If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Nazi aggression and appeasement

Nazi Germany's 1930s aggression included rearming its military, occupying the Rhineland, unifying with Austria, and taking over Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland, Bohemia, and Moravia. France and Great Britain's policy of appeasement allowed this aggression, leading to the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the start of World War II. Created by Sal Khan.

Want to join the conversation?

  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Kartikeye
    I must say, the treaty of Versailles was very unfair for the Germans wasn't it?
    (24 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user CharlesHenryRossTD
      It was incredibly unfair. Many people see WWII as the natural result of it. The Italians didn't do enough, in the eyes of the British and French, so didn't really get anything. Japan, who joined the allies side late in the war, was similarly turned away. The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Sultanates were both dismantled. The worst sufferer was Germany, losing its overseas colonies and given a massive bill in war reparations. Hitler would never have gained prominence if the victorious countries philosophy wasn't "kick them while they're down".
      (36 votes)
  • leaf blue style avatar for user Sana Sky
    why did hitler invade other countries wasn't it enough for him to protect the Germans and be a strong country ? , i mean i understand why he wanted " German speaking countries " but i don't get why he wanted the other countries
    (9 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leaf green style avatar for user sthiele78
      The Nazis supported territorial expansionism to gain Lebensraum ("living space") as being a law of nature for all healthy and vigorous peoples of superior races to displace people of inferior races; especially if the people of a superior race were facing overpopulation in their given territories. The German Nazi Party claimed that Germany inevitably needed to territorially expand because it was facing an overpopulation crisis within its Treaty of Versailles-designed boundaries that Adolf Hitler described: "We are overpopulated and cannot feed ourselves from our own resources". Thus expansion was justified as an inevitable necessity for Germany to pursue in order to end the country's overpopulation within existing confined territory, and provide resources necessary to its people's well-being.
      (28 votes)
  • starky ultimate style avatar for user Vee T
    So what does "Coup De'tat" mean? I know what "coup" means, but not the "de'tat" part.
    (10 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Canucks
    How did Germany become such a big empire in a little amount of time
    (7 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • female robot grace style avatar for user 00015651
      Well, Hitler disregarded the parameters set in the treaty after WWI which did not allow Germany to build up the army. Because Great Britain did not want to go to war, the British Prime Minister continued to allow Hitler annex land that Great Britain was not obliged to protect until Hitler decided to invade Poland.
      (1 vote)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user hushpuppy789
    How old was Hitler when he committed suicide?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • piceratops tree style avatar for user haajirb
    who were the white rose group ?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • ohnoes default style avatar for user leotrikim
    What are the dark-greenish areas and were they part of Germany before WW1 and were they 'acquired' back into Germany before WW2?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leaf green style avatar for user Katherine
      The greenish areas are or were so-called plebiscite area. In these areas, the population could vote on whether or not they wanted to continue the belonging of their region to German territory. These areas were: parts of the Saarland, parts of Upper Silesia and an area around Klagenfurt in Austria which could decide on its further belonging to Austria. All those votings were in the period of 1920 to 1935.
      (4 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Aaron Shapiro
    Why did Germany attack neutral Lithuania but not neutral Switzerland? They're both neutral so why did he only attack one neutral country?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine tree style avatar for user SonOfGum
      Would you want to invade a small, mountainous nation, where the entire population has at least 8 month's military training after the age of 16, they being accurate sharpshooters, AND plenty of places to hide in, and you not being able to use any armor (tanks, armored cars, etc.), and you don't have accurate enough equipment for your aircraft to do precision bombings on mountains that may or may not contain enemy troops or Guerrilla fighters? Also, it being that there is a lot of snow.

      Also, Lithuania at the time was part of the Soviet Union, so technically, they were at war with Germany, because at the time, it was just a region of a nation.
      (5 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Canucks
    How did Germany become such a big empire in such small amount of time
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • hopper cool style avatar for user Rabbit
    why did Germany want to invade the Czechs?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • spunky sam green style avatar for user History Helper
      If you look at the foreign policy of Nazi Germany, many of its goals were based on the Nazi ideology. Pan-Germanism, Lebensraum (living space for Germans), and territorial revanchism formed the bulwark of Nazism. As Czechoslovakia had German-majority region (Sudetenland), proximity to Germany, and historical connection, it was a good target for the Nazis to take over. With these justifications, the Nazis made a diplomatic move to annex Sudetenland by gaining agreement with the UK, France, and Italy. Instead, Hitler "promised" not to take more land from Czechoslovakia, which wouldn't be kept. The Nazis soon sent troops to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia, effectively erasing the nation off the map.
      (4 votes)

Video transcript

As we get into the second half of the 1930s, we see an increasingly aggressive Nazi Germany. In 1935, they publicly announce their intent to rearm their military. The reason why this is significant is not that they were all of a sudden building their military. They, in fact, were doing this as soon as they had taken power, in 1933. But now, they felt confident enough to publicly state their intention -- which is another way of publicly stating that they [could n't] care less about the Treaty of Versailles, which had said that Germany was limited to a 100,000-soldier military. Then, we get into 1936. 1936, you might remember -- another term of the Treaty of Versailles was that Germany was not allowed to occupy the Rhineland -- this area in yellow right over here. And then that was actually reaffirmed in 1925 by the Treaties of Locarno, where Germany, itself, agreed to not occupy the Rhineland. But by 1936, Hitler decides to ignore all of those, and occupies the Rhineland. But once again the allies -- The French are not so happy about this. The UK, in particular, once again, [was] not super happy about this. But they decided this is not reason to potentially start another war over. So they really don't push back on Germany. Then, we get into 1938, and German aggression really goes into full gear. In March of 1938, you have a coup d'état, orchestrated by the Nazis in Austria, that really overthrows the Austrian government and allows the Germans to unify the two countries. So, you have the Germans come into Austria -- really a bloodless takeover. And there was already popular support for the Nazis in Austria. There was a Nazi party in Austria. There had been popular sentiment for many years, amongst many Austrians, to possibly be unified with the Germans. Austria [was and] is, fundamentally, a German-speaking nation. And so in March, this actually happens. This 'Anschluss' -- or unification. And, if you remember, that was also another forbidden term of the Treaty of Versailles. So now, the Germans are pretty much ignoring the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of St. Germain, which was the equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles -- but with the Austrians. So, you have the unification of Germany and Austria. Then, as we get into late 1938 -- in September in particular -- Hitler and the Nazis are interested in bringing the German-speaking populations of Czechoslovakia under German control. And this region, right over here in magenta, this is where you have large populations of German speakers. These regions are collectively referred to as the 'Sudetenland.' And really, just continuing the policy of not wanting to rock the boat with Germany, you have France, Great Britain, and Italy agreeing -- And Italy was an ally of the Germans. But France and Great Britain, in particular, are not interested in rocking the boat with the Germans. And so, in September of 1938, they sign the Munich Agreement, which did not actually -- where they actually did not consult the Czechoslovakian government -- where they allowed Germany to take over this region right over here -- the Sudetenland. And that, frankly, with the Germans taking over this significant part of the population of Czechoslovakia, a significant part of the industrial capacity of Czechoslovakia, this eventually leads to early 1939, where all of what we would now consider the Czech Republic -- this area right over here, all [of] this -- becomes a protectorate of Germany. So, they call it the 'Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.' So, Bohemia and Moravia go to Germany. And, so this is 1939. So, [by] 1939, [we have seen this pattern repeat itself during the previous] four years -- Nazi Germany ignoring the Treaty of Versailles, by rearming, by occupying the Rhineland, by unifying with Austria. Now, they're expanding their territory. They are actively allowed to take over the German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia, under the Munich agreement. And eventually, they're able to take over Bohemia and Moravia -- all of what we would currently call the 'Czech Republic.' And this general pattern of German aggression, [allowed] by the other powers in Europe essentially allowing it to happen -- and, in particular, Great Britain allowing it to happen -- has been referred to as a 'policy of appeasement.' Obviously, the word 'appeasement' means there is someone who is angry about something, and you just don't want to make them any angrier -- you just let them do whatever they want -- this is, essentially, what was happening over here. And in hindsight, it might be easy to say, "Hey, look!. They were allowing Germany to take over more and more -- to become more aggressive, which made [Germany] more and more confident. And this would eventually lead to World War II." But at the time, you do have to remember [that[ everyone still had a very strong memory of what had happened in World War I. And no one was interested in starting another [pan-European] war. And so, even [though] in hindsight, it's easy to say that the British -- in particular Neville Chamberlain, who was the Prime Minister from 1937 on -- were weak and allowed German[y] -- Hitler -- to gain confidence, which eventually led to the Nazi invasion of Poland in the fall of 1939. But it's easy to say that in hindsight. But what we see, as we get into 1939, is an aggressive Germany, a Germany that's not being checked by the other powers of Europe. And this is what eventually leads to September of 1939, where, actually, the Germans and the Soviets agree to partition Poland into their own spheres of influence, which allows Germany to invade Poland in early September [of] 1939 -- which is, you could kind of say, 'the straw that broke the camel's back,' and is the beginning of -- So, Poland invasion. The invasion of Poland. -- which is the beginning of World War II.