Hitler in WW2 annexed or took over Austria, but occupied France and Belgium. What is the difference? When Hitler took a sliver of Poland, and Czechoslovakia, did he take over or did he occupy it?

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    annexations involve politics whereas occupations involve the military. – ed.hank Nov 13 '18 at 19:22
  • Czechoslovakia was split into 3 parts, Sudetenland was annexed, Central Bohemia/Moravia was occupied and Slovakia became a puppet state (we could say it was "taken over"). – Bregalad Nov 13 '18 at 20:53
  • Not to mention parts of Slovakia were annexed by Hungary instead. And that one small part (Zaolzie) was taken by Poland, before being taken by Germany. You know it's complicated and words have no much meaning outside of their context. – Bregalad Nov 13 '18 at 21:02
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    This is a basically a matter of definitions, for which WIkipedia furnishes two detailed articles: Annexation and Military occupation. Please read these first and, if they do not satisfy your inquiry, then please edit your question to make clear what you find unclear or dubious. "Taking over" is a colloquial English description, not a term of art. – Semaphore Nov 13 '18 at 21:13

What is the difference between annexing, occupying and taking over a country?

Annexing is when you add a territory to your country. Where you say this is ours now, it's within our boarders, falls under our laws. An example would be Israel annexation of the Golan Heights. It's typically a designation which occurs after "taking over" and "occupation". Golan Heights taken by Israel in 1967, then occupied for 14 years, finally annexed by Israel in Dec 1981.

Occupation is typically generally temporary designation, what occurs after a war to ensure no future war. The allies occupied Germany and Japan after WWII. It doesn't necessarily change borders or national designations. It's the positioning of foreign troops inside a country, and placing that country under your governance, generally military governance. It differs from annexation in that the occupier acknowledges the land is still not their possession even while they station troops there, provide for it's security and governance. Occupation generally follows conquest or taking over and sometimes occupation turns into annexation.

Taking over a country is probable the most arbitrary case. It could be a revolution where an internal force "took over" the country. Like the Communists took over Russia in 1917, or China is 1949. It's not an annexation because to merely take over a country or region doesn't speak to it's future designation and relationship as an independent country / region. "Taking over" in it's basic forms just means a change of who's in control without speaking to why or any future plans.

Question: When Hitler took a sliver of Poland, and Czechoslovakia, did he take over or did he occupy it?

Hitler did annex parts of Poland and Czechoslovakia in WWII. Further he took over and occupied large swaths of the countries. All of Czechoslovakia and about half Poland which he split with his then ally the Soviet Union.

Hitler set up independent states in both countries, which were puppet governments answerable and dependent upon Germany. If Germany had won the war no telling what their future arrangement would have been, but it's pretty clear it would have been favored the interests and desires of Germany.

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    Occupation happens during wartime also. If your troops are on enemy soil, you have occupied territory. – David Thornley Nov 13 '18 at 21:02
  • The German government of the time had the legal opinion that Austria and some other territories were part of (Greater) Germany. That is how they drew their maps, that is how they defined their citizenship, and so on. As far as the Nazis were concerned, Austrians were Germans. By comparison, in the Generalgouvernement German officials and industrialists were to rule over and exploit a Polish population that was politically and economically disenfranchised. And in the Netherlands, German officials ruled a population that was seen as almost Aryan. Many but not all of the Dutch people disagreed. – o.m. Nov 14 '18 at 5:58
  • @o.m, That the Nazi's believed Austria was part of "greater" Germany is understandable given Adolf Hitler was Austrian, not German. Thus the Nazi belief in the association is both convenient and self serving. – user27618 Nov 16 '18 at 4:56
  • @JMS, this highlights shows the difference between annexation and occupation. In one case, a country wants to integrate another into their polity. In the other case, it wants control without integration. – o.m. Nov 16 '18 at 7:09

Military occupation of enemy territory in war is a temporary war measure which is usually ended by the peace treaty in a few months or years.

Annexation, often the result of peace treaties at the ends of wars, is intended to be permanent.

Of course, because nothing is certain in politics, war, and diplomacy, some "temporary" occupations have last longer than some "permanent" annexations, but as a general rule annexations last many times longer than occupations, often for centuries.

Here is a link to a map of German territory in World War II.


The darkest area, the German Reich, contains the original German Reich and territories already annexed by Hitler, intended to be permanently German. The lighter colored occupied regions include areas Hitler may or may not have intended to stop occupying at the end of the war and also territories in the East that Hitler intended to annex to Germany at the end of the war or before, but had not yet done so.


The Annexation of Austria was done to supposedly bring order in a neighbouring country where there was political chaos making use of a vacuum in power. By annexing the annexed territory becomes part of the annexing nation. Occupation brings in an army but can use puppet politicians from within the country like the Vichy regime in France. A take over is a more colloquial term referring to the taking over of political and/or military power and has to be specified more in the context used. If you look at Sudetenland it was annexed from Czechoslovakia and eventually the rest of Czechoslovakia was occupied.

  • So annexing and taking over are essentially the same thing? The country that was annexed goes under the rule of the county that annexed. – Thomas Glatzel Nov 13 '18 at 19:26
  • Germany annexed Austria and essentially Austria was included into the Reich. That means from that point on Austria became essentially part of Germany. Belgium, Netherlands and parts of France were occupied with an occupational force of the German army with puppet political regimes, while Vichy France became a puppet state loyal to Germany without an occupational force but military presence was not excluded. Italy occupied a small prtion of France too. A piece of northeastern France was asigned to German settlers while the coast line became military territory strictly off limits to the French – Ajagar Nov 13 '18 at 19:34

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