Hitler's Foreign Policy
Hitler had three main aims:
- unite all German speaking people,
- provide Lebensraum (living space) for his people,
- make Germany a great power again.
The Treaty Of Versailles, 1919, restricted these aims; conscription was banned, the army was limited to 100,000, the Rhineland was to be kept demilitarised, Anschluss was forbidden, had to pay £6,600 million in reparations, no military alliances were allowed, and over 10% of its land and people were lost. Hitler, therefore, wanted to crush this treaty in order to fulfill his foreign policy. Moreover, he wished to unite the 11 million German speaking people in Czechoslovakia (4 mil) and in Austria (7 mil), and he wanted to expand to the east to not only defeat communism, which he despised as a nationalist, but also to fulfill lebensraum. In 1933, Hitler withdrew from the Disarmament Conference and The League of Nations, and in 1935 coonscription was introduced, however neither Britain nor France acted; Britain believed the Treaty was too harsh anyway, and France did not want to act alone.
- January 1934: Ten Year Non Agreesion Pact - Poland: Germany and Poland agreed the boundaries of Poland, as set out in The Treaty Of Versailles. This made out that Hitler wanted peace, as he stated in the Disarmament Conference.
- July 1934: Failed Anschluss: The Austrian Chancellor, Dollfuss, was killed by the Austrain Nazi Party, sponsored by Hitler. However, to prevent the Anschluss, the Italian fascist Mussolini moved his army to the border of Austria, guaranteeing its safety.
- 1935: Anglo-German Naval Agreement: Going against the Treaty Of Versailles, Britain and Germany agreed that the German navy could be no more than 35% the strength of the British fleet. Neither France nor Italy were consulted.
- January 1935: Saar Plebiscite: As promised by the Treaty Of Versailles, the Saar, which was mainly German, was allowed to have a vote on whether it wanted to unify with Germany again. 90% voted to rejoin Germany, 8% wanted to be kept under the League of Nations, and 2% wanted to join France. The Saar was very industrial, and Hitler used the returning of the Saar as propaganda as a reversal of the evils of The Treaty Of Versailles, despite it being part of the terms of the Treaty itself.
Remilitarisation of the Rhineland - 7th March 1936
Events: Going against the Locarno Pact of 1925 and the Treaty Of Versailles, Hitler remilitarised the Rhineland by sending around 32,000 armed policemen and soldiers into the demilitarised zone, many of whom rode on bicycles. Many of Hitler's generals said that it was too much of a risk to do so; the Germany army was too weak to defend itself against a French attack, however Hitler believed that France and Britain would be too concerned with the invasion of Abyssinia, and he was correct. For precaution, it was said that German soldiers were to retreat at any sign of resistance. Even if that were to happen, Hitler could've still used the event as propaganda by making out that France was evil to restrict German movement within their own country.
- The success gave Hitler confidence to go against the Treaty Of Versailles,
- 99% of Germans were in favour of Hitler's policies,
- France's security was not badly affected; the building of the Maginot Line had begun,
- The League of Nations proved to be weak; only the USSR voted to impose sanctions,
- Led to the signing of the Rome-Berlin Axis; where Hitler agreed to help Mussolini in the support of fascist General Franco in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39,
- Britain began some rearmament.
Anschluss with Austria - March 1938
- Now that Germany and Italy were allied, and that Italy was occupied in the Spanish Civil War, Hitler could try to unify with Austria, where there were 7 million German speaking people.
- Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor, asked Hitler to end Nazi plots to overthrow the government, however, Hitler pressured Schuschnigg to put Seyss-Inquart, the leader of the Austrian Nazis, in charge of the police.
- More riots and demonstrations followed, encouraged by Hitler, and Seyss-Inquart did nothing to stop them.
- Without consulting Hitler, Schuschnigg decided to hold a vote on whether Austria was to unify with Germany, but this alarmed Hitler, as, although many Austrians did support unification, Hitler did not want to take that risk.
- Therefore, Hitler moved German troops to the borders of Austria and demanded Schuschnigg to resign.
- Schuschnigg more than likely though France and Britain would help Austria, but this did not occur, thus, not wanting war, Schuschnigg resigned from office.
- Seyss-Inquart replaced Schuschnigg, and the German army entered on the 12th March 1938. 200,000 Austrians gathered in Vienna to welcome Hitler, 80,000 oppontents were placed in concentration camps. In April, a plebiscite occured wherein 99.75% of voters said they agreed with the Anschluss.
- Many sympathised with Germany, as many Austrians were German speaking and shared traditions and culture; moreover, many feared communism more than Nazism, and thus welcomed a strong Germany.
Anschluss with Austria - March 1938
- Hitler had succeeded, which boost his confidence, and so now had his eyes set on the 3 million German speaking people in the Sudentland, Czechoslovakia,
- Germany had land on the west of Czechoslovakia (see photo),
- Austria provided resources like iron and steel,
- Although votes were exaggerated, Anschluss was not unpopular,
- Proved the usefullness of the alliance with Mussolini.
Appeasement - 1919-1939
Appeasement was the foreign policy of Britain from the end of WWI to the start of WWII, and is associated with British PM Neville Chamberlain. It was all to do with negotiation instead of force.
- No one wanted war; the Spanish Civil War showed the horrors,
- Many feared communism over fascism,
- Britain was suffering economically, thus war was something Britain could not afford,
- The League of Nations had failed, and something needed to keep the peace.
- Hitler was untrustworthy,
- Many saw it as a betrayal against the Treaty Of Versailles,
- It was a very weak policy,
- It gave Hitler confidence, strength and power.
The Sudetenland Crisis - 1938
- The Sudetenland had 3 million German speaking people, and had 70% of Czechoslovakia's heavy industry,
- Hitler encouraged Henlein, the leader of the Sudeten Nazis, to campaign for independence,
- Riots broke out, so on 15th Sep 1938, Chamberlain flew to Germany to meet with Hitler,
- Hitler said that he wanted for the German speaking parts of the Sudetenland to have plebiscites to join Germany,
- France was made to support, and President Benes of Czechoslovakia was also forced to accept,
- On 22nd Sep, Chamberlain and Hitler met again, but this time Hitler demanded more,
- He wanted occupation without plebiscites immediately,
- Chamberlain went back to Britain and prepared for war.
The Munich Conference - September 1938
- Chamberlain, Daladier (France), Mussolini and Hitler met in Munich, however, neither the USSR nor Czechoslovakia were invited,
- On 30th March, it was decided that the Sudetenland would become German,
- Britain and Franc guaranteed the rest of Czechoslovakia,
- Hitler and Chamberlain agreed privately to never go to war again.
- The USSR felt betrayed by the West, and was suspicious that Britain and France was trying to push Hitler to the East,
- Peace was kept, but Britain quickened rearmament,
- Czechoslovakia was betrayed and was now vulnerable as it had lost 70% of its heavy industry,
- Hitler got what he wanted.
Collapse of Czechoslovakia - March 1939
- After Hitler gained the Sudetenland, both Poland and Hungary took land of Czechoslovakia, leaving it even weaker,
- The Slovaks began campaigning independence, at Hitler's encouragement, and the country fell to anarchy,
- Hacha, the President, handed control to Hitler, who invaded and 'restored order'.
- Hitler could not be trusted; there was no justification to invading Czechoslovakia, and he had broken the agreement at Munich,
- Britain and France both guarenteed Poland,
- Appeasement was dropped and conscription was introduced in Britain,
- Hitler withdrew from the Non-Agreesion Pact with Poland and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement,
- The Pact of Steel was signed with Mussolini.
The Nazi-Soviet Pact - August 1939 & War
- Despite communism and fascism being direct opposites, and both sides despising each other, Hitler and Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact in August 1939, which stated that neither of them would go to war with one another, and secretly they would divide Poland between them.
- The invasion of Poland was imminent, and therefore so was WWII as Britain and France guaranteed Poland.
- Hitler now only had to fight on one front, instead of two,
- It bought Stalin time to prepare for war,
- Britain and France had lost an ally in the USSR.
Invasion of Poland - September 1939
- On 1st September 1939, German troops invaded Poland,
- On 3rd September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany.