Roberto wrote, quoting Overy's "Russia's War":
Molotov was sent off to find out from the German ambassador what German intentions were. Schulenburg was shown into Molotov's office. He stiffly informed Molotov that a state of war now existed between Germany and the Soviet Union. All Molotov could stutter was 'What have we done to deserve this?'; he hurried back to Stalin's office.
A different, less lurid, and surely more accurate version of the Schulenburg-Molotov interview is given in the book "Prelude to the Russian Campaign", published in 1945 but written at the end of 1942 by Grigore Gafencu, former Rumanian Minister for Foreign Affairs and former Rumanian MInister to Moscow, then in exile in Geneva. It is a contemporary account, written by someone on the scene, with access to the highest sources. It is therefore to be preferred to Overy's sensationalised account.
[Has the Lisboa Constrictor read this book? Need we even ask?]
The account by Gafencu is on page 212:
Count Schulenburg had shared with some of his colleagues the agony of the long waiting. After ten days of silence, Stalin, unwilling to wait longer, summoned the Ambassador to the Kremlin. It was six o'clock on a Saturday evening. Molotov received the German Ambassador.
"What is happening?" asked the Vice-President of the Council of People's Commissars.
The Ambassador made a gesture of ignorance. He did not know.
When he returned home, Count Schulenburg was advised by Berlin that he would receive an important message during the night. It was a declaration of war - or, rather, it was war without a declaration. The Ambassador immediately requested a further audience of Molotov. He was received at daybreak, at the Kremlin. The Count read the information that he was instructed to communicate to the Government of the USSR: "In view of the intolerable pressure exercised by Russian troops on the lines of demarcation separating them from the German troops, these latter have received orders to advance into Soviet territory".
Molotov, pale but calm, listened without a frown.
"Is that a declaration of war?" he asked.
The Count appreciated the formal nature of the question. For the second time within the space of a few hours, he made a doleful gesture of ignorance. He could say no more than he knew. He had been instructed to read a communication. Nothing more had been told him.
Molotov replied without losing his calm, but in a more serious tone: "It is war. Your aircraft have just bombarded some ten open villages. Do you believe that we deserved that?"
No more cruel a question could have been put to Count Schullenburg, who had been served with noble loyalty the thankless cause of agreement between the Nazis and the Soviet. The final act of his diplomatic career had ruined a labour in which he had put his faith, and exposed his country to a venture whose consequences he dreaded.
During the course of the night, the German armies passed to the attack along the whole front.
It was the night of June 21st-22nd.
The differences between Gafencu's account, drawn from his personal contacts with the persons involved, and that of Overy are obvious.
Overy makes it appear that Stalin and Molotov were taken completely by surprise by the German attack, and left in state of shock. Molotov is represented as "stuttering" (presumably from shock and amazement) in his interview with Schulenburg.
By contrast, Gafencu shows Stalin and Molotov as waiting for something to happen. Obviously they knew something was about to happen, but they were not sure what. When Schulenburg reads the notification of the German attack, Molotov is not shocked or surprised, but calm and serious.
Gafencu does not give the impression that Stalin and Molotov were taken surprise. A German attack was one of the possibilities they were considering, and were ready for, but they were not sure it would happen until it did.
For the reason I have given above, Gafencu's account is to be preferred to that given in a work of popularised history.
Furthermore, Overy has seriously misrepresented the interview between Molotov and Schulenburg but conflating two separate meetings into one. He has Molotov sent by Stalin to find out from Schulenburg what is going on AFTER the German attack.
In fact, according to Gafencu's first-hand account, Stalin's attempt to find out from Schulenburg what was happening, through an interview with Molotov, occurred at 6:00 pm on Saturday 21 June, ie BEFORE the attack commenced at 3:15 am on Sunday 22 June.
The second interview occurred at daybreak on Sunday 22 June, ie immediately after the commencement of the German attack, and was initiated by Schulenburg, in order to convey the message from Berlin.
Those of you who have read the transcript of the Irving-Lipstadt court action will know that one of the distortions of history of which Irving was accused by Professor Evans was that he had conflated statements that had occurred on two separate days during the Hitler-Horthy interviews in 1943. It was claimed that Irving had thereby seriously misrepresented the meaning of those statements in order to give an impression that was not not true, and thereby committed a falsification of history.
Overy has likewise distorted the Schulenburg-Molotov interviews by rolling two separate interviews into one, and misrepresenting Molotov's reaction, to support a particular version of history, namely that Stalin was taken completely by surprise by the German attack, and left in a state of shock. He could likewise be accused of perpetrating a falsification of history.
One wonders whether Overy's works of popular history will be taken apart by Professor Evans to detect instances of distortion and misrepresentation. Don't hold your breath!
One wonders whether the Bombastic Borborygmite from Bogota will now tell all and sundry about the distortions committed by Overy. Don't hold your breath!
One wonders which version of the Schulenburg-Molotov interviews the Lisboa Constrictor will now accept, Overy's or Gafencu's. No prizes for guessing; it will the one that best fits his ideological bubble.