Hitler’s Foreign Policy, 1933-38

Published: 2021-07-01 06:10:47
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Category: Military, Germany, Adolf Hitler, Foreign Policy, Peace

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The extent to which the international situation in January 1933 was conducive to Hitler achieving his foreign policy aims is debatable. There are a variety of factors which both assisted and hindered Hitler in achieving his aims. Some key aims of foreign policy were as follows, to destroy communism, to unite the German speaking population, to wipe out the Jews, to colonise the East and to revenge Germany's defeat from the First World War. Some of the key factors which need to be looked at include the lack of agreement over how to deal with Germany, the internal weakness of Western countries, the weakness of the League of Nations, the defensive attitudes of certain countries and successor states.
Many countries, particularly France had a defensive mentality towards Germany, as a repeat of the First World War was certainly not wanted. British foreign policy under Baldwin was based upon public opinion. The horrors of the First World War meant that there was a "never again mentality" which can be shown by the oxford union debate in February 1933 which voted on the motion "that this House would not fight for King and country. There was also strong public opposition to rearmament and many thought rearmament would only antagonise Hitler.
Due to France's worry of being invaded again the Maginot line defence fortification was constructed in the years 1929-1938. This defence fortification however was hardly a problem to Hitler at all. This was because of the fact that it stopped at the Belgian border, which meant that there was still corridor open if Germany wanted to invade both France and Belgium. Furthermore France was politically divided and had 11 governments between 1932 and 1935. This therefore meant that there was rival ideology of fascism and communism and so there were no clear policies as to what to do with the German problem. French foreign policy was inconsistent. This meant that France's reactions to Hitler were delayed and weak and so therefore gave Hitler more encouragement. In contrast however France had the desire to develop links and ally with countries on Germany's eastern borders such as Czechoslovakia and Romania. This therefore hindered Hitler as it gave France further defence and support.

There was a clear lack of agreement between the powerful countries as to what to do about Germany. France was very concerned at the possibility of a German threat and had wanted very harsh Versailles terms whereas Britain was preoccupied with its empire and favoured with a revision of peace. If the Treaty of Versailles was to be probably implemented it needed the support of the USA who failed to ratify the treaty in 1920. The United States then withdrew into isolationism. It can therefore be seen that the European powers were not able to enforce peace alone.
It can be seen that the League of Nations both assisted and hindered Hitler in achieving his foreign policy aims. As the USA and USSR were not members of the League of Nations until 1934 they were not able to be part of making decisions and so gave Hitler and Germany more freedom. Key evidence to show how the League of Nations was a failing peacekeeping organisation and thus assisting Hitler is from the Manchuria crisis in 1931. In this year Japan invaded Manchuria in China; the League of Nations took no effective action.
However, the League of Nations itself, although weak clearly limited Hitler's opportunities. The League was an international body set up in order to preserve peace and prevent aggression. Furthermore it had the power to call for economic sanctions and military actions by member states. It can therefore be seen that the League of Nations hindered Hitler's foreign policy, but only to a certain extent due to its weakness and lack of effective action.
When Hitler came to power in January 1933 he told the world he wanted to rid Germany of the problems of the Versailles Treaty in order to make her strong once more. To achieve this goal the country needed massive rearmament. Hitlers reply in February 1933 to a proposal from the Reich Ministry of Transport to build a reservoir shows the extent to which, in his view, the policy of rearmament was more important than anything else: 'The next five years in Germany had to be devoted to rendering the German people again capable of bearing arms.
Every publicly sponsored measure to create employment had to be considered from the point of view of whether it was necessary with respect to rendering the German people again capable of bearing arms for military service.' Since 1922 under the Rapallo pact Germany had been rearming in the USSR and hade economic links. This clearly shows how the international was conducive to Hitler's aim of rearmament. Also In December 1932 there was a major conference over disarmament, where little happened.
By 1933 it can be seen that Germany had in fact secured a substantial revision of the Treaty of Versailles as Germany was now a member of the League of Nations, rearmament was no longer subject to scrutiny and reparations had been, in effect, cancelled (at Lausanne, 1932)
Various countries surrounding Germany contained German minorities and so this can be seen as an advantage to Hitler's foreign policy. An important aim of Hitler's was to unite all Germans, with many Germans in other countries it would be easier for Hitler to take over them. This is primarily because it is likely that the Germans in these countries, such as Czechoslovakia (300,000), Poland and Danzig (95%) would rather be part of Germany and would welcome German expansionism. In addition to this all of these countries were small and militarily and political weak which therefore means there would be little opposition. Also many Austrians were in favour of becoming part of Germany.
The German Domestic situation however was also important to Hitler's Foreign policy aims. In 1933 Hitler had only just made Chancellor and there were only the Nazis in government other than Hitler. This means that it is likely Hitler would have little support in government. Furthermore Hitler was dependent upon elite support and Hindenburg as President could still remove Hitler.
In conclusion it can be seen that there is evidence both for against the international situation being conducive to Hitler's Foreign policy aims. Whilst factors such as the USA being isolationist and the lack of agreement over how to deal with Germany were helpful to Hitler, others such as strong public opinion against war and Hitler being leader of a collation government show the problems that Hitler had to overcome.

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