Germany claimed the treaty was hostile to them and Hitler used this as an excuse to send German troops into the Rhineland in March , contrary to the terms of the treaties of Versailles and Locarno. It was a gamble on his part and his generals were nervous about it.
German re-armament had not yet reached a point where they felt ready to take on a well-armed nation like France. Following the discussions described in the documents, the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, did indeed meet the German ambassador and make his proposals.
Hitler refused to withdraw his troops, and put pressure on the League of Nations to act. However the British people felt that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair on Germany and was over-restrictive, and so partly because of this, the British government decided to do nothing.
Hitler moved on from the occupation of the Rhineland in , to the annexation of Austria and the seizure of the Sudetenland in , to the take-over of the rest of Czechoslovakia in March and then Poland in September That the British did not take even their Locarno commitments seriously could be seen in Whitehall's prohibition of the British military chiefs' holding staff talks with German, French and Italian militaries about what to do if a "flagrant violation" of Locarno occurred.
One of the main British aims at Locarno was to create a situation where Germany could pursue territorial revisionism in Eastern Europe peacefully. This uncertainty over what Hitler's ultimate intentions in foreign policy were was to color much of British policy towards Germany until British decision-makers could never quite decide if Hitler was merely seeking the acceptable goal to the British of revising Versailles or the unacceptable goal of seeking to dominate Europe. British policy towards Germany was a dual-track policy of seeking a "general settlement" with the Reich in which the "legitimate" German complaints about the Versailles treaty would be addressed in Germany's favor while at the same time pursuing rearmament to negotiate with Germany from a position of strength, to deter Hitler from choosing war as an option, and in a worst-case scenario ensure that Britain was prepared if Hitler really did want to conquer Europe.
In February , a secret report by the Defence Requirements Committee identified Germany as the "ultimate potential enemy", which British rearmament was to be directed against. Starting in , the French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou decided to put an end to any potential German aggression by building a network of alliances intended to encircle Germany, and made overtures to the Soviet Union and Italy. Until , the Soviet Union had supported German efforts to challenge the Versailles system, but the strident anti-communism of the National Socialist regime together with its claim for Lebensraum led the Soviets change positions on the question of maintaining the Versailles system.
In September , the Soviet Union ended its secret support for German rearmament, which had started in Under the guise of collective security, the Soviet Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinov started to praise the Versailles system, which until then the Soviet leaders had denounced as a capitalist plot to "enslave" Germany.
Starting in the s, Benito Mussolini had subsidized the right-wing Heimwehr "Home Defense" movement in Austria, and after the ultra-conservative Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss had seized dictatorial power in March , Austria had fallen within the Italian sphere of influence.
At the same time that Austrian Nazis attempted to seize power all over Austria, the SS Austrian Legion based in Bavaria began to attack frontier posts along the German-Austrian border in what looked like the beginning of an invasion. In response, Mussolini had mobilized the Italian Army, concentrated several divisions at the Brenner Pass , and warned Hitler that Italy would go to war with Germany if he tried to follow up the putsch by invading Austria.
To his disgust, the German Fuhrer had to disallow the Putsch he had ordered and not follow it up by invading Austria while the Austrian government crushed the Putsch by the Austrian Nazis. On 7 January during a summit in Rome, Laval essentially told Mussolini that he had a "free hand" in the Horn of Africa, and France would not oppose an Italian invasion of Ethiopia.
Under strong pressure from a British public opinion, which was very much in favor of collective security , the British government took the lead in pressing the League of Nations for sanctions against Italy. Having just won an election on 14 November on the platform of upholding collective security, the Baldwin government pressed very strongly for sanctions against Italy for invading Ethiopia. The League Assembly voted for a British motion to impose sanctions on Italy with immediate effect on 18 November The British line that collective security must be upheld with regard to Ethiopia caused considerable tensions between Paris and London, with the French taking the viewpoint that Hitler, not Mussolini, was the real danger to the peace, and that if the price of continuing Stresa Front was accepting the conquest of Ethiopia, it was worth paying.
Hitler argued that under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Germany was militarily weak. He said that Germany had been willing to keep to this state of affairs if other countries disarmed. As this had not happened, Germany now had to take measures to protect herself. In the months that followed, Hitler trebled the size of the German Army and completely ignored the restrictions on weapons that had been imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. By , when it was clear that no action was going to be taken against Germany for breaking the terms of the treaty, Hitler felt strong enough to introduce military conscription.
Adolf Hitler knew that both France and Britain were militarily stronger than Germany. However, he became convinced that they were unwilling to go to war.
It would have taken too long and would have been too costly for the United States to pose a threat to Germany. The United States had also previously showed that it lacked interest in Germany's breaches of the Treaties of Versailles and Locarno. When Germany had stopped paying its debt to France, as required by the Treaty of Versailles, the United States did nothing.
I should very possibly indeed have been among the critics myself, if I had not happened to be in a position of responsibility. The French government was horrified to find German troops on their border but were unwilling to take action without the support of the British. Shirer wrote if the French had marched into the Rhineland,.
Adolf Hitler knew that both France and Britain were militarily stronger than Germany. The British delegation at the Hague Conference on German reparations in proposed that reparations paid by Germany be reduced and that British and French forces should evacuate the Rhineland. Did this deal abide by the terms of the Treaties of Versailles and Locarno? It was a gamble on his part and his generals were nervous about it.
That is, no German troops were to be stationed inside that area or any fortifications built. The German generals were very much against the plan, claiming that the French Army would win a victory in the military conflict that was bound to follow this action. Having just won an election on 14 November on the platform of upholding collective security, the Baldwin government pressed very strongly for sanctions against Italy for invading Ethiopia. Germany in the s was keen to get back on normal terms with other nations and signed the Treaty of Locarno. The United States had also previously showed that it lacked interest in Germany's breaches of the Treaties of Versailles and Locarno. If Austria, as a formally independent state, were thus in practice to become a German satellite, he would have no objection".
The French government was horrified to find German troops on their border but were unwilling to take action without the support of the British. To estrange Italy, one of the Locarno powers, over such a question as Abyssinia did not appeal to Laval's Auvergnat peasant mind".
The story that the Germans had orders to withdraw if France moved against them is partially correct, but essentially misleading; the withdrawal was to be a tactical defensive move, not a return to the earlier position. Under the guise of collective security, the Soviet Foreign Commissar Maxim Litvinov started to praise the Versailles system, which until then the Soviet leaders had denounced as a capitalist plot to "enslave" Germany. Once the last French soldiers left the Rhineland in June , it could no longer play its "collateral" role, thus opening the door for German rearmament. The American journalist William L. Until , the Soviet Union had supported German efforts to challenge the Versailles system, but the strident anti-communism of the National Socialist regime together with its claim for Lebensraum led the Soviets change positions on the question of maintaining the Versailles system. Background According to the Treaty of Versailles, the Rhineland, a strip of land inside Germany bordering on France, Belgium and the Netherlands, was to be de-militarised.
On one hand, Britain's repeated refusal to make the "continental commitment" increased the value to the French of Italy as the only other nation in Western Europe capable of fielding a large army against Germany. However the British people felt that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair on Germany and was over-restrictive, and so partly because of this, the British government decided to do nothing. Great Britain had even gone behind the backs of th Historians debate the relation between Hitler's decision to remilitarize the Rhineland in and his broad long-term goals. Originally Hitler had planned to remilitarize the Rhineland in , but chose in early to move re-militarization forward by a year for several reasons, namely: the ratification by the French National Assembly of the Franco-Soviet pact of allowed him to present his coup both at home and abroad as a defensive move against Franco-Soviet "encirclement"; the expectation that France would be better armed in ; the government in Paris had just fallen and a caretaker government was in charge; economic problems at home required a foreign policy success to restore the regime's popularity; the Italo-Ethiopian War , which had set Britain against Italy, had effectively broken up the Stresa Front ; and apparently because Hitler simply did not feel like waiting an extra year. At most, Britain was willing to make only limited security commitments in Western Europe, and even then tried to avoid the "continental commitment" as much as possible.