CHAPTER L
EXIT THE LOCARNO PACTS

Hitler now came to the fore. Already in May 1935, he had threatened to denounce the Locarno Pacts if the Franco-Russian Treaty were ratified.1 In October 1935, the French General Staff was expecting a blow "before the autumn of 1936 at the latest". In December 1935, Hitler told the Polish Ambassador in Berlin that "he was resolutely opposed to any co-operation of the West with Russia", and the French Government asked Eden for the assistance of Britain if Hitler violated the Locarno Pacts as a consequence of the ratification of the Franco-Russian pact.2 What answer was given, whether a clear-cut promise of assistance or one of those two-edged statements which Eden liked so much, we do not know.

At the beginning of 1936, it was known that Hitler was waiting for the French Parliament to ratify the Franco-Soviet Pact; then he would protest that it annulled the Locarno Pacts, denounce them, and order German troops into the Rhineland.3

In Paris, the new Prime Minister Sarrault, Flandin, and their colleagues were pondering whether again to delay ratification. The great majority of the papers4 were averse to the treaty and to any conflict with Germany. General mobilization of the French army might become necessary if Hitler had to be opposed, but Sarrault, with the prospect of a national election in the offing, was unwilling to take any such step, which would entail an expenditure of five thousand million francs.5 Mussolini was threatening to repudiate both the Locarno Pacts and the agreements of January 1935, if the French maintained sanctions or, worse still, strengthened them. Could the British Government be counted on?

On the other hand, further to delay the ratification of the Russian treaty would be tantamount to repudiating it. The French Government, by renouncing the Russian alliance, which was meant to prevent German aggression, would without that alliance expose France to such an aggression.

Gamelin was setting forth all the possible eventualities without recommending any one course of action. He left the responsibility for a decision with the civilians, as if the Chief of Staff had no duty to

____________________
1
François-Poncet, Fteful Years, pp. 186-7.
2
Churchill, The Gathering Storm, p. 190.
3
Gamelin, Servir, II, 145, 148. François-Poncet, Fateful Years, p. 190.
4
It seems that the campaign against the treaty was inspired by General Weygand who in 1940 was to be one of the Vichy men ( Paul-Boncour, Souvenirs, II, 371).
5
Schuman, Europe on Eve, pp. 215-16.

-432-

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