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

By Peter Jackson | Go to book overview

2

French Intelligence and the
Nazi Machtergreifung, 1933

EVER SINCE the catastrophe of May 1940, the consensus view of historians and political commentators alike has been that France's civilian and military leadership misunderstood the Nazi regime from the very beginning.1 Yet a careful scrutiny of the archival record reveals that French soldiers and statesmen were better informed about the nature of the Nazi menace in 1933 than has hitherto been assumed. French intelligence warned that the situation inside Germany had changed fundamentally after Hitler's rise to power. Intelligence appreciations consistently predicted that the new regime was intent on a policy of massive rearmament and territorial expansion. Yet this intelligence had little effect on the course of French foreign and defence policy. France was an inward-looking society, committed to the politics of disarmament and preoccupied with the debilitating effects of the

1 M. Bloch, Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940, pbk. edn. (New York,
1968), in particular the chapter 'A Frenchman Examines his Conscience'; Duroselle, La Déca-
dence, 57–63. See also R. W. Mühle, Frankreich und Hitler, 1933–1935 (Paderborn, 1995), 41–96.
Other studies which conclude that France's leadership failed to understand the nature of the
Nazi threat include: F. Taubert, Französische Linke und Hitlerdeutschland: Deutschlandbilder und
Strategieentwürfe, 1933–1939 (Berne, 1991), 29–64; Vaïsse, Sécurité d'abord, 356–60, 440–8;
P. Wandycz, The Twilight of French Eastern Alliances, 1926–1936 (Princeton, 1988), 259–63;
Adamthwaite, Grandeur and Misery, 187–8; A. Grosser, Hitler, la presse et la naissance d'une dictature
(Paris, 1959), 127–222; A. Kimmel, Der Aufstieg des Nationalsozialismus im Spiegel der französischen
Presse, 1930–1933 (Bonn, 1969); J.-M. d'Hoop, 'Frankreichs Reaction auf Hitlers Aussenpol-
itik, 1933–1939', Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, 15: 4 (1964), 211–23; H. Hörling,
'L'Opinion française face à l'avènement d'Hitler au pouvoir', Francia (1975), ii. 584–641; A.
Prost, 'Les Anciens Combattants français et l'Allemagne, 1933–1938', and J. Droz, 'Le Parti
socialiste français devant la montée du nazisme', both in La France et l'Allemagne, 1932–1936
(Paris, 1980), 131–48 and 173–89, respectively. See also J. Bariéty, 'Les Partisans français de
l'entente franco-allemande et la “prise du pouvoir” par Hitler, Avril 1932–Avril 1934', in
J. Bariéty, J. M. Valentin, and A. Guth (eds.), La France et l'Allemagne entre les duex guerres mondi-
ales (Nancy, 1987), 21–9 and Geneviève Bureau, 'Les Premières Réactions françaises à
l'avènement d'Hitler, janvier–mars 1933', Mémoire de maîtrise (Paris I, 1973).

-45-

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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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