From Peace to War: Germany, Soviet Russia, and the World, 1939-1941

From Peace to War: Germany, Soviet Russia, and the World, 1939-1941

From Peace to War: Germany, Soviet Russia, and the World, 1939-1941

From Peace to War: Germany, Soviet Russia, and the World, 1939-1941

Synopsis

The German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941 represents one of the major caesuras in European history. Its consequences could still be felt fifty years later. Thirty-five historians from nine different countries (including the former Soviet Union) offer a comprehensive survey of the origins, course and long-term impact of this event. The volume is not merely concerned with political and military history, but also with the experiences of ordinary soldiers and civilians.

Bernd Wegner is Professor of Modern History at the University of Hamburg.

Excerpt

On 23 August 1939 the German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, travelled to Moscow; in the small hours of the following day, after a final short bout of negotiations, he signed the nonaggression pact that was to trigger the most destructive war in Europe's history a few days later. Less than two years later, the Soviet Union had also become a victim; a German army of millions of men was marching towards the Soviet capital. The two roads to Moscow -- both the one taken by Ribbentrop and that taken by the Wehrmacht -- form an indivisible whole. It is no more possible to explain the German invasion of 1941 without the fateful pact between the two dictators than to see the pact itself as feasible without Hitler's plan to attack his treaty partner at a later stage. This book is an attempt to remind the reader of how interdependent the various events of the period 1939- 41 were, and thus to clarify at least part of the complex structure that historians so glibly call the 'Second World War'.

Even specialist historians often underestimate the complex nature of a war that not only included the confusion of events taking place on countless battlefields, but also radically and permanently changed the situation on literally all levels of reality, from the international system of powers, via the internal structures of the countries involved, right down to the psyches of millions of individuals. This complexity, strangely enough, seems to have become more rather than less confusing with the passing of time, particularly in recent years. This is above all due to three factors. Firstly, as a result of ear-

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