In the 1930s Germany, under a dictatorship lead by Adolf Hitler, started expanding their rule. Each of the major world powers (England, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States) gave a response to this expansion.
England preferred being in “splendid isolation,” or being safe on their island. Conservative Stanley Baldwin promoted “splendid isolation” when he was prime minister of Britain. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain did not do very much to try to prevent the German expansion. He did not move to action when Germany reoccupied the Rhineland, a land that was banned from remilitarization by Germans by the Treaty of Versailles . When Germany annexed the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain ignored Edourd Benes’ crys for assistance. On September 29, 1938 France, Britain, Italy, and Germany attended the Munich Conference to discuss Germany’s annex of the Sudetenland. Chamberlain choose a policy of appeasement at the conference. He was hailed for this decision and it was said “he brought peace in our time.” Hitler said this would be his last territorial demand in Europe. In March 1939 Hitler broke this pact, taking over Prague. This ended the British policy of appeasement. Chamberlain thought the Treaty of Versailles was too harsh on the Germans. He was also very anti-communism. Both of these facts caused him to give some leeway to Hitler’s actions. Chamberlain did promise, however, to aid Poland should Hitler attack. Britain did not declare war on Germany until September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.
France always thought the Treaty of Versailles should be carried out to the fullest extent possible. It also thought Germany should be demilitarized. France had set up the Maginot Line, a series of fortifications along the French/German border, as a defensive. It considered the line “impregnable” or unable to be passed. They were wrong. Germans eventually went around the line and soon after captured France. At the time of the German expansion France was in a depression and in a state of “factional strike” or having internal problems. They were having a “cabinate crises”, meaning no one could get a majority of the vote. France was resorting to a “popular front” or a coalition of leftist parties run by Leon Blum. During this time France also lost their alliance with Italy. The French did not take any action after the remilitarization of the Rhine because they did not want another war. France did not feel secure or able to protect themselves if neccery. It was for this reason that they abdicated leadership to England who was under Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. The French had a “fear of encirclement.” They did not want enemies in Germany and in Spain. They also made an alliance with the Czechs.
During the German expansion the Soviet Union was on a communism high. Comintern was trying their hardest to spread communism. The Soviet Union was a little scared of the actions of Germany in the 1930s. In 1934 the S.U. joined the League of Nations. Because of their fear of Hitler’s expansion they looked for an alliance with England and/or France. England did not aline with the S.U. Since England did not line with them neither did France. At this time the S.U. was experiencing Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge, and it was because of this purge that the country was not ready to fight a war. Stalin was too busy killing off his population to build up his army. Since neither England nor France was going to aline with him he had to turn and try to make a pact with Germany. The S.U. was successful and made a non-aggression pact with Germany. They knew that Germany would eventually go back on their deal and invade them. All the S.U. was looking for was temporary safety to give them time to build up their army and prepare to fight a war. This pact did not change the Soviet Union’s fear of Germany. After Germany invaded them they began fighting Hitler’s forces. This war, caused by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, cost the Soviet Union 22 million men.
The United States of America preferred to stay isolated from the effects of the German expansion as long as possible. Although, when they saw Hitler’s advances they started to build up their weapons. The U.S. stated that all treaties must be respected. U.S. diplomat Frank Billings Kellogg and French public official Aristide Briand signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1924. This pact outlawed war as means of settling disputes. The U.S. also signed the “Neutrality” Act of 1935 which stated that no arms would be sold to a belligerent, or a country involved with the war. In order to help their long-term allies they modified this policy. They came up with “cash and carry.” With this they sold arms to countries who paid cash and then transported the weapons with their own ships. This would soon become a “lend/lease” policy. They leased goods to England and the Soviet Union. The United States did not enter the war until December 7, 1941, after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. They entered on the side of the Allies. The United States was against the German expansion because the Germans were not respecting previous treaties which they had signed.
Germany’s expansion in the 1930s caused many responses from the major world powers. They each had to react in their own way to keep peace and/or their freedom.