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Appeasement
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With the benefit of hindsight, for some people today it can be difficult to understand the policy of appeasement which was generally followed by Great Britain and France towards Nazi Germany before the outbreak of the War. Nevertheless, to try and come to an understanding as to why, during the 1930's appeasement was so incredibly popular, in the eyes of the British public at large and made Chamberlain an overnight hero, one must look at the contemporary perceptions the French and, especially, British people had of the Treaty of Versailles and the situation of post-World War I Germany in Europe.

It is commonly argued that Chamberlain made, what seemed to be at the time, a sensible decision, not only as a democratically elected politician, but as the leader of a country which was starting to find itself entangled in the start of another European war for which, it was felt at the time, both of the major Western Democracies were not military, financially and psychologically prepared. For a democratically elected politician, the policy of appeasement made perfect sense. If there was one golden opportunity of raising one's political popularity to being a public hero overnight Strap Metal with with Handbag Black Tassel Handle Curved Long Accent Top and attempting to delay, even perhaps prevent completely, another European conflict for which Britain and France were not prepared in the middle to late 1930's, then this was it!

Black Tassel Metal Long Curved Strap with Accent Handbag with Handle Top It must not be forgotten that, unlike the leaders of the Western Democracies, Hitler did not need to worry as directly about public popularity ratings. He was the Führer and it could not be doubted that during the 1930's Hitler's popularity went from strength to strength! This gave Hitler an advantageous freedom in decision making, especially with regard to foreign policy and the speed at which his decisions could be implemented. When looking at the reasons as to why Chamberlain followed the foreign policy of appeasement towards Hitler, we must consider the fact that he had to take into account public opinion at the time. Firstly, it was quite clear that the overall public sentiment in Britain wished to avoid another war. Secondly, whether a realistic view or not, it was generally considered that Britain was not prepared for a European war. Thirdly, even in the Western Democracies, the Treaty of Versailles, St. Germain, Locarno and the agreements which followed the end of World War I were now generally seen by the public at large as an unjust settlement towards Germany and other parts of Central Europe. If the Weimar Republic had continued to follow the agreements at Versailles and Hitler had not come to power, "it is now estimated that Germany would not have been able to complete the financial reparations until 1984!" (Sanders P34 1979) It was perceived that it was not so much a peace treaty as a treaty granting France time to recover from war and at a later date resume it.

In the first instance, Adolf Hitler could not only find support amongst the German population, but also a relatively sympathetic audience amongst the British and French, when he started to break the agreements of the Treaty. Therefore, we can see that Hitler could, and did, take complete advantage of the untenable situation in which the Treaty of Versailles left central Europe, and specifically Germany, at this period in history. One of the reasons often brought forward which considers why appeasement was chosen was that no one was generally willing to take up arms in defence of Versailles, as public opinion would not have allowed it. France had occupied the Rhineland, due to Germany's incapability of meeting economic reparation targets set after the First World War. Hitler wanted this to end. A war over the re-occupation of the Rhineland would not win Chamberlain an election, so it must be taken into consideration that Government policies had, generally, to reflect public opinion. It was also not very credible, in many people's eyes, as the Rhineland was considered rightfully to belong to the Germans anyway!

Handbag with Top Accent Curved Tassel Handle Strap Black with Metal Long Another reason why appeasement seemed such a credible choice at the time to Chamberlain was primarily the fact that Britain simply lacked the military capability to fight a land war in Europe. The more powerful British navy was of lesser use in fighting a continental war and the army was generally trained to fight imperial wars outside Europe. Only the British air-force could be seriously considered as being specifically designed to fight in European wars.

Tassel Handle Top Black Metal Long with Curved with Accent Handbag Strap On the 15th of March 1935, Hitler starts to form his German air-force or Luftwaffe, even though he is acting directly in contradiction to the Treaty of Versailles. On the 16th of March, the next day, he introduces military conscription. A year later Hitler feels confident enough for the second step; on the 17th of March 1936 German troops re-occupied the Rhineland, again breaking the Treaty. One can clearly see, from this situation until right up to the start of the war in 1939, the French fear that a large military conflict could arise out of the situation, and the fact that public opinion was against intervention. Therefore, the French army did not re-occupy the Rhineland.

with Handle with Strap Black Long Metal Handbag Tassel Curved Top Accent Adolf Hitler had successfully violated the Treaty of Versailles. The next step that would be taken concerned the annexation of Austria or the Anschluß. Again this was an extreme violation of section 80 of the Treaty of Versailles and, for Austria, section 88 of the treaty of St. Germain.

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The Anschluß idea was not something merely typical of the National-Socialists. Adolf Hitler was born in Branau an der Inn in Austria and had always been an advocate of the Anschluß. The democratic republican governments of Germany and Austria had previously played with the thought of the two countries uniting. Both republics had already tried to open the road for unification in 1919. The Western Democracies took steps to prevent it that time. This also happened with the attempt at founding an Austro-German customs union. Despite this, however, manifold organisations for Austro-German unification could be found with popular support in both countries during the inter-war period. This was especially understandable with regard to Austria! After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Austrians found themselves with a comparatively small country with a giant capital city. Vienna was suitable for a big empire, but not for a small country. "Out of the 6,5 million Austrians, one third lived in the capital!" (Brooke P193 1980)

After Hitler's rise to power on the 30th of January 1933, the Anschluß was given a big stimulus and became a typical national-socialist aim. After the Ansluß on the 12th of March 1938, National-Socialism had triumphed. Again the treaties of St. Germain and Versailles had been violated. A strong central Europe under German rule, which the conference at Paris had wished to avoid, was once again becoming a reality. Any firm reaction from the international community did not really materialise. France was more preoccupied with internal affairs. On the 10th of March (two days before the Anschluß) the French socialist Léon Blum became Prime Minister of France with a government which consisted of a coalition, including French communists. France was going through a period of extreme political instability! An important reaction which would have deep running implications for the direct future came six days after the Anschluß. On the 18th of March 1938 a request was made by the Soviet Union towards the Western Democracies for collective action against Adolf Hitler. Prime-Minister Neville Chamberlain answered that he did not find it wise to form war coalitions at a time when this could increase the chance of, and hasten, a big military conflict. This was a reply, which would later, with hindsight, be of great historic significance. This answer was typical of the confusion the Western Democracies had.

Handle Curved Long with Tassel with Top Black Handbag Accent Strap Metal The Anschluß of Austria had been a success. At the annual Nazi gathering in Neuremburg in September of the same year, many expected a mass celebration of the birth of the larger Greater German Reich, with Austria now included, being part of the Reich as "Ostmark". This was, indeed, how it began, but at the last day of the gathering Adolf Hitler announced his next planned actions. They were aimed at Czechoslovakia. "Reeling from the shock of the Anschluß, British and French leaders now had to face demands from Sudeten leaders for the incorporation of all German-speaking Czech subjects into Germany." (Ruth P32 1985)

Like with the Anschluß, Hitler proclaimed his wish to unite all German speaking people under one nation. Czechoslovakia was a young and artificially constructed state. The country mainly consisted of two parts of the Austro-hungarian Empire and, in the eyes of the Western Democracies, was meant to help prevent the rise of a strong German dominated central Europe. The population generally consisted of Czechs and Slovaks, but also consisted of Hungarians, Poles, Jews and many Sudeten- or ethnic-Germans. Of the fourteen million inhabitants there were three million people of German dissent. They lived around the border areas of Bohemia and Monravia. When Czechoslovakia had been created a natural border was sought and the chain of mountains between Germany and Bohemia was chosen. The Sudeten-Germans were not all that popular in the new republic. After the big crisis of 1929, the ideas of the national-socialist Konrad Henlein started to gain popularity with this German minority. This being in a country ruled by slavic people, which, in the past, had been ruled by a German majority under the monarchy of Austro-Hungary! Konrad Henlein's "Sudeten Deutsche Partei", financed and encouraged by the Third Reich, quickly grew to a sizable revolutionary element in the Czechoslovakian democratic system. They claimed that the Sudeten-Germans were oppressed by Prague and were persecuted and treated unjustly. In 1938, Hitler announced that he would help them!

Chamberlain decided to attempt to try and resolve the dispute. Lord Runciman was sent to Prague to discuss with the Czechoslovakian government how the wishes of the Sudeten-Germans could be met. It was clear that the country now found itself in an extremely unstable and explosive situation. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain took a significant step towards setting his appeasement initiative into practice. On the 15th of September 1938 the Prime Minister in person travelled to Hitler's mountain retreat at Berchtesgaden to meet him

Hitler wanted the immediate annexation of the areas in which the Sudeten-Germans lived. Chamberlain asked for more time to discuss the matter with his political colleagues. On the 20th of September he travelled to Germany for a second time, this time to meet Hitler in Bad Godesberg. Chamberlain advised the Führer that Great Britain and France had let the government in Prague know they would advise Czechoslovakia to let the areas of the Sudeten-Germans be annexed. It was with some relief, that the Western Democracies noted Benito Missolini's proposal for a conference consisting of Germany, Italy, France and Britain, to try and get a peaceful solution to the dispute. Thereupon, on the 26th of September, Adolf Hitler held a speech at Berlin in order to make it easier for the Western Democracies to accept his wishes. Three days later Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier met in Munich. The Czechoslovakian government was not present. It was decided that the German army would cross the Czechoslovakian border on the 1st of October 1938 and take possession of the areas where there was a German majority. Following the decisions made at the conference, all four countries would agree to respect and protect the new Czechoslovakian borders. On top of this Great Britain and Germany signed a joint peace declaration. Returning to Heston Airport Neville Chamberlain left his aircraft with one hand clutching his umbrella and the other the Anglo-German declaration, proclaiming the famous words "peace in our time".

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Amongst the Slovaks, Hitler found a sympathetic ear and support from those who wished to become independent from the Czech dominated republic. Through immense German pressure on the 14th of March 1939 Slovak independence was proclaimed and with this act the Czechoslovakian Republic collapsed. German troops marched through Bohemia and Monravia and Hitler proclaimed the area a "Protectorate of the German Reich."

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Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and a few of his colleagues made comments, later on, which point to the fact that the main aim of the "Munich" agreement was to gain extra time as Britain was not ready for a war, neither militarily nor economically. Britain certainly was not ready for a war! Britain's weaknesses truly came to light when conflict became inevitable, indeed, if German ground troops had landed on the British Isles, a decisive and swift German victory over Britain would have been inevitable. Nevertheless, if Chamberlain's aim at Munich was to stall for time, then, if this argument is allowed to stand, it must come under serous historical scrutiny, using the benefit of hindsight.

Top Curved Handbag Tassel Strap with Accent Black Handle Metal Long with According to Shirer "one of the most important lines of defence available to the Western Democracies, perhaps with the exception of the Maginot-line in France, was that of the Czechoslovakian-German border, which was virtually given to Germany on a plate!" (Shirer) According to what Churchill had written on the subject, he argues that the Munich agreement actually put France and Great Britain in an even more unfavourable position!

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Another consequence of the fall of Czechoslovakia was the signals this sent to Stalin and the U.S.S.R. As already mentioned earlier on in the essay, on the 18th of March 1938, a week after the Anschluß, Stalin had proposed a coalition against Hitler, which Chamberlain at that time refused. After this the Munich agreement followed. By handing over Czechoslovakia to Hitler, the superb lines of defence the Czechoslovak army had erected were now worthless. This seemed to send a clear signal, in Stalin's mind, that "the West was actually trying to help Hitler and make it easier for him to push eastwards, towards Russia, for "Lebensraum"!" (Snow P345 1976)

Not only must the views of communist Russia be seriously taken into account, as this massive country was going to play a decisive role in the coming war, but the smaller, less powerful countries in Eastern Europe must also be considered. It must have been obviously clear to many of the "would-be" allies of the Western Democracies that previous written guaranties by France may not be as reliable as they seem! The Western Democracies' reputation in eastern Europe had been heavily damaged by the, what in some eyes at the time seemed as, "selling off" of Czechoslovakia. Not only did this seriously undermine the "trust" between the various smaller states in eastern Europe and the Western Democracies, but would have an effect on the future decisions made by Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Russia, amongst others!

Then again, what signs did Hitler himself see coming from the Western Democracies. The pact with Russia had been signed, and the way had been cleared, due to sovereignity disputes over the Danzig corridor and his wish to unite all German-speaking enclaves in Europe outside Germany, for the Polish-German conflict to be militarily resolved without Russia getting into the conflict on the side of the West. Numerous sources from around Hitler agree that he had NOT intended and did with Curved Handle Accent Black Tassel Long Handbag Metal Top with Strap NOTbag Khaki body Pac canvas Mi cross wSTzX5q wish, that these events would lead to a conflict between the Western Democracies and Germany. When the French and British declarations of war on Germany finally came, this sent shock waves through even the highest ranks of the German military. However, Poland had virtually been defeated, therefore, the initial fears of the German army having to fight a two-front war would, for the time being, be resloved.

So, keeping all the previously mentioned points in mind, my essay must conclude that the policy of appeasement advocated and followed by Chamberlain, amongst others, did not come near to any of the intended aims laid out by some of the initial supporters of this policy. It did not help to overt the coming of a military conflict. It sent out mixed and confusing signals to both Hitler, Stalin and many of the smaller countries in Central and Eastern Europe!

As a result of this, it seemed Hitler and Stalin could understand each other better than they could understand the aims and intentions of the Western Democracies, thus enabling the creation of a, what in the past had seemed unthinkable, pact between the two countries. The policy of appeasement helped to show the confused state of leadership the Western Democracies were suffering from. It helped to destroy the West's reputation with Czechoslovakia and the other potential western allies in Eastern Europe. It also helped undermine moral in the French and British armies before the War had even started. It gave Adolf Hitler the full benefit of initiative and let him use his skills on the international stage of 1930's world politics to his advantage. Nevertheless, "British intervention left Hitler in a quandary!"(Overy P48 1989) Why should Britain and France get involved in a Polish-German conflict? Especially after Czechoslovakia and the with Metal Top Black Curved Tassel Handbag Handle Long Strap with Accent "Munich" agreement!handle bag Dune 'daandelion' red circle Dark semi xnXgXWSaq

Long Strap Top Black Tassel Metal with Handle Handbag with Curved Accent Copyright © Alexander Merijn Koster 2005

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