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Adolf Hitler's foreign policy aimed at establishing a European empire for Germany through war. This policy required the rapid expansion of Germany's military capabilities. The Geneva Disarmament Conference, beginning in 1932, sought to avoid another European war by negotiating a reduction in armaments. Hitler repudiated this effort by withdrawing Germany from the conference in October 1933. At the same time, he rejected collective security in international affairs by withdrawing from the League of Nations. Instead, Nazi Germany embarked on a vast military construction program.
Provisions of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany (defeated in World War I) to station armed forces in a demilitarized zone in the Rhineland—a region in western Germany bordering France, Belgium, and part of the Netherlands. The treaty stipulated that Allied forces—including US troops—would occupy the region. In a blatant violation of the treaty, on March 7, 1936, Hitler ordered German troops to reoccupy the zone. Hitler gambled that the western powers would not intervene. His action brought condemnation from Great Britain and France, but neither nation intervened to enforce the treaty. This footage shows German forces entering the Rhineland.
This footage shows German forces entering the Sudetenland. Under the terms of the Munich Pact, Germany annexed this largely German-speaking region from Czechoslovakia. Germany, Italy, Britain, and France were party to the pact, which averted war. Czechoslovakia, however, was not permitted to attend the Munich conference. Hitler later violated the Munich Pact by destroying the Czech state in March 1939.
The Treaty of Versailles, imposed on Germany following its defeat in World War I, declared Danzig to be a free city jointly administered by Poland and the League of Nations. Germany bitterly resented the loss of this largely German city, which was also an important port on the Baltic Sea. The return of Danzig to Germany became a central focus of Adolf Hitler's foreign policy. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. After the invasion of Poland, Germany unilaterally annexed Danzig. This German newsreel footage shows cheering crowds welcoming German forces into the city.
Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. The Blitzkrieg ("lightning war") campaign in Poland was short and decisive. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, surrendered on September 27. In early October, Adolf Hitler visited Warsaw to review his forces. This footage shows victorious German army units parading before Hitler in the streets of the devastated city.
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