The immediate origins of World War II lay, however, in the mounting series of German aggressions. Hitler had begun openly rebuilding the German armed forces in 1935.
Three years later he felt strong enough to make his first open effort at expansion. Ever since 1918 there had been a strong movement among Austrians for union (Anschluss) with Germany. This movement had been opposed by Italy and France, though the Rome-Berlin Axis lessened Mussolini’s opposition to Anschluss.
Early in 1938 Hitler began a violent propaganda campaign by press, radio, and platform against the alleged misdeeds of the Austrian government. In February 1938 he summoned Austrian chancellor Schuschnigg to Berchtesgaden, and in March he moved his troops into Austria, making Anschluss a fact.