Hitler came to power in 1933, after the Great Depression hit Germany hard, and eroded the support of the central parties. The Nazis used a clever tactic of propaganda, grassroots campaigning, and targeted discrimination (e.g. highlighting the Jews as scapegoats for Germany’s problems).
Hitler also built a significant amount of his power and reputation through having clear and identifiable goals, and he was not afraid to speak his mind. These goals built upon the growing ‘stab in the back’ myth of the ‘November Criminals’, undermining the Weimar government and central parties through resurrecting the legacy of Versailles. Hitler also played upon German dislike and mistrust of France and Britain – rather than being worried about keeping friendly, Hitler made it his mission to show he was opposed to the West.
How did Hitler go about these aims initially?
Straight after his election, Hitler was not strong enough to go right against the Treaty and get all of his aims achieved immediately. Instead, he started to poke around, and see which terms of the Treaty he could undo, and which of his aims he would be able to do, first.
- Non-Aggression Pact (deal) with Poland 1934 - Both countries agreed to settle any disputes peacefully. This made him look peaceful and reduce Polish fears of German aggression. It gave him more chance to rearm, and upset France who were an ally of Poland.
- Rearmament 1935 - Previously Hitler had withdrew Germany from the League’s Disarmament Conference and in March 1935, he brought in military conscription which expanded his army to one million men and built an airforce, both of which broke the TOV
- Conscription 1935 - This clearly broke the terms of the which stated that the army could not exceed 100,000 men. He announced a peacetime army of 550,000
- The Stresa Front 1935 - concerned by German rearmament, Britain, France and Italy agreed to stand united to maintain peace in Europe and to defend Austrian independence. However, this agreement was undermined by the Anglo-Naval agreement__ __which allowed Germany to build up her navy to 35% of the size of the British navy.
- Anglo-German Naval agreement1935 - Hitler knew that Britain had some sympathy with Germany and that they thought the terms of the Treaty were too tight and that they thought that a stronger Germany would act as a buffer to protect Britain against the USSR. This agreement allowed the German navy to be increased by up to 35% the size of the British navy. By doing this Britain had allowed Hitler to break the Treaty of Versailles again.
Define the following terms:
- Your answer should include: unite / German / speaking
- Your answer should include: living / space / Eastern Europe
- Your answer should include: Hitler / destroy / communism
- Your answer should include: military / pride / rebuild / army
Hitler’s main goals
- To undo the Treaty of Versailles.
- To re-arm Germany and restore her pride as a military nation.
- Lebensraum – ‘living space’ for Germans to grow and expand into Eastern Europe.
- To unite all German speaking peoples (Volksdeutsche) under one country – a ‘Greater Germany’.
- Destroy Communism.
This map shows all of the land in Europe that Hitler eventually wanted to claim. This was a combination of Lebensraum and Volksdeutsche.
To Undo the Treaty of Versailles
Hitler, like many Germans, believed that the Treaty was extremely unfair and unjust. He called the German leaders who had signed it the ‘November Criminals’. By the time Hitler came to power the Germans had already stopped making reparations payments, but he hated other aspects of the Treaty that were still in place. He immediately took Germany out of the League of Nations (using the excuse of the Disarmament Conference).
This cartoon represents how unfair Germany felt the Treaty of Versailles had been. Even though the Great Depression meant that Germany wasn’t paying reparations any more, they still hated the rest of the terms.
To re-arm Germany and restore her pride as a military nation
Germany had a long military history, and Prussia (the largest state when Germany unified) had one of the most deeply respected militaries in Europe. To lose the First World War had been embarrassing, and to have their military so drastically reduced had wounded the pride of many important parts of German society. Hitler used this to gain considerable influence within the more traditional aspects of German society, and start to win over the army (who resisted his influence for some time).
Lebensraum – ‘living space’ for Germans to grow and expand into Eastern Europe
Hitler claimed that Germany needed more land, for its people and its industry. He targeted the fertile and open lands of Eastern Europe (particularly as these had been apparently abandoned – or at least overlooked – by the Locarno Treaty). In particular, Hitler was aiming to reclaim the lands that had been taken away at Versailles, such as the hated Polish Corridor.
To unite all German speaking peoples (Volksdeutsche) under one country – a ‘Greater Germany’
Hitler himself was Austrian, and so he felt a great need to connect the two countries in ‘Anschluss’ (also forbidden by the ToV). He expanded this further, to include all people that spoke German. He got this idea, partly, from Wilson’s ‘self-determination’ at Versailles, which Germany / German peoples very much did not receive.
Fascism is fundamentally opposed to Communism on the political scale, and Hitler absolutely hated Communism. He had come up against Communists in the __1920s __of Weimar, and felt that they were a ‘cancer’ upon Europe. He was also highly rivalling with Stalin, and saw Stalin as one of the greatest threats to German ascendance.