Assess How Hitler’s Ideology Affected Nazi Foreign
Karl Marx’s maxim that ‘men make their own history… under given and imposed conditions’ has been tainted by several revisionist historians as the catalyst for Hitler’s foreign policy. A. J. P. Taylor even goes on to argue that Hitler was not only continuing a policy of previous German governments but he also believes Hitler can not be directly implemented in the events which unleashed WW2. However, to attribute Hitler’s foreign policy purely to his opportunistic characteristics would be to ignore his personal motivations and both racist and expansionist ideology.
This facile xplanation also fails to look at Hitler’s intentions echoed fearlessly throughout his speeches, address, and party literature of reversing the Treaty of Versailles to create a Greater Germany ‘Grossdeutsh’ and to expand eastward into Russia in the conquest of living space ‘lebensraum. ‘ To place these policies into historical reality a historian must look at Hitler’s motives, intentions and actions whether considering him as directly implemented in unleashing war in Europe in 1939.
Revisionist historian A. J. P. Taylor argued in his book The Origins of the Second World War that Hitler simply continued the aggressive expansionist foreign policy of pre WW1 Germany. Nazi policy to destroy the Treaty of Versailles, unite Germans into a greater Germany, and to restore Germanys position of greatness as a world power were not only visible through Kaiser Wilhelm’s ambitions but also the Pan German movement which believed in a ‘Greater Germany including Austria.
Furthermore intentionalist historian M. Christinson also felt that Nazism could be seen as the logical and historical extension of Weltpolitic. Likewise he goes on suggest that the ery essence of Nazism was conquest and domination; a struggle for superiority amongst races. Taylor states that though Hitler made his intention of ‘abolishing’ the ‘Diktat’ treaty more than clear in Mein Kampf he claimed the defiance of Versailles was a policy of Weimar which begun well before 1922 with the secret Rapello agreement.
Whether just a continuation of previous Weimar policy or not Hitler set about reclaiming all German speaking peoples under the one umbrella of Germany. Rearmament signified the first stage of Hitler’s ‘struggle against Versailles’ emphasized by Hitler’s ramatic departure from the League of Nations Disarmament Conference in October 1933. The inclusion of the inhabitants of the Saar region into Germany and the initiation of conscription post departure from the League of Nations caused Shirer to claim the shackles of Versailles had been torn off. Remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 further denunciated the Treaty of Versailles as well as the Locano Treaty, which was soon followed by Anschluss with Austria in March 1938. As a result of the Munich conference of 1938 the Sudeten German’s of Czechoslovakia were ncorporated into Germany, and by the following March German soldiers were in Prague and Germany had absorbed the rest of Czechoslavakia. dictated by the international context and the responses by other European leaders rather than his previously express convictions.
Dismissing Hitler’s Mein Kampf as mere fantasies from behind bars’ like Taylor Van Der Vat appoints responsibility for the Nazi regime’s expansionist policies due to this policy of appeasement adopted by foreign powers as it not only emphasized both the lack of political will to act to nforce international treaties but it also ‘set a bad example, giving comfort to the aggressors. ‘ C. Naylor stated that the policy of appeasement ‘showed that the western powers were not prepared to stand up to Hitler and were prepared to make concessions’ instead.
Naylor goes on to argue that Great Britain further condoned the breaking of the treaty in the Anglo-German Naval agreement inadvertently encouraging Hitler’s expansionist aims. Taylor and his revisionist collogues fail to acknowledge the significance of Nazi ideology and Hitler’s implicitly in bring about WW2 and therefore Professor David Kaiser argues that these views are ‘no longer regard as valid. ‘ Kaiser states that through the consistency in both Hitler’s words and actions his ‘programme’ of racist and expansionist aims were fully set out before 1933.
Other intentionalist historians such as N. Rich and G. Weinberg also point to the fact that writings, speeches and in policy throughout the 1930’s leading Nazi’s identified a consistent thread through their policies relating to ‘race and space. ‘ They go on to further emphasized the importance of Hitler’s planned foreign policy motivated by racial purity and xpansion clearly explored in his Mein Kampf-‘The aim of our political activity must be… the acquisition of land and soil as the objective of our foreign policy. Moreover Hitler’s war-like intentions were revealed in the Hossbach Memorandum in 1937 in which he revealed his plans for conquest of Austria and Czechoslovakia with military officials. Though historians feel Hitler always had intentions for a ‘Greater Germany as in the invasion of Austria and Sudetenland, J. Clare felt the ‘move into the rest of Czechoslavakia showed that Hitler wanted more than Just German land. Hitler’s ideological belief in turning [Germanys eyes towards the land in the East’ is further emphasized by his invasion of Danzig and Poland in 1939.