Hitler's steps to war

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Rearmament - 1933-1939

  • As soon as Hitler came to power in 1933 he wanted to rearm Germany
  • First at the LoN disarmament conference in Geneva, Hitler pointed out that no other countries had disarmed like Germany and claimed it was unfair and that Germany felt threatened
  • When the LoN failed to persuade other countries to disarm, Hitler pulled Germany out of the conference and soon after the LoN too.
  • Hitler then began rearming Germany at first in secret but then openly 
  • In 1935 he re-introduced conscription
  • He increased weapon and tank production
  • He also held massive re-armament rallies celebrating German armed forces
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Hitler's foreign policy aims

  • He wrote about all his aims in a book called "Mein Kampf" whilst serving in prison. This book then became the best-selling book in Germany
  • This book let the world know what Hitler wanted and what he was prepared to do
  • This should have warned Britain and France
  • Abolish the ToV - thought it was unjust and much too harsh similar to all Germans so aimed to reverse the treaty
  • Expand German empire - He planned to get back all German land that was taken away from Germany in ToV and expand German empire in Eastern Europe to make more "lebensraum" for German people
  • Defeat communism - Hitler was extremley anti-communist and wanted to remove all communism from the world. He believed that Bolsheviks (extreme communists) contributed to the defeat of Germany in WW1 and belived they wanted to take over Germany
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Saar plebiscite - 1935

  • The Saarland was a part of Germany which was taken away from them after WW1 and was controlled by the LoN
  • This was only temporary - it was agreed that in 1935 there would be a plebiscite (vote) for the people living in the Saarland on whther or not they wanted to return to German rule
  • Around 90% voted in favour
  • It was entirely legal under terms of ToV and Britain and France could do nothing about it
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Re-militarisation of the Rhineland - 1936

  • The Rhineland was German land between France and Germany
  • Under the ToV it became demilitarised after the war to act as a buffer zone for France
  • When Hitler re-militarised it in 1936 he was taking a huge gamble
  • It was the first risky step because France could have easily invaded and forced them to remove their troops because the German army was still no where near ready for war despite 3 years of rearmament
  • However Hitler timed it well - he marched his troops into the Rhineland whilst Britain and France were desperately trying to resolve the Abyssinian crisis so did nothing to stop Hitler
  • Hitler had argued that it was neccessary because they felt threatened due to France and USSR signing a treaty to protect each other from any attacks and claimed it was encirclement and that he deserved to put his troops in the Rhineland on his own frontier
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Anglo-German naval agreement - 1935

  • Many people in Britain thought the ToV was too harsh and that Germany should be allowed to increase their armed forces
  • In the Anglo-German agreement, Britain allowed Germany to increase the size of their navy to 35% of the size of Britain's navy
  • France were angry with this but they could do little about it
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Spanish Civil war - 1936-1937

  • In 1936 a civil war broke out in Spain between communists who were supporters of the republican government and right wing rebels under the leader General Franco
  • Hitler saw this as an oppertunity to test out the new weapons Germany had been developing and use them to support the right wing rebels and defeat communism in Spain
  • The League looked on helplessly not willing or able to do anything to stop Hitler as 
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The Anti-Comintern Pact - 1936-1937

  • Mussolini and Hitler were both heavily involved in the Spanish civil war and it became apparent to them that they had much in common with the military dictacorship in Japan
  • In 1936 Germany and Japan signed an Anti-Comintern pact 
  • In 1937 Italy also signed it
  • Anti-Comintern means anti communist international
  • The aim was to limit/reudce communsim influence around the world
  • It was paticularly aimed at the USSR
  • The new alliance was called the Axis alliance
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Anschluss with Austria 1938

  • Hitler wanted Germany and Austria to unite
  • This was forbidden by the ToV
  • Austrian people were mainly German and the majority wanted to join with Germany because they were so economically weak
  • In 1934 Hitler had tried to take over Austria but Mussolini had stopped him. However by 1938 they were allies so Mussolini would not prevent it
  • There was a strong Nazi party in Austria
  • Hitler encouraged them to stir up trouble for the government 
  • They began rioting and staged demonstrations calling for union with Germany
  • Hitler then told the leader of Austria-Chancellor Schuschnigg-that Anchluss (political union) was only way to sort out the problems in Austria and pressured him into agreeing to it
  • Chancellor Schuschnigg appealed to Britain and France but was refused help
  • So he called for a plebiscite to see what the majority of Austrian people wanted
  • Hitler didn't want to risk losing so sents his troops into Austria to "control" the plebiscite 
  • Nazi troops watched and pressured the people as they made their vote
  • 99.75% voted in favour
  • Austria was then part of Germany - no physical attack from Britain or France
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  • Chamberlain, as prime minister for England, followed a policy of appeasment with Hitler
  • He allowed HItler to get away with everything that he did in return for promises not to do anything more.
  • The idea was to avoid war at all costs
  • The fatal mistake was that they did not realise that they could not trust Hitler
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The Sudetenland crisis and the Munich agreement 19

  • The Sudetenland was part of the new state of Czechoslovakia originally part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and also contained many Austrian and German people
  • The leader of the Nazis in the Sudetenland began stirring up trouble amongst the Sudeten-Germans and demanded to become part of Germany
  • In May 1938 Hitler declared he was prepared to fight Czechoslovakia if necessary
  • Benes the leader of Czechoslovakia was extremley worried after the Anschluss and knew that Czechoslovakia would be Hitler's next plan
  • Treaty between Czechoslovakia and France to support in case of attack
  • He knew that if the Sudetenland with its forts, railways and industries was taken by the Germans, Czechoslovakia would be left defencless
  • Tension in Europe rose, cities around Britain began digging air raid shelters
  • In September the situation reached crisis point
  • Chamberlain flew to meet Hitler on 15 September to negotiate peace
  • Only parts of Sudetenland and plebiscite, prensented plans to Czechoslovakia
  • 3 days later he wantd whole of Sudetenland- claimed Czechs mistreating Germans and was going to "rescue" them by October 1st 
  • 29 September final meeting - decided to give Hitler what he wanted
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Invasion of Czechoslovakia 1939

  • Despite the Munich agreement stating that he did not have any intention of invading any more of Czechoslovakia Hitler did have plans to take the rest of the country
  • With Czechoslovakia in chaos Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia on 15 March
  • There was no resistance from the Czechs
  • Britain and France did nothing 
  • Britain and France finally realised they could appease Hitler no longer and that he clearly couldn't be trusted
  • Unlike the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia did not contain German people and was an actual invasion which was completley unreasonable
  • They told Hitler that if he invaded Poland they would declare war on Germany
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The Nazi-Soviet Pact - 1939

  • In August 1939, Hitler and Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet pact which agreed not to invade each other and to divide up Poland between them
  • Hitler wanted this agreement because he wanted to invade Poland and was worried that the USSR might attack and stop him from doing so
  • Stalin signed it because he was worried about Britain and France continuing to appease Hitler and also that he felt he could not trust them to stick to the treaty signed in 1935 to prtoect each other
  • Stalin knew that this agreement was only temporary since he knew Hitler's ultimate plan was to invade USSR but it provided him with time to prepare for the inevitable invasion
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Invasion of Poland 1939

  • The Nazi-Soviet pact was the ultimate cause of the invasion of Poland
  • On 1st September Germany invaded Poland from the West and on 17th USSR invaded from the east
  • Britain and France kept to their word and declared war on Germany on 2nd September 
  • Britain and France began war but did not help Poland like they had promised
  • Hitler had caused the war but it was not the war he had wanted. It was too soon and against the wrong opponents. He had taken one gamble too many
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