German Foreign Policy, 1933 to 1935
Rearmament and conscription
- Rearmament started almost as soon as Hitler came to power but was announced publicly in 1935 in a Freedom to rearm rally which included revealing the existence of the Luftwaffe or Air force which had been forbidden under the terms of Versailles.
- Conscription or compulsory military service was also introduced. This meant that all young men spent six months in the RAD (German Labour Front) and then they were conscripted into the army. The intention was to increase the German army to 36 Divisions in 1935. This was around 500,000 men. Both Conscription and the increase in the size of the army violated Versailles.
- Britain, France and Italy reacted by forming the Stresa Front to condemn German rearmament. This unity lasted only a few months.
- In June 1935 Britain and Germany signed a Naval Agreement. This allowed Germany to increase the number of warships it possessed. It also allowed Germany to build U-Boats. This annoyed France and Italy as the British did not tell them of their plans.
- In October 1935, Italy launched an attack on Abyssinia. This increased the split with the British and French. It meant that the international opposition to Hitler’s plans were divided.
- In January 1935, 90% of the population of the Saar voted to reunite with Germany in a plebiscite. They had been under the control of the League of Nations since 1919. Hitler regarded this as a great triumph because it was the first of the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles to be reversed.
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