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Finally, the proposal contained a secret protocol specifying the spheres of influence in Eastern Europe both parties would accept after Hitler conquered Poland.
The Soviet Union would acquire the eastern half of Poland, along with Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.
But in July, as tensions continued building across Europe and all major powers were feverishly casting about for potential allies, Hitler’s foreign minister dropped hints to Moscow that if Hitler invaded Poland, the Soviet Union might be permitted some Polish territory. On August 20, Hitler sent a personal message to the Soviet premier: War with Poland was imminent.
If Hitler sent his foreign minister to Moscow for a vitally important discussion, would Stalin receive him? On August 22, 1939, German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893-1946) flew from Berlin to Moscow.
As Ian Kershaw notes in “Hitler: 1936–1945: Nemesis,” the German chancellor was ecstatic.
He congratulated his foreign minister and said the pact “will hit like a bombshell.” It neutralized the French-Soviet treaty, which would reassure Hitler’s generals, and cleared the way for Germany’s attack on Poland.
The public part of the Moscow agreement was announced with great fanfare on August 25, 1939, the day Hitler had planned to launch his “blitzkrieg” (quick, surprise attacks) strike east into Poland.
Earlier this same day, however, Great Britain and France, knowing the Nazi-Soviet agreement was pending, reacted by formalizing their pledge to Poland in a treaty declaring each would fight in Poland’s defense if it were attacked.
Then, in a wild gamble that France and Great Britain would not meet their treaty obligations to Poland, and knowing he had nothing to fear from the Soviet army, Hitler ordered his troops to strike east into Poland on September 1, 1939.
To avoid such a scenario, Hitler had cautiously begun exploring the possibility of a thaw in relations with Stalin.
Several brief diplomatic exchanges in May 1939 fizzled by the next month.
Hitler also wanted to put a stop to the alleged mistreatment of Germans living in the western regions of Poland.
At the same time, he advanced his plans for attacking Poland in August 1939 if his demands were not met.