Monday, February 17, 2020


At three in the morning, German time, on 22 June 1941, Soviet Ambassador Vladimir Dekanozov was summoned to the German Foreign Ministry in the Berlin Wilhelmstrasse. When the Soviet delegation reached the Ministry, there were floodlights and a small crowd of journalists, photographers and film cameramen. Exactly one hour after the telephone call, they were in the not unfamiliar surroundings of the office of the Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop. He had obviously been drinking. Ribbentrop told Dekanozov he had information that the Soviet Union had been preparing to attack Germany and that Germany had therefore had to take measures to guarantee its own ‘security’. The concentration of Soviet troops on Germany’s ‘eastern border’ necessitated ‘military countermeasures’. An hour before, he said, German forces had crossed into the Soviet Union. After nearly two years of apparently fruitful economic and political collaboration between Germany and the USSR, it was war

Dekanozov turned his back on the Germans, and the Soviet delegation walked away. Then, according to Valentin Berezhkov, the young Soviet interpreter, Ribbentrop chased after the withdrawing Soviet delegation, saying that he had been against Hitler’s decision, and that he had tried to talk the F├╝hrer out of his ‘madness’ (Wahnsinn). ‘Please inform Moscow that I was against the attack,’ were the last words Berezhkov heard him say. None of the others present reported this alleged outburst in exactly the same way, but, given the magnitude of the news they had just received, perhaps that is not altogether surprising (although the Soviet diplomats had been aware of all the reports indicating a German attack was imminent). It seems almost too remarkable and untypical of such occasions for Berezhkov to have made it up, and one of Ribbentrop’s officials reported the same sentiment, if not the same words. Having worked since 1939 to build Nazi-Soviet cooperation, it is understandable that Ribbentrop should feel this way. He had almost certainly grown to know and respect the Russians— who, until now, had been colleagues, if not full allies.

Chris Bellamy, Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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