Appeasement - debate
Did chamberlain do the right thing? (Debate)
Appeasement was a long term policy.
The British public had no appetite for war - the legacy of WWI, fresh memories of battles such as the Somme.
Britain was badly hit by the Great Depression - the British treasury would not sanction spending on armaments.
Britain had no reliable allies - the USA were following a policy of isolationism.
It was not a weak policy - it was a policy to ‘give peace a chance, to see if peace was possible.
It was accompanied by a ‘gradual’ rearmament programme, including air defences. (Radar & Spitfire aeroplanes, that helped win the Battle for Britain in 1940)
It was not ‘Peace at any price - it was ‘an iron fist inside a velvet glove’.
- It was not the ‘wrong’ policy, it was the only ‘conceivable policy’ at the time. An ‘honorable’ attempt to see if peace could work, whilst making cautious preparations for war.
Professor John Charmley
Early on it was evident the Nazi regime was a ‘murderous’ regime & Appeasing them was the wrong approach.
British Ambassador- Sir Eric Phipps)
German militarism would need confronting, not appeasing.
Chamberlain was shortsighted when he replaced Phipps with Henderson who ‘admired’ Goring.
Chamberlain misunderstood Hitler - he thought he could be reasoned with. Treated him as a ‘conventional’ statesman.
Chamberlain ignored secret memos from MI5 warning him that Hitler held Chamberlain in contempt.
There were forces within Germany that did not want war - appeasement undermined them.
The Czechs had a strong army & defensible borders as well as a will to fight.
Not opposing the Rhineland, Anschluss and Sudetenland only convinced Hitler Britain was weak.
Appeasement based on the premise Hitler only wanted to revise the Treaty of Versailles - this was a big mistake. His ‘worldview’ was well known. He was planning war from the outset.
- Appeasement was not in Britain’s National interest for political & military (e.g Disaster of Dunkirk) reasons - Hitler could have been deterred by a show of force.
Sir Richard Evans