International Relations 1919-1939

Germany in the Spanish Civil War

Spanish Civil War – intervention and non-intervention

These two clips present the reasons for international intervention and non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War.

PART 1

PART 2

Bombing of Guernica

The bombing of Guernica

A short but focused overview of the bombing of Guernica on 26th April 1937.

Bombing of Guernica

The bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War – Picasso documentary

Appeasement

Why did Britain and France appease Hitler?

“This documentary called ‘Did we have to Fight?’ (first broadcast 1999) explores Britain’s options in the run-up to the Second World War. It will be particularly useful for students of appeasement, Neville Chamberlain, and of the wider conflict.”

Nazi invasion of Poland

The Nazi invasion of Poland

On the 1st September 1939, German forces invaded Poland in a move that was to trigger the Second World War.

Germany had already removed the threat that the USSR might respond aggressively by signing the Nazi-Soviet Pact a week earlier. Furthermore, the Nazis manufactured a situation in Poland to claim that their military response was an acting of self-defence.

During the night of the 31st August, Nazi SS troops dressed in Polish uniforms and staged an attack on the Gleiwitz radio tower in Upper Silesia. This ‘false flag’ operation was part of a wider series of staged attacks by Germans and German property called Operation Himmler that was designed to make it appear that Poland was exercising aggression against Germany.

Just hours after the Gleiwitz incident, at 4.45am on the 1st September, the first of approximately 1.5million German troops launched their attack on Poland. The effective encirclement of Polish forces by launching the coordinated attack at the same time from the north, south and west. The attack from the south came across the border with Slovakia, which had declared its independence in March under pressure from Hitler.

Known as the Battle of the Border, the three-pronged ground attack was supported by air raids that targeted Polish cities. It took just 5 days for troops on the ground to force the Polish army to retreat to their secondary defensive lines. The USSR joined launched its own invasion from east on the 17th September, and this crushed Polish hopes of victory.

The Polish government refused to surrender to Germany and instead evacuated the country and regrouped in Allied countries.

WW2

The start of the Second World War

On the 3rd September 1939, the Second World War officially began when France and the United Kingdom – together with Australia and New Zealand – declared war on Germany.

Nazi forces had invaded Poland two days earlier, claiming to be acting in self-defence. Although both France and Britain had each signed Pacts with Poland regarding mutual assistance in case of invasion, no significant military action was taken for eight months against Germany. As a result, this period became known as the Phoney War.

However, to call the war ‘phoney’ ignores some key elements of this period. The French, for example, launched an attack across the German border known as the Saar Offensive but the troops were pulled back to their defensive Maginot Line on the 17th October after it became clear that a full-scale assault would not be successful.

Further action took place at sea, where both the British and French navies both began a blockade of Germany’s ports the day after the declaration of war. The previous evening the British passenger ship SS Athenia was hit by torpedoes fired from a Nazi U-boat off the coast of the Hebrides. 128 civilian passengers and crew were killed as a result of the attack, and it is seen by some as marking the start of the Battle of the Atlantic.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned and was replaced by Winston Churchill, on Chamberlain’s own suggestion, on the 10th May 1940. This coincided to the day with Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries using the tactic of blitzkrieg and effectively marked the end of the Phoney War.

Hitler and the Road to War – ‘History File’ extract

An overview of how Hitler’s policies in Nazi Germany broke the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and contributed to the outbreak of World War 2 alongside the Allied policy of Appeasement.