NAZI Foreign Policy - Background

Teresa Porter
Note by Teresa Porter, updated more than 1 year ago
Teresa Porter
Created by Teresa Porter about 8 years ago


Year 12 NAZI Germany (NAZI Foreign Policy) Note on NAZI Foreign Policy - Background, created by Teresa Porter on 05/25/2013.

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Nazi Foreign Policy 1933-1939 Alan Elliott Centre for Learning Innovation (Department of Education and Training) Syllabus Nazi foreign policy nature of Nazi foreign policy: aims and strategies to September 1939 impact of ideology on Nazi foreign policy to September 1939 Some focus questions: Assess the aims and strategies of Nazi foreign policy to September 1939 Assess the impact of Nazism on German foreign policy in the period 1933-1939 (2007 HSC) Background German foreign policy after World War I to the Chancellorship of Hitler in 1933 was dominated by the restrictions and demands of the post war treaties and the Weimar policies of Gustav Stresemann from 1923-1933. The nazi foreign policy had Germany at war within seven years. The easiest way to follow the so-called 'drift to war' is a chronological investigation which includes questions about the significance of each event as a possible step towards war. The key aspects of Nazi foreign policy were linked to the long-term policies of the Nazi Party: End the restrictions on Germany of the Versailles treaty German re-armament - necessary for expansion and international status “Lebensraumâ€? (living space) - German expansion in the East “Volksdeutscheâ€? - unite all German speaking people in one country to make a greater Germany Promote Nazi ideology to the world - Aryan superiority, anti-jewish, pro-fascist and anti-communist, economic dynamism Hitler had calculated that this would sooner or later require a war. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor. Over the next six years, he was the driving force behind public repudiation of the peace settlement and the expansion of German political and economic influence over Europe. The two German Foreign Ministers during this time were Konstantin von Neurath, a career diplomat (1933-1938) and Joachim von Ribbentrop, a Nazi party member and former ambassador to Great Britain (1938-1945). The League of Nations The League of nations had been established after the World War I treaties. Britain, France, and the United States were the main architects of the post-WWI international order and the League was meant to be a tool for moderation and peace. Here are some turning points for the League in the early 1930's: In February 1933 Japan left the League of Nations. In October 1933 Germany withdrew from the League of Nations In September 1934, the Soviet Union was admitted to the League. Listen to the following podcast on why the League of Nations failed: Questions to consider: How many member nations did the League of Nations include in the early 1930s? What was the main aim of the League of Nations? How did some Britons regard Hitler in 1934? (Listen to a BBC broadcast by Winston Churchill at: German Non-Aggression Pact with Poland January 1934 For Hitler's foreign policy to be successful it needed a stronger Germany. This would take time. With a slim majority in the Reichstag and an insignificant army of one hundred thousand men, Hitler would have to tread warily in foreign affairs. …any kind of hard line had to be put aside until he had succeeded in bringing the reich military strength nearer the numbers and materials of his heavily armed neighbors. What he needed for this was time…' The Unmaking of Adolf Hitler, Eugene Davidson, 2004, p 26. In 1934 Germany signed a Non-Aggression Pact and then a trade agreement with Poland. This included an end to previous border disputes, agreement to negotiate differences and a ten year non-aggression treaty. This stabilised Germany's eastern borders and gave Hitler time to continue rearmament and focus on other aspects of Nazi foreign policy. Five years later Germany would officially end the treaty and invade Poland (September 1, 1939) Question to consider: What is the significance of this pact for Germany, Poland, France, Russia and Britain? Task: Consider this interpretation below and write a paragraph comment: In six years (1933-38) Hitler carried through his minimum programme. Before he came to power the League of Nations had revealed its weakness by the failure to check Japanese aggression in Manchukuo (1932-33), and the Japanese withdrawal from the league and from the Disarmament Conference (March 1933) was followed by that of Germany (October 1933). That action Hitler had already foreshadowed in an article in the Volkische Beobachter a year earlier. He covered it now by a barrage of pacific words and by his Ten-Year pact with Poland (January 1934), interpreted not only by the poles, but in England and France, as evidence of his good intentions, rather than as a temporary to safeguard his rear whilst he faced the western powers. Passant, E J, A Short History of Germany 1815-1945, p 197. The Völkischer Beobachter or 'People's Observer' was the newspaper of the NSDAP or Nazi Party from 1920. Return of the Saar January 1935 The Treaty of Versailles had given France control of the resource-rich Saar region for 15 years. In 1935 an independent and observed area vote (plebiscite) gave a 90% vote to rejoin Germany. This gave Germany access to a small population but the richest coal basin in Europe. Part of the German weapons and chemical production industries had been in the Saar since the 1870's. Question to consider: Which powerful German arms family had factories in the Saar area? Re-armament March 1935 Hitler had the German delegation to the Disarmament Conference in Geneva propose that the French should disarm to the level of the Germans or that the Germans should be allowed to re-arm to the level of the French. Hitler knew this would not be accepted and used this excuse to leave the conference. German rearmament had begun in secret even before 1933 Hitler had plans for an army of 300,000 and an airforce of one thousand planes. In March 1935, Hitler publicly announced Nazi Germany's military status and plans - which broke the terms of the Versaille treaty. Germany had 2,500 war planes in its Luftwaffe and an army of 300,000 men in its Wehrmacht. Hitler also introduced compulsory military conscription in Nazi Germany and an army target of 550,000 men. And what were Germany's opponents doing diplomatically? In April 1935 Britain, France and Italy formed an alliance known as the Stresa Front to oppose any move by Germany to annex Austria. And in May 1935 France concluded a treaty with Russia. Anglo-German Naval Agreement  June 1935 The Treaty of Versailles had also limited the German navy to only six warships over 10 000 tons and banned any submarines. This restricted German naval development to a small coastal defence service. This problem for German was partly overcome because innovations in warship design and materials had produced a 'pocket battleship' (Deutschland class) near the tonnage limits. But Hitler wanted a navy to rival that of Britain's. And then In June 1935 the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed. This allowed Germany to have one third of the tonnage of the British navy's surface fleet (probably the largest in the world at this time) and an equal tonnage of submarines. Questions to consider: Why did Britain agree that Nazi Germany could break the terms of the Versailles Treaty? How could this Agreement be possible after Britain's part in the Agreement at the Stresa Conference? Is this Britain's version of 'fair play' or more to do with an appeasement policy? How did Europe react to Germany's rearmament plans? Rhineland 1936 In October 1935 Mussolini's Italy had invaded Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) in North Africa. Mussolini had suddenly created an 'Italian east' with economic resource potential for Italy and in gaining more land had demonstrated to the rest of Europe the weakness of the League of Nations and the increasing power of Italy and fascism. This encouraged Hitler to implement the first stage of his expansionist plan in the Rhineland to gain more territory, resources and demonstrate the power of a rearmed Germany under a Nazi leader. Question to consider: Why was Italy successful in its aggression against Abyssinia? Consider the role of Britain and France. In March 1936 Hitler continued a calculated gamble and re-militarised the Rhineland. Germany still had a relatively small military but met no resistance from its neighbours despite breaking clauses of the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact. Questions to consider: What was the degree of Popular support in Germany for Hitler's foreign policy actions by 1936? How did France and Britain react to the re-militarisation of the Rhineland? Why? Spanish Civil War July 1936 Germany and Italy supported the fascist rebels and the Soviet Union supported the Republican government. This was a conflict between two political ideologies. Question to consider: In what ways did the fascists and communists become involved? Alliances with Italy and Japan 1936 In November 1936 Germany strengthened its diplomatic and military position against France, Britain and Russia with two alliances: Rome-Berlin Axis agreement Germany and Japan agreement (Anti-Comintern Pact) which specifically agreed to oppose communism Task: Research and write a detailed paragraph or two about each of the alliances noted above. Japan invaded China July 1937 Japan began full-scale war with China in 1937 and conquered much of China's eastern seaboard by 1938. Question to consider: What significance did this have for Nazi Germany? The Anschluss March 1938 The political union (Anschluss) of Austria and Nazi Germany was a key element of the 'lebensraum' aspect of Hitler's foreign policy. Again it was forbidden by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. And Austria was a member of the League of Nations. Hitler promoted civil unrest in Austria and German troops entered Austria to 'restore order'. Then a citizen vote (plebiscite) approved the union. Questions to consider: What was the role of Seyss-Inquart in the charade which led to the 'Anschluss'? Did the majority of Austrians favour a political union as well as an economic union? The Munich Agreement September 1938 Hitler demanded the right to occupy the Sudetenland, the part of Czechoslovakia with around 3 million Germans. The four power conference at Munich between Germany, Britain, France and Italy tried to solve the crises. France had an alliance with Czechoslovakia and Britain might be drawn into this by France. The only concession gained from Hitler was that the Sudetenland would be the last territorial claim of Germany in Europe. The British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, brought the signed agreement back home confident that diplomatic appeasement had stopped a major war. Q: Which government did not take part in the Munich talks about Sudetenland? Q: Assess the success and failure of appeasement in 1930's foreign policy diplomacy. (Consider: Did countries other than Germany need time to be ready for war?) Listen to the following podcast on the British policy of appeasement in the 1930s: Germany occupies the rest of Czechoslovakia March 1939 The German military occupied more of Czechoslovakia and broke the Munich Agreement from seven months earlier. Chamberlain would not go to war over Czechoslovakia but gave a guarantee to Poland. In April Italy annexed Albania. Task: Study a map of Czechoslovakia and identify where it bordered Germany and Austria and the German-speaking areas. Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact  August 1939 Hitler and Stalin came to an agreement because: Russia preferred an agreement with Germany since Britain and France's preferred appeasement of the Nazi regime Russia was not trusted by Britain and France Collective security was the dominant foreign policy in 1930's Europe The final step - invasion of Poland September 1939 After years of side-stepping a confrontation with Hitler's Germany the final step to a European war was swift. Coercion by Germany and appeasement by Britain and France had worked for Germany. Then on September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland. The British response was unusually quick and final - a declaration of  war on Germany September 2nd. But what followed was a period of non-conflict until Germany invaded Denmark and then Norway in April 1940. The invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France followed. Chamberlain resigned and was replaced as Prime Minister of Britain by Winston Churchill. Hitler had stated in Mein Kampf that Germany would settle its continental position by the conquest of France as a preliminary to the conquest of Russia. All his other foreign policy moves had been leading to his 'New Order'.

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