A Level History Edexcel Section C Essay HelpWatch
<b>In light of differing interpretations, how far do you agree that Nazi foreign policy in years 1933-1939 was an area where Hitler “changed nothing”? </b>
The apparent contradiction between the interpretations of Hitler’s foreign policy can be evidenced from differences between Taylor’s and Bell’s extract. Taylor takes the view Hitler “changed nothing” by citing the continuity from the Kaiser reich especially in regards to his dream of land expansion - meanwhile Bell takes the view that Hitler and his coinciding “Nazi ideology” represented a “sharp turn” in foreign policy.
The debate surrounding the above question is setup in two opposing camps - structuralist and intentionalist, with Taylor being the structuralist whilst Bell is the intentionalist. The intentionalist camp believes that it was Hitler who drove forward German foreign policy, whilst the structuralist camp believe that Hitler’s foreign policy was rather fuelled by external factors; such as actions of other politicians or events beyond his purview. Taylor appears to suggest that Hitler merely carried on the policy path laid out by prior German leaders (including Weimar) - Bell does acknowledge Taylor’s hypothesis, hence his mention of “evidence of continuity”, however he places far greater weight on the contrast of methods by mentioning the “sharp break” that the Nazi ideology constituted in German foreign policy.
Extract 1 by AJP Taylor shows the less “accepted” view of the two extracts by perpetuating the idea that Hitler “changed nothing” surrounding the foreign policy of his predecessors.. Taylor points out that removing Germany from the “restrictions” of the Treaty of Versaille had been an aim of every government, and multiple popular political campaigners (e.g. Wolfgang Kapp) hence the mention of “virtually all Germans”, since the diktat had been imposed on Germany. Bell, however, also acknowledges the “continuity” Hitler provided in regards to foreign policy as he mentions the fact that Hitler only “broke the conservative establishment (the foreign office)” in 1938 - 5 years after he came to power thus further inferring that Hitler, indeed, “changed nothing” in regards to foreign policy. In fact it is evident that Hitler saw his foreign policy as a direct continuation of the other historical leaders of Germany, hence his propaganda often featured him alongside Bismarck, Frederick the Great and Hindenburg. Hitler’s use of the history goes further than prior leaders of Germany - Hitler often spoke about restoring Germany to excellence that it had once been and that the Aryan race had been tainted by the impure German citizens (such as the Jews) who had not previously lived in Germany, such ideas of racial superiority were prevalent under prior regimes under pseudonym of Pan-Germanism thus further proving continuity.
Extract 2 by PMH Bell shows the more widely accepted view of the two extracts by perpetuating the idea that Hitler and his coinciding Nazi ideology created a “sharp turn” in German foreign policy. Bell points out that such a sharp turn was created by Hitler’s “new way of thought” such as that surrounding his racial theory of the Aryan race - to which even Taylor acknowledges hence he describes it as Hitler “changing the emphasis” on prior foreign policy. The racial theory impacted the “revolutionary new methods” Hitler used when engaging with foreign countries - evidenced by his use of the Einsatzgruppen who were sent to collect racially inferior opponents before the main German military invasion of a country. Although Bell does recognise that Hitler took until “1938” to replace the Foreign office and General staff - he had created institutions which ran parallel to existing offices; such as .Despite Taylor’s mentioning the desire to remove the “peace treaty”; differences can be seen in the methods in which Hitler executed such desires - while Weimar took diplomatic steps to resolve the heavily criticised treaty such as the Locarno pact, Hitler was far more aggressive by starting rearmament (direct violation of the treaty) within his first year at the helm of Germany before remilitarising the Rhineland without any negotiation with the French.
Therefore from the arguments above we can see that Hitler’s foreign policy represented a stark contrast from that of its predecessors and thus to say that Hitler “changed nothing” is a such a vast generalisation that lacks justification. Although in terms of general aims Taylor is correct in discerning the similarities between Hitler’s foreign policy and those that came before it - however there is a distinction between broad aims and precise policy; no more so was this evident than in Hitler’s war-like method to counter the Treaty of Versaille when he remilitarized the Rhineland compared to the diplomacy of Weimar during the Locarno Treaty. Thus to conclude, whilst it is evident the overall aim represented continuity in foreign policy - the methods which Hitler used created such a dichotomic change that it is wrong to say that he “changed nothing” in regards to foreign policy.