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

By Peter Jackson | Go to book overview

6

Intelligence and the Rearmament
Programmes of 1936

THE AFTERMATH of the Rhineland brought major changes to French policy towards Germany. In May 1936 France elected its first socialist government. Predictably, the regime of new Premier Léon Blum was more suspicious of Germany than the Laval govèrnment had been. Just as significantly, it was also less committed to financial austerity than any French government since 1936. This conjunction was a favourable one for the defence budget and therefore gave added importance to intelligence assessments of German military power. Intelligence was central to the formulation of the ambitious land and air rearmament programmes adopted by the Popular Front government in late 1936. At the same time, however, the familiar flaws in the assessment process continued to distort perceptions of the threat from across the Rhine. Although the Deuxième Bureaux continued to provide fairly accurate assessments of Hitler's long-term intentions, their effectiveness in evaluating German military power declined further as the image of German power provided to decision makers was increasingly exaggerated. Moreover, the politicization of intelligence by military and civilian officials continued to hamper the policy making process as decision makers persisted in seeking justification for predetermined policies in intelligence reports.


I

The parliamentary elections of May 1936 brought to power the Popular Front coalition of Socialists, Radicals, and Communists under the leadership of Léon Blum. Blum remains an icon in the history of French socialism. His politics were those of the left, but of the tolerant and liberal variety, more humanist than doctrinaire. And his perspective

-178-

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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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