Appeasement had a profound effect on the way international relations developed. Although it might have worked with some German governments, with Hitler it was doomed to failure. Many historians believe that it convinced Hitler of the complacency and weakness of Britain and France to such an extent that he was willing to risk attacking Poland, thereby starting the Second World War.
Examples of appeasement at work
- No action was taken to check the obvious German rearmament. Lord Lothian, a Liberal, had a revealing comment to make about this, after visiting Hitler in January 1935: ‘I am convinced that Hitler does not want war ..what the Germans are after is a strong army which will enable them to deal with Russia.’
- The Anglo-German Naval Agreement condoning German naval rearmament was signed without any consultation with France and Italy. This broke the Stresa Front, gravely shook French confidence in Britain, and encouraged Laval to look for understandings with Mussolini and Hitler.
- There was only half-hearted British action against the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.
- The French, though disturbed at the German reoccupation of the Rhineland (March 1936), did not mobilize their troops. They were deeply divided, and ultra cautious, and they received no backing from the British, who were impressed by Hitler’s offer of a 25-year peace. In fact, Lord Londonderry (a Conservative, and Secretary of State for Air from 1931 to 1935), was reported to have sent Hitler a telegram congratulating him on his success. Lord Lothian remarked that German troops had merely entered their own ‘back garden’.
- Neither Britain nor France intervened in the Spanish Civil War, though Germany and Italy sent decisive help to Franco. Britain tried to entice Mussolini to remove his troops by officially recognizing Italian possession of Abyssinia (April 1938); however, Mussolini failed to keep his side of the bargain.
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