International Relations: Why did war break out?

A lead up to the war. Hitlers policies and how he tore up the treaty of versailles. How this led to war. 

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Sadia
  • Created on: 06-06-12 11:44



The traty of Versailles was hated immensely amongst the German citizens. It was a diktat, A dictated peace. Germany had to pay reperations, (£6,600 million), they had to cut down on thier armed forces and navy. They lost all overseas colonies and territory. They even had to admit to causing the war. Hitler saw this as a symbol of humiliation and he wanted to destroy such treaty. 


Hitler wanted to also recover the land the treaty had lost at the treaty of Versailles. But he also wanted to expand Germany; Grossdeutschland= Greater Germany. This meant joining with Austria, taking over parts of Poland and Czechoslovakia where German speaking people lived.


Hitler hated communism and wanted to stop its growth. He therefore wanted to take over parts of the Soiviet Union (where communism was widespread). 

1 of 9

Hitler's Actions.


When Hitler came into power as chancellor in 1933, the lague of nations were holding the Disarmament conference. Hitler agreed to disarm if the other nations did so too. French disagreed as they feared another attack from Germany. So Hitler left the conference claiming that no other powers wanted to disarm so why should he.

In 1935 Hitler announced that he was going to build an air force. He also introduced conscription (compulsory military service). He also planned on expanding his army to 600,000. The treaty of Versailles (TOV) restricted his army to 100,000 men and forbid conscription but the League took no action to stop Hitler. 


Under the TOV, the Saar, an important coal mining area, belonged to the French to make some money from it for 15 years. After the 15 years a referendum took place about whether the people of the Saar wanted to return back to under Germany rule. 90% of the people did. And the Saar rejoined Germany. 

2 of 9

Hitler's Actions...


Under the TOV, no army or troops were allowed in the Rhineland. Hitler argued however that it left Germany open to attack from the west. So on 7th march 1936, he ordered his troops into the Rhineland. Although Hitler's troops were no match for the French army, he also assumed the French would not attack without Britain's say so. Many British also thought that Hitler was merely just marching into his own backyard. (Remember that Germany always owned the Saar. It was only given to the French for 15years to help them economically.) The league did not want to go to war over such a small issue, so again they did not stop Hitler. 


- Rome-Berlin axis 1936; Between Italy and Germany. Informal agreement to co-operate and work closely. 

-Anti-Comintern pact 1936; Between Japan and Germany, to stop and oppose communism. Italy also joined in 1937.

-Pact of steel 1939; The Rome-Berlin axis-> Formal military alliance. Japan also joined in 1940, and they became known as the Axis powers

3 of 9

Appeasement: Anschluss.

A reason why Britain and France did not stop Hitler tearing up the TOV was because they believed that the treaty was too harsh themselves. They thought his actions were relatively reasonable. The policy of avoiding war by allowing such things came to be known as appeasement. 


Hitler knew that this policy of appeasement was a weakness of the league. So he moved onto his next step; Anschluss, uniting with Austria. It was one of the ways he could achieve his aims of a greater Germany. 

In 1934, Austrian Nazis tried to seize power in Austria. Hitler helped them. But the Italian leader, Mussolini, had also wanted influence in Austria, and sent troops to the Austrian border in case Hitler invaded. But by 1938, Hitler's troops were stronger and the Rome-Berlin axis in 1936 meant that Mussolini would not interfere. 

4 of 9

Anschluss continued...

The Austrian chancellor; Schuschnigg, appointed several Nazi leaders to positions in the government hoping that this would stop Hitler taking over. However in 1938 Austrian police discovered that these Nazis were trying to overthrow the government. Schuschnigg met up with Hitler in 1938 to try and persuade him not to take over. To please Hitler, A leading Nazi; Seyss Inquart was appointed minister. 

Schuschnigg wanted to hold a plebiscite in Austria. Hitler feared that the plebiscite would not be in favour of him, so he demanded that Schuschnigg stand down and let Seyss Inquart take his place or he would invade Austria. So on the evening of the 11th march, Schuschnigg stepped down and Inquart took his place. However the next morning German troops took over Austria anyways. 

Nevertheless, the plebiscite showed that majority of the Austrians wanted to be ruled by the Germans. The policy of appeasement let Hitler break the TOV once again. Britain and France did not intervene or take any military action because they themselves did not agree with the terms of the TOV and thought what Hitler was doing was reasonable. 

5 of 9

The Sudeten Crisis, 1938.


The next target in Hitler's book was of course Czechoslovakia. It contained 3million German speaking people in an area on the German border called Sudetenland. It was these Sudeten Germans that gave Hitler the excuse to intervene.

Czechoslovakia with its geographical location made it a threat to Germany as its western border came deep into Germany. It was also strong militarily and economically with deposits of coal and lignite. If ever Czechoslovakia proved to oppose Germany it would be a very difficult enemy. However most of the military resources were based in Sudetenland. So if Hitler could gain the territory it would go towards a greater Germany but also weaken a potential enemy. 


Hitler ordered the Czech Nazi Party to begin making demands and problems for the Czech government. They kept increasing their demands and President Benes of Czechoslovakia refused any more concessions. On 12th Septenmber 1938 they began rioting and Hitler promised the Czech Germans support. 

6 of 9

The Sudeten Crisis 1938 Continued...

President Benes crushed the rioters but knew German intervention was inevitable. He went in search for help. However Britain and France were not willing to go to war for the Czechs. The British prime minister, Chamberlain, met Hitler to discuss the issue. He then met with Benes.

Benes realised he would not get the support from Britain or France. He agreed to hand over the parts of the sudetenland with the most Germans living there. When Chamberlain informed Hitler of this, Hitler refused the offer and stated that the Sudeten Germans were being mistreated and that if he did not have the whole of Sudetenland by the 1st of October he would have to go in and rescue the Germans. 


Chamberlain began preparing for war. Trenches were dug. Gas masks were distributed. Then Mussolini proposed a meeting between France Britain And Germany. They met on the 29th September. They agreed the Sudetenland be handed over to Germany but the new borders of Czechoslovakia were guaranteed. 

7 of 9

Consequences of the Sudeten Crisis.

The german troops took over Sudetenland on the 1st of October 1938. Within weeks Hungary and Poland took over parts of Czechoslovakia where hungarian and poles lived. They were not stopped. 

Neither soviet union nor the leader of Czechoslovakia were invited to the Munich conference, although they would have opposed of the agreements. Benes resigned in disgust and the Soviet union leader, Stalin, used this event as an example of the League ignoring the Soviet Union.

Features of the Sudetenland crisis; (Exam question) 

- Many German speakers lived there.

- Czechoslovakia was an important and powerful country.

- Hitler encouraged the Czech Germans to cause trouble.

- Britain and France did not support Benes. 

- Munich conference and the consequences. 

8 of 9

Road to War.


6 Months later after the Munich conference Hitler marched troops into Moravia and Bohemia, 2 parts of Czechoslovakia the agreement protected. He broke the terms of the agreement. Hitler could not be trusted. Chamberlain began building up the arms for the war and introduced conscription.


On the 20th of March Hitler demanded the city of Memel to return back to Germany. It had been made a free city under the TOV. Memel was handed over. No action was taken because Britain and France did not want to go to war.

Hitler's next target was Poland. On 31st March Britain and France promised Poland's independence if Germany attacked. They also approached the Soviet Union to form an anti-Nazi alliance to stop Hitler. Stalin did not trust them however because he was not invited to the Munich conference. He also didn't want to go to war to protect western Europe. So negotiations broke down. 

9 of 9


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all resources »