World War II: German Military Buildup


Figure 1.--

The Allies after World War I included sigificant limitations on the German military to ensure there would never be another World War. Adolf Hitler ordered a massive rearmament program after seizing power in Germany. He soon renounced the Versailles Treaty. The program was at first conducted in secret, but latter conducted openly. As a result a largely disarmed Germany wihin only a few years became the mpst potent military power in the wrld. The speed with which this was accimplished was in part due to the significant evasions of the Versailles Treaty limitations conduct during the 1920s before the NAZIs rose to power.

Versailles Treaty (1919)

Germany's path to World War II can be seen in a series of steps begun even before the seizure of power by the NAZIs. In many ways, World war II was a continuation of World War I after a 20 years armistace. The Versailles Peace Treaty ending World War I was signed on June 28, 1919, about 7 months after the Armistace stopping the fighting on November 11, 1918. It had a huge impact on the international status of Germany, impacting the country territorially, militarily, and econimically. Germany was made a pariah country and largely blamed for the start of the War. Of major significance, the Germany being published was the Grmany of the Weimar Republic and not Imperial Germany as the Kaiser had abdigated. As a result, the domestic German oposition to the changes, including the territorial changes, came to be directed at the Weimar Republic and not the Imperial Government that had cnducted the War. The NAZIs and other right-wing groups were to saddle demoncratic politicans with the "shame of Versailles". Germany under the terms of the Treaty suffered many consequences. The navy and merchant marine was lost. The battleships had to be turned over the the Allies. The battleships ships in fact steamped into the British naval base at Scappa Flow. The German captains, however, rather than turning them over to the British, scuttled them. Germany lost her African and Pacific colonies. Along with territorial losses in Europe were important natural resources. The German Army was reduced to virtual impotence. And the country was sattled with immense retributions. A critical elemement in the treaty was the principle of national self determination promoted by President Wilson. This resulted in the creatiion of a large number of small, weak states in Eastern Europe. It must be said that the the Versailles Treaty was not as onerous as the Treaty of Breast-Litovsk (1918) imposed on the Russians. Still it was undenuably harsh. Many historians see it at the first step toward World War II.

Evasion of the Versailles Treaty (1919-33)

The German military had been the most powerful in Europe. The Prrussian officer class which had been the backbone of German military leadership was extremely resentful of the limitations imposed by the Treaty. Among the severe penalties that the treaty imposed on Germany was a comprehensive disarmament regime. Germany was prohibited from weapons such as combat aircraft, tanks, and submarines. Severe limititations were put on the size of the military forces. As a result, the Germans from the breginning set out to evade the limitations. The NAZI rearmament program beginning after their seizure of power is the best known evasion, but efforts to evade the Treaty began years before in the Weimar Rdepublic. Some of these were authorized by the civilian Weimar Governmnt. Others were conducted by the military in secret, both from the Allies and from the Government. Some of these efforts were suptergfuges to like non-military names to desguise the purposes of groups and keeping military connections secret. Another ploy was to conduct activities and programs in foreign countries.

Early Moderate NAZI Diplomacy

At the time that Hitler and the NAZIs seized power in Germany, they were vulnerable. They had many domestic political opponents, a free press, and an independent judiciary. In addition, the German military was militarily weak. Thus the Allies could have intervened in Germany and reestanlished democratic rule. Hitler needed to play a careful political and diplomatic game. His tactics were to dividecand conquer. First he disposed of the Communits and then went after the Socisalists while for a while tolerating the Catholics. Use of the police and opening of concentratioin camps soon silenced press opposition and brought the courts under NAZI control. All thre while he courted the military with a secret rearmament program. To allow him time to gain mastery of Germany, he projected a new moderate kmage, signing treaties with Poland and Britain and assuring France that he had no designs on French territory.

NAZI Rearmament Program/Aufrüstung (1933-39)

Hitler and the NAZIs planned from the beginning for a massive rearmament program. NAZI propaganda promoted the idea that Germany must rearm. [Riegler] The NAZI objectives could in fact only be achieved by war. The NAZIs did not, however, begin a massive rearmament program immediately upon seizing power in 1933. Hitler's first objective was to secure control of Germany abd he did not want to preciptate foreign intervention before he was ready. The German military itself has already sponsored secret armanents programs during the Weimar era in violation of the Versailles Treaty. The NAZIs thus had a solid foundation upon which to base a revived military. The NAZIs sharply expand weapon reseearch. The German military expanded in secret during 1933-34. Hitler by March 1935, felt suffucently secure to publicize his military. The NAZIs announced that they expansion - which broke the terms of the Versailles Treaty. Europe learned that the Nazis had a modern 2,500 plane Luftwaffe and a Wehrmacht with 300,000 men. Hitler publicly announced that he was insituting a compulsory military conscription and planned to expand the Wehrmacht to 550,000 men. Actual araments production began in earnest in 1936. The NAZIs in 1936 doubled armamets spending over 1935 levels. It was in 1936 that NAZI arms spending first exceeeded the combined total for transportation and construction spending. The nature of arms spending also increased. NAZI arms spending initially focused on research, development, and capital investment. The NAZIs in 1936 began concentrating on producing actual military equipment. This is one of the least economically beneficial types of government spending.

Sources

Riegler






CIH -- WW II







Navigate the CIH World WarII Section:
[Return to Main German World War II page]
[Return to Main World War country page]
[Return to Main Axis page]
[About Us]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[POWs] [Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology] [Totalitarian powers]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]





Created: 6:43 PM 11/9/2004
Last updated: 5:25 AM 1/31/2006