How did Europe descend into war by 1939? - islandschoolhistory
How did Europe descend into war by 1939? L/O To evaluate the steps Hitler took that led to war in September 1939 The Hossbach Meeting By 1937, Hitler had transformed Germany from an isolated, weak, and surrounded nation, into a rapidly rearming economic
powerhouse, which had managed to isolate France and encircle the USSR. Germany was helped in this by the appeasement policies of Britain and France, the weakness of the League of Nations and the support of Italy. On 5th November 1937, Hitler met with his top Generals to discuss and layout his aims for foreign policy over the next ten years.
The Hossbach Meeting Recorded by Colonel Hossbach five days after the meeting, the Hossbach Memorandum details Hitlers aims in foreign policy. Confident that Germanys position was now secure, Hitler argued for the need to quickly conquer both Austria and Czechoslovakia two of Frances allies.
This would remove any chance of France surrounding Germany in opposing alliances. Hitler argued that war with France and Britain was inevitable, therefore it was better to strike first before they could rearm by 1943! Anschluss Having failed to incite a coup for Anschluss in 1934, Germany had bided its time. It signed the AustroGerman Agreement in 1936 which saw Germany
promising to respect Austrian independence. Yet by 1938, the diplomatic alignment in Europe had changed. After Abyssinia, Mussolini took a proGerman policy, giving Germany tacit consent that he wouldnt oppose Anschluss. The remilitarisation of the Rhineland in 1936 proved that Britain and France wouldnt do anything to oppose Hitler. Austrians themselves were increasingly viewing Anschluss as a way to solve their economic problems. Yet its leader, Kurt von Schuschnigg, still
opposed Anschluss. Anschluss Hitler again planned for Austrian Nazis to stir up trouble the Austrian government would react giving Hitler a pretext to invade. On 12th February 1938, Von Papen invited Schuschnigg to meet Hitler. Hitler bombarded him with a two-hour speech, insisting on
German domination of Austria and demanding an immediate signature. Surrounded by Generals, Schuschnigg was intimidated into signing, appoint the Schuschniggs deputy, Seyss-Inquart as Interior Minister. Anschluss In a final attempt to counter growing Nazi influence, on
9th March Schuschnigg called for a plebiscite vote on Austrian independence, hoping to undermine Hitler. On hearing this, Hitler flew into a rage. He demanded the plebiscite be cancelled otherwise Germany would invade. Goering then pressurised President Miklas into forcing Schuschnigg to resign. He was replaced by SeyssInquart. Despite this, Hitler then decided to invade to ensure full control. On 12th March, German troops entered Austria. There was no opposition. Austria was turned into a
province of Germany Ostmark. The Austrian Reichstag was dissolved and a plebiscite held 99% of Austrians agreed! In April, Britain recognised this move. Czechoslovakia With Austria incorporated into the Reich, Hitler then turned his attention to Czechoslovakia. Created in 1919, it was a multi-racial state with over 3 million Germans living in its border
provinces the Sudetenland. Czechoslovakia was a richly resourced country with a large military. It was democratic and had alliances with France and the USSR. Yet Czechoslovakia contained over 2 million Slovaks, Poles and Hungarians who all wanted autonomy and 3 million Germans. Hitler would use these Sudeten Germans as a pretext for invasion.
Czechoslovakia Between March and May 1938, the Czech Nazi Party was encouraged to manipulate incidents mistreating ethnic Germans. By 20th May, Czechs believed a war was imminent and they mobilised their armies. Britain and France warned Hitler against invasion, despite the fact that he wasnt planning anything
yet. This made it seem that Hitler had backed down he was furious! On 15th September, Neville Chamberlain flew to the Berghof to meet with Hitler. Czech President Benes was pressurised into ceding all lands with over 50% German population. Crisis over. Czechoslovakia On 22nd September, Hitler suddenly escalated his
demands he wanted all of the Sudetenland by 1st October. War seemed likely, yet Chamberlain persuaded Mussolini to arrange a conference in Munich to solve the crisis. On 29th-30th, the Four Power Conference was held between Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. They agree to appease Hitler Germany is allowed to occupy the Sudetenland between 1st-10th October. Czechoslovakia lost 41,000 sq km of land, its best
defences and industries, and Benes went into exile. France lost its main ally against Germany and the USSR after this sought a separate deal with Hitler, rather than oppose. Czechoslovakia Yet the Sudetenland was not enough. In February 1939, Hitler met with Bela Tuka, the Slovak leader, to encourage him to declare independence from
Czechoslovakia. Czech President Hacha declares Martial Law in an attempt to stop this. On 14th March, the Slovak government declared independence. Meeting with Hitler at 01.15 am, Hitler demanded that Hacha agrees to split Czechoslovakia. By 04.00am, Hacha gave in. Bohemia-Moravia became a German protectorate and Slovakia became independent. On 15th March, German troops
marched into Prague. Hungary takes over Ruthenia. Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia was a turning point in terms of relations with Germany. Britain realised that appeasement wasnt working it only emboldened Hitler. By taking over non-German territory for the first time, it was clear that Hitler wanted to go beyond
mere treaty revision. Although some debate that Hitler could have been stopped, the Munich Conference did give Britain more time to rearm its military. On 31st March 1939, Neville Chamberlain, convinced that Poland was next, announced a British and French guarantee of Polands security. The scene was set for WW2.
Poland Like Czechoslovakia, Poland was also a new country formed in 1919 with lands taken from Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. Over 800,000 Germans were living in Poland. Hitler resented this. After the Munich Conference, Hitler began to demand the restoration of Danzig (renamed Gdansk) as well as access through the Polish Corridor that split German territory.
Despite offering to renew the 1934 Non-Aggression Pact, Polish leaders rejected this, fearing they would become the next Czechoslovakia. In response, in April 1939 Hitler started drawing up plans for invasion. Poland In an effort to gain further diplomatic support, in May 1939 Hitler signed the Pact of Steel with Italy, a military
alliance. Hitler also courted the USSR, hoping to destroy any hopes of a Franco-British-Soviet alliance. By 22nd August, Hitler announces to his generals that the time for invasion was now. On 23rd, Von Ribbentrop was sent to Moscow. The outcome was the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Both agree to divide Poland in the event of war. On 31st August, SS troops attack a German border post, dressed as Polish soldiers. This incident is used as a pretext to invade on 1st September 1939. On 3rd
September Britain and France declare war. On 17th, the USSR invades Poland from the East. Italy declared itself a non-belligerent. It was still recovering from its April 1939 invasion of Albania.
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