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In March 1941, with Yugoslavia and Greece on the verge of defeat in Eastern Europe and Germany poised to enter the desert war in aid of Italy, Hitler and Churchill come together for peace talks. The result is a historic agreement that sets the course of history.
The Terms of the Treaty of Cairo
When the treaty was finally ratified on April 3rd 1941, the terms were as follows:
- Germany and Italy will withdraw from Greece.
- The war in North Africa will stop.
- Germany will withdraw from France, Norway and Denmark to allow free elections to decide the future government.
- Britain will recognise the state of Benelux.
- Germany will recognise the Congo Free State as independent.
- Germany will recognise the Royal Union of Former Netherlands Colonies.
- Britain will allow the incorporation of Alsace-Lorraine into Germany.
Hitler's Reasons for Peace
Why would Hitler, who was winning the war hands down, want peace with Britain, and why would he agree to such lenient terms when, in the eyes of Germany, Britain had lost the war?
The reasons do not become apparent until June when Hitler launches the much awaited Operation Barbarossa, an invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler didn't originally want to go to war with Britain, he wanted to take over Poland and Russia and incorporate them into his Third Reich. Britain and France just got in the way. With his plans to invade Russia almost complete, he decided he needed the full resources of Germany directed at Russia rather than Britain, Greece and North Africa. Hitler agrees to a beneficial peace that allows him to attack Russia unhindered.
Consequences of the Treaty of Cairo
With his military now not tied down elswhere, Hitler ordered nearly his entire army against Russia. The effect was amazing. Under immense German pressure the Red Army collapsed. Stalin desperately tried to organise a defence of Moscow that could hold out until winter made German advance impossible. However, the speed and success of the German invasion shocked even the Führer. German High Command, with Hitler's permission changed the plan of attack on Moscow. Originally the Germans planned a slow and complete encirclement of Moscow in a three pronged attack. This had worked so far but the German generals did not think the plan could be completed before winter. So they changed the plan to a quick central thrust by the central German force supported by every German still in reserve. Panzers would be removed from the other two commands to concentrate on the push to Moscow.
The plan worked. By the end of September a fast moving column of German armour well supported from the air and by artillery smashed through the first lines of Russian defences around Moscow. By early December, Stalin had fled and the city was in German hands.
Peace with Russia and an end to Hostilities
The victory was stunning, no-one could believe it. But the Germans had suffered 750,000 soldiers killed in action and Hitler, with the most prosperous part of Russia now in his hands, wanted to settle for peace. In March 1942 he proposed the idea of peace to Stalin, but Stalin refused. Hitler's solution was to send a fast moving force of his best tanks to Stalin's headquarters there to kill or capture him. The man chosen for this operation was General Rommel.
The campaign was a spectacular success and by May Stalin was Hitler's prisoner. Now peace could be made between a defeated but still determined Russia and a proud Germany. Russia would have all its former lands east of the Urals and Germany could have everything to the west. Stalin was released to lead the new, reduced Russian state.
Hitler organised his section of Russia into three self-governing German dependencies who would supply the Third Reich with slaves. It seemed the Third Reich would never die.
Consequences of the Treaty of Cairo in Formerly Occupied Countries
Although Hitler had promised to allow free elections in France, Denmark and Norway, in reality they were not free at all. Pro-Nazis within those countries had been given prominent positions in government by Hitler. Now they used these positions to force their way into power.In November 1942, the last country, Denmark, declared its new Fascist government. All three entered into the Axis Pact with Germany and Italy, along with Benelux, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.