Narkomindel (Russian Foreign Office) Map, published in the Soviet newspaper Izvestia on September 18, 1939

J.W. Stalin and Joachim von Ribbentrop

The map pictured below was signed by Joseph Stalin and German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop on August 23, 1939, when the USSR and Nazi Germany agreed to attack, conquer and divide Poland between themselves. It shows the planned border between Russian and German zones of occupation. It is derived from the Secret Protocol of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, often called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in which the USSR and Nazi-Germany agreed to split Eastern Europe.

Ribbentrop-Molotov Map of 1939

According to the protocol, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland were divided into German and Soviet “spheres of influence“. In the north, Finland, Estonia and Latvia were assigned to the Soviet sphere. Poland was to be partitioned in the event of its “political rearrangement”: the areas east of the Pisa, Narev, Vistula and San rivers would go to the Soviet Union, while Germany would occupy the west. Lithuania, adjacent to East Prussia, would be in the German sphere of influence, although a second secret protocol agreed to in September 1939 reassigned the majority of Lithuania to the USSR. According to the protocol, Lithuania would be granted its historical capital Vilnius, which was under Polish control during the inter-war period. Another clause of the treaty stipulated that Germany would not interfere with the Soviet Union’s actions towards Bessarabia, then part of Romania; as a result, not only Bessarabia, but Northern Bukovina and Hertza regions too, were occupied by the Soviets, and integrated into the Soviet Union.

The Secret Protocol (German Version)
Last Page of the Secret Protocol (Russian Version)

The attack started at 4:45 am on September 1, 1939, on the German front – the Russians followed two weeks later, for logistical difficulties.

Official German Proclamation, September 25, 1939
Cartoon in the “Evening Standard”
Official Meeting of Russians and Germans at Lublin, Poland, September 22, 1939

While the pact came as a rude shock to the world, it is widely unknown that it had been secretly prepared for many months by the Auswärtiges Amt, the German Foreign Office. While they wanted – after the war – to present the legend they had been only doing their job and were certainly not Nazis, their efforts are well documented and I have located them at the Avalon Project at Yale Law School and University. They will be the subject of a subsequent post.

Here an excerpt from the Avalon files, Ribbentrop’s telegram to the German Ambassador Schulenburg in Moscow from August 14, 1939, informing Stalin of his desire for a meeting.

(© John Vincent Palatine 2015/19)

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