Hitler’s order to send German troops into the Rhineland demilitarized zone on 7 March 1936 was a fundamental breach of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which had been signed in an attempt to bring peace to Europe and hold Germany accountable for its role in World War I. It also constituted a breach of the 1925 Locarno Treaty in which Germany voluntarily agreed to honour a demilitarized Rhineland. Hitler had a number of motivations for violating these two major international peace treaties, including the desire to create a domestic distraction from the failing German economy. With Britain and Italy coming increasingly close to conflict over Italy’s war with Ethiopia, Hitler sensed that the anti-German alliance was breaking and was also able to present the 1935 Franco-Soviet pact as a breach of the Locarno Treaty. Despite all of this, Germany’s military occupation of the Rhineland was very precarious and could have been immediately defeated had the French resorted to military action.
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