Speechless, Adolf Hitler sat glowering at Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Since 1933 the führer had gambled repeatedly that France and Britain would capitulate to his latest demands. Now he tried again, reassured by Ribbentrop (no aristocrat, a vain man who had purchased his title) that the feckless Allies would not intervene if Germany invaded Poland. Yet an ultimatum threatening war had just arrived from London.
‘What now?’ demanded Hitler.
After so many triumphs, the führer had finally overreached. It was the end of summer, 1939. Hitler would be dead by his own hand in May 1945, amid the ashes of his defeated capital. Tried by the Allies at Nuremberg, Ribbentrop would be the first Nazi leader hanged for his role in a barbarous regime.