Confrontation of German and Soviet forces in Europe in 1939


Confrontation of forces in Europe on January 1, 1939, looked favorable for Adolf Hitler who had earlier on November 25 1936, signed an anti-soviet Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan and Italy.

Japan had promptly started military actions against the Soviet Union. For the first time in world’s history, in 1938-1939, air battles involving up to 400 planes were fought between Soviet and Japanese pilots. Hitler at the beginning of 1939 believed that he had potentially aligned some 600 divisions against the USSR.


Hitler was led to believe that his coalition included 200 divisions of the Kwantung Army were ready to attack from the east while on the western side of Soviet borders were 220 German divisions, about 100 Polish divisions and about 80 divisions of other German allies. Thus Hitler hoped to quickly defeat the Soviet forces of 170 divisions in 1939. The Soviets increased their forces to 225 divisions in 1941.


Hitler admired the Polish victory over Lenin’s army in 1920 and hoped to use Poles as his cannon-fodder. [Hitler hoped to mobilize in Poland some three million soldiers (less than 10% of population) besides regular Polish Army]. Thus, Nazis were sure that they had enough soldiers to defeat the Soviet Union.


Polish Foreign Minister Józef Beck was convinced that after victory over the USSR, Hitler would be ready to follow his “Eastern Plan” to exterminate 51 million Slavs in order to create for the next 1000 years a “racially pure” “Great Germany” from the Rhine River to the Dnepr and have a German colonial empire from the Rhine to Vladivostok. In 1945 Nazis had enough gas to kill tens of millions of Poles and Ukrainians living west of the Dnepr River. The main goal of Berlin government was to gain control over Soviet and Arab oil and gas fields. [Similar ideas caused Berlin in 1914  to declare war on Russia.]


The territory of Russia included “World’s Heartland” as defined by general major Karl Haushofer also professor of geopolitics, who believed in the coming geopolitical catastrophe caused by the excessive size of human population. Haushofer’s student and Hitler’s secretary was Rudolf Hess who was together with Hitler in prison in Landsberg in Bavaria after the coup in Munich in 1923.


Professor Haushofer visited Hitler in prison and gave to Hitler and to Hess some six hours of lectures at the moment when Hitler needed help in writing his political program “Mein Kampf.” Houshofer realized that Hitler lacked of knowledge and gave him such books as the “Political Geography” by Friedrich Ratzel. After the defeat of Germany at the beginning of the nuclear age, Karl Ernest Haushofer, general, geographer and geo-politician committed suicide on 27 of August of 1946 [, probably feeling guilty of having helped Hitler’s folly.]


On January 26, 1939 Hitler’s plans of conquest suffered a major blow in form of a decisive refusal by Poland to join the Anti-comintern Pact which was in fact an anti-Soviet pact. The rejection was given personally by the Polish Foreign Minister Beck to the German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop in Warsaw.


The two main protagonists in Europe were Hitler and Stalin. Each tried to place the other in a two-front war. Stalin started to exploit Poland’s refusal of January 26, and on March 10, 1939, in a speech broadcast by radio Moscow during the 18th convention of Soviet Communist Party, Stalin invited Hitler to cooperate with him. At first the Nazis were flabbergasted. However, Hitler was advised that he could not attack the Soviets directly following German invasion of Poland because of heavy battles expected with the Polish Army, as it happened according to German records their war machine used twice more ammunition, artillery shells, and bombs in 1939 in Poland than the Germans used in France in 1940. 


Hitler accepted the invitation. Thus, Stalin’s government knew ahead of the time when the Pact Ribbentrop-Mołotov would be signed and accordingly planed an attack against the Japanese in Manchuria at Khakkhim-Gol. In the middle of a military disaster in which some 20,000 Japanese were killed, the government in Tokyo leaned about Hitler’s betrayal of his pact with Japan, signed in 1936.


Japanese negotiations with the Soviets ended with Japan’s exit from the war against the USSR on September 16, 1939. The next day, on September 17, 1939 the Red Army invaded Poland two weeks after German Army had attacked Poland on September 1, 1939 starting the Second World in Europe.