Once Hitler became dictator of Germany in 1933, he began to make his nation the most powerful in Europe. The German dictator 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 mistreated in the Treaty of Versailles and that it had a right to these territories. After meeting with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Hitler agreed to conquer no more land. Chamberlain consented to allow Hitler to control the new areas. The Prime Minister told the media the two leaders had accomplished “peace in our time.”

Britain and France 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.

Neville Chamberlain stands with Adolf Hitler (photo)


British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stands with Adolf Hitler after agreeing to the Munich Agreement in 1938. The Munich Agreement permitted Nazi Germany to annex of portions of Czechoslovakia mainly inhabited by German speakers. The next day, Chamberlain announced to the British people that he has achieved “peace for our time.” Less than a year later, after Germany invaded Poland, Great Britain declared war. .

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. 

By June 1941, Hitler ignored his agreement with Stalin and attacked the Soviet Union. Germany was now in the same position as World War I, fighting on two fronts. The decision to attack Russia would cost millions of lives on both sides but ultimately destroyed Germany.


Download this lesson as Microsoft Word file or as an Adobe Acrobat file.

Mr. Donn has an excellent website that includes a section on World War I and World War II.

Sudetenland (map)


The Czechoslovakian land annexed to Germany by the Munich ageement is shown in red.