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 (1939-1945) WWII Battles    
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BWilson

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Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 3:47:11 AM
 Historiography of the Second World War has IMO certain tendencies. One of these is the scorn given Chamberlain during his time as PM, particularly for the "peace in our time" comment. Another tendency is that the way the works of history are written tend to gloss over the fact that Chamberlain only became the PM at the end of May 1937. Seen in hindsight, Chamberlain had two and one-quarter years to work with before the war started.

 Two questions. How much, realistically, could Chamberlain have done in 2.25 years to reverse the effects of two decades of previous policy ?

 And, why is it that the name "Stanley Baldwin" seems to come up so sparsely in popular memory when these issues are discussed ? Compared to Chamberlain, Baldwin is (at least in the USA), practically unknown. And yet, he was the PM during three different instances (almost seven in years in office in total) during the inter-war period -- a PM who pushed the idea of pacifism and notions of disarmament enthusiastically. He was also the PM for two years preceding Chamberlain.

 IMO, Chamberlain engaged in wishful thinking when it came to Hitler's regime. Probably, he could have done more. That said, the popular view that he was the one responsible for Great Britain's military state of readiness in 1939 seems off-base -- a too simple answer to the question of who was responsible. Was Chamberlain the Fall Guy ?

Image: Stanley Baldwin (photo: Library of Congress)


Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

George
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 7:11:02 AM
Hello BW,

There was an article in the National Review that compared the policies of Pres. Obama to Stanley Baldwin. It is William Buckley's Conservative horn so you may surmise that the piece is critical of both men.

[Read More]


But to your points, I do believe that Chamberlain was the fall guy. For the 20 year period between the wars, the UK was in recovery mode and doing everything that it could to ensure that it was not drawn into another conflict on the continent.

I think that we can understand the policies of the UK and how appeasement became part of it.

1. Britain was in bad shape economically post war. They were in debt, heavily. They had lost a generation of men and I am sympathetic to the view of the people that the next war would be cataclysmic. So the peace movement was strong and Baldwin was a supporter.

2. There was a feeling that grew that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were too harsh, that Germany had some legitimate complaints.
Even as Hitler seized the Rhineland and Sudetenland there was a view that he was just correcting the problems that the treaty had created.

3. Failure of the League of Nations. This was Woodrow Wilson's greatest defeat I feel. His failure to get Congress to approve the Treaty of Versailles meant that the US would pursue an isolationist policy. Given that the US had emerged as a super power after the war, this isolationism and rejection of Europe may have given a man like Hitler a window of opportunity.

No blame attached to the US. It can hardly be considered the single reason that Hitler rose to power but the lack of US engagement is a factor, I believe.

I just finished watching the PBS special on the US in the Great War and one of the historians had commented that if the US had been a driving force within the League of Nations, that that would have made a difference to developments in Germany and in Europe. Speculation of course.

4. A prosperous and healthy Germany would be good for British business.

5. The depression of the '30's put a great deal of stress on the government of GB to provide social services. This put a strain on the budget.
Baldwin was a Conservative but he found himself building a social safety net and the responsibilities to complete that task were expensive.

6. There was unrest among labour and veterans who expected more after their sacrifices. I would say that there was a greater fear of communism than of disturbing developments in Germany.
So even as Baldwin established some social services, he was also busy trying to destroy the labour movement.
He was dealing with domestic issues and the concern was that these socialist activists would destroy the country.

7. There was actually some admiration for Hitler among British leaders. I recall that Canada's PM W.L.M. King visited Germany and was impressed with the man.

8. Despite some improvements to military capacity under Baldwin, GB was in no position to fight a war in 1938/39. I think that Chamberlain unwittingly, bought the British some time to rebuild the military, especially the RAF.

9. Very few allies. The British analysis was that they had few effective allies should war erupt. The French were not considered reliable nor as capable as they were prior to the first war.

Britain could normally rely on the automatic participation of the Dominions to provide back up but in the post war period, the Dominions were demanding greater autonomy and had informed GB that they would decide if they would participate and to what extent. It is no coincidence then that the Dominions, attained the right to determine foreign policy in 1937.

Preservation of the Empire was still a goal in GB and cracks had been forming.


So I can understand why a policy of appeasement was preferable to war.

Cheers,

George


George
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 7:24:50 AM
I was just thinking that it was Baldwin, over the objections of Liberals and Labour politicians, who started building up the military again starting in 1934.

But I don't know how extensive those reforms were or how capable the British forces would have been had war not broken out in 1939.

Did Chamberlain approve of these defence measures and was he cognizant of the fact that they were not fully completed?

So it seems that Britain was trying to prepare for war and Baldwin approved of those preparations.


Also I think that we should note that Stanley Baldwin was involved in his own bit of appeasement as Mussolini was allowed to colonize parts of Abyssinia with the signing of the Hoar-Laval Pact. This was an agreement put forth by the French and the British to allow Mussolini to become an imperial power.

We recall that the Italians had been miffed since the Treaty of Versailles because they felt that they had not received sufficient spoils after their efforts to support the allied cause.

BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 11:20:41 AM
 It seems to me to be one of the "tales" of history that has been simplified to make a point about appeasement when used around the likes of Hitler. I have wondered over the years how pertinent the lesson is to everyday global affairs. It was not a unique situation in that there is still plenty of aggression between nations, it is just that most of them have very little capability to project force far beyond their borders. But characters like Hitler are not that plentiful in that he combined a murderous charisma with absolute control over a modern, well-armed country with a substantial military tradition.

 That said, Baldwin's legacy was not kindly regarded after Dunkirk in 1940; apparently, he took a lot of contemporary criticism from British sources. What is mildly interesting is that the historical record mentions him but that Chamberlain takes the brunt of popular contempt for perceived* failures to stop Hitler.

*"Perceived" because I personally believe nothing short of an aggressive war by the Allies, very early on, would have "stopped" Hitler.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

George
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 11:36:39 AM
Hello BW,

Does that aggressive war also include intervention by the US right from the end of the Great War? Perhaps not militarily but by showing an interest in foreign affairs as Wilson had envisioned.

I think that Wilson's failure to create the conditions in which a new world order would rise actually broke the man. But he misread the mood of his nation.

I have been told that the US was in no shape to fight a war in 1939 but I do wonder whether a less isolationist policy in the interwar period would have given Hitler and Mussolini and perhaps Franco, cause to pause.

Baldwin was an isolationist too wasn't he? He was a protectionist who despised free trade much against the wishes of his fellow Conservatives.


George




Phil andrade
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 2:10:19 PM
Chamberlain has, I think, been shabbily treated by history.

" Peace in our time ".

Those words have damned him.

He didn't win the peace ; but did he buy the time ? A tremendous surge of expenditure on British re-armament after Munich testifies to a degree of resolve on his part.

He had been an excellent Chancellor, bringing in social reform and protecting Britain from the worst effects of the Depression....although I wish to acknowledge how bad it was in certain areas of the UK.

He was a patriot and recoiled from the prospect of war. Memories of 1914-18 tormented him, along with millions of others.

But when he knew that war was bound to come, he put himself heart and soul into the business.

I am no apologist for Munich...but I think Neville has taken more than his fair share of opprobrium on its account.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 2:24:17 PM
Does that aggressive war also include intervention by the US right from the end of the Great War?

 Not as I meant what I wrote. At any rate, Hitler wasn't present as a German politician from November 1918 forward. And by aggressive war, I mean one started by the Allies with the object of overrunning Germany, removing Hitler from power, and disbanding the NSDAP. You know, the kind of thing the Nazis did to enemy countries once the war broke out.

 I doubt very much that increased U.S. interest in foreign affairs would have stopped the rise of Hitler. That was a product of the German political stew that cooked in the wake of the first war. That idea sounds a lot like thinking generated post-1945 in hindsight: "If only!" It ignores that Hitler was a force unto himself, and that he, and those who supported him, could have only been stopped with overwhelming force applied early on. This gets back to my "fall guy" question. It is very convenient to tar Chamberlain with the brush of guilt, but in doing so, a mass of relevant detail gets ignored and as time goes on, the "lesson" is increasingly easy to misunderstand and improperly apply.

 "right from the end of the Great War" -- I believe you have neglected the presence of an American Army of Occupation in parts of Germany that was present into 1923. Not all the Doughboys went home right away.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

George
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 3:23:47 PM
I wasn't referring to military action. BTW the 1st and 2nd div of the Canadian Corps also occupied Germany and weren't too happy about it. They wanted to go home.

I was talking about the influence that Wilson intended that the US could have had. That is partly why he went to war. He wanted to have a full say in the peace.

But if the US was isolationist and so was Great Britain, what chance was there to put a stop to Hitler and Mussolini.

I concur that Chamberlain has taken far too much abuse because of Britain's appeasement policy which is spat out pejoratively.


But Baldwin is an interesting fellow. Isolationist and pacifist, he could still see the need to beef up the British military.

I hope that someone can enlighten me as to the extent of the increases to military expenditures under Baldwin's rule and an assessment of whether he was on the right track but just ran out of time.

Churchill was critical of any of the PM's who didn't spend enough on rearmament so I am going to assume that whatever was being spent was not enough.

In 1933 when Hitler stepped up his rearmament programmes, Britain examined the status of its military. It took 8 months to approve 750 million pounds to be spent over 5 years, to improve defences. That would have been on Baldwin's watch I think.

Opposition parties didn't want to spend a penny more and they were willing to let the Empire go too.

So it looks as though Baldwin kicked in too little money, and too late.

Churchill was especially concerned that the RAF was not up to snuff. Baldwin assured all that they would match the Luftwaffe but he didn't authorize funds in greater amounts to the RAF.

Did Chamberlain step up support for the military after 1937 or was he content to support Baldwin's measures?

RuudSp

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 4:15:00 PM

Quote:
He didn't win the peace ; but did he buy the time ?

We'll never know, for a simple reason. If Chamberlain had decided not to sign the München agreement but had supported Czechoslovakia instead we only can speculate how Hitler would have reacted. He had backed down in 1935 - but would he have again?

Some other culprits are often ignored: especially Edouard Daladier and Maurice Gamelin, who had made the French army incapable of offensive actions. See the Saar Offensive a year later.

Phil andrade
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 5:22:49 PM
Speculation on my part here : not backed up by much knowledge....but I get the impression that Hitler would have backed down in 1938 ; and the Czechoslovakians were ready, willing and able to make a good account of themselves in battle.

It feels like a terrible failure ; almost disgraceful that Munich gave Hitler what he wanted. I imagine that Adolf himself was astonished. Mussolini's reputation was much enhanced by the role he played in brokering this deal.

So I can understand why Chamberlain has been traduced ; but I feel sorry for him, and reckon he was a man hard done by in the folklore and the historical narrative.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

scoucer
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 6:43:17 PM
Just to add to the pot - there was a plot to overthrow Hitler within the Wehrmacht leadership should Hitler have gone to war in 1938.

Trevor
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Michigan Dave
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 7:08:11 PM
You tell em Neville!

[Read More]
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brian grafton
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/14/2017 8:13:29 PM
Take your pick, Bill. I believe Chamberlain has to carry the can for his weaknesses, and – however fairly – he was saddled with mistaken values and errant policies, of which "appeasement" is the most noted. Had Baldwin still been active until May 1940, he would have carried a similar can. Different words, different opprobrium, but a similar assessment in the long run.

IMHO, we can either talk about Chamberlain or we can talk about the massive failure of both the Commons and the Lords to recognize the complexities of both the nations and the world they claimed to govern. Chamberlain had his personal weaknesses and quirks, but he also represented a government attitude running from 1919 to May 10, 1940.

"Peace" was a worthy goal; "appeasement" was a failed policy. "Appeasement" was seen as "peace at any price", and came to be seen as a negative concept. Yet the Peace Pledge movement had a huge following into the very late 1930s. I don't think "appeasement" got a bad rep because of Munich. There was for many a bad smell in the air with that damned piece of paper and the "peace in our time" schtick. After all, folks could smell the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia behind the claims of peace. But until early 1939, when the Czech nation disappeared and the Slovakian rump was absorbed, an agreement with the Nazis had not so clearly led to the death of a proud nation. Munich wasn't the issue: the failure of Munich was the issue. Chamberlain knew that, but his name was too tied to Munich to save him. To be honest, the long knives came out for Chamberlain in the weeks after the absorption of the Czechs into the Reich.

A Prime Minister is a glorious being, of course, but he is very seldom able to do more than guide the political direction of a country. Much of the rest is controlled by groups created by civil servants whose function is to maintain certain realities despite any political fluctuation. A case in point might be the "Ten Year Rule", introduced in 1919. It must have appeared to be a sensible planning tool in 1919. This determined funding and support for the military based on ten-year projections of need.

Sadly, the UK was bankrupt in 1919. So over the next two decades the concept of "peace at any price" became a Treasury issue as well as a social/moral initiative. There weren't really funds to prepare for war. The "Ten Year Rule" was manipulated, twisted, mis-interpreted and falsified for largely financial reasons, and Army, RN and RAF suffered because of it. And that continued until early 1939. There were, clearly, requirements for new weapons and aircraft and naval vessels. But some of those reflected numerical counts for financial commitment: I'm still looking for a justification under the "Ten Year Rule" for the Fairey "Battle" that doesn't suggest the creation of a bomber at the cost of a fighter.

Chamberlain probably had more to do with the "Ten Year Rule" as Chancellor than as PM. But his name appears on the price-tag.

I'm not a Chamberlain fan, of course. I think he was not a leader but a reflector: he was doing what he thought his nation wanted. Part of the problem is that there was an incredibly huge disconnect between Commons and people, beginning with the the still-birth of "a home for heroes" and going forward from there. Britain was, IMHO, once again "two nations", based on geographical location as much as political propensity. This was not the way to develop links between classes, but most Members of the Commons were more concerned with maintaining the norm than advancing the poor.

Okay. Gotta stop. Heading off on my "between the wars" hobby horse. May I just say that "Appeasement" was not an issue but a descriptor. That peace was not just a moral/political desire but a financial necessity. And that while WSC took the reins once Chamberlain was removed. Chamberlain was, of course made to carry the can for Norway, though in truth it was Churchill's concept. Churchill never denied that fact, but he was ready to show Chamberlain the door because he believed he was better.

Cheers, and thanks for letting me run off a the mouth,
Brian G
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BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 5:45:42 AM
Brian,

 A fair comment that notes Chamberlain was the Chancellor as well. Still, "popular history" has amnesia regarding Baldwin (and R. MacDonald) when it comes to the blame game.

Ruud,

 Certainly, France made its own mistakes regarding prewar military expenditures and especially when it came to doctrine. Considering France in "popular history" 's look at these events, the French hardly rate in prewar considerations other than to berate them for building the Maginot Line. I am confident most Americans would be at a loss to name interwar French leaders ... more of the collective amnesia that reinforces those notions that are chosen to be remembered.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 6:01:31 AM
I wasn't referring to military action. BTW the 1st and 2nd div of the Canadian Corps also occupied Germany and weren't too happy about it. They wanted to go home.

I was talking about the influence that Wilson intended that the US could have had.


 But that misses the point that the U.S. and Canadian troops were not there as a desire of the military establishments. They were present as instruments of force to support the international positions of the U.S. and Canada.

 I think ideas about Wilson's postwar influence are exaggerated -- perhaps thinking post-1945 has inflated expectations of what could have been done. The key IMO was that Great Britain and France were still functioning, if damaged, great powers with empires, and, being on or close to the continent, were bound to have a far greater say than the United States, especially as time went on. The United States was -not- a superpower in 1918 and not enough of a world power to dominate events in Europe. Any attempt at that in the interwar years would have certainly been opposed by Great Britain and France. The only reason that U.S. presence in Europe kept the peace after the Second World War is that the other Western powers were so battered that they were willing to accept a subordinate role. That arrangement would have hardly functioned in 1918; after all, the French came out of the war having provided the supreme Allied commander of that war.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

George
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 7:23:41 AM
Hello BW,

Is it your contention that Britain and France were in a position to challenge Hitler militarily after 1933?

I have read that Hitler would have retreated from his position had he been challenged in some way.

If so, then it was the political will to go back on a war footing that was lacking. There had been too much killing since 1914.

My belief is that the Great War with its casualty rate being so high, caused great psychological trauma on a national scale in all of the allied countries.

Perhaps the US was less traumatized but was still shocked by the number of casualties taken in the few months and battles in which its army was engaged.

Pacifism and disengagement, at least in Britain was popular and the government knew that.

There are parallels to similar pacifist and isolationist developments in the US.

Combine that with labour and socialist demands to improve the lives of Britons and I can appreciate that the will to exert influence over events on the continent was not only weak but perhaps impossible. The British PM's, Ramsay MacDonald, Baldwin, and Chamberlain understood the fragile state of their country, economically and psychologically and governed accordingly.

They may not have noticed given the domestic problems but the "Empire" was showing cracks. Full independence was the desire in the Dominions.
The Indians were making noise as well.

In 1922, David Lloyd George faced a crisis in Turkey at Chanak. Turkish troops threatened British forces. Lloyd George sent a telegram to the Dominions to tell them that Dominion troops would be needed. Australia and Canada declined though Canadian PM dithered, saying that Canadian Parliament would decide. Fortunately for him, the crisis disappeared but King was determined that Canada would go it's own way and would decide when and to what extent it would go to war.
In 1926, the Balfour Report was released which acknowledged the constitutional equality of the Dominions with the mother country.


Quote:
“They are autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.”


In 1931, the Statute of Westminster gave legal substance to the Balfour Report and granted full legal freedom to the Dominions including in areas of foreign policy.

I offer this timeline only to indicate that the great Empire was showing signs of wear immediately after WW1 and not WW2. The existence of Empire was not myth but somewhat chimeric in that the members of this Commonwealth were exerting their independence. The Empire was an idea and not enforceable without the co-operation of the member states. And Britain did not ever have the number of troops that it needed to exert control over every square inch of this far flung Empire. It was the RN that gave GB the authority with the threat that troops could come if needed.

Now having said that, there was still strong allegiance to the crown in the English speaking Dominions so long as that was by choice.


Regarding US influence:

At the end of the war, Wilson arrived in Paris like the second coming. He was more popular here than at home.

The people of the allied nations had embraced his 14 points and I think that had the US Congress accepted the Treaty of Versailles that perhaps America would have had a greater influence in creating a new world order. The leaders of those nations were perhaps less enamoured with Wilson's view of the world.

But I must temper my perhaps naive view of the potential for US influence with the knowledge that Britain and especially France were determined to take their pound of flesh out of Germany. And I understand why they would want to do so. They were the victors and blamed Germany for all of the chaos that ensued.

So if Wilson had anything concrete planned that would have allowed Germany to rise as a peaceful nation in the world community and would have allowed the allies to recover, those plans were scuppered as the allies were determined that Germany would never rise again to military prominence.

So much for that.


Cheers,

George


BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 8:45:47 AM
Is it your contention that Britain and France were in a position to challenge Hitler militarily after 1933?

I have read that Hitler would have retreated from his position had he been challenged in some way.


George,

 To your question, I don't know. I think they are the only powers that may have conceivably been able to do so. That said, another aspect of the popular view is that the French could have just marched right in and put an end to it all -- a notion I reject. Beyond issues of national will, the French military would have been severely challenged to mount an offensive just to the area of Mainz -- and I think it fantasy to imagine they could have just rolled all the way to Berlin. What is interesting in this instance of the popular view is that this view was encouraged by the postwar statements of German generals -- who were very given to telling their Allied captors that "if only you had pushed hard at this time in this place, the Reich would have collapsed!" Those kind of statements were made again and again, but the historical record when Germany's borders were actually breached indicates that no swift collapse would have followed a limited push by the French. And again, I believe the French were in no position to make anything more than a limited push.

 It could have presented a different sort of mess. An enraged, morally outraged Germany mobilizing swiftly to eject the invaders and then punish them in their own lands -- except in this variant, the Germans have plenty of international support as it could have easily been perceived that the Germans were justifiably punishing a France bent upon waging aggressive war against Germany. Not exactly a "win" for the West, either.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

Phil andrade
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 10:49:02 AM
Those British politicians and commentators who advocated appeasement tended to be men who had not seen front line service 1914-18.

Neville Chamberlain and John Maynard Keynes, for example.

Anthony Eden, Harold MacMillan and Winston Churchill had experienced combat at first hand, and were opposers of the policy .

The view that the Versailles Peace Treaty had been excessively harsh was also espoused by Keynes and the cloistered academics of British high society.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 11:02:18 AM
Phil,

 Seen as a progression, the Versailles Treaty was also a predictable "next step" given the terms imposed upon France by Prussia during the Franco-Prussian War. Not to mention that the peace treaty Germany planned to impose upon the Allies had the Germans won was also punitive. I have come to believe that the notion of "the peace treaty too harsh" has been given too much license in regards to "excusing" the emergence of Hitler and the start of the Second World War.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

John R. Price
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 11:10:49 AM
BW,

Perceived" because I personally believe nothing short of an aggressive war by the Allies, very early on, would have "stopped" Hitler.

Maybe the German opposition, specifically the group in the military leadership, acts to stop Hitler if Chamberlain stands strong at Munich.
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BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 11:32:36 AM
John,

 Perhaps. The German resistance might have acted more effectively than they did in 1944; but then again, maybe not. I think a telling indicator of the "had the Allies only taken strong action" projections is that these projections never consider if such intervention could have gone wrong and how -- there is always an unspoken assumption that Hitler's regime would have fallen. Honestly, given the sorry state of Allied military performance once the war started, it is not hard for me to believe that intervention could have gone wrong, and in the end, only lent propaganda support to Germany striking back.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

George
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 11:57:17 AM

Quote:
BW,

Perceived" because I personally believe nothing short of an aggressive war by the Allies, very early on, would have "stopped" Hitler.

Maybe the German opposition, specifically the group in the military leadership, acts to stop Hitler if Chamberlain stands strong at Munich.
--John R. Price


Maybe John. But which countries were willing and able to create a coalition? Who could carry the fight into Germany?

Which countries do we see forming a coalition in 1937/38?

I don't think that there was a political will for the more capable European countries to ally.

Britain, France and Italy did express formal concern to Germany that it was violating the terms of Versailles but that was the extent of it and Hitler wasn't shaking in his boots because of it.

Was France sufficiently militarily capable to take on the Germans and invade German soil? I don't think so. Besides they were committed to a defensive strategy that emphasized the series of forts on the Maginot Line. They were determined that they would stop any invader at this line.

The Brits? Their economy was in trouble at the end of the Great War. They owed a great deal of money to the US. And then the depression hit.

They were still in recovery from the depression and there was no will to get into another war, 20 years after a war that had cost them over 700,000 killed. Add in another 250,000 killed from the Commonwealth countries. So nearly one million killed. Over 2 1/4 million wounded.

Those numbers astound me and it was worse for the French.

I think that any country that had experienced such slaughter would have been reluctant to resume the same conflict and would seek a means to avoid war.




I think that putting it on the shoulders of Neville Chamberlain is a bit unfair given the lack of support for war in GB and the domestic issues that they were dealing with.

We should ask whether Britain alone had sufficient military assets to make war with Germany in 1933, when Hitler began to massively expand Germany's military.

Germany had been violating some of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles even in the 1920's. Their training programmes were a violation.

Perhaps that was the time to intervene, earlier on. But by that time, some Britons had had a change of heart about the terms of Versailles. They thought that perhaps the terms imposed had been a bit too harsh.

I think that Chamberlain bought the British and the allies a little time to expand military capacity.

Cheers,

George

BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 12:21:17 PM
and Hitler wasn't shaking in his boots because of it.

George,

 I agree, and would add that Hitler was only the "tip of the German iceberg". Consider: As an evasion of the Versailles restrictions, Germany organized "state police forces" (not the GeStaPo) that were based in barracks and which were trained, among other things, as light infantry -- complete with machine guns, mortars, etc. Part of the rapid expansion of the Wehrmacht was the incorporation of these "policemen" (the bulk of them veterans of the First World War) into the armed forces. That wasn't all Hitler's doing -- it was part of a systematic evasion, to an extent that was possible, of the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty, and this evasion was considered normal and acceptable by very many people in Germany's government and military. To summarize, the return to military readiness in Germany was hardly solely a product of Hitler or the Nazis.

Cheers

BW
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With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 12:47:27 PM
but I feel sorry for him, and reckon he was a man hard done by in the folklore and the historical narrative.

Phil,

 Perhaps the wrong political personality for the times. You've been making some astute observations in this thread.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

John R. Price
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 1:49:35 PM
BW,

But the Allied military wouldn't have had to perform only stand strong and threaten military intervention. The majority of German people did not want war. He campaigned in the late 20's and early 30's as a man of peace who was going to achieve things without war and his popularity up to Sept of 39 was tied to the fact that he had achieved without war.

I think the military Resistance of 38 and 44 are two different animals and certain Hitler's security isn't anywhere near as strong although that isn't exactly word I'm looking for. A larger number of the senior leadership is involved in 38 plus the war hasn't started and the SS is but a shadow of what it would become and the "bodyguard" isn't anywhere near as large as it will become. Remember after Munich Hitler basically does a house cleaning of the senior Army leadership some theorize because he was tipped off at Munich that there were plots against him.
---------------
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"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 2:15:53 PM
John,

 I suppose we are of two minds here. We have been "informed" that the German military of 1938 -might- have moved against Hitler had the Allies shown more resolve. Maybe; I consider it a possibility, but hardly a given.

 I think you are correct that the German people did not want war, but I don't think that relevant. By that time, the driving factor was not what the people wanted; it was what Hitler and his cronies wanted. My gut feeling is that the traditional German respect for authority would have weighed in against any Putsch attempts against Hitler. "Germany" as a political entity wasn't all the enthusiastic Nazis and the SS -- there were many ordinary Germans who wholeheartedly supported Hitler and who bought into the "stab in the back" notion. They would not have looked kindly upon attempts to remove Hitler from power and would have likely supported firm suppression of such attempts. I think, without a display of overwhelming Allied military superiority at that point, any attempted "Putsch" would have dissipated with its conspirators ending up among the first inmates of the concentration camps.

Cheers

BW
---------------
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Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

Phil andrade
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 2:17:05 PM

Quote:
Phil,

 Seen as a progression, the Versailles Treaty was also a predictable "next step" given the terms imposed upon France by Prussia during the Franco-Prussian War. Not to mention that the peace treaty Germany planned to impose upon the Allies had the Germans won was also punitive. I have come to believe that the notion of "the peace treaty too harsh" has been given too much license in regards to "excusing" the emergence of Hitler and the start of the Second World War.

Cheers

BW
--BWilson


Agreed one hundred per cent.

Regards , Phil
---------------
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"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Haliburton, ON, Canada
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 2:37:25 PM
I have said that there was an anti-war movement in Britain after WW1 and that those who governed were aware of it and felt compelled to govern accordingly. At the same time, there were labour leaders and social activists including veterans who sought changes in the supports that government offered.

But the Germans also experienced losses on a grand and horrific scale in the Great War. Their society was not only starving but in turmoil.

Was there a pacifist movement in post war Germany before Hitler became a political force to be reckoned with?

Or did the Treaty of Versailles cause the Germans to support any movement that spoke of regaining self respect and international respect?

I presume that as BW has said that peace activists would have a short shelf life in post-1933 Germany.


Cheers,

George

John R. Price
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 2:39:12 PM
BW,

But if Hitler is dead the remaining Nazi leadership is going to be fighting each other as much as the Army. Look at how the fractured at the end of the war with Hitler marginalized. Plus it isn't "Socialist politicians" behind this but the Army and the country isn't as yet at war. I'm not saying its a given but the only chance to avert war. I don't blame Chamberlain for seeking a peaceful solution I fault him for not understanding that Hitler wasn't going to allow one. Agreeing to meet Hitler's demand to allow a vote of self determination in the Sudatenland is perfectly fine but when he goes farther and demands immediate annexation Chamberlain should have known peaceful agreement impossible.
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


John R. Price
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 2:47:37 PM
George,

There is a difference between "ant-war movement" and a "pacifist movement" in my opinion. But to know that the German people didn't want war all you have to do is follow the campaigns that brought Hitler to power in the late 20's early 30's or check out diaries from Germans from the Rhineland right up to Poland.

Plus I wouldn't call Generals Beck or Fritsch(memory I think I got that right and the spelling too) "peace activists" but they certainly opposed going to war in 38.
---------------
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"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


RuudSp

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 2:54:32 PM

Quote:
another aspect of the popular view is that the French could have just marched right in and put an end to it all

Once again I refer to the Saar Offensive of September 1939. The French did march right in - and nothing was ended.


Quote:
I don't think that there was a political will for the more capable European countries to ally.

The more capable countries of end 1938 were Great-Britain, France, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
The first two obviously were allies.
The Soviet-Union was willing to ally as well in late 1938 and made a substantial offer according to Richard Overy in Russia's War. While Poland refused to allow Russian troops Rumania (albeit under pressure) had agreed.
This was an important factor. Chamberlain (and not only he) feared the Soviet-Union more than Nazi-Germany.

BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 2:56:01 PM
But if Hitler is dead

John,

 You've hit on a key point here. In practice, Hitler proved difficult to kill -- call it luck or whatever. I agree that if Hitler is removed, then there are other options available in terms of negotiation with Germany. The real question is if the German military would have gone far enough to neutralize Hitler by any means necessary. Of that question, I am not convinced that such would have happened. All opinion, of course.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

RuudSp

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 3:10:30 PM
Which is why I call it speculation. Two possible scenarios if Chamberlain stands tall:

1. Hitler backs down, the coup d'état succeeds and "peace for our time" indeed.
2. Hitler still attacks, the coup d'état fails, the Western Allies are incapable of doing anything substantial, Poland joins the Wehrmacht (like it did in March 1939) and the Wehrmacht is in an even better position to attack France and the Soviet-Union than it already was.

Everything in between is also possible, including intervention by the Soviet-Union.

Another key point is that in late 1938 England actually didn't have a treaty with Czechoslovakia. France had. That's a second important reason I think the role of Daladier and Gamelin deserves way more attention.

BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 3:12:22 PM

Quote:

Quote:
another aspect of the popular view is that the French could have just marched right in and put an end to it all

Once again I refer to the Saar Offensive of September 1939. The French did march right in - and nothing was ended.

--RuudSp


Ruud,

 To expand on your comment, "marching right in" is not an accurate description. The French Army, as a whole, was -not- prepared for a general offensive into Germany. The few, -regular and active- French divisions in the area, attempted to move against Saarbruecken. And they were stopped cold by prepared German defenses, fortifications, German troops of quite average motivation, and, above all -- the unexpected -- in the form of something that armies of the time had little experience with -- anti-personnel and antitank mines in rather large quantities. (Recall: at this point, the man-portable "Polish" mine detector was not yet deployed -- meaning: dig for the mines with bayonets and clear them very carefully.) So, the French infantry slowly cleared minefields while the French tanks realized that antitank mines were very capable of disabling their vehicles. Not to mention the problem of "Dragon's Teeth" and bunkers in depth -- an obstacle that was not cleared until 1944 by -very- prepared Allied armies employing a full spectrum of fortification assault techniques. And even then, it took at times -weeks- to clear the Westwall, even with a worn-out German army defending it.

 IMO, the Saar Offensive has had many lies told about it in order to support post-1945 hindsight. The reality is that there were more German troops present than is commonly assumed, the defenses were more effective than is commonly assumed, and, even had the French Army managed a break-through, there was really nowhere to go. Capture Saarbruecken ? Okay. What then ? Losing the Saar wouldn't stop Hitler in 1939 and wouldn't affect the outcome of the campaign in Poland. Push farther, through very difficult terrain around Saarbruecken and Kaiserslautern ? Okay. Assume the French reach Mainz. Then what ? Assault across the Rhine ? Unlikely. Frankly, I think the French Army in 1939 realized what the reality was -- and they chose to make a bit of offensive theater and the wait out the inevitable German assault. A push by way of Saarbruecken led nowhere, and looking at the map, the other French options were to attempt an assault across the Rhine into the Westwall on the east bank of the Rhine (a non-starter in 1939), or to violate the neutrality of the Low Countries -- another non-starter in 1939.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 3:20:02 PM
Poland joins the Wehrmacht (like it did in March 1939)

 Poland did not "join the Wehrmacht" in March 1939. It is a fact that they took advantage of the international situation to seize territory they had in dispute with Czechoslovakia, dating from the border delineations after the First World War. That action, though, is a far cry from "joining" a foreign military force.

 The action by Poland was opportunistic -- but given the international atmosphere of the times -- hardly unique, and something that predated widespread knowledge of just how murderous German occupation policies would prove to be. I would go so far as to state it does not even begin to compare with the degree of collaboration exhibited by a key part of Czechoslovakia -- Slovakia itself -- in its role in the Second World War.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

John R. Price
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 3:22:26 PM
BW,

I've seen diary entries from some of those that were to "arrest" Hitler saying they had no intention of taking him alive. I did a over 40 page paper on the pre-war military resistance back in the early 90's in a German history class. The plan was to arrest him and either put him on trial or declare him insane but the "action squad" put together by Oster had different ideas.

---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 5:03:03 PM

Quote:

Quote:
Phil,

 Seen as a progression, the Versailles Treaty was also a predictable "next step" given the terms imposed upon France by Prussia during the Franco-Prussian War. Not to mention that the peace treaty Germany planned to impose upon the Allies had the Germans won was also punitive. I have come to believe that the notion of "the peace treaty too harsh" has been given too much license in regards to "excusing" the emergence of Hitler and the start of the Second World War.

Cheers

BW
--BWilson


Agreed one hundred per cent.

Regards , Phil

--Phil andrade


As do I. Brest-Litovsk also provides a good example of how Germany would have acted had it been in a position to dictate terms.
---------------
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Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

brian grafton
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/15/2017 6:51:04 PM

Quote:

Is it your contention that Britain and France were in a position to challenge Hitler militarily after 1933?

I have read that Hitler would have retreated from his position had he been challenged in some way.

George,
To your question, I don't know. I think they are the only powers that may have conceivably been able to do so.


Britain could not have challenged Germany on her own in 1933. Her Army was too small and too scattered to take on a Continental land power – even one as weak as Germany – and at any rate had no means of facing Germany directly. France should have been able to face Germany, but lacked both political will and military leadership to do so. And the two had at best an uneasy alliance lingering from WW1 that was an obstacle to effective joint military action.

But exactly what justification might any nation have to attack Germany before 1934 at the very earliest? German military strength was far below that of major European nations. In fact, the Geneva Disarmament Conference reconvened the day after Hitler was named chancellor (Jan. 30, 1933) specifically to attempt to provide Germany the right to arms equity with other nations. It is true that the Nazis had a huge paramilitary organization in the SA, and that Lufthansa, a national glider program and a small number of secret air bases provided the basis for a well-trained air force, but officially Germany had only a small regular army (capped at 100,000 men), no deep water navy, and no air force. During 1933 and 1934 plans were made to build military aircraft, and steps were taken to "regularize" SS and SA members to "maintain domestic discipline and order", and plans for the first of Germany's modern naval vessels were made. Small neighbouring nations (Belgium and Holland to the west; Hungary and Rumania to the east, e.g.) began rearmament programs of their own as they recognized Germany's new aggressiveness, but in truth Germany was not a real threat for some years after 1933. Indeed, even as late as September, 1939, the numbers added up to a German defeat should France and Britain act while the Nazis were pillaging Poland.

Politically, other nations might have felt growing distaste for domestic decisions in Germany. As early as 1934 the League of Nations formally chastised Germany for its treatment of Jews. But by this time Germany had left the League and felt no need to heed the opinions of others. And it was not just Jews who were suffering: starting from Jan 30, 1933, political parties were being outlawed and elected officials of those parties arrested for "re-education" in the first of the KZLs. Trade Unions were being redefined in ways which stripped workers of any right except the right to work at Nazi sufferance. Experiments in eugenics and in euthanasia were undertaken, but rejected as abhorrent by the German population. The world might have been shocked, but for the most part Germans appeared happy with their lot and proud of their nation.

Bill, you mention France between the wars as if there were some minor scraps. In truth, there was political chaos throughout most of the inter-war years, with huge and rapid swings between left and right, with periods of constant rioting, and with a deep disillusionment (possibly because of the mauling France took during four years of occupation in WW1, and the confusion attendant upon the sullying of Marianne's image) that would prove to be fatal in 1940.

Folks tend to forget the name of France's Edouard Deladier, of course, a co-signer with Chamberlain at Munich. I think it as important to look at how his announcement was received by France's parliament as it is to look at the Commons response to Chamberlain.

The real question, of course, is whether parliamentary response in either France or Britain reflected French or British civilian sentiment. I would argue that, at least when talking about the British, it did not.

That's a whole other issue.

Cheers
Brian G

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BWilson

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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/16/2017 2:47:14 AM
Brian,

 Good comments.


Quote:
Bill, you mention France between the wars as if there were some minor scraps.


 Actually, I was speaking of the "popular view of history". How many people actually understand the interwar French political scene ? It is simply not a topic of popular interest for those who are not French. What you mention about that scene reinforces for me my sense that France was not going to "march in" and remove Hitler from power.


Quote:
But exactly what justification might any nation have to attack Germany before 1934 at the very earliest?


 Bingo. Very little real justification, thus I used quite deliberately the phrase "aggressive war" in describing such an action waged by France and/or Great Britain. As you mention, events inside Germany in the early 1930s were ugly -- but by themselves, hardly a threat to the rest of Europe. It seems the West was in a situation of "damned if they did, damned if they didn't".

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, nervous glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

Phil andrade
London, UK
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Re: Chamberlain: The Fall Guy ?
Posted on: 4/16/2017 3:40:47 AM

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
Phil,

 Seen as a progression, the Versailles Treaty was also a predictable "next step" given the terms imposed upon France by Prussia during the Franco-Prussian War. Not to mention that the peace treaty Germany planned to impose upon the Allies had the Germans won was also punitive. I have come to believe that the notion of "the peace treaty too harsh" has been given too much license in regards to "excusing" the emergence of Hitler and the start of the Second World War.

Cheers

BW
--BWilson


Agreed one hundred per cent.

Regards , Phil

--Phil andrade


As do I. Brest-Litovsk also provides a good example of how Germany would have acted had it been in a position to dictate terms.

--Jim Cameron


The Nazis entered this war under the childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and that nobody was going to bomb them .

So said Bomber Harris in 1942.

Is it fair to make an analogy with the behaviour of Wilhemine Germany a generation earlier, and suggest that the Germans of 1914-18 were happy to impose a peace like Brest Litovsk or Bucharest, but squealed like Hell when they were held to account in 1919 ?

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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