The dictatorships in Germany and Italy had a significant effect on European tensions and it also had a powerful implication in Europe in the lead up to the war. Like Hitler, Mussolini was fairly elected in 1922 and from that time on he clearly expressed how he felt about how Italy had been unfairly treated by the treaty of Versailles and how he would restore Italy to its former imperial glory. In 1935 he defied the League of Nations and invaded Abyssinia in North Africa. The League of Nations then sought to apply sanctions against Italy. The sanctions failed, but they had the effect of pushing the Italians closer to Germany.
In Europe in 1935 the democracies of Britain and France stood on one side hoping to maintain the terms of the treaty of Versailles settlement and on the other side stood the dictators, Hitler and Mussolini who were determined to destroy the terms of treaty. This situation was clearly showed in Winston Churchill’s history of the Second World War. Churchill wrote that in 1935 Hitler was ready to make a first open challenge to the Versailles settlement and announced the expansion of the German army. The same day, Mussolini began to move against Abyssinia. The greatest single advantage for the dictators was the act that the democratic powers’ memories of the horrors of the First World War meant that their fear of another war outweighed the desire to protect the terms of the treaty of Versailles. This clearly shows that both countries were willing to defy the treaty, and gamble on the chance that the allied powers would not stop them in what they were doing.
Once this dangerous relationship began both countries then took steps to ensure that their foreign policies where not challenged. On November 5th 1937, Hitler called the meeting of his military leaders and his chancellery in berlin; this was later to be known as the hossbach memorandum. What was said at this meeting is evidence to most historians that Hitler was moving to a new phase of his foreign policy. Encouraged by his past foreign policy success Hitler told his military leaders that the time had come to solve the question of “living space” or lebensraum for the German people.
The hossbach document gives clear evidence that Hitler was now thinking of taking territory in Eastern Europe. This then came into effect in 1938 when Hitler intended to unite the country of his birth, Austria. The Anschluss or union both countries, was forbidden by the 1919 peace settlement. Hitler was sure that the western powers would not intervene, and Italy, the former defender of Austrian independence, was now supporting Germany. This again shows how Italy and Germany had a strong alliance and were now starting to advance and create the living space, causing tensions with the allied nations of Europe.
When the tension between European countries was boiling over, the British and the French governments were starting to follow the policy of appeasement. Appeasement is the belief that it was still possible to settle the problems with Germany peacefully. It was a perfectly understandable policy. It was based in part on a horror of another war and the realisation that the treaty of Versailles may have been too harsh on Germany. This can be seen as a last ditch effort by the allied nations to control the Germans and the Italians. The man associated with the policy of appeasement was Neville Chamberlin, who became the prime minister on Britain in 1937. Chamberlin was motivated by a passionate desire to preserve peace, ‘ever since I assumed my present office my main purpose has been to work for the pacification of…