Churchill & Chamberlain II
Program InformationSeries: A Moment in Time
Year Produced: 2009
Faced with the growing power of Germany, Britain's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sought accommodation with the Nazis through the "policy of appeasement."
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Lead: Faced with the growing power of Germany, Britain's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sought accommodation with the Nazis through the "policy of appeasement."
Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.
Content: In hindsight "appeasement" usually stimulates thoughts of cowardly surrender to German demands, but at the time it was considered by many to be a reasonable response to legitimate grievances. The policy, which was wildly popular, actually began under Chamberlain's predecessor Stanley Baldwin. Britain stood aside when Italy attacked Ethiopia in August 1935. Baldwin, and Chamberlain after him, remembered the horror of the First World War and they were determined to avoid a repeat at all costs. Concerned that the British Empire lacked the resources to face down Japan, Italy, and Germany at the same time, they attempted to reach agreement with the strongest--the Nazi Regime of Adolf Hitler.
Such an approach failed. Hitler saw "appeasement" as weakness and quickly took advantage of Chamberlain's good will. Ethiopia, Spain, and Austria fell under Fascist control. When Hitler began to threaten Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain made three trips to Germany in September 1938. When he returned from Munich and climbed from the plane he said, "We regard the agreements signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again."
Within a year, the Second World War had begun and Chamberlain's policy of appeasement--so liberal, so optimistic--had foundered in the face of Germany's naked aggression.
Next time: Out of the Wilderness.
At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.