Why did appeasement fail to prevent the outbreak of war in 1939?



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Policy of apeasement - Britain's main way of dealing with Germany. Some historians think this is the main reason that the Second World war was not prevented.

Chamberlain was keen to discuss Hitler's demands with him - as long as they were reasonable.

The success of appeasment depended on Hitler's aims being limited and his sincerity - he had to be trustworthy.

France supported appeasment after 1937 - they felt safe behind their Maginot Line.

There was a lot of support for appeasement in Britain. The public were keen to avoid a repeat of WW1. Also Britain was not ready for war as it had not been rearming so could not take on Germany.

Some British politicians saw a strong Germany as a barrier to the spread of communism

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Czechoslovakia, 1938

Hitler wanted Czechoslovakia as part of his living space. He also detested the nation as it was a bitter reminder of of the peace settlement of 1919.

3 million German-speakers lived in Czechoslovakia, mostly in the Sudetenland, this gave Hitler the excuse he needed to invade czechoslovakia.

Hitler urged the leader of the Czech Nazi party to pressurise the governmnet into allowing concessions for the Sudeten Germans.

In April 1938 German troops began massing on the border. Czechoslovakia president mobilized his troops to resist them.

Britain and France wanted to aviod war so the persuaded the Czech president to allow further concessions to the Sudeten Germans.

However it became clear that Hitler would never be satisfied with improved rights for the sudeten Germans. What he wanted was to make the Sudetenland part of germany.

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Appeasement in action

Hitler told the Sudeten Germans he would support them. So they started rioting but were crushed by the Czech government.

On 15 september Chamberlain met Hitler to discuss his demands. Chamberlain the persuaded the Czechs to agree to transfer to Germany those parts of the Sudetenland where the majority of the population were German.

However when Hitler was informed of the decision he threatened to go to war unless he was given the whole of the Sudetenland.

Chamberlain returned to Britain and prepared for war.

However war was avioded when Mussolini persuaded Hitler to attend a four power conference at Munich on 29 December...

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The Munich Conference, September 1938

This conference was attended by four leaders: Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier. The USSR and Czechoslovakia were not invited.

It was agreed at the conference that the Sudetenland would immidiatly become part of Germany. The Czechs were forced by Britain and France to accept this.

Peace had been obtained and Hitler was satisfied. On the day after Munich Chamberlain signed a separate agreement with Hitler agree to consult each other about their differences and never go to war with each other.

Chamberlain returned to Britain a hero. He had his critics, but he had achieved what most people wanted: Peace in Europe.

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