“But a month earlier, Hitler had already received an even greater gift, and it had been given him by those who would soon become his mortal foes. On the morning of March 7, thirty thousand German troops had rolled into the demilitarized Rhineland, in open defiance of both the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact to which Germany was a signatory. It was by far the most brazen thing Hitler had yet attempted, his biggest gamble, and a major step toward the catastrophe that was soon to envelop the world. For the next two days, Hitler, Goebbels, and the rest of the Nazi leadership waited anxiously for the world to react. They knew that Germany did not yet have sufficient military strength to survive a war with either France or Britain, let alone the two of them combined. The next forty-eight hours, Hitler later confessed, were the tensest of his life.
He needn’t have worried. In England, foreign secretary Anthony Eden said he “deeply regretted” the news, and then set about pressuring the French not to overreact. They didn’t. They did nothing at all. A relieved Joseph Goebbels sat down and wrote, “The Fuehrer is immensely happy . . . England remains passive. France won’t act alone. Italy is disappointed and America is uninterested.”
Hitler now understood with absolute clarity the feeble resolve of the powers to his west.

Excerpt From: Daniel James Brown. “The Boys in the Boat.”


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