It’s doubtful that anyone reading this doesn’t have a general handle on Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in post-World War I Germany and the broad events that led to World War II. The period and the incidents are well-turned earth, the subject of thousands of books and millions of metres of film, both non-fiction and fiction.
Onerous war reparations imposed on Germany at the Treaty of Versailles put Germany on the economic backfoot, which was exacerbated by the Great Depression. Failed artist, war veteran and right-wing demagogue, Hitler clawed his way to prominence through a combination of nationalism, populism, and the scapegoating of the Jewish people for the country’s woes. Economic revitalisation and military rearmament followed, then expansionism enabled by Britain and the Western powers’ policies of appeasement. In 1939 German tanks rolled across the Polish border, and the war began in earnest.
That’s enough to not embarrass yourself on a high school test paper, but the general gist only gets you so far. The specifics, however, are fascinating. In the new three-part documentary series, Hitler: Countdown to War, specialist history director and producer Robin Dashwood puts the focus squarely on the 18 months leading up to the invasion of Poland, beginning with Germany’s annexation of Austria on March 12, 1938, and ending with the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.