The rise of Hitler- On January 30th 1933 Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Over the next few years he started to rebuild the German army and navy as well as building up a new airforce, the Luftwaffe. Hitler was a fanatical nationalist who believed that there should be a Greater German Reich, he even declared his regime the Third Reich almost immediately, and that Germany should expand its borders to cover all the German speaking lands, (not necessarily ethnic German lands), as well as land taken from them after the Treaty of Versailles. Many Germans at the time liked this view as their national pride had been dealt a massive blow thanks to the Treaty of Versailles and the 132 billion marks, (US $33billion), imposed on Germany from reparations destroyed the German economy creating widespread unemployment. Naturally rebuilding the army to conquer foreign lands would create jobs from arms production and soldiers. Hitler also had an idea named lebensraum which translates roughly as 'living space' where he wanted to conquer the Ukraine and Western Russia so his 'Aryan race' could have enough land to live on and the native people to be ethnically cleansed.
|German soldiers dismantling the barrier to Austria during the Anschluss|
Appeasement- Hitler realised that if he was going to achieve his Greater German Reich he would have to go against the Treaty of Versailles which he despised. With Britain and France weak after the Depression, the US uninterested with European affairs, the USSR isolationist and a bond growing with Fascist Italy under Mussolini Hitler decided to do this. As apart of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was forbidden to have troops in the Rhineland so to show his strength one of Hitler's first breaches of the Treaty was placing troops in the Aechen, Trier and Saarbruecken areas of the Rhineland. He was wary to see how France would react as he knew that if France threatened him this early into remilitarisation would destroy his government. However the German army vastly outnumbered that of the French so France let Hitler to ignore the Treaty. This gave Hitler a huge prestige boost and started a process named 'Appeasement'. The next event of Appeasement of the Anschluss of Austria. In 1934 Hitler attempted to annex Austria after the Austrian Nazi party attempted a coup resulting with the Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss being assassinated but Mussolini blocked it. By 1938 Hitler had built up relations with Mussolini, he wanted to annex Austria as it was his homeland but the Treaty of Versailles had forbade it. Hitler continued to put pressure on the Austrian government under Chancellor Schuschnigg to join with Germany; Hitler saying in a speech "The German Reich is no longer willing to tolerate the suppression of ten million Germans across its borders." On March 9th 1938 Schuschnigg desperate to keep Austria independent he organised a plebiscite to determine whether Austria should unite with Germany.
|Notice how the 'yes' option is larger than the 'no'|
The Poland Question- The annexation of the rest of Czechoslovakia made Chamberlain worried. Now Hitler's Germany was becoming too powerful and was becoming increasingly volatile with the increasing anti-Semitism with the Kristallnacht, (Night of Broken Glass), and the horrid Nuremberg Laws as well as Goering's Four Year Plan causing an economic deficit that could only be lifted by war. Hitler then started eyeing Poland who had former German lands as well as the large track of farmland that Hitler wanted for lebensraum, but more importantly with an annexed Poland there would be an open door to invade the USSR. Then on the 23rd August 1939 the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed. The main two diplomats from Nazi Germany, (Ribbentrop), and the USSR, (Molotov), declared a pact of friendship and were not to attack one another. This was a massive blow to Britain and France. They sensed that war with Hitler was imminent and had turned to Stalin for an alliance who feared Hitler for his virulent anti-communism however Stalin turned to the Nazis for two reasons. For one Britain and France had sent some minor diplomats to build up relations while Hitler had sent the Foreign Secretary himself and two the Pact allowed Hitler to safely annex most of Poland and allowed Stalin to annex the rest of Poland, the Baltic states, Finland and areas of Romania without Nazi invasion. In one final act to deter Hitler France and Britain pledged that they would declare war on Germany if Hitler invaded Poland.
|Cartoon by David Low depicting the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland|
Thanks for reading and please leave comments. Next time I'll do a debate about how just Appeasement was as a foreign policy from 1936 to 1939.