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Appeasing Nazi Germany Leading up to the Second World War
Transcript of Appeasing Nazi Germany Leading up to the Second World War
"A situation in which a state that is declining in power is unsure of the aims of a rising state. If those aims are limited, then the declining state prefers to appease the rising state's demands rather than go to war to oppose them. If, however, the rising state's demands are unlimited, then the declining state prefers fighting" (749).
Powell, Robert. (1996). Uncertainty, Shifting Power, and Appeasement. The American Political Science Review, 90 (4), 749-264
Guiding Question: Why did the allied powers—particularly Britain—engage in a policy of appeasement towards Hitler and Nazi Germany?
Greatest advocate of Appeasement
Facilitated/participated in numerous diplomatic missions with Hitler and Mussolini
Humiliated by his "mistakes" leading up to WWII
Seen as weak, without honor by his constituents as a result of appeasement
Prime Minister of UK May 28, 1937- May 10, 1940
Supporting Quotes From Chamberlain himself
Two Core Reasons to Appease
1. Buying Time
2. Wishful Thinking
"I'm pretty satisfied now that if we can keep out of war for a few years we shall have an air force of such striking power that no one will care to run risks with it."
June 18, 1935: Anglo-German Naval agreement. Allowed Germany to create a fleet 35% the size of Great Britain's. Eventually renounced by Hitler in 1939
March 7, 1936: Germany re-militarizes the Rhineland, directly violating The Treaty of Versailles.
September 30, 1938: The Munich Agreement is signed by Germany, Italy, Britain and France, officially annexing the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland to the Germans.
March 15, 1939: Germany occupies Czechoslovakia unopposed, creating the Protectorate of Bohemia & Moravia.
March 31, 1939: UK & France offer guarantees to Polish independence.
July 30, 1939: Chamberlain solidifies support for Poland despite Nazi territorial claims on Danzig.
Passive vs. Active Appeasement?
"I wonder if you have read the deplorable speech by Goebbels* reported in the Times today. It sems extraordinary that such a vulgar common little mind should have been able to preserve his position so long and it has an ominous look as though the fustian he pours out found a ready response among the German people"—Letter to Ida. January 18, 1936
"I can't help thinking that the precarious internal situation of Germany is imposing a certain restraining on Hitler" —Letter to Ida. January 16, 1937
*January 16 Goebbels said that, "We can well do without butter, but not without guns."
Chamberlain and his advisers would later suggest making certain financial concessions for Germany to reinvigorate diplomatic relations between them. Among other recommendations were a reduction of British tariffs, a prioritization of German trade goods, certain colonial concessions as well as debt settlements. None of these ended up being on the table.
"Hitler's appearance and manner when I saw him appeared to show that the storm signals were up, though he gave me the double hand shake that he reserves for specially friendly demonstrations. Yet these appearances were deceptive. His opening sentences when we gathered round for our conference were so moderate and reasonable that I felt instant relief"— Letter to Hilda. October 2, 1938
Even this late into the game, Chamberlain still feels like peace has a chance. This encounter occurred during the Munich agreement signing, and yet he still has hope.
"The scenes culminated in Downing street when I spoke to the multitudes below from the same window I believe as that from which Dizzy* announced peace with honour 60 years ago"—Letter to Hilda. October 2, 1938
Benjamin Disraeli was the Prime Minister of the UK from 1874-1880. In 1878 he participated in The Congress of Berlin, meant to finally create peace in the Balkin states. Of course, just a few decades later WWI would be sparked in Serbia, drawing some very interesting parallels between Dizzy and Chamberlain.
"This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains. But i would just like to read it to you. We, the German Fuhrer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe. We regard the agreement signed last night, and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again."—Addressing a British crowd after speaking with Hitler on the Munich Agreement and this separate document. October 2, 1938.
So, why did the allied powers, specifically Britain, engage in a policy of appeasement towards Hitler & Nazi Germany? Was the primary motivating factor a desire to build up arms or was it just wishful thinking?
Although the building up of arms was a strong motivating factor to stave off war, from Chamberlain's own writings and opinions it seems evident wishful thinking and the fear of war were his primary concerns, despite the hyper-rationality and self-interest the Nazi state consistantly displayed.