German Expansion 1936–39


Map Code: Ax02135

Nazi Germany’s pursuit of Lebensraum (‘living space’), began legitimately. The 1935 Saarland plebiscite had been mandated at Versailles, and the Saarlanders elected to join Germany. Hitler seemed taken with plebiscites: he held another the following year in the Rhineland, after first occupying it with his army in contravention of Versailles, and won another vote for Germany. The retroactive referendum gambit was employed again when he annexed Austria in 1938. Belatedly, the Great War’s allies evinced concern, as Hitler demanded the (mainly German) Sudetenland in western Czechoslovakia. This produced the iconic moment of ‘Appeasement’ when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain waved his worthless ‘agreement’ with Hitler and proclaimed, ‘Peace for our time’. The price was Sudetenland; Czechoslovakia was not consulted. ‘Our time’ proved brutally short; in March 1939, Hitler occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia, establishing the ‘Protectorates of Bohemia and Moravia’. Slovakia was termed a ‘protective zone’, then Lithuania was forced to cede Memel. The collision course for war was set.

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