Before 1939, the year war broke out, there had been many events you could say where the build up to the second World War and that Hitler planned the whole thing years before. The other view is that Hitler was an opportunist and he planned round other peoples mistakes, like that of The Versailles Treaty and other European problems. Ian Kershaw takes this opinion and also does A. J. P. Taylor, ” … the outbreak may have owed so much to the faults and failures of European statesmen. ” Before Hitler knew that he was going to become Chancellor of Germany, and while he was still in prison, he wrote a book called Mien Kampf (1926).
He wrote about his views, remedies and points on domestic and foreign dilemmas with advice on propaganda and political tactics. Though Taylor disagrees and believes these were just chimera, “… fantasies from behind bars”. But when Hitler was asked about Mien Kampf in 1933 he replied, “… as to the substance there is nothing that I would want to change. ” Knowing the events that led to the second war Mien Kampf could possibly be seen as an outline to Hitler’s plans and so he did plan war.
Also the fact that when Hitler became Chancellor, he made the people of Germany read the book so that everyone would get an idea of what he planned for Germany. Hitler had some views that you could see as being on the same lines as that of his predecessors such as Stresemann. All Hitler’s predecessors wanted to make Germany a great power, to have a strong economy and army and become more dominant within Europe and individual, not having to depend on other countries to help with money e. g. USA and loans.
The only difference is that Stresemann wanted economic rather that military potential with the reduction of reparation payments which Stresemann was successful in doing with the help of Bruning. They declared Germany unfit to pay reparations due to the depression and the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Hitler on the other hand from the beginning was more interested in foreign affairs rather than domestic policy. This can be seen with his aggressive foreign policy from 1936 onwards. With the invasion of the Czech and later of Poland, 1941 this was all because Germany wanted to gain living space, ‘Lebensraum’.
The population at that time was growing rapidly- ” Annual increase of nearly 900 thousand souls. ” So you could say this was a reason Hitler planned and went to war in 1939. The Treaty of Versailles plays an important part to the start of the 2nd war. Made up by the great powers France, Britain and America. Though there was a great problem with this, the three countries could not agree on a decision and they had different ideas for what they wanted to happen to Germany. The USA were going along with Wilson’s Fourteen points.
France wanted German Agriculture and industry to suffer, like France suffered in the first World War. They also wanted Germany to demilitarize the Rhineland and all military equipment to be surrendered, so to permanently weaken Germany. Britain wanted Hitler to pay for the damage that Germany had caused yet Britain also wanted to keep Germany as a trading power so they couldn’t be to harsh. Germany found the Versailles Treaty to be very harsh and regarded it as a ‘Diktat’. The German people believed that they were deceived by the ‘ November criminals’ the politicians who signed the agreement.
Hitler viewed the Treaty as, “An instrument of boundless extortion and object humiliation…. “. Hitler’s view was that Germany could gain back what was lost in the Versailles Treaty, yet the only possible way to do this was to go to war!. The foreign policy after Hitler became Chancellor did not change dramatically. But three days after Hitler gained his new job of Chancellor he told his generals of his plans for remilitarization and gaining living space. But in the long run Hitler’s ideas were not far from anyone else that was in his position.
Hitler withdrew Germany from the Disarmament Conference, and also from the League. This could show that Hitler was planning war and to get to friendly with the other countries would cause to many problems. The non- aggression pact with Poland could have been because at that time Germany was not ready to fight war however it was still in the plan as Germany nevertheless invaded in 1939. The pact also weakens France at that time. Poland was a strong ally to France and once this pact was made it made Poland neutral. With the invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, described by Hardie, “This was a major step to war”.
This act ended the Stresefront, and it also showed the bad relationship that Britain and France had as they both did nothing to stop the invasion. This give Hitler more confidence to go ahead in 1936 to remilitarize the Rhineland. Hitler probably planned this out, waited for the right time and then took a chance really to see what the other countries would do. Hitler also announces in 1935 that Germany had gained an airforce and that they had started conscription. Hitler’s excuse for this was that he wanted Germany to keep up with the other countries in size of army so Germany could not be invaded and taken over.
Though there could have been another reason, Hitler was planning war and Germany needed bigger armies. He was testing Britain and France once again to see what they would do but they did nothing they let it happen. Then at the end of 1935 a deal was made between Britain and Germany. This Deal was to prevent Germany getting more powerful than that of Britain. They were told that there Navy was to be 35% of Britons, this deal was agreed to although could it be possible that Germany agreed to this and still kept up conscription while Britain was unaware so that they could give Europe a surprise attack? Hitler took over the Rhineland 1936.
This was pushing Britain and France even further to see how far Hitler could get without being stopped. He was supposedly assumed to have ordered that if German troops were to encounter upon French troops they were to return and take no further action. Possibly this was because the army was not strong enough , it was presumed that only 14,ooo troops with 22,ooo police of which 3,ooo only went across the border and all the army was lightly armed. The ‘Hossbach meeting’ 1937 could be seen as a guild to Hitler’s Foreign Policy. Hitler gathered his generals and told them of his plans for Germany and it’s foreign policy.
These plans included rearmament to prepare for , “war in the early 1940’s”. This source of evidence also includes the ‘Hossbach Memorandum’. This was a written document from the meeting recorded 5 days after the meeting took place and there was ever only one account but this could have been because Hitler had told his Generals not to record the meeting although one person took the chance and wrote what was said down. If the source could be seen as a reliable source it would be good evidence to Hitler planning war, though it may only start out to be a small war Hitler was not going to be surprised if it turned out to be something bigger.
The whole way through Hitler’s foreign policy he has tried to make alliances with other countries e. g.. Japan , a country against Britain also this alliance was the turning point for Germany as after this there was no hope of an alliance with Britain. Also the Pact of Steel with Italy. This Pact took advantage of Italy’s situation at that time. Italy was involved in the Spanish Civil War and needed German support. When Germany gained enough support and everything was in place with a strong army on hand, Germany invaded Poland 1939 but this time Britain and France did not stand by, they both declared war on Germany.
I believe that Hitler was both an opportunist as he took advantage of the situation over the Versailles Treaty and also the situations in Japan and Italy, who was involved in the Civil War when they made the Pact of Steel 1939, and the Anschluss with Austria 1934 which was not allowed by the Treaty. Also by the mistakes of others like that of Britain and France when Germany invaded Czech or the Rhineland they ignored Hitler and never took action against him which could have been vital to stop his plan.
When Hitler told them of his plans for rearmament they never tried to stop him other than try and beat him in the arms race to see who could have the biggest Navy and army. However I also think that Hitler planned the war, he had already wrote an outline in his two books Mien Kampf and his secret Diary, and also he informed his Generals of his plans in the ‘Hossbach meeting’ which I believe is good evidence that Hitler was planning war, ” presuerve the radical community and enlarge it”.
Also his withdrawal from the League and the disarmament conference shows he could be planning for war. Overall I think Hitler planned the war in advance, it might have only started out as a small war, but he planned for war and was prepared if it turned out to be something bigger, yet he did not know when the war was going to take place that is how he is also an opportunist, he planned round other countries weaknesses and mistakes.