Topic 3: Hitler's Foreign Policy and the Origins of the Second World War

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Key issue: How did Hitler challenge and exploit the Treaty of Versailles 1933 - March 1938?

  • Hitler's aim's in foreign policy

LEBENSRAUM - He wanted to expand Germany's territory and gain living space for Germans by taking land from people he saw as inferior, such as the Slavs in the east of Europe. This expansion would provide more Lebensraum "living space" for the German people. This was to do with the belief that the Aryan race was genetically superior and destined to rule over others. Hitler believed he had the right to invade eastern Europe and make the Slav people (such as the Poles and Russians) Germany's slaves. 

GROSSDEUTSCHLAND - Hitler wanted to unite all German speaking people in a German Reich (empire). He would make this Grossdeutschland (Great Germany) by reclaiming every German speaking area in his empire.

DESTROY COMMUNISM - He wanted to defeat Communism as the Nazis were Fascists, which was the exact opposite of Communist. Hitler was determined to destroy Communism, which meant a war with Russia and invasion of the USSR and destroying Stalin's government. He feared they were trying to take over Germany. 

GET RID OF THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES - He wanted to overturn the Treaty as he thought it was very unfair. He wanted to rearm Germany and build a bigger army and navy. Also he wanted to reestablish an air force as Germany had previously been forced to reduce its armed forces under the TOV. Hitler wanted Germany to be a strong military power.

  • The return of the Saar, 1935

The Saar had been put under the control of the LON for 15 years from 1920, under the Treaty of Versailles. After 15 years, a vote would decide whether Germany would remain under control of the League or be returned to Germany.

In January 1935, a plebiscite was held in the Saar. Many anti-Nazis had fled to the Saar after 1933. Seeing what Hitler was doing in Germany, Communists and Social Democrats formed a 'united front' campaign to try to retain League of Nations status. On the other hand, Saar Nazis were equally determined that the Saar should return to Germany. As a result, they formed a 'German Front' with the Catholics. With help from the Saar police and the German Gestapo, they boycotted and beat up their opponents. The League feared intervening for fear of causing Nazi riots. 17,000 Nazi Saarlanders threatened to invade the Saar and impose Nazi rule. However in December, 1935, Anthony Eden of Britain said that soldiers could be sent in to keep peace. 

90.3% voted to rejoin Germany. It was declared that the election was fair and that the result was genuine. This showed Hitler's popularity and the Saar was returned to Germany in March. Nazi propaganda declared that this victory had removed one of the injustices of the Treaty.

The return of the Saar was legal and kept to the terms of the Treaty. 

It is now regarded as the first step in Hitler's…


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