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How far do you agree with this judgement

When Hitler sent the German army to invade Poland on September 1st 1939 he had pushed his luck just one step too far. This advance on Poland was what caused Britain’s and France’s tolerance to snap, a tolerance that Germany had been stretching and antagonising for some years already. To simply say that Germany’s attack on Poland was the reason for declaring war would be extremely foolish. Such a cataclysmic decision like this was rather the result of years experiencing immense threat and repeated broken promises from Hitler not to mention the genuine attempt to appease him in order to avert war. There were those politicians like Churchill who had been calling for war against Hitler ever since he became Chancellor in January 1933 and even less extreme politicians such as Ernest Bevin, Labour MP, who said as early as in March 1937 that “From the day Hitler came to power, I have felt that the democratic countries would have to face war.” As historians looking back with hindsight we could even say that from the moment the Allies signed the Treaty of Versailles in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, Europe was on a 20 year crash course towards another major scale war. The tide did improve in the 1920’s and by 1929 one could have been quite certain never to see a world war in their life time again, however events in the early 1930’s meant that the economic and international situation took a turn for the worst and it was downhill until war erupted in September 1939.Come September 1939, Chamberlain was at his wits end and was sick of trying to continually appease Hitler without seemingly getting anywhere. He personally had been rigorously Appeasing Hitler since he came to office in May 1937 and before him Stanley Baldwin had taken the same line since 1935. Chamberlain went to great lengths in this quest and took the bold move that no other British Prime Minister had done before to fly out at last minute notice to meet with Hitler, first at Berchtesgaden then at Bad Godesberg and finally at the infamous Munich Conference. On returning from Munich Chamberlain famously waved the piece of paper and proclaimed ‘peace in our time’ and although he was somewhat sceptical of Hitler’s promise he definitely hoped that war was going to be averted.When Germany then violated the agreement at Munich and overtook the whole of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Britain were no longer going to placidly allow Hitler proceed and when the explicit threat on Poland surfaced Britain guaranteed war for any German invasion. The capture of the rest of Czechoslovakia clearly highlighted that Hitler’s aims were not merely limited to the reclaiming of German territory lost in the Treaty of Versailles or the self determination for German speaking people but rather his eyes were set on European and world domination. Hitler’s word had come to mean nothing and hence negotiations with him thereafter were deemed useless and it was this lack of trusting Hitler that brought an abrupt end to the policy of Appeasement. Still, Hitler’s untrustworthiness was not a sufficient excuse to go to war and other important factors influenced Britain’s decision to declare war on Germany in September 1939.Britain was finally ready for fighting a war. For the first time since they started to disarm post WW1, Britain had a reasonable military capability and now was able to commit itself to fighting Germany. The army was by no means at its full strength and the first three years of the war were spent expanding and reinforcing the army. Britain had strongly advocated disarmament right through the 1920’s and much of the 1930’s and it was only when Chamberlain became PM in 1937 and foresaw the possibility of war on the near horizon did he start to genuinely rearm the country to be ready for a war. Even though Britain ideologically would have taken Germany to war over the Sudetenland crises, they were forced to appease rather than fight due to their military incapability. Chamberlain was cornered and took last ditch action to fly out and meet with Hitler and fellow European leaders in Munich. Once the war started Chamberlain admitted that at the time he knew that war was a certainty but what he achieved at Munich was to buy Britain an extra year to rearm itself. Now that Britain was ready to fight it was a culmination of a number of events in 1939 that eventually led to the brake out war on 1st September.Following the demise of Czechoslovakia, as we have discussed above, where Britain forsook it and Chamberlain handed it to Hitler without even consulting President Benes himself, feelings of ‘never again’ were aroused. So it was when Hitler issued an ultimatum on Memel which put the Polish Corridor and the city of Danzig under threat, Britain made a guarantee to Poland that if they were the victim of an unprovoked attack Britain would come to her aid. Even though after German troops entered Poland on August 31st Hitler offered Britain an extraordinary agreement in order to avert war, this time Britain was not interested in appeasing him and they stood firm in their promise to Poland.This is what really triggered the war but a month earlier Britain could have seen it coming their way all the same. During August of that year Stalin had been engaging the Nazi government in negotiations and on the 23rd of the month the Soviet -Pact was signed. It came as an extreme surprise to the international community as Stalin and Hitler stood at opposing ends of the political spectrum. In was obviously not an alliance to die for one another but rather an agreement to carve up Poland between them and for Stalin’s sake the knowledge that Hitler was not going to attack him first. Until this point Hitler’s territorial interests had been in Eastern Europe which he saw as coming under the Nazi sphere of influence but now he did a complete U-turn and suddenly it was apparent that when war broke out he would now advance westwards. Britain now had to be wary of Nazism turning up on their doorstep with the whole of Europe engulfed in it and if they did not take preventative measures now it would be forsaken later down the line. If there ever was a right time to fight, it was now.Finally, Britain could only go to war if there was full public support for such action. The British people had been passionately anti-war for many years since the First World War which was dubbed ‘the war to end all wars.’ The horrific loss and tragedy which befell Europe was to never be repeated and faith was put into diplomatic solutions and negotiated settlements. However, even these strong feeling were uprooted in the dying inter-war years and British public opinion swayed after the Sudeten crises. A poll taken in 1935 showed that 92.5% of Britons asked, were in favour of an all round reduction in armaments however in June 1939, 84% answered yes to a poll asking whether they would like to see a military alliance between the Allies in order to fight Germany.In conclusion, although Germany’s attack on Poland in September 1939 was the immediate trigger to World War Two it was by no means the cause or reason that Britain promptly declared war on Germany. This attack on Poland merely signified the appropriate and opportune time for Britain to retaliate towards a country that had been dangling war before the British eyes for some time already. It was only then in September 1939 did all the many other factors fall into place and the country was ready to fight. Military incapability up to this point as well as the strong desire to avoid conflict and rectify the situation through appeasement had been some of the reasons why it took up to this point for war to erupt. The fed-up feeling of being lied to by Hitler time and time again over the previous four years and a swing in public opinion in support of war meant that now Britain was finally ready to fight. Poland was just a good excuse.

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