Appeasement explanation and other examples in history

Biography on Adolf Hitler

Neville Chamberlain's "Peace in our Time" speech

Neville Chamberlain's Declaration of War in 1939 on British radio

Map of Germany before WW2

Map of Europe before WW2

 


 


WELCOME

Welcome to the History 12 Webquest on Appeasement. Use the menu sections above to view the details and media related to each of the four appeasement events that led to the start of World War 2. Background information is provided below.

THE NAZIS AND APPEASEMENT: APPEASEMENT DEFINED

Appeasement is a political move in the face of conflict, that tries to maintain a situation of peace by making concessions to the aggressive party, so that (hopefully) the aggressor will be satisfied, and war will be prevented. Many Western nations faced Hitler and employed this tactic, though the two main ones were Britain and France. Appeasement makes several (false) assumptions:

People are peace-loving, and want to avoid war and conflict.

There could be a dramatic change in Europe’s structure, without the need for war and conquest.

People want others to be motivated by hope, and not by fear… and are so motivated themselves:

REASONS FOR APPEASEMENT:

  • Britain had felt bad about the extreme restrictions and punishments placed on Germany at Versailles, and felt that Hitler was correcting those injustices… and would stop there.

  • World War 1 was still fresh in everyone’s minds, and they would do anything to avoid another world war.

  • The British still wanted a strong and (almost) equal trading partner, and felt that a stronger Germany would benefit both nations. They were also unsure about the French-Soviet talks.

  • Most people in Britain and France were a lot more worried about Communist infiltration than they were of Fascist attempts at the same. Since Hitler was strongly anti-Communist, he seemed the safer bet than Stalin.

  • “Balance of Power” politics, as a concept, was still around. Perhaps if they had balance once again, then things would all be ok. After all, Hitler couldn’t want a repeat of WW1 either… right?

  • When looking at the list of Hitler’s demands, the British didn’t see any of their core interests or areas of influence on that list. Remember the League of Nations and China / Ethiopia?

  • Everyone assumed that Hitler meant what he said, and that he wasn’t lying constantly. They were wrong.

Unfortunately, the weakness in this line of reasoning is that an aggressor, knowing he will be appeased, will, step by step, change the status quo until the new status quo is such that he will no longer be stopped by concessions.