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The central premise of The Devil’s Alliance is that the 1939 Nazi-Soviet agreement, secured just prior to the German invasion of Poland, is wrongly considered by most historians to be only an incidental event of World War II but was, rather, one of the central events that made the war possible. Mr Moorhouse argues that the alliance is barely mentioned in most histories of the period but should be examined in detail to understand how it affected the ability of Germany to wage war and especially how it affected Germany’s ability to wage war against the Soviet Union.
Most histories of of World War II in Europe that I have read do mention the agreement and consider it to have been essential in securing Germany’s eastern borders and in allowing Hitler to fight a single front war during his battle against France and England, and all of those books describe the events in western Poland and the effect the German invasion had on the peoples of that part of Poland. However almost describe the events the alliance set in motion for the peoples of eastern Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and none describe how the alliance functioned, the effect it had on Germany’s ability to wage war, the effect it had on the Soviet Union’s rearmament efforts and the political and social effect it had on the German and Soviet population.
This book is quite different. It covers the 22 months of the agreement in detail and provides wonderful information about subjects I have never seen covered at all. How did the ideologues of both governments handle the political fallout of a friendship agreement between two tyrannies that hated and despised each other? How did the agreement effect international organizations like the Comintern that had been set up to propagandize against Nazi Germany? How did Communists in other countries handle the friendship agreement with a country the Soviet Union had been vilifying for years? What did the Soviet Union get in exchange for their raw materials? What effect did the Soviet raw materials have on the German ability to wage war? Who benefited most? And many, many other subjects that make for fascinating reading including an epilogue discussing how the events during that period ended up affecting the the Soviet Union years later during the late 1980s and early 1990s as all the Soviet Republics gained their freedom. Of special note was how the 1939 deportations by the Soviet Union of the citizens of the Baltic Republics ended up generating intense hatred still felt in 1990 and how that affected relations between those newly independent republics and the dying Soviet Union.
Mr Moorhouse’s writing is clear and interesting, the material is largely fascinating and the narration of the book is very well done. Some parts are a bit more graphic than they need to be and are difficult to listen to, but I have learned a great deal concerning the period in question and feel that it has been very helpful in clarifying much about the agreement and how it worked. Some information was fascinating and I was surprised to find out that the Soviet Union received, among other finished goods from Germany, war making material such as a pocket battleship, improved artillery and German planes. On the German side it can fairly be said that the alliance provided Germany with much of the petroleum and lubricants that allowed it to wage war against the Soviet Union itself. This book is a welcome addition to the literature concerning World War II in Europe and I recommend it to those with an interest in that period of time.
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Great writing, research, and great narration combine to tell a story that is truly fascinating and interesting. So much history and geopolitical intrigue becomes clear as a result of understanding these 22 months of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. I highly recommend it to anyone interesting in the nature of WWII.
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