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

By Peter Jackson | Go to book overview

5

The Rhineland

THE ADVENT of open and apparently unlimited rearmament in Germany, combined with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia the following October, overturned the post-war balance of power once and for all. It also marked the beginning of a period of profound pessimism in French assessments of the strategic situation. From early 1935 onward the intelligence services produced consistently bleak appreciations of German military capabilities. The clear tendency to focus on the strengths of the German military machine and to downplay its vulnerabilities became more firmly entrenched than ever in intelligence appreciations. Behind this pessimism was a pervasive gloom within the military establishment caused by the civil–military conflicts of the Weygand era and by further cuts in expenditure made by the Laval government in 1935. The response of the high command was to continue to inflate the estimates of German military power formulated by the Deuxième Bureau when communicating them to civilians. The aim was to drive home the immediacy of the German threat. But the result of this political distortion was that, at key stages, civilian policy makers were presented with flawed assessments of the military balance. Intelligence on the recrudescence of German military power was used by the high command to justify its inflexible determination to adopt a defensive posture along the Franco-German frontier. It was also used to provide the essential underpinning for French policy in eastern Europe—a policy best described as retreat in advance. Intelligence therefore reinforced an existing predisposition among decision makers to adopt a cautious attitude when Hitler overturned the Locarno system by remilitarizing the Rhineland on 7 March 1936.

-161-

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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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