German Pre-War Expansion
Part One: Re-militarization of the Rhineland.
On March 7, 1936, exploiting disagreements among the Western powers and their preoccupation with the crisis in Ethiopia, Hitler occupied the Rhineland region, which had been demilitarized since the Versailles accords. The Italians had attacked Ethiopia in an attempt to acquire some African territory (Mussolini was obsessed with recreating an Imperial Roman Empire in his modern Italy.) Hitler took advantage of this and enacted a plan he had decided on a few months earlier – Germany would re-occupy the Rhineland.
The Rhineland is the land around the Rhine River in the western part of Germany. This land was a controversial piece of territory that had caused much tension between France and Germany throughout history. Hitler’s re-occupation of this land was a clear sign that he was prepared to break the tenets of the Versailles Armistice Treaty from the end of World War I. What’s even more upsetting is that the United Kingdom and France did not act with force to push the Germans back – this ended up being the first in a series of appeasements made by the western allies.