This was a policy that was adopted by the British and France and it was a major player in the outbreak of the war. Appeasement was first introduced in the mid 1930s by Stanley Baldwin who was then the British Prime Minister. But it was Neville Chamberlain who changed this appeasement policy when he ascended to power in 1937. The British government defines appeasement as the settlement of issues through negotiation and compromise. The British were very committed to this policy and they followed it confidently with the hope that it will reduce the chance of a world war.
The treaty of Versailles
This was signed after the First World War and it was aimed at ending all wars. Though it was signed by the four nations, it was greatly hated by the Germans. It was argued that the treaty if it were to stand wound ruin the economic status of Germany. The Germans were not allowed to participate in the negotiations and the big three countries which participated each had its own personal goals. The Germans felt they were humiliated with the French feeling a sense of insecurity. The British championed for the reestablishment of world trade and they wanted nothing more while the Americans were to give up their principles and ideals of self determination especially on matters that concerned Germany. With all these issues in place, a disaster was inevitable. There are many arguments and critics of the treaty of Versailles with some arguing that it was made to secure a future war instead of preventing one. It can therefore be said that it is this treaty which led to the Second World War. The goal difference of the participating countries was a major contributor of the emergence of the Second World War. What can be read from the treaty is that France wanted revenge, America wanted money and Britain wanted a fair resolution that would lead to the prevention of future conflicts. The discussion below seeks to establish the relationship between the treaty of Versailles, appeasement policies and the emergence of the world war two
The treaty of Versailles changed the attitudes and perspectives of many Britons who saw and concluded that the Germans were unfairly and harshly treated. They also saw a possibility of another war if the Germans turned towards aggression. It was in this regard that the British government gave in to the demands of Hitler as a way of addressing the genuine and legitimate grievances of the Germans. The Britain’s economy was on its knees and there for one of the reason why the government wanted preservation of peace. This was because it was not in a position to rearm its forces and wage a war.
When Hitler came to power his main aim was to strengthen Germany and transform it into a great power. This he hoped to achieve by using foreign policies to overthrow the Versailles treaty. He also aimed at strengthening his armed forces with an aim of recovering and recapturing lost territory. He wanted to unite all the German within the Reich. This was one of the factors that led to the war outbreak. Hitler believed that German will become strong again only through the use of military aggression and war. He directly challenged the Versailles treaty in 1934 by rearming his armed forces and preparing them for war. This he did through production of tanks, submarines and aircrafts in huge masses. When this rearmament was announced in 1935, the British and French initial reaction was to appeal and protest solemnly to the League of Nations. They did not even attempt to stop this rearmament at the Stressa conference. The League of Nations did not try to stop these aggressive rearmament plans by Hitler on the grounds that there were no military or economic sanctions that had been imposed. It was due to the appeasement which made Hitler more confident. In short France and Britain simply turned a blind eye on this public breach of Versailles treaty. The Anglo-German Naval agreement that was signed in 1935 was the form of appeasement of the British towards this rearmament. This was because the agreement acknowledged that the rearmament of the German should be limited to only 35% of the fleet owned by the British. The agreement which was made by the British solely without the agreement from Italy and France became the first time that Britain agreed and approved a German contravention of the treaty of Versailles. After 1936, Hitler introduced conscription and he had accumulated enough mercenary to wage a war. The Anglo-German Naval agreement signed by the British compromised the Stressa Front and also undermined the mutual trust that existed between Britain and France. This agreement allowed Germany to flout the Versailles treaty and this gave Hitler confidence that the appeasers were not going to stop him from his plans of overthrowing the Versailles treaty and also his goals of rearming his armed forces.
This was a strategic military position that could determine the fate of Germany. It was a point where by the French could use to invade and strike then heart of the Germanys power. It was due to this reality that Hitler ordered its reoccupation and remilitarization. This was an open breech of the treaty of Versailles but France and Britain just turned a blind eye. On doing this he was removing the threat of French into the Germanys sovereignty. By deploying troops in this region, Germany was deterring any future attack from the French. Even before the reoccupation of the Rhine region, the appeasers were aware of the plans by Hitler to take over new lands and expand the German territory. But they did not even try to stop him because “he was taking back what belonged to Germany originally”. At this stage, France could have stopped the reoccupation of the Rhine region but she did not want to start a war with Germany due to the lack of support from the British. This made Hitler even more confident that he even saw an opportunity to challenge the balance of Europe power. There are those who argued that Rhine land region belonged to Germany and that it was in their right to have its army positioned there.
Invasion of Austria
Hitler invaded Austria in 1938 and he declared Anschluss. In doing this he was breaking the Versailles treaty. The Australian chancellor at the time pleaded with France and Britain to help but these two countries did nothing about it. They just turned a blind eye and allowed Hitler to lay a foundation of his European conquest.
The annexation of Australia in 1938 was seen as a solution to the problems that faced the war oriented Germany economy. Hitler saw it as a perfect opportunity of fulfilling his goal of uniting all the Germans within the Reich. The Austrian Nazi staged demonstrations following orders given by Hitler and this proved a perfect opportunity for Hitler to send his troops to occupy Austria. The appeasers did nothing more after this than mere protests. The link up with Austria strengthened the friendship between Germany and Italy and it also gave Hitler a direct route to southeast Europe. Britain and France appeasements gave Hitler more confidence again to conquer Europe. After Austria, Czechoslovakia was next. Due to the success that he had achieved before, he demanded that Sudetenland be incorporated into the Third Reich because it was the most industrialized and wealthiest region in Czechoslovakia. And since the appeasers were afraid of a war break out, they pleaded on the president of Czech, Benes to come into as compromise with Hitler. It was with this regard that Chamberlain met Hitler in an attempt to resolve the issues. He met him three times on separate occasions. It was at Berchtesgaden, where Hitler promised Chamberlain that the case of Sudetenland would be self determined. But in Godesberg, Hitler changed his stand and he instead demanded the immediate incorporation of Sudetenland into the Third Reich. It was this demanded that angered Chamberlain and it made him on return to Britain to order the armed forces to be ready for war. It was at the Munich Conference that the countries referred to as the Big Four finally gave in to Hitler’s demands. Czechoslovakia was forced to sign the agreement and Chamberlain signed another agreement with Hitler to declare that Britain and Germany would never go to war again. But it was the invasion of the rest of the Czechoslovakia that it became evidently clear that the appeasement policy was a total failure. The appeasers had given all they had to offer and they had reached the limit. Hitler went on to invade Poland ignoring the ultimatum that he had been given by Britain and France to stop the invasion. It was after this that the appeasers declared war on Germany.
It was the 1938 crisis whereby the Sudeten Nazis started demonstrations and causing trouble led by Heinlein and under orders from Hitler which is seen as the true appeasement because Chamberlain intervened. Henlein demanded union of Sudeten with Germany. This was what led to the meeting at Berchtesgaden which was held on the 15th day of September. Here Hitler and chamberlain met and Hitler threatened to wage a war but he promised Chamberlain that it would be the last problem to be solved. Chamberlain saw Hitler as a man who can be trusted and in his intervention he persuaded the president of the republic of Czech to hand over Sudetenland to the Germans. In doing this, chamberlain thought that this was the last demand that Hitler would ask for.
This meeting between Hitler and Chamberlain took place in 22nd September 1938. Here Hitler asked for more demands which Chamberlain refused to offer. It was this mistrust which Chamberlain saw in Hitler that he knew that war was definitely inevitable. He did not see Czechoslovakia as an issue that called for war but he took it as a quarrel between two neighboring countries which are far off from Britain.
But the climax of the appeasements happened in Munich in the 29th day of September 1938 when at the Munich conference Britain and France finally gave Sudetenland to Germany.
The main reason why Britain and France embraced the appeasement policy was because they did not want the whole of Europe to be dragged into a world war by Hitler. It was a policy being persued due to the lessons learnt from world war one.
Appeasement policy can be blamed as a way of seeking world peace at the expense and mercies of others. This can be seen in the way that Britain and France gave in to the demands presented by Hitler. This led to the strengthening of Germany and also conquest of other territories outside Germany. In this regard, the appeasers were assisting Hitler indirectly and this led to the undermining the sovereignty of the countries that were under the threat of Germany invasion. This also created much tension in the whole of Europe. Germany grew stronger and stronger with every conquest that it made. This was due to the availability of resources that made it possible to sustain the war oriented Germany economy.
Reasons for adopting the appeasement policy.
Though the appeasement policy led to the strengthening of Germany, and the breakout of war, there are other reasons why France and Britain adopted this policy. These two countries were faced with economic problems in the 1930s. The British economy was severely weakened by the Wall Street crash of 1929 which made the government put the rearming of its armed forces on hold. Thus appeasement was the only option on the part of Britain to avoid war as it was infact unprepared for the same. France was not in a position to wage war on its own without support from Britain. The appeasement that Chamberlain was seeking was for the best of Britain as well as all the other countries of Europe. This was because he wanted peace and stability that would allow economic growth for the whole of Europe. The Britons had a positive attitude towards the appeasement in the hope that it would reduce the chances of a war outbreak. Thus it can be concluded that appeasement was a British government policy that was fully supported by the citizens.
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