Continuing with this piece by Alexei Vasiliev. We are going to study the pros and cons of the “theory” that Stalin and Hitler met in person, like at an actual leaders summit. According to this theory, there is even a precise date and place: October 17, 1939, in Lvov, Poland. According to American wiki (which has to be taken with a grain of salt due its rabidly anti-Soviet slant, but probably okay with the dates and times at least), re. this chunk of historical time in the city of Lvov:
Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and the German 1st Mountain Division reached the suburbs of Lviv on September 12 and began a siege. The city’s garrison was ordered to hold out at all cost since the strategic position prevented the enemy from crossing into the Romanian Bridgehead. Also, a number of Polish troops from Central Poland were trying to reach the city and organise a defence there to buy time to regroup. Thus a 10-day-long defence of the city started and later became known as yet another Battle of Lwów. On September 19 an unsuccessful Polish diversionary attack under General Władysław Langner was launched. Soviet troops (part of the forces which had invaded on September 17 under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact) replaced the Germans around the city. On September 21 Langner formally surrendered to Soviet troops under Marshal Semyon Timoshenko.
In other words, by October 17, 1939 Lvov would have been under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Union. Hence, technically Hitler could have been snuck into town, like a Nazi Scarlet Pimpernel, to meet with Stalin.
Could have, would have — but did it actually happen? That’s the key question.
According to Vasiliev, this historical “theory” first saw the light of day on 11 November, 1990, with an article in the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. Vasiliev does not bother to link that article (and maybe it’s not even online), but describes it as based on a letter by FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover allegedly wrote this letter to a non-alleged man named Adolf A. Berle, Assistant Secretary of State under the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Years later, a man going under the name of Dzhangir (Джангир) or Dzhakhangir (Джахангир) Nadzhafov (Наджафов) slipped a copy of this alleged letter (from Hoover to Berle) to the Komsomolka editors. This Nadzhafov fellow appears (from open sources) to be a Doctor of History and a Fellow at the Russian Academy of World History. Although their website has no mention of him any more. I’m guessing he’s dead now. (From old age.) All that is left of his memory is a copy of his PhD dissertation from 1969 which was entitled “American people and the fight against war and fascism, 1933-1939”. Which is enough to establish that this Nadzhafov sort of knew what he was talking about, when it came to American interwar history.
Roughly 10 years after a young Nadzhafov defended his dissertation, the American government declassified a bunch of documents relating to the interwar years, including tons of correspondence between Hoover and Berle. Among which, according to Nadzhafov, was this nugget; so here is my translation of Nadzhafov’s translation of Hoover’s letter to Berle in 1940; which Nadzhafov submitted to the editor of the Komsomolka in 1990; and I know, I know, it’s silly to translate from Russian into English when the original was already in English, but, dudes, I don’t have the original letter from Hoover! (If there even was such a letter.) In the meantime, since this is supposedly J. Edgar talking, I might take a couple of liberties with his dialect and portray him as a kind of gangster [not really, our J. Edgar was actually an educated guy]:
Dear Mr. Berle
I just received, from a top-secret confidential informer, some information according to which, after the Russian and German invasion of Poland and its partition, Hitler and Stalin secretly met in Lvov, Poland, on 17 October 1939. It is supposed that the governments of other countries are unaware of this meeting. At these secret negotiations Hitler and Stalin, as we have been informed, signed a military pact to replace the former non-aggression pact. We have also been informed, that on 28 October 1939 Stalin reported to the members of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, informing these seven members of the Politburo about the details of his negotiations with Hitler. I am assuming that this information might be of value to you.
J. Edgar Hoover
As The World Churns
But wait! Like a character from a soap opera, it turns out Nadzhafov is not actually dead any more. He sent Hoover’s alleged letter to the Komsomolka in 1990, then disappeared from view for the next 25 years. Was probably in a coma, and lost his memory. And then either he, or his identical twin, suddenly returned in 2015 bearing the name Vladimir Husseinovich Nadzhafov. Now 86 years old, the elderly Nadzhafov wrote a new book entltled: “The Pact that changed history”. Which is available online, here. And Nadzhafov also provided a link or footnote to his original source. Namely, Footnote #829:
J.E. Hoover, Director, Federal Bureau of lnvestigation, United States Department of Justice to Honorable A.A. Berle, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State, Department of State. July 19, 1940. Personal and Confidential / / United States of America National Archives Microfilm Publications. T. 1248. Roll 1. № 761.62/718.
This is good stuff! If the microfilm is actually out there in the National Archives, then historians can verify at least that part of the story.
But wait! According to Vasiliev, there is no such document! He scoured the Microfilms himself, and there is no such letter: “Such a letter does not actually exist, in any of the [American] National Archives, neither governmental, nor those of the Secret Services, nor even in the Microfilm Publications base.”
According to Vasiliev, there is a mass of documentation of all the correspondence between Hoover and Berle, all of it de-classified in 1979-80, but nothing like what Nadzhafov quoted. And it’s not like it’s hard to find something: the Americans did quite a good job digitalizing and cataloging all their historical archives. At the same time, Vasiliev does not believe that Nadzhafov was lying: the elderly historian truly seemed to believe that there was in fact such a letter; and he even approached the matter with a critical eye, researched it thoroughly, and came to the conclusion that such a meeting (between Hitler and Stalin) probably did not take place after all. So, what the heck is going on here?
[to be continued]