Read this term paper to learn how Nazi revolution determined the fate of Germany.
Nazi Foreign Policy:
Whatever might be the cause of the rise of Nazism or, better can be said of Hitler, the first foreign policy of the new regime was reassuringly pacific. Hitler emphatically disclaimed any desire to revise the treaty settlement by force. But at the same time we should recall our memory that Hitler in his autobiography, Mein Kampf— which had been written in 1924 and which now circulated in millions of copies — denounced France as Germany’s irreconcilable enemy.
Hitler claimed to incorporate in Germany all the scattered German minorities living beyond her present borders, and treated Eastern Europe as a suitable field for German colonisation, i.e., Lebensraum. Therefore, S. H. Roberts, a skillful commentator of the Nazi foreign policy, depicted that it became imperative for Hitler to lay down the policy of Drang Nach Osten. Lebensraum, Taylor defines, meant a demand for empty space where Germans could settle.
Germany was not over-populated in comparison with most other European countries; and there was no empty space anywhere in Europe. It is, therefore, most probable that Hitler would follow a policy of blood and iron. This could be easily understood if one had a chance to go through Hitler’s “political testament of the German Nation” as contained in the second part of his Mein Kampf.
“If only we had a Ukraine…….Moreover”, the secret rearmament of Germany, which had been going on for some years, now proceeded at an accelerated pace and less care was taken to conceal it — an air force was openly established in defiance of the treaty prohibition. In one respect only Hitler showed consistent self-restraint.
Conscious of the fundamental error of German policy of building a powerful navy, Hitler firmly opposed any repetition of the attempt to compete with British naval power. For, the attempt would threaten British supremacy and thus make her an irreconcilable enemy of Germany which at this stage would mar Hitler’s secret policy of expansion.
But by this time the Nazi Revolution made a deep impression throughout the civilized world.
The impression was of two kinds. In some countries, the predominant feeling was one of normal indignation at the cruelties and excesses of the dictatorship. In others, a no less profound anxiety at the open challenge to the peace settlements of 1919. The second kind of reaction seemed more effective than the first.
In Great Britain and the United States, where the prevailing emotion was one of indignation, not of fear, there was marked change of policy towards Germany. In Italy and Soviet Union, whose governments had themselves risen to power by violence, there was less room for moral censure. E. H. Carr deliberates, that these countries, moved by keen apprehension of the international consequences of Hitler’s assumption of power, executed an abrupt reversal of policy.
Hitler envisaged the formation of a ‘Third Reich’ or empire which would include all Germans in a new or Greater German State. This involved the ultimate absorption of German-populated regions of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, G. Hardy observes. The dictated treaty which Germany had been forced to accept stood in the way of realising Hitler’s ambition.
Hence, he was determined to tear away the Treaty of Versailles which had imposed humiliating restrictions upon Germany, and to make her a power to reckon with. His first significant step in this direction was to withdraw from the Disarmament Conference and to announce a programme of conscription. Next he left the League of Nations and openly flouted it by occupying the dimilitarised Rhineland. England and France meekly acquiesced in this violation of treaty obligations and so Hitler was encouraged to take larger risks.
The ending of Locarno made Germany a fully independent Power, no longer hampered by artificial restrictions. Further initiatives in international affairs might have been expected to follow. Instead, Nazi policy remained quiet for almost two years. This “loaded pause’, as Churchill called it, was in part due to the inescapable fact that armament plans take a longer time to mature, and Hitler, therefore, had to wait until Germany was truly ‘rearmed’ — a moment which he usually fixed as 1943.
The question of rearmament is discussed by A. J. P. Taylor in a different way. Taylor suggests that “Far from wanting a war, a general war was the last thing he wanted.” If this is the argument then conscription or rearmament was basically a wrong notion and Hitler did not want those. Then what did he want? “He wanted the fruits of total victory without total war.” The suggestion is based not on guesswork, but by the record of German armament before the Second World War.
Until the spring of 1936 German rearmament was largely a myth. “Hitler cheated foreign powers and the German people as well in exactly the opposite sense from that which is usually supposed. He or rather Goering, announced: Guns before butter.” But in reality “he put butter before guns.”
The record is dispassionately analysed by Mr. Burton Klein. According to Klein, Hitler was anxious not to weaken his popularity by reducing the standard of civilian life in Germany. Although Churchill estimated German rearmament expenditure at an annual rate of twelve thousand million marks, the actual figure given by Taylor is under five thousand million.
Hitler was at a loss what to do next if he had the power to do it. Whatever his long term plans — and it is doubtful whether he had any — the mainspring of his immediate policy had been the destruction of Versailles Treaty. This was the theme of Mein Kampf and of every speech which he made on foreign affairs. It was the policy which undoubtedly won the unanimous support of the German people. It had also the great advantage that, in practical terms, it virtually wrote itself.
After each success, Hitler had only to look into the peace treaty, and there he found another clause ripe for destruction. He had assumed that the process would take many years and that he would encounter great difficulties. Triumph over those would provide a running stock of mounting prestige. This appears that Hitler followed a system in his foreign policy. But Taylor does not agree with this view. According to him the ‘system’ of Hitler is the creation of historians like Hugh Trevor-Roper, Elizabeth Wiskemann, and Allan Bullock.
Actually, the destruction of Versailles Treaty and Locarno Treaty alike raised so few alarms that we wonder why Hitler did not do it more quickly. After March 1936 there was more prestige to be squeezed out of attacking Versailles Treaty. When Hitler later denounced one of the few unequal clauses remaining — the internationalization of German rivers — nobody noticed either at home or abroad. The days of ease were over. It was one thing to destroy the legal provisions of a peace treaty; quite another to destroy the independence of other countries, even small ones.
Besides, it was never Hitler’s method to take the initiative. He liked others to do his work for him, and he waited for the inner weakening of the European system, just as he had waited for the peace settlement to crumble of itself. Many Germans felt strongly about Danzig and the Polish Corridor; but the Non-Aggression Pact with Poland was scarcely two years old. It was Hitler’s most original stroke in foreign policy and he was reluctant to move against it. The Germans of Czechoslovakia were hardly aware as yet that they were an “oppressed minority”.
The ease with which Hitler had annexed Austria whetted his territorial appetite and encouraged him to further acts of aggression. Did Hitler want to fulfill his desire by total war? The answer is ‘no’ according to Taylor. Klein suggests Hitler “planned to solve Germany’s living-space problem in piecemeal fashion — by a series of small wars” — not total war.
Czechoslovakia, an artificial creation of the peace treaties, contained a considerable element of German population. Nazi propaganda had already organised these Germans into a ‘Fifth column’ and they began to clamour not merely for autonomy but for outright annexation to the German Empire.
Hitler first began a ‘war of nerves’ by a bombardment of accusation, abuse and menaces and then declared that’ his patience had been exhausted. He peremptorily demanded that Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, which was predominantly inhabited by the Germans, should be ceded to the Reich and that he would take it by force if peaceful means failed.
The Czech government manned their western defences and called on France to give the armed support promised by the treaty of 1924. War seemed imminent, and the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain dramatically flew back and forth between England and Germany, begging Hitler not to precipitate a crisis. Chamberlain had no trumps among the cards he had to play. Many Englishmen welcomed Hitler as the protector of European civilization against communism. They raised a slogan “Better Hitler than Stalin”. It proves the fact that the success of Hitler’s foreign policy was largely due to British public.
Sir Oswald Mosley then went to the extreme extent when he said: “Better Hitler than Baldwin or Chamberlain — or even Attlee.” In France, there was also the same slogan raised by the Frenchmen who said not merely: “Better Hitler than Stalin,” but “Better Hitler than Leon Blum”. This tendency of British and French people certainly hurt the feelings of the Soviet leaders. This developed envenomed relation between Soviet Russia and Anglo-French authorities. This must have encouraged Hitler to carry on his aggressive foreign policy and flouting the League of Nations.
However, Britain was militarily unprepared to oppose Hitler at this initial stage. France, because of internal dissension and economic troubles, was not in a position to fight. Hitler gauged the situation to a nicety and remained adamant. So the agreement which took place at Munich in 1938 was inevitably a capitulation to Hitler.
By it Hitler was allowed to annex Sudetenland to Germany, and the integrity of the defenceless remnant of Czechoslovakia was guaranteed by four powers viz., England, France, Germany and Italy. This guarantee was of little value for, only six months after the Munich Pact; Hitler occupied Prague and the rest of Czechoslovakia. After this Hitler did not look back. He dragged Germany to the path of devastation.