Nazi Foreign Policy

1925-6: Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”). Anti-Bolshevism linked to Antisemitism. ‘The end of Jewish rule in Russia will also be the end of Russia as a state’. Russia and ‘vassal border states’ will be conquered and occupied by Germans to create “living-space” (Lebensraum). ‘The boundaries of the year 1914 mean nothing at all for the German future’.

1928 unpublished Second Book. Hitler declares that US world dominance will reduce all European states to the level of Switzerland. ‘The only state that will be able to stand up to North America will be the one that has understood how, through the essence of its inner life and the meaning of its foreign policy, to raise the value of its people in racial terms and to bring them into the state-form most appropriate for this purpose…It is the task of the national socialist movement to strengthen and prepare its fatherland for this mission.’ Hitler’s hope that a German-dominanted Continent will be ally with the British Empire to challenge the USA in the future.

1928 May 23: Hitler proclaims his aim is to save Germany ‘into the most distant future by securing so much land and ground that the future receives back many times the blood shed’. I.e., conquest of Eastern Europe, not just revision of Versailles.

1933 Hitler appointed Reich Chancellor on 30 January. He tells two US businessmen privately that he intends to annex Austria, Polish Corridor, Alsace-Lorraine, and German-speaking areas in Denmark, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania. On 3 February he tells senior army officers that he will invade Eastern Europe when rearmament is complete and ‘Germanize’ it, expelling scores of millions of Slav inhabitants.

Resurgence and Rearmament

Hitler’s aim is to allay international suspicion while rearming in secret until German army, air force and navy strong enough to defend the country. 8 Feb 1933 Hitler: “Every publicly supported job creation scheme must be judged by the criterion of whether it is necessary from the point of view of the rearmament of the German people.’ 17,000 combat aircraft (‘trainers’ and ‘passenger planes’) planned by 1939; Krupps start building tanks in 1933 (reported as ‘tractors’). Army reaches nearly 800,000 by mid-1936. Massive orders for arms and equipment.

Foreign Policy 1933-39

1933 October 14: Germany pulls out of disarmament talks and leaves the League of Nations. Hitler complains of ‘degradation’ of Germany. Offers disarmament if other Powers disarm. Confirmed by national plebiscite.

1934: Feb 28: Hitler tells army, SS and SA leaders that by 1942 continued economic recovery will depend on ‘living-space’ in the East: “short, decisive blows to the West and then to the East could be necessary.’ Ten-year non-aggression pact with Poland. Secures the East, with Danzig (now Nazi-run), while secret rearmament in progress. Murder of Dollfuss on 25 July. Putsch fails. Relations with Italy deteriorate.

1935: Saar plebiscite on 13 January. Conscription announced on 16 March. Army to be 500,000 strong. Hitler admits Air Force is being constructed. British, French and Italians react on 11 April with Stresa Front. Anglo-German Naval Agreement on 18 June: German navy can reach 35% of size of British navy, with parity in submarines. Undermines Stresa agreement.

1936: Invasion of Ethiopia leaves Italy internationally isolated: Mussolini turns to Hitler as an ally (“the Rome-Berlin Axis”). Remilitarization of the Rhineland on 7 March. Followed by plebiscite. Anglo-French inaction. 14 March Hitler declares: ‘Neither threats nor warnings will prevent me from going my way. I follow the path assigned to me by Providence with the instinctive sureness of a sleepwalker.’ Four-Year Plan to prepare economy for war by 1942.

1937: Hitler’s meeting with army, navy and air force chiefs on 5 November, recorded by Colonel Hossbach (“the Hossbach memorandum”). Hitler declares intention of conquering Austria and Czechoslovakia.

1937-8 (Nov-Feb). Hitler replaces conservative members of his team with more pliant men or Nazis: Schacht (Economics Minister), Blomberg (War Minister), Fritsch (Army c-in-c), Neurath (Foreign Minister) all replaced.

1938 Anschluss (annexation) of Austria on 12 March. Popular in both countries. Hitler tells generals and Foreign Ministry officials on 28 May he is ‘utterly determined that Czechoslovakia should disappear from the map’. 30 May his ‘unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the foreseeable future’. From 1936 funds and radicalizes Henlein’s Sudeten German party. Army generals warn the armed forces are not ready: but he prepares invasion anyway; thwarted by Munich agreement on 29/30 Sept. Sudetenland incorporated into Reich.

1939 The remainder of Czecho-Slovakia invaded and dismembered on 15 March. Hitler continues to hope for British neutrality, perhaps brokered by Italy, as he prepares to invade Poland. Propaganda allegations of atrocities as excuse. Invasion on 1 September.