Peace to War 1919-1939

Mussolini and Hitler: the Rome-Berlin Axis Agreement of 1936

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Mussolini and Hitler: the Rome-Berlin Axis Agreement of 1936

Hitler�s foreign policy aims

Hitler aimed to make Germany into a great power again and this he hoped to achieve by:

� destroying the hated Versailles settlement,

� building up the army,

� recovering lost territory such as the Saar and the Polish Corridor, and

� bringing all Germans within the Reich.

This last aim would involve the annexation of Austria and the acquisition of territory from Czechoslovakia and Poland, both of which had large German minorities as a result of Versailles.

There is some disagreement about what, if anything, Hitler intended beyond these aims. Most historians believe that the annexation of Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia and Poland was only a beginning, to be followed by the seizure of the rest of Czechoslovakia and Poland and by the conquest and permanent occupation of Russia as far east as the Ural Mountains. This would give him what the Germans called lebensraum (living space) which would provide food for the German people and an area, in which the excess German population could settle and colonise. An additional advantage was that communism would be destroyed. However, not all historians agree about these further aims; A.J.P. Taylor, for example, claims that Hitler never intended a major war and at most was prepared for only a limited war against Poland.

Whatever the truth about his long-term intentions, Hitler began his foreign policy with a series of brilliant successes (one of the main reasons for his popularity in Germany). By the end of 1938 almost every one of Hitler�s aims had been achieved, without war and with the approval of Britain. Only the Germans of Poland remained to be brought within the Reich. Unfortunately, it was when he failed to achieve this by peaceful means that Hitler took his fateful decision to invade Poland.


Hitler promises to get back all that was lost by the Treaty of Versailles. He promises to make Germany powerful and to gain lebensraum (living space) for the Aryan master-race.


Hitler introduces conscription for the army. He orders the build up of submarines, tanks and an airforce. This rearmament was strictly forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles.

Hitler backs a Nazi coup in Austria, but it fails when Mussolini mobilizes Italian troops on the Austrian border. Hitler realises he will need Mussolini�s support if he is to complete an Anschluss with Austria.


Germany regains the Saar after 15 years under international rule. Hitler claims the credit. Hitler announces the existence of the Luftwaffe (airforce). Britain and Germany sign the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. The German navy was limited to 35% of Britain�s. Mussolini attacks Abyssinia and falls out with Britain and France. League of Nations seriously weakened.


Hitler remilitarises the Rhineland. Hitler and Mussolini sign the Rome-Berlin Axis. Mussolini promises not to intervene in Austria. Germany and Italy support Franco in the Spanish Civil War.


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