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Appeasement. Kevin J. Benoy. Definition. The policy followed first by the British and later by the French, of avoiding war with aggressive powers by giving way to their demands – provided that they were not unreasonable. Two Phases. There were basically two phases to appeasement:

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Kevin J. Benoy

  • The policy followed first by the British and later by the French, of avoiding war with aggressive powers by giving way to their demands – provided that they were not unreasonable.
two phases
Two Phases

There were basically two phases to appeasement:

  • First Phase: from the mid-1920’s to 1937, during which people generally felt a war must be avoided at all costs.
  • Second Phase: from May 1937 to mid 1939, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain took the initiative in trying to reason with Hitler, showing him that negotiation, rather than force, would resolve all reasonable claims.
roots of appeasement
Roots of Appeasement
  • Lloyd-George himself felt that the Versailles Treaty was too harsh – but it was not politically acceptable for the British government to modify its position at the time.
  • Many other Englishmen, including John Maynard Keynes, felt the treaty draconian.
  • Would anyone fight to enforce such a treaty?
roots of appeasement5
Roots of Appeasement
  • The Locarno Treaty of 1925 deliberately left the door open to revision of Germany’s Eastern boundaries.
  • According to Foreign Minister Austen Chamberlain (Neville’s half-brother), “no British government would ever risk the bones of a British Grenadier in defense of the Polish Corridor.”
popular support

Ramsay Macdonald, Labour

Stanley Baldwin, Conservative

Popular Support
  • Most British politicians, of all parties, supported appeasement.
popular support7
Popular Support
  • It would avoid war, which modern technology made unacceptably devastating.
  • War or even deterrence through arms was considered too costly for any sensible government to fund.
  • Both Italy and Germany had been badly treated at the Paris Peace Conference.
  • The League of Nations had no teeth. Deals between the powers were needed to preserve peace.
  • Economic cooperation between Germany and Britain would help both. Prosperity in Germany would reduce violence.
popular support8
Popular Support
  • Fear of communism was particularly strong among conservatives. Stalin, not Hitler, was the chief threat.
  • Some, in Britain, and many in France, admired Hitler.
popular support9
Popular Support
  • War at a time when the USA was in isolation, France was politically divided, and Britain militarily unprepared, was thought foolish.
  • Time was needed to allow Britain to regain her strength.
france s position
France’s Position
  • Although France initially opposed appeasement, early in the 1920’s, it late modified this position – sometimes supporting and sometimes opposing it.
  • Poincare opposed modifying Versailles; Briand favoured conciliation.
  • A later foreign minister who proposed being firm with Hitler, was assassinated.
  • France was too politically divided to be decisive in the 1930’s.
france s position11
France’s Position
  • Militarily, France had invested hugely in the static Maginot Line.
  • Her strategic position was, therefore, predicated on defense and not mobility.
german revisionism
German Revisionism
  • Hitler moved quickly to rearm, but insisted that Germany would disarm if the rest of the world did so.
  • Hitler was good at acting aggressively then making soothing comments.
german revisionism13
German Revisionism
  • Germany’s signing of a 10 year non-aggression pact with Poland in 1934 was seen as evidence of his willingness for peace.
  • However, his real intention was to split the Franco-Polish alliance.
  • British Lord Lothian, in January 1935, said “…what the Germans are after is a strong army which will enable them to deal with Russia.”
the dolfuss affair
The Dolfuss Affair
  • In 1934, Hitler suffered a setback when he attempted to bring about Anschluss (union) with Austria.
  • Austrian Nazis, directed by Hitler, staged a revolt, murdered the Austrian Chancellor Englebert Dollfuss, and tried to seize power.
  • Italy responded by massing 3 tank divisions on its Austrian frontier.
  • Hitler backed down.
the stresa front
The Stresa Front
  • The Dollfuss Affair seemed to push together Fascist Italy and the Western European democracies to contain Hitler.
  • In April, 1935, Britain, Italy and France set up the Stresa Front to oppose further revision of Versailles.
  • Hitler responded by acting with much more restraint.
saarland returned
Saarland Returned
  • In 1935 the Saar was returned to Germany after 90% of its inhabitants voted for union with Germany.
anglo german naval agreement
Anglo-German Naval Agreement
  • In June, 1935, Britain and Germany signed the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, which set the allowable size of the German navy to 35% that of total British tonnage.
  • This was inconsistent with previous arms limitations and it seemed to contradict the Stresa Front.
the abyssinian war
The Abyssinian War
  • Feeling that Britain and France needed his support, Mussolini expected a free hand in avenging Italy’s 19th century defeat at the hands of Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
the abyssinian war19
The Abyssinian War
  • Newsreel film and eyewitness reports of the Italian use of poison gas and flame throwers brought public outrage in Britain and France.
the abyssinian war20
The Abyssinian War
  • In October, 1935 the League of Nations denounced Italy as an aggressor and imposed limited economic sanctions.
  • Austria, Hungary and Germany refused to apply sanctions.
  • Coal, oil and steel, the goods most needed by Italy, were not restricted.
  • Britain even allowed Italy to use the Suez Canal.
the abyssinian war21
The Abyssinian War
  • Trying to patch up the Stresa Front, Britain and France proposed the Hoare-Laval Plan, which would grant 2/3 of Abyssinia to Italy.
  • When word of the secret agreement leaked, it forced the resignation of Sam Hoare, the British Foreign Minister.
the abyssinian war22
The Abyssinian War
  • In May, 1936 Addis Ababa, the Abyssinian capital fell.
  • Italy had its way in Africa.
  • The Stresa Front was also dead.
  • Mussolini looked for a new friend.
the rhineland
The Rhineland
  • With the world’s attention focused on Abyssinia, Hitler marched into the demilitarized Rhineland.
the rhineland24
The Rhineland
  • German troops were ordered to withdraw if they encountered any Allied resistance.
  • They did not.
  • Britain was too sympathetic to act, believing that Germany was “going into their own back garden.”
  • The League of Nations protested feebly.
  • France was too politically divided to act alone.
edward viii
Edward VIII
  • Britain gained, briefly, a new and pro-German King – Edward VIII.
  • However, his reign ended after only 11 months, as he abdicated in order to marry American divorce Wallis Simpson.
the spanish civil war
The Spanish Civil War
  • In July, 1936 General Francisco Franco rebelled against the Leftist government of Spain.
  • A week after the rebellion commenced, Hitler agreed to provide the rebel general military aid.
  • German aircraft were instrumental in transporting Franco’s Moroccan army to peninsular Spain.
the spanish civil war27
The Spanish Civil War
  • Italy also helped the nationalist uprising – on land and at sea.
  • The Republican government had sympathy abroad, but the Western democracies pledged neutrality.
  • Only individual volunteers in the International Brigades, and the Soviet Union offered help to the Republic.
the spanish civil war28
The Spanish Civil War
  • German and Italian forces gained significant combat experience and tested their weapon systems.
  • The German bombing of Guernica gave notice of what air war would mean for civilians.
  • With the world’s attention focused on Spain and Britain consumed with the issues of the monarchy, Hitler again turned to his boyhood home.
  • In February, Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg was summoned to Hitler’s mountain retreat at Berchtesgarten and bullied into granting amnesty to Nazi plotters.
  • To avoid further street fighting, Schushnigg announced a plebiscite in March on whether or not Austrians wanted to unite with Germany.
  • Fearing an embarrassing loss, Hitler demanded the resignation of the Austrian Chancellor.
  • Schuschnigg appealed for British and Italian support.
  • None was offered.
  • On March 12, German troops crossed into Austria and Hitler returned home in triumph to the cheers of Austrian crowds.
  • Hitler’s plebiscite received 99% support.
the sudetenland
The Sudetenland
  • Czechoslovakia felt vulnerable after Anschluss.
  • It was now surrounded on three sides by Germany, at a time when Hitler was fomenting trouble among Czechoslovakia’s 3.5 million Sudeten Germans.
the sudetenland33
The Sudetenland
  • Konrad Henlein, the Sudeten Nazi leader, claimed Czechoslovak discrimination against the German minority.
the sudetenland34
The Sudetenland
  • From June, 1938 German pressure on Czechoslovakia began to build.
  • Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, sent Lord Runciman to Czechoslovakia to report on the situation. He suggested Sudeten autonomy within Czechoslovakia.
the sudetenland35
The Sudetenland
  • Hitler was unsatisfied.
  • He wanted the immediate surrender of the entire area.
  • The Czechoslovaks were opposed, as the territory included virtually all of their strong mountain defences and one of the world’s greatest armament factories – the Skoda Works.
the sudetenland36
The Sudetenland
  • Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Daladier suggested areas with more than 50% German population might be surrendered after a plebiscite.
  • Fearing abandonment by its French ally, Czechoslovak President Benes agreed.
the sudetenland37
The Sudetenland
  • Hitler refused to compromise – but agreed to a meeting with Chamberlain at Bad Godesberg.
  • Here, he ranted and raved, demanding everything by October 1 or there would be war.
  • Chamberlain left, badly shaken.
the sudetenland38
The Sudetenland
  • War seemed imminent.
  • In Britain, civilians filled sandbags for defense works.
the sudetenland39
The Sudetenland
  • Stalin pledged to stand by Czechoslovakia against Hitler.
  • However, Benes mistrusted Stalin.
    • The USSR had no common border with Czechoslovakia and there was no guarantee Poland or Romania would allow Soviet troops to pass through.
    • The fighting ability of the recently purged Red Army was doubted.
    • Benes was as unhappy at the prospect of Soviet troops in Prague as German ones.
the sudetenland40
The Sudetenland
  • Chamberlain was convinced that the British public did not want to fight for this “far away country.”
  • British rearmament was now underway – but air defenses were dangerously weak.
the munich conference
The Munich Conference
  • In the midst of the Crisis, Mussolini offered to mediate in a 4 Power Conference in Munich.
  • Czechoslovakia and the USSR were not invited.
  • For the British and French, it offered a way out of war.
the munich conference42
The Munich Conference
  • Mussolini was hardly the “honest broker” he claimed to be.
  • The deal he proposed was drafted by the German Foreign Office.
  • The deal gave Hitler everything he demanded at Godesberg – but by October 15.
the munich conference43
The Munich Conference
  • In a side deal, Chamberlain got Hitler to sign a document promising no additional claims would be made in Europe – the famous “piece of paper.”
  • Chamberlain believed he had “peace in our time.”
the munich conference44
The Munich Conference
  • Chamberlain’s deal was welcomed by a wildly enthusiastic public.
  • Others, however, felt otherwise.
  • Duff Cooper, First Lord of the Admiralty, resigned in disgust.
  • Churchill called Munich “a total and unmitigated defeat.”
the munich conference results
The Munich Conference - Results
  • Czechoslovakia had no choice but to sign.
  • It was crippled, losing 70% of its heavy industry and almost all of its border defenses.
  • Slovakia, with German encouragement, began to demand autonomy.
  • Poland and Hungary made territorial claims
  • Hacha, the Czech leader, was pressured into requesting German help to restore order.
the czechs betrayed
The Czechs Betrayed
  • In March, 1939 German troops occupied the remainder of the Czech part of the country.
  • Britain and France did nothing, though they had guaranteed Czechoslovakia against further German aggression. The promise was invalid, they claimed; the Germans were invited in.
end of appeasement
End of Appeasement
  • Chamberlain was appalled.
  • Britain pledged to defend Poland against attack and France renewed its 1919 alliance.
  • After Italy invaded Albania at Easter, Britain and France gave guarantees to Romania and Greece.
end of appeasement48
End of Appeasement
  • Despite his ideological aversion to dealing with the Soviets, Britain and France opened military talks with the USSR.
the molotov ribbentrop pact
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
  • However, the Western Democracies had nothing to offer – if war broke out in the East, Russia would do the fighting and would get nothing in return.
  • Hitler had more to offer – a division of Eastern Europe between the two powers – with the lion’s share offered to Stalin.
  • Hitler gambled and won on every occasion since his first attempt at Anschluss.
  • German pressure on Poland began as early as March, 1939 – when Hitler demanded the return of the Free City of Danzig to Germany and free passage through the Polish Corridor.
  • British negotiators still sought to preserve peace – but with little confidence that Hitler could be trusted.
  • British rearmament was picking up dramatically.
  • On March 30, Britain & France guaranteed Polish security
  • Negotiations with Britain continued, but Germany unilaterally withdrew from the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934 and the 1935 London Naval Agreement.
  • There was no prospect of success.
  • On August 31, Hitler ordered German forces into action against Poland.
  • Appeasement was finished.
  • Hitler largely guessed right until late 1939.
  • His aggressive posture worked against leaders who wanted, above all, to keep the world safe from the horrors of world war.
  • The appeasers were reasonable men, but Hitler was not.
  • Hitler’s game of brinksmanship won Germany much, but it ultimately plunged it into a war it realistically did not have much chance of winning.
  • Chamberlain, more clearly than Hitler, understood that the alternative to reason was the destruction of Europe.
  • In the end, he was willing to pay that price to halt Hitler’s megalomania.
  • However, it is probably a shame that Chamberlain did not come to this realization earlier.
  • While Britain’s air defenses were clearly better in the autumn of 1939 than they were a year earlier, the situation on the ground was far worse.
  • Czechoslovakia had been a democracy; Poland was a dictatorship.
  • Czechoslovakia had strong mountain defenses and a fine army that matched the Germans ranged against it. Poland was a flat country with obsolete forces – and the Wehrmacht had acquired all Czech armaments.
  • In 1939 Stalin pledged to stand with the Czechs; In 1939 he was effectively a German ally.
  • When war finally came, Britain and France found themselves honouring commitments that they were ill-equipped to undertake.
  • Germany found itself fighting a war that it was ill-equipped to wage over time.