Revision Diary

Hitler's Aims and Policy to 1938


Hitler’s aims and policies;

Aryan supremacy and lebensraum; the Saar; Austria 1938.



Make sure that you know about:

1.  Hitler's aims and policies, with examples.


It is unlikely that you will be asked to describe events of the Saar or Austria on their own - it is much more likely that you will be asked to describe Hitler's actions over a spread pf years.  


Nevertheless, you must know:

2.  the STORIES of Hitler's actions to Apr 1938 and their results/importance.




Hitler's Aims and Policies

Historians have made different suggestions about Hitler's aims - which you ought to know about - but it has to be said that Hitler declared most of what he did up-front in Mein Kampf in 1924:


Abolish the Treaty of Versailles

Until Munich, most of Hitler's policies were pointed towards the destruction of the Treaty of Versailles:

1.   Hitler claimed that the ToV was 'worthless', and that Germans were 'on fire with shame and anger' about it.   The Treaty was a constant reminder to the Germans of their humiliation in WWI.  

2.   Hitler did not accept that the German army had lost the war, and he was determined to make Germany great again.

3.   He objected to:

•   The tiny armed forces (and so he re-armed German after 1935).

•   Rhineland demilitarised (and so he marched in in March 1936).

•   Anschluss forbidden (so he annexed Austria in March 1938)

•   Germans under Czech and Polish rule (so he took over the Sudetenland in Sept 1938, and attacked Poland in Sept 1939).

Lebensraum and Aryan supremacy

After Munich, Hitler began to pursue his other gaols of Lebensraum, Aryan supremacy and the destruction of Communist Russia:

1.   Hitler said that the German population was growing and would need 'living space' in eastern Europe.   'Destiny points us towards Russia' he said in Mein Kampf.

•   The Nazi-Soviet Pact Aug 1939 gave him half of Poland, which he attacked in Sept 1939.  

•   In June 1941, he attacked Russia.


2.   This was connected to his belief in Aryan supremacy - he believed this gave him the right to invade eastern Europe and make the Slav peoples Germany's slaves.

•   He moved Poles into certain areas of Poland (ethnic cleansing so Germans could take the rest) and used them as labourers for the German war effort.

•   The Nazis used Jews and Gypsies and slave labourers in workcamps.

•   Nazi governors (eg Hans Frank in Poland) were told to 'Germanize' the population.   Poles were not to be educated, and educated Poles were put to death.

•   in places like Norway and Poland, the Nazis took lebensborn (German-looking) children and sent them to be brought up as Germans.

Destroy Communism

1.   Hitler hated and feared the Communists, esp. Russia - 'the menace of Russia hangs over Germany', he said in Mein Kampf.

•   In June 1941, he attacked Russia, before he had fully defeated Britain.




Steps to War



•   The ToV had put the Saar under League control for 15 years; plebiscite due in 1935 to decide future.

•   Many anti-Nazis had fled to the Saar in 1933.   Seeing what Hitler was doing in Germany, Communists and Social Democrats formed a 'united front' campaign to try to retain LoN status.

•   The Nazis formed a 'German Front' with the Catholics.   Helped by the police and the Nazi Gestapo, they attacked their opponents.

•   The LoN knew what was happening, but it was afraid to stop them

•   Spaniol and 17,000 Nazi Saarlanders (who had joined the SA in Germany to) threatened to invade.   This was stopped Dec 1935 when Britain offered to send soldiers to keep the peace.

•   13 Jan 1935: plebiscite - 90.3% voted to return to Germany.


•   It was, says one historian, 'the greatest triumph of the Nazis in a free election' = massive boost to Hitler's prestige.

•   Showed that Germans outside Germany hated the ToV & loved Germany more than they feared Hitler.

•   Gave moral authority to Hitler's claims on Austria/ Sudetenland.

•   Showed the LoN was scared in the face of violence - and FAILED to notice that the Nazis immediately backed down when Britain promised to send soldiers.



•   1933: Hitler begins rearming in secret - by 1935 army had risen 3x to 300,000, and airplanes from 36 to 2500.

•   1934: Hitler wrecked the LoN Disarmament Conference by demanding parity with France

•   1935: Hitler introduced conscription, and formed the Luftwaffe.   Both broke the ToV.   A huge Military Rally openly showed off how he had broken the ToV.   Br & Fr did nothing

•   1935 Britain made an agreement with Hitler allowing Germany to have a navy one-third as big as Britain's.

•   By 1939 Hitler was spending 25% of his budget on armaments - 'guns before butter'

•   By 1939, Germany had 95 warships, 8250 airplanes and an army of almost 1 million.


•   Hitler openly broke the ToV and go away with it

•   Britain HELPED him - beginning of appeasement

•   NB not necessarily aggressive - Hitler said he only wanted them as a deterrent ... but he later used them to threaten and bully.



•   Demilitarised under ToV (and Germany had accepted this at the Treaty of Locarno, 1925).   Hitler now overturned them both.

•   In 1936, France and USSR signed a defensive alliance - Hitler claimed this threatened Germany's safety.

•   Br & Fr/ LoN were distracted by the Abyssinian crisis with Italy.

•   7 Mar 1936: Hitler ordered his army into the Rhineland; it had orders to retreat if the French opposed it (they did not).

•   The LoN condemned Hitler, but refused to impose sanctions.

•   The German troops were welcomed as heroes.


•   Hitler openly broke the ToV and the LoN let him

•   Hitler's prestige soared - especially in Germany

•   It was the start of a feeling that he would always get away with it (Br & Fr would always back down) that led to WWII in the end

•   Encourages him to try to change Anschluss.



•   Mein Kampf had said that Austria was part of 'Greater Germany'.

•   1934: nightmare year for Austria - economic depression, in February the Social Democrats rebelled, then in July the Austrian Nazis rebelled and assassinated the Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss.   Hitler wanted to help the Nazis, but Mussolini moved his army to the Austrian border and Hitler was forced to back down.

•   Nov 1936: Hitler made the Axis alliance with Mussolini.

•   1938, Austrian Nazis rioted, calling for Anschluss.   Hitler supported them.  Br & Fr refused to defend Austria.  The Austrian Chancellor  Schuschnigg suggested a plebsicite.

•   11 Mar 1938: Fearing that he would lose, Hitler invaded.  

•   20,000 Austrians were arrested and a plebiscite held - controlled by the German army - 99.75% voted for Anschluss.


•   Hitler openly broke the ToV and LoN let him

•   Hitler's prestige soared - especially in Germany

•   It was the first time Hitler had tried aggression outside Germany

•   Hitler grew in confidence to attempt the Sudetenland  





Revision Focus

This is a Paper 1 topic, so concentrate on learning:

1.   WHAT happened

2.   EFFECTS/ Importance



e-book on Hitler's Aims and Actions to 1938


Historians views of Hitler's aims - VITAL


Play the BBC Bitesize dates game


Online revision sheet  


Essays on how Hitler broke the Treaty of Versailles and threatened the peace