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Give an account of Hitler’s foreign policy, using the following headings:
(A) Defiance of the Versailles Treaty
(B) Relations with Italy
(C) Territorial Expansion
Defiance of the Versailles Treaty
After the First World War, Germany signed a peace treaty with France and Britain. Among the 440 Articles were:
* Germany lost Posen, the Polish Corridor and part of Upper Silesia to Poland.
* Germany lost the Sudetenland to Czechoslovakia
* Germany lost Eupen and Malmedy to Belgium
* Germany lost North Schleswig to Denmark
* Germany lost Alsace Lorraine to France
* Germany lost all its overseas colonies
* Saarland was under LN control and after 15 years the people could vote if they wanted to belong to Germany or France
* The Rhineland was to be demilitarised
* The army was reduced to 100,000
* Germany could have no submarines, no airforce and no heavy artillery
* Germany had to pay major Reparations.
In percentages: Germany lost 10% of its land, 100% of its colonies, 12.5% of its population 16% of its coal fields and 50% of its iron and steel industry.
The main terms of the Versailles treaty
Hitler (like most Germans) hated the Versailles Treaty and he didn’t want to follow the rules made by it. In fact, step by step he broke the laws. The first step he took was to increase the German army. Germany was only allowed to have an army of 100,000 men, no airforce, no tanks and no submarines. But in an interview with the Daily Mail on March 9, 1935, Goering revealed that there was a German airforce. One weak later Germany also announced that it had an army of 500,000 men. France and England didn’t even object to this. In 1936 Germany signed a treaty with England saying that Germany was allowed a navy one third the size of the British navy. Germany was rearming fast. It wasn’t hard thanks to the good economic growth. But the rearmament was so expensive that in 1936 it was clear that Germany was soon to go into an economic crisis if nothing was done.
There wasn’t a better time to test the Versailles Treaty because the international situation was very fortunate to Hitler. Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia proved that the League of Nation (LN) was worthless. It also focussed Anglo-French diplomacy on Italy. After some years, Italy became weak because of the economic sanctions from Britain and France and the public opinion in France and Britain was still very anti-war.
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After this it was obvious that Hitler didn’t care about the treaty and he just did what he felt like, but still Britain and France never acted against him.
Relations with Italy
In 1922 Mussolini overthrew the Italian government and made it the first fascist county in the world. At this time Hitler was a member of the NSDAP, the German workers party. Mussolini’s March on Rome (as the overthrow was named) inspired Hitler to try a putsch too. He tried in 1923, the Munich Putsch, but he failed. Mussolini was an example for Hitler, and it stayed that way for many more years.
Mussolini with Hitler during his visit to Munich
to make the Rome-Berlin axis. (1937)
When Hitler came in power in 1933, he still looked up to Mussolini. He copied many things from him. When Hitler tried to unite Austria with Germany in 1934, Italy objected because it wanted to keep a barrier in the north. At that time Italy was much more powerful than Germany and Hitler had to step down. This wasn’t good for relations between Germany and Italy.
When the Spanish civil war broke out in 1936, Italy and Germany both supported Franco. This eventually lead to a Rome-Berlin axis in November 1936. This helped Hitler gain power since it was no longer isolated. At this point Germany started becoming more powerful than Italy. Mussolini was also losing power, especially compared to Hitler. So much even, that in 1943, Germany had to take over to keep the allies out.
In 1934, Hitler had tried to unite Austria with Germany, but because objected, he didn’t succeed. The treaty also guaranteed Austria’s independence, but England and France again didn’t do anything. In March 1938 however, Germany had become more powerful than Italy and Mussolini had to give in. Germany invaded and the Anschluss was a fact. Again Britain and France did nothing.
German annexations 1938-39
This gave Hitler tremendous self-confidence and it was a boost to Nazi-propaganda. The next thing on the list was Sudetenland, which now belonged to Czechoslovakia. This part used to belong to Germany and 3.5 million Germans lived there. Hitler wanted to invade Czechoslovakia, but the threat of England and France joining in a war against him, made Hitler back down. He had to settle for a diplomatic solution, which only gave the Sudetenland to Germany. But later on Hitler took over the rest of Czechoslovakia anyway.
This event proved to Hitler that France and England were never going to do anything, and he was unstoppable. Hitler also wanted part of Poland. Hitler always spoke about ‘lebensraum’; he needed living space for the Germans in the east. France and England saw how Germany was growing to be a powerful nation and finally alarmed by this, they sent diplomats to talk with Stalin. But he felt he had nothing to do with these countries, for they had ignored the USSR for years (it hadn’t even been invited to the Munich conference). Instead, Stalin signed a 10-year Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact with Germany. This made Hitler confident that no western power would attack if Germany invaded Poland, even though England guaranteed Poland’s independence. On the first of September 1939, Germany attacked Poland, but this time England and France finally stepped in and declared war on Germany. The Second World War had started.
Germany at its height, 1942
After this Germany seemed unstoppable. One after another country fell. But in January 1943 German troops surrendered to the Red-army at the city of Stalingrad. This was the first turning point of the war. Now the Russians were gaining on Germany. In June 1944 (D-Day) the western allied force landed on Normandy and Germany. This was the second turning point in the war. Germany had lost the war.
Hitler didn’t care about the Versailles Peace Treaty. As soon as he got in power, he expanded the army, navy and built an airforce. Versailles forbade all this, but Britain and France did nothing to prevent this happening or to punish Hitler. That gave confidence to Hitler and he broke one rule after another until it was too much and war broke out. Hitler’s rise to power went with some help, but also some opposition from Mussolini. For example Austria, which Italy objected to. But in 1938 Hitler tried again and because he was more powerful, this time the Anschluss was a success. Hitler wanted to expand Germany more and he took over Czechoslovakia. But when he tried again with Poland, the Second World War broke out.
Access to history; Germany; the Third Reich 1933-45 by: Geoff Layton. Especially chapter 7; The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, page 118.
Challenging History, Europe 1890-1990, Nelson, By John Traynor
Grote Winkler Prins Encyclopedie, Elsevier
I also used my notes and the handouts from class to look up some information.