John Lukacs reviews Roger Moorhouse's The Devils’ Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin, 1939–1941, in the NYRB (Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images):
What was more important than the Non-Aggression Pact was its addendum, a Secret Protocol, that called for nothing less than a division of Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, part of which was to be taken over by the Soviets. In addition, Germany recognized Russia’s “sphere of interest” in Estonia, Latvia, Finland, some of Lithuania, and the Romanian province of Bessarabia. Moscow denied the very existence of this Secret Protocol for a long time, well beyond World War II. But it existed in the German archives; and in 1939 it became a somber and dreadful reality. As late as 1986 the aged Molotov (then over ninety) denied its very existence to a Russian journalist. In fact, many of its conditions survived both the world war and the succeeding conflicts until 1989.
Poland, its army and its people, fought the Germans bravely for a month in 1939 (almost as long as France, with its considerable army, in 1940). But seventeen days after the German invasion Stalin’s armies invaded Poland from the east. A few days later in Brest, a meeting place then just on the Russian side of the new partition of Poland, there was a small joint military parade of Nazi and Soviet soldiers and military vehicles. Just over two months later, less than three months after the outbreak of World War II, the only fighting on land in Europe was between Russians and Finns, who would not accept Russian control of their country. The British were aghast. They (and the French) even considered, briefly, intervening, but this did not come about. Soon Hitler’s armies conquered Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium—and then France. Churchill and Britain stood alone, for more than a year to come.
At the end of September 1939 Ribbentrop flew to Moscow once more to arrange some border deals that would carry out the Secret Protocol. Throughout the war, of all Germany’s high officials, he was the most inclined to seek and keep agreements with the Russians. (His counterpart among the Russians, Molotov, had often reciprocal inclinations.) In this respect we may also notice the reciprocal tendencies of Hitler and Stalin. Hitler thought it necessary to carry out the terms of the alliance with Stalin; Stalin, for his part, was more enthusiastic about it than Hitler. One example is his perhaps unnecessary toast to Hitler after the signing of their pact on August 24, 1939: “I know how much the German nation loves its Führer, I should therefore like to drink to his health.”