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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Hitler's policy towards the Soviet Union, January 1933-June 1941 Dyck, Harvey Leonard


Within a year of his accession to power, Hitler, by concluding a non-aggression pact with Poland and by bringing relations with Russia to an impasse, had revolutionized German foreign policy. This policy reversal was chosen, primarily, for tactical reasons and only secondarily for ideological reasons. Prom the outset, it is true, relations with Russia were made difficult by Hitler's persecution of the German Communist Party and by his own hatred for Bolshevism. But it was only after Poland had twice threatened a preventative war against Germany and after Germany had become diplomatically isolated through her desertion of the League of Nations, that Hitler decided upon a rapprochement with Poland and a break with Russia. This policy was finalized by the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of January, 1934. The political orientation of German foreign policy, established by this pact, remained fixed in its outlines for the following five years. During these years, Hitler used the anti-Communist bogey to justify his foreign policy coups and to ease his relations with Poland. Russia herself, he ignored as a power factor in opposition. Nor did he consider a political understanding with her. However, he did toy with the idea of her as an object of aggression. In the spring and summer of 1939, Hitler's Soviet policy was changed by his decision, in early spring, to settle with Poland. Even after making this decision, he continued to ignore Russia. In mid-April, however, stiffening British resistance and the threat of an Anglo-Russian understanding, on the one hand, and coy hints by the Soviet Government that it might be prepared for a detente with Germany on the other hand, persuaded Hitler that the only way of intimidating the West into neutrality and Poland into submission and of preventing a Russo-British alliance, was to raise the threat of a Russo-German understanding. During the following months this tactic proved to be unsuccessful and by mid-July, Hitler, however unwillingly, became convinced that only the reality of a Russo-German alliance would suffice to drive the Western democracies into neutrality. It was mainly for this reason, that Hitler sought the pact with Russia. When war came and Western resistance was not paralyzed, the original reason for the Moscow Pact disappeared. However, the consequent Western belligerency made a continued policy of friendship with Russia necessary throughout the winter of 1939 to I940. The idea of an eventual attack on Russia had never been completely absent from Hitler's mind, but before the defeat of France in June, 1940, it had never been more than a vague notion. With the defeat of France, Hitler, assuming that Britain, too, would capitulate, briefly considered the idea of an attack on Russia as a strategic goal. When Britain continued to resist, Hitler, frustrated that he could not end the war and confident that he could vanquish Russia, convinced himself that Britain's attitude was based on hopes placed in Russia. Thus to destroy Britain's last remaining hopes on the continent, Hitler, in late July, decided upon an attack on Russia. During the following months the diplomatic, military, and economic preparations for the attack were completed, and with the attack on June 22, 1941, an era of Russo -German relations was ended.

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