Rhineland invasion, March 1936

Map showing the Anschluss with AustriaMap showing the location of the Rhineland on the western border of Germany

For many years the Rhineland area had been a key industrial region of Germany: producing coal, steel and iron resources.

The Rhineland also formed a natural barrier to its neighbour and rival, France. In the event of a war, the River Rhine, if properly defended, would be a difficult obstacle for an invading force to cross.

One of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles was that the Germans would not be able to keep military forces in a 50 km stretch of the Rhineland. Hitler resented this term as it made Germany vulnerable to invasion. He was determined to enlarge his military capability and strengthen his borders.

In 1935, Hitler revealed that he had built up an air force and signed the Anglo-German Naval Agreement that allowed him to enlarge his naval forces.

In 1936, Hitler boldly marched 22,000 German troops into the Rhineland, in a direct contravention of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler offered France and Britain a 25 year non-aggression pact and claimed:

quote
Germany had no territorial demands to make in Europe

A look at the German reoccupation of the Rhineland, explaining the background of this demilitarised zone set up under the Treaty of Versailles. The Rhineland had acted as a buffer between France and Germany, and the invasion therefore placed France under direct threat. The film raises the question of what Britain's response to this will be.