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Rise of the Nazi Party

Year 10 History 2016 CAT #1 Rise of the Nazi Party (Research Task)
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Lucy Olsen

on 21 April 2016

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Transcript of Rise of the Nazi Party

Rise of the Nazi Party
Hitler becomes Chancellor
The Enabling Act
Anti-Semitism
Night of the Long Knives
Hitler Becomes Führer
Nuremberg Laws
Conscription 1935
Kristallnacht
The Rhineland
German/Italian Alliance
Anschluss - Austria
Czechoslovakia
Appeasement
Invasion of Poland
Goebbels speaking at a rally promoting the boycotting of Jewish shops.
A Nazi cartoon depicting Jews as spiders
The 1930s saw the world experience the Great Depression, causing economic depression all over the world. In Germany, the Nazi Party gained popularity, and presented Jews as the scapegoat for most of the problems Germany faced. Whether it was political, social, economic or ethical, the Nazi party presented Jews as an inferior race, that needed to be eradicated in order for the superior race, the Aryans, to prosper.

A SA or SS guarding the door to a Jewish shop, preventing the customers from entering
Anti-Semitic Legislation
“…the discovery of the Jewish virus is one of the greatest revolutions that has taken place in the world. The battle in which we are engaged today is of the same sort as the battle waged, during the last century, by Pasteur and Koch. How many diseases have their origin in the Jewish virus! ... We shall regain our health only be eliminating the Jew.”
- Adolf Hitler (quoted in Burleigh and Wipperman, Racial State p. 107)
Why Anti-Semitism?
Hitler believed that the Jews intended to survive and expand, and in doing so, would destroy or negatively impact “true” Germans.
Nazis and their supporters boycott Jewish businesses
After the Nazis came to power, they staged an economic boycott against German Jews. This created, or widened, the rift between the two, as most Jews had been proud German citizens.
April 1st 1933, saw the first nation-wide, planned action against Jews. The economic boycott targeted Jewish businesses and professionals. The boycott is thought to be retribution for the Gruelpropaganda that was allegedly circulating in international press, with the intention to damage Nazi Germany’s reputation.
The boycott saw Storm Troopers (Sturmabteilung; SA) standing outside Jewish owned establishments, the Star of David painted yellow and black on thousands of doors, anti-semitic slogans, and signs denouncing Jewish businesses. The messages on the signs varied, some merely encouraging the boycotting of Jewish businesses [Don’t Buy From Jews], whilst others denouncing the group [The Jews Are Our Misfortune].

A week after the boycotting, legislation was passed that restricted many employment opportunities, especially those in civil service, to Aryans. This resulted in Jewish government workers (such as teachers at public schools and universities) being fired.
A range of legislation was passed between 1933 and 1938, that restricted and removed the rights and opportunities available to the Jewish community. The Nazi party, in particular their leader, Adolf Hitler, had always been open and vocal about their intentions towards the Jewish community, and their intentions to segregate Jews from Aryans, and to remove Jews’ rights (politically, legally and civilly).
More than 400 degrees and regulations were published, and these restricted all elements of both their public and personal lives. Whilst the majority of legislation was published by the German administration (and therefore impacted all Jews), states, regions and municipals also took the initiative to create their own legislation that further restricted the rights of any Jews in that region.
Legislation 1933 - 1938
The first wave of legislation was released in 1933 and 1934, and the focus was predominately limiting Jewish participation in German public life. This resulted in restrictions on Jewish employment (leading to many Jewish government workers or employees being fired), and Jewish students at German schools and universities (only a specific number of Jewish students were permitted per school).
The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 served to further consolidate the persecution of the Jewish community, as German society became truly segregated.
1936 Olympics
The Olympics of 1936 saw Germany put their best foot forward, in an attempt to convince the rest of the world that Germany was a truly prosperous, well functioning country that had recovered from the devastating aftermath of World War One. This resulted in a significant decrease in anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions throughout Germany, for the period of time, as the Nazis were concerned about the potential repercussions of discouraging international tourism, and the predicted revenue from the Olympic year.
1937 and 1938 saw an increase in the legislation that enabled the persecution of German Jews. The Nazis aimed to impoverish Jews, essentially removing them from the German economy, and imposed further restrictions on employment and other basic rights.
Eventually the Nazi government required Jews to identify themselves, as they were forced to carry identity cards that indicated their Jewish heritage, and their passports were stamped with a ‘J’.
Propaganda and Stereotypes
The Nazi party used the Jewish community as a scape goat for the problems that Germany faced, to the extent that this was regarded as a propaganda tool. Stereotypes of the greedy, selfish, callous Jews that wouldn’t hesitate to stab you in the back, served to strengthen the differences between the two populations, enabling the persecution of Jews by the government and the public to continue, unchecked.
The Nazi’s increased control over propaganda, information, and the press, enabled the anti-Jewish campaign to increase dramatically. The Jewish community was blamed for every undesirable element of German society, from murder and rape, petty crime, the sale of illegal drugs, to prostitution and pornography, and even pollution.
The continued and unchecked growth of the Nazi party was enabled by the racial persecution becoming a political instrument in the hands of the masses, as well as the official policy of Germany. Anti-semitism enabled the Nazis and Hitler to expand their power, as it caused fear to fester amongst the population, established the power and control that the government had over every element of their people’s lives, provided a common enemy for the people of Germany (enabling them to band together to persecute the Jews, or at the very least, be thankful that it wasn’t them).
How anti-Semitism assisted with the Nazis rise to power
April 19, 1943, a group of Jews is escorted from the Warsaw Ghetto by German soldiers.
1st April 1933: Nazi storm troopers block the entrance to a Jewish-owned store
During the boycotting, police officers were forbidden to interfere with the Nazis co-ordinated attacks against Jews.
An example of propaganda, showing working class feeding the hungry "Jew" who survives as a parasite. The teeth are made of Stars of David.
1944 Auschwitz. Creative Commons
Polish Jews at the Warsaw Ghetto
SA troops lock hands to prevent Jews from entering the University of Vienna.
Chancellor Adolf Hitler opens Reichsparteitag (Reich Party Day) ceremonies with an address at the historic town hall in Nuremberg. 1935
Hitler was an easily recognisable public figure, who steadily gained popularity throughout Germany.
How did Hitler become Chancellor?
Adolf Hitler became Chancellor on the 30th of January, 1933.
The people of Germany lost confidence in the democratic system, causing them to turn towards the more extreme of the political parties, like the Nazi Party.
Whilst the moderate political parties did, especially initially, have more support than the Nazi party and other extreme political parties, they refused to work together and were easily defeated by the Nazis.
Adolf Hitler, both separately from and as a part of the Nazi party, gained popularity quite dramatically.
Much of Germany, especially the wealthier and more powerful (as they had the most to lose) feared the growing support for the communist party. Hitler and the Nazi party were often seen as a preferable alternative to the communists.
The Chancellor makes a public appearance, accompanied by the compulsory salute.
When Hitler did gain power it was through a seedy political deal. Hindenburg (the current Prime Minister of Germany) and Papen (one of the people who had previously failed as Chancellor) thought that they would be able to control Hitler, and offered him the position out of desperation, as they were more concerned about the growing threat that came from the increase in support for the communist party.
Hitler, Hindenburg and Papen
Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany (1933)
Paul von Hindenburg, (1933) President of Germany
Franz von Papen, Previous Chancellor (1932)
Franz von Papen, the Chancellor of Germany between May and November of 1932, advocated the replacement of Chancellor von Schleicher. Papen struck a deal with Hitler, where Papen agreed to suggest Hitler to Hindenburg, and Papen would be Vice-Chancellor.
Papen eased Hindenburg’s concerns about Nazi fascism, and suggested that Hitler would be easily controlled. Papen took advantage of Hindenburg’s uncertainty and urged the president to replace Schleicher with Hitler.
Papen and Hindenburg attempted to limit the Nazi party’s power in government with the establishment of an 11 man cabinet, that contained only three Nazis (including Hitler).
Papen said: “In two months time we will have squeezed Hitler into a corner until he squeaks.” But of course he couldn’t have been more wrong, as two months saw Hitler seizing almost all political power in Germany, dismembering the state, disempowering the Reichstag, and destroying the established Weimar democracy.
Franz von Papen
Papen, Hitler and Goebbels
Hitler and Papen
President Paul von Hindenburg
Whilst conservatives had previously campaigned for Hitler to become Chancellor, Hindenburg dismissed their suggestion as he doubted his ability to lead, and make assertive decisions that would better the democratic Germany.
After Hitler’s appointment, many were concerned over his ability to lead, and thought that he would be as effective as his fourteen predecessors.
When the Reichstag elections in November 1932 failed to produce a majority government, Hindenburg appointed a Reichswar general, Kurt von Schleicher to Chancellor. Schleicher failed to form a working coalition with the NSDAP, and instead Schleicher’s period as Chancellor was brief and full of failures and missed opportunities. Schleicher was continually undermined by the Nazi party and their propaganda and media where they advocated the replacement of Schleicher. Who should replace him? Adolf Hitler, of course.
Hitler made sure that whenever Hindenburg made a public appearance he was with him
Hindenburg and Hitler meet to discuss the fate of the Weimar Republic
Hitler shakes hands with German President shortly after his promotion is announced
Future Implications
Hitler becoming Chancellor of Germany was a crucial turning point for the future of the country. His plan, outlined in his book, Mein Kampf, was embraced by a large portion of the German population. He planned to do away with politics and make Germany a unified one-party state.
With Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany, Hitler had the publicity and position of authority to promote the Nazi party, and the ability to order a rapid expansion of the state police, the Gestapo, creating a new security force (with Hermann Goering in charge) composed entirely of Nazis dedicated to eliminating any opposition.
There was little any individual, especially Hindenburg and von Papen, could do to stop the now inevitable growth and progression of Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Party and their plans.
Adolf Hitler becoming Chancellor consolidated the Nazi party as the ruling political party in the German government, and enabled him to further solidify his and their power by creating and then passing the Enabling Act (through the German parliament).
Public appearance as Chancellor
The new Chancellor met with several dignitaries to reassure them that Germany had only hope for a brighter future, and was not a threat
“employ my strength for the welfare of the German people, protect the Constitution and laws of the German people, conscientiously discharge the duties imposed on me, and conduct my affairs of office impartially and with justice to everyone.”
- Adolf Hitler
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THANKS FOR READING :-))
Lucy Olsen 10E
Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany
The Reichstag (German Parliament)
Hitler overlooking parade, making an address
The Enabling Act was officially called the 'Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich’ and would effectively strip the power away from the democratic government, establishing a legal dictatorship under Adolf Hitler.
The 23rd of March, 1933, saw the Enabling Act passed by the newly elected members of the Reichstag (German parliament).
Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich
The second page of the act (with signatures)
Reichstag Passes Enabling Act, Giving All Legislative Power to Hitler
Hitler was concerned about how the politicians would vote, used varying tactics to try and win the vote. The day of the vote saw Nazi storm troopers showing off their force and chanting "Full powers - or else! We want the bill - or fire and murder!” These storm troopers were present throughout the Kroll Opera House in Berlin (where the vote took place), including amongst the voters during the vote, in a (successful) attempt to intimidate them into passing the act.
Just before the vote, Hitler gave a speech where he pledged to use restraint, and tried to soothe any qualms that they may have about the deal. He promised to end unemployment and to promote peace with France, England and the Soviet Union.
Passing the Enabling Act
“It is not the task of a superior national leadership to subsequently surrender what has grown organically to the theoretical principle of an unrestrained unitarianization. But it is its duty to raise the unity of spirit and will of the leadership of the nation and thus the concept of the Reich as such beyond all shadow of a doubt.” - Adolf Hitler
“It will always be the first and foremost task of the Government to bring about inner consensus with his aims. The existence of the Länder will not be abolished.” - Adolf Hitler
The Social Democrats
Hitler knew that the Social Democrats would not vote for the act, no matter what he said or did, and so spent his time trying to convince the others to vote his way.
The final result was 441 for, 94 against. The 94, of course, being those that belonged to the German Social Democrats.
"We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible.”
Reichstag Passes Enabling Act, Giving All Legislative Power to Hitler
August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Karl Marx, Carl Wilhelm Tölcke, Ferdinand Lassalle
Looking towards the future
The Enabling Act gave Hitler almost complete power over Germany, essentially enabling Hitler to become dictator of Germany. After the Enabling Act passed, Hitler reneged on (some of) his promises, some of which he had made only hours earlier. It was the Enabling Act that provided Hitler with the power to ignore the constitution that protected the position of President, making it easy for Hitler to merge the positions of Chancellor and President after Hindenburg’s death in August 1934.
Adolf Hitler, Chancellor, President, Führer
"May you, Gentlemen, now choose for yourselves between peace or war!” - Adolf Hitler
Hitler addresses the people as the Führer of Germany
Members of the German Army swear an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler
President Paul von HIndenburg dies on the 2nd of August, 1934
Hitler planned to replace Hindenburg as President whilst keeping his position as Chancellor, taking the previous President’s death as an opportunity to seize total power in Germany. This position would be named ‘Führer’.
Hitler used the term ‘Führer’ to define his role in Germany’s Third Reich where he had absolute power. The Führer was at the apex of social hierarchy, with several Reichsleiter (leaders of the Reich who specialised in finance, propaganda, foreign policy, and law) and Reichsführer. Reichsführer described the position of head of the unified police system and was held by Heinrich Himmler.
Hitler made sure to accompany Hindenburg on any public appearances during the last months of his life
Hitler plans to become Führer
Hindenburg's Death
The summer of 1934 saw the health of the elderly German President, Paul von Hindenburg, rapidly declining. His health had been failing for several months, providing Hitler and the Nazi party with the opportunity to plan how they would best capitalise from his demise.
Hindenburg died on the 2nd of August 1934 at 9am, and Hitler and the Nazi party didn’t waste any time in announcing legislation that basically appointed Hitler as Führer. The law was dated August 1st, and was technically illegal.
Hindenburg’s last will and testament directly contradicted Hitler’s actions, as Hindenburg expressed a desire for Germany to return to a constitutionl monarchy. These last wishes were ignored, and for the most part people remained unaware of President Hindenburg’s last requests.
Instead, the Nazi party published an alleged political testament (by Hindenburg) where he describes Hitler quite complimentarily. It is thought to be a forgery by many historians, but whether it was real or faked, it was used in the Nazis campaign to get Hitler the vote in the coming plebiscite.
German President, Paul von Hindeburg, (1847-1934)
Plebiscite: A referendum (in some countries synonymous with plebiscite — or a vote on a ballot question) is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to vote on a particular proposal.
After the vote on August 19th, about 95% of registered voted in the polls. Hitler received 38 million votes of approval (approximately 90% of the vote). This enabled Hitler to claim that he was the Führer of Germany by the direct will of the people. Hitler wielded absolute power, effectively become dictator of Germany.
Plebiscite
Following the announcement of the law, the German Officers’ Corps and every individual in the German Army swore a personal oath of allegiance to Hitler. A vote was then scheduled to allow the German people to express their approval of Hitler’s new position of power.
"The Reich Government has enacted the following law which is hereby promulgated.
Section 1. The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. He will select his deputy.
Section 2. This law is effective as of the time of the death of Reich President von Hindenburg.”
On the 20th of August 1934, mandatory loyalty oaths were introduced throughout the Reich.
Mandatory Loyalty Oaths
Oath of loyalty for Public Officials:
"I swear: I shall be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, respect the laws, and fulfill my official duties conscientiously, so help me God.”
Oath of loyalty for Soldiers of the Armed Forces:
“I swear by God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath.”
These oaths were pledged to Hitler rather than the state of constitution, and were taken very seriously as many members had a traditional mindset in terms of upholding codes of honour. This elevated obedience to Hitler as a sacred duty, effectively allowing German armed forces to become the personal instrument of Hitler.
After Germany’s defeat in World War Two many German officers attempted to use the oath in defines against charges of wars crimes and crimes against humanity. These claims were unsuccessful.
"The German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years. The Age of Nerves of the nineteenth century has found its close with us. There will be no revolution in Germany for the next thousand years.”
Hitler’s rise to power was mostly legal, as the German public (devastated by economic ruin after World War One) was receptive to Hitler and his strong, nationalistic views. They viewed Hitler as someone that was capable of restoring financial stability and national pride.
Hitler becoming Führer provided him with absolute power of Germany, including the sworn loyalty of German public officials and members of the German army, which gave him full control over the movements of Germany’s armed forces. This enabled Hitler and other members of the Nazi party to mould Germany in a militaristic nation, and provided him with a platform (and the power to) impose his beliefs on the rest of the nation.
Absolute Power
Adolf Hitler, Führer of Germany
Thousands of Jewish homes, schools, hospitals, businesses and cemeteries were destroyed.
The name, ‘Night of Broken Glass’, was determined during the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the streets of Jewish communities littered with broken glass from the destroyed buildings.
Kristallnacht was an important turning stone because it was the first example of large scale, organised violence against Jewish people.
Hitler broke the non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and attacked the USSR and gained control of Poland.
German troops parade through Warsaw after the invasion of Poland.
The German Invasion of Poland from 1939
The Anschluss: The Nazi annexation of Austria
Anschluss Celebrations
The Anschluss was covered by both the international and German press.
German troops march into Austria
Invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1939
The Munich Agreement
Czechoslovakia was weakened: Poland and Hungary were able to claim other Czechoslovakian territory.
Hitler took advantage of Britain and France's unwillingness to go to war
Chamberlain and Hitler shaking hands after negotiations for the Munich Agreement
Appeasement was a very popular policy among leaders in the 1930s; especially among the British and French.
More and more girls joined the Luftwaffe under Germany's total conscription campaign, to replace the men joining the army.
Before WWII the early Waffen-SS was purely a volunteer formation.
The conscription draft was first introduced, and developed to "total mobilization" schemes that followed the battle of Stalingrad.
Rhineland Invasion, March 1936
Three battalions of men from the Wehrmacht were ordered to cross into the Rhineland and reoccupy the demilitarised zone on the 7th of March 1936
The French army had no forces available for a counter-move to push the Germans back out of the Rhineland.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, left, with Hitler, center, and other leading Nazis
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini
Celebration of the German-Italian alliance, 1939
Law forbade Jews to change their family and personal names
The Nuremberg Laws removed their (Jews) right to be a citizen of the Reich
These laws attempted to define what it meant to be Jewish
Below: SA leaders Ernst Röhm (rear seat looking backwards) and Karl Ernst enjoying the pomp and circumstance of power.
Hitler and the SA
Newspaper headline, 1934
Night of the Long Knives was the purge of Nazi leaders by Adolf Hitler on the 30th of June, 1934.
The Night of Long Knives enabled Hitler to purge the Nazi party of those he distrusted, anti-Nazi figures throughout Germany, and members of his SA. The most notable of the victims is Ernst Röhm, once Hitler’s loyal friend and devotee.
Hitler, fearing the ever-growing power of the paramilitary SA, ordered his elite SS guards to murder the leaders of the SA, like Ernst Röhm, and other perceived opponents of Hitler, such as Kurt von Schleicher and Gregor Strasser.
Hitler and Reichstag officials
Hitler and a SA unit in Weimar, 1931
What was the Night of Long Knives?
Ernst Röhm and the SA
With Hitler’s power almost completely established thanks to the Enabling Act, the SA and their leader, Ernst Röhm, troubled Hitler. The violence of the SA, which had been endorsed by Hitler in the 1920s, was now an embarrassment. Hitler wanted to gain his power through the proper processes, and to gain the approval from the German people (and internationally) through legitimate means instead of force.
Röhm and other members of the SA thought that Hitler was going soft and was failing to give them their proper reward for their role in establishing the Nazis in power. Talk of a ‘second revolution’ began, starring Röhm as the leader of the People’s Party. Röhm also wanted to merge the army and the SA under his command, alarming the chief, Werner von Blomberg.
Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering, two individuals that feared Röhm and his growing power, concocted false evidence that Röhm was planning a coup against Hitler. The SA’s constant agitation was beginning to undermine Germany’s stability, and Hindenburg threatened to instate martial law if Hitler failed to regain control of the situation.
Hitler chose to act. The leadership of the SA held a meeting in Munich and Hitler had promised to attend, but instead SS troops arrived, and arrested Röhm and other members of the SA. Many were executed on the spot, but Röhm was arrested by Hitler, who allegedly yelled “You’re under arrest, you pig!”
Left: Hermann Goering
Right: Heinrich Himmler
Röhm ended up in a Munich prison alongside other SA leaders and awaited his fate. Hitler initially offered Röhm the chance to commit suicide, leaving a revolver on the table for him on the 1st of July (1934). Röhm failed to comply, saying, “If I am to be killed, let Adolf do it himself.” Ten minutes after the gun had been offered but no gunshot had been audible, an SS officer shot Röhm point blank in the chest.


The SA was disbanded, some members absorbed into the SS, and one more threat to Hitler’s grab for power was eliminated.
The disappearance of their main rival, the SA, meant that the army sided with Hitler, with their chief, Blomberg, praising Hitler for his “soldierly decision and exemplary courage.”
The Night of the Long Knives claimed over 200 lives, and Hindenburg praised Hitler for his swift actions.
The Aftermath
Hitler and 35,000 members of the SA
The Rhineland is an area of Germany that borders with France, and was important for the maintenance of the German economy and the military position is regarded as significantly strategic. The French felt threatened by the armament of the Rhineland and as a result this was one of their inflexible stipulations during the negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles. This was intended to help prevent the future build up of armed forces and to guarantee future peace.
It was humiliating to not be permitted to do as they pleased inside their own territory (they had economic and political control and the territory was a part of Germany). The reoccupation of Rhineland enabled Hitler to achieve a number of things. Boosting national morale, a propaganda victory for Nazi Germany, would demonstrate that the international opinion of the Treaty of Versailles was changing (that others beside Germany thought that the stipulations were too harsh and cruel) or prove that the Allied Powers were unwilling to take action if Germany disobeyed the treaty.
The Rhineland and the Treaty of Versailles
The Rhineland is located between Germany and France
The Treaty of Versailles directly forbade the rearmament of the Rhineland.
Germany's Army reoccupies the Rhineland
Three battalions of men from the Wehrmacht were ordered to cross into the Rhineland and reoccupy the demilitarised zone on the 7th of March 1936. They were under strict instructions to immediately and peacefully retreat if there was any military response from French armed forces.
Hitler was aware that he was taking a risk, knowing that it was a clear breach of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Whilst he was fairly confident that the plan would be a success, he knew that if the French had responded he would be the subject of some seriously poor publicity. He admitted that the 48 hours following the reoccupation of the Rhineland were some of the most nerve wracking of his entire political career.
"First, we swear to yield to no force whatever in the restoration of the honor of our people, preferring to succumb with honor to the severest hardships rather than to capitulate. Secondly, we pledge that now, more than ever, we shall strive for an understanding between European peoples, especially for one with our Western neighbor nations...We have no territorial demands to make in Europe!...Germany will never break the peace." - Adolf Hitler
German troops move into the Rhineland.
"Men of the German Reichstag! France has replied to the repeated friendly offers and peaceful assurances made by Germany by infringing the Reich pact though a military alliance with the Soviet Union exclusive directed against Germany. In this manner, however, the Locarno Rhine Pact has lost its inner meaning and ceased i practice to exist. Consequently, Germany regards herself, for her part, as no, longer bound by this dissolved treaty. The German government are now constrained to face the new situation created by this alliance, a situation which is rendered more acute by the fact that the Franco-Soviet treaty has been supplemented by a Treaty of Alliance between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union exactly parallel in form. In accordance with the fundamental right of a nation to secure its frontiers and ensure its possibilities of defense, the German government have today restored the full and unrestricted sovereignty of Germany in the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland."
On the 7th of March 1936, Hitler spoke in the Reichstag to justify the reoccupation of the Rhineland.
Hitler's Justification
Hitler orders troops to reoccupy the Rhineland
Hitler announced the Nuremberg Laws at the annual Nuremberg rally in 1935. These laws redefined what it meant to be Jewish, and even those that had converted to Christianity could be classified as Jewish, dependent on their ancestry. If you had three Jewish grandparents, you were classified as Jewish, and were therefore faced persecution by the Nazi party and their followers.
The Nuremberg Laws effectively reversed emancipation, where the German Jews were legally recognised as members of society and equal of citizens in the country. They laid the foundation for the drastic increase in future anti-semitism action, as there was now a legally recognised distinction between Germans and Jews. This enabled their anti-Semitic behaviour to evolve from persecution based on belief to persecution because of who they, or their parents, were by birth. It was believed in Germany that there was no way to convert a Jew to a German, which meant that many Jews would did not identify or practice Judaism found themselves facing discrimination and persecution courtesy of Nazi Germany.
The Announcement
A Nazi slogan, reading "The Jews are our misfortune."
A picture taken at the annual Nuremberg rally
The intent of the law were to prevent Jewish people and those deemed ‘undesirable’ by the Nazi party from having children. Other preventative measures were employed, including the forced sterilisation. The people impacted by this often sufffered from mental illnesses and hereditary illnesses.
Countries that allied themselves with Nazi Germany during World War Two adopted their own versions of the Nuremberg Laws, and by 1941 anti-Jewish legislation had been enacted in Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Vichy France, and Croatia.
On the 14th of November 1935, the Nuremberg Laws extended to other minor ethnic group including Gypsies and Black people. They were also banned from engaging in sexual relations or marrying Germans or those of German descent.
Expansion of the Nuremberg Laws
Germans holding Nuremberg laws, demonstrating their public support for Hitler's latest legislation
The Nuremberg Laws enabled the ostracisation of Jews
The Nuremberg Laws forced a definition of ‘Jew’, and resulted in a definition of what makes someone Jewish. A complicated system was designed where the number of Jewish grandparents one had determined their level of ‘Jewishness’.
A “full Jew” was someone with at least three Jewish grandparents.
Those with fewer than three Jewish grandparents were called Mischlinge (half-breed). This was further separated into two degrees.
First Degree Mischlinge was someone with two Jewish grandparents, whilst Second Degree Mischlinge described someone with only one Jewish grandparent.
About 350,000 Germans could be classified as Mischlinge. 50,000 of these had converted to Christianity. 210,000 of these were half-Jews, whilst the remaining 80,000 were considered quarter-Jews.
Defining and Classifying Jews
Measures were employed to enable the German population to understand what a Jew was
Significance of the Nuremberg Laws
The Nuremberg Laws removed their (Jews) right to be a citizen of the Reich, forbade marriage and sexual relations between Jews and Germans, Jews were no longer able to employ female domestic servants (who were under 45 and of German or kindred blood), and were forbidden to display the Reich and national flag as well as the national colours. Punishment for failing to follow these laws could result in hard labour, imprisonment and/or fines. They resulted in a clear, legal definition of what it meant to be Jewish (whether they be a “full Jew” or Mischlinge).
The Nuremberg Rally, 1935
The Treaty of Versailles was created at the end of World War One, designed to punish Germany for the war, and to prevent the outbreak of another war. In Germany the treaty was known as “diktat” meaning dictated peace. The Germans were severely unhappy with the conditions of the Treaty as they were cruel and crippled Germany financially and economically.
Hitler came up with creative ways to avoid directly disobeying the Treaty of Versailles by rapidly expanding the Sturm Abteilung (SA) which consisted more than 4,500,000 men by 1934. However after the Night of the Long Knives (which had been ordered by Hitler) the SA was disbanded. Hitler now allowed the German Army to grow rapidly, introducing conscription in 1935.
The Treaty of Versailles
Young men registering for conscription
A small portion of the German army
One of the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles was that the German army was restricted to 100,000 men, six battleships, no submarines, and no air force. Hitler began blatantly disregarding the Treaty of Versailles as he developed the army to 500,000 men (five times larger than they were permitted). When no one interfered or took action against him, he reintroduced the German Navy and Air Force, and eventually conscription. At a similar time, Hitler completely and officially broke the peace treaty.
Conscription and the reintroduction of the military ended the job crisis in Germany as it created jobs.
The German Army could train 300,000 conscripts a year, and by 1938 had 36 infantry divisions of 600,000 men.
Conscription in Nazi Germany
Reinstating conscription in Germany was a key step that spelled catastrophe for Europe
Conscription assisted with Germany becoming more stable
Hitler called a cabinet meeting on the 15th of March, 1935, where he announced that they would be ignoring the military limitations set by the Treaty of Versailles, and make it mandatory for members of the German public to join the army. The 16th of March, Hitler called another Cabinet meeting where he read the legislation to the members, before Goebbels hastily announced the proclamations to the German public.
Current internal political instability and global economic depression (after the devastation of World War One and the Great Depression of the 1930s) meant that no one was prepared for war, and Hitler assuaged the fears of the Allies by proclaiming “Germany wants peace…None of us mean to threaten anybody.”
Political Actions
Males between the ages of 18 and 25 were subject to consription
June 1935 - Army conscripts are numbered and lined up for medical inspection at Potsdam
Conscription drastically increased the size of Germany’s army, imposing a greater Nazi influence both within Germany and outside it, and provided them with the resources, freedom and means to execute their plans.
By establishing conscription, Hitler directly disobeyed the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, and when France and Britain (who were angry about his clear violation of the terms of the treaty) failed to do anything to stop him, he progressed with his plans. The violation was a test of how much the other worldly powers would ignore before they would take military action. The Allied forces failed, and so Hitler and the Nazi party’s plans progressed.
Consequences of Conscription
Conscripted soldiers being taken to the Western Front by Military Buses.
Italy and Mussolini
After Italy invaded Abyssinia, Mussolini and the country gained a bad reputation, leaving him with meagre choices for allies; Germany or Spain.
When a civil war broke out in July 1936 between the Republicans and Nationalists, the Republicans got support from various groups throughout Europe including Stalin, whilst Mussolini and Hitler supported the Nationalists. The Italian population was not happy with this decision as they didn’t support the Nationalist leader Franco. Some moved abroad and formed the Garibaldi Brigade, fighting against the Italians who were fighting for Franco.
Many Italians were unhappy that they were fighting each other in a war that didn’t concern them, causing the Spanish Civil War to be severely unpopular amongst the Italian population.
Benito Mussolini, Italian dictator
Mussolini addressing his people
Mussolini’s inability to listen to the pleas of his own people cause further alienation between Europe and Italy, and pushed Mussolini and Hitler together. Mussolini once referred to Italy and Germany as the most influential countries in Europe, and suggested that the rest of Europe revolved around this “axis”.
Mussolini visited Hitler in September 1937. Eager to impress, Hitler put on a display of military power, and was successful in convincing Mussolini to align himself with Germany.
Mussolini followed in Hitler’s footsteps and left the League of Nations, as he was unhappy that the League imposed economic sanctions on Italy after they invaded Abyssinia.
The Beginning
Hitler and Mussolini, 1937
When Germany united with Austria in 1938, Mussolini questioned his belief that he was an equal partner to Hitler. As there was nothing that he could do about it, Mussolini was forced to accept both the Nazis occupation of Austria, and that he was not Hitler’s equal.
Mussolini suggested a meeting in Munich between the major powers to guarantee European peace, providing him with the reputation that he was to be Europe’s saviour. Mussolini was angry when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939, as Hitler both broke the Munich Agreement that had stabilised Mussolini’s reputation, and it became clear that whilst Germany was successfully expanding its empire, Italy was not.
Mussolini launched an “invasion” on Good Friday, 1939 in an attempt to expand Italy’s power in Europe. Whilst the Italian propaganda team made this out to be a massive victory, Albania had already been under Italian influence for several years, meaning that the Italian army had not had the military success they were boasting of.
A Shaky Relationship?
Hitler and Mussolini at an airstrip in 1934
Hitler and Mussolini, June 1940
Pacts are Signed
Germany and Italy signed the Pact of Steel in May 1939, where both countries committed to supporting each other should the other become involved in a war. Galleazo Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister, realised the pact could cause major damage to Italy, but Mussolini’s primary concern was the prestige that accompanied allying them with Germany, instead of worrying about the politics of the situation.
Hitler signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Communist Russia, and despite not signing the pact (or even being informed that such pact existed), Mussolini assumed that it involved Italy and was a three-nation treaty.
Newspaper headline, 1939
Hitler and Mussolini
World War Two Begins
Hitler informed Mussolini of his plans to invade Poland and requested his assistance per the Pact of Steel. However, Mussolini realised that the Italian Army was unable to fight in September 1939, and did not attack alongside German troops, disregarding the Pact of Steel.
Italy joined the war on June 10th, 1940, when Mussolini saw that Germany had been clearly winning the war so far, and did not want to miss out on the opportunity to collect spoils at the end of the war. Mussolini thought that it was only a matter of time before Britain and France surrendered. Mussolini attempted to invade southern France, and whilst the invasion initially seized a small portion of land, the French put up an unexpectedly fierce resistance and he was unable to carry out his plans for a full-scale invasion of southern France.
Various officials after the signing of the Pact of Steel
German troops
Italy goes to war...unsuccessfully
Italy attacked British troops based in Egypt in September 1940, a move that would start a war that would end disastrously for Italy.
Italy’s armies failed in both Greece and Africa, and invasion of the Italian mainland by the Allies caused a rebellion within the fascist party. July, 1943, saw the grand council refusing to support Mussolini, and the king dismissed him from his position before placing him under arrest. Two months later Mussolini was freed by a German rescue party, was the head of the puppet government established in Italy by Hitler.
Mussolini was captured after the German collapse in April 1945, was tried in a summary court-martial and shot dead, alongside his mistress, Clara Petacci. Their bodies were brought to Milan, before being hanged in a public square and were later buried in an unmarked grave. Mussolini’s body was later recovered, and was placed in his family’s vault in 1957.
Italian soldiers taken as prisoners in 1943
Italian army
The Alliance's Significance
The Italian/German Alliance was important for the Nazi party as it provided Hitler with access to another army, and whilst he and Mussolini had their differences, they were able to project a mostly united front, which caused them to appear a lot more terrifying than they would have separately. The pact enabled the pair to shakily trust the other, and it provided comfort as Italy knew that if they went to war Germany would have their back and vice versa (even this did prove not to be the case), which would have given them peace of mind, and make them a little less hesitant about running head first into war.
Czechoslovakia
After World War One the nation of Czechoslovakia was created, merging the Czechs and Slovaks together to form the country. Three million German speakers from the Sudeten area on the shared border with Germany were also citizens of the country, as well as small numbers of Hungarians, Ukrainians and Poles.
The main threat to the young Czechoslovakia was Hitler and the Sudeten Germans. Hitler planned to expand Germany’s territory, and were aided in this quest by the Sudeten Germans who were not happy to be included in the Slavic controlled state.
After the successful invasion of Austria in March 1938 (without firing a single shot), Hitler set his sights on the Sudeten land in Czechoslovakia. When advocating his plan, he pretended that he intended to restore order, whilst his real intentions, for the most part, remained hidden.
Czechoslovakian soldiers, 1938
German troops in Prague
The Sudetenland
Tensions between Germany and Czechoslovakia continued to build as Hitler financed and supported the Sudeten German Party, the leader of which, a man named Conrad Henlein. Thanks to Hitler’s support, the group became quite prominent in Czechoslovakia.
In March (1938), Hitler ordered Henlein to create a crisis in Czechoslovakia, which the Sudeten Germans fulfilled by making increasingly bold demands of the Czechoslovakian government. When these demands were inevitably not met, they insisted that they were being persecuted.
Henlein announced his plan for Sudeten self-government, also known as the Karlsbad Programme, in April 1938. This, accompanied by organised civil unrest, and the movement of Germany’s armies to the shared border intimidated the Czechoslovakian president, Benes. Benes retaliated by mobilising his army.
The division of Czechoslovakia and the Sudetenland
The annexation of the Sudetenland, banner welcoming Germansy
(Failure of) The Appeasement
At the same time, Hitler promised Neville Chamberlain (the British Prime Minister) that he would not invade Czechoslovakia if he was given the Sudetenland.
The Sudeten Germans rioted on the 12th of September 1938 causing martial law to be declared in Czechoslovakia, and forcing the major powers to acknowledge the problems in Europe and intervene. This was known as the appeasement.
During the period where Britain and France attempted to appease Hitler, they agreed to give Hitler the Sudetenland, without consulting the Czechoslovakian government.
However, on the 15th of March (1939) German troops march into Czechoslovakia, take over Bohemia, and establish a protectorate over Slovakia.
This ended the appeasement as it proved that Hitler had been lying during their meetings, that his interest was not just in a ‘Greater Germany’ as the Czechs were not Germans.
Following the failure of appeasement, Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister
Significance
The invasion of Czechoslovakia was one of the last things that Hitler was allowed to get away with, and it was the lack of consequences that gave Hitler the confidence to invade Poland later that year. Hitler’s demands prior to the invasion of Czechoslovakia resulted in the Munich Agreement, and Hitler saw how desperate the British and French were to avoid war. This gave Hitler and the Nazi party greater confidence moving forward, as they were not as concerned about the Allies taking drastic, violent measures to deter them.
The events also helped boost morale (as the public saw their government and army successfully invading, negotiating, and gaining control of another country), expand their territory, empire and resources, increase their population and size of the army. However, arguably the most important thing that arose from the situation is how far the British and French were prepared to go (or rather, how much they were prepared to ignore) to avoid war.
The Czechs wanted to defend themselves from Germany, but were forced to stand down by other worldly powers
Nazis take control of Czechoslovakia on the 15th of May, 1939
What is Appeasement?
During the 1930s the British and French gave Hitler what he wanted in order to maintain peace.
Hitler’s demands were seen as reasonable, and they hoped that when the demands were met Hitler would stop threatening to invade or declare war. Unfortunately, he did not.
Appeasement: The policy of pacifying the aggressor by giving in to their demands, thus maintaining the peace
On the 15th of September 1938, Chamberlain meets with Hitler at Berchtesgaden. He does not consult Czechoslovakia, promises to give Hitler all areas where 50%+ of the population is German, and Chamberlain then persuades France to agree.
Chamberlain's (Desperate) Actions
On the 22nd and 23rd of September 1938, Chamberlain meets up with Hitler in Bad Godesberg to inform him of the decision, except now Hitler now demands all of Sudetenland. Chamberlain refuses and war appears imminent.
On the 30th of September 1938, at Munich, Britain and France agree to give Hitler the Sudetenland. Hitler gives them a statement that basically says that he doesn’t want to go to war. German troops march into the Sudetenland then march into the Sudetenland where they are welcomed as heroes.
Chamberlain at the Munich Conference
Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister
Mussolini, Hitler and Chamberlain (and a German interpreter)
Neville Chamberlain and Britain
Neville Chamberlain (the British Prime Minister) believed in appeasement for a number of reasons. The British people wanted peace and they would not support a war at this point in time. Hitler’s complaints seemed reasonable initially, especially in wake of the Treaty of Versailles.
The British wanted a strong Germany, which would serve as a barrier against expansion by communist Russia. Many people admired Hitler, and in 1938, ‘Time’ (an American magazine) declared him ‘Man of the Year’. Europe was still recovering from the slaughter of the First World War, and thought that another war would destroy civilisation.
Munich Agreement Conference
Upon his return, Chamberlain celebrated the success of the conference, proclaiming they had ensured "peace for our time"
Reasons for Appeasement
Economic difficulties: Europe’s economy was still recovering from World War One and the effects of the Wall Street Crash, and they thought that a strong, prosperous Germany could help revitalise the European economy. During the 1930s there was a great trade depression, money was tight, and the government had to spend money on social welfare, not weapons and soldiers. Chamberlain was reluctant to increase military spending
Attitudes to the Treaty of Versailles: The British believed that Germany had been punished too heavily, as paying reparations had crippled Germany’s economy. On top of that, many British people admired Hitler, because Germany was destroyed after World War One and it appeared that he had successfully rebuilt Germany, which was once again powerful country. They thought that his demands to regain control of territories was justifiable, as many of the territories were home to German-speaking populations.
Public Opinion: War was regarded as a serious responsibility, as they were now aware of the devastating repercussions and consequences of war, and were still recovering from the First World War.
America was in isolation: They wanted nothing to do with Europe, and refused to come to Britain’s aid.
Further Reasons for Appeasement
Concern over the Empire: Any war would threaten Britain’s empire, which had come under threat from Japan and Italy in the past. They were also dealing with trouble in India and the Middle East, sending 20,000 troops there in 1938. In 1938, several countries in the British emir said they would not go to war for Britain if war broke out with Germany (over Czechoslovakia).
Lack of reliable allies: France was politically divided, with a static defence policy based on the Maginot line, and would be unlikely to assist in any attempt to oust Germany from the Rhineland. France was politically unstable, with violent clashes in the streets between opposing supporters.Britain had no allies in the area around Austria, as Italy no longer protected Austria as it had in 1934. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, made it clear that they would not participate in another European war.
Military weaknesses: The government was concerned with weaknesses in its armed forces, as they lacked home defences, especially against the bomber. Widespread disarmament in the 1920s meant that no troops were immediately available to respond to/mount a challenge. On top of that, Nazi propaganda encouraged Britain and France to believe Germany’s army was stronger than it actually was.
Further Justifications
Hitler claimed the remilitarisation of the Rhineland was to strengthen Germany’s defences: The Rhineland was rearmed in 1935, and it was now too late to reaffirm the Treaty of Versailles, as Germany now had an army.
Britain was concerned that fighting Hitler might encourage Italy and Japan to take advantage of Britain’s overstretched and under-resourced overseas commitments.
Fear over the spread of communism as many British people saw communism as a greater threat than the Nazis, as the Conservative party was in power for most of the 1930s. They viewed communism as a greater threat to world peace, and Hitler and Germany could be a strong defence against possible Soviet plans to invade Europe.
Chamberlain believed Hitler’s extreme statements were a publicity stunt, and would ultimately choose negotiation rather than conflict. Alongside that, many prominent British politicians were impressed by Hitler, including the former Prime Minister Lloyd George who described him as a man of supreme quality.
Chamberlain was essential for successful negotiations in designing the terms of appeasement
Results of Appeasement
Czechoslovakia was weakened: Poland and Hungary were able to claim other Czechoslovakian territory.
Britain had an extra year to build up its armed forces, but so did Hitler/Germany.
Hitler decided that Britain and France were afraid, and thought that they wouldn’t stop him, no matter what he did.
Russia also thought Britain and France would never stand up to Hitler, and thought that war was inevitable. The British people also thought that war was inevitable as they realised they had been duped.
This improved war morale, as the British believed they had done everything they could to avoid war.
British National Government in the 1930s
Invading Poland
The German battleship ‘Schleswig-Holstein’ opened fire on the Polish garrison at 4:45am on the 1st of September, 1939. The became the first military engagement of World War Two. At the same time as the fire from the battleship, 62 German divisions, supported by 1,300 aircrafts invaded Poland.
Hitler’s decision to invade Poland was a gamble as the Wehrmacht (German army) was not at full strength yet, and the German economy was still locked in peacetime production. The invasion alarmed some of Hitler’s generals, resulting in opposition to his command. Some leaked war plans to Britain and France, whilst others merely urged caution, and requested more time to established defences.
These defences were known as the ‘West Wall’, which would protect Germany from any and all British and French counter-offence in the west, leaving the Wehrmacht free to engage in the east.
Churchill with Polish troops
German troops after the invasion of Poland
Germany’s invasion of Poland was established through a series of bombing raids, the German army invading from Prussia in the north, German army invading from Slovakia in the south, initial air supremacy was established on the first day (Poland’s airforce was caught off guard), Panzer spearheads smashed holes in the Polish lines (permitting the slower moving German infantry to pour through the Polish rear), and the deliberate bombing of towns and villages (creating mass terror and blocking the roads, hampering the flow of reinforcements from the front).
Poland requested immediate military support at 8am on September 1st. Britain declared war on the 3rd of September (at noon) and France declared war at 5pm. The delay reflected the British hopes that Hitler would respond to demands and end the invasion .
Nazi Germany occupied the remainder of Poland when it invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, and Poland remained under German occupation until January 1945.
Germany invades
Poland, 1939
Significance
The invasion marked the start of World War Two, and finally forced the French and British forces to intervene.
Hitler further established his control through the invasion of Poland, as he acted against advice from his generals, and demonstrated his confidence (arrogance even) that no one would stand in his way.
Hitler dismissed his generals’ concerns, and questioned their loyalty.
Hitler was confident that it would be a short, victorious war, with the deployment of the world’s first armoured corps to swiftly defeat the Polish armed forces.
Hitler also thought the British and French leaders to be weak and indecisive, and would opt for a peace settlement instead of war. He initially dismissed the Anglo-Polish treaty as an empty gesture.
Hitler salutes parading troops of the German Wehrmacht in Warsaw, Poland, on October 5, 1939 after the German invasion.
Herschel Grynszpan
Herschel Grynszpan, a 17 year old Polish Jew, learned that his parents had been exiled to Poland from Hanover, and retaliated on the 7th of November, 1938. He shot Ernst com Rath, a German diplomat who was visiting Paris (France, where Herschel had lived for a number of years). Rath died, and Hitler attended the funeral, providing the assassination with even more publicity than it had previously been exposed to. Joseph Goebbels (the Nazi minister for public enlightenment and propaganda) took advantage of the publicity and outrage the assassination had caused, using it to rile supporters of Hitler into an anti-Semitic frenzy.
The result? Kristallnacht.
What happened?
Kristallnacht began late of November 9th, and continued into the next day. During this period of time, Nazi mobs torched or vandalised hundreds of synagogues, and damaged (often destroyed) thousands of Jewish homes, schools, hospitals, businesses and cemeteries. German police officers were ordered not to interfere by Nazi officials, resulting in buildings burning and riots raging, essentially free from any monitoring. Roughly 100 Jews were murdered during the violent period.
An American newspaper describes the events of Kristallnacht
Schoolchildren watch the burning of synagogue furnishings
The name, ‘Night of Broken Glass’, was determined during the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the streets of Jewish communities littered with broken glass from the destroyed buildings. The Jewish community was held responsible for the damage by the Nazi government, and were forced to collectively pay a fine of $400 million (in 1938 rates). Additionally, more than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps (Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen). These camps were build specifically to hold Jews, political prisoners and other enemies of the Nazi state.
The Aftermath
Hitler's Plans
Hitler planned for all German speaking nations in Europe to be a part of Germany, and a major part of this plan was reuniting Germany and Austria, even though this was expressly forbidden in the Treaty of Versailles.
Hitler also desired control of the Sudetenland, currently controlled by Czechoslovakian government. It is important to note that the Sudetenland shared a border with Austria.
Hitler aimed to destabilise Austria and undermine its independence in an attempt to force them to unite with Germany.
Hitler reviewing German troops in Vienna, 19398
The Failed Coup
Engelbert Dollfuss, the Austrian Chancellor, attempted to crack down on the Socialists and Nazis. He thought that the extremist political parties were tearing the country apart, and was with this logic that he banned the Nazi party in Austria.
Hitler responded in 1934 by encouraging the Austrian Nazis to create havoc in Austria. This evolved into an attempt to overthrow the government, and the murder of Chancellor Dollfuss. The coup failed when the Austrian military intervened and supported the government.
Mussolini honoured an agreement with Austria (the agreement where they pledged to protect Austria from outside aggression) and moved Italian troops to the Austrian border. This was effective in deterring Hitler from invading.
Schuschnigg and Hitler
Chancellor Dollfuss
Hitler is welcomed to Austria, after facing no reprecussions
Events in Austria
Kurt Schuschnigg, Dollfuss’ replacement as Chancellor, tried to co-operate with Hitler whenever possible. Schuschnigg did this in attempt to avoid a German invasion, by failing to give Hitler an excuse for aggressive behaviour.
In 1936, Schuschnigg signed the German-Austrian Agreement. The pact recognised Austria’s independence, but Austria was required to arch their foreign policy to Germany’s. Austria also conceded several official positions in Austrian government, to Nazis. Schuschnigg hoped that these concessions would appease Hitler, but they didn’t.
The formal recognition of the Rome-Berlin Axis between Hitler and Mussolini during their involvement in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), undermined Schuschnigg’s position. The establishment of Germany and Italy’s alliance meant that Austria lost Italy’s protection, leaving Austria vulnerable to German’s attacks.
Schuschnigg becomes desperate
Schuschnigg visited Hitler in 1938 at the summer retreat in Berchtesgaden (located near the Austrian border). At this meeting, Hitler demanded Nazis be given key government posts in Austria. Schuschnigg compromised and Seyss-Inquart (a member of the Nazi party) was appointed as Minister of the Interior.
The Austrian Nazis were under orders to create as much trouble and destruction as they could in order to put pressure on Schuschnigg. Hitler could justifiably march German troops into Vienna under the guise of restoring peace, if they could claim that Austrian law and order had broken down, regardless if they had been the cause of it.
Kurt von Schuschnigg, Chancellor of Austria
Hitler and Schuschnigg
Four days of excitement
Wednesday 9th of March, 1938, saw Schuschnigg announced a referendum enabling the Austrian people to decide if they wanted to be a part of Hitler’s Germany. This angered Hitler, because if the Austrians voted against joining Germany, his excuse for invading Austria would be ruined.
On Thursday 10th March (1938), Hitler ordered his generals to prepare for the invasion of Austria. Hitler then ordered Schuschnigg to call off the referendum, and Schuschnigg (knowing that he would receive no help from Italy, and there would be no intervention from France and Britain) conceded. He called off the referendum and resigned.
Seyss-Inquart, the Nazi Austrian Interior Minister, was ordered (by Hitler) ask for German help in restoring order in Austria.
On the 12th of March, 1938. German troops marched into Austria unopposed. Hitler gained control of Austria without firing a single shot. A (rigged) referendum held a month later showed that Austrian people approved of German control in Austria.
Hitler reassured Czechoslovakia that they had nothing to fear on Friday the 11th March, 1938.
Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg held his last speech on public radio as head of government.
Results of Anschluss
The German army gained 100,000 soldiers, and Germany’s population increased by seven million.
Germany gained resources including steel and iron ore, and gained control of Austria’s foreign exchange reserves.
German influence increased in the Balkans as the balance of power in south-eastern Europe shifted in Germany’s favour.
Czechoslovakia was now surrounded on three fronts by Germany, further weakening Czechoslovakia’s defences. This made it significantly easier for Hitler to successfully gain control of the Sudetenland, and then later invade Czechoslovakia.
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