World War 2
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Adolf Hitler

What was meant by the policy of appeasement?

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2007-06-05 01:12:49

The term has become derogatory ('negative'). It's NOT a neutral

word for a policy of the inter-war period. In the early 1920s

(probably 1921-23) the British government came to take the view

that the Versailles Treaty of 1919 had beentoo harsh, and it was

willing in principle to make changes in order to meet some of the

German grievances. By about 1924-25 even the French government took

a similar view of some aspects. In the 1920s German reparations

payments were adjusted twice (1924 and 1929), the occupation of the

Rhineland ended early, and in 1926 Germany was admitted to the

League of Nations instead of being excluded as an 'outcast' nation.

At that stage there was no question of altering any borders in

favour of Germany. All these earlyconcessions were made to a

democratic Germany. When Hitler came to power he set about undoing

the Versailles Treaty as fast as he could. From late 1933 he

managed to set the agenda (until 1940-41, in fact). As a result,

Britain and France found themselves always caught unprepared by new

demands made by Hitler. At just about every point Hitler took the

initiative, often amid bullying and threats. Britain and France

tolerated or accepted the following major breaches of the Treaty of

Versailles from 1935 onwards:

  • 1935: German re-introduction of conscription (the draft) and

    establishment of an air force.

  • 1936: German remilitarization of the Rhineland.

  • 1938 (March): Annexation of Austria.

  • 1938 (September, Munich Conference): Annexation of the

    Sudetenland (the areas of Czechoslovakia adjoining Germany and what

    has previously been Austria).

  • 1939 (March): Annexation of the rest of Bohemia and Moravia by

    Germany, and also of Memel.

The policy is particularly closely associated with Neville

Chamberlain (British Prime Minister, 1937-40). However, the policy

(if that's the right word for it) of accepting German demands had

begun under his predecessor, Stanley Baldwin, an avuncular man

whowanted a quiet lifeand was one of the worst prime ministers in

British history. By March 1939 it was clear that appeasement had

failed, and it was at this point that Chamberlain gave Poland the

assurances that led to Britain's declaration of war in September of

that year - despite the fact Britain was in no position to do

anything practical to help Poland ... I've stressed the British

role because France was seething with internal discord (left versus

right) from 1934 onwards and was too deeply divided to undertake

any decisive moves. Please remember that in a democracy, the

government needs to have the majority of the electorate behind it

if it embarks on a major war. This isbrief, but I hope it's some

help. Joncey

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