Type: Critical Essays
Sample donated: Gilbert Pope
Last updated: November 5, 2019
Fifteen years after the end of the Great War, Adolf Hitler had risen to power becoming the Chancellor of Germany promising to make Germany great again by abolishing the treaty of Versailles. During the interwar period, the allied countries in Europe (Britain and France) had become economically poor and so they did not have many military resources. Appeasement is “the policy of settling international quarrels by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and compromise, thereby avoiding the resort to an armed conflict which would be expensive, bloody, and possibly dangerous.
“.It was introduced by Stanley Baldwin but taken to a new level by Neville Chamberlain. In this case, it referred to meeting Hitler’s demands, hoping that he will be placated maintaining peace in Europe. WWI had been the ‘war to end all wars’ and after seeing the horrors of this war the majority of the British public thought that appeasement was the correct policy to follow, however appeasement was definitely the wrong policy for Britain to follow. Firstly, appeasement meant that Germany could gain enough power to start another war; the main aim of the treaty of Versailles was to stop Germany from doing this.In the treaty of Versailles, it was explicitly stated in the military clause that ‘Germany cannot have an air force or an army of over 100,000 men’.
In 1933, the year Hitler is elected chancellor, Hitler directly violates this clause by rearming Germany. If Britain or France had opposed of this now, then no war would have started as Germany did not have the resources to beat a major country that have not had their military limited. Nevertheless, intervening now would mean that Germany had to be eternally shamed for their defeat in WWI.Stepping in as soon Germany started to rebuild itself would be treating Germany as if it was a little child who had to be constantly watched and could not be trusted with too much power. Just after the treaty of Versailles, there was Punch magazine depicting Germany as a naked child from the treaty of Versailles.
Now if Britain had stepped in and not followed the policy of appeasement and stopped Germany from rearming themselves, it would have been the equivalent the naked child trying to get some clothes to make itself less vulnerable and Britain taking the clothes away from Germany making sure that she is always vulnerable.This ideology is portraying Germany as a sub-human who should be eternally shamed for the work of previous generations, a moral argument against appeasement. Furthermore, if Britain had decided to use force to intervene, they could have lost the battle with Germany even with the help of the French. The two main factors contributing to this theory are: the German army is very specialised and the Wall Street crash. The fact that the German arm is highly specialised means that they can recruit people very quickly and they could be able to outmanoeuvre the British even though their army is much bigger.The Wall Street crash a few years earlier had crippled Britain’s economy meaning that they could no longer concentrate on the military. This meant that their military had no structure and they needed time to organise and prepare the military for a war with the Germans.
The policy of appeasement would give them this time. On the other hand, the policy of appeasement would give Hitler the confidence to ask for more and give him the confidence that he could violate the Treaty of Versailles as much as he wanted. The rearmament of Deutschland was one of Hitler’s tests.He wanted to see what the British would do; he wanted to see whether he could get away with breaking the treaty. This can be related to a criminal; every time a criminal commits a crime right in plain sight of the police but the police decide to let him off, he will get more arrogant and go back for more and more in the confidence that no one will stop him. Furthermore, before Hitler’s election as chancellor, the ‘Japanese invasion of Manchuria’ occurred. Manchuria is a part of China so China decided to appeal to the League of Nations.
They took one year to do a survey and then they asked Japan to leave.Japan refused and instead decided to leave the League of Nations. The league did nothing. This must have give Hitler the courage to rearm Germany and after he got away with that Hitler was in the confidence that nobody would have the courage to get in his way. In addition, the idea of appeasement after the treaty of Versailles was pointless. The four main victors of WWI came together to produce a treaty that would help to maintain peace and order in the world.
When they created this, they intended that Germany follow the treaty to ensure that Germany could not start a war.The idea of making a set of rules and then deciding that no punishment should be given to those who break the rules is wrong. This also means that Germany is not being punished for WWI another aim of the Treaty of Versailles so the idea of appeasement is mocking the Treaty of Versailles. Nevertheless, the treaty tried to prevent the outbreak of war and appeasement may have stopped a war with communists.
Britain saw communism in Russia as a big threat to British society and Germany was seen as a buffer zone to prevent communism from travelling westwards.After the Russian civil war and the allied intervention, it is obvious that a vulnerable country will go towards communism. It was clear what would happen if Germany remained vulnerable; there would be many communist revolutions. Germany would become communist and slowly communism is spreading westwards. Moreover, an alliance system would have been vaguely formed with democracy (UK and France) against communism (Germany and Russia). This is would increase the tension between the countries and as this was a major factor of WWI, the British were clearly trying to avoid this.However, another major factor in WWI was imperialism, which has now been used by the third Reich under the name of expansionism.
Hitler wanted more space to have a bigger Reich with more resources. At first, Hitler went under the pretence that he was trying to unite all German-speaking people. This excuse was enough to fool many of the British politicians that he was in a peaceful mindset.
Even when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, breaking yet another term of the treaty, held a vote a claimed he had 99% in favour for him, he was ignored.However, the major change in Hitler’s policy showing that ‘the unification of all German people’ was only a pretence was the invasion of Czechoslovakia. This area was full of Slavs and they did not speak German. Poland was next so Chamberlain drew the land in the sand and said that if Hitler invaded Poland, then ‘Britain would go to war with Germany’.The policy of appeasement was a very foolish decision. Moreover, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was another indicator for Britain that Germany is ready for a war.
The pact was between the Soviet Union and the Nazis and it was a non-aggression pact laying out each other’s sphere of influence. Although this pact was only a temporary pact as it would later be broken, it was a tactical step by Hitler to avoid war on two fronts. In WWI, a major reason why Germany had lost was that they had to fight on two fronts due to the failure of the Schlieffen plan.Hitler had clearly learned from this mistake, and this pact is an aggressive move towards Britain and France showing that Hitler is ready to fight a war with them. After this indication that a war is imminent, appeasement cannot be the right policy. Nonetheless, appeasement may have been the correct policy with some of Hitler’s actions, such as the remilitarisation of the Rhineland. Rhineland was an industrial area with the majority of Germany’s industry.
It was also used as a buffer zone between France and Germany, as stated in the Treaty of Versailles.When Hitler regained control of it in 1937, it was seen as ‘regaining what was rightfully theirs’ and no action was taken. The League of Nation were frowning but Hitler had already left the League and the league had no power whatsoever. Therefore, appeasement could have been the right policy.
Finally, the policy of appeasement coming from Britain may have angered some. Some people, like Winston Churchill, say that appeasement is ‘dishonourable’ and ‘selfish’. In the Munich agreement, Chamberlain decided to sign off the Sudetenland to Germany in the hope that it would prevent a war.This can be seen as dishonourable as Chamberlain did not have any right to sign off a piece of another country just to protect his own country from a war. Furthermore, it would seem selfish as Britain is an Island and there a sea between Germany and Britain so it would feel relatively safe giving Germany what she wants in the hope that any consequences will not directly affect Britain. In conclusion, appeasement was the wrong policy to follow.
The main reason why Britain adopted appeasement was that they did not know how far Hitler would go. After the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, it was clear that Germany had been preparing for a full-scale war.The most critical issue at hand here is the fact that the more appeasement Hitler gets, the more resources he will have. When a war is in the creating and the tensions are rising, it is important to stop the war as soon as possible. Appeasement is delaying the war meaning that the war is going to more fierce and more horrific, so right from the very beginning with the rearmament with Germany, although it was not clear what Germany’s intentions were, no chance should have been taken and Germany should have been stopped using force if required.