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How and why did appeasement cause WW2?

Appeasement was the policy followed primarily by Britain in the 1930s in attempting to settle international disputes by satisfying grievances through compromise and negotiation. One of the most famous examples of this policy is the negotiations between Chamberlain and Hitler in the lead up to World War Two. It has been argued that in pursuing such a policy, Britain and France encouraged Hitler’s aggression. It is widely accepted that appeasement

The policy was based on the idea that Germany had three key issues that needed to be resolved. The first was territorial grievances, the second economic problems, and the final the absence of raw materials. He believed that in addressing this, more moderate groups would take hold of Germany, and they would move away from their current right-wing stance. However, this was not necessarily correct. Taylor and other historians argued that Hitler was not acting to what he had seemed before, but ‘reacting’ to the actions of other European leaders. If we consider this statement, we can begin to understand why many people saw the act of appeasement as a cause of World War Two. Appeasement allowed Hitler to think that he could do what he pleases, and he took too many risks, unsure of when the allied forces would respond.

Appeasement encouraged Hitler to be more aggressive, with each victory giving him confidence and power. With more land, Germany became better defended, with more soldiers, workers, raw materials, weapons and industries.  This then shows the first way that appeasement caused World War Two. Appeasement allowed Hitler to believe that he could get away with anything, encouraging Hitler to take the risks that led to World War Two. The policy was seen as cowardly by many in the 1940s, reflecting the idea that Hitler ‘reacted’ to the actions of Chamberlain being cowardly, rather than him being an aggressor.

However, Appeasement caused World War Two through causing another problem. Appeasement led to the USSR agreeing on the Nazi-Soviet pact with Hitler’s Germany, which meant Hitler did not have to fear a two front war, encouraging even more so his expansionist attitude and risk taking. Stalin saw the ‘cowardly’ actions of Britain and France as flaws in their potential allies, and used this as an excuse to form closer ties with Hitler and Nazi Germany. This in turn also helped encourage Hitler to expand on the Eastern Front, taking more risks and inevitably causing World War Two.

These are the two examples of how appeasement caused the war. The policy was more flawed than it first appeared. However, it must be remembered that when British government documents were released, many people began to realise the difficult situation that Chamberlain found himself in. Britain was not prepared for war economically or in its resources, and this just showed how important it was for Chamberlain to avoid war at all costs. This is why it is important to bear in mind the other view on appeasement. Although it cannot be denied that appeasement was a cause of World War Two, whether it was wise or not is down to opinion.

Depending on what view you hold on appeasement, the reasons why it caused the war are different. Those who see appeasement as a cowardly act would argue that the reason why it caused war is because the countries were not willing to stand up to Hitler, blaming it as a cause of the allied forces rather than Hitler. However, those who believe that appeasement was the best solution, such as Paul Kennedy who said ‘The crisis in the British global position by this time was such that it was, in the last resort, insoluble, in the sense that there was no good or proper solution.’ would argue that Hitler taking risks was the cause, not the act of appeasement itself, and this encouragement was why appeasement caused World War Two.

It cannot be denied that appeasement was cowardly at times. If Chamberlain had been slightly firmer with Hitler from the beginning then, perhaps, the war could have been avoided. However, it cannot be blamed on the allies. Appeasement encouraged Hitler to take more risks, and it was this risk taking that caused World War Two. If Hitler had not thought that he could have gotten away with his invasion of Poland, then perhaps there would have been more diplomatic solutions in the years that would have followed.

Filed under WW2 World War Two History IB Chamberlain Hitler appeasement

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