Europe 1939: Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact
In August 1939 Germany surprised the world by signing the Molotov–Ribbentrop_Pact with the Soviet Union. Formally, this was a non-aggression pact between two ideological enemies. However a secret clause agreed to the division of eastern Europe, in particular Poland.
14 Mar 1939 Slovak State▲
On 13 March 1939 Adolf Hitler urged the Slovak ex-prime minister Jozef Tiso to proclaim Slovakia’s independence from Czecho-Slovakia, warning him that the alternative would be Slovakia’s dismemberment. Tiso hurriedly persuaded the Slovak parliament to comply, leading to the unanimous declaration of Slovak independence the next day. Clearly dominated by Germany from the start, the new Slovak State became a formal German protectorate on the 16th.
20–23 Mar 1939 German ultimatum to Lithuania▲
On 20 March 1939 Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of Germany, presented a verbal ultimatum to Juozas Urbšys, Foreign Minister of Lithuania, demanding that Lithuania restore the Memel/Klaipėda region to Germany. After secretly informing Britain, France, Italy, and Japan—and receiving no offers of material support—Lithuania agreed to accept the ultimatum. At 1 a.m. on 23 March Lithuania signed a treaty, effective 22 March, to cede the area to Germany, by which point German soldiers and ships had already entered Memel.
23–31 Mar 1939 Slovak-Hungarian War▲
The Kingdom of Hungary invaded the Slovak Republic from Carpatho-Ukraine without any declaration of war. The attack was timed to preempt Nazi Germany’s countersigning of its Treaty of Protection with Slovakia, which the Germans used as an excuse not to intervene. As a result, the Slovaks were forced to cede a strip of eastern Slovakia to Hungary.
26 Mar 1939 Ofensiva final▲
By March 1939 the Spanish Republican Army was in disarray, with fighting breaking out between rival factions over whether to negotiate a peace deal with Francisco Franco’s Nationalists. However, Franco was only prepared to accept unconditional surrender, and on 26 March the Nationalists launched a general offensive. Occupying Madrid on the 28th, they moved on to take Valencia, Cartagena, and almost all remaining Republican-held territory by the 31st.
1 Apr 1939 End of Spanish Civil War▲
By the end of March 1939 the Francisco Franco’s Nationalists controlled all Spanish territory except for the part of the port of Alicante, where thousands of Republicans expecting evacuation had assembled. On the morning of 1 April, these too surrendered. That day Franco proclaimed victory in a radio speech, marking the end of the Spanish Civil War.
7–12 Apr 1939 Italian invasion of Albania▲
On 7 April 1939 Italian troops under General Afredo Guzzoni invaded the Kingdom of Albania, attacking all Albanian ports simultaneously. The ill-equipped Albanian army was soon overwhelmed and King Zog fled the country just two days later. On 12 April Victor Emmanuel III was proclaimed king of Albania, placing it in personal union with Italy.
23 Aug 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact▲
In August 1939 German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, his Soviet counterpart, signed the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Moscow. The pact provided a guarantee that neither of the two powers would take up arms against the other, as well as secretly dividing eastern Europe between them.