By Roy Douglas
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Additional resources for 1939: A Retrospect Forty Years After
Establishing German overlordship over Europe, as in the Middle Ages, could not just follow the pattern of German unification under Prussia by an even more ruthless Iron Chancellor. Again the difference must be stressed as much as the striking parallels: war remained the ultima ratz'o of politics in line with traditional objectives; it was not to be precipitated at the earliest moment, at the greatest risk, and for immeasurable gains. Yet Hitler was pressed for time. In 1933 he ordered the army to be ready for a BUtzkrz'eg strategy by 1939; in 1937 he decided that the question of German living space must be tackled by 1942-3 at the latest.
And while Hitler tried to force Britain out of Europe, the British Govern· ment, though inclined to grant a certain amount of regional pre· ponderance to Germany, reluctantly involved herself in Europe more than ever before. The fact that Hitler was not to be appeased has preoccupied historians so much that they have ignored the question, whether he could have been deterred if Britain had adopted some radically different policy immediately after Munich. Suppose, for example, that Britain had dramatically adjusted her overall policy to the mind of an unpredictable continental dictator: by taking Churchill into the Government, setting up a Ministry of Supply, introducing conscription and building up an impressive bomber force, to the complete disregard of her economic resources.
Britain would certainly not allow him to establish a position of clear hegemony in Europe. 30 He would not be drawn when, in November 1937, Halifax indicated that the British Government was prepared to make concessions with regard to Austria, the Sudeten area, Danzig and the Corridor - and possibly even the question of the German colonies - provided that peace was preserved. Here one might pause for a moment to consider Hitler's attitude towards Great Britain, a country which proved to be more obstinate than he had allowed for in his original plans or 'programme'.