 400 planes were in the air, bombing while our fighters tried to shoot them down. After successfully repulsing the enemy, Stalin asked for the names of our pilots who did such an outstanding job. He met Victor Talakhin who did an outstanding job of shooting down German planes.
The enemy knew exactly where Stalin had his Dacha. Stalin risked his life together with all of us. Stalin always looked at the tremendous dogfights over the Dacha, when the Germans desperately tried to kill Stalin and his entourage, knowing in advance that they were there. They dropped bombs near the Dacha, some exploded, others did not, and we had to diffuse them, knowing full well that if they went off, everyone around the perimeter of the Dacha would be killed.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 28-30
On Oct. 15, Beria with Shcherbakov called the meeting of the NKVD and secretaries of the districts of Moscow. Beria deceitfully announced:
German tanks are already in Oditsovo. Contact with the front is broken. According to the decisions of the Central General Command, we must mine all large factories, industries and other important structures. Leave 500 members in every district to defend Moscow, evacuate older people and children. Give out all the reserves of products to the people, in order that the enemy would not get them.
Our surroundings at the Dacha were mined, and the news was told to us, from where, we do not know, that Stalin has left and went to Kalinin front or someplace else, no one knows where.
Where was Stalin at this time? Chauffeur to Stalin, Mitriukhin, states emphatically that from the Kremlin, Stalin wanted to go to the Dacha to meet his Politbureau. Rumniatsev started to tell him that there is no water there, there is no heat, there are mines, but Stalin gave the order to open the Kremlin gates and go. Orlov kept the gates closed. Stalin gave another order:
At this moment, I want you to take out all the mines, do you understand!
Orlov had to open the gates and light a fire at the Dacha. Stalin set to work, preparing the agenda for the meeting, while sappers were digging up the mines….
Going through Moscow on October 16th, Stalin saw people with bread, flour, sausages, macaroni–all goods belonging to the state reserves. He never said a word to these people, but in the Kremlin, he quickly called a meeting, and asked:
Who allowed this anarchy to take place in Moscow?
All were quiet. Beria even closed his eyes. Sharukhin very briefly told what happened. Stalin commanded Shcherbakov to go on the radio, to tell the people that we are going to be victorious, to make sure that a normal state of affairs came back to the city… to open up all the stores and to get normalcy going again. Then he called to see Zhukov, Artemiev, Shaposhnikov, Voznesensky, Kuztsov, and Kalinin. From Molotov, he demanded that all foreign Diplomatic Corps be evacuated to Kuibyshev. At last, the commandant of the Kremlin arrived, General Spiridonov. Stalin asked him:
What is your suggestion? Beria is demanding the evacuation of all to Kuibyshev.
Better to go to the Urals or Siberia. It is safer.
Stalin did not say anything… kept quiet but you could see that he did not like the hidden “panic” created by Beria and some others.
… At midnight when in the Dacha there gathered the whole Politburo, he called in to this high-level meeting, the landlady of the Dacha, Istomina, and asked:
Valentina Vasilevna, are you preparing to leave Moscow?
Comrade Stalin, Moscow is our mother, our home. It should be defended, she forthrightly told the gathered Politburo.
Do you hear how Muscovites talk? With sarcasm in his voice, Stalin looked around at all those present.
Everyone kept quiet. In the morning on his way to the Kremlin, talking with the chauffeur Krivchenkov about defending Moscow, Stalin forthrightly said:
I always was and will always remain with the Russian people in Moscow. We shall defend it to the death!
… In the most critical of times, while the enemy was at the gates of Moscow, Stalin remained calm, collected, and inspired courage in all of us.
… Regarding the “special train” for Stalin, it was shunted to another section of the city where there was an enormous storage of building materials.
There were two bombs dropped by German aircraft on this train… somehow they were told where this train was hidden.
The commandant of the Dacha, Soloviev, under a command from Beria, started to evacuate Stalin’s furniture and other possessions and load them on this train. When Stalin found out, he was livid:
Where did my furniture and papers go to?
We are getting ready, comrade Stalin, to evacuate to Kuibyshev.
No! No evacuation. Do you hear? We are remaining in Moscow until final victory!
Suslov, on Oct. 16, came to see if everything was going as planned, heard what Stalin told him:
Stalin now gave me such a going over, that you must get this train out of sight and return all the furniture and other things from the train back to the Dacha!
As we can see, all sorts of people, even those who wanted desperately, for their own reasons, to have Stalin leave, have told one and the same thing–his decision, his categorical decision was to remain in Moscow….
I want to convince the reader of the falsehood about Stalin’s “cowardliness.” Here are some examples. Even though the territory of the Dacha “Semenovskoye” was heavily mined all around and had anti-aircraft emplacements, Stalin always came here. The NKVD warned Stalin that one of the bombs dropped had not exploded.
… Then two enemy aircraft were circling over the Dacha. Aircraft gunners opened fire. Bullets, shells were falling on the ground like hail and Stalin was asked to go inside… but he stood there with the other defenders, urging them on. Finally, Stalin said: Vlasik, do not worry. Our bombs and those of others will not fall near us.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 30-35
When the German Army marched to the outskirts of Moscow in 1941, Stalin and Shtemenko bunkered together two levels below ground in the Kirovskaya subway station; the rest of the General Staff stayed in a command post one level below ground in the Byelorussian metro station.
Deriabin, Peter. Inside Stalin’s Kremlin. Washington [D.C.]: Brassey’s, c1998, p. 105
Let us go back to those days and get their impressions… not from the military commanders’ point of view, but from the Moscow Soviet Chairman, Vasili Pronin, who was chairman from April 1939 to 1945. [In the following] he was interviewed by the editor of the Military-Historical Journal, Captain Ishenko.
QUESTION: You met Stalin often in your position as Head of Moscow Soviet. How do you look at all the anti-Stalin hysteria that we have heard in the last 40 years?
ANSWER: This is a very hard question. In my work, of course, I met Stalin often. As the publicists, historians, and present leaders write and speak about Stalin, there is nothing real in their writings, nothing actual or truthful.
Stalin was no fool or sick. He was a tough leader during very tough times and there were enemies within and outside our borders…. Stalin was smart and a very learned man. He went into any given problem very methodically. In 1939-1940, this is the way we worked. There was intensive work to fortify the defenses of Moscow. Stalin visited all the regions of Moscow every day, looking over the fortifications, giving advice, finding fault with things that were not done and should have been done according to the master defense plan for Moscow. Every little thing interested him. He observed the smallest discrepancies. I accompanied him often.
…we start to visit the defenses and building of emplacements and other structures. We discussed the plans and what could be done either to improve or take certain steps to speed it up. People, seeing Stalin, converged. I remember at a stop, on Lenin Prospect, Stalin told the people: “Comrades, this is not a meeting–we came here to look at the construction.” Vlasik, perspiring as he ran here and there to see that no one tried to attack Stalin… there were no other guards guarding Stalin, who freely met, talked, shook hands with people.
Stalin was interested in everything, knew everything and was on top of things regarding the defenses of Moscow.
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 21-23
QUESTION: In your capacity as a member of the General Central Command, were there any disagreements regarding the defense of Moscow or its evacuation?
ANSWER: [Moscow Soviet Chairman, Vasili Pronin, who was chairman from April 1939 to 1945 says], No, there was unity. When on the night of October 19, 1941 we were asked to come to the General Staff Command, only one question was on the agenda: Are we going to defend Moscow? At first, as was the custom, all the General Staff and Moscow secretaries met in the Kremlin: Beria, Malenkov, Molotov and others.
QUESTION: Any from the Military High Command?
ANSWER: There was only one– General Artemiev. Marshal Zhukov was at the front.
QUESTION: It seems that to defend or not to defend Moscow was left to the Government body–civilians!
ANSWER: It looked like it. When we were all gathered in the hall, ready to go to the office of Stalin, Beria said that he would try to convince everyone to evacuate Moscow. He was for evacuating Moscow, giving it up to the Germans and establishing the headquarters of defense on the Volga River. Malenkov was agreeing with Beria, Molotov was very agitated and against this. Others present kept mum. I remember the words of Beria as follows: “Well, with what are we going to defend Moscow? We have nothing with which to defend ourselves. They will break us apart and will shoot us all like partridges!”
Then we went to Stalin’s office. There were 10 of us. Stalin was pacing in his office as always, with a pipe in his mouth. When we were all seated, he asked the question: “Will we be defending Moscow?”
All of us kept quiet. He waited a couple of minutes and again, repeated the same question. Again, all of us were silent.
“Well, if all of you are silent, I’m going to ask each one individually.”
The first one he asked was Molotov. Molotov said: “We’re going to defend Moscow!” He asked each one personally. All of them, including Beria and Malenkov, said that we should defend Moscow!
He turned to me and said: “Pronin, write this down.”
I took the paper and pencil and Stalin dictated. With this, we informed all citizens… then he told me to get this message to the GHQ and on the radio. He then picked up the telephone, got in touch with the front lines and then from his small book where he had all the divisions, commanders, sections of armies, all marked… he dictated commands as Commander-in-Chief to immediately deploy their divisions around Moscow. Someone from the Ural districts stated that he has not enough railway cars to bring his army to Moscow. Stalin stated emphatically: “You shall have the cars….”
So, you see, Stalin never thought of leaving Moscow.
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 30-32
QUESTION: There is talk now that Stalin himself wanted to leave Moscow if the situation worse.
ANSWER: [Moscow Soviet Chairman, Vasili Pronin, who was chairman from April 1939 to 1945 says], I heard such talk, but these lies are spread by people who themselves ran away with tails between their legs at that time. They are doing this to make themselves look good before their children and grandchildren. I and my friend Kuznetsov and Poskrebyshev looked into this matter, perused archives and diaries of all different sources, but absolutely NOTHING whatsoever was found to say that Stalin wanted to run away. The opposite was true–he was the pillar of steadfastness and patriotism.
Furthermore, I was one of the leaders of PVO and I read that Stalin was seen running to and fro on some railway station, trying to get out of Moscow. An absolute lie! At that time, days on end German planes were over Moscow and if Stalin’s train would have been going out of Moscow, our fighter planes would have been there to give him cover. Our command NEVER once got the order from Stalin that the High Command was planning to leave Moscow.
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 34-35
On 2 October 1941 the Germans launched their first offensive against Moscow….
Stalin remained on the spot throughout the battle, attending all the meetings of the Committees for the Defense of the City, the chairman of which was the Moscow Secretary of the Party, Alexander Shcherbakov.
Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 308
The victory in the Battle of Moscow brought about a fundamental change in Stalin’s position. Externally, however, his attitude was the same as ever. During the past months he had maintained, before the representatives of Great Britain and the United States, an attitude of calm assurance, despite the tragic uncertainty of the situation. Another man would have found it extremely difficult to play the part of the unperturbed ruler; but for Stalin it was no effort to control his nerves, and to meet his visitors with an untroubled countenance. He is kneaded of a special clay, which never ceases to radiate a certain impression of strength and confidence. But he knew that the greatest trials were still to come, and wanted to prove that in any situation there were for him no ups and downs but only a reasoned and obstinate steadfastness.
Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 312
Stalin said, “Are you sure we’ll be able to hold Moscow? It hurts me to ask you this. Answer me truthfully, as a communist.”
I said, “We’ll definitely hold Moscow. But we’ll need at least two more armies and another 200 tanks.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 35
A question about 22nd June, 1941.
Was Stalin confused? It is said that he did not meet anyone?
No. It is all lies. We were with him. At night while Molotov was meeting Schulenberg we were there at Stalin’s place. He immediately handed over the responsibilities. I was given – Transport, and Mikoyan – Supplies. And transport was ready! To carry 15-20 million people, the factories… it was not a joke. Stalin was working all the while. Of course, he was surprised. He had thought that he would be able to avert the invasion for some more time as the crisis in Anglo-American relations would deepen. I do not think that this was a miscalculation. It was impossible to provoke us. Perhaps Stalin was over-careful. At that time there was no alternative. At first I thought that perhaps Stalin’s idea at the start of the war was to overcome the crisis diplomatically. Molotov said ‘No’. This was war and nothing could have been done.
Hitler was not able to out-smart Stalin. Despite all logic Hitler did not end the war with the British but attacked us. Hitler acted as an imperialist.
THUS SPAKE KAGANOVICH by Feliks Chuyev, 1992
[Footnote]: None of the three main sources for the opinion that Stalin abdicated leadership at the opening of the war were in Moscow at the time, and none reveal how they learned of this alleged abdication. They are Khrushchev, Maisky, and Grechko.
Similarly unconvincing is the assertion in Khrushchev Remembers that ‘I’d seen him when he had been paralyzed by his fear of Hitler.’ In fact Khrushchev, who was in Kiev, did not see Stalin at all in the early part of the war. In his speech of 1956 he contradicts this accusation by instead claiming that Stalin’s fault early in the war was interference with military operations, hardly the same as paralysis.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 369
Khrushchev also said that Stalin on hearing of the invasion acted like a “rabbit in front of a boa constrictor). But a man who was arrested at least six times by Tsarist police between 1902 and 1913, and who escaped five times–as Stalin did, mostly from Siberian and Arctic prison camps–is not likely to act the coward in moments of danger….
Many experts have written that Stalin disappeared for a few days after invasion day, and it is difficult to be accurate as to his whereabouts during the opening days of the invasion. A few years ago his appointments book was found, and several pages detailing visitors to Stalin’s Kremlin study are reproduced in Sudoplatov’s Special Tasks, the Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness–a Soviet Spymaster. And the Stalin biographer Radzinsky, on a visit to London in April 1996, disclosed that he had gained access to the ‘presidential archives’ in the Kremlin and found the journal listing Stalin’s visitors for June 1941. He said this showed that Stalin had not, as previously thought, disappeared for a week or more after the invasion, but rather had received a steady stream of visitors….
That the country was not leaderless at this time is shown by the fact that a number of vital decisions were taken during the first week of the invasion and these had to be approved at the highest level.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 167
Marshal Zhukov mentions a telephone call from Stalin on the 26th, the fourth day of the invasion, summoning him to Moscow. ‘In the evening of 26 June I landed at Moscow and went to Stalin’s office directly from the airport.’ Zhukov makes no mention of an incapacitated Stalin.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 168
STALIN FORESAW VICTORY AFTER NAZI ATTACK WHILE HIS ENEMIES FORESAW DEFEAT
Fundamentally Stalin’s idea about the future of the Soviets differed only in one point–but this a decisive one–from that of his enemies: both parties foresaw the German attack, but Stalin believed in victory, Trotsky and his followers in defeat. Stalin evaluated the Russian and German forces in the right, the others in the wrong way.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 110
A chief reason why during 1941-42 he was constantly demanding offensive action, although it often involved terrible casualties, was that in these disastrous months, when Russia seemed near to collapse, he subordinated military considerations to the need to uphold the pride and fighting spirit of the nation. He was unsure of the morale of the Red Army and of the Russian people. Attempts to direct and control an orderly withdrawal of forces and the evacuation of the civilian population would have led, he feared, to panic-stricken flight, as had happened to the tsarist army in 1916-17. The great panic which had swept through Moscow in October 1941 as the Germans approached, was the kind of failure in morale which might have spread throughout Russia, leading to complete collapse….
But at every stage he had fought to halt them, as he had halted them before Moscow. He had demanded attack and had inspired his commanders with his own spirit of aggression and will to victory. It was indeed his implacable will which more than any other factor held the nation from collapse in the tragic days of 1941-42.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 421
STALIN SAVED ENGLAND FROM BEING ATTACKED BY THE NAZIS
The great benefit accruing to the world and allied victory from Stalin’s pact, has been divulged by Hitler himself. Later in their speeches of June 23, 1941, Hitler and Ribbentrop set forth that it was Stalin who prevented an attack on England in the fall of 1940: the wicked Russians, cried Hitler in his familiar sniveling manner, had occupied Bessarabia and thus set the Balkans in motion against Germany. Yes, Hitler himself confessed in his declaration of war that he did not dare attack England in the rear if he had to confront an armed Russia. This sentence would be sufficient to justify every opponent of Hitler–in other words, the majority mankind–in giving thanks to Stalin.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 230
RED ARMY INTELLIGENCE WAS READY FOR NAZI ATTACK
Hitler attacked without any notice whatsoever to the Soviet government; but the Red Army intelligence were aware of Hitler’s mobilization and were prepared for any possibility.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 497
I don’t deny–in fact, I can confirm–that our intelligence should have been better. Nonetheless, the basic elements of Hitler’s plan to attack the Soviet Union were well-known. As the saying goes, sparrows were chirping about it at every crossroad. Hitler and the Nazis were yelling at the top of their voices about how they wanted to rid the world of Communists and communism.
Schecter, Jerrold. Trans & Ed. Khrushchev Remembers: the Glasnost Tapes. Boston: Little, Brown, c1990, p. 50
CHUEV: Some people, Marshall Golovanov in particular, argue that the war caught the general staff asleep.
MOLOTOV: They were not asleep. But they had a directive ordering that the first reports not be trusted, that they must be verified. Time was lost.
CHUEV: But that’s a failing of Stalin’s.
MOLOTOV: You may think so, of course. He was in a difficult situation because he didn’t want the war.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 23
All this, and more, was faithfully reported to Moscow, but without any apparent effect. Admittedly, on June 5, sixty-six year old old Kalinin, the President of the USSR, made a speech at the Military Academy in Moscow in the course of which he said: “The Germans are preparing to attack us, but we are ready. The sooner they come, the better: we will wring their necks.”
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 614
SU INTELLIGENCE REPORTS ON POTENTIAL NAZI ATTACK WERE INADEQUATE
Although our intelligence disclosed Hitler’s intentions to attack the Soviet Union, the reports were to a certain extent contradictory. They didn’t contain assessments of the potential of the German tank force and air force units or their capability of breaking the defense lines of the Red Army units deployed on our borders. No one in the intelligence service examined the real balance of forces on the Soviet-German frontiers. Thus the strength of Hitler’s strike came as a surprise to our military commanders, including Marshall Zhukov, the Red Army chief of staff at the time, who admits in his memoirs that we did not foresee an enemy able to unleash large scale offensive operations by mass tank formations simultaneously in several directions.
What was overlooked in the intelligence information was the qualitative force of the German blitzkrieg tactics. We believed that if war broke out the Germans would first try to seize our Ukrainian regions, which were rich in food supplies and raw materials. We knew from their military strategic games that a prolonged war would demand additional economic resources. This was a big mistake: GRU and NKVD intelligence did not warn the general staff that the aim of the German army in both Poland and France was not to seize the territory but rather to destroy the military might of the opposing army.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 117
The NKVD and GRU should be blamed for underestimating the striking potential of the German armed forces; they were too preoccupied with political intentions and decisions, instead of the Wehrmacht’s tactics.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 122
Intelligence estimates on the timing of the invasion were contradictory. Sorge reported from Tokyo that the invasion was planned for June 1st. Our rezidentura reported from Berlin that the invasion was planned for June 15. Prior to that, on March 11, GRU had reported that the invasion was planned for spring. There was no clear picture, and it was further muddled by ongoing negotiations.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 123
On March 20, 1941, General Golikov, Chief of the Intelligence Division, submitted a report to Stalin containing information of the greatest importance.
This document outlined variants of the possible directions of the blows of the German fascist troops when they attacked the Soviet Union. As it later turned out they accurately summarized the evolution of the Barbarossa plan by the German command, and one of the variants, as a matter of fact, contained the essence of the plan.
However, the conclusions drawn from the information cited in the report actually nullified its importance. At the end of General Golikov’s report it says:
“(1). On the basis of all the statements cited above and possible variants of operations of this spring I consider that the most probable time operations will begin against the USSR is after victory over England or the conclusion of an honorable peace treaty with her.
(2). Rumors and documents to the effect that war against the USSR is inevitable this spring should be regarded as misinformation coming from the English or perhaps even the German intelligence service.”
On May 6, 1941, Adm. Kuznetsov, People’s Commissar for the Navy, sent the following memorandum to Stalin.
“Our naval attache in Berlin, Captain 1st Class Vorontsov, reports that according to a German officer from Hitler’s General Headquarters the Germans are preparing to invade the USSR on May 14 through Finland, the Baltic area, and Romania. Simultaneously big air raids are planned on Moscow and Leningrad and airborne troops are to be landed at border centers….”
The information contained in this document was also exceptionally valuable, but again Admiral Kuznetsov’s conclusions as expressed to the leadership were not in accordance with the facts he cited. He wrote: “I consider that this information is false and was specially sent through this channel so that it would get to our Government and the Germans would see how the USSR would react.”
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 228-229
STALIN SAW WORLD WAR II NAZI ATTACK COMING
Stalin was convinced that it was just a matter of time until the Soviet Union would again be invaded by hostile capitalist powers seeking to dismember and destroy the first Socialist State. Stalin considered it his sacred obligation to see to it that when the time came the attackers would not be able to accomplish this. The fulfillment of this task justified all means.
Scott, John. Behind the Urals, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942, p. 64
From Molotov’s answers to Stalin’s questions I concluded that his trip [to Germany in November 1940] had strengthened our general conviction that war was inevitable and probably imminent.
Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 132
Hitler’s film [a cinematic spectacular to frighten adversaries by showing the German capture of Danzig] was sent to us anyway, and we watched it in the Kremlin with Stalin. It was very depressing. We knew very well that we were the next country Hitler planned to turn his army against.
Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 135
We had dinner. Stalin was in high spirits. He was glad that the Treaty had been signed. He said, “Well, we deceived Hitler for the time being,” or something like that, showing he understood the inevitability of war and that while the Treaty postponed the war, it only gave us some time.
Schecter, Jerrold. Trans & Ed. Khrushchev Remembers: the Glasnost Tapes. Boston: Little, Brown, c1990, p. 53
With Poland, France, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Luxembourg, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania all occupied, now it was the USSR’s turn. Stalin understood that war was inevitable.
Schecter, Jerrold. Trans & Ed. Khrushchev Remembers: the Glasnost Tapes. Boston: Little, Brown, c1990, p. 54
I left on Friday, and on Saturday [June 21st] I was in Kiev. By then Stalin himself understood that the war was about to begin. So how can anyone still say it was a surprise attack?
Schecter, Jerrold. Trans & Ed. Khrushchev Remembers: the Glasnost Tapes. Boston: Little, Brown, c1990, p. 56
CHUEV: All the history books say that Stalin miscalculated the beginning of the war.
MOLOTOV: To some extent, but it was impossible not to miscalculate. How could you know when the enemy would attack? We knew we would have to deal with him, but on what day or even what month….
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 21
CHUEV: It is known there were 14 dates?
MOLOTOV: We are blamed because we ignored our intelligence. Yes, they warned us. But if we had heeded them, had given Hitler the slightest excuse, he would’ve attacked us earlier.
We knew the war was coming soon, that we were weaker than Germany, that we would have to retreat. The question was, retreat to where–to Smolensk or to Moscow, that’s what we discussed before the war.
We knew we would have to retreat, and we needed as much territory as possible. We did everything to postpone the war. And we succeeded– for a year and ten months. We wished it could have been longer, of course. Stalin reckoned before the war that only in 1943 would we be able to meet the Germans as equals.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 22
CHUEV: But there were intelligence reports…
MOLOTOV: What is written about this is contradictory. From my point of view, there couldn’t have been another beginning for that war. We delayed it and, in the end, we were caught asleep; it turned out to be unexpected. I think we could not have relied on our intelligence. You have to listen to them, but you also have to verify their information. Intelligence agents could push you into such a dangerous position that you would never get out of it. Provocateurs everywhere are innumerable. That’s why you can’t trust intelligence without constant and scrupulous checking and re-checking.
Some naive people, philistines, have written in their reminiscences: the intelligence agents spoke out, deserters from the enemy crossed the border…
You couldn’t trust such reports. But if you were too distrustful you could easily go to the other extreme.
When I was the Predsovnarkom I spent half a day reading intelligence reports. The only thing missing was the date of the invasion! And if we had trusted these reports [and gone on a war footing] the war could have started much earlier….
On the whole, everyone expected the war would come and it would be difficult, impossible for us to avoid. We delayed it for a year, for a year and a half.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 22
CHUEV: Khrushchev used Churchill’s words saying that he had warned Stalin. Stalin said later, “I didn’t need any warnings at the time. I knew the war was coming, but I thought I could gain another half a year.” That is why Stalin is blamed. He relied upon himself and thought he could delay the war.
MOLOTOV: That’s stupid. Stalin couldn’t rely upon himself; in this case he had to rely upon the whole country.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 28
CHUEV: Churchill’s memoirs. He excoriates you, alleging that you helped Hitler in 1940 during the battle for France…. Also, Stalin and Molotov should have known that in one year they would have to fight Hitler!
MOLOTOV: We knew, we knew it very well.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 414
At the same time, Stalin and Molotov transferred substantial numbers of army units from Siberia in April, May, and early June 1941 to protect our Western borders.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 120
If one excepts the thesis that Stalin had long ago decided that Nazi Germany was his enemy, that he was willing to except all manner of disrepute to maintain peace with Germany while he built up his strength, that in the autumn of 1940 he perceived that Germany could no longer win a quick and easy war in the West and must therefore turn against Russia–a turn which he could no longer avert–his policy in 1941 can be understood without difficulty. He saw that he was the next object of German attack, and from that it followed logically that Britain, and behind Britain America, were henceforth his potential allies, no matter what might have happened before in the days of Munich and Chamberlain. Clear-sighted as he was, Stalin knew that Yugoslavia and Greece could offer small resistance to the Germans; yet nevertheless he ventured to offer Germany virtual defiance in Yugoslavia’s behalf, and almost simultaneously began moving Soviet troops westward from Siberia.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 260
Stalin’s prewar speeches show that he was under no delusions about Nazi intentions. He knew the attack would come sooner or later and that he was simply buying time in signing the nonaggression treaty.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 126
Malenkov had a file containing a draft decree from the chief administration of political propaganda in the Red Army, which Zaporozhets had given to him in the middle of June. Malenkov had given the draft to Stalin on June 20. It had been in preparation since Stalin’s speech to the military graduates on May 5, 1941, when he [Stalin] said that war was inevitable and that we must prepare unconditionally to destroy Fascism.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 406
On 5 May 1941 he [Stalin] addressed the ceremony for graduates of military academies in Moscow. His words, unreported in the press at the time, were combative. Instead of the reassuring words he issued to the media about Germany, he declared:
“War with Germany is inevitable. If Comrade Molotov can manage to postpone the war for two or three months through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that will be our good fortune, but you yourselves must go off and take measures to raise the combat readiness of our forces.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 407
I [Budu] realize today that he [Stalin] must have foreseen the war as far back as 1935, for the said to me then, ‘I’m sure the Anglo-Saxons are going to have to ask us to help them against Hitler’s Germany one of these days. They’ll never be able to conquer the Reich without us.’
Svanidze, Budu. My Uncle, Joseph Stalin. New York: Putnam, c1953, p. 210
Stalin knew his business, too, and was not taken in by the ease with which he had got his way. A little later, he was overheard to tell Molotov that by giving him Lithuania with so little argument, Hitler had in effect declared war on the Soviet Union. Stalin understood all too clearly that the only reason Hitler had done so was because he intended to take it back again as soon as the time was right.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 355
Ribbentrop had no doubt that Hitler was sincere, and that he truly believed the understanding with the Soviet Union was permanent. Stalin, however, was less gullible. Although he admired Hitler’s ruthlessness, he had no illusions about his integrity and knew he would turn on the Soviet Union as soon as it suited him.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 359
Zhukov immediately set about speeding up the improvements in the military system which they had already begun, cutting bureaucracy, weeding out incompetent commanders, and generally gearing up for the fight which was so obviously looming on the horizon.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 553
There can be few better examples of Stalin’s twin aims of placating Hitler and preparing his own people than the events surrounding the speech he made at a grand banquet in the Kremlin on May 5, 1941, for several 100 graduates of 16 military academies and nine university military faculties….
…the Pravda report could also refer to the possibility of new concessions and some sort of new deal. But was that what Stalin had really said? Later, during the war, Hilger [a high ranking Nazi] talked to many captured [Russian] officers who had been at the banquet. Their version of what Stalin had said was quite different from that which had been so carefully fed to the Germans through the DNB [German news agency] man. When a high-ranking general had proposed a toast to the peace policy of the Soviet Union, Stalin had replied, “The slogan ‘long live the peace policy of the Soviet Union’ is now outdated. It’s about time to end this old nonsense.” And when someone else toasted the friendship with Germany, Stalin was said to have replied that the Soviet people should stop praising the German army to the skies.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 574
Other sources give Stalin’s speech as following this line much more closely than the leaked version. “Our glorious Red Army,” he is reported as saying, “must be prepared to fight fascist Germany at any moment.” Needless to say, the Soviet government would try “by all means at its disposal to delay a German attack… at least until the autumn.” By then it would be too late for that year. Autumn rains and the onset of winter would reduce the mobility of any invading army. If this strategy succeeded, if Germany could be kept at bay for the whole of 1941, then “almost inevitably” there would be a war in 1942. But that war would be fraught in circumstances much more favorable to the USSR. For one thing, the Red Army would be better trained and equipped. It would be in a position to take the initiative. Indeed, to forestall a German attack, the USSR might have to strike first.
From the Soviet domestic point of view, it did not matter what Stalin actually said. The gist of his speech – that the country was in imminent danger from Germany – was all over Moscow within 24 hours, and Muscovites drew their own conclusions. Their worst fears must have seemed confirmed when they read in Pravda on May 6, along with the brief and ambiguous report of his speech, the much more surprising news that he had replaced Molotov as Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, the Soviet prime minister, thus becoming head of the government as well as the party….
… It was a signal to the Soviet people that the international situation had grown so dangerous that the USSR could no longer be left in the hands of lesser men: only the great Stalin himself could be trusted to lead the country through the treacherous quicksands that lay ahead.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 575
While continuing to placate Hitler with every means at his disposal, Stalin was also concerned to go on warning him, as tactfully as possible, that the Soviet Union would defend herself if attacked. Until mid-May, he did not take too much trouble to hide the steadily increasing build-up of his forces in the west, allowing British, German, and other military attaches to travel through the areas where they were concentrating. The attaches reported seeing train after train heading west loaded with troops, tanks, and mechanized equipment. They also noted that 1000 people a day were being called up for military service in Moscow alone, and that in early May the youngest age-group was called up six months early. Kollontai, the Soviet minister in Sweden, was allowed to say that never in history had more powerful Russian forces been massed in the west – the general consensus in the international intelligence community was that well over 60 percent of the Red Army was already massed in the West, and more were arriving all the time. Another secret that was not too well kept was that factories around Moscow were being transferred to the safety of the lands beyond the Urals.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 581
Whether or not he succeeded in stalling Hitler, Stalin still needed to speed up the preparation of the Soviet people for the coming war. Throughout May, there was a constant series of civil defense exercises throughout the Soviet Union. The leading role in these was taken by and organization called the Osoaviakhim League…. After the summer of 1940 and the fall of France, the League grew in size until it boasted nearly 12 million volunteer members, many of them children. They took part in the numerous black-outs and practice alerts which were held in every large city from Kiev to Alma Ata.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 582
On May 15 and 16, 1941, a particularly large-scale civil defense exercise was staged at Ramenskoye, a town some 20 kilometers east of Moscow. This involved some 20,000 civilians and was based on a scenario which assumed the worst: four groups of enemy paratroops were said to have been dropped in the area and a number of neighboring villages were supposed to be under artillery bombardment; incendiary bombs were supposed to have been dropped on the surrounding countryside and forest, starting a number of fires; and to cap it all, Ramenskoye itself was assumed to have suffered a gas attack.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 583
In an address to the new graduates of the Soviet military academies on May 5, 1941, Stalin came closest to recognizing the threat. He stated that a German surprise attack could not be ruled out in the immediate future, but that the government would try by diplomatic means to put it off till autumn, too late in the year for the Germans to attack.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 272
Volodya says, “I think that Stalin had no doubt that Hitler would attack the Soviet Union. Stalin’s aim was to win time. He saw it as his task to put off the beginning of the war with the giants of the imperialist world so as to wait until the contradictions between them had been aggravated, and win time in this way. The Stalin played the game of giving Hitler no motive for provocation.
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 277
STALIN DIRECTED THE DEFENSE OF MOSCOW IN WWII
Stalin personally directed the defense of Moscow and the operations of the Red Army; he inspired men and commanders, and supervised the building of the defense works at the approaches to the Soviet capital.
Alexandrov, G. F. Joseph Stalin; a Short Biography. Moscow: FLPH, 1947, p. 163
ALLIED AID TO THE SU
In addition we received steel and aluminum [from America] from which we made guns, airplanes, and so on. Our own industry was shattered and partly abandoned to the enemy. We also received food products in great quantities. I can’t give you the figures because they never been published. They’re all locked away in Mikoyan’s memory.
Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 226
It should be pointed out here, although this has nothing to do with the Russian attitude, that it is easy for Americans to overestimate the amount of help given to the Soviet Union through Lend-Lease. The Allied deliveries of tanks, artillery, and aircraft, while needed, were insignificant compared to Russian production. One Soviet tank plant alone produced 35,000 tanks, several times the number supplied by the Allies during the war. Soviet artillery was entirely Russian, and reputed to be the equal of any in the world. Russian made planes played the biggest part on the eastern front, although the Soviets did get 13,000 planes from the United States, about 5% of our total production.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 108
During the entire war the allies sent the USSR…contributions amounted to 12 percent of the armament produced in the USSR for use against the Germans.
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 411
[The 26th Anniversary of the October Revolution speech delivered at Moscow, Nov. 6, 1943]
If to all this is added the fact that the Allies are regularly supplying us with various munitions and raw materials, it can be said without exaggeration that by all this they considerably facilitated the successes of our summer campaign.
Franklin, Bruce, Ed. The Essential Stalin; Major Theoretical Writings. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1972, p. 403
Western bourgeois political and military historians allege that the Soviet army was able to achieve its superiority in material owing to Anglo-American assistance.
This is far from true.
I do not wish completely to deny its value though as in some degree it did help the Soviet army and our war industry. However, it did not amount to much and hence cannot be considered of much significance.
We gained our material superiority over the enemy thanks to the advantages of Soviet social order and through heroic, tremendous efforts of the Soviet people led by the Party, both at the front and in the rear.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 466
As far the armaments, what I would like to say is that we received under the Lend-Lease Act from the United States and Britain 18.7 thousand aircraft, 10.8 thousand tanks and 9600 artillery pieces. All that comprised 12, 10.4, and 2% respectively of the total amount of armaments that the Soviet army was equipped with during the war. Undoubtedly, that was of definite significance, but really there is no ground for talk about a decisive role.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 684
Nor was Moscow saved by war material from America. Almost none of the eventual $11 billion worth of American Lend-Lease aid to the USSR arrived in time to save Moscow. American assurances of aid may have made Stalin more willing to throw material reserves into the struggle for his capital after October. But all told, Lend-Lease came to only 6% of Russian war material, most of it coming after Stalingrad. The thesis of Russian primitivity is inconsistent with the theory that Russia was saved by importing huge amounts of American goods along thousands of miles of railway.
The war material with which the Red Army saved Moscow and the bulk of the USSR was produced at home. The USSR produced 16,000 airplanes in 1941, 10,000 of them after the invasion. The production of munitions almost tripled in the second half of 1941–in spite of all the German victories and the chaotic dislocations involved in removing much Soviet industry eastward out of the Germans’ reach. In 1942, when two-thirds of European Russia was occupied, the USSR produced 23,000 tanks (of better quality) to the Germans’ 9300; 25,000 airplanes to the Germans’ 14,700; and 34,000 heavy guns to the Germans’ 12,000.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 281
By the time Lend-Lease began to arrive in large quantities, the Russians had already won the battle of Stalingrad. The heavy armaments shipped under Lend-Lease did not amount to more than 10 or 15% of what the Russians were themselves producing. And when one considers that the Second World War cost the United States $400 billion, of which only $11 million worth went to Russia as Lend-Lease one realizes that, by American standards of expenditure, this help to Russia was not an overwhelmingly large item.
Werth, Alexander. Russia; The Post-War Years. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co.,1971, p. 115
Western bourgeois political and military historians are trying to prove that the Red Army only achieved its superiority in material thanks to the material assistance rendered by the USA and Britain.
I do not wish to deny this completely and make out that this aid did not exist. It did help the Red Army and the war industry to a certain extent, but, all the same, it should not be regarded as more significant than it actually was.
Our material superiority over the enemy was gained thanks to the advantages of the Soviet social system, the heroic struggle of the Soviet people, guided by the party, at the front as well as in the rear.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 196-197
Nevertheless, for years after the war bourgeois historiography has asserted that it was the Allied deliveries of armaments, materials, and foodstuffs that had played a decisive role for our victory over the enemy.
As for the armaments, what I would like to say is that we received under Lend-Lease from the United States and Britain about 18,000 aircraft and over 11,000 tanks. That comprised of a mere 4% of the total amount of armaments that the Soviet people produced to equip its army during the war. Consequently, there is no ground for talk about the decisive role of the deliveries under Lend-Lease.
As for the tanks and aircraft supplied to us by the British and US governments, they, to be frank, did not display a high fighting qualities; especially tanks which, running on petrol, would burn like torches.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 460
STALIN DEMANDS POLITICAL COMMISSARS BE ATTACHED TO MILITARY UNITS
Voroshilov recalls that Stalin was very insistent on political work in the Army, believing that soldiers would fight well only if they knew what they were fighting for…. He demanded that the most able Communists be attached to regiments as political commissars, and once sent a telegram to Lenin reading, “Military Commissars should be the soul of military action, giving a lead to the experts.” Apparently the method worked, for troops that had been retreating in confusion before Stalin took charge, were, soon after, on the offensive and winning victories.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 49
STALIN MADE HARD MILITARY DECISIONS
I once talked with a Red Army Colonel who, during the civil war, had, with great difficulty, collected food for some of the hungry cities along the Volga. It had only been prepared for shipment when Stalin’s lieutenants confiscated it for the front. The Colonel went to Tsaritsyn to protest. He found Stalin in a hotel room, pacing up and down like a caged animal. The Colonel, pointing out the desperate plight of the city populations, demanded release of the food. Stalin brushed every argument aside: “It can’t be helped, if we lose those cities it is only an incident. We will recapture them, but if our Army doesn’t have food the Revolution is lost!”
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 49
In Hungary the fighting was also severe. Budapest was taken on February 15. The Russians then swept northward into Austria and on April 13 occupied Vienna. While preparing for the advance into Austria, however, Tolbukhin commanding the third Ukrainian Front, had realized that the enemy Army Group South was preparing an offensive against his front. He was particularly disturbed by reports that the Sixth SS Panzer Army had been transferred from the west to strengthen the offensive.
On March 6 the Germans attacked with “exceptional ferocity.” Tolbukhin asked permission to withdraw his front to the east of the Danube if necessary. He was, according to Shtemenko, in poor health and in any case not as ruthless and determined as the other Marshals. Shtemenko was in Stalin’s office when Tolbukhin telephoned. Stalin thought for a minute about his request, and then, speaking calmly, he said: “Comrade Tolbukhin! If you’re thinking of extending the war by five or six months, then please do withdraw your troops behind the Danube. It will, of course, be quieter there. But I doubt whether that is your intention. Therefore you must defend the right bank and stay there yourself with your headquarters. I am sure that the troops will do their duty and fulfill their difficult task. All that is necessary is that they should be commanded properly.” Tolbukhin stood his ground, crushed the enemy offensive, and advanced to Vienna.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 415
WWII PRISONERS OF WAR WERE TREATED HUMANELY
“In Siberia now,” a Russian friend of mine returned from there told me, “whole industries are operated by German prisoners, including foreman and skilled technicians. Some of them make higher pay than Soviet workers. Our workers are beginning to complain about it.”
Free Germans confirmed this. They also said that a German factory worker got the same bread allowance, in accordance with work performed, as a Russian. Ordinary German prisoners near the front to whom I spoke said that they got 400 grams–.88 pounds–of daily bread, which is what a Russian housewife or a dependent gets. Those I saw in Kiev were evidently rationed cigarettes; some smoked Russian papirosi as they worked.
“But after a man has qualified for factory work,” one Free German said, “he can earn as much as 1200 grams (2.6 pounds) of bread a day. It is true, this is more than many first-class Russian workers make. The German has to exceed his norm [basic production unit] in order to earn that much, but I know of a number who are doing it.”
The energetic Stakhanovite Fritz could win extra allowances of certain foods, better quarters, clothing, and special privileges. Excellent workers were promised eventual freedom–the right to go home. It was stated that some of them became “real enthusiasts.” And top workers were almost invariably the quickest students at the political lectures delivered to them by Free German indoctrinators.
Snow, Edgar. The Pattern of Soviet Power, New York: Random House, 1945, p. 93
First, they didn’t think Stalin intended to force ten to twenty million Germans to spend their lives on Russian rock piles. They didn’t think he planned to condemn the entire German people to slave labor. They said that this is the “Ehrenburg line”–Ilya Ehrenburg was the most fanatical and prolific of the Soviet eye-for-eye school of publicists–and asserted that it was not the party line.
Snow, Edgar. The Pattern of Soviet Power, New York: Random House, 1945, p. 99
I found all those considerations quite reasonable. The problem of the POWs, for instance, was ripe for solution. Over 10 years had gone by since they had been captured [in World War II]. Recently, I had had occasion to meet many of them. In the village of Pavshino, outside Moscow, shops had been set up for the German POWs, who had practiced a variety of trades in their previous civilian lives: they had been tailors, carpenters, plumbers, and so on. People on the staff of a number of magazines got special coupons they could use to order all sorts of things in those shops. Some people bought plumbing items or woodwork or even whole sets of furniture for their living rooms or their kitchens. I had a few suits made to order and the quality was exceptional. During the fitting sessions, my tailor and I spoke German and even became friends.
On the whole, the life of the POWs wasn’t too bad. They could practice their trades and seemed to be doing it with inspiration. Their village of small cottages was kept in excellent condition; it had a community center, sports grounds, flower beds, and yellow sandstrewn paths planted with young trees on both sides. Compared to the inhuman conditions of the Soviet POWs who had been captured by Germany, they lived in paradise. Nevertheless, after the long years of captivity, they were terribly homesick–which was indeed understandable.
Berezhkov, Valentin. At Stalin’s Side. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Pub. Group, c1994, p. 360
FASCISTS WERE REJECTED BY THE UKRAINIANS
The real reason for the Germans failure apparently was that in the beginning they were confident they would be in the Ukraine forever and they didn’t care what the people thought. In this period their greed and arrogance were excessive. They took the best land for German settlers and robbed other farms of their best cattle, their machinery, and their surplus and reserves.
Snow, Edgar. The Pattern of Soviet Power, New York: Random House, 1945, p. 201
EVERYTHING WAS DONE TO DELAY OR PREVENT WAR COMING
CHUEV: They write now that Stalin trusted Hitler, that Hitler deceived him with the pact of 1939, lulled his vigilance. Stalin trusted him….
MOLOTOV: Such a naive Stalin. No. Stalin saw through it all. Stalin trusted Hitler? He didn’t trust all his own people! And there were reasons for that. Hitler fooled Stalin? As a result of such deception Hitler had to poison himself, and Stalin became the head of half the world!
We had to delay Germany’s aggression, that’s why we tried to deal with them on an economic level–export-import.
No one trusted Hitler, but Stalin was so credulous!… He wanted to delay the war for at least another half a year, or longer. Everyone wanted this delay, everyone who was close to the concerns of the time.
A mistake was made, but of minor importance, I would say, because we were afraid to get ourselves drawn into the war to give the Germans a pretext for attack. That’s how everything got started, I assure you.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 23
MOLOTOV: To me, these were not our mistakes but our weaknesses. Weaknesses because I think psychologically it was almost impossible for us to be completely ready for war. We felt we were not yet ready, so it was quite natural for us to overdo it…. I personally don’t see any mistakes in that. In order to delay the war everything was done to avoid giving the Germans a pretext to start it.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 24
“You [Zhukov and Timoshenko] propose carrying out mobilizations, alerting the troops, and moving them to the western borders?” He [Stalin] wailed. “That means war! Do you understand that or not?”
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 615
Since the war’s end, the press would come out with the version that we had had knowledge of Plan Barbarossa before the war broke out, and that we knew the direction of the main strikes, the deployment frontage of the German troops, their strength and equipment. In so doing, the press referred to well-known Soviet intelligence agents–Richard Sorge, for one, and many others in Switzerland, Britain, and a number of other countries, who are said to have provided this information. Yet, the press complained, our political and military leadership had not gone into the substance of the reports and had, indeed, rejected them.
I take full responsibility for saying that this is pure fiction. As far as I know, neither the Soviet Government, nor the People’s Commissariat for Defence, nor the General Staff had any such information.
On June 13, Timoshenko phoned Stalin in my presence and asked permission to alert the troops of the border districts, and to deploy the first echelons according to the cover plans.
“We will think it over,” Stalin replied.
The next day we visited Stalin and informed him of the general anxiety and the necessity of alerting the troops.
“You propose carrying out a mobilization, alerting the troops and moving them to the western borders? But that means war! Don’t you two understand that?”
On June 21, in the evening, Lieutenant-General Purkayev, Chief of Staff of the Kiev Military District, telephoned to inform me that a German sergeant-major had come to our frontier guards and said that German troops were moving to jumping-off areas and that the attack would begin in the morning of June 22.
I at once informed the Defense Commissar and Stalin of what Lieutenant-General Purkayev had reported. Stalin said to come to the Kremlin with the People’s Commissar.
Taking with me a draft of the directive for the troops I went to the Kremlin along with the Commissar and Lieutenant-General Vatutin. On the way we agreed that at all cost we must get permission to alert the troops.
Stalin was alone when he received us. He was plainly worried.
“The German generals may have sent this turncoat to provoke a conflict,” he said.
“No,” Timoshenko replied. “We think he is telling the truth.”
At that moment members of the Politburo came in.
“What are we to do?” Stalin asked.
No one answered.
“A directive must immediately be given to alert all troops in the border districts,” Timoshenko said….
“Read it!” Stalin replied.
I read the draft directive.
Stalin said: “It’s too early to issue such a directive–perhaps the question can still be settled peacefully. We must give a short directive stating that an attack may begin with provocative actions by the German forces. The troops of the border districts must not fall for any provocation, and avoid complications.”
Vatutin and I went into the next room and quickly drew up a draft of the directive to be sent by the People’s Commissar.
We then returned to the office and asked for permission to read the directive.
Stalin listened to it then read it over again making amendments, and finally gave it to the People’s Commissar to sign.
At about midnight Commander of the Kiev District Kirponos reported over the high-frequency telephone from his command post at Ternopol that another German soldier had appeared in our lines besides the turncoat previously mentioned by General Purkayev. He was from the 222nd Infantry Regiment of the 74th infantry Division. Having swum the river, he presented himself to our border guards, and told them the German troops were going to mount an offensive at 4 A. M. Kirponos was ordered to speed up transmission of the alert directive to all units….
Various stories were circulated after Stalin’s death that on the night of June 21-22 some commanders and their staffs were either peacefully asleep or making merry without a suspicion that anything was amiss. This is not true. The last night of peace was quite different. As I have already said, on our return from the Kremlin, the Commissar for Defense and I spoke over the high-frequency telephone with District commanders Kuznetsov, Pavlov, Kirponos, and their chiefs of staff, and all of them were at their command posts….
The Defense Commissar said I should phone Stalin. I started calling. No one answered. I kept calling. Finally, I heard the sleep-laden voice of the general on duty at the security section. I asked him to call Stalin to the phone.
“What? Now?, and Stalin is asleep.”
“Wake him at once. The Germans are bombing our towns!”
About three minutes later Stalin picked up the receiver.
I reported the situation and requested permission to start retaliatory action. Stalin was silent. I heard the sound of his breathing.
“Did you hear me?”
At last Stalin asked:
“Where Is the Defense Commissar?”
“Talking with the Kiev District on the high-frequency phone.”
“You and him come to the Kremlin. Tell Poskrebyshev to summon all Politburo members.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 274-281
It is fair to ask why Stalin, knowing of the clear indications that Germany was ready to make war on us, still withheld his consent for the troops in the border military districts to stand alert well in advance….
The state of alert in a border area is in itself an extreme development not to be viewed as an ordinary occurence in the life of the country and its international relations. Some people, however, overlook the circumstance and believe that the earlier the armed forces were put on the alert the better it would have been for us….
Without dwelling on the extreme points I shall just indicate that the premature alert of the troops may be just as dangerous as the delay in giving it. Quite often there is still a long distance from hostile policies of a neighbor-country to a real war. But let us discuss the case where Stalin was obviously late with the decision for the army and the country to go over to the war footing…
Here my opinion is that although we were not quite ready for war yet, which I have already spoken about, when the time for it had really come we should have had the nerve to step over the threshold. Stalin did not venture to do so, acting, of course, with the best of intentions….
The political and state leaders in the country saw war coming and exerted maximum efforts to delay the Soviet Union’s entry into it. This was a sensible and realistic policy. Its implementation required above all a skillful conduct of diplomatic relations with the capitalist countries, especially with the aggressors. The USSR resolutely campaigned to strengthen peace and security and, in relation to Germany, had carried out its treaty obligations to the letter, avoiding any action that the Nazi leaders could use to exacerbate the situation or to make a military provocation….
Stalin was unable to make that decision at the right time, and that remains his most serious political mistake….
What caused this experienced and far-sided statesman to make such a gross error? Above all it was because Soviet intelligence agencies, as Zhukov justly notes in his memoirs, failed to evaluate fully and objectively the information they were receiving on the war preparations of Nazi Germany and report it frankly to Stalin. I shall not touch upon every aspect of the situation; it is basically well-known. I shall only mention the fact that the isolation of the intelligence agency from the General Staff apparently played a part here. The head of intelligence, being also Deputy Defense Commissar, preferred to make his reports directly to Stalin without conferring with the Chief of General Staff. If Zhukov had been conversant with all the vital intelligence information, knowing his position and character, I am sure he could have made more precise conclusions from it and put them to Stalin in a more authoritative way; he would surely have shaken Stalin’s conviction that we could further delay the start of the war and that Germany would not venture to fight on two fronts,the West and the East….
We must also bear in mind that Stalin, in trying to defer the outbreak of war, overestimated the possibilities of diplomacy in resolving the issue. Had he felt doubtful about the wisdom of this policy he would have agreed to every possible measure for mobilization, since he was a man of firm resolve and decision.
Vasilevskii, Aleksandr M. A Lifelong Cause. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981, p. 83-85
SU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN JUNE WAS THE BEST MONTH FOR AN ATTACK
MOLOTOV: …We should have kept in mind that the best time for an attack on Russia was June…. It wasn’t fully taken into consideration in any quarter, to my mind.
CHUEV: That was a mistake.
MOLOTOV: Yes, a mistake. But one June had already passed. June of 1940 had passed, and that suggested that June 1941 would pass, too. This was a miscalculation, I suppose.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 27
…we [Molotov and Khruschov] had different outlooks. He desperately wanted to build his reputation, primarily by means of releasing inmates from the camps. I particularly disagreed with him, of course, when he began to rehabilitate avowed enemies…. The main drawback is that he was not a revolutionary, that was the core of the problem. From my point of view, his attempts to besmirch everything connected with the name of Stalin shows that he was not a revolutionary, though I would not go so far as to say he was a counter-revolutionary. While Stalin was a revolutionary, Khrushchev proceeded from an alien ideology.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 368
LACK OF BEING SUFFICIENTLY READY FOR NAZI ATTACK WAS NOT DECISIVE
MOLOTOV” But already in May we had been under colossal pressure with no chance to let off steam. Even if a higher alert had been ordered in June, there would still have been need for a respite. Why was Zhdanov in Sochi, why were officers on leave, why was Pavlov at the theater? My God! Of course, we might have done without these niceties; just the same, they were not decisive!
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 28
CHUEV: But anyway, objectively, it turned out that Hitler outwitted you.
MOLOTOV: No. No, I don’t agree with this. Yes, he had his own calculations. There couldn’t have been a better time chosen for the attack. But to demand a greater effort from us than in May… there was the danger of a breakdown. Everything was stretched, stretched to the limit, and there wasn’t all that much to eat. A mistake in timing is an unjust accusation, quite wrong. There was a miscalculation of some sort, certainly. But this was more a misfortune than a mistake or a fault.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 28
SOURCES SAYING AN ATTACK WAS COMING COULD NOT BE TRUSTED
CHUEV: But Churchill didn’t have anything against us at that period….
MOLOTOV: Yes, but could Churchill be trusted in this matter? He was interested in pushing us into a conflict with the Germans as quickly as possible, how could it be otherwise?
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 28
There was no shortage of genuine and often accurate warnings of Hitler’s intentions – some historical analysts have since identified and documented at least 84. With all the rumors and German-inspired “noise” and disinformation, it must have seemed to Stalin that the whole world was crying wolf as messages flooded in from friend and foe alike. They came, indeed, from all quarters: from Soviet spy rings in Western Europe and Japan; from Soviet embassies and consulates in many different countries; from naval and military field intelligence; from the Poles, Czechs, Yugoslavs, Swedes, Americans, and British; even from Germans.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 602
As for Churchill, he made a comic error with one of his predictions. He had warned Stalin of a possible German attack in May 1941, but in that month the Germans attacked the British on the island of Crete instead. The Boss could ask with his quiet smile why British intelligence, which showed such concern for the Soviet Union, was unable to help itself. The answer, as he saw it, was easy: Britain was losing too much blood in an unequal fight, and Churchill wanted to push Stalin into the war at any price. He could not, then, believe Churchill. Nor could he believe his own agent Sorge. Sorge had refused to return to the Soviet Union. How could the Boss believe a defector?…
When Hitler began his Balkan campaign early in 1941, Stalin had reason to feel reassured. The Yugoslavs capitulated in April, and Hitler moved against Greece. Hitler’s objective now seemed clear to the Boss: once he had seized Greece he would be able to destroy the British in Egypt and take Suez. Churchill, incidentally, was thinking along the same lines when he pleaded with the United States to come into the war….
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 450
All in all, Stalin was entitled to conclude that Churchill was determined to draw the United States into the war by supplication, and Russia by false information.
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 451
STALIN WAS PREPARED FOR THE ATTACK WHEN IT CAME
CHUEV: But if you had ordered the army…
MOLOTOV: That’s what a provocation is.
CHUEV: Why would it be a provocation? Better to let them attack the unarmed? To give military men leave?…
MOLOTOV: We were not unarmed, we were on alert. And no one would work for a year without a vacation. To my mind it was impossible to insure against a surprise attack in our condition….
Stalin is portrayed as vain and willful, as though everything would be as he wished…. This is wrong and slanderous. But as to the surprise that unfortunately happened, it couldn’t have happened differently….
No one could have done more than Stalin in that situation–not only during the war but before the war and after it.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 29
MOLOTOV: But if Stalin is to blame for everything, then he built socialism alone and won the war alone. Even Lenin didn’t rule alone, and Stalin wasn’t the only one in the Politburo. Everyone bore responsibility. Of course, Stalin’s situation then wasn’t easy. It’s not true that we didn’t know. After all, Kirponos and Kuznetsov put their troops on alert but Pavlov didn’t…. The military men, as always, turned out to be helpless.
But military men blame everything on Stalin–that he hobbled initiative, that they had to wait for his orders.
Everyone wants to pass responsibility to someone else….
I read the beginning of Berezhkov’s book…. I’ve read only the first hundred pages, and I’ve noticed two things with which I cannot agree. One is that Stalin thought that Hitler wouldn’t attack the USSR that year. How could he put such words into Stalin’s mouth, especially now when you can accuse him of anything? And he cannot defend himself, and no one can do it for him. All the more, “Stalin believed, Stalin thought…” as if anyone knew exactly what Stalin thought of the war! … in my opinion there are no grounds to assert that Stalin believed the war wouldn’t come that year. No one can say that about another person. That’s the first thing.
Second, he mentions a TASS report. A week or so before the war it was announced in a TASS bulletin that the Germans were taking no actions against us, that we were maintaining normal relations. It was, I think, Stalin’s idea. Berezhkov reproaches Stalin, saying there was no ground for such a report. This was a diplomatic game. A game, of course. And it didn’t work. Not every attempt yields good results, but the attempt itself was not a bad idea. Berezhkov writes that it was patently naive. It wasn’t naivete but a diplomatic move, a political move. In this case it didn’t work, but there was nothing unacceptable or impermissible about it. And it wasn’t stupid but, so to speak, an attempt to clear up the situation…. But Berezhkov describes it as an obviously wrong move, as naive. There was nothing naive about it. It was a highly responsible action. The move was aimed at depriving the Germans of any excuse for an attack. If we had moved our troops out just a bit, Hitler would have declared, “You see, over there they have moved their troops forward! Here are the photographs, here are the activities!” They say we had insufficient troop strength at the border, but had we started moving troops to the border, we would have given Hitler an excuse! Meanwhile, we were preparing at full speed.
We had no other way out. So I consider it vile to reproach us for this. The TASS bulletin was necessary as a last resort.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 30-31
CHUEV: In a way, Stalin distinguished Hitler from the German military, believing that the war might begin as a result of their provocations, but that Hitler himself wouldn’t have broken the pact. I don’t think Stalin believed that.
MOLOTOV: I don’t think so either. These are very wild speculations aimed to cast doubt upon Stalin. He wasn’t a naive person, he wasn’t such a good-natured simpleton….
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 32
Under the German threat, Stalin was swinging towards nationalism, trying to build, and succeeding to build, a strong power to meet the invasion which he foresaw.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 176
It is a moot point to what extent the USSR and the Red Army were surprised by Hitler’s sudden attack. Powerful Red forces had undoubtedly been concentrated in the western regions of the USSR, along a vast arc from the Black Sea to Lake Ladoga, north of Leningrad, and for some months there had been a steady westward flow of troops and military supplies from Siberia into European Russia…. The invaders held the advantage of initiative and broke through the defense by greater weight of manpower and material. Their advance was rapid, especially across the open plains of the Southern Ukraine, but never from the outset was there any rout or debacle of the Russians, such as had occurred in Poland or France.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 265
At the time I could not detect in Khrushchev any disapproval of Stalin or Molotov. Whenever there was talk of Stalin, he spoke of him with respect and stressed their closeness. He recounted how, on the eve of the German attack, Stalin had phoned him from Moscow warning him to be on the alert, for he had information that the Germans might begin operations the next day– June 22. I offer this as a fact, and not in order to refute Khrushchev’s charges against Stalin concerning the unexpectedness of the German attack.
Djilas, Milovan. Conversations with Stalin. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, p. 123
Despite continuing to hold, with Molotov, to the myth that Hitler would stick to the Pact and avoid fighting on two fronts, Stalin set about intensifying the country’s defenses. The potential was there. The country now had one of the mightiest industrial bases in the world, however low its quality, and it was managed by strong commissars such as Tevosyan, Malyshev, Shakhurin, Likhachev, Ustinov and Vannikov.
Industrial leaders had been found who could work together with the party organizations to achieve the impossible at critical moments, to produce military hardware at fantastically short notice. Stalin knew all his commissars and many factory managers personally and frequently called them in for consultation.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 373
… in early June he [Stalin] ordered the reinforcement of the Southwestern sector with a further 25 divisions.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 398
The shock was deep but not long-lasting. Before it struck, he [Stalin] had attempted to do something, issued some orders and tried to inspire the government agencies to show energy. On June 23, during a discussion on the creation of a Chief of Staff Headquarters, he surprised everyone by suddenly interrupting the debate to propose: ‘An Institute of permanent advisers to be created in association with Headquarters….
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 410
MOLOTOV DENIES ASKING GERMANS WHY SU DESERVED TO BE ATTACKED
CHUEV: I don’t know whether it’s true or not, but who can I ask but you? Allegedly you said to the Ambassador, “How did we deserve this?”
MOLOTOV: That’s an invented story if you got it from Werth’s book. He wasn’t there, so how was he to know? That’s pure fabrication. I surely couldn’t have said such a stupid thing. Nonsense. Absurd. Who could he have gotten it from?
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 37
STALIN DID NOT FALL APART AFTER THE ATTACK BUT WAS VERY DEPRESSED
CHUEV: It is written that Stalin lost his head and lost the ability to speak in the first days of the war.
MOLOTOV: I wouldn’t say he lost his head. He suffered, but he didn’t show any signs of this. Undoubtedly he had his rough moments. It’s nonsense to say he didn’t suffer. But he is not portrayed as he really was. They show him as a repenting sinner! Well, that’s absurd, of course. As usual, he worked day and night and never lost his head or his gift of speech….
Stalin said, “We blew it.” This referred to all of us. I remember it well; he simply said, “We blew it.” Yes, we blew it. Such a troubled state Stalin was in then.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 39
THE MAIN ISSUE AT POTSDAM WAS REPARATIONS
The main question at Potsdam was about reparations….
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 53
We took reparations after the war, but these were trifles. Our state was huge. And these reparations were of old, obsolete equipment. But there was no other way out. Even if it offered only minor alleviation, it had to be used.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 60
Although the reparations the Soviet Union was demanding from the satellites were only a small fraction of the damage they had caused her, there were still some who thought her “grasping.”
Werth, Alexander. Russia; The Post-War Years. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co.,1971, p. 138
In particular, he [Stalin] demanded reparations to the value of $20 billion from Germany. This was controversial, but the Western leaders conceded it to Stalin. More hotly debated was the treatment of Poland.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 465
STALIN AND MOLOTOV SAID FRANCE SHOULD GET ITS LAND FROM US-BRIT AREA
Then, when the allies suggested giving a zone to France, we said, “Give it to them from your share–they didn’t take part in the fighting.” Well, they allotted it, but our zone remained untouched.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 55
When Churchill and Roosevelt proposed that France be given a share in the control of Germany he [Stalin] objected, because ‘ France had opened the gates to the enemy’. It was his stock argument that the place any nation was to be allowed to keep in peace should be proportionate to the strength it had shown and the sacrifices it had borne in war. That the principal favored Russia more than any other nation goes without saying, for no other nation had borne sacrifices comparable to hers.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 526
STALIN AND ZHUKOV SAY THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE BROKE THE BACK OF FASCISM
…the Russian people, whom Stalin called the most outstanding of all the nations making up the Soviet Union…. He was correct in calling the Russian people the decisive force that broke the back of fascism….
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 188
It was neither rain nor snow that stopped the fascist troops near Moscow. The grouping of picked Nazi troops, over one million strong, was routed by the courage, iron staunchness and valour of the Soviet troops which had the people, Moscow and their country behind them.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 41
STALIN SHOULD NOT HAVE RETIRED AFTER THE WAR
CHUEV: Do you think Stalin ought to have retired after the war?
MOLOTOV: No, I do not. But he was, in my opinion, overexhausted. Some took advantage of this. They slipped things over on him and buttered him up. That’s why he trusted Khrushchev and distrusted me.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 190
STALIN ABANDONED HIS PLAN TO HAVE HITLER KILLED
…In 1943 Stalin abandoned his original orders to try to eliminate Hitler; he feared that if Hitler was killed his Nazi henchman would be purged by the German military and a separate treaty would be signed with the allies without Soviet participation.
Such a fear was not without foundation. We were aware that in the summer of 1942, on the initiative of Pope Pius XII, the Vatican’s representative in Ankara had approached the German ambassador, von Papen, urging that he exert his influence to bring about a separate peace between Britain, the United States, and Germany.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 115
NAZIS VIEWED SOVIET DEFENSES AS WEAK
Two other little-known matters remain to be mentioned. In May 1941, a German Junkers 52 intruded into Soviet airspace undetected by Soviet air defense and landed safely at the central airfield in Moscow near Dynamo Stadium. This caused an uproar in the Kremlin and led to the purge of the military command; first came dismissals, then the arrest and execution of top figures in the administration of the air force and in the command of the Red Army. To Hitler, this spectacular landing signaled that combat readiness of the Red Army was low.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 121
PAVLOV WAS INCOMPETENT
On June 20th Eitingon reported to me that he was displeased by a talk he had with General Pavlov, commander of the Byelorussian military district. Because they had known each other in Spain, Eitingon asked his friendly advice on what trouble spots Pavlov foresaw in his territory. Eitingon said that Pavlov either was drunk or understood nothing about the coordination of various fighting services in modern warfare. Pavlov anticipated no problems and believed that even if the enemy at first seized the initiative on the border he had enough strength in reserve to counter any major breakthrough. He saw no necessity for subversive operations to cause disorganization among the attacking force.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 124
During the German aggression, in June 1941, General Pavlov, commander of the Western Front, displayed grave incompetence and negligence. The result was the loss of Minsk, the Byelorussian capital, on June 28. Stalin recalled Pavlov and his staff to Moscow. Zhukov noted that “On a proposal of the Military Council of the Western Front, brought to trial together with him were…other generals of the Front Headquarters.” They were tried and shot.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 260.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 251 [p. 227 on the NET]
On June 26 Stalin phoned Zhukov in Ternopol, ordering him to return to the General Headquarters at once. The enemy was approaching Minsk, and Pavlov, commanding the West Front, had evidently loss control…. On June 28 Russian troops surrendered Minsk, the capital of Byelorussia. German troops carried out a savage massacre of the inhabitants and destroyed most of the city.
Twice on June 29 Stalin came to the General Headquarters. He was in a black mood and reacted violently to the chaotic situation on the West Front. Zhukov conferred by telegraph with Gen. Pavlov, but it was clear that the situation was hopeless. On the next day Stalin ordered Zhukov to summon Pavlov to Moscow. On his arrival Zhukov hardly recognized him; he had changed so much in the eight days of the war. Pavlov was removed from his command, and with the other generals from this front, he was put on trial. All were shot.
Stalin held them responsible for the destruction of the West Front. He attached special importance to this front against which he believed the Germans would deliver their main assault…. The most serious mistake was that the troops were not deployed in depth along the extensive western frontier with the result that the German armored divisions, advancing at speed, were able to outflank and encircle strategic positions.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 326
Pavlov was still on Stalin’s mind. Before becoming commander-in-chief of the Western front, he had made quite a good impression. True, he hadn’t had much experience and his rise after Spain had been rapid. But why had his headquarters been so remiss?… Still, the question nagged at Stalin: how could Pavlov have lost everything so miserably? He called Poskrebyshev and asked, ‘Who, apart from Pavlov, has been sent to the military tribunal? When’s the trial? Where’s the draft sentence? Get me Ulrich!’ Poskrebyshev brought in a thin file and laid it on the desk. It was labeled ‘(Draft) Sentence’:
…The file went on to state that it had been established by preliminary investigation that:
“the accused, Pavlov and Klimovskikh, were participants in an anti-Soviet military conspiracy and that they had used their positions to carry out enemy work by not training the personnel under their command for military action, that with their conspiratorial aims in mind they had weakened the preparedness for mobilization of the troops in the military district, they had disrupted the administration of the forces and surrendered weapons to the enemy without a fight, thus causing great damage to the fighting capacity of the Red Army.”
Stalin skipped most of the document, which continued in this vein, but read the last section:
“Thus the guilt of Pavlov and Klimovskikh… and that of Grigoryev and Korobkov… has been established. As a result of the above….all four [are sentenced] to the highest form of punishment, namely to be shot, and all their personal property to be confiscated.”
Stalin turned to Poskrebyshev and said: ‘I approve the sentence, but tell Ulrich to get rid of all that rubbish about “conspiratorial activity”. The case shouldn’t drag out. No appeal. And then inform the fronts, so they know that defeatists will be punished without mercy.’
… The accused asked to be sent to the front in any capacity; they would show their loyalty to the fatherland and their military duty by giving their blood. They asked the court to believe that everything that had happened was the result of extremely unfavorable circumstances. They did not deny their guilt.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 421-422
STALIN REFUSES TO SIGN A SEPARATE PEACE WITH THE NAZIS
In my view, Stalin and the leadership sensed that any attempt at capitulation–in a war that was so harsh and unprecedented–would automatically ruin the leadership’s ability to govern the country. Apart from their true patriotic feelings, of which I am convinced, any form of capitulation was for them unacceptable.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 147
In a little while Stalin was on the line. I reported to him about Hitler’s suicide and the letter from Goebbels proposing armistice.
“Now he’s done it, the bastard. Too bad he could not have been taken alive. Where is Hitler’s body?”
“According to General Krebs Hitler’s body was burned.”
“Tell Sokolovsky that there can be no talks–either with Krebs or any other Hitlerites–only unconditional surrender,” said the Supreme Commander.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 390
VLASOV WAS EXECUTED AS A TRAITOR
[Footnote] Colonel Vlasov, highly regarded by Khrushchev and Stalin, boldly escaped encirclement in the defense of Kiev and Moscow but was captured by the Germans in the spring of 1942. Vlasov was turned and created an army of Russian prisoners of war to fight for Hitler. Vlasov’s troops were used for punishment expeditions against partisans in the Balkans and in Poland against the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1944. Vlasov surrendered to the Americans in May 1945 and was handed over to Soviet authorities, who tried and executed him by hanging.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 169
In his book on Vlasov, The History of the Vlasov Army (in German), Hoffman states, apparently on the basis of the Vlasov archives, that by May 1943 the Wehrmacht had 90 Russian battalions and almost as many national legions at its disposal. These figures are grossly inflated, and the attempt to portray the Vlasov movement as a viable alternative to Bolshevism is unconvincing in the extreme. Vlasov’s formations were not composed of ‘ideological fighters’, so much as a mixed bag of criminals and nationalists, but mainly of people who had found themselves in a hopeless situation and were possessed by the single idea that here lay a way to survive. Vlasov’s resort to such White emigres as Ataman Krasnov, General Shkuro, General Kluch and others, is eloquent testimony to the movement’s ideological poverty.
It was mainly Soviet military success that undermined the Vlasov movement, dispelling as it did the depression, the panic and the apathy that had provided a rich soil for defections. Stalin, however, chose to explain the Vlasov movement as evidence that not all the ‘enemies of the people’ had been exposed before the war. Strict supervision was to be maintained over returnees from captivity, special measures were to be introduced at the front, with punitive action against anyone overheard voicing their doubt about their commanders’ abilities.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 445
BANDERA’S GUERRILLAS KILL THOSE WORKING FOR THE GOVERNMENT
In Bandera’s last attempt to keep the nationalist movement intact, terror became the common feature of life in the Western Ukraine. Local authorities loss control in the countryside. Guerrilla commanders prohibited the conscription of the local population into the Red Army. Bandera’s men killed conscripts’ entire families and burned their houses to establish guerrilla rule in rural areas. The climax of this campaign came with the assassination of Kostelnik on the steps of the Cathedral in Lvov while he was leaving after a religious service. The assassin was blocked by the crowd and shot himself, but he was identified as a member of the terrorist squad personally supervised by Bandera’s deputy Shukheyevich, for seven years head of the Ukrainian guerrilla underground. During the war Shukheyevich held the rank of Haupsturmfuhrer in the Gestapo division that liquidated the Polish intelligentsia and the Jewish ghetto in Lvov in July 1941.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 251
We went to find Lebed’s relatives, two nephews who were heading anti-communist guerrilla detachments. Lebed wanted to convince them to give up the armed struggle. Lebed’s own cousin had been shot by a Bandera group for accepting an offer to become the chairman of the local kolkhoz, even though they knew that his daughter and two sons were in the anti-communist underground. The stoicism of the cousin’s daughter made a deep impression on me. Although deeply depressed, she accepted the execution of her father as inevitable because he didn’t obey the warnings of the resistance.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 255
The policy of repression led to a declaration of war on two fronts by the OUN, against the Red Army and against the Germans, but in reality they never attacked the Germans. In 1944 Bandera and Melnik were freed [by the Germans] and allowed to lead the armed struggle of the Ukrainian nationalists against the Red Army, which at that time was on the offensive.
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 397
BRITISH AND US PLANES GET IN FIGHTS OVER SOVIET AIRSPACE
[Footnote] Sudoplatov adds: “About once a month during the late ’40s and early ’50s American and British planes violated our airspace; in most cases they were attacked by our fighter planes, and both sides suffered heavy losses in those dogfights.
Sudoplatov, Pavel. Special Tasks. Boston: Little, Brown, c1993, p. 257
STALIN JUSTIFIES THE EXCESSES OF HIS SOLDIERS
Stalin interrupted: “Yes, you have, of course, read Dostoevsky? Do you see what a complicated thing is man’s soul, man’s psyche? Well then, imagine a man who has fought from Stalingrad to Belgrade–over thousands of kilometers of his own devastated land, across the dead bodies of his comrades and dearest ones! How can such a man react normally? And what is so awful in his having fun with the woman, after such horrors? You have imagined the Red Army to be ideal. And it is not ideal, nor can it be, even if it did not contain a certain percentage of criminals–we opened up our penitentiaries and stuck everybody into the army.
Djilas, Milovan. Conversations with Stalin. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, p. 110
STALIN PREDICTED THE FASCIST ATTACK 10 YEARS EARLIER
…When all that can be said against Stalin is piled and counted, I doubt whether anything less than the terrific drive he imposed on the USSR from 1928 onward, could ever have built a socialist state in that land. Looking back, one can see how the other leaders–Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin–led towards destruction. None of them had, I think, as Stalin had, either the insight into the People’s needs, or the guts and will that were needed.
Stalin said: “Build, or be crushed in ten years by foreign invaders.”
They built, and it stood when the foreign invasion came. So, Stalin proved right,…
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 126
Taken as a whole Stalin’s comments on world affairs comprise a wide yet unified vision of world development…. His judgments, measured and responsible, bear the imprint of serious collective thinking. Among his more immediate predictions, that of the coming of World War II proved correct. And his prediction of revolutions following the war–reminiscent of Engels’s “last great war dance” projection–also came true in Eastern Europe, China, and Korea.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 87
Hindenburg has published his declaration to the German people. The die is cast. Germany has again taken the road that leads to a revival of militarism. Another world war is inevitable…. I fear that we shall be its first victims…. The Instantsia [Foreign Office] is quite undisturbed. Koba considers that the Germans will first strike against Poland and that therefore there is no need for us to worry. We must only go on building our industries at a devil’s pace and be ready when another world war breaks out. Koba’s coolness surprises me. Why is he certain that the Germans will attack the Poles before they attack anybody else?
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 120
So I continued to consider myself a Bolshevik; I never thought of myself as a “Stalinist.” I had been an active revolutionary for more than five years before I had ever heard the name of Stalin. When I saw photos, I did not like his face. But I found myself generally in agreement with his policies. I first doubted his statement in 1928 that the apparent capitalist stability of the 1920s was unstable and would be replaced by a period of wars and revolutions, but he turned out to be right. He also turned out to be right in other predictions and judgments; I concluded that it was foolish to evaluate a man by his looks, and that I could trust his leadership.
Blumenfeld, Hans. Life Begins at 65. Montreal, Canada: Harvest House, c1987, p. 174
WAR IS THE ONLY RECOURSE FOR HITLER
War is the only recourse for Hitler, who has no constructive program. As soon as he feels himself sufficiently armed and sufficiently supplied with allies, he will cast off his mask.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 262
STALIN DISTRUSTS REPORTS OF GERMAN AGGRESSIVE ACTS
On June 13, Marshal Timoshenko phoned Stalin to place the troops on alert. “We will think it over,” Stalin replied. The next day, Timoshenko and Zhukov came back. Stalin told them.
“You propose carrying out mobilization, alerting the troops and moving them to the Western borders? That means war! Do you two understand that or not?!’
Zhukov replied that, according to their intelligence services, the mobilization of the German divisions was complete. Stalin replied:
“You can’t believe everything in intelligence reports.”
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 235 [p. 196 on the NET]
Recalling and analyzing all of Stalin’s conversations with people close to him I have come to the firm conclusion that all his thoughts and deeds were dictated by the desire to avoid war and the confidence that he would succeed in that.
Today our attention is being concentrated, especially in popular mass publications, on the warnings received that preparations were being made for an attack on the USSR, that troops were being concentrated on our borders, and so on. But at that time, as is evident from enemy archives captured after the defeat of Nazi Germany documents of a quite different nature probably found their way to Stalin’s desk. Here is an example.
On February 15, 1941, acting on instructions from Hitler given at a conference on Feb. 3, 1941, Field Marshal Keitel, Chief of Staff of the Supreme High Command, issued a special “Directive for Misinforming the Enemy”. In order to conceal preparations for the Barbarossa operation, the intelligence and counter-intelligence division of the General Staff evolved and carried out numerous operations in spreading false rumors and information. It was leaked out that the movement of troops to the East was part of the “greatest misinformation maneuver in history designed to distract attention from final preparation for the invasion of England.”
Maps of England were printed in vast quantities, English interpreters were attached to units, preparations were made for “sealing off” some areas along the coast of the English channel, the Strait of Dover and Norway. Information was spread about an imaginary “airborne corps”, make-believe “rocket batteries” were installed along the shore, and rumors were circulated among the troops– some to the effect that they were being sent East for a “rest” before the invasion of England, and others that they would be allowed to pass through Soviet territory to attack India. To add credibility to the version that a landing was to be made in England special operations were worked out under the code names “Shark” and “Harpoon”, the flood of propaganda was turned against England and the usual diatribes against the Soviet Union stopped; diplomats lent a hand, and so on.
Information of this kind along with the shortcomings in the general combat readiness of the Soviet armed forces explain the extreme caution Stalin displayed when it came to carrying out the basic measures contemplated in the operational-mobilization plans regarding preparations for repulsing possible aggression.
While wishing to preserve peace as the decisive condition for building socialism in the USSR, Stalin saw that the governments of Britain and the United States were doing everything possible to incite Hitler to make war on the Soviet Union, that Britain and other Western countries, being in a critical military situation and striving to save themselves from catastrophe, were extremely interested in a German attack on the USSR. That was why Stalin was so distrustful about information from Western governments that Germany was preparing to attack the Soviet Union.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 222-223
On June 13, Marshall Timoshenko phoned Stalin in my presence and asked permission to give orders for the troops of the border Districts to be alerted and the first echelons deployed according to the plans for protection. “We will think it over,” Stalin replied.
The next day we again went to Stalin and informed him of the anxiety in the Districts and the necessity of putting the troops into full combat readiness.
“You propose carrying out mobilization, alerting the troops and moving them to the Western borders? That means war! Do you two understand that or not?!”
But then Stalin asked, nevertheless: “How many divisions have we got in the Baltic, Western, Kiev, and Odessa Military Districts?”
We told him that by June 1 there would be 149 divisions….
“Well, isn’t that enough?” Stalin said. “According to our information the Germans do not have so many troops.”
I informed him that according to intelligence information the German divisions were manned and armed on a wartime footing. The strength of a division came from 14 to 16,000 men. Our divisions, even those of 8000 men, were actually only half as strong as the German divisions.
Stalin remarked: “You can’t believe everything in intelligence reports.”
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 230
We were categorically forbidden to move up any troops to the front line under the border protection plan without Stalin’s personal permission.
On June 21, in the evening, Lieutenant-General Purkayev, Chief of Staff of the Kiev Military District, telephoned to inform me that a German sergeant-major had crossed over to our frontier guards and declared that German troops were moving up to the departure areas for an attack which was to begin on the morning of June 22.
I at once informed the Commissar for Defense and Stalin what Lieutenant-General Purkayev had reported. Stalin said:
“Come to the Kremlin with the Commissar.”
Taking with me a draft of the directive for the troops, I went to the Kremlin along with the Commissar and Lieutenant-General Vatutin. On the way we agreed that at all costs we must get permission to alert the troops.
Stalin was alone when he received us. He was plainly worried.
“But perhaps the German generals sent this deserter to provoke a conflict?” He asked.
“No,” we replied. “We think the deserter is telling the truth.”
At that moment members of the Politburo came in.
“What are we to do?” Stalin asked.
No one answered.
“A directive must immediately be given to alert all the troops of border Districts,” the Commissar said.
“Read it!” Stalin replied.
I read the draft directive. Stalin said:
“It’s too soon to give such a directive–perhaps the question can still be settled peacefully. We must give a short directive stating that an attack may begin with provocative actions by the German forces. The troops of the border Districts must not be incited by any provocation, in order to avoid complications.”
Without losing time Vatutin and I went into the next room and quickly drew up a draft of the directive to be sent by the Commissar.
We then went back to the office and asked for permission to read the directive.
Stalin listened to the draft directive and then read it over again himself, making some amendments, and gave it to the Commissar to sign.
Vatutin at once took this directive to the General Staff to have it immediately transmitted to the Districts. Transmission to the Districts was completed at 00:30, June 22, 1941. A copy of the directive was forwarded to the People’s Commissar of the Naval Forces.
Timoshenko and I were returning from Stalin with some odd feeling of duality.
On the one hand, it seemed we had been doing everything we could to meet the imminent military threat with maximum preparedness: a number of large-scale organizational measures were carried out in the line of mobilization and strategy; everything possible was done to strengthen the western military districts which would have to be the first to engage the enemy; at last, we were authorized that day to issue a directive alerting the troops of the frontier military districts.
On the other hand, the German troops could pass to the offensive the next morning, while we had not completed a number of most important measures. This would seriously impede the struggle with the experienced and strong enemy. The directive that the General Staff was transmitting to the military districts at that time could come too late.
About midnight [on June 21] the commander of the Kiev District, Kirponos reported over the H. F. (high-frequency telephone) from his command post at Ternopol that another German soldier had appeared in our lines besides the deserter previously mentioned by Gen. Purkayev. He was from the 222nd Infantry Regiment of the 74th Infantry Division. Swimming across the river, he presented himself to our frontier guards and told them German forces were going to mount an offensive at 4 a.m.. Kirponos was ordered to speed up transmission to all units of the directive calling for alert status.
Everything was now pointing to the fact that German forces were moving up to the frontier. At 30 minutes past midnight we notified Stalin. Stalin inquired whether the directive had been sent to all districts. I replied in the affirmative.
Various stories have appeared after Stalin’s death to the effect that on the night of June 21 some commanders and their staffs had been either peacefully asleep or even making merry without an inkling of suspicion that anything was amiss. This is not true in fact. The ut three minutes later Stalin picked up the receiver.
I reported the situation and requested permission to start retaliation. Stalin was silent. The only thing I could hear was the sound of his breathing.
“Do you understand me?”
At last Stalin asked:
“Where is the Commissar for Defense?”
“Talking with the Kiev District on the H. F.”
“Go to the Kremlin with Timoshenko. Tell Poskrebyshev to summon all Politburo members.”
At 4:30 a.m. all the Politburo members were assembled. The Commissar for Defense and I were called in. Stalin, his face white, was sitting at the table cradling a tobacco-filled pipe in his hand. After some time he said:
“We must immediately phone the German Embassy.”
The Embassy replied that Ambassador Schulenburg was anxious to deliver an urgent message.
Molotov was authorized to receive the Ambassador.
Meanwhile, the First Deputy Chief of Staff, General Vatutin, had passed word that following a strong artillery barrage on several sectors in the north-western and western directions German land forces had mounted an assault.
A while later Molotov hastened into the office and said:
“The German Government has declared war on us.”
Stalin sank down into his chair and lost himself in thought.
There was a long and pregnant pause.
… “Issue a directive,” said Stalin.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 231-236
Despite German efforts at concealment and disinformation, designed to lull Soviet intelligence into thinking that the military preparations were for the war with Britain, there came during the spring of 1941 an almost endless stream of intelligence information about imminent German invasion. There were at least 84 such warnings, most probably a great many more. They were passed through the office of the head of military intelligence, General Golikov. His reports classified information as either “reliable” or “doubtful.” Most of the information on Barbarossa were placed in the second category. He suggested that much of it was British misinformation, part of a conspiracy to drive a wedge between the two allies. Warnings sent directly from the British Prime Minister, Churchill, which were culled from decryptions of German orders, were regarded as a particularly blatant attempt at provocation. When Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, made his “peace” flight to Scotland on May 10, 1941, Soviet officials regarded the whole episode as evidence that their mistrust of British motives had been right all along.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 95
STALIN ORDERED THE ATTACK DIRECTIVE BE WRITTEN BUT THE ATTACK DID NOT HAPPEN
Zhukov proposed that the enemy units should be attacked immediately. Stalin told him to write up the directive, which was sent at 7:15. But “considering the balance of forces and the situation obtaining it proved plainly unrealistic—and was therefore never carried out.”
G. Zhukov, Reminiscences and Reflections (Moscow: Progress, 1985), vol. 2, p. 282
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 246 [p. 198 on the NET]
KHRUSHCHOV LIED WHEN HE SAID STALIN ORDERED NO RETURN FIRE
Khrushchev’s affirmation that Stalin had “issued the order that the German fire was not to be returned” is clearly false.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 246 [p. 198 on the NET]
NAZIS VIEWED COMMUNISTS AND MARXISTS AS THE MAIN ENEMY
Note that discussion refers to a “final solution,” but not against the Jews. The first promises of a “war of annihilation” and of “physical destruction” were addressed to the Communists. And, sure enough, the Bolsheviks, the Soviets, were the first victims of mass extermination.
General Nagel wrote in September 1941:
“Unlike the diet for other prisoners (i.e. British and U.S.) we are under no obligation to feed the Bolshevik prisoners.”
Alan Clark, La Guerre ˆ l’Est (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1966), p. 250.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 250 [p. 225 on the NET]
In the Auschwitz and Chemno extermination camps, “Soviet prisoners of war were the first, or among the first, to be deliberately killed by lethal injections and gassing.”
Arno Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The “Final Solution’ in History. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988), p. 349.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 250 [p. 226 on the NET]
There were 3,289,000 Soviet prisoners of war, dead in the concentration camps, “while travelling” or under “various circumstances”! When epidemics took place in the barracks of Soviet prisoners, Nazi guards only entered with flame-throwing teams when, “for hygiene reasons,” the dying and dead were burned along with their lice-ridden beds. There can easily have been 5,000,000 assassinated prisoners, if we take into account the Soviet soldiers who were “simply killed on the spot” when they surrendered.
Alan Clark, La Guerre ˆ l’Est (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1966), p. 251.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 250 [p. 226 on the NET]
Therefore the first extermination campaigns, in fact the biggest, were against the Soviet peoples, including Soviet Jews. The peoples of the USSR suffered the most and endured the greatest number of dead (23 million), but they also showed utter determination and amazing heroism.
Until the invasion of the Soviet Union, there were no large massacres of Jewish populations. At the time, the Nazis had not encountered any serious resistance. But with their very first steps on Soviet soil, these noble Germans had to face adversaries who were fighting to the last man. Right in the first weeks, the Germans suffered important losses, against an inferior race, the Slavs, worse even, against Bolsheviks! The exterminating rage of the Nazis was born in their first massive losses. When the fascist beast started to bleed under the Red Army’s blows, it dreamed up the “final solution” for the Soviet people.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 250 [p. 226 on the NET]
This reality, of the unbelievable terror that the Nazis practiced in the Soviet Union, against the first socialist country, against the Communists, is almost systematically covered up or minimized in bourgeois literature. This silence has a clear goal. Those who do not know of the monstrous crimes committed against the Soviets are more likely to believe that Stalin was a “dictator” comparable to Hitler. The bourgeoisie covers up the real anti-Communist genocide to better publicize what it has in common with Nazism: the irrational hatred of Communism, the class hatred of socialism. And to better cover up the great genocide of the war, the bourgeoisie shines the light on another genocide, that of the Jews.
In a remarkable book, Arno J. Mayer, whose father was left-Zionist, shows that the extermination of the Jews only began once the Nazis had, for the first time, suffered heavy losses. It was in June–July 1941, against the Red Army. The bestiality against the Communists, followed by the unexpected defeats that demolished the sentiment of invincibility of the Ubermenschen (Supermen), created the atmosphere that led to the Holocaust.
“The Judeocide was forged in the fires of a stupendous war to conquer unlimited Lebensraum from Russia, to crush the Soviet regime, and to liquidate international bolshevism…. Without Operation Barbarossa there would and could have been no Jewish catastrophe, no “Final Solution’….”
Arno Mayer, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The “Final Solution” in History (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988), p. 234.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 253 [p. 228 on the NET]
…Once the Nazis had to face the defeats on the Russian front, they decided on a “global and final solution” of the “Jewish problem” during the Wannsee conference of January 20, 1942.
For years, the Nazis had put forward their hatred of “Judeo-Bolshevism,” Bolshevism having been the worst invention of the Jews. The determined resistance of the Bolsheviks prevented the Hitlerians from finishing off their principal enemy. So the latter turned their frustations on the Jews, whom they exterminated with blind fury.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 254 [p. 228 on the NET]
the Nazis were the greatest enemy of world communism.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 401
In Germany as in Italy, the communists endured the severest political repression of all groups.
Parenti, Michael. Blackshirts and Reds, San Francisco: City Light Books, 1997, p. 6
STALIN CONSULTED AND LISTENED TO OTHER GENERALS IN THE WAR
During the entire war, General Shtemenko worked for the Chief of Staff, first as Chief of Operations, then as under-Chief of Staff.
“I must say that Stalin did not decide and did not like to decide for himself important questions about the war. He understood perfectly well the necessity of collective work in this complex area, he recognized those who were experts on such and such a military problem, took into account their opinion and gave each their due.”
ChtEmenko, L’ƒtat-Major gEnEral soviEtique en guerre (Moscow: ƒditions du Progr�s, 1976), vol. 2, p. 319.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 254 [p. 231 on the NET]
Zhukov wrote subsequently: “Today, after Stalin’s death, the idea is current that he never heeded anybody’s advice and decided questions of military policy all by himself. I can’t agree with it. When he realized that the person reporting knew what he was talking about, he would listen, and I know cases when he reconsidered his own opinions and decisions. This was the case in many operations.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 368
But Stalin’s independence was not tinged with smugness. He had a large group of advisers, and he listened to them. I personally had occasion to observe that he had great respect for technical experts, among others.
Tuominen, Arvo, The Bells of the Kremlin: Hanover: University Press of New England, 1983, p. 171
He set great store by the work of the General Staff, and trusted it implicitly. As a rule, he never adopted important decisions without first looking into the General Staff’s analytic situation report and its proposals.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 349
The activity of the Supreme Command is indissolubly associated with Stalin’s name. I met him often during the war. Mostly, those were formal occasions at which issues related to the conduct of the war were dealt with. But many important issues were decided at dinners to which Stalin invited his associates. What I liked about Stalin was the complete absence of formalism. Everything that he did in the framework of the Supreme Command or the State Defense Committee led to the immediate fulfillment of any decisions that these bodies may have taken. And fulfillment was closely controlled by the Supreme Commander himself or, on his instructions, by one of his subordinates.
True, such practice imposed a heavy physical burden on the members of the Supreme Command in the State Defense Committee, but people gave no heed to that during the war. Everyone did his utmost and his best. Everyone took the cue from Stalin, and the latter, despite his age, was always active and buoyant. When the war ended and his day’s work became relatively routine, he seemed to grow old at once, to become less mobile, still more taciturn and thoughtful. The past war and everything related to it had a strong and visible effect on him.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 362
After Stalin’s death, the idea became current that he alone took decisions on questions of a military and strategic nature. I cannot agree with this. I have already mentioned above that when someone who had a good knowledge of the matter made a report to him, he would take notice of it. I even know of cases when he changed his mind with respect to decisions previously taken. This was the case in particular, to the schedule of many operations.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 194
STALIN’S REASONS FOR NOT VISITING THE FRONT DURING THE WAR ARE JUSTIFIED
As for General Shtemenko, he directly addressed Khrushchev’s accusation that Stalin, not visiting the front, could not know the realities of war.
“The Supreme Commander could not, in our opinion, visit the fronts more frequently. It would have been an unforgivably lightheaded act to abandon, even for a short period, the General Headquarters, to decide a partial question on a single front.”
Chtemenko, L’Etat-Major general sovietique en guerre (Moscow: Editions du Progr�s, 1976), vol. 2, p. 354.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 257 [p. 233 on the NET]
Hitler issued an order that ‘the Kremlin was to be blown up to signalize the overthrow of Bolshevism’….
He [Stalin] was, incidentally, to remain thus voluntarily immured in the Kremlin throughout the war. Not once, so it seems, did he seek direct personal contact with his troops in the field. Trotsky in the civil war moved in his legendary train from front to front, exploring, sometimes under the enemy’s fire, advanced positions and checking tactical arrangements. Churchill mixed with his soldiers in the African desert and on the Normandy beaches, cheering them with his idiosyncrasies, with his solemn words, his comic hats, his cigars, and V-signs. Hitler spent much of his time in his advanced field headquarters. Stalin was not attracted by the physical reality of war. Nor did he rely on the effect of his personal contact with his troops. Yet there is no doubt that he was their real commander-in-chief. His leadership was by no means confined to the taking of abstract strategic decisions, at which civilian politicians may excel.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 469
I have heard a variety of opinions about Stalin’s personal knowledge of life at the front. In fact, as already mentioned, he visited the Western and the Kalinin Fronts in August 1943. The journey by car took two days and certainly had an impact on the morale of the troops….
In my view, Stalin as head of the Party and the country as a whole had no pressing need to make such trips. The best thing for the front and the country was his presence in the Party Central Committee and the GHQ, to which led all telephone and telegraph communications and all manner of information. Front commanders regularly reported to him on the situation at the front and on all substantial changes in that situation. Thus, the Supreme high Commander had extensive information every day, and sometimes every hour on the course of the war, the needs and difficulties of front commands; and he could, while in Moscow, make decisions properly and with dispatch.
Vasilevskii, Aleksandr M. A Lifelong Cause. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981, p. 451
Stalin has been criticized by some observers (not generals) for not visiting his troops on the battlefield. General Shtemenko comments: ‘It seems to me that Stalin could not visit the front lines more often than he did. It would have been unpardonably negligent for the Supreme Commander to lay aside overall leadership even for a time so as to decide particular problems on one of the Fronts. (In the summer of 1943 Stalin made a visit to the front lines, first to the command post of General Sokolovsky and then to that of General Eremenko.)
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 168
SAYING THE SOVIET PEOPLE MET THE NAZIS WITH HAPPINESS OR RELIEF IS ABSURD
Certain Russian emigre circles have roundly declared that at the beginning of the war the peoples of the USSR were in a mood of ‘mass defeatism’ and that when the German armies marched in there was ‘wild enthusiasm’. I have always firmly asserted the contrary. I can only say that I never saw it. But mine was a lonely voice raised against this notion, and my attackers had the means of dissemination at their disposal.
The idea that they [the peoples of the Soviet Union] could imagine Nazism to be better than Stalinism is fantastic, and the notion of ‘mass defeatism’–of mass surrender to a ‘liberating enemy’ is pure moonshine. Between ‘mass defeatism’ and ‘I do not want war’ there is a great gulf. I too never wanted war, but I was not therefore a defeatist. Let me solemnly place on record that the assertion made by those emigres who carry on their loathsome work under the aegis of certain self-appointed ‘liberators’, the assertion that the Red Army refused to fight and that whole divisions went over to the enemy, is a plain and vulgar lie. Is it not in any case sufficiently disapproved by the defense of Leningrad, of Moscow, of Novorossisk, Sevastopol, Odessa, and Stalingrad?
Of course we had our Quisling’s and our Haw-haws –I have been asked if the Vlasov movement was evidence of mass desertion. If their numbers seem large we must remember that out of hundreds and hundreds of divisions and a population of 200 million the proportion is minute. The vast majority remained completely loyal. The very nature of the Vlasov forces goes to prove my point, for they were the most heterogeneous mob that ever took the field in modern times–a medley of honest prisoners and emigre adventurers and fascists, criminals and dregs of no known origin. Vlasov himself, according to the evidence, never contemplated treachery until his capture–he had fought the Germans cleverly and bravely and was indeed largely responsible for the successful defense of Moscow; it was not until he was a prisoner that the so-called ‘National Labor Union of Russian Solidarists (whom Hitler’s men mockingly described as 200 percent Nazi) flocked around him and turned his head. The few genuine Soviet people who took service under him had been conditioned in Nazi camps–as were some forced recruits of other countries, by a diabolical technique of hunger training; and even among them there were some men who remained true to their ideals and who could swear that every bullet which they fired missed its mark.
Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press,1956, p. 189-190
… the slowly moving crowd was laden with shapeless bundles; some carried their household goods or dragged them in their barrows. Their faces were grimly set; I don’t think many of them had the vaguest notion where they were going, except that it was to the East, away from the oncoming enemy. It never entered my head that slanderers in the Western world would invent the story which has been circulated since the war, that the people of Moscow welcomed the Nazi armies.
Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press,1956, p. 213
… Neither the panic among the elite nor the disorder among the masses [at the time of the Nazi approach to Moscow] ever showed any signs of provoking a widespread revolt against the regime which had made it all possible. I never heard of one single instance of a spontaneous anti-Stalinist mass demonstration, such as might have been expected in the Western world. All police control had disappeared but nowhere did one see a single anti-regime slogan chalked on a wall.
Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press,1956, p. 216
NAZIS RE-OPENED THE CHURCHES BUT THE PEOPLE REMAINED LOYAL TO SOVIET POWER
It was known to Soviet Intelligence that in the occupied zones the Germans had reopened the churches. Throughout Byelorussia, the Ukraine, the Baltic lands, as well as in a part of Russia, the bells clanged again and the churches were full.
… The re-opening of the churches in 1943 [by the Soviet government] has been taken as a sign that a liberal policy towards religion was established and that there was a great return to religion in the country. Neither of these conclusions is based on sufficient evidence. The people, under the awful stresses of war, certainly found solace in religion, but it is a long way from this to a real religious revival (such as some Western radio stations have assumed in their Russian language programs). There is certainly a considerable total number of believers, but the number of unbelievers is immeasurably greater.
Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press,1956, p. 251
STALIN FURIOUS OVER TREATMENT OF FORMER NAZI SCIENTIST
STALIN: And why was he [Tank–a German scientist] not given work?
TOKAEV: Generals Kutsevalov and Lukin said he was a former Nazi and so should not be given work.
Stalin’s features were gripped with icy rage. His piercing eyes swept the whole company, as if to ask how such idiocy was possible. He asked me my view. I said frankly that I had never agreed with Kutesevalov or Lukin on this matter.
STALIN: And in my opinion, you were right. But where is Tank now?
TOKAEV: I do not know.
STALIN: Comrade Serov, what does all this nonsense mean? Tank came over himself, asked for work, and was turned away. Find him for me!
Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press,1956, p. 328
STALIN SAYS FASCISTS ARE NOT NATIONALISTS BUT ARE IMPERIALISTS
In order to hide their reactionary, Black-Hundred, imperialist essence from the German and other peoples, the fascists continued to commit their heinous crimes–the subjugation of the peoples abroad and of the German people at home–by calling themselves ‘National Socialists’. Stalin in his speech refuted the claims of these fascists to be either socialists or nationalists. The fascists, he said, were not socialists, for they were the most vicious enemies of the working class of Germany and of other countries. Nor were they nationalists, for they were not engaged in defending Germany but, on the contrary, in subjugating other peoples in the interests of German imperialism. Hitlerites, he said, should therefore be called by their proper name, i.e., imperialists.
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 577
STALIN’S GENERALS IN 1941 LED HIM TO BELIEVE WAR IS NOT IMMINENT
Among members of the Politburo and the Soviet High Command the firm opinion was that war would be averted in 1941. Zhdanov held that Germany was taken up with war against Britain and incapable of fighting on two fronts. On March 20, 1941, Gen. Golikov, head of military intelligence, submitted to Stalin a report on German troops concentration in the borderlands, but expressed the opinion that the information must have originated from the British and German intelligence services. Early in May Adm. Kuznetsov, commanding the Soviet Navy, sent a similar report to Stalin, giving information received from the Soviet naval attache in Berlin on the imminence of war. Like Golikov, he nullified the value of the report by adding that in his opinion the information was false and planted by some foreign agency.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 319
Stalin’s generals do not excuse his miscalculations at the start of the war. But in memoirs, and in other recollections, the generals assert that the blame was not only Stalin’s but must be shared with the top military leadership. Marshal Zhukov, in his memoirs admits a share of responsibility for the miscalculations on invasion-Day.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 73
STALIN TRIES TO FORESTALL AN ATTACK UP TO THE LAST MINUTE BUT STILL PREPARES
Timoshenko produced a draft directive, alerting all commands. But Stalin had not given up hope that might be a false alarm. He had the directive redrafted and finally approved its dispatch. It ordered all units on the fronts of the Leningrad, Baltic, Western, Kiev, and Odessa military districts to come to immediate readiness for a possible sudden German attack. Transmission of the directive was completed by 0030 hours on June 22, 1941. At 0400 hours the invasion began.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 321
In mid-March 1941 Timoshenko and I asked Stalin’s permission to call up the inductible reserve personnel so as to update their military training in infantry divisions without delay. At first our request was declined. We were told that calling up reservists on such a scale might give the Germans an excuse to provoke a war. At the end of March, however, we were allowed to call up 500,000 men and non-coms and send them to border military districts to augment infantry divisions there, bringing the strength of each up to at least 8000.
To dispose of this subject, I shall tell you that another 300,000 reservists were called up a few days later so as to man the fortified areas fully with specialists, as well as to augment other arms and services, general headquarters reserve artillery, engineer, signal, air defense, and Air Force logistical service troops. Thus on the eve of the war the Red Army received an additional 800,000 men.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 196
It is true that in March 1941 Stalin, grudgingly, agreed to Zhukov’s request to call half a million reservists to the colors, with a further 300,000 several days later. True, too, that the frantic rearmament called for in 1940 brought new labor laws in June 1940 that lengthened the working week to seven days on, one day off.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 94
In these circumstances it is not surprising that Stalin avoided as much as possible any appearance that he was preparing for immediate war. Had not Nicholas II brought about the German attack in 1914 by mobilizing his army? Considering that it was well known that Soviet military doctrine stressed the offensive, would not an increase in Soviet battle-readiness have invited a German preemptive blow? This was the sense of Stalin’s response to the proposal of the narkom of defense, Marshal Timoshenko, and General Zhukov on 14 June that the Red Army should undertake full mobilization. ‘That’s war,’ replied Stalin, ‘Do you understand that or not?’ Even on the evening of 21 June, by which time reports of an imminent attack had intensified, Stalin rejected the recommendation of these military men. Full wartime mobilization would be ‘premature’. The question still can be settled by peaceful means’, said Stalin, and he approved a compromise order that ambiguously acknowledged the possibility of German attack on 22-23 June and urged troops not to yield to ‘provocation’.
…In a a few hours the German onslaught destroyed a large part of the Soviet Air Force, had penetrated the positions of forward Soviet formations and, perhaps, most important, had smashed Soviet communications, which depended heavily on vulnerable wire lines to Moscow. The first reports to reach the capital were treated as provocation, but within only about an hour Stalin had accepted Zhukov’s affirmation of their validity and at 4:30 a.m. convened the Politburo. Stalin was ‘pale’, Zhukov recalls, and his first thought was that they must contact the German ambassador. Evidently he still hoped to find a diplomatic alternative. Within an hour or two Molotov had received what amounted to a declaration of war in the name of the Fuhrer. Stalin reacted to this news with a prolonged silence, which Zhukov broke to propose that they order the troops to fight. Stalin then approved orders for the Red Army to destroy the invader on Soviet territory, but not to pursue him to the west. As matters turned out, this was an irrelevant constraint, but it reflected Stalin’s intent, even in the circumstances, of leaving open the door for a negotiated settlement.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 238
From memoirs and speeches we know that Stalin had no illusions about Hitler’s Germany. Here is what he told Marshal Timoshenko, shortly before the invasion: ‘If a provocation needs to be staged, Hitler’s generals would bomb even their own cities. ‘More to the point, he knew that Hitler’s appetite for the Ukraine had never abated. While the Fuhrer had at times disavowed what he had said belligerently about France in Mein Kampf, he never retracted the part in which he promised the German people the Breadbasket of the Ukraine….
Far from trusting Hitler, Stalin had secretly moved sizable forces up to the border before the invasion. These comprised five Russian armies, according to a former chief of the General Staff Shtemenko. In the critical days and weeks before the invasion, the following additional measures were taken to strengthen the armed forces in the border areas. Taken together these steps show, in the words of Marshal Bagramyan, that a ‘titanic effort was made to prepare the nation for war’. The measures were:
1. In mid-May as many as 28 divisions started moving to border districts on General Staff directives.
2. On 27 May the General Staff ordered the western border districts ‘urgently’ to build up front command posts and on 10 June the Baltic, Western and Kiev Military Districts were ordered to move their front commands to the newly built posts.
3. In early June, 800,000 reservists were called up for field training and sent to reinforce the western military districts.
4. The Odessa Military District (on the Black Sea) had obtained permission to do this earlier.
5. On 12-15 June the military districts were ordered to bring their divisions closer to the border.
6. On 19 June the military districts were ordered to camouflage airfields, army units, transport, depots and other bases and to disperse the aircraft on the airfields.
7. By mid-1941, Russia’s armed forces totaled more than 5 million, almost 3 times that of 1939.
8. In June instructions were issued to naval vessels to intensify patrols. Naval bases were moved to safer ports. On the eve of the invasion, the Baltic, Northern and Black Sea Fleets were placed on battle alert.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 71-72
STALIN HONORED WITH A CEREMONIAL BRITISH SWORD AT TEHRAN
Shortly after the session of November 29 began [at Tehran], there was a brief but impressive ceremony in the conference room of the Soviet Embassy, when the Stalingrad Sword of Honor was presented. It was inscribed in English and in Russian “to the steel-hearted citizens of Stalingrad. The gift of King George VI in token of the homage of the British people.” The ceremony was brief. The British lieutenant commanding the guard of honor handed the magnificent sword to Churchill, who, turning to Stalin, stating that he had been commanded by the King to present to him the Sword of Honor for transmission to the city of Stalingrad. Birse, who was standing close to Stalin, saw that he was deeply moved as he took the sword, kissed the hilt, and handed it to Voroshilov. Unfortunately, Voroshilov fumbled and nearly dropped it, but managed to pass it to the Russian lieutenant of the ceremonial guard, Stalin spoke briefly, expressing his appreciation, and shook Churchill by the hand.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 382
CHURCHILL IS MAD ABOUT STALIN’S JOKE OF SHOOTING 50,000 GERMAN OFFICERS
On a number of occasions Stalin made teasing remarks which Churchill took in good part. But at dinner on the first evening of the conference, he was not sure at one point whether Stalin was serious or joking, and he overreacted.
Talking of the punishment to be inflicted on the Germans after the war, Stalin said that the German general staff must be liquidated and that since German military might depended on some 50,000 officers, they should all be shot. He may have been serious, but, in fact, field Marshal von Paulus and other officers, taken prisoner at Stalingrad and elsewhere, had been accorded respectful treatment.
Churchill responded vehemently that “the British Parliament and people would not tolerate mass executions.” Stalin mischievously repeated that “50,000 must be shot!” Churchill blazed with anger. Eden made signs and gestures to assure him that it was all a joke, but he ignored them. Roosevelt tried to bring good humor back to the occasion by suggesting that not 50,000 but 49,000 should be shot. “I would rather,” growled Churchill, “be taken into the garden here and now and be shot myself than sully my own and my country’s honor by such infamy!”
At this point Roosevelt’s son, Elliott, an uninvited guest who had joined the company after dinner, ineptly made a speech stating that he agreed with Stalin’s plan and that he was sure the U.S. Army would support it. Churchill got up from the table and walked into the adjoining room. A minute later he felt hands clapped on his shoulder and turned to find Stalin and Molotov grinning broadly. They assured him that it had only been a joke….
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 388
SU INTELLIGENCE MISLED STALIN ON PROSPECTS FOR WAR
Marshall Zhukov, in his Reminiscences and Reflections, confirms the fact that the General Staff and military intelligence were informed of Hitler’s plans. According to Zhukov, General Golikov, chief of the Soviet army’s Intelligence Division, presented Stalin with a report on March 20, 1941, containing information of exceptional significance. Zhukov quotes in part from the report:
“1. On the basis of all the aforesaid statements and possible variants of operations this spring I consider that the most probable time operations will begin against the USSR is after the victory over England or the conclusion with her of an honorable peace treaty.
2. Rumors and documents to the effect that war against the USSR is inevitable this spring should be regarded as misinformation coming from the English or perhaps even the German intelligence service.”
Zhukov reports that Admiral Kuznetsov, people’s commissar of the Soviet navy, attached a similar comment to his report.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 738
KHRUSHCHOV LIED WHEN HE SAID STALIN WENT INTO SECLUSION WHEN WWII STARTED
In the attempts to refurbish Stalin’s reputation in the years after Khrushchev’s removal some authors disputed the very fact of Stalin’s shameful desertion during the first days of the war. For example, Kuznetsov’s memoirs assert that on June 23 Stalin “was working energetically” and that on June 24 Kuznetsov saw Stalin holding an important conference in his office at the Kremlin. Zhukov’s memoirs refer to meetings with Stalin on June 26 and 29. In some other memoirs the authors claim, if not to have met with Stalin, at least to have talked with him on the phone between June 23 and June 30.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 754
It was Khrushchev in his February 1956 “secret speech” at the 20th Party Congress who first told the story of Stalin’s sudden depression during the first days of the war, claiming that he had relinquished the leadership of the country….
Khrushchev himself was in Kiev at the beginning of the war and could have had little first-hand knowledge of what was actually taking place in the Kremlin….
This story–that Stalin gave up the leadership during the first days of the war–has been repeated by quite a few reputable authors, citing Khrushchev as their source. The power crisis in the Kremlin during the first week of the war also became the subject of several works of fiction. Biographies of Stalin published in the West have repeated the tale, often with additional embellishment. In the well-illustrated biography of Stalin by Jonathan Lewis and Philip Whitehead, published in Britain and United States in 1990 and used as the basis for a television series, they describe events of 22 June 1941 as established fact without making any reference to Khrushchev or Beria:
“Stalin himself was prostrate. For a week he rarely emerged from his villa at Kuntsevo. His name disappeared from newspapers. For 10 days the Soviet Union was leaderless…. On 1 July Stalin pulled himself together.”
Alan Bullock, in his dual biography of Hitler and Stalin published in 1991, also asserts as fact the allegation that Stalin “suffered some kind of breakdown” and that there are “no orders or other documents signed by Stalin from 23 to 30 June.” Bullock also repeats the story that members of the Politburo discussed the possibility of arresting Stalin. Even though the whole episode is a complete fabrication, it nevertheless has appeared in encyclopedias and even in such an authoritative work as the, Oxford Encyclopedia of the Second World War published in 1995. But one has only to read the memoirs of Marshal Zhukov, where Stalin’s activities, orders, and directives during the first days of the war are well documented, in order to become convinced that the story is false….
At the beginning of the 1990s the visitors’ book from Stalin’s Kremlin office covering the years 1924-53 was discovered in the Politburo archive. These records were kept by Stalin’s junior secretaries in Stalin’s office. These rather dry documents are of enormous interest to students of Soviet history, and were published in, chronological order with commentaries and explanatory notes by the journal Istorichesky Arkhiv during the years 1994-97….
The visitors’ book makes it clear that on 22 June, the day that the war began, the first to appear in Stalin’s office at 5:45 a.m. were Molotov, Beria, Timoshenko, Mekhlis, and Zhukov. About two hours later the gathering was joined by Malenkov, Mikoyan, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, and Vyshinsky. In the course of the day a large number of senior military, state and Party figures came and went. Meetings went on without interruption for 11 hours. It is known that more than 20 different decrees and orders were issued that day, including the text of the appeal to the Soviet people, drafted collectively and read out on the radio by Molotov. Stalin, who had not slept the night before, left earlier in the evening to have a short rest at the Kuntsevo dacha, only 15 minutes’ drive from the Kremlin. But he was unable to sleep and returned to the Kremlin at 3 a.m. on 23 June in order to consult with military leaders and members of the Politburo. Meetings continued in the afternoon. Voroshilov, Merkulov, Beria, and General Vatutin (deputizing for Zhukov who had flown to the southern front) finally left Stalin’s office at 1:45 a.m. on 24 June….
Activity during the next days was just as strenuous. On 26th June Stalin worked in the Kremlin from midday to midnight and received 28 visitors, mainly military leaders and members of the government. The largest number of meetings took place on Friday 27 June with 30 people coming into the office. The following day, 28 June, was similar, with the final meetings coming to an end after midnight. Stalin did not go to his Kremlin office on the Sunday; however, the assertion by two biographers, Radzinsky and Volkogonov, that this was the day Stalin fled and shut himself up in the dacha hardly corresponds to what actually happened. Both authors have rather unreliably based their conclusions on the fact that there are no entries in the Kremlin office visitors’ book for 29 and 30 June. But according to Marshal Zhukov, “on the 29th Stalin came to the Stavka at the Commissariat for Defense twice and on both occasions was scathing about the strategic situation that was unfolding in the west.” On 30 June Stalin convoked a meeting of the Politburo at the dacha at which it was decided to set up the State Defense Committee (GKO)….
Thus Stalin did not abandon the leadership of the country during the first days of the war, although he did push aside a large number of his Party colleagues, convinced that collective Party leadership would only have been a hindrance in wartime conditions….
If one looks at all Stalin’s actions and the military decisions that were taken during the first days of the war, with hindsight it is perfectly possible to come to the conclusion that given the intensity and the power of the blow inflicted on the USSR by the German army and its allies, whose forces taken together amounted to almost 200 divisions, the tactical decision to keep the main forces of the Soviet army 200-300 kilometers from the border was absolutely correct. It was this that made it possible to carry out local counterattacks and on 26th June, on Stalin’s orders, to create a new reserve front using the 5th Army. Soon after that a new third defense line was established. The German army continued to advance but only at the price of very heavy losses.
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 241-245
IN 1943 MUCH OF THE ANTI-RELIGION ACTIVITIES WERE ENDED
There is an element of truth in these assertions. Certainly in 1943 much of the previous persecution of the church was ended, many bishops and other clergy were released from confinement, hundreds of previously closed churches were opened, seminaries and an Orthodox Academy were allowed to open, and a Patriarchate was established.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 776
On Sept. 4, 1943, Stalin startled the world by his sudden rehabilitation of the Greek Orthodox Church, which, identified with the ancien regime, had been half-suppressed since the revolution. Stalin received the Metropolitan Sergius, the actual head of the Church, and after a long and friendly interview with him, decreed the restoration of the Holy Synod. The reason he gave for this act was that the Church had co-operated in the war effort and thereby proved its loyal devotion to the fatherland.
[Footnote]: ‘It is very fortunate for Russia in her agony’, this was Churchill’s wartime verdict, ‘to have this great rugged war chief at her head. He is a man of massive outstanding personality, suited to the somber and stormy time in which his life has been cast.’
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 490
On 14 September 1943 Stalin met with Metropolitan Sergei and two other hierarchs and granted them permission to convene a sobor (assembly) of the church to elect a patriarch, which had not been allowed since the death of Patriarch Tikhon in 1925. Following this reconciliation the church was granted a synod for administration, a regular publication, theological academies and religious instruction for children. The clerics gratefully hailed Stalin as ‘the Supreme Leader of the Russian People’, among other accolades. Thus it was appropriate that Stalin invited Metropolitan Nikolai to join him in celebrating the victory over the Germans at a reception in the Kremlin.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 265
SOVIET MASSES COULD SEE WWII COMING
In the Soviet Union, however, everyone reckons with the imminent war as with a hundred percent certainty. Our very existence, say the Soviet people, flourishing more and more from day-to-day, is so evident a refutation of all Fascist theories that the Fascist states, if they themselves would survive, must destroy us. Just as those who had been living by carrying on their crafts with primitive tools, feeling themselves threatened by machinery, banded together and senselessly stormed the machines, so will the Fascist states in the end hurl themselves against us.
Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow, 1937. New York: The Viking Press, 1937, p. 87
But the Soviet citizens know too that malicious fools are lying in wait outside their frontiers ready to attack them, and that these frontiers must be effectively protected. Therefore they go about the work of establishing their socialist economy…and they speak of the war, no longer as of a more or less probable event of the distant future, but as a very real imminent thing.
Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow, 1937. New York: The Viking Press, 1937, p. 89
To tell the truth, none of us believed that Germany would honor her treaty with the Soviet Union for long and we were sure that sooner or later she would attack us. However, the treaty gave us the time we needed so much to build up our defenses and foiled the imperialists’ hopes of creating a united anti-Soviet front.
Rokossovsky, K., Ed. by Bob Daglish A Soldier’s Duty. Moscow: Progress Pub., 1985, p. 8
SU TRYING TO POSTPONE THE WAR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE TO BUILD ITS STRENGTH
Nevertheless, everything is, of course, being done to postpone the outbreak of the war as long as possible, or even, contrary to all probability, to avoid it altogether….but it [the Union] knows too that the longer it can postpone the outbreak of the war, the stronger it will be and the smaller will be the sacrifice which the ultimate victory will cost.
But, having decided that this war is coming in spite of everything, indeed, that it will be there tomorrow, they are adjusting themselves to it, and this war mentality explains, as I have said, many things which would otherwise be incomprehensible.
Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow, 1937. New York: The Viking Press, 1937, p. 90
When Churchill visited Moscow in the summer of 1942, Stalin told him: ‘I didn’t need any warnings [of invasion]. I knew war would come, but I thought I might gain another six months or so.’ Doubtless Russia would have been in a stronger position militarily if Germany had attacked in 1942.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 71
FEW PEOPLE IN THE SU WELCOMED THE NAZIS AS LIBERATORS
But there is a persistent idea in the West, the twin of the notion that troops surrendered out of disloyalty, that civilians greeted the invaders as liberators on a grand scale. In some areas they did bring flowers or bread and salt, the traditional Slavic tokens of welcome. Collaboration quickly began in some places, and peasants disbanded the collective farms. But a good deal of specific evidence either counters the idea of a widespread reception for the Germans or shows that it did not necessarily stem from hatred of Stalinism.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 216
This evidence contradicts orthodox interpretations of Stalinism. Because the old USSR had been under it [Stalinism] considerably longer and had, in the old views, suffered “total terror” and been “crushed,” response to the Germans should have been much more favorable than in former eastern Poland, under Moscow’s control less than two years. But the opposite occurred.
Thurston, Robert. Life and Terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1934-1941. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1996, p. 220
STALIN ORDERS A COUNTERATTACK AT THE RIGHT TIME
Convinced that urgent and energetic new impulses from the center were what was needed, Stalin ordered Vatutin to formulate another order, issued that day [June 22] by the Chief War Council…and which emerged, heavily edited by Stalin, as order No. 3. It directed that…’from the Baltic to the Hungarian border, I permit the crossing of the border and action in disregard of the border.’
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 408
RETURNING CAPTURED SOLDIERS WERE INTERNED BUT COULD PROVE LOYALTY
In 1942, as in 1941, great numbers of servicemen escaped from encirclements, either in entire groups or individually. Officers were at once dispatched to special NKVD concentration camps. And since the position in July-August 1942 was that much more critical, Stalin went even further. Officers who had been in enemy-occupied territory for any length of time and had not served with the partisans, and who were now in the NKVD’s special camps, should be given the chance ‘to take up arms to prove their loyalty to the motherland’. Special assault rifle battalions were to be formed of precisely 929 such officers for use in the most active parts of the front.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 461
Yes, at the end of World War II, Stalin incarcerated returning Soviet prisoners of war, but now we know that most of them were released quickly after routine processing in temporary camps.
The Future Did Not Work by J. Arch Getty, Book Review of The Passing of an Illusion by Franois Furet [March 2000 Atlantic Monthly]
Prisoners of war joined the Germans largely because they had a choice of doing that or starving; of 5.1 million captured by May 1944, over 3 million had died in German hands.
Thurston, Robert W. “On Desk-Bound Parochialism, Commonsense Perspectives, and Lousy Evidence: A Reply to Robert Conquest.” Slavic Review 45 (1986), 241.
STALIN FEARS ZHUKOV IS DISPLAYING NAPOLEONIC TENDENCIES
When it came to the most historic act of the war, the ratification of the German surrender, he [Stalin] evidently did not hesitate to bestow the privilege on Zhukov. Gen. Antonov was deputed to send the message and, having dictated it, Stalin stood up and shook him firmly by the hand.
Yet he had cause to think the Zhukov ungrateful, when, with Moscow’s approval, the marshal gave a press conference in Berlin to Western journalists. He described in detail the preparation of the Berlin campaign, and talked about Allied cooperation, demobilization of the Red Army, Soviet treatment of war criminals, the superiority of the German over the Japanese soldier, but he uttered not a single word about Stalin. It was left to Ralph Parker, the correspondent of The Times, to ‘rescue’ Zhukov by asking him whether Stalin had played a day-to-day part in the operations. Zhukov replied tersely that ‘Marshal Stalin led all sectors of the Soviet-German front on an active and daily basis, including the front I was on’. To Stalin, it looked as if Zhukov was beginning to exhibit Napoleonic tendencies and he saw to it that the marshal was sent off to distant and unimportant jobs when the war was over.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 469-470
CONTRARY TO PROPAGANDA STALIN DID VISIT THE FRONT DURING THE WAR
When Beria returned from his trips to the front and reported his views on the state of affairs, the bombardments, or the poor showing of some ‘suspect’ general or other, Stalin felt a certain vulnerability. He had not been near the front since October 1941, when he had gone to the Volokolamsk Highway to watch the anti-aircraft fire in the sky. Meanwhile, he had to listen to Beria and Malenkov describing their ‘baptism by fire’. He therefore determined he would go to the front, too, even if only for the sake of posterity. And a very carefully prepared trip did indeed take place. Stalin spent some time on the Western and Kalinin fronts in August 1943 and thereafter felt his image as a war leader was safe.
On 1 August 1943 he left Kuntsevo by a special trained consisting of an ancient locomotive and some broken-down carriages. Both the platform and the small train itself were camouflaged with branches. Stalin was accompanied by Beria, his special assistant, Rumyantsev, and bodyguards in plain clothes. Arriving at Gzhatsk, Stalin met the commander of the Western front, Sokolovsky, and Bulganin, who was a member of the war council. He heard their reports, wished them well, went to bed for the night and set off the next day in the direction of Rzhev, on the Kalinin front, which was commanded by Yeremenko. Here he stayed in a simple peasant hut….
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 480-481
He [Stalin] made Zhukov his most trusted military expert, and sent him at the most dramatic moment to the Battle of Stalingrad.
And when the situation in the sector was at its worst, Stalin personally appeared for several hours on the battlefield.
The words: “Stalin is with us”! spread like a forest fire from trench to trench. With new spirit, the Red soldiers fought the Wehrmacht–in the trenches, in the streets of the besieged city, in the surrounding valleys and hills.
Fishman and Hutton. The Private Life of Josif Stalin. London: W. H. Allen, 1962, p. 146
Stalin did not just concentrate on politics. He actively took part in the preparations for the Summer campaign of 1943. Kraskyn, the Press Department’s senior Press Officer, wrote the following:
“Stalin’s frequent visits to the foremost front-lines at times when the fighting was extremely fierce, when enemy bullets and grenades were virtually plastering every inch of our defense lines, and there was no protection for anyone, was definitely a clear example of the courage, determination, and fighting spirit of a born leader…. Stalin was with his men and commanders, and managed to inject the troops with fresh fighting spirit and so turn the scales in our favor.
These frequent visits to various sectors of the front were never publicized but somehow the news spread, the people throughout the country told each other that ‘The Beloved and Wise Leader’ had taken active part in the “Great Patriotic War.’ They pledged themselves to give him every support.
Fishman and Hutton. The Private Life of Josif Stalin. London: W. H. Allen, 1962, p. 148
After visiting a front sector in the summer of 1943, he [Stalin] hastened to inform the Allied leaders of the event, writing to President Roosevelt: ‘Only now, on returning from the front, can I reply to your last message… I am having to make more personal visits to various sectors of the front and to subordinate everything else to the needs of the front…. In the circumstances, you will completely understand that at this moment I cannot depart on any journey… to fulfill my promise [to meet Roosevelt in the region of the Bering Straits].’
Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Autopsy for an Empire. New York: Free Press, c1998, p. 148
In the spring of 1991, there appeared on TV for two hours former general Volkogonov (a strange anti-communist renegade who wrote books in Russia and in America, full of caustic calumny and lies regarding Stalin and socialism–editor.) Volkogonov stated that Stalin made only one trip to the front, only once did the Commander-in-Chief leave Moscow, stopping 50 kilometers from the front, slept on a soft bed, met Commanders in order that he could write to Churchill & Roosevelt how he was in the thick of the fighting at the front.
This General-Historian wrote a huge book dedicated to the Stalin ‘terror,’ called “Triumph and Tragedy.”… Let me, a person who was with Stalin all through the war years, let me state what really happened. This is confirmed by my friends, who together were bodyguards around Stalin.
Let me quote the source, Volkogonov himself: “The top leader, for the first time, smelled its deadly odor, stood a while and then on a lark decided that he would, on this October morning, also go to the front.”
But facts state the following, that Stalin had those thoughts before any of the Politburo leaders. According to Volkogonov, Stalin just listened to some minor commanders, and then came back. On his return, according to Volkogonov, Stalin’s car went into a ditch. The cavalcade went. Stalin did not stay. Stalin was moved by Beria into another car and off they went. Thus, the trip to the front was accomplished.
But this is the way it was, since I was present there….
In August of 1941, Stalin and Bulganin were going at night to the district of Maloyaroslavets in order to see the actual front and the fighting going on….
At the end of October, Stalin and Voroshilov went to see the 16th Army of General Rokossovsky where they saw the operations of the rocket “Katuysha” launchers. Then the Germans started shelling us here, so that we had to immediately get onto the highway. Of course, German aviation then started to bomb the place from where the “Katuyshas” were shelling them, salvo after salvo…. Our automobile was covered with mud, flak, bullet holes… in this way, we returned to Moscow.
During the summer of 1942, Stalin went to the Western Front, across the river Lamoi and together with commanders, looked at the dogfights in the air, going over a pontoon bridge with Tukov and Khrustalev, he then proceeded to go back to the Kremlin.
Stalin also went to many points of the front, of course in secret, since the enemy was always on the lookout for the whereabouts of Stalin. From Marshal Sokolovsky, Stalin went to Yukhnov to see Marshall Voronov and his artillery. Going to the woods, everything was quiet, you could hear birds singing, Stalin sadly remarked:
How peaceful it is…. You cannot believe that outside these woods, there is death and people are dying….
At a designated stop, a train was waiting at Yukhnov where Stalin met General Yeremenko. The meeting took place in the village of Khoroshevo. Here, we found Beria trying as always to get into the good graces of Stalin, requisitioning a good bed, fancy coverings, pillows, etc.. Stalin always told him to take it back where he got it and slept with his Army greatcoat on as the common soldiers slept.
(Here, we shall not quote any more from Volkogonov, since the lies and untruths are repeated in various different scenarios in this book and it is not that important to dwell on this traitor, who sold out and besmirched his country in the pay of foreign powers!–Editors)
I feel that now, the reader can understand the differences between eyewitnesses and second-hand accounts, or just plain lies. Volkogonov could not have known all the important details, known only to us, the eyewitnesses. Then why the lies that Stalin did not meet even commanders of the front? Then with whom did he meet while seeing Sokolovsky, Voronov, and Yeremenko? This is sheer stupidity. How can this traitor state about Stalin that: He was incompetent, that catastrophic decisions were made, and not caring about the dying soldiers. All these lies are not diminishing Stalin’s leadership… the opposite is true, they show him to be a great leader and his strategic knowledge complemented that of his Marshals and Generals.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 38-41
During the heaviest fighting of the Great Patriotic War, the other government dacha was utilized near Semenovsk. Stalin rarely used this dacha, but the front, the South-Western fighting was near this dacha, close to 110 kilometers from Moscow. This was designated by Stalin to be a hospital and Stalin many times went there to talk and visit the Red Army men who were being treated there.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 106
Reports published since the end of World War II showed that Stalin visited all sections of the front in his armored train and took a personal hand in the preparation of all major actions.
Duranty, Walter. Stalin & Co. New York: W. Sloane Associates, 1949, p. 87
Throughout the hostilities, except when he traveled to Yalta and Teheran to confer with the Allied leaders or when he made a much-publicized trip to the proximity of the front, Stalin stayed in Moscow or its environs. And he worked himself like a dog.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 435
It was just after the victory at Kursk that Stalin on 3 August 1943 undertook his only look at the front. His exact itinerary is unclear, but he definitely went to the small city of Yunkov on the Roslavl highway, about 200 km west and somewhat south of Moscow. Here he summoned two senior commanders and told them twice over that they must plan to recapture Smolensk, a point that he could easily have made by wire. Stalin’s motivation for the trip seems to have been personal curiosity, not propaganda, for it was not publicized at the time.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 250
STALIN’S HEALTH GOT WORSE AFTER WWII
I [Budu] understand that many accounts published in the United States have reported that the strain of the Yalta Conference took a heavy toll on President Roosevelt, already ailing; but few people realize that it was almost equally hard on Stalin. I was able to see at firsthand the effect the meeting had had on my Uncle Joe during the time I spent with him at the Soukssa sana.
I found Stalin terribly aged. His exacting work during the war, the sleepless nights, the overexertion, had left deep traces on his face. He walked slowly. His eyes no longer possessed that yellow glitter which had once been their most noticeable feature.
Svanidze, Budu. My Uncle, Joseph Stalin. New York: Putnam, c1953, p. 216
At the Potsdam Conference in July, 1945, he had suffered a rather bad heart attack and his doctors had forbidden him either to speak at the reviews in the Red Square or to pass the winter in Moscow. He had to spend the entire cold season at his Black Sea villa at Sochi.
Svanidze, Budu. My Uncle, Joseph Stalin. New York: Putnam, c1953, p. 226
“His last year’s were very gloomy. When the war was over he fell apart and became very ill. They thought that he would die. But this was a state secret–they didn’t even tell me at the time. I had no idea what was wrong. I was ordered not to telephone even. The war had taken a lot out of him.”
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 210
YALTA DID NOT GIVE THE SU AND STALIN ANYTHING THEY DID NOT ALREADY HAVE
It is not true that Yalta gave Stalin authority to subjugate the Baltics, Balkans, and large parts of Poland and Eastern Europe. Yalta couldn’t have given this permission to the Soviets, for they already had these countries in their possession when the Yalta summit began.
Nisbet, Robert A. Roosevelt and Stalin. Washington, D.C. : Regnery Gateway, c1988, p. 69
SU AND STALIN QUITE GENEROUS AT YALTA
It would be sad to end this part of the chapter without citing a memorandum that Hopkins wrote and passed over to the President during a final session at Yalta. An altercation among the three powers arose concerning German reparations. Pressure seemed to be growing on Stalin to join Churchill and Roosevelt on a point. Hopkins wrote (the memorandum is reprinted in facsimile in Sherwood’s Roosevelt and Hopkins on page 860) to FDR: “The Russians have given us so much at this conference that I don’t think we should let them down.”
Nisbet, Robert A. Roosevelt and Stalin. Washington, D.C. : Regnery Gateway, c1988, p. 77
From the pre-atomic perspective of February 1945 the Yalta Far Eastern agreements appeared favorable to the United States. Stalin got little that he could not have taken by force, and he might have taken more had he chosen to declare war against Japan unilaterally. When this observation is at last reached, the meaning of Yalta to contemporaries comes through in stark fashion. Given the military realities of the moment–the Red Army flooding over Eastern Europe and standing on the 0der 35 miles from Berlin, while the smaller Western Armies, recovering from the Ardennes debacle, were to the far side of the Rhine–there was no earthly reason for Stalin to continue to cooperate with his Western allies. Tantalizing evidence suggests not only that the Russian dictator could have had his Red Army take Berlin during the Yalta Conference, but that he inhibited his troops from making such an effort…. Stalin seemed impressively restrained as well as reasonable at Yalta. He could have laid a series of Diktats on the conference table regarding Eastern Europe, he could have refused to discuss plans for entry into the war against Japan, refused to discuss reparations, and claimed anything he wished as booty. A look at the map and the Red Army’s positions would have shown any reasonably well-informed citizen in the West in February 1945 that Stalin had no need to bind himself to commitments or ties with the Grand Alliance. But the marshal had made commitments; he had desired continuation of the Grand Alliance.
Rose, Lisle Abbott. After Yalta. New York: Scribner, 1973, p. 25
For at the Crimea, Stalin had agreed to the establishment of American weather stations in Siberia, to the creation of large American air installations along the Amur River in the Soviet Maritime Provinces, and to an American naval base on Kamchatka.
Rose, Lisle Abbott. After Yalta. New York: Scribner, 1973, p. 65
Roosevelt and his entourage had been delighted with Stalin’s concessions.
Rose, Lisle Abbott. After Yalta. New York: Scribner, 1973, p. 65
In the final meeting at Yalta, the whole question of reparations seemed to have reached a deadlock. It was decided that the matter should be referred to an Inter-Allied Commission to be set up in Moscow, but it seemed impossible to agree on the terms of the basic directive on which the Commission would proceed. During the argument, Hopkins wrote the following note and passed it to Roosevelt: “The Russians have given in so much at this conference that I don’t think we should let them down. Let the British disagree if they want to….
Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins. New York: Harper, 1948, p. 861
ROOSEVELT SAID AT YALTA THAT STALIN WAS NO IMPERIALIST
As a faithful apostle of Woodrow Wilson he [Roosevelt] believed that imperialism of the British-French kind was the greatest enemy of democracy. “Of one thing I am sure, Stalin is not an imperialist,” he exclaimed at Yalta.
Nisbet, Robert A. Roosevelt and Stalin. Washington, D.C. : Regnery Gateway, c1988, p. 96
STALIN STALLED AND PROLONGED WWII AS LONG AS HE COULD BY EVERY MEANS POSSIBLE
But Stalin was acting only from immediate motives of security, without pursuing expansion for its own sake; and as Germany was not moving into the Balkans, he did not move either…. His purpose now was to win time, time, and once again time, to get on with his economic plans, to build up Russia’s might and then throw that might into the scales when the other belligerents were on their last legs.
[Footnote]: ‘Lastly we require time’, Stalin had said at the Congress in March 1939. ‘Yes, Comrades, time. We must build new factories. We must train new cadres for industry. But this requires time, and no little time at that. We cannot outstrip the principal capitalist countries economically in two or three years’.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 438
STALIN ALLOWS HIS GENERALS TO MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS
In the first phase of the war the army paid a heavy price for, among other things, the loss of self-reliance which its commanding staffs had suffered as a consequence of the purges. The warning was not, however, wasted on Stalin. He had the sense to give back to his generals their freedom of movement, to encourage them to speak their mind, to embolden them to look for the solution of their problems by way of trial and error, and to relieve them from fear of the boss’s wrath, a fear which weighed so heavily on Hitler’s generals. He [Stalin] punished his officers with draconic severity for lack of encourage or vigilance; he demoted them for incompetence, even when the incompetents happened to be Voroshilov and Budienny; and he promoted for initiative and efficiency. Hitler’s generals had a shrewder appreciation of Stalin’s method than Hitler himself when they said that the top rungs of the Russian ladder of command ‘were filled by men who had proved themselves so able that they were allowed to exercise their own judgment, and could safely insist on doing things in their own way’.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 494
It is nevertheless true that, like Hitler, Stalin took the final decision on every major and many a minor military issue. How then, it may be asked, could the two things be reconciled: Stalin’s constant interference with the conduct of the war, and freedom of initiative for his subordinates? The point is that he had a peculiar manner of making his decisions, one which not only did not constrict his generals, but, on the contrary, induced them to use their own judgment. Hitler usually had his preconceived idea–sometimes it was a brilliant conception, sometimes a bee in his bonnet –which he tried to force upon a Brauchitsch a Halder or a Rundstedt. For all his [Hitler] so-called dilettantism, he was a doctrinaire in matters of strategy, impatient with those who could not see the merits of his particular dogma or plan. Not so Stalin. He had no strategic dogmas to impose upon others. He did not approach his generals with operational blue-prints of his own. He indicated to them his general ideas, which were based on an exceptional knowledge of all aspects of the situation, economic, political, and military. But beyond that he let his generals formulate their views and work out their plans, and on these he based his decisions. His role seems to have been that of the cool, detached, and experienced arbiter of his own generals. In case of a controversy between them, he collected the opinions of those whose opinion mattered, weighed pros and cons, related local viewpoints to general considerations and eventually spoke his mind. His decisions did not therefore strike his generals on the head–they usually sanctioned ideas over which the generals themselves had been brooding. This method of leadership was not novel to Stalin. In the early 20s he came to lead the Politburo in an analogous way, by carefully ascertaining what were the views of the majority and adopting these as his own. Similarly, the generals were now receptive to his inspiration, because he himself was receptive to their thoughts and suggestions. His mind did not, like Hitler’s, produce fireworks of strategic invention, but his method of work left more room for the collective invention of his commanders and favored a sounder relationship between the commander-in-chief and his subordinates than that which prevailed at the 0berkommando der Wehrmacht.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 495
This is not to say that Stalin simply followed the majority of his commanders. Even that majority was, in a sense, of his own making. In the depths of defeat he radically renewed and rejuvenated the high commanding staffs. He brushed aside all sterile pretensions of seniority and paid attention only to performance in battle. Nearly all his famous marshals and generals held subordinate positions or were juniors when war broke out. The basic selection of the new military elite took place during the battle of Moscow, when Zhukov, Vasilevsky, Rokossovsky, and Voronov came to the fore. It continued with the battle of Stalingrad, in which Vatutin, Yeremenko, Malinovsky, Chuikov, Rotmistrov, Rodimtsev, and others made their names. It was nearly completed during the battle of Kursk, the turning-point in the meteoric career of the young Cherniakovsky, who within three years rose from major to army general.. These men, nearly all in their 30s or 40s, unhampered by the deadweight of routine, avidly learned in the hard school of battle until they became their enemies’ equals and then superiors.
[Footnote]: Stalin’s method of work is quite well illustrated in the following quotation which describes–in a too popular and simplified manner but correctly in substance–his intervention in one of the more important episodes of the Stalingrad battle, the disagreement between Vasilevsky and Rokossovsky over whether they should strike first at von Paulus or at Manstein. The disagreement had been referred to Stalin. Rokossovsky protested against the diversion of Malinovsky’s army, which had been placed under his orders, for the operation against Manstein. Stalin sounds the views of other generals:
Moscow General Headquarters.
Stalin (speaks over the phone): What is your opinion? Turn against Manstein? Thank you. (Puts down receiver and calls again). Hallo… There is a proposal from Vasilevsky that we should dispose finally of Manstein. It is proposed that Malinovsky’s army be used for that. What is your opinion? To leave it with Rokossovsky? Thank you. (Puts down the receiver and calls again.) Vasilevsky proposes to shift Malinovsky’s army and to assign it to Yeremenko in order to route Manstein. Your opinion? (Listening) No, that’s no answer. Yes or no? You would like to think it over? All right.
In the end Stalin sides with Vasilevsky and orders the attack on Manstein.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 496
Stalin did not make Hitler’s mistakes; he never interfered in the tactical dispositions of the generals. It was for them to execute the variations on the given theme. Also, he never undervalued the courage of his enemies. Speaking of Mannstein, he said: “If he had not been one of Hitler’s generals I would have made him the senior professor of our Military Academy.”
Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 342
Having assumed responsibility for the change in the deployment, as provided for in the Supreme Command’s directive, I nevertheless reported in to the Supreme Commander.
After listening to my arguments Stalin said:
“Do as you think better, you’re in a better position to judge on the spot.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 354
STALIN WAS HELD HIGH AND LOVED BY SOVIET PEOPLE AFTER WINNING THE WAR
Stalin [at the end of the war] now stood in the full blaze of popular recognition and gratitude. Those feelings were spontaneous, genuine, not engineered by official propagandists. Overworked slogans about the ‘achievements of the Stalinist era’ now conveyed fresh meaning not only to young people, but to skeptics and malcontents of the older generation. The nation was willing to forgive Stalin even his misdeeds and to retain in its memory only his better efforts. Since nothing succeeds like success, even his errors and miscalculations, including those in 1939-41, now looked to many like acts of prudent statesmanship.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 549
STALIN SAYS THE ARMY IS THE ONLY POWER THAT CAN RESTRAIN THE ROTTEN THIRD REICH
[Stalin stated], “The Army is the only power in this rotten Third Reich that can restrain Hitler from aggression.”
Alexandrov, Victor. The Tukhachevsky Affair. London: Macdonald, 1963, p. 25
STALIN DID NOT PLAY FAVORITES WITH HIS SUBORDINATES
The “Horse Marshals” commanded in 1941–all three from the old First Cavalry Army. Timoshenko, in the center proved reasonably competent, though he, too, suffered heavy losses. On the southern and northern flanks, Budenny and Voroshilov were merely catastrophic, especially the former. Stalin’s other protege, Marshall Kulik, came to grief in a clumsy operation before Leningrad. General Tyulenev became involved in the disasters in the Ukraine. All four were removed, but none was shot (except, apparently, Kulik, but only after the war). As late as 1957, Tyulenev was defending Stalin’s Lwow operations of 1920, the old wound in the side of the Soviet Army which had festered so long and so desperately.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 455
[Stalin said to Voroshilov], “I don’t want to hurt you, Klim, I’m fond of you. Only this disorder and confusion gets on my nerves. Besides, you know as well as I do that it is no use appearing too gentle with the military. A moment’s weakness is enough to settle one’s fate.”
Alexandrov, Victor. The Tukhachevsky Affair. London: Macdonald, 1963, p. 61
The reorganization of the Red Army had been started after the Winter War, with the sacking of Voroshilov as Defense Commissar and his replacement by Timoshenko on May 7.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 474
Around 4 p.m., he [Stalin] came to the courtyard that was fenced in. They [Stalin’s friends, Voroshilov, Kirov, and Kalinin] played at their sport. It made no difference whether I played with Stalin or Voroshilov. There were no differences in rank for the bodyguards or the members of the government. On the playing field, we were all treated the same.
The losers were made to sit under the table, while the winners would bang with anything hard on the table, over the heads of the losers. Many times, Stalin had to sit with me underneath the table and have the banging penetrating our ears. All this was in great fun and comradely enjoyment.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 7
Stalin always invited his bodyguards, his friends, or his housekeeper to fish, or to the table… everything always went harmoniously with no commands to obey.
Rybin, Aleksei. Next to Stalin: Notes of a Bodyguard. Toronto: Northstar Compass Journal, 1996, p. 9
In the middle of April 1940 a special session of the Central Committee and the Main Military Council met to consider steps to improve Soviet fighting power. Voroshilov, who had been a dominant voice as Defense Commissar for 15 years, was subjected to a hostile cross-examination. Stalin dismissed what he called “the cult of admiration for Civil War experience” and finally sacked his Civil War comrade,… In his place Stalin appointed Timoshenko, who had brought the Finnish fiasco to a satisfactory close.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 82
Stalin also sanctioned the arrest of Molotov’s wife, the brother of Kaganovich, two sons of Mikoyan, and the wife of Poskrebyshev.
Medvedev, Roy. On Stalin and Stalinism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 150
It is, of course, a blatant lie that Stalin did not distinguish between personal and political power or interchanged the two.
THUS SPAKE KAGANOVICH by Feliks Chuyev, 1992
Stalin also joined Zhdanov in condemning violations of party democracy, especially co-optation and “familyness”–that is the appointment to party offices of “personal friends, fellow townsmen, people who have shown personal devotion.” Familyness discouraged constructive criticism and self-criticism and created conditions that provided family members with “a certain independence both of the local people and of the Central Committee of the party.” To eliminate that practice and other problems that beset the party bureaucracy, Stalin advocated “still another kind of verification, the check-up from below, in which the masses, the subordinates, verify the leaders, pointing out their mistakes and showing the way to correct them. This kind of verification is one of the most effective methods of checking up on people.”
Stalin made a point of telling party leaders that their positions did not make them omniscient and that they needed to heed the criticism and advice of the party masses, of the “little people.” He also condemned the “formal and heartless bureaucratic attitude of some of our party comrades toward the fate of individual party members” expelled from the party: “Only people who in essence are profoundly anti-party can have such an approach to members of the party.”
Chase, William J., Enemies Within the Gates?, translated by Vadim A. Staklo, New Haven: Yale University Press, c2001, p. 220.
STALIN ORDERED FRONTIER TROOPS NOT TO GIVE NAZIS ANY EXCUSE TO ATTACK FIRST
Whatever happened, he [Stalin] had ordered, Soviet frontier forces must not allow themselves to be provoked into firing at the Germans: under no circumstances was Hitler to be given the opportunity of branding the Soviets as aggressors.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 2
But a number of Stalin’s top generals admit that there were reasons for extreme caution prior to the invasion. Stalin did not wish to give Hitler a pretext for attacking him.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 69
It was the opinion of the US ambassador Harriman, who probably had more meetings with Stalin than any other Western leader, that he was obsessed with the danger of premature mobilization of his troops. Stalin, he said, was unable to forget the consequences of hasty mobilization that caused Russia to stumble into World War I….
Mobilization of a country’s armed forces is an extreme measure and the act itself can provoke war. The story of Tsarist Russia’s early mobilization on the eve of World War I is a gem of tragi-comedy. Stalin, an avid student of history (George Bernard Shaw once said that Stalin and ‘won a point’ against HG Wells on an event in British history), and no doubt studied the incident in detail.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 172
NAZI INVASION OF THE SU WAS FAR LARGER THAN NORMANDY INVASION FORCES
Between the Baltic and the Black Sea, the German forces were arranged in three massive army groups, comprising seven armies, four Panzer groups and three air fleets. Poised on the frontiers, waiting for dawn to break, were no fewer than 3,200,000 men – 148 divisions, including 19 Panzer divisions and 12 motorized infantry divisions, with 600,000 trucks, 750,000 horses, 3580 armored fighting vehicles, 7184 artillery pieces and 1830 aircraft. It was indeed an awesome array of force – by comparison, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 landed a first wave of six seaborne divisions and three airborne, a grand total of nine divisions containing some 75,000 British and Canadian troops and 57,000 Americans, along a front of less than 50 miles, as opposed to one of nearly 1000 miles.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 3
The Hitlerite leadership was sending to the Soviet front more and more allied troops. On the front line extending from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea Nazi Germany and its allies had 217 divisions and 20 Brigades…. The absence of the second front permitted Germany to keep only 20 percent of its armed forces on all other fronts and in the occupied countries.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 363
“The invasion of Normandy across the Channel in June, 1944 began in easy conditions and proceeded without any great resistance by German forces on the coast– something that we certainly had not expected. The Germans in fact did not have the defenses they had been boasting of.”
“And what actually was the ‘Atlantic Wall’ like?” I asked Eisenhower.
“Along the entire length of the ‘Wall’,” Eisenhower replied, “there were no more than 3000 guns of different calibers. On the average this was a little over one gun per kilometer. There were only a few concrete fortifications equipped with artillery and they could present no obstacle for our troops.”
The weakness of the “Wall” was quite frankly admitted by the former Chief of the General Staff of the German Army, Colonel-General Halder. In his memoirs published in 1949 he wrote: ” Germany had no defenses against the landing force of the Allies which attacked under cover of aviation which was fully and entirely dominant in the air.”
According to Eisenhower, the chief difficulties in the Normandy landing and in the advance of the Allied forces were presented not by German resistance, but by the shipment of troops across the Channel and their material supply.
Frankly speaking, I was somewhat puzzled when in 1965 I saw the American film “The Longest Day.” It shows a completely different enemy, than the one Eisenhower described, talking about the June 1944 landing of Allied troops. Of course, the present-day political lining of this technically well-produced film is easily understandable, but after all there has got to be a limit somewhere.
After the successful landing of the main Expeditionary Force the Germans did not put up any major resistance until July 1944 when they re-grouped their forces against the Expeditionary troops from the coast of Northern France. But even then they were neutralized by the greatly superior Allied land and air forces. On that front there were no Allied offensive operations in the full sense of the word, no operations involving penetration of a deeply organized defense or battle against strategic reserves and counter-offensives as was the case on the Soviet-German front.
With but few exceptions, the offensive operations carried out by the American and British troops proceeded in the form of pursuit of mobile enemy defense. According to Eisenhower, organization of supplies and construction of communication routes over unfavorable terrain presented the main difficulties to the advancing Allied forces.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 682-683
Rundstedt said frankly: “I thought the invasion would come across the narrower part of the Channel, between La Havre and Calais–rather than between Caen and Cherbourg [the Normandy Coast].
I asked Rundstedt his reasons for this calculation. He replied: “The Somme-Calais area seemed to us so much better, strategically, from your point of view–because it was so much closer to Germany. It was the quickest route to the Rhine. I reckoned you could get there in four days.”
His reasoning suggested that his calculation was governed by a preconceived view, based on the assumption that the Allies would take what was theoretically the best line, regardless of the practical difficulties. I remarked to him that, for the same reasons, it was likely to be the most strongly defended sector–surely a good reason why the Allies were likely to avoid it.
He admitted the point but answered: “The strength of the defenses were absurdly overrated. The ‘Atlantic Wall’ was an illusion, conjured up by propaganda–to deceive the German people as well as the Allies. It used to make me angry to read the stories about its impregnable defenses. It was nonsense to describe it as a ‘wall.” Hitler himself never came to visit it, and see what it really was.
Hart, Liddell. The German Generals Talk. New York: W. Morrow, 1948, p. 236
According to Stalin’s calculation, Hitler had 240 divisions on the Soviet-German front towards the end of 1942 (including Finnish, Italian, and Hungarian divisions). The more precise figures provided by Zhukov show that in November 1942 the Germans had 266 divisions on the Soviet-German front comprising a total of 6.2 million men….
Medvedev, Roy. On Stalin and Stalinism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 140
The economy and resources for the first blow [of the Germans] were also much more powerful, because the enemy had almost the entire military potential of Europe in his hands.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 412
“And what in fact was the ‘Atlantic Wall’ like?” I asked Eisenhower.
“There was actually no ‘Wall’ at all.” Eisenhower replied.
“There were the usual trenches, and those did not run in a continuous line. There were no more than 3000 guns of different caliber along the entire length of the ‘Wall’.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 457
Incidentally, the weakness of the “Wall” was quite frankly admitted by the former Chief of General Staff of the German Ground Forces, Col.-General Halder. In his memoirs published in 1949 he wrote: ” Germany had no defenses against the landing of the Allies which attacked under cover of aviation which was fully end entirely dominant in the air.”
According to Eisenhower, the chief difficulties in the invasion of Normandy lay in landing the troops across the Channel and their material supply. As for the German resistance, it was insignificant there.
Frankly speaking, I was somewhat puzzled when in 1965 I saw the American film “The Longest Day. This film, based on the historical fact–the invasion of Normandy by the Allied Forces across the Channel in June 1944–shows the enemy to be far stronger than it actually was. The political leaning of this film is easily understandable… but after all there has got to be a limit somewhere.
The Germans did not put up in the major resistance to the Expeditionary Force until July 1944 when they transferred their Forces from all over the coast of Northern France. But even then it was rebuffed by the greatly superior Allied land and air forces. There were–and there could be–no Allied offensive operations in the full sense of the word, no operations involving penetration of a deeply organized defense or fighting against operational reserves and counterattacks as was the case on the Soviet-German front simply because there were no major opposing enemy forces there.
According to Eisenhower, establishing communication routes over unfavorable terrain presented the main difficulty to the advancing Allied forces.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 458
At last in the summer of 1944 the Western allies were ready to open the second front Massive German forces remained in the East, 228 divisions as compared to the 58 facing Eisenhower and Montgomery.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 469
HITLER OPENLY ADMITS HIS WAS FOCUSED ON THE SU FIRST
… Burckhardt [a politician who met with Hitler] flew to his home in Basel, Switzerland, called the British and French ministers from Berne, and duly passed on the information [from Hitler]. What he did not tell them, however, was Hitler’s final statement – partly because he did not fully appreciate its significance.
“Everything I am doing is directed against Russia,” he had said in parting. “If the West is too obtuse to grasp this, then I shall be forced to come to terms with the Russians and turn against the West first. After that I will direct my entire strength against the USSR. I need the Ukraine, so that nobody can ever starve us out again, as they did in the last war.” It was one of the very few occasions when Hitler told a foreign politician the truth.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 184
STALIN WAS A PHYSICALLY FIT LEADER AT THE START OF WWII
General Kostring, the German military attache, who had been born in Moscow, had spent much of his life in Russia, and spoke Russian as easily as German, was in a particularly expansive mood.
[He stated in August 1939] “There have been endless rumors that Stalin is at death’s door,” he warned the visitors. “Such a sick man that he’s only a figurehead…. Don’t you believe it! The man is both absolutely fit and possesses a tremendous capacity for work.” Stalin, he pointed out, was interested primarily in the Far East as a field for the expansion of Soviet influence. In the west, he rarely wanted a secure border.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 249
STALIN IS OUTSMARTING HITLER WHEN HITLER THINKS HE IS THE SMARTER ONE
According to Khrushchev, Stalin had a much more cynical sales pitch for him and the other members of the Politburo that day [Aug. 24, 1939], one which was a much more accurate reflection of the realpolitik of his thinking. “Of course, it’s all a game to see who can fool whom,” he told them. “I know what Hitler’s up to. He thinks he’s outsmarted me – but actually it’s I who have outsmarted him!”
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 291
“Please understand, Stalin,” I said, “if Hitler wins, we’re finished…. Others may be able to buy themselves out… they may come to some arrangement… they may divide the world among themselves… with us it’s different…. As soon as there is no danger of a second front Hitler will put us down… or he will eat us up… Tertium non datur…” The Latin quotation made him [Stalin] smile. “You haven’t forgotten your Latin,” he said, adding, “Have confidence in me, Papasha… don’t be afraid… I can dupe anybody… even Hitler…. In the Tiflis market I always managed to get the better even of Armenian traders… and they are tougher to deal with than any Hitler or Chamberlain…”
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 254
Every intelligent reader of the world press realized that Hitler and Stalin were out to cheat one another as soon as possible, when they concluded their pacts. What everybody does not know, however, is that Stalin stands a far better chance of winning the great game.
Ludwig, Emil. Three portraits: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin. New York Toronto: Longmans, Green and Company, c1940, p. 123
NAZIS UNDERESTIMATED SOVIET MILITARY STRENGTH
None of the generals tried to press their doubts and misgivings on Hitler any further. On February 3, 1941, at noon, they all attended a conference with him in the Chancellery, to discuss the army’s operational directive for the campaign in the east. Halder, who had the task of presenting the plan, said nothing to dissuade Hitler. On the contrary, he gave him reassuring news about intelligence assessments of Soviet strength: it was believed there would be only 155 Soviet divisions facing more or less the same number of German, who were “far superior in quality.” And though they estimated Soviet tank strength at about 10,000, compared with the German total of 3500, the Soviet tanks were believed to be mostly old and obsolete models.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 555
In this area, Halder was a little more cautious: “Even so, surprises cannot be ruled out,” he warned. Had he but known, there were indeed some surprises to come, for although total Soviet production of the superb new T-34 medium tank and the KV heavy tank during the whole of 1940 had amounted to only 115 and 234 respectively, during the first six months of 1941 the Soviet factories produced over 1000 T-34’s and 393 KVs. What was more, the estimated number of Red Army divisions on the Soviet western front had to be amended to 247 in April, and when fighting started at least 360 were identified.
Hitler readily agreed with the poor impression Halder had of Soviet arms and production, however. He treated the generals to a 10-minute statistical lecture on Soviet tank production since 1928, rattling off figures and specifications from memory. Unfortunately, the manuals and reports he had memorized were all either faulty or out of date. His figures proved conclusively how thinly armored and poorly equipped all the Soviet tanks were; in reality, the new models were so strong that no German anti-tank gun was effective against them.
Lack of good, accurate intelligence was a constant problem for the Germans in their planning against the Soviets. “It would be easier for an Arab in flowing burnous to walk unnoticed through Berlin, than for a foreign agent to pass through Russia!” General Kostring, the military attache in Moscow, told Abwehr chief Admiral Canaris. And since any Soviet citizen who showed any sign of dissent soon found himself in the gulags, the opportunities for recruiting local agents were few and far between. With reliable information so scarce, the intelligence assessors tended always to belittle Soviet abilities,…
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 556
Stalin was undoubtedly aware from agents of the GRU, his military intelligence agency, that German intelligence consistently underestimated Soviet military strengths. Johnny Herwarth, who spent January and February of 1941 on assignment to the Luftwaffe High Command’s Reconnaissance Division, was particularly struck by the number of assessment papers which had been written by Germans who had either been born in the Soviet Union or who had lived there and been expelled, and who therefore had an interest in belittling everything Soviet. Under normal battle conditions, such a situation would have been very desirable for the Soviet Union: to be underestimated by your enemy is to gain an important psychological and even tactical advantage. But in the spring of 1941, the circumstances were very different.
When the man Herwarth had been working for, Col. Engineer Schwencke, traveled to the Soviet Union in April 1941 to see for himself what was going on, he was at first shown very little. Suddenly, however, he and his party of two other officers and eight representatives of German industries were taken to see a number of important and highly revealing plants -during the month of April they were shown round four aircraft body factories, three engine factories and a light metalworking plant, all of which were working flat out on the very latest Soviet aircraft. The German experts were most impressed – the factories they saw were the biggest and most modern in Europe, and more were being built. The aircraft they were producing were simple but tough, and far superior to those in service with the Soviet air force, on which German intelligence assessments were based.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 581
At the end of their tour, the German experts were treated to a farewell dinner, at which a leading soviet aircraft designer, Artem Mikoyan, youngest brother of the Trade Commissar and co-designer of the Mig fighters, told them: ‘Now you have seen the mighty technology of the Soviet fatherland. We shall valiantly ward off any attack, whatever quarter it comes from!” It would be hard to imagine Stalin’s message being put more clearly.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 582
SOCIALISM SAVED THEM IN WWII
Our own situation [after WWI] was even more catastrophic, but we managed to extricate ourselves. It was certainly not our socialism which was responsible for our doing so, as Koba would claim. That’s stuff for children and fools. Koba himself knows this is rubbish needed only for propaganda and maintaining the morale of the younger generation. In actual fact, what saved us [from economic collapse after WWI] was our planned economy. This was understood long ago in the capitalist countries too.
[But that is socialism]
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 172
BY THE TIME WEST STARTED THE SECOND FRONT THE SU HAD ALREADY DEFEATED THE NAZIS
It was the Soviet Union that had beaten the fascist army. The second front, which Great Britain and the U.S. had promised as early as 1942, was not to materialize until June 1944, after it was clear that the Nazis had already been decisively defeated. In fact the Anglo-American invasion was aimed more at stopping communism than defeating fascism. [This invasion took place during the same period that the British army “liberated” Greece, which had already been liberated by the Communist-led Resistance.) For under Communist leadership, underground resistance movements, based primarily on the working class, had developed throughout Europe. Because the Communists, both from the Soviet Union and within the other European nations, were the leaders of the entire anti-fascist struggle, by the end of the war they had by far the largest parties in all the nations of Eastern and Central Europe, as well as Italy and France, where the fascists’ power had been broken more by internal resistance than by the much-heralded Allied invasion. In fact, it is likely that if the Anglo-American forces had not invaded and occupied Italy and France, within a relatively short time the Communists would have been in power in both countries.
Franklin, Bruce, Ed. The Essential Stalin; Major Theoretical Writings. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1972, p. 32
On his return from the Teheran conference Stalin said:
“Roosevelt has given his word that large-scale action will be mounted in France in 1944. I believe he will keep his word. But even if he doesn’t, we have enough of our own forces to complete the route of Nazi Germany.”
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 493
On his return from the Teheran Conference, Stalin said: “Roosevelt has given his word that extensive action will be mounted in France in 1944. I believe he will keep his word. But even if he does not, our own forces are sufficient to complete the rout of Nazi Germany.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 229
From the precise manner in which Stalin expressed his ideas one could see that he had given much thought to all these matters. Although he believed that we were strong enough to finish off Nazi Germany single-handed Stalin sincerely welcomed the opening of the Second Front in Europe, which brought closer the end of the war, so much desired by the Soviet people.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 535
When Russia was invaded by Hitler’s blitzkrieg in 1941 she was glad to find friends and allies in Britain and the United States; but the fact remains that the brunt of the fighting was done by Russia, and that she lost 40 or 50 times more people than either of them. Until June 1944 Britain and the USA fought, in effect, what was only a peripheral war against Germany…. Not till 1944, when the Germans had already been virtually defeated, did the “real” Second Front open.
Werth, Alexander. Russia; The Post-War Years. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co.,1971, p. 62
In this final report on the war, in October, 1945, General Marshall, the United States Chief of Staff stated: “The refusal of the British and Russian peoples to accept defeat was the great factor in the salvage of our civilization….
“There can be no doubt… that the heroic stand of the British and Soviet peoples saved the United States a war on her own soil. The crisis had come and passed at Stalingrad… . before this nation was able to gather sufficient resources to participate in the fight in a determining manner.”
Winston Churchill had previously made a similar statement to Parliament, on August 2, 1944: “It is the Russian army which has done the main force of ripping the guts out of the German army.”
Duranty, Walter. Stalin & Co. New York: W. Sloane Associates, 1949, p. 88
Despite the absence of a second front in Europe, the Soviet Union put Nazi Germany on the brink of a military disaster.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 353
On returning from the Teheran Conference, Supreme Commander Stalin said:
“Roosevelt has given me his firm word to open extensive actions in France in 1944. I think he will keep his word.”
“And if he doesn’t keep his word,” he thought aloud, “we are strong enough to crush Hitler Germany on our own.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 354
“In June the Allies intend to finally conduct a major landing operation in France. Our allies are in a hurry,” Stalin smiled. “They are afraid that we will rout Nazi Germany without them.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 261
Although he believed that we were strong enough to finish off Nazi Germany single-handed, Stalin sincerely welcomed the opening of the Second Front in Europe, which brought closer the end of the war, so much desired by the Soviet people who were extremely exhausted by the war and privatizations.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 281
German General Zimmerman, Chief of Operations on the Western Front, said: ‘The war against the British and Americans in France was lost on the Eastern Front even before the landing of the Anglo-American armies on the Continent.’ And: “it would be no exaggeration to say that the Eastern Front steadily pumped all the efficient manpower and combat equipment out of the German armies in the West.’ Quoted in historian, Yeremeyev’s The USSR in World War II.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 209
FASCIST ARMIES WERE NOT AS STRONG AS THE FASCISTS THOUGHT
It’s a fact that Germany [in May 1941] had the best army both in material and organization, but the Germans were wrong in thinking that it’s an ideal, invincible army.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 225
STALIN DID MAKE MILITARY MISTAKES AND HE TOOK THE BLAME
True, I must say Stalin realized that the unfavorable situation in the summer of 1942 had resulted, among other things, from his own personal error made when approving the plan of operations of our forces in the 1942 summer campaign. And he did not seek any other guilty party among the leaders in General Headquarters or the General Staff.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 376
STALINGRAD WAS THE TURNING POINT OF WWII
Stalin listened attentively. By the way he smoked his pipe, smoothed his mustache, and never intervened even once, we could see that he was pleased. The Stalingrad operation implied that Soviet forces would henceforth control the initiative.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 406
The Stalingrad victory turned the tide of war in favor of the Soviet Union: the Soviet Army began driving the enemy off Soviet soil.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 424
It [the battle of Stalingrad] was an operation that actually marked a radical turning-point in the war and ensured the retreat of the German forces from our country.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 661
NAZI GENERALS BLAME HITLER FOR THEIR DEFEAT
Reading post-war memoirs, written by German generals and field-marshals, one is simply taken aback by their interpretations of the reasons for their setbacks, miscalculations, and blunders and their oversights in troop control.
Most of these authors cite Hitler as the prime reason and point out that having imposed his personal control over Germany’s Armed Forces in 1941 and being a dilettante in matters of strategy and grand tactics, he directed the armed struggle dictatorially, without heeding the advice of his generals and field marshals. As I see it, there is some measure of truth in this–perhaps even a large measure–yet it is not here that lie the basic reasons for the German defeats.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 516
At the very start of our work at the Control Council we reached an understanding with Eisenhower to send a group of Soviet officers from the intelligence division of the front headquarters to the American zone to interrogate the chief war criminals, for as it turned out, there were more of them in that zone than in any other.
They included Goering, Ribbentrop, Kaltenbrunner, Keitel, Jodl and other prominent figures of the Third Reich. However, obviously acting on special instructions, the Americans refused to allow our officers to question all of the war criminals. In fact, only a very few were interrogated, and those did their best to foul their trail, endeavoring to accuse Hitler alone of all the crimes perpetrated against humanity, and thus shirking confessing their own guilt.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 664
STALIN REFUSES TO COMPROMISE WITH HITLER NEAR THE WAR’S END
Very shortly Stalin was on the line. After reporting to him about Kreb’s appearance and our decision to let general Sokolovski negotiate with him, I asked his orders.
“So that’s the end of the bastard. Too bad it was impossible to take him alive. Where is Hitler’s body?”
“General Krebs says Hitler’s body was burned.”
“Tell Sokolovski that there can be no negotiations–only unconditional surrender. No talks either with Krebs or any other Hitlerites.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 622
THE SU BORE THE MAIN FASCIST ATTACK OF WWII
No one can deny that the main brunt of the fight against the Fascist armed forces was borne by the Soviet Union. It was the fiercest, the most bloody and difficult of all the wars that our people have ever fought.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 643
For three years Soviet Russia had been forced to take the bloodbath in Europe while her Western allies nibbled at the periphery, conserving, then rapidly building up, their armed strength.
Rose, Lisle Abbott. After Yalta. New York: Scribner, 1973, p. 62
Yet, like most Russians, Stalin resented his allies’ “privileged” position in the war (and would until June 6, 1944, and even thereafter). His country was being bled; all the casualties the British and Americans sustained in North Africa and Italy did not amount to those the Russians suffered in one major battle; how could all the billions of Lend-Lease compensate for these millions of Soviet lives lost?
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 562
But whatever experts and the logic of the situation argued, the fact remained that the momentous, most bloody battles were being fought on the Eastern Front. The British victory at El Alamein in October 1942 was secured against an Italo-German force of about 100,000. The Red Army suffered more than that in casualties in only a few weeks’ spring fighting in the Crimea, one of many Eastern fronts. This contrast could not but be embarrassing and then galling to the Western leaders, as well as to public opinion in Britain and America.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 564
STALIN TELLS ZHUKOV TO LEAD THE VICTORY PARADE IN BERLIN WHEN THE ALLIES REFUSE
Returning to Berlin, we suggested to the Americans, British, and French that a military parade in honor of the victory over Fascist Germany be held in Berlin itself. A short time later we received their consent. It was decided to hold a parade of Soviet and Allied troops in September in the area of the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate, the scene of the final battles, when the Soviet troops stormed Berlin on May 1 and 2, 1945.
But then, on the very eve of the parade, we were suddenly informed that for some reason the Commanders-in-Chief of the Allied Forces could not come to Berlin for the victory parade, and had authorized their generals to attend.
I immediately put through a phone call to Stalin. When he heard my report he said:
“They want to belittle the importance of the victory parade in Berlin. Just wait, they’ll be up to something else next. Ignore their refusal and take the salute yourself, all the more so, since we have more right to do it than the Allied commanders.”
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 655
STALIN COMPLAINS THAT THE ALLIES ARE NOT DISARMING THE GERMAN PRISONERS
Around May 20, 1945, Poskrebyshev called me at my home late in the evening and told me Stalin wanted to see me in the Kremlin as soon as possible.
With Stalin in his office were Molotov and Voroshilov.
After mutual greetings Stalin said:
“While we have disarmed all the officers and men of the German Army and placed them in prisoner-of-war camps, the British are keeping the German troops in a state of combat readiness and establishing cooperation with them. To this day the headquarters of the German forces headed by their commanding officers are enjoying complete freedom and on Montgomery’s instructions the arms and material of the German troops are being collected and put in order.
I feel, Stalin continued, the British want to retain the German troops so that they can be used later. But this is an outright violation of the agreement between the heads of government of the immediate disbandment of all German forces.”
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 657
Further on in the course of the Control Council’s work it became more and more difficult for us to reach understanding with the Americans and British who did their best to resist our proposals aimed at fully implementing the Declaration on the defeat of Germany and the agreements reached at the conferences of Heads of Government.
Soon afterwards we received reliable information that during the final campaign in the west, Churchill had sent Field-Marshal Montgomery a secret cable instructing him carefully to collect German weapons and material and stock, so that they could be easily redistributed among German units with which it would probably become necessary to cooperate should the Soviet offensive continue.
At the next Control Council meeting we had to make a sharply-worded statement on this subject, emphasizing that history knew few examples of such perfidy and betrayal of allied commitments and duty.
“The Soviet Union,” we pointed out, “is strictly abiding by its Allied undertakings. We believe the British Command and its Government merit serious condemnation.”
Montgomery made an attempt to reject the Soviet charge. His American colleague, General Clay, kept silent. He obviously knew about the British Premier’s directive.
… Some time after the speech Montgomery himself confirmed he had received the cable.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 665
Through repeated checking we established for sure that despite our protest the British were still retaining German troops in their zone. I was compelled to submit to the Control Council a memorandum on the presence of organized units of the former Nazi army in the British zone.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 678
Around May 20, 1945, Poskrebyshev called me at my home late in the evening and told me to come to the Kremlin.
With Stalin in his office were Molotov and Voroshilov.
After mutual greetings Stalin said:
“While we have disarmed all the officers and men of the German army and placed them in prisoner-of-war camps, the British are keeping the German troops in a state of combat readiness and establishing cooperation with them. To this day the staffs of the German forces headed by their former commanders are enjoying complete freedom and, on Montgomery’s instructions, are collecting and putting in order the arms and material of the troops.
“I think,” Stalin continued, “the British seek to retain the German troops so that they can be used later. But that is an outright violation of the agreement between the Heads of Government on the immediate disbandment of all German forces.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 429
Soon afterwards we received reliable information that during the final campaign of the war against Nazi Germany, Churchill telegraphed to Field Marshal Montgomery directing him “to be careful in collecting German arms, to stack them so that they could easily be issued again to the German soldiers whom we should have to work with if the Soviet advance continued.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 438
Everything became absolutely clear. While signing on behalf of his country’s commitments to uproot German militarism immediately and once and for all, and eliminate the German Wehrmacht, Churchill was giving secret orders to the military command to preserve the arms and military units of the former Nazi army as a basis for a reconstituted West German Army pursuing far-reaching anti-Soviet goals. And all this turned out to have been known to the Supreme Command of the Allied Expeditionary Forces and to Eisenhower personally. Frankly, I was very much upset then and changed my initial opinion of Dwight Eisenhower.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 455
ZHUKOV NOTES THAT EISENHOWER, NOT MONTGOMERY, FOLLOWS THE YALTA AGREEMENT
“Before settling the matter of the routes by which the British and American forces will move to Berlin,” I replied, “it will be necessary to move all Allied troops to the areas in Germany which have been assigned by the Yalta conference. Only after this will we consider the practical problems of the passage of the Allied troops to Berlin, as well as the stationing of Allied personnel in Berlin itself. Until American and British troops leave Thuringia, and the British, the Wittenberg area, I cannot agree to the admission of Allied military personnel to Berlin.”
Montgomery was about to object when Eisenhower said:
“Don’t argue Monty, Marshal Zhukov is right. You’d better get out of Wittenberg as soon as possible and we, from Thuringia.”
With a laugh Stalin said:
“We ought to invite Eisenhower to Moscow sometime. I want to meet him.”
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 661
ZHUKOV NOTES THAT NAZI INDUSTRY TIED TO WESTERN FAT CATS WAS NOT BOMBED
Eisenhower’s headquarters was located in a huge building belonging to the “I. G. Farbenindustrie” chemical concern which stood intact in spite of heavy bombing that had left the city of Frankfurt in ruins.
It is remarkable that in other parts of Germany, too, property belonging to the I. G. Farbenindustrie also remained intact although they presented excellent targets for air raids. It was obvious that Washington and London had given the Allied High Command special instructions….
And I must add that several other big munitions plants in West Germany also remained untouched. As it became clear later, the financial strings from the biggest munitions plants in the western regions of Germany led to the American and British monopolies.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 662
Eisenhower’s headquarters was located in the huge premises of I. G. Farbenindustrie chemical concern which remained intact during the heavy bombing by the Allies that had left the city of Frankfurt in ruins.
It should be noted that in other parts of Germany, too, property belonging to I. G. Farbenindustrie also remained intact although they presented excellent targets for air raids. It was obvious that Washington and London had given the Allied Command special instructions to this end.
Several other big munitions plants also remained undamaged. As it became clear later, the financial strings from these biggest munitions plants led to the American and British monopolies.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 435
Corporations like DuPont, Ford, General Motors, and ITT owned factories in enemy countries that produced fuel, tanks, and planes that wreaked havoc on Allied forces. After the war, instead of being prosecuted for treason, ITT collected $27 million from the US government for damages inflicted on its German plants by Allied bombings. General Motors collected over $33 million. Pilots were given instructions not to hit factories in Germany that were owned by US firms. Thus Cologne was almost leveled by Allied bombing but its Ford plant, providing military equipment for the Nazi army, was untouched; indeed, German civilians began using the plant as an air raid shelter.
Parenti, Michael. Blackshirts and Reds, San Francisco: City Light Books, 1997, p. 19
ZHUKOV SAYS ALLIES ARE WORKING TO GET SOVIET PRISONERS TO DEFECT
…In the eastern part of Germany we did our best to return all those released to their homes which throughout the grim years of imprisonment they had all been longing for. But considerable numbers of Soviet people and war prisoners were in the zones occupied by our Allies.
But then we received reliable information that the Americans and British were indoctrinating the Soviet citizens and war prisoners to get them to defect. Persuasion was used to induce them to stay in the West, where they were promised well-paid jobs and all kinds of comforts. In this process lies, slander of the Soviet Union, and intimidation were brought into play, especially with regard to those who had served under the traitor Vlasov, or who had been in the service of the Germans as policemen.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 665-666
EISENHOWER ADMITS SOVIET’S OFFENSIVE RELIEVED THE PRESSURE ON THE US AT NORMANDY
Recalling that offensive [our offensive in the East] Eisenhower said “For us it was a long-awaited offensive. We all felt relief, particularly after we had received news that the offensive was proceeding with great success. We were sure the Germans could now no longer reinforce their Western Front.”
Unfortunately, with the start of the Cold War and especially after the surviving Nazi generals began to flood the book market with their reminiscences, such objective views have plainly been distorted. The over-zealous propaganda makers from the anti-Soviet camp even go so far as to allege that it was not the Soviet Army that helped the Americans in their battles in the Ardennes but the Americans who all but saved the Soviet army.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 683
THERE WAS NO PANIC IN EVACUATING MOSCOW
QUESTION: And how did the evacuation proceed from Moscow? On this question, many of the present leaders are trying to state that there was panic among the population, that there were thousands of deserters and that people were trampled to death at railway stations.
ANSWER: [Moscow Soviet Chairman, Vasili Pronin, who was chairman from April 1939 to 1945 says], All these are lies—empty wind blowing. There was absolutely no panic.
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 33
MIKOYAN DESERTED MOSCOW AFTER THE INVASION
[Moscow Soviet Chairman, Vasili Pronin, who was chairman from April 1939 to 1945 says], … Mikoyan left for the East. I only found this out on Oct. 18th when Stalin telephoned me. He was furious with Mikoyan since Mikoyan was Deputy Chairman of the Soviet Peoples Committee. Stalin also told me that he found out that Mikoyan and others were taking with them precious metals and left all of them at the railway station, some two tons.
Stalin never forgot anything. When in 1952 Mikoyan was removed from the Politburo, Stalin reminded Mikoyan of this desertion during the war!
Lucas and Ukas. Trans. and Ed. Secret Documents. Toronto, Canada: Northstar Compass, 1996, p. 34
STALIN DID EVERYTHING HE COULD THINK OF TO AVOID WAR WITH HITLER
The clearest evidence that Stalin had no plans to attack Hitler first can be found in his almost frantic efforts to appease the German leader right up to June.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 94
Zhukov much later recalled of the days just before the war: “All his [Stalin] thoughts and acts were inspired by one desire–to avoid war–and confidence that he could do it.”
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 621
But of course Stalin’s foreign-policy did not content itself with such Chamberlainlike pleas with would-be aggressors. It pursued any conceivable avenue to avoid or postpone an armed conflict into which the Soviet Union might be drawn.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 366
And in Europe too, Soviet diplomacy sought (in a much more realistic way than that of Britain and France) to avoid war. To do Stalin justice, he never made a secret of that objective or pretended that his detestation of fascism was greater than his desire to avoid war, or more precisely to avoid Russia’s military involvement in one.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 399
He [Stalin] preferred to list Russia among the “peace loving states”–a statement of his which for once was sincerely meant and true: no other statesmen, not even Neville Chamberlain, feared war as much is he.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 468
Now, I think, it is time to speak of the main error of that time which naturally gave rise to many others–the miscalculation in deciding the probable date on which the German forces would attack.
In the last few prewar months the leadership did not call for any steps that should have been taken when the threat of war was particularly great….
One cannot help asking why the leadership headed by Stalin did not put through the operational plan they themselves had endorsed?…
More often than not, people blame Stalin for these errors and miscalculations. He had certainly made mistakes, but one cannot consider the causes of these mistakes in isolation from the objective historical processes and phenomena, from the entire complex of economic and political factors….
Comparing and analyzing Stalin’s conversations with people close to him in my presence I have come to the firm conclusion that all his thoughts and deeds were prompted by the desire to avoid war, and that he was confident in succeeding.
Stalin was well aware what misfortunes would befall the Soviet people in a war with such a strong and wily enemy as Nazi Germany. That was why he strove, as our entire Party did, to win time.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 1. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 264-265
THE SOVIET ARMIES WERE ORDERED NOT TO RETREAT REGARDLESS
Is easy to argue that from the summer of 1942 the Soviet army fought because it was forced to fight. Yet the impact of Order No. 227 [Do Not Retreat] can be exaggerated. It was aimed primarily at officers and political commissars, rather than the rank-and-file, which had always been subject to very harsh discipline. The order also applied only to unauthorized retreats, not to retreats in general. No doubt legal niceties did not play a great part with the NKVD interrogators, but it was not an order that was applied entirely without discrimination. There was at the time a sense that desperate circumstances called for desperate measures.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 201
SU HAD GREATER MILITARY MIGHT AND OUTPRODUCED THE NAZIS
In short, the Russians outproduced the Germans in the mechanized weapons of war in every year throughout the conflict. The Germans started the invasion with a larger accumulation of heavy weapons, and destroyed much of what the Russians had in the first five months. But the Russians eventually succeeded in maintaining their super production–often in quality as well as quantity–and in concentrating their armaments (after the first five months) more rapidly and more effectively to achieve local superiorities and win key battles.
Except for the early months of the war, before Stalin abandoned most of his disastrous strategic ideas and removed some of his incompetent friends left over from the Civil War (notably Marshal Budenny, who managed to lose 665,000 prisoners in one big bag in Ukraine in August, 1941), the Russians were as well led by their generals as the Germans were. After the first few months, the Russian troops displayed as high a morale as the Germans, and steadily greater confidence in victory. Stalin made many costly mistakes even after the first few months, but his over-all strategy thereafter avoided the irreparable disasters that Hitler imposed on his army.
As it was, the Germans invaded a country that was colossal in size, somewhat superior in military and civilian manpower, potentially much superior in armaments, as good in generalship, greatly superior in top leadership as far as the war was concerned, and possessed of defensive supply lines that had not been war-ravaged. Other things being equal, the stronger power wins the war…. These early German advantages made the war seem close in 1941, and even in 1942: but Russia’s superior strength was never altogether overcome, and eventually won the war. The outcome was by no means certain, but it was, as we can now see, probable.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 282-283
AT THE START OF THE WAR NAZIS HAD MILITARY SUPERIORITY OVER THE SU
Harriman and Beaverbook had three evening meetings with Stalin–Sunday, September 28, Monday the 29th, and Tuesday the 30th, of 1941….
At the first meeting with Stalin, cordiality prevailed. Stalin gave a candid review of the military situation, as he had done with Hopkins, saying that Germany’s superiority to Russia was, in air power, in a ratio of three to two– in tanks, a ratio of three or 4 to 1–in divisions, 320 to 280.
Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins. New York: Harper, 1948, p. 387
HULL RECOMMENDS THE NAZI LEADERS BE SHOT QUIETLY WITHOUT A PUBLIC TRIAL
On March 17, 1943 Hull, Eden, and Hopkins had tea with the President in his study, and Hopkins wrote:
Hull said he hoped that we could find a way to avoid any longwinded trials of Hitler and his principal associates after the war; that he hoped we could find a way to get the ones that should be shot and do it quietly. He said he thought a public trial would be very bad; that we should settle with Hitler in the same way he would handle us if he were to do it.
Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins. New York: Harper, 1948, p. 714
HOPKINS DENIES THERE WAS ANY YALTA AGREEMENT THE RUSSIANS WERE TO TAKE BERLIN
The other memorandum was inspired by an “inside” story in Drew Pearson’s column in the Washington Post on April 22, 1945. Pearson had written: “Though it may get official denial the real fact is that American advance patrols on Friday, April 13, one day after President Roosevelt’s death, were in Potsdam, which is to Berlin what the Bronx is to New York City,” but “the next day withdrew from the Berlin suburbs to the River Elbe about 50 miles south. This withdrawal was ordered largely because of a previous agreement with the Russians that they were to occupy Berlin and because of their insistence that the agreement be kept.” Pearson stated that this agreement had been made at Yalta. Hopkins indignantly wrote:
This story by Drew Pearson is absolutely untrue. There was no agreement made at Yalta whatever that the Russians should enter Berlin first. Indeed, there was no discussion of that whatever. The Chiefs of Staff had agreed with the Russian Chiefs of Staff and Stalin on the general strategy which was that both of us were going to push as hard as we could.
It is equally untrue that General Bradley paused on the Elbe River at the request of the Russians so that the Russians could break through to Berlin first. Bradley did get a division well out towards Potsdam but it far outreached itself; supplies were totally inadequate and anyone who knows anything about it knows that we would have taken Berlin had we been able to do so. This would have been a great feather in the army’s cap, but for Drew Pearson now to say that the President agreed that the Russians were to take Berlin is utter nonsense.
Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins. New York: Harper, 1948, p. 884
STALIN SAYS THEY CAME DOWN ON THE CHURCH BECAUSE OF ITS OPPOSITION
[During his May 1945 meetings with Harry Hopkins Stalin stated that] at the time of the revolution the Russian communist party had proclaimed the right of freedom of religion as one of the points of their program. The Russian Patriarch and the entire then existing church had declared the Soviet Government an anathema and had called on all church members not to pay taxes nor to obey the call to the Red Army but to resist mobilization, not to work, etc. He said what could the Soviet Government do but to in fact declare war on the church which assumed that attitude. He added that the present war [World War II] had wiped out this antagonism and that now the freedom of religion, as promised, could be granted to the church.
Mr. Hopkins said he thoroughly understood the Marshal’s opinions.
Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins. New York: Harper, 1948, p. 906
HITLER COMPLIMENTED STALIN’S EFFECTIVENESS
It is very stupid to sneer at the Stakhanov system. The arms and equipment of the Russian armies are the best proof of its efficiency in the handling of industrial man-power. Stalin, too, must command our unconditional respect. In his own way he is a hell of a fellow!
Hitler, Adolph. Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944. Trans. by Cameron & Stevens. New York: Enigma Books, 2000, p. 587
Had he been given the time, Stalin would have made of Russia a super-industrialized monster, completely contrary to the interests of the masses, but justified by demagogic pedantry and designed to raise the standard of life for his own particular partisans. His final objective would have been the absorbing of the whole of Europe into the Bolshevik ring. He is a beast, but he’s a beast on the grand scale.
Hitler, Adolph. Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944. Trans. by Cameron & Stevens. New York: Enigma Books, 2000, p. 657
If Stalin had been given another 10 or 15 years, Russia would have become the mightiest State in the world, and two or three centuries would have been required to bring about a change. It is a unique phenomenon! He has raised the standard of living–of that there is no doubt; no one in Russia goes hungry any more. They have built factories where a couple of years ago only unknown villages existed–and factories, mark you, as big as the Herman Goering Works. They have built railways that are not yet even on our maps…. I have read a book on Stalin; I must admit, he is a tremendous personality, an ascetic who took the whole of that gigantic country firmly in his iron grasp.
Hitler, Adolph. Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944. Trans. by Cameron & Stevens. New York: Enigma Books, 2000, p. 661
AFTER THE JUNE 1941 ATTACK STALIN STILL SUSPECTED IT MIGHT BE JUST A PROBE
How could this [the German attack on June 22, 1941] be a mere provocation, pleaded the generals (still no one dared to shout, though obviously this situation called for it), if Soviet cities from Odessa to Murmansk were being bombed and German soldiers were miles inside Russia and advancing. There was one thin thread of reason in Stalin’s otherwise irrational compound of despair and hope. In 1938 and 1939 the Japanese had attacked suddenly and with large forces, but it had turned out to be a “provocation”–i.e., a probe of Russian strength in the Far East rather than full-scale war. Perhaps Hitler was playing the same game, and perhaps it was not Hitler but his generals.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 538
GENERALS DEFEND STALIN’S MILITARY DECISIONS IN THE EARLY PART OF WWII
At this point [on June 15, 1941], convinced that the beginning of war was imminent, the Ministry Of Defense and the General Staff implored Stalin to transfer a larger number of divisions from the reserves to the western borders and to create a more solid, concentrated disposition of forces in the regions near the front. Stalin categorically rejected this demand, insisting on the need to maintain large-scale reserves at a considerable distance from any conceivable frontline. After the war, studying all the General Staff maps in the archives when working on the first volume of his memoirs, Zhukov came to the conclusion that the advice he had given in the spring of 1941 was possibly mistaken:…
“It is common to criticize Stalin for failing to move the main forces of our army from the interior of the country in time to meet and repulse the enemy attack. I am hesitant to be dogmatic about what might have happened if he had done so–whether the outcome would have been better or worse. It is certainly possible that our army, inadequately provided with anti-tank and anti-aircraft defenses and less mobile than the forces of the enemy, would not have been able to withstand the slashing, powerful blows of the armored force of the enemy assault and would have found itself in exactly the same dire situation as the forces who actually were in the border districts during the first days of the war. And in that case, who knows what the result might have been for Moscow, Leningrad, or the south of the country.”
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 234
STALIN AND ZHUKOV ISSUE LAST MINUTE DIRECTIVES FOR MILITARY PREPAREDNESS
On 21 June 1941 Stalin telephoned the commander of the Moscow military district, Tyulenev, ordering him to put the anti-aircraft defense of Moscow into a state of immediate alert…. When Zhukov and Timoshenko arrived at the Kremlin at 20:50 they had already prepared a draft directive to be sent to all military districts, warning of a possible German surprise attack at dawn on 22 June 1941 and ordering all units to be brought to full military preparedness. Stalin shortened the text a little and approximately two hours later it was sent from General Staff headquarters to all border districts….
The directive was absolutely clear, stating that military action could begin on 22 June; it commanded that forward defense positions were to be occupied in all fortified border districts in the course of the night, that all units were to be brought to full military readiness, aircraft dispersed and camouflaged, and a black-out imposed on all cities and military objectives. There were only three or four hours left for the Soviet army deployed along the western border to prepare for the German offensive.
Medvedev, Roy & Zhores Medvedev. The Unknown Stalin. NY, NY: Overlook Press, 2004, p. 240
Why, then, would Stalin, who gave priority to strengthening the armed forces and protecting the country’s security, ignore a spate of invasion warnings?
..There is some evidence that Stalin had not entirely lost his senses. On 21 June, the eve of the invasion, Stalin ordered Moscow party officials not to leave town the following day, Sunday. Two hours before the invasion, at 2 a.m. on the 22nd, Stalin telephoned General Tyulanev, Commander of the Moscow Military District, and gave orders to put the city’s anti-aircraft defenses at 75% of war readiness.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 69
NAZI ARMY IS MUCH WEAKER ON THE WESTERN FRONT THAN ON THE EASTERN IN 1945
At the beginning of the Anglo-American campaign [in early 1945] the Germans had 60 extremely weak divisions in the West whose overall strength was equal to 26 complete divisions. The Allies had 91 full-strength divisions.
The Allies enjoyed a particular superiority in the air. They could suppress any resistance both on land and in the air practically at any point by means of air strikes.
So, the forcing of the Rhine by the US and British troops took place in easy conditions, and the Rhine was taken practically without German resistance.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 344
Bourgeois historians endeavor to show that the decisive battles of the Second World War took place where the Anglo-American war was being waged. They cite the Battle of EL Alamein in Northern Egypt as one such battle. Let us remind ourselves once again: in October 1942, there were over 50 German divisions on the Stalingrad Front, while there were no more than 12 in the region of El Alamein. The difference is plain to see. Let us remember too that at that time the German command kept the principal tank and aviation forces at Stalingrad. Bourgeois historians also lose any sense of value when they compare the Battle of Stalingrad to the landings of American troops on the island of Guadalcanal. The Japanese garrison defending the island did not exceed 2000 men.
Vasilevskii, Aleksandr M. A Lifelong Cause. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981, p. 229
RED ARMY WORKED WITH RELEASED ANTIFASCIST PRISONERS AFTER WWII
The military councils, commandants, and political department workers recruited for work at district councils German Communists released from concentration camps, anti-fascists and other German democrats with whom we at once established friendly mutual understanding.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 404
NAZIS KILLED MANY GERMAN COMMUNISTS
He [Kalinin] asked me how Berlin had been captured, how life in Germany was being normalized, how things were getting on in the German Communist Party, a great number of whose members were brutally killed by the Nazis.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 422
ALLIED GENERALS DECLINE TO VIEW THE VICTORY PARADE IN BERLIN SO ZHUKOV DOES IT
But on the very eve of the parade, we were suddenly informed that for a number of reasons the Commanders-in-Chief of the Allied Forces could not come to Berlin for the victory parade, and had authorized their generals to attend.
I immediately put a telephone call through to Stalin. He heard my report and said:
“They want to belittle the importance of the parade of troops of the anti-Hitler coalition countries. Just wait, they’ll be up to something else next. Ignore the refusal of the Allies and take the salute yourself, all the more so, as we have more rights to it than they.”
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 427
SOVIET LEADERS WANTED TO GET EVEN WITH THE NAZIS BUT DECIDED NOT TO
To be frank, when the war was still on I was fully determined to get even with the Germans for all their cruelty. But when our troops had routed the enemy and entered the German territory, we checked our wrath. Our ideological convictions and internationalist feelings did not allow us to give in to blind vengeance.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 471
STALIN WORKED HARD AND KEPT LONG HOURS DURING WWII
Although he occasionally let his hair down, Stalin spent most of the war overladen with work. Most nights were passed in his makeshift office deep below the Mayakovski Metro station. The days were long and exhausting, and usually he slept not in a bed but on a divan. Not since Nicholas I, that most austere of Romanovs, had a ruler of the Russians been so frugal in his habits. Stalin was aware of the precedent, and turned himself into a human machine for the winning of the Great Patriotic War.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 438
Stalin also had a great capacity for organization. He worked very hard himself, but he also could make others work to the full extent of their ability, squeezing from them all that they could offer.
Vasilevskii, Aleksandr M. A Lifelong Cause. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981, p. 452
BEFORE AND DURING THE WAR THE ALLIES AIDED NAZIS ECONOMICALLY MORE THAN THE SU
For Hitler, the pact with Stalin not only removed the danger of a two-front war, but it provided Germany with a steady supply of Russian petroleum, platinum, cotton, scrap and pig iron, timber, feed grains and vegetables….
These supplies to Hitler aroused anger among the Western democracies who accused Russia of helping Hitler’s war effort. But, to be fair, Russia was a junior partner compared to Nazi Germany’s brisk commerce with the West. American companies, for instance, had nearly 60 branches in Germany and heavy investments in that country. (In 1943 American Senator Harley Kilgore, a member of the War Investigations Committee, said these investments were actually impeding the US war effort. A Senate report stated that US investment in Germany totaled $1 billion.).
Britain also aided Hitler. In 1940 the Junkers Ju 87B was the Luftwaffe’s most important tactical attack aircraft, delivering aerial artillery right into the front line. Ironically, in view of its use against the West (and later against the Russians), it was initially powered by a British Rolls-Royce engine. In 1935 the first prototype Messerschmitt Bf 109, which became the standard fighter of the German air force, was also equipped with a Rolls-Royce engine, although these were later replaced by German ones.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 48
SOVIET SOLDIERS DID NOT TAKE REVENGE OR RAPE AFTER THE WAR
AUTHOR: Some books have made claims of widespread rape and looting.
MARSHAL RUDENKO: Such claims are untrue! If such cases were brought to the attention of our officers the perpetrators received maximum punishment.
But our political advisers and party organizations made strenuous efforts to prevent our soldiers from avenging themselves against the Germans. For example, our soldiers were instructed not to act according to the principle that because my village was burnt down in Russia, I will burn down your village in Germany. It would have been a crime to do this. That’s why a huge propaganda work was done. Of course, you understand how difficult such a job is; it involves tremendous work to teach this to the troops. After all, some of the families of our soldiers had been burned to death or shot by Nazi soldiers.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 50
STALIN AND HIS GENERALS ARE BOTH RESPONSIBLE FOR FAILURE TO MOBILIZE SOON ENOUGH
Author: But what about criticisms of Stalin for his failure to order mobilization in time?
General Pavlovsky: That was not only Stalin’s mistake. The military commanders failed to convince Stalin that it was necessary to mobilize the army and keep it on the alert. They should have proved their case to Stalin! It was their responsibility. So, it is their mistake as much as his. Also, keep in mind that mobilization was a tricky thing, because it could provoke war when Stalin was trying by diplomatic means to delay it.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London , Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 125
SU DID WHAT IT COULD TO HELP THE WARSAW UPRISING
Another charge circulated by the London group was that the Red Army refused to help the Poles who revolted in Warsaw. This uprising was staged by General Bor, who headed the section of the underground loyal to the London group, on orders from London and without consultation with the Red Army, with General Berling, commander of Polish troops in Russia, and without informing Allied military leaders in England. The result was the virtual destruction of Warsaw, and the loss of 250,000 Polish lives. The Nazis, as soon as the uprising started, began systematic razing of the city, block by block.
In Poland I talked with Polish generals and War Minister Rola-Zymierski. They agreed that the Red Army knew absolutely nothing before the uprising. It started on August 1st, but it was not until two women, without the permission of General Bor, made their way through sewers and across rivers, reaching the Red Army on September 12, that the Russians had definite word of the uprising. These two women did not represent Bor’s Army, but were from the People’s Army which held the northern part of Warsaw and had cooperated in the uprising in the belief that it had been undertaken in cooperation with the advancing Reds. They gave the Russians details as to where the insurgents were located. Red Army planes immediately dropped food and ammunition. The Red Army had long before decided that it would be too costly to take fortified Warsaw by direct assault, but did, when informed of the uprising, change its plans to the extent of smashing through to Praga on the bank of the river across from Warsaw.
Rola-Zymierski said that it would have been impossible for the Russians to have taken Warsaw by frontal attack without staggering losses, and that even then the attempt might not have been successful. Warsaw was captured months later when the marshes froze and it became possible to encircle the city, as the Red Army staff had planned to do from the beginning. Zymierski believed that Bor had undertaken the costly adventure in the hope that Warsaw could be liberated without Red aid. Others believed that the London Poles had planned to come to Warsaw if Bor was successful and set up an anti-Soviet regime.
The evidence does show that Bor had more confidence in the Nazis than in the Russians. General Tarnova, who commanded Bor’s Home Army Security Troops, told me that he knew when the uprising started that the Red Army would be unable to help. He went on to say that the Red Army had done everything possible to save the Polish forces in Warsaw. When the end came the Russians made arrangements for the Polish troops in Warsaw to retreat across the Vistula under cover of Russian artillery fire. Bor ordered that this not be done, and that all Polish troops surrender to the Germans rather than go with the Russians and continue the fight against Germany.
All the time I was in Moscow it was known that the Russians were willing to have Mikolajczyk of the London government-in-exile become Premier of the new government in Poland. Mikolajczyk went back to London to arrange this and a possible merger of the two groups. As a result he was ousted by the London group. They were interested in only one kind of Polish government–one that would be anti-Soviet above all else.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 100
…Here also I met General Boni Rola-Zimerski head of the new Polish Army.
Rola-Zimerski gave a long detailed account of Red Army operations in which he had taken part, leading up to the capture of Praga, a suburb of Warsaw on the east bank of the wide Vistula River. He stated categorically that the Warsaw uprising, which was launched on the joint responsibility of the London Poles of the regime-in-exile, and General Bor, head of the underground Polish Home Army, was begun without prior consultation or liaison of any kind with the Red Army. He then explained that from what he, as leader of the Polish People’s Army (a rival of the anti-Soviet Home Army), knew of Red Army plans, they had never included a frontal attack on Warsaw.
…Looking back now on the London Poles’ fierce outcry that the Russians had “betrayed” them by not storming Warsaw and bringing salvation to General Bor, who had given the signal for a rising without even consulting our own chiefs-of-staff liaison in Britain, it seems clear that their own ineptitude of leadership and their fatally misguided sense of diplomacy were chiefly to blame.
In Poland itself the prestige of the exiled government rapidly disintegrated after the Warsaw fiasco. Hundreds of Bor’s former officers began to join the new Polish People’s Army. In Lublin we met two of the earliest of these disillusioned patriots to come over. One of them, Col. Tarnova, had been commander of all Bor’s Home Army security troops. He reported that even before the uprising he and many of his 2,500 officers had openly disagreed with Bor’s plans for two sound military reasons: 1) their means were insufficient to the task; and 2) they had no understanding with the Red Army. Tarnova had, in effect, resigned his command and fled from Warsaw with the intention of reaching liberated Poland, where he had intended to communicate with (then) Premiere Mikolajczyk of the regime-in-exile, to request him to postpone the uprising until liaison could be established with the Allies. It was, however, already too late to interfere when he reached Lublin. Now he agreed completely when the General Rola-Zimerski declared:
“We are deeply convinced that Bor’s order was given purely for political reasons…. The plan of the Home Army all along has been to appear suddenly in cities being occupied by the Red Army and only at the last moment, in order to assume power. Their mistake was that they thought they could operate in Warsaw independent of the will of the Red Army.”
Snow, Edgar. The Pattern of Soviet Power, New York: Random House, 1945, p. 54
Stalin considered the uprising ill timed and misconceived. He was opposed to co-operation with Bor-Komorowski and the underground, whose hatred of the Russians was well-known. He appreciated Rokossovsky’s military difficulties….
Soon after the start of the uprising, Churchill, misinterpreting Russian inactivity at the Vistula, sent a cable to Stalin, informing him that British planes were dropping supplies to the Poles and seeking assurances that Russian aid would soon reach them. Stalin’s reply was noncommittal and suggested that the extent of the uprising had been grossly exaggerated. Under pressure from the London Poles, Churchill asked Eden on Aug. 14 to send a message to Stalin through Molotov, urging him to give immediate help to the Warsaw Poles. Two days later Vyshinsky informed the U.S. ambassador that the Soviet government would not allow British or American aircraft to land on Soviet territory after dropping supplies to the Warsaw region, “since the Soviet government does not wish to associate itself either directly or indirectly with the adventure in Warsaw.” But on Sept. 9 this decision was reversed. Moreover, from Sept. 13 Soviet planes flew over Warsaw, bombing German positions and dropping supplies to the insurgents.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 399
Rokossovsky in his memoirs suggests that as commander of the 1st Belorussian Front he was responsible for the decision not to attempt to go to the aid of the Poles in Warsaw. Further he states that “Stalin wanted to give all possible help to the insurgents and to ease their plight.”
Zhukov wrote later that he himself had ascertained that the Red Army had done all it could to help the insurgents “although the uprising had not been in any way coordinated with the Soviet command. At that time–both before and after our forced withdrawal from Warsaw the first Byelorussian front continued to render assistance to the insurgents by air–dropping provisions, medicines, and ammunition. I remember there were many false reports on the matter in the Western press that could have misled public opinion.”
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 506
First of all I wished to find out how things were in Warsaw itself where the German command was dealing ruthlessly with the organizers of an uprising in the city. The population was subjected to brutal reprisals. The city was razed to the ground. Thousands of peaceful civilians perished under the wreckage.
As was established later neither the command of the front nor that of Poland’s 1st Army had been informed in advance by Bor-Komorowski about the coming uprising. Nor did he make any attempt to coordinate the insurgent’s actions with those of the 1st Byelorussians Front. The Soviet command learned about the uprising after the event from locals who had crossed the Vistula. General Headquarters had not been informed either.
On instructions by the Supreme Commander, two paratroops officers were sent to Bor-Komorowski for liaison and co-ordination of actions. However, Bor-Komorowski refused to receive the officers, nor did we hear from them ever again.
In order to assist the insurgents in Warsaw and in fulfilling a mission assigned by the command of the 1st Byelorussian Front, Soviet and Polish troops crossed the Vistula and seized the Warsaw embankment. However, Bor-Komorowski again made no attempt to make contact with them. In a day or so the Germans brought up considerable forces to the Embankment and began pressing our troops. An adverse situation developed with our troops suffering heavily. Having considered the situation, and being convinced of the impossibility of capturing Warsaw, the command of the front decided to withdraw the troops from the Embankment to the original position.
I have ascertained that our troops had done all they could to help the insurgents, although the uprising had not been in any way coordinated with the Soviet Command.
All that time–both before and after our forced withdrawal from Warsaw–the 1st Byelorussian Front continued to render assistance to the insurgents by air-dropping provisions, medicines, and ammunition. I remember there were many false reports on the matter in the Western press that could have misled public opinion.
Zhukov, Georgii. Memoirs of Marshal Zhukov. London: Cape, 1971, p. 550-551
When I met Rokossovsky I asked him if he had been ordered to halt before Warsaw at the moment of the insurrection in August 1944. He gave me his word of honor that he had not. The Soviet forces had tried to make contact with the insurgents, but everyone sent on this mission had disappeared. The Polish general Bor-Komarowski did not want to have the slightest contact with the Red Army. I also put the question to my father: “Evidently, in the eyes of Stalin, this insurrection was a provocation organized by Churchill, who wanted to install the London Polish Government,” he replied.
Beria, Sergo. Beria, My Father: Inside Stalin’s Kremlin. London: Duckworth, 2001, p. 99
I have ascertained that our troops did everything they possibly could to help the insurgents, although the uprising had not been in any way coordinated with the Soviet Command….
All that time–both before and after our troops’ forced withdrawal–the First Byelorussian Front continued to furnish assistance to the insurgents by air-dropping provisions, medicines, and ammunition. I remember there were many false reports on the matter in the Western press which could have misled public opinion.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 302
On 2 August 1944 our intelligence agencies received information that an uprising against the Nazi occupation had started in Warsaw. Startled by the news, the Front HQ immediately went hunting for information to assess the scale and nature of the uprising. It was so sudden that we were quite at a loss, and at first we thought that the Germans might have spread the rumor, though we could not understand its purpose. Frankly speaking, the timing of the uprising was just about the worst possible in the circumstances. It was as though its leaders had deliberately chosen a time that would ensure defeat. These were the thoughts that involuntarily came to my mind….
Certain carping critics in the Western press did at one time charge the First Byelorussian Front and, of course, me as its Commander, with deliberately failing to support the Warsaw insurgents, thereby condemning them to death and destruction….
The fact of the matter is that those who had instigated the people of Warsaw to rise had had no intention of joining forces with the approaching Soviet and Polish armies. On the contrary, they had feared this. They had been concerned with other things. For them the uprising had been a political move with the objective of assuming power in the Polish capital before the Soviet troops entered it. These had been their orders from the people in London.
Rokossovsky, K., Ed. by Bob Daglish A Soldier’s Duty. Moscow: Progress Pub., 1985, p. 255-256
…The Chief of the General Staff, Antonov, established contact between us and the insurgents immediately on receiving the message of request…. Soviet planes were continuously dropping arms, ammunition and food for them.
Rokossovsky, K., Ed. by Bob Daglish A Soldier’s Duty. Moscow: Progress Pub., 1985, p. 257
The tragedy of Warsaw kept worrying me, and the realization that it was impossible to launch a major rescue operation was agonizing….
I spoke with Stalin over the telephone, reporting the situation at the front and everything relevant to Warsaw. Stalin asked whether the Front was capable of immediately launching an operation with the object of liberating Warsaw. When I replied in the negative he directed us to give all possible help to the insurgents so as to ease their plight. He endorsed all my proposals concerning how we could help them….
I have mentioned that, starting with 13 September 1944 we had begun to supply the insurgents by air with weapons, ammunition, food and medical supplies. This was affected by our Po-2 bombers, which dropped their loads from low altitudes at points indicated by the insurgents.
Rokossovsky, K., Ed. by Bob Daglish A Soldier’s Duty. Moscow: Progress Pub., 1985, p. 261
The approximately 40,000 insurgents went into action with less than 10,000 weapons (including rifles, machine-guns and pistols) and less than five day’s supply of ammunition. Nevertheless, the fighting lasted two months. To be fair, the Russians did make efforts to assist the Poles. Some aid supplies were airdropped, and small groups of Russian liaison officers were parachuted into Warsaw; most of them lost their lives.
…Marshal Rokossovsky makes this comment on the tragedy in Warsaw: ‘Starting 13 September we had begun to supply the insurgents by air with weapons, ammunition, food and medical supplies. We used night bombers. From 13 September to 1 October 1944, Front aircraft flew 4821 sorties in aid of the insurgents, 2535 of them with various supplies.’
An official military history published in Moscow says that Russian aircraft parachuted to the Polish insurgents 2667 submachine guns and rifles, 41,780 grenades, 3 million rounds of ammunition, 113 tons of rations and about 1000 pounds of medicines.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 103
When Winston Churchill, asked his military staff in August why the Soviet offensive on Warsaw had halted and whether this had been prompted by political considerations, British General staff officers gave this reply: ‘The Germans are making great efforts to hold this nodal point in their communications and they have surrounded and annihilated Russian armored forces which were advancing on the city.’ Russian historian Lev Bezymensky comments: ‘You can’t help admiring the insight and honesty of these British General Staff officers.’
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 105
RED ARMY WAS IN NO POSITION TO IMMEDIATELY AID THE WARSAW UPRISING
The Poles in London wanted postwar Poland to be in the hands of a bourgeois, capitalist, reactionary, anti-socialist, anti-Soviet, pro-Western government headed by Mikolajczyk. The political goals set by Mikolajczyk in cahoots with Churchill required that Warsaw be liberated [by British and American forces] before the Soviet army reached the city. That way, a pro-Western government supported by Mikolajczyk would already be in control of the city by the time the Soviets arrived. But it didn’t work out that way. Our troops under Rokossovsky got there first. The anti-Communist Poles in London thought the Soviet army would enter the city as soon as we reached the Vistula. That’s why they ordered Bor-Komorowski to stage a last-ditch revolt against the Germans.
However, our forces didn’t do what the insurgents expected. They didn’t enter the city. Instead, Rokossovsky’s army waited on the right bank of the Vistula. You might ask why we didn’t cross the river immediately and liberate the city. Well, there were a number of factors. First, the river itself posed a major natural obstacle; it would take time to ford and cost us heavily in men and equipment. Second, an advancing force always suffers more casualties than a defending force. Both these considerations meant we had to wait for reinforcements to catch up with our advance units. Furthermore, our commanders figured we would suffer fewer losses if, rather than attacking frontally, we could drive the Germans out of the city by attacking them from the left bank and then closing in on them with a flanking action which our troops were already preparing south of Warsaw where they had established a bridgehead. But all these preparations took time. That’s why we had to wait on the far side of the river during the Polish uprising inside the city.
The Germans suppressed the Warsaw revolt and took the insurgents prisoner, including General Bor-Komorowski. Usually when the Hitlerites captured the leader of an insurrection in occupied territory, they would have no mercy; they would shoot him at once. But this Bor-Komorowski was allowed to live and after the war conducted anti-Polish and anti-socialist activities–which makes me wonder what sort man he was.
Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 188
On August 1, 1944, the Polish government in London set off an insurrection in Warsaw. These reactionaries began their criminal adventure solely to prevent the Red Army from liberating the Polish capital. The Red Army, which had just advanced 600 kilometres, had lost many men and much matEriel. It was impossible for it to go forward to Warsaw and help the insurrection. In fact, the Polish reactionaries had deliberately hidden from the Soviets their intention to start the insurrection. But the Nazis, having concentrated several divisions in Warsaw, massacred the population and destroyed the capital.
K. K. Rokossovsky, A Soldier’s Duty. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1985, pp. 254–263.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 265 [p. 243 on the NET]
Stalin saw this as a war within a war. He wrote to Churchill and Roosevelt:
“Sooner or later, the truth will be known about the handful of criminals who, in order to seize power, set off the Warsaw adventure.”
Staline, Discours 9 fevrier 1946 (Euvres Editions NBE, 1975), vol. XIV, p. 376.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 265 [p. 243 on the NET]
Rokossovsky’s advance to the outskirts of Praga, the suburb of Warsaw on the opposite bank of the broad Vistula, made liberation seem at hand. Already on July 24, however, general Bor-Komorowski, commanding the Polish underground army in Warsaw, had decided to order an uprising before the Red Army could reach the city. He was fanatically anti-Russian. He was determined that the Poles should liberate their own city and prepare the way for the London government to take power, excluding the Polish Communists. For these reasons and also from stubborn pride he avoided all contact with Rokossovsky and the Russian High Command, refusing even to consider co-ordinating action with the Red Army.
The people of Warsaw were, however, expecting Rokossovsky’s forces to cross the river and come to their aid…. They were bewildered when no Russian crossing was attempted and the Russian guns fell silent.
On Aug. 1 Bor-Komorowski’s underground army of 40,000 men attacked the Germans in the city. They were poorly armed and lacked supplies, but they fought bravely. The battle raged for 63 days, but the uprising was savagely crushed. Over 200,000 of the city’s inhabitants were killed. The Germans expelled the 800,000 survivors and razed the city to the ground.
The uprising and what Churchill called the “Martyrdom of Warsaw” aroused controversy. The Allied leaders suspected that Stalin had ordered the Red Army to halt at the Vistula and that he was callously leaving the city to its fate. The London Poles actively fomented these suspicions in Britain and the United States. In fact, Rokossovsky’s forces had been halted and were in no position to cross the river and liberate the city.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 398
Footnote: The Warsaw uprising is still a matter of controversy. The latest contribution is Nothing but Honour which fails to present the full story. Among the major factors which are minimized or ignored are, first, that Rokossovsky’s forces, exhausted after their rapid advance, were halted by the German offensive; the second factor concerns General Bor-Komorowski. He lacked the training and experience for high command, and he gravely miscalculated the situation. Not only did he deliberately reject all idea of coordinating the uprising with the Red Army, but he also failed to secure firm undertakings of Allied support.
On learning of the uprising General Anders, commander of the Polish II Corps in Italy, denounced Bor-Komorowski’s action as “a serious crime” and “madness.”
It was, indeed, a terrible tragedy and one for which Stalin and the Red Army have been unfairly criticized. It left scars on Russian-Polish relations which took many years to heal. But it also had the effect of making many Poles realize that they must show realism and come to terms with Russia. For the Polish government in London it was a political and military defeat from which it never recovered.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 506
After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Anders was plucked from his Siberian prison camp and asked to form a new Polish army from fellow prisoners, to fight alongside the Red Army.
Read, Anthony and David Fisher. The Deadly Embrace. New York: Norton, 1988, p. 361
The situation was further complicated by the failed Warsaw uprising, organized by the emigre leaders without the knowledge of the Soviet government.
Berezhkov, Valentin. At Stalin’s Side. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Pub. Group, c1994, p. 259
On Aug. 1, 1944, armed insurrection against the Germans broke out in Warsaw. The insurgents were led by officers who took their cue from the Polish Government in London. The Red Army had rapidly approached Warsaw, and the commanders of the rising mistakenly believed that the German garrison was about to evacuate the city. The mass of the insurgents were animated by the desire to liberate their capital through their own efforts. Their commander, however, was himself guilty of a gross political mistake–he gave the order for action without trying to establish contact and to co-ordinate the rising with the command of the advancing Russian army. Incidentally, the commander of that Russian army was a Pole, Marshall Rokossovsky. That mistake sprang, of course, from the political situation. The leaders of the rising hoped that they would either be in control of the Polish capital before the entry of the Russians, or that, failing this, they would exert moral pressure on the Russians to acknowledge the political claims of those who had helped them to expel the Germans.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 522
It soon turned out that the timing of the insurrection was disastrous. Rokossovsky’s army had been stopped by the Germans at the Vistula and then thrown back. The German garrison, far from evacuating the capital, turned all its might and fury against the insurgents. A somber and desperate battle developed, in which the Poles fought with unique romantic heroism, and the Germans revenged themselves by burning and pulling down street after street and house after house, until the city of Warsaw virtually ceased to exist. The Poles begged for help. Mikolajczyk appealed to Stalin. Stalin’s behavior was extremely strange, to say no more. At first he would not believe the reports about the rising and suspected a canard. Then he promised help but failed to give it. So far it was still possible to put a charitable interpretation upon his behavior. It may be, it is indeed very probable, that Rokossovsky, repelled by the Germans, was unable to come to the rescue of Warsaw, and that Stalin, just conducting major offensives on the southern sector of the front, in the Carpathians and in Rumania, could not alter his strategic dispositions to assist the unexpected rising. But then he did something that sent a shudder of horror through the allied countries. He refused to allow British planes, flying from their bases to drop arms and food to the insurgents, to land on Russian airfields behind the fighting lines. He thereby reduced British help to the insurgents to a minimum. Then Russian planes appeared over the burning city with help, when it was too late.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 523
The British and American governments begged Stalin to support the insurgents. Stalin refused, arguing that the insurrection had begun without any prior coordination with the Soviet command and that it was an adventure for which the London Poles were to blame.
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 416
It has long been conventional in the West to hold Stalin and the Red Army responsible, indirectly, for the horrors that befell Warsaw…. It is said that the Polish Home Army expected help from the Soviet Union. Instead the Red Army sat on the Vistula and watched the destruction of the city in front of them….
The truth is far more complicated than this. The Warsaw rising was instigated not to help out the Soviet advance but to forestall it. Polish nationalists did not want Warsaw liberated by the Red Army but wanted to do so themselves, as a symbol of the liberation struggle and the future independence of Poland. This ambition was all the more urgent because only days before, on July 21, a Communist-backed Polish Committee for National Liberation was set up with Stalin’s blessing. At Lublin on July 22 the Committee was declared to be the new provisional government; four days later a pact of friendship was signed, with the Soviet Union recognizing the new government. All of this was at least technically within the terms agreed at Tehran, where Churchill and Roosevelt had half-heartedly acquiesced to Stalin’s request to keep the frontiers of 1941 and his share of Poland as divided in the German-Soviet pact. What Polish nationalists and the Western Allies could not tolerate was the almost certain fact that any new Polish state born of German defeat would be dominated by the Soviet Union. The Polish government in exile in London, led by Mikolajczyk, urged the Home Army to launch a pre-emptive nationalist insurrection and remained unalterably opposed to any idea that the Soviet Union should keep the territory seized in 1939.
The real issue was not political–there was nothing knew about the hostility between Soviet leaders and Polish nationalists–but military. Could the Red Army have captured Warsaw in August 1944 and saved its population from further barbarities? The answer now seems unambiguously negative. Soviet forces did not sit and play while Warsaw burned. The city was beyond their grasp. In the first days of August the most advanced Soviet units were engaged in bitter fighting on the approaches to the city; the small bridgeheads over the Vistula were subject to a fierce German onslaught. To the north both sides desperately contested the crossing of the Bug and Narew rivers, which might have opened up another avenue to the Polish capital. This was hardly inactivity, though it could little benefit the Poles. Stalin was completely, and no doubt correctly, dismissive of the military potential of the Polish army. “What kind of army is it?” he asked Mikolajczyk, who was visiting Moscow in early August, “without artillery, tanks, air force? In modern war this is nothing….” Soviet commanders knew that this was not like Kiev or Minsk; their forces were tired and short of arms, and the Germans had made the defense of the Warsaw district a priority. Late in August 1944 General Rokossovsky, whose troops were tied down on the Warsaw front, told a British war correspondent that “the rising would have made sense only if we were on the point of entering Warsaw. That point had not been reached at any stage…. We were pushed back….” When Zhukov was sent to the Warsaw front in early September to report to Stalin on the confused situation there, he concluded on military grounds that the Vistula could not yet be crossed in force. German war memoirs, which are less suspect as a source, confirm that the Red Army was prevented from helping Warsaw by the sudden stiffening of the German defense.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 296-297
With incredible courage they [the Poles] held out for no less than nine weeks against the most savage attacks. But their tragic gamble failed, first because they had underestimated the reaction of the Germans, who instead of abandoning the city brought up powerful reinforcements to suppress the uprising; second, because they notified neither the Western Allies nor the Russians of their intentions; and third (and in part, because of that), because they received virtually no help from outside.
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Knopf, 1992, p. 852
Stalin can hardly be blamed for the decision to launch the Warsaw uprising. This was a tragic, if understandable, mistake by the AK commanders and the exiled government, deliberately made without consultation with any of the three major Allies. Stalin appears to have been surprised as well as irritated by it. It occurred at a time when the Russian advance in the center had run out of steam and preparations for the next phase of the campaign had not yet begun. This was not in fact launched until mid-January 1945.
Given the unexpected German rally and counterattack on the Vistula front it would have been difficult for Rokossovsky’s forces to have broken through to relieve the Warsaw insurgents, even if Stalin had wanted to.
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Knopf, 1992, p. 854
At the end of September 1944 I returned to General Headquarters from Bulgaria. A few days later the Supreme Commander [Stalin] instructed me to promptly go to the area of Warsaw….
First of all I wished to find out how things were in Warsaw itself whose residents had not long before staged an uprising against the fascist aggressors. The German Command dealt ruthlessly with the insurgents and subjected the population to brutal reprisals. The city was razed to the ground. Thousands of civilians perished in the wreckage.
As was established later, neither the command of the Front nor that of Poland’s First Army had been informed in advance by Bor-Komorowski, the leader of the uprising, about the forthcoming events in Warsaw. Nor did he make any attempt to coordinate the insurgents’ actions with those of the First Byelorussian Front. The Soviet command learned about the uprising after the event from local residents who had crossed the Vistula. The Stavka [Soviet military command] had not been informed in advance either….
On instructions by the Supreme Commander [Stalin], two paratroop officers were sent to Bor-Komorowski for liaison and coordination of actions. However, Bor-Komorowski refused to receive the officers.
Zhukov, Georgi. Reminiscences and Reflections Vol. 2. Moscow: Progress Pub., c1985, p. 301
POLISH ARMY LAUNCHES HOPELESS ATTACKS WITHOUT WORKING WITH RED ARMY
The Polish First Army then launched its own attack across the Vistula into Warsaw itself, but after heavy losses was forced on Sept. 23 to retreat back across the river. Even at this late stage the Polish Home Army distrusted their pro-Communist compatriots so profoundly that they refused to coordinate their operations with the new attacking force. A week later they surrendered, victims not so much of cynical Stalinist calculation but of their own nationalist fervor: love of their country and hatred of the two great powers at either shoulder that had conspired to crush it.
Overy, R. J. Russia’s War: Blood Upon the Snow. New York: TV Books, c1997, p. 298
STALIN SAYS THE WARSAW UPRISING WAS FOOLISH AND POORLY TIMED
That the Polish insurgents made a critical error is no longer in doubt. Taking their orders from London, they failed to coordinate their uprising with Moscow, which was probably tantamount to suicide. Moscow learned about the uprising after it had started and Stalin disassociated himself and the Soviet Command from it. On 16 August, he sent a message to Churchill: ‘The Warsaw action is a reckless and fearful gamble, taking a heavy toll of the population. This would not have been the case had Soviet headquarters been informed beforehand about the Warsaw action and had the Poles in London maintained contact with them.’
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 103
…Air Marshal Rudenko, one of the Russian officers involved in helping the Warsaw Poles –he was chief of the 16th Air Army–maintained that it was simply not possible for the Red Army to rush effective aid to Warsaw in late August 1944. He said Russian air bases were too far away. He blamed the tragedy on the Polish Emigre government in London.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 103
In the 1980s, declassification of pertinent British documents adds to the evidence that Moscow was not notified in advance of the Warsaw Uprising. A commission appointed by the British General Staff reported on 31 July 1944, on the eve of the uprising: ‘It would be politically and militarily unacceptable to undertake any such measures without the approval and cooperation of the Russians.’
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 105
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