What should Britain do about it?
On 7 March 1936 German troops marched into the Rhineland. This action was directly against the Treaty of Versailles which had laid out the terms which the defeated Germany had accepted. It was Hitler's first illegal act in foreign relations since coming to power in 1933 and it threw the European allies, especially France and Britain, into confusion. What should they do about his actions?
These documents reveal the motives and attitudes of the British government as they discuss their options. They are all extracts from the minutes of the Cabinet meeting on 11 March 1936.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister was Stanley Baldwin.
- What clues are there that the British Cabinet thought the situation was serious?
- What was British policy for dealing with the crisis?
- How did this policy go down with our allies?
- Why do you think they reacted in this way?
- What did Anthony Eden expect the allies to do next?
- Why would this put Britain 'in an impossible position'?
1. This is a document where the Foreign Secretary describes a meeting he has had with the French, Belgian and Italian governments.
2. This is another section from the document seen in Source 1. What does this tell us about Baldwin's attitude to:
How might each of these worries affect how Britain would deal with the crisis?
3. According to this document, why was Britain unready to go to war with Germany over the Rhineland?How would this affect our readiness to go along with what France wanted?
4. Look at Source 4. What arguments are put here for and against economic sanctions against Germany?
- What deal does Anthony Eden want to offer Germany?
- What do you think were Eden's motives in making this offer to Germany?
- Did this deal abide by the terms of the Treaties of Versailles and Locarno?
- Why do you think he didn't consult the League of Nations?
5. The Foreign Secretary puts forward his suggestion for dealing with the situation:
- Use your answers to questions 2(a), 3(a), 4 and 5(a) to describe what appeasement was and why Britain took this line.
- Do you think Eden could have handled the situation differently?