Why did Britain and France follow a policy of Appeasement?

Background Information

Appeasement was the big idea of Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister from 1937-40. It had been started before him but he was the biggest believer in it.

Appeasement meant letting Hitler get what he wanted, giving him small things, providing what he wanted seemed reasonable and providing Hitler didn’t start a war. Britain and France’s main priority at this time was to avoid war.

Why did Britain and France follow a policy of Appeasement?, figure 1

Neville Chamberlain - the Prime Minister of Great Britain, elected in 1937. He was the principal and driving force behind Appeasement, especially its escalation between 1937-39, and its manifestation in the Munich Conference.

Examples of Appeasement were

  1. When Hitler Remilitarised the Rhineland in 1936, Britain and France allowed him to do so. Lord Lothian’s famous remark was that ‘Hitler was only walking into his own back garden’.
  2. Britain therefore largely believed that the Rhineland belonged to Germany, and so they should be allowed to send troops there.
  3. France wanted to act; however, they were without a government and were unable to act without British support.
  4. Both countries were also distracted at the time by the Abyssinian Crisis.
  5. When Hitler held Anschluss with Austria in 1938, Britain and France complained but did nothing, despite the fact that this completely went against the Treaty of Versailles.
  6. Similarly to above, Britain and France felt that this was not something they had the right to stop.
  7. Because Hitler held a Plebiscite (albeit after marching in, and in highly suspicious circumstances).
  8. The most extreme example of Appeasement was during the Czechoslovakian Crisis and Munich Conference.
  9. Chamberlain actively proposed the policy of Appeasement during this time, advocating giving Hitler the Sudetenland and forcing the hand of the Czech Prime Minister.
  10. Britain did this because they wanted to keep Hitler happy – they did not feel ready to go to war. In particular, they did not have the British public on side.
  11. France wanted to intervene, and had previously promised Czechoslovakia that they would join them in resisting German occupation. They did not, however, feel able to act without Britain, and so were persuaded to let Hitler take the Sudetenland.

Why did Britain and France follow a policy of Appeasement?, figure 1

Many feared that if Hitler was allowed to start uniting German speaking peoples (as per his aim of Volksdeutsche), he would not stop until he controlled all of Germanic Europe. Chamberlain rejected this view, arguing that he would only try and take over ‘reasonable’ areas.

Reasons for Appeasement

  1. Many people thought the Treaty of Versailles was unfair on Germany.
  2. Chamberlain thought taking over the Rhineland, Austria and even Sudetenland were reasonable. He also believed that Hitler could be trusted to keep his word AND that he didn’t want war.
  3. Britain and France were suffering from economic problems and could not afford another war. They had large debts and high unemployment.
  4. The armed forces were not ready for war. So appeasement gave Britain time to rearm.
  5. In particular, when Hitler unveiled his new Luftwaffe (airforce) in 1935, Britain began an overhaul of its - now outdated - RAF. This was not going to be ready until at least 1939.
  6. Both Britain and France remembered the horrific experiences of the First World War. They wished to avoid another war at any cost.
  7. This was particularly true of the British population - there was no public support for War until the summer of 1939.
  8. Indeed, it was when Hitler went against the agreements of the Munich Conference (1938) that the British population turned against Hitler.
  9. Britain could not be certain that they would gain support from their Empire
  10. Hitler was standing up to Communism and acting as a buffer between the __USSR __and the rest of Europe. For a long time, Britain and France thought that Communism was a greater threat than the Nazis.
  11. The __USA __would not help stand up to Hitler, and Britain and France were worried that they could not succeed without them.

Why did Britain and France follow a policy of Appeasement?, figure 1

This shows a WW1 RAF plane, and most planes were still like this in 1935. These would have no hope against the new Luftwaffe, and so they needed rebuilding and improving. This was a key motivation, as Appeasement bought time to rebuild the RAF.

Why was Appeasement a cause of WW2?

  1. It gave Hitler time to build up his armed forces and his economy to be ready for war. We could have stopped him in the Rhineland in __1936 __when the French army was bigger than his, but by appeasing him he was able to have bigger armed forces than UK & France by __1939 __when __WW2 __did start.
  2. It gave Hitler confidence to demand more after every time he was appeased; Rhineland lead to Austria which led to the Sudetenland. These successes also made him more popular in Germany which made him more powerful.
  3. It allowed Hitler to repeatedly break the Treaty of Versailles. Appeasement was just an act of weakness and cowardice that further encourage Hitler.
  4. It made __USSR __angry with Britain and France - __USSR __knew that Hitler hated them and had been willing to resist him over Czechoslovakia if UK & France had also helped. When __USSR __wasn’t invited to the Munich conference they became convinced that there was no point in trying to work with Britain to stop Hitler. __USSR __began to think of doing a deal with Hitler instead - the Nazi-Soviet Pact. This deal made __WW2 __a certainty.
  5. Chamberlain misjudged Hitler. He didn’t realise until it was too late that Appeasement just encouraged Hitler to go further.

Why did Britain and France follow a policy of Appeasement?, figure 1

This is perhaps the most famous image associated with Appeasement. It shows Chamberlain, just off his plane back from the Munich Conference, waving a piece of paper. This is the Munich Conference Agreement, which Hitler had signed, and Chamberlain pronounced that this represented ‘Peace In Our Time’. When Hitler went against this agreement, it turned the British Public against Germany, and suggested to Chamberlain that Appeasement had failed.

Your answer should include: Hitler / let / small things / avoid war
Your answer should include: Prime Minister / Britain / British / 1937 / Appeasement
Remilitarising the Rhineland
Your answer should include: 1936 / Hitler / troops / Rhineland / Appeasement
Your answer should include: union / Austria / 1938 / Appepasement