How and why was Germany allowed to annex Austria and the Sudtenland?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the 1930s, the countries that eventually made up the Axis Powers began to take land in Europe and in Asia. Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and China in 1937. Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. In 1936, Germany moved its military into the Rhineland. In 1938, Germany took over Austria and made known its desire to take over the Sudetenland.

Hitler believed that regions with German speaking people should be ruled by Germany. Thus, in 1938, Hitler moved into Austria and took over the country. This event was known as the Anschluss. Some of the Allied leaders believed that if Hitler got some land, he would be satisfied and then peace would occur. Some Allied leaders also were sympathetic with Hitler’s goal of uniting Germany speaking regions under the control of Germany. The Allied leaders were also concerned that any confrontation with Hitler could lead to the start of World War II, something the Allies were not prepared to tackle in the 1930s for various reasons. The Allies were in the midst of dealing with the Great Depression, and they had not yet recovered from the effects of World War I militarily, economically, and psychologically.

However, after Hitler built up his military, moved it into the Rhineland, and then took Austria, the Allied leaders in France and Great Britain became concerned when Hitler announced he wanted to annex the Sudetenland, a region in northwest Czechoslovakia where many German-speaking people lived. It appeared war might be avoided when the leaders of Great Britain and France, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, appeased Hitler by giving him the Sudetenland in return for a promise to take no more land. This agreement was known as the Munich Pact. Neville Chamberlain believed he saved the world from war and created what would be a lasting peace. Unfortunately, appeasement rarely works because a person gets what he or she demands without having to earn it. All Hitler had to do was a make a promise in order to get this land.

Appeasement failed in March 1939 when Hitler took over the rest of Czechoslovakia. The Allies responded by saying that any more aggression would lead to war. An ominous sign occurred when Germany signed a non-aggression agreement with the Soviet Union in late August 1939. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, it led to the start of World War II two days later. The Allied attempts to prevent World War II were not successful.