Artwork by Ron Leigh
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
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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