From March 1938 to September 1939 Hitler moved from preparation for a great war to deciding the where and when of expansion. That involved a new degree of risk. It was no longer a question of undoing Versailles: union with Austria had accomplished the last major goal of that kind in Europe where Hitler’s aims were shared by most Germans. Increasingly, he faced the problem that his aim of empire in the east would be made more difficult to achieve by simply revising the Versailles frontiers in line with self-determination. He continued to make use of that principle but a return to the frontiers of 1914 — even extended to include the German populations of the former Habsburg monarchy — was not what he wanted. He was not fundamentally interested in the Sudetenland (where most of the 3 million strong German minority in Czechoslovakia lived) or Danzig (with its German population) and the Polish corridor or Memel (another German port on the Baltic which had been ceded by the treaty of Versailles and subsequently annexed by Lithuania). He was interested in these only in so far as they served his larger goal. The puzzle for Hitler was how to make use of them as a pretext. He needed them as justification both for German public opinion, which was nervous as the risks increased, and to stave off foreign intervention — from France, Britain and possibly the Soviet Union — before Germany was strong enough for full-scale European war.
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