Nature of Nazi foreign policy to September 1939

Main Aspects of Nazi Foreign Policy:
  • End the restrictions on Germany of the Versailles treaty
  • Re-armament/remilitarisation to achieve their foreign goals (Rhineland 1936 + Alliances)
  • Lebensraum (living space) - German expansion in the East
  • Volksgemeinschaft-unite the German Aryan race
  • Promote Nazi ideology to the world - Aryan superiority, anti-jewish, pro-fascist and anti-communist, economic dynamism
  • "Blood and Soil" - Blood – Union of German Race / Soil – Lebensraum

These long-term foreign policy notions established by Hitler and the Nazi party could only be realised by war. Adolphus Hitler himself became quite hypnotised by the nation's need for Lebensraum (living space)in order for a healthy Volk to thrive.
  • “The conquest of lebensraum in Russia was the overriding aim of Hitler’s foreign policy.” (Williamson)
C Leitz describes Adolphus Hitler as “the public dove” à “of peace and reconciliation” and “the private hawk” à “lusting for war and annihilation of the hated enemy.”

Re France: [in public]
· Emphatically spoke of his desire for improved Franco-German relations.
¡ In a meeting with Ferdinand de Brinon (Daladier’s informal foreign policy assistant), in September 1933, he discussed:
§ The creation of a customs union b/w the two powers
§ Even the possibility of a joint agricultural policy!
§ His readiness to guarantee the Lorcano Treaty à promise not to attack Poland or annex Austria
· Also in September, Adolphus Hitler stated that he “could not imagine any finer memorial for himself that if it should be later said of him that he had brought about a German-French rapprochement.”
· Even after Germany left the League of Nations in October 1933, Goebbels read out his press proclamation which emphasised the regime’s
¡ “unshakeable desire for peace”
¡ “truly honest will for peace”
¡ and, “willingness to reach an understanding”

[in private]
Intense Francophobia
· March 1921 – “Africa has its monkeys, Europe its French”
· Late 1920s – “regardless on what grounds, regardless for what reasons, France will always be our adversary”

· July 1933 to Carl Krogmann, Mayor of Hamburg, “We will have to make every attempt to be on good terms with France because, to get back on our feet, we need peace.”

Esp on economic terms.
· France was willing to maintain a peaceful modus vivendi with Germany.
¡ In July 1934, Germany was France’s most important trade partner.
¡ Throughout the 1930s, France’s trade policy actually helped Germany to rebuild its economy and rearm the country.
§ Towards the end of 1936, France’s iron ore exports to Germany were calculated to be 7.2 million tons.
§ This was even detrimental to other countries such as USSR and Great Britain, as at that time there was a world iron shortage.
§ Value of French exports to Germany in 1938 were 3x as high as 1936.

Hitler, to Kurt Ludecke in a private interview, 1932:
“I can talk peace but mean war.”

A December 1933 memorandum to France shocked them when Hitler interpreted “disarmament” as a building up of Germany’s arms to the level of France, etc.

Comparisons to earlier attempts to reassure the conservative middle class (esp. downplaying radical anti-Semitism and SA violence). Pattern of moderation and radicalisation once concessions/support granted.

Re Great Britain/other

· Considered the possibility of an alliance à derived from a misinterpretation of history. Thought Britain would be amicable to the idea of weakening France.
¡ Ango-German Naval treaty of June 1935
§ Essentially breached Versailles.
§ “Happiest day of my life” – Hitler
Why sign – restricted to 35% of size of Brit navy. Pushing for alliance with GB, saw as a shift away from multilateral politics

Multilateralism vs Bilateralism. Germany believed she could best achieve her aims by dealing one-on-one – e.g. leaving League. Great Britain, France and allies attempted to bring Germany into a Multi-lateral system of political relations. Compare: bankrupt diplomacy prior to WWI.

Motives/means - VIP: Kurt interview, “make them believe that a Nazi Germany is the last bulwark against the Red flood.”

Political opportunism. (or what C Leitz calls “testing the waters.”)
Adolphus Hitler in Kurt Ludecke interview 1932: “I’ll go the limit when the time comes, but not before.” Goes on to say “I have only one thought, one will that animates me day and night – to make Germany great, the greatest power on earth.”

AJP Taylor – “Hitler did not make plans for world conquest, he assumed others would provide opportunities and that he would seize them.”

Specific Actions (timeline)

1933 – October Germany left the League of Nations

1935 – March Germany increases the size of its army to 300 000 in direct violation of Treaty of Versailles; Adolphus Hitler introduces conscription.

1935 - Saar Region reincorporated into the Reich. 90% vote in favour.
  • March 1935, in his first big foreign policy gamble, and contrary to the advice of many around him, Adolphus Hitler ordered the remilitarisation of Germany. Conscription was introduced.

1935 – June Anglo-German naval pact signed.

1936 – March German troops reoccupied the Rhineland.
  • organised alliances or agreements with Italy and Japan 1935-36

1936 – July Start of Spanish Civil War: German and Italian troops entered Spain to assist General Franco. Luftwaffe given a whirl.

1936 – October German-Italian treaty initiated the Rome-Berlin axis.

1937 – November Hossbach Memorandum: New Phase of German Foreign policy. With rearmament being achieved, Germany would move more confidently to secure Lebensraum. Announces period 1943-45 as latest Germany could decisively achieve aims before rearmament- weaponry fell to obsolescence.

1938 – March Anschluss. Germany incorporated Austria into the Reich.

1938 – September Allied powers convince Czechoslovakia to hand over Sudetenland by 1st October.
Appeasement had come to a head. Chamberlain “I have secured peace in our time.”

1939 – August Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact signed.

1939 – September 1st Germany invaded Poland. 3rd War.

Important to note that appeasement was not just a 1938 thing. It had begun (and some historians argue, the events were set in motion in 1933 with Daladier’s govt.

David Low Cartoon Stepping Stones to Glory: ‘Spineless leaders of democracy.’ July 1936.

From 1936-9, two thirds of German industrial development went directly to war preparation.

The Four Year Plan:
  • The Four Year Plan aimed to secure national readiness for war, including self-sufficiency in essential war materials and fuels through subsidised production of synthetics.
  • The tempo of rearmament was increased and military service under universal conscription was increase from 1 to 2 years
  • 1936 - Anti-Comintern Pact signed with Japan and Italy

Impact of Ideology on Nazi foreign Policy to September 1939

Essential Points of Nazi Ideology:
  • Blood – Union of German Race.
  • Soil – Lebensraum
  • End of Versailles – and its humiliating restrictions.

Racial Policy
Opposition to France based on nonsensical, convoluted and contradictory racial views
  • Adolphus Hitler – “What France, spurred on by her own thirst for vengeance and systematically led by the Jew is doing today is a crime against white humanity.” Mein Kamf, 1924.
Similarly, his view of England and possibility of an alliance was dictated by what he saw as an as yet (1928) ‘undecided’ ‘struggle’ between the Britons and the Jews.
  • Adolphus Hitler 1928 - “if the Briton triumphs, then a shift of England’s attitudes vis-à-vis Germany can still take place.”
  • Told British journalist Ward Price in August 1934 “the National Socialist movement would view a war against England as a crime against the race.”

“Hitler’s assessment of Germany’s future relations with France and Britain was derived from his absurd racialist views.” – C Leitz. Provides an important basis for looking at future actual relations post 1933.

Similarly, with Italy: alignment of fascism, viewed Italy as having successfully exterminated the Jewish threat.

  • Adolphus Hitler had cleverly exploited a number of themes to reduce the risk of antagonistic western reactions to his programme: he had played up to the western conservative's distaste of communism; presented cases as to rightening the wrongs of Versailles and persistently defended his initial territorial expansion (Austria and Sudentenland)
  • Policy of Lebensraum was achieved to a minimal success. The procedures to achieve this policy were set in motion through Germany's further expansion into Poland and USSR in the Second World War.