Following the Nazi rise to power, Adolf Hitler made it clear that he considered the Treaty of Versailles as unjust towards Germany and that it had to be revised.
Signed on 28th June 1919, the Treaty of Versailles had five main points:
- Germany had to accept the blame for starting the war.
- The German army was limited to 100,000 men, and they were not allowed to have submarines or an air force.
- Germany had to pay reparations for the damage done.
- Germany lost 13% of its territories, and its colonies were given to France or Britain.
- Germany was not allowed to join the League of Nations.
Hitler felt that the Treaty was unfair and many Germans shared his opinion, so his primary goal was to destroy it and to make Germany a strong, hegemonic power in Europe again. He said that the German nation needed more Lebensraum (‘living space’) and the only way to provide it was to expand towards Poland, Austra, Czechoslovakia.
After the Treaty, many Germans were living in foreign countries, so he was determined to unite all German-speaking people together in one country. He also blamed communism for Germany’s defeat in World War I, so his plan included defeating the Soviet Union and destroying the communism.
Hitler began Germany’s foreign policy very cautiously by withdrawing from the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations. He claimed that Germany wanted only peace and would disarm if other states agreed to do the same.
Signing a ten-year non-aggression pact with Poland in 1934 made him look harmless in the eyes of the other European countries that were concerned about the new government in Germany and its policies. The same year, Austrian and German Nazis together attempted a coup but were unsuccessful thanks to Mussolini, who warned the Germans off.
His foreign policy brought him popularity among the German people, so encouraged by his success, Hitler decided to gamble by sending troops into the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland. 30,000 lightly armed German soldiers occupied the Rhineland, and no one dared to stop them.
Hitler knew that he risked everything by sending his 30,000 troops in the Rhineland and he said: “The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw with our tail between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance.”
The alliance, known as the Rome-Berlin Axis signed by Mussolini and Hitler in 1936, consolidated Germany’s position. Nazi Germany foreign policy went one step further when in 1937 Germany and Italy in Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, and Hitler strengthened his position even more.