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Why Did Britain And France Pursue A Policy Of Appeasement

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    As soon as he had gained power, Hitler was dedicated to removing all restrictions on Germany. He therefore left the League of Nations in October of 1933. They also left the disarmament conference complaining that it was unfair that Germany was disarmed whilst other major powers had weapons.

    Hitler planned to create a proper army for Germany and by doing this he also broke the Versailles treaty. Hitler’s Foreign Policy had many main objectives, the most important were to re-arm, create a Reich, and lebensraum.By using appeasement, Germany took one step at a time to gain what they wanted. By making demands that the allies overlooked as reasonable ones, Hitler gradually increased his domain.

    It was not until March 1939 that Hitler actually invaded another country. By this time he had been preparing for war for the past 6 years as his men and arms well in good supply. Some people believed that the treaty of Versailles was unfair to Germany and so thought that Hitler was making reasonable claims. Especially concerning the Rhineland because that was only an occupied part of Germany itself.

    Those people were for the use of appeasement and approved of Germany’s move towards self-sufficiency towards acquiring itself new land or “breathing space”. In the 1920’s Austria had been a democratic republic, making it hard for extreme left or right wing parties to make much political growth. However, when the depression hit, the extremist parties grew rapidly with increasing popularity. A major Party was the Austrian Nazi party who looked to Hitler for support.

    In 1932 Engelbert Dolfuss became Chancellor of Austria, promising a powerful government, and restraints on Socialist Parties.Although he supported the Nazi’s in many of their views and favoured right wing policies, the Austrian Nazis assassinated him in 1934. The assassins hoped for a union linking Austria and Germany, but Mussolini moved his troops to the Brenner Pass to prevent this happening. At this particular point Hitler did not want to risk his newly made arms or put his country at risk of war, he therefore withdrew his army for that time and called upon the League of Nations to allow him to rule Czechoslovakia.

    In November 1937 Hitler had a meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax and became convinced that Britain would not fight over Austria, so he prepared a referendum for the Austrian people as to whether or not they preferred a union with Germany. This was later cancelled as Hitler had been making claims saying that Schuschnigg (the new Austrian Chancellor) was mistreating the Austrian Nazis, thus forcing Schyschnigg to resign. German troops entered Vienna on 12th March 1938, and received an ecstatic welcome.Austria was soon incorporated in the Third Reich and an Austrian plebiscite was organised, 99% of the population voted in favour of the union.

    Britain took no action against this, despite Hitler’s breaking one of the main clauses of the Versailles Treaty. The allies argued that the Austrian’s had chosen the union with Germany and so encouraged Hitler to do as he wished. Some people believed that this just encouraged Hitler to stake more claims in Europe however they were outweighed by the majority.Czechoslovakia defenceless to German aggression, and it was clear that this was Hitler’s next easiest target in his plan to increase Germany’s territory.

    In March 1936, Hitler remilitarised the Rhineland, so the west of Germany could become strong again. This was breaking another of the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. Although the Allies signed treaties with Czechoslovakia saying that they would do anything they could, they did not have any immediate help or forces needed at that time.Britain and France did not always agree on certain subjects and France was proving increasingly unreliable by pulling out of its previous agreements with Czechoslovakia.

    At this point Russia had promised Czechoslovakia its support. This ended up being a turning point for Russia and when they were excluded from agreements with Czechoslovakia they decided that the Allies were not to be trusted. Therefore they joined Forces with Hitler and stunned the world by forming the Nazi-Soviet Non Aggression Pact. This meant that Stalin would be making no attempt to aid Poland.

    Hitler had actually already offered him some land in Poland, to make up for the land lost to the Allies at Brest Litovsk. By now people realized that Hitler had no intent on stopping Germany’s expansion. The allies decided something must be done to stop this, and so they rushed to complete treaties with other vulnerable countries nearby Germany such as Poland, Romania and Greece. Although Hitler heard that this was happening, dismissed the possibility of unity between Britain, France and these countries by comparing this situation to the past mistakes the Allies had made.

    Britain and France had used appeasement because at the time they both thought that it was best for their countries. Both countries were recovering form the Great Depression that had left millions unemployed, and public opinion was rather displeased with the government ruling at that time. England was in economic struggle, trying to repay debts for World War 1 to America and they had a weak Ally in France. France was not really interested in getting involved with international disputes, as at that particular time, there was a socialist government ruling in France, creating turmoil with the government.

    The French dug trenches in the magino line to prepare for a defensive war and seemed unwilling to help or back up Britain. Added to this, Britain and France realized that America was unwilling to join in European disputes and refused to support anyone at this particular time. America was just trying to work itself out of the depression and used isolation to stop draining on its resources and economy. The economic costs of any future war in training, equipment and munitions, was feared.

    It was debatable whether or not Britain and France were in a good enough economic shape to support another war.It was extremely debatable whether or not Britain and France would be able to win a possible war without the support of America. Britain and France had lost millions of men during the Great War. So they were unprepared to loose that number of people again; therefore there was large public disposition to commencing a new war.

    As Britain was, and still is a democracy, so some notice had to be taken of the majority of the public’s opinion, which was not to go to war if at all possible. It was feared that starting a new war would be worse than the previous one as technology had improved (including bombing).Part of the reason that appeasement was seen as the best option was also the propaganda from the German’s in the Spanish Civil War, which made the Allies over cautious as to how to approach the issue. Germany’s army and resources had been increasing, it was feared that Germany’s large army would start bombing the Allied countries like they had bombed Spain during the civil war.

    Britain and France had over-estimated the number of Germany’s forces however although there was an exaggeration of forces, Germany still had a credible amount of men in the army and a large amount of resources.In this case appeasement allowed the allies time to re-arm and increase arms production. This allowed an extra year in which radar; spitfires, conscription and many more vital resources were introduced and improved upon. The allies certainly needed this time to get their act together and to prepare for potential war.

    However it also allowed Germany extras time to prepare itself for another war. By using appeasement, the Allies showed no strength to stand up against Hitler/ Mussolini invading other countries and basically encouraged them to continue as they wished.Hitler had closely watched how the Manchurian dispute had (or in this case had not) been resolved. He used this to convince his government to do as he wished and used this to his advantage.

    The League of Nations had already proved incapable of decisive action to deter or reverse aggression. At that time there was no working mechanism for other countries to support a stand made against Hitler. The public could see everything had been tried to stop war however it was inevitable that in the end they would have had to go to war with Germany.

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