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.
|Territorial evolution of Germany|
in the 20th century
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. 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".