Book Review of Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-1941: The Road to Global War

Christian Leitz. Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-1941: The Road to Global War. The Third Reich Series. London: Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0-415-17423-6. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 192. $136.00.

LeitzThe study of German foreign policy leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe has continued to interest and fascinate students and scholars.  Even so, the last decade has seen fewer studies available to an English reading audience.  One such study, due to be published in a paperback edition this year, is Dr Christian Leitz’s study of Nazi foreign policy from 1933 to 1941.  Leitz, formerly an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, is currently Head of Corporate Responsibility Management and Historical Archives at UBS AG in Switzerland.  He is known for his studies Economic Relations Between Nazi Germany and Franco’s Spain, 1936-1945 (1996) and Sympathy for the Devil: Neutral Europe and Nazi Germany in World War II [also published as Nazi Germany and Neutral Europe during the Second World War in Britain] (2001).  Moreover, he is the editor of The Third Reich: The Essential Readings (1999) and co-editor of Spain in an International Context, 1936-1959 (1999).

In this study, Leitz stresses Hitler’s obsession with reestablishing Germany as a Great Power in international affairs.  The Führer sought to rid Germany of the Treaty of Versailles restrictions.  Most of all, the German leader took actions to prepare for and conduct a major war of expansion (p.5).  Hitler directed German foreign and military policy.  But, the Führer’s actions were heavily influenced by others.  Leitz shows that, at times, Neurath, Ribbentrop, Göring, Goebbels, Rosenberg, Bohle, and others managed to influence German foreign policy.

The author tackles Nazi foreign policy by individually exploring German relations with Italy, Britain and France, Poland, the Soviet Union, Southeast Europe, the United States, and East Asia in separate chapters.  This approach has the benefit of allowing one to understand Hitler’s evolving thoughts and policy concerning each state or group of states from the 1920s to the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and the conflict’s transformation into a global war in 1941.

Leitz succeeds in providing a concise and stimulating discussion of Hitler’s foreign policy.  As such, this study is a great addition to the other works concerning German foreign policy during the Third Reich.  Some of the most recent works include Jonathan Wright’s Germany and the Origins of the Second World War (2007), William Young’s German Diplomatic Relations, 1871-1945: The Wilhelmstrasse and the Formulation of Foreign Policy (2006), and Zachary Shore’s What Hitler Knew: The Battle for Information in Nazi Foreign Policy (2003).  For those readers interested in classic studies in Nazi foreign policy, see Klaus Hildebrand’s The Foreign Policy of the Third Reich (1984), Norman Rich’s Hitler’s War Aims (2 volumes, 1972-73), William Carr’s Arms, Autarky and Aggression: A Study in German Foreign Policy (1972), and Gerhard L. Weinberg’s The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany (2 volumes, 1970-80).  One should also consult the essays in The Buildup of German Aggression (1991), Volume I of the Research Institute for Military History’s Germany and the Second World War series, by Wilhelm Deist, Manfred Messerschmidt, Hans-Erich Volkmann, and Wolfram Wette.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

About William Young

Dr William Young is the Associate Director of International Programs and Adjunct Professor of History at the University of North Dakota. He is the author of German Diplomatic Relations, 1871-1945 (2006), International Politics and Warfare in the Age of Louis XIV and Peter the Great (2004), and European War and Diplomacy, 1337-1815 (2003). Dr Young is a former historian for the United States Air Force and the recipient of three Air Force Historian of the Year awards. He is the author of forty-two volumes of Air Force history as well as numerous special studies and monographs. His service included thirteen years in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, German Foreign Policy, Interwar Period (1919-1939), World War II (1939-1945) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Book Review of Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-1941: The Road to Global War

  1. William Young says:

    Reblogged this on Military History and commented:

    An outstanding concise look at Hitler’s foreign policy that led to World War II.

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