Why did war break out? International relations 1929–39
Hitler’s aims and
policies with regard to the Versailles settlement. Lebensraum,
Grossdeutschland, re-armament, the Saar, re-occupation
Britain’s policy of appeasement: Chamberlain and appeasement.
The Munich Agreement and the takeover of Czechoslovakia.
What opposition was there to the policy of Appeasement?
Not everybody liked the policy of Appeasement.
Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, resigned in protest due to the continued adherence to the policy:
Source 1: Anthony Eden, speech to Parliament, February 1938.
"I do not believe that we can make progress in European appeasement if we allow the impression to gain currency abroad that we yield to constant pressure. I am certain in my own mind that progress depends above all on the temper of the nation, and that tmper must find expression in a firm spirit. This spirit I am confident is there. Not to give voice it is I believe fair neither to this country nor to the world."
Winston Churchill also advocated alternative policies:
Source 2: Winston Churchill, February 1938.
"A firm stand by France and Britain, under the authority of the League of Nations, would have been followed by the immediate evacuation of the Rhineland without the shedding of a drop of blood; and the effects of that might have enabled the more prudent elements of the German Army to gain their proper position, and would not have given to the political head of Germany the enormous ascendancy which has enabled him to move forward. Austria has now been laid in thrall, and we do not know whether Czechoslovakia will not suffer a similar attack."
Source 3: Henry Channon, Diary entry. May 1938
"This Government has never commanded my respect: I support it because the alternative would be infinitely worse. But our record, especially of late, is none too good. Halifax and Chamberlain are doubtless very great men, who dwarf their colleagues; they are the greatest Englishmen alive, certainly; but aside from them we have a mediocre crew; I fear that England is on the decline, and that we shall dwindle for a generation or so. We are a tired race and our genius seems dead."
Nor was the policy of Appeasement supported by the whole of Chamberlain's cabinet:
Source 4: Duff Cooper, First Lord of the Admiralty, writing in his memoirs about a Cabinet meeting to discuss the Sudetenland Crisis.
"It was then suggested that the Cabinet should adjourn, in order to give members time to read the terms and sleep on them, and that we should meet again the following morning. I protested against this. I said that from what the Prime Minister had told us it appeared to me that the Germans were still convinced that under no circumstances would we fight, that there still existed one method, and one method only, of persuading them to the contrary, and that was by instantly declaring full mobilisation. I said that I was sure popular opinion would eventually compel us to go to the assistance of the Czechs; that hitherto we had been faced with the unpleasant alternatives of peace with dishonour or war. I now saw a third possibility, namely war with dishonour, by which I meant being kicked into the war by the boot of public opinion when those for whom we were fighting had already been defeated. I pointed out that the Chiefs of Staff had reported on the previous day that immediate mobilisation was of urgent and vital importance, and I suggested that we might one day have to explain why we had disregarded their advice. This angered the Prime Minister. He said that I had omitted to say that this advice was given only on the assumption that there was a danger of war with Germany within the next few days. I said I thought it would be difficult to deny that such a danger existed."