German Strategic Deception in the 1930s

by Michael Mihalka


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Describes how the German government manipulated perceptions of its military capabilities and political intentions throughout the 1930s. Prior to 1935, the Nazis continued and accelerated the program of clandestine armament begun under the Weimar regime. Hitler first understated the size of his forces to prevent intervention against German rearmament and then overstated the size of his forces to deter intervention in the succession of diplomatic coups--the Rhineland occupation, Austria, Munich, and Prague--after 1935. Even in war, the deception continued to work. Germany, not France or Britain, ended the "phony war" in 1940. Hitler could not have successfully pursued his strategic objectives in the 1930s without deception. German strategic deception continued a tradition traceable through Machiavelli to the rise of the Roman Empire and provides lessons for how countries today can serve strategic objectives through deception.

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