Geopolitik is the branch of uniquely German geostrategy. It developed as a distinct strain of thought
after Otto von Bismarck's unification of the German states but began its development in earnest
only under Emperor Wilhelm II. Central concepts concerning the German race, and regarding
economic space, demonstrate continuity from the German Imperial time up through Adolf Hitler's
Third Reich. However, Imperial geostrategist, German geopoliticians, and Nazi strategists did not
have extensive contacts with one another, suggesting that German geopolitik was not copied or
passed on to successive generations, but perhaps reflected the more permanent aspects
of German geography, political geography, and cultural geography.
Geopolitik developed from widely varied sources, including the writings of Oswald Spengler,
Alexander Humboldt, Karl Ritter, Friedrich Ratzel, Rudolf Kjellén, and Karl Haushofer. It was
eventually adapted to accommodate the ideology of Adolf Hitler.
Its defining characteristic is the inclusion of organic state theory, informed by Social Darwinism. It
was characterized by clash of civilizations-style theorizing. It is perhaps the closest of any school of
geostrategy to a purely nationalistic conception of geostrategy, which ended up masking other more
Germany acted as a revisionist state within the international system during both World Wars,
attempting to overthrow British domination, and counter what it saw as rising American and Russian
hegemony. As a latecomer to nationhood proper, lacking colonies or markets for industrial output,
but also experiencing rapid population growth, Germany desired a more equitable distribution of
wealth and territory within the international system. Modern scholars have begun to treat the two
World Wars caused by Germany as one single war, in which the revisionist Germany attempted to
bid for hegemonic control with which to reorder the international system. While the overt
motivations were racial, as was the case with most conflicts in this time period, German foreign
policy was largely consistent in both wars. The Nazi foreign policy was unique insofar as it learned
from what it saw as past imperial mistakes, but essentially followed the very same designs laid out
by German geopolitik and the historical record of the empire.
German Empire, 1871–1918
The origins of much of the policy later advocated by geopoliticians and implemented by the
National Socialists would come out of the pre–World War I German imperial ambitions.
They crafted the idea of Mitteleuropa which would provide the foundation for later
conceptions of lebensraum and economic domination which would later inform
geopolitician's theories on pan-regions.
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany
The accession of Wilhelm II to power released much of the German desire for "a place in the
sun", demanding a policy of annexation to increase Germany's resources and prestige in
Europe. Having come late to proper nationhood, Germany perceived itself as in a vulnerable
position compared to the older and more established colonial nation-states. An anti-liberal
and anti-socialist campaign was led to mobilize the petty bourgeois, those who lost the most
to industrialization's fluctuations. This movement was linked to anti-Semitism, first on a
religious basis, then racial, then fused into a new racial nationalism. The effort to create a
Central European customs union was justified as an attempt to save German culture from the
British, American, Russian and possibly Chinese domination. Not simply economic in
motivation, it was had a cultural, will to power dimension. Wilhelm himself saw Germany's
struggle as a conflict for existence against the races that feared German growth. He fully
expected the "Anglo-Saxons" to side with the "Gauls and Slavs" in what he thought would be
the last great war between the "Teuton and the Slav." He saw no hope in diplomacy—this
struggle was not a question of politics but of race. The racial mobilization of the petty
bourgeois into a racially nationalist movement for expansionism, the conception of
international politics as a struggle to save racial culture and values, and Germany's racial
conflict being against the Slavs primarily, informed Germany's perception of its own place in
Germany's justification for seeking world power was based on being a young nation with
high population growth, a low average national age, significant immigration and urban
expansion. Germany was thus stirred to begin pushing for greater lebensraum and markets to
accommodate their industrial expansion. Its borders were perceived to be too small to sustain
its rapid growth, leading to a desire to split the entente that was encircling it and preventing
expansion. The most prominent German academic thought, including that of Friedrich
Ratzel, declared dead peaceful competition between European states. Not top-down
influences on the population, the academics were serving more as mouthpieces for larger
societal forces. Mitteleuropa emerged as a concept in an attempt to reassert German power
in the European system, and in a sense undo the decision to fall under Prussia's smallGermany solution rather than Austro-Hungary's big-Germany plan. To secure Germany's
place in Europe, many German people viewed World War I as simply defensive action
against the victimization of encirclement and assault waged by the European Great Powers,
pushing until the end for safeguards and guarantees for the future of the German Empire.
Walter Rathenau, Foreign Minister of Germany
German nationalist sentiments were roused in the pre–World War I years by books like
General Friedrich von Bernhardi's Deutschland und der nächste Krieg clamoring for the
elimination of France, the establishment of a Central European federation, and the
assumption of world power through colonial acquisitions. The core of the Second Reich's
program was to create a Mitteleuropa of economic domination under German hegemony safe
from France and Russia. This would be augmented by colonies chiefly in Central Africa.
Not only would fear of French and Russian power drive German imperialism but also
growing American power was a further cause to unite Mitteleuropa under Germany,
according to Walther Rathenau's 1912 report, augmented by the resources from Mittelafrika
and Asia Minor after the disarmament of Britain.
Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, Chancellor of the German Empire from 1909 to 1917.
Controversial historian Fritz Fischer labeled him the "Hitler of 1914."
Germany would display a consistent policy of annexation toward Mitteleuropa, attempting to
establish a core consisting of a customs union with Austro-Hungary, to which smaller states
would have to adhere. Conceived by Rathenau and Arthur von Gwinner, Theobald von
Bethmann Hollweg would later adopt it, followed by Hans Delbrück and Johannes Bell under
the orders of the Chancellor. Mitteleuropa was pushed over the protests of the industrialists
for essentially political reasons. Germany needed to be able to effectively compete with
larger trading nations, so that this Austro-Hungarian Germany would not be dependent on
imports, with the additional benefit that Germany would have a claim to successor status if
Austro-Hungary were to disintegrate. This would allow Germany to move away from
protectionism in their internal markets, toward aggression in the international markets,
according to Delbrück. Further, German leaders had a desire to spread their values and
cultural cohesion, in effect establishing something like the Anglo-Saxon world, whose culture
was viewed as a more important force than their unrivalled fleet. What was essentially
being pursued was autarky, free from dependence on imports, with political and cultural
rather than economic goals.
Poland was the strategic linchpin to German imperial designs in Eastern Europe, much like
Belgium in plans in the West. Even by 1917, Poland as a German satellite was an
undiminished goal, even surpassing the desire for an Austro-Hungary dependent on the
German economy. Hollweg would bring the frontier-strip policy toward Poland into the
political arena by 1914. Poland would become Germany's strategic focus against Russia,
serving as a front-line defense against the Slavs once settled with Germanic peoples. More
than strategic, the Germans has a Völkish mission to settle the land with German nationalists,
and deport the Poles and Jews from the land, as a direct continuation of the historical PrussoGerman Ostmark policy.
When no solution to the Polish question could be reached with Austria after the Brest-Litovsk
treaty, Germany essentially dropped a pure Mitteleuropa plan in favor of a policy of Ostraum,
because Poland was still the key to the Ukraine, Russia and Southeast European states that
were the goal of German economic domination. When total annexation of the East was
denied Germany by Russia, Germany accepted the idea of small, autonomous middle-tier
states, free from Russian troops, but associated with Germany economically. The AustroHungarian problem was solved with a long-term close political, military and economic
alliance. Instead of a formal Mitteleuropa, Germany pushed for control over resource rich
areas on its borders, which would push France, Belgium, Poland and Austro-Hungary into de
facto dependency. Thus, the central piece of Germany's Mitteleuropa was the desire for
economic domination of the Eastern Slavic countries, with a central focus on Poland as the
Economically, Imperial Germany would vary between a focus on internal land-based
markets, and international trade based on colonialism. Bismarck, from 1867 to 1878 would
abandon free trade in favor of nationalist tariff protectionism for heavy industry and largescale agriculture. However, the center of Wilhelm's policy would be the construction of a
new fleet—sea power being the key to Great Power status—with a revisionist eye toward
existing colonial possessions around the world. Still, Germany would pursue a mercantilist
economic policy with state support for large industry, intervention into markets, and the
nationalization of public goods. Rudolph Kjellén would call for an economic federation in
Central Europe for the purpose of extending German colonial possessions, a sentiment
endorsed by many Germans before 1914.
However, economic growth would increasingly bring Germany into conflict with England,
with two distinct paths open to the empire: naval conflict with England; or land expansion
within Europe. German industry demanded political independence from British hegemony
in world politics, the shattering of Russian influence, and the annexation of weak states on
Germany's border for their resources. But to break dependency on Britain, Germany
required a formidable merchant marine force, which it would not have despite Wilhelm's
aims. As a kind of half-measure, Germany realized that it should pursue alliance with
Italy, and encourage the strengthening of its naval presence in the Mediterranean in order to
counter what British influence they could.
 Geopolitik rises
German geopolitik contributed to Nazi foreign policy chiefly in the strategy and justifications
for lebensraum. Geopolitik contributed five ideas to German foreign policy in the interwar
period: the organic state; lebensraum; autarky; pan-regions; and the land power/sea power
Geostrategy as a political science is both descriptive and analytical like Political Geography,
but adds a normative element in its strategic prescriptions for national policy. While it
stems from earlier American and British geostrategy, German geopolitik adopts an
essentialist outlook toward the national interest, oversimplifying issues and representing itself
as a panacea. As a new and essentialist ideology, geopolitik found itself in a position to
prey upon the post–World War I insecurity of the populace.
In 1919, General Karl Haushofer would become professor of geography at the University of
Munich. This would serve as a platform for the spread of his geopolitical ideas, magazine
articles and books. By 1924, as the leader of the German geopolitik school of thought,
Haushofer would establish the Zeitschrift für Geopolitik monthly devoted to geopolitik. His
ideas would reach a wider audience with the publication of Volk ohne Raum by Hans Grimm
in 1926, popularizing his concept of lebensraum. Haushofer exercised influence both
through his academic teachings, urging his students to think in terms of continents and
emphasizing motion in international politics, and through his political activities. While
Hitler's speeches would attract the masses, Haushofer's works served to bring the remaining
intellectuals into the fold.
Geopolitik was in essence a consolidation and codification of older ideas, given a scientific
Lebensraum was a revised colonial imperialism;
Autarky a new expression of tariff protectionism;
Strategic control of key geographic territories exhibiting the same thought behind
earlier designs on the Suez and Panama canals; and
Pan-regions based upon the British Empire, and the American Monroe Doctrine, PanAmerican Union and hemispheric defense.
The key reorientation in each dyad is that the focus is on land-based empire rather than naval
Ostensibly based upon the geopolitical theory of American naval officer Alfred Thayer
Mahan, and British geographer Halford J. Mackinder, German geopolitik adds older German
ideas. Enunciated most forcefully by Friedrich Ratzel and his Swedish student Rudolf
Kjellén, they include an organic or anthropomorphized conception of the state, and the need
for self-sufficiency through the top-down organization of society. The root of uniquely
German geopolitik rests in the writings of Karl Ritter who first developed the organic
conception of the state that would later by elaborated upon by Ratzel and accepted by
Hausfhofer. He justified lebensraum, even at the cost of other nation's existence because
conquest was a biological necessity for a state's growth.
 Friedrich Ratzel
Ratzel's writings coincided with the growth of German industrialism after the FrancoPrussian war and the subsequent search for markets that brought it into competition with
England. His writings served as welcome justification for imperial expansion. Influenced
by Mahan, Ratzel wrote of aspirations for German naval reach, agreeing that sea power was
self-sustaining, as the profit from trade would pay for the merchant marine, unlike land
power. Haushofer was exposed to Ratzel, who was friends with Haushofer's father, a
teacher of economic geography, and would integrate Ratzel's ideas on the division between
sea and land powers into his theories, saying that only a country with both of those could
overcome this conflict. Here, Hitler diverged with Haushofer's writings, in consigning
Germany to sole pursuit of landpower.
Ratzel's key contribution was the expansion on the biological conception of geography,
without a static conception of borders. States are instead organic and growing, with borders
representing only a temporary stop in their movement. It is not the state proper that is the
organism, but the land in its spiritual bond with the people who draw sustenance from it.
The expanse of a state's borders is a reflection of the health of the nation. Haushofer adopts
the view that borders are largely insignificant in his writings, especially as the nation ought to
be in a frequent state of struggle with those around it.
Ratzel's idea of Raum would grow out of his organic state conception. This early lebensraum
was not political or economic, but spiritual and racial nationalist expansion. The Raummotiv is a historically driving force, pushing peoples with great Kultur to naturally expand.
Space for Ratzel was a vague concept, theoretically unbounded just as was Hitler's. Raum
was defined by where German peoples live, where other inferior states could serve to support
German peoples economically, and where German culture could fertilize other cultures.
Haushofer would adopt this conception of Raum as the central program for German
geopolitik, while Hitler's policy would reflect the spiritual and cultural drive to expansion.
 Rudolph Kjellén
Rudolph Kjellén was Ratzel's Swedish student who would further elaborate on organic state
theory and first coined the term "geopolitics." Kjellén's State as a Form of Life would
outline five key concepts that would shape German geopolitik.
Reich was a territorial concept that comprised Raum, Lebensraum, and strategic
Volk was a racial conception of the state.
Haushalt was a call for autarky based on land, formulated in reaction to the
vicissitudes of international markets.
Gesellschaft was the social aspect of a nation's organization and cultural appeal,
Kjellén going further than Ratzel in his anthropomorphic view of states relative to
each other. And finally,
Regierung was the form of government whose bureaucracy and army would
contribute to the people's pacification and coordination.
Kjellén disputed the solely legalistic characterization of states, arguing that state and society
are not opposites, but rather a synthesis of the two elements. The state did have a
responsibility for law and order, but also for social welfare/progress, and economic
Autarky, for Kjellén, was a solution to a political problem, not an economic policy proper.
Dependence on imports would mean that a country would never be independent. Territory
would provide for internal production. For Germany, Central and Southeastern Europe were
key, along with the Near East and Africa. Haushofer was not interested in economic policy,
but advocated autarky as well; a nation constantly in struggle would demand selfsufficiency.
 Haushofer's contribution
Haushofer's geopolitik expands upon that of Ratzel and Kjellén. While the latter two
conceive of geopolitik as the state as an organism in space put to the service of a leader,
Haushofer's Munich school specifically studies geography as it relates to war and designs for
empire. The behavioral rules of previous geopoliticians were thus turned into dynamic
normative doctrines for action on lebensraum and world power.
Haushofer defined geopolitik in 1935 as "the duty to safeguard the right to the soil, to the
land in the widest sense, not only the land within the frontiers of the Reich but also the right
to the more extensive Volk and cultural lands." Culture itself was seen as the most
conducive element to dynamic special expansion. It provided a guide as to the best areas for
expansion, and could make expansion safe, whereas projected military or commercial power
could not. Haushofer even held that urbanization was a symptom of a nation's decline by
giviing evidence a decreasing soil mastery, birthrate, and effectiveness of centralized rule.
To Haushofer, the existence of a state depended on living space, the pursuit of which must
serve as the basis for all policies. Germany had a high population density, whereas the old
colonial powers had a much lower density, a virtual mandate for German expansion into
resource-rich areas. Space was seen as military protection against initial assaults from
hostile neighbors with long-range weaponry. A buffer zone of territories or insignificant
states on one's borders would serve to protect Germany. Closely linked to this need, was
Haushofer's assertion that the existence of small states was evidence of political regression
and disorder in the international system. The small states surrounding Germany ought to be
brought into the vital German order. These states were seen as being too small to maintain
practical autonomy, even if they maintained large colonial possessions, and would be better
served by protection and organization within Germany. In Europe, he saw Belgium, the
Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece and the "mutilated alliance" of AustroHungary as supporting his assertion.
Haushofer's version of autarky was based on the quasi-Malthusian idea that the earth would
become saturated with people and no longer able to provide food for all. There would
essentially be no increases in productivity.
Haushofer and the Munich school of geopolitik would eventually expand their conception of
lebensraum and autarky well past the borders of 1914 and "a place in the sun" to a New
European Order, then to a New Afro-European Order, and eventually to a Eurasian Order.
This concept became known as a pan-region, taken from the American Monroe Doctrine, and
the idea of national and continental self-sufficiency. This was a forward-looking
refashioning of the drive for colonies, something that geopoliticians did not see as an
economic necessity, but more as a matter of prestige, and putting pressure on older colonial
powers. The fundamental motivating force would not be economic, but cultural and
Beyond being an economic concept, pan-regions were a strategic concept as well. Haushofer
acknowledges the strategic concept of the Heartland put forward by the British geopolitician
Halford Mackinder. If Germany could control Eastern Europe and subsequently Russian
territory, it could control a strategic area to which hostile seapower could be denied.
Allying with Italy and Japan would further augment German strategic control of Eurasia, with
those states becoming the naval arms protecting Germany's insular position.
 Contacts with Nazi leadership
Evidence points to a disconnect between geopoliticians and the Nazi leadership, although
their practical tactical goals were nearly indistinguishable.
Rudolf Hess, Hitler's secretary who would assist in the writing of Mein Kampf, was a close
student of Haushofer's. While Hess and Hitler were imprisoned after the Munich Putsch in
1923, Haushofer spent six hours visiting the two, bringing along a copy of Friedrich Ratzel's
Political Geography and Carl von Clausewitz's Vom Kriege. After World War II,
Haushofer would deny that he had taught Hitler, and claimed that the National Socialist party
perverted Hess's study of geopolitik. He viewed Hitler as a half-educated man who never
correctly understood the principles of geopolitik passed onto him by Hess, and Foreign
Minister Joachim Ribbentrop as the principle distorter of geopolitik in Hitler's mind. While
Haushofer accompanies Hess on numerous propaganda missions, and participated in
consultations between Nazis and Japanese leaders, he claimed that Hitler and the Nazis only
seized upon half-developed ideas and catchwords. Furthermore, the Nazi party and
government lacked any official organ that was receptive to geopolitik, leading to selective
adoption and poor interpretation of Haushofer's theories. Ultimately, Hess and Von Neurath,
Nazi Minister of Foreign Affairs, were the only officials Haushofer judged to have had a
proper understanding of geopolitik.
Father Edmund A. Walsh S.J., professor of geopolitics and dean at Georgetown University,
who interviewed Haushofer after the allied victory in preparation for the Nuremberg trials,
disagreed with Haushofer's assessment that geopolitik was terribly distorted by Hitler and the
Nazis. He cites Hitler's speeches declaring that small states have no right to exist and the
Nazi use of Haushofer's maps, language and arguments. Even if distorted somewhat, Fr.
Walsh felt that was enough to implicate Haushofer's geopolitik.
Haushofer also denied assisting Hitler in writing Mein Kampf, saying that he knew of it only
once it was in print and never read it. Fr. Walsh found that even if Haushofer did not
directly assist Hitler, discernible new elements appeared in Mein Kampf, as compared to
previous speeches made by Hitler. Geopolitical ideas of lebensraum, space for depth of
defense, appeals for natural frontiers, balancing land and seapower, and geographic analysis
of military strategy entered Hitler's thought between his imprisonment and publishing of
Mein Kampf. Chapter XIV, on German policy in Eastern Europe, in particular displays the
influence of the materials Haushofer brought Hitler and Hess while they were imprisoned.
Haushofer was never an ardent Nazi, and did voice disagreements with the party, leading to
his brief imprisonment. He did profess loyalty to the Führer and make anti-Semitic remarks
on occasion. However, his emphasis was always on space over race. He refused to
associate himself with anti-Semitism as a policy, especially because his wife was halfJewish. Haushofer admits that after 1933 much of what he wrote was distorted under
duress: his wife had to be protected by Hess's influence; his son was murdered by the
Gestapo; he himself was imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp for eight months; and his
son and grandson were imprisoned for two-and-a-half months.
 Hitler's geostrategy
The name "National Socialism" itself describes the fundamental orientation of Hitler's foreign
policy. The nation, as a concept, was historically used almost interchangeably with race or
ethnicity. Even under the League of Nations' legalistic framework for European state
relations, states had been drawn upon ethnically determined boundaries, following the tenets
of Wilson's Fourteen Points speech. The first priority of the National Socialists was to
focus on the racial aspects of foreign policy. Socialism, on the other hand, is focused on the
equitable distribution and redistribution of material goods within an economic system. As a
latecomer to nationhood proper and industrialization, Germany was far behind other older
colonial powers in the acquisition of territory abroad. Burdened with a burgeoning
population, Germany had lagging ability to raise agricultural production to meet food
demands, compete in markets for industrial goods, obtain cheap sources of raw materials, and
find an acceptable outlet for emigration. National Socialist foreign policy thus focused on
what they perceived as a more equitable international redistribution of material resources and
Hitler's foreign policy strategy can be divided into two main concepts: race and space. In
1928, Hitler dictated the text of a follow-up text to Mein Kampf focused on the elaboration of
the foreign policy concepts he had previously set forth. Unedited and unpublished it allows
a clearer picture of Hitler's thoughts than the edited and revised Mein Kampf, or his populist
and over-simplified speeches. There is a lack of development or major shifts in his worldview
between the 1926 volume and his assumption of power in 1933, supporting the idea that
Hitler was not a foreign policy opportunist, but that his ideas were specific and formed before
he had the power to implement his designs.
Hitler outlined eight principles and four goals that were to guide his foreign policy. The
principles were concerned with the German military, the League of Nations and the situation
with France. Hitler's first concern was the reinvigoration of the German military, without
which all other aims could not be achieved. The League of Nations was a prohibitive factor in
the development and change of Germany because those with influence in the League were the
very same states that had demanded Germany's crippling. Germany could not hope for
allies found outside the League but for only discontent states that would be willing to break
away. Those states would not be willing to leave unless Germany established a clear and
articulated foreign policy, with clear costs and consequences, which the others could then
follow. He cautions, however, that Germany cannot rely upon inferior allies (undesirable
either by dint of their race or past military weakness). France, and the containment alliance
it led against Germany, could not be challenged without the strong military Hitler envisioned
and a decisive preemptive strike. He recognized that no matter what path Germany takes to
regain its strength, France would always assist or even lead a coalition against it.
Hitler's goals for Nazi foreign policy were more straightforward, focusing on German space,
rather than the strictly racial aspects of his policy. His designs are meant to give Germany the
focus that it lacked in the previous thirty-five years of "aimlessness." He calls for a clear
foreign policy of space, not international trade or industry. The concept of lebensraum in the
East overrided any perceived need for naval power, which would only bring Germany into
conflict with England and Italy. Industrial exports and trade would require a merchant marine
force, meeting most directly with the enmity of England, and France its willing ally.
Therefore, land expansion was Hitler's primary goal, eschewing the borders of 1914, calling
them nationally inadequate, militarily unsatisfactory, ethnically impossible, and insane when
considered in light of Germany's opposition in Europe.
While the goals and principles Hitler enunciated were primarily focused on the redistribution
of space, they grew out of his focus on race. By 1923, Hitler had outlined his basic ideas on
race. The Jews had betrayed Germany in World War I, a fact that necessitated a domestic
revolution to remove them from power. He saw history as governed by the racial aspects of
society, both internal and national. In his mind, a vulgarized sort of Social Darwinism
determined the rise and fall of civilizations. The world was composed not of states, but of
competing races of different values, and politics was fundamentally a struggle led by those
with the greatest capacity for organization, a characteristic held by Germanic peoples more
than any other. Nations of pure and strong racial makeup would eventually prosper over
those with ideas of racial equality—France was condemned in this regard because of its
acceptance of blacks, and the use of black units in World War I against German troops.
Acceptance of inferior races was intimately connected to the Jewish menace, and its threat to
the strength of the Germanic race.
The vital strength of a race and its will to survive were the most important conditions which
would lead to a resurgence of Germany, despite its lack of resources and materiel. The
reestablishment of a truly nationalist German army, free from the hired mercenaries of the
imperial era, was Hitler's first goal. With the threat or use of force, Germany would be able
to move forward in achieving its goals for space. Thus, he implemented the Four Year Plan in
order to overcome internal obstacles to military growth. A German army of considerable size
would push its neighbors into conciliation and negotiation without the need for actual
military adventures. In justifying the need for decisive military action, Hitler cites a lesson
from World War I: those who are neutral gain a little in trade, but lose their seat at the victor's
table, and thus their right to decide the structure of the peace to follow. He thus renounced
neutrality, and committed his country to taking vital risks that would lead to greater gains.
Hitler's racial ideas were indirectly expressed in his concept of space for German foreign
policy. Space was not a global concept in the same way that older imperial states
conceived of it, with their massive colonial empires carving up the world abroad. Hitler saw
value in only adjacent and agriculturally viable land, not in trade and industry outlets that
required a maritime orientation. He had no faith in increasing productivity, thus leading to the
need to expand within Europe. Lebensraum for Germany required moving beyond the
"arbitrary" goal of the border of 1914, expanding into the East, and adopting policies toward
the Western European nations, Great Powers, and treaty arrangements, which would facilitate
this land redistribution.
A lack of space for a race's growth would lead to its decay through degenerate population
control methods and dependence upon other nations' imports. Expansion is directly
correlated to the race's vitality, space allowing for larger families that would repopulate the
nation from the losses it incurs fighting wars for territory. Where Hitler's expansionism
differed greatly from that of imperial nations was his idea of racial purity, which required
driving out or exterminating the native populations of any conquered territory. Industry
and trade were only transient solutions, subject to the vicissitudes of the market, and likely
leading to war as economic competition escalates. Lebensraum was thus the only
permanent solution for securing the German race's vitality. Colonies would take far too
long to solve the Reich's agriculture and space problem; furthermore, they constitute a naval
and industrial policy rather than a land-based agricultural policy, which is where Germany's
strength lies. Thus, Hitler committed Germany to a role as a land power rather than a sea
power, and focused his foreign policy on attaining the highest possible concentration of land
power resources for a future that lay in Europe.
The racial struggle for space envisioned by Hitler was essentially unlimited, a policy that
could only have two results: total defeat or total conquest. Rudolf Hess discovered in 1927,
while the two were imprisoned at Landsberg prison, that Hitler believed only one race with
total hegemony could bring about world peace. Hitler confirmed this attitude, regarding
Europe specifically, in August 1943 speaking to his naval advisors, declaring, "Only if all of
Europe is united under a strong central power can there be any security for Europe from now
on. Small sovereign states no longer have a right to exist." In Mein Kampf, Hitler states his
view that the total (but, as he saw it, temporary) destruction of civilization was, to him, an
acceptable condition of final Aryan victory.
Lebensraum as a foreign policy concept was based upon domestic considerations, especially
that of population growth and the pressure it placed upon existing German resources. War for
lebensraum was justified by this need to reestablish an acceptable ratio between land and
people. Whereas the Weimar foreign policy was based on borders, the National Socialist
foreign policy would be based on space and expansionism, pointing to fundamentally
different conceptions of world order—the bourgeois saw in terms of states and law, whereas
Hitler maintained an image of ethnic or racially defined nationhood. Lebensraum served
to create the economic condition of autarky, in which the German people would be selfsufficient, no longer dependent on imports, or subject to demand shifts in international
markets, which had been forcing industry to struggle against other nations.
To achieve Lebensraum, Hitler cautioned against what he saw as a dangerous Weimar policy
of demanding a return to the 1914 borders. Foremost, and inexcusable in his mind, those
borders would not unite all ethnic Germans under the Reich. In order to commit to a
nation of all German-speaking peoples, the borders of 1914 must be abandoned as
incompatible with racial unity and their arbitrary nature. Open advocacy of border
restoration would only urge a coalition to form against Germany before it could raise an army
to achieve its ends. Further, he believed that empty saber-rattling on this issue would shift
public opinion against Germany, in support of France's anti-German measures and, even if
achieved, would guarantee only instability without achieving the racial goals he sees as so
central to German vitality.
This doctrine of space focused on Eastern Europe, taking territory from the ethnically inferior
Slavs. While Western European nations were despised for allowing racial impurity, they
were still essentially Aryan nations, but the small and weak Slavic nations to the East were
legitimate targets. In talking to the Associated Press, Hitler commented that if Germany
acquired the Ukraine, Urals and territory into the heartland of Siberia it would be able to have
surplus prosperity. Thus, Germany would have to be concerned about the newly
independent states to the East, sitting between Germany and its goal of Russian territory.
These states, especially the reconstituted Poland, were viewed as Saisonstaat, or states that
exist for no enduring reason. No alliance with Russia would be possible either, because of
German designs on Eastern territory. Still, Hitler maintained faith that if Germany were to
make clear its aspirations for space in the inferior East, the Great Powers in Europe would not
intervene with the possible exception of France.
 Great Power relationships
Because of French opposition, it was crucial for Germany's plans to defeat France before
moving against the states in the East and Russia. As an ally of Poland and Yugoslavia, a
supporter of racial equality, and a constant opponent of German designs, action against
France was deemed the highest priority in allowing those designs to come to fruition. By
allying with states hostile to France and its coalition, Germany's military first-strike would be
Britain was supposed to be Germany's natural ally, according to Hitler. It maintained good
relations with Italy, while sharing key German interests, foremost of which was that neither
country desired a French continental hegemon. Since Hitler had decided to abandon
Germany's naval power, trade and colonial ambitions, he believed that they would be likely
to ally with Germany against France, which still maintained conflicting interests with Britain.
And because Russia threatened British interests in Middle Eastern oil and India, action
against Russia ought to also find German and Britain on the same side.
Italy would serve as Germany's other natural ally. Hitler perceived their interests as being far
enough apart that they would not come into conflict. Germany was concerned primarily
with Eastern Europe, while Italy's natural domain was the Mediterranean. Still, their
divergent interests both led them into conflict with France. Ideological ties were supposed to
ease their relations, providing than something more than simply shared interests to bind them
together. The major sticking point between the two countries was the province of South
Tyrol. Hitler believed (incorrectly in retrospect) that if he were to cede this territory, then
Italy would drop its objections to the Anschluss.
Hitler repeatedly stressed another long-term fear, apparently driving his desire for German
economic domination of European resources, which was the rise of America as a Great
Power. Underlining his lack of faith in the ability to increase agricultural or industrial
productivity, he cites America's vast size as the reason that economic policy will fail and
expansionism can be the only route for Germany. He rejects popular conceptions of a
Pan-European economic union designed to counter American economic power by saying that
life is not measured by quantity of material goods, but by the quality of a nation's race and
organization. Instead of this Pan-Europe, Hitler desires a free association of superior
nations bound by their shared interest in challenging America's domination of the world. In
his mind, American economic power is more threatening than English domination of the
world. Only after defeating France and Russia could Germany establish its Eurasian
empire that would lead nations against America, whose power he saw as undermined by its
acceptance of Jews and Blacks.
 Bases for Hitler's strategies
In constructing these designs for Europe, Hitler realized that treaties would serve him as only
short-term measures. They could be used for immediate space-gaining instruments,
partitioning third countries between Germany and another power, or they could function as a
means of delaying a problem until it could be dealt with safely. Treaties of alliance were
regarded as viable only if both parties clearly gained; otherwise, they could legitimately be
dropped. Multilateral treaties were to be strenuously avoided. Even among countries that
shared interests, alliances could never be planned on being permanent, as the allied state
could become the enemy at short notice. Still, Hitler realized that Germany would need
allies in order to successfully leave the League of Nations and pursue its goals.
Hitler had not traveled abroad or read extensively, and as such his foreign policy grew out of
his domestic concerns. Foreign policy's ultimate goal was the sustenance of its people,
and so domestic concerns were tightly connected and complimentary to foreign policy
initiatives. Thus, the traditional separation of domestic and foreign policy do not apply in
the same way to German policy under the National Socialists. The domestic situation
informed foreign policy goals, and foreign policy requirements demanded certain domestic
organization and mobilization. It is clear, however, that what appears as opportunism in
the conduct of Nazi foreign policy was actually the result of plans conceived well before
Hitler assumed power, and in line with his long-term theories of political vitality based on
Hitler idolized Germany in the times of Bismarck's Prussia, before the democratic Reich
botched treaties and alliances, ultimately undermining German ethnic goals. Bismarck
succeeded in giving Germany a suitably "organic" state, such that the German race could
realize its "right to life." He achieved prestige for Germany by uniting the varied German
states into the Reich, but was unable to unite the whole German nation or pursue a truly
ethnic foreign policy. Hitler perceived the Reich's rallying cry of peace as giving it no
goal, consistency or stability in foreign policy, and allowing it no options to take aggressive
steps to realize those goals. He cites the warning of the Pan-German League against the
"disastrous" policy of the Wilheminian period. The borders of the Reich were inherently
unstable in his opinion, allowing for easy avenues of attack by hostile powers, with no natural
geographic barriers for protection, and incapable of feeding the German people. His
central criticism of the Reich was that it too failed to unify the German people, and failed to
pursue a policy that would solve the agricultural problem, in lieu of policies aimed at
attaining international prestige and recognition.
The Weimar government, which could do no good in Hitler's eyes, was centrally responsible
for the treasonous act of signing the peace at Versailles, which he held crippled Germany and
placed it at the mercy of hostile powers. In fact, Versailles had not significantly weakened
Germany, as it still had the largest population in Europe, with skilled workers and substantial
resources. Russia, which Bismarck had feared and allied with Austro-Hungary against, had
been defeated in World War I and then underwent a destabilizing revolution. Austro-Hungary
itself had been divided into a number of small weak states. If not absolutely, Germany was in
a relatively better position than most states after World War I.
Hitler's National Socialist foreign policy contained four broad goals: racial unification,
agricultural autarky, lebensraum in the East, culminating in a Eurasian land-based empire.
Not justified by strategic or realpolitik considerations, Hitler's ideas stemmed almost
exclusively from his conception of racial struggle and the natural consequences of the need
for German expansion. The historical record shows that German geopoliticians, chief among
them General Karl Haushofer, were in contact with and taught Nazi officials, including Adolf
Hitler, Rudolf Hess and Konstantin von Neurath. Furthermore, Nazi leaders used the
language of geopolitik, along with Haushofer's maps, and reasoning in their public
propaganda. How receptive they were to the true intent of Haushofer's geopolitik, and what
that intent was exactly, is unclear. The ideas of racial organic states, lebensraum, and autarky
clearly found their way into Hitler's thinking, whereas pan-regions and the landpowerseapower dichotomy did not appear prominently, much less correctly, in National Socialist
strategy. Examination of Germany's pre–World War I imperial aims demonstrates that many
of the ideas which would later surface in Nazi thought were not novel, but simply
continuations of the same revisionist strategic aims. Racially motivated autarky, achieved by
annexation, especially in the East, found its way into National Socialist policy as a
continuous and coherent whole. However, Hitler along with the geopoliticians would drop the
imperial focus on industry, trade and naval power. The practical outcomes of Imperial,
geostrategic, and Nazi foreign policy plans were all largely the same.