740.0011 European War 1939/9298: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union ( Steinhardt ) to the Secretary of State

583. In connection with the rumors of an impending German attack on the Soviet Union (Department’s 240 of March 1, 11 a.m.39) the Swedish Minister has given me the following information on the purported German plan as reported to Stockholm by his colleague in Berlin.40 This report stated that having virtually abandoned the plan to invade England, the Germans have decided to confront the Soviet Union—probably in May—with the alternative of taking of such parts of Finland and of Iran as it desires, joining the Tripartite Pact41 and going into a full alliance with the Axis powers or of being subjected to a “Blitzkrieg” by Germany. The reason for this decision is said by this source to be the German conviction that the United States will soon enter the war and that a long struggle will ensue, that Soviet deliveries to Germany are uncertain; that the Soviet Union is becoming stronger from month to month and that under these circumstances it may become necessary, or at any rate expedient, for Germany to seize the main productive areas of the Soviet Union. In the event of the refusal by the Soviet Government of the German terms, the German plan is said to envisage the continuance of aerial and submarine attacks against England while a “Blitzkrieg” is conducted against the Soviet Union. Three groups are to be employed according to this source; the first to operate from Koenigsberg under Von Rundstedt; the second, from Warsaw under Von Bock; and the third, from Krakow under List. All of the details of this campaign are said to have been already perfected and German troops in [Page 134] large numbers are said to have been moving at night towards the Soviet-German frontier. The same source states that these troop movements have been confirmed during the past week or 10 days by Swedish engineers whose headquarters are in Warsaw.

Steinhardt
  1. From information in his possession as Under Secretary and Acting Secretary of State, Sumner Welles gave warnings to the Soviet Government of the possibility of a German attack in telegrams No. 240, March 1, and No. 256, March 4, to the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, and memorandum of March 20, pp. 712, 714, and 723, respectively. Further interest in rumors of an impending German attack upon the Soviet Union is expressed in telegram No. 776, June 9, to the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, and telegram No. 1127, June 12, from the Ambassador in the Soviet Union, pp. 753 and 754, respectively.
  2. Arvid G. Richert.
  3. Signed at Berlin on September 27, 1940, between Germany, Italy, and Japan; for text, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. ii, p. 165. For correspondence concerning the negotiation of this treaty, see Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. i, pp. 633 ff.