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Exhibition Project "The Hitler-Stalin Pact and its Consequences for East Central Europe: History and Memory"

On the 23rd of August 1939, the diplomatic representatives of the German Reich and the Soviet Union concluded a non-aggression pact with a secret additional protocol. In this protocol, the German and Soviet foreign ministers Ribbentrop and Molotov, acting on behalf of Hitler and Stalin, divided East-Central Europe between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea into spheres of interest. For the German Reich, the conclusion of the treaty brought the certainty that it would not have to expect any resistance from the Soviet Union in the imminent and long-term planned criminal invasion of Poland. With this treaty, the Soviet Union gave the Germans a free hand to initiate the Second World War.

For the Soviet Union, the division of spheres of interest provided a favourable opportunity to regain territories which had been lost through the disintegration of the Russian Tsarist Empire. Only sixteen days later, the Red Army marched into eastern Poland in accordance with the agreements in the secret Additional Protocol. This complete occupation of Poland from the west and east was followed by a final geographical border demarcation with the German-Soviet Border and Friendship Treaty of 28 September 1939.

Now Stalin also had a free hand for his plans of conquest.  In November 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland and a five-month war followed, the so-called Winter War. In the summer of 1940, in the shadow of the German conquest of France, the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic countries, Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. East-Central Europe was divided into a Soviet and a German sphere of power, as planned in the Additional Protocol and the Border Treaty. The resulting borders, as well as the memory of the events of 1939-1940, continue to shape East and East-Central Europe to the present day.

In Western Europe, the consequences of the secret additional protocol are still little known and the Hitler-Stalin Pact plays a subordinate role in the culture of commemoration. In East-Central and Eastern Europe, however, it has become a central cipher in the discussion of history. In line with this finding, the aim of the exhibition is to clarify the historical processes in East-Central Europe between 1939, the year the Pact was signed, and 1941, the beginning of the German invasion on the Soviet Union, and to bring them closer to the historically and politically interested public.

The aim of the exhibition, which was developed together with the Museum Berlin-Karlshorst, and its accompanying program is to bring the opposing positions in this conflict of remembrance into dialogue with each other, which have once again become more explosive against the backdrop of the current Russian Federation's war on Ukraine.

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