France Blinks

Sunday 8th March 1936

Confronted by Hitler's fait accompli in remilitarizing the Rhineland, the French government responded extremely weakly. Crucially, a meeting of ministers with General Gamelin, the army Chief of Staff, decided against even partial mobilization on the tortuously expressed and barely credible grounds that France wanted to avoid any action that might smack of trying to force the hand of League of Nations Council members. All that France did was appeal to the League. As Germany was not a member and the League had amply demonstrated its impotence over Italy's invasion of Abyssinia, this was not a formidable move.

Albert Sarraut, the French Prime Minister, did publicly reject the placatory proposals with which Hitler had accompanied his denunciation of the  Locarno Treaty as extinct. These included Germany returning to the League of Nations, from which it had withdrawn in 1933 on the pretext that disarmament talks had failed to give parity with France. Hitler had also offered a pact controlling air forces, in a sop to Britain which had floated the idea a few days before. None of this was attractive, none of this was sincere. It was a confession of weakness to pay it any attention at all.


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