The Remilitarization of the Rhineland Increased International Tension

The Remilitarization of the Rhineland Increased International Tension

The Rhineland was a strip of land in Germany that borders with France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. This region was designated as a demilitarized zone to help France, Belgium, and the Netherlands defend themselves against potential German aggression.

That is to say, no German troops were to be stationed inside that area or any fortifications built. Remilitarization of the Rhineland meant that Germany had broken the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.

After World War I the Treaty of Versailles not only restored Alsace-Lorraine to France but also allowed Allied troops to occupy portions of the right and left banks of the German Rhineland.

The Rhine is Western Europe’s most important waterway. It rises in the Alps, and passes through Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands before flowing into the North Sea.

In May 1935, France and the Soviet Union signed a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance. In March 1936, Germany claimed the treaty was hostile to them and Hitler used this as an excuse to send German troops into the Rhineland, the demilitarized zone along the Rhine River in western Germany, in violation of the terms of the Treaties of Versailles and Locarno. This heightened global tensions because it made France more nervous.

The French government was appalled to see German troops on their frontier but was unable to take action without the help of the British. The British government was unwilling to go to war over the issue and claimed that Germany was only marching into its own back yard.

The remilitarization of the Rhineland shifted the balance of power in Europe from France and its allies to Germany, allowing Germany to pursue an aggressive strategy in Western Europe that had previously been obstructed by the Rhineland’s demilitarized status.

Since the occupation of the Rhineland was a clear breach of the Treaty of Versailles, tensions between Germany and other European countries rose. Hitler vowed to restore Germany’s glory and redemption, which it had lost as a result of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles.