Was there any justification for Britain and France’s policy of appeasement before World War II?

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In retrospect, it is easy to look at the British and French policy of appeasement as something that enabled Nazi Germany in the days before World War II. However, at the time, the inevitability of war was not clear to all. World War I was still fresh in the minds...

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In retrospect, it is easy to look at the British and French policy of appeasement as something that enabled Nazi Germany in the days before World War II. However, at the time, the inevitability of war was not clear to all. World War I was still fresh in the minds of many. Many policymakers saw appeasement as a way to foster peace and prevent another major outbreak of hostilities.

Also, many in France and Britain had come to the conclusion that the Treaty of Versailles was unduly harsh on Germany. By the 1930s, many believed that Germany should be allowed to rearm and take back historically German territory that it lost as a result of the treaty. With the worldwide economic depression in full swing, Germans were particularly suffering. To many French and British politicians, allowing Germany to violate tenets of the treaty seemed like a fair way to help them rebuild and make amends.

Furthermore, many were more concerned with the spread of communism than they were with the rise of fascism. They saw how socialist and communist forces had toppled Russia. Communist elements were spreading around Europe. Many feared that it could take hold in Germany, as well as in Great Britain and France. The Nazis were a powerful opponent of communist forces in Germany. There were many that felt that appeasing Hitler and the Nazis would help combat the spread of communism.

As the German military built up its strength, many favored appeasement as a stalling tactic. This was particularly the case among British and French military leaders. They saw how the Luftwaffe could outclass and overwhelm their air forces. The British and French could use the time they gained by appeasing the Nazis to build up their own forces—and to be more prepared when war inevitably began.

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