The Führer's expansionist plans were initiated explicitly in July 1936, when he instructed the German general staff to draw up a plan called "Case Otto," for later use in the occupation of Austria. On November 5th, he gathered his principal collaborators, including the military, to inform them that he "wanted to finish rapidly with Austria and Czechoslovakia."1 He issued a special directive regarding actual preparations. His eventual objectives in Eastern Europe, according to Churchill, were particularly Poland, White Russia, and the Ukraine.2 The gate to the east was located in Central Europe; the path opened through Austria and led unmistakably through Czechoslovakia. Hitler rearmed with all possible speed. On February 4, 1938, he reorganized his army command, giving top slot to generals Werner von Blomberg and Werner Von Fritsch; topmost chief was pro-Nazi Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. At the Foreign Office, he replaced the moderate diplomat Konstantin von Neurath with Joachim von Ribbentrop.
Hitler constantly watched West European reactions to his early moves, lest the West Europeans feel their own security threatened. On November 6th, the French ambassador to Berlin sent a telegram home about a meeting there, speculating that it was motivated by "a problem of raw materials" for the growing war machine.3 Von Ribbentrop was in Rome attending the ceremony of initiating Italy into the Anti-Comintern Pact. The watchword at Whitehall and the Quai d'Orsay was to avoid doing anything to provoke an aggressive response, a line that was interpreted in Berlin as weakness. Guided by his political intuition early in 1938, Hitler overrode his own staff officers who felt he was moving ahead of their preparedness; he