World War I

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What did Hitler do in response to the Treaty of Versailles?

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In 1919, many Germans voted for democratic parties and the country adopted the democratic Weimar constitution. Thus, Germany abandoned traditional Prussian military authoritarianism, much to the dismay of powerful conservative nationalists. When the allies forced the new democratic government to sign the unequal and humiliating Versailles peace treaty, however, they dealt a powerful blow to the prestige of German democracy and discredited it in the eyes of the majority of the German population, which was furious. The German army especially resented the disarmament measures, which deprived Germany of much of its navy, tanks, and airplanes, and dramatically reduced the size of the armed forces.

To compensate for these measures, the German army entered politics and associated itself with various emerging nationalistic paramilitary organizations, such as the Stahlhelm. These organizations created an atmosphere of nationalist mobilization, which nourished right-wing extremism and benefited the Nazi movement.

Hitler and the Nazi party availed themselves of this opportunity to attack German democracy as a helpless pawn in the hands of its the Western enemies. Hitler declared his implacable opposition to the Versailles peace treaty and the disarmament and onerous financial reparations that it entailed. He used his uncompromising stance on Versailles to appeal to the German voters’ wounded sense of national honor.

In October 1934, Hitler secretly violated the Versailles peace treaty by increasing the size of the army and starting a rearmament. In March 1935, he announced that Germany would no longer abide by the limitations imposed by the Versailles treaty. He argued that in order to find redress for the unjust treatment of Germans under the Versailles international order,...

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