Hossbach Memorandum

Hossbach Memorandum

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The Hossbach Memorandum was the summary of a meeting on November 5, 1937 between German dictator Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 and his military and foreign policy leadership where Hitler's future expansionist policies were outlined. The meeting marked a turning point in Hitler's foreign policies, which then began to radicalize. It outlined Hitler's plans for expansion in Europe. According to the Memorandum, Hitler did not want war in 1939 with Britain and France. What he wanted was small wars of plunder to help support Germany's struggling economy (although the Nazis never let on about their financial problems). Hitler wanted a full-scale European war with Britain and France between 1941-1944/5. The memorandum
Memorandum
A memorandum is from the Latin verbal phrase memorandum est, the gerundive form of the verb memoro, "to mention, call to mind, recount, relate", which means "It must be remembered ..."...

 was named for the keeper of the minutes of the meeting, Hitler's military adjutant
Adjutant
Adjutant is a military rank or appointment. In some armies, including most English-speaking ones, it is an officer who assists a more senior officer, while in other armies, especially Francophone ones, it is an NCO , normally corresponding roughly to a Staff Sergeant or Warrant Officer.An Adjutant...

, Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 Count
Count
A count or countess is an aristocratic nobleman in European countries. The word count came into English from the French comte, itself from Latin comes—in its accusative comitem—meaning "companion", and later "companion of the emperor, delegate of the emperor". The adjective form of the word is...

 Friedrich Hossbach. Besides Colonel Hossbach and Hitler, those attending the meeting were the Reich Foreign Minister Baron Konstantin von Neurath
Konstantin von Neurath
Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath was a German diplomat remembered mostly for having served as Foreign minister of Germany between 1932 and 1938...

, the Reich War Minister Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg
Werner von Blomberg
Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg was a German Generalfeldmarschall, Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces until January 1938.-Early life:...

, the Army Commander General Werner von Fritsch
Werner von Fritsch
Werner Thomas Ludwig Freiherr von Fritsch was a prominent Wehrmacht officer, member of the German High Command, and the second German general to be killed during World War II.-Early life:...

, the Kriegsmarine
Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 Commander Admiral Erich Raeder
Erich Raeder
Erich Johann Albert Raeder was a naval leader in Germany before and during World War II. Raeder attained the highest possible naval rank—that of Großadmiral — in 1939, becoming the first person to hold that rank since Alfred von Tirpitz...

 and the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 Commander Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

.

Intentionalist and Structuralist Arguments


The Memorandum is often used by intentionalist
Functionalism versus intentionalism
Functionalism versus intentionalism is a historiographical debate about the origins of the Holocaust as well as most aspects of the Third Reich, such as foreign policy...

 historian
Historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

s such as Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Ludwig Weinberg is a German-born American diplomatic and military historian noted for his studies in the history of World War II. Weinberg currently is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a member of the...

, Andreas Hillgruber
Andreas Hillgruber
Andreas Fritz Hillgruber was a conservative German historian. Hillgruber was influential as a military and diplomatic historian.At his death in 1989, the American historian Francis L...

 and Richard Overy
Richard Overy
Richard Overy is a British historian who has published extensively on the history of World War II and the Third Reich. In 2007 as The Times editor of Complete History of the World he chose the 50 key dates of world history....

 to prove that Hitler planned to start a general European war, which became the Second World War, as part of a long-range master plan. However functionalist
Functionalism versus intentionalism
Functionalism versus intentionalism is a historiographical debate about the origins of the Holocaust as well as most aspects of the Third Reich, such as foreign policy...

 historians such as Timothy Mason
Timothy Mason
Timothy Wright Mason was a British Marxist historian of Nazi Germany.-Life and work:He was born in Birkenhead, the child of school-teachers and was educated at Birkenhead School and Oxford University. He taught at Oxford from 1971–1984 and was twice married. He helped to found the...

, Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen
Hans Mommsen is a left-wing German historian. He is the twin brother of the late Wolfgang Mommsen.-Biography:He was born in Marburg, the son of the historian Wilhelm Mommsen and great-grandson of the Roman historian Theodor Mommsen. He studied German, history and philosophy at the University of...

, and Ian Kershaw
Ian Kershaw
Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

 argue that the document shows no such plans, and instead contend that the Hossbach Memorandum was an improvised ad hoc response by Hitler to the growing crisis in the German economy in the late 1930s. A. J. P. Taylor dismissed the Hossbach Memorandum as evidence of Hitler's intent, pointing out that the document had already been edited by US lawyers during the Nuremburg Trials, that most of the people who attended the meeting were dismissed soon afterwards, and the actual memorandum itself was filed away and forgotten. Instead, Taylor believes that the meeting was merely an attempt by Hitler to drum up support from the military.

Contents


The conference of November 5, 1937 had been called in response to complaints from Admiral Raeder that the Navy (Kriegsmarine) was not receiving sufficient allocations of steel and other raw materials, and as a result, the entire Kriegsmarine building program was in danger of collapse. Neither the Luftwaffe nor the Army were willing to see any reductions of their steel allocations, and as the conference had been called in response to resolve the dispute. Hitler took the opportunity afforded by the conference to provide a summary of his assessment of the foreign policy situation. Hitler stated that in the event of his death, the contents of the conference were to be regarded as his "political testament". In Hitler's view, the German economy had reached such a state of crisis that the only way of stopping a drastic fall in living standards in Germany was to embark on a policy of aggression sooner rather than later to provide sufficient Lebensraum
Lebensraum
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

by seizing Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

. Moreover, Hitler announced it was imperative to act sometime within the next five or six years before "two hate-inspired antagonists", Britain and France, closed the gap in the Arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

, in which, Hitler noted, Germany was already falling behind.

A striking change in the Hossbach Memorandum is Hitler's new evaluation of Britain, from the prospective ally of 1928 in the Zweites Buch
Zweites Buch
The Zweites Buch is an unedited transcript of Adolf Hitler's thoughts on foreign policy written in 1928; it was written after Mein Kampf and was never published in his lifetime.-Composition:...

to the "hate-inspired antagonist" of 1937 unwilling and unable to accept a strong Germany. This change marked a total volte-face in Hitler's view of Britain. The German historian Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand
Klaus Hildebrand is a German conservative historian whose area of expertise is 19th-20th century German political and military history.- Biography :...

 has argued that the Memorandum marked the beginning of an "ambivalent course" towards Britain. Likewise, the late Andreas Hillgruber
Andreas Hillgruber
Andreas Fritz Hillgruber was a conservative German historian. Hillgruber was influential as a military and diplomatic historian.At his death in 1989, the American historian Francis L...

 contended that Hitler was embarking on expansion "without Britain", preferably "with Britain", but if necessary "against Britain".

The first part of the document minuted Hitler's wish that Germany become an autarchic state, reasoning that a reliance on others makes a state weak. This has been labelled by some historians as a way of preparing Germany for conflict, by ensuring that it was not economically reliant on states with which it could soon be at war. The memorandum's suggestion that certain types of autarchy were not possible can thus be considered reasons for regarding the war as something of a necessity.

Autarchy:
Achievement only possible under strict National Socialist leadership of the State, which is assumed. Accepting its achievement as possible, the following could be stated as results:
A. In the field of raw materials only limited, not total, autarchy.

1) In regard to coal, so far as it could be considered as a source of raw materials, autarchy was possible;

2) In regard to ores, the position was much more difficult. Iron requirements can be met from home resources and similarly with light metals, but with other raw materials -copper or tin- this was not the case.

3) Synthetic textile requirements can be met from home resources to the limit of timber supplies. A permanent solution impossible.

4) Edible fats-possible.

B. In the field of food the question of autarchy was to be answered by a flat "No."

With the general rise in the standard of living compared with that of 30 to 40 years ago, there has gone hand in hand an increased demand and an increased home consumption even on the part of the producers, the farmers. The fruits of the increased agricultural production had all gone to meet the increased demand, and so did not represent an absolute production increase. A further increase in production by making greater demands on the soil, which already, in consequence of the use of artificial fertilizers, was showing signs of exhaustion, was hardly possible, and it was therefore certain that even with the maximum increase in production, participation in world trade was unavoidable. The not inconsiderable expenditure of foreign exchange to insure food supplies by imports, even when harvests were good, grew to catastrophic proportions with bad harvests. The possibility of a disaster grew in proportion to the increase in population, in which, too, the excess of births of 560,000 annually produced, as a consequence, an even further increase in bread consumption, since a child was a greater bread consumer than an adult.

It was not possible over the long run, in a continent enjoying a practically common standard of living, to meet the food supply difficulties by lowering that standard and by rationalization. Since, with the solving of the unemployment problem, the maximum consumption level had been reached, some minor modifications in our home agricultural production might still, no doubt, be possible, but no fundamental alteration was possible in our basic food position. Thus autarchy was untenable in regard both to food and to the economy as a whole.


Indeed, the economic arguments appear to all but guarantee a war-as a result of fears for food supplies being reliant upon foreign trade in a world dominated by British-policed sea trade lanes:

"There was a pronounced military weakness in those states which depended for their existence on foreign trade. As our foreign trade was carried on over the sea routes dominated by Britain, it was more a question of security of transport than one of foreign exchange, which revealed, in time of war, the full weakness of our food situation. The only remedy, and one which might appear to us as visionary, lay in the acquisition of greater living space - a quest which has at all times been the origin of the formation of states and of the migration of peoples."


The second part of the document detailed three 'contingencies' that Hitler would take if certain situations prevailed in Europe, purportedly in order to ensure the security of the Reich. Beyond that, Hitler claimed that two “hate-inspired antagonists", namely Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, were blocking German foreign policy goals at every turn, and sometime in the next five years or so, Germany would have to achieve autarchy by seizing Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 to prepare for a possible war with the British and the French.

After the conference, three of the attendees, Blomberg, Fritsch and Neurath, all argued that the foreign policy Hitler had outlined was too risky—Germany needed more time to re-arm. Additionally, they stated that the "contingencies" Hitler described as the prerequisite for war were too unlikely to occur: such as the apparent certainty expressed in the document, of the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 leading to a Franco-Italian war in the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 or that France was on the verge of civil war. Moreover, it was argued any German aggression in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 was bound to trigger a war with France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 because of the French alliance system in Eastern Europe, the so-called Cordon sanitaire
Cordon sanitaire
Cordon sanitaire — or quarantine line — is a French phrase that, literally translated, means "sanitary cordon". Though in French it originally denoted a barrier implemented to stop the spread of disease, it has often been used in English in a metaphorical sense to refer to attempts to prevent the...

, and if a Franco-German war broke out, then Britain was almost certain to intervene rather than risk the prospect of France’s defeat. Thus, any German attack on the states of Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, like Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, was likely to embroil Germany in war not only with the Czechoslovaks, but also with the British and the French before Germany was fully re-armed and ready for war with the other "Great Powers". As such, Fritsch, Blomberg and Neurath advised Hitler to wait until Germany had more time to re-arm before pursuing a high-risk strategy of pursuing localized wars that was likely to trigger a general war before Germany was ready for such a war (none of those present at the conference had any moral objections to Hitler’s strategy, with which they were in basic agreement; only the question of timing divided them) By February 1938, Neurath, Fritsch and Blomberg had been removed from their positions. Some historians, such as Sir John Wheeler-Bennett
John Wheeler-Bennett
Sir John Wheeler Wheeler-Bennett , GCVO, CMG, OBE, FBA, FRSL was a conservative English historian of German and diplomatic history, and the official biographer of King George VI.-Early career:...

 and William L. Shirer
William L. Shirer
William Lawrence Shirer was an American journalist, war correspondent, and historian, who wrote The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a history of Nazi Germany read and cited in scholarly works for more than 50 years...

, believed that Blomberg, Fritsch and Neurath were removed because of their opposition to the plans expressed in the Hossbach memorandum.

The accuracy of the Hossbach memorandum is in question, as the minutes were drawn up five days after the event by Hossbach, partially from notes he took at the meeting and partially from memory. Also, Hitler did not review the minutes of the meeting, instead insisting, as he commonly did, that he was too busy to bother with such small details. The British historian A.J.P. Taylor contended that the manuscript used by the prosecution in the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

 appeared to be a shortened version of the original, as it had passed through the US Army prior to arriving at the trial. Taylor drew attention to one thing that the memorandum can be used to prove; “Goering
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

, Raeder
Erich Raeder
Erich Johann Albert Raeder was a naval leader in Germany before and during World War II. Raeder attained the highest possible naval rank—that of Großadmiral — in 1939, becoming the first person to hold that rank since Alfred von Tirpitz...

 and Neurath had sat by and approved of Hitler’s aggressive plans,” but this does not necessarily mean that Hitler laid down his plans for the domination of Europe: there was no active decision to start a war made in the memorandum, just a decision about when war would be practical. However, Hitler did make mention of the wish for increased armaments.

Taylor attempted to discredit the document by using the fact that the future annexations described in the 'contingencies' were unlike those that occurred in 1939, but opposing historians, such as Taylor's arch-rival, Hugh Trevor-Roper, have pointed out that the memorandum still demonstrated an intention for adding Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 to the Reich. Taylor also stipulated that the meeting was most likely a piece of internal politics, pointing out that Hitler could have been trying to encourage the gathering's members to put pressure on Reich Minister of Economics and President of the Reichsbank, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht
Hjalmar Schacht
Dr. Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht was a German economist, banker, liberal politician, and co-founder of the German Democratic Party. He served as the Currency Commissioner and President of the Reichsbank under the Weimar Republic...

, to release more funding for Germany's re-armament
German re-armament
The German re-armament was a massive effort led by the NSDAP in the early 1930s in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.During its struggle for power the National Socialist party promised to recover Germany's lost national pride...

. In fact Schacht soon resigned in protest at the preeminence of re-armament in Nazi economics. Contending historians have also pointed out that re-armament is an integral part of preparation for conflict. In response, Taylor argued that Hitler's policy was one of bluff (he wished to re-arm Germany so as to frighten and intimidate other states) to allow him to achieve his foreign policy goals without going to war.

In addition, Taylor argued that most of the 'contingencies' Hitler listed as the prerequisite for war, such as an outbreak of civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

 in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 or the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 leading to a war between Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in the Mediterranean, did not occur. Trevor-Roper countered this criticism by arguing that Hitler expressed an intention to go to war sooner rather than later, and it was Hitler's intentions in foreign policy in late 1937 as opposed to his precise plans at this moment in history that really mattered.

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