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Assistant Pro­fessor of Mil­itary History Ian Johnson pre­senting his speech on World War II on Friday

He delivered the lecture on Friday about his recent book “Faustian Bargain: the Soviet-German Part­nership and the Origins of the Second World War” hosted by the history department. 

“My book is the story of a 20-year-pact between Germany and the U.S.S.R and how this part­nership led the world back to war, a war even more hor­rific than the First World War,” Johnson said. 

He began his talk speaking of the Treaty of Ver­sailles and its major reper­cus­sions on the economy and welfare of Germany. At the time, the Soviet Union was also at a financial loss and without a standing army. 

“It was at this moment of iso­lation that the two states began to work together,” Johnson said. 

As part of their rela­tionship, the U.S.S.R. offered Germany access to its land for pilot training in exchange for tech­nology, Johnson said. 

“Why did two groups who viewed each other as the literal embod­iment of evil, begin coop­er­ating so shortly after fighting each other? Their hos­tility toward the inter­na­tional status quo was greater than their hatred of each other,” Johnson said. 

In April 1922, Soviet Russia and Germany signed the Treaty of Apollo, Johnson said. 

Yet, ever since the Treaty of Ver­sailles, restric­tions on mil­itary pro­duction pro­hibited Germany from forming an army within its own country. As a result, it relo­cated mil­itary pro­duction, flight training and tech­no­logical advance­ments to Soviet Russia, Johnson said.

“To have someone come and speak who is an expert in mil­itary history is an almost impos­sible thing,” graduate student Caleb Itterly said. 

Because the U.S.S.R. was also strug­gling finan­cially, Soviet Russian leader Leo Trotsky con­sulted the German senior lead­ership branch to also rebuild the Red Army. 

“Only a few 100,000 out of the five million men in the Red Army had uni­forms and rifles,” Johnson said. 

According to Johnson, fac­tories, class­rooms, and other facil­ities across Soviet Russia operated in secret with the assis­tance of German tech­nology, engi­neers, and officers. 

“German business men dressed in red uni­forms,” Johnson said. “By 1940, half of all tank fac­tories in the Soviet Union had been built, managed or equipped with German assistance.” 

In exchange, German aces dis­guised as tourists trained on air­fields from dawn to dusk in Soviet territory. 

“Twenty-two senior officers in the Luft­waffe during WWII had either studied, taught or com­manded in Soviet Russia,” Johnson said. “Nearly 1,000 pilots, mechanics and observers were trained at this facility. To put this in context, that was the entire reformed Luft­waffe in 1935.”

Come April 1939, Hitler sought to pursue this part­nership through the Molotov Ribbentrop pact, Johnson said. 

“Most impor­tantly though, their renewed part­nership paved the way for Hitler’s invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939,” he said. 

After the occu­pation of both Germany and Soviet Russia in Poland, the two states cel­e­brated with each other. 

“Although the sol­diers were for­mally banned from frat­er­nizing with each other, they actually exchanged cig­a­rettes, climbed on each other’s vehicles and com­pared uni­forms,” he said. “This was the high point of the Soviet-German relationship.”

However, on June 22, 1941, the pact ended with Oper­ation Bar­barossa: Germany invaded Soviet Russia. According to Johnson, Hitler launched the largest invasion in world history, marching more than 3 million German sol­diers with 100,000 fellow allies into the U.S.S.R. 

“What is remarkable and often for­gotten, is how much these two armies had in common. Rarely in history have two sides spent so much time preparing each other for war with each other,” Johnson said. “German forces marched on rubber boots made from material shipped over the Trans Siberian Railway. The German rations included Soviet grain and arrived up until the day of the attack. The ammu­nition con­tained chrome nickel steel and man­ganese mined in the U.S.S.R.”

Red Army sol­diers had received mil­itary training from German text­books and officers. German machinery powered many of the Soviet tanks and mil­itary equipment used in the defense, he said.

“It is inter­esting because right after the Treaty of Ver­sailles hap­pened, Germany and Soviet Russia were already re-arming them­selves,” graduate student Christian Warner said. “It wasn’t really two World Wars but one.”