Consequently Hitler enjoyed a largely positive press in the west throughout the period , as evidenced by the hosting of the Olympics in Berlin and the favourably regarded visits by the Duke of Windsor and ex-British prime-minister David Lloyd George.
Hitler, emboldened by his earlier successes, ordered the German occupation of the whole of Czechoslovakia, gained the return of the province of Memel from Lithuania, and pressed Poland to permit the construction of new road and railways across its territories to improve communications between East Prussia and Germany. East Prussia had been separated from the rest of Germany in when the Allies redrew the borders of Germany and Russia to re-establish the independent state of Poland. The Poles had lost their independence as a nation state in , when Tsarist Russia and Prussia had divided and annexed Polish lands.
Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia breached the written guarantee he had issued to Chamberlain in Munich in , stating that he had no further territorial demands to make in Europe. Therefore, on 31 March , Chamberlain issued a formal guarantee of Poland's borders and said that he expected Hitler to moderate his demands. Hitler was not deterred, and on 3 April he ordered the Wehrmacht to prepare for the invasion of Poland on 1 September. Hitler was convinced that Chamberlain would not go to war to defend Poland and that France would lack the will to act alone.
Hitler's only real concern was that a sudden German invasion of Poland might alarm Stalin and trigger a war with the Soviet Union. Stalin feared a German invasion and had been seeking an anti-Nazi 'collective security' alliance with the western powers for many years, but by July Britain and France had still not agreed terms. Poland had also rejected an alliance with the Soviet Union, and refused permission for the Red Army to cross its territory to engage the Wehrmacht in a future war.
Hitler saw his opportunity, and authorised his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop to enter into secret negotiations with the Soviet Union.
Catalog Record: Kursk : Hitler's gamble, | HathiTrust Digital Library
The result was the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact on 23 August Both Hitler and Stalin set aside their mutual antipathy for national gain and in particular the restoration of their pre borders. However, only hours before the attack Hitler cancelled the invasion when his ally Mussolini declared that Italy was not ready to go to war, and Britain declared a formal military alliance with Poland. Once reassured of Mussolini's political support, Hitler reset the invasion for 1 September The invasion was not dependent on Italian military support and Hitler dismissed the Anglo-Polish treaty as an empty gesture.
At 6 am on 1 September Warsaw was struck by the first of a succession of bombing raids, while two major German army groups invaded Poland from Prussia in the north and Slovakia in the south. Air supremacy was achieved on the first day, after most of Poland's airforce was caught on the ground.
Panzer spearheads smashed holes in the Polish lines and permitted the slower moving German infantry to pour through into the Polish rear. In advance of the line of attack the Luftwaffe heavily bombed all road and rail junctions, and concentrations of Polish troops.
Towns and villages were deliberately bombed to create a fleeing mass of terror-stricken civilians to block the roads and hamper the flow of reinforcements to the front. Flying directly ahead of the Panzers, the Junkers Ju dive-bomber Stuka fulfilled the role of artillery, and destroyed any strong points in the German path. The surprise German strategy of blitzkreig was based upon continuous advance and the prevention of a static frontline that would permit Polish forces time to regroup.
At 8am, on 1 September, Poland requested immediate military assistance from France and Britain, but it was not until noon on 3 September that Britain declared war on Germany, followed by France's declaration at 5. The delay reflected British hopes that Hitler would respond to demands and end the invasion.
This book gives an account of the nationalist opposition that failed to topple Hitler in September This book gives insights into what life was like under the eye of the Nazi regime, revealing the role of the Anglican Church after the Anschluss. In this masterly new work, acclaimed historian Giles MacDonogh explores the moment when Hitler gambled everything. Until , Hitler could be dismissed as a ruthless but efficient dictator, a problem to Germany alone; after he was clearly a threat to the entire world.
In that year The Third Reich came of age and the Fuhrer showed his hand - bringing Germany into line with Nazi ideology and revealing long-held plans to take back those parts of Europe lost to 'Greater Germany' after the First World War. The sequence of events began in January with the purging of the army, and escalated with the merger with Austria - the Anschluss, and the first persecutions of Viennese Jewry.
In the following months Hitler moulded the nation to his will. Elections brought him a 99 per cent approval rating. MacDonogh gives a full account of the nationalist opposition that failed to topple Hitler in September By the end of the year the brutal reality of the Nazi regime was revealed by Joseph Goebbels in Kristallnacht, a nationwide assault on Germany's native Jewish population.
Certainly there is much to be said for singling out this of all the years between the Nazi seizure of power and the outbreak of the Second World War. He followed that with the Anschluss that brought his own native country forcibly into the bosom of the Reich, and finished up by annexing the Sudetenland. The year also witnessed the horrors of Kristallnacht and the first serious deportation of the Jews from the Reich, thus ushering in the Holocaust.
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All it does is highlight the fact that some months were more important than others. Padding out those where little happened with inconsequential gossip trivialises the whole.
Too often the book descends into a mechanical chronicle of unconnected events. That said, there are some good parts. This is probably because the history of Central Europe is to some extent that of his own family. Thus he is able to mine dozens of sources in German that shamefully illuminate the small, daily humiliations heaped on the Jews of Vienna which, long before the mass killings began, cumulatively destroyed their lives.
Like the diaries of Victor Klemperer, who chronicled the endless humiliations visited on the Jews in Dresden, they help us understand the roots of genocide.
1938: Hitler's gamble: Hitler's path to war
The Nazis dignified it by coining a new word, arisieren to Aryanise. What remains shocking is how many Austrians greedily joined in the legalised looting. By the time of the Anschluss , the book had become an international bestseller and he was enjoying considerable royalties.