Hitler’s conquest of Europe From the middle of the 1930s, international tension had been mounting steadily, a fact re ected in the frequent and often frantic attempts among the European countries to forge agreements, uneasy alliances and pacts to improve security. It was also mirrored in the increased defence budgets of nearly all European countries in response to the military build-up in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent in Japan. By any peacetime standard, the defence procurements of the rst two countries were exceptional. Between 1933 and 1938, both countries spent on defence more than three times the amount disbursed in Britain, France and the United States, and by the end of the 1930s, Britain and the United States produced about 13 per cent of the weapons turned out in Germany. Germany’s total military spending increased by no less than 23 times between 1933-4 and 1938-9, and by the latter date, Germany’s outlay on the military sector accounted for around 29 per cent of total national product and 17 per cent in the case of the Soviet Union. The vast scale of the provision is apparent if we look at gures for defence expenditure on the eve of the First World War, when Russia’s military spending was less than 5 per cent of national product and Germany’s a mere 3 per cent. In the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, the western powers were allocating around six per cent of their national income for military purposes (see Overy 2004, 422-23, 452-53).