Hitler’s Peaceful Revision Policy in 1938.
Extract from David L Hoggan’s The Forced War – When Peaceful Revision Failed
The year 1938 retains a special place in the annals of Europe. It was the year of Adolf Hitler’s greatest triumphs in foreign policy. A.J.P. Taylor, in his epochal book, The Origins of the Second World War, has proved beyond dispute that Hitler’s principal moves in 1938 were nothing more than improvised responses to actions of others. Yet, in 1938, Hitler liberated ten million Germans who had been denied self-determination by the peacemakers of 1919. Hitler gained for the German people the same rights enjoyed by the peoples of Great Britain, France, Italy and Poland. He managed to achieve his victories without provoking an armed conflict. Nothing of the kind had happened in Europe before. There had been dynastic unions in which territories had been united without actual violence, but never had the leader of one nation triumphed over two hostile foreign governments without shedding blood. Hitler proved something which the League of Nations claimed that it would prove but never did. Peaceful territorial revision in Europe was possible. No one could have said this with any assurance before 1938, because empirical evidence was lacking. We now have the empirical evidence. The threat of force was used by Hitler to achieve these results, but the shedding of blood in senseless wars was avoided. A cursory examination of these triumphs will be vital in explaining why the major successes of Hitler in 1938 were not duplicated on a smaller scale in September 1939.
Perhaps no statesman has been more violently criticized than Hitler by his compatriots and by foreigners throughout the world. This is not surprising when one considers that Hitler failed to carry out his program after 1939, and that his failure was total because of the savagery of his opponents. Some critics condemn Hitler from the hour of his birth. At the other extreme are those who perhaps regard themselves as friendly or sympathetic toward him, but that Hitler did not know how to wait, or did not know when to stop. It is customary to condemn failure and to worship success. This tendency is part of the fundamental desire of mankind to simplify the world in which we live and to find a natural order and purpose in things. Nietzsche had this in mind when he wrote that a good war justifies every cause. No one can be immune from this desire, because it is “human all too human”, but momentary detachment, within the context of past events, is and should be possible. It will be evident later that the Munich conference was not the final solution to Germany’s problems, and that the adoption by Hitler of a passive wait-and-see policy at that stage would have been merely a simple and dangerous panacea. Hitler had no idea of what was in store when 1938 opened. There had been no sequal to the November 5, 1937, conference with Foreign Minister Neurath and the military men. He had no specific plans and no timetable for the accomplishment of territorial revision. When he looked out of the Berghof windows at Berchtesgaden into the mountains of Austria, he did not know that within a few weeks he would return to his Austrian homeland for the first time in more than quater of a century. The achievements of Hitler in 1938 were not the result of careful foresight and planning in the style of Bismarck, but of the rapid exploitation of fortuitous circumstances in the style of Frederick the Great, during the early years of his reign.