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Hitler’s Foreign Policy Revision
Hitler’s Aims
Written in 1924 in his book Mein Kampf (while in Prison for attempting to take over the government
in the Munich Putsch )
Make Germany into a great power again
To unite all German speaking people under his rule
To gain territory for Germany in the East to provide living space (Lebensraum)
Achieving his aims:
Hitler needed to destroy the Treaty of Versailles. He had gained support by condemning it. When he
came to power reparations had been cancelled in 1932.
Hitler needed to:
Change land settlement. Regain lands with German speaking people. – Saar and Danzig
Bring German speaking people into his Empire. 7 mill Austria, 4 mill Czechoslovakia and
Build up the German Army so that his aims could be supported y force and o prove Germany
was a great power again.
Expand in the east. Against USSR
The first stage would be to strengthen its lands in Europe. Hitler felt the main enemies of Germany
were France and the USSR, so he aimed to get the friendship of Italy and Britain against them.
German rearmament
Germany had been allowed to join the League of Nations in 1926.
1932 the Disarmament began, Germany was allowed to attend. It soon became clear that France
would never disarm because of its fears of another German attack.
1933 Hitler withdrew Germany from the disarmament conference and from League of Nations.
Hitler insisted he wanted peace and would be prepared to disarm if other countries did.
1935 Germany reintroduced conscription – Hitler’s excuse was that France had just increased its
term of conscription from 12 to 18 months, which would increase the size of its army.
Rearmament was a clear breech of the Treaty of Versailles however Britain and France did not act.
Russia joined League. Public opinion in Britain was that Treaty of Versailles was unfair. France would
not act alone. They had tried to act against Germany in 1923 by occupying the Ruhr when reparation
payments had stopped but had failed.
Differences were emerging between Britain and France and Hitler took advantage of these to further
his aims in foreign policy.
Although he often threatened to use force to achieve his aims, every time he acted against the
treaty he followed it with promises of peace. Britain paid more attention to these promises than to
the reversal of the treaty.
Ten year non-aggression pact
1934 Hitler signed non-aggression pact against Poland – guaranteed boundaries with Poland. This
satisfied the Poles that Hitler would not try to take back the Polish Corridor. Britain saw it as further
proof that Hitler’s aims were peaceful.
Hitler’s Foreign Policy Revision
1934 Failed Anschluss
Hitler had encouraged the Austrian Nazi Party to rebel resulting in the murder of the Austrian
Chancellor, Dolfuss.
The Anschluss was prevented by Mussolini. The Italian army was moved to the frontier of Austria
and Mussolini guaranteed Austrian independence. Hitler knew his army was not yet strong enough
and so denied any involvement with the Austrian Nazi Parties actions.
Anglo-German Naval Agreement and rearmament
Signed in 1935. Limited German Navy to 35% of the strength of the British fleet, not including
Britain agreed to the rearming of Germany with this agreement. This weakened the Stresa Front as
neither France nor Italy were consulted.
By 1938 army = 800,000. Navy = 47 U-boats air force=2,000 aircraft.
Return of the Saar
Saar had been under control of the League of Nations for 15 years as set out by Treaty of Versailles.
A Plebiscite was held (vote) to decide if it would return to Germany. 90% voted to return to
Germany. 8% wanted to remain under the control of the League and 2% wanted to join France.
Legal victory for Hitler.
Nazi propaganda made great use of this and it was publicised as the removal of one of the injustices
of Versailles. Germany celebrated this victory. Hitler announced that all cause of grievance between
France and Germany had now been removed.
Remilitarisation of the Rhineland.
7th March 1936 German troops enter Rhineland. Against Treaty of Versailles and Locarno Pact.
Locarno Pact had been willingly signed by the German government in 1925. The pact guaranteed the
existing frontiers between Germany, France, and Belgium, and the demilitarization of the Rhineland.
Hitler then promised to sign a 25 year non-aggression pact and had no further territorial ambitions
in Europe.
Britain, France and the League should have acted against Germany. League did nothing –
condemned Germany’s actions, only Russia voted in favour of sanctions.
Why was there no action against Hitler?
Britain and France concerned with Abyssinia.
France wouldn’t act alone, its government was divided and wanted the support of Britain.
Britain felt Treaty was unfair and so Hitler was not doing anything wrong. It was not an
No one wanted war.
People took more notice of the promise of peace.
At the end of March 1936 Hitler held a vote in Germany on his policies. 99% of those that
voted were in favour of them.
Hitler’s Foreign Policy Revision
Could Hitler have been stopped? Yes.
German army was ordered to retreat if there was opposition from France. The French army was
stronger. Sanctions would have crippled Germany. Hitler had acted against the advice of his
Generals. Hitler had, however, judged foreign reactions perfectly. Hitler could have been stopped
but the will to use force against him was not there.
Why was the Remilitarisation important?
Hitler gained confidence. He had successfully reversed the Treaty with no action against him.
Remaining territory grievances were Danzig and the Polish Corridor. Were these Hitler’s next
In Germany people saw Hitler as a hero, undoing the wrongs of the treaty.
Led to signing of Rome- Berlin Axis, which made Italy and Germany friends. Important for
the Anschluss with Austria.
France began building fortifications (Maginot line)
Britain began rearming.
Together with the Abyssinian Crisis marked the end of the League of Nations as a peace
keeping force.
Anschluss (unification) with Austria
Mussolini, the leader of Italy had stopped Hitler taking over Austria in 1934. Mussolini was
now allied wih Hitler in the Anti-Comitern Pact (originally the Rome-Berlin Axis)
Hitler had wanted Austria and Germany to be united. He wrote about it in his book Mein
Kampf. It was his birth country.
Rumour within Austria that there was a Nazi plot to overthrow government. The Chancellor,
Schuschnigg, appealed for Hitler to help.
Hitler bullied the Austrian Chancellor, Schuschnigg, into accepting a Nazi, Seyss-Inquart, as
Austrian Minister of the Interior (chief of police).
Series of riots followed, Seyss-Inquart, although Chief of Police, did nothing to stop them.
Schuschnigg ordered a plebiscite to be held to see if the Austrian people really wanted to
unite with Germany.
Hitler feared a ‘no’ vote, so he threatened to invade if Schuschnigg did not resign and call off
the vote.
Schuschnigg resigned when it was clear the Britain and France would not assist him.
Seyss-Inquart, a Nazi, became the Chancellor of Austria and invited German troops into the
On 12th March 1938, the German army entered Vienna.
The Nazi’s organised their own vote after putting 80,000 opponents in prison. 99.75% of the
vote was in favour of unification of Germany and Austria
Britain did nothing to stop this as it felt that the Treaty had been unfair.
Britain had sympathy with Germany because the Austrians were German-speaking and
German in culture and tradition.
Communism was more feared than Nazism. A strong Germany was a barrier.
Why was the Anschluss important?
A triumph for Germany – resources and army of Austria gained
Hitler’s confidence grew
Germany possessed land on 3 sides of west Czechoslovakia (Sudetenland)
Proved Value of alliance with Mussolini
Hitler’s Foreign Policy Revision
Anschluss was popular in Austria as it gave the people more hope for jobs
This was the beginning of the policy of appeasement. Britain and France did not want war and so
were prepared to give Hitler what he wanted. How much would they give?
Appeasement : British Foreign policy 1919-39
Mainly associated with Neville Chamberlain
Chamberlain believed that if he took away the grievances from the Treaty Hitler would be peaceful.
This was risky, Hitler had to have reasonable aims and Chamberlain had to believe Hitler was telling
the truth.
In Favour of appeasement
Germany had genuine grievances
Public wanted to avoid another war
Britain couldn’t afford to rearm. It was still
suffering from the depression
with no League another method needed to be
Communism was feared more than Hitler
Against Appeasement
Hitler couldn’t be trusted. Many promises already
broken since 1933
Made Britain look weak and gave Hitler confidence
Betrayal of lands protected by Treaty of Versailles
Allowed Hitler to increase strength and Power
Opportunities to stop Hitler were missed.
The Sudetenland Crisis
This was the western part of Czechoslovakia with 3 million German speaking people.
Hitler encouraged riots here through Henlein, the leaders of the Nazi’s in the Sudetenland.
Chamberlain was determined to prevent war over this issue.
15th September Chamberlain met Hitler – He wanted German speaking parts to join
Germany depending on plebiscites (votes)
Chamberlain got the Ok for this from France and Forced President of Czechoslovakia, Benes,
to accept.
22nd September Chamberlain and Hitler met again. Hitler now wanted immediate occupation
of Sudetenland without plebiscites.
Chamberlain returned to Britain with no decision made and prepared for War.
Hitler then sent Chamberlain an invitation to a conference of four powers to be held in Munich
The Munich Conference and Agreement
4 world powers at meeting. Britain, France, Italy and Germany.
No representatives from Czechoslovakia or USSR
30th September – agreement that Sudetenland would become German. Britain and France
promised to protect the remaining part of Czechoslovakia.
Chamberlain returned to Britain 1st October with a written promise from Hitler that he would consult
and not go to war again.
Hitler’s Foreign Policy Revision
Why was Munich important?
(-)Czechoslovakia was betrayed and lost its strongest area
(+)Peace was maintained
(-)Germany gained arms and minerals
(-)Britain speeded up rearmament
(-)USSR felt betrayed – felt Hitler was being directed towards the East.
Collapse of Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia had lost 70% of its heavy industry as well as its defensive frontier at Munich.
October 1938, Poland took province of Teschen and in the November Hungary also increased its land
at the expense of Czechoslovakia.
1939, the Slovaks began to press for independence, encouraged by Hitler.
March 1939, the Czech President, Hacha, was forced to hand Czechoslovakia over to Hitler. Hitler
claimed to be restoring order.
Britain and France protested but did nothing.
Effect/importance of Hitler’s take over
Marked end of appeasement. No justification for Hitler to take Czechoslovakia.
Hitler had proved he couldn’t be trusted. Chamberlain felt personally betrayed.
Danzig (in Polish corridor) was made priority by Hitler.
Lithuania was forced to hand over province of Memel.
Britain and France signed agreement with Poland to help if invaded.
Mussolini conquered Albania
Conscription introduced in Britain
Pact of Steel signed between Mussolini and Hitler
Hitler withdrew from Non-aggression pact with Poland and Anglo-German Naval Agreement
Role of USSR
USSR was only country who was close enough to help Poland, but the Poles feared Russia as much as
USSR felt Britain was directing Hitler, throughout the 1930s, towards the East.
Although Britain and France had begun talks with the Soviets to reach an agreement with them over
Poland, they showed no urgency. This Made Stalin, the soviet leader, increasingly suspicious.
In August 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact signed.
The pact was surprising as Fascism and Communism were sworn enemies and Hitler’s ideas of
Lebensraum would be at the expense of the USSR. The Pact was also against the Anti-Comitern Pact
that Hitler had signed with Japan and Italy.
In the Pact they agreed not to interfere with the other in the event of a war and to split Poland
between them. This gave Stalin time to prepare for eventual attack from Germany. Stalin did not
trust Hitler.
Hitler’s Foreign Policy Revision
Why was it important?
Attack on Poland was now inevitable. Hitler knew Russia wouldn’t stop him and the danger
on a war on to fronts had been prevented.
Hitler presumed Britain would back down as they had before.
War was inevitable if Britain kept promise to defend Poland
Britain and France lost ally of USSR
Outbreak of War – April 1939 Hitler demanded Danzig be handed over. Poland refused. 1st
September 1939 German troops invaded Poland. Hitler given opportunity to pull out. 3rd September
Britain declared war on Germany.
Responsibility of War.
Each of the leaders of Britain, France, Russia and Germany could be held account for the outbreak of
world war two.
Some reasons are given below. Can you think of more?
Refused to act without Britain and allowed Hitler to remilitarise the Rhineland without
Policy of appeasement.
Held too much value in Hitler’s promises.
No action against breaking of the Treaty.
Allowed rearmament through the Anglo-German Naval agreement.
Nazi-Soviet Pact
Breaking of the Treaty
Invasion of countries
Military pacts.