“Off!” (est December 1939)
by Lucius Curtis “Lute” Pease, Jr. (1869 -1963)
18 x 28 in, ink, pencil and chalk on board
Coppola Collection

There is only a short while, historically, where the Soviet Union is “on board” with the axis, and when Mussolini was still avowing a sense of neutrality.

On the one end, the Soviet Union and Germany signed a ten-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact, on August 24, 1939, with no consultation with Italy.The news has a devastating effect on the Italian fascists, who saw a core value in anti-communism. Italy was uninvolved when Poland was invaded later in August 1939. Mussolini declared “non-belligerence” as the war on Germany was declared, and tried to persuade Hitler against waging war through the first part of 1940.Hitler ignored him and moved forward with plans to conquer Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, starting in May. So this honeymoon period between Germany and Russia, with the first conquests in hand, and with Italy preaching neutrality, sits between September 1939 and April 1940. I will call this for about December 1939, when Russia was invading Finland and Italy was declaring its neutrality again (December 7).

Mussolini and Hitler meet at the Brenner pass in March 1940, which signals Italy’s intent to get into the war. Mussolini invaded Greece, in a famously disastrous strategic move in October 1940.

At the other end, Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

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