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History Cat Lessons: Creative and Engaging

Appeasment &

Nazi Aggression

​Appeasement of Hitler

 

Hitler knew that war was inevitable. He had been planning on it ever since he seized power in 1933. Since then, Der Fuehrer had been engaged in a dangerous game of chicken with the rest of Europe. On the one hand he promised peace but secretly Hitler and his generals were hatching out a plan for European domination. Hitler’s sudden rise from zero to hero was built on promises that he and his Nazi Party would restore the glory and prosperity of the German people. Germany like the rest of the world was in the middle of the worst economic crisis unlike any before it.  The Great Depression had thrown millions of out of work world-wide. But in a way Germany suffered a unique fate.

 

The Treaty of Versailles that brought an end to World War I demanded that Germany bear 100% of the responsibility for the war. Germany not only gave up territory, its rich coal deposits, and payments of tribute to the Allies; Germany was forced to agree to give up much of its military power as well. Throughout the 1930s, millions of Germans stewed in their resentment of the hated treaty. Hitler inspired millions of Germans with grand speeches about the glory of the German People––whom the Nazi’s saw as a Master Race. In his speeches he spewed out all kinds of nasty rants against people he saw as sub humans such as the Jews, Poles, Slavs, and Gypsies; blaming them for the problems that plagued the country.  

The Third Reich
 

The crown jewel of Nazi propaganda was not only convincing the German people but the rest of Europe of its plan for implementing lebensraum. Translated to living space, this philosophy came straight out of the playbook of ultra nationalism. The Nazi’s believed in a Greater Germany where pure-blooded Germans could live in peace without having to worry about things like racial contamination. The whole lebensraum idea had one major flaw. The land that Hitler dreamed of for his Third Reich was occupied by Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, Austria, and the USSR. In order to realize his dream he would have to resort to war and  forcibly remove these non-German “inferiors” from their homes to make way for the eventual German settlers who would populate the Third Reich. Stopping Hitler’s ambitious goals was of course is what World War Two was all about. 

Hitler was greeted as a hero by many of the Germans who ignored his anti-semitic rants because he made good on his promises to bring prosperity back to Germany. By 1937, unemployment was down by 80%.

 

 

One of Hitler’s grand schemes was to create a mighty German Empire––The Third Reich––that would reign for a thousand years. The Third Reich would be populated only with pure blooded Germans (aka Aryans) and cleared of what the Nazi’s called “inferior races”.  To accomplish this Hitler laid out a plan for creating Lebensraum––living space––for the future generations. This Lebensraum would be forcibly taken from Germany’s neighbors and depopulated of its “inferior peoples”.  Hitler had a tight rope to walk. He had to somehow find a way of creating Lebensraum without being seen as an aggressor and risking war too soon. The way in which Hitler accomplished this shows his true evil genius as a manipulator and a statesman.

 

On January 13th, 1935 the people of the Saar Region were going to the polls to vote in a special referendum to decide whether to rejoin with Germany, join with France, or keep things as they were. This small strip of 800,000 Germans formed a buffer zone between Germany and France, created by the Treaty of Versailles to prevent future German aggression. When the results came back that 90% of the people of the Saar voted to reunite with Germany, Hitler, as pleased as punch, hailed it as a “great day for peace between France and Germany”.

 

Of course, Hitler was just blowing smoke- he had no intention of keeping peace with France. But in 1935, the German war machine was far too weak to win even a minor skirmish.

 

Over the next four years–– between 1936-1939–– Hitler created one conflict after another as an excuse for invading neighboring territories. Hitler’s favorite was that he was liberating the German minorities who lived there and had no intension of war with Europe.  For example, after the success in the Saar, Hitler became a little bolder and sent his troops goose stepping into the Rhineland, another French-German buffer zone.

 

Hitler is greeted as a liberator
by Czech Nazi's
"...I can well understand the reasons why the Czech Government have felt unable to accept the terms which have been put before them in the German memorandum. Yet I believe after my talks with Herr Hitler that, if only time were allowed, it ought to be possible for the arrangements for transferring the territory that the Czech Government has agreed to give to Germany to be settled by agreement under conditions which would assure fair treatment to the population concerned..."
 
_British Prime Minister
Neville Chamberlain
​Invasion of Poland

 

8:00p.m. August 30th, 1939-

Hitler was itching to find a reason- any reason- that would justify a German invasion of Poland as part of his grand scheme to create Lebensraum (German living space) even if that meant inventing one himself. Hitler’s plan read like a Hollywood movie. A group of SS guards dressed in Polish army uniforms broke into a small radio station in Gleiwitz along the Polish-German border beating up the three Germans unlucky enough to be working the late shift .

 

But,Hitler's little feint didn’t go off as planned for a couple of reasons that could have been avoided with a little careful preperation. For starters, the radio station wasn’t a station at all but a transmission tower-- there's a difference. The “Polish Soldiers” were supposed to hijack the airwaves and broadcast a message of Polish aggression against the German people but no such transmission was made. The whole attack lasted on a few minutes and to make their ruse more convincing the SS men had brought along the corpses of prisoners from a concentration camp who were also dressed in Polish army garb.

 

German tank divisions stood by waiting for the announcement that Germany had been taken by surprise. The following morning Germans woke up to the news that Germany was now at war with Poland. Germans were clearly stunned. There was none of the celebrations that had kicked off World War I. The German navy blasted Polish seaports and columns of German tanks rolled across the Polish border. For four weeks the Germans fought a bitter battle against the more poorly equipped Polish resistance.

 

Meanwhile, The Soviet Red Army was pouring in from the east to take possession of their half of Poland under a secret pact that Hitler had made with the communist enemy just a few months earlier. Great Britain and France decided that Hitler’s demand for power could not be contained and the two allies declared war on Germany on September 1, 1939. World War Two had begun. But let's back up a bit.

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