Treaty of Rapallo

16 Apr 1922


ww2dbaseRepresentatives of Germany and the Soviet Union met during the Genoa Conference in Italy in 1922. On 16 Apr, the two nations came to an agreement in the Italian town of Rapallo which later formalized as the Treaty of Rapallo. The agreement noted that the two nations would renounce all territorial and monetary claims against each other as the result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk at the end of WW1, and the two nations were to engage in friendly relations. The agreement was viewed with alarm by the United Kingdom, France, Finland, Poland, and the Baltic states. On 29 Jul, a secret clause was added. Under this new clause, the Soviet Union was to provide heavy weapons and facilities for German military training, which was prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles; meanwhile, Germany was to conduct training for the Soviet military and to provide the Soviet Union with an annual payment. The Treaty of Rapallo was formally signed in Berlin, Germany on 5 Nov 1922. At the date of signing, a supplementary agreement was added to include similar terms of friendship between Germany and the Soviet republics of Ukraine, Byelorussia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and the Far East.

ww2dbaseIn Jun 1924, retired German Colonel Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen became a permanent representative in the Soviet Union for the secret German General Staff. Under his direction, a fighter pilot training center was established in Lipetsk, Russia, about 150 miles southeast of Moscow. Training at Lipezk began in spring 1926 with the arrival of the first German pilots. The equipment they flew were Dutch Fokker aircraft. During the summer months, about 140 Germans were present at the training center; in the winter, the number was reduced to about 40. At any given time, about 340 Soviet personnel were present at the training center; most of them were mechanics, but there were pilots as well. Between 1926 and 1933, about 120 German pilots, 300 German ground personnel, and 450 other German staff members were trained. These men would become the key instructors for the establishment of the new German Luftwaffe. Soviet pilots also conducted joint training alongside the Germans, and they developed bombing targeting methods alongside of German pilots. Wolfgang Falck, one of the German pilots, recalled his experience at Lipetsk:

ww2dbaseOur bosses were officers but everything was done in civilian clothing... We flew the Fokker D13, a Dutch aircraft. All the writing on the plane was in Spanish because the aircraft had been ordered by a South American state and they had been transported on a big ship from Amsterdam. However the ship's captain must have been a very poor navigator because they didn't arrive in South America - they arrived in Leningrad.

ww2dbaseAll the flight mechanics were Russian soldiers but the supervisor was German. We were kept separate from the Russians. We had our own barracks where we lived, our own officer club and our own hangar. The Russians were very friendly to us. We had civilian friends and girlfriends too but they were not supposed to have contact with us because we were bad capitalists.

ww2dbaseThe Lipetsk fighter pilot training center was closed in Sep 1933; after the departure of the Germans, Lipetsk remained an active Soviet military airfield.

ww2dbaseAs for the ground forces, the Kama tank school was similarly established near Kazan in the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in Russia. The name was coined from the location, Kazan, and the first German commanding officer at the school, Wilhelm Malbrandt. It began operations in Oct 1929, three years after the Lipetsk pilot training program began with the arrival of German-built prototype tanks, all disguised as agricultural vehicles during transit. At any given time, about 10 Germans were present at Kama. They were consisted of both military officers and engineers. A number of Soviet service technicians were always present as well. Josef Harpe replaced Malbrandt as the German officer in charge in 1930. When the program ended in Sep 1933, 30 Germans were trained. Like their air counterparts, these men would be instrumental in the formation of the new German armored force as well. The Soviet military would continue to use the Kama facilities to train its tank crews for some years to come.

ww2dbaseA joint German-Soviet chemical weapons facility was established in Samara Oblast, Russia, on the banks of the Tomka River. Gas-Testgelände Tomka existed betweeen 1928 and 1931.

ww2dbaseThe joint German-Soviet military training programs became unnecessary when Germany started to gain better footing internationally at the Geneva Conference of Dec 1932.

Kate Moore, The Battle of Britain
David Stone, Hitler's Army

Last Major Update: Jan 2010

Treaty of Rapallo Timeline

16 Apr 1922 Germany and the Soviet Union signed an agreement at Rapallo, Geona, Italy, renouncing all territorial and monetary claims against each other as the result of WW1.
29 Jul 1922 A secret clause was added to the Russo-German Treaty of Rapallo, allowing German troops to train with heavy weapons, something disallowed by the Versailles Treaty, in Soviet territory.
5 Nov 1922 The Treaty of Rapallo was formally signed between Germany and the Soviet Union in Berlin, Germany.
15 Apr 1925 Retired German Colonel Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen signed a contract to establish a fighter pilot school in Russia.
15 Sep 1933 The Lipetsk fighter pilot training center in Lipetsk, Russia and the Kama tank school in Kazan, Russia were closed.

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