*** war and social upheaval: World War II -- conferences








World War II Conferences

World War II war conferences
Figure 1.--

The Munich Conference was an attempt to prevent a European war. That war was made possible when the Soviets signed the NAZI-Soviet Nom-Agression Pact. The Soviets were the only country to participate in war time conferences both with and against the Axis. Both the Allies and the Axis held a series of conferences to plan strategy and work out cooperative actions. The Allied conferences are better known in part because the Allies cooperative effort was much more involved than the Axis effort. In addition, Allied control of the seas made conferences with the Japanese and European Axis impossible after the NAZIs invaded the Soviet Union and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Allied conferences also were important in developing war strategy and xooperative efforts, but also helped shape the future of Europe after the War. As a result the last two conferences, especially Yalta have proven to be very controversial.

Munich Conferences

The Munich Conference was an attempt to prevent a European war. The next target was Czecheslovakia which had beeen created by the Versailles Peace Treaty. After the Anchluss, Hitler began to escalate his tirades against Czecheslovakia, claiming that the erhnic Germans in the Sudetenland were being mistreated. The NAZI rearmament program, the remilitarization of the Rhineland and the Anchluss with Austria came as a shock to Czecheslovakia. Even more so, the lack of response from Britain and France. The Czechs who had defensive alliance with France were prepared to fight. Even with the Anchluss, many Europeans chose to see the NAZI actions as domestic German matters. This changed with Hitler's next target--Czecheslovakia. Hitler in 1938 demanded the Sudetenland in Czecheslovakia which had a minority German population. Neville Chamberlin, the British Prime Miniister mused how terrible it was that war should be threatened by a "... quarel in a far away country by people of which we know little." A prominent member of the British parliament displayed even more ignoramce when he told the press, "Why should we bother with those gypsies in the Balkans?", meaning the Czechs who were of course not located in the Balkans. In the end, The British and French gave in at talks held in Munich. Vhamberlain flew back to London and stepping off the plane waved the agreement signed ny Herr Hitler which he assured the waiting repoters guaranteed "Peace in our time." Churchill was apauled. Most British anf French people were releaved. One European leader, Soviet Marshall Stalin, who was not at the conference drew the conclusion that the British and French could not be trusted as potential allies against Hitler.

NAZI Soviet Non-Aggression Pact

That war was made possible when the Soviets signed the NAZI-Soviet Nom-Agression Pact. The Soviets were the only country to participate in war time conferences both with and against the Axis. NAZI Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and newly appointed Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Molotov on August 23, 1939, signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. At the time of thesigning, British and French delegations were in Moscow trying to reach an understanding with Stalin. Hewas convinced, however, that they were tring to draw him into a war with Hitler. The two countries which until that time had been bitter foes, pledged not attack each other. Any problems developing between the two countries were to be delt with amicably. It was last for 10 years. The Pact shocked the world and the purpose was immedietly apparent. It meant that Germany could attack Poland without fear of Soviet intervention. Thus after defeating Poland, Germany did not have to fear a full-scale European war on two fronts. What was not known at the time was that there was a secret protocol to the pact which in effect divided Eastern Europe betwen the two countries. This protocol was discoered after the end of the World War II in 1945. The Soviets continued to deny this protocol until 1989. The NAZIs 8 days after signing the Pact invade Poland on September 1, 1939, launching World War II. Although the Soviet's did not enter the War against Britain and France, the Soviets were virtual NAZI allies as they provided large quantaies of strategic materials, especially oil. Communist parties in Britainand France opposedthe war effort. The Communst Party in America opposed President Roosevelt's efforts to expand defense spending and assist Britain and France.

Allied Conferences

Both the Allies and the Axis held a series of conferences to plan strategy and work out cooperative actions. The Allied conferences are better known in part because the Allies cooperative effort was much more involved than the Axis effort. The Allied conferences began with the meeting of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at Plavencia Bay and the sihning of the Atlantic Charter (August 1941). The Allied conferences also were important in developing war strategy and cooperative efforts, but also helped shape the future of Europe after the War. As a result the last two conferences, especially Yalta have proven to be very controversial.

Axis Conferences

Allied control of the seas made conferences with the Japanese and European Axis impossible after the NAZIs invaded the Soviet Union and the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Axis conferences never achieved a true unified approach to the War or any real cooperative planning. In fact, the major actiions of the War were taklen by Germany, Italy, and Japan independently without consulation. This is of considerable importance because after the fall of France the clear superiority in military force laid in the hands of the Axis and the Soviets which at the time was cooperating with the Germans.

Tripartite (Axis) Pact (September 1940)

The Japanese were initially reluctant to accept Hitler's 1939 offer to formally join the German-Italian Axis alliance. The German defeat of the Netherlands and epecially France apparently caused the Japanese to reverse their position. The defeat of the French and the occupation of the Netherlands meant that the colonies of these countries in Southeast Asia were vulnerable. The Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) were particularly important because of their oil resources. Rubber was another important resource available in the region. Japan had been importing oil from the United States, but America was increasing pressure on Japan to end the war in China. Japan signed the Tripartite Pact, making the country a member of the Axis military alliance (September 27). The Pact allied Germany, Italy, and Japan and became known as the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis, or more commonly Axis alliance.

Molotov vist to Berlin (November 1940)

NAZI and Soviet military actions had been so successful that the two powers now bordered each other and had overlapping interests in other areas. Commissar for Foreign Affairs Molotov came to Berlin to iron out differences resulting from their spectacular successes and to discuss a broad range of political and economic issues. Molotov met with both Ribbontrop and Hitler. The meeting with Hitler is fascinating. Hitler had already decided to invade the Soviet Union and ordered his generals to prepare the plans. (The final orders to the Wehrmacht had not been given, but there can be little doubt that Hitler had made up his mind. Not all historians agree with this assessment, but we believe that the destruction of the Soviet Union and the acquisition of Lebensraum in the East had been central to his thinking since the 1920s. His commanders delivered the draft invasion he requested 3 weeks after his meeting with Molotov. He then issued Directive No. 21 Operation Barbarossa 2 weeks after that.) Despite this, Hitler invited Stalin to join the Tripartite Axis Pact. As an inducement he was offered important parts of the British Empire, namely India. (Hitler was adept at attracting allies by offering other country's territories.) Hitler assured Molotov that Britain was a defeated country. (British air raids while Molotov was in Berlin did not help with this asertion.) He suggested that thus decessions about the division of the Empire needed to be made. Hitler told Molotov that Germany and Italy were interested in Africa, the territory south of Europe. He suggested that the Soviet Union might also want to move to the south against British India. In effect a renewal of the Great Game. What Hitler surely was thinking is that to the extent Stalin moved south and engaged Britain, it would weaken Soviet forces in Europe where he planned to attack. Molotov did not dismiss the suggestion, but his focus was on Eastern Rurope. He wanted to discuss Finland and the Balkans, two areas where Soviet and NAZI interests overlapped. Stalin had fairly cosistently persued a policy of regaining the Tsarist boundaries whivh included Finland. And of course Stalin shared the Tsarist concern in extending Russian interests in the Balkans. Hitler was unwilling for Stalin to expand further in Finland in part or racial reasons. In the Balkans Hitler was unwilling to accecpt significant Soviet expabnsion, primarily because the Ploesti oilfields were Germany's principal source of petroleum. One area to the south that did interest the Soviets was Iran. The Molotov-Hitler agreement (November 26, 1940) addressed the Soviet demand that "the area south of Batum and Baku in the general direction of the Persian Gulf is recognized as the center of the aspirations of the Soviet Union." This of course meant Iran. Interestingly at a time when there was considerable support for the NAZIs in Iran, the same NAZIs were colluding with the Soviet Union in effect to develop a new colonial empire in the Middle East. Hitler was more than willing to agree because it furthered his interest in enducing the Soviets to move south and engage the British.

Japanese-German Meeting (March 1941)

Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka visited Germany to discuss Axis Alliance issues (March 1941). The Germans were at the time completing plans for Barbarossa. Matsuoka met with NAZI Foreign Miniter, Joachim von Ribbentrop (March 29). There was also a meeting with Hitler. Hier had ordered Ribbentrop and others not to divulge the plans for Barbarossa. The invasion was to be kept a secret from their Axis ally. [Cecil, p. 114.] The major reason seems to have been the need for secrecy. The Japanese could have made Barbarossa a two front war. Hitler at the time did not believe he needed Jaoanese help to defeat the Red Army as he saw only a short summer camapign. Hitler's other Axis ally, Mussolini, was also not told. Ribbentrop focused on the British and attempted convince Matsuoka to urge his government in enter the war with Britain. He suggested an attack on Singapore, pointing out that the Royal Navy committed in the North Atlantic did not have the force to wage a Paciic War. Incedably the Germans about to launch the largest military camapign in history aagainst a laege, heavily armed army were talking about Singapore when Japan could have played an important role. Matsuoka was not such more honest reported that preparations to seize Singapore were under way. [IWG, vol. 3, pp. 379-80.] What he did not mention is that in any ich camapaign, war with the United States could not be avoided. The Japanese had already conclude with one look at the map, that they would have to fight the United States. The American Commonwealth of the Philippines wa stride the sea lanes between the Home Islands and the Southern Resource Zone (SRZ)(British and Dutch colonies). Hitler still wanted to mavoid bringing the United States into the war, but as Matsuoaka was not open with him, the conquences of a Japanese offend\sibe in the pacific did not come up; What all of this shows in contrast to the Anglo-American alliance is the level of mistrust and varied goals of the Axis members. . Japan had been negotiating a Neutrality Pact with the Soviets. Hitler expressed no reservations. Given that he was about to attack the Soviet Union, he had no cernns about such an agreement. And at this stage he saw Barbarossa as a short summer campaign in which Japanese help was not needed. And German objections might have caused Soviet suspions, especially as the prepatation for Barbarossa had been impossible to hide. On his way back to Japan through the Soviet Union, Matsuoka stopped in Moscow to sign the Russo-Japanese Neutrality Treaty (April 1941). Agter Hitker launched Barbaross, Stalin camme to the conclusion that Matsuoka knew about barbarossa and was part of the subterfuge. Japan honored the Treaty during the War. But coming as it did just before Barbarossa, the Soviets in declaring War on Japan (August 1945), cited it as an act of treachery.

Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact (April 1941)

After meetings in Berlin with Hitler and others, Foreign Minister Matsuoka went on to Moscow to discuss a neutrality treaty. At the tine, Stalin was still hoping to join the Axis. The Soviets wanted not distraction in the Far East as they expanded their territory in Europe. The Japanese wanted a quiet morthern frontier as they planned war with America and Britain. There he negotiated the Soviet´┐ŻJapanese Neutrality Pact, only 2 years after the border conflict between the Soviets and Japan along the poorly defined on the Manchurian-Mongolian frontirt. border. It was signed April 13, 1941. The treaty required both narions to remain neutral if one of the two signing nations was invaded by a third nation. Both countries pledged to respect the sovereignty of Manchukuo (Japamese occupied Chinese Manchuria) and the Soviet controlled Mongolian People's Republic. When the Germans launched Barbarossa only 2 moths later, Stalin was convinced the Japanese were in on the deception. Japanese neutrality allowed the Soviets to move Far Eastern forces west to resist the Germans. These Siberian troops, played an important role in the Soviet Winter offensive that saved Moscow (December 1941). It was also impotant to ensure pasage of Lend Lease material over the all important Pacific route. Japan's failure to stop these shipments would outrage Hitler. Slavinsky draws on recently opened Russian archival material to demonstrate that the Soviet Union was passing information about the Allies to Japan during the Second World War. One historian reports that recently opened Russian archives describes the Soviets passing information about the Allies to Japan. [Slavinsky] As the Pacific War went against Japan, the Japanese became desperate to renew the Treaty. And believed that the Soviets could help them negotiate a peace with the Americans.Stalin had no such interest. He saw major territorial gains to be made in the Far East and commited to entering the War with Japan 3 moths after the NAZIs surrendered. The Soviets after V-E Day (May 8,1945). The Soviets began a major movement of men and material east. The Japanese pressed for renewal of the Non-Aggression Treaty and ignored reports from their Mocow Ambassador that the Soviets had no interest. The Oviets informed the Japanese that thry were going to allow the Treaty to lapse 9 months before its expiration date -- April 1946. The Sovies struck in a massive offensive (August 9, 1945), the same day the second American atom bomb wa fropped on Nagasaki.

Hitler-Mussolini Meeting (August 1941)

Mussolini visited Hitler's headquaters in East Prussia at a time that it still looked like Barbarossa would succeed. Musolini believed that this was a ime for the Axis to make a proclamation similar to the Atlantic Charter. He wanted Hitler to enunciate a European vision that would make it plain that he did not ntend to turn Europe into a vast Germany colony. He hesitated to confront Hitler directly, but did shock Hitler sad his aides when he insisted on taking over te control of the plain from the pilot. Subsequent Italian initiatives were spurned by Hitler. who was indeed planning to crearte a vasr colony in the East and a major redordering of the West.

Axis Meeting (November 1941)

The foreign ministers of Germany, Italy, and Japan were schueled to meet in Nerlin (November 25-27, 1941). The occassion was the renewal of the 1936 Anti-Comintern Pact. The Japanese Foreign Mibister because of Barbarossa and the imminent attack on the United States was unable to attend. Ribentrop did invite the European Axis countries (Bulgaaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain), co-belgerant Finland, and occuped (but favorably treated) Denmark. Again Mussolini wanted the AXis to issue a document with a European vision. Hitler thought this a wate of time. If Germany won the War it would not be needed and if Germasny lost it would be of no consequence. He failed to see the importance of winning over potenbtial allies.

Sources

Cecil, Robert. Hitler's Decision to Invade Russia, 1941.

Interagency Working Group (IWG). The Trial of the Major War Criminals (U.S. National Archives).

Slavinsky, Boris. The Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact: A Diplomatic History 1941-1945. By







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Created: December 29, 2002
Last updated: 11:24 PM 7/11/2019