Why did Britain follow a policy of appeasement towards Germany? Essay
Between 1935 and 1939 Britain followed a policy of appeasement towards Germany. Primarily to prevent another horrific war. However there were many more advantages to the policy of appeasement.
Firstly it was vital for Britain to avoid another war, people still vividly remembered the horrors of World War 1. Losing a whole generation of young fit males, weakened economy, the overall hatred that warfare instils. Many were still recovering from the heartache that war produces, Psychologically Britain needed time. None of the pain could be repeated and therefore Appeasement was acceptable. To avoid war at all costs.
Secondly, a powerful Germany could stop the spread of communism. Britain detested Stalin and dreaded him gaining power. Communism was seen as a disease that needed to be immobilized. Hitler was “the lesser of two evils” and therefore appeasing Germany would safeguard Europe from communism. Not permitting appeasement could have resulted in Germany falling to communism and increasing its chances of dominating Europe. Keeping Hitler happy was the only way to guarantee the prevention of the “disease” that was communism.
On top of this Britain was not ready for war in a military sense. Britain was vulnerable to air attack and pictures of the Spanish civil war raised public awareness; anyone could now be killed in war, women, children, the elderly. Everybody was at risk and defence was not tough enough as yet. Britain needed time to re-build and modernize as warfare had changed immensely. A contemporary army needed to be constructed New technology such as radar required time and effort. Planes needed building. Appeasement could give Britain this option. Britain’s economy had still not fully recovered from the Wall Street crash and many were living in poverty. If war was inevitable then at least it could be delayed by this policy. Giving Britain the chance to strengthen and win the war.
Chamberlain believed Hitler was being reasonable with his demands. He was rightfully taking back what was once theirs. The Rhineland, Sudetenland and to re-establish the 3 million citizens they lost due to the treaty of Versailles. These were feasible demands which would undo some of the unjusts of the treaty. Appeasing Hitler to do this was the right choice in Chamberlains eyes, the fair choice. There was no longer an aggressive attitude towards Germany and its development.
Also many groups of people in Britain were against war. A generation of young were conscious they would have to fight, which therefore meant death. People such as Chamberlain and Daladier believed in peace and believed another war would “destroy civilization.” This view was shared by a vast amount of British citizens. War was not a popular possibility at this moment in time. Peace was the fresh mindset, appeasement meant peace.
Overall, appeasement was simply the correct policy for Britain between the years of 1935 and 1939. It gave Britain time to regain strength as a nation. The most important aspect of appeasement was the fact it allowed Britain to re-arm, as war was an inevitable product of the Treaty of Versailles. Britain needed the time to adapt and build for modern war. Appeasement gave them this and therefore prepared them for the unavoidable.