Many of the European leaders thought that the The Treaty of Versailles was treating Germany unfairly. The most important of these people was Neville Chamberlain, who was the most prominent believer in the policy that became known as Appeasement.
Well what exactly is appeasement?
"Appeasement is the strategic manouerver, based on either pragmatism, fear of war, or moral conviction, that leads to the adopting a non-agressive or non-retaliative stance towards agressors."
This basically means, in layman terms, that we'll give you what you want as long as you don't hurt us or start a war.
The only problem here is that Chamberlain was the only one who held up his end of the bargain. He was supporting the policy of appeasement on the false assumption that Hitler was a trustworty honorable man. Mistake number one.
stepped off the plane after a meeting with Hitler
, waving a printed statement that read:
"We, the German Führer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe.
We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.
We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe."
The very minute Chamberlain had issued this statement, Hitler was back home rearming his country. This was a breach of Versailles, but he wanted to test the water and see how much he could get away with before the British or the French intervened.
His first major breach of the contract was moving troops into the Rhineland. He was very nervous - so he ordered his generals to withdraw immediately if there was any sign of intervention by the French (they had claimed the Rhineland after The Great War). Hitler had gambled and he had won. There was no sign of intervention by France or by Britian. The Rhineland was his.
However the Europeans had noticed and had comtemplated intervening...for about two seconds. The First World War had come to the public as a huge shock, it was such a terrible war in comparison to any conflict that the British people had seen in the past. They were assured that it was to be the last Great War of all time. The fear of even more destruction than the first Great War was just too much to accept, even if it did mean getting rid of Hitler (who didn't seem that bad at this point).
The idea of countervalue bombing was again too much to bear for the European public, memories were still fresh in the minds of victims of the First Great War.
Chamberlain thought that if he let Hitler take back the land that was his before the war, then maybe he would stop there. Give him a little and he wont want a lot type of thing. Mistake number two. On the other hand, he had international approval for his actions, he recieved support from the Pope, Roosevelt (who was taking a policy of Isolationism at the time) and even from the King at home.
Note: Hitler wasn't the only one being appeased, Britian's inadaquency in terms of a military force led other European leaders to appease fascist regimes elsewhere. Benito Mussolini in Italy and Francisco Franco is Spain. The leaders were also of the belief that all war was at any cost undesirable and wrong.
Little did the European leaders know, but all of this appeasement was actually encouraging Hitler, he was getting more and more confident. By allowing his defiance of the Versailles Treaty, they were allowing him to believe that his actions were tolerable (i.e., the British or French wouldn't stop him). He decided that his next target would be Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.
Hitler's excuse for invading Sudetenland was that the German speaking people were being discriminated against by the Czech Government. Of course, this was a ruse. Hitler has previously ordered his Austrian Nazis to take to the streets of Sudetenland and cause some trouble.
International tension increased as Hitler demanded Sudetenland to be handed to German Government. The main European leaders, Chamberlain (Britian), Daladier (France), Mussolini (Italy) and of course, Hitler (Germany), all met and signed the Munich Agreement. Basically this said that Germany could have Sudetenland and if the Czechs resisted, they would get no help from Britian or France. Appeasement was now becoming a big player.
Without any other choice the Czech leader, Bene, disgusted as ever, handed over Sudetenland to Hitler.
Note: If the Czechs were to resist with Britian and France's support then they would have been a formidable opponent. Germany's army consisted of 47 divisions and the Czechs were around 45 divisions.
Although Chamberlain was a strong believer in appeasement, he wasn't stupid. He was faced with a growing politcal and economical instability in Europe, the irrelevance of the League of Nations and the rise in Nazism. As Prime minister, Chamberlain oversaw "...one of the most massive military buildups in modern history...". Churchill fought the war against Hitler, but he couldn't have done it without the Army, Navy and Air Force that Chamberlain gave him to fight with. Chamberlain was not just an appeaser.
In March 1939, Hitler decided that it was time to invade the rest of Czechoslovakia, and supripse, surprise, Britian or France didn't intervene. This action led to the revocation of the Munich Pact. Although Czechoslovakia was broken, the rest of Europe was still strong, they decided then and there that they would intervene if Hitler's invasions continued. The policy of appeasement had failed miserably.
Okay, so it failed. Why?
A simple answer to a complex question: Appeasement in the 1930's failed simply because Hitler would not be appeased
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