Nazi Germany
Years 1933-1939
World War II
Early Years, 1939-1941

Nazi Germany
Foreign Politics

In his book MEIN KAMPF (1926), Hitler outlined his political goals - to undo the "injustice" inflicted upon Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, to acquire LEBENSRAUM IM OSTEN, to accomplish the "FINAL SOLUTION of the Jewish Question". And he was well aware that these goals only could be reached through another World War.
Hitler solved the economic problems of the early 1930es by having the Reichsbank print money. As the prices were under strict control, the money available ballooned and a bubble economy was the result, a bubble expected to burst in about 1940. The state invested heavily in armament, and infrastructure projects such as the AUTOBAHN also had a military aspect : in case of another two-front-war, to enable German tank columns quickly to move from the eastern to the western front.
After Nazi power was consolidated, Hitler in 1935 focussed on expansion. In 1935 he ordered small units to march into the demilitarized RHINELAND and establish a fait accompli. The English were not prepared to react, the French did not want to go alone, Hitler had achieved his aim. In the same year, the population of the SAARGEBIET, hitherto administrated by the French, voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Germany. Germany reintroduced GENERAL CONSCRIPTION, another violation of the Treaty of Versailles. The Olympic Games of 1936 were held in Berlin, and Hitler held back in order to create a favorable image of Germany in the world media. The Republic of Austria was another creation of Entente diplomacy. Treated as a defeated power, it did not enjoy French protection (like Czechoslovakia), but had been forbidden to unify with Germany. Austria's dictators DOLLFUSS (1932-34) and SCHUSCHNIGG (1934-1938) searched protection from Mussolini's Italy. Early in 1937, Italy joined the Anti-Comintern-Pact signed 1936 between Germany and Japan. Italy withdrew it's protection. On March 11th 1938, German forces marched into Austria unopposed. Hitler proclaimed the ANSCHLUSS. In September 1939 Hitler, arguing the German population of SUDETENLAND (Czechoslovakia) would be oppressed, threatened to invade Czechoslovakia. Mussolini, DALADIER, CHAMBERLAIN and Hitler met in Munich, where they signed the MUNICH PACT on Sept. 30th. Czechoslovakia, not represented at the conference, had to cede the Sudetenland to Germany, other disputed border regions to Hungary and Poland. British prime minister Neville Chamberlain had been the key figure at the Munich Conference. Seeing some legitimation in Germany's demand - the Sudetenland had a clear German majority - and aware that Britain was not ready for a war - the ARAB REVOLT IN PALESTINE tied British troops there, he persuaded Daladier to give in. The Munich Pact is the most important event in APPEASEMENT POLICY. Returning from Munich, Chamberlain told the press that he had averted a war.
On March 16th 1939, German forces invaded the rest of CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Ruthenia was ceded to Hungary, Slovakia declared independence, the rest of Bohemia and Moravia was declared a German protectorate. As the lands now proclaimed a protectorate had a clear Czech majority, this act could not be legitimized with the right of self-determination. Hitler had crossed a line.
In March 1939, Hitler demanded Lithuania to cede the MEMELLAND, an area German until 1918. Lithuania complied. At the same time, Hitler demanded DANZIG to be incorporated into Germany, and a road connecting Germany and it's province of East Prussia (separated since 1919) to be granted by Poland, the so-called POLISH CORRIDOR. Poland rejected the demand. France and Britain renewed respectively concluded alliances with Poland. When Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on September 1st 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany; World War II had begun.

Munich, from Library of Congress, Country Studies : Czechoslovakia
Library of Congress Country Studies : Germany
Nationalsozialistische Europapläne (National Socialist Plans for Europe), by Daniel Spichtinger, in German
Timeline Appeasement, from historyhelp, focusses on the person of Neville Chamberlain
DOCUMENTS Munich Pact, from the Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Munich Paper, note Chamberlain showed to press when returning from Munich, posted by historyhelp

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 12th 2004

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