Tom Goldstein,"Nazi Germany and the Spanish Civil War:
Continuity in Hitler's Foreign Policy"


Not all historians agree with this assertion, however. The "Functionalist" school of Nazi historians contends that Hitler had no coherent foreign policy throughout this period. They emphasize what they see as a decentralized foreign policy decision-making process that involved multiple Nazi organizations competing to get their agenda across. Hitler, they say, did not act alone in determining foreign policy. As historian Wolfgang Schieder concludes in regard to Spain, "The German decision to actively support the rebels in Spain offers a positively ideal example of how the polycratic power-structures of the so-called Fuehrer-state also influenced foreign policy," as he cites the role played by the AO, the Foreign Ministry, and Deputy Fuehrer Hermann Goerring, who also headed the Ministry of the Interior.32 Furthermore, even if he did make the decisions by himself, there is no relationship between Hitler's actions in Spain and his overall foreign policy goals - he merely reacted to opportunistic situations quickly and crudely. Again, Schieder notes, "Hence Hitler's foreign policy cannot be understood exclusively as the realization of long-term programs, nor can it be explained as the product of a goal-less nihilism."33 The Functionalists thus regard German involvement in the Spanish Civil War as having little to do with any coherent goal in terms of an expansionist policy.

Yet evidence suggests that, at least relating to German intervention in Spain, these claims are wrong. To take the first point - that of polycratic decision-making - the Foreign Ministry played no role in Hitler's decision to intervene in Spain, and was in fact surprised by his decision. Goerring was not even present at the meeting where the decision to intervene in Spain was made. And although the AO did play an important role in bringing about German intervention, it was not a decision-making role.

32. Monteath, "Hitler and the Spanish Civil War," 439.
33. Ibid., 439.
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