Hitler’s Foreign Policy

To abolish the diktat and pursue self-determination

  • Hitler’s justified his aggressive foreign policy with the unfair treatment Germany had received in the Paris Peace Conference. He argued that a ‘diktat’ (meaning dictated peace) had been imposed on their already weakened nation. Germany was stripped of land, splitting up the German-speaking people, given reparations that they were in no position to pay, and forced to sign the War Guilt Clause, even though they argued that all countries involved had a role in causing the War.

  • Hitler was angered by the fact that the other defeated nations were given comparatively small sums of reparations to pay, whilst Germany had to pay hefty reparations of £6.6 billion.

  • After coming to power, Hitler campaigned for one of Wilson’s 14 Points,which promised self-determination for all nations, even the defeated nations of the First World War, like Germany. As a result, in the coming years, he took back land that Germany had been forced to concede.

  • Some key events include the Remilitarisation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss with Austria, the annexation of the Sudetenland (and also the whole of Czechoslovakia). This is because Hitler believed the treaty of Versailles was unjust, by the fact that ethnic German speakers that lived in the Sudetenland and in the Polish corridor and other regions were not allowed to be united with the German motherland.

To unite all German-speaking people

  • To achieve this, Hitler forced the Anschluss with Austria, annexed Czechoslovakia and remilitarised the Rhineland, taking control of territories with German speaking populations.

  • For example, in September 1938, Hitler was demanding that the Sudetenland, who of the population, 50% (around 3 million) were Germans who claimed they were being oppressed and mistreated by the Czechs, was handed over to Germany. In the end, Hitler negotiated to receive the whole Sudetenland, following brief conflict, but a few months later, he occupied the whole of Czechoslovakia.

  • Regarding the Anschluss with Austria, Hitler, who was Austrian, said as a personal note: "I, myself, as Führer and Chancellor, will be happy to walk on the soil of the country that is my home as a free German citizen.”

  • Hitler was successful in achieving his aim of uniting all German speaking people. Regions with high German populations were incorporated into Germany, whilst German-speaking Austria was also incorporated through the Anschluss.

To check the spread of communism

  • Hitler aimed to check the spread of communism, as he was anti-communist. This was indicated in Mein Kampf and Hitler actually believed that the Jews were responsible for communism.

  • He wanted to expand into the USSR and defeat communism once and for all, however, he did not initially believe that the German Army was powerful enough to face the Red Army so he signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact to gain time and continue developing the German Military before attacking the Soviet Union.

  • However, once he did engage in conflict with the Soviets, it was clear that the USSR had also been taking time to develop themselves, and that Hitler had seriously underestimated the might of the communists. This was one of the significant factors which led to the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany.

To expand to the east for Lebensraum

  • Hitler and the Nazis wanted to expand to the east for lebensraum as the population density of Germany had increased to more than double that of France and Britain. They believed that for a better quality of life (which he believed Germans had the right to, especially as the elite race) they needed to expand the German Reich.

  • Due to the Treaty of Versailles, Germany had been looked down upon as a weak country, especially after their military was reduced to 100,000. Hitler believed that if Germany was to prosper again — with a stronger military and becoming self- sufficient of food and supplies — it would need to recover the land lost through a strong and effective military which would improve Germany's national pride.

  • The Nazis also believed that in addition to expanding the German motherland to the east for Lebensraum, they had the right to have overseas colonies and rule over who they saw as subhumans in Africa.

To revive the military and national pride

  • Hitler aimed to gain colonies and land as for lebensraum and resources needed to make it stronger and allow it to achieve autarky by making plans to invade and seize Soviet land, and to gain African colonies. In order to be able to work towards this, Germany would need a large, strong and powerful military.

  • Hitler aimed to revive the German army and airforce to the level prior to the Treaty of Versailles. Restoring the military would not only increase their power, but also international prestige as the German army was a source of National Pride prior to the reductions of the Treaty of Versailles.

  • On March 16, 1935, Hitler announced that he would rearm Germany, in open violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

  • Rearmament under the Nazis was extremely evident. In 1932, Germany had 30 Warships, 36 Aircraft and 100,000 Soldiers, with just 1% of Government Spending on Armaments. By 1939, Germany had 95 Warships, 8,250 Aircraft and 950,000 soldiers, and they were spending 23% of Government Spending on Armaments.

To strengthen existing alliances for expansion

  • Finally, Hitler and the Nazis also aimed to create strong alliances for German expansion.

  • The world was shocked when Hitler and Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact. They hated each other! Stalin hated Nazism and Hitler hated Communism. In the end, the countries turned on each other, so why did they Hitler sign the pact in the first place? Hitler signed the pact because he knew that the German military was not yet strong enough to face the USSR, so he wished to gain some time to continue building up their military. Hitler wished to use the assistance from military capabilities of the USSR to further expand the German Empire to achieve his goal of Lebensraum quickly and gain more supplies/resources/arms to face the allies of Britain & France. Hitler knew that only Russia could keep Britain's promise of protecting Poland, so he stopped an alliance between them by forming one with Russia himself, and in the end, Germany and Russia jointly invaded Poland on the 1st September 1939.

  • Hitler also signed the Rome-Berlin Axis with Mussolini. In 1934, Mussolini had stopped Nazi Germany from expanding to Austria. Hitler claimed that he was trying to ‘put down the rebellion’ in Austria which was calling for German–Austrian unification, but in reality, he wanted to invade. To protect South Tyrol, which was under Italian control, Mussolini stationed soldiers at the Brenner pass, forcing Hitler to back down. This action earned him a lot of international prestige, but created tension with Hitler’s Germany.

  • From July 1936 to April 1939, Mussolini and Hitler both supported and fought on the side of Franco, a fellow Fascist, in the Spanish Civil War. As a result, the two dictators, Hitler and Mussolini, were brought closer together. On the 22nd May 1939, Germany and Italy signed the ‘Pact of Steel’— a military alliance.