Rise of Hitler and the Nazis
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Nazi aggression and appeasement
As we get into the second half of the 1930s, we see an increasingly aggressive Nazi Germany. In 1935, they publicly announce their intent to rearm their military. The reason why this is significant is not that they were all of a sudden building their military. They, in fact, were doing this as soon as they had taken power, in 1933. But now, they felt confident enough to publicly state their intention -- which is another way of publicly stating that they [could n't] care less about the Treaty of Versailles, which had said that Germany was limited to a 100,000-soldier military. Then, we get into 1936. 1936, you might remember -- another term of the Treaty of Versailles was that Germany was not allowed to occupy the Rhineland -- this area in yellow right over here. And then that was actually reaffirmed in 1925 by the Treaties of Locarno, where Germany, itself, agreed to not occupy the Rhineland. But by 1936, Hitler decides to ignore all of those, and occupies the Rhineland. But once again the allies -- The French are not so happy about this. The UK, in particular, once again, [was] not super happy about this. But they decided this is not reason to potentially start another war over. So they really don't push back on Germany. Then, we get into 1938, and German aggression really goes into full gear. In March of 1938, you have a coup d'état, orchestrated by the Nazis in Austria, that really overthrows the Austrian government and allows the Germans to unify the two countries. So, you have the Germans come into Austria -- really a bloodless takeover. And there was already popular support for the Nazis in Austria. There was a Nazi party in Austria. There had been popular sentiment for many years, amongst many Austrians, to possibly be unified with the Germans. Austria [was and] is, fundamentally, a German-speaking nation. And so in March, this actually happens. This 'Anschluss' -- or unification. And, if you remember, that was also another forbidden term of the Treaty of Versailles. So now, the Germans are pretty much ignoring the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of St. Germain, which was the equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles -- but with the Austrians. So, you have the unification of Germany and Austria. Then, as we get into late 1938 -- in September in particular -- Hitler and the Nazis are interested in bringing the German-speaking populations of Czechoslovakia under German control. And this region, right over here in magenta, this is where you have large populations of German speakers. These regions are collectively referred to as the 'Sudetenland.' And really, just continuing the policy of not wanting to rock the boat with Germany, you have France, Great Britain, and Italy agreeing -- And Italy was an ally of the Germans. But France and Great Britain, in particular, are not interested in rocking the boat with the Germans. And so, in September of 1938, they sign the Munich Agreement, which did not actually -- where they actually did not consult the Czechoslovakian government -- where they allowed Germany to take over this region right over here -- the Sudetenland. And that, frankly, with the Germans taking over this significant part of the population of Czechoslovakia, a significant part of the industrial capacity of Czechoslovakia, this eventually leads to early 1939, where all of what we would now consider the Czech Republic -- this area right over here, all [of] this -- becomes a protectorate of Germany. So, they call it the 'Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.' So, Bohemia and Moravia go to Germany. And, so this is 1939. So, [by] 1939, [we have seen this pattern repeat itself during the previous] four years -- Nazi Germany ignoring the Treaty of Versailles, by rearming, by occupying the Rhineland, by unifying with Austria. Now, they're expanding their territory. They are actively allowed to take over the German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia, under the Munich agreement. And eventually, they're able to take over Bohemia and Moravia -- all of what we would currently call the 'Czech Republic.' And this general pattern of German aggression, [allowed] by the other powers in Europe essentially allowing it to happen -- and, in particular, Great Britain allowing it to happen -- has been referred to as a 'policy of appeasement.' Obviously, the word 'appeasement' means there is someone who is angry about something, and you just don't want to make them any angrier -- you just let them do whatever they want -- this is, essentially, what was happening over here. And in hindsight, it might be easy to say, "Hey, look!. They were allowing Germany to take over more and more -- to become more aggressive, which made [Germany] more and more confident. And this would eventually lead to World War II." But at the time, you do have to remember [that[ everyone still had a very strong memory of what had happened in World War I. And no one was interested in starting another [pan-European] war. And so, even [though] in hindsight, it's easy to say that the British -- in particular Neville Chamberlain, who was the Prime Minister from 1937 on -- were weak and allowed German[y] -- Hitler -- to gain confidence, which eventually led to the Nazi invasion of Poland in the fall of 1939. But it's easy to say that in hindsight. But what we see, as we get into 1939, is an aggressive Germany, a Germany that's not being checked by the other powers of Europe. And this is what eventually leads to September of 1939, where, actually, the Germans and the Soviets agree to partition Poland into their own spheres of influence, which allows Germany to invade Poland in early September [of] 1939 -- which is, you could kind of say, 'the straw that broke the camel's back,' and is the beginning of -- So, Poland invasion. The invasion of Poland. -- which is the beginning of World War II.