CHAPTER XXVI
THE ANGLO-GERMAN NAVAL AGREEMENT

Hitler's decision to introduce conscription in Germany, and the feeble reaction to it at the Stresa Conference and the League Council meeting in April, led Laval to sign (May 2) the Franco- Russian pact of mutual assistance for which Barthou had paved the way. In addition, he went to Moscow, and Stalin announced that it behoved "peaceful" countries "not to allow the means of national defence to be weakened in any way"; he "understood and approved fully France's policy of national defence aimed at maintaining her armed forces at the level required for her security" (May 15).

This strengthening of the Franco-Russian entente, coupled with the Franco-Italian entente, reinforced the assumption in Britain that France was' the predominant Power in Europe, and that Britain should therefore bolster Germany against her.1 While organizing the new Cabinet, Baldwin stated (May 26 and 27) that an understanding ought to be reached with the Government of the Third Reich.

Hitler sensed—or was he made to sense?—that the international situation had evolved in his favour, and he protested that the newborn Franco-Russian Treaty was in violation of the Locarno Pacts (May 25).

The Nazi daily Angriff (June 7) surmised that there finally prevailed in London and in the world "an understanding of the fact that the nations not imbued with the spirit of the Treaty of Versailles needed to collaborate with a free Germany that has regained her strength". The National-Zeitung (June 9) stated that the choice of Hoare as Foreign Secretary "gave promise of an energetic, clear-cut, and forthright foreign policy which might in many respects impinge on the wavering amiability of Sir John Simon".

On June 11, the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII), addressing 4,000 delegates of the British Legion, proposed that "a deputation or visit might be paid by representative members of the Legion to Germany . . . to stretch forth the hand of friendship to the Germans". The leaders of the British Legion agreed, evoking in the German Press echoes of "obviously genuine enthusiasm".2 And the Berliner Anzeiger of June 12 and 16 pointed out that "the unequivocal declaration of the heir to the British throne certainly was not made

____________________
1
In March 1935, Neville Chamberlain was still averse to "an Anglo-German agreement of some kind" ( Walker-Smith, Neville Chamberlain, pp. 255-6). After May he, too, accepted Simon's pro-German policy ( Feiling, Life of Neville Chamberlain, p. 257).
2
London Times, June 13, 1936.

-217-

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