Hitler: Expansion & Appeasement

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A primary question that is asked in relation to Hitler’s foreign policy and behaviors is why he did what he did. The answer is apparent in Hitler’s autobiography which clearly states two objectives that are priority for Hitler and Germany. One is to recover the territory taken from Germany at the end of the First World War and to expand this area to provide “Lebensraum” which literally means Habitat or living space for Germans. The second objective was to purify the German race to become pure Aryans and to subjugate all inferior races in the process.

The Nazi Leadership: Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Hess
The Nazi Leadership: Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Hess | Source

Hitler’s behavior with respects to foreign policy bears a great resemblance to that of a spoiled child. To get what he wanted he would throw tantrums and threaten violence if he didn’t get what he wanted. Once he got what he wanted he proceeded to seek more and more. There was no satisfying him. Great Britain acted the part of the harassed mother who, in order to maintain peace, gives the unruly child what he wanted in hopes that by doing so he would play nice with the other children and not make any trouble. As the Chamberlain government gave in to one demand after another made by the Nazi government, Adolf Hitler’s dream of regaining the lost territory and expanding the living space of the German people seemed to be coming true.

With each push of will on the part of the Führer it seems that walls would tumble and great foes would bow with little protest. There came a point were some leaders and generals within Germany feared that he would bring war and a repeat of the First World War. A coup was planned but because the Chamberlain Government in England bowed quickly to the demands of Hitler, the coup was called off and no such attempt was made until after the war was started. However, by that time it was too late. While regaining the territory seized by the Treaty of Versailles was a primary goal, the underlying goal of German expansion throughout Europe can be seen based off of the way that Hitler took every chance to seize additional territory that had no previous claims by Germany up until that point.

A map of German Aggression's from 1936-1939
A map of German Aggression's from 1936-1939

When Hitler moved to take Czechoslovakia there was an opportunity that was missed by Britain and France. According to later records and the testimony of German generals at the Nuremberg trials if there had been any major resistance to Germany by Czechoslovakia and the allied nations then Germany would have been easily defeated. The fear of war and the attitude of appeasement made it possible for Germany to gain great resources and territory while being extremely weak. Had the allied nations resisted Hitler at that point, his regime may have toppled and Europe and the world would have been spared the horror and pain of the Second World War and the Holocaust. By appeasing Hitler, by refusing to take action and by standing on the sidelines until it was too late Britain and France allowed for Germany to build up strength and resources to fuel the German War Machine. This in turn allowed Hitler to gain more power within Germany because of the status gained him and his government by the aggressive actions he made. Because a vast majority of Germans felt wronged and betrayed by the Treaty of Versailles and government that agreed to it (the Weimar Republic), anything that spat in the face of such reminders such as gaining lost territory was a great thing.

So in the end the British policy of appeasement allowed for a monster to grow in Germany. Hitler’s goals were to regain lost territory and gain more living space for his vision of Germany. Whether or not this action could ever have been sustainable or possible to maintain is a question for another time, but one thing is clear. Had Chamberlain put his foot down there would be little historical note to Hitler or Germany except as yet another regime within a country suffering from instability and economic ruin.

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John Holden profile image

John Holden 4 years ago

Oh, so it was all Britain's fault!


ibbarkingmad profile image

ibbarkingmad 4 years ago from Utah Author

Not necessarily just the British. It is the fault of the allied nations that forced the Treaty of Versailles and of those same nations that then ignored the German aggression. If France and England had stood up to Hitler, he would have easily been crushed and at the least have been an annoying footnote in history.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Nice hub. Re your comment about the French-- they had an opportunity when Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936. Apparently, all they had to do was march in and Hitler would have been finished. But that's hindsight for you. At the time, many thought it might trigger a general war.


ibbarkingmad profile image

ibbarkingmad 4 years ago from Utah Author

Lol. Yes, several higher leaders in the German military said that if the Czechoslovkian's had mounted any substantial resistance, the German military would have folded very quickly.


John Holden profile image

John Holden 4 years ago

I think it very naïve to think that if somebody had waved a big stick at Hitler he would have backed down without a fight.


ibbarkingmad profile image

ibbarkingmad 4 years ago from Utah Author

I would agree with your sentiments on that naivate John, but interviews with the top military brass of the German army showed that if any nation had stood up against Hitler's aggression prior to the invasion of Poland then Germany wouldn't have had the resources or power to combat them. The majority of the actions leading up the the invasion of Poland were based on a song and a prayer. Two things would have happened had other nations had taken a stand. First, the precieved millitary might of Germany would have been exposed and it would have discredited Hilter. Second, the miliraty brass of the German millitary would have quickly lost faith and rebelled against and deposed Hitler. Keep in mind this is based off of the interviews of those same individuals who where the surviving military leaders post-WW2. If you doubt my references, I highly suggest reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. William Shirer did an amazing job researching and backing up his story with documentation and interviews. Since the Germans were anal retentive about keeping records, there is pleanty of evidence aside from interviews to show a good newspaper whack on the nose of Germany would have easily prevented the second world war at the least and could even have resulted in the deposing of Hitler at the most.


John Holden profile image

John Holden 4 years ago

But Poland put up a bloody good fight,in fact you could say that they gave Hitler more than a good whack on the nose inflicting very heavy loses on the German army.


ibbarkingmad profile image

ibbarkingmad 4 years ago from Utah Author

I agree. What I was referring to is before that. Poland was the first time that Germany was fully able to withstand a toe to toe battle. The Blitzkrieg on France took place so quickly after the invasion of Poland shows how ready the German military was. But in the taking of the Rhineland and Czechoslovakia (before the invasion of Poland) records and interviews indicate that Hitler would have lost everything if any of the allied nations had just stood up to him and resisted. My comments were in no way intended to demean the Polish resistance. But by that time, it was too late. Germany had gained a lot of military power and learned from their mistakes made in previous campaigns.


rahul0324 profile image

rahul0324 4 years ago from Gurgaon, India

I great take on the motive and behavior of a spoiled child who had revenge and brutal monarchy in mind!

I agree with you... The Forced Treaty of Versailles should have been looked up to from time to time to avoid retaliations such the one from Hitler himself which took the turn of WW II..

A great hub!


Donden 4 years ago

Why don't you mention the role of the USA here? President Wilson was, at least for a time, against a harsh treatment of Germany after World War I, but he did not stand up against the British and especially the French when the Treaty of Versailles was negotiated - without the Germans. (The Italians did not play a major role in this after WW I, simply because they had a fascist government)

The USA agreed to the Treaty of Versailles, then did not support the European democracies until they were forced to do so in 1941.

I think it should be mentioned that the US had an important role in the Versailles Treaty, but then left Great Britain, France and other European countries alone with the aftermath of the contract, i. e. Hitler.


ibbarkingmad profile image

ibbarkingmad 4 years ago from Utah Author

You are right Donden, the U.S.A. and Wilson did have some involvement with Versalles and trying to moderate the response to WWI. The thing is, this article is written from the prospective of Hitler's expansion and the appeasement that resulted. The point behind bring up the Treaty of Versalles is to show the antecedent that Hitler used to justify his behavior. While the U.S.A. had involvement with the treaty, it was not a significant factor in Hitler's decisions. The fact that the US was an ocean away was reason enough in my mind for the US to stay clear of the early conflict. Had the British and French have been less laissez faire in their handling of Hitler's expansionist policies there would have been no real need for U.S. involvement.


Donden 4 years ago

Ok, I can agree with that. Just thought it important to mention this, especially because Roosevelt was, from a certain point onwards, quite keen on entering the war that was partly provoked through Versailles. Even though Congress did not want that until there was no other choice.

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