Hitler-Nazi Foreign Policy


Hitler-NaziForeign Policy

Hitlerhad a clear foreign policy aims but no plan of how to achieve them.To what extent is this statement correct?

Hitlerby passing the enabling law in 1933 had secured the Nazi party’srule in Germany and signalled the start of his dream to create his3rdReich. This 3rdReich synthesised by Kurlander’s (2011) evolved assessment as aracist, Aryan, volkish, expansionistic and fuhrer-driven stateestablishes the basis of Hitler’s foreign policy, as one driven tobuild his new Aryan Volk. Consequently, Hitler had extremely clearforeign policy goals, as his success was interlinked to the successof the volk. Undeniably Hitler also had a general overview in how toestablish his Aryan-Volk through lebensraum in Eastern Europe and thereclamation of land severed in the Versailles treaty. Since Hitlersubordinated the economy to maintain the high living standard of his3rdReich, this lead to a stagnating economy. Consequently, Germany beganto transform into a plunder economy (Mossmen/Mason) with his foreignpolicy becoming spontaneous, mutating and opportunistic capitalisingon the failure of the League of Nations and illusions of appeasement.

Hitlerwas elected on the promise of providing peace and security to Germanyto which the Weimar Republic and Communist could not provide.Consequently, the Fuhrer’s authority was maintained through theunification and creation of a Volkish nation that would benefit theAryan German people. The lack of mass protest or objection to theracist Nuremberg laws passed in September 1935 reflects the Germanpeople’s toleration to the creation of an Aryan-Volk. Moreover,with 20% of Gestapo reports in Dusseldorf originating from civiliancalls, this demonstrates the widespread acceptance and support of theNazi regime from the German people. As a result, “Hitler became theleader for whom the nation was waiting for…nationalist man of thepeople” (Kershaw). Thus, one can see that Hitler’s expansionisticforeign policy lay in the reclamation of land lost in the Versaillestreaty but also lebensraum in Eastern Europe, which tapped intoextremely popular anti-Versailles sentiment. This explains why theNazi party was elected in contrast to the democrats of the WeimarRepublic but also explains as Le bors and Boyes argue “the directlink of the Fuhrer to the success or failure of his RAVEF state”.Hence, Hitler’s foreign policy was founded on clear concrete goalsand aims, dictated by the demands of his Aryan-Volk. However, asargued by structuralist historians like Mason and Mommsen, Hitler’sforeign policy had no clear plan because of the chaotic structure ofthe Nazi government. This can be seen where after the public learntof aktion T4, a program personally created by Hitler’s ownphysician, Hitler had to cancel it because of public outcry. Althoughaction T4 was a domestic issue, undeniably one can see that the basisof Hitler rule and thus foreign policy were subject to the changingwants of the Aryan-Volk.

Hitlerpursued the simultaneous goals of both maintaining the high standardsof living of the Aryan volk to validate his rule as Fuhrer but alsoremilitarise to create his Aryan-Volk through conquest. As a result,the economy started to decline with real wages dropping by 25%between 1933 and 1938 and the average German working week increasingfrom 43 hours in 1933 to 47 in 1939. Ironically, agricultural pricesincreased by 20% despite Germany’s focus on autarky. Consequently,the failure of remilitarisation transformed Germany into a plundereconomy forcing Hitler’s foreign policy to become spontaneous andopportunistic as he looked towards claiming Versailles territorywhich had been separated. This reflects how domestic policy temperedHitler’s foreign policy revealing the extent of Hitler’s foreignpolicy as one to satisfy and grow the Aryan-Volk. This can befurther evidenced in Funk’s (Nazi economic minister) statement in1938 “lebensraum…allowsthe participation of the German people in the profitable utilizationof the world`s goods of which there was superabundance”. However,it is clear that since economic historians stress the importance ofeconomy dictating foreign policy, one must also analyse the demandsof the Volk to see the spontaneity and disorganisation of Hitler’sforeign policy. As seen in the Hossbach Memorandum, Hitler outlined1942 to 1943 as the period when Germany was prepared for war. Howeverbecause of steadily declining living conditions of the Volk, this ledHitler to gamble the remilitarisation the Rhineland despite orderingthem to retreat if they met resistance. Thus one can see thatHitler’s foreign policy lay in opportunism and the pressures ofmaintain a satisfied Aryan-Volk.

Theunification of Hitler’s Aryan- Volkish community was accomplishedby military force as outlined in his 1925 book Mein Kampfdemonstrating that Hitler did indeed have a general plan of achievinghis foreign policy goals. However with a small army and a stagnatingeconomy, Hitler was forced to juggle between force and diplomacy tocreate his 3rdReich subsequently making Hitler an opportunist with no definitemethod. Whilst the Rhineland was remilitarised, the Austrian coup bythe assassination Austrian chancellor Egelbert Dolfuss in 1934 failedbecause of the Stresa front where Italian troops intimated Hitler tostop the coup. Consequently, Hitler realised that in order to avoidwar and a subsequent economic disaster, he had to engage in diplomacyin order to re-unify German territory as Steiner argues “Hitlerused a full register of means in order to achieve his diplomaticgoals”. This can be seen in the Rome-Berlin axis of 1936 thatguaranteed Italian non-intervention in Austria as Weinburg summarises“represented a diplomatic revolution” allowed Hitler in 1938 toannex Austria without confrontation.

Fromthis it would appear that Hitler had a clear method of usingdiplomacy to create his RAVEF state. Moreover this would be supportedby, the annexation of Czechoslovakia which represented a success andcontinuation of the Hosbach conference where in 1937 Hitler detailedhis aim to the German military to invade Czechoslovakia. Yet, asA.J.P Taylor and Kershaw argue “Hitler was just ranting and sayingnothing new” and with Hitler’s own admission of not knowing howto annex Czechoslovakia and resorting to drawing up severalcontingencies, this reveals Hitler’s lack of foresight andpreparation in his foreign policy. This can also be seen in theMunich agreement, where Hitler agreed to Chamberlain that he wouldnot invade Poland, interpreting Chamberlain of having “nooutstanding personality” and predicting Britain would not declarewar. His arrogance into invading Poland and forcing Chamberlain intowar shattered the illusion of Hitler having a plan as Steinerconcedes Steiner “it was not the sort of war he wanted or at a timeof his choosing”. Although the basis of Hitler’s foreign policywas firmly concreted in the expansion of his Volkish-Aryan community,Hitler had little idea how to accomplish this other than a generalisttheme use of force. Thus he resorted into opportunism whichspectacularly backfired when Hitler signed the Munich agreementbelieving that England would not react to Hitler breaking hispromise.


Itis evident from the discussion above that despite Hitler having aclear foreign policy his plans for the implementation of the planwere disorganized. The Nazi government that he led was disorganizedand this made it extremely difficult for Hitler to implement theforeign policy. It is also essential to note that the implementationof Hitler’s foreign policy was interfered with by the localpolicies and the pressure from the people. The declining state of theeconomy and the pressure from the Aryan-Volk made Hitler to changethe course for his foreign policy. Hitler was determined to expandthe occupation for the Aryan-Volk, but his method or strategy was touse force such as the one he used against Poland and Czechoslovakia.More often than not, Hitler retreated on his plans to use force sincethis would mean that he would be defeated. It is clear from thediscussion above that owing to the deteriorating conditions of theAryan-Volk and the poor economy, Hitler resorted to using diplomacyas a tool for his foreign policy as opposed to using force.