BETRAYAL: The Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 by Wolfgang Leonhard

BETRAYAL: The Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939

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An impressionistic, montage-like approach to the infamous time ""when tyrants kissed"" (timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the German-Soviet Pact), by the author of Eurocommunism and The Kremlin and the West, among others. By no means is this a definitive account of the Hitler-Stalin Non-Aggression Pact (which paved the way for the rape of Poland and all that followed). Last year's The Deadly Embrace, by Read and Fisher, can lay claim to that title. What Leonhard offers is a mixed bag of firsthand accounts, oral history, newspaper clippings, and other contemporary observations from both countries, all blended in a way that makes the reader a partner to history. Leonhard gives cameo sketches of five renowned Communists to whom the pact broke the last bond of loyalty and rendered it impossible for them to remain in the Communist movement--including American Granville Hicks (after hearing the news, he said, ""That knocks the bottom out of everything""); Arthur Koestler (still holding faith with workers' movements, he stated: ""I remained in that state of suspended animation until the day when the swastika was hoisted on Moscow Airport in honor of Ribbentrop's arrival and the Red Army band broke into the 'Horst Wessel Lied' ""); and Willi Munzenberg (who called Stalin's move ""the Russian stab in the back""). In the brief section in which Leonhard concerns himself with the actual parameters of the pact, he emphasizes the four articles of the Secret Protocol that made of the agreement something much more propitious than a nonaggression treaty. The secret articles (revealed to the West only in 1948) called for the partition of Poland and sealed the fate of Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Many of these provisions have only in the past couple of years--under Gorbachev's perestroika--come to light in these republics, and may yet have influence in fueling already strong independence movements. Leonhard's hope is that Gorbachev may totally reverse Soviet secrecy on the matter by publishing the terms of the pact for its 50th anniversary. An informative and engaging account of one of the watershed treaties of the 20th century.

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's