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

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

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Why did Chamberlain's policy of appeasement fail to prevent the outbreak of war in 1939?

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Reasons for Appeasement

  • Britain did not have allies who were prepared to fight with her against Germany in 1938.
  •  Peace was very precious. After the horrors of the First World War, Chamberlain was right to do anything he could to avoid another war.
  • Hitler’s demands were not unreasonable. He was simply putting right unfair parts of the Treaty of Versailles. If the Sudeten Germans wanted to join Germany, Britain should not risk war to stop them.
  • A strong Germany was not such a bad idea because Hitler was ready to fight communism.
  • Appeasement gave Britain time to rearm. In 1938, Britains army was small and its weapons were old.
  • British people did not want war in 1938. They supported Chamberlain’s policy.
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Reasons against Appeasement

  • Appeasement was naïve. Hitler had always said he intended to conquer Eastern Europe.
  •  Appeasement gave Germany time to build weapons.
  •  Chamberlain was weak. He was unwilling to make tough decisions.
  • Appeasment encouraged Hitler to be AGGRESSIVE because it made him think Britain would do anything to avoid war.
  • Appeasement worried other countries in Eastern Europe. If Britain and France were not prepared to defend Czechoslovakia, then would they defend other countries?
  • Appeasement did not prevent war. It just put it off.
  • Appeasement made Germany stronger. In talking over land, Germany got the factories and raw materials it needed.
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The Sudeten Crisis

  • In May 1938, Hitler made it clear that he wanted to take the Sudetenland.
  • There were many German people in the Sudetenland, so Hitler wanted to fulfill his policy of Lebensraum.
  • The French and British agreed to protect Czechoslovakia if Hitler invaded.
  • On 15th September 1938, Chamberlain flies to meet Hitler in Germany to discuss potential peace. Hitler was happy to compromise: he only wanted some of the Sudetenland, and wanted a plebiscite so the people could decide.
  • Chamberlain believes that these new demands are reasonable because the people are deciding their own fate and the Treaty of Versailles states that self-determination should be achieved.
  • On 19th September, Britain and France put Hitler's demands to Czechoslovakia.
  • On 22nd September, Hitler actually wants more of the Sudetenland; he goes back on his words.
  • On 29 September Hitler is given Sudetenland
  • On 1 October 1938, Hitler marched unopposed into the Sudetenland.   He said that it was the start of a 1000-year German Reich (empire).

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The Munich Agreement

  • On 29th September, Hitler invited Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini to a conference in Munich.
  • After discussions, the leaders produced the Munich Agreement.
  • This agreement gave the Sudetenland to Germany, but guaranteed the safety of the rest of Czechoslovakia.
  • The Czechs and Russians were not invited to the conference.
  • 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 flew home to a hero's welcome after seemingly preventing a war.
  • Some historians feel that the Munich agreement was a 'sell-out' because it totally disregarded the word of the Czechs. The leaders are seen to put their own country's needs before that of Czechoslovakia.
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The Collapse of Czachoslovakia March 1939

  • As soon as the Munich agreement had been signed and German troops were entering the Sudetenland,
  • The Nazis set about destablising the Czechoslovak state.  He plotted with the Slovak leaders to riot for independence and by early March 1939 there was open rioting in Slovak towns.  
  • Hitler seized the moment. He sent a military delegation to Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia), which put the Slovak leader, on a plane to Berlin; there he was harangued by the Fuhrer and given a declaration of Slovak independence to sign (14 March 1939). 
  • Next to arrive was Hacha, the Czechoslovakian President (14 March 1939). He was kept waiting until 1:15am next day, and then bullied and harrassed until he fainted; the bullying continued until, at 3:55am, he signed a prepared document asking the German army to ‘place the fate of the Czech people and country in the hands of the Fuhrer’.
  • Chamberlain's reaction was weak - he would not accuse Hitler of breaking the Munich Agreement, and said that Britain could not do anything because the Czechs had invited Hitler in.
  • The British public reacted with fury. Chamberlain warned Hitler that Britain would fight if Germany was trying to dominate the world by force, and British government guaranteed Poland's independence (30 March 1939).
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Nazi - Soviet Pact - Britain and Russia

Stalin knew that Hitler’s ultimate aim was to attack Russia. In 1939, he invited the British Foreign Secretary to go to Russia to discuss an alliance against Germany. Britain refused. The British feared Russian Communism, and they believed that the Russian army was too weak to be of any use against Hitler.  The Russians asked if they could send troops into Poland if Hitler invaded. The British refused. The talks broke down.   


  • Suspicion – Chamberlain didn’t trust Stalin – Communist & dictator.   Stalin didn’t trust the British [thought they wanted to trick him into war with Germany].  Poland didn’t trust USSR.
  • Choice – If Stalin allied with Britain, he would end up fighting in Poland on Britain’s behalf. Hitler was promising half of Poland for doing nothing.
  • Appeasement – Stalin didn’t think Britain would honour its promise to Poland.   He thought he would be left fighting Hitler alone.
  • Britain delayed, Aug 1939 – Britain sent an official (Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax) to USSR by boat - too slow.   An admiral, he was not important enough to make decisions
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Nazi - Societ Pact - Hitler and Russia

In August 1939, Hitler sent Ribbentrop, to Russia.He offered a Nazi-Soviet alliance – Russia and Germany would not go to war, but would divide Poland between them. Germany would allow Russia to annex Estinia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Stalin knew Hitler was lying, but he did not trust the British either – the Munich Agreement had convinced him that Britain and France would never dare to go to war with Hitler.

  • Stalin had two choices:
  • if he made an alliance with Britain, he would end up fighting a war with Hitler over Poland.
  • if he made an alliance with Germany, he would get half of Poland, and time to prepare for the coming war with Germany. 
  • He chose the latter. On 23 August 1939, he signed the Pact with Hitler


  • Time to prepare for war – It gave Russia 18 months to make military preparations.
  • Hope to gain – Stalin hoped Germany, Britain and France would wear themselves out in a long war.
  • Unhappy with Britain – Stalin turned to Germany when Britain was too slow.
  • Germany's Motives – Hitler thought it would make Britain back down over Poland.
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Reasons Hitler Invaded Poland

  • To give Germans lebensraum in Eastern Europe
  • It was one of the three CENTRAL AIMS of Hitler foreign policy.
  • Because he thought Chamberlain would not dare stop him.
  • Chamberlain had stood up to Hitler, during the Sudeten crisis, but had then backed down at Munich. Hitler despised Chamberlain, and did not believe that he would dare to go to war. So he felt able to pursue his aims in Poland despite Chamberlain's promise in March 1939 to support Poland.
  • To defend the Germans in Poland
  • The reason Hitler gave was that the Poles were persecuting those Germans who lived in Poland. (There was some truth in this.)
  • To overturn the Treaty of Versailles
  • This was a second CENTRAL AIM of Hitler's foreign policy. The Polish Corridor and Posen had been given to Poland in 1919, and Danzig had been declared a free city administered by the League of Nations. Hitler first asked Poland to consider the position of Danzig in October 1938, immediately after Munich, and in March 1939, Hitler demanded that he be given Danzig
  • To oppose Communism/conquer Russia
  • I know Poland wasn't communist, but Russia was where Hitler was eventually headed and Poland was just another step east. When he demanded Danzig in 1939, Hitler's proposal included a joint anti-Soviet alliance against Russia. Third CENTRAL AIM of HFP.
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To prevent an anti-German alliance

he realised also that the world was beginning to gang up on him, so the next day, 1 April, his CONSIDERED reaction was this: 'if they expect Germany to sit patiently by while they create satellite States and set them against Germany, then they are mistaken'. This is fair enough, because that is exactly what Chamberlain was trying to do. And Poland was preparing to resist Hitler, and had started mobilising its army - Hitler stated that this broke Poland's non-aggression pact with Germany. On April 3 Hitler issued a directive to his armies stating that he wished to 'destroy Polish military strength and create in the East a situation which satisfies the requirements of national defence'. 

The Nazi-Soviet Pact

After April 1939, both Roosevelt and Stalin began to express concerns about Hitler's aims on Poland.   Hitler merely mocked Roosevelt, but he was worried about Stalin.   Only Stalin and the Russian army could have stopped Hitler taking over Poland at this point.   But the failure of the Anglo-Soviet negotiations and the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 not only freed up Hitler to attack Poland, it included a secret agreement to divide Poland up between them. In the end, Hitler invaded Poland because he had agreed to do so with Stalin.

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Responsibility for the outbreak of war

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izzah asif

thanks for this, i completely forgot about what happened in the Czech crisis :)

Leana Miah

Your welcome,, Im happy to help ;) x

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