Assess the impact of ideology on Nazi Foreign policy to September 1939
Ideology was the single most important factor in the development of Nazi foreign policy up to 1939, both in underpinning long term goals and determining short term strategies. The ideology centered around beliefs of Social darwinism, Anti-Semitism, nationalism and anti communism, and their impact can be seen through their translation into successful foreign policies such as the ‘Recovery of the Will’, the reversal of the Treaty of Versailles and Grossdeutschland (greater Germany). However, these policies were mere stepping stones in Hitler’s ultimate goal of establishing Germany’s living space (lebensraum), where at the expense of the Soviet Union, Germany would expand eastward, occupy land vital for the herrenvolk (master race) and successfully achieve autarky to enable the realisation of Hitler’s 1000 year Reich.
Nazi foreign policy up to 1939 stemmed directly from Nazism, where whilst in Landsberg prison Hitler dictated Mein Kampf (My struggle), which together with the 25-point programme of 1920 would provide the framework of Hitler’s ideology and that of Nazism itself. He believed ‘man has become great through perpetual struggle. In perpetual peace his greatness must decline (Hitler 1924). Hence Hitler’s ideologies were extremely ultranationalist and built upon his concept of racial purification. This ideology argued that social Darwinism necessitated a struggle between races, with the superior Aryan at the top of the racial hierarchy, the Negros, Slavs and particularly the Jews at the bottom. Hitler’s belief in Jewish extermination is exemplified in his relentless efforts to maintain the death camps despite Germany’s inevitable defeat in 1945. Additionally, Hitler saw Germany’s humiliation in WW1 not as a result of military defeat, but rather Germany’s loss of will and corruption by the Jewish parasite. Therefore, in order to successfully recover Germany’s will and enjoy future foreign policy success, all members of the German volk had to be unified within Grossdeutschland, the nation had to rearmed and the Jewish influence eradicated.
The humiliation and restraints of the Treaty of Versailles (TOV) acted as a short term catalyst to the development of Nazi ideology and formed the basis for what was to become their foreign policy. Constraining Nazi ideology of Grossdeutschland and Lebensraum, the policy response from the TOV consisted of a ‘Recovery of the Will’, where Hitler would first rebuild Germany’s armies and restore its strength in central Europe, beginning by cautiously overturning the clauses of the TOV. This is highlighted in Hitler’s signing of treaties such as the Polish Non-Aggression Pact in 1934 and the Anglo-German Naval Treaty in 1935, which successfully served as short term propaganda providing a false sense of security to Poland, where both treaties would eventually be ignored. Poland was to be Hitler’s launch pad to achieving the Nazi goal...