The Reoccupation of the Rhineland

In deciding on the Reoccupation of the Rhineland, writes D.C. Watt, Hitler said that he went forward “with the assurance of a sleepwalker...” His practical calculations proved to be “entirely justified.”

The reoccupation of the rhineland by German troops in March 1936, twenty years ago, and the French failure to take any positive action against this step, seem in the light of subsequent history to mark the turning-point in Hitler’s drive to reverse the defeat suffered by German expansionist ambitions in 1918. It was also the turning-point in the French effort to prevent German resurgence.

To the contemporary eye, however, the picture seemed rather different. War was threatened over an issue on which public opinion in both France and Britain was violently split. Supporters of the political right-wing in both countries distrusted the principle of collective action embodied in the treaties that had established the Rhineland as a demilitarized zone, while the proponents of collective action regarded it as a substitute for war, not as a preparation.

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