Nazi foreign policy, 1933-38

Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-38

Aims of Nazi Foreign Policy

  • Adolf Hitler had three main aims for Nazi foreign policy: to abolish the Treaty of Versailles, to expand German territory, and to defeat communism.
  • Hitler disregarded the peace settlement of the Treaty of Versailles, viewing it as an unjust agreement imposed on Germany after World War I. He particularly resented the Demilitarisation of Rhineland, the War Guilt Clause, and the Disarmanent Clause.
  • Hitler’s aim of Lebensraum, or living space, involved the expansion of Germany’s borders to include Austria and parts of Russia, intending to use these areas for the settlement and benefit of the German people.
  • Hitler also sought to destroy communism, which he saw as a serious threat to Germany. He feared that the Soviet Union, a communist nation, would invade Germany and impose its own ideological views.

Key Developments in Policy

  • In 1936, Hitler undertook the Remilitarization of Rhineland, a violation of the Treaty of Versailles, but other countries did nothing to stop him, adopting a policy of appeasement.
  • In 1938, Hitler continued his aggressive foreign policy with the Anschluss (union) with Austria, another violation of the Treaty Versailles. Despite protestations from countries like Britain and France, they failed to halt German expansion.
  • At the Munich Agreement in September 1938, Britain and France followed their policy of appeasement and allowed Hitler to annex the Sudetenland, a German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia. In return, Hitler promised that there would be no more territorial demands.

Outcomes of Nazi Foreign Policy

  • Nazi foreign policy systematically eroded the terms of Treaty of Versailles, challenging the post-World War I international order and leading Europe down the road to World War II.
  • The primary result of Nazi foreign policy was the failure of appeasement, as Hitler did not stop at Sudetenland and broke his promise by invading the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939.
  • The policy damaged the reputation of Britain and France and revealed the weakness of the League of Nations, setting the stage for World War II.

Nine Power and Four Power Pacts

  • Hitler promised equal rights for Germany in the world diplomatic scene through agreements like the Four Power Pact between Germany, Italy, Britain and France, and the Nine Power Treaty — an agreement to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.
  • These pacts seemed to indicate Nazi Germany’s willingness to cooperate on an international level, although this would prove to be misleading.