The German-Soviet Pact, also known as the
Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact after the two foreign ministers who negotiated the
agreement, had two parts. An economic agreement, signed on August 19, 1939,
provided that Germany would exchange manufactured goods for Soviet raw
materials. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union also signed a ten-year
nonaggression pact on August 23, 1939, in which each signatory promised not to
attack the other.
The German-Soviet Pact enabled Germany to attack Poland on September 1, 1939, without fear of Soviet intervention. On September 3, 1939, Britain and France, having guaranteed to protect Poland's borders five months earlier, declared war on Germany. These events marked the beginning of World War II.
The nonaggression pact of August 23 contained a secret protocol that provided for the partition of Poland and the rest of eastern Europe into Soviet and German spheres of interest. In accordance with this plan, the Soviet army occupied and annexed eastern Poland in the autumn of 1939. On November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland, precipitating a four-month winter war after which the Soviet Union annexed Finnish territory borderlands, particularly near Leningrad. With German indulgence, the Soviet Union also moved to secure its sphere of interest in eastern Europe in the summer of 1940. The Soviets occupied and incorporated the Baltic states and seized the Romanian provinces of northern Bukovina and Bessarabia.
After the Germans defeated France in June 1940, German diplomats worked to secure Germany's ties in southeastern Europe. Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia all joined the Axis alliance in November 1940. During the spring of 1941, Hitler initiated his eastern European allies into plans to invade the Soviet Union.
Hitler had always regarded the German-Soviet nonaggression pact as a tactical and temporary maneuver. On December 18, 1940, he signed Directive 21 (code-named Operation Barbarossa), the first operational order for the invasion of the Soviet Union. From the beginning of operational planning, German military and police authorities intended to wage a war of annihilation against the Communist state as well as the Jews of the Soviet Union, whom they characterized as forming the "racial basis" for the Soviet state.
German forces invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, less than two years after the German-Soviet Pact was signed.
Text of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact
The Government of the German Reich and The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics desirous of strengthening the cause of peace between Germany and the U.S.S.R., and proceeding from the fundamental provisions of the Neutrality Agreement concluded in April, 1926 between Germany and the U.S.S.R., have reached the following Agreement:
Article I. Both High Contracting Parties obligate themselves to desist from any act of violence, any aggressive action, and any attack on each other, either individually or jointly with other Powers.
Article II. Should one of the High Contracting Parties become the object of belligerent action by a third Power, the other High Contracting Party shall in no manner lend its support to this third Power.
Article III. The Governments of the two High Contracting Parties shall in the future maintain continual contact with one another for the purpose of consultation in order to exchange information on problems affecting their common interests.
Article IV. Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties shall participate in any grouping of Powers whatsoever that is directly or indirectly aimed at the other party.
Article V. Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties over problems of one kind or another, both parties shall settle these disputes or conflicts exclusively through friendly exchange of opinion or, if necessary, through the establishment of arbitration commissions.
Article VI. The present Treaty is concluded for a period of ten years, with the proviso that, in so far as one of the High Contracting Parties does not advance it one year prior to the expiration of this period, the validity of this Treaty shall automatically be extended for another five years.
Article VII. The present treaty shall be ratified within the
shortest possible time. The ratifications shall be exchanged in Berlin. The
Agreement shall enter into force as soon as it is signed.
[The section below was not published at the time the above was announced.]
Secret Additional Protocol.
Article I. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.
Article II. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San.
The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish States and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments.
In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.
Article III. With regard to Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinteredness in these areas.
Article IV. This protocol shall be treated by both parties as strictly secret.
Moscow, August 23, 1939.
For the Government of the German Reich v. Ribbentrop
Plenipotentiary of the Government of the U.S.S.R. V. Molotov