What were the foreign policies of Hitler?

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brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Driven by the need to conquer, motivated by revenge.  Hitler's foreign policy centered around his personal and national desires for Germany to "right the wrongs" of the Versailles Treaty, which meant first ignoring or reversing its limitations on Germany.  This he did by reoccupying the German Rhineland, fortifying the border with France, and by rebuilding the German Wehrmacht (army), Luftwaffe (Air Force) and Kriegsmarine (Navy) from scratch.

Every step Hitler made after that was solely designed to increase his empire, whether through voluntary annexation by Austria, deliberate deception as with Czechoslovakia, or through brute force, with nearly the rest of the entire continent and then some.  By doing this, Hitler believed he could restore the German Empire (The Third Reich) to greatness, and achieve what he thought was his personal destiny.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is sort of a vague question.  If you can clarify, please let me know.  Overall, Hitler's foreign policy was to use other countries for his own benefit.  This could mean making treaties with them when it was useful (like he did with the Soviet Union when he had the Nonagression Pact with them).  It could also mean taking them over if that was what seemed useful (like he did with Czechoslovakia).  However, at least in the time before WWII, he was careful to use diplomacy to isolate a country like Czechoslovakia before he took it over.

The goal of Hitler's foreign policy before the war was to expand Germany as much as possible.  The point of this was to get more resources and to make it harder for other countries to invade Germany.

If you have a more specific way to ask this question, feel free...

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems to me that similar to much of Hitler's policies, in general, foreign policy was expansionist.  Hitler did forge alliances with other nations and leaders out of self interest, but he sought to increase the political, geographical, and military strength of the German nation through force and expansion.  His desire to unify the continent of the Europe under the German flag helped to feed this foreign policy.  At the same time, he had little difficulty in concealing his desire to overrun England and advance his policy concerning the greatness of Germany to as many parts of the world as possible.

epollock | Student


Hitler’s foreign policy and its role in the international system is often misunderstood. It was based on a clear conception of geopolitical and ideological objectives. Hitler explained his views in numerous speeches but more systematically in Mein Kampf and in a second, unpublished book on foreign policy written in the late 1920s. The following geopolitical and ideological assumptions guided Hitler’s foreign policy throughout his career. Germany should regain its position as the dominant power in Europe. A Greater German Reich should be created, bringing together all the "German lands" of central Europe, and it should be purged of all non-German elements. Germany needed Lebensraum, or living space, for its expanding population. This territory was to be taken in eastern Europe, which would ultimately require war with Russia. This war against Russia also had an ideological dimension. The Soviet Union was the home of what was called "Judeo-Bolshevism," and hence a war against the Soviet Union would be a crusade against both the Jews and the Communists. Creation of this Greater German Reich would allow Germany to assume its rightful place in an international system dominated by four empires. A revived Germany should dominate the European continent. Britain would retain its global empire. The United States would be the hegemonic power in the western hemisphere. Japan would play the leading role in Asia. These goals would require the destruction of the Versailles system. 

Hitler moved first to revise the military clauses of the Treaty. He withdrew Germany from the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations in 1933. In 1935 Hitler announced that Germany would rearm, in violation of the Versailles Treaty, with the conscription of an army, creation of an air force, and development of a naval fleet. 

By the close of 1936, the Treaty of Versailles was a dead letter. Revising the Territorial Clauses of the Treaty. In 1937 Hitler explained his territorial ambitions to his military and foreign policy establishments—recorded in the Hossbach memorandum.  Hitler launched the Anschluss (connection) with Austria in the spring of 1938. This crisis was provoked when Austrian chancellor Schussnigg sought guarantees of Austrian sovereignty from Italy and the western powers. On March 12, 1938, Schussnigg called a plebiscite in Austria on linkage with Germany,, but he later retreated in the face of Hitler’s opposition. It ended with Germany’s peaceful annexation of Austria. The next crisis involved the Sudetenland in the fall of 1938. It was prompted by agitation in the Czech Sudetenland by ethnic Germans headed by Conrad Henlein. The situation was complicated because the Czechs had treaties with both France and the Soviet Union. It was concluded peacefully at the Munich Conference in October. War had been averted, but at enormous cost.

By the end of 1938 the territorial clauses of the Treaty of Versailles had been utterly revised, if not destroyed, and the international system that the Treaty had sought to create was dead.

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