France and the Nazi Menace: Intelligence and Policy Making, 1933-1939

By Peter Jackson | Go to book overview

Introduction

THIS IS a study of perceptions and policy making. More precisely, it is a study of the role of intelligence in France's response to the problem of Nazi Germany from early 1933 through to the outbreak of the Second World War. The swift collapse of the Third Republic in June of 1940 has cast a long shadow over the history of twentieth-century France. The experience of defeat, occupation, and Vichy-sponsored collaboration has been central to the evolution of French political culture since 1945. Attempts to understand and explain the nature of this collapse have generated an intense scholarly debate among historians of the interwar period. By focusing on the relationship between intelligence and policy making, this study seeks to provide a new perspective on French national policy and the origins of the Second World War.

There are two general schools of interpretation in the historiography of French strategy and diplomacy before the Second World War. The first school interprets French policy within a theoretical framework of décadence. According to historians such as Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, Anthony Adamthwaite, François Bédarida, and others, France's political and military leadership surrendered to drift and indecision during the period before the 1930s.1 More circumscribed in their criticism, but still of the view that French policy lacked clear direction, are Maurice Vaïsse, Ladislas Mysyrowicz, Henry Dutailly, and Robert Doughty.2 This interpretation is in keeping with the

1 J.-B. Duroselle, La Décadence (Paris, 1979) and L'Abîme (Paris, 1982); A. Adamthwaite,
France and the Coming of the Second World War (London, 1977); id., Grandeur and Misery: France's Bid
for Power in Europe, 1914–1918 (London, 1995); F. Bédarida, 'La “Gouvernante anglaise”', in
René Rémond and Janine Bourdin (eds.), Edouard Daladier, chef du gouvernement (Paris, 1977),
228–42. See also, among many others, P. C. F. Bankwitz, Maxime Weygand and Civil–Military
Relations in Modern France (Cambridge, Mass., 1967); N. Jordan, The Popular Front and Central
Europe: The Dilemmas of French Impotence, 1918–1940 (Cambridge, 1992). This interpretation has
been adopted by most by Anglo-Saxons writing general histories of strategy and diplomacy
in Europe during the inter-war period. See e.g. A. J. P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World
War (London, 1963); Donald Cameron Watt, How War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second
World War (London, 1989); Sidney Aster, 1939: The Making of the Second World War (London,
1972); and Williamson Murray, The Change in the European Balance of Power: The Path to Ruin
(Princeton, 1984).

2 M. Vaïsse (with Jean Doise), Diplomatie et outil militaire, 1871–1991, 2nd edn. (Paris, 1991);

-1-

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France and the Nazi Menace: Intelligence and Policy Making, 1933-1939
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Intelligence Machine and the Decision Making Process 11
  • 2: French Intelligence and the Nazi Machtergreifung, 1933 45
  • 3: Intelligence and the National Socialist Gleichschaltung, 1933–1936 82
  • 4: Initial Responses to Nazi Rearmament: Intelligence and Policy, 1934–1935 109
  • 5: The Rhineland 161
  • 6: Intelligence and the Rearmament Programmes of 1936 178
  • 7: Paralysis 207
  • 8: Munich 247
  • 9: A Change in Perspective 298
  • 10: Girding for War 337
  • 11: Decision for War 379
  • Conclusion 388
  • Appendices 397
  • Bibliography 403
  • Index 435
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