HST 504 – Week 9
Italo-Abyssinian War (or Italo-Ethiopian War)
Spanish Civil War
Dismantling Versailles: Hitler’s Foreign Policy, 1933-1936
When Adolf Hitler became the Fuhrer (i.e., supreme leader) in 1933, he immediately initiated a
new foreign policy for Germany.
Like Stresemann, he was interested in eliminating all the financial, military and political
constraints of the Treaty of Versailles.
Unlike Stresemann, he would not be content with Germany restoring its prestige, influence, Great
Power status, and military clout.
Hitler’s vision involved racial and continental (perhaps even global) domination.
Both an ideologue and an opportunist, Hitler showed great diplomatic skill in international
relations, hiding his true intentions and effectively exploiting attitudes of and divisions amongst
the Great Powers.
Nazi Germany’s foreign policy was multifaceted.
First and foremost, Hitler wanted to destroy the Versailles settlement.
This involved rearmament and the remilitarization of German territories, reunification of all
German-speaking peoples, and breaking out of diplomatic isolation and acquiring reliable allies.
Yet, his long-term plans were much more ambitious, aiming for continental and perhaps even
This aggressive foreign policy was driven by the objective of acquiring living space (i.e.,
Lebensraum) for the German “master race” in Eastern Europe.
Throughout the 1930s, the Nazis quite successfully fulfilled these goals.
Hitler’s plan would involve the use of force (i.e., warfare), and so eliminating the military
limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles became one of his earliest goals.
Already at the World Disarmament Conference in the early 1930s, he made a strong case,
arguing that either other powers must disarm to Germany’s level or Germany should be allowed
to rearm to theirs.
When France and Britain refused to provide a definitive answer, the German delegation left the
conference and Germany withdrew from the League of Nations. Shortly after, Berlin made German rearmament public with the introduction of conscription and
revelations about the expansion of the Luftwaffe (i.e., air force).
French calls for sanctions were completely deflated after the conclusion of the Anglo-German
Naval Agreement of 1935.
In the agreement, London bypassed consultation with its allies in Rome and Paris, unilaterally
giving Berlin permission to rearm.
Collaboration between the Great War’s victors to contain Germany was falling apart.
The massive rearmament that followed after 1935 not only contributed to the Third Reich’s
economic recovery and preparations for war, but also built the Nazis’ domestic and international
Reunification of all the German speakers in Central Europe would take a bit more time.
Already in 1934, the Nazis attempted to support a coup in Austria in order to bring the state into
the fold of the Third Reich.
Although the Great Powers had not reacted disapprovingly to Germany’s rearmament, they
refused to accept such a show of force against Vienna.
Reunification with Austria would have to wait until the late 1930s.
This small setback did not hinder Germany’s national consolidation.
Control over the Saar was fully restored to Berlin. More importantly, Hitler began to consider the
remilitarization of the Rhineland, a highly strategic area, of which control was essential if a war
was ever again fought with France.
More successes were achieved with breaking out of diplomatic isolation.
Although Germany had become once again a respectable member of the international community,
Hitler wanted reliable and loyal allies who could assist in his expansionist project.
His first tactic was to dismantle the Fren