For the past 76 years, we have celebrated Victory Day to remember the official surrender of Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945, marking the end of hostilities in Europe in the Second World War. With the rise of fascism in Europe, the rapid expansion of the Nazi regime, and Western powerhouses such as Britain and France being brought to the brink of destruction, May 9 has become synonymous with freedom and global unity as the greatest forces of the world banded together to fight back against a dark force threatening the continent.
But, of course, on this May 9th and on many others before it, the usual suspects take to the media to remind the world who really won World War II. “Don’t forget how the Soviet Union saved the world from Hitler” reads one article by the Washington Post. “We should never forget – the Soviets won World War II in Europe” reads another by The Independent. With the Soviet Union’s victory at Berlin, many attempts to diminish the United States and other Allies’ contributions in World War II. At first glance, it should seem only logical. The Fall of Berlin, the final Nazi defeat which prompted Adolf Hitler’s suicide, was the last nail in the coffin of the Nazi Regime. With the Soviet Union having trudged through the Eastern front to deliver this final blow, it would be easy to make you believe that the Soviets are the definitive heroes of the conflict and that, as the Huffington Post puts it, “the Allies played an important but comparatively far less important role in Europe.”
Of course, in the same way, these historical critics who are hellbent on the degradation of Western politics and philosophy claim the United States and others have forgotten the contributions of Stalin’s Soviet Union, so too have they conveniently forgotten the sins of the Soviet Union that ran contrary to the Allied war effort. In the United States at least, the Soviet Union’s role in World War II prior to Hitler’s invasion of Russia in 1941 has become something of a historical black hole, with the critics and the general population alike being wholly ignorant to what happened.
For example, few may be familiar with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed between Germany and the Soviets on August 23, 1939. This non-aggression pact not only signaled the Soviet Union’s compliance with the German takeover of Western Europe but also served as a precursor to their substantial cooperation with the Axis Powers. For example, all are familiar with the German occupation of Poland, which saw the population subjected to horrific war crimes and the deaths of 3 million Jewish and 1.8-1.9 million non-Jewish citizens. What many have forgotten, however, is that this conquest was greatly aided by a concurrent Soviet invasion from the east, as part of what would be known as the “secret protocol” of the aforementioned Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Soviets would go on to partition Poland with the Germans, taking hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war and placing 13 million Poles under their boot heel as they annexed over half of the entire country’s territory. Given the relative brutality these Poles faced under the Nazis following Operation Barbossa, it may also be easy to forget the heavy abuses endured by eastern Poland under the Soviets during this time.
There were others that the Soviets capitalized on following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Besides the Poles, they likewise swallowed Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, as well as parts of Finland and Romania, all before Operation Barbossa and their subsequent change of sides.
Aside from territorial conquest, the Soviet Union also benefited from lucrative trade with Nazi Germany during the early stages of the war. After the German-Soviet Commercial Agreement of 1940, the Soviets would go on to provide Germany with 650 million reichsmarks of raw materials, which included, but was by no means limited to, 900,000 tons of oil, 500,000 tons of iron ore, and 300,000 tons of scrap iron and pig iron – all of which Nazi Germany was in severely short supply of by the end of the war. For context on the value, 1 US dollar was worth approximately 2.5 Reichsmarks during this time. Adjusting for inflation from 1940, these resources would be worth more than $4.8 billion today.
None of this is to say that the Russian people’s vast contributions and losses should go unthanked. However, to canonize the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin as definitive heroes of the conflict as a means to diminish the Allied war effort is wholly incongruent with the sins of their government at the war’s early onset.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.