Appeasement - PowerPoint

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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
               Two Phases
There were basically two phases to
• 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
• 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
• Would anyone fight to
  enforce such a treaty?
Roots of Appeasement
          • The Locarno Treaty of
            1925 deliberately left the
            door open to revision of
            Germany’s Eastern
          • 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

• Most British
  politicians, of all
  parties, supported    Ramsay Macdonald,

                                            Stanley Baldwin,
Popular Support
     – It would avoid war, which modern
       technology made unacceptably
     – 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 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 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
• 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
• A later foreign minister who
  proposed being firm with
  Hitler, was assassinated.
• France was too politically
  divided to be decisive in the
                   France’s Position

•Militarily, France had invested hugely in the static Maginot Line.
•Her strategic position was, therefore, predicated on defense and not
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
           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
       • 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
       • Hitler backed down.
               The Stresa Front
• The Dollfuss Affair
  seemed to push together
  Fascist Italy and the
  Western European
  democracies to contain
• In April, 1935, Britain,
  Italy and France set up the
  Stresa Front to oppose
  further revision of
• Hitler responded by acting
  with much more restraint.
Saarland Returned

         • In 1935 the Saar was
           returned to Germany
           after 90% of its
           inhabitants voted for
           union with Germany.
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
         • 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
         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 War
         • In October, 1935 the
           League of Nations
           denounced Italy as an
           aggressor and imposed
           limited economic
         • Austria, Hungary and
           Germany refused to apply
         • Coal, oil and steel, the
           goods most needed by
           Italy, were not restricted.
         • Britain even allowed Italy
           to use the Suez Canal.
            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 War
         • In May, 1936 Addis
           Ababa, the Abyssinian
           capital fell.
         • Italy had its way in
         • The Stresa Front was
           also dead.
         • Mussolini looked for a
           new friend.
              The Rhineland

• With the world’s
  attention focused on
  Abyssinia, Hitler
  marched into the
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
• 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
           • 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 War
• Italy also helped the
  nationalist uprising – on
  land and at sea.
• The Republican
  government had sympathy
  abroad, but the Western
  democracies pledged
• Only individual volunteers
  in the International
  Brigades, and the Soviet
  Union offered help to the
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
• 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
• Schuschnigg appealed
  for British and Italian
• None was offered.
• On March 12,
  German troops
  crossed into Austria
  and Hitler returned
  home in triumph to
  the cheers of Austrian
• Hitler’s plebiscite
  received 99% support.
The Sudetenland
        • Czechoslovakia felt
          vulnerable after
        • 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 Sudetenland

• Konrad Henlein, the Sudeten Nazi leader, claimed
  Czechoslovak discrimination against the German minority.
The Sudetenland
        • From June, 1938 German
          pressure on
          Czechoslovakia began to
        • Chamberlain, the British
          Prime Minister, sent Lord
          Runciman to
          Czechoslovakia to report
          on the situation. He
          suggested Sudeten
          autonomy within
              The Sudetenland
• Hitler was unsatisfied.
• He wanted the immediate
  surrender of the entire
• 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
The Sudetenland
        • Chamberlain and French
          Prime Minister Daladier
          suggested areas with more
          than 50% German
          population might be
          surrendered after a
        • Fearing abandonment by
          its French ally,
          Czechoslovak President
          Benes agreed.
               The Sudetenland
• Hitler refused to
  compromise – but agreed
  to a meeting with
  Chamberlain at Bad
• Here, he ranted and raved,
  demanding everything by
  October 1 or there would
  be war.
• Chamberlain left, badly
The Sudetenland

             • War seemed
             • In Britain,
               civilians filled
               sandbags for
               defense works.
                The Sudetenland
• Stalin pledged to stand by
  Czechoslovakia against
• 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
   – 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
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
• In the midst of the
  Crisis, Mussolini
  offered to mediate in a
  4 Power Conference in
• Czechoslovakia and
  the USSR were not
• For the British and
  French, it offered a
  way out of war.
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 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
The Munich Conference
           • Chamberlain’s deal was
             welcomed by a wildly
             enthusiastic public.
           • Others, however, felt
           • Duff Cooper, First Lord of
             the Admiralty, resigned in
           • Churchill called Munich
             “a total and unmitigated
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
• 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
           • In March, 1939
             German troops
             occupied the remainder
             of the Czech part of the
           • Britain and France did
             nothing, though they
             had guaranteed
             Czechoslovakia against
             further German
             aggression. The
             promise was invalid,
             they claimed; the
             Germans were invited
         End of Appeasement
• Chamberlain was
• Britain pledged to
  defend Poland against
  attack and France
  renewed its 1919
• After Italy invaded
  Albania at Easter,
  Britain and France
  gave guarantees to
  Romania and Greece.
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
• 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
   • 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
• 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
   • On August 31, Hitler
     ordered German forces
     into action against Poland.
   • Appeasement was
• 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
• 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
      • 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
     • 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
• Germany found itself
  fighting a war that it was
  ill-equipped to wage over