Reality will make the severest amendments to the foreign policy fantasies of the Nazis, but it cannot change one thing—Hitler cannot exist without a big foreign policy and this means extreme, including military adventurism and, ultimately, war and intervention against the USSR. 1
On 18 April 1933, Sergei Alexandrovsky, political counsellor at the Soviet embassy in Berlin, summed up the course of the subsequent eight years of Nazi foreign policy. Alexandrovsky was not blessed with a special ability to look into the future. What may seem like considerable prescience by a middling official in the Soviet diplomatic corps was the expression of concerns shared by Stalin and his officials. The foundations of these concerns rested on the many rabidly anti-Soviet comments by Hitler and other Nazi leaders, but most directly on the relevant passages in Mein Kampf. To the Soviets it was blatantly clear that their system was Nazism’s declared arch-enemy, their country the subject of Hitler’s Lebensraum dreams.
Reality was to make amendments to the course of Hitler’s foreign policy; no adjustment was more severe, however, and less predictable than the pact the German dictator signed with his Soviet counterpart on 23 August 1939. During the period 1933 to 1941 the conclusion of the Pact stands out as the most astounding and unexpected event, more surprising even than the Pact’s eventual shattering on 22 June 1941, when the Wehrmacht commenced Operation Barbarossa, the relentless invasion of the Soviet Union.
Throughout the 1920s and for most of the 1930s Hitler had left no doubt in the minds of his audience in Germany and abroad that his most intense desire was to smash Communism in Germany and elsewhere, that he harboured a virulent hatred of the ‘Judeo-Bolshevik’ regime in Moscow and, most significantly, that he craved territory in Eastern