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In March 1939, Britain changed its policy

towards Germany. Why?




Summary

At Munich in 1938, Chamberlain had appeased Hitler by giving him the
Sudetenland areas of Czechoslovakia, but in March 1939, Chamberlain
promised to defend Poland if the Nazis invaded.

The main reason for this was because on 15 March 1939, Hitler had invaded
Czechoslovakia a non-German country. People realised that appeasement
had failed. They realised that Hitler wanted to rule the world, and would only
be stopped by war.

However, pressure had been building up for some time for Chamberlain to
change his policy.

During the months after Munich, more and more people in Britain came to
agree with Winston Churchill, who said that Britain should go to war with Hitler.
Chamberlain could not have gone to war in September 1938 people in
Britain had wanted peace but by March 1939, most people in Britain wanted
war.

Also, Kristallnacht in November 1939 had made people realise that Hitler was
evil. Fascists were growing in power and people realised that they had to be
stopped.

Finally, in 1938, Britain was not strong enough to go to war. By January 1939,
the navy had been strengthened, and production of planes had increased.
Chamberlain could change his policy in March 1939 because Britain had the
military capacity to go to war.

During 1938, Britain had followed a policy of appeasement with
misgivings. But when the Nazis engineered their protectorate over
Bohemia and Slovakia on 15 March 1939, Chamberlain promised to
defend Poland in the event of a Nazi invasion.

The main reason for this change in policy was what Chamberlain called
the shock to confidence. Chamberlain had been prepared to believe
Hitlers promise that he had no more demands for territory in Europe, but
Czechoslovakia proved that Hitler had lied. The British people realised
that appeasement had failed. They realised that Hitler could not trusted,
and that he would only be stopped by (threat of) war.

Also, the invasion of Czechoslovakia was important because it was the
first time that Hitler had taken over a non-Germanic people. Before 1939,
many people in Britain had sympathised with Hitlers aim for German
unity the Treaty of Versailles gave self-determination to every other
country, why not Germany? They had hoped that German had just
wanted to be secure and united. But March 1939 made it clear that
Hitlers demands for lebensraum and world domination in Mein Kampf
were not just talk. The British realised that they were faced with someone
who would take over the world unless he was stopped, by force if
necessary.

However, the change in British policy did not happen suddenly, in March
1939. Pressure had been building up for some time for Chamberlain to
change his policy. The Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia was the trigger,
rather than the whole cause, for the British change in policy.

Even in September 1938, there had been people in Britain who said
appeasement was wrong. Duff Cooper, Lord of the Admiralty resigned
over Munich, and in October 1938, at the Oxford by-election, three
future Conservative Prime Ministers (Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan
and Edward Heath) campaigned against the Conservative candidate
Quentin Hogg, saying that a vote for Hogg is a vote for Hitler. During
the months after Munich, more and more people in Britain came to
agree with them. Chamberlain could not have gone to war in
September 1938 too many people in Britain had wanted peace but
by March 1939, most people in Britain agreed that there would have to
be a war, and he was able to promise to defend Poland.

Also, Kristallnacht in November 1939 had made people realise that, not
only did the Nazi regime want world domination, but that it was an evil
regime. Many Christians in Britain came to believe that God wanted
them to fight against Hitler. Fascists were growing in power and people
realised that they had to be stopped in February 1939, when Franco
came to power in Spain, MPs shouted Heil Chamberlain in the House of
Commons. Britain could threaten war in March 1939, because
Kristallnacht had given them the moral justification to stand up to Hitler.

Finally, at Munich, Britain had not been strong enough to go to war it is
arguable that Chamberlain was just buying time for Britain to rearm. In
January 1939, the navy had been strengthened and production of
planes had been increased; in February, defence spending was
increased to 580 million and free air-raid shelters were given to million
Londoners. Chamberlain was able to change his policy in March 1939
because Britain had the military capacity to go to war.