From his earliest days with the Nazi party, Hitler was always passionately interested in foreign affairs. In Mein Kampf much space is devoted to them and it seems probable that the views expressed were sincerely held and reveal Hitler’s true intentions. Hitler had three major objectives: (I) he wished to. overturn the shameful Versailles Treaty which meant winning Germany’s right to rearm and the recovery of the lands lost in 1919—the Saar. Alsace—Lorraine. German colonies and above all the areas lost to Poland: (2) he wished to extend the frontiers of Germany to include all people of German race, especially the Germans of Austria and Czechoslovakia: (3) the first two objectives were in a sense only steps on the road towards the real goal, which was to make the Germans the dominant race in Europe at the expense of the racially inferior’ peoples in the east.
1-litler. in Norman Rich’s phrase, was a ‘thoroughgoing Malthusia& and feared the time when Germany could no longer feed her growing population. Therefore Germany must expand for survival as she was surrounded by inferior races who might combine to destroy her. Thus was justified the doctrine of lebensraum’, or living-space, at the expense mainly of the Poles and the Russians. ‘History proves.’ wrote Hitler ‘that the German people owes its existence solely to its determination to fight in the East and to obtain land by military conquest. Land in Europe is only to be obtained at the expense of Russia. The German Reich must therefore follow in the footsteps of the Teutonic Knights in order to guarantee the nation its daily bread through occupation of Russian territory.’ Of course, there would be no incorporation of non-Germans in this larger Germany: that had been the error of the British and the Spanish in their Empires. The inferior inhabitants were to be made useful or removed.
The struggle would also be turned against the Jews. As William Carr has shown, Hitler lived in a nightmare world of his own making where sinister Jewish wire-pullers lurked behind every movement of which he disapproved, from Freemasonry to Marxism. He saw the Jew as a member of a lower race that lived like a parasite on higher races, spreading doctrines like democracy or Bolshevism. This made Hitler even more decided on attacking Russia and explains why he assumed that Russia was ‘ripe for dissolution’ when in fact she was on the road to becoming a great industrial power.
Hitler believed that struggle was inevitable and humanity mere weakness. His ideas can be described as a kind of crude Social Darwinism and had been picked up in the gutters of Vienna; but his foreign policy can only be understood as an expression of his racialist philosophy. The work of Fritz Fischer has revived the old argument about the continuity of German foreign policy from William II to Hitler. Similarities obviously exist if one bears in mind Hitler’s first and second objectives, but the differences are as striking as the similarities. The aims of Imperial Germany pale into insignificance compared to the appalling ruthlessness of the Nazis with their emphasis on race and aim to enslave the peoples of Eastern Europe. ‘In this very real sense,’ as William Carr asserts, ‘one can still maintain that Hitler’s policy was uniquely different from that of preceding regimes.’
Hitler believed that Imperial Germany had committed a grave error in alienating Britain by chasing colonies and building a large navy. Underestimating Britain’s concern for Europe, he believed that he could win her friendship by waiving colonial and naval ambitions, and he hoped also to gain Italian cooperation. France would then be helpless and Germany would be free to strike at Ru”-’a in the east. Of course, these ideas did not represent a blue-print for aggression. Hitler was at the mercy of events like other statesmen and had to alter course from time to time as events unfolded, but he was the supreme opportunist who exploited to the full the opportunities that were now to occur.
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