After seizing power, Hitler's first priority was to eliminate or silence his domestic opposition. It was important to avoid any kind of foreign intervention. His intemperate policy statements during the campaign certainly warned the Allies what was in store for Europe. Thus it was vitally important to presented a rational image as a responsible European statesman while he established the NAZI Führer state and launched a secret rearmament orogram. . One in full control of Germany, he dramatically changed to a more aggressive German warlord. At the time that Hitler and the NAZIs seized power in Germany, they were vulnerable. They had many domestic political opponents, a free press, and an independent judiciary. In addition, the German military was militarily weak. It could not have effectively resisted an Allied intervention. Thus the Allies could have intervened in Germany and reestanlished democratic rule. Hitler needed to play a careful political and diplomatic game. His tactics were to divide and conquer. First he disposed of the Communits and then went after the Socialists while for a while tolerating the Catholics. Use of the police and opening of concentratioin camps soon silenced press opposition and brought the courts under NAZI control. All thre while he courted the military with a secret rearmament program. To allow him time to gain mastery of Germany, he projected a new moderate image. The Reichskonkordat was negotiated with the Vatican and guaranteed the religious, but not the political, rights of the Catholic Church in Germany (1933). Much of Hitler's venem as he rose to power was directed at Poland which becaise of the Polish Corridor phyically divided Germany. Thus the signing of a Non-aggression Treaty with Poland relieved many Europeans (1934). This was seen as a suign that once in power, Hitler was becoming more moderate. This was followed by a Naval Arms Treaty with Britain (1935). A major factor in Britain's growing animosity with Germany had been the Kaiser's decesion to build a Highseas Fleet. The British-German Naval Treaty seemed to defuse tensions between the two countries. Hitler also assured France that he had no designs on French territory. The Berlin Olympics provided the NAIZs the opportunity to show case NAZI successes (1936). After the games there was a substantial change in NAZI diplomacy.
Within only a few months after the NAZI seizure of power, Franz von Papen and Hermann Göring went to Rome and met with Pope Pius XI (April 1933). The NAZIs negotiated a Concordat with the papacy (summer 1933). The discussions took place against a background of iminent threats--the possibility that the SA Stormtroopers would be unleashed on Catholics unless the papacy accepted NAZI demands. There were a number of attacks on Catholics that caused considerable concern. Papal official Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII was a major factor in the negotiations). Cardinal Faulhaber congradulated Hitler after the signing of the Reich Concordat. The Catholic Center Party fell in with other parties to support the regime and was then along with other political parties disbanded. Pacelli and other papal officials hoped that the Concordat would serve as a shield for the church. This was of course based on the assumtion that Hitler would adhere to agreements he signed. As one historian writes, "the agreement lent Hitler international credibility, criminalized Catholic political activity, and demoralized bishops and priests who opposed Nazi rule." [Loconte] The Reich Concordat conceded to Pacelli the right to impose the new Code of Canon Law on German Catholics and promised several actions to safeguard Catholic education, including possible new schools. Pacelli and the papacy in return assented to the withdrawal of Catholics from political and social activity. [Cornwell] Historians have criticized the Church's acceptance of the Concordat. Pacelli would argue that the Church was placed in a on-win situation. It had to accept the lesser of two evils. With out the Concordat, Catholics would have been at the mercy of SA and Gestapo thugs. With the Concordat they had legal grounds on which to seek justic through the courts.
Poland was concerned about Hitler's seizure of power in Germany (1934). Hitler had constantly railed against the Versailles Treaty and Poles instantly recognized that this meant the Polish-German border, especially the Polish Corridor. There were many disputes about the border after Wold War I and a customs war had developed between the two countries, largely as aesult of border issues. The German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact was signed to put the issues at play on a diplomatic plane (January 26, 1934). The two countries pledged to resolve their problems through bilateral negotiations and to refrain from armed conflict for a period of 10 years. The impact was to normalize relations. The treaty essentially recognized Poland's borders, somthing Hitler had repeatedly spoke against. Hitler calculated, however, that it would be helpful to show that he was a reasonable leader and not the war-monger that the Allies had feared. This was important in the first years of his reign when the Reichwehr was not capable of defending the country from Allied intervention. And he had no intention of complying by treaty restrictions once German military power was restored.
Much of Hitler's venem as he rose to power was directed at Poland which becaise of the Polish Corridor phyically divided Germany. Thus the signing of a Non-aggression Treaty with Poland relieved many Europeans (1934). This was seen as a sign that once in power, Hitler was becoming more moderate.
The Polish Treaty was followed by a Naval Arms Treaty with Britain (1935). A major factor in Britain's growing animosity with Germany had been the Kaiser's decesion to build a Highseas Fleet. The British-German Naval Treaty seemed to defuse tensions between the two countries. Hitler unilaterally abrogated the Versailles Treay when he announced both the creation of the Luftwaffe and the resumtion of conscription (1935). This could have resulted in war, but neither Britain and France had any desire for a new war. The British response was to negotiate a naval agreement with NAZI Germany. It was an effort to appease Hitler. The British Government decided that without an agreement that the Germans would begin a massive naval building program.
Hitler even after announcing conscriptiom continued the moderate foreign policy that he had adopted upon becoming Chancelor. By moderate of course we mean that Hitler did not threaten war or demand the return of territory from neoghboring countries are demand inification with Austria that had been expressly prohinited by the Versailled Treaty. This caused many to think that Germany and Hiler could be lived with. But of course this was a carefully calculated policy. He had no choice. He did bot yet hve an army and he needed time to build one nd to prevent Allied intervention to prevent him from building one. While Hitler's foreign policy was moderate in not demnding territory, his domestc policy was far from modertine, violating every militry provision of the Versailles Treaty in an effort to rearm. Here the central step was conscription. It is not possible to build a lrge, powerful army without conscriptiom. This was why Hitler's announcement of conscroption was the critical step in German rearmamet (March 1935). And Hitler did not change his foreign policy immediately. Wih this he was moderte. In nassive rearmament spending, he was anything but moderate. With conscription he had the men he needed to build the army of his dreams, but it would take some time to train the men and build the needes weaponry. As a result his foreign policy did not immeditely change. Here he would only launch his more agressive foreign policy once he jad the militaryto put real force behind new demands.
The 1936 Olympics was given to Berlin before the NAZI take over. Even so, it presented the NAZIs a golden opportunity to show case to the world how they were remaking the country. And sport was something that the NAZIs had been promoting as part of its health and fitness campaign. State support for sport and atlletics was one reason that the Germans did so well at the games. Little known at the time was another aspect of that campaign, the NAZI hereditary health courts and the sterilization of children who had health problems. SS officer Reinhard Heydrich was interested in sport. His favorite was fencing and he had considrable skill. He placed well in the SS tournaments. Hitler appointed him to the German Olympic Committee and he was active in planning the 1936 Olympics. This brought him in further contact with Hitler. (Heydrich had played an important role in the 1934 Night of the Long Knives.) Heydrich can be seen in photographs of the Olympics sitting in Hitler's box. German officials got politically naive boxer Max Schmeling to help them convince the U.S. Olympic Committee not to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. One of the most shameful aspects of American participation ws bending to NAZI pressure concerning Jewish athletes. Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels made the most of it. First of all he saw to it that the anti-Jewish campign was toned down. Signs were temprarily removed, such as the ones banning Jews from public parks. Foreign journalists were made welcome. And they reported on the Olympics in great detail. Many were impressed with the new Germany. The foreign journalists reported the thunderous cheers that Hitler received when he etered the brand new Olympic stadium. The pagentry at the Berlin Olympics was spectacular. It was something that the NAZIs were very good at. One littkle know fact of the modern Olympics is how the Berlins Olympics influenced the pagentry you now see at the games. The Munich Olympics were a triumph for the NAZIs. The Germans led in the medal counts. One embarassing aspect for the NAZIs was the spectacular performance of Afro-American atheletes like Jesse Owens. Leni Riefenstahl who made the classic propaganda film, 'Triumph des Willens', also made a film on the Olympics--'Olympia'. After the games there was a substantial change in NAZI diplomacy.
The Allies in the Versailles Treaty assigned the German-populated Sudetenland to the new state of Czechoslovakia to provide thst country dfenseable borders (1919). This made Czechoslovakia like Poland a creature of the hated Versailles Treaty in the eyes of many Germans. There were, however, no serious diplomatic problems between Germany and Czechoslovakia before the NAZi take over (1933). [Bruegel] And even after Hitler seized power, he did not begin a strident propaganda campaign against Czechoslovakia. He did begin to sureptiously support the Sudeten German Party (Sudetendeutsche Partei--SdP). The SdP was Pan-German in orientation and developed a strong NAZI orientation. The SdP was was financed and supported by the NAZIs (beginning in 1935). SdP leader Konrad Henlein coordinated the Party's policy with NAZI officials.
The country had a large German minority, but Unlike Poland, Czechoslovakia was not carved out of German territory, but rather Austria-Hungary. The Czech situation was seriously eroded with the remilitarization of the Rhineland (1936). It meant that there would be no way for the French Army to come to Czechoslovakia's defense if the Gemns attacked. The crisis that brought Europe close to war in 1938 did not begin with any energy until the Austrian Anschluss (March 1938). Hitler 2 days before ordering the Wehrmacht into Austria, assured the Czech ambassador in Berlin that he has no designs on Czechoslovakia. Within a month, however, he began a plan to annex the western part of Czechoslovakia--the German populated Sudetenland. It is not clear if he out right lied to the Czechs or the lack of any real oppposition from the Allies to the Abschluss emboldened him to move against the Czechs.
The German rearmament was so massive and the British and French desire for peace so strong tht by 1938, Hitler was achieving military parity with the Allies, even though the Allies had suoerior resources. . Not fully realized by either the Germans or the Allies was the theeffectibeness of the combat dotrine invented by the Wehrmacht--Blotzkrieg. What was know was that the Gerams had a very modern andeddective air force--the Luftwaffe. And armed with this, Hitler dramatically changed his foreign policy and began demansing territory (1938). Here the territory was carefully calculated. He focused on territory with German ethnic popultions. Like the Saar nd hinrlnd, Aistria had a German popiltion as did the Czech Sudetenlnd. Thise wjo wanted peace, like Chanberlon, comvincd thmselves tht Hitler could be appeased with territory populsted by ethnic Germns. He also calculated that because of his massive rearmament program that he possed a unique opportunity. As the Allies vegan to rearm, he would never again have an opportunity ti deal with the British and French on such eqil terms (1939). Hitler's key ally in all of this was Prime Minister Chamberlain, a good and decent man that simply could not understand that after the disaster of World war I any one could actually want another war.
Bruegel, J.W. 'German diplomacy and the Sudeten Question before 1938,' International Affairs (July 1961), Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 323-331.
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