On Mar. 7, 1936, Adolf Hitler broke the Treaty of Versailles by sending troops into the Rhineland, an area of Germany that the Treaty of Versailles required remained demilitarized.
This breach of the Treaty marks the beginning of the path that led to World War II. The United States entered World War I to fight “a war to end all wars.” Less than a generation later, Europe was again at war. What went wrong?
There are many explanations. One of them is that at the end of the war, the opponents of Germany – and especially France – demanded reparations for the damages the war had caused. In previous times, it was possible to loot the loser of a war without harming oneself. But by the time of World War I, the economies of Europe had become closely intertwined, and the looting of Germany led only to hyperinflation, political radicalization, and increased tensions. While not an excuse for the rise of Hitler, the treatment of Germany after World War I made it much easier.
- When George Washington gave his farewell address, he warned Americans against “entangling alliances.” That was relatively easy in his day, when the United States was a small country separated by immense travel time from the rest of the world. Since World War I, however, we have become increasingly responsible for “policing” the world. How do you think Washington’s warnings are relevant today?
- When Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland, it was a clear violation of a treaty. Yet no one did anything. Today, similar violations of the letter and spirit of good international citizenship occur regularly, by countries including Russia, North Korea, and Iran. To date, little has been done to stop them. How do you think their aggressions compare to the occupation of the Rhineland by Hitler?
- It is often said that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Is this true? How does this saying relate to the way in which the United States should react to aggressors, like Hitler in 1936, or other countries today?
6, Mar. 2018, Rhineland [Digital image]. Retrieved from <google.com>.