Hitler’s aims: Lebensraum and Grossdeutschland

Hitler developed foreign policy goals in the early stages of the Nazi Party. As the party became more influential, then in power, these were developed. Hitler’s main aims were to rid Germany of the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles. He aimed to unify Germany and Germanic peoples, known as Grossdeutschland. He also saw the need for Germany to expand, Lebensraum, in order to be more secure and prosperous. These aims led to diplomatic issues, the policy of appeasement and ultimately the invasion of Poland.

Political Cartoon Showing the "Stepping Stones to Glory" that were seen as Hitler's Foreign Policy Aims

What were Hitler’s aims and policies with regard to the Treaty of Versailles?

Hitler had 3 clear aims with regards Foreign Policy.

1) He said in Mein Kampf that he wanted to tear up the Treaty of Versailles.

2) He wanted to create Grossdeutschland, a unified Germany encompassing all German speakers.

3) He wanted to acquire Lebensraum, ‘Living Space’, in the east.

Added to these, he wanted Germany to be a strong and powerful nation once again and wanted to destroy communism.

To achieve these things Hitler would need to do several things which would be in breach of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The German armed forces were severely restricted under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. His vision of a powerful nation and the ability to acquire and protect both Grossdeutschland and Lebensraum would require armed forces in excess of what was permitted. The concept of Grossdeutschland would require the terms of the Treaty of Versailles to be amended or broken as the treaty specifically forbade a union between Germany and Austria. In addition many German speaking areas had been ceded to newly formed nations as part of the peace settlement: again, in order to achieve his aim, Hitler would need the terms changing, or would need to use force to achieve his aims.

What policies were implemented to achieve Hitler’s Foreign Policy aims?
Date Objective Action
1933 Defeat Communism Hitler bans the Communist Party and puts its leaders into concentration camps. This was designed to destroy communism within Germany and eliminate any risk of Communist opposition to the Nazi party. The Nazi’s used the Reichstag Fire as an excuse to ban the Communist party, on the grounds that they were preparing to launch a Putsch. New elections were held that excluded the Communists and thousands of the parties members were sent to concentration camps such as Dachau.
1934 Tear up the Treaty of Versailles Hitler walks out of the Disarmament Conference and leaves the League of Nations. Hitler presents the reason for leaving the disarmament conference in a moderate manner, claiming that Germany had already been disarmed for 14 years and that others ought to follow suit.

Extract from Hitler’s speech relating to leaving the Disarmament Conference:

“We are unfortunately faced by the fact that the Geneva Conference, in spite of lengthy negotiations, has so far reached no practical result. The decision regarding the securing of a real measure of disarmament has been constantly delayed by the raising of questions of technical detail and by the introduction of problems that have nothing to do with disarmament. This procedure is useless.

The illegal state of one-sided disarmament and the resulting national insecurity of Germany cannot continue any longer.

We recognize it as a sign of the feeling of responsibility and of the good will of the British Government that they have endeavored, by means of their disarmament proposal, to cause the Conference finally to arrive at speedy decisions. The Government of the Reich will support every endeavor aimed at really carrying out general disarmament and securing the fulfillment of Germany’s long-overdue claim for disarmament. For fourteen years we have been disarmed, and for fourteen months we have been waiting for the results of the Disarmament Conference. Even more far-reaching is the plan of the head of the Italian Government, which makes a broad-minded and far-seeing attempt to secure a peaceful and consistent development of the whole of European policy. We attach the greatest weight to this plan, and we are ready to co-operate with absolute sincerity on the basis it provides, in order to unite the four Great Powers, England, France, Italy, and Germany, in friendly co-operation in attacking with courage and determination the problems upon the solution of which the fate of Europe depends.”

1935 Tear up the Treaty of Versailles Increases the German Army to 500,000. Following the failure of the Disarmament Conference Hitler began, at first secretly, increasing the size of the German armed forces. In 1935 the Germans agreed the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. This was negotiated directly between Britain and Germany, without the other major powers of League of Nations being consulted. It allowed Germany to increase the size of her navy to 35% of the size of the Royal Navy. Once this agreement was in place it became clear that Germany would be able to rearm in other areas.
1936 Tear up the Treaty of Versailles Hitler marches the German Army back into the Rhineland. See this page on the Re-occupation of the Rhineland.
1936 Defeat Communism Germany signs the Anti-Comintern Pact with Italy and Japan, who agree to fight International Communism.
1938 Grossdeutschland Anschluss: Hitler forces Austria to join Germany.
1938 Grossdeutschland Annexes the Sudetenland through the Munich Agreement. See this page on the Munich Agreement.
1939 Tear up the Treaty of Versailles Hitler increases the German Army to 950,000.
1939 Lebensraum Germany conquers Czechoslovakia.
1939 Lebensraum Nazi – Soviet Pact secretly agrees to divide Poland. See this page on the Nazi – Soviet pact.
1939 Lebensraum Germany invades Poland. See this page on the outbreak of war.
1941 Defeat Communism / Lebensraum Hitler Declares war on USSR (Russia).

International Relations in the Interwar years
Impact of the Great DepressionManchurian CrisisAbyssinia Crisis
League of Nations response to Abyssinia and ManchuriaHitler's Aims: Lebensraum and GrossdeutschlandReoccupation of the Rhineland: International Response
AnschlussChamberlain and AppeasementSudetenland plebisite
Munich AgreementPre-War policy towards PolandNazi Soviet Pact
Pact of Steel


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