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.
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.
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.