Hitler's foreign policy in the 1930s

Saar Plebiscite

Causes

  • The Saar was a small but valuable area, full of coalfields and industrial centres
  • It was controlled by Germany, but put under League control for 15 years under the Treaty of Versailles; during this time, the French ran the coalfields
  • After the 15 years were over, a plebiscite was to be held to decide if the Saar would remain under League control, to return to Germany or to be given to France
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Saar Plebiscite

Events

  • Communists and Social Democrats formed a 'united front' to try to stay with the League
  • Saar Nazis formed a 'German Front' with the Catholics; helped by the Saar police and the Gestapo, they boycotted and beat up their opponents
  • The League knew, but it was afraid to stop the plebiscite for fear of causing Nazi riots
  • 17,000 Nazi Saarlanders (who had gone to Germany to join the SA) threatened to invade the Saar and impose Nazi rule; this was prevented by British Minster of Foreign Affairs Anthony Eden threatening to send soldiers to the Saar
  • On 13 January 1935, the plebiscite was held
  • The (foreign) judges declared that the election was fair and the result was genuine  
  • 90.3% of the voters voted to return to Germany
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Saar Plebiscite

Consequences

  • It was the first step towards Hitler's goal of uniting all Germans under one Reich
  • The result showed people that people were not forced to accept the Nazi regime, they actually did agree with and support Hitler's aims of destroying the Treaty of Versailles
  • It confirmed Hitler's aims of expansion, and the success of the plebiscite made it difficult for other countries to oppose his future claims to Austria and the Sudetenland
  • Events leading up to the plebiscite showed that the League was scared to confront violence
  • Appeasers did not notice how the Nazis immediately backed down when Eden threatened them
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Remilitarisation of the Rhineland

Causes

  • The Treaty of Versailles demilitarised the Rhineland
  • It was to act as a buffer zone between Germany and France
  • Hitler decided to begin remilitarising in March 1936 because
    • Germany was swiftly rearming
    • The world was distracted by the Abyssinian Crisis, so no one would not intervene
    • France and the USSR had just signed the Mutual Assistance Pact, which meant they would defend each other in the event of war; Hitler could use this as an excuse to begin rearming as he could say that it threatened Germany
    • France was about to have an election and no candidates were willing to oppose Hitler and potentially start a war
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Remilitarisation of the Rhineland

Events

  • Hitler sent forces over to the Rhineland
  • They had orders to retreat immediately if met by French resistance, as the German army only numbered 22,000 and could be easily overpowered
  • They met no resistance and easily remilitarised the Rhineland
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Remilitarisation of the Rhineland

Consequences

  • Hitler broke the terms of the Treaty of Versailles with no consequences, which gave him more confidence to continue violating the Treaty
  • Hitler proved his ministers wrong- they did not think he should move into the Rhineland; this gave him greater power
  • Britain began rearming
  • The League was no longer seen as a means of keeping peace
  • It led to the signing of the Rome-Berlin Axis, which allied Italy and Germany
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German Involvement in the Spanish Civil War

Causes

  • Hitler did not want a communist government in Europe
  • Hitler wanted a friendly Spanish government that would provide him with iron and copper to help Germany rearm
  • He wanted to test his new Luftwaffe and new military tactics
  • Italy was also involved, so Hitler getting involved would possibly create an alliance of the two
  • He wanted to prevent France and Spain from becoming allies
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German Involvement in the Spanish Civil War

Events

  • Hitler helped the nationalist rebels led by General Franco
  • He sent them 20 planes, double what Franco had asked for, to help his troops get to Spain from the Canary Islands
  • Around 100 fighter aircraft and 12,000 German troops were sent within a few months
  • A Non-Intervention Committee was set up to stop foreign involvement, but Hitler disguised his aid by sending it via Portugal
  • The Condor Legion (the fighter aircraft) was involved in the bombing of Guernica in April 1937- this was the first time a Western power had used its technology to attack a civilian population
  • Developed the tactic of carpet bombing in November 1937 when helping Franco's forces attack an industrial area
  • Condor Leigon responsible for many Nationalist victories
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German Involvement in the Spanish Civil War

Consequences

  • Franco won the war and established a fascist regime in Spain
  • Spain was friendly towards Germany, but remained neutral in WW2
  • Hitler had improved and perfected military tactics that he could use in WW2
  • Boosted Hitler's confidence in the rearmament programme
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Anschluss

Causes

  • Hitler wanted Germany to join with Austria because:
    • He himself was Austrian
    • Austria had lots of natural resources that he needed for rearmament
    • Many Austrians supported this because they wanted to strengthen their weak economy
    • He wanted more Lebensraum for Germans
  • He was able to do this in 1938 because:
    • Anschluss had been forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles; however, Hitler was now realising that he could break the terms of the Treaty without resistance
    • Mussolini had prevented an attempt at Anschluss in 1934; however, the two were closer after the Spanish Civil War, so Mussolini did not try and stop Hitler again
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Anschluss

Events

  • Hitler told the Austrian Nazis to organise riots
  • The Chancellor of Austria asked Hitler for help; he said only Anschluss could stop the riots
  • The Chancellor appealed to the League, who recommended they hold a plebiscite
  • Hitler sent ** troops to Austria to ensure a victory
  • 99.75% of Austrians voted for Anschluss
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Anschluss

Consequences

  • The League did nothing except advising them to hold a plebiscite
  • This was another act of appeasement- France and Britain did nothing and Chamberlain even supported the union
  • Hitler gained land and natural resources
  • His confidence increased and so did support for the Nazis
  • The Treaty was revealed to be flawed and Britain and France would not go to war over it
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Sudetenland Crisis

Causes

  • Germans in the Sudetenland were not happy living in a Slav-controlled state
  • As Hitler believed Aryans to be the superior race, the Slavs were considered 'subhuman'
  • Hitler wanted the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia because it contained lots of natural resources and would provide Germany with more Lebensraum
  • Hitler was more confident as he had not been stopped in Austria
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Sudetenland Crisis

Events

  • In March 1938, Hitler ordered Henlein, leader of the Sudeten Nazis, to organise riots
  • In May 1938, Hitler placed troops on the Czech border to pressure the President
  • In July 1938, Hitler promised that he would not invade if he was given the Sudetenland
  • In September 1938, martial law was declared in Czechoslovakia; Hitler made a speech attacking Czechoslovakia, which sparked Sudeten uprisings
  • On 15 September 1938, Chamberlain met Hitler in Berchtesgarten. He agreed to peacefully transfer the Sudetenland to Germany if the British, French and Czech governments agreed
  • On 22 September 1938, they met again at Bad Godesberg. Chamberlain had gained approval of his plan, but now Hitler wanted to occupy the Sudetenland with Germany troops immediately; Britain and France began to prepare for war
  • On 29 September 1938, the final meeting was held in Munich with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy. They created the Munich Agreement, which planned to give the Sudetenland to Germany, with plebiscites in areas where there were mixed nationalities. Czech borders would be set after Polish and Hungarian claims were satisfied.
  • The Czech government were forced to accept and Chamberlain returned to England thinking he had saved Europe from war
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Sudetenland Crisis

Consequences

  • In March 1939, Hitler broke his word and invaded Czechoslovakia
  • Showed that appeasement would not work as Hitler could not be trusted
  • This was simple aggressive expansion, not a breach of the Treaty of Versailles, and still no strong action to stop Hitler was taken
  • Many people now opposed appeasement because they felt that Czechoslovakia had been betrayed by stronger powers who it could not fight
  • Poland would likely be next, so Britain promised to help them if they were invaded
  • Britain and France began to mobilise their armies to prepare for war, which now seemed inevitable
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Poland Crisis

Causes

  • Hitler wanted to invade Poland for Lebensraum
  • Germany and the U**R had signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact, which was publicly a non-aggression pact and privately split Poland between them, which meant that Hitler would not face opposition from them
  • Hitler had become confident that nobody would stop him and he could easily take Poland
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Poland Crisis

Events

  • On 31 August 1939, ** troops launched a fake attack on Germany, posing as Polish troops
  • Hitler accused Poland of attacking Germany and invaded on 1 September 1939, saying he was just defending Germany, but the other countries did not buy it
  • A day later, Britian and France demanded that Germany withdraw or face the consequences
  • On 3 September, Britain declared war as German troops did not leave Poland
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Poland Crisis

Consequences

  • World War 2 broke out
  • Britain and France finally ended appeasement
  • Hitler was caught off-guard- his army was not ready for a large war, he was counting on the weakness of the other leaders that he had come to expect
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