France's Reaction to the Remilitarization of the Rhineland
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In this paper I will examine France’s response to the March, 1936, reoccupation of the Rhineland demilitarized zone by German troops. I will attempt to explain why France reacted as she did. The reactions of public opinion, politicians, government officials, military leaders, and diplomats will be studied. In addition, the reactions of foreign countries, particularly Great Britain, will be examined in so far as they affected France’s policy. One of the most important questions posed by the remilitarization of the Rhineland was whether France should stress her ties to her ally of World War I, Great Britain, or rather her ties to the nations which were created or recreated in the aftermath of the war, the so-called successor states. The Rhineland demilitarized zone was of great importance to the security of these nations as well to that of France. On the other hand, Great Britain was much less interested in the zone. The British were more likely to regard it as an unjustified restriction on Germany’s sovereignty than as an important element in the stability of Europe. France could not hope to please every potential friend with her reaction. I will also try to clarify what were France’s alternatives in March, 1936. A key question is whether France could have compelled the retreat of German forces from the Rhineland by immediately sending her own troops to confront them. I will also consider whether war between France and Germany would have ensued, immediately or otherwise, as well as France's prospects for gaining allies in such a conflict.