Going from improbable to implausible in a matter of seconds.
Stalin and Von Ribbentrop – Going from improbable to implausible in a matter of seconds.

News from BBC World Service – Polish Radio – German Radio – August 23-24, 1939 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

It was huge, impossible news for August 23rd in 1939. And shock waves reverberated all over the world for days after. The Pact, negotiated since June of 1939, pledged (on the surface) a guarantee of non-belligerence between the Soviets and Nazis by each party towards the other and that neither party would align itself to or aid an enemy of the other party.

What no one knew at the time (and wouldn’t be acknowledged until the late 1980s) was the inclusion of a secret protocol which divided up territories of Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Finland into German and Soviet “spheres of influence”.

But no one at the time knew that – it was enough just to digest that a Communist and a Nazi were now on friendly terms, at least for a while. The whole thing would fall apart by 1941, but at the time, the news made for dramatic speculation, particularly over the fate of Poland and how this move quashed proposed Tripartite talks between Russia, France and Britain, which were scheduled to take place in Moscow later on in August.

Since the world was buzzing over the possibilities, Radio was playing a huge part in the conversation. Here is an hour’s worth of Shortwave Radio broadcasts, talking about the signing in Berlin and London on August 23rd and 24th, 1939.

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