Remilitarization of the Rhineland

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HUMN 410
PROFESSOR: Dexter Christian
Question 23

23.With dictators, nothing succeeds like success. That observation, by Adolf Hitler, is not as trite as it sounds. Hitler was referring to his own successful remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936. Before he moved into the Rhineland, Hitler was securely "in his box". Pursuant to the Versailles Treaty and the Locarno pact of 1926, Germany had been forced to keep this territory demilitarized as a guarantee against renewed aggression; furthermore , an unguarded Rhineland left Germany naked to a French attack. From the German point of view, this was not "fair"; it violated German sovereignty. But it was the price Germany paid for invading France and the low countries in 1914. And it was the lid on the box that contained Hitler's grand strategic ambition.

In March of 1936 Hitler decided to roll the dice and take an extremely perilous venture (Goff. 235). Hitler's reason for moving into the Rhinland was a ratification one month earlier of a mutual assistance pact between France and Russia that he felt was aimed at Germany (Medlicott 84-90, 110). Hitler cited the mutual non-aggresion pact as violating and therefore invalidating the Locarno Treaty (Winton 1). Hitler was weak. Germany was still struggling through the Depression and Germany's armed forces were still in pitiful shape, hopelessly outgunned by the French. Had the French army responded in force to the remilitarization, had it simply marched into the Rhineland, Hitler would have had to retreat. Hitler later declared "If the French had then marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs" (Goff 236). A retreat on the German part would have signified collapse, possibly the collapse of Hitler's rule. However, Hitler felt the French would be disinclined and not act upon his move...and he was right.

The militarization of the Rhineland was a direct blow to French security. It rendered worthless the...
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