Remilitarization of the Rhineland

The remilitarization of the Rhineland (German: Rheinlandbesetzung) began on 7 March 1936, when German military forces entered the Rhineland, which directly contravened the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Treaties. Neither France nor Britain was prepared for a military response, so they did not act. After 1939 commentators often said that a strong military move in 1936 might have ruined Hitler's expansionist plans. However, recent historiography agrees that both public and elite opinion in Britain and France strongly opposed a military intervention, and neither had an army prepared to move in.[1]

Location of the Rhineland, as defined by the Treaty of Versailles, along the Rhine
Events leading to World War II
  1. Treaty of Versailles 1919
  2. Polish–Soviet War 1919
  3. Treaty of Trianon 1920
  4. Treaty of Rapallo 1920
  5. Franco-Polish alliance 1921
  6. March on Rome 1922
  7. Corfu incident 1923
  8. Occupation of the Ruhr 1923–1925
  9. Mein Kampf 1925
  10. Pacification of Libya 1923–1932
  11. Dawes Plan 1924
  12. Locarno Treaties 1925
  13. Young Plan 1929
  14. Japanese invasion of Manchuria 1931
  15. Pacification of Manchukuo 1931–1942
  16. January 28 incident 1932
  17. World Disarmament Conference 1932–1934
  18. Defense of the Great Wall 1933
  19. Battle of Rehe 1933
  20. Nazis' rise to power in Germany 1933
  21. Tanggu Truce 1933
  22. Italo-Soviet Pact 1933
  23. Inner Mongolian Campaign 1933–1936
  24. German–Polish declaration of non-aggression 1934
  25. Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance 1935
  26. Soviet–Czechoslovakia Treaty of Mutual Assistance 1935
  27. He–Umezu Agreement 1935
  28. Anglo-German Naval Agreement 1935
  29. December 9th Movement
  30. Second Italo-Ethiopian War 1935–1936
  31. Remilitarization of the Rhineland 1936
  32. Spanish Civil War 1936–1939
  33. Italo-German "Axis" protocol 1936
  34. Anti-Comintern Pact 1936
  35. Suiyuan Campaign 1936
  36. Xi'an Incident 1936
  37. Second Sino-Japanese War 1937–1945
  38. USS Panay incident 1937
  39. Anschluss Mar. 1938
  40. May crisis May 1938
  41. Battle of Lake Khasan July–Aug. 1938
  42. Bled Agreement Aug. 1938
  43. Undeclared German–Czechoslovak War Sep. 1938
  44. Munich Agreement Sep. 1938
  45. First Vienna Award Nov. 1938
  46. German occupation of Czechoslovakia Mar. 1939
  47. Hungarian invasion of Carpatho-Ukraine Mar. 1939
  48. German ultimatum to Lithuania Mar. 1939
  49. Slovak–Hungarian War Mar. 1939
  50. Final offensive of the Spanish Civil War Mar.–Apr. 1939
  51. Danzig Crisis Mar.–Aug. 1939
  52. British guarantee to Poland Mar. 1939
  53. Italian invasion of Albania Apr. 1939
  54. Soviet–British–French Moscow negotiations Apr.–Aug. 1939
  55. Pact of Steel May 1939
  56. Battles of Khalkhin Gol May–Sep. 1939
  57. Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Aug. 1939
  58. Invasion of Poland Sep. 1939

After the end of World War I, the Rhineland came under Allied occupation. Under the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, the German military was forbidden from all territory west of the Rhine or within 50 km east of it. The 1925 Locarno Treaties reaffirmed the permanently-demilitarized status of the Rhineland. In 1929, German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann negotiated the withdrawal of the Allied forces. The last soldiers left the Rhineland in June 1930.

After the Nazis took power in 1933, Germany began working towards rearmament and the remilitarization of the Rhineland. On 7 March 1936, using the Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance as a pretext, Chancellor and Führer Adolf Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to march 20,000 German troops into the Rhineland, which caused joyous celebrations across Germany. The French and the British governments, unwilling to risk war, decided against enforcing the treaties.

The remilitarization changed the balance of power in Europe from France and its allies towards Germany by allowing Germany to pursue a policy of aggression in Western Europe that had been blocked by the demilitarized status of the Rhineland.

The fact that Britain and France did not intervene made Hitler believe that neither country would get in the way of Nazi foreign policy. That made him decide to quicken the pace of German preparations for war and the domination of Europe.[2] On 14 March 1936, during a speech in Munich, Hitler stated, “Neither threats nor warnings will prevent me from going my way. I follow the path assigned to me by Providence with the instinctive sureness of a sleepwalker".[2]


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