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Artwork by Ron Leigh Aviation Art


Adolph Hitler took office as Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the new leader of a nation crippled by the ravages of the Great Depression and by the harsh demands of the treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War 15 years before. Even though France had stopped seriously attempting to enforce the treaty, any leader who advocated its repudiation had considerable popularity with Germany. Hitler rode his wave of popularity into elective office and then on to a seat of absolute power as dictator over the largest nation in Central Europe.

Hitler did repudiate the treaty, taking the biggest step in May 1935 when he lifted any limits to the size of the German armed forces. Late that year Italy invaded East Africa, and although the League of Nations condemned Mussolini’s action, it did nothing against Italy or to help the embattled Ethiopian government. This proved critical for it showed Hitler the League of Nations had no bite, just a soft bark.

In March 1936, he moved German forces into the Rhine- land, occupying territory effectively stripped from Germany by the treaty of Versailles. German factories began working frantically to rearm the nations, turning out large numbers of tanks and planes. In early 1938 events began to move faster when the Austrian government accused Germany of interfering in its affairs. Hitler, instead of backing down, demanded Austria coordinate foreign policy with Germany. The Austrian Chancellor repudiated the agreement reached in Germany upon his return to Austria, prompting a German invasion of Austria.

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