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

By Peter Jackson | Go to book overview

Conclusion

IN THE aftermath of the fall of France Nazi Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels reviewed the events of the 1930s and wondered at French passivity in face of such an obviously serious threat:

In 1933 a French minister should have said (and had I been a French minister-
president I would surely have said): the man who wrote the book Mein Kampf,
in which this and that is written, has become Chancellor. We cannot tolerate
that man in our neighbourhood. Either he goes, or we march. That would
have been totally logical.1

France did not march in 1933. Nor did it march in 1936 over the remilitarization of the Rhineland; nor in 1938 over Czechoslovakia. Implicit in Goebbels's observation is that either the French did not recognize the threat to their security (in which case they were blind), or that they saw the threat but chose to ignore its implications (in which case they were both blind and stupid). Dr Goebbels's interpretation of French foreign policy has gained wide acceptance in the historiography of the origins of the Second World War.

French intelligence has borne its share of the blame in historical analyses for failing to provide decision makers with a clear conception of the dimensions of the Nazi threat. This is not surprising. Academic study of the role of intelligence in diplomacy, strategic planning, and military operations has tended to focus on explaining intelligence failures.2 And nearly all of the problematic trends and tendencies that scholars have identified in the intelligence process have emerged in this study. Assessments of Nazi intentions and capabilities were conditioned by entrenched assumptions about the German national character. Stereotypes concerning Teutonic efficiency underpinned the ill-founded assumption that the German economy was a highly organized industrial juggernaut. This led to egregious miscalculations of the productive capacities of Germany's defence industry which, in

1 Cited in H. Herwig, Hammer or Anvil? (New York, 1993), 311–12.

2 For a discussion, see M. Lowenthal, 'The Burdensome Concept of Failure', in Alfred
C. Maurer, M. Tunstall, and J. Keagle (eds.), Intelligence: Policy and Process (Boulder, Colo.,
1985), 43–56 and Betts, 'Analysis, War and Decision', 61–89.

-388-

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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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