Hitler And Stalin And Their Parallel Lives
For much of the early events leading up to World War II, Hitler and Stalin were considered to be allies. Stalin had recently become leader of the new Soviet state and thought of himself as being “threatened on all sides” by capitalist states. The Soviet leadership was also extremely worried about loyalists who had escaped from Russia and who, with aristocratic ties to others across the continent, might be able to motivate another nation to attack Russia.
In the early and mid-1930s, Hitler was also in a similar state of feeling threatened and paranoid. As the new chancellor and then “Fuhrer” of Germany, he began to cultivate secret efforts for the German nation to violate its obligations under the Treaty of Versailles, which had ended World War I.
The Treaty of Versailles had many strict provisions, the purpose of which was to ensure that the German military would never again be able to threaten other nations. Among these were provisions barring the Germans from having an air force. There were several others, such as a requirement that Germany pay reparations to the victims of World War I.
In order to get around many of these treaty obligations, Hitler reached out to Stalin in secret. A secret pact was negotiated by the foreign ministers of Russia and Germany. Known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, it was the first step in secretly rearming Germany. Under this pact, Stalin provided both the aerial hardware and the training that Nazi Germany needed in order to prepare and field its own air force.
The cooperation between Hitler and Stalin was not secret for long, however. Other nations did become aware of the violations, but refused to act. Many politicians in neighboring countries felt that Germany would have to be restored to its former prestige in Europe, and believed it was okay to leave Hitler to reclaim some influence.
However, Hitler and Stalin experienced a falling out. As a dedicated racist, Hitler believed Stalin was a member of an “inferior” Slavic race. Hitler imagined a future in which he could occupy Russia and enslave its people on behalf of German colonists who would rule Russia. Stalin, for his part, believed that Hitler was a “bourgeoisie” and class enemy.
In order to realize his ambitions to enslave the Russians, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, a ground invasion, near the end of the war. Millions of German soldiers perished during the brutal Russian winter, helping seal the fate of the Third Reich.