The Path to War
Source: K. Hildebrand, The Foreign Policy of the Third Reich (London, 1973), pp.51-90.
Part A, B, C, D, E
A. Hitler's Program of Expansion and Chamberlain's Concept of Appeasement
By November 1937, Neville Chamberlain's cabinet had been in office for six months 1 . In the meantime, Hitler had risen to a position of almost absolute dictatorship in Germany 2 , and it was clear that he was not prepared to wait much longer for the British to come round to his point of view. Hitler was beginning to pursue his aggressive program of territorial expansion against the will of the British, the country, which the Fuehrer had originally envisaged as his alliance partner. This is the decisive fact to emerge from the secret speech made by Hitler on 5 November 1937 and noted down by Hitler's military adjutant, Colonel Hossbach, which has become known (not quite accurately) as the "Hossbach Memorandum" 3 . The importance of this document lies in showing Hitler's changing attitude towards Britain, and not in the admission, which the memorandum merely repeats but which was known in principle for a long time, that he wanted Lebensraum for the German nation in the East.
What did Hitler have to tell the Commanders-in-Chief of the three branches of the armed forces, von Fritsch, Raeder and Goering, von Blomberg, the War Minister, and von Neurath, Hitler's Foreign Minister, in this speech at the close of 1937? Which aspects of his thinking had been changing, orientated though they were as ever to his basic program? In laying down the political and military course for the coming years, it seems it was essentially the following problems which Hitler had to rethink in the light of the recalcitrant attitude of the British government on the one hand and her practical neutrality in the shadow of German military strength on the other. Most important of all, as already mentioned, Hitler's changed attitude the whole of the Dictator's programmed policy seemed to depend. On 5 November 1937 there was no longer any more talk of wanting to co-operate with and woo Britain - or rather blackmail and pressurise her - into an alliance. The tactics of barter and threats took a back seat. Hitler now adopted an "ambivalent" course towards the British, which acquired an increasingly anti-British flavour 3a . On the one hand he did not absolutely turn his back on London, but rather continued to remain "open" to the original idea of an alliance - as his policy for a long time into the war demonstrates. But on the other hand, besides this "doctrinaire" pet idea which he continued to pursue, the strategist in Hitler, under the principle of realist political calculation, and with extensive experience of British statesmen, recognised that Great Britain might quite will have to be regarded as an enemy. It was not primarily a question of conquering Britain, however, but rather of forcing Britain to remain in a position of neutrality acceptable to the Reich through demonstrating Germany's military might and political determination. With such a situation prevailing in European politics, the Reich would be able to take the offensive on the Continent according to the Program, against the will of the British, while holding them politically and militarily in check. But as had been known since 1925, the direction of attack in German policy was to be towards the East. In this connection Hitler named the years 1943-45 as the ultimate deadline by which these aims were to be undertaken. And these were no vague dates, but on the contrary the relatively accurate timing for the carrying out of the continental stage within the Stufenplan .
What does seem interesting is that Hitler-in contrast to the colonial propaganda which accompanied all the foreign demands of the Reich on the Continent - did not talk of regarding overseas aims and European objectives as being political alternatives. Rather he was already casting his eye on the British Empire and making significant remarks about its strength or rather its weakness. However, with his assertion that he did not regard the British Empire as invincible and that Germany should only contemplate overseas aims at such a time when Britain was weak and the Reich strong, Hitler was by no means already directing his attention unequivocally at this stage to long-term overseas goals. Rather, one must take the situation at the address of 5 November into account. The Fuehrer had to undermine the respect which his audience of officers as well as his Foreign Minister had for Great Britain, which was regarded as utterly invincible with her world-wide communication and supply network. And yet one feature, quite typical of the shape of Hitler's thoughts, should not be overlooked. According to Hitler's ideas based on his political calculation, "cowardly" Britain would retreat again and again into a weak position of neutrality in the face of the armed and well-equipped Reich, and would at some stage or other have to take into account that its overseas possessions would be inherited by Germany. In order to be able to realise this long-term aim 4 which was already greatly interesting Hitler before 1937, a necessary precondition was to achieve hegemony over Europe by 1943-45 and thus extend the Lebensraum base of the Reich. With this step, a mighty Reich would them confront the British already weakened by other foreign burdens.
As Hitler saw it, the British statesmen had "one single chance". For a long time Hitler had been offering this chance with apparent generosity; up to 1939 the offer came less and less often, until in 1940/41 it was made again at every opportunity. The chance lay in the British yielding and co-operating in an alliance after all, in order to avert - at least for the time being - the threatening German step across the high seas and into overseas territories. By the end of 1937, in his new directive, which he regarded as his political testament, Hitler was considering Britain primarily as an opponent of the policy of expansion he had planned. Yet in view of past experience, he was confident that the British, for reasons of political and military weakness, would remain neutral, and from this point of view he as even speculating already on more extensive long-term aims arising from the political calculation on his Stufenplan reaching beyond the confines of Europe. Hitler was reckoning on the years 1943-45 as the final date for the achievement of his European ventures. In accordance with his Stufenplan and its order of priorities, long-term goals had to be pursued after that date - that is, in the latter half of the 1940s. These aims, Hitler realised, might will have to be achieved in opposition to the British - in the event that they had not by than accepted Hitler's Program - and most certainly in the face of opposition from the USA 5 . We shall see to what extent the events of the 1940s actually corresponded to the timing envisaged for European and overseas expansion in the plans of the navy, the economic leaders and the Foreign Office, and more particularly in the statements of Hitler and his diplomats. But what must be remembered is that Hitler never allowed himself to be side-tracked from his Program either by the opposition of the Schacht liberal Imperialist in domestic and economic policy, or by the far more significant refusal of the British to accept his offer of "complicity". So it is clear that in 1937 the Fuehrer was consciously leaning more and more closely towards a policy of risk in pursuing his ambivalent - indeed increasingly anti-British - course. This police of chance was the same that had decisively influenced Germany's statesmen in the almost fatalistic atmosphere of the years prior to the outbreak of the First World War 6 , summed up in the formula of world supremacy or downfall. Hitler had taken the very same political path, admittedly without surrendering to so-called fate in the manner of the Wilhelmine Germans. For again and again he tried to achieve his original idea of winning Britain's friendship, or at least ensure that Great Britain, confronted by the might of the German armed forces 7 , would by intimidated by threats from the Reich into a passive neutral role, looking on at German ventures on the Continent.
But it was not only Hitler who had changed his policy vis-a-vis Great Britain, the key power in his political thinking. Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, also seems to have reconsidered Anglo-German relations intensively during his first six months in office 8 . It seems that at the very moment, early in November 1937, when Hitler was formulating his revised "political testament", the Prime Minister was developing a clearly conceived political strategy in place of the previous largely improvised policy 9 . This strategy, which held good for Neville Chamberlain's much-maligned but perhaps solely realistic policy of appeasement up to and after September 1939, can perhaps be simplified in the following terms. From 1937 until after the outbreak of the war, Britain tried in a concrete and planned way to bring the Reich to a general agreement. As the first step towards a rapprochement, the British intended guaranteeing Hitler certain continental concessions on the proviso that these be acquired peacefully. This would then pave the way for the second stage, the problem of colonies, which in London's eyes would act as a bait. In so doing Chamberlain wanted to meet Hitler's wishes - at that time by no means very concrete - for overseas possessions. He hoped in return to bring about talks and a settlement of the arms problem, particularly the question of an air pact, and so finally secure European and world peace by means of a far-reaching Anglo-German understanding which would include other nations too. His seems to be the core of the policy of appeasement, which has been the subject of so much controversy to this day. Seen in principle and analysed in its historical dimension, it has to be understood as the realistic attempt to continue to rule a world-wide Empire by means which had become inadequate for the task 10 . In order to postpone the fall of the Empire and avoid shaking any further Britain's weakened world position, Chamberlain had above all to exclude war as a political weapon 11 . But as events were to show, in the end there clearly remained no alternative to Chamberlain's policy except for the course consciously pursued under Churchill and culminating in the entry of Britain into the war. This development does not actually condemn Chamberlain' policy as such, but rather places him in the tradition of British politicians (to which his opponent Churchill also for a long time belonged 12 ) who only recognised very later on, it at all, the true nature and global scope of Hitler's dynamic policy.
Let us now consider the conversation which took place at Berchtesgaden on 19 November 1937 13 between Hitler and Lord Halifax, the envoy of the British Prime Minister and the man who, though still deputy Foreign Secretary, was soon to become head of the Foreign Office. The talk took place only 14 days after Hitler's speech of 5 November 1937 in the Reich Chancellery in which he had announced the change in course towards Britain. At the outset Lord Halifax stressed the common front which Britain and Germany formed against Bolshevism. Whether for tactical reasons or out of genuine considerations of principle, he gave an assurance that Great Britain would raise no objections to German claims in Central and Eastern Europe provided they were presented reasonably - that is, that they were realised peaceably. If we recall, Sir John Simon had already said as much in March 1935 when he asserted that Great Britain would be far less interested and concerned about Austria than the Belgian coast. But this time Hitler practically received full permission to move onto his next revisionist goals - and without having to pay in colonial coins, as he had once feared. It was Halifax's intention that talks between the two countries on this very question of colonies should be the curtain-raiser for an Anglo-German agreement and the establishment of peace in the world.
But the offer made by Lord Halifax in line with Chamberlain's strategy hardly seems to have occupied the Fuehrer very much. Certainly, even after the change in German policy to the ambivalent or anti-British course, there still existed in Hitler's mind the possibility of making an alliance with the British and so securing his rear while executing his continental plans. But offers such as Lord Halifax presented only interested the dictator insofar as they might guarantee him a smooth course for the ventures he envisaged in Central Europe. With such an alliance he could dedicate himself to the task was the gateway of the Reich, in full certainty of British neutrality. But anything beyond this - in short Lord Halifax's call for German co-operation to create world peace - contradicted Hitler's Program and his policy towards Britain, which he had revised at the latest 14 by November 1937. Now the colonial question could hardly entice him into sitting at the negotiating table with the British to make a settlement. For it seemed to Germany that the overseas goals were just as assured if the Reich were to extent its activities overseas after the continental stage had been achieved. Hitler was not to be won round to the idea of establishing a peaceful, political, but above all economic supremacy over Central and Eastern Europe, a hegemony which London was evidently prepared to concede to the Germans 15 . He hoped to subjugate Europe and the East of the Continent in the shadow of British neutrality, which though it rejected Hitler's plans did not hinder them. Then - either in agreement with the British, if in the meantime they had "come to their senses", or against their will - Hitler intended to on the offensive overseas to round off Germany's position as a world power through colonial territories and naval bases.
The incompatibility of the foreign policies of Germany and Britain in the history of those years is thus quite evident - not to contemporaries probably, but at least to the historical observer looking back who is aware of the political conceptions developed by both sides. This mutual misunderstanding, however, was further aggravated by the fact that to the ears of British diplomats, officers and businessmen, the German Reich did not just speak with Hitler's voice. For example, in spite of all the extensive planning on a world scale, the German naval command was still governed by the principle of a German-British understanding, prevalent since 1935 16 . At the same time the Foreign Office, through von Weizsaecker 17 , the departmental head, was defining German wishes in moderate and traditional Great Power terms 18 . According to this point of view, the wishes of the Reich - the colonial demands and Eastern policy - should be extorted from the British in return for a compromise on an arms agreement, to which Neville Chamberlain was inclined. The German Foreign Office thereby established a maximum negotiating base in order to discuss solutions with a strong voice but still within the Concert of Europe. Even someone like Hjalmar Schacht, always judged as highly influential in Great Britain, who was a representative of the undoubtedly expansionist "liberal Imperialism", had been pressing for a long time for peaceful, economic factors, as an "alternative" to Hitler's planned course of military expansion in south-eastern Europe and for the acquisition of colonies 19 . Indeed, even the role of one of Hitler's most loyal lieutenants, Hermann Goering, ought to be more precisely examined in this connection. Why was it that in talks with the American Ambassador Bullitt on 23 November 1937 20 , he announced economic and colonial demands? Did he make them in ignorance of the Fuehrer's Program, perhaps to gain prestige and strengthen his position within the hierarchy of the Party and State? Probably he was far more concerned to steer an opposition course, along the lines of Schacht, to guide Hitler off the road of aggression onto a peaceful course I order to follow economically and diplomatically a policy of indirect domination. In the years 1938 and 1939, the conservative opposition to Hitler were planning to remove Hitler and others and push Goering into his place as the Head of Government 22 . At the same time Goering was involved in the negotiating activities of his colleague Wohlthat, while from July and August 1939 to December of the same year there took place the "Dahlerus Mission" to London. Seen in the light of such events, the attitude of Goering on foreign policy throws a very interesting and strong light on the apparently large range of different possibilities in the foreign policy of those years. If in principle Hitler acted in complete accordance with decisive social factors and elements which formed the basis of his power, nevertheless it was he alone who decided on the details and extent of the coups towards the attainment of the policy laid down in his Program. And it was neither in an "agreement" with Britain, as seen by the new men in Downing Street, nor by a strategy such as Secretary of State von Weizsaecker suggested, that Hitler saw his next goal. Nor was he making really concrete plans for the overseas stage of his Program, but instead was turning his sights on Vienna, Prague and Danzig as the next staging - posts in his policy.
Seen against this background, it hardly seems plausible that von Ribbentrop's at present rather overrated memorandum "for the Fuehrer" of 2 January 1938 23 , could decisively have influenced Hitler's British policy, the central factor in all Hitler's considerations 24 . But it certainly confirmed in the view he had developed of Britain in November 1937. In this resume however, von Ribbentrop had to admit that his London mission had collapsed. Great Britain was just not prepared to make an alliance of the kind for which the Fuehrer had hoped and which he thought his ambassador would bring him. For his part, von Ribbentrop now encouraged Hitler to treat Britain as an enemy in the future, thus slipping back into the traditional formula adopted by all those continental powers who had ever fallen into conflict with the British sea power: they sought to forge an alliance of European nations against the island. These considerations of von Ribbentrop finally reveal his political "conception" of regarding Britain as the chief enemy of German policy and thus of acting in co-operation with the great power in the East, Russia. This anti-policy which sought to preserve Russian neutrality and envisaged making overseas acquisitions led to the conception of a continental bloc, an idea which von Ribbentrop developed in 1940 25 . It found support and was echoed in similar reflections on the part of the Foreign Office and the navy, as well as among groups within the economy. The difference between this and Hitler's strategy is evident. It is true that Hitler came to judge Great Britain more and more as an opponent and that he too was already contemplating overseas aims. But he never allowed such considerations to supplant his central idea of achieving European hegemony and destroying Bolshevik Russia, while at the same time conquering Lebensraum in the East. In contrast to the "traditionalists" and von Ribbentrop he remained bound to his Stufenplan just as he remained open even to the possibility of eventually coming round to an alliance with Britain, his "hated opponent" - which was what he had originally envisaged. Whenever there seemed a favourable opportunity, Hitler still tried to implement his blueprint after all, in the face of all strategic insights and rational calculations, which were forcing him to judge Britain as an opponent and reckon with or even intensify open conflict with Britain.
By this time, in any case, Hitler was making preparations to continue his policy of expansion by military means. In January and February 1938, in the process of eliminating all the remaining centres of conservative opposition, he reorganised the leadership of both the armed forces 26 and the Foreign Office, and thereby created the decisive preconditions enabling him to carry out his expansionist policy unhindered. As a result of a personal scandal von Blomberg, the Reich War Minister was removed from his post; but the office of Supreme Command of the Armed Forces was not occupied by anyone else. Hitler kept this position for himself, and named the loyal General Keitel 27 as Chief of High Command, but with purely administrative functions. The headquarters of the armed forces under General Jodl never had the same significance as the old Prussian General Staff. Von Fritsch's place as Chief of Army Command was taken over by von Brauchitsch, who was even less of an opponent than von Fritsch 28 , who had at least resisted Hitler's war course - though not National Socialism as such. To a great extent the army leadership had capitulated to Hitler 29 . In line with these moves on 4 February 1938 Hitler replaced von Neurath at the Foreign Ministry by von Ribbentrop, a man personally quite loyal to him.
Only 20 days after this shake-up in the German Foreign Office there also occurred a change in the Foreign Office in London, which likewise did not run against the wishes of the German Head of State. If in Germany the "doves" were leaving the Wilhelmstrasse to make room for the "hawks", the opposite was the case in Great Britain. The "hard-liner", Eden - in method tough hardly in political aims - disappeared and in his place stepped the herald of Berchtesgaden, Lord Halifax, as the new Foreign Minister Neville Chamberlain's cabinet.
1. On the analysis of the policy of the Chamberlain government cf. Niedhart, op. cit. passim, as well as K. Middlemass, Diplomacy of Illusion , London, 1972.
2. According to the definition of Arthur Schweitzer, the phase of partial fascism' merges into that of full fascism', see Schweitzer, Big Business, loc. cit.
3.ADAP, D, I, No. 19. Of the extensive literature on the interpretation and sources of the Hossbach Memorandum, mention may be made of the essay by W. Bussmann, Zur Entstehung und Ueberlieferung der "Hossbach Niederschrift"', in: VfZg 16 (1968), pp. 373 ff.
3a. See J. Henke, Hitler und England 1937¯39, Boppard/Rh., 1973.
4. See Hillgruber, Hitler Strategie , esp. pp. 242 ff., idem, Kontinuitaet , loc. cit., and idem, Wollte Hitler deutsche Kolonien in Afrika? Aufschluesse ueber die Grossmachtpolitik des nationalsozialistischen Reiches', in Frankfurter Allgemeine of 11 November 1969, p. 13.
5. See p. 113 of the present work. On the relationship between the USA and the Third Reich during the 1930s cf. Schroeder, Deutschland und die Vereinigten Staaten , loc. cit.
6. A special examination of the phenomenon of fatalism in German politics of the 19th and 20th centuries and the conservative ruling classes' on the eve of the First World War would certainly prove informative. In connection with this compare the thoughts of Theodor Schieder on the problem of vulgar Darwinism and his (politicised) concepts of evolution in Schieder's essay Das Problem der Revolution im 19. Jahrhundert' in: HZ 170 (1950).
7. An examination by W. Malanowski ( Der Spiegel , 1969) exposes' the alleged strength of the German armed forces as a bluff on Hitler's part at the same time as the Western powers were themselves overestimating Germany's military strength. But it was precisely the potentially hostile Western powers' perception and appraisal of the German armed forces, limited as this perception was by its time, which was the deciding factor for the course of history¯not the objective findings', which admittedly are still to be examined, which have come to light so sensationally today. See in this connection Hillgruber, Strategie , p. 34 f.
8. The study in progress by E. Most (Mannheim) on the British policy on the League of Nations gives useful information on Chamberlain's considerations already dating from 1936, which led him to adopt his concept' of appeasement. See also the work by K. Middlemas mentioned in n. 1 of this chapter, which finds the roots of Chamberlain's policy of appeasement dating back as far as 1934.
9. The question concerning conception or improvisation' is a central one handled in the dissertation, still in progress, by K. Gutzmer (Marburg/L.), Die englische Deutschlandpolitik 1931¯1935. Konzeption oder Improvisation.
10.Hildebrand, Vom Reich zum Weltreich , p. 765 f.
11.One aspect of the problem of the interdependence of domestic and foreign policy in England worth investigating would be the question as to whether Chamberlain thought about the possible fundamental social changes within the existing social and economic structure in Britain brought about by war. On the social changes which materialised during the war cf. the book by A. Calder, People's War , loc. cit., and the essay by D. Artaud, La Grand Bretagne et la lutte contre l'inflation', in: Revue d'histoire de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale 1969, no. 76, pp. 39 ff.
12.On Churchill and his policy cf. the biography in several volumes by M. Gilbert.
13. ADAP , D. I, No. 31, App. pp. 46 ff.
14.The Speer memories reveal that Hitler was already toying with these thoughts in his calculations rather earlier: A. Speer, Erinnerungen , Berlin, 1969, p. 85.
15.On the economic motivations behind the appeasement policy compare B. J. Wendt, Economic appeasement Handel und Finanz in der britischen Deutschland-Politik von 1933¯1939 , Duesseldorf, 1971.
16.Cf. M. Salewski, Die deutsche Seekriegsleitung 1935¯1941 , Frankfurt/M., 1970, passim, on the basic axiom of German-British friendship' in the thoughts and considerations of the German Naval Command up to 1938. See also idem, Selbstverstaendnis und historisches Bewusstsein der deutschen Kriegsmarine', in: Marine-Rundschau 67 (1970), p. 74.
17. ADAP , D, I, No. 21, p. 33 f.
18.Compare the concluding remarks of this work as well as Hillgruber, Kontinuitaet , passim, on the different variations of German power politics on the path from Bismarck to Hitler.
19.See p. 42 and p. 45 of the present work.
20.Staatliches Archivlager Goettingen, Nuernberger Prozessmaterial L¯151, Generaloberst H. Goering: App. Nr. 6 of dispatch No. 1267.
21.Goering's colleague Wohlthat, in a conversation on 16 September, 1966 with Prof. Werner Link (Kassel) in New York, confirmed the thesis of the economic alternative conception'. Dr Link informed the author of this in a communication of 30 November 1969.
22.On resistance activities from 1938¯39 cf. P. H. Hoffmann, Widerstand¯Staatsstreich¯Attentat. Der Kampf der Opposition gegen Hitler , Munich, 1969, and also K.-J. Mueller, Das Heer und Hitler. Armee und nationalsozialistische Regierung 1933 ¯1944 , Stuttgart, 1969. In addition see H. C. Deutsch, Verschwoerung gegen den Krieg. Der Widerstand in den Jahren 1939¯1940 , Munich, 1969. On the role of Goering see among others, F. Wiedemann, Der Mann, der Feldherr werden wollte, Velbert/Kettwig, 1964, p. 113 f.
23. ADAP , D. I, pp. 132 ff.
24.This could only have been the case if it can be demonstrated that Hitler had already read the original report, of which this is a summary, before 5 November 1937.
25.See p. 102 f. of this work.
26.See M. Messerschmidt, Die Wehrmacht im NS-Staat. Zeit der Indoktrination , Hamburg, 1969, pp. 48 ff. and K. J. Mueller, Das Heer und Hitler. Armee und nationalsozialistische Regierung 1933¯1944 , Stuttgart, 1969.
27.On Keitel cf. W. Goerlitz (ed.), Generalfeldmarschall Keitel, Verbrecher oder Offizier? Erinnerungen, Briefe, Dokumente des Chegs, OKW , Goettingen/Berlin/Frankfurt, 1961.
28.See Mueller, Hitler und Heer , pp. 189 ff. and also Messerschmidt, Wehrmacht , p. 82.
29.See also J. Duelffer, Weisungen an die Wehrmacht 1938/39 als Ausdruck ihrer Gleichschaltung (I)', in: Wehrwissenschaftliche Rundschau 1969 , pp. 651 ff.
29a The difference between Eden and Chamberlain consisted as is known in their contrasting estimations of Italy and Mussolini.
B. The Austrian Anschluss and British Neutrality
The diplomatic and military changes in Berlin of January and February 1938 took place against a background of increasing tension in German-Austrian relation 30 . In spite of the agreement of 11 July 1936, concluded with Mussolini's approval, which sought to encourage friendly ties, the relations between the two countries had deteriorated. What played a decisive role in the course of events was the fact that Italy, who in 1934 had still seemed to be determined to intervene for the sake of Austrian independence when the Austrian National Socialists made their putsch 31 , now stood firmly on the German side. As the Swiss historian von Salis once put it so vividly, this was the Berlin-Rome axis upon which Austria could be put on the spit and roasted brown 32 .
We do not wish to repeat in detail all the events surrounding the Austrian crisis, as they have been described often enough. But one question decisive for the success or failure of the German policy should once more be raised: how would Britain respond to a German move against Austria, a member of the League of Nations? Up until that time, all the European test-cases had turned out positively so far as Hitler was concerned. Admittedly, it is truce that he had not succeeded in achieving an alliance with Britain as the cornerstone of his policy. Nevertheless, British neutrality - even tough accompanied by a gnashing of teeth - seemed certain to him, and that would be enough for him to risk his headlong rush towards hegemony. So it was not surprising that during the whole of the Austrian crisis in the winter and spring or 1938 not a single serious warning was issued by Britain to Berlin. For Britain's position as a world power was no longer anything like that before the First World War. The economic power of the nation was weakened; the military preparedness of the country was less than perfect; the navy was no longer indisputably the best in the world; and the Empire was shaken by the revolutionary activities of colonial liberation fronts. Britain neither regarded it as expedient, nor did she seem in a position to get militarily involved in the problems of Central Europe. Anyway, in Chamberlain's view, this issue fell within the German sphere of interest. What was to become decisive after the outbreak of the Second World War was already beginning to become apparent. Only the United States of America, following in the footsteps of the once powerful Britain, would be in the position to take up Hitler's challenge adequately and, together with the Soviet Union, the other flanking power, re-establish world peace - admittedly of a very temporary and improvised kind. But in 1938 Britain's abdication of its role as judge and arbiter in the European system had not quite come to pass. Indeed, Neville Chamberlain resisted any attempt or appearance on the part of America to get involved in affairs, which the British Prime Minister regarded as European and British concerns 33 .
Probably influenced in no small way by what Sir John Simon and Lord Halifax had said on the Austrian question, von Ribbentrop and Hitler were agreed that Great Britain would never take on the risk of a large-scale war on account of a crisis in Central Europe. If we look back over the history of German foreign policy since 1871, there is a certain justification for maintaining that neither Bismarck nor Buelow, neither Bethmann Hollweg nor Stresemann ever had so much room for manoeuvre within the system of European and world nations as Hitler now had available to him in the Austrian crisis of 1938. Before the First World War, even the smallest claims on territory or frontier revisions had led to wars such as those, which shook Europe in 1912 and 1913 34 . But now a nation civilisee , a member of the League of Nations, could disappear off the map without London having seriously reacted! This brings us to the course of events immediately prior to the so-called Anschluss of Austria.
As so often happened, on this occasion too Hitler's aims of bringing Austria "back into the fold" of the Reich coincided with the hopes the German and Austrian population and government had held for a long time. Ever since the decision of the National Assembly in 1919, Vienna had never given up the idea that "German-Austria" - the independent state which had emerged from the former Hapsburg monarchy - should join the Reich 35 . But besides these long-term preconditions, Hitler had other reasons for risking the decisive step in February and March 1938. Mention has already been made of the regrouping in the leadership of the armed forces accomplished just previously, which was a pre-requisite for Hitler adopting an adventurous course in foreign policy; the assertive role of Field Marshal Goering during the whole of the crisis also cannot be overlooked.
However, seen in retrospect, the factor which turned the balance was the neutrality of the British, which was expected with almost complete certainty; for it was the British who were regarded as the decisive factor in the shaping of European affairs. Chancellor Schoschnigg, the successor to Engelbert Dollfuss, who had been murdered in 1934, was at the head of an Austrian government, which could only be described as a fascist-clerical dictatorship 36 . It was eventually his policy, which gave Hitler the excuse for aggressive measures. As is well known, Hitler received the Austrian leader on 12 February 1938 for talks in Berchtesgaden 37 , basically in order to present him with an ultimatum.
According to Hitler's wishes, among other things the foreign policy of the two countries was to be co-ordinated and the National Socialist Seyss-Inquart was to take over as Minister for the Interior in the Republic - and thus take control of the police force. In addition, the Austrian government was to allow the presence of the Nazi Party again and conduct itself favourably vis-à-vis the German economy. Hitler's demands were lent visible emphasis through a demonstration of military force. While Hitler was talking to his Austrian quests, Generals of the Luftwaffe - incidentally without their knowing the reason for their own presence-were staying at the Berghof, demonstrating to the Austrian leader and his Foreign Minister the military determination of the Reich.
On his return to Vienna, intimidated and desperate, Schuschnigg chose the course of head-on fight. He called his country to a national referendum 'for a free and German, socialise and independent, Christian and united Austria'. Significantly enough, the Chancellor only wanted to allow those over 24 years old to vote. For the youth of the upper classes in Vienna particularly were so enthusiastic out Hitler, his Reich and National Socialism, that they would certainly never have supported a decision made against Berlin. To the young people of the leading circles in the old capital of Vienna at that time, there seemed to Berlin no problem at all about German-Austria "returning home" to the Reich sooner or later. Economic misery had his Austria badly too, and middle class people had found their chances at economic betterment seriously impaired. It was in view of this that they particularly saw the hope of improving their social position in absorption of the Republic into a greater Reich. In the light of the almost ceaseless propaganda on the theme of colonies being drummed up in Germany, some were already dreaming of stepping into the role of Hitler's colonial governor in African possessions of the Reich, which by that time would also Berlin powerful overseas 38 . But only two days after announcing the plebiscite, the Chancellor had to admit defeat, submit to German pressure and call off the vote. Goering's pressure for a quick military solution had been successful; Berlin could rest assured of Mussolini's benevolent attitude. At 1938.45 pm on the evening of 11 March 1938, Hitler gave the order to march the following day. The invasion by German troops did not proceed without some technical hitches; clearly, the armed forces were only in a state of strictly limited war preparedness after all.
A decisive factor in the course and sequel to the Austrian crisis was the fact that only two seeks after the event, Great Britain acknowledge the unilateral act on the part of the German Reich. Indeed, soon afterwards it also recognised the Italian Impero, that is it sanctioned the fate of the Abyssinian Empire defeated by fascist Italy, and with it abandoned a further member of the League of Nations 39 . Of course, protests were heard against the aggressive military methods adopted by the Germans, but in principle, the Austrian 'return home' did not seem to arouse London all that much. Britain's was a thoroughly consistent attitude, when we bear in mind the continuity in British policy revealed here and in the statements of Simons and Lord Halifax. For Hitler's move against Vienna could hardly have troubled Chamberlain in his major conception. On the contrary, except for the crude and rather 'unreasonable', that is non-peaceful, means he adopted, Hitler's move was basically in line with British expectations. As a first stage British intentions were to make concessions to the Reich in Europe. London regarded this as essential to enable Britain to hold talks with Berlin about the colonial issue as the prelude to the second stage - discussions on the thorny problem of arms limitation and the establishment of world peace. But in Great Britain, discussion with the Reich on their colonial demands had to Berlin dropped for the time being, so as not to expose the government to attack from the Opposition for their being too soft towards g. in principle, however, it was this very issue of colonial demands which, together with the lever of "economic appeasement" applied chiefly in south-eastern Europe 40 , the British government planned to use as a bait to bring Hitler to the conference table. They intended allowing him a power base of partial hegemony with a secured economic supremacy in central and south-eastern Europe, while at the same time hoping to prevent him by this means from threatening the very existence of the British Empire on the continent or overseas.
In strife-ridden France there was no great surprise at the fact that relatively soon after the Austrian affair Hitler once again took up the colonial question through his diplomats. On the contrary, a little illogically, and failing to recognise Hitler's phased planning, some political circles in Paris seemed to believe that in Nazi Germany was showing an interest in Africa, the it would not cast in interested eye across the Rhine towards the French motherland, basically, neither Paris nor London understood the essential dual function of the colonial demands. Although it is true that they emerged increasingly as long-term aims of German foreign policy, nevertheless up to and even after the outbreak of was on 1933 September 1939 their primary purpose was a tactical one - diverting attention from the continental demands. Hardly a single career diplomat or politician in London or Paris managed to see this. This was all the more remarkable in view of the fact that the Austrian Statesman 41 , appearing in its home country, managed to recognise the largely functional nature of the colonial demands in Hitler's policy, even during the Austrian events - much like the perceptive analysis of Marius Moutet, the French Colonial Minister of the previous year.
In Great Britain those in responsible government positions continued to believe firmly in the view that this very problem of colonies would Berlin of decisive help in making it possible to have discussions with the Germans on a calm footing. For at the beginning of March 1938 - before the final phase of the Austrian issue - the British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Neville Henderson 42 , announced an important diplomatic initiative by his government. 43 . There was to be no more talk about preliminary concessions, but instead the intention was to achieve the aim of world peace by adopting the colonial path and coming to economic agreements. However, in deference to British public opinion talks on the colonial issue, which was regarded as the bridge towards better understanding, had for the moment to be postponed. They were to be taken up again when the volatile and capricious public opinion of the British democracy had turned its attention to some other question.
Hitler's power was now greater than ever before, both at home and in the foreign field. His popularity had reached a new peak and his policies were flowing smoothly and successfully. But in the course of 1938, members of the Officer Corps as well as representatives of the economy were recognising with increasing clarity that for personal as well as for social and armament reasons, Hitler's Germany was resolutely adopting a course geared to war. Hjalmar Schacht was one of the first to recognise that the financial and economic policies being adopted by the Reich would inevitable lead to war. He was that debts of the kind being accumulated would only be covered through plunder and looting if bankruptcy was to be avoided. Unflaggingly, but in vain, Schacht worked at creating a political alternative to Hitler's war course of primarily continental expansion. As an alternative he advocated a plan of "liberal imperialist" expansionism directed overseas 44 . His attempt failed because the Fuehrer regarded his own Program as unalterable and proven through his successes in the field of foreign policy. In no small way Schacht's collaboration with Hitler on financial policy at the beginning of his regime had made Hitler's Program possible. For a long time after that Hitler's policies may have matched the interests of the important partners of the National Socialist Government in the heavy industries. As political factors, these forces had stood on an equal footing with the Nazi Party up to 1936; but for a long time that had no longer been the case. Instead, they had become dominated by the Party and Fuehrer through Goering's organisation of an arms economy preparing for the coming war. And yet the policy of the Third Reich with its ultimate consequence, war, enabled these very forces to look after their own pressing economic interests. Under state protection, these groups were able to make considerable profits in the armaments business and its off-shoot industries 45 . These economic and social elements were dictatorially used by Hitler to serve his ideas and aims and in so doing they supported the materialisation of these aims while at the same time temporarily ensuring the continuation of the existing social structure. It was Hitler, his Program and these compliant elements who were pushing towards the war which by the autumn of 1938 could only have been avoided with great difficulty.
30.From all the extensive literature on the question of the annexation' cf. the works by U. Eichstaedt, Von Dollfuss zu Hitler, Geschichte des Anschlusses Oesterreichs 1933¯1938 , Wiesbaden, 1955, and J. Gehl, Germany and the Anschluss , London/New York/Toronto, 1963.
31.Jacobsen, Nationalsozialistische Aussenpolitik , pp. 406 ff.
32.J. R. von Salis, Weltgeschichte der Neuesten Zeit , vol. 3, Zuerich, 2nd ed., 1962, p. 594.
33.Cf. the work by K. Middlemas on the foundations of Chamberlain's foreign policy.
34.See also F. Fischer, Krieg der Illusionen , pp. 205 ff. and pp. 289 ff. Admittedly the decisive factor was the British-German collaboration in preserving or bringing about peace and the localisation of conflict.
35.In this connection compare the plans for partition of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy already entertained by Bismarck, see p. 6 of this work.
36.See U. Eichstaedt, Von Dollfuss zu Hitler , loc. cit.
37.Jacobsen, Nationalsozialistische Aussenpolitik , pp. 439 ff.
38. ADAP , D. V, No. 152, p. 172 f.
39.On the German attitude to the Abyssinia problem cf. M. Funke, Der internationale Abessinienkonflikt , loc. cit.
40.See particularly the study by B.-J. Wendt, Economic appeasement. Also B.-J. Wendt, Appeasement 1938. Wirtschaftliche Rezession und Mitteleuropa , Frankfurt/M., 1966.
41.Bundesarchiv Koblenz, ZSG III 1610: the Australian Statesman of 23 February 1938.
42.On Sir Nevile Henderson and his policy cf. the dissertation by R. Strauch, Sir Nevile Henderson. Britischer Botschafter in Berlin von 1937¯1939. Ein Beitrag yur diplomatischen Vorgeschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges , Diss. Bonn, 1959.
43. ADAP , D. I, No. 131, p. 186 f.
44.See also Hillgruber, Kontinuitaet , p. 23.
45.On all these problems see the introduction of T. Mason's documentation of the social history of the Third Reich, in preparation.
C. The Munich Agreement and the "Encirclement" of the Soviet Union
After the Austrian Anschluss , Hitler was tempted to a further step on the path to hegemony. On this occasion, as so often in the history of Europe since the French Revolution, it was a minority group 46 - in this case the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia - which served as the political "explosive" providing the confusion necessary to set off an international crisis.
Our purpose is not to present a history of the Sudeten Germans 47 . Only a little need be said by way of background to the events. The Republic of Czechoslovakia was industrialised and therefore economically viable, but as an artificially created political structure it was exposed to continuous danger from the political undertow created by the renewed strength of the German Reich. The Sudeten Germans living in Czechoslovakia were not treated all that well and their sense of dissatisfaction was certainly justified. Hitler took advantage of the situation of the Sudeten German minority for his own ends. By the beginning of the 1930s the leaders of the Sudeten German Party were already in contact with Nazi Party figures in Berlin centred around Hess 48 . But significantly enough, these contacts only acquired an importance when Hitler's traditionally orientated foreign policy had reached its limits. At that stage, with the help of the dissatisfaction of the "national" minority in Czechoslovakia and in the shadow of British neutrality, it now seemed worthwhile to Hitler to extend beyond these limits in pursuance of his policy of phased conquest. So on 28 March 1938, a few days after the successful Austrian coup, the Fuehrer advises the leaders of the Sudeten German Party to present more exacting demands than the government could possibly satisfy 49 . Those leaders round Konrad Henlein followed these instructions and a month later, in the "Karlsbad Program", the demanded autonomy and the freedom to propagate the German Weltanschauung in Czechoslovakia. However, this meant demanding that the Czech government should humbly tolerate Nazi agitation. The Czech state - which in Berlin had been harangued as the "aircraft carrier" of the Soviet Union - was sliding into the utmost danger. Europe stood on the brink of its next crisis - willed by the German Reich.
Once again Hitler's Program and Chamberlain's appeasement concept came into conflict. On the one hand Hitler planned the phased establishment of a position of world domination based on European hegemony and overseas territories. On the other, Chamberlain's concept was to preserve the British Empire by pursuing a policy of negotiation. So once more the two contestants in the duel appear in the arena. Their conceptions and policies during the Czech crisis are worth analysing. In contrast to the conventional portrayals in diplomatic history, we shall not describe in full the diplomatic situation in Europe with respect to the Czech events. The road to Munich has been surveyed often enough. We know that France felt duty-bound to help Czechoslovakia while Britain was in a sense bound by French conduct and thus always at pains to have a calming effect on Paris, and that Downing Street stubbornly pursued the idea of securing peace by being prepared to make concessions, promising themselves security in return. However, too little attention has been paid to the conceptions and ideas of the statesmen and their nations which lay behind these diplomatic moves, though these conceptions were decisively influential and binding on Chamberlain's Britain, Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia at this phase in history. Particularly in connection with the Sudetenland crisis and the network of alliances at that time, it is of great interest to recall that since 1935 Soviet Russia had had a binding pact with the Czechs, and that military assistance from Russia would have presupposed the right to march through Poland. One could fill books with endless reflections on how the Reich could have been forced into withdrawal by employing the Soviet factor as a means of threatening Hitler's policy without actually having to think about the Red Army marching through Poland. Would Hitler's Secret Service not have known all about these possibilities under consideration and so have undermined the effect of the intended threats even at the discussion stage? Since the files of the Secret Service - in the nature of things - are hardly available, and historians cling as always to the maxim quod non est in actis, non est in mundo , such prior considerations are all too often forgotten. The fascination of the diplomatic game tends to impair recognition of and obscure the actual driving forces behind the policies - seen in terms of social history and the history of ideas - and the conceptions of the statesmen evolving them.
But the course, which Neville Chamberlain intended taking in the new crisis troubling Europe became evident on 10 May 1938. It was then that Kirkpatrick, the First Secretary in the British Embassy in Berlin, told the envoy von Bismarck 50 that Britain would be completely willing to come to an agreement on the Sudetenland question on Germany's terms if it could be accomplished peacefully and reasonably. Indeed, in such an event Britain would even be prepared to exert a certain pressure on the Prague government. As the British politicians round Chamberlain - so contemptuously called "the appeasers" - saw it, this additional European concession would be followed by talks between the two nations. For Hitler, on the other hand, this was simply the next stage in his basic plan. By 1943-45 at the latest, he intended striking the "great blow" against the Soviet Union in the East with the aim of attaining European supremacy. Then, after 1945, the next move would be to strike out abroad, across the oceans, into overseas territories.
The parallel between the Czechoslovakian and the Austrian crisis is unmistakable. Both the British and German leaders, Chamberlain and Hitler, held unswervingly to their political conceptions. Russia too, the third decisive party in the issue, but one which was not reckoned among the "inner circle" of powers in European politics, stubbornly pursued a course entirely consistent with Stalin's blueprint for foreign policy. Stalinist Russia, socially so different from the other nations of Europe, and a country which particularly since the purges in the Red Army in 1937 51 was always underestimated in its military strength, had followed this course since 1927 and continued to do so, as will be shown in connection with the events surrounding 23 August 1939. During the "Litvinov era" Russia pursued a policy of co-operation with the anti-revisionist capitalist powers of Britain and France and a strategy of safeguarding the status quo in Central Europe. But under Litvinov's successor, Stalin's hidden aim of maintaining and possibly expanding Russia as a Great Power was to be achieved by other means 52 .
Meanwhile in the Reich the propaganda machine was working flat out against neighbouring Czechoslovakia. In order not to throw a questioning light on the priority placed on the Reich's continental aims in Central Europe, colonial propaganda was now damped down. All possible alternatives to the objectives envisaged by Hitler had to disappear temporarily from view of world opinion and the politicians in London, Paris, and Rome. On 28 May 1938 53 in a talk with his top officers and officials, the Fuehrer declared his unalterable will to smash Czechoslovakia militarily. Two days later, this intention was formulated into a directive from the Fuehrer. On the one hand, it seemed to the army officers that this bound them to obedience to Hitler, yet on the other it also gave rise to the military opposition which was now forming against the Dictator 54 . Hitler elaborated upon the plan of his future policy, remaining in so doing completely within the framework of the Program he had conceived in the 1920s and revised in 1937. He explained that he would first tackle "the task" in the East and then, in three or four years, take the offensive in the West. In 1934, in line with Mein Kampf , he had considered the conquest of France to be the precondition for eastward expansion. In spite of these changing reflections, which were not then elaborated upon, it nevertheless seems to us that the shape of Hitler's ideas had not basically altered. Clearly now, in 1938, he planned to settle the question "on the German frontier" to his own satisfaction. Whether he then intended to move against France or whether, in the shadow of British neutrality, he considered instead marching against the Soviet Union - either with Poland or after conquering it - are two possibilities which must remain unresolved 54a .
The direction of Hitler's strategy was clear. British neutrality, the precondition for any expansionist plans on the Continent, seemed secured. The actual order of the separate lightning campaigns in the East and the West of Europe would be determined largely by the prevailing political and military situation. A major reason for Hitler's counting on Britain's neutrality, however, was that, having built up the army and air force again, the Reich had now begun to re-arm its navy. Germany's admirals, in calculating their strategies, were already having to draw Britain in as a potential, indeed probable, enemy 55 . And according to Hitler, it could quite easily be the case that in the latter half of the 1940s - after attaining supremacy over the Continent and Eastern Europe - the Reich would be confronted by Great Britain as its next natural enemy. This would come about if Britain were to oppose Germany's overseas colonial policy and resist striking against the USA as Germany's junior partner. In 1937 America was already raising her voice in warning against the threatening aggression of both Japan and the Reich 56 . In effect, this gave encouragement to a weakened Britain, though this hardly suited Neville Chamberlain's idea of a policy of settlement; for it gave a boost to those forces of resistance in Britain which, with Churchill at their head, were to hold out in the critical situation of 1940.
In actual fact, in the spring of 1938 the German navy for the first time carried out manoeuvres, which presupposed conflict with Britain. It seemed that the building of an Atlantic fleet was impending 57 and with it the attainment of Hitler's long-term aims for the second half of the 1940s moved into the realm of the possible. For the time being the fleet appeared as a means of exerting pressure on Great Britain should she try to oppose future lightning attacks by the Reich on its path to supremacy.
The foreign policy of the Fuehrer diverged more and more from the ideas of his mostly conservative or "governmental-liberal" colleagues in the German Foreign Office and the armed forces. It was not that in principle they would have resisted the re-establishment of the Reich as the supreme power on the Continent or would have been against a strong position for the Reich as a colonial power. It was merely that their fears in the face of the war course Hitler was strictly pursuing led them to regard the risk involved in achieving these aims as too high. Beck, the Chief of the General Staff, resigned in opposition to Hitler's policy 58 . His successor, Halder, made contact with the conspiratorial group round Canaris and von Witzleben who, although they never made any concrete plans 59 , played with the idea of replacing Hitler in the event of a serious international set-back or the outbreak of war, in order to protect Germany from a military catastrophe 60 . But the mediator the sent to London to seek support from Britain, the vital power in the matter, had hardly any success 61 . For at least Neville Chamberlain, the key man, had no intention of jeopardising his concept of agreement reached in stages with Hitler by getting involved with conspirators who were working against the established government in Germany. To the British Premier, the envoys of the conservatives in Germany seemed like the Jacobites at the French Court. He preferred to deal with those in office in Berlin and perhaps even hoped that he would be able to achieve his plan of a comprehensive settlement more smoothly with the "Austrian" Hitler than with the conservative "Prussian" conspirators 62 . Chamberlain could hardly imagine why Hitler should want to reject his idea of a settlement, which even in the concrete case of the Czech crisis permitted the annexation of the Sudetenland to the Reich. But Hitler had no intention of tying himself down to the rules of reasonable and peaceful procedure. Rather, under a certain time-pressure, not least of all for personal reasons 63 , Hitler was obviously planning to settle all the "preliminaries" - including even the French campaign - by 1943-45. This would then enable him to dedicate himself to the "important matter" in the East, smashing Soviet Russia and finally, in the second half of the 1940s, moving beyond the continent of Europe to pursue his policy on a world-wide scale.
While in the Reich the navy and the officials responsible for colonial and maritime planning were casting a shadow over Hitler's future aims, in London Sir Horace Wilson, the confidential aide to the British Prime Minister, was negotiating with Wohlthat, the Secretary of State from Goering's staff responsible for the Four Year Plans 64 . The British negotiator, completely in line with the policy of Chamberlain, made the Germans the offer of allowing Germany the exercise of influence in colonial policy and the shaping of economic relations in south-east Europe. Of course, in these discussions, Wohlthat did not follow Hitler's program of military conquests. With his policy of economic expansionism Wohlthat was much more a follower of Schacht, who had been deprived of his powers. In this, he was arguing completely in line with Goering who had already condemned Hitler's war course and was now trying to divert the Fuehrer from the road of military expansion by brining about an economic and political "alternative" solution. Goering sought to direct the Fuehrer along the path of a peaceful "liberal-imperialistic" policy by creating a strong position for the Reich in Europe and overseas 65 .
In connection with this, perhaps note should be taken of the plans of the opposition which was establishing itself against Hitler in 1938-39. The plans were to depose Hitler and place the no doubt more peacefully-inclined Goering at the head of the state. Even if Goering never actually stood in opposition to his Fuehrer, one may still regard his peaceful "liberal-imperialistic" conception of economic expansion and political influence, consciously or unconsciously developed by Goering, as an "alternative" to Hitler's Program 66 . In his speech at the Nuremberg part rally on 9 September 1938, however 67 , Hitler forced the Sudetenland crisis to a head, causing the British Prime Minister to hurry over to Germany in order to save the peace. That is, in line with the familiar policy of appeasement, Chamberlain permitted Hitler this concession too, in a reasonable, non-military way. The British Premier recognised the right to self-determination of the Sudeten Germans and promised Hitler that together with France they would urge Prague to agree to cession without a plebiscite. On the other hand, the Czech President, Benes, wanted war against the Reich in September 1938 as he believed that Germany would be conquered in three to four weeks 69 .
Chamberlain's attitude can only be understood properly if it is seen in the context of his basic plan for peace. His aim was to allow the status quo to alter just enough for it to be protected and maintained in its broad outlines. In this way, with insufficient political, military and economic means, he hoped to be able to maintain and stabilise Britain's position as a world power. As the first stage in Britain's concessions to the Reich, the settlement of the Czech question was complicated only by the fact that, quite beyond Chamberlain's understanding, Hitler seemed to want to proceed on an aggressive, military footing. A week later the British Prime Minister returned once more to Germany with his Cabinet's approval of the agreement arrived at with the Fuehrer on 15 September 1938. But Hitler, governed by his principle of conquering Europe by quick military attacks, not by long and wearisome negotiations, felt himself to be under pressure of time. He informed an embittered Chamberlain that he demanded the immediate intervention of German troops in the Sudetenland; an ultimatum to that effect was to expire on 28 September 1938. And yet even this blow did not alter the basic situation for Chamberlain. He had no intention of jeopardising his major peace plan for the sake of a couple of thousand square miles of land belonging to a second-rate nation in Central Europe. So the British government conceded and called the Italian Duce in on the discussions, who in turn called a conference of the "inner circle" of powers at Munich 69 . Posing as the European mediator, Mussolini presented a proposal which, among over things, provided for the intervention of German troops in stages between 1 October and 10 October 1938 and which was based on settling the question of the remaining minorities in Czechoslovakia. Significantly enough, this compromise, so favourable to Germany yet only reluctantly accepted by Hitler, was a plan which had been drafted by the German Foreign Office and on which both von Weizsaecker and Hermann Goering had been working. Even though this agreement brought the Reich considerable success, it was nevertheless in evident contrast to Hitler's policy, since in principle it proposed settling the crisis in a peaceful manner.
Three conclusions may thus be drawn which are of decisive importance for the course of events over the months up to the outbreak of war, in fact up to the beginning of the war on a world scale on 22 June 1941:
1. The events surrounding the Czech crisis had clearly revealed Hitler's desire for war. The Fuehrer intended getting the first, the European, stage of his plans behind him by means of lighting military attacks in the shadow of British neutrality. At the same time he was preparing the tools by which, through threats, he thought Britain could be held in check, and which afterwards, in the latter half of the 1940s, were to serve as a means for Germany to expand overseas.
2. The non-participation of the Soviet Union at the Munich Conference clearly demonstrated that the Western powers were not inclined to accept the USSR as a partner in international politics. This induced Stalin to alter his tactics in foreign policy 70 . Afraid that the capitalist democracies and fascist dictatorships could unite against Russia and defeat it, Stalin's Foreign Commissar Litvinov, using the slogan of "collective security" and Russia's entry into the League of Nations, had sought to make an alliance with the anti-revisionist capitalist nations. At the latest by the Munich Agreement, this policy must be seen as having failed.' 71 While Stalin's aim remained unchanged - to exacerbate the tensions between the "imperialist" powers as far as possible in order to ensure the continued existence of Soviet Russia - the pro-Western "Litvinov era" now drew to its close with the "encirclement" of the USSR at the Munich Conference. When Molotov moved into the Foreign Office on 3 May 1939, a new chapter in Soviet foreign policy was initiated. Now the old aim of maintaining the security and protecting the interests of Soviet Russia was to be achieved with new partners. Thus the foundations of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 were laid in Munich.
3. The Munich Conference and the policy of Neville Chamberlain, which led to it - often misunderstood and vilified as a humiliating series of ignominious retreats - had shown how stubbornly the British Prime Minister was pursuing his aim of securing peace. As he saw it, no war should break out over European concessions, which he was in fact prepared to make to Hitler. In the course of his crisis diplomacy, Chamberlain was far more concerned that after settling European matters, he would succeed in achieving proper talks on an arms agreement by means of the economic and colonial bait. He wanted to press for a settlement in order to ensure peace and so save Britain's position as a world power in Europe and overseas.
46.On the role of the so-called minorities in pre-revolutionary Europe cf. K. Hildebrand, Die Suche nach dem "wahren" Preussen', in: PVS 1970.
47.Cf. J. K. Hoensch, Geschichte der Tschechoslowakischen Republik 1918¯1965 , Stuttgart, 1966, and J. W. Bruegel, Tschechen und Deutsche 1918 bis 1938 , Munich, 1967.
48.Jacobsen, Nationalsozialistische Aussenpolitik , p. 442.
49.Ibid., p. 443.
50. Politisches Archiv des Auswaertigen Amtes Bonn , Vol. II, England-Deutschland VII: Aufzeichnung von Bismarck , 10.5.1938.
51.See also M. Mackintosh, Juggernaut: A History of the Soviet Armed Forces , New York, 1967.
52.See A. Hillgruber , Deutschlands Rolle in der Vorgeschichte der beiden Weltkriege , Goettingen, 1967, p. 78 f.
53.W. Foerster , Generalstabsche Ludwig Beck , Munich, 1953, p. 107 f.
54.See Mueller, Heer und Hitler , pp. 345 ff.
55.54a The book by J. Henke, Hitler und England 1937¯1939, loc. cit., throws light on these possibilities, which could have implied a military ousting of Britain from the Continent.
56.See Salewski, Seekriegsleitung , loc. cit. and J. Duelffer, Weimar, Hitler und die Marine , loc. cit. In this connection cf. particularly the memorandum Aufbau der Kriegsmarine 1926¯1939' by government adviser Dr Treue, in: Bundesarchiv/Militaerarchiv Freiburg : Pg.¯33965 and also idem, Nachlass Beck HO 8¯28: Nuernberger Documents Ps 3037 (Wiedemann). The author would wish to thank Dr M. Michaelis (London) for having kindly drawn his attention to these two documents.
57.See p. 50.
58.Cf. Salewski, Seekriegsleitung , loc. cit.; Duelffer, Weimar, Hitler und die Marine , loc. cit. and C.-A. Gemzell, Raeder, Hitler und Skandinavien. Der Kampf fuer einen maritimen Operationsplan , Lund, 1965, p. 94 f.
59.On the character of Beck cf. Foerster, Beck , loc cit.
60.Mueller, Hitler und Heer , pp. 345 ff.
61.See p. 57.
62.On the mission of Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin, for example, see the biography by B. Scheurig, Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin. Ein Konservativer gegen Hitler , Oldenburg-Hamburg, 1968.
63.On this thesis cf. B.-J. Wendt, Munich, 1938; England zwischen Hitler und Preussen , Frankfurt/M., 1965.
64.Cf. the corresponding remarks in the Hossbach Memorandum', loc. cit.
65. ADAP , D. II, No. 279, pp. 363 ff.
66.See also p. 57.
68. VB of 13 September 1938.
69.Cf. Bensch's talk with Stampfer on 19 October 1939, in: W. Link (compiler), Mit dem Gesicht nach Deutschland , Duesseldorf, 1968, Doc. 77.
70.From among the mass of literature on the Munich Conference cf. the works by B. Celovsky, Das Muenchener Abkommen 1938 , Stuttgart, 1958; H. K. G. Roennefarth, Die Sudetenkrise in der internationalen Politik. Entstehung¯Verlauf¯Auswirkung , Wiesbaden, 1961; K. Eubank, Munich , Oklahoma, 1963; B.-J. Wendt, Muenchen, 1938, loc. cit.; D. N. Lammers, Explaining Munich. The Search for Motive in British Policy , Stanford, 1966, and¯as a supplement and corrective¯K. Robbins, Munich 1938 , Guetersloh, 1969.
71.See Hillgruber, Deutschlands Rolle , p. 89.
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