How did England and France, and the international community in general, initially deal with the threat of Hitler’s rise to power and his acts of defiance?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word that is most typically used to describe the way that the international community (and England and France in particular) dealt with the rise of Hitler is “appeasement.”  England and France did not want to fight another war.  Therefore, they let Hitler have what he wanted, hoping that he would be satisfied and would end his aggressive moves.  They were, of course, wrong.

France and England were devastated by World War I.  They lost tremendous numbers of young men to the war.  Their national economies were badly damaged.  They certainly had no desire ever to fight another war like that one and it is exceedingly difficult to blame them.

Therefore, when Hitler rose to power and when he began to defy international treaties, these two countries (and the international community in general) essentially decided to look the other way.  When Hitler did things he was not supposed to, they said something along the lines of “okay, you can do that, but then it’s time to stop.”  They hoped that Hitler would get all the things he wanted and would be content to settle down without causing a war.  When he rearmed Germany and took back control of the Rhineland, they told themselves it was reasonable for him to do those things and they looked the other way.  When he implemented the Anschluss, they reasoned that Austria was really practically a part of Germany and, besides, that was all Hitler wanted.  When he took the Sudetenland, they let him do so and later they gave him the rest of Czechoslovakia, hoping that this would satisfy Hitler and he would stop trying to expand.

Of course, this strategy did not work and the French and English were eventually forced to accept that they would have to go to war if they wanted to stop Hitler.  For this reason, the French and British policy of appeasement is seen as one of the major mistakes of history.