3rd Year: Hitler's Foreign Policy (The Drift to War)

Main Page: International Relations in the 20th Century

Hitler and British Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain in 1938.
You've learned how Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany, and what domestic policies they enacted to create a totalitarian state. As you know, Hitler wanted to restore Germany to its old glory, and one of his policies to make this happen was about lebensraum: taking more land to create a bigger Germany which would give the German people more "living space". Much of the eastern half of the old Germany had been taken and given to the new Poland. Hitler wanted to recapture that land, but also to seize more.

The other European countries were aware of Hitler's ideas, but with World War I still fresh in people's memories, the leaders of those countries wanted to avoid another war. As the 1930s came to an end, however, it became clear that not much could be done to avoid it. In the end the policy of "appeasement", where other European leaders granted Hitler some of his demands to appease (satisfy) him, only sped up the arrival of a second world war...

Continue to World War II

  • Aims of Hitler's Foreign Policy: Greater Germany, lebensraum, destroy the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Destroying the Treaty: Rearming Germany, Saar plebiscite, remilitarising the Rhineland, Rome-Berlin Axis, Anschluss with Austria.
  • Reactions to Hitler's Foreign Policy:
    • Britain: Chamberlain, appeasement.
    • France: Maginot Line
    • America: Policy of Isolation
  • Munich Conference and the Sudetenland.
  • Nazi-Soviet Pact: Invasion of Poland.

Click here for exam questions you can be asked about this topic. (Higher and Ordinary)

"Stepping Stones to Glory". A newspaper cartoon from the 1930s.
What is its message? Is this a type of propaganda?

"Wonder how long the honeymoon will last?"
Cartoon about the Nazi-Soviet Pact. What is its message?

Hitler's Foreign Policy
An overview of Nazi Germany's foreign policy during the 1930s.

Timeline of Hitler's Foreign Policy
See the events laid out on a timeline here.

Map of Hitler's Foreign Policy
Confused about what's where? This map shows how Germany grew bigger under Hitler.

A referendum ballot paper from 10 April, 1938. It reads:

"Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Reich and will you vote for the party of our leader, Adolf Hitler?"

The large circle is "Ja (Yes)". The smaller circle is "Nein (No)". According to the official result, 99.7% of people voted Yes.

What do you think of the ballot?  Why do you think it was designed the way it is?

Hitler Visits Austria
Photos of Hitler's visit to Vienna after the Anschluss, with pictures showing the same locations now.

BBC: Anschluss with Austria
The BBC have an overview of the events leading up to the Anschluss.

Hitler announces an Anschluss with Austria
A look back at how the events unfolded.

The Rome-Berlin Axis
An overview of Hitler and Mussolini's alliance, later joined by Japan.

The Munich Agreement
An overview of the Munich Agreement, with primary source material such as letters and speeches.

The Czech Crisis of 1938
What was the Sudetenland? Why were there so many Germans in an area of Czechoslovakia? Read about it here.

The Maginot Line
Learn all about the Maginot Line here. The fortifications are still open to visitors.

Neville Chamberlain
Prime Minister of the UK from 1937 to 1940, Chamberlain is now most remembered as the man who failed to stop World War II from happening. His policy of appeasement is mocked now, but at the time it was seen as sensible (the same policy is what led to him giving √Čamon de Valera the Treaty Ports). Learn more about him here.

Peace in our time... (below)
When he returned from the Munch Conference, Chamberlain announced that the agreement had secured "peace in our time", i.e. that there would be no war. He was proven wrong just a year later.