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Firstly what was Appeasement? This was the name given to the policy of trying to avoid war by making allowances and sacrifices. It is particularly connected and identified with the British policy towards Hitler in the 1930s to attempt and avoid the Second World War. As we now know this didn’t work although it did appear to give Britain, who were clearly far from ready for another war, more time to prepare.
So what happened? Well it all began in 1935 when Britain signed the naval agreement with Germany. Britain followed a policy, later known as Appeasement, of giving Hitler what he wanted this was for the following three years after the naval agreement was signed in 1935. There were many British people, including politicians, who were in favour of and agreed with the policy. Although the person most associated with the policy was Neville Chamberlain, he didn’t actually become Prime Minister until 1937, two years after the naval agreement was signed.
But what was wrong with Appeasement? Though there were obvious risks to the policy, Britain’s leaders felt they had no option but to Appease Hitler. Some of the risks were mentioned at the time whereas others became more obvious and clear looking back. Such as: –
* It encouraged Hitler to be more aggressive, as the more he got away with the bigger the risk was in which he took the next and so on and so for.
* It put too much trust into Hitler’s promises even though he often went back on them. This meant Appeasement was based on the mistaken idea that Hitler was a trustworthy person.
* It allowed Germany to grow too strong, as it was not only recovering but also growing more powerful than Britain or France.
* It scared the USSR, as Hitler didn’t make it any secret that he planned to expand eastwards. This put Russia on “Hitler’s Hit List”. And Appeasement meant that neither Britain nor France would get in Hitler’s way.
So was there actually anything good about Appeasement? As mentioned before many British people thought that Appeasement was definitely a good idea. Their reasons for feeling this way is stated below: –
* They agreed with Hitler when he said that the Treat of Versailles was unfair to Germany and they thought that putting this right would make Germany a peaceful nation again.
* Hitler was standing up to communism, which was Britain’s main worry at the time. They felt Hitler was like a buffer to the threat of spreading communism.
* The attitude of Britain’s Empire also affected their view, as Britain weren’t sure if their empire and commonwealth states would support a war against Germany.
* The USA wouldn’t have supported Britain if they stood up to Hitler, as they didn’t want to be involved in another war.
* Britain’s own economic problems were a higher priority as both Britain and France were still suffering from large debt s and huge unemployment as a result of the Depression.
* The British and French leaders didn’t want to repeat the horrors of the First World War, this meant avoiding another war at almost any cost.
* Mainly Britain weren’t ready for another war. The British armed forces weren’t ready for a war against Hitler at that particular point in time.
Appeasement “brought” time for rearmament; at least that is what the following graphs appear to say.
Graph one – Compares Britain’s (regular army and reserves) army divisions ready to fight with Germany’s army divisions ready to fight. As you can see if in January 1938 a war had been started Germany would have won, as they were clearly more prepared than Britain.
Graph two – Compares the number of craft in Britain and Germany’s navies, 1939. As you can see there isn’t that much in the numbers in 1939.
Graph three – Compares the aircraft production of Germany and Britain, 1936-1939. In the 1930s, aircraft were generally seen as the most important weapon. It was assumed that bombing raids on cities were virtually impossible to stop.
As you can see by looking at the graphs the armaments build-up in the 1930s.
Finally was Appeasement justified? Some, but not very many, people didn’t agree with Appeasement but there was definitely one person who certainly believed in Appeasement some would even say he was dedicated to it and that was Chamberlain. It wasn’t that he was a coward or a weakling and was just using Appeasement as a way out because if he had needed to declare war he would have done. This did actually end up happening in 1939 he had no choice but to declare war and that’s exactly what he did.
However Appeasement was a debatable policy at the time and still is to this very day. There are two main views:
It was the wrong policy because…it encouraged Hitler: Chamberlain’s critics say that it simply encouraged Hitler’s gambling. They claim that if Britain or France had squared up to him at the start, he would have backed off. Peace would have been secured.
It was the right policy because…Britain wasn’t ready for war: Chamberlain’s defenders say it was the only policy available to him. They say that to face up to Hitler Chamberlain had to be prepared to take Britain into a war. All the evidence available to Chamberlain told him Britain was not ready. Public opinion was against it – his own civil service advisers had told him this. Important countries in the empire were against it. The USA was against it. And most importantly, Britain’s armed forces were not ready anyway. They were badly equipped and had felled far behind the Germans (see the charts previously).
After great consideration and summing up both the good and bad points of Appeasement I feel the Appeasement was justified. As I feel that the good points over rule the bad. And you can’t be sure that if Britain or France had stood up to Hitler then he would have backed off as you can’t go back and change it to find out. Besides Britain would have been destroyed if war had been declared there and then, as they were clearly not prepared or ready.