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Britain And France Sought To Appease Hitler History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Britain and France sought to appease Hitler not merely because it was militarily, economically and politically rational to do so, but because of personal judgments made by Chamberlain. The appeasement policy was a policy adopted by Britain 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.

Neville Chamberlain was the greatest advocate and pursuer of the appeasement policy. He sought this appeasement so as to conciliate with Germany so as to have a stable Europe [1] . His personal view was that Germany would be satisfied with what he offered and especially the restoration of its former colonies. There are reasons that made Chamberlain seek appeasement with Hitler. One of them is that he represented the British citizens who did not want a war as they were in the process of healing the wounds from world war one. Also he did not want to go to war with Germany because the fall of Germany would mean the victory of the Soviet Union and the spread of communism therefore. Both he and the British citizens did not want this happening. So Chamberlain was trying as much as he can to avoid a war with Germany and at the same time the spread of communism. The appeasement policy that Chamberlain campaigned for was merely to avoid war. But it can also be seen as a strategy that he used in order to gain some time of rearming his forces. Though he really wanted to avoid the war, there came a time that he knew that war was in evitable. It was only after the failure of the negotiations between him and Hitler that he declared war against Germany [2] .

Chamberlain felt that he had been betrayed by Hitler and that his appeasement policies were failing him. That is when he decided to take on a hard line approach towards the Nazi. Britain and France began rearming themselves. Italy on the other hard invaded Albania in April of 1939. It was Hitler’s invasion of Poland that made these two countries declare war and Second World War officially began on 3rde September 1939.

The Versailles Pact which had been signed after the First World War with an aim of ending all wars was greatly hated by the Germans [3] . It was signed by the four nations. 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 [4] . This treaty is seen by some historians as the lead cause of the Second World War. The countries participating signed it for their own benefits without considering other countries in Europe. France wanted revenge to the Germans. Britain signed it just to prevent a war while America looked at the bigger picture of making more money [5] .

Many Britons saw hope after the signing of this treaty. They wanted to avoid another war and that is why the British government had to give in to the demands presented by Hitler [6] . The British economy was fairing very badly hence Britain was not ready for a war. It was not even in a position to fund and rearm its military force due to the bad economic status. So Chamberlain tried as much as possible to avoid a war with Germany. The way Hitler was progressing meant that there was not even time for Britain to organize war strategies and prepare its force. So Chamberlain had to find a way of avoiding war and/or gaining sometime to rearm the military. The only solution present was appeasement [7] .

Hitler’s main aim was to make Germany as super power and a united Germany. He also wanted to enlarge the Germany territory through what he called recapturing of lost territories [8] . 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 it was announced that Hitler was rearming his military forces, which was in conflict with the Versailles pact, Britain and France protested to the League of Nations with the hope that it can be stopped [9] . 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. It was after 1936 that Hitler’s confidence of waging a war climaxed. This was because he had accumulated enough mercenaries of war and also had fully prepared his military force. He was confident that France and Britain as the appeasers would not stop him. He did this knowing very well that he was flouting the Versailles treaty.

Rhineland 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. Hitler’s aim of doing this was to stop any attack from France. The Rhineland could have been used by France to attack Germany. Remilitarizing it meant that France’s attack on Germany would be immediately repelled by the Germany forces. 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 [10] . This made Hitler even more confident that he even saw an opportunity to challenge the balance of Europe power. The appeasers had no say about Rhineland because they argued it was a Germany territory and it could do whatever it wanted with it including having its military force there. Even though, Hitler had ordered his army to withdraw with immediate effect if the French intervened. But since there was no any intervention from the French he became more confident. Chamberlain thought that by allowing Hitler to take over the region that formally belonged to Germany, he would at least stop there.

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. Chamberlain sent a protest note to Berlin [11] . he addressed the cabinet after Hitler’s army crossed the border and he blamed both Germany and Austria. Even though, he condemned strongly the methods used by Hitler to annex Austria [12] .

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. This demand made Chamberlain very angry and on his return to Britain he began organizing the army in prepared ness for war. Czechoslovakia president was forced to sign the agreement. Chamberlain and Hitler signed another agreement to imply that Britain and Germany would never be at war with each other again. The invasion of Czechoslovakia as a whole is what opened the eyes of the appeasers and they saw that no matter how much they tried to appease Hitler, war was inevitable. After giving in to all the demands made by Hitler and his continual invasion of Europe, the appeasers realized that the appeasement policy was a failed policy. 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 [13] .

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.

The Godesberg 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. Chamberlain did not see Czechoslovakia as an issue that could result to war. He had simply assumed that it was just a conflict between two neighboring countries and that their conflict could not result to a world war

The appeasement policy can be said to have climaxed in the Munich conference held in September 1938 where by Britain and France finally gave Hitler the go ahead to take over Sudetenland. This was a conference held in Germany to discuss the fate of Czechoslovakia amid the demands made by Hitler. The countries that were present were

Italy, France, Germany and Britain Notably, Czechoslovakia was not present. The Munich pact was signed and this allowed Hitler to take over Sudetenland

This was the center of Czechoslovakia as it was where most of its banks and border defenses were situated. By signing this pact, the European powers meant that Hitler was free to take over the whole of Czechoslovakia. By signing this pact, Chamberlain thought that Hitler would be finally satisfied and stop making more demands

The agreement was proposed by Mussolini though it is claimed that it was prepared by the German foreign office. Czechoslovakia felt betrayed by France and Britain because it was informed to either accept the agreement or fight its more powerful neighbor all by its own [14] . The pact was signed on September 30th. When Chamberlain returned to London he gave his famous “peace for our time” speech. The crowd that had gathered in London was very delighted to hear that peace has finally been found and that there was no prospect for war [15] .

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 seen as a bad policy that was aimed at achieving world peace while sacrificing some countries like the way Britain and France did to try and appease Hitler at the mercies of Czechoslovakia. Germany was becoming stronger while the countries that were under its threat had no say. There was much tension in Europe as most countries feared the rate at which Germany was becoming strong.. The availability of more resources from the conquered countries strengthened the Germany economy and therefore it could sustain a war.

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. Chamberlain wanted as much as possible to avoid war. That is why he adopted the appeasement policy. On the other hard, France was not in a position to maintain a war. It needed the support of Britain. It is because of this that it followed Britain in seeking the appeasement. 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.

Britain did not want a war between it and Germany. This was because it was threatened by communist USSR and not because it feared Germany. In case Germany fell, there was a possibility of spread of communism and Britain did not want this to happen. That is why it was in the favor of appeasement policy. Another fear that embraced Britain was forming a coalition with USSR which was its bitter rival. That is why Chamberlain desperately sought for appeasement at the mercies of other countries just to make sure that they did not join hands with USSR in a war against Germany [16] . The signing of the Munich agreement is viewed by many as a betrayal especially by Britain. What Chamberlain was doing is to buy some time to rearm British forces. Hitler on the other hand thought it as a weakness and a sign of fear of the appeasers [17] . This was a great mistake as all that the appeasers wanted was to preserve the world peace. This is what made him bold and gain confidence and a sense of security.

Therefore the blame for the outbreak of Second World War can only be largely placed on Hitler and not on the appeasers. This is with regard to Hitler’s goals and determination to make Germany a super power and to do so; war was inevitable as he had severally claimed publicly. Hitler had managed to convince the appeasers that he had no any intentions of aggression through his peace propaganda. This had in a way fooled Britain and France who were not in favor of a war but wanted world peaceful coexistence. The appeasers continued to adopt the appeasement policy and this assured Hitler that they would do anything just to avoid a war. This made him think that he could continue to expand his demands and the appeasers would still continue to give in to them. It was this appeasement policy that gave Hitler a foundation and a base to increase the demands after every successful conquest that he achieved.


There are many opinions and views about the appeasement policy with some critics saying it was a betrayal and sacrifice of some nations for the benefit of others. Others say that it was Chamberlains strategy of buying time to rearm Britain. But from Chamberlain’s point of view, all that he wanted was to avoid another world war. It is not the appeasement policy that triggered the world war two but instead it was the greed of Hitler to enlarge the German territory and make Germany a superpower. The failure of the appeasement policy was because it was only Chamberlain who fulfilled his part of the bargain. He was convinced, on trying to appease Hitler that he (Hitler) was an honest trustworthy and honorable man which was a mistake and a misjudgment on his part.

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