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Treaty of Versailles, 1919

Political Disorder: The Weimar Republic and Revolt 1918-23

International Agreements

Stresemann Era, 1923-29

The Rise of the Nazi Party, 1933

Hitler's Foreign Policy and Appeasment

The Holocaust

Sources

Hitler’s key henchmen:

Hitler’s Germany

Versailles_Hitler

1934: All of his henchmen are in place to carry out his domestic and foreign policies.

1935: Plebiscite in the Saarland favors Germany. France returns the Saarland to Germany after 15 years of control.

1936: Rome-Berlin Axis – a pact between Hitler and Mussolini where they agree that they will come to each other’s said. Also, in 1937 they signed they Anti-Comintern Pact, pledging to fight and halt the spread of communism. This seems to be return to the old system of alliances, which was one of the major causes of World War One.

1936: Remilitarization of the Rhineland – the German army entered the Rhineland and Hitler made a military parade around this event. This was a clear violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Other European Nations did not respond and appeased Hitler because people believed that the Treaty of Versailles had been too harsh and Hitler was only taking back what was rightfully German. At the same time it was a practical sanctions. Britain and France could not imposed economic sanctions that could hurt them as there was not guarantee that the USA would freeze its trade relations with Germany and was especially unlikely considering the fact that it was not a member of the League.

US isolation

leagueofnations

1936: Spanish Civil War – Between 1931 and 1936 the Spanish Parliament had steadily disintegrated with many factions and parties being formed but none of them taking proper control. In 1936, there were two main groups vying for control, the Communists and the Facists.  Germany supported the Facists led by General Franco.  The fascists completely dominated over the Communists. Also, German planes got a great deal of practice and improved their ability to devise techniques for success. The Germans had a chance to experiment with having both the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe work together in the conflict. This was also a dress rehearsal for Propaganda. So whilst Germany was completely using this situation to her advantage, the USA, Britain and France were confused about what stance to take seeing as they didn’t want either the Communists or the Fascists to come to power.

1937: Hitler announces to his advisors and key leaders in his government that he is going to put the plans he devised in Mein Kamf into action, and that anyone who opposed would lose their job. At this time, persecution Jews was getting worse and worse. Many wealthy Jewish men migrated to the USA, as a result. However, intellectually and academically speaking Germany lost some very clever individuals. The father of the Atomic Bomb, Oppenheimer was the son of a Jewish migrant from Germany. The Atomic Bomb was a key component of US power internationally, and Germany lost out on this.

1938: Hitler begins to target the circle of area around Germany in anti-clockwise manner.  He started with Austria.
In March, Hitler met with Klaus Von Schusnigg, the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia.  Schusnigg was terrified by Hitler. When Hitler demanded Anschluss, Schusnigg negotiated and requested a plebiscite as he was a strong believer of democracy. Hitler ensured that there was mass propaganda in Austria and as result Germany won. Hitler then proudly paraded into Austria and visited his hometown Linz. The people were happy to see him as unification with a strong nation was desired. It was surprising that Hitler took over an entire nation without firing a single shot.

In September, Hitler continued to say that he simply wanted to unite the German people and that he was not on a conquest (not at all true, as he clearly stated in Mein Kampt in 1925 that one his objectives for Germany was greater Lebensraum or living space which implied conquest). So according to this statement, the next area he wanted unify Germany with was the Sudetenland, in Czechoslovakia, an area with 3 million Germans.  Hitler justification for this was self determination.  To make his demands seem more justified he order Henrich Heinlein the Nazi Sudeten German leader to stir up trouble in the Sudetenland and at the same time he had Goebbels start a massive propaganda campaign about the plight of the Sudeten Germans which falsely advertised that they were brutally oppressed as an ethnic minority.

In October, a reaction was produced in the form of the Munich Conference. Hitler, Mussolini, Daladier and Chamberlain were involved in the discussions. Chamberlain led these negotiations with his policy of Appeasement.  He claimed to have achieved “Peace in our time” but the ironic thing was that the he had handed Czechoslovakia on silver platter to Hitler.

Hitlercartoon

1939: Now, that things were getting tense Hitler wanted to ensure that his aggressive foreign policy would not entail a two front war as he believe that war with the West was inevitable, but he simply wanted to ensure that the Soviet Union did not form an alliance with the West. As a result, Hitler sent his Foreign Minister Ribbentrop to negotiate some sort of pact with the Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov.  Publicly they stated that it was simply a trade agreement. But in reality, it was complex pact which was geared towards ensuring both Germany and the Soviet Union could pursue their self-interests without being bothered by the other.  Hitler wanted to attack the West and be assured that the Soviet Union would not attack Germany from the eastern front. In return, he was willing to let Stalin have the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia), which became independent as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. They also agreed to carve up Poland. The product of these negotiations was the Nazi-Soviet Pact which was signed in August 1939. This pact would not last long as Hitler was simply stalling for time. In Mein Kampf he clearly stated that the Soviet Union was the ultimate target for Lebensraum. Hitler wanted to fight the West first then look to the USSR. After the war Stalin stated that he was in fact aware of this fact, but he had gone ahead with the agreement to give the USSR to rearm as the Soviets only entered World War Two in 1941.

hitlerandstalin

So after the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Hitler immediately began to act on his plans to invade Poland. He made it seem like Poland had triggered the conflict with the first display of aggression and that Germany simply responded to this.  To do this he took two Polish prisoners from Germany and dressed them in Polish army uniforms. Then he released them in a forest on Polish-German border, shot them and then took pictures claiming that the Polish army was infiltrating Germany. Thus, on September 1st Germany declared war on Poland. At this time, Hitler gave a speech to his generals forecasting a brutal war campaign on Poland stating that Poland would be depopulated. The fatal mistake that Hitler made was that he believed that Chamberlain would appease him once again. He was wrong. Chamberlain did not appease him. Britain and France stood by their word that they would protect Poland in the event that she was attacked. On September 3rd, Britain and France declared war on Germany. World War Two had begun.

Reflections

With hindsight, it seems that Chamberlain’s policy of Appeasement was a bad idea. But if one places themselves in his shoes at that time it makes sense. The Treaty of Versailles was extremely unfair on Germany. So Hitler wanting to overturn some of its terms, ones regarding self-determination in particular, seemed reasonable. Self-Determination was something President Woodrow Wilson of the USA had promised Germany in line with his Fourteen Points at the end of the World War One. Moreover, nobody wanted a repeat of the First World War, so for Chamberlain to want to avoid another war at all costs seemed logical.  In some ways, Appeasement was a good idea as it gave Britain and France enough time to rearm (as Depression triggered policies were geared towards rebuilding the economy), as Hitler himself stated that as of 1938 Germany was much more prepared for war and more likely to achieve victory than Britain or France. Nevertheless, Chamberlain was too naive, believing everything that Hitler said. Nevertheless, Chamberlain was very naive believing every word that Hitler said. He should’ve been more suspicious of Germany’s rearmament program, after all, if self-determination was all Hitler wanted which Britain was happy to give peacefully, why would Germany need to rearm?

With regards to the issue of Self Determination it is still at the forefront of World Politics today. For instance, the Tibetans have been fighting for freedom and self determination since 1959, both the Palestinians and Israelis are fighting for this, and these are just a few examples.

Learning about Hitler’s henchmen tells us that his sick and brutal nature was not unique. This seems to reaffirm Hobbes theory of the constant condition of man being war, one where we are competitive and therefore ruthless in achieving ones objectives. Hitler’s anti-Semitism was actually practical as when he wanted to win support by significantly lowering unemployment at the beginning of his Chancellorship, one of the ways he did so was by ensuring that Jews couldn’t work. Thus, many doctor and lawyers jobs opened up. Also, using the Jews as a scapegoat for Germany’s problem invoked a form of nationalism and pride in the German nation as it suggested that all of Germany’s failures and lack of glory since the end of World War One was due to the parasitical Jews.

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