Friday, 25 June 2010

Hitler and Mussolini get off to a bad start

Hitler knew he would need friends abroad, and that he would also need to woo potential enemies into neutrality or browbeat them into submission. In his search for friends, Hitler felt himself constrained. The Nazi movement was entirely homegrown within Germany so, unlike the Communists, there was no pre-existing international network of which to take advantage. There were, however, plenty of regimes which had reason to fear the Communists, as did Hitler. And there was already one nationalist, right wing dictatorship in existence in Europe. It was only natural that Hitler would turn to Benito Mussolini, Fascist dictator of Italy, in his search for a foreign friend.

Unfortunately, the campaign to woo Mussolini got off to a bad start. In April 1933 Hitler announced a boycott of Jewish businesses. Mussolini sent the Italian ambassador in Berlin to Hitler with a message urging him to soften the anti-Semitic policies of Nazism. Eager as he was to make friends with Mussolini, Hitler was not to be put off. He told the Italian ambassador that there were very few Jews in Italy, so Mussolini did not understand the problem.

In October, Hitler upset Mussolini again when he took Germany out of the League of Nations. The Italian dictator had long viewed the League of Nations as a useful talking forum and shop window through which to present a reasonable face to the world. For a fellow right wing dictator to treat the world’s largest international organisation with contempt was, Mussolini felt, not merely a mistake but a blow to his own prestige.

This is an extract from Hitler Military Commander by Rupert Matthews.

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