The Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement
Ending Hostilities - The "Molotov-Ribbentrop" Pact
On 23 August 1939 Germany and Russia ended their hostilities towards each other and agreed on a "neutrality pact" to ensure more peaceful relations between themselves.
This neutrality pact was named after the officials who signed it, these being Germany's foreign minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop and Russia's Vyacheslav Molotov, thus the agreement came to be known as the "Molotov-Ribbentrop" agreement. Until the fall of communism in 1989, this agreement was not widely known about, however in 1989 when communism fell, the facts came out and in time the agreement was formally acknowledged by Russia and denounced.
Did the 1939 agreement work though? Lets just say that Hitler was less committed to it than Stalin was, because 2 years later Hitler reneged on it in Operation Barbarossa as you will see in a minute..
The Moment Mass Murder Was Legalised
In this fateful moment of the signing of the agreement, the fate of millions of Polish people was sealed by a pen; families torn apart, deportations, repressions, mass executions, mass burials and more.
Thought provoking, isn't it?
Image Copyright of Tass News Agency
The agreement did not last long because less than 2 years later on the 22nd June 1941 Hitler invaded eastern Poland as part of Operation Barbarossa, attacking the soviet military positions held there and thus annulling any peaceful relations that existed with Russia.
Later, on another page we will discuss General Anders Army whose formation was the direct result of this hostility from Germany towards Russia. In essence though, the reason many Polish soldiers ended up displaced and living in foreign lands was directly attributable to Hitlers attack on Russia in Operation Barbarossa, the polish troops joining Anders army and thus ending up displaced all over the world.
Let's Seize & Divide Some Countries Between Ourselves
Things are nice and cosy at this point between Germany and Russia and like greedy overlords they now conspired together to turn their war mongering capabilities on Poland.
Written into their Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement was a secret agreement between Russia and Germany to divide Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Romania amongst themselves both politically and also by "re-aligning territories", which is a posh word for moving borders, seizing land that in many cases belonged to Polish farmers and families, even mine.
This wasn't anything particularly new because there had been plenty of invasions and re-apportionment of Polish land and borders in previous years. However, this plan was executed on a such mass scale that mass displacements of people would result, forever changing world demographics.
Poland - Invaded From The East By Russia and The West By Germany
Germany made the first move under the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement by invading Poland from the west on Sept 1 1939.
Russia was supposed to invade from the east on that same day, however they stalled their part of the invasion as they were busy finishing fighting a war against the Japanese and needed their troops assistance there.
On Sept 17 1939 Joseph Stalin ordered the Russian army to invade Poland from the east, mainly in the Kresy region (East of Bialystok), which is where my grandfathers family were. To say my family had front seats to this political and military takeover of their country is an understatement.
Poland as a country was now being invaded from the east and the west by major world powers. To say the people must have felt trapped and vulnerable is glossing over the reality of it all. The fear levels they suffered are beyond comprehension as mothers feared for their children and husbands for their wives. On a basic level, peace and security had ceased to exist and life itself was cheapened as people were stamped out whilst the two world powers trampled them in their fight to alter boundaries and seize Poland for themselves.
Thus began a horrendous life changing experience as Polish men went to war in what became known as "The September Campaign" fighting Germans in the west and Russians in the east.
The poles living in the west were captured by the Germans and sent to concentration camps such as Auchswitz and Birkenau whilst the poles in the east were rounded up by the Russians and deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan.
This time period of 1939 - 1945 changed the entire population distribution of the world and right at the heart of that were polish families being displaced across the globe to change history forever more and likely this is central to your family history too.
We hope to add old maps of Poland here soon showing the invasion routes of Germany and Russia and how this changed the borders of Poland forever.