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WW II: Behind Closed Doors

Stalin, the Nazis and the West

Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact


  1. Understand the Russians’ and the Germans’ motives for creating the pact.
  2. Evaluate the benefits for both sides.


The Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact appeared to bring two totalitarian regimes together in an unprecedented agreement. Born through a strengthening of economic ties, this deal united two leaders who otherwise believed their countries could have no long-term coexistence. Although neither side believed this pact was permanent, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union used it to their advantage to acquire significant spheres of influence in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region, including a divided Poland.

Main Task

  • In small groups, develop a Nazi-Soviet Pact based upon the documents provided.
  • Have students compare their pact with the actual Nazi-Soviet Pact and evaluate the differences.

Brief Process

Part 1
  1. Divide the class into groups of four to eight students. Split each group into two equal sub-groups, assigning one sub-group the role of Germany and the other the Soviet Union.
  2. Tell students they must develop a deal between the two nations that will encourage economic interaction while establishing military cohesion.
  3. Within each country group, have students review the provided documents in Part 1 of the Resources and list potential national priorities that would have to be discussed in a high-level diplomatic meeting.
  4. Have country groups conduct negotiations (multiple meetings will be occurring at the same time).
  5. At the conclusion of the meetings, have each group share its proposed agreement.
  6. Compare and contrast the student-produced documents with each other and the actual Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact.
  7. Discuss the implications of this pact on the balance of power in Europe, especially considering that the Soviets had been talking with Britain and France earlier in the year.
Part 2
  1. Using the Part 2 Resources, continue the discussion or have students consider the following as homework:
    1. Why does Adolf Hitler eventually betray the Soviets?
    2. Why does Joseph Stalin refuse to accept the intelligence about the imminent invasion?
    3. Evaluate the effectiveness of the pact for the Soviet Union and Germany. What did they gain and/or lose by entering into this agreement?


Part 1
Part 2