Nazi Policies and Actions in Europe 1933-41

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  • Created by: Faolan
  • Created on: 13-05-15 21:00

Nazi Foreign Policy


  • To restore the strength of Germans armed forces by removing the restrictions imposed by the treaty if Versailles
  • To unite all those claiming German nationality into the Third Reich 
  • To create lebensraum by acquiring new territory from racially inferior Central and Eastern Europe  states to support the needs of the growing German population


At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference it had been agreed that all countries would disarm. However, Germany was the only country that did so. It was the decided that an international conference would be held in Geneva to resolve this problem.

At the conference Germany demanded that all other countries disarm but the french refused and in response Germany walked out and withdrew from the league of nations. At the same time Hitler has signed a Non aggression pact with Poland In January 1933

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Nazi Foreign Policy

Once Hitler has felt secure in power, military expenditure tripled to 9 billion marks and rearmament speeded up:

  • The navy began to construct new vessels
  • The airforce (Lutwaffe) was officially set up in 1935. Had over 2500.
  • Conscription was publicly announced in March 1935.

All of these actions broke the treaty of Versailles. In response the leaders of Britain, Italy and France met at Stress in April 1935 to condemn German's actions. However, within weeks this partnership collapsed. This was because Germany and Britain had signed a naval agreement.

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A Key Year- 1936

The Rhineland

In March 1936 the German Army and police reoccupied the Rhineland. Hitler was testing the waters to see how the allies would react. He knew that German forces were still comparatively weak and had even ordered them to retreat if challenged.

However, Britain and France took no action preferring to achieve a peaceful solution. This strategy became know ad appeasement and allowed Germany to expand with no action being taken to stop them until 1939. Neill Chamberlain strongly supped appeasement. This policy increased Hitler belied in the allies weakness. Hitler succession the Rhineland gave a massive boost to his popularity at home. In a plebiscite, 99% voted in favor of Hitler actions

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A Key Year- 1936

Alliances-- Hitler also moved to ensure that Germany would not be alone if a war did break out. By the end if 1936 military agreements had been made with 

  • Italy (the Rome - Berlin axis)
  • Japan (the anti comintern pact)

Hitler also got involved in the Spanish civil war. He sent the Lutwaffe, flying as the Condor legion, to perfect bombing techniques. He hoped to

  • Help establish a like - minded system 
  • Secure another ally

By 1936 it was clear that Hitler wanted to go to war. In that year he gave Goring thw task of a war economy through the Four Year plan. A year later Hitler secretly told his generals that he could see Germany being involved in a major war by mid-1940s

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FAILURE- In July 1934, Nazis in Austria attempted to seize power. However, Hitler failed to support them because:

  • Germany was still militarily weak
  • Italy had threatened to intervene militarily to stop Austria from becoming a Nazi controlled state

By 1938, things were very different 

  • Italy was now Germany closest Ally 
  • Secret Contacts with France and Britain indicated that they would not oppose Germany gaining control of Austria.
  • Austria was economically weak and more likely to be open to increased links with an increasingly prosperous Germany 
  • Hitler felt that Germany was strong enough militarily to try and Anschluss 
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  • In early 1938 Hitler forced Austrian Chancellor Schuschingg into appointing Nazis to his government.  Schuschingg into appointing Nazi to his government. Schuschingg was so concerned about the impact of Hitlers increased influence that he announced there would be a plebiscite over Austria future. He hoped that Austrians would vote against amd Anschluss 
  • Hitler was outraged amd demanded that Schusnigg cancel the plebiscite and resign as chancellor. Schuschingg agreed and was replaced by Inquart, an Austrian National socialist. Inquart then asked Hitler to send his army into Austria. With no one to oppose them the troops began to move in on 12 March 1938. On the next day Hitler announced that the Anschluss had taken place and Austrian had become part of Germany. A subsequent referendum on the Anschluss resulted in 99% approval for the action
  • Versailles had again been broken and by acquiring territory not held before, Hitler was now moving forward with his plans for a Grossdeutschalnd. Again the Allies protested but did nothing else thus encouraging further expansion
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The Sudetenland crisis

Hitlers next target was Czechoslovaki. It had sizeable German minority. Hitler:

  • Launched a misinformation campaign against the Czech government, arguing that it was allowing the mistreatment of the 3M Germans living in the industrially developed Sudentenland region.
  • Encouraged the pro Nazi Sudeten German party to make impossible demands of the Czech government and to engage in civil unrest when these demands were not granted.

British PM Neville Chamberlain was so concerned about the prospect of war that he flew to meet Hitler in September 1938. At this meeting Hitler demanded that German be given all parts of the Sudetenland that were over 50% German. Britain and France persuaded Czechoslovaki to accept these demands. Hitler now upped the pressure by demanding that all of the Sudetenland be handed over to him by 1st October. This time the Czechs refused and negotiations broke down. With war seemingly inevitable, another meeting was organised for Munich. Before this meeting took place. Hitler declared that once he had gained the Sudetenland he would demand territory  of no other European country. 

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Apart from Chamberlain and Hitler, the conference was attended by the leaders of France and Italy. Amazingly, however, Czechoslovakias leaders was excluded and Czechoslovakias ally, the Soviet Union, was not invited:

  • Germany would gain the Sudetenland 
  • Hitler agreed to the holding of plebiscites in mixed areas of Czechoslovakias
  • Germany promised to respect the independence of the rest of czechoslovakia
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The Road To War


  • Hitler still wasn’t satisfied. In March 1939, he forced the Czechs to hand over the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia.
  • For the first time, Hitler had taken over non-German territory. Days later, Slovakia – all that remained of Czechoslovakia – came under German protection. 
  • Britain and France’s immediate response was to issue a protest against Germany’s actions. Not surprisingly, Hitler ignored their disapproval and continued in the same vein by successfully demanding Memel from Lithuania.
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Nazi Soviet Pact

  • Finally realising that Hitler could not be trusted, Britain and France drew up a guarantee of security for Poland on 31 March 1939. Hitler believed that it would be difficult for them to protect Poland and chose to ignore their actions. Preparations for an invasion were steppedup.
  • Perhaps to ensure that he had some allies, a full military alliance, the Pact of Steel, was signed with Italy in May.
  • Tied in with lebensraum, was Hitler’s desire for the destruction of communist Russia.
  • Other powers were amazed, therefore, when Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, two ideological enemies, signed the Nazi–Soviet Pact on 23 August 1939. As well as agreeing not to attack each other for ten years, the pact contained a secret agreement to divide Poland up between themselves.
  • This left Germany free to attack Poland without taking the risk of having to face Russian troops.
  • As far as Hitler was concerned, the Nazi–Soviet Pact cancelled out any threat of Britain and France defending Poland. On 1 September 1939 therefore, Germany launched its long expected attack upon Poland.
  • This, in turn, led to Britain and France declaring war upon Germany two days later.
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Germany at War

No Itay

With war underway, Germany should have been joined by Italy dues to the Pact of Steel. Hwoever, when the war began, Mussolini got cold feet and declared Italy to be a non- belligerent. Italy finnaly joined the war in June 1940 just as France was being overun by the German army.


Nothing much happened in the war for the next few months; then in April 1940 German troops rapidly occupied Denmark and Norway. Control of the latter provided Germany with Atlantic bases and a guaranteed supply of iron ore. In May, Germany invaded Holland, Belgium and France. The use of Blitzkrieg allowed the German army to defeat the Dutch, Belgian and French forces within six weeks. The remaining British and French troops were pushed back to Dunkirk from where they were rescued.

Although Britain now stood alone against Germany, she refused to surrender and, as a result of the Luftwaffe’s failure to win the Battle of Britain, Operation Sea Lion (the invasion of Britain) had to be postponed.

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Early Success

Germany was soon experiencing greater success elsewhere

  • In November 1940 Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria became allies.
  • In early 1941 German forces moved into North Africa and experienced significant success against British
  • Shortly after, German forces invaded the Balkans region and occupied Yugoslavia and Greece. The Germans then followed this up with an airboprne invasion of Crete.
  • Despite the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact, the USSR remianed Hitler's real goal for both political and economic reasons. It was part of Hitlers foreign policy aims and was the brithplace of communist governemnt. A successful invasion could destroy communism. the German military could also make good use of the huge oil reserves in the Caucasus and the food supplies in the Ukraine, while the inferior people of the USSR could provide slave labour.
  • Therefore on the 22nd of June 1941, with the involvement of a huge force of over 3 million troops, 3500 tanks and 2700 aircraft, Germany launchged operation Barbossa, the invasion of the USSR. while there were initial succes, the huge size of the soviet forces, the relocation of industarial centres beyond the range of German attack and the onslaught of german winter meant that the expected victory did not materialise.
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