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Hitler’s Letter to Colonel Walther von Reichenau on Germany’s Situation with Respect to Foreign Relations (December 4, 1932)

Hitler’s National Socialist worldview [Weltanschauung] determined his foreign policy goals, which focused above all on an aggressive expansion to the East and the opening up of “living space” [Lebensraum] in Eastern Europe. Consequently, he regarded the revision of the Versailles Treaty, which the governments of the Weimar Republic had already pursued, as an important step but hardly the final goal. On account of Germany’s military weakness, however, Hitler was initially willing to pursue his foreign policy through diplomatic channels. The following letter to Colonel Walther von Reichenau (1884-1942) provides insight into Hitler’s ideological-geopolitical assessment of the German situation only a few weeks before his appointment as Reich Chancellor.

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[ . . . ] The question of the territorial security of East Prussia is intimately connected to the whole foreign and domestic position of the Reich. I would like to sketch this briefly as follows:

The World War ended in such a way that France was unable to achieve all her aims. In particular, her hopes of a general internal collapse of the Reich were not realized. The peace treaty of Versailles was thus dictated by France's attempt to maintain as broad as possible a community of interest of states hostile to Germany. This aim was to be secured in the first place through the territorial truncation of the Reich. By handing over German territory to almost all of the surrounding states, it was hoped to forge a ring of nations bound together by common interests. In the East, Russia, which at the time was of no consequence (and whose development furthermore was unpredictable) was to be replaced by Poland, which was dependent on France. The fact that East Prussia was separated off by the Polish corridor inevitably led to the strong desire to incorporate this province into Poland, which in any case surrounded most of it. And, in fact, the propaganda for a greater Poland began to press for this immediately after the signing of the Versailles treaty.

Presumably out of fear of the danger which was clearly looming, German foreign policy endeavored to relieve the pressure in the East by establishing a close relationship with Russia. While appreciating the political and military reasons for this approach, I have always considered it dubious and opposed it. The reasons for my attitude, of which General von Hammerstein, in particular, has been aware for many years, were and still are as follows:

1. Russia is not a state but an ideology which at the moment is restricted to this territory, or rather dominates it, but which maintains sections in all other countries which not only pursue the same revolutionary goal, but are also organizationally subordinate to the Moscow headquarters. A victory for these ideas in Germany must have incalculable consequences. However, the more one cooperates with the headquarters of this poisonous agency for diplomatic reasons, the more difficult it becomes to struggle against these poisonous tendencies. The German people are no more immune against Communism now than they were immune to the ideas of revolution in 1917 and 1918. Officers and statesmen can only assess this problem if they understand national psychologies. Experience shows that this is rarely the case.

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