Appeasement: The lessons of history


Film buffs familiar with the works of Mel Brooks probably know “To Be or Not to Be,” where he did an amusing impersonation of Adolf Hitler and launched into a musical number that went: “I don’t want war, all I want is peace… A little piece of Poland, a little piece of France, a little piece of Austria, and a piece of…”

This classic piece of parody with the play on “peace” and “piece” somehow conveys how the policy of appeasement adopted by Europe’s leaders led to World War II. Before the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Hitler engaged in a series of moves that must have been his version of a litmus test. In 1933, he withdrew Germany from the League of Nations, then in 1935 reintroduced conscription, increased arms production and expanded the German army to half a million in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. No European leader took action.

Hitler then upped the ante by sending soldiers into the demilitarized zone of Rhineland in 1936 — considered an act of hostility under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and a repudiation of the 1925 Treaty of Locarno. Definitely, the French were aghast to find three battalions of German soldiers on their border and condemned the action, but were unwilling to go into war without the help of Britain – whose government replied that the Germans were merely going into their own backyard.


Read more: