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The Rhineland And Spanish Civil War Notes

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The Rhineland and the Spanish Civil War: 1936-1937 The Rhineland:
- In March 1936 Hitler marched 10,000 troops into the Rhineland, taking advantage of the distraction of the Abyssinian crisis and blatantly breaking Locarno and Versailles terms. He used the Franco-Soviet pact as an excuse.
- Shortly after the occupation, Hitler restrained his neighbours by suggesting he hoped to make new security agreements and re-enter the League of Nations.
- Britain would almost certainly not have acted anyway, favouring discussion to buy time for rearmament and fearful of encircling Hitler. France would not act without British support, responding defensively as part of their 'Maginot mentality' under a care-taker government.
- British public opinion saw Hitler's move as reasonable. A taxi driver famously said 'I suppose Jerry can do anything he wants in his own back yard, can't he?' This attitude was shared by Lord Lothian and most MPs.
- Given the absence of Italy, Britain no longer felt obliged to uphold Locarno. They remained of good terms with Germany despite the failure of the proposed 25-year non-aggression pact.
- France's eastern allies suffered most as Germany could now concentrate of the east, with Poland and Czechoslovakia.

The Defence Policy Requirements Committee met nine times in January 1936 to discuss rearmament. A second defence White Paper in March proposed spending increases on the army and navy totalling £400 million. A Ministry for the Coordination of Defence was set up to supervise rearmament plans, while the government agreed to fund quick alterations to production lines to cater for arms production when necessary. Britain had to prepare for a colonial, European or a naval war. The threat of a war of attrition also meant the government began to stockpile resources. On sixth of the 1937 arms programme had to be met from imports. Further increases in defence spending threatened a balance of payments crisis.

The Spanish Civil War:
- After the abolishment of the monarchy and collapse of the Popular Front in 1936 Spain descended into civil war. There was fighting between fascists and nationalists under General Franco and republicans supported by liberals, communists and the working class.
- Germany sent 600 aircraft and 10,000 troops to help the fascists. Italy sent a further 40,000 men. Germany wanted access to Spain's iron and copper reserves, while there was the potential to take Gibraltar and severely damage Britain's trade routes. Spain could also be a second front against France.
- Britain and France did not intervene given ideological conflicts and a fear the conflict spreading due to the involvement of major powers.
- The bombing of Guernica by Hitler horrified the public, turning many against fascism. It also rekindled the fear 'the bomber would always get through'.

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