I/GCSE History: War Kindles The risk of war: ● Reoccupation of the Rhineland occurred in 1936 and was a clear breach of the ToV. ● Hitler took considerable risks: ○ He could expect resistance from the French as he moved his army into the Rhineland. ○ If they did resist by sending troops their army could potentially outnumber the German army. ○ The German troops were not ready for a war with France. ○ The first troops sent into the Rhineland were ordered to retreat if they met with French resistance. ● Many German generals were unhappy with Hitler’s plan: ○ They called upon him to retreat days after the invasion. ○ Hitler refused. Hitler the peacemaker? ● Hitler tried to show the world that his actions were reasonable. ● Ambassadors of Britain, France and Italy were told that the reoccupation was the beginning of a long-term peace in Europe. ● Proposed a 25-year agreement between France, Belgium and Germany: ○ Not to attack each other. ● He suggested: ○ That there might be a demilitarized zone on either side of the French-Germanborder. ○ That Germany might return to the LoN. ● His offers made Hitler seem like a reasonable person: ○ Many were taken in. ○ British Labor politician Arthur Henderson said that Hitler’s offer of the ‘olive branch…ought to be taken at face value’. ● On the day of the reoccupation Hitler spoke with the Reichstag: ○ Intension was to convince the world that the action in the Rhineland was not worth fighting for. ○ He suggested that he was attempting to build a peaceful Europe. The reaction of the French and British: ● Generals and French minister agreed to protest but refrain from engaging in combat. ● Britain: ○ No one wanted to go to war over the Rhineland: ■ France allowed the remilitarization of the Rhineland because they were too weak to stop Germany without Britain. ○ Many sympathized with the Germans after all the Rhineland is German territory and their army had the right to be there. ○ One British politician said that they did not care ‘two hoots’ about the reoccupation. ○ Britain took no action. ● Originally Hitler had intended to wait until 1937 when the German army would have rearmed sufficiently to take on France: ○ The Abyssinian crisis had made Britain, France and the LoN unwilling to get involved in other conflicts: ■ This opportunity was seized by Hitler for his reoccupation. ○ His prompt action showed that he could grab an opportunity on the spur of themoment. The ‘Anschluss’: the German Takeover of Austria:
● Many Austrians saw themselves as German at heart. ○ Hitler wanted to unite all the German speakers into one Greater German Reich. ● Austria had a strong Nazi Party. ● Early 1938: ○ Austria was in a state of chaos. ○ Austrian Nazis were active and making life difficult for the government of Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg. ○ Austrian Nazis were not completely under Hitler’s control. ■ They sometimes acted without instruction from Berlin. ○ They plotted to kill the German ambassador and so create chaos which wouldallow Germany to invade. ● Schuschnigg went to Hitler for crisis talks in February 1938: ○ Hitler raved and shouted at him for two hours. ○ Demanded that Nazis be made a part of the Austrian government. ○ Demanded that the Nazis be given control of law and order. ○ Schuschnigg felt that he had no choice and so obeyed. ● When Schuschnigg returned to Austria he was in a dilemma: ○ He took seriously Hitler’s threat of force unless the Nazis were given more power. ○ He could not look to other states for help: ■ Britain had made it clear that they would not stop a German takeover. The Plebiscite: ● 9th March Schuschnigg made one last attempt to keep Austria independent. ○ Arranged a plebiscite or referendum to see whether or not the Austrian populace wished that Austria remained independent. ○ He set the lowest voting age at 24 to stop younger Nazis voting. ○ Even so 98.8% of Austria voted for Anschluss: ■ This suggests that the plebiscite was rigged. ● Hitler: ○ Was enraged. ○ And afraid that Schuschnigg would win the plebiscite: ■ He ordered the German army to invade on 11th March, 1938. ○ The arrests came immediately afterwards; the army arrested the enemies of the Nazis: ■ In Vienna alone there were 76 000 arrests. ○ 12th March, Hitler went to his Austrian home town of Linz where he was greeted by cheering crowds.