Basis Nord
Basis Nord was a proposed secret German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 naval base
Naval base
A naval base is a military base, where warships and naval ships are deployed when they have no mission at sea or want to restock. Usually ships may also perform some minor repairs. Some naval bases are temporary homes to aircraft that usually stay on the ships but are undergoing maintenance while...

 in Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa is the largest and most important Russian naval base built for the Northern Fleet. The base is located far in the north of Russia, on the Litsa Fjord at the westernmost point of the Kola Peninsula...

 Bay, west of Murmansk provided by the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. The base was part of a partnership that developed between Germany and the Soviet Union following German-Soviet Non-Aggression treaty of 1939, along with a broad economic agreement of 1940
German–Soviet Commercial Agreement (1940)
The 1940 German-Soviet Commercial Agreement was an economic arrangement between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed on February 11, 1940 by which the Soviet Union agreed in period from February 11, 1940 to February 11, 1941, in addition to the deliveries...


In 1939, the Soviet Union agreed to supply the base location to Germany for the purpose of supporting U-boats and commerce raiding. Germany sent supply ships that were anchored in the bay, no Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 fighting vessels have been resupplied. Germany's April 1940 invasion of Norway thereafter rendered the base unnecessary.

In 2008, Basis Nord featured in a prominent BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

Public Broadcasting Service
The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

 investigative history series, World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West
World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West
WWII Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West is a BBC / PBS documentary film on the role of Joseph Stalin during World War II. The 2008 film combines narrative-led documentary segments, interwoven by dramatic re-enactments, with actors representing main political figures of the period....

, and a book of the same name by Laurence Rees
Laurence Rees
Laurence Rees is a British historian. He is the former Creative Director of History Programs for the BBC, a documentary filmmaker, and the author of five books on war.-Biography:...

 in 2009.


During the summer of 1939, after conducting negotiations with both a British–French group and Germany regarding potential military and political agreements, the Soviet Union chose Germany, resulting in an August 19 German–Soviet Trade Agreement providing for the trade of certain German military and civilian equipment in exchange for Soviet raw materials and the August 23 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which contained secret protocols dividing the states of Northern
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

 and Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 into German and Soviet "spheres of influence."

One week after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact's signing, the partition of Poland commenced with the German invasion of western Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

, followed by the Soviet Union's invasion of Eastern Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland can refer to:* the second phase of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 when Soviet armies marched on Warsaw, Poland* Soviet invasion of Poland of 1939 when Soviet Union allied with Nazi Germany attacked Second Polish Republic...

 on September 17, which included coordination with German forces.


In late 1939, both countries began discussions of creating a larger economic agreement than the 1939 German–Soviet Trade Agreement. From the start of those negotiations, the Soviet Union made clear that it was willing to exchange its strategic maritime position for technology. The Soviets were willing to provide a northern base to the Germans, but not a busy seaport because it would provide an open indication of Soviet assistance of Germany, indicating that it was a co-belligerent.

In October, the Soviets initially offered to provide a base to the west of Murmansk
Murmansk is a city and the administrative center of Murmansk Oblast, Russia. It serves as a seaport and is located in the extreme northwest part of Russia, on the Kola Bay, from the Barents Sea on the northern shore of the Kola Peninsula, not far from Russia's borders with Norway and Finland...

, which the Germans noted lacked anchorage shelter and facilities. The Soviets modified the offer to then undeveloped Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa is the largest and most important Russian naval base built for the Northern Fleet. The base is located far in the north of Russia, on the Litsa Fjord at the westernmost point of the Kola Peninsula...

, in the Motovsky Gulf on the Litsa Fjord at the westernmost point of the Kola Peninsula
Kola Peninsula
The Kola Peninsula is a peninsula in the far northwest of Russia. Constituting the bulk of the territory of Murmansk Oblast, it lies almost completely to the north of the Arctic Circle and is washed by the Barents Sea in the north and the White Sea in the east and southeast...

, which the Germans accepted.

Need for secrecy

While it made secret agreements with Germany for territorial division and military aid, the Soviet Union attempted to maintain a thin cloak of neutrality. As such, several options for the Soviet supply of German raiding ships that operated at the edge of international law were considered, such as having the German ships feign the capture of Soviet supply vessels as a "prize" (and then releasing them after the Germans retrieved supplies) or placing supplies at a transshipment point where the Germans would later retrieve them.

The base at Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa
Zapadnaya Litsa is the largest and most important Russian naval base built for the Northern Fleet. The base is located far in the north of Russia, on the Litsa Fjord at the westernmost point of the Kola Peninsula...

, called "Basis Nord", had advantages with regard to secrecy. It was surrounded by Russian territory and closed to all foreign and Soviet domestic shipping, so that no one could see operations taking place. Its entrance also prevented observation from the open sea.

Initial base conditions

Germany knew that overt German fortification of Basis Nord was a political impossibility. The base at that time was entirely undeveloped, with no communications by rail or road and lacked access to potable water. Murmansk (120 kilometers away) had access to White Sea-Baltic Canal
White Sea-Baltic Canal
The White Sea – Baltic Sea Canal , often abbreviated to White Sea Canal is a ship canal in Russia opened on 2 August 1933. It connects the White Sea with Lake Onega, which is further connected to the Baltic Sea. Until 1961, its original name was the Stalin White Sea – Baltic Sea Canal...

, but when the Germans arrived, Murmansk had not yet been developed and Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

 forced labor was still present constructing Soviet facilities.

Germany initially procured the necessary supplies for its U-boats to use at the base and sent them first to Murmansk. It used the merchant ships Cordillera (12,055 grt
Gross Register Tonnage
Gross register tonnage a ship's total internal volume expressed in "register tons", one of which equals to a volume of . It is calculated from the total permanently enclosed capacity of the vessel. The ship's net register tonnage is obtained by reducing the volume of non-revenue-earning spaces i.e...

), Phoenicia (4124 grt) and the Sachsenwald (650 grt) for these purposes. All three ships had been interned at Murmansk since the beginning of the war. The Cordillera returned to Murmansk almost immediately in December 1939, and then traveled to Hamburg in February 1940.

The Soviet Union's Arctic Fleet Command was informed by Moscow that the Germans were to be able to use the base to support their blockade of the British Isles. However, British submarine HMS Salmon
HMS Salmon (N65)
HMS Salmon was a Royal Navy S-class submarine which was launched on April 30, 1934, and fought in the Second World War. Salmon is one of 12 boats named in the song "Twelve Little S-Boats"....

 sank U-36, the initial submarine Germany sent to scout Basis Nord, in the Norwegian Sea, though the British did not know U-36 mission. U-38 later accomplished the scouting task despite the interference by the Soviet torpedo boats and coast guard ships.


In December 1939, western European media began to publish reported rumors of a northern German submarine base operating in the Soviet Union. Danish newspaper Nationaltidende, French magazine Paris Soir and a French radio station reported rumors of a German submarine base, though they incorrectly identified the location. Germany dismissed the reports as unfounded rumors. Similar rumors surfaced in March 1940 in the Stockholm Daily Press.

Invasion of Norway

In April 1940, Germany invaded Norway
Operation Weserübung
Operation Weserübung was the code name for Germany's assault on Denmark and Norway during the Second World War and the opening operation of the Norwegian Campaign...

 to attain a base for naval raiding in the North Atlantic, and to secure shipments of iron-ore from Sweden through the port of Narvik
is the third largest city and municipality in Nordland county, Norway by population. Narvik is located on the shores of the Narvik Fjord . The municipality is part of the Ofoten traditional region of North Norway, inside the arctic circle...

. Although the ships used were not launched from Basis Nord, the 11776 long ton supply ship Jan Wellem, important for Narvik operations
Battles of Narvik
The Battles of Narvik were fought from 9 April-8 June 1940 as a naval battle in the Ofotfjord and as a land battle in the mountains surrounding the north Norwegian city of Narvik as part of the Norwegian Campaign of the Second World War....

was sent from Basis Nord. No German U-boats or surface warships were supplied out of Basis Nord.

On May 1, 1940, the Soviets provided a better anchorage point for Basis Nord at nearby Iokanga Bay. However, the German capture of Norway decreased the need for operations at Basis Nord, and it became more important as a symbol of cooperation than a base for significant operation. In April 1940, the Soviet Union withdrew its promises given with regard to Basis Nord.
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