THE INTER-WAR PERIOD 1935
Following the ending of the Great War the Saar region was separated from Germany and administered by the League of Nations. France was given control of the Saar’s coalmines. Toward the end of 1934 the League of Nations Council proposed a referendum after fifteen years administration and it was scheduled to take place on the 7th January 1935. The Council was also convinced that a peacekeeping force would be necessary during the plebiscite period. The German and French governments agreed to allow an international force to enter the Saar region. The Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for such a force on the 8th December 1934. The League appointed British General John Brind as commander with overall operational control of the force. Troops patrolled but did not police the Saar region. They were not to respond except to emergencies and at the request of local authorities. There was little or no violence during the plebiscite and the peacekeeping was regarded as a success. In the referendum, voters were asked whether the Saar region should remain under the League of Nations administration, return to Germany or become part of France. The result was that over 90% of the vote was in favour of the Saar Region being returned to Germany. Although the Saar region returned to Germany entirely in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, many historians regard it as an essential “first step” on Hitler’s Road to War.
In March 1935 Hermann Göring was appointed commander-in-chief of the new German Air Force (Luftwaffe). He held this position until the 29th April 1945. Shortly after his appointment, two new aircraft became available to the Luftwaffe. The first was the Messerschmitt BF 109 which made its first flight as a German single seater fighter aircraft possibly on the 29th May 1935. The ME109 was the most produced fighter of all time, with more than 35,000 built. Consequently the ‘109’ pilots scored more aerial victories than those of any other aircraft. The second was the Junkers JU87 or Stuka which was a German dive bomber and ground attack aircraft. It first flew on the 17th September 1935 and was easily recognised by its inverted gull wings and fixed undercarriage which were fitted with wailing sirens becoming the propaganda symbol of German air power.
The Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed on the 18th June 1935 between the United Kingdom and Germany. This agreement allowed Germany to build a fleet whose total tonnage was less than 35% of the tonnage of the British fleet. In this way Britain hoped to limit German naval re-armament.
The “Neutrality Act of 1935” was signed by the United States Congress on the 31st August 1935 which imposed a general embargo on trading in arms and war materials with all parties in the event of a war. It also declared that American citizens travelling on warring ships travelled at their own risk.
The Nuremberg Laws were introduced in Germany on the 15th September 1935 by the Reichstag at a special meeting convened at the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). One of the two laws introduced was the Law for the Protection of German Blood, and the other was for the Protection of German Honour. These laws forbade marriages, extra-marital intercourse between Jews and Germans and the employment of German females under the age of 45 in Jewish households. The Reich Citizenship Law declared only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens, the remainder were classed as state subjects without citizenship rights. A supplementary decree outlining the definition of who was Jewish was passed on the 14th November 1935 and the Reich Citizenship Law officially came into force the same day. These laws were later expanded to include Romani people and Afro/Asian people. A supplementary decree defined Romanies as “enemies of the race-based state” and given the same category as Jews.
The Second Italo-Ethiopian War was a colonial war which began on the 2nd October 1935 when Italy invaded Ethiopia. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was determined to show the strength of his regime. The war was fought between the armies of the Kingdom of Italy and those of the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia). The Italian army sent a force of a few hundred thousand troops to Africa with an abundance of weaponry, transportation and food. Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie had a larger army, but very few had military training and almost all fought with spears, bows and arrows and antiquated guns. The ill-equipped Ethiopians were no match for Italy’s modern tanks and aircraft, and the capital Addis Ababa was quickly captured. Ethiopia was defeated, annexed and subjected to military occupation. The Ethiopian Empire became part of the Italian colony of Italian East Africa and incorporated into the new Italian Empire.
The Hawker Hurricane first flew on the 6th November 1935 and was the beginning of the Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter force. The aircraft design owed a great deal to the technology of the biplane era of the Great War. The Hawker Aircraft Company began the development as a private project involving a manufactured air frame which was covered in dope impregnated fabric. With the availability of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the Air Ministry wrote a specification around Hawker’s proposals and the development of the prototype began. The Hurricane alongside the Spitfire did more than any other aircraft or defence system in 1940 to save Britain from Nazi invasion.
In Britain Conservative Stanley Baldwin replaced Labour’s Ramsey MacDonald as Prime Minister of the National Government on the 14th November 1935. The National Government was formed by MacDonald in 1931 but most of the ministers were Conservative. As leader of the Conservative Party Baldwin took over many of the Prime Minister’s duties owing to MacDonald’s failing health. This government gave Dominion status to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It also introduced an Act delivering increased self-government for India, and established the first steps toward the Commonwealth. Baldwin made many striking innovations such as the use of film and radio. This made him highly visible to the public and helped to strengthen Conservative appeal. The Conservatives won the 1935 General Election with a large majority. During this time Baldwin oversaw the beginning of the rearmament process of the British military, as well as the difficult abdication of King Edward VIII. Baldwin’s government saw a number of crises in foreign affairs, including the public uproar over the Hoare-Laval Pact, the remilitarisation of the Rhineland and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. During his time as Prime Minister he presided over high unemployment in the 1930’s and was one of the “Guilty Men” who tried to appease Adolf Hitler. He was also thought of as not having rearmed sufficiently to prepare for the Second World War. Despite all the set-backs he was regarded as a popular and successful Prime Minister.
The Hoare-Laval Pact was proposed on the 8th December 1935 when British Foreign Minister Samuel Hoare discussed with his French counterpart Pierre Laval how to end the Second Italo-Abysinian War. The Pact was initially discussed during a secret meeting. However, on the 9th December 1935 the British press revealed leaked details of an agreement by the two men to give Ethiopia to Italy to end the war. The press denounced the Pact stating the British public would not recommend the League of Nations approve the Pact as a fair and reasonable basis for approval. The Pact was met with a wave of moral indignation in Britain and in France the Popular Front condemned it. The British government withdrew the plan and Hoare resigned. In early 1936 Italy began a new larger advance on Ethiopia.