Just so you know, Adolf Hitler joined the German Workers’ Party in 1919. The Party’s leaders recognised his potential, and the young dictator was put in charge of propaganda and the political ideas of the party.
Fast forward 14 years, and Hitler had weaselled his way to the top and become Führer of Nazi Germany. His first act? Setting about overturning much of the Treaty of Versailles by appealing to the other powers to disarm. And when they didn’t, he withdrew Germany from the Disarmament Conference (1932-34) and then in October 1933 he pulled out of the League of Nations.
He next attempted to rebuild and expand his nation’s armed forces – directly breaking the terms of the Versailles Treaty in the process. This was one way of creating the jobs he’d promised the German people, and of showing the rest of the world he didn’t care about rules.
Hitler went on to annex Austria into Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938, in what is now known as his planned “Anschluss”. This played into his plans as he wanted all German-speaking nations in Europe to be a part of Germany – especially his native homeland, Austria. At the start of his reign, Hitler had promised to unite all Germans into the Third Reich, which is known as Pan-Germanism. This meant Anschluss with Austria, and Lebensraum (living space) for Germany in the east of Europe.
Anschluss was forbidden by the Versailles Treaty, however, and could have involved Britain and France entering into a conflict with Germany because of the violation.
Around this time, the Führer also had plans to attack the Soviet Union. The idea of a hostile takeover was particularly compelling as he believed it would lead to Germany having Poland on a silver platter, create Lebensraum and simply because the Soviet Union was a Communist country, and Hitler hated Communism. Hitler’s idea of Lebensraum influenced a great deal of Nazi policy from 1933 onwards.
But, hold up — why did Hitler want Poland, you ask? To Hitler, such an invasion would create Lebensraum, obtain resources, and result in the recovery of the Danzig Corridor and the reintegration of East Prussia into the Reich. Poland had been created in 1919 out of some German, but mostly Soviet Territory, and so Hitler thought he had a special claim on it (he didn’t).
Unsurprisingly, both Poland and the Soviet Union were very much against these plans. That didn’t stop him, though, and Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. Just two days later, Britain went to war against Germany over the invasion, in what marked the beginning of WWII. And the rest, as they say, is history.