Explain the aftermath of WWI for Britain and the United States.
Following World War One, few European countries were prepared to fight another major war. Britain was still recovering economically, and like the rest of the world was in the midst of a depression. The Americans were insisting on maintaining their policy of isolationism, eliminating any chance of loans to the British. Furthermore, Britain had not yet recovered her losses of both men and arms from the First World War, so Chamberlain (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), was hesitant to take part in a war unless he was forced to do so.
Treaty of Versailles
2. Explain how the Treaty of Versailles impacted Germany after WWI.
3. After some time, explain why many citizens of Britain had sympathy for Germany. The peace treaty created in 1918 also played a major role in Chamberlain’s decision to follow the policy of appeasement. Germany was forced to accept the Treaty of Versailles at the conclusion of World War One, but its terms were harsh. Not only did the Germans have to pay major reparations, particularly to France, for damage caused during the war, they also had to give up their overseas territories, disarm, and limit troop numbers in both the army and the navy.
Once it became clear to the people of Britain how much the Germans were struggling because of these terms, their feelings of guilt began to grow, and a strong desire to befriend Germany became popular sentiment. Therefore, when Hitler began expanding German borders and rebuilding his military, few British citizens were opposed. In fact, most felt that these were measures that they would want their own government to take.
4. Explain the predicament that Britain was in regarding its allies. Chamberlain maintained his policy of appeasement on practical grounds as well. He knew that he could not rely on the United States to join any war effort, and that two of Britain’s former allies – Russia and Italy – were now allied with Germany. It seemed unlikely that Britain and France (the only ally on which Chamberlain knew he could count) would be able to stand up to the combined forces of their enemies. Therefore, Chamberlain followed his policy of appeasement in the hopes of preventing a war at least until he knew who his allies were and how much they would be able to help.
5. Explain how Hitler was able to take advantage of Chamberlain. Hitler’s skill as a politician also had much to do with Chamberlain’s decision to cede to his demands. Hitler went to great lengths to convince Chamberlain that he was an honest, trustworthy, good person. For instance, upon first learning that Chamberlain wanted to meet with him in Germany in September of 1938, Hitler supposedly exclaimed that he could not let a man of Chamberlain’s age travel so far, but that he himself must instead go to London before realizing that this would not have been possible. It was this sort of story that convinced Chamberlain that Hitler was a reasonable man with reasonable aims, and that he could trust Hitler’s word.
Unfortunately, there was no way for Chamberlain to know that appeasement would not prevent a war. In the end, in fact, it spurred Hitler on and helped lead to the outbreak of hostilities. At least it is now clear, though, that Chamberlain was taking the actions that made sense to him at the time provided the information available to him.
Terms & People Defined:
Appeasement:in a political context is a diplomatic policy of making political or material concessions to an enemy power in order to avoid conflict
Neville Chamberlain:Prime Minister of the United Kingdom/ Great Britain, 1937-1940
Adolf Hitler:Chancellor/ leader of Germany, 1933 -1945