Hitler's Foreign Policy

History Gcse AQA Hitler's foreign policy topic

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  • Created by: sarah
  • Created on: 15-04-12 13:31

Hitler's Aims

  • To destroy the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany after her defeat in World War One. Hitler felt the Treaty was unfair and most Germans supported this view.
  • To unite all German speakers together in one country. After World War One there were Germans living in many countries in Europe e.g. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland. Hitler hoped that by uniting them together in one country he would create a powerful Germany.
  • To expand eastwards into the East (Poland, Russia) to gain land for Germany (Lebensraum- living space).
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Challenging The Treaty Of Versailles

German re-armament

Hitler withdrew Germany from the World Disarmamet Conference in 1933 as no other country was prepared to disarm.

He claimed he wanted peace and was prepared to disarm if others did the same.

Hitler re-introduced conscription on the grounds that other countries were increasing their arms and Germany need to be able to defend itself. (although this was against the Treaty of Versailles no Powers were prepared to do anything about it).

Britain even supported Germany's right to rearm, allowing germany to build a navy as long as it was no more than 35% of the British navy (naval agreement).

The British attitude was that if there was to be no agreement on disarmament, it was necessary to get an agreement on the one area that mattered to Britain - the navy.

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The re-militarisation of the Rhineland,1936

Rhineland - demilitarised zone under Treaty of Versailles. It was still part of Germany, but no German troops were allowed there.

This was to prevent a suprise attack on France.

On 7th March 1936 Hitler ordered his troops to march into the Rhineland. As this was a clear breach of the Treaty of Versailles, Hilter feared that Britain and France would try to stop him.

Although France was angry nothing was done because France was unwilling to act alone and Britain was unwilling to act as hitler was only 'marching into his own backyard'.

This action encouraged Hitler to continue pursuing his policies.

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The re-militarisation of the Rhineland is seen as the last chance to oppose Hitler without going to war.

Germany's army was too weak to fight France in 1936 and Hitler realised he had taken a chance. So why was he not resisted?

  • France would not act without the support of Britain.
  • The British government didn't think Hitler was doing anything wrong so was not prepared to go to war to stop him.
  • Britain and France were more worried that Mussolini's army had invaded Abysinnia had done little to stop him

Hitler noticed the reluctance to the League to punish Mussolini and correctly calculated that no action would be taken against him.

 The League of Nations condemned Hitler's actions but did nothing about it. Hitler offered to make a peace treaty that would last for 35 years. This was his way of calming those who wanted peace, at the same time as getting his way.

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Failed Anschluss

The joining together of Austria and Germany was forbidden under the Treaty of Versailles.

However it was important to Hitler to have all German-speaking people united under his rule.

He tried to take control of Austria in 1914 after Austrian Nazis murdered the Austrian Chancellor.

They were prevented by the future chancellor and the opposition of Mussolini. Mussollini's threats forced the Nazis to back down and prevented Hitler from interfering.

When the Spanish Civil war broke out Hitler and Mussloini supported the facist General France.Hitler used the Spanish Civil war to give his troops battle experience.

This war brought Hitler and Mussolini closer together and led to the signing of the Rome-Berlin axis, later followed by the Anti-Comintern pact (to prevent the spread of communism).

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Non Aggression Pact With Poland

In 1934, Hitler signed a 10 year non aggression pact with Poland.

This meant the borders of Poland were guaranteed.

Poland was happy as this meant he wouldn't try to take back the polish corridor 

Britain saw it as proof he was peaceful

He did this to keep up a peaceful front to buy more time for German Rearmament

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Return of Saar

  • The Treaty of Versailles had put the Saar under the control of the League of Nations for 15 years. During these years, the region was administered by the League
  • In 1935, as preparations began to hold the plebiscite (vote) then the inhabitants would decide whether they returned to Germany, or retained their separate identity.
  •  The League knew what was going on, but it was afraid to stop the plebsicite for fear of causing Nazi riots.
  • On 13 January 1935, the plebiscite was held. The result was overwhelming: 90% of the voters voted to return to Germany.
  • It was seen as a reversal of the treaty and a victory for Germany
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  • A union between Germany and Austria had been forbidden in the Treaty but in 1938 it took place. Between 1933 and 1935, Austria had been protected against any German bullying by Italy.
  • But by 1936, Germany and Italy were forming a friendship and by 1937, Mussolini withdrew his support for Austria and said that Italy would no longer defend Austria against attack.
  • Hitler had always seen Austria as being part of Germany and many Austrians had the same belief 
  • The chancellor tried a different ploy. He would order a plebiscite about whether the people of Austria wanted a free Austria or not. If the Austrians voted effectively against Hitler, he would be put in a very difficult position. Hitler demanded that it should not take place and that Schuschnigg should resign. If neither of these took place, he told the chancellor that he would invade Austria.
  • Schuschnigg could not take this risk and resigned - along with his cabinet. One member left was Seyss-Inquart. So he invited German troops into Austria in March 1938.
  • On March 15th 1938, Hitler entered Vienna in triumph. He imprisoned 80,000 of his opponents. A plebiscite took place and 99.75% voted in favour of the Anschluss.
  •  Britain and France verbally protested to the German government but did nothing else - just as Hitler had predicted.
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  • Appeasement is the policy of making concessions to a potential aggressor in order to preserve peace.
  • Appeasement was carried out by the British and French towards Hitler. In essence, this policy was designed to give Hitler almost anything he wanted, in return for his promise that he would not go to war.
  • There were other reasons for the policy of appeasement. Firstly, everyone thought that they could not repeat the horrors of the First World War. Secondly, Britain was not sure if her allies (the USA) and empire would help in another war. Next, they had their own economic problems to deal with.
  • They thought that it was good that he was standing up to Communism and they also thought that the Treaty of Versailles was extremely unfair.
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  • In May 1938, Hitler made it clear that he wanted to take the Sudetenland.
  • There were many German people in the Sudetenland, so Hitler wanted to fulfill his policy of Lebensraum.
  • On 15th September 1938, Chamberlain flies to meet Hitler in Germany to discuss potential peace. Hitler was happy to compromise: he only wanted some of the Sudetenland, and wanted a plebiscite so the people could decide.
  • Chamberlain believes that these new demands are reasonable because the people are deciding their own fate and the Treaty of Versailles states that self-determination should be achieved.
  • On 19th September, Britain and France put Hitler's demands to Czechoslovakia.
  • On 22nd September, Hitler actually wants more of the Sudetenland; he goes back on his word.
  • Hitler changed his demands he wants it all with no plebiscite immediately 
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Munich Confrence

  • On 30th September, Hitler invited Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini to a conference in Munich.
  • After discussions, the leaders produced the Munich Agreement. This agreement gave the Sudetenland to Germany, but guaranteed the safety of the rest of Czechoslovakia.
  • The Czechs and Russians were not invited to the conference.
  • Chamberlain flew home to a hero's welcome after seemingly preventing a war.
  • Some historians feel that the Munich agreement was a 'sell-out' because it totally disregarded the word of the Czechs. The leaders are seen to put their own country's needs before that of Czechoslovakia.
  • However, at the time many people felt that it was a triumph as it stopped the prospect of another World War; it stopped Hitler in his tracks as he agreed not to invade anywhere else.
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Encouraged by Hitler, Slovaks began to press for independence, President Hacha was forced to hand over to Hitler so he could restore order. On 15 March 1939, German troops marched into Czechoslovakia. 

Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia was the end of appeasement:

  • It proved that Hitler had been lying at Munich.
  • It showed that Hitler was not just interested in a 'Greater Germany' (the Czechs were not Germans).
  • On 17th March, Chamberlain gave a speech saying that he could not trust Hitler not to invade other countries.
  • On 31st March, Chamberlain guaranteed to defend Poland if Germany invaded.
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Nazi-Soviet Pact

DATE: August 1939

TERMS: Soviets and Germans agreed not to fight each other in the event of a war; they would divide up Polish territory if the ever gained it; Hitler allowed Stalin to occupy the Baltic states and Bessarabia in Romania.

EFFECTS: Shocked Britain and France who had hoped to sign an agreement with Stalin so Germany would feel threatened on the Eastern frontier.Stalin had been suspicious of Britain and France's approaches because they sent low-ranking diplomats and didn't offer as good terms as Hitler. It also gave Hitler the opportunity to invade Poland despite threats. Stalin only signed this to buy time to rebuild his army before a German invasion

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The occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia had led Britain to guarantee Poland that if she was attacked she would come to her aid. Under the Treaty of Versailles the newly created state of Poland was given the German speaking port of Danzig and land known as the Polish Corridor in order to give it access to the sea.

Hitler wanted to destroy Poland in order to gain living space (Lebensraum).Hitler demanded the German speaking town of Danzig from Poland. The Poles refused to hand over the town of Danzig.

On 1st September 1939, German troops marched in to poland despite british threats that they would join the war if he did so.

To Hitlers surprise on the 3rd of September Britain declared war on Germany.

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Beth Woods


These are really useful, well done:)

Sachin Shah





Good notes, thank you very much! But one thing is wrong - Danzig did not belong to Poland at the time, it was a Free City under the protection of the League of Nations. What Hitler wanted from Poland was the Polish Corridor, which would connect Germany with East Prussia.

frank james


meh :/




Thank you, very useful!

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