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Why was Stalin not better prepared for WW2? Mr. B. Armstrong Revision notes from

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1 Why was Stalin not better prepared for WW2? Mr. B. Armstrong Revision notes from

2 1939 Cartoon from an American magazine, drawn by Herb Block. It is a visual representation of how the world responded to the Nazi- Soviet Pact. Like a wolf and bear not being likely bedfellows, Communism and Fascism were not likely allies. And the world recognised that the alliance placed Poland in a vulnerable position.

3 Why did Hitler want to invade USSR? What did the USSR do to feel safe? Nazi-Soviet (Molotov- Ribbentrop) Pact Untermenschen Lebensraum Built up army Sought alliance with Britain & France Raw materials Anti-Comintern Pact

4 Why did Hitler want to invade USSR? What did the USSR do to feel safe? Nazi-Soviet (Molotov- Ribbentrop) Pact was signed between Hitler and Stalin. It agreed that they would not fight, and secretly divided Eastern Europe. Untermenschen – Hitler believed that all Slavic peoples were subhuman and should die. Stalin had sought alliances with Britain & France in the 1930s but they had not been interested until 1938 after Hitler took Czechoslovakia. By this time, Stalin distrusted the West and turned down their alliance offers. Raw materials – USSR had plenty of coal, steel and oil which Hitler wanted. Lebensraum – Hitler wanted “living space” for the German people. The logical place to take it from was the USSR. Build up army – in the third Five Year Plan, Stalin had focussed on the army and built it up. Anti-Comintern Pact – In 1936, Hitler had signed a pact with Japan, and Italy 1937, to fight Communism internationally.


6 When Hitler attacked Poland in 1939, the Soviets took the chance to take over Finland and Poland. This was called the “Winter War”, 1939-40 It was supposed to be an easy victory, but the Finns put up a brave defence. It cost the USSR 20,000 troops. Britain, France, Sweden and Norway supplied volunteers and equipment to Finland. The League of Nations expelled USSR. USSR won but at great cost. As Stalin said in private, “the Russian steamroller army failed to roll”.

7 The Soviets continued to believe their peace with Germany would last. USSR captured several Baltic states, determined to capture as much as Hitler. Whenever German troops won a victory, Molotov sent a letter of congratulations and a delivery of resources. When Hitler invaded Denmark and Norway, Stalin justified it as self-defence. When Stalin asked Hitler to allow him to capture Romania and Bulgaria (Nov. 1940), Hitler fobbed him off with promises of parts of the British Empire! A month later, Hitler signed Order Number 2 - full preparations to invade the USSR.

8 In June 1941, Germany invaded USSR. Why should Stalin have expected it? Winston Churchill had repeatedly warned him. A Soviet spy, Richard Sorge, had obtained a copy of German plans and delivered them to the Kremlin. German spy planes had been openly flying over Soviet territory for weeks. A German deserter fled to Russia and told army officers the exact date of the invasion. So why did Stalin not prepare his armed forces?

9 Stalin was unprepared because: He saw Britain and France as a bigger threat than Germany. He overestimated how strong the alliance with Hitler was. Hitler covered well how much he wanted to attack USSR, despite earlier statements. The Purges had left the leadership of the army lacking experience. The Five Year Plans had produced large amounts of war equipment but it was poor quality. German tactics (blitzkrieg) were shockingly fast and made it hard to respond to.

10 Blitzkreig: How did it work? What problems did the Germans face with it in Russia? From an account by a Soviet tank commander: Hitler relied on the crushing force of his tank divisions accompanied by large numbers of motorized infantry. One hundred and seventy divisions were concentrated in the east for this purpose, of which 60 divisions were composed of mobile troops. The latter included as many as 25 tank divisions. Usually the enemy pushes forward large tank units in the directions of major operations. This move is preceded by the operations of general infantry troop formations or by tank troops jointly with motorized infantry, supported by artillery and aircraft to make a breakthrough in the defence lines. Tank divisions are followed by motorized formations. Mobile groups of troops push ahead as far inland as possible, and in their sweeping movement they neither look back nor pay attention to their flanks, irrespective of whether the rest of their troops are following along. Lately the German tank forces have adopted the following method : When the tank units which have pushed on far ahead run short of fuel they dig themselves into the ground, leaving only the gun turrets above the surface. Thus while waiting for the arrival of fuel the tanks are transformed into a kind of fortified post, and the district occupied by the tank unit becomes something of a fortified district.

11 Dug in tanks, as described in the previous source. The bottom picture is from 2008, of a tank on the Bulgarian/Turkish border. It was still used as a border defence until its sale in 2009.

12 Link forward: WW2 – “The Great Patriotic War”. After a brief break, Stalin took the lead very visibly. In short, USSR won and captured Berlin after brutal fighting, largely helped by the weather and Hitler’s bad tactical decisions. You need to read in the second half of the period on Russia in WW2. Use the revision notes as a starter and find out more about the key battles mentioned and Russia’s scorched earth policy. Shostakovich’s Symphony No.7, “Leningrad”. Written mid-WW2 in Socialist Realism style to promote patriotism. A link between topics...

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