Germany Attempts to Dominate Europe
Once Hitler became dictator of Germany in 1933, he began to make his nation the most powerful in Europe. He ignored the Treaty of Versailles by building a large military force. He then marched troops into Austria and a region of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Many people believed that Germany was treated unfairly in the Treaty of Versailles and that it has a right to these territories. After meeting with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Hitler agreed that he would conquer no more land. Chamberlain agreed to allow Hitler to control the new areas. The Prime Minister then announced to the media that he had accomplished “peace in our time.”
Britain and France feared that Hitler would attack Poland. Both countries declared they would defend Poland from German attack. They attempted to get the dictator of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, to join their alliance against Germany, but Stalin signed a separate pact with Germany. In September 1939, Germany attacked Poland from the west, while the Soviet Union attacked from the east. The attack caused Britain and France to declare war on Germany.
The German army called their method of attack Blitzkrieg, or “lightning war.” They used fast moving tanks coordinated with airplanes to conquer Poland in less than three weeks. The German Blitzkrieg swept across Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, and France by the spring of 1940. The Germans had defeated all of its rivals, except for Great Britain.
By June 1941, Hitler ignored his agreement with Stalin and attacked the Soviet Union. Germany was now in the same position as in World War I, fighting on two fronts. The decision to attack Russia would cost millions of lives on both sides but ultimately led to the destruction of Germany.