Hitler's Foreign Policy

Aims of Hitler’s Foreign Policy

  • Adolf Hitler had specific aims when he came to power in Germany in 1933. These objectives would shape his country’s foreign relations throughout the 1930s.
  • He sought to overturn the Treaty of Versailles, which he regarded as unjust and damaging to Germany’s prestige and economy.
  • He aimed to expand German territory according to the principle of Lebensraum, or ‘living space’, believing that Germany needed to grow territorially to sustain its population and become a world leader.
  • Hitler charged to unite all German-speaking people in one larger, more powerful state as he believed in the superior Aryan race and wanted to end the division of German people caused by the Treaty of Versailles.
  • He was committed to creating an autarkic (self-sufficient) economy that would prepare Germany for a future war. Self-sufficiency was critical for Hitler’s plan of military expansion.

Actions in Hitler’s Foreign Policy

  • Hitler began rearming Germany in 1933, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles, to prepare for future confrontations and demonstrate Germany’s rising power.
  • The Reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936 was a significant step in Hitler’s foreign policy. It demonstrated his willingness to challenge the Treaty and gauge the response of Britain and France.
  • The Anschluss with Austria in 1938, though banned under the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of Saint Germain, achieved Hitler’s goal of uniting all German speakers. Britain and France did nothing to stop it, showing their policy of appeasement.
  • In September 1938, the Munich Agreement was signed, effectively handing the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. This was another example of appeasement and put Hitler in a strong position to further his territorial ambitions.
  • Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 marked the beginning of World War II and demonstrated a clear shift from diplomatic means to military aggression in foreign policy.

Impact and Consequences of Hitler’s Foreign Policy

  • Hitler’s aggressive foreign policy led to increased tension in Europe and ultimately resulted in the outbreak of World War II.
  • His systematic violation of the Treaty of Versailles and other internationally recognised treaties damaged Germany’s diplomatic relations and trustworthiness.
  • The policy of Lebensraum led to the forced displacement, and in some cases extermination, of many non-German populations in Eastern Europe.
  • However, up until the start of World War II, Hitler was largely successful in achieving his foreign policy aims, mainly due to the policy of appeasement followed by Britain and France.

Remember to consider the wider impact and implications of Hitler’s foreign policy on both Germany and the rest of Europe. The interconnectedness of these events and their consequences were key to the historical developments in the 1930s.